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Articles of 2006

Ballpark Fights

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In the good old summertime, back when boxing rivaled baseball as the most popular sport in the nation, major heavyweight fights took place in the New York ballparks of Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds, home of the Giants.

The undisputed king of the ballpark fighters was Joe Louis, who fought at Yankee Stadium eight times from 1935 through 1940, twice in 1946 and once each in 1948 and 1950. He fought twice at the Polo Grounds in 1941. He lost to Max Schmeling and also scored his legendary first-round knockout in the rematch in Yankee Stadium. One of his two wins at the Polo Grounds was his 13th-round knockout of Billy Conn in their first fight.

It was at Yankee Stadium that Jack Dempsey was pushed back into the ring by sports writers after being knocked through ropes by Luis Angel Firpo. Of Rocky Marciano’s six title defenses, three were in Yankee Stadium and one was in the Polo Grounds. Schmeling made history at Yankee Stadium when he became the only man to win the heavyweight title on a foul. Floyd Patterson made history at the Polo Grounds, knocking out Ingemar Johansson to become the first man to regain the heavyweight title.

There also were championship fights involving the lower weight classes in the two ballparks and at Ebbetts Field, home of the Brooklyn Dodgers, in the period of 1922-31 and at Shea Stadium, home of the Mets,  in the 1960s. It was the heavyweight fights, however, that stirred the Big Apple and rest of the country.

Outdoor heavyweight fights were a happening.

Louis came to national attention when he made his New York debut with a sixth-round stoppage of former champion Primo Carnera before some 40,000 fans on June 25, 1935, at Yankee Stadium.

“In the gathering were leaders of all walks of life in the city, state and nation,” the New York Times noted. “Postmaster General Farley watched the proceedings, as did John and James Roosevelt, sons of the President. Mayor La Guardia was one of our city executives present. Four former holders of the title which Louis seeks were there and were introduced from the ring – Dempsey, Tunney, Max Baer and Jack Johnson. James J. Braddock, current titleholder, was present as were lesser ring champions. Baseball, golf, tennis and yachting were represented to the gathering.”

Representatives of yachting are not seen much at fights any more, although some members of boxers’ entourages do wear hats associated with naval officers. I have no idea why.

Louis surely was impressive in beating Carnera because an estimated crowd of 95,000 packed Yankee Stadium to see him knock out Max Baer, another former champion, in the fourth round on Sept. 24. 1935.

Louis won 10 fights at Yankee Stadium, including his 25th straight successful title defense with an 11th round knockout of Jersey Joey Walcott on June 25, 1948. His two losses there the knockout by Schmeling on June 18, 1936, and a unanimous decision loss to Ezzard Charles on Sept. 27, 1950, when he tried to regain the title 2½ years after he had retired.

The Louis bandwagon lost a wheel or least wobbled when as 8-1 favorite he was knocked out in the 12th round by Schmeling for his first defeat before an estimated 45,000 fans. An estimated crowd of 80,000 had seen Schmeling win the title when Jack Sharkey was disqualified for a low blow in the fourth round on June 12, 1930, at Yankee Stadium.

The fight against Louis was Schmeling’s 12th in the United States and ninth in New York in 8½ years, and the German had built quite a following. “Hundreds of people were gathered before the hotel (after he beat Louis),” Schmeling wrote in “Max Schmeling: an Autobiography,” published in Germany in 1977 and in the United  States in1998. “As I appeared they began to applaud, and it took some doing to get to the elevators.”

Schmeling was seen as a representative of Hitler when he returned for his rematch with Louis on June 22, 1938. He often was mocked on the street with stiff-armed Nazi salutes. “Joe Louis, who had yesterday been celebrated by Harlem as a hero of the underclass, was now suddenly transformed into the symbol of freedom and equality for all people and races against the Nazi threat,” Schmeling wrote.

Louis, a 2-1 favorite, needed 2:04 to knock out Schmeling before 70,694 fans at Yankee Stadium in what was the fourth defense of the title he had won on an eighth-round knockout of Jim Braddock on June 22, 1937 in Comiskey Park, then the home of the Chicago White Sox.

The dispatching of Schmeling was the first New York ballpark heavyweight fight since Louis won a decision over Tommy Farr on Aug. 30, 1937 at Yankee Stadium in his first title defense.

The big outdoor show in New York in 1937 was the Carnival of Champions on Sept. 23 at the Polo Grounds. Lou Ambers retained the lightweight title on a decision over Pedro Montanez. Barney Ross outpointed Ceferino Garcia for the welterweight title. Harry Jeffra won the bantamweight title on a decision over Sixto Escobar. Fred Apostoli stopped Marcel Thil in the 10th round in what was recognized in Europe as a middleweight title match. The New York State Athletic Commission, however, recognized Freddie Steele as middleweight champion.

Before Louis beat Farr there had been seven outdoor heavyweight championship fights in New York City, but only three were in ballparks.

On Sept. 11, 1923, some 90,000 people, more than 85,000 of them paying customers, squeezed into the Polo Grounds to watch Jack Dempsey knock out Luis Angel Firpo in the second round. It was the first of two ballpark fights for Dempsey, but his only championship bout.

Shortly after opening bell Dempsey was knocked to a knee. “He was up again before they could more than start counting, and as he got on his feet 90,000 people got to their feet, too, and not one of them sat down before the round was over,” reported the New York Times.

Dempsey knocked down Firpo seven times before he was knocked through the ropes and on to the heads and shoulders of sports writers, who pushed him back on to the apron from where he managed to get back into the ring before being counted out. The round ended shortly thereafter, and the screaming fans were able to sit down again, but only briefly. In the second round, Dempsey knocked down Firpo twice, the second time for the count.

The first heavyweight title fight at Yankee Stadium was on July 26, 1928, when Gene Tunney, who had outpointed Dempsey outdoors at the Sesquicentennial Stadium in Philadelphia and at Chicago’s Soldier Field, ended his career with an 11th-round technical knockout of Tom Heeney. Schmeling succeeded Tunney as champion when he beat Jack Sharkey on the foul blow in Yankee Stadium.

After Schmeling beat Sharkey, New York’s next four heavyweight title bouts were held outdoors at the Madison Square Garden Bowl in Long Island City in the Borough of Queens, just across the East River from Manhattan. Sharkey won the title on split decision over Schmeling before an estimated 70,000, and Primo Carnera knocked out Sharkey in the sixth round before about 40,000 in 1933. In 1934, Max Baer stopped knocked down Carnera 11 times and stopped him in the 11th round before some 56,000 paid spectators, and Jim Braddock upset Baer on unanimous decision before a crowd estimated at 30.000 in 1935.

From then on, Joe Louis dominated the ballpark boxing scene.

Louis’ first fight in the Polo Grounds was his now almost mythical defense against Billy Conn, which he won on a 13th-round knockout before 54,487 on June 18, 1941.

Interestingly, the New Times said that no trouble was expected. Then the newspaper reported, “The police detail was the largest ever assigned to a boxing event in this city. A total of 2,250 of New York’s finest patrolled the Polo Grounds inside and out, and the streets of Harlem.”

On Sept. 20, 1941, Louis stopped Lou Nova in the sixth round at the Polo Ground in what, because of World War II, was the last outdoor fight in New York until June 19, 1946, when Louis knocked out Conn in the eighth round at Yankee Stadium. That was the first fight with a $100 ticket for ringside Other ticket prices were $50, $30, $20 for reserved seats, $10 for reserved seats in the bleachers and $4 standing room. Perhaps because of the ticket prices, but also because of national radio hookup and limited television, only 45,266 fans attended.

Louis 25th, and last, title defense was an 11th-round knockout of Jersey Joe Walcott watched by 39,827 fans  in Yankee Stadium on June 23, 1948. His last championship fight, a unanimous decision loss in a title bid against Ezzard Charles on Sept. 27, 1950 at Yankee Stadium was watched by a crowd of 22,357.

There were a total of seven heavyweight title fights at Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds from 1953 to 1960. Such events were being killed by the rise of television. Because of such things as programming schedules and now the scheduling of satellite time there is no such thing as a rain date as there was back in the good old summertime.

Rocky Marciano’s final fight in his all-winning 49-bout career was watched by a crowd of 61,574 on Sept. 21, 1955, when he stopped Archie Moore in the ninth round at Yankee Stadium. Ingemar Johansson surprised an estimated crowd of 30,000 by knocking down Floyd Patterson seven times in the third round and winning the championship on June 26, 1959, at Yankee Scandium. Patterson became the first man to regain the heavyweight title when he knocked out Johansson in the fifth round before 31,892 on June 20, 1960, at the Polo Grounds.

There would not be another outdoor heavyweight title fight in New York until Muhammad Ali scored a unanimous decision over Ken Norton on Sept. 28, 1976 at Yankee Stadium, where 31,892 fans paid for the privilege of having the chance to get mugged by hooligans, who were able to gate crash because of a police strike.

That was the last of the New York ballpark fights . . . probably for ever.

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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