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Articles of 2006

Out of the Eye of the Storm: Ratner Bids Commission Farewell

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LAS VEGAS– However enticing and influential the monetary incentives were that prompted Marc Ratner to resign his position as executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, it’s not like the stoic standard-bearer just simply took the money and ran.

When it was announced he would soon be on a greener grass UFC payroll, Ratner expressed a continued deep affection for boxing but also admitted that family financial considerations made his choice immediately obvious.

That’s great news. There still aren’t enough cases of good karma: nice guy-finishes-first scenarios in any aspect of the duke-out game. Many years of firsthand observations indicate Ratner deserves any happy ending he derives from his service to the sport.

During a distinguished tenure, Ratner earned the deal in crossover realms from human folly to statutory logic, and life, and death. A job description included such improvised duties as separating contestants and their teams from each other during pre- and post-fight melees, or checking scales for intrusive toeholds.

There was no fine print about waiting at the hospital while a boxer faded away forever.

Still, Ratner remained a voice of calm reason from the tragic times to the absurd, from the sick to the sublime. He usually managed to keep a sincere, look on the bright side smile.

It’s hard to be a saint in Sin City. In boxing, in Vegas, an ongoing reputation like Ratner’s is rare. Sure there could always be the proverbial pictures with sheep at the orphanage, but in Vegas they would have surfaced by now. If Ratner’s civility was an act, it was one of the best ones on the Strip. For around fourteen years it lasted longer at the top marquee than most.

Reviewing a recent interview prior to his resignation changes focus from the state of Ratner’s mind to a state of reflective tribute.

“Well, no matter what fights we had, you have to term 2005 as a real tough year for boxing (in Nevada) overall,” said Ratner in December as he relaxed after the weigh-in for Jermain Taylor-Bernard Hopkins II. “We had two fatalities, and so no matter what great fights happened, you can never get away from that.

“There’s nothing tougher as commission director than sitting in the hospital. I went every day for Leavander Johnson. With Martin Sanchez, by the time I got to the hospital, he was already gone. If there was a common thread between the deaths, if we can find something, I hope we can.

“It’s a tough sport to get your arms around at best. You have to be constantly vigilant. Besides two deaths (in Nevada) last year, the government found that we had a fight in 2000 that was fixed. There’s always things that happen and you have to be ever vigilant. It makes you sharper, and I try to be sharp. Boxing is at a very high level here. The scrutiny on the commission and on myself is great, and I’m very much aware of that.”

While it was easy to envision Ratner in the commission position for life, there were also occasional scenes behind the scenes that would wear on any resolve or dedication. Juggling so many personal, political, and commercial agendas on so many levels would have to be a drain sometimes.

The commission dealt with a pair of tragedies as Sanchez and Johnson died directly from competition. It was the first time in many years where two boxers succumbed in the same calendar.

Ratner also had to keep the ship on a smooth sailing course after Governor Kenny Guinn chose to appoint a replacement for Dr. Flip Homansky, which preceeded the resignation of high profile ringside physician Margaret Goodman, reportedly Homansky’s significant other. Along the way there were piles of innuendo and conflicting angles of interest. Another primetime Vegas drama.

Ever the good soldier, Ratner held the company line and smiled as he fielded legitimate questions, scathing queries, or good-natured jibes toward various procedures like the Goodman-Homansky situation.

“It’s real simple. The governor decided that he would appoint another commissioner from the north. Dr Homansky’s term was up. And he was not reappointed. Dr Homansky is one of the most wonderful commissioners, one of the most wonderful ring doctors. He’s my personal physician, a very big part of my life, but I also respect the governor and that’s his decision.”

“The perspective is real simple,” continued Ratner. “Dr. Goodman is Chief of the Medical Advisory Board. She is still very much involved with the commission. She did resign as a ringside physician. She's one of the top ringside physicians in the world. I hope there will come a day when she’ll reconsider. I’d love to have her back. That’s her decision, but she’s still with us, and both she and Dr. Homansky are going to help a medical advisory panel come up with, hopefully, some good, innovative ideas to make the fights safer. We’ll just keep learning and keep going forward.

“I feel that there are a lot of great commissions out there. I deal with a lot of them, and I talk to states every day. We’re blessed because of the gaming in Las Vegas, so we get big fights. Obviously if there were no big hotels here, maybe we’d just be another small state. But (now) we’re a small state with a lot of great fights.”

“It’s a tough, tough sport,” he said, “All I want is to do the best for the fighters. Invariably there will be some injuries, God forbid, and that’s my greatest concern. At the press conference for Hopkins-Taylor (II) Bernard said ‘kiss your daughter goodbye because you may not live.’ That’s the one thing I cringe at when I hear, because it brings back all the bad memories, and absolutely these things can happen.”

For such serious business, things could get silly.

“At the Castillo-Corrales weigh-in, luckily, I saw the Castillo corner person try and cheat,” said Ratner, ”I’ve never seen that before. All of a sudden I looked down and saw one of his medical advisors trying to put his foot underneath the platform so Castillo wouldn’t weigh as much. At that time we fined the fighter ten percent of his purse, or $120,000 dollars, and we suspended the corner person, Dr. Armando Barak, indefinitely. They still have to appear before the commission.”

Sometimes questionable behavior crossed even more serious lines.

“They said the fixed fight was on the first Holyfield-Ruiz undercard,” said Ratner, “Richie Merito and Thomas Williams. It looked like a real good knockout. Williams got knocked out of the ring, into a judge’s lap. The FBI had some wiretaps on Williams and he was convicted.”

Ratner believed a national commission would have helped straighten out the sport.

“The status quo is not working nationwide,” he said, “If the federal government would give the Association of Boxing Commissions a federal backbone, then they’d have everything in place already. What I mean by that is some kind of an office and some funding. What we need is standardized medical tests, standardized rules. It’s not real hard to figure out that if you fight in California the rules are a little bit different in New York or Nevada. One of my pet peeves in the sport is on HBO some nights they’ll say this fight is under one set of rules or the other. There should be one set of rules nationwide. It should be worldwide. That’s my big goal.”

“The federal idea is good. I’d want to see how the funding would be. I’ve never been able to get that answered – how big it would be? – how many layers it would be? – so there’s still a lot of questions. If they could federalize the ABC somehow, they wouldn’t have to have all these different bureaucracies.”

Whether or not the idea advances is no longer a priority on Ratner’s upcoming agenda. In the meantime, he can look back with definite pride on what was.

The wide-ranging mechanisms of various pugilistic enterprise grind along so freaky and fine around here that almost anything falls into the outlook of business as usual.

Human nature sinks and rises in a tide of megabuck marketing. A longshot underdog pulls off a house-breaking upset. Fresh hope keeps the prelims alive while gifted talent gets pissed away in a gutter of abandoned dreams.

Most of the old guard has just about seen it all in this dead end rainbow of a town, but word of Ratner’s resignation spread like a bittersweet sigh.

Vegas has continued to explode as an international party destination of theatric and culinary arts, amongst elite, top dollar entertainment. Boxing did a fine job of growing right along on the biggest stages while Ratner held down the guiding body’s helm.

In the face of multi-million dollar pressures, he pulled off one of the most consistent public relations jobs in a city of neon compliments where backs are patted and stabbed in the same farewell greeting. Governor Guinn and commission chairman Skip Avansino will have a big void to fill. They better hope previous moves don’t come back to haunt them.

The Ratner boxing era ends on May 13th, and the UFC’s new dawn begins two days later. The last boxing event during Ratner’s tenure looks to be Oscar De La Hoya versus Ricardo Mayorga. With the Boxing Writer’s Association in town that weekend, an appropriate gala farewell damn well better occur.

Ratner could return to boxing, but right now that seems unlikely. The three years on his new contract will pass relatively quickly in the treadmill timetable of broadcast combat sports. For some top fighters it’s just one or two contests. For some sports it’s a lifetime. Change of status is part of the natural order. What made it special in this instance was the nature of the individual.

“I love boxing and almost everything about it,” said Ratner, “It will always be one of the most important things in my life.”

From what we saw, if Ratner’s salary came from the taxpayers, they got a great bargain in the civil service and financial return categories. It will be interesting to see what kind of shape the commission, and the Vegas boxing scene, is in three to five years down the road.

It seems sure enough that Ratner left his office and appointed domain in exemplary shape. The fans owe him a fond farewell. The sport owes him history. The boxing fraternity owes him a party. It’s real simple.

May his Zen mastery remain positive. Up ahead for Ratner’s personal state, and behind for the state of boxing in the state of Nevada.

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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