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Articles of 2006

Inka-Dinka-Doo, What an Ending

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LAS VEGAS, June 12 – It has taken me a couple of days of searching for the right tone to take with Bernard Hopkins’s masterly domination of Antonio Tarver. I certainly didn’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth – twas another night to be grateful for Graterford’s greatest alumnus – but there were two problems.

(1) Let us not interpolate Hopkins’s performance against Tarver into believing that it flatters Jermain Taylor into being a strong favorite over Winky Wright this weekend. Styles make fights, remember. More on this later in the week, health permitting.

(2) Additionally, let’s not go overboard and declare Hopkins the greatest thing since peanut butter and jelly. Before Tarver, he was one of the best middleweights in history – and if I stubbornly refuse to put him in any top ten, it’s only because the division is replete with greats. Certainly Hopkins would have been difficult to handle for any of them, Sugar Ray Robinson included. This latest victory, for my money (much of which is owed directly to Hopkins for bouts with Felix Trinidad Jr., Oscar de la Hoya, Jermain Taylor and Tarver), can not be classified as particularly brilliant for one simple reason:

Tarver was a shot fighter.

There was nothing there. Nothing. No snap, no crackle, no jab. He said afterwards “sometimes you wake up in the morning and it’s not your day.” Give him credit; it was his only offer of an excuse. The man who ended the long reign of Roy Jones Jr. as boxing’s No. 1, at age 37 was more diminished than Hopkins at 41 – and Hopkins started off much higher.

Tarver, now 0 for Philadelphia – I am assuming he lost to Rocky Balboa, too, but please don’t tell me the ending – looked like an old man in both his fights with Glencoffe Johnson. During last year’s rubber match with Jones, Emanuel Steward on HBO pointed out that Tarver looked ready to go. Against Hopkins, he never seemed ready to start from the first tactical surprise rush in the opening round.

Of course Hopkins had a lot to do with Tarver’s poor showing. This is always the problem with analyses – how to balance one man’s performance with the other’s. Let’s start with the physical glow about Hopkins, courtesy in no small part, I’m sure, to the conditioning guru, Mackie Shilstone. After looking at the suddenly muscular Hopkins, Steward said it was obvious that the long-dominant middleweight should have moved up years ago. Not only did Hopkins look better even sitting down, he had so much more energy than he did in the two fights with Jermain Taylor. There was no need to conserve himself until the stretch this time. He went right at Tarver in the opening round and never really let up. It was a brilliant front-running effort, worthy of Beau Purple upsetting Kelso. And like the horse racing upsets of yore, look for the trainer. It wasn’t the Hall of Fame trainer, H. Allen Jerkens, the master of the upset – he beat Secretariat once with Onion – but one of Hopkins’s old knockout victims, John David Jackson.

No knock on Naseem Richardson, the longtime assistant who took over when Hopkins dismissed Bouie Fisher (who notably picked Tarver), but I believe I discerned the fine tuning of John David, who had been one of my favorite boxers, last Saturday night. Months ago, at the Sugar Shane Mosley-Fernando Vargas rematch press conference in Vegas, Jackson told me he would love to work with Hopkins for this fight because he was sure he could give him a couple of pointers based on many rounds of sparring with Tarver.

Since Mosley was a “partner” in Golden Boy Productions, as is Hopkins, I said it didn’t seem too difficult to get that assignment. Jackson did.

He had explained to me that Tarver, unlike most southpaws, does not tuck his head to the right after he throws the jab. He goes the other way. Jackson then got up and demonstrated how Hopkins had to stay low and then counter the jab, not with straight right hands the way he usually did against left-handers, but with looping shots. After a couple of rounds of feeling Hopkins’s counters, Tarver virtually gave up throwing his jab. No jab, no straight left hand to follow. He was completely disarmed.

And when Hopkins gets an edge, it is all over. No one is better at exploiting physical and tactical advantages, no one is better at making them psychological edges as well. Once he gets an opponent by the proverbials, it is game, set and match. For a while, my bet at 4-1 on Hopkins by decision looked in jeopardy because it appeared he was on the way to a knockout of a man who had never been down before last weekend’s fifth round in Atlantic City.

Maybe, if he had gone all out, Hopkins could have scored the knockout. But if there is nothing else we’ve learned about him, is that he is very content to win on points and not take any unnecessary risks. The longer the fight went, the better he looked. If this was the end – and my bet is that it was, that we shall never be privileged to watch his ring mastery again – it was a great way to close a 20-year-run.

Many of Hopkins’s middleweight victories were static, dare we say “boring?” Not this one. The danger of Tarver’s big left hand was always there in our minds, and Hopkins kept us enthralled by never really letting up on the pedal. There was no coasting here.

Now it appears that both these ancient warriors may have said goodbye Saturday night. Tarver seemed unsure whether he should continue his career; he may realize it just isn’t there anymore. He’ll always have Paris – well, okay, Roy Jones Jr., when he fizzles. One fight guy told me not to be surprised if HBO, with Tarver out of the picture, is not hot to retain the services of Joe Calzaghe. No, if Jermain Taylor gets by Winky, there’ll be a big fight for the oft-injured Welshman without having to face Glen Johnson or one of the faceless other light-heavyweights.

As for Hopkins, I think he has been sincere all along about retiring. If he had gotten the decision the first time against Jermain Taylor, he might have been able to fit Tarver in before his 41st birthday, after which he had promised his late mother he would not fight.

There is no way he could have a better ending than last Saturday to a career that should be celebrated wherever tough kids get in trouble and think there’s no way out. Hopkins has personified the great American dream in his 20 years after Graterford, one of the toughest prisons in Pennsylvania. Yeah, he’s made mistakes and he’s hurt people, but he did it his way and since he probably still has his first dollar, I believe this was it.

Yes, when Larry Merchant of HBO asked him in the ring what if someone offered him $20 million, Hopkins replied he would come out of the grave for that kind of money. I think he knows, though, that Momma would have to give him a spanking.

And besides, there’s no one out there who could make him that kind of money. So as the great James Durante would say exiting his show, “Goodnight Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are.”

PENTHOUSE: Team Hopkins, especially its leader, for one to remember him by fondly. Not that Bernard will ever let us forget in the years to come. But let us not forget the other big winner Saturday night, Miguel Cotto. Paul Malignaggi is getting all kinds of praise for his gritty performance and one wonders what this fight might have been had the brash kid from Bensonhurst not been accidentally cut in the opening moments. There were a couple of rounds, especially the ninth, when Malignaggi showed why at 4-1, which is what I gladly took, did in fact have a shot at the big upset. Saying that, however, let us give Cotto his due and not criticize him for not knocking out the brave Malignaggi, who made it easier by standing in front of him. Cotto hurt his left hand – he certainly didn’t use it as often after the fight reached the halfway mark – and he showed again he could be hit. But he also showed that the strain of making 140 pounds doesn’t stop him from maintaining his poise and stamina. And he showed that he could keep up with someone as quick as Bensonhurst; Billy Giles, Malignaggi’s trainer, changed his tune from calling Cotto “slow and one-dimensional” before to “I didn’t realize how fast he was” after. And the left hooker from Puerto Rico hurts people when he hits them. Malignaggi will be out for six months, by which time the chances are that Cotto will have moved up to welterweight. I’d love to see him against Ricky Hatton, Antonio Margarito or the winner of Carlos Baldomir-Arturo Gatti.

OUTHOUSE: Lou DiBella doesn’t need me to put him in here, especially since he hasn’t done anything wrong (that I know about). He’s in here because that’s probably how he’s feeling, a bit crappy, because not only did Malignaggi get busted up, the fighter he probably has the least use for, Hopkins, scored an impressive victory down the Garden State Parkway. He can bounce back, of course, if Jermain Taylor manages to get by Winky….The losses by a couple of “Magic Men,” as Tarver and Malignaggi bill themselves, was probably the worst night for the profession since that tiger mistook Siegfried and Roy for cat food.

DISS AND THAT: So in the opening bout on the Atlantic City pay-per-view card, there was Larry (Hap) Hazzard’s favorite judge, Jean Williams – you remember, the lady who gave the round to Evander Holyfield despite the battering he took from Lennox Lewis – still working in his state. Puff for puff, Hap has to be the most arrogant man in the game….Tim Ryan was a welcome voice and the reason he sounded so tired doing the Garden show was because he was shuttling back and forth from his duties at the French Open. I mean, giving up a Paris dinner to work a Kevin Kelley farewell does not seem fair….But no excuses for saying that after five rounds he had Malignaggi ahead. After five rounds, watching in the comfort of my living room, I had Cotto winning by shutout….I ended up with a 116-112 card, giving one round even because who the hell can tell from television….Wally Matthews did a fine job working with George Foreman. The key was he didn’t try to ridicule the often ridiculous former heavyweight champion and instead tries to draw out knowledgeable opinions….Read somewhere that the reason Oscar de la Hoya didn’t announce his decision last Saturday about whether or not he was going to face Floyd Mayweather Jr. was that both sides were too far apart in talks. Camp Mayweather informs that there haven’t been any talks, so the read must be that Oscar still isn’t 100 percent positive, one way or another. Hope he makes up his mind before global warming melts Greenland.

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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