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Articles of 2006

Oscar by Design

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At times, over the last three months Oscar De La Hoya has almost seemed at an emotional loss when paired up for PR outings with the typhoon of irrationalism that is Ricardo Mayorga. You would swear there were moments when De La Hoya – decked out in his banker’s best suit of the day – just wanted to laugh in Mayorga’s face and ask him, “Are you for real?”

“He’s gotten under my skin, yes… but, he’s not gotten inside my head.” Surely, that’s THE quote of the last quarter of De La Hoya’s remarkable career. And as cryptically subtle a differentiation as you are likely to hear in sports. De La Hoya certainly picked the right ‘beatable’ fighter to make sure he’d be motivated enough to train for the fight. And Mayorga, so lacking in rudimentary skills could be thought of as ‘beatable’ and yet the veteran of boxing’s most conspicuous stages De La Hoya knows there’s just enough danger, enough raw an incalculable power in the random punching thrusts of the Nicaraguan that concentration will determine the outcome of the fight, as surely as speed or sustainable fortitude. Mayorga’s crazed but dangerous or so goes the shorthand for the rationale for the fight.

Of course, Oscar knows that Mayorga’s rant and raving bravado comes from the heart and a need to try to act out the role of the reckless intimidator, a man on the brink of derangement. “I’m not just saying I want to knock him out and humiliate him. I am saying I want to knock his nose bone into his head… and put him down forever… I have no respect for Oscar De La Hoya.” Nor it seems for Oscar’s marriage, Mexican heritage – his idol Julio Cesar Chavez certainly notwithstanding – and the entire championship career of Oscar De La Hoya. Mayorga, pressed to come up with reasons as to why he feels compelled to carry out the annihilation of “The Golden Boy” and his litany of rationalizations ends up being a mission to carrying out an act of sacrificial revenge for his felled hero Julio Cesar Chavez to just hating the American ring legend from the very instant he first saw him. Mayorga will be Mayorga.

“De La Hoya’s like the kid you see in the school yard and you don’t even know him… but you know you don’t like him.” Matching disgust with repugnance seems about the limit of Oscar De La Hoya’s emotional engagement leading into his odd-couple showdown, reportedly Oscar’s penultimate professional outing. We let pass the “I’m going to teach him a lesson… that’s why I will be punching him so hard.” For all of the dedicated messaging leading up to this burlesque happening in the making, De La Hoya doesn’t spend as much face time trying to convince anyone, let alone the media, he’s still vitally interested in fighting. The best he can summon, the need to be “fired up… for a challenge” doesn’t stimulate the imagination. De La Hoya vs. Mayorga may turn out to be a rousing fight, for as long as their respect fragilities can be buttressed, still, it radiates the sense of being the filmed version of a great novel, something in the conversion devoid of aura or authentication, the diminishing spectacle moving away from us before it’s happened. Basically, boxing fans want it to be Oscar’s September. And in the man, even the presentation of Oscar the boxing champion, gone are the solemn statements of renewable faith mouthed as promises to his adoring fans across the globe. He gives us casual reports on the training of his body, attentions to technical detailing and recouping proficiency are recited as if by memory, as if from a time before Trinidad.

“My speed is there… it clicked in about three weeks ago… all the speed and the power… all of it,” announced the golden one. And now even fit from five months of physical training, Oscar looks nearing middle age handsome, the boyish blush of his pink cheeks tanned brown, matured; the face has the look of distinction and portraiture, as if his athletic career was already history. Yes, that’s only him in a photograph; true enough.

The raucous figure of Floyd Mayweather Sr. has been calling upon his esteemed charge to pick his moments to “stand and fight” and not to run and run and gun against the bulling Mayorga. Never give your opponent visions of grandeur by allowing them to do what they do best or naturally. Mayweather wants De La Hoya’s artistry for moving into prudent hitting positions to be instantaneously backed up by some mean spirited, flat footed combinations. “If Mayorga thinks I am just going to run and box him… he’s in for a serious surprise!”

The truth of the matter of Oscar De La Hoya, in 2006, fighting twelve rounds at 154 against an enraged attacker such as Mayorga, is that he cannot move continuously for 12 rounds. Oscar will have to touch down, turn the beast, counter with malicious intent and find some saturating body shots to take the rampage out of Ricardo the Ruthless. Look for Oscar to target the body, and not only because he knows that Team Mayorga think that Hopkins provided them with the blueprint on how to dust De La Hoya. Work the body! Just which fighter manages to put the hammers to the other guy’s kitchen first should give boxing fans the first big indicator as to how the fight might turn out. We are careful not to say boxing match.

Tactically, Oscar has fought brilliantly and naively. His situational hitting behind a razor sharp jab disassembled vital parts of Pernell Whitaker’s defensive postures. However, employing Gil Clancy’s prevent-defense over the last 3 rounds against Felix Trinidad bordered on the inane. But we tempt trivializing Oscar’s overall approach to this fight, if we over state the negatives. For the most part, De La Hoya was proficient in registering his best boxing in the big moments, mostly because he turned from artist to mechanic and then savage. When the operative juncture came in his classic fights, Oscar just poured forth, wrath and desire crystallized into all out performance.

That’s the elemental De La Hoya that Oscar now senses he’s almost found during the latter stages of his training. You can fake ambition but seldom the warrior’s ego. And it was from the committed drive of ego that Oscar drove home the greatness of his championship prowess; his athletic boxing won him the status of legitimacy then excellence; yet, it was his hard core battling that put him above the talents of champions such as Ike Quartey and Fernando Vargas. In this new century, Oscar De La Hoya has mostly fought without that all-out desire to battle to the bitter end where winning comes down to fractional differentiations.

Dare we say Oscar’s trainer Floyd Mayweather Sr. has been reprogramming De La Hoya, a corporate entity athletic figure, who says he’s hot to break past the indifference of age and domestic satisfaction to find the limits and reasons to remain a surgical weapon in a boxing ring? Sure, we can say he’s trying to be more like his old self than older and wiser and looking for challenges in all the wrong places. Oscar remains the figure of the bright and brave man of means, who just happens to want to end the glorious saga of his unparallel career as a winner; “I want to go out as a world champion and on top.” Facing the end of his career, what else would Oscar De La Hoya say?

We can all appreciate that he needs Ricardo Mayorga to play the bull who might gorge the matador. What would the drama of the event be without the threat of all of this ending so completely out of the control of the great De La Hoya? For this to be as realistic as possible Ricardo Mayorga needed to actually put in the nine weeks he has trained without cigarettes or cigars – almost – and certainly no early evening beers. All boxing fans knew what Mayorga would say about De La Hoya being gay, an embarrassment to the sport and his people, and not worthy of being named in the same breath with Julio Cesar Chavez or Felix Trinidad. The true test was would Mayorga actually train as if actually were meaning to come to fight and win. Posturing and preening and playing the roll of the bully takes no affectation when you are convinced that boxing comes down to a battle of wills, all the rest being incidental. Mayorga, interestingly enough, is the guy who’s looking at all the externals, reading into De La Hoya all the disinformation and slanderous hype that’s ever been thrown as so much trash at him.

Trinidad always gave credence to the steel beneath the beatific smile of Oscar De La Hoya. The De La Hoya career was after all a career built on image projection and athletic substance, calculated language and sincerity of a kind when the emotions of the moment held sway. Despite his assurances, Oscar De La Hoya doesn’t have the speed of his youthful self and his mental compensations do not cancel out what’s been subtracted in this boxing repertoire. Once he fought past the logic of his artistry when necessary, now De La Hoya must pace himself just to dodge situational exhaustion. Where once he punished his way to victories as expected, now he drives himself to top up his biological offering to prove he’s truly capable of the grandeur of his name. Time and circumstance does that to a fighter; it’s part of the law of entropy.

It might be rash to say he’s now navigating past apprehensions, acting out the ethic of entertainment glamour because he’s less and less made for the part. Still, he knows he can win this fight with Ricardo Mayorga. Clearly, he and Floyd Mayweather understand exactly how the deed can and should be accomplished. If memories of losses to Trinidad and Mosley and Hopkins are abiding so are the demolitions of Arturo Gatti and Fernando Vargas, fights with greater parallels to his next ring challenge. OK, Oscar looks and sounds as if he means business, unlike the presentations he made to us in the lead up to his tremulous outing, at full middleweight, against the implacable Bernard Hopkins.

The soft-sell contradictions of De La Hoya Speak keep us listening, though compared to Hopkins and Toney and Jones – those other iconic figures of HIS era – Oscar comes off as merely politely political. And we understand these last two De La Hoya fights are all about buffing up the luster on his legacy to a high gloss finish, the master of universal consequences still in full-blooded command of boxing’s most conspicuous stage, the mega-fight. Oscar, we all suspect, will find a way to finish off his boxing career in style, with the grace and majesty befitting the station he’s adorned and forged for over a decade.

When the leather smashes into the skin, all bets are off. No matter because there would be no poetic justice in a Mayorga victory and would take the scrivened letters out of the great book of his life and spray bomb the death notices of his career everywhere. Oscar orchestrates, can he now conclusively decide the matter of winning? For Ricardo Mayorga, his task set to resuscitate his very existence in the sport and thus stave off financial ruin, will be coming at De La Hoya knowing his professional life depends on it. And we know that grace makes concessions to athletic aging. So yes, there is more than wiggle room for doubting on the final outcome of De La Hoya vs. Mayorga.

Evidently, Oscar doesn’t want to drift into retirement and the profession of promoter before coming full circle as a fighter, his basic persona and trade in full display. Still able to dare to risk, can De La Hoya fight his way out of trouble? That’s the question Mayorga will begin asking of the great man from the sounding of the first bell. If we are to believe Oscar one last time, he’s looking forward to proving he still has the perfect answers to all questions put violently to him. He wants to be Oscar inside and outside the ring, for two more fights.

Mayorga plans to play his part in the proceedings according to his own rules. He doesn’t except the premise that fighting Oscar means you are, after all, only allowed into Oscar’s golden presence by design.

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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