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Articles of 2006

A Hard Left Hook to the Ali Myth

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Muhammad Ali was the most exciting athlete of the last half of the 20th century. The drama of his career, his engaging persona, and his ring wars with Joe Frazier, Sonny Liston, George Foreman, Floyd Patterson, and Ken Norton have left a void that boxing is still unable to fill 25 years after his retirement.

In the years following his final fight with Trevor Berbick in 1981, Ali has served as an icon of both humanitarianism and civil rights. Most recently, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.

Yet many believe the sanctity of Ali is a product of the selective, short-term memories of the New Left. In Jack Cashill’s book, “Sucker Punch: The Hard Left Hook that Dazed Ali and Killed King’s Dream,” Ali’s accolades do not extend beyond the ring.

As a man, Ali has become virtually immune from criticism. His athletic accomplishments are beyond question, but the beliefs, ideals, and motivations that have immortalized him are not. Unfortunately, it is not an area many writers are willing to explain. As former heavyweight champ Larry Holmes bluntly put it, “[Ali] wasn’t a saint. But if you tell people something like that they kick your a–. You can’t talk bad about Muhammad Ali.”

According to Cashill, that is a result of the media’s refusal to question his flaws and the liberal championing of Ali as a revolutionary. Throughout his career, writers ignored Ali’s association with the violence and hatred preached by the Nation of Islam, his chauvinistic feelings towards women, unabashed philandering and the cruel, racially tinged treatment of fighters like Frazier, Patterson and Ernie Terrell.

The first book to seriously question the Ali myth was the late Mark Kram’s scathing Ghosts of Manila, published in 2001. Kram covered Ali for Sports Illustrated in the 1960s and 70s and much of his narrative came from firsthand accounts. While the book is brutally harsh at times, it reveals points that other Ali biographers have simply brushed over. The most shocking story Kram tells is of Aisha Ali, a 17-year-old girl that the then 31-year-old Ali impregnated and married. Since Ali was already married at the time to his second wife, Belinda, the marriage could be considered an act of bigamy.

On a political scale, Kram was not any kinder. He wrote: “Seldom has such a public figure of such superficial depth been more wrongly perceived – by the right and the left; he (Ali) was reminiscent of the simple Chauncey Gardner in “Being There” by Jerzy Kosinski.”

Cashill’s book takes that analogy one step further. Gardner is a simpleton who experiences success by saying the right things at the right times to the right people. People knew nothing about his past.

Cashill feels that the New Left knew Ali’s background, ignored it and transformed him into a mythical revolutionary because of his stance on the Vietnam War. Only the what was important, not the why or who.

There seems to be a general sentiment among both conservatives and liberals that Ali gave up a great deal by refusing to go to Vietnam, where he likely would have never seen combat. There is no measure of the detriment it caused his boxing career.

At the age of 25, he was stripped of his title and would not fight for another three and half years. For boxers, the mid to late 20s are prime years. Because of that sacrifice, he is universally admired for standing up for his views.

On the surface, his reasons for not complying with the draft boiled down to his religious beliefs and unforgettable lines like “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Vietcong” and “No Vietcong ever called me n—–.”

However, in his autobiography, Sugar Ray Robinson tells the story of visiting a scared Ali in New York in 1967. When Robinson insisted that he had to go to Vietnam, Ali answered, “No. Elijah Muhammad told me that I can’t go.” Despite Robinson’s insistence, Ali tearfully explained that he was afraid. When asked if he was afraid of the Nation of Islam, he refused to answer. Robinson said Ali’s eyes were full of “tears of torment, tears of indecision.”

Was he scared that the Nation of Islam would kill him? If so, it was never explored by those who championed his position on Vietnam. Robinson certainly had no reason to lie either. He seemed more than willing to explore and share his own exploits. In the book, he admits that he himself committed adultery, squandered most of his ring earnings, and slapped his third wife in an argument. Robinson also described the young Ali as “one of the most likeable people I’ve ever known.”

Cashill never states his true belief of Ali’s refusal to go to Vietnam. He simply provides   the relevant details and criticizes those who ignored them.

One blatantly disregarded fact is that Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the Nation of Islam, also refused induction into the military during World War II, but not for pacifistic reasons. Muhammad believed in Japanese superiority and repeatedly stated throughout the 1930s that “The Japanese will slaughter the white man.” At a speech in Chicago in 1942, he told followers, “The newspapers are lying when they say that the Japanese are losing. We are going to win.” By “we,” he meant the Japan/Nation of Islam axis that he had been touting.

This information is not sitting in a vault somewhere between the JFK Assassination files, Jimmy Hoffa’s body, and the pictures of the Roswell flying saucer. The Vietnam-era resisters who turned Ali into a revolutionary seemed to have a tunnel vision that has only narrowed over time. The stance on the War was all that mattered. Any flaws or contradictions were simply pushed to the side.

It is one thing to forgive one’s flaws for the sake of his accomplishments. It is another to ignore facts because they diminish your cause.

But ignoring readily is exactly what the New Left did in its coronation of a good-looking, brash, athletic champion. With that decision came the silent acceptance or ignorance of despicable behavior.

Cashill argues that the civil rights movements led by Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X gave way to the violence and racial bigotry of the Nation of Islam. Its front man was Ali, who called for the segregation of America and executing interracial couples as late as 1975.

When the quieter civil rights pioneers like Joe Louis and Jackie Robinson opposed Ali’s ideals, they were called “Uncle Toms.” Obviously, this created divisions within the African-American community, which Ali only exacerbated with his treatment of Frazier.

When Ali was finally able to return to the ring in 1970, Frazier was the champion. Their epic 1971 match is a prime example of Ali’s squandered opportunities. It is the only time in history that two undefeated, undisputed heavyweight champions have ever squared off in the ring, and Ali diminished it by casting Frazier as a white man’s champion.

The endless racial epithets thrown by Ali only would continue over the next four years up to their final bell of their final fight sounded. At a press conference before their third match in Manila in 1975, Ali presented a gorilla as Frazier’s likeness and proceeded to beat on it, saying, “Wake up gorilla. We’re in Manila.” In the years that followed, many writers dismissed Frazier’s animosity towards Ali as inability to take a joke.

Also dismissed was Ali’s philandering. In many cases, it seems tabloid-like to focus on a person’s extramarital affairs. However, when a man refuses to go to war for the sake of his Islamic principles, then unapologetically desecrates the vow of holy matrimony countless times, skepticism is more than justified.

Still, the cultural elite never openly make that connection. Nor do they discuss the fact that as the New Left championed Ali and advocated the Equal Rights Amendment, their hero preached sexism. He told Playboy in 1975, “In the Islamic world, the man’s the boss and the woman stays in the background. She don’t want to call the shots.”

Cashill, whose previous books include “Hoodwinked: How Intellectual Hucksters Have Hijacked American Culture,” successfully points out the blatant flaws of the Ali mystique, articulating his theory in a very easy to read fashion. He uses several sources of information, weaving the information into a narrative that is worth even the most avid boxing historian’s time.

“Sucker Punch” rings true in most instances, but some connections are a bit of stretch.  One involves Don King’s management of Mike Tyson. Ali did give King, who promoted the “Rumble in the Jungle” and the “Thrilla in Manila,” his big break. As a result, Cashill insinuates that Ali is responsible for the rise of King, and therefore, Tyson’s subsequent fall. While Tyson’s story should be considered a very sad one, he has no one to blame but himself.

Cashill also spends so much time dissecting the Ali mystique that he forgets to explain Ali’s positive contributions to the civil rights movement. One should never forget that he was the first African-American to successfully present himself without apology to the nation. The bravery and significance of that accomplishment is central to the champion’s story.

However, that particular flaw in Cashill’s text is par for the course in Ali biographies. The writers who tell Ali’s story either become intoxicated with the myth or begin their projects with the preconceived notion of debunking it. It may take an author totally disconnected from Ali’s era to write his definitive story.

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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