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Articles of 2006

The Contender Hits ESPN A Second Season

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When the second season of The Contender begins airing on ESPN at 10:00 P.M. Eastern Standard Time on Tuesday, July 18, there will be several changes.

Sylvester Stallone and Jackie Kallen will be gone, but former heavyweight contender Jeremy Williams, who we saw briefly near the end of season one, will be back, as will Sugar Ray Leonard and Tommy Gallagher.

The biggest difference is the fact that the first season profiled relatively inexperienced fighters. This season’s participants, although not better known to casual fans, seem to be much more seasoned ring veterans.

Many have been seen on ESPN2, and one of them, Steve Forbes, even held the IBF super featherweight title. Although his 29-3 (9 KOS) record indicates that he is not much of a puncher, the general consensus is that he is the most experienced and talented fighter of the group.

All of the fighters will be competing as welterweights, and the first place prize is $500,000. While that might not seem like much to some people, many of the Contenders have never made more than a low five-figure purse.

Others have never even made that, and all have been forced to augment their boxing earnings with steady employment.

Forbes, for example, has worked second jobs for much of his career. He did carpentry work and even owned his own commercial cleaning company. He desperately hoped for a big boxing score, but it never materialized.

“The road has been long and hard, but this might be what I need to be appreciated,” said the 29-year-old Forbes, whose nickname of “Two Pound” comes from the fact that he weighed only two pounds when he was born prematurely at just seven months.

Many people assume that his nickname was spawned when he relinquished his title on the scales, after being two pounds overweight against David Santos. Forbes won a decision, but the title was still declared vacant.

“I was a champion, but nobody knew it,” said Forbes, a native of Portland, Oregon, who now lives in Las Vegas. “Believe it or not, I wanted to give the title up the day I won it. It was so hard to make weight. I had been making 130 pounds since I was 14. When I fought Santos I was 25.”

The fact that Forbes no longer has to torture himself to make weight has resulted in him being the favorite to walk away with the half-million dollar prize and a second lease on his stalled career.

Hopefully he has learned from all of his past challenges, because he will be facing challenges aplenty on The Contender.  Here is who and what he will be up against:

Nick Acevedo: The 30-year-old native New Yorker was a phenomenal amateur who fizzled as a pro. His biggest loss was a ten round decision to former IBF junior welterweight titleholder Vince Phillips. A mortgage broker by day, Acevedo, who has been plagued with promotional and managerial difficulties, knows that this is his last shot at glory. Record: 15-1 (9 KOS).

Gary Balletto: The hard-punching 30-year-old from Providence, Rhode Island, says he was “built for this show.” A slam-bang action fighter, Balletto will most certainly be a fan favorite. A big question mark looms about why Balletto keeps fighting after so many serious injuries, including numerous concussions. Moreover, Balletto is a successful businessman with interests in a construction company and a gym. Record: 29-2-2 (25 KOS).

Vinroy Barrett: The 31-year-old native of Kingston, Jamaica, now lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where he trains alongside season one Contenders Jonathan Reid and Brent Cooper. The always smiling and extremely friendly Barrett, who works as a fitness trainer and housekeeper, is the first to admit that he is more of a boxer than a brawler. Record: 21-4 (11 KOS).

Norberto Bravo; The rugged 35-year-old from Tucson, Arizona, has been toiling as a pro since May 1991. He said the producers were enthralled with his unrelenting Mexican spirit and willingness to fight to the death if necessary. He is a maintenance worker at the Honeywell Corporation. Record: 20-10 (12 KOS).

Grady Brewer: The 35-year-old journeyman from Lawton, Oklahoma, is best known for losing a decision to Sechew Powell on ShoBox in June 2004. Most observers thought that Brewer, who works rotating 12 hour shifts at the Lawton Goodyear Tire and Rubber Factory, did more than enough to win. Record: 18-11 (12 KOS).

Cornelius Bundrage: The 30-year-old Detroit native is also best known for a loss to Powell on ShoBox, although his loss was less controversial than Brewer’s. Shortly after the opening bell, Bundrage and Powell scored simultaneous knockdowns. Both arose, but Bundrage was finished off after just 33 seconds of the first round. Record: 21-3 (13 KOS).

Rudy Cisneros: The 25-year-old from Chicago just missed making the 2004 Olympic team, but is close to earning a college degree in architecture from ITT Tech in the Windy City. Cisneros seems like a man with a plan, who is equally adept at using his head and his fists. Record: 8-1 (4 KOS).

Michael Clark: The 32-year-old from Columbus, Ohio, was another sensational amateur who has floundered as a pro after developing a reputation as a hot dog. To this day he insists that when Floyd Mayweather Jr. turned pro, the Pretty Boy was following in his footsteps. In the early days of Clark’s pro career, he used to spar with young Mayweather to get him ready for amateur tournaments. Record: 35-3 (18 KOS).

Freddie Curiel: The 30-year-old from Paterson, New Jersey, grew up tough with eight family members in a two-bedroom apartment. He is a family man who works hard as a boxer, as well as in his other life cleaning gutters. The extremely determined Curiel could be the dark horse of the show. Record: 15-5-2 (6 KOS).

Andre Eason: The 30-year-old from Brooklyn, New York, has lost to Demetrius Hopkins, the cousin of Bernard Hopkins, who was 11-0 at the time. Most of Eason’s defeats have come against quality opponents, including a 10 round decision to Francisco Bojado. Eason is very busy, but his lack of firepower will hinder him badly. Record: 15-4 (6 KOS).

Ebo Elder: The 27-year-old from Atlanta was a highly touted amateur whose promising pro career was enhanced with a thrilling 12th round TKO victory over Courtney Burton on ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights. He had been scheduled to fight WBA lightweight champion Juan Diaz, but Diaz was forced to withdraw. Elder was then stopped in the 12th round by Lavka Sim. In his spare time, Elder plays in a rock band. Record: 22-2 (14 KOS).

Jeff Fraza: The 28-year-old from Haverhill, Massachusetts, was forced to leave the show’s first season early after coming down with chicken pox. He is glad to get this second chance and is determined to make the best of it. Record: 17-2 (10 KOS).

Michael Stewart: The 28-year-old from New Castle, Delaware, works by day as a union bricklayer. All action, all the time, Stewart is never in a bad fight and is also one to watch. Even his fifth round TKO loss to Ricky Hatton was exciting for as long as it lasted. Record: 38-4-2 (22 KOS).

Aaron Torres: The 27-year-old from Philadelphia described himself as a “troubled kid” and says boxing turned his life around. He is nicknamed “Two Guns,” because of his heavy two-fisted attack. Record: 14-2 (6 KOS).

Walter Wright: The 25-year-old from Seattle survived a hellish childhood to find a measure of personal redemption in the ring. After all he’s been through in his young life, it is hard to imagine him being the least bit frightened by boxing. Record: 10-1 (5 KOS).

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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