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Articles of 2006

Photos can bring back such wonderful memories

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Dozens upon dozens of memories adorn the walls of my new gym, “Randy’s Ringside,” in Oyster Bay, New York. On one of those photos I am standing side-by side with a former heavyweight champion in my office at Ring Magazine, circa 1980. The inscription reads, “To Randy, Wishing You Health & Happiness Forever.” The Champ signed it “Your friend, Floyd Patterson.” Floyd also signed the date: April 29, 1981.

Floyd had signed the photo when we worked together announcing a boxing card for the PRISM Network. It was ironic, perhaps eerie, that I had been staring at the photo when an early-afternoon phone call had informed me that Patterson had died earlier that day from a combination of Alzheimer’s and prostate cancer.  He was 71.

“Who is that man in the picture with you?” asked a boy in his early teens who was working out in my gym.

“That man,” I told him, “was the two-time heavyweight champion of the world, the first man to regain the title after losing it and up until Mike Tyson became champion, the youngest man to ever win the heavyweight crown.”  Then I added, “He was also the nicest man I ever met in boxing. His name is Floyd Patterson.” Then I told him I had just gotten word that Patterson had died.

“Tell me about him,” said the youngster. “I’d like to know more about him.” The pleasure was all mine.

Oh, I told him about Patterson’s troubled early life…about his winning the gold medal as a middleweight for the United States in the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki…I filled him in about winning the title left vacant by the retirement of Rocky Marciano…about his title defenses against Roy Harris and debuting Pete Rademacher…about losing the title to Ingemar Johannson, then regaining it back with a crushing left hook to the jaw…about his first-round defeats to Sonny Liston…about his comeback…about his losses to Muhammad Ali and how Patterson was the only top-name fighter I can ever recall who never officially announced his retirement.

I also told the young man, who was listening intently, about my friendship with Patterson. I told him of the first time we met.

It was July 1963. I was on vacation with my parents and brother in Las Vegas. Patterson was preparing to meet Sonny Liston, who had taken the title from him 10 months earlier. My dad had taken me to the training camp of Patterson—up The Strip at The Dunes Hotel—to watch the ex-champ train.

When Patterson finished training, my dad coaxed me to go ask Floyd for an autograph.

“Go on, go up to him,” my father said, lightly pushing me in Patterson’s direction. I hesitated.

“Don’t be afraid,” said my dad. “It’s okay. Go!”

I remember taking a deep breath, counting to three, and then walking over to the athlete whom I admired so much.

A white towel was draped over his shoulders as he signed autographs to the many men, women and children who awaited the ex-champ’s signature. The midday heat of the July Las Vegas sun was intense, but my sweat was from the nervousness of meeting my idol.

When my turn came, I nervously handed my pad to him. As he signed, he asked me my name and where I was from.

When I told him “I live on Long Island,” Patterson’s head swiveled from the page and he looked at me. Then he put an arm on my shoulder and said, almost excitedly, “I live on Long Island, too! Maybe you’ll come and watch me train when we get back home.” I just stared at him in wide-eyed amazement. In one of the rare times in my life, I found myself speechless. He shook my hand and said, “It was nice meeting you, Randy.” As other youngsters pushed their way closer to him, some tugging at his arms and tapping him lightly with “Ooh, me next, me next!,” I told him “It was nice meeting you, too. See ya’ back on Long Island.”

I was stunned. He signed an autograph for me. He put his arm on me. He spoke with me. He shook hands with me. I looked down at the autograph.

“To Randy,” he wrote. “Thank you. Sincerely, Floyd Patterson.”

I’ll always remember Patterson writing “Thank you.” He was thanking me for asking him for his autograph. He truly appreciated being asked to sign. How many of today’s spoiled, multi-millionaire athletes do you think appreciate being asked for an autograph? How many do you think would write “Thank you” along with their autograph? 

A few nights later, Patterson would be kayoed for the second time in the opening round by Charles “Sonny” Liston. It was the first time I experienced pain when a fighter was knocked out.

The years flew by and my interest and love of boxing had carried me into the sport, first as an editor for publisher Stanley Weston, later as publisher/writer/author Bert Sugar’s right-hand man at Ring Magazine, then as a sportscaster.

Not quite 20 years after meeting Patterson that hot summer day in Las Vegas, I now found myself announcing a fight card with him. I handled the blow-by-blow. Patterson provided the color commentary. That evening, our friendship was born.

Patterson was as nice to me that night as he had been all those years ago in Las Vegas. I watched in amazement as dozens of autograph seekers besieged him for his autograph. He turned nobody away. I smiled every time he said “Thank you” to each one of them after signing the autograph.

Following the show, he gave me his address and phone number in New Paltz, New York. Over the next few years, I stayed in contact with him. In 1988, when I was named Chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission, Patterson was among the many well-wishers I heard from regarding my appointment.

During my term as commissioner (1988-1995), I saw Floyd constantly. On many occasions, he came to my State Athletic Commission offices at 270 Broadway on the morning of a weigh-in. He knew he had carte blanche to just walk into my huge, private  office if he wanted to, but he never did. Instead, he always politely asked my secretary, Michele, “Is the commissioner in?” and “Would the commissioner be able to spare a few moments?” He always thanked her as she showed him into my office.

In the first week of June, 1995, I heard talk along the political grapevine that New York’s new Governor, George Pataki, was going to send me packing and replace me with Floyd Patterson. As unhappy with the news as I was, I was thrilled for Floyd. I called him at home.

Floyd was as humble as always.

“I wanted to call you, Randy, but I kept holding back because I thought you’d be mad at me,” he said.

“Mad at you? Mad at you? Floyd, I’m not mad at you. I’m happy for you. I’m very happy for you. You’re going to make a great Chairman and a great commissioner. You are one of the finest men in this sport. You exemplify everything that’s right in boxing.” I told him that if he ever has a question about anything pertaining to the job, he should not hesitate to call me. He then thanked me for being such a friend.

Over the next two years, Patterson called me a lot. Then, Alzheimer’s Disease began to take over his memory and the calls became fewer and fewer. Less than three years after being sworn in as the 15th Chairman of NYSAC since its inception in 1920, Patterson resigned his post because of an inability to do his job.

After his resignation from the commission, Patterson and his lovely wife, Nancy, continued to help those less fortunate. He helped those in hospitals and those who were hungry. He signed gloves, photos, cards, posters and anything else thrust in front of him. And he always said “Thank you” after he signed.

Then, the cancer struck in the late 1990’s. But, just as in his career, Patterson got up after each of life’s knockdowns and he continued to help others, always with a smile, always with a good wish. Finally, on Thursday, May 11, 2006, Patterson was counted out.

Now it’s our turn.

Floyd, from anybody you ever touched—Thank You.

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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