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Articles of 2006

Victorious Sons of a Fallen Empire

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Not everyone would have been surprised by the upset victory last Saturday by Sergei Liakhovich, originally of Vitebsk, Belarus, over Lamon Brewster of Indianapolis, USA, to capture the WBO heavyweight title. Nor of the Russian giant Nikolai Valuev taking the WBA heavyweight strap from John Ruiz in December. Nor that two other upcoming heavyweight title fights might be won by fighters over the belt holders whom they each had previously beaten: Wladimir Klitschko of the Ukraine against Chris Byrd for the IBF title on April 22, and the WBC-designated mandatory challenger Oleg Maskaev of Kazakhstan taking on Hasim Rahman whenever that fight is signed.

If Klitschko and Maskaev prevail again in their rematches, despite the fact that neither they nor Liakhovich live anymore in the lands of their birth, it will give these four sons of the former Soviet Union all the major heavyweight belts.

Someone once told us so, sort of anyway.

It has been almost 50 years since Nikita Khrushchev, then head of the Soviet Union, told a group of Western diplomats in November 1956, “?? ??? ?????????,” meaning “We will bury you.” Often taken out of context, this statement was not a threat of war but an assessment of the future of Western capitalism and the system laughably known as socialism as practiced in the USSR and its allies and satellites. A more complete quotation appeared in The Times of London on Nov. 19, 1956, which read, “Whether you like it or not, history is on our side. We will bury you.” Khrushchev’s infamous shoe-banging incident took place later, in October 1960 on the floor of the United Nations.

Since then, of course, history wasn’t on their side, as most of these dictatorships of the party ruling in the name of the proletariat and their (per)version of socialism have landed squarely in history’s dustbin. This political and economic system collapsed, mainly from within, along with the disintegration of the artificially created federation of supposedly equal Soviet republics. These governments were just as much the victims of the horrible inefficiency of their economic bureaucracies as they were of their lack of political democracy in their one-party authoritarian systems. The Soviets also lost the Cold War, while suffering the consequences of so many hot wars with their imperial rivals of the West through surrogates and allies in Asia, Africa and Latin America. In the end, yet another ideology had failed, like they all eventually do. (For the real “Short Course” on Bolshevism, see the animated version of “Animal Farm” by George Orwell, himself a socialist.)

But while the Soviet system had largely knocked itself out, Western capitalism continued to expand deep into every corner of the globe. The former Soviet empire was brought back into its orbit, including into the sporting world. Yet life during this transition period remained rough, and the resultant political and economic chaos fueled yet another historical wave of emigration westward.

While all this was transpiring, much of the West, and especially the U.S., was growing softer, both figuratively and literally. Manufacturing was exported to lands with weaker or nonexistent labor laws and unions, and, needless to say, far cheaper wages and far greater profits for the multinational beasts. America even began to rely on hired labor to fight its overseas military adventures. Culturally, nerds and geeks became cool, as well as gangstas and pimps. Parasitism thus became celebrated in the official culture. Obesity and type 2 diabetes (the kind which can often be controlled by treatments involving diet and exercise) became national epidemics. Video games became the national pastime. And the faded industrial and urban cauldrons which once produced generations of boxers gave way to a suburban-centric culture which gave many of the same types of big tough kids who used to end up in boxing gyms scholarships to play college football, with even a few of them going into basketball. Still others ventured into college wrestling and the various martial arts.

Symbolic of this change are the backgrounds of the men at the top of the political junk heaps in present-day Russia and America. Russian President Vladimir Putin is the son of a factory worker mother and a father who was drafted into the Soviet navy in the 1930’s and served in World War II. He is a judo black belt and a former officer in the KGB, the old internal political police force of the Soviet Union. U.S. President George W. Bush, on the other hand, is a third-generation major national politician, a graduate of Yale and Harvard, and – what did he do in the war again?

Such were not conditions conducive to producing another generation of top-flight American heavyweight boxers. With athletes from the post-Berlin Wall Eastern Europe pouring into Western professional sports at all levels, few sectors of the sporting world were as ripe for their domination as heavyweight boxing.

While Olympic boxing, with its highly controversial point scoring and headgear, looks more like modern fencing without the weapons than the pro game, in recent years Americans have had a notable lack of success, especially at the heavier weights.

At both the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games, the U.S. failed to place a boxer in the top four, who are all awarded medals, at both heavyweight (201 pounds/91 kg) and super heavyweight. These were divisions in which only recently the American big boys had regularly won gold. At heavyweight, Joe Frazier in 1964, George Foreman in 1968, Henry Tillman in 1984, and Ray Mercer in 1988 each won gold medals. At super heavyweight, Tyrell Biggs won in 1984, while in 1988 Riddick Bowe took silver, losing only to Lennox Lewis in the finals. (Muhammad Ali, then known as Cassius Clay, won his 1960 gold at light heavyweight.)

This was the first time in decades that the U.S. was shutout at both these weights for two successive Olympic Games. And it presaged the decline of the American heavyweights in the professional ranks.

At the same time, boxers from the former Soviet republics were achieving greater success on the Olympic level through the remnants of that formerly state-supported program. While the Cuban amateur team continued its record of Olympic excellence, many sons of the former Soviet Union took home medals in these higher weights after the Americans were long gone.

In 2000, Cuban great Félix Savón won his third straight gold medal at heavyweight, but only by outpointing Russia’s Sultan Ibragimov 21-13 in the finals. Ibragimov is now 19-0 with 16 KOs as a pro, having won his last bout by seventh-round TKO over former contender Lance Whitaker in December.

In 2004, Russian Alexander Povetkin won the gold medal at super heavyweight. He is now 6-0 with 5 KOs as a pro. Fighting thus far exclusively in Germany, he has already beaten veteran journeyman Willie Chapman by a sixth-round TKO in December, before banging Richard Bango, then 17-1, to the canvas with a second-round KO March 4. In only his seventh pro fight, he will now face Friday Ahunanya (20-4) April 22 on the Byrd-Klitschko undercard in Mannheim, Germany. This is the same Klitschko, of course, who won gold at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics at super heavyweight.

The last American to medal at these higher weights was Nate “The Snake” Jones, who won a bronze medal in 1996 at heavyweight. He finished up his pro career in 2002 with a record of 18-2-1 and 9 KOs, losing by third-round TKO in his final bout to, ironically in this context, Lamon Brewster.

In 2000, the U.S. was represented at heavyweight by Michael Bennett. He is also through with his brief pro career. He ended up at
10-4 with 8 KOs, but hung up the pro gloves in 2003 after losing two of his last three fights by stoppage.

The American super heavyweight in 2000 was Calvin Brock, who lost in the first round of those Olympics. Brock is now a top ten pro heavyweight with a record of 28-0 with 22 KOs, including wins over Jameel McCline, Clifford Etienne, David Bostice, and Zuri Lawrence. But his next fight, scheduled for June 24 in Las Vegas, will be against yet another undefeated former Olympian from a former Soviet republic, Timor Ibragimov of Uzbekistan, a cousin of fellow undefeated heavyweight Sultan Ibragimov. Timor, who did not place in the 1996 Olympics, is now 21-0-1 with 13 KOs as a pro, although he has not yet faced any top opposition.

The U.S. heavyweight and super heavyweight representatives at the 2004 Olympics, neither of whom medaled, have each also turned pro, but with far less success than Brock. Devin Vargas is now 8-0 with 4 KOs, but two of his last three fights were only won by him by a split and a majority decision, and both against unheralded local fighters. Super heavyweight Jason Estrada is 5-0, but with only 1 KO. He did try to step up his opposition by fighting Yanqui Diaz Feb. 13, but this fight ended as a no decision in the first round after headbutts caused a cut over Diaz’s eye.

The newly-crowned Liakhovich was also an Olympian, but lost in the first round in 1996 at super heavyweight to Paea Wolfgramm of Tonga, the eventual silver medalist behind Wladimir Klitschko. Liakhovich’s press materials describe this loss as “a controversial one-point setback.” Wolfgramm left the pro ranks in 2003 with a record of 20-5 with 4 KOs, but lost his last two and four of his last six fights.

Liakhovich, we are also told, is quite the aficionado of both combat sports and real combat as well. His press materials state: “He is also a big fan of ultimate fighting and has had to be restrained by [manager Ivaylo] Gotzev from becoming a participant. A ‘Russian Commando’ at heart, according to his manager, he is a good friend with many of the ultimate fighting champions and attends their events regularly.  Weapons, guns and ammunition also fascinate him.”

It was left to Gotzev to make a gold medal quote at the post-fight press conference after Liakhovich’s victory over Brewster: “I will personally send trucks to the doorsteps of the television networks and pay the dumping charges after they’re loaded with all of the older heavyweights so the public can see the new generation of heavyweights like Sergei and see for themselves what they have been missing.”

All that was missing was Gotzev banging his shoe on the table.

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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