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Articles of 2006

A Ring of Their Own: The Good Fight

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“It's time for the girls to stop being made a sideshow attraction for the men and have a platform of their own. There's a tremendous number of talented women boxers who can't get fights on a regular basis. We're going to change all that.” It was January 2005 and this was Arnie “Tokyo” Rosenthal, longtime boxing promoter and broadcaster. Rosenthal was referencing the soon-to-be-launched women's boxing program – “A Ring of Their Own” – that he had co-founded with Ken Weiss under the banner of Rock and Sock Productions. After nearly eighteen months, with “A Ring of Their Own” on the verge of the tenth program in the series, it's a fair time to assess the impact of the program on the sport of women's boxing.

Has this ambitious program “change(d) all that”? The objective answer is “No,” the sport continues to suffer from many of the ills that existed when Rock and Sock presented their first show on January 29, 2005: the top fighters in the sport continue, for the most part, to refuse to climb into the ring with each other; there continues to be a dearth of mainstream media coverage of the sport, particularly “live” TV coverage of bouts; and many of the best fighters continue to be reluctant to leave the protective cocoons of their hometown venues to take fights. Thus, in the year and a half since “A Ring of Their Own” debuted, it has been, unfortunately, business as usual for the sport of women's boxing. However, when it to comes to assessing blame for the malaise that continues to plague the sport, one would do well to look elsewhere rather than at “A Ring of Their Own.” Arnie Rosenthal, Ken Weiss and company have fought the good fight in their attempt to improve the fortunes of the sport.

Over the initial nine “A Ring of Their Own” boxing cards, fans of women's boxing have been treated to bouts that have featured, for the most part, competitive fights between well matched and skilled female boxers. Has every fight been a bell-to-bell, action-packed, crowd-on-their-feet bout? No! But the vast majority of the bouts, on those nine cards, have featured boxers who know how to box, who do not embarrass themselves or their sport in the ring. The resulting fights have, for the most part, produced a single thought: “this is a good fight, not just a good female fight, a good fight.”

And if you don't think that's a step in the right direction, take a look at any recent week's schedule of female boxing bouts, or better, review the “competitive” characteristics of the recent seven bouts of the self proclaimed “face” of women's boxing. That, of course, would be the female fighter with the most famous name in the sport of boxing, the fighter who, in a display of disingenuous irony, recently told New York Daily News writer, Tim Smith, “one of the big problems with the sport of women's boxing is that the good fighters don't fight each other.” In comparison to the usual fare of female boxing bouts and the last several years of Laila Ali's ring activity, the nine boxing cards presented on “A Ring of Their Own” have been a veritable gold standard of good, watchable, competitive female bouts.

And yet, the television exposure of “A Ring of Their Own” has fallen short of the original aims of the promoters. No television network, over-the-air or cable has picked up the show on a regular basis. Earlier this year, the telecasts devolved to weekly one hour telecasts, a reduction from the original TV incarnation of a two hour syndicated telecast of each boxing show. Even with the condensed TV version, “A Ring of Their Own” telecasts remain limited, from a coverage standpoint. For example, the shows have long lacked a local outlet in the New York TV market, the country's largest. However, it should be noted that lack of TV coverage is not the sole province of “A Ring of Their Own.” The entire sport of women's boxing has suffered thru a period of benign neglect in terms of coverage from mainstream TV, and it is to Rock and Sock Production's credit that they have continued to produce a telecast of their bouts. They have done this with scant help from the boxing establishment or mainstream media outlets and yet there has been a consistent and compelling quality to most of the fights presented on the nine cards. Rock and Sock Productions has fought the good fight.

And on this coming Friday night, June 23, they will continue that good fight with two more strong female boxing matchups. Returning to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, “A Ring of Their Own” has scheduled female bouts featuring three top ranked Canadian fighters along with one of the best known names in the sport. That “name” comes in the person of Mia St. John, making her boxing debut for Rock and Sock Productions. St. John will face off against Jelena Mrdjenovich, the highly regarded lightweight from Edmonton. In the other bout, Lisa “Bad News” Brown will attempt to regain her super bantamweight title from Jeannine Garside, who took the title from Brown last November in the featured bout on “A Ring of Their Own” program.

I spoke with all four fighters recently, by phone, from their various locales and they are all looking forward to June 23 in Edmonton. Lisa Brown, now living in Ontario, speaks with the lilt of her native Trinidad: “I took the first fight for granted. That was a mistake. I've watched the film over and again, and believe me, I know exactly what to do this time. I've been eating, sleeping and thinking about the return bout almost from the day after the first fight. I got yelled at by (husband/trainer) Errol and even by my sponsor, Nu-Life Nutrition. So, yeah, this next time will be different. I don't like to be yelled at.”

Jeannine Garside, who took time out from gardening at her home in Windsor, Ontario to talk on the phone, not surprisingly had a bit of a different ‘take’ on the upcoming bout: “I received a lot of advice about the first fight with Lisa, including it was too soon to take a fight like that. When I won, it was considered an upset by a lot of people, except one, me. I had a lot of confidence going into the bout. You have to have that in this sport. I feel exactly the same way about the second bout, confident.” The first bout was surprising, as much for the margin by which Garside won (99-90, 98-90, 98-91) as for the fact that Garside, with only three pro fights, was able to handle Brown, a veteran of 16 bouts.. The return matchup will probably be closer, since Brown, a veteran fighter, has shown that she learns from tough fights. She came back from a draw with Kelli Cofer in July 2003 to win a decision two years later. A Garside/Brown bout is a potential main event on any boxing card in the country.

The actual “main go” on the June 23 program features Jelena Mrdjenovich, 23 years old with sixteen fights, against Mia St. John, 38 years old, 51 fights. St. John, in the late stages of a ten-year boxing career, has recently stepped in with some of the top fighters in the lightweight division, and, having done TV commentary on previous Mrdjenovich bouts, knows the younger fighter to be “young and aggressive.” St. John notes that she is very happy with the scheduled ten-round distance. “I'm, historically, a slow starter and I like to move around as I get into the rhythm of the bout. I think my experience will pay off the longer the fight goes, so I very much prefer ten rounds.” St. John readily concedes that the end of her boxing career is in sight, “Not too much longer, maybe one or two more fights. I know for a fact I won't be fighting when I'm 40.”

Jelena Mrdjenovich knows that St. John is, by far, the most experienced boxer she has faced. “She moves well and I'll try to pick my spots as the fights progresses and, at some point, move in and try to land some big punches. I'll be at 135, the heaviest I've ever been in the ring and that may take a bit of getting used to. It will be an interesting fight. I'm really looking forward to it. After that, I hope to be able to answer some of the challenges that have come my way from fighters in Canada and the U.S. All are interesting opportunities, but right now, Mia St. John is the most interesting.

Asked about “A Ring of Their Own” and the effect the program has had on the sport of women's boxing, Garside, Mrdjenovich and Brown all agreed that Rock and Sock Production has done as much, and probably more, than any promoter to further the sport by providing a platform where female fighters are the main attraction. St. John, perhaps exhibiting the pragmatism of a fighter who has been around much longer than the other three fighters, tempered her praise just a bit. “They (Rock and Sock) are promoters, pure and simple. I'm glad they're supporting the sport, but bottom line, like all of us, they're in this business to make money and the niche they've chosen is women's boxing.” St. John's comments are clear-eyed and possess a refreshing candor, reflecting the thinking of a veteran boxer who has, over ten active years, in and out of the ring, seen every facet, good and bad, that exists in the sport. The truth of the matter regarding the impact of “A Ring of Their Own” on the sport is probably somewhere in between the two views.

Certainly, Rock and Sock Productions is in the boxing business to make money and they have chosen a previously uncovered and largely neglected aspect of the sport within which to operate. They are, as St. John said, “boxing promoters, pure and simple” and that label has encompassed, over the years, both admirable and not so admirable attributes. Over the past eighteen months and nine boxing programs, Rock and Sock has had success and they have experienced pitfalls along a rocky road of marketing the sport of women's boxing. They've done it, largely, alone, and as with every fledgling enterprise, in every business, they've made their share of mistakes and experienced their share of successes. To my eye, the successes have outnumbered the mistakes and, like the vast majority of the female fighters who have stepped into the ring for Rock and Sock, “A Ring of Their Own” has fought the good fight.  They continue on June 23, doing exactly what they've done best, presenting compelling female boxing bouts. And if hard work, quality fighters and competitive bouts are a path to success, “A Ring of Their Own” and the sport of women's boxing may soon be looking at better days.

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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