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Articles of 2006

From the Fiery Cuyahoga to the Rhine, There’s No Smooth Sailing

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LAS VEGAS, March 23 – Chris Byrd hasn’t called. It’s not a big deal. I wanted to get his take on the Hasim Rahman-James Toney draw, but I almost know what he’d say. He picked Rahman, as did I. I don’t know how he scored it, but from television, and obviously not listening to Harold Lederman, I had Toney slightly ahead. It’s no big deal. That nobody won seems like the fairest decision of all.

Let’s put this in context. The next stage for the heavyweight division is Cleveland, Ohio, on April Fool’s Day. And then the action switches to rebuilt Mannheim, on the right bank of the Rhine, in west central Germany, where Mozart once lived, and Schiller, and Carl Benz rode the first motor-driven vehicle back in 1885. You can look it up.

But, first, we get Cleveland. We don’t deserve much better. The surveyor for whom the town was named, some general named Clevealand, laid out the public square, went back East and never returned. The burg’s name was changed when the extra “a” was dropped to fit in some newspaper’s masthead. Once, middle of the 20th century, it was the fifth largest city in the land. Its population has shrunk in half to less than 500,000. You can look it up. Its Cuyahoga River caught on fire in 1969, about the time Don King was doing time for running numbers and beating an employee to death. You can look it up.

Now here comes Cleveland’s native son with another heavyweight “title” fight, the first in the area since King stepped over the prone body of his “son,” Michael Dokes, to congratulate the South African, Gerrie Coetzee, who had knocked him out in the Richfield Arena.

You can look it up. The press bus left the arena, forgetting a couple of Boss Scribes – never mind the New York Times’ humble reporter, but Dick Young. A long time later, the cab we called was stumbling around in the Ohio night before the driver stopped at a farmhouse and asked, “Where is Cleveland?” The farmer wasn’t too sure, either.

Anyway, King and his buddies over at Showtime are now bringing us Lamon Brewster, who holds one of the myriad titles and who, for crying out loud, may actually be the best heavyweight in the world, against someone named Sergei Liahkovich, also known as the “White Wolf,” I suppose to make sure it is understood that he is not an African-Uzbekistani.

Cleveland. The first time I covered a fight there was Roberto Duran’s first after going “No mas” and his opponent, Nino Gonzalez, told me when I got to down to be sure and ask his idol, Duran, about the lion. Duran had a pet lion named Simba.

Listen, I know I’m digressing, and regular readers will probably recall the story. But do you really want to read more about the state of the heavyweight division without some comic relief? Anyway, Duran chose Cleveland to tell us that, feeling sorry for his great beast not having a lioness to play with, he used to take matters in his own hands of stone. The best part, though, was the look on Duran’s face, squished up mouth, burning eyes, as he imitated Simba in orgasmic delight.

It is unlikely anything that exciting will happen in Cleveland on April Fool’s Day. But the late-developing Brewster, who I had to sit through when he was outboxed by Charles Shufford, should emerge victorious, ready to pick up the baton that figures to be dropped by his distant cousin, Chris Byrd, in Mannheim on April 22.

That’s when Byrd gets his rematch with Wladimir Klitschko, who battered and dropped the American in taking Byrd’s WBOgus title years ago, also in Germany. Byrd, who had earlier beaten the bigger and, despite American fans’ opinions, the better of the Ukrainian brothers, complained at the time that he lost his vision early in the fight. Foul play or not, the blinded Byrd took his lumps for 12 rounds and so later I was not surprised when he said Vitali Klitschko was the better of the two brothers – better use of height, better defense, and harder punch.

Vitali, now running for Mayor of Kiev (he is favored today, I believe, over Rudy Giuliani) quit against Byrd because of a boo-boo. I think he quit because he was fast tiring and figured that just wasn’t his night. Shocked at the reaction from abroad – I dubbed him “Chicken Kiev” – Vitali would rebound and show his mettle a couple of years later against Lennox Lewis, the last of the “real” heavyweight champions.

But I must point out that Lewis’s chin again must be reexamined in light of how easily Toney withstood the punches of Rahman. Yes, it’s much harder to hit Toney clearly, but Lewis after all went down, and out, twice in his career – against Rahman and Oliver McCall, neither of whom would have made Joe Louis’s bum-of-the-month club, barely.

In effect, then, the demise of the heavyweight division has been longer than Lewis’s retirement. There was no adequate replacement then and, frankly, I am still not convinced that Lennox, as much as I respected his abilities, was in the upper echelon of great heavyweights. Yes, he beat Evander Holyfield twice (forget that silly draw at Madison Square Garden), but that was hardly prime Holyfield. And his victory over Mike Tyson was another case of his defeating a ghost.

Lewis’s greatest victories were over well-hyped wishes (mea culpa, mea culpa) – Michael Grant and David Tua. He had too much trouble with such fighters as Frank Bruno and Tony Tucker to be considered top ten in my opinion.

Last Saturday, the out-of-shape Toney was getting huzzahs for moving up from middleweight to heavyweight and being able to compete. It was the same for his old nemesis, Roy Jones Jr., when he beat John Ruiz.

But Chris Byrd has been a David fighting Goliaths virtually his entire career and the only big guy he has missed squaring off with was Lewis, who I think feared being embarrassed by the shifty overgrown middleweight, even though he figured to win.

At least Byrd comes into the ring in shape. He would have toyed with Toney, who has found that blubber is inert and not conducive to forward marches. Byrd would not have made the strategic mistakes of Rahman, who though constantly told by trainer Thell Torrence to just win behind the jab, kept falling in close to where the counterpunching expert could hit him.

In fact, there should be little question of what would happen to the Rock if he were being chipped at by a real heavyweight, not a clever but ineffectual puncher like Toney.

I thought Toney won, watched it again and thought a round or two I gave Toney should have gone to Rahman, but also that a round or two I gave to Rahman might have deserved to be in Toney’s column. Even with Toney winning more rounds, if I scored the bout as one 36-minute contest instead of in 12 increments of three minutes each, I think Rahman probably deserved the decision. He did more in the rounds Toney won than Toney did in the rounds I gave Rock, if that makes any sense.

In any case, Toney wouldn’t have touched the light-on-his-feet Byrd. Yet Byrd gets no credit for facing such as the Klitschkos, Ike Ibeabuchi, David Tua, Holyfield, Andrew Golota et al et al. Win, lose or draw, he has been giving away height (except to Tua) and weight and having a really nice career.

Alas, at the age of 35, he has obviously slowed down and he will probably need a knockout in Mannheim to get a draw with Wladimir. The thing is, that is not impossible, even for the light-hitting Byrd. Wladimir, remember, faded badly against Brewster and was shocked by the part-time golfer, Corrie Sanders. He was often one punch away from being stopped by the neophyte Samuel Peters. Even if he wins in Baden-Wurttemberg, he will not be able to claim supremacy in the division because of that fade against Brewster.

It’s no big deal if Klitschko beats Byrd again. One “expert” in my circle says Byrd will never win another big fight. He may only have one more, anyway. If he can’t get by Wladimir this time, the heavyweight division will lose one of its few class acts, even if Larry Merchant doesn’t give him credit for having the guts and courage all these years to swim, rather successfully, with the sharks.

The division is moribund. The best American prospect, maybe the best American heavyweight, may now be Calvin Brock. Dino Duva, Peters’s promoter, was miffed when an HBO roundtable last Saturday didn’t bring up his fighter’s name. Okay, he lost like a novice to Wladimir, but the reason Dandy Dan Rafael didn’t mention Peters when asked by Jim Lampley to name upcoming Americans was that Peters is un-American – he is, after all, the Nigerian Nightmare.

PENTHOUSE: Thell Torrence, for remembering Eddie Futch’s game plan against Toney, and shame on Rahman for not following his trainer’s instructions more carefully. If he had never thrown the right hand, the one that knocked out Lewis, he probably would have won easily because Toney would have had very little to counter.

OUTHOUSE: No, not James for not being in shape. One of my gurus, Johnny Bos, insisted “he WAS in shape – what you see is what you get.” Bos didn’t think Toney won more than a couple of rounds, which I think is incorrect, but the villain in this piece is Dan Goossen, Toney’s main promoter, who has done such a great job in resurrecting the career of my favorite short, fat, bald man (present company excepted). It’s bad enough Goossen saw Toney winning – what else is he supposed to say? – but I draw the line on his insistence that Sam Soliman beat Winky Wright. That wasn’t close….By the way, can you imagine Toney’s reaction if he REALLY thought he won?…I noted that the only guys who scored the fight for James were people whose opinions I do not respect (including my own).

MORE DIS AND THAT: See where Eugenia Williams, like a bad penny, resurfaced in scoring undercard bout for house fighter Dimitry Salita. Hap Hazzard knows how to pick his judges….I think Brewster has every reason to improve now that he is with trainer Buddy McGirt. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy….Am beginning to think Bernard Hopkins is really taking his farewell fight against Antonio Tarver seriously. He has not only hired Mackie Shilstone – the therapist who built up Michael Spinks to fight Larry Holmes and added muscle without taking away agility from the great Ozzie Smith, to turn him into a light-heavyweight – he has added John David Jackson to his corner. Jackson, who used to spar with Hopkins in the Executioner’s early days and was knocked out by Bernard in a title challenge, has sparred recently with Tarver. The southpaw former middleweight and supermiddleweight titleholder says he knows how to beat Tarver. I believe him….A thought as to why boxing titles suck: HBO and much of the media have called Carlos Baldomir-Arturo Gatti a fan-friendly fight. Maybe, but it shouldn’t decide the welterweight championship of the world, not when Floyd Mayweather Jr. is around. Baldomir-Mayweather wouldn’t be so fan-friendly, though..The WBOsses stripped Diego Corrales of its lightweight title and now has Acelino Freitas, whom Chico made quit like a puppy, fighting Zahir Raheem for the belt.

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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