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Articles of 2006

F— Toney’s Physique: The Man’s a Boxer, Not a Model

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Nathan’s hot dogs, the Breakfast of Champions.

Doesn’t really flow as a slogan, does it?

Yup, Wheaties is still safe.

But if heavyweight James Toney beats Hasim Rahman on Saturday night in Atlantic City, may I suggest the noted purveyor of processed meat in a tube contact Toney, and hash out an endorsement deal?

On Tuesday morning, his promoter Dan Goossen hooked Toney up with a breakfast fit for a champion…of competitive eating contests.

Goossen got six Nathan’s hot dogs, doused them with chili, and presented them to Toney, who chowed down before heading over the Copacabana, a Manhattan nightclub which was the site for the final press conference leading up to Saturday’s heavyweight showdown.

“James thinks hot dogs are a power food,” Goossen said, laughing.

Normally, fight pundits would be pondering that calorically dense, nutritionally disreputable chowfest, and perhaps conclude that any athlete who has the gall to eat hot dogs for breakfast may not have the correct mindset coming into one of the most important fights of his illustrious career. But not me. Not when it comes to James Toney. Pile on the chili, Champ, just wash it down with a Beano smoothie if we’re sitting down for a one-on-one…

Think about it: Steroids, even if they were prescribed to hasten healing, weren’t able to carve Toney’s body into a lean mass of musculature. But how he looks is completely beside the point. Maybe trainer Freddie Roach cares a little bit what Toney will weigh when he steps on the scale Friday. Roach probably doesn’t want Toney packing 260 pounds on his 5 ft. 9 inch frame. But he weighed 235 pounds while schooling underachiever Dominick Guinn on Oct. 1, 2005 (UD12). He weighed 233 when defeating rough and ready John Ruiz on April 30, 2005 (UD12), an outcome that was later changed to a ‘No Contest’ when Toney tested positive for the juice.

“I can come in at 275 pounds,” said Toney, age 37, as he calmly fielded questions from the media at the Copa. “As long as I’m in shape.” And in what had to be the most self effacing analogy I’ve heard a boxer make, Toney then compared himself to a bowling ball: “You know what a bowling ball does? It knocks down pins.”

To hammer home my point: what Toney, a 17-year pro, weighs on Friday, or Saturday night, is irrelevant. His mastery of the science of the sport, the innate knowledge of when to slip, slide, duck, counter, is what matters. No one in the heavyweight division comes close to Toney (69-4-2, 43 KOs) when it comes to exhibiting accrued savage science skills.

“I feel excellent,” Toney said. “When I said no to cruiserweight I said Hallelujah. My body is filling out like it should have been.”

For the record, for the folks who think that how Toney’s body looks or what he weighs actually matters, Toney predicts he’ll be around 250 pounds come weigh-in.

“This is my natural body weight,” he explained. “One hundred sixty, one sixty eight, one seventy five, wasn’t my natural weight. I was training in a sauna suit. I trained to lose weight. I never trained to fight.”

Bob Arum, the promoter who entered the fight game promotion racket 40 years ago this month  (Ali d. Chuvalo on 3/29/66), likes Hasim Rahman’s chances on Saturday night, so much so that he left money on the table.

For a businessman, especially one with a certified record of success and longevity, that’s saying something. Note it for the record, because a sharp capitalist like Arum may not do that again.

Arum thinks that the Hasim Rahman (44-5-1, 33 KOs) who stunned the world with his Hail Mary, Our Father, Praise Allah right hand that felled Lennox Lewis on April 22, 2001, is back in business. Arum thinks THAT Rahman, and the one that was thoroughly outboxing David Tua in their Dec. 19, 1998 bout before getting caught in the tenth round, will be standing across from Toney on Saturday night. Arum thinks THAT Rahman, not the one who’s prone to putting on the type of performance that makes a boxing commission think about testing him for Ambien usage post-bout, will be standing across from Toney on Saturday night in Atlantic City. Arum’s betting on THAT Rahman, the hungry, skilled Rahman, besting Toney on Saturday night.

“I can tell by looking in Rahman’s eyes, the guy knows this is his last chance,” Arum said when I cornered him for a minute to ask him why he’s putting so many eggs in the basket marked ‘Rahman.’ “He’s ready to go. The next three years will be Rahman years.”

Later, Arum crawled out farther on the limb, saying that Rahman, age 32, will be spoken of in the same vein as other heavyweights who fought for Top Rank, Muhammad Ali and George Foreman.

Quite literally, Arum is betting on it. Because the fight will be available on “HBO Free,” not HBO pay-per-view, on Saturday at 10 PM Eastern Time.

Maybe around four million people will be tuning in, but none of them will be ponying up $44.95 for the privilege. Arum thinks that Rahman will prevail, setting up even more lucrative fights down the road. He’s taking the long view here; that’s good for the sport, good for the average fan who is – quite rightly, I’d argue – sick and tired of shelling out $400 bucks a year for crappy PPV cards with a crappy headline bout and beyond-crappy undercards. Good for Arum, who’s 74 and would be forgiven if he were in a “right here, right now” mindset. And good for the HBO suits who are talking sense to the promoters and managers who have been milking the masses for too many years now. Take your bows, gentlemen, and please keep it up.

Me, I’m not feeling like Arum’s vision of a best-case Rahman will pan out. All due respect, I’ve heard Rahman talk about his high level of motivation too many times, and then seen him hand in too many stinkeroo performances, to buy in this time.

Too often, Rahman fights like it’s a job, and he’s just waiting till the shift his up, so he can grab his check and head to the pub. Toney, in contrast, he digs the action. He’s in full flow when he’s in the ring. It’s his comfort zone.

“In the ring, I’m in my calm place,” Toney said. “I like to be perfect. I like to fight. I like to inflict pain. You see their face after the fight, it’s all distorted. On Saturday, it’ll be the best against Average Joe.”

Rahman, on the other, to his credit, readily admits that he’s laced on the gloves while his head wasn’t screwed on straight. “I come in and analyze a match and if I know I can beat him, if I don’t care one hundred percent it doesn’t work for me,” he said. “I have to be one hundred percent for everybody.”

One writer asked Rahman if he was overconfident that he would beat Toney on Saturday. “I’ve covered every base,” he said. “I have never covered every base. I know what I can do for twelve hard rounds. I can go twelve hard rounds it’s going to be hard for anybody.” This time, he said, his head was on straight as can be. “I’m not overconfident, I’m very, very confident.”

Both fighters, incidentally, predicted a KO win. Rahman said if Toney follows his typical style gameplan, he’ll regret it. “He’ll be a bloody mess if he stands in front of me,” Rahman said.

Toney’s weight and body image came up time and again at the Copa. Rahman said his piece when a writer asked why he thought a body attack would pay healthy dividends. “Have you seen his body?” he asked the questioner while affixing a death-stare. “Have you seen his body and you’re still asking me that question? I can’t believe you. Look at him.”

Dan Goossen isn’t swayed by Toney’s physique. On the dais, he talked about how his relationship with Toney means more than any in his years in the biz, more so even than the Brothers Ruelas. “The man is personable, charismatic and fun loving,” Goossen said. “But he’s one bad mother inside the ring.”

Noted. Agreed. My call: Toney UD12.

If you want to see Toney/Rahman live at Boardwalk Hall in AC, call Ticketmaster at 1-800-736-1420. A seat runs from $50 up to $500.

SPEEDBAG

***Didn’t we all learn something from the Calzaghe/Lacy outcome? Pay less attention to physique, more to skills. Don’t judge the book, people…

***In case you were wondering, Calzaghe’s drubbing of Lacy didn’t impact Top Rank at all in regards to the Cotto/Paulie Malignaggi June 10 MSG match. Matchmaker Bruce Trampler didn’t watch the Calzaghe clinic, for starters. “I was in Puerto Rico, so I didn’t see it,” Trampler said. “And it wouldn’t influence me even if I did. Calzaghe’s a lefty, so that’s got nothing to do with Cotto. And Cotto’s much more versatile than Lacy, more complete. I don’t see any correlation.” The slick boxing, less powerful Malignaggi, Trampler allows, will be helped by fighting on his home turf.

***Oleg Maskaev was at the Copa, perhaps giving a hint to a future matchup. He’s rated No. 1 by the WBC…For the record, Rahman is renting the WBC belt currently.

***After Saturday, we have less than a month to count down to Mayweather/Judah. Do we all agree that the odds are real, real good on a press conference melee? I think we should have an all posse vs. posse undercard on that one…

***Then Byrd/Klitschko is tops on my radar. I’m leaning toward the Uke in that one, my thinking being that Byrd won’t bother Wladdy’s hymen-thin chin. See, Frank Warren and Co., I like that phrase so much I’ve used it again. And I’m certain I won’t hear from Manny or Wlad himself, up in arms, because they actually understand what I do for a living, that I’m paid to entertain, and besides, keeping track of what wiseguy writers say about you is time consuming and energy sapping, if you have a thin skin.

***And then June, one of the best months in recent or ancient boxing history…I’m leaning towards Castillo, Tarver, Malignaggi and Wright, by a hair.

Articles of 2006

Peter/Toney Ii: Peter Has The Brutal Punch

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Samuel Peter claims he has dynamites in my two hands?

Heavyweight contenders Samuel “The Nigerian Nightmare” Peter and James Lights Out? Toney get it on a second time this Saturday from the Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood, Fla. (Showtime).

The hard-slugging Peter, unlike Toney, is one of those strong, silent types notorious for letting their fists to the talking one the opening bell sounds, but the Nigeria Nightmare is as confident as ever and determined to turn Lights Out’s lights out for good.

I have got dynamites in my two hands,? said Peter, according the Lagos, Nigeria Vanguard, and I will crush James Toney once and for all. The Toney camp made the mistake of their lives by protesting and seeking a rematch. I am ready to teach him a bitter lesson.?

Sam Peter walked away with the W for Peter/Toney I at the Staples Center in LA last September, but it was by disputed split decision a verdict so disputed, there was even a dispute about the dispute which forced the WBC’s hand into mandating Saturday’s rematch.

Samuel Peter is the biggest thing to hit African boxing since Ghanaian superstar Azumah Nelson rocked the feather and junior welterweight divisions. The President of the Nigeria Boxing Board of Control, Prince Olaide Adeboye, admitted, according to allAfrica.com, We are rooting for Samuel Peter, of course. He is one boy we believe in to bring back the country’s lost glory in professional boxing. I am personally making arrangement to be at the ringside to see him fight Toney again. I was at the first fight in Los Angeles in September.

Peter has the brutal punch, and to me he was the clear winner of the first fight. But the WBC Board of Governors, of which I am a member, voted 21-10 for a rematch. There was nothing those of us Africans on the board could do in the circumstances. But I believe Peter will confirm he is better than Toney and will then go ahead to meet the champion and claim the belt for Nigeria and Africa.?

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Articles of 2006

The Sweet Science P4P Rankings for Asia

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There are claims that boxing is dying. Hogwash. The heavyweight division isn’t the only division in boxing and 2007 promises to be a banner year in boxing; especially for boxers hailing from Asia.

While Asia isn’t Vegas or Atlantic City, it is a region packed of diamonds in the rough; undiscovered gems and potential superstars who wait for their moment in the sun.

The Sweet Science P4P Rankings – Asia

1) Manny Pacquiao – There’s no way to dispute Pacquiao is the best fighter in Asia, if not all of boxing. He’s exciting, he wins with Je Ne Sais Quois and is definitely “the man” in boxing.

2) Pongsaklek Wonjongkam – Although his competition leaves much to be desired, his longevity and skills are undeniable. He is currently Thailand’s only world champion and is undefeated in ten years. Need I say more?

3) Chris John – A victory over Juan Manuel Marquez, however controversial, shows he belongs at the top of the heap. He easily outpointed Renan Acosta to close out 2006 and should have no trouble defending against Jose Rojas in February. A fight with Pacquiao would not be a good move on his part but a rematch with Marquez would not hurt – especially if he defeats the Mexican again.

4) Hozumi Hasegawa – Hidden away in Japan, Hasegawa is a sharp punching southpaw who put former champion Veeraphol Sahaprom to sleep. He recently bested Genaro Garcia and his herky-jerky style will give fits to any one who steps in the ring with him.

5) Masomori Tokuyama – Tokuyama has never shied away from a good fight and although he only fought once in 2006 (UD12 Jose Navarro), he ledger shows wins over Katsushige Kawashima (twice), Gerry Penalosa (twice) and In Jin Chi (twice). A fight with Hozumi Hasegawa is a distinct possibility in 2007.

6) Nobuo Nashiro – With only seven fights under his belt he took on WBA champion Martin Castillo – and defeated him. Although he’s only fought a total of nine fights, nearly all have been against quality opposition. A victory in a rematch with Castillo would cement his claim as the king of the 115-pound division.

7) Yukata Niida – This light-hitting minimumweight defended his title twice in 2006, winning a technical decision against unbeaten Eriberto Gejon (Tech Win 10) and the other on points over Ronald Barrera (W 12). Scheduled to meet Katsunari Takayama early next year – the best has yet to come for this WBA belt holder.

8) In Jin Chi – Won back the title he lost to Takashi Koshimoto in January from Rudolfo Lopez. While there’s little uncertainty to his skills, at thirty-three, 2007 may provide some insight as to just how much he has left.

9) Yodsanan Sor Nanthachai –Sor Nonthachai is an exciting, top-shelf fighter with an iron chin. Has no trouble making mincemeat of mid-level opposition and deserves a title shot in 2007. Time is running out.

10) Rey Bautista – He’s young, relatively inexperienced in big-time boxing, but will continue to shine in 2007. One of the better prospects in boxing, he should snag a title in 2007.

Asian Fighters Ranked in Ring Magazine

Pound for Pound:

Manny Pacquiao (Philippines): #2

Jr. Lightweight

Manny Pacquiao (Philippines): #1
Yodsanan Sor Nanthachai: #9

Featherweight

Chris John (Indonesia) #1
In Jin Chi (Korea) #3
Takashi Koshimoto (Japan) #5
Hioyuki Enoki (Japan) #7

Jr. Featherweight

Somsak Sithchatchawal (Thailand) #4

Bantamweight

Hozumi Hasegawa (Japan) #2
Veeraphol Sahaprom (Japan) #3
Ratanachai Sor Vorapin (Thailand) #6
Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym (Thailand) #10

Jr. Bantamweight

Nobuo Nashiro (Japan) #1
Katsushige Kawashima (Japan) #7
Pramuansak Phosuwan (Thailand) #10

Flyweight

Pongsaklek Wonjongkam (Thailand) #1
Takefumi Sakata (Japan) #7
Daisuke Naito (Japan) #10

Jr. Flyweight

Koki Kameda (Japan) #1

Minimumweight

Yukata Naiida (Japan) #2
Eagle Kyowa (Japan/Thai) #4
Katsunari Takayama (Japan) #5
Rodel Mayol (Philippines) #7

Boxing in Thailand

There’s no shortage of boxers in Thailand. With a huge pool of Muay Thai fighters to draw from and several talented amateur boxing prospects turning pro after the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Thailand seems destined to remain a boxing powerhouse in Asia.

The country is known for having tough, determined and disciplined fighters who give their all whenever the step in to the ring. However, consistently losing while fighting abroad and padding their records with no-hopers has done nothing to enhance their reputation.

Whether because of a lack of marketability, a lack of funds or their unwillingness to travel abroad, the vast majority of boxers from Thailand remain a mystery to fans in the west. If anything though, the boxing scene involving Thai fighters will be active. In fact, it’s one of the most active in the world; since 2000, the number of fights has nearly doubled in the country.

The Sweet Science P4P Rankings – Thailand – August 2006

1) Pongsaklek Wonjongkam
2) Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym
3) Somsak Sithchatchawal
4) Wandee Singwancha
5) Sirimongkol Singwancha
6) Yodsanan Sor Nanthachai
7) Veeraphol Sahaprom
8) Pramuansak Phosuwan
9) Terdsak Jandaeng
10) Oleydong Sithamerchai

Current Sweet Science P4P Rankings – Thailand

1) Pongsaklek Wonjongkam (Flyweight) – Definitely the top dog in Thailand

2) Yodsanan Sor Nanthachai (Super Lightweight) – He’s a seasoned fighter who has proven himself in the big-time. He’s one Thai who can fight outside of Asia. He has an abundance of skills and one-punch power. His overall ability and ease in dispatching anyone other than championship caliber get him the runners-up spot.

3) Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym (Super Bantamweight) – After losing to Vladimir Sidorenko he’s bounced back. He’s young, he can punch, but the former interim champion needs to prove himself against a name fighter.

4) Somsak Sithchatchawal (Super Bantamweight) – Was his win over Monshipour a fluke or was Celestino Caballero just that good? Did Sithchatchawal catch Monshipour at the right time and can he rebound from the devastating loss? The jury is still out.

5) Wandee Singwancha (Flyweight) – He doesn’t have much of a punch which will be his downfall in the end. He can box, as was evidenced in his recent victory over Juanito Rubillar, but this won’t be enough. He can no longer make the Jr. Flyweight limit and with no punch he’ll have a hard time competing against the “big boys.” Although he’s now rated second by the WBC, he doesn’t deserve to be.

5) Sirimongkol Singwancha (Super Lightweight) – Get this guy a fight. He’s better than Jose Armando Santa Cruz and would have beat up Inada had the fight taken place. He’ll fight anyone but his biggest obstacle is staying motivated fighting tomato cans in Thailand. Like many Thais, he needs a fight against a name opponent.
6) Wandee Singwancha (Flyweight) – He doesn’t have much of a punch which will be his downfall in the end. He can box, as was evidenced in his recent victory over Juanito Rubillar, but this won’t be enough. He can no longer make the Jr. Flyweight limit and with no punch he’ll have a hard time competing against the “big boys.” Although he’s now rated second by the WBC, he doesn’t deserve to be.

7) Pramuansak Phosuwan (Super Flyweight) – A genuine tough guy. Always calm and focused no matter how heated the battle. But at thirty-eight, he’ll be in trouble should he fight one of the division’s elite.
8) Veeraphol Sahaprom (Bantamweight) – Will be lucky to get another crack at the title. Although he has a puncher’s chance of winning a belt, that’s about all he has left at this point. A third shot at Hasegawa is unlikely.

9) Oleydong Sithamerchai (Minimumweight) – He’s fought better than the usual opponents faced by Thais at his level and he moves up one spot with the departure of Terdsak Jandaeng. He lacks the punch and is in the wrong division to become a superstar. He’ll need to defeat a name opponent to convince me.

10) Saenghiran Lookbanyai / Napapol Kittisakchokchai (Super Bantamweight) – These two square-off in early March, supposedly to see who deserves a shot at Israel Vasquez. Kittisakchokchai has the edge in experience but some feel Lookbanyai has the edge in heart and is the favorite.

Neither has defeated a top twenty fighter and yet are ranked number one and two respectively in the WBC’s world.

In Kittisakchokchoi’s lone shot at the big-time, he was TKO’d in 10 by Oscar Larios. His dreadful performance against Larios and lack of quality opposition leads me to believe Saenghiran might have more of a shot at beating him than some suspect. Regardless, neither of them lasts longer than six rounds with Israel Vasquez.

Honorable Mention: Wethya Sakmuangklang, Denkaosan Kaovichit, Devid Lookmahanak, Nethra Sasiprapa, Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo, Pornsawan Kratingdaenggym

Thai Fighters Ranked in Ring Magazine

Pongsaklek Wonjongkam: #1 Flyweight
Pramuansak Phosuwan: #10 Jr. Bantamweight
Veeraphol Sahaprom: #3 Bantamweight
Ratanachai Sor Vorapin: #6 Bantamweight
Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym: #10 Bantamweight
Somsak Sithchatchawal: #3 Jr. Featherweight
Yodsanan Sor Nanthachai: #9 Lightweight

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Articles of 2006

Iceman Stops Tito Ortiz Win Streak

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LAS VEGAS—UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck “Iceman” Liddell’s fists proved too much for Huntington Beach’s Tito Ortiz who was stopped in the third round before a sold out crowd at the MGM Garden Arena on Saturday.

The punching machine Liddell (20-3, 13 KOs) repeated his victory in UFC 66 over the much-improved grappler Ortiz who has improved his punching and blocking. Ortiz was trying to avenge his loss of April 2004.

Despite all the new weapons displayed by Ortiz it wasn’t enough as Liddell pummeled the former champion and retained his title with a technical knockout at 3:59 of the third round. Referee Mario Yamasaki stopped the bout.

“This was the most satisfying victory of my career,” said Liddell, 36, of Santa Barbara. “Tito came back real tough.”

Ortiz (15-5, 8 KOs), a former wrestler, worked on his boxing technique knowing he would need it against the former boxer Liddell. But Liddell’s experience allowed him to find the right moment to pounce on Ortiz.

“I had him hurt, I just kept throwing punches,” said Liddell who also knocked down Ortiz in the first round with a left hook.

Ortiz was gracious in defeat.

“Chuck is the best fighter Pound for Pound in the (mixed martial arts) world,” said Ortiz, 31, who suffered a gash on the side of his left eye from a punch. “I’m disgusted by myself. I let my fans down.”

Other bouts

Underdog Keith Jardine (12-3-1) knocked out Forrest Griffin (13-4) at 4:41 of the first round in their light heavyweight showdown. A right uppercut followed by a left hook wobbled Griffin who was sent to the floor by a barrage of punches. On the ground Jardine landed right after right until referee John McCarthy stopped the fight for a technical knockout.

“I couldn’t believe he was hurt,” said Jardine about Griffin who is known for his resiliency. “I was so nervous coming into this fight, but now I know I belong here.”

Canada’s Jason McDonald (18-7) choked out Chris Leben (15-3) in a middleweight bout that was up for grabs. Though Leben seemed to control the fight with stunning left hands, once the fight went to the ground McDonald managed a chokehold at 4:03 of the second round. Referee Steve Mazagatti saw Leben was unconscious and stopped the fight.

Former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski (12-5) caught Brazil’s Mario Cruz (2-2) with a sneak right hand while both were tangled on the ground. Then the Belarusian pummeled Cruz until referee Herb Dean stopped the fight at 3:15 of the first round.

Third season winner of the Ultimate Fighter television reality season Michael Bisping (12-0) of Great Britain won by technical knockout over Eric Shafer (9-2-2) at 4:29 of the first round. A knee knocked Shafer groggy then Bisping knocked him to the ground and pounded him. Referee Mario Yamasaki stopped the bludgeoning.

Thiago Alves (16-4) caught Peru’s Tony De Souza (15-5) with a knee as he attempted to dive for his legs in a welterweight contest. After that it was pretty much over as Alves pummeled De Souza at 1:10 of the second round forcing referee John McCarthy to halt the bout.

Gabriel Gonzago (7-1) proved too strong for Carmelo Marrero (6-1) in a heavyweight bout. At 3:22 of the first round Gonzago of Massachusetts manipulated his way into arm bar forcing Pennsylvania’s Marrero to tap out.

Japan’s Yushin Okami (19-3) pounded Georgia’s Rory Singer (11-6) into submission at 4:03 of the third round of a middleweight bout. Okami seemed the more-rounded fighter with effective kicks to the head and more accurate punching.

Christian Wellisch (8-2) jumped to a quick start with an accurate left hook that rattled Australia’s Anthony Perosh (5-3) in a heavyweight bout. During the first round it seemed the Sacramento fighter might end the fight but the Aussie hung tough. Wellisch won by unanimous decision.

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