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Articles of 2006

Cousins from Different Cultures



In recent years I have covered several fights in the Mark G. Etess Arena in the Taj Majal Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, NJ. There was the card headlined by Wladimir Klitschko’s sixth-round TKO over Ray Mercer on June 29, 2002. There was the one featuring David Tua’s 30-second knockout of Michael Moorer on Aug. 17, 2002, as well as Tua’s second-round knockout of Russell Chasteen along with Cedric Kushner’s “Fistful of Dollars” tournament of three-rounders won by Maurice Harris, all on Nov. 30, 2002.

This past Saturday, April 29, I returned to that same building, but this time to cover a fight card in a different combat sport. This was the debut show of the International Fight League (IFL), one of the newest and biggest entrants into the exploding sport of mixed martial arts. This group’s particular concept centers around establishing teams of fighters in the various weight classes in that sport to compete in individual fights as part of a dual meet between teams, similar to college wrestling. (Reports on that show, which was quite good, especially for a debut effort, are on my No Holds Barred blog at and podcast at .)

This building holds a special place in the history of mixed martial arts, since on Nov. 17, 2000, the first Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) event in New Jersey took place there. It was preceded by the first state commission-sanctioned mixed martial arts event in New Jersey, a show by a rival group, the International Fighting Championships (IFC), on September 30, 2000, at the nearby Tropicana. (Disclosure note: I used to be a TV analyst for the IFC’s pay-per-view shows and was a judge at UFC 18 on Jan. 8, 1999.)

Looking around at last Saturday’s IFL show, and the UFC and IFC shows in Atlantic City, and comparing them to the many boxing cards I have also covered in that town, what stood out is the lack of crossover at these events, both among fans and media. It was just about like going to concerts of Toby Keith and Busta Rhymes: different crowds, y’all.

I did see one person who has covered both mixed martial arts and boxing besides myself, as well as some media people I brought to the event. But there were few others who were at both types of shows, with one notable exception: Larry Hazzard Sr., commissioner of the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board, that state’s athletic commission.

Now having served in that post for 21 years, straight through seven state administrations including both Democrats and Republicans, Commissioner Hazzard is not only well-known and respected in boxing for being one of the toughest in that business. He is also well-known and respected in the mixed martial arts for being one of the most instrumental figures in that sport eventually gaining legalization and sanctioning in numerous other major boxing states, including Nevada and, finally just this year, California.

After that first series of mixed martial arts shows which began in the fall of 2000, he held a meeting in the state capital of Trenton on April 3, 2001, with several mixed martial arts promoters and others involved in that sport to hammer out a set of uniform rules. These rules were in large part based on rules which had already been adopted and implemented in 1998 in the Province of Quebec under their equivalent of an athletic commission, and even approved but not implemented by the California State Athletic Commission in 2000. Later that year, on July 23, 2001, these rules were basically adopted by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, and the era of the attempted destruction and prohibition of this sport in the U.S. was in the main over.

Nonetheless, there are still many boxing people who even today either don’t understand, still fear, or even want to ban mixed martial arts. Much of the disconnect has to do with the unfamiliarity of many boxing people with the fighting techniques used in the mixed martial arts which come from grappling disciplines such as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, wrestling, and judo.

Speaking right before the IFL event got underway, Commissioner Hazzard said, “What happens most of the time with boxing people is that they understand, they can identify with this as long as the fighters are up. Up position. It’s what happens when they go to the ground is where they get lost. And this is where they lose interest. They don’t understand the grappling aspect of the mixed martial arts. And until they become a little bit more sophisticated with what goes on on the ground, then I think that the sport will begin to garner even more fans.”

Others are just concerned that the growing popularity of these events – the last two UFC pay-per-views each reportedly got at least 400,000 buys – will come at the expense of boxing.

“Boxing people don’t have to worry because this particular sport has cultivated its own fans,” he stated. “But, it’s not that this sport is trying to take boxing fans away. Boxing fans I think will always be boxing fans. Mixed martial arts fans – they’ve cultivated their own fan base. And when you really look at it objectively, the fan base that is being cultivated I think is one that will have a longer lifespan because they are cultivating a young fan base.”

Hazzard also pointed out that the rise of mixed martial arts comes at a time when boxing is in decline.

“As you know, the sport of professional boxing is losing its fan base, because of a lack of competitive bouts, talented fighters,” he stated. “When boxing fans associate or try to differentiate between today’s boxers and compare them with the fighters of yesteryear, there’s no comparison. There’s no comparisons to the Muhammad Alis, Joe Louises, Sugar Ray Robinsons. Even when you come closer to the 1970’s, your Sugar Ray Leonards, and your Spinks brothers. These fighters today don’t compare to them. So boxing is losing its fan base. This particular sport is cultivating an entirely new group of fans, including females. And it’s a young fan base. So I think that this sport is going to be around for many, many more years to come – not that boxing won’t be around.”

And, as he put it, “There are two different cultures.”

Like in most distinct, self-protective, narrowly-defined, and parochial cultures, few can exist comfortably in both boxing and mixed martial arts. The key to understanding how to do so is to realize that they are both actually cousins, just different branches of the combative sports.

“The one thing that I do know is combative sports,” stated Commissioner Hazzard.

“What we did here – mixed martial arts could not find a home anywhere in the country, including Nevada,” he recalled. In him, UFC, he said, “had a friend, because I have a background in the sport. I’m a black belt in jiu-jitsu. Studied the sport many, many years, with some of the OLD masters.” And even though the style of jiu-jitsu in which he earned his black belt was more traditional than the Brazilian version most popular in today’s mixed martial arts events, that education and training prepared Commissioner Hazzard to understand this sport, where the techniques of numerous disciplines were combined.

“I knew that if you developed a set of rules and regulations that emphasized safety, that this sport would then gain acceptability among the major boxing commissions, because that is our major mission, that’s our goal, to protect the health and safety of the contestants who compete,” he said. “That’s what we did. And the results speak for themselves.” They certainly do, as deaths and severe brain injuries continue to plague boxing, while regulated mixed martial arts events have proved to safer for the athletes involved, with the only two reported deaths taking place in unregulated events outside the U.S.

The continued relative safety record of mixed martial arts and its growth in popularity in the U.S. may even start to open the eyes of some of the narrowest of boxing people. Asked if he thought that might happen, Commissioner Hazzard concurred.

“I think that they will,” he replied. Then he added, “But you have to understand that historically, boxing fans are diehard fans. I’m a boxing fan. Boxing’s my first love. But it’s because of my background in the martial arts, I look at myself as being a combative sportsman, period. Any form of combative sports, I gravitate to it. And that’s been my life. And I will do everything that I can to keep the sport safe and to promote its popularity.”

Elaborating on his own background, Hazzard said, “I learned jiu-jitsu from a gentleman who was highly recognized, Master Moses Powell,” who he said passed away last year. “I also studied under the great Master Ronald Duncan.” And here, fellow anthropologists, is where that cultural divide is so pronounced.

“These were men whose life was spent promoting and teaching the various forms of the martial arts. This is what they lived by,” he stated. “The martial arts actually is a way of life. So that’s why you have a different type of dedication to this sport that you don’t find in the sport of boxing.”

He added, “But if you know about the history of combative sports, boxing is martial arts also.” I agreed, noting that, in essence, despite the differing rules, histories, techniques, and cultures, they were all really the same.

“It’s all the same,” he agreed. “It’s all the same.”

Then he concluded, “Boxing fans just happen to be a little bit more diehard to that particular form of martial arts. But those who allow themselves to be a little bit more open-minded, I think will begin to understand and like this also.”

Articles of 2006

Peter/Toney Ii: Peter Has The Brutal Punch



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, 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



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


Chris John (Indonesia) #1
In Jin Chi (Korea) #3
Takashi Koshimoto (Japan) #5
Hioyuki Enoki (Japan) #7

Jr. Featherweight

Somsak Sithchatchawal (Thailand) #4


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


Pongsaklek Wonjongkam (Thailand) #1
Takefumi Sakata (Japan) #7
Daisuke Naito (Japan) #10

Jr. Flyweight

Koki Kameda (Japan) #1


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



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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