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Articles of 2006

The Best Way for Oscar to Revive Boxing Is by Boxing

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LAS VEGAS, May 17 – I do not wish to emulate some colleagues and act as a career counselor to boxers, giving advice on who to fight or when to retire. I have long learned it is none of my business to tell someone when he’s had enough, and this is not simply because turnaround is fair play. But I do have sane reasons why, if I may be permitted a little joke, the Chicken shouldn’t cross the road into retirement. Oscar de la Hoya, whom I wrongheadedly called “Chicken” because his again banished promoter, Bob Arum, wouldn’t make him give a rematch against the game’s best, Pernell Whitaker, should continue fighting, and specifically against the current best, Floyd Mayweather Jr.

One of the silliest arguments made by these colleagues – note, I do not refer to them as peers – is that there is some kind of perfect ending to a boxing career, Bogart and Claude Rains walking off into the mist at the beginning of the friendship. De la Hoya, some argue, would be wise to finish with the memory of his domination of Ricardo Mayorga. They accept his specious argument that he couldn’t end with the vision of him crawling on the canvas after being dropped by Bernard Hopkins.

The perfect ending for a boxing career is almost any kind of ending before the fighter is brain-damaged. The final image is of little concern to history. No one remembers Muhammad Ali for his efforts against Trevor Berbick or Joe Louis for being knocked out of the ring by Rocky Marciano. They do remember the sadly diminished lives they led after boxing.

In a perfect world, they would all retire right now, even Mayweather. Roy Jones Jr. and/or Evander Holyfield should not be fighting, especially on pay-per-view. But in a perfect world, bright-eyed youngsters wouldn’t be living in ghettos feeling that boxing was one of the few ways out. In a perfect world, the blood lust of the boxing fan would need not be satiated by someone taking concussive blows to the head.

Alas, the last time I looked at what I consider the microcosm of boxing, the world is not perfect and thus my libertine nature permits me to enjoy a good scrap as much as the next ghoul. Part of the thrill is that the fighter is indeed taking great risks. Without those risks, though, they would receive little credit for their courage and determination. Without those risks, their skills would not be recompensed as well as they are, especially in de la Hoya’s case. He has earned more money than any non-heavyweight in history.

Agreed, that does not mean he “owes” boxing the kind of big event that could cover up a season of black eyes. He owes the game nothing, even if he has taken out more than anyone could possibly give back.

But the more I think of it, the more I love the very idea of Oscar going out with the biggest bang in history. And that’s what a Mayweather fight would be. If de la Hoya can make close to 900,000 pay-per-view sales with Mayorga as his partner, he would probably do at least double that with an opponent who, on paper, figures to be too young, too slick, too fast.

It would be Oscar daring the fates one final time, trying to go out with the biggest bang possible. A few years ago, when Mayweather first suggested this match, everyone laughed, said the Pretty Boy was much too small. The pendulum has swung the other way; now the Golden Boy is too old, too slow.

Kevin Iole of the Las Vegas Review-Journal checked out a local bookmaker who told him Mayweather would be open about a 2-1 favorite. I think the odds would lower somewhat, despite the “smart” money that would be on Mayweather. De la Hoya as an underdog would be rather tempting, especially to his many fans, especially if it were held on Sept. 16, around Mexican Independence Day – tons of de la Hoya money would be coming to town.

It is a fight that would capture the public imagination to the degree that baseball’s pennant races and the young football seasons, college and pro, could be overwhelmed. How many matchups can you envision landing both fighters as guests on Oprah? It has a crossover appeal beyond any other possible boxing match. Forget de la Hoya and old faded Felix Trinidad Jr. or the suddenly not so attractive Ricky Hatton.

Only a fight where de la Hoya, saving the best for last, attempts to beat the unbeatable, would inject boxing with its biggest dose of class since the 1980’s when Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, Roberto Duran and Marvelous Marvin Hagler were having their wonderful round-robin.

It is youth vs. age, the possible passing of the torch, and more. Yes, the specter of the best father-son storyline since Orestes murdered his mother (Clytemnestra) because she ordered a hit on his father (Agamemnon) will of course add to the intrigue. If mourning becomes Elektra (sister of Orestes, who helped her brother avenge their father), having Mayweather’s father train de la Hoya – even if he sits out the fight – will add reams of publicity.

It would regenerate the game and give de la Hoya’s promotional company, Golden Boy, a leg up on a boxing future that would suddenly seem a lot brighter. There’s nothing like a big fight and there’s no bigger fight than a competitive match of boxing’s biggest star against boxing’s best practitioner with a side course of family feud.

If de la Hoya thinks it is beyond his capabilities, of course, he should demur. But I am hoping that he is intrigued by what he can do for his legacy on his way out. Yes, he could lose, but I don’t see him crawling around the canvas. Mayweather is no middleweight, hell, he’s probably not even a welterweight.

And while Golden Boy is milking its cash cow one final time, maybe Bob Arum and Don King could get together with, say, Antonio Margarito vs. Luis Collazo.

TAKING A HIT: Ricky Hatton, who vaulted into everyone’s top ten following his domination last year of Kostya Tszyu, has to be reevaluated after a rather spotty performance moving up seven pounds to challenge Luis Collazo. He won, on my TV card, against an opponent who was very underrated. Hatton did not choose one of the cupcakes he had been fed for years in England, but chose to face a clever and tough southpaw. There was a time last Saturday night in Boston, mid-fight, where it seemed Hatton was so frustrated by the counterpunching Collazo that he seemed almost ready to head back to Manchester.

Give him credit for being tough and hanging in there. Okay, he beat Collazo, but suddenly it doesn’t seem very wise to put him in with other welterweights. I think Arturo Gatti has a chance at beating him. Hatton wisely acknowledged that when he immediately started talking about going back to 140 and awaiting the winner of the third Jose Luis Castillo-Diego (Chico) Corrales match. He mentioned them by name. He very wisely did not mention Floyd Mayweather Jr…..

PENTHOUSE: Emanuel Steward, who is not only having a terrific year training but is becoming the wisest voice on HBO, noted that Hatton was very off-balance when made to miss. Collazo would then hit him with two and three-punch combinations. Mayweather might land eight blows.

The telecast opened with the tape of the de la Hoya-Mayorga bloodbath where the Kronkmeister said that there were amateurs who would beat up the Nicaraguan clod.

In any case, Hatton would not be my choice against either Castillo or Corrales, Miguel Cotto and maybe not Carlos Baldomir. But I think he would get inside Antonio Margarito’s wise punches and put enough pressure on the Tijuana native to do damage – that is, if the Hitman remembers to hit and not hold….Let’s also make some room in here for Collazo, who after being decked in the opening 12 seconds by a left hook set up by a right hand pushing down on his neck, came back to look very much a capable fighter. I would not argue with anyone who had him by a point or two, it was a close fight.

OUTHOUSE: Jim Lampley’s a nice guy, so he doesn’t go in here. However, his orgasmic call of de la Hoya’s victory over Mayorga does….Me, for writing that Floyd Patterson lost his title to Ingemar Johansson at the old Polo Grounds in New York. That’s where he regained it. He lost it at Yankee Stadium, just across the Harlem River.

ANOTHER LIVE ONE: Like Luis Collazo, Rocky Juarez is a live 3-1 underdog this weekend on the HBO show from the Staples Center in Los Angeles. But the 4-1 favorite is nothing less than one of the greatest Mexican fighters in history, Marco Antonio Barrera, so it is not advised to try and get rich just because the young Texan will be trying his darndest.

This is not simply an “appearance” fight for Barrera. Juarez, especially if allowed to set a pace that would be uncomfortable for the now 32-year-old “Baby-Faced Assassin,” is dangerous. But he is also rather predictable, which makes him vulnerable to good boxers. He was lucky to escape with a decision over Zahir Raheem in 2004 and last year suffered his first loss when outworked by Humberto Soto.

Juarez can punch with either hand and perhaps moving up to 130 pounds from 126 will make him stronger. Barrera cannot coast and he cannot languish on the ropes and counterpunch. He will have to use those old legs.

Except for his loss to Manny Pacquiao in 2003, Barrera has performed well enough to rate No. 4 in my pound-for-pound ratings. He had lots of excuses for that loss, none better than the fact he was facing my No. 3 pound-for-pound fighter, a two-fisted terror who remembered that night to throw his right hand. Barrera was also going through emotional problems. He had split with his longtime corner, which then revealed that the fighter has a metal plate in his head, the result of an ancient operation.

Barrera was subjected to having his head examined more than once and then it was almost taken off by the Filipino fury. But he rebounded from that loss to have perhaps his best fight of the three against Erik Morales and has added a 130-pound title or two to his collection.

Barrera is almost always fun to watch. Juarez will make him fight. This is the kind of entertainment boxing at its best can bring. But it is also too risky to bet, one way or another.

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

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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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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