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Articles of 2006

Marc Ratner, Chuck Minker and Nevada Boxing

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As I sit here banging out the words to this column, I just know I’ll never make it past even the third paragraph without getting a bit watery.

Many of you younger fans won’t remember Chuck Minker. Neither will you newer fans to the sport. Chuck was a boxing judge in Nevada from 1980 until 1987. Then he became the Executive Director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC). Chuck was an outstanding judge. He was a great Executive Director. He was an even greater friend. In fact, he was my best friend, a close brother.

In the spring of 1991, Chuck called to tell me horrible news. He had just come from a medical checkup to find out why his nagging cough refused to go away. The doctor informed him he had a rare form of lung cancer. It was inoperable. It was terminal. Chuck had one year to live.  The doctor was right. On Sunday, May 17, 1992, I received a call from Chuck’s fiancé, Dawn Pacheco. In a low, quiet voice, she told me “We lost Chuck tonight.” He was just 42. Damn that disease! I told you I wouldn’t make it past the third paragraph.

When I lost my best friend, boxing lost its finest administrator. But I’ve always heard that when the good Lord closes one door, he opens another. Believe me, it’s true.

Chuck had two other “brothers” besides me. One was Edwin “Flip” Homansky. He is a warm and brilliant physician, who, for years, worked as a ringside doctor for NSAC. His other “brother” was Marc Ratner.

When I was Editor-in-Chief of Ring Magazine and a boxing analyst for ESPN and later the USA Network in the first half of the 1980’s, I used to get together with Minker, the boxing judge, on my many trips into Nevada to cover the likes of Muhammad Ali, Larry Holmes, Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Thomas Hearns and Roberto Duran.

Later in the decade, I’d visit with Minker the Executive Director, when I was on official business in Nevada as Chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission. I attended his seminars, I attended his organizational meetings, I learned his ways and I met his staff and colleagues. Included in that lot were Chuck’s “brothers,” Dr. Flip Homansky and Marc Ratner.

My initial reaction to meeting Ratner was that he sounded, not a little bit, but exactly, like Minker. If you closed your eyes, you couldn’t tell who was talking. Minker was Ratner. Ratner was Minker.

Ratner, now a spry 60, began as a NSAC Inspector in 1985, but quickly became their Chief Inspector.

During an Association of Boxing Commissions convention in Las Vegas in 1989, Ratner gave a seminar on the finer points of being an inspector to the throng of commissioners in attendance. Seated next to me throughout the seminar was Minker. At one point he leaned over and whispered proudly to me, “Nobody is better than Marc! Nobody!” He wasn’t bragging. He was just telling the truth.

In Minker’s final few months on Earth, he confided in me that he desperately wanted Ratner to be the man to replace him when the time came. Even in those last few weeks, when every breath was a mountain to climb, when he was forced to walk around with an oxygen tank and tubes in his nostrils, Minker pushed Marc Ratner’s name in front of the five Governor-appointed-commissioners who made up NSAC. Minker knew there was only one man for the job. He knew that man was Marc Ratner. The five commissioners could have gone in another direction. They didn’t. They listened to Minker. When Chuck left us, they turned their Chief Inspector into their Executive Director. That’s why, since the days of Chuck Minker, the Nevada State Athletic Commission has been the role model for every other commission in the country.

Oh, there have been boxing controversies inside Nevada’s borders. Plenty of them. But controversy and boxing go hand in hand.

Fan Man flew over the arena and into the ring during Evander Holyfield-Riddick Bowe II.

Mike Tyson took, not one, but two, chomps out of Holyfield’s ears during the course of their bout.

Did referee Tony Weeks stop the Diego Corrales-Jose Luis Castillo bout too early?

Sadly, four fighters lost their lives during his tenure.

None of it was Ratner’s fault. Anybody could have been Executive Director. But if anybody had been Executive Director, the situations might not have been handled as smoothly. Arguably, nobody could have handled each situation more professionally.

You see how baseball is handling their horrific steroid situation. In Nevada, steroids are not tolerated. In 2002, Ratner and the NSAC fined Fernando Vargas $100,000 and suspended him for nine months for testing positive after losing to Oscar De La Hoya.

As if being Executive Director of the heavyweight champion of athletic commissions is not enough, Ratner is also the commissioner of the Southern Nevada Official’s Association, a football line judge for the Mountain West Conference and the official timekeeper at UNLV basketball games.

Ratner was born in Phoenix, Arizona. His family moved to Pomona, California, when he was a baby, then to Las Vegas, Nevada, when he was 11, where his father, Heiden, opened a business.

In 1979, Heiden died following complications from hip replacement surgery. Marc—and his lovely wife, Joann—named the youngest of their three children after his beloved dad.

Heiden Jr. is a junior at Silverado High School in Las Vegas and a star basketball player for his school team. Papa Marc, who you already know is an incredibly busy man, rarely misses a game.

When it comes to professional boxing, Ratner attends almost every press conference, runs every weigh-in, visits all the gyms and is ringside at virtually every fight card throughout the state.

You’d think with a job this important and so visible, that he’d love to be seen on camera once in a while. Not Ratner. In fact, he cringes—as did Minker—when a commissioner in another state places himself between the combatants at the official weigh-in.

“Chuck once told me, ‘Keep your back to the cameras,’” said Ratner. “I listened to him and have done that ever since. The weigh-in, as well as the fight itself, is all about the fighters.”

Last June, Ratner was inducted into the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame.

When he stepped to the podium to graciously accept his award, his mind was on Minker.

“I shared the award with Chuck,” Ratner said. “His loss was a blow I still feel. He’ll always be a big part of my life. Any award I should ever be fortunate enough to get will be shared with his memory. He was a super guy and an honest man filled with integrity. I promised him, before he passed away, to always try to do what is right.”

Part of what Ratner considers doing the right thing is being available to the media…to his friends…to his licensees…to the fans…to everybody. Call the commission offices and see if I’m wrong (Colleen, Sandy and Barbara will beat me for this!!!). Without being told who’s on the phone, but just knowing there’s a call for him, Ratner will pick up the phone with a “Marc Ratner” or “Hello, Marc speaking.”

His office is a virtual museum of boxing memorabilia. It is a fight fan’s dream. On the wall are tickets to boxing matches. Photos. Framed letters from Roy Jones Jr. and Oscar De La Hoya.  Official credentials to major fights. A magnificent sketch of him by legendary artist Leroy Neiman.

The first major fight he witnessed in person, not as Executive Director, but as a fan, was in 1962, when lightweight champ Carlos Ortiz captured a 15-round decision over Joe Brown.

“Who would have known, that 30 years later…” he said, proudly.

Who would have known that he would have turned into the greatest Executive Director any boxing has ever seen.

Last week, Ratner’s tenure as Executive Director of NSAC ended. He resigned to

take a three-year deal with the rapidly-growing, Las Vegas-based Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and become a vice-president for them.

UFC owner Lorenzo Fertitta, a former NSAC commissioner, said Ratner will be involved in every aspect of the operation. Naturally, this includes regulatory issues and speaking and dealing with other state athletic commissions.

The news of Ratner’s stepping down came almost as much a shock to Nevada as the underground nuclear testing in the desert half a century ago.

Commission Chairman Skip Avansino admitted that replacing Ratner will be difficult.

“I don’t know of another Marc Ratner walking around,” said Chairman Avansino. “He’s been a fantastic leader for this commission and he will be missed something terribly.”

Las Vegas Sun columnist Ron Kantowski pretty much captured the essence of what Ratner meant to the sport when he wrote, “During his 20 years of service, you could use the words ‘integrity’ and ‘boxing’ in the same sentence and not be sued for false advertising.”

The Nevada State Athletic Commission’s loss is certainly the UFC’s gain.

Somewhere in Heaven, G-d’s Executive Director of Angels, Chuck Minker, is smiling, proud of the work he saw his “brother,” Marc Ratner, accomplish during his years in boxing.

For all of us who have ever been touched by him, thank you, Marc.

* * *

In order to be eligible for induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, a person must, of course, have the credentials. They must also be retired from boxing for five years. Marc Ratner has the credentials. His retirement begins on May 13, 2006.  To the President of the IBHOF, Don Ackerman, and to its Executive Director, Ed Brophy, get ready to start the countdown to Marc Ratner’s induction.

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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