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Articles of 2006

Zab Judah: Mysteries of a Man-Child

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Former junior welterweight and welterweight champion Zab Judah’s been backed into his own corner, a dividing line that separates validation from ruin. Only vindication can allow his transferal from the approaching abyss, his career now so perilously close to being defined as an afterthought, title belts won and lost and yet the general sense of potential diminished by intermittent mediocrity a final legacy. It will not matter if Zab Judah wins fights after Saturday night, unless he wins Saturday night’s fight; boxing means surviving to win and prosper, his particular career of note coming down to a singular challenge. For Zab Judah, Brownsville’s Brooklyn brat, the cycle of his professionalism winds toward meeting the challenge of defeating the nemesis of his mind and time, Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Everyone in boxing contents themselves with the knowledge that Judah and Mayweather do not like one another, though papa Yoel Judah says it’s mostly about business, with some over-the-top talk curdling the mix.

“We are going to do what we do best, which is win… He don’t feel nothin’ for Floyd. Floyd has a big mouth… he don’t hate the man, he’s just goin’ to shut his mouth… I don’t think there’s hate between them, Floyd’s just pushing our buttons. This fight will be remembered 10 years from now… this will be like Katrina, it’s comin’ and you can’t stop it!”

Disdain drips off every other sentence emanating from the two camps. Both think of themselves as artists in a boxing ring, each a phenom, budding music impresarios, fame their game, boxing history their canvas, having been reared in a gym to be the men they are as professional practitioners of the science of boxing. There may be something of Leonard vs. Hearns to Mayweather vs. Judah, though reservations surrounding Judah diminish the exactitude of the parallel. Something of Hearns’ speed injected left lead into flashing right hands with leverage does strike a similar pose. And the vulnerability of the chin to direct contact fronted by a blurring array of offensive quality more completely suggests Judah at least a silhouette to the famous son of Detroit’s Kronk Gym. We leave the comparison there, for your extended consideration. Torn of the same cloth, both Mayweather and Judah are built for creating dynamic ring speed, changing the defensive geometry of the ring with a skip, jabs that sear, body shots that make their mark. Where Judah has met his equals or betters in Kostya Tszyu and Carlos Baldomir, Mayweather has so far escaped championship disaster, even direct threats authored by able foes such as Diego Corrales, Jose Luis Castillo and Jesus Chavez.

Judah believes he’s learned more, knows the other side of glory, which remains a mystery waiting for Mayweather to endure. They know that at their best they bring the bling thing, the sparkling invention of masterful boxing to their best outings. If the measure of the man were confined to athleticism then the differences between the two fighters might be negligible. Indeed, one might perhaps see Judah as being the man with the advantage, insofar as power tends to translate itself at vital moments in major fights, when dispensed by throttling quickness. But the chemistry of this particular matchup will have so many more important compounds.

Many boxing observers wonder about Judah’s ability to compartmentalize his loss to Baldomir in his last outing. “We could fight Baldomir 10 more times and Zab would beat him every time,” was how Yoel Judah explained the rationalization of losing in what amounted to his tune up for Mayweather. And this against a fighter Judah himself was taunting as having been “slapped around by his sparring partners out in LA… some of my homeboys worked him over but good,” taunted the then-welterweight champion. The memory of Judah’s devastating loss to Kostya Tszyu in their 140-pound unification showdown at the MGM Grand in 2001 had been a daunting defeat, a moment of humbling psychological reversal. Though in the lead up to his IBF title shot Judah had been tested in besting hard rock Darryl Tyson. In his IBF title claiming win over Jan Bergmann, Judah had to climb off the deck in the second round to punch out a knockout win in the fourth. But the whispers of Judah’s Terry Norris tendencies for being buzzed before bombarding his way to victory began to define him. Tested as he was in the ring by fighters like Terronn Millett, Zab Judah never failed to take an opportunity to bark at his opponents, cutting below the usual layers comprising the thick skinned boasting that has become part of most big fight media junkets.

How bad did the kid from Brooklyn want to appear to be? Did he really suppose he would define his own space in the culture of championship boxing as a tough guy, a dangerous man in the mold of Mike Tyson, Bernard Hopkins or James Toney? Sometimes we are so keen to make our lives a video we forget that there has to be reality at the heart of living as we dream.

Of course, with all these allusions to Hearns and Norris and even Felix Trinidad, Judah was seen in good company, championed on ESPN by an adoring Max Kellerman. Kellerman went so far as to call into question the stoppage by Tszyu, adjudicated by referee Jay Nady. This against the on-air Showtime assessment of Bobby Czyz at ringside – “It was a good stoppage” – and a point/counterpoint feeling in the press of Judah having been denied by fate, fortune and foolishness, if not the fists of future Hall of Famer Tszyu. Judah’s loss to Tszyu evoked strong feelings of destiny denied as well as a serious failure to launch what so many expected to be a championship career in the 21st Century marked by exceptional performances. Was that assessment of Judah just an illusion that uncritical perception becomes if expectation is unchecked by reason? No, not exactly. For there was about Judah the elements of a unique athletic force, the speed, the rangy boxing, the demolishing hitting power; he was the shape of things hoped for.

Of course, there is the metal of the mind and the absolute need for clinical calculation of boxer-punchers to translate into attacking acumen. Then there is the need of the man to be the real thing, able to leap tall buildings, if you suppose, to ‘wear’ the name “Super” on your trunks. Otherwise you are just calling attention to the self; you are just posing in the place of other men of steel. It has never been the mind of the man which people have criticized with respect to Zab “Super” Judah, but the child raging within. In this era, no other fighter at the top level of world boxing has been called immature more than Zab Judah. His public tantrum in attempting to get in the face of Jay Nady in the moments following that loss Tszyu was perhaps the most officious example.

We note for the record that Mayweather himself was tagged as a classic juvenile ingrate with his labeling HBO’s multi-million dollar contract offering of the late 1990s “slave wages,” an inane expression of discontent. But Judah’s unintended peevishness stems from more than just barbing future opponents. Judah’s characterization of one-knee Sharmba Mitchell as “crying” over the loss to Kostya Tszyu, the first time around, struck many in boxing and fans a like as not merely distasteful but ironic in the extreme given his stool tossing reaction in losing to Tszyu.

Sure… we can pot shot the man, calling his mini-me association with Mike Tyson boxing’s odd couple or cast aspirations about all we want. All that counts is the fight to come and that much of Team Judah have identified correctly. Only taking up the challenge and making an artful war of it will be enough for Judah. We can in one sense dismiss everything that’s ever happened to Judah and think only of the challenge as opportunity nearing. Yet in realizing all that has constituted his career up to this point helps us to understand the silence that has greeted the media and fans from Zab Judah in the weeks leading up to this fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr. The silence has been instructing and suggestive. We do presume that the silence means intensity of training and absolute dedication to the task of his winning. Silence fills us with wonder and sounds out mysteries imperceptible, just past the point of our knowing.

We think we see things so clearly, the matters Mayweather and Judah will be fighting for, as if deliberating upon an eternal question. The truth is we don’t know and cannot calculate perfectly upon the future, even with all the variables and elements known to all. Judah wants us to take his silence these days as a sign of hope and to tell us he has come to believe there remains more than an inconsequential mystery waiting for “Pretty Boy” Floyd. And he’s not kidding.

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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