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Articles of 2006

No Mercy on North Broad St.

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An ominous black cloud was forming over Manhattan and heading southwest. An early departure beat rush-hour traffic on the Jersey Turnpike to North Philly. The storm wouldn’t catch up until much later.

The first stop on North Broad St. was at a cheese-steak joint, the second was at the legendary Blue Horizon. This was a special day for me—but one mixed with regret. This was to be my first time at “The Blue.” Not sure how I managed it, but there it is. I’d done Philly a few times, but never entered this landmark. For a boxing scribe who lives just 80 miles away, it’s the equivalent of being a Civil War buff from Philly who never made it to Gettysburg.

The place was just as I had imagined it. I went up into the famous steep rafters and got a bird’s eye view. It was small and densely packed; the crowd practically spills into the undersized ring. It was an oven set on broil—no AC, of course. The 100% humidity, unforgiving ring lights, and body heat of the packed crowd made for a bloodthirsty climate. Since I couldn’t punch out the fat drunks sitting behind me, the next best thing was watching trained professionals dole out some hurt.

The seven-fight undercard was put together by a boxing legend himself, Don Elbaum. He’d matched them well this evening. These were real club fights. No world-beaters, but everyone had guts. The main event looked promising. Local heavyweight and Blue Horizon regular “Fast” Eddie Chambers (25-0, 13 KOs) was facing a worthy opponent in grizzled, hard-punching veteran Ed “The Hammer” Mahone (23-6-2, 23 KOs).

In the mid to late 1990s, Mahone was a staple at the Great Western Forum in Englewood, CA. He looked like the goods, a legitimate future contender. He had size, was an excellent body puncher, and he could thump—every win coming by stoppage. He got his big shot against Vitali Klitschko in Germany in 1999. The towering Ukrainian got rid of him in three. Since then, Mahone has gone 2-5. Still, he’s regarded as tough and dangerous. He has scratched out a living as a respected sparring partner, working with the likes of Hasim Rahman, his conqueror Vitali Klitschko, James Toney, and Audley Harrison.

Mahone, 33, entered the ring in an old gray robe with flaking lettering on the back. He had an unkempt afro and a scruffy beard. He was extraordinarily relaxed, having spent his life on the road in front of hostile crowds, never once fighting in his native St. Louis.

The first round was close. Mahone was Foreman to Eddie Chambers’ Ali. Plodding, he stalked his man, concentrating on the body. His advantage in size and strength seemed almost unfair. But there was a glaring disparity in speed. Chambers, a 24-year-old who could make cruiserweight, throws sharp, blinding combinations. He brings his hands back quickly after getting off, and doesn’t stand there taking a picture. He works behind a high and tight guard Winky Wright would admire. This isn’t a prototypical Philly fighter, a snarling brawler in an alley; he’s a cool sniper picking off his target. Lucky for his opponents, he shoots rubber bullets. But a barrage of those will still do damage.

By the third, Mahone was living proof of this. He wasn’t close to going down, but was reeling around from getting peppered with pinpoint shots. There were moments when he looked like a man getting attacked by a bunch of angry bees—stumbling away to buy himself space and time, before having to cover his beleaguered head and hope for mercy. He couldn’t parry the stingers, especially with eyes rapidly swelling shut. Going into the forth, Mahone began to resemble a noted guest sitting ringside, human catcher’s mitt Randall “Tex” Cobb. Still, he gathered himself in spots and attempted to stay in the fight by bravely moving forward. But he pawed more than he punched.

Later, his trainer Jesse Revelo explained this was part of the plan. Mahone was conserving energy—what with the heat and the 10-round distance—enduring these early salvos, and letting the kid punch himself out. Was this a premeditated strategy or a rationalization after the fact? It’s true that Mahone is a notoriously slow starter and, in spite of some losses by stoppage, a durable survivor who can punch. It’s possible he was saving something to uncork later. We’ll never know. Chambers landed a little one-two—nothing concussive—and referee Wayne Hedgepeth halted the bout 33 seconds into the fourth. The crowd booed the stoppage. This reporter believes he deserved more time, as did Don Elbaum and several ringside media.  (Imagine if the hair-trigger ref Richard Steele had worked all of Lamon Brewster’s fights? He would’ve been denied half of his victories, and certainly would’ve never won the WBO belt when he blasted Wladimir Klitschko in the fifth.)  

Mahone didn’t complain about the stoppage. Then again, Mahone doesn’t complain about much. When I’ve asked him about obstacles and disappointments in his career, he refused to address the subject or make allowances for himself. He should change his moniker to “No Excuses.” After the fight, when asked about his TKO loss, he said, “No use in crying over spilled beans.”

I had to disagree with Mahone—not necessarily about the questionable stoppage, but about the literal robbery I’d just learned he was a victim of. Apparently, between one of the rounds of the fight, executive director of Pennsylvania State Athletic commission, Greg Sirb, screamed at Mahone’s corner, “He better start fighting back or I will not pay him!” (I was on the other side of the ring and didn’t hear this, but it was confirmed by trainer Jesse Revelo, cutman Joey Eye, and reported by Bernard Fernandez of the Philadelphia Daily News.)

True to his word, Sirb said immediately following the fight to Bernard Fernandez, “Neither fighter is getting paid. Both fighters are going to have to appear before the commission.” Sirb allowed that he wouldn’t rule the fight a no-contest and believed Chambers had done nothing wrong. But, he said, “You always [call in] both. I want to hear from both sides.”

I was not privy to these comments recorded by Mr. Fernandez, and learned of them a couple minutes later. I attempted to speak to Mr. Sirb about his decision but he refused to discuss the matter. “That’s it,” he repeated several times, implying his decision is final and this reporter wasn’t entitled to an explanation. Neither was Vernoca Michael, the promoter of the card and co-owner of the venue. She was not officially informed of the matter until after midnight, when Mr. Sirb had left the building and called her on the phone.

When I entered Mahone’s semi-public dressing area to speak to him and his trainer, it was just after Sirb had been there. The executive director had berated the fighter—loud enough for everyone to hear—accused him of intentionally dogging it, and informed him his pain and suffering was for naught.

Don Elbaum was ecstatic about Chambers’ performance but felt the stoppage was premature. Regarding Mahone’s purse being withheld, he said it was ludicrous. Eddie Chambers himself felt Mahone was game but outclassed. He felt terrible when he learned Sirb planned to not pay Mahone. Chambers’ manager, Rob Murray, was equally repulsed and perplexed. Of the numerous people I spoke to, no one would endorse what Sirb thought he saw—particularly his desire to deny Mahone his pay. It appeared Sirb was unwilling to consult with anyone on this.

The storm had finally reached Philly. Driving rain showed no mercy to North Broad St. as the last customers filed out of the building. In the back, Mahone removed his handwraps and gingerly stepped out of his cup. He dressed in silence and occasionally glanced at his damaged face, reflected in his dressing-room window. He put on delicate glasses, which distracted from the swelling and bruising, and even lent him an air of nobility. His purse would’ve been $5,000. That’s slightly more than a quarter of what he got paid to fight in Germany last December, when he went the distance with Henry Akinwande.

He’s been losing lately, but he doesn’t come to lose. Maybe from a matchmaker’s perspective he does, but not his. He thought he could take Eddie Chambers, probably right up until the ref told him he couldn’t. Maybe he should’ve flown to Philly and picked a fight on the street. If he got busted up, he’d have the exact same to show for it.

Please note: The Sweet Science will keep readers informed of Greg Sirb’s proposed hearing, and the ultimate conclusion regarding Ed Mahone’s and Eddie Chambers’ respective purses.

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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