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Articles of 2006

Knute Hansen: A Not-So-Durable Dane

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Nobody likes to get hit in the head, but when you wear boxing gloves to work taking a hard whack at the office won’t set alarms off at OSHA.

Had Knute Hansen been more accepting of that occupational hazard he might have become heavyweight champion of the world when Wall Street barons conspired to take over boxing's greatest title 78 years ago.

Born December 6, 1903, Knud Hansen became “Knute” after he arrived in Racine, Wisconsin from his native Copenhagen, Denmark. Hansen was eight years old, and for the next decade he attended school and in the summer worked at a store hefting 200-pound sacks of flour.

By the time he was 18, and a graduate of Racine high school, Hansen was 6’4” tall – a veritable Shaquille O’Neal for that time. But professional basketball was still a long way off, and the National Football League was in diapers. There was big dough to be made in the boxing ring, however, especially for a heavyweight. In 1921, champion Jack Dempsey and challenger Georges Carpentier had drawn the sport’s first million-dollar gate.

When Hansen had his first professional fight on March 4, 1922, winning a four-round decision over Jack Miller in Milwaukee, he was identified by the Milwaukee Journal as “a descendant of an ancient Viking.”

After a second win in Milwaukee, Hansen went to New York City, the boxing capitol of the world, on the recommendation of Tom Andrews, Wisconsin’s top ring authority, who hooked up the Racine man and veteran managers Joe Woodman and George Lawrence.

Then the story gets murky.

In Andrews’ version, Hansen’s new handlers took one look at their gangly charge and advised Hansen that the surest way to turn himself into a 200-pound physical specimen guaranteed to strike fear into the hearts of other heavyweights was to go to work for a couple years as a deckhand on schooners hauling merchandise all over the globe.

Hansen himself later claimed that he went to sea only after Woodman and Lawrence sent him schlepping around South America as sparring partner for one of their palookas.

Whether of his own volition or as an escape from drudgery, Hansen did spend the next two years as a seaman on tall-masted sailing ships, visiting exotic ports-o-call and showing off his fighting talent every place he went.

He knocked out Seaman Moore, champion of the British Navy, in a bamboo stadium in Shanghai, and according to Hansen’s own account he also worked as a customs man tracking down smugglers in China, and boxed local heroes all over the mainland.

“Gosh, they thought I was Jack Dempsey!” bragged Hansen later. “That’s a fact. I was hailed like a hero.”

The reception was just a little less subdued when Hansen, now a buff 200-pounder, returned to New York and within five days in August, 1926, belted out South American champion Alfredo Porzio and formidable Quinton Romero Rojas in bouts.

“He looks like the best of the foreign heavyweight crop,” enthused The Ring magazine, which in this instance flubbed its reputation as “The Bible of Boxing” by getting Hansen’s home base wrong.

Although his Racine days were behind him, Hansen always identified himself as being from Wisconsin’s Belle City, and was so introduced before his fights. The Ring wasn't the only publication to get it wrong. At various times the New York papers located Racine in Minnesota or somewhere in “the Northwest.”

But reporters’ deficiencies in geography would soon be the least of Hansen’s problems. On October 8, 1926, he knocked down German heavyweight champion Franz Diener in the first round at Madison Square Garden. Diener got up swinging, Hansen went into a shell and lost the 10-round decision.

When he dropped a decision two months later to Spanish contender Paulino Uzcudan, the press was merciless.

“The diffident Dane from Racine, Wis.,” wrote Ed Hughes of the New York Telegram, “seems to pack a charlotte russe where something more desirable in a fighting man should function. Hansen spars around a bit, takes a few lusty cracks at his adversary’s chin, and then steps back to survey his fate. If the other fellow weakens, he rips in and finishes him. On the other hand, if the enemy smiles and takes it, Hansen folds up and spends the rest of the bout meditating the easiest way out. That is, whether to hold, grin and bear it, or to flop and have done with it.”

“Knute Hansen is out of the picture,” declared The Ring. “He can box, but he can’t take it. His heart is not ‘there.’”

On November 4, 1927, they all changed their tune when Hansen, brought in as a late substitute and expected to play the baloney to British heavyweight champion Phil Scott's grinder, instead knocked Scott down seven times and out in the first round at Madison Square Garden.

All of a sudden Racine’s great Dane was the talk of the heavyweight division. When champion Gene Tunney retired on July 31 1928, promoter Tex Rickard pronounced the 23-year-old Hansen the best of all the contenders and the likeliest to prevail in a tournament to determine a new champion of the world. Rickard went so far as to claim that “all the other heavyweights are afraid of him.”

Rickard's loud enthusiasm for Hansen seemed odd, given the latter's in-and-out performances in the ring. But the promoter wasn't Hansen's only friend in high places. Wall Street financiers Sprulle Braden and Walter P. Chrysler, the auto tycoon, led a group of millionaires who invested in Hansen. Several of them were also stockholders in Madison Square Garden, Rickard’s promotional bailiwick. New York Times columnist John Kiernan took to referring to the fighter in the argot of the stock market as “Knute Hansen Pfd.”

But before Hansen's coronation could be effected, his original managers, Woodman and Lawrence, went to court to assert their claim to his pugilistic services, and for the ensuring year the fighter ducked more summonses than punches. Hansen went abroad, won a decision over European heavyweight champion Riccardo Bertazzolo in Copenhagen, and returned in the summer of 1928 with a bride whose background was as grandiose has Hansen’s own.

Damura de Rabinowitz was daughter of a Russian nobleman who escaped the 1917 Communist revolution and fled to France.

“Hansen’s father-in-law is still a very wealthy man,” reported the New York World. “He has given Knute two years to make what he can from the boxing game. Then Knute will join him in business if he fails at his own.”

But the latter prospect seemed more unlikely than ever when out of the confusing Hansen managerial sweepstakes emerged a true thoroughbred. Known as the “Maker of Champions,” Billy Gibson had steered Tunney himself to the heavyweight title. Now, for a reported $12,000, with all the other claimants to the Dane getting a cut of future purses, Gibson aimed to take Hansen along the same path as front man for the Wall Street barons.

Many were dubious. “One of the most puzzling situations in professional boxing today is the hurrah now being raised over Knute Hansen,” wrote George F. Downer of the Milwaukee Sentinel. “If this shows anything, it proves to what a low estate the whole heavyweight division has fallen. Hansen, who has the size, speed and cleverness to be a real heavyweight champion, has proved himself anything else but whenever put to a real test.”

Former lightweight champion Benny Leonard had been managed by Gibson. In a column syndicated by the New York World, Leonard wrote, “For a fellow who is doing no fighting and apparently, so far as I can see right now, isn't figuring on doing any for some time, Knute Hansen certainly is grabbing a lot of publicity and creating quite a controversy.” Then: “Wouldn't it be a laugh is some Palooka, thrown in there with Hansen in his first fight since he's come so thoroughly into the spotlight, should whack him on the chin and knock down the whole house of cards? Wouldn't it, though?”

A pretty astute fellow, that Leonard. Three months later, on December 4, 1928, journeyman bruiser K.O. Christner – a 20-1 underdog – pounded the darling of Wall Street into a virtual coma in eight rounds. It took them 15 minutes to revive Hansen, and he was still so out of it as he stumbled to his dressing room that he asked a handler for a special favor: “Go and eat a nice red apple for me.”

Billy Gibson promptly followed Tunney back into retirement, and Walter Chrysler & Co. moved on to more profitable investments. Hansen continued to fight for a couple more years, but won just one out of 10. And that was because the other guy was disqualified. Knute was knocked out five times, and once he got the hook for falling down without being hit.

In 1933, a newspaperman named Henry M’Lenore found Hansen in Paris, painting pictures of posies.

“He quit the ring, he says, when he felt himself getting goofy,” M’Lenore wrote. “Knute classes himself a ‘neo-realist.’ Maybe he didn’t quit soon enough.”

But the Melancholy Dane at least got to eat plenty of nice red apples on his own. He was 80 when he died on May 1, 1984.

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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