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Articles of 2006

Don't Blame UFC for Boxing's Woes

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Wholesale panic hasn’t exactly set in yet, mainly because much of the boxing world moves as quickly as a double portion of cheese fries (or, to mark Canada Day this Saturday, poutine), but the other side sure is crowing.

According to a Spike TV press release, the “The Ultimate Fighter 3” finale from this past Saturday night, June 24, drew 2.8 million viewers and was thus “the most watched UFC event in history” as well as “the highest rated Spike original telecast in the network's history in Men 18-49 with a 2.85 rating.” In addition, it tallied a 2.04 household rating and “delivered more M18-49 and M18-34 in the time period than any other channel, broadcast or cable.” And “The Spike TV finale easily outdrew NASCAR's Dodge/ Save Mart 350 on FX which garnered 1.4 million viewers.” They didn’t even have to mention by how much it outdrew HBO’s “Boxing After Dark” featuring undefeated fighters Calvin Brock vs. Timur Ibragimov and Joel Julio vs. Carlos Quintana.

The press release also quoted Dana White, the oft-ridiculed UFC president who is both a former amateur boxer and boxercise instructor (see Fightsport.com for more documentation, sometimes quite humorous), as saying, “We have reached the point when guys across the country say – ‘Did you catch the fight last night?’ — and they are referring to a UFC fight.”

Nor is this ratings success a one-time phenomenon. Recently the web site of Multichannel News, a leading cable television trade publication, ran an article called “Ultimate Fighting Pins PPV To the Mat”. It stated, “The UFC is averaging between 200,000 and 350,000 buys each for its 10 PPV events a year, according to PPV executives familiar with the franchise. UFC officials refuse to reveal specific figures.”

While it is certainly premature to declare UFC as more popular than boxing, or boxing as ready to die, they each are, for now anyway, headed in opposite directions. While UFC itself has numerous problems, those are best left discussed elsewhere since so many in the boxing world still propagate so much ignorant, biased, uninformed, deceptive, and just plain imbecilic nonsense about UFC. What is key here to understand is that UFC’s recent success is not a significant cause of boxing’s steady decline.

Boxing’s pay-per-view model has not only walled off over an entire generation from being able to view live top-level fights on television. It has also discredited itself as a medium due to one fiasco after another.

For example, at the time, the pay-per-view with the greatest number of buys was the first fight between Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield, on Nov. 9, 1996. That drew, according to a report by Showtime Entertainment Television on American pay-per-view in the decade of the 1990’s, 1.6 million buys. Since many fans still believed that Tyson was invincible and just had an off night, the rematch did tremendous business. That took place June 28, 1997, drew a record 1.99 million buys, and, of course, went down in history as the infamous “bite fight” where Tyson was disqualified for biting off parts of Holyfield’s ears.

Then there were the controversies in the Lewis-Holyfield I “draw” in March 1999, with 1.1 million buys, and the Trinidad-De La Hoya decision in Sept. 1999, with 1.4 million buys. That magical million mark was only hit again three years later, in June 2002, with Tyson-Lewis getting approximately two million buys. That pretty much killed the myth of Tyson (by the way, happy 40th, Mike). The million mark was only reached one more time, in Sept. 2004, when pay-per-view’s number-two draw, De La Hoya, was knocked out by Bernard Hopkins in nine, largely signaling the beginning of his exit from boxing’s main stage.

So who is left as a major pay-per-view draw? And what do any of these buy rate-killing fiascos have to do with UFC?

Roughly around the same period when boxing began soaring on pay-per-view, the mid-1990’s, was also when UFC achieved its first wave of success. UFC V, in April 1995, got about 240,000 buys (some estimates are a bit higher) at a time when only about 20 million American households could even get pay-per-view, as opposed to over 50 million today. Other UFC shows in 1994-6 drew between about 150,000 and 190,000 buys. Later came the ban on cable TV in the U.S. of UFC, which almost destroyed that company and took many years from which to recover. But both UFC and boxing were doing well on pay-per-view in that period, with each falling for different reasons.

There are many reasons for UFC’s recent growth, and not just the success of its “reality” show. UFC, as well as the mixed martial arts as a whole, embraced the culture of the Internet early on. Boxing, as an industry as a whole, still has not.

It was the years of using the Internet to provide information, allow discussion, and rally the fan base against the cable ban which was decisive in turning the tide, a fact even grudgingly admitted by executives from pay-per-view distributor In Demand when the ban was finally lifted in 2001. (And for those who haven’t read my bio, I played my part in that battle as host of the daily “No Holds Barred” Internet radio show, which covered all the combat sports including mixed martial arts, boxing, grappling, jiu-jitsu, and real wrestling, on the talk network eYada.com, from 1999 to 2001.)

While the boxing business was complaining about having to give so many media credentials to web sites, mixed martial arts was using its own web sites to mobilize itself. The largest mixed martial arts news site today is Sherdog.com, which, according to Alexa.com, on June 27 had a ranking of 2,742. The web site of the UFC, ufc.com, had on that day a ranking of 4,801. Those are both better than any boxing site.

UFC has also hired MaxBoxing’s Tom Gerbasi to write for its site, albeit articles which have to reflect the corporate line. How many boxing promoters have hired any top writers to acquaint their fans online with their fighters and get them interested in them? (It should be added that there is now a major dispute between UFC and the independent mixed martial arts sites like Sherdog.com, as UFC has been denying them media credentials. Again, that dispute is best discussed elsewhere.)

It is true that both HBO and Showtime have boxing pages on their web sites with fighter profiles and data. But the Alexa ranking for HBO’s ENTIRE site on June 27 was 2,672 – almost the same as that for Sherdog.com alone. Showtime’s overall ranking was 9,055, again lower than these other mixed martial arts sites. While ESPN.com’s overall ranking is 24, and we have no breakdown for its boxing page, note that boxing is not even given its own link at the top of that page as so many other sports are, but is only listed under the “more” category.

It is thus not only the absence of undisputed world champions, the plague of the multiple sanctioning bodies, the weakness in the heavyweight division, and even the corruption and often absurd officiating which rob the sport of most of its credibility and thus push it downward. Those are all major factors, and have been for some time.

Boxing’s decline has been intensified by its failure to embrace fully and decisively the culture of the Internet. Instead it remains a prisoner of the culture of the newspaper.

UFC, and mixed martial arts as a whole, never had a chance to do the same, as almost all the mainstream publications heaped slander on them while doing the same bang-up job of research they did on issues like “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq. Mixed martial arts thus had no choice but to bet on the Internet, and that longshot investment is paying off handsomely now.

Much more can and will be said on these issues of fear and loathing of the Internet in boxing. But here is one more tidbit: For this article I wanted to compare the rating for Saturday’s UFC show with HBO’s boxing show. I e-mailed two people at HBO for this information Tuesday afternoon. So far (Thursday afternoon) I have received no response.

Articles of 2006

Peter/Toney Ii: Peter Has The Brutal Punch

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Samuel Peter claims he has dynamites in my two hands?

Heavyweight contenders Samuel “The Nigerian Nightmare” Peter and James Lights Out? Toney get it on a second time this Saturday from the Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood, Fla. (Showtime).

The hard-slugging Peter, unlike Toney, is one of those strong, silent types notorious for letting their fists to the talking one the opening bell sounds, but the Nigeria Nightmare is as confident as ever and determined to turn Lights Out’s lights out for good.

I have got dynamites in my two hands,? said Peter, according the Lagos, Nigeria Vanguard, and I will crush James Toney once and for all. The Toney camp made the mistake of their lives by protesting and seeking a rematch. I am ready to teach him a bitter lesson.?

Sam Peter walked away with the W for Peter/Toney I at the Staples Center in LA last September, but it was by disputed split decision a verdict so disputed, there was even a dispute about the dispute which forced the WBC’s hand into mandating Saturday’s rematch.

Samuel Peter is the biggest thing to hit African boxing since Ghanaian superstar Azumah Nelson rocked the feather and junior welterweight divisions. The President of the Nigeria Boxing Board of Control, Prince Olaide Adeboye, admitted, according to allAfrica.com, We are rooting for Samuel Peter, of course. He is one boy we believe in to bring back the country’s lost glory in professional boxing. I am personally making arrangement to be at the ringside to see him fight Toney again. I was at the first fight in Los Angeles in September.

Peter has the brutal punch, and to me he was the clear winner of the first fight. But the WBC Board of Governors, of which I am a member, voted 21-10 for a rematch. There was nothing those of us Africans on the board could do in the circumstances. But I believe Peter will confirm he is better than Toney and will then go ahead to meet the champion and claim the belt for Nigeria and Africa.?

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Articles of 2006

Iceman Stops Tito Ortiz Win Streak

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LAS VEGAS—UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck “Iceman” Liddell’s fists proved too much for Huntington Beach’s Tito Ortiz who was stopped in the third round before a sold out crowd at the MGM Garden Arena on Saturday.

The punching machine Liddell (20-3, 13 KOs) repeated his victory in UFC 66 over the much-improved grappler Ortiz who has improved his punching and blocking. Ortiz was trying to avenge his loss of April 2004.

Despite all the new weapons displayed by Ortiz it wasn’t enough as Liddell pummeled the former champion and retained his title with a technical knockout at 3:59 of the third round. Referee Mario Yamasaki stopped the bout.

“This was the most satisfying victory of my career,” said Liddell, 36, of Santa Barbara. “Tito came back real tough.”

Ortiz (15-5, 8 KOs), a former wrestler, worked on his boxing technique knowing he would need it against the former boxer Liddell. But Liddell’s experience allowed him to find the right moment to pounce on Ortiz.

“I had him hurt, I just kept throwing punches,” said Liddell who also knocked down Ortiz in the first round with a left hook.

Ortiz was gracious in defeat.

“Chuck is the best fighter Pound for Pound in the (mixed martial arts) world,” said Ortiz, 31, who suffered a gash on the side of his left eye from a punch. “I’m disgusted by myself. I let my fans down.”

Other bouts

Underdog Keith Jardine (12-3-1) knocked out Forrest Griffin (13-4) at 4:41 of the first round in their light heavyweight showdown. A right uppercut followed by a left hook wobbled Griffin who was sent to the floor by a barrage of punches. On the ground Jardine landed right after right until referee John McCarthy stopped the fight for a technical knockout.

“I couldn’t believe he was hurt,” said Jardine about Griffin who is known for his resiliency. “I was so nervous coming into this fight, but now I know I belong here.”

Canada’s Jason McDonald (18-7) choked out Chris Leben (15-3) in a middleweight bout that was up for grabs. Though Leben seemed to control the fight with stunning left hands, once the fight went to the ground McDonald managed a chokehold at 4:03 of the second round. Referee Steve Mazagatti saw Leben was unconscious and stopped the fight.

Former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski (12-5) caught Brazil’s Mario Cruz (2-2) with a sneak right hand while both were tangled on the ground. Then the Belarusian pummeled Cruz until referee Herb Dean stopped the fight at 3:15 of the first round.

Third season winner of the Ultimate Fighter television reality season Michael Bisping (12-0) of Great Britain won by technical knockout over Eric Shafer (9-2-2) at 4:29 of the first round. A knee knocked Shafer groggy then Bisping knocked him to the ground and pounded him. Referee Mario Yamasaki stopped the bludgeoning.

Thiago Alves (16-4) caught Peru’s Tony De Souza (15-5) with a knee as he attempted to dive for his legs in a welterweight contest. After that it was pretty much over as Alves pummeled De Souza at 1:10 of the second round forcing referee John McCarthy to halt the bout.

Gabriel Gonzago (7-1) proved too strong for Carmelo Marrero (6-1) in a heavyweight bout. At 3:22 of the first round Gonzago of Massachusetts manipulated his way into arm bar forcing Pennsylvania’s Marrero to tap out.

Japan’s Yushin Okami (19-3) pounded Georgia’s Rory Singer (11-6) into submission at 4:03 of the third round of a middleweight bout. Okami seemed the more-rounded fighter with effective kicks to the head and more accurate punching.

Christian Wellisch (8-2) jumped to a quick start with an accurate left hook that rattled Australia’s Anthony Perosh (5-3) in a heavyweight bout. During the first round it seemed the Sacramento fighter might end the fight but the Aussie hung tough. Wellisch won by unanimous decision.

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Articles of 2006

The Sweet Science P4P Rankings for Asia

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There are claims that boxing is dying. Hogwash. The heavyweight division isn’t the only division in boxing and 2007 promises to be a banner year in boxing; especially for boxers hailing from Asia.

While Asia isn’t Vegas or Atlantic City, it is a region packed of diamonds in the rough; undiscovered gems and potential superstars who wait for their moment in the sun.

The Sweet Science P4P Rankings – Asia

1) Manny Pacquiao – There’s no way to dispute Pacquiao is the best fighter in Asia, if not all of boxing. He’s exciting, he wins with Je Ne Sais Quois and is definitely “the man” in boxing.

2) Pongsaklek Wonjongkam – Although his competition leaves much to be desired, his longevity and skills are undeniable. He is currently Thailand’s only world champion and is undefeated in ten years. Need I say more?

3) Chris John – A victory over Juan Manuel Marquez, however controversial, shows he belongs at the top of the heap. He easily outpointed Renan Acosta to close out 2006 and should have no trouble defending against Jose Rojas in February. A fight with Pacquiao would not be a good move on his part but a rematch with Marquez would not hurt – especially if he defeats the Mexican again.

4) Hozumi Hasegawa – Hidden away in Japan, Hasegawa is a sharp punching southpaw who put former champion Veeraphol Sahaprom to sleep. He recently bested Genaro Garcia and his herky-jerky style will give fits to any one who steps in the ring with him.

5) Masomori Tokuyama – Tokuyama has never shied away from a good fight and although he only fought once in 2006 (UD12 Jose Navarro), he ledger shows wins over Katsushige Kawashima (twice), Gerry Penalosa (twice) and In Jin Chi (twice). A fight with Hozumi Hasegawa is a distinct possibility in 2007.

6) Nobuo Nashiro – With only seven fights under his belt he took on WBA champion Martin Castillo – and defeated him. Although he’s only fought a total of nine fights, nearly all have been against quality opposition. A victory in a rematch with Castillo would cement his claim as the king of the 115-pound division.

7) Yukata Niida – This light-hitting minimumweight defended his title twice in 2006, winning a technical decision against unbeaten Eriberto Gejon (Tech Win 10) and the other on points over Ronald Barrera (W 12). Scheduled to meet Katsunari Takayama early next year – the best has yet to come for this WBA belt holder.

8) In Jin Chi – Won back the title he lost to Takashi Koshimoto in January from Rudolfo Lopez. While there’s little uncertainty to his skills, at thirty-three, 2007 may provide some insight as to just how much he has left.

9) Yodsanan Sor Nanthachai –Sor Nonthachai is an exciting, top-shelf fighter with an iron chin. Has no trouble making mincemeat of mid-level opposition and deserves a title shot in 2007. Time is running out.

10) Rey Bautista – He’s young, relatively inexperienced in big-time boxing, but will continue to shine in 2007. One of the better prospects in boxing, he should snag a title in 2007.

Asian Fighters Ranked in Ring Magazine

Pound for Pound:

Manny Pacquiao (Philippines): #2

Jr. Lightweight

Manny Pacquiao (Philippines): #1
Yodsanan Sor Nanthachai: #9

Featherweight

Chris John (Indonesia) #1
In Jin Chi (Korea) #3
Takashi Koshimoto (Japan) #5
Hioyuki Enoki (Japan) #7

Jr. Featherweight

Somsak Sithchatchawal (Thailand) #4

Bantamweight

Hozumi Hasegawa (Japan) #2
Veeraphol Sahaprom (Japan) #3
Ratanachai Sor Vorapin (Thailand) #6
Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym (Thailand) #10

Jr. Bantamweight

Nobuo Nashiro (Japan) #1
Katsushige Kawashima (Japan) #7
Pramuansak Phosuwan (Thailand) #10

Flyweight

Pongsaklek Wonjongkam (Thailand) #1
Takefumi Sakata (Japan) #7
Daisuke Naito (Japan) #10

Jr. Flyweight

Koki Kameda (Japan) #1

Minimumweight

Yukata Naiida (Japan) #2
Eagle Kyowa (Japan/Thai) #4
Katsunari Takayama (Japan) #5
Rodel Mayol (Philippines) #7

Boxing in Thailand

There’s no shortage of boxers in Thailand. With a huge pool of Muay Thai fighters to draw from and several talented amateur boxing prospects turning pro after the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Thailand seems destined to remain a boxing powerhouse in Asia.

The country is known for having tough, determined and disciplined fighters who give their all whenever the step in to the ring. However, consistently losing while fighting abroad and padding their records with no-hopers has done nothing to enhance their reputation.

Whether because of a lack of marketability, a lack of funds or their unwillingness to travel abroad, the vast majority of boxers from Thailand remain a mystery to fans in the west. If anything though, the boxing scene involving Thai fighters will be active. In fact, it’s one of the most active in the world; since 2000, the number of fights has nearly doubled in the country.

The Sweet Science P4P Rankings – Thailand – August 2006

1) Pongsaklek Wonjongkam
2) Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym
3) Somsak Sithchatchawal
4) Wandee Singwancha
5) Sirimongkol Singwancha
6) Yodsanan Sor Nanthachai
7) Veeraphol Sahaprom
8) Pramuansak Phosuwan
9) Terdsak Jandaeng
10) Oleydong Sithamerchai

Current Sweet Science P4P Rankings – Thailand

1) Pongsaklek Wonjongkam (Flyweight) – Definitely the top dog in Thailand

2) Yodsanan Sor Nanthachai (Super Lightweight) – He’s a seasoned fighter who has proven himself in the big-time. He’s one Thai who can fight outside of Asia. He has an abundance of skills and one-punch power. His overall ability and ease in dispatching anyone other than championship caliber get him the runners-up spot.

3) Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym (Super Bantamweight) – After losing to Vladimir Sidorenko he’s bounced back. He’s young, he can punch, but the former interim champion needs to prove himself against a name fighter.

4) Somsak Sithchatchawal (Super Bantamweight) – Was his win over Monshipour a fluke or was Celestino Caballero just that good? Did Sithchatchawal catch Monshipour at the right time and can he rebound from the devastating loss? The jury is still out.

5) Wandee Singwancha (Flyweight) – He doesn’t have much of a punch which will be his downfall in the end. He can box, as was evidenced in his recent victory over Juanito Rubillar, but this won’t be enough. He can no longer make the Jr. Flyweight limit and with no punch he’ll have a hard time competing against the “big boys.” Although he’s now rated second by the WBC, he doesn’t deserve to be.

5) Sirimongkol Singwancha (Super Lightweight) – Get this guy a fight. He’s better than Jose Armando Santa Cruz and would have beat up Inada had the fight taken place. He’ll fight anyone but his biggest obstacle is staying motivated fighting tomato cans in Thailand. Like many Thais, he needs a fight against a name opponent.
6) Wandee Singwancha (Flyweight) – He doesn’t have much of a punch which will be his downfall in the end. He can box, as was evidenced in his recent victory over Juanito Rubillar, but this won’t be enough. He can no longer make the Jr. Flyweight limit and with no punch he’ll have a hard time competing against the “big boys.” Although he’s now rated second by the WBC, he doesn’t deserve to be.

7) Pramuansak Phosuwan (Super Flyweight) – A genuine tough guy. Always calm and focused no matter how heated the battle. But at thirty-eight, he’ll be in trouble should he fight one of the division’s elite.
8) Veeraphol Sahaprom (Bantamweight) – Will be lucky to get another crack at the title. Although he has a puncher’s chance of winning a belt, that’s about all he has left at this point. A third shot at Hasegawa is unlikely.

9) Oleydong Sithamerchai (Minimumweight) – He’s fought better than the usual opponents faced by Thais at his level and he moves up one spot with the departure of Terdsak Jandaeng. He lacks the punch and is in the wrong division to become a superstar. He’ll need to defeat a name opponent to convince me.

10) Saenghiran Lookbanyai / Napapol Kittisakchokchai (Super Bantamweight) – These two square-off in early March, supposedly to see who deserves a shot at Israel Vasquez. Kittisakchokchai has the edge in experience but some feel Lookbanyai has the edge in heart and is the favorite.

Neither has defeated a top twenty fighter and yet are ranked number one and two respectively in the WBC’s world.

In Kittisakchokchoi’s lone shot at the big-time, he was TKO’d in 10 by Oscar Larios. His dreadful performance against Larios and lack of quality opposition leads me to believe Saenghiran might have more of a shot at beating him than some suspect. Regardless, neither of them lasts longer than six rounds with Israel Vasquez.

Honorable Mention: Wethya Sakmuangklang, Denkaosan Kaovichit, Devid Lookmahanak, Nethra Sasiprapa, Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo, Pornsawan Kratingdaenggym

Thai Fighters Ranked in Ring Magazine

Pongsaklek Wonjongkam: #1 Flyweight
Pramuansak Phosuwan: #10 Jr. Bantamweight
Veeraphol Sahaprom: #3 Bantamweight
Ratanachai Sor Vorapin: #6 Bantamweight
Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym: #10 Bantamweight
Somsak Sithchatchawal: #3 Jr. Featherweight
Yodsanan Sor Nanthachai: #9 Lightweight

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