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Articles of 2006

Boxing and the Law: The Worth of a Title

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Bernard Hopkins has secured his place in boxing history. He has done what the great Sugar Ray Robinson failed to do. The former middleweight champion has won the light heavyweight championship of the world. But wait just a minute. On June 11, the day after Bernard Hopkins dominated Antonio Tarver over the 12-round championship distance, you don’t see his name at the top of the rankings of any of the recognized sanctioning bodies. The WBC light heavyweight champion is someone named Tomasz Adamek, the WBA champion is Fabrice Tiozzo, the IBF champion is Clinton Woods, and the WBO champion is Zsolt Erdei.

Where is Bernard Hopkins’ name? Or for that matter, where was Antonio Tarver’s name on June 9? Antonio Tarver was recognized as champion by an entity which calls itself the International Boxing Organization, a name as familiar, almost, as Tomasz Adamek. Hopkins won the fight with Tarver, but he did not win the IBO title. According to Assistant IBO President Eric Plescow, “He’s not our champion. The title is vacant right now.” How come? Hopkins, according to Plescow, from the beginning said that he’s not going to pay the IBO’s sanctioning fee, that he doesn’t want the IBO belt. Hopkins cares deeply about his money, and he understands that his money is worth more than the belt of this fringe organization.

Hopkins, then, has become light heavyweight champion without winning a single sanctioning body’s title in the process. But no one is questioning his achievement. That is because the boxing public implicitly recognizes the worth of the sanctioning bodies’ titles. Nothing. Zero. The same amount that Hopkins paid in sanctioning fees.

It is ironic that the IBO, in its mission statement, boasts that “[w]e use the only independent objective computerized rankings in boxing today” and that “[w]e limit our role in boxing to ranking boxers, sanctioning matches authorized by our championship rules and awarding the championship title to the winner.” Well, not this time. Hopkins was not awarded the IBO title, and the “independent objective computerized rankings” (which sounds good) clearly took a back seat to the fact that Hopkins did not pay the IBO’s ransom. Of course, the IBO is no worse than its better-known counterparts the WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO.

The problem is not Tomasz Adamek or Zsolt Erdei. And it is certainly not Bernard Hopkins. The problem is the landscape in which fighters are forced to ply their trade, a landscape in which the alphabet soup organizations hold tremendous power. They have the power to decide who is ranked, who will fight for a title, and who is champion, and, equally important, the power to influence who gets to fight for a meaningful payday. To be sure, there are many critics of these organizations. But the sanctioning bodies continue to exist because promoters and television networks and boxing websites and writers continue to recognize them, and in that way to validate them.

The sanctioning bodies, which grow rich off of the substantial fees they collect to sanction title bouts, have been plagued by corruption, by improper influence from powerful promoters and by simple bad judgment and bad practices. Congress took note of some of these problems when it enacted the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act in 2000. It found that “[t]he sanctioning organizations which have proliferated in the boxing industry have not established credible and objective criteria to rate professional boxers, and operate with virtually no industry or public oversight. Their ratings are susceptible to manipulation, have deprived boxers of fair opportunities for advancement, and have undermined public confidence in the integrity of the sport.” Congress recognized the problems, but did nothing meaningful to solve them.

Congress called on the Association of Boxing Commissions to develop “guidelines for objective and consistent written criteria for the ratings of professional boxers,” and declared that “[i]t is the sense of the Congress that sanctioning bodies and state boxing commissions should follow these ABC guidelines.” They were not trying to be funny, but our representatives, in their inimitable wisdom, called on these organizations that, according to Congress, manipulate ratings and operate with virtually no oversight to voluntarily follow the ABC guidelines. It should come as no surprise to anyone except our representatives that the sanctioning bodies chose not to follow “the sense of the Congress.”

The ABC did its job when it set forth an objective, if general, set of criteria for ranking boxers. Among those criteria were that “[s]anctioning organizations shall consider all active boxers in regard to a rating in a particular division (even if the boxer is rated by another sanctioning organization).” This rule makes absolute sense as any fair and objective ranking system would consider all boxers and would place the best boxers in the highest positions. It would not exclude an otherwise worthy boxer simply because a rival sanctioning body decided to place that boxer in its rankings. But the WBC and the IBF, in a game of chicken which has no consequences, blatantly flouted the ABC guidelines by specifically stating in their ratings criteria that another organization’s champion will not appear in their rankings. It is a practice that the WBA and WBO also follow. That means that the WBC lightweight titleholder, by way of example, the fighter who, according to the WBC, is the best in his weight category, the number one boxer, the champion, is not recognized by any of the other organizations, not by the IBF or WBA or WBO, as being even among the top ten fighters in that weight category. That fact alone speaks to the dishonesty of the ratings systems employed by the recognized sanctioning bodies.

Perhaps the WBA makes the best case for the abolition of the sanctioning bodies and their rankings. It has promulgated a set of virtually incomprehensible rules which conclude with these guiding principles, set down here verbatim:

“THE POSITIONS IN THE WBA RATINGS ARE BASED ON THE FOLLOWING PRINCIPLES
1.- THEY ARE NOT PERSONAL PROPERTY
2.- THEY ARE NOT LIFE LONG
3.- THEY ARE NOT TRANSFERIBLE
4.- THEY MUST BE WON
5.- THEY ARE VARIABLE
6.- RULES MUST BE COMPLIED TO KEEP THEM
7.- THEY CAN BE LOST”

It is a safe bet that not even Fabrice Tiozzo, the WBA light heavyweight champion, can begin to comprehend this list of principles.

Even when the sanctioning organizations make sensible, or at least defensible, decisions, the system as it exists does not work. On January 7 at Madison Square Garden, an unprepared and unfocused Zab Judah, owner of the IBF and WBC titles, lost a unanimous decision to challenger Carlos Baldomir. Baldomir won the WBC title, but Judah kept the IBF belt. There was talk at the time that Baldomir was not granted the IBF title because he did not pay the IBF’s sanctioning fee, but according to IBF president Marian Muhammad, that reason was secondary to the real reason. Baldomir did not win the IBF title, says Muhammad, because he “refused to participate in the second-day weigh-in” mandated by the IBF’s rules. “Because he didn’t participate in the second-day weigh-in, win, lose or draw he couldn’t win the title.” According to the IBF’s rules, participants in a title fight need to weigh within ten pounds of the weight limit on the morning of the fight. That is, Baldomir would have had to weigh 157 pounds or less on the morning of his welterweight title fight. Because Baldomir chose not to participate in the second-day weigh-in, Judah kept his title under the rules of the IBF.

There is a legitimate argument that a second-day weigh-in makes sense in terms of fighter safety. It helps to ensure that boxers fight in their proper weight divisions, and that one fighter is not substantially outweighed by his opponent come fight time. The danger of such a weight disparity was demonstrated in another fight at the Garden. On February 26, 2000, Joey Gamache suffered a brutal second-round knockout at the hands of a much bigger Arturo Gatti. Gamache spent the next two days in the hospital and never fought again. The contract weight for the fight was 141 pounds, but HBO’s unofficial scale had Gatti weighing 160 pounds by the time he entered the ring. According to a lawsuit filed by Gamache, he suffered brain damage as a result of the beating he took. In that context, the IBF rule mandating day-of-the-fight weigh-ins makes sense. But in the case of Baldomir-Judah, the end result is still wrong. Carlos Baldomir won the fight in the ring, and he should have won the IBF belt with it.

The larger problem, then, the problem that must be addressed, is that so many organizations exist at all, each with its different rules and its different rankings and its different champions. It is very simple – there should not be four, or more, world champions in the same weight division. There are not four baseball teams that win the World Series each year.  Four football teams do not win the Super Bowl. And four tennis players do not win in the men’s singles division at Wimbledon. The fact that there can be four so-called world champions in each of boxing’s divisions, and sometimes a WBA “superchampion” to add to that number, diminishes the title “champion.” And it diminishes the sport of boxing, promoting chaos where clarity is needed.

As long as there are multiple sanctioning organizations – even if those organizations act responsibly, even if they have rules that are objective and reasonable, and even if they employ principled people to enforce those rules (all of which remain pipe dreams at this moment) – the chaos will continue. What is needed is a single entity to rank boxers and to name a single champion in each weight category. An entity that employs credible and objective criteria for its rankings, and knowledgeable and principled people to implement those criteria. An entity whose rankings will earn the respect and the recognition of writers and commentators and television networks and boxing websites. An entity that will take the place of the existing sanctioning organizations.

Since the sanctioning bodies have no reason to walk away from the power they possess and the profit that comes with it, they must be forced out of the boxing business. Only Congress has the authority to accomplish this by creating or empowering an entity which will obviate the need for the existing sanctioning bodies. In order to restore some integrity to the sport and to the title “champion,” our legislators must stop giving advice and instead hand down a mandate to create a legitimate body that ranks fighters and names champions. Congress could create a national commission to take on this job, or appoint an already existing body such as the Association of Boxing Commissions or the Boxing Writers Association of America or the committee of people who vote for each year’s class of inductees into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Money that presently goes to pay for sanctioning fees and feeds the organizations that are infecting the sport with their many champions could be paid into a fund for boxers, a fund which is used for health benefits or pension benefits for fighters.

What would be key is that the boxing public, and the writers and commentators who speak to the boxing public, recognize such an entity’s ranking system, thereby giving it legitimacy. Change sometimes seems impossible in boxing, but there may be hope. After all, on some level the boxing public already understands who are the real champions. With his victory over Tarver, Bernard Hopkins is recognized as the world light heavyweight champion – except, of course, by the WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO.

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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