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Articles of 2006

Boxing’s March Madness

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With April Fool’s Day just around the corner, it was tempting to wait writing my weekly column until that hallowed celebration arrived. I usually try to come up with something in order to observe one of the few holidays which mean anything to me. But this year will be different.

In boxing these days, there is really no need to invent some farfetched and humorous tale. All you have to do is look at many of the recent media releases and news stories to find some gems wackier than most grade-A comic writers could ever imagine.

The problem, of course, is that these are real stories involving real people, and not lighthearted concoctions designed to entertain audiences. In what other category than comedy that places them varies, but they all share a common thread of madness among them.

The official benedictions from the World Boxing Council always provide an amusing way to start. This is the alphabet soup sanctioning body which is supposed to be the most respected, or least disrespected, of the three or four major ones in the world.

Imagine trumpets blaring as a herald wearing knickers and a funny hat unfurls a rolled parchment document and announces the latest proclamation from HRH Jose Sulaiman, President of the WBC.

Dated March 27, 2006, it states, “WBC super lightweight world champion Floyd Mayweather has relinquished the title and is moving up in weight to fight for the welterweight title of another organization.”

This is only about two months after Mayweather’s fight with Zab Judah was announced, and four months after Mayweather had actually moved up in weight to welterweight, defeating Sharmba Mitchell by a sixth-round TKO last November. (By the way, also guilty of a similar delay is The Ring, whose latest posted rankings, dated March 19, 2006, still have Mayweather at 140, like they had to keep him there because he still held an alphabet belt at that weight.)

Would it kill the WBC to specify the name of “another organization” whose title Mayweather is trying to wrest from Judah? More importantly, while most of the boxing media do not recognize Judah as holding any legitimate welterweight titles after his Jan. 7 unanimous decision loss to Carlos Baldomir, apparently the WBC still does, since its cryptic statement refers to this as “the welterweight title of another organization.” There is no Mafia, all the rival families agree.

The statement closes, “Mayweather has stated that he expects to win the welterweight title, and right after that to come back to the WBC to fight for its welterweight world championship.” Catch the distinction between “the welterweight title,” meaning the IBF version held by Judah, and the “welterweight world championship,” meaning the WBC version won by Baldomir? World championships are in the eye of the sanctioning fee collectors. Just try explaining this to a casual fan over a beer somewhere. You’ll probably be heeded about as much as George Bush is on 125th Street – or most American streets these days.

To replace Mayweather, the WBC commands, “For this reason, the World Boxing Council is declaring the world super lightweight title vacant and ordering No. 1 ranked Junior Witter of Great Britain to face No. 2 ranked DeMarcus Corley of the United States for the vacant title.”

And what did these two do to earn this anointment?

Corley’s last fight was on Sept. 17, 2005, when he won by ninth-round TKO in Kinder, LA, over Johnny Walker, then with a robust record of 18 wins and only 17 defeats. Before that Corley fought at welterweight, winning an eight-round unanimous decision over one Kevin Carter, then with a record of 9 wins, only 45 defeats, and 1 draw, on July 29, 2005, in North Charleston, SC. And before that, he lost three of his previous four fights, albeit all to the top fighters Miguel Cotto, Floyd Mayweather Jr., and Zab Judah.

Witter actually has a legit claim to getting a title shot. (Or is it a world championship shot?) After a 2000 loss to Judah in an IBF title fight, his only defeat, Witter, now 33-1-2 with 19 KOs, has won his next 18 fights. He already beat Lovemore N’dou back on Feb. 19, 2005, by unanimous decision at the Staples Center in Los Angeles in a bout billed as a WBC title eliminator. He followed that up with decision wins over Andreas Kotelnik, then 24-1, and Colin Lynes, then 26-1, but now is slated to face Giuseppe Lauri (40-4) on April 28 in Varese, Italy. If that fight still comes off, it will be about a year and a half after his “title eliminator” by the time he gets to fight for that title, belt, championship, whatever.

This isn’t even close to being as bad as the WBC even letting James “Buster” Toney fight for its heavyweight title against Hasim Rahman March 18. Remember that after his April 2005 WBA heavyweight title fight with John Ruiz, originally won by Toney, his positive doping test not only cost him that victory and title, but also made him ineligible for fighting for any WBA belt for two years.

How can there not be reciprocity among the alphabet soup bodies for such a punishment? Can you imagine a major league baseball player being suspended in the American League but allowed to play in the National League? Even that steroid-infested sport has some type of central authority, as weak, hypocritical, and ineffective as it is.

Rahman-Toney ended up as a majority draw. If Toney was more active in the final round and had won it on the scorecards of the two judges who had the fight a draw, he would have won the bout by split decision and thus been crowned the WBC heavyweight champion, while still being barred, and for good reason, from holding any WBA title. It’s funny, or perhaps sad, how so few journalists pointed this out.

The camp of now-former WBA champ John Ruiz used the occasion of this WBC title fiasco to issue a press release on March 21 which pointed out “Toney’s listless performance” in this fight. Ruiz, who is suing Toney because of his doping before their fight, was quoted as saying, “He didn’t have the same energy he did against me, but that’s what steroids do. Toney had a lot of energy right through the last round in our fight. If I fought that Toney (last Saturday versus Rahman), I guarantee it would have been a completely different fight. He had to cheat to beat me.”

Maybe, maybe not, but the Team Ruiz statement did add, “Since his fight against Toney, Ruiz has called for boxing organizations to improve their standards, testing protocols and penalties to prevent and deter the use of anabolic steroids and other banned performance enhancing substances.”

Since that fight we have not received one report of so much as one of these commissions doing anything which Ruiz suggested. Instead, we had Toney, barred from holding one group’s title because of his cheating, fighting for and coming within one point of holding another group’s title.

It only gets worse, this perusal of the news from what looks more like sour alchemy than the name of this website.

A March 23 Associated Press story on the death of boxer Kevin Payne, who died March 19 the day after winning a bout in Evansville, Indiana, quotes Frances Kelly, executive director of the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency, which oversees boxing in that state, as saying that Payne “may have had a pre-existing brain injury.”

Kelly is also quoted as saying, “From the commission’s perspective, it appears like everything was conducted properly in terms of rules and regulations.”

These statements may not be as contradictory as they may seem at first glance.

According to information posted on the official web site of the Association of Boxing Commissions (http://www.abcboxing.com), all Indiana requires before a fight are a complete physical exam, a negative HIV test, and a pregnancy test.

NOT required, as they list them, are:

EKG (Heart Test)
EEG (Brain Wave Test)
Dilated Eye Exam (Eye Test)
CT Scan (Brain X-Ray)
MRI (Brain X-Ray)
Neurological Exam (By Neurologist)
Stress Test (Heart) 2D Echo (Heart)
Negative Hepatitis BsAg (Hepatitis B Test)
Negative Hepatitis CAb (Hepatitis C Test)
Hepatitis Vaccine
CBC (Blood Count)
PT/PTT (Blood Clotting Test)
Chest X-Ray
TB Test (Tuberculosis)
Neuropsychological Exam (Neurologic Test)
Gynecologic Exam

Without a CT scan and/or MRI, how can any physician or commission member know whether a fighter has a “pre-existing brain injury” or not? By seeing them drop dead after winning a fight in which the video, as in this one, reportedly “did not show any devastating blows to Payne’s head”? Is that what they must wait for?

So find somewhere else for April Fool’s Day pranks. The madness is quite real here, and will not end when the clock turns midnight to start April 2.

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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