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Articles of 2006

Arturo Gatti: For Love and Glory

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Arturo “Thunder” Gatti, 40-7 (31) will step into the ring on Saturday night in Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, New Jerse,y to face WBC and world welterweight champion Carlos Baldomir, 42-9-6 (12) of Argentina.

Perception certainly ameliorates reality, the reckoning of things as they can be known or understood. Though the temptation in boxing is to make judgments based on the heart of the matter, the way things should be weighing heavily upon the way things are trending. On the objective surface of things is Arturo Gatti’s viability, at the very highest level of championship contention in most of the years making up this juvenile century has been framed with regards to his spectacular defeats. The punishing and excoriating losses at the flashing fists of Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Oscar De La Hoya marked the de-legitimization of Gatti in the minds of many, many boxing fans. So too did the fact that he had to wage three concussive wars with the rugged fringe world-class fighter from Lowell, Massachusetts Micky Ward.

What has sustained Gatti beyond key wins over Tracy Harris Patterson, his rematch with Micky Ward and Thomas Damgaard has been his marquee marketability stemming from the hyper-dramatics of his fighting style which has produced some of the most combustive matchups in the last decade. And Gatti’s passion that translated into survivalist antics in the ring so often came as counterpoints to what seemed like a burgeoning completeness in this approach to ‘boxing.’ One can easily forget how fluid and functional his jab and move boxing from distance and counter hitting proved against the tenacious Patterson, in both of their fights for the IBF super-featherweight title. But it was his first defense of his IBF 130 pound championship in March 1996 – his titanic struggle against Dominican Wilson Rodriquez – that solidified the symbolic legend of Arturo Gatti.

From the bell the new champion stalked his veteran foe, whistling power shots, eating counters when they were detonated behind the champion’s free floating guard. Absorbing monster hooks from Rodriquez, Gatti made the fateful decision to win with his power, no matter the cost, no matter the danger. Inevitably, Gatti was chopped down in the third round by the free swinging Rodriquez, who sensed that Gatti had thrown himself over to an all-out puncher’s war. And it was that decision to simply endure and overcome that crystallized the persona of Gatti the ring warrior, reckless to a fault, brave to the last. With his eye ballooning shut throughout contentious rounds four and five, Gatti, at times appearing exhausted and confused, manfully secured his championship defense with a saturating hook that felled the emboldened Rodriquez.

With the champion’s face grotesquely marked, his lungs heaving during the in-the-ring post-fight interview, after having contested 17 minutes of tortuous work, the thrill of the kill palpitated from the blast center of the ring rippling out over the HBO airwaves to literally convert boxing fans casual and committed to what amounted to the cause of following the budding career of the never-say-die then 23, almost 24, year-old champion from Montreal. For some it seemed like the 1940s and 50s were back in vogue. In Arturo Gatti boxing was reborn as all-out entertainment action, minus ear bites. This he proved in a repeat performance of back from the brink conquering in a mesmerizing fight with Gabe Ruelas, October 1997.

Gatti’s heroic recovery formed a kind of antidote to the meltdown freak-show of Tyson-Holyfield II, which had transpired just four months earlier. When Arturo Gatti stepped into the ring there was every expectation something memorable and elementally courageous was likely to occur. Fighting from his gut, responding in kind to attacks or the effrontery of opponents trying to overpower him, Gatti began to make a career out of launching himself into dangerous and defining exchanges, at any and all costs.  Known to be enjoying the nightlife of his adopted stomping grounds of New Jersey and New York City, Gatti crashed weight at camp and increasingly threw with only knockouts in mind, the tactical notations of training and stylistic set-up technique thrown out the virtual window of his increasingly raging in the ring impatience. So at the height of his momentous significance, the underlying pattern of his life outside the ring took root, reaping what seemed eventual ruin for the still twenty-something Gatti.

When perennial championship runner up Ivan Robinson utilized pattering combinations to beat off the thrusting challenges of Gatti during their pair of 1998 fights from Gatti’s home base of Atlantic City, it seemed that Arturo Gatti’s championship days were over. Losing could not, however, dampen the fans love for Gatti. As a contender or a pretender the fans have remained wild about Gatti, ever ready to pay to see “Thunder” rehydrating to drown Joey Gamache or pot shot and pound the confused Thomas Damgaard.

The justification the garrulous and likeable Gatti would typically make for wins over, say, Calvin Grove in 1997 or losses to Ivan Robinson in 1998 were essentially the same: have power, must use it. When Gatti did reinitiate his sense of technique as orthodoxy in his rematch against the hard driving body banger Ward, the fans knew the melodramatics were not over. Gatti the boxer, employing his jab and circling movement to find power counters under Vero Beach, Florida based Buddy McGirt, a strategy reintroduced to Gatti for the sake of preserving his body after so many wars of attrition. Gatti’s promoters Main Events and manager Pat Lynch were increasingly under pressure to advise Gatti to retire, as Ward decided to do after the third fight of their sapping trilogy June 7, 2003.

Boxing or slugging, Gatti never ceased finding ways to entertain by defying the laws of entropy. Still, as his 14 minutes of torture against De La Hoya in 2001 was followed by the Ward trilogy and the June 2005 debacle against Floyd Mayweather, Gatti reentered boxing’s big time as a situational nemesis of ordinary men with alphabet title belts, THE classic example being Denmark’s Thomas Damgaard, who defied reason in coming to face Gatti with an unblemished record, 37-0 with 27 stoppages, having never fought in Iowa. Yet in being totally outclassed by Mayweather, the victory over Damgaard moved Gatti and his platinum plated popularity right into the line of site of Carlos Baldomir, unlikely successor to Zab Judah. After his being handled so easily by Mayweather, who would have believed that a year later he’d be on the threshold of the universal welterweight championship?

Well, we understand that logic has little to do with boxing, certainly at the championship level. The fault lines of destiny are regularly shaken by the tectonic forces of chance. It matters not how Gatti arrived at a fight for the welterweight championship – be that defined as the WBC version or the universal crown, implied – he’s right there, one decent outing away from yet more glory. Hard won glory, for it always comes at a price does glory, for men like Arturo Gatti. If he’s able to handle Baldomir’s energized assertions, if his fragile 4th metacarpal holds up, if the skin around his eyes neither swell up or cut, if he’s as motivated as we expect and if age does not present him with the tolling bell bill for all that’s transpired during his career to date, Gatti might win.

He’s expected to win, officially, according to the vultures of boxing, the bookmakers. Trainer Buddy McGirt will only curtly say, “It’s up to Arturo.” For all of his rising and falling only to rise again, the perception remains: Gatti’s a guy who masters his fate.  The very nature of being a blood and guts warrior means you are defined by the ability to absorb trauma, creating spectacle and defying probability, only to reassert your own brand of destruction as reprisals. Theatrically you mesmerize the faithful, creating the illusion that you are the ultimate arbiter of your fate, cruel and luminous, at least right up until the moment that mortal means are beyond you. Baldomir ain’t Mayweather; so goes the speculative asserting of Gatti’s endless return.

Gatti was the guy who lost and yet survived sacrificial outings against two of the absolute greatest talents in boxing in the last 30 years. Now he looks to bare up to his reputation as the greatest survivor of his generation. A hard reputation to bare, when you are increasingly mortal, given to mean streets survival tactics, having converted from Joe Frazier ring aesthetics and willful acts of theatrical heroism against fighters named Rodriquez to boxing behind a jab, as if you really mean it.

At least Gatti gets to fight someone with more losses on his slate than he, a guy who’s older, at least chronologically. No one cares that Gatti has turned the corner and now travels down the road toward oblivion; Baldomir might be on the same road! So, we have a fair fight? The money’s good and Arturo just loves to fight, winning too, when he can manage it. All this and the IBA welterweight title on the line… what else can we ask for?

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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