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Articles of 2006

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No one expects fights to be held on river barges as sometimes happened in John L. Sullivan’s day. A little imagination, however, in selecting venues would be nice and probably good for boxing. Alas, the money trail always seems to lead to hotel casinos.

Muhammad Ali took boxing writers to equatorial Africa. OK, so that would be a reach for today’s heavyweights. Who in equatorial Africa would want to see them?

Promoter Don King put on shows on an aircraft carrier and behind prison bars. Even Roy Jones Jr., who always seemed to be fighting in a Connecticut bingo hall, performed in the Radio City Music Hall, and some heavyweights, who would have had trouble doing the elephant walk, strutted their stuff in Roseland dancehall.

The Rumble in the Jungle

Muhammad Ali’s upset of George Foreman in the early morning hours on Oct. 30, 1974, in Kinshasa, Zaire, formerly the Belgian Congo and now the Congo, was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Once was enough. I have always said I would not even fly over the country again because I might crash and live.

It was part circus, part twilight zone. There were dancers in tribal costumes or pre-fight entertainment and soldiers with automatic weapons at ringside for security at the Twentieth of May Stadium in the capitol city. The stars, of course, were Ali and Foreman. In important supporting roles were promoter Don King and Zaire president Mobutu Sese Seko. Also in the cast were the characters in the fighters’ camps and Mandugu Bula and Tshimpupu wa Tshimpupu.

I first met Bula, counselor to Mobutu, during a media trip to Ali’s training camp at Deer Lake, Pa. Someone asked him if he was upset about “The Rumble In The Jungle” slogan or by Ali saying Howard Cosell, a sportscaster, was going to be boiled in oil. (By the way, Cosell did not attend the fight). “No,” Bula replied. “You must remember, Mr. Ali is an American, not an African.”

Tshimpupu, president of the African Sports Union, was in charge of handling the media and he, unintentionally, provided much-needed comic relief. To any and all questions about any problem, Tshimpupu’s answer always was, “No problem.” He also walked around wearing a fur hat.

The fight originally was scheduled for September 25, but it was postponed when Foreman suffered a cut over his right eye while sparring. During our nine day stay for the fight in October, each member of the media at N’Sele, the presidential compound where Ali resided and trained, had his own two-room bungalow with a shower and a refrigerator for Simba beer. Ali, members of his group and publicists Murray and Bobby Goodman stayed in villas facing the Zaire River. We ate at a large dining hall, and monkey usually was available. It does not taste like chicken.

Ali took over N’Sele, and by the time the fight arrived people who worked there often were heard chanting, “Ali, bomaye! (Ali, kill him).”

The weigh-in, like almost every weigh-in for an Ali fight, was chaotic. The ring at the stadium was jammed with people, and there was a moment of panic when Foreman lost his pet German shepherd in the mass of humanity.

Everything was fine when I opened a phone line to The Associated Press office in New York shortly before the start of the fight at about 4 a.m. (about 10 p.m. EST). Once the fight started, however, I could not hear anybody on the other end because of the roar of some 50,000 fans. Finally, after dictating a round-by-round and most of my lead, I heard a voice. Talk about relief. If I had been the late Jerry Lisker, a New York writer, I would have cried. Lisker opened a phone line, he thought to New York, and asked, “Can you hear me?” The answer was yes, but when Lisker looked up he saw a telephone technician on the other side of the ring waving to him. He did not get through to New York.

The fight, of course, became legendary. While Ali’s corner pleaded for him to stay of the ropes, Ali quickly realized that being there gave him his best opportunity to defuse Foreman’s power with what became known as the rope-a-dope. By the time Ali, a 5-1 underdog, became champion again with an eighth-round knockout, Foreman had punched himself to the point of exhaustion.

Not long after the fight ended, it rained so hard that there were seven inches of water in the AP photo darkroom. By the time I got back to N’Sele, Ali was holding forth on the front lawn of his villa. Later that morning I heard a maid singing to herself: “Ali, bomaye.”

Ali got me to two morning fights in 1975 that started at the more reasonable time of about 10 o’clock locally. On July 1, he outpointed Joe Bugner over 15 tedious rounds outdoors at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. On Oct. 1, he stopped Joe Frazier after 14 rounds in the Thrilla’ in Manila that lived up to its name before an indoor crowd of about 25,000.

Off we go into . . .

Promoter Don King turned to a naval officer with a chest full of ribbons and introduced to the media “the man who made this possible – the common-door.” The commodore smiled.

On Jan. 16, 1977, King launched his ill-fated U.S. Boxing Championships on ABC-TV on the flight deck of the USS Lexington docked at Pensacola, Fla. It was a cold Sunday afternoon, and the promoter wore an ankle-length fur coat.

In the main event on a card of six scheduled eight-round bouts, Larry Holmes scored a decision over Tom Prater. It was the future heavyweight champion’s 23rd fight and his first since he injured a hand in outpointing Roy Williams 8½ months earlier.

Covering the show for Newsday was the late Bob Waters, who was in the Marine air force in World War II, and who for a time had been stationed at Pensacola. Waters did some boxing, and for a Marine vs. Navy boxing competition he drew as an opponent a sailor named Tony Zale, who just happened to be the middleweight champion of the world.

As Waters told it, Zale was taking it easy when near the end of the first round he hit Zale with what he called a snappy left hook. “You ****** I’m going to kill you,” Waters said Zale told him. The bell rang and Waters told a cornerman to cut off his gloves. When asked why, Waters said he replied, “He said he is going to kill me, and I believe him.” It was announced that Sergeant Waters has injured an ankle and could not continue.

In Prison                                                                    

It was a homecoming for Don King when the second U.S. Boxing Championships show was held on Sunday. March 6, 1977, at the Marion (Ohio) Correctional Facility. Former inmate 125734 was back where he had served four years for manslaughter.

“King’s back. We told you so,” read on sign held by one of the about 1,300 inmates attending the show. Another sign welcomed ABC sportscaster Howard Cosell: “Howard, you got in. Will you get out?”

“This looks like an easy place to break out of,” I said to King. “It wasn’t,” he replied. King drew cheers when he told the captive audience, “I look around and see many familiar faces. I am one of you . . . . I am happy and proud to be able to bring back some entertainment.”

There were two heavyweight fights on the card. In one of them, Michael “Dynamite” Dokes stopped fat Charlie “Big Tuna” Jordan in the third round of a scheduled four-round fiasco. “This fight belongs here,” said Vic Ziegel, then of the New York Post.

After three passive rounds in the other heavyweight bout between Kevin Isaac and Stan Ward, in which Ward won and eight-round decision, a fan shouted, “Come on. I only got 20 years.”

Five months earlier when Muhammad Ali had successfully outpointed Ken Norton in a title defense at Yankee Stadium, fans had been mugged by hooligans who got into the ballpark because of a New York City police strike. It made me think that not only was the security at Marion much better than that in Yankee Stadium, but that there also was better class of people

After one more show, on Feb. 15, the U.S. Boxing Championships were dropped by ABC because of phony records and charges of kickbacks. The network committed $2 million for 1977 in hopes that in future years the made-for-television series would gain in prestige.

The last show was at U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md. I was not there and so I missed heavyweight Scott LeDoux, still in the ring after losing a controversial decision loss to Johnny Bordeaux, accidentally kick askew the toupee of Cosell, who was standing below LeDoux.

Now Appearing

There I was on stage before a packed house in the Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Of course, I was sitting down surrounded by fellow scribes and noticed by almost no one.

The occasion was the first live boxing card in the famed show palace on Jan. 15, 2000, and most of some 6,000 in attendance had to be there for that reason. History in the making, not boxing, was the main draw.

Featured was Roy Jones Jr.’s defense of the undisputed light heavyweight title against David Telesco, and the setting was just the mustard hot dog Jones craved. While Telesco waited in the ring, Whitney Houston sang “God Bless America,” a version that seemed long enough to have gotten in a four-round bout. Jones, decked out like a Las Vegas lounge act, then did some steps with the Rockettes before being led into ring by two rappers.

Now to watch the Rockettes doing their high, long-legged synchronized kicks is fun, but to watch them do the routine for 36 minutes might become a bit tedious. That’s sums up the fight. Each of the 12 rounds was the same, with Jones dancing in and out and around Telesco and peppering him at will. Each of the three judges gave Jones every round.

Nobody danced

There have been numerous fights at the Roseland Ballroom in midtown Manhattan in New York City. Maybe a guy is dancing with another guy’s girlfriend or wife and exception is taken. Or maybe alcohol fuels an argument. That is why there are bouncers.

But there never was a live boxing match in historic dance hall until Dec. 8, 1998. What I remember is that entire six-bout card was marked by plodding, not dancing, and that I got a pounding headache from the mind-numbing music that blared through the packed hall before the show, between fights, and even between rounds.

By the way, in 10-round heavyweight co-features Al Cole and Kirk Johnson fought a draw and Jesse Ferguson won a split decision over Obed Sullivan..

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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