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Articles of 2006

It's Showtime for Myekeni in the WBC…Or Is It?

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World Boxing Council (WBC) International flyweight champion Mhikiza “Showtime” Myekeni has been installed as the new number one contender for the WBC world title.

Earlier last month the WBC ordered Wonjongkam to face the South African fighter, but a report on FightNews.com claims Wonjongkam has elected to fight Mexican fighter Everardo “Zihua” Morales on June 10 in Bangkok, Thailand.

The Thai, who has successfully defended his WBC title fourteen times, has not defended his title against a mandatory challenger in two and a half years. Although it was Morales manager, Fausto Garcio, who leaked word of Wonjongkam facing his charge, confirmation has yet to come from the WBC or Wonjongkam’s camp as to exactly who will be challenging the champion.

Below is a press release from Branco Sports Productions, the promoter of Monelei Mhikiza “Showtime” Myekeni, which makes it clear they believe Myekeni will be challenging for the world title, not Morales. Should Wonjongkam elect to face Morales, according to WBC’s guidelines, he could be stripped of his world title.

Myekeni is a worthy opponent who has an excellent shot at winning a fight with Wonjongkam.

When I see it the two in the ring, I’ll believe it.

* * *

Issued For and on Behalf of Branco Sports Productions by: Trevor Cramer Communications

Barely able to contain his delight at the exceptionally good news for the Branco Sports Productions (BSP) consortium, promoter Branco Milenkovic had to then absorb the news that, not only was their charge in front of the queue, but also confirmed as the mandatory challenger for the world title held by long-time champion Pongsaklek Wonjongkam of Thailand.

Milenkovic was sent a copy of the correspondence from WBC President Jose Sulaiman addressed to Pongsaklek's management regarding the initiation of free negotiations for # 1 contender Myekeni to face the defending champion.

As with all championship fights in the pipeline, the letter from the WBC did, however, make it abundantly clear that if free negotiations between the two parties are not concluded by Friday, June 16 th, 2006, the fight will go to a purse bid at the WBC Executive Offices in Mexico City.

“The WBC are very proud to sanction this mandatory title defence of a great champion from Thailand against our WBC International champion and great prospect from South Africa,” the letter went on to say.

BSP, headed up by the charismatic Branco, has come up trumps yet again, proving that they are masters of negotiation when clinching mega-fights for the boxers under their wing and August has already been penciled in as a possible date for the fight.

In the short space of just a week, Milenkovic has successfully negotiated no less than three legitimate world championship fights involving Gabula Vabaza for the Vacant IBF World Junior Featherweight crown, Hawk Makepula's involvement in the IBF World junior bantamweight final eliminator and now negotiations for Myekeni's crack at WBC World flyweight championship honours.

This deal according to the boxing experts, although we are still in the middle of the year, has put BSP as a front runner again for the “Promoter of the Year Award” – the achievement Branco and Jake have holding for the past two years!

“This is honestly great news for South African boxers to get such worldwide recognition from the leading organizations,” said Milenkovic. “I cannot recall in the past where three local boxers have been nominated in such quick succession for legitimate championship challenges,” added Milenkovic.

Myekeni will be one of very few South Africans in recent times to be afforded the “mandatory challenger” tag for a legitimate WBC world championship. That honour previously fell to Sugarboy Malinga, who successfully wrested Nigel Benn's super-middleweight title from the champion's grasp, while Mzonke Fana fought his way into the top contender's position last year, before challenging the legendary Marco Antonio Barerra for the junior lightweight crown.

Other South African who have challenged in the past for legitimate WBC world title glory, but on a voluntary basis, were Corrie Sanders, Dingaan Thobela, Giovanni Pretorius, Phillip Ndou and Morgan Ndumo.

In Pongsaklek, the South African challenger faces, undoubtedly, the stiffest challenge of his professional ring career. The tough, ultra-experienced Thai has defended his world title no less than 14 times and his record makes for very impressive reading (63 fights, 61 wins – 31 ko's – 2 losses). Pongsaklek does have a remote SA-connection on his ring record. Back in 1997, he easily disposed of the late Mzukisi Sikali in one round.

Marketing Director and co-promoter of BSP, Baby Jake Matlala, was understandably delighted to learn of the latest turn of events.” Branco has done great work with Myekeni's career in no time,” said Matlala.

That much is clear, when one considers that Myekeni has taken just 11 months, and three fights, to become a mandatory challenger for a world crown.” Although Pongsaklek is very experienced, he is definitely more of a boxer than a puncher, with a 50 % ratio of victories inside the distance,” Matlala pointed out.

Myekeni underlined his skill on the 31st of March with a clinical performance against the tough, unbeaten Filipino Benedict Suico, who he easily out-pointed over 12 rounds and suitably impressed WBC International Chairman Mauro Betti from Italy, who was at ringside.

Although Pongsaklek has never defended his title outside of his native Thailand, Milenkovic and Matlala are hoping to make the champion an offer he “can't refuse” and will also canvass the national broadcaster SABC to get behind what will be a first-ever for SABC, a WBC World Championship fight featuring a South African boxer.

* * *

One possible explanation for the press release on Fight News is Wonjongkam may indeed choose to fight Morales on June 10th – before the June 16th deadline imposed by the WBC. A win over Morales would give Wonjongkam his fifteenth straight title defense in the flyweight division, breaking Miguel Canto’s previous record of fourteen. Wonjongkam stated last year he would retire in three to four years however while unlikely, it’s entirely possible he’ll give up the title or retire once he’s set the record for title defenses.

Wonjongkam and his camp seem more interested in breaking Canto’s record than the quality of their opposition. For some reason they believe breaking the record means automatic inclusion into the WBC Hall of Fame (which it probably does). I’ve got news for them – they ought to be more concerned with the quality of opposition and what the fans and journalists think instead of focusing on breaking records and getting into the WBC’s Hall of Fame (of all places).

As the majority of fights in Thailand where Wonjongkam fights are free, not many of the fans are complaining. HBO and Showtime aren’t complaining because they don’t cover any of his fights. Nor are they shown on PPV – boxing is never shown on PPV in Thailand. No one willing to tell the Emperor (Wonjongkam) he’s not wearing any clothes.

One Thai insider who shall remain nameless gave me a surprise when he stated, “Pongsaklek Wonjongkam has just been lucky. He just came along at the right time and he’s only faced one or two quality opponents.” Several journalists here in Thailand also feel Wonjongkam has outlasted his welcome as champion; he needs to fight someone, anyone, who is recognized as a worthy challenger by more than just the WBC.

Wonjongkam may believe he’s fighting legitimate contenders but his last truly decent contender was Hussein Hussein two and a half years ago. Ironically, Hussein was the last mandatory challenger Wonjongkam faced also. The excuse has been put forth that “his promoter calls the shots and Wonjongkam just fights who is put in front of him.” I’ll buy this at the beginning of this career but not now.

Mark Sales, Daigo Nakahiro, Daisuke Naito, Trash Nakanuma, Gilberto Keb Bass, Randy Mangubat, Isidro Balabat – with the exception of Daisuke Naito, none of these fighters belongs anywhere near the top ten of the flyweight division and yet in the last two years, these are the list of Wonjongkam’s opponents.

There are far too many quality challengers in the division – Arce (supposedly moving up), Parra, Darchinyan, Narvaez, Pacheco, Kelly, Maldanado, Burgos – for Wonjongkam to face Everardo Morales (27-10-4, 19 KOs). Morales is currently ranked tenth by the WBC. He moved from nineteenth to tenth after losing two of his last three fights.

Is this a worthy challenger?

If Wonjongkam does face Myekeni, he may face his most serious test in years – but Myekeni is not someone who is going to get boxing fans excited. Maybe that just doesn’t matter to him…

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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