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Articles of 2006

The Fight Behind the Dueling Pay-Per-View Fights

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The beautifully destructive sport of boxing is taking yet another ugly self-destructive step this weekend with dueling pay-per-views being held in the neighboring markets of Atlantic City, New Jersey, and New York City. Tarver-Hopkins at Boardwalk Hall and Cotto-Malignaggi at Madison Square Garden each are quite worthy fights headlining cards featuring established and upcoming contenders and prospects alike.

When I raised this issue last week on media teleconference calls with Top Rank chairman Bob Arum and Lou DiBella, who are both of course putting on the card at the Garden, about why this conflict of dates occurred, they both recommended that I call HBO. I did it one better by speaking in person with the man in charge of HBO’s pay-per-view division, Mark Taffet, HBO Senior Vice President of Sports Operations & Pay-Per-View, at the Tarver-Hopkins press conference Tuesday, June 6, at New York’s ESPN Zone. I also took a transcript of this interview and asked Arum to comment on it the following day, Wed., June 7, right before the formal Cotto-Malignaggi press conference at Madison Square Garden.

You can read those transcripts here, and also judge for yourselves who is primarily to blame for this mess. Just use a ten-point must system, no standing eight-counts, and no being saved by the bell including in the 12th and final round.

INTERVIEW WITH MARK TAFFET

EG: This fight obviously stands on its own merit. But I don't have to tell you this, being top guy in the pay-per-view business, usually boxing tries to avoid even events like WWE and other major events. How did this end up that there are two pay-per-view boxing shows on at the same night?

MT: Well, you know, it's a long story. It's a complicated story. And suffice it to say that I've had a lot of discussions with Bob Arum and Top Rank about it. They were very civil, peaceful conversations. We tried to work through the situation as best we could.  And in fact, even with two events unfortunately happening the same night, we've still worked through it extremely well and professionally together. I think we both think it's unfortunate that there are two events the same night. There were alternatives presented. But with due respect to Bob, he didn't think that what we offered was enough for him, and as a result he opted to go the same night on pay-per-view as Tarver and Hopkins. We respect that. We wish it didn't happen. But it is, and we're fine with it. The fans are going to have a choice that night. And the fans will make the choice. And that's what pay-per-view is all about. It's not for everybody. Not everybody buys it. The fans that want to pay for it buy it and watch it. And that's exactly what's going to happen Saturday night.

EG: He said he had the date. I imagine you were at the Garden last year with the Cotto show where they said that they want to come back the Saturday of the Puerto Rican Day Parade, which is June 10th.

MT: Right, right. Yeah, well, it's not that simple. And we know he was there a year ago. And we know at some point he was interested in going there again this year. But there were lots of talks about other fights with Miguel Cotto that we entertained doing live on HBO. We had a long planning discussion with Top Rank to discuss Miguel's plan for the year. It didn't include this fight on this date. But I'm not blaming anyone. That's just a matter of circumstances that took place. Arturo Gatti got a hand injury. Ricky Hatton wasn't ready to fight within the date that they were looking at. There were just other issues that always take place in boxing. No one's fault. Corrales and Castillo were supposed to fight, and as Kery [Davis of HBO] just pointed out, there was an injury there. That took time again to be rescheduled. These things happen. A number of unforeseen circumstances took place which resulted in Bob going to a plan with Malignaggi on June 10th that he himself didn't originally intend to do. And by the time that plan came around, we had already been deep into discussions about Tarver and Hopkins, and we just couldn't hook up and make it all happen on the same day. We offered him what we thought was a very generous opportunity to fight live on HBO, a special night of “World Championship Boxing”, Friday night, June 9th. We got our scheduling department to precede the prospective Miguel Cotto fight, which would have been live on HBO, with a replay of the final episode of “Sopranos”, a big night, and a great movie, “I, Robot” featuring Will Smith. We thought it would have been a special Friday night. But again, it's Bob's prerogative, and he said that wasn't enough and just didn't work for him. So we wished him the best. And we love Miguel Cotto. And we really hope that we'll be doing Miguel Cotto's next fight after this one, provided he comes out victorious.

EG: So you're saying you locked in the June 10th date for pay-per-view before they had this date locked in?

MT: Well, I don't know who did what, when, and who locked in what, because there were a lot of conversations. Once we realized that we had two fights potentially going on the same night or on the same weekend, at that point we weren't speaking with one another because we were each out pursuing the business we needed to for our respective fights. So I spoke to the pay-per-view distributors in the industry. Bob did. I don't know when he did or what he said to them. But he's been in this business a long time as have I. And we just went on each to pursue our business, but peacefully and with an understanding that it was unfortunate but we were going to respect one other and go down the road.

EG: All right, OK, thank you.

MT: Thanks.

INTERVIEW WITH BOB ARUM

BA: We made the announcement last year after the Abdullaev fight with Cotto that we were coming back here again on June 10th for a Cotto fight. That's all I can say. We reserved the date. The Garden told HBO that the date was reserved by us.

EG: That was last June?

BA: And that was last June. The date has no magic for Hopkins-Tarver. It has magic for us, obviously. It's the night before the Puerto Rican Day Parade. So I'm – a little doubletalk coming from HBO.

EG: Well, that's not surprising. Also, not everybody knows that when you reserve a date at the Garden, it's not like you decide Friday night, oh, let's go to the movies, let's see what's playing at seven o'clock. You have to do it well, well in advance for obvious reasons. It's a very prestigious building.

BA: We did it a YEAR in advance. We saw how successful it was last year and we booked the Garden to do it again. And these people knew that we did, because when they went to the Garden, the Garden told them that Top Rank had it booked. And then they tried to get the Garden to shitcan us. So they really should say, if they were honest, 'We don't give a damn. We're HBO, and we can do whatever the hell we want.' Because in effect, that's what's happened.

EG: Now, you know Don King had been talking about doing a Boxing Channel. He even raised it at the press conference before the Rahman-Toney fight that you had together. In baseball, the Yankees and the Mets each have their own networks. Is there any real movement beyond talk of people like yourself and King to create their own Boxing Channel now with digital cable and so many channels and the Internet also available?

BA: No, but we are making an arrangement with Comcast OLN Network. We're going to have a series on OLN. It's going to be both live and our great Top Rank “Legends of the Ring” series, the great fights from the past. So we're very optimistic that we'll be able to function well with Comcast.

EG: It's basic, non-pay cable. It used to be called the Outdoor Life [Network] but they changed it to OLN. Do you have a start date and know when that's going to come?

BA: July 27th.

EG: Is that going to be live show?

BA: A live show.

EG: All right. I hope it works out. We need this.

BA: Thank you.

EG: Thanks.

POSTSCRIPT:

During Wednesday’s Garden press conference, Joel Fisher, Senior Vice President of Madison Square Garden Sports Properties, stated, “We’ve got the same date on hold next year.” For those who can’t wait, that date is Saturday, June 9, 2007.

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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