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Articles of 2006

Why the Rooster Won’t Cross That Road Just Yet

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LAS VEGAS, June 22 – Oscar de la Hoya did not pull the plug on boxing. Instead, he offered Floyd Mayweather Jr. enough extension cord to hang himself. We shall explain.

Boxing’s biggest star called a teleconference where, with us knowing he had already rejected a possible Sept. 16 date with the game’s best boxer, it was widely expected that the Golden Boy would announce his retirement from the ring. I was ready to write boxing’s obituary. Certainly, without de la Hoya’s cover boy good looks, the Los Angeles Times would have shut the book on the game.

I was ready to bemoan ever calling him Chicken de la Hoya. I was prepared to set the record straight, to concede his place in the pantheon. He’s no chicken. He’s The Rooster, cock of the walk, strutting his way with more than a touch of arrogance.

More than 120 media types responded to his call, a “record” according to de la Hoya henchman Richard Schaefer (record? Who says, CompuBox or boxingrec.com?), and instead of pulling the plug, Oscar pulled our legs. He said he was not announcing his retirement, that he was “leaning” toward one more fight, that Floyd Mayweather Jr. was the only opponent he would deign to oppose, that there was no reason physically or financially to retire or continue boxing – basically, he said, he needed more time “to reflect.”

He didn’t want to feel “rushed” because the lead time necessary for a major Sept. 16 show was rapidly running out. He said it was “too soon to make that decision.” Remember, he said, “I’m such an example for a lot of people.” It’s good to be the king, but it’s not always easy.

So once again, de la Hoya leaves the audience waiting. I recently wrote that his fighting Mayweather would be the best thing he could do for boxing. It would be a match that would attract not only all ring fans and gamblers – imagine, Oscar opening as the 2-1 underdog – but the general public. It would be the grand old veteran (still a boy of 33) against the best in the game, a possible passing of the torch, tweaked by the subplot of de la Hoya’s trainer, Floyd Mayweather Sr., in effect plotting to have his son knocked out. If de la Hoya and Ricardo Mayorga could do close to 900,000 pay-per-view buys, this could set all kinds of records.

De la Hoya did not rule it out. He just ruled out fighting again this year, but it was noted that May 5 comes out on a Saturday in 2007 and he always likes to fight on Cinco de Mayo weekend. He said the opponent had to be young Mayweather because he’s the best. “Beating him would make me the best fighter in the world,” said the Rooster, looking for another feather in his cap. “Once, a long time ago, I was on top of that list for a slight moment.”

Trouble is, Mayweather can’t afford to wait. What if de la Hoya sprains his back lifting up his baby? What if he decides that beating Ricardo Mayorga is as good as it figures to be for a farewell? Mayweather has already said life will go on and he has a Nov. 4 pay-per-view date – though Bob Arum, everybody’s estranged promoter, is offering him $8 million if he takes on Antonio Margarito on Oct. 7.

Mayweather doesn’t have many other choices. Round up the usual prospects. Miguel Cotto, also promoted by Arum, is out with a bum hand. Ricky Hatton will not make himself available – wisely. Mayweather could wait and see who wins a couple of fights next month – Sugar Shane Mosley against Fernando Vargas, Carlos Baldomir against Arturo Gatti. The results would be in before any pay-per-view deadline for Nov. 4.

Pretty Boy wants the Nov. 4 date (or Oct. 7) with another fight around his birthday in February. That makes it very possible that he faces two tough opponents, say Margarito and Mosley. De la Hoya’s point about fighting Mayweather was to go out as boxing’s best. But what if Mayweather loses between now and May?

“I don’t think there’s anybody out there who can beat him,” said de la Hoya, adding there was “no Plan B,” it was Mayweather or the rocking chair.

He said the Mayweather camp knew what was at stake. “They know there’s a big payday and they’ll do the right thing,” he said.

In other words, rather than stimulate boxing by promising to fight Mayweather, de la Hoya is hinting that the game’s best be careful about any tough challenges. That’s not only hurting Mayweather, whose public image needs him to fight the best available opponents or suffer the wrath of  any “expert” whose name rhymes with “pisher.” It also potentially hurts Margarito. It is a hell of a way for boxing’s next great promoter to build up his sport.

De la Hoya says “I’m not greedy,” as if you could tell that to his two-time conqueror and current “partner,” Mosley, who for a possible third match was outraged to find the Golden Boy still demanding more than parity (and anyone who can turn down $12 million to fight a guy he’s already beaten twice would probably not make Team Mayweather anxious to enter into negotiations). But if he fights Mayweather, he wants it all his way – including a 154-pound weight limit (Oscar admits he’s walking around now at 150 or 151) and ten-ounce gloves. Plus he wants the May 5 date, which would jeopardize Mayweather’s birthday present to himself in February.

There’s nothing sacrosanct about Oscar’s date. The Cinco de Mayo isn’t like Mexican Independence Day. It celebrates a Mexican military victory over a French force – French force, now there’s an oxymoron. If that’s all it takes to have a commemoration, every day of the year would be a holiday in Germany. Even de la Hoya would have to see the gold lining to waiting a month and having the fight fall on Father’s Day weekend as a tribute to Floyd and his father, Oscar’s trainer.

Think of the buildup. Forget Leno or Letterman. This is a fight made for Jerry Springer or, for more upscale ticket buyers, Dr. Phil. Dyslectic families sell. It could be the perfect crossover bridge for boxing. I’m sorry to give de la Hoya something more to think about. His indecision is becoming the stuff of Danish princes.

He said it’s been so nerve-wracking, trying to decide whether to fight or not to fight Sept. 16, that “every time I wake up in the morning, I find more hairs on my pillow.”

He said he’s gone back and forth maybe 30 or 40 times. “It’s stressful.”

Not even a sea voyage a couple of weeks ago on his vessel, the Tommy Crown – when he gets a full-sized yacht instead of that 74-foot bathtub toy, he said he would call it Thomas Crown – could help him.

He said he would make up his mind “probably by year’s end, I just needed more time.”

He said, “I wanted to be around the house and not thinking about it, I wanted to be on vacation and not thinking about it.”

So it’s come to this for boxing: think or swim.

OUTHOUSE: Me, for that last line….And welcome back Lou DaBully, who after his fighter, Jermain Taylor, was lucky to get a draw that retained his middleweight title, started berating ringside press members who, in the great majority, thought Winky Wright was the clear winner of the good, but not great, scrap in Memphis last weekend. Even the promoter said Wright had his chance to win but blew it by dancing in the 12th round – which, by the way, Winky won in any case – so how could DaBully think his guy was such a clear winner?

Let me say this. I don’t lateral race horses. (Okay, children, let me tell you another story: Way back when, before there was television or Ipods, there was a great radio sportscaster named Clem McCarthy, famous for among other things, the call on the Joe Louis-Max Schmeling rematch that included the stirring, “Schmeling is down! Schmeling is down!” One Preakness race, however, Clem lost sight of the horses as they went behind a building on the backstretch. They went behind the shed with a horse whose jockey was in yellow silks in front, and came out. Except it wasn’t the same horse. Mid-stretch, McCarthy realized his mistake and interrupted himself, “What am I saying?” to apologize and call the right horse in front. Another sportscaster, whose college football – pro football was a minor, minor, minor sport – broadcasts were replete with wrong calls, sarcastically tried to sympathize with McCarthy. This broadcaster would catch himself calling one man streaking down the field, realize he had the wrong guy, and simply “lateral” the ball to the real carrier. So McCarthy told him, “You can’t lateral race horses.”)

Off of television, and obviously influenced by the one-sided call of Jim Lampley, I scored it a draw. It was tough for me to see how cleverly Wright was blocking and parrying; the usual between-rounds slo-mos were few as HBO concentrated on the corners. But while I thought it was a close fight and there were many close rounds, and thus a draw seemed reasonable, I must bow to my ringside colleagues, most of whom saw Wright winning by 8-4 margins (Tim Dahlberg of the Associated Press, Kevin Iole of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, even Ron Borges of the Boston Globe). Rich Hoffer of Sports Illustrated had it 10-2 in rounds for Winky, who certainly was never in any kind of trouble – despite Lampley repeatedly saying Taylor was landing the harder punches – while the champion looked in distress a few times. The only dissenters were Dandy Dan Rafael and a couple of bald New York writers, obviously impressed with Taylor’s shaved skull.

Give Taylor credit. He has fought Bernard Hopkins twice and now Wright to very close decisions. He’s 2-0-1 in those last three fights. He could be 3-0 or 0-3. At least he’s competitive with the best. I don’t think Emanuel Steward – HBO’s house Hall of Fame trainer – made that much of a difference.

It was not a great fight because both men staggered down the stretch. Wright should have known better to trust the judges and safely coast in the last couple of rounds. He was allowed to coast because Taylor did nothing to make him fight. How anyone can think he won the last round is beyond me. He did nothing, zilch, nada. There was one ineffective flurry.

And I don’t want to hear any whines from Winky or Gary Shaw, another estranged promoter. Shaw did not watch Wright’s back – obviously ticked that the fighter tried to dump him. How else to explain how there was a Michigan referee (Frank Garza, who did a fine job, by the way) when Steward is from that state? Worse, how to explain Judge Chuck Giampa, who had Taylor beating Hopkins by two points being allowed to repeat that performance? Or to explain Melvina Lathan, who had Wright winning by only two points against Sam Solimon, being allowed ringside where she scored this bout a draw? And what was this fight doing in Taylor’s backyard? It demanded neutrality.

There, of course, should be a rematch, but DaBully has a point – his guy has come off 36 stressful rounds with Hopkins and Wright and deserves a cupcake.

Wright, who remains No. 2 on my pound-for-pound list, deserves to have de la Hoya think about him in case young Mayweather has one of those bad nights fighters frequently suffer.

Oh, and let’s put in the OUTHOUSE the local promoters whose outrageous prices kept the arena almost half empty.

PENTHOUSE: HBO Boxing After Dark for a doubleheader this Saturday outdoors in the Caesars Palace cauldron (temperatures may reach 112 degrees, I may not reach ringside and watch from my air-conditioned home) with two matches of undefeated kids, heavyweights Calvin Brock and Timur Ibragimov, welterweights Joel Julio and Carlos Quintana. Good, meaningful show.

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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