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Articles of 2006

18 Idiot Things I Did When I Was Boxing

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I wasn’t a great boxer. But, somehow, I did manage to reach the finals in the New York City Golden Gloves. After that, I was invited to fight on a New York City squad boxing up in Montreal. Then in 1976, I was asked to represent America in The Maccabian Games held in Israel. As a middleweight, I did a few decent things, like throw a good left hook, and I trained hard. But I had one big weakness – my brain. It was slow, primitive and paleo-mammalian. Let me tell you a few of my half-baked boxing theories and deep, dark boxing secrets. I should, at 53, be honest and brave enough to finally tell the truth.

1. Chewing gum. My gum theory was that chewing before a fight was bad. It sapped energy. I never chewed gum before training, either. Chewing gum was okay only after a training session. After getting punched in the jaw, I thought chewing Juicy Fruit gum stretched out my sore, swollen jaw muscles. Gum: my enemy and my friend. (When I was nervous, I sometimes caught myself chewing the skin on the inside of my cheek – that was okay. But no gum.)

2. Celibacy. Sex was dangerous. Masturbation was doubly dangerous. Two weeks before a fight I was – like Rocky Marciano, Sonny Liston and Joe Frazier – celibate. Once, two days before a fight, I was asleep in bed, about to release a sweet wet dream when, somehow, my rigid member gulped it back. Sick.

3. Eating junk food. Each day, I’d work out at Bufano’s Gym in Jersey City, chiseling my body into shape. Later, lacquered with sweat, I’d rush across the street to the deli on the corner and reward myself with poison: Hostess Cupcakes, Suzi-Qs, and a can of Pepsi.  My trainer quipped: Junk food is food porn. Maybe – but it was so, so sweet.

4. Reading books. I hid my schoolbooks. I hid them under my car seat because I was ashamed of being a student. I didn’t want to alienate my buddies in the gym, the tough guys and dropouts. I was a schoolboy; they weren’t. (Later, I was relieved to learn I was not alone – Will Smith, the comedian, hid his schoolbooks in a pizza box.)

5. My obsessive-compulsive grooming. My theory was by clipping my fingernails as short as possible, it made my hands much quicker. Less weight. More aerodynamic. (I clipped my filthy toenails, too.)

6. My talking. I mimicked the slang and ungrammatical dialogue of the gym because I wanted to fit in. I’d say, “I ain’t jumpin’ rope today” or “I be sparring three rounds.”  My rationale was: When in Rome, do as the Romans. But I’m still ashamed by this. It showed weakness. Today, whenever I see a fighter in the ring swiveling his neck, mimicking Mike Tyson, I see his weakness. And I’m reminded of my own. (Who was Tyson mimicking?)

7. Black fighters. Scowling black fighters who tried to scare you were a joke. But the emotionally sick ones, those who sat quietly in the corner, seething with anger and hate, they might grab your attention. But I always comforted myself with the bizarre thought that, even though they may live in the ghetto, I was a ghetto. I prided myself on my emotional sickness. It was my strength. My mental sickness, somehow, counterbalanced their physical talent.

8. My idiotic scheduling. On fight days, I’d write down an hourly schedule to remind myself of what to do. Why? Because thinking sucks. I hated thinking. Thinking was my weak link. It was best to put my paleo-mammalian brain on automatic and coast through the day.

(Sample schedule):
10:00—10:30 Eat breakfast (one egg, toast, jam, tea, orange juice)
10:30—11:30 Watch television
11:30—12:00 Pack boxing gear; remember socks, tape, cup, mouthguard…
12:00—1:00 Eat lunch (rare steak, spinach, toast, grape juice)
1:00—2:00 Go to church & synagogue (I’m Christian and Jewish.)
2:00—2:30 Take walk; eat apple and Hershey Bar (no nuts)
2:30—3:00 Rest; watch television 
3:00—Drive to gym

9. Spanish fighters. Spanish fighters are talented. They’re tough. But they tend to be black-fighters-lite. The quiet seether sitting in the corner, again, needs watching, but too many Spanish fighters flock together in protective packs, laughing a lot. Liars. Spanish fighters, I noticed, also tended to wear colorful, skimpy, bikini underwear. Bizarre.

10. My army boots. If Jack Dempsey in the 1920s and Jack Sharkey in the 1930s and Joe Louis in the 1940s did roadwork wearing heavy army boots, so should I. But that’s old school. Today’s ergonomically-structured running shoes are much healthier for a fighter’s feet, knees and legs, and they maximize speed and endurance. Dempsey, Sharkey and Louis were never too fast on their feet, anyway. They were plodders, all; I was a middleweight – and needed to be fast.

11. My lying. Entering the arena, I always held my dufflebag in my right hand, always signed in righty, and always gesticulated with my right hand for the benefit of anyone watching.  In my mind, everyone was watching me. I was the center of the universe. My deep, dark secret was: Sshh!  Don’t let them know I’m a converted southpaw. Wow, as if I fooled anyone.

12. Refusing rubdowns. I always refused to let my trainer, Dom Bufano, give me a rubdown before a fight. My thinking was this:  a rubdown might, somehow, break down my muscles and confuse my muscle memory.   Uh-huh.

13. My violent clothing. I wore violent clothing. I sported the young felon look. I wore a black porkpie hat and black leather jacket. I thought it made me look tough. This was pre-Rocky. But I never chewed a toothpick – only the skin on the inside of my cheek. (See #1.)

14. White fighters. I enjoyed fighting a white fighter. I always enjoyed punching someone who reminded me of myself.

15. My disgusting hygiene. After a gym workout, while showering in the slippery, stinking, fetid shower stall, I refused to wear rubber slippers. There was dark, smelly sludge on the concrete floor, and I was scared of the germs, scabies, and ringworms that lurked in there, but I felt wearing rubber slippers hinted at weakness and fear.

16. Sex. My hypothesis on sex was this: Sex kills. One Saturday afternoon when I was 16, Brenda and I were lying on my bed. We weren’t naked, but we would be soon. That afternoon, I was certain to lose my virginity. But when I turned on the television, George Chuvalo was fighting Dante Cane on The Wide World of Sports. I had a choice: boxing or Brenda. I chose boxing. Chuvalo won; I lost. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

17. My secret plan. I caught the flu 10 days before my finals fight in Madison Square Garden. I was lying in bed, coughing up thick, yellow phlegm the color of a school bus.  I couldn’t train. My little heart was sweating. Pressure and fear grabbed my stomach and squeezed. Lying in bed, sneezing and sweating, my fevered brain hatched a secret plan…

…My first day back in the gym, I’m sparring Ricky Villanueva, a quick welterweight. When he hits me, I slump to the canvas and pretend to get knocked out. My secret plan was this: If I lose in the finals, it’s now okay – everyone in the gym now knows I’m not 100%. Stupid and sick.

18. Two comeback attempts.My theory on comebacks is this: Boxing crawls inside your skin and stays there. At 42 I was still sparring. I stepped inside the ring with a 25-year-old amateur. I wasn’t wearing headgear because, well, I was too good for that. I ended up in the hospital with five stitches over my left eye.

Three years later, I’m standing in the ring in Bobby Gleason’s Gym. I’m 45. Twenty-year-old Sugar is standing in the other corner. You go offense. Sugar go defense, okay? promises his trainer, Hector Rocha.

Three rounds later, my swollen jaw is throbbing from Sugar’s defense.

Outside, in the deli, I buy Juicy Fruit gum, but my aching jaw is too sore to chew it.

It gets worse. The next day, after getting hit, I notice my 45-year-old brain has trouble remembering simple words: literary, contour, and pancakes. My theory is this:  I’m officially retired. Again.

Thank you for reading this. I feel better now. At 53, I’ve finally come clean and been honest. These 18 thin thoughts (and I have a lot more) either helped or hurt me. Or both. But, at least, I had a philosophy. As a young confused boxer, I was a hair in my own eye. I needed something. Ironically, my crazy philosophy gave me the success that it, ironically, prevented me from getting.

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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