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Articles of 2006

There was nothing punk about Tom Sharkey

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A few years ago an outfit called “TKO Records” in San Francisco put out a compilation of punk rock songs by such bands as the “Dropkick Murphys,” “Swingin’ Udders,” and “Electric Frankensteins.” I never heard of any of them, and if there is a merciful God, I never will again.

But I bought the item because on the cover was the striking image of one of the toughest fighters in boxing history, and I couldn’t believe that Sailor Tom Sharkey’s fearsome mug had been so cruelly and ignorantly appropriated by slobs so infatuated with their own brain damage that they entitled their CD “Punch Drunk.”

Thomas Joseph Sharkey deserves better than to end up a poster boy for brain-dead punk rockers. So it was good to hear that writer Greg Lewis of Wales and his wife, a distant relative of Sailor Tom’s, are at work on a full-length biography of the late 19th century heavyweight whose “ring courage will be a lasting memorial in the history of boxing.”

That’s what the Helms Athletic Foundation put on the medallion it presented to Sharkey in 1945.

Sharkey’s 25-round heavyweight title fight with James J. Jeffries on November 1, 1899, was “probably the fiercest fight that the American fight-going public ever witnessed,” the New York Times said at the time. It may still be true. By most accounts Sharkey won at least 18 of the 25 rounds; but Jeffries got the decision.

Born in Dundalk, Ireland, on November 16, 1873, Sharkey ran away from home at the age of 12. For several years he worked on ships hauling cargo around the world. “You can figure the life,” he said later. “There was hardly a week that I was not in a fight.” Shipwrecked four times, once Sharkey and his shipmates spent three days drifting in the Pacific Ocean with neither food nor drink.

After seven years of that, Sharkey went to New York City and became a blacksmith, which helped account for the armor of solid muscle he wore in the ring. Just 5’8 1/2” tall, Sharkey weighed about 180 when he fought the 225-pound Jeffries; and he scaled even lower against other heavyweight giants of his era. He was just 173 when he knocked out Kid McCoy in 1899. He had 17 pounds on McCoy, but the New York Times noted that Sharkey’s “massive chest standing out prominently like a gigantic pair of bellows looked almost twice as large as that of an ordinary man, and tapered down at the waist to a circumference even smaller than that of his opponent.”

The famous Sharkey chest measured 44 3/4-inches (Jeffries, one of the brawniest heavyweight champs and over four inches taller than Sharkey, had a 43 1/2-inch chest). As if it needed further attention called to it, Sailor Tom had his chest decorated with a tattoo of a four-masted schooner. “I’ll never give up the ship!” he boasted before fights.

At 19 he joined the U.S. Navy. He shipped out on the USS Philadelphia. When it docked in Hawaii in 1893, Sharkey turned professional and scored 17 straight KOs.

According to old-time sportswriter Donald Barr Chidsey, Sharkey “didn’t know how to box. He would just put his head down and wade in, hooking terrifically.”

After an eight-round draw with Joe Choynski in 1896, Sharkey met heavyweight champion James J. Corbett in San Francisco. Corbett hadn’t trained for the four-round bout, and just before entering the ring put away a big meal and some wine. Sharkey was supposed to be dessert, but after the second round he began to wrestle the exhausted champion around and even tossed Corbett to the mat. Then Sharkey threw referee Frank Carr on top of him. When the bell ended the bout, the cops had to use nightsticks to get Sharkey off the champion. The decision was a draw.

Sharkey’s next fight was against Bob Fitzsimmons, who would take Corbett’s belt in 1897. He knocked Tom out in the eighth round, but ex-gunfighter Wyatt Earp, the referee, ruled that Fitz’s punch was south of the border and gave the win to Sharkey. That one will be debated forever.

In 1898, The Milwaukee Journal said that while Sharkey “has shown himself to be a rough and tumble fighter of ability … if he hopes to get on he certainly must change the foul methods which have characterized his work in all of his fights. It is very probable that he will never be able to fight strictly within the Marquis of Queensbury rules, and he is likely to lose important battles through his foul tactics.”

Sharkey lost a 20-round decision to Jeffries in San Francisco, then knocked out Gus Ruhlin and beat Corbett on a disqualification when one of Jim’s seconds entered the ring as Corbett was taking a beating.

Kid McCoy knocked Sharkey down three times in the first round, but Tom came back to put him out in the tenth round of what the New York Times called “the most satisfactory heavyweight fight that has taken place in many years in this country.”

But that was nothing compared to the second Jeffries fight. For one hour and 40 minutes, they whaled away at one another. “Never has there been such a struggle,” reported The Milwaukee Journal, “and it was a struggle far more than a glove fight. Before it was half over, both men were covered with blood and their massive bodies were battered and swollen.”

Sharkey was the aggressor for most of the fight, but after Jeffries “stood for 21 rounds taking the punishment of the best man in the world who could be found to go against him,” said the Journal, “he turned in and with a speed and strength that were a great surprise proceeded to administer such punishment no other man in the ring except Sharkey could have received and retained consciousness.”

Sailor Tom called referee George Siler’s verdict for Jeffries “the rankest kind of robbery,” and he wasn’t the only one who thought so. “…Nine out of 10 persons in the arena were convinced that Sharkey had won the bout and the title,” wrote Charles F. Mathison in The Ring magazine three decades later. “The soft-hearted Siler decided it would be cruel to declare the titleholder beaten when he was on his feet at the conclusion of the 25th round. Jeff had been outpointed in 18 of the 25 rounds, but that meant nothing to the referee, who apparently was there to see that Jeff kept his championship unless he was carried out of the ring on a stretcher.”

[In its July, 1944 number, The Ring ran a piece about the fight (“99 Minutes of Hell”) that included verbatim a ringside account of the Jeffries-Sharkey bout written for the Detroit Free Press. According to the author, “Sharkey lost the honors, but not until he had forced his opponent to fight a marvelous battle and was in no way disgraced by the outcome. But lose the fight he did… In the writer’s opinion, no other decision could have been rendered, despite the big points advantage Sharkey had gained in the early rounds. The condition of the men at the finish testified to the correctness of the verdict.” The reporter’s name was … Charles F. Mathison. Go figure.]

For his part, Siler asked how the guy who “quit the ring with several ribs broken, his shoulder dislocated, his left ear split and three times its natural size, his nose cut and swollen, his face terribly battered, and, furthermore, (who) had to be taken away in a carriage,” could be considered the winner.

For whatever its worth, nobody except Muhammad Ali said that Joe Frazier lost their first fight because Frazier had to go to the hospital afterwards.

Sharkey’s worst injury was to his left side. “Two ribs had been crushed,” reported The Milwaukee Journal the day after the fight. Chuck Burroughs, a onetime boxer who later wrote a book called “Come Out Fighting,” met Sharkey in 1934, and said he personally saw “four little white scars as big as kitchen matches” caused by the broken ribs actually poking through his skin.

In spite of that, 10 days after the fight, Sharkey participated in a secret re-enactment of the 25th round for motion pictures. Jeff’s manager, Bill Brady, donned a fake mustache and appeared as George Siler, because Sharkey threatened to toss the referee in the Atlantic Ocean the next time he saw him.

Not surprisingly, Sharkey was never the same. Gus Ruhlin stopped him, and Fitzsimmons got even for the fiasco in Frisco by knocking Sharkey out in two. Not even Wyatt Earp could have saved Tom in that one, but the old gunfighter would’ve come in handy when Sharkey knocked Mexican Pete Everett down in the first round of their 1901 fight in Colorado. The referee disqualified Sharkey, and when Tom stormed at him in protest the ref pulled a gun from inside his shirt and the debate was over. Fitzsimmons would’ve loved it.

After he hung up his gloves, Sharkey did some wrestling and opened a saloon in New York City. But his joint became a hangout for underworld types and roughnecks like the proprietor himself (“Surly Sharkey partisans who believed that the owner had really defeated Jim Jeffries … and was champion of everything, and were always willing to take on anybody who denied it” — Kid McCoy biographer Robert Cantwell), and the cops shut it down and put Tom in jail for a month. When he got out he opened another saloon.

Corbett said that Sharkey “never spends a quarter without biting it in the hope that it will return to him,” and there were a million stories to back it up. On his 41st birthday, The Milwaukee Journal marked the occasion with a big story headlined, “Tom Sharkey, Champion Tightwad of the World, Celebrates Birthday Today; To Give Drinks to All Who Pay For Them.”

But he liked to gamble, and rode his own stable of race horses into bankruptcy in 1916. He moved to San Francisco and scraped by working as a horse track guard and was even a carnival strongman. When he and Jeffries were in their 50s, they reenacted their famous fight for vaudeville crowds and became best friends.

In his 70s, Sharkey worked as a warehouse guard and was called the “Mayor of Fourth St.” by people who enjoyed hearing him denigrate the heavyweights of that time as unfit to be sparring partners for him and his bunch.

He died on April 17, 1953. “All I can say,” he’d written years before, “is that when the champions got through with Mrs. Sharkey’s little boy Tom, they knew they had been in a fight.”

Too bad he isn’t around now to give some sniveling punks a painful lesson in respect.

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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