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Articles of 2006

Hearing Is Not Always Believing

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LAS VEGAS, April 5 – Hush, hush. Zab Judah decided to talk. I decided not to listen.

Judah, who had been sulking in his gym and ignoring all media during the buildup of Saturday’s fight here with Floyd Mayweather Jr., was set for his “grand arrival” at Caesars Palace yesterday. This is a new promotion gimmick for photo and interview ops since the ritual pre-fight press conference and day-before weigh-ins do not garner enough attention for the hucksters.

But since Zab had made it clear he wasn’t talking, brushing off a teleconference call last week, it was easy to go back to sleep and not worry about braving traffic on the Strip.

There was no compelling reason to listen to Judah anyway. What can he say that we already didn’t know? Was he going to explain e=mc2, the affect of global warming on the Albanian economy or why William Shakespeare was more overrated as a dramatist than as a quarterback? Zab’s observations on the considerably narrower world of boxing have not been known to be that illuminating.

This was the guy who kept insisting he was the best fighter “pound for pound” in the world, even after Jan Bergmann dropped him and Kostya Tszyu knocked him down twice with a single blow. This was the guy who, in a bolt of intellectual brilliance, called Pretty Boy Floyd “pretty girl,” who proved that silence is golden, especially after you lose, blaming his “bad night” against the ordinary Carlos Baldomir on Don King (“my promoter f’d up; Don King dragged me around the city every day”).

The “world’s greatest promoter” couldn’t convince his recalcitrant star that selling pay-per-view buys was for his own good. Money talks, but Judah didn’t think he was getting enough. His purse for Mayweather was slashed following the loss to Baldomir. He’s lucky he still has a big stage, though I’m hearing the multimillion-dollar share for the Judah side became the lowest seven-figure amount possible and you don’t need me to tell you who’s getting the King’s share (maybe three-quarters) of that.

Anyway, by keeping his mouth shut, Judah was obviously a lot less embarrassing. His father, however, did not know best and, in essence, substituted for his recalcitrant son on last week’s conference call. Yoel Judah, did not win friends or influence handicappers.

Referring at times to “Baltimore” or “Baltozar,” Yoel brushed off his son’s loss by saying Zab gets up only for the “big” fights. He said Zab was going to “shut Floyd’s big mouth.” The only mouth Zab could shut was his own and he didn’t have to punch himself in the face to succeed.

He opened it a bit yesterday at the “grand arrival” at the front door of Caesars Palace. But nothing he said was worth missing any extra sleep.

“I know all about Mayweather and what it takes to beat him.”

“I’m going to be aggressive real early and go right after him.”

“I’ve had a lot on my mind, that’s why I haven’t been talking.”

There, feel better? I often prefer it when the boxers bite down hard on their mouthpieces – and/or their tongues. Not talking is almost as good as not listening.

Was it more than 28 years ago – seems just like yesterday – when Muhammad Ali announced early in the pre-fight buildup he wouldn’t say anything about his fight with the young 1976 Olympic gold-medal winner, Leon Spinks? What could a legend say that could possibly sell a fight against a seven-bout novice? It was a nice gimmick, while it lasted. A couple of days before the fight, his longtime aide, Gene Kilroy, rounded up as many Boss Scribes as he could. Ali had grown bored with not talking.

Naturally, being silent for all those weeks led to Ali being victim to the Sphinx jinx (sorry, couldn’t resist).

Believe me, better fighters than Zab Judah have not talked to me. It did not help Gerry Cooney. I was the first kid on the block that Gentleman Gerry gave the silent treatment. His co-manager, Dennis Rappaport – still No. 1 on my sleaze list – had decided that the New York Times boxing writer should personify all Cooney’s critics. I liked Gerry, but I had just begun to wonder out loud why he was always fighting residents of old-age homes like Ken Norton, Jimmy Young and Ron Lyles. Did the Whackos – Rappaport and partner Mike Jones – know something we didn’t?

I think we learned what it was when he went away and hid after losing to Larry Holmes and then tried a comeback – only after a light-heavyweight, Michael Spinks, was the heavyweight champion. Cooney was not a fighter, which didn’t make him a bad guy, he just had other interests.

Ray (Boom Boom) Mancini didn’t talk to me for a long while, too. Fine with me. I had bought into the story of the son trying to win the title his father never had a chance to go for because of service in World War II. But after he became champion, he was to meet someone named Orlando Romero at Madison Square Garden. A young prospect approached me and said this Peruvian was hardly a worthy challenger. “I’ve had only two fights and I can handle him easily,” said the youngster, whose style similarities to Boom Boom made him a good choice for a Romero sparring partner.

After eight rounds, I had Mancini and Romero even before the Boom Boom was lowered in the ninth. Promoter Bob Arum screamed at me at the post-fight press conference that I cost him a million dollars by listening to some punk kid with two pro fights that Romero couldn’t fight.

The punk kid grew up to be a punk man named Vinny Pazienza and when I wrote that the kid was right, Romero was not a worthy challenger and what did that make Mancini, Boom Boom thereafter became Hush Hush whenever I walked into the room.

Frankie Randall, whom I had never talked with, once refused to talk to me. This was after I had sent money out with Pat Putnam to bet on Randall when he became the first boxer to score an official victory against Julio Cesar Chavez. I defended Randall when he was robbed of the title in the rematch, but when I tried to talk to him at his next fight, even his trainer, Aaron Snowell, was surprised that I was in the nonspeaking section. The explanation: Randall was managed by Carl King, who was then angry with me.

Come to think of it, there are a lot of people to whom I don’t talk, although there are considerably more to whom I don’t WANT to talk.

PENTHOUSE: As soon as I spotted Richie Giachetti in the dressing room of Sergei Liahkovich at the start of the Showtime telecast, I called my buddy Royce Feour and said I was switching my pick from Lamon Brewster. If there’s one magician who knows how to teach heavyweights how to jab, it is Giachetti (prime example: Buster Douglas), who of course learned from the master, Larry Holmes. Now I don’t know if Holmes’s former trainer was involved in Liahkovich’s preparations, but he was another example of the fine job trainer Kenny Weldon did with the surprising Belarusian boxer, including the wonderful line, “Next time I see you on the ropes like that, I’m throwing the stool at you.”

Weldon was magnificent in the corner between rounds, reminding the White Wolf to stay behind the jab and “if you think you can stand toe to toe with this guy, you’re wrong.” When it appeared as if Referee Ernest Shariff was pestering Liahkovich with first constant warnings for imagined fouls and then, mysteriously, calling a halt in the action at the end of a furious fifth round just when the challenger was coming on after absorbing some heavy punches, Weldon yelled, “What are you doing, Ref?”

It was a wonderful all-round job by a trainer who once told me, when he handled Wilford Scypion before a title fight, that Marvelous Marvin Hagler was no big deal.

And while Brewster’s will and courage made this one of the better heavyweight title fights, let’s not jump overboard. It was, as Steve Albert reminded us, one of those rare “exciting, competitive heavyweight fights,” but the reason it was so competitive is because neither man was, as Floyd Mayweather Jr. would say, an “A” fighter. And commentator Al Bernstein’s wonderment at the hand speed of the 6-foot-4 giant from Belarus should perhaps be put in context. It was Brewster, slower than usual because, like many a heavyweight these days, he entered not in prime shape, who made it seem that way. Which leads us to the….

OUTHOUSE: No one is as big a Buddy McGirt fan as this poor bettor who cashed in nicely on him when, a 5-2 underdog, he easily handled Simon Brown. McGirt is a terrific trainer, but he’s not one of those hands-on guys who make sure their pupils are up in the morning and out doing their roadwork. Antonio Tarver, for example, in addition to having McGirt in the gym, has a team of conditioners to make sure he’s also in shape. Brewster did not look in shape.

Also, taking over from Jesse Reid – who had sparked Brewster to knockout victories over Foul Pole Golota and Luan Krasniqi – McGirt never sounded the proper tone of desperation in the corner. As Brewster fell further and further behind, McGirt concentrated on getting his charge into throwing more right hands. Sorry, Brewster is a natural southpaw who fights from the orthodox stance – his left is his money hand.

RUSSIAN ROULETTE: George Kimball noted it BEFORE Liahkovich upset Brewster – that if Wladimir Klitschko and Oleg Maskaev, in the next two heavyweight title fights, repeat earlier victories, the world is going to have four “communist” heavyweight champions. Liahkovich is from Belarus, WBA strapholder Nicolai Valuev is from Russia and Baby Brother Klitschko, challenging Chris Byrd for the IBF trinket, is from Ukraine while Maskaev, the mandatory challenger for the WBC’s Hasim Rahman is from Uzbekistan. So one century later, we may be looking for a Great Black Hope….Kind of makes James Toney’s crap about how African-American fighters can’t be beat look not only racist but stupid.

MORE DIS AND THAT: The heavyweight division could do worse than have rematches of its last two “title” bouts – Rahman-Toney and Liahkovich-Brewster. But it is still to be hoped that Samuel Peter and Calvin Brock and that unknown kid in some gym somewhere will come along quicker than you can say Shannon Briggs….Been told there’s a memo wherein Ricky Hatton says he doesn’t want to fight either Floyd Mayweather Jr. or Miguel Cotto this year. Sounds like in 2006 he’s going for non-fighter of the year….Bob Arum’s lovely bride Lovey under the weather; everyone say your bruchas, please….Arum, 0-2 against King in big fights (Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Roberto Duran in I, Oscar De la Hoya against Felix Trinidad Jr.), could get even Saturday night. Not only does he have Mayweather against Judah, he has a big favorite in the semifinal, Jorge Arce against King’s Rosendo Alvarez….We’ve already had two prime candidates for biggest waste of talent – Juan Manuel Marquez and Timmy Austin….Evander Holyfield is suing Don King for not getting him fights. That’s about the nicest thing I’ve ever heard about Don.

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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