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Articles of 2006

Floyd Mayweather’s Final Ascent

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Floyd Mayweather’s ambition has always been an authentic coefficient of his grand talent. “I’m a living legend,” he decreed, then liberally repeated, before his November 5th fight with Sharmba Mitchell, in 2005. Instinctively, the man does understand that hyperbole tends to replicate itself, mediated as an electronic echo, transmitting the desired information as truth, imprinted, imparted, logged into the infinite memory of the continuous moment. Just keep talking, and something aggrandizing will filter, affix to the cultural at large. As almost a rote action, Mayweather projects himself into an infinite future: “I have no limits, except the ones I make.” As a young man – at the turn of this century – on the cusp of great things, if not yet greatness, Mayweather thought of himself as the latest incarnation of Sugar Ray Leonard. Today, even his matured voice, surmising intonations, providing waves of self-confident self-promotion, has unmistakable inflections of the Palmer Park, Maryland great.

And yet, be he bold or be he a brat, surgical in his ring deliveries or bucking up under unexpected pressure, Floyd Mayweather stands more and more as his own man.

Turning down former promoter Bob Arum’s 8 million dollar offer for a fight with Antonio Margarito and his $750,000 contract buyout for promotional free agency was – as everyone estimates – to clear the way for a career showdown with Oscar De La Hoya in September. The final decision rests with De La Hoya, naturally enough. Yes, that is a lot of money to dismiss – no matter the relativism Mayweather advisor Leonard Ellerbe intoned, “We are not turning Margarito down!” Still, little Floyd has dreamed of a De La Hoya fight for, well, the best part of three years, maybe his entire career. Fighting a rejuvenated Oscar De La Hoya would be his Leonard meets Hagler, Ali fighting Frazier. Let us all face the fact that symbolically, financially and professionally Mayweather will likely never again have this kind of opportunity and that fact he fully appreciates. Awaiting De La Hoya’s decision, Mayweather counts heavily on the fact that HBO are almost wet with anticipation to produce this epic fight. Also, the incentive for De La Hoya primarily includes the ‘in-boxing’ reputation Mayweather currently holds as the dominant talent within boxing, as pound-for-pound monarch. And we know Oscar loves the idea just to contemplate then attack superlatives, regardless of the resulting happenings. Those bits of stardust are what Oscar – the ring maestro – lives for.

One must mention that Oscar would have at least the statistical advantages fighting Floyd Jr., when it comes to physicality, something he utilized during his absolute prime championship years. For De La Hoya to fight Winky Wright, to name but one alternative, necessarily means he would have to face the Hopkins factor yet again, i.e. fighting as the smaller man. The Hopkins’ experiment will have taught the keen De La Hoya that’s just simply bad planning, despite the temptations of abstract glorification. And “The Golden Boy” used that word – planning – during his press conferences before and just after his hiding of Ricardo Mayorga. Mayweather represents prestige, youth and budding legend for the taking. Talk about temptation.

Are there dangerous, high yield fights looming out there for Mayweather, aside from De La Hoya? Indeed there are; we need only posit the names Ricky Hatton, and again Winky Wright and Antonio Margarito to create a short list. But it is in the full realization of Mayweather fighting De La Hoya as uniquely historic, economically frontloaded and strategically daunting that one gets closer to the magnetic rationale driving Team Mayweather to make this September showdown happen.

Few in boxing really believed that Team Mayweather were completely serious about making a fight with Winky Wright, when the issue was floated in 2005 by the pretty one himself. At that time he was trying to garner sympathy by showing himself to be this generation’s Mike McCallum, the guy too dangerous to mess with. Of course, boxers today want in a month what fighters of past generations toiled years to obtain. Then the marketing breakthrough fight with Arturo Gatti arrived followed by the inevitable punch up with rival Zab Judah. A funny thing happened on the way to Mayweather’s installment as the consensus best in boxing; he felt unsatisfied. Mopping Gatti and topping Judah didn’t realize the dizzying heights upon which Mayweather longs to reign, omniscient, floating above the other gods in boxing’s Mount Olympus. Along the way Mayweather’s public persona was scrubbed and retailored moving from bling ethic to basic banker, before the mikes, he now calmly states his objectives, decked out in suit and tie, the basic texts of his commentary hitting all the corrected notes of controlled confidence instead of in-your-face punk-speak. Team Mayweather had to turn that public frown upside down and move their young lion upstairs, manners and propriety integrated into his basic verbal programming.

If Floyd Mayweather was going to go all the way and be THE most identifiable championship boxer, heir to Oscar De La Hoya, he was going to have to spruce up his optics. Young, talented, impetuous and impatient only works for so long. What we now realize is that Floyd Mayweather loves to speak his mind, “I basically don’t care what people think of me.” Those kinds of emoting assertions just cannot be bred out of the Michigander, not entirely. If there’s a bit of Mike Tyson mixed in with the Sugar, it’s because for a time the young Mayweather used to trip and train in the presence of mighty Mike. What impressed Mayweather was the zenith of Tyson’s cultural presence, though utterly flawed and fated for self-immolation, Mayweather was intoxicated at the idea of being a transcendent sporting figure. The imprint of that encounter in 1999 became integral in Mayweather’s sense of grandeur and mission as a celebrity in the making.

Many of the analogies to Ray Leonard and the 125 million he made as a boxer came as part of the casual discourse during the developmental Mayweather-Arum years, when “Pretty Boy” was discovering the difference between fantasy and hardcore reality. Arum and Mayweather have parted, for now, as did father and son Mayweather, the trainer and the trained. Remember when Floyd Jr. used to say he and his father, Floyd Sr., might have issues but they never have any real problems? Well, now they do and have had for a while. Though if there’s a rough symmetry to be found in the Mayweather, Mayweather, Mayweather, De La Hoya cycle of intrigue it’s to be found in uncle Roger Mayweather’s suspension following the Zab Judah fight. With one Mayweather suspended and papa Floyd – De La Hoya’s trainer – surely amenable to a buyout deal, the Mayweather logistics for seeing the fight happen certainly could still be realized.

Let us not forget that the proposed De La Hoya-Mayweather blockbuster fight is supposed to be De La Hoya’s last outing. (Can you imagine a victorious De La Hoya fading away into some promotional golden haze of an incorporated semi-obscurity?) If that’s to be the case, then De La Hoya could certainly do what he now assures us he cannot do; “I can’t fight without Floyd in my corner… he’s so important in giving me full confidence in the ring.” Unless papa Floyd wants to be purposefully obstructionist – as intimated by HBO’s point-man Larry Merchant – then the fight could be made, save Oscar’s psychological sensitivities. Truly, it’s all up to how Oscar wishes to orchestrate the closing of his youthful adventures, avoiding the doomed limits of time.

For Floyd Jr. he’s acting like a man trying to will himself into the near term/terminating future of De La Hoya. Generally, he’s acting upbeat, saving the street smack for private conversations and gym junking. Still, he’s come a long way since fighting in front of 1,900 odd fans in Las Vegas against Carlos Gerena; managing to jettison the nondescript James Prince, Mayweather was able to let the music play and the punches ring without the former chief executive officer of Rap-a-Lot Records. Floyd Jr. made 1.7 million crunching Diego Corrales at the start of 2001. He’s looking at the fat end of 7 or 8 million come September, if De La Hoya gives him the nod. Of course, the man’s dreaming – yes, we need to call him a man now – because everything is moving his way, De La Hoya or not. The truth is Mayweather has come of age; his time is upon us.

Imagine De La Hoya fighting Felix Trinidad in the fall; wouldn’t that have the look and the feel of a really bad remake? The Puerto Rican legend had the luster knocked off of his ring presence by our old friend Winky, Ronald Wright. Most fans of boxing also remember that the controversial scoring of the De La Hoya-Trinidad fight was about the most exciting tidbit to do with their stalemated encounter. No knockdowns, no thrilling combinations, not a single highlight reel moment over the full twelve rounds. Only Gil Clancy’s insistence that De La Hoya go to his prevent defense over the last four rounds, effectively seeding the dynamics over to the relentless Trinidad, and thus the victory.

De La Hoya vs. Mayweather couldn’t bore us, not with all the interlocking facets of strengths and vulnerabilities up for grabs for both fighters weighing 154-ish. Or so we suspect. Mayweather thinks “it might be one of the great fights of all time.” Then again, he’s got to say that, mostly, because he means it and because that’s the fight that’s been living so vividly in his imagination all this time. It’s the fight that’s going to make a man out of him, perhaps, the man of his time, at least in his chosen sport.

“I like to look good, to amaze people… I am always myself, even if people don’t want to look at me that way.”

Can you imagine how excited Mayweather must be feeling? Seeing Oscar De La Hoya reinvent himself, at 33, off of his performance against Ricardo Mayorga, no one in the crowd of 13,000 plus at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas was more impressed than Floyd Mayweather Jr. He’s old enough to understand that winning a boxing match does not guarantee him becoming Oscar De La Hoya’s successor. The pay-per-view revenues may spike and general regard of greatness adhering all the same. Being Oscar necessitates an internal resolve to be good and gracious, magnificent and magnanimous; that’s as difficult a combination to master as a boxer can expect. Taking upon oneself a transformative approach, to accept the full measure of being boxing’s ambassador to the culture(s) at large means you have to be something more than just brilliant with the gloves on and well armed with public relations slogan speak. You have to lose the script and be a man, a man caring as much for the integrity of the entire profession as much as your own bank balance. At least you have to be read as larger than your own alternating ego.

To that pinnacle, Floyd Mayweather has pointed himself; breaking the grip of mortal gravity usually does in most mere superstars. Many will want to simply install Mayweather at the summit. Still, the paying public has a way of negating such acclamations. They want rights of passage and very visible proofs. Just ask Roy Jones, the other junior genius.

“I want all the big fights… that’s all I want are the big fights… that’s what brings out the best in Floyd Mayweather.”

Hovering at the limit of possibility for Floyd Mayweather Jr., Oscar De La Hoya’s legend emanates. The aura must seem so close, the illumination so pleasingly brilliant, that Floyd Mayweather could almost reach out and take hold.

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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