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Articles of 2006

Jermain Taylor: Transitioning to Greatness?

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Once you have survived the guerrilla warfare it takes to mentally then technically stand up to Bernard Hopkins, you would think, fighting any one else would be a return to business as normal. And yet next up for Jermain Taylor stands Winky Wright, the man labeled as the looming threat to Taylor establishing himself as the dominant middleweight of his time. Yes, the troublesome task of unseating Hopkins and securing the title rematch has been achieved. Yet even in victory providing for ascension, analysis must breach easy assumptions and the cluttering presumptions of expectations born of short term goals attained.

For Jermain Taylor the close decision wins over Hopkins signaled a need to transition the middleweight champion from a success orientated developmental phase into a mature, championship dynamism. Reviewing the early rounds against Hopkins, in their July 16, 2005 first go-round, Team Taylor realized that Taylor had a tendency to overcommit, literally draining himself without realizing, in efficient scoring blows, results commensurate to that kind of physical expense. There were other matters to do with defense to offense transitions and cardio capacity preparation that Pat Burns – Taylor’s longtime trainer – felt were properly progressing.

In fact, Taylor’s performance against Hopkins in their December 2005 rematch illustrated the champion had technically stalled. His power boxing lacked imagination or even assertive invention at key junctures when the 41-year-old Hopkins was clearly resting. His combination applications were very strong and quick, but his overall punching strategy was becoming static and predictable. Aside from Rocky Marciano and Joe Frazier, predictability in a fighter typically spells disaster. Was the fighter who came out to defend his newly won title against the aging Lion of Philly, having preened about in custom suits and spouting words of moderate self-affirmation during fight week, really the essence of the prime boxing champion known as Jermain “Bad Intentions” Taylor?

The longer a fighter succeeds the more introspective becomes the self-analysis; how does one improve upon success? Taylor and his aids and promoter Lou DiBella collectively felt that longtime trainer Pat Burns, while having been ideal for his trek to the championship level was not perfectly suited to bring out in Taylor what can only described as a hardcore, professional championship persona. If mentoring had to give way to exigent polishing, then the choice of Detroit’s Manny Steward seemed almost a logical step and a natural maturation within Team Taylor generally. Retained as day to day trainer, Ozell Nelson continues on in the role of shadowing supervisor, the continuity of Taylor’s in the gym regiment thus preserved and at the same time reoriented to a embody a high end professional stricture. In bringing onboard Steward, Taylor availed himself of the atmospherics of Detroit’s Kronk Gym for daily saunas known as sparring, an almost religious approach to psychological preparation as well as the analytical crafting of fight planning, at which Steward has excelled late in his training career.

Beating out training rhythms swatting the pads with the critical sage that is Manny Steward, Taylor reinvests in his commitment to making boxing not just his sporting livelihood but his passionate necessity. Working with Steward means a fighter enters into a contract, a devotional exercise fully committing to a process of excellence for results. Looking at the chance to work with Taylor, Steward realized here was a fighter with world-class qualities who only needed ‘attitude’ injected into his boxing. Quiet by nature, though possessing awesome physical potential, Taylor was a silent assassin waiting to be unleashed.

Essentially, Steward will be looking to have Taylor utilize the finishing qualities of his power boxing. Burns certainly grounded Taylor well in the fundamentals of the jab, working off it in combination and moving in the ring to always be defensively responsible. Gifted with speed and agility, Taylor has been working on taking his power hitting uptempo, working situationally to dominate with the size and strength he naturally possesses. Steward will be looking for Taylor to get off the jab with force and accuracy, but then to get into the delivery of those monster right hands with imposing authority, ala his former protégé Thomas Hearns. For all of his jabbing acuity, Taylor can get trapped within the pattering routine of just jabbing out rounds; Steward will want to have Taylor make transitions to attack with more resoluteness. And look for Taylor to come out and try to establish his power punching right from the opening bell against the southpaw Wright, who loves to tempo down fights, making fights into counterpunching exchanges from angles of defensive posturing.

What would a more decisive Taylor have accomplished against William Joppy down the stretch or against Hopkins in their stalemating rematch? Think of Steward-honed boxing legends Thomas Hearns and Lennox Lewis, both men worked the jab to drop in thundering right hands, always aware to clean up with the left hook. Fighting uptempo and at range, power comes from quick transitions of on balance fighters having jabbed opponents into less than defensible situations. The attitude to find a way to dominate distance in order to attack or counterattack comes from mental assertion under duress, technical awareness and consummate conditioning.

Having boxed 24 metronomic rounds with Bernard Hopkins, middleweight Jermain Taylor was certainly convinced that his high end cardio fitness was not where it had to be to wage 12 rounds with a Winky Wright or a Joe Calzaghe. And how was he to properly channel his energies if he felt straightjacketed by overly cautious boxing postures? Young enough to apply his physicality to opponents over the distance, if necessary, Taylor needed to lean how to fight with offensive accuracy and not just expel and drain vital reserves.

More than situational hitting and less than all-out attack bombing, to learn that exacting methodology Taylor wisely looked to Steward for guidance. Breaking up ‘Winky’ Wright’s numbing rhythm is also going to be a key factor in taking the fight out of the former 154 lb. boss. Give Wright the space and means to jab and counter and few at middleweight can win more than a few rounds off him over the 12. With Steward’s tutelage, Taylor will be fighting as the bigger man, making assertions to the body and using the physicality necessary within a disciplined, accurate punching regiment. For that, Taylor needed top sparring over a protracted time period and that’s where working at the Kronk came in during the late spring. Maturing champions take to sparring to work out the congesting elements of instinctive expressions and rote technical drills they are formulating toward individual technical mastery.

Working out at the Pepsi Pavilion in Memphis, Tennessee, Jermain Taylor looked keen during fight week to keep the blood coursing, the tempo energized, for he’s the younger man, the guy arriving at the prime juncture of his boxing career. Heading into this showdown with the talented Ronald Wright, Taylor wears the title of champion, no matter the politics or the administrative distinctions of governing bodies. Everything has been put into place, the sacrifices have been made, confidence brimming, concentration asserting total splendor, the body and soul doing justice to certitude. Or so he and Manny Steward, Ozell Nelson and Lou DiBella hope. So are both fighters are hyped and ready, telling us that their camps were “perfect.” We note that Jose Luis Castillo said the same thing; but, we digress.

It wouldn’t be a bad time for Jermain Taylor to do something special. Obviously, the unflappable Wright will be determined to box a clinical outing and smother Taylor’s bad intentions. Still, if Taylor has dreams of being something larger than the guy with a belt at 160, well, he’s got to start making statements in the ring. Breaking through the mine field defensive system of Wright would certainly be a thrilling conquest, even if only boxing fans are interested in this fight. Big wins tend to start ripples of expectation and right now most things about Taylor look ordinary, efficient and proceeding according to plan.

Great! Well done!

How about making a spectacle of yourself Jermain? Rip it up. Make Mr. Ronald Wright fight for a change, as if he’s being seriously bothered. Make us make some noise. And while you are at it do more than what’s expected of you.

Wouldn’t that be interesting? DiBella’s been challenging Taylor to be great for two years now. Emanuel Steward won’t be asking.

(Patrick Kehoe may be reached at pkehoe@telus.net)

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

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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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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