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Articles of 2006

Memo to All Boxers: Get on MySpace!

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It was late Sunday night (actually early Monday morning) in that historic dive of dives, Yogi’s on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, when the conversation inevitably turned to how the patrons and bartender could maintain contact in the unwelcome but inexorably approaching daylight hours. Someone mentioned something about MySpace.com, the social networking web site, to which the bartender Andrea replied, “Everyone has MySpace.”

Bars are often stages for exaggerated dialogue, although far less so than, say, any political body or corporate boardroom. In this case, Andrea was not that far off: Sometime earlier that day, the number of accounts on MySpace had passed the 90 million mark. (Her profile, by the way, is at http://myspace.com/pythonicbeauty while I am at http://myspace.com/nhbnews. So much for phone numbers scribbled on beer-stained napkins.)

One person who gets it is a fellow about the same age as the septuagenarian promoters Don King and Bob Arum, the 75-year-old Rupert Murdoch, chairman and chief executive officer of the international media giant News Corporation, which owns The Times of London, the New York Post, the Fox Network, and so much more.

Last year, on April 13, Murdoch addressed the American Society of Newspaper Editors and admitted that he was a “digital immigrant,” i.e., someone whose media and information gathering habits were established long before the computer and Internet ages. He then warned his ink-stained colleagues that they must change their ways lest “we will, as an industry, be relegated to the status of also-rans.” He quoted from a Carnegie Corporation report by Merrill Brown which stated, “consumers between the ages of 18-34 are increasingly using the web as their medium of choice for news consumption. While local TV news remains the most accessed source of news, the internet, and more specifically, internet portals, are quickly becoming the favored destination for news among young consumers.”

Three months later, on July 19, Murdoch’s News Corporation purchased a company called Intermix for $580 million. Most parts of that outfit were not exactly hot takeover targets, as the company had been accused by New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer of deceptive business practices and using spyware, and had paid $7.9 million to settle a suit on these issues without, of course, admitting wrongdoing. The real and only prize in this purchase of Intermix was one of its companies: MySpace.

Murdoch soon stressed his new focus on the Internet and MySpace in an Aug. 10 conference call with investors in which he stated, “There is no greater priority for the company today than to meaningfully and profitably expand its Internet presence and to properly position ourselves for the explosion in broadband usage that we're now starting to see.”

The Alexa.com web traffic rankings have MySpace ranked number five in the world among all sites. MySpace.com is only behind, in order, Yahoo! (www.yahoo.com), Microsoft Network (MSN, or www.msn.com), Google (www.google.com), and the Chinese language search engine Baidu.com (www.baidu.com). It also gets more traffic, according to Alexa, than sites such as AOL.com, eBay.com, Microsoft.com, and BBC.co.uk.

You wouldn’t know any of this about staying relevant or attracting younger people from boxing, however. This is a sport where one of its main TV shows, ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights,” has found a willing main sponsor in a company which sells coloring for men to cover up their gray hair.

Go to MySpace and try to find, among the 90 million-plus accounts, Don King Productions, Top Rank, Golden Boy Promotions, Main Events, HBO boxing, Showtime boxing, or ESPN boxing. You won’t be able to do so. (You might, though, find an account under the name myspace.com/toprank owned by someone who says he is a 16-year-old boy from Kentucky and loves basketball.)

The music industry has wisely jumped all over MySpace, with countless profiles both from major artists, which are usually administered by the staffs of the records companies, all the way down to unsigned indie artists, doing their own profiles and looking for that big break.

It is not that boxing is absent from MySpace. Hardly. In fact, there are many boxing people, including some active fighters, on it. What is absent is any equivalent of the corporate support the record labels give their artists on MySpace.

I will also admit that, even though I have been using computers virtually every working day for the past two decades, and have been working online in providing media content for the past decade, I was caught off-guard last year by MySpace.

When I was editor for the now-defunct Boxingranks.com site, I was contacted by one of the writers, Tom Luffman, about linking to the boxing forum he ran on MySpace. At that time I had never heard of it, but he told me that there were already 20 million people on that site and over 300 in his boxing group. I signed up, albeit reluctantly, merely expecting to observe that group and do nothing much more.

After signing up in April 2005, for various personal reasons I didn’t have much time to explore MySpace. Some months later I did get that time, and I now use my profile (the page you are given to describe yourself and interests, and also get comments from others) for all sorts of purposes, including publicizing articles such as this one. My list of friends (people or accounts which link to your profile) has grown from two guys named Tom – everyone is given MySpace co-founder Tom Anderson as a friend at the start, and Tom Luffman – to a group which now numbers over 900.

Tom Luffman, who is at http://www.myspace.com/tomluffman, has also seen a rapid growth in the boxing group, which is at http://groups.myspace.com/boxing (these groups can only be joined by MySpace members, but it is free to sign up for MySpace, and continues to be so even under Murdoch). Now this group has over 3,700 members. And he still sees great potential for MySpace to help boxing, especially with attracting younger fans.

“MySpace allows them to get fans in touch with a fighter,” he said in a phone interview. It provides boxers with “one-on-one time with the fans.” And he added, “Boxing doesn’t understand that fact.”

He cited the noteworthy one-on-one, in-person skills of Don King, both with the public and the media. “Don King is so good at this,” he said. “The first time I met him, he asked my name. The second time, he remembered it.”

He then urged more boxers to learn from this, and take the time to speak with the fans and sign autographs. “They’re doing themselves a favor,” he argued.

MySpace can in effect supplement those face-to-face meetings: “It makes them accessible, which is really big in a fan’s eye.” He went on to stress how important contact with the fans through MySpace would be to fans, “Especially 14-15 years old.” If, for example, fighters would “Swap e-mails with those kinds of people, they’d have a fan for life.”

Some fighters are already doing just that. The undefeated super welterweight prospect Vanes Martirosyan (9-0, 6 KOs), who next fights Aug. 12 in Las Vegas on the Rahman-Maskaev undercard, maintains his own profile.

“It is a great promotional tool and lets you stay in touch with fans,” he wrote in a MySpace message to me. The 20-year-old Martirosyan, at http://www.myspace.com/vanesboxing, gets it.

And so do several other boxers, mostly younger fighters trying to work their way up the ladder, such as Allan Green (http://www.myspace.com/allansweetness), Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillin (http://www.myspace.com/thekidchocolate), and Frankie Figueroa (http://www.myspace.com/gatofigueroa).

For more prominent boxers, however, it is harder sometimes to figure out if the profiles set up under their names are started with their consent or are just fake sites set up by fans. There are already, for example, numerous profiles for Mike Tyson, as well as ones for Oscar De La Hoya, Bernard Hopkins, and others, some of which even claim to be the “official” site. These profiles may be well-designed, and look almost like what an official site might just look, so sorting all this out can be confusing, especially to fans.

One top boxer whom we do believe runs his own profile is undefeated WBC junior flyweight champion Brian Viloria. His profile is at http://www.myspace.com/bviloria.

There are already people working on compiling a list of boxers who at least oversee their own MySpace profiles. Bernadette Robinson, a social service worker from Harlem who is also an amateur boxing judge, has been communicating with many of these boxers on MySpace and has been putting together such a list. She has also been regularly sending out bulletins on MySpace (messages sent to all your friends at once) with news from these boxers about when their next fights are, how their training has been going, and more. Bernadette’s profile is at http://www.myspace.com/bernapril20.

Both she and Tom Luffman have offered through the boxing group as well as their profiles, bulletins, and messages, to help boxers spread the word of their activities, and of course also gain fans, through MySpace.

Just like with any other form of publicity, many boxers may need some assistance in designing their profiles and writing and editing their content. For that, however, these fighters will need to enlist people around them, including their often technophobic managers and promoters. People like Tom and Bernadette are just doing this on MySpace to help the boxers and boxing in general, but not for now as a job, so they can help only so much.

But the boxing group is open to all MySpace members to join, all of our profiles can be read and posted on by MySpace friends, and all of us are accepting new friends, especially from people in the boxing world. Plus, a site like MySpace offers an almost unlimited platform for creative minds to get their stories told.

What is key is that the boxers must begin to do this for themselves, and not wait for the boxing establishment, which has already long since missed the digital boat.

This may be a decentralized effort, but that is how the media, publicity, and marketing are evolving in this online era.

Using MySpace, of course, is not the only online way to accomplish these goals of publicity and marketing as well as attracting younger fans. Not using it, however, will only mean that those men’s hair coloring commercials will soon be replaced by ones for Social Security, nursing homes, and funeral assistance.

Both the sport and business of boxing have already been “relegated to the status of also-rans,” as Murdoch fears newspapers will soon be. The boxers themselves have to try to do what the graying and complacent boxing establishment has not, can not, and will not. And that means creating a situation where we can one day say, “Every boxer has MySpace.”

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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