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Articles of 2006

It's No Big Deal, but Arum's War Talk Also Includes Junior Flyweight

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LAS VEGAS, Aug. 9 – Gary Gittelsohn is all excited. This is different than his usual jitters. “You must watch him jump rope,” says the manager of the 108-pound titlist Brian Viloria, “he's the best I've seen since Duran.”

Roberto Duran used to imitate drunken Russian sailors while jumping rope. Gittelsohn finds it amazing when I tell him that Leon Spinks was a dancing marvel with the cords. Of course, publicist Bill Caplan remembers Sugar Ray Robinson, the rope-for-rope best, doing his act on the Ed Sullivan Show. Most people in the sweltering Top Rank Gym yesterday wouldn't have a clue about the Ed Sullivan Show, TV's top variety program for decades.

Viloria is good, real good, and yes, he can jump with Duran. Somebody says you ought to see Floyd Mayweather Jr. Viloria does tricks – folding up his right leg while continuing to jump. He says he started incorporating the tricks to alleviate boredom. The gym is host to a media gathering, to basically talk to the heavyweights, Hasim Rahman and Oleg Maskaev, who headline Bob Arum's pay-per-view card Saturday at the Thomas & Mack Arena. Arum threw in the 108-pounder because Viloria defends his title, and don't ask me which one, tomorrow night against Omar Nino Romero of Mexico at the Orleans in the second installment of the promoter's new TV series on OLN cable (I'm not sure, but I don't think OLN stands for “Over Lincoln, Nebraska).

While Romero may not be much of a challenger, the chances are always better that 108-pounders, and all their little brethren, will be more dazzling than the plodding heavyweights. Viloria will be paid proportionally to his size, not to his ability. The “Hawaiian Punch,” the prerequisite nickname of all fighters from the 50th State though Viloria's roots are deep in the Philippines, where he spent most of his first five years (his father said he couldn't find babysitters in Hawaii), will make maybe $80,000 this week; the heavyweights are both on the other side of seven figures.

Arum tries for some shtick. He poses for pictures in the main ring between his “smallest” champion, Viloria, and his “biggest,” Rahman. Then he suggests that Rahman pick up Viloria. Easily done and Rahman cradles the flyweight in his arms. Not that many minutes earlier, Caplan himself had done it. The XXXL publicist suggests Rahman try picking up someone his own size.

Naturally, anything so uplifting can not last in boxing. Once upon a time, Arum paid junior flyweights, or whatever you call the 108-pound class, a million dollars each – Olympian Mike Carbajal vs. Mexico's popular Humberto (Chiquita) Gonzalez in a unification bout.

“That was all built up,” Arum says, pointing to Carbajal's Olympic pedigree and Gonzalez becoming a star in Los Angeles at the Forum. That big fight, and the second and third acts that ensued, was virtually readymade. Arum didn't have to go to the whip to build up interest. Times have changed for the little guys, just as they have for the large ones.

There may be a future big bout – though certainly not $1 million each – if Ivan Calderon, another Arum fighter, moves up from 105 pounds, or if Viloria goes up to 112 and meets another little Arum star, Jorge Arce. But fight promoters must be visionaries. Arum has his eyes on Japan.

“They've got a kid over there, named Kameda (first name Koki), 19 years old, just won a title,” says Arum, “well, they gave it to him.”

“A total rob job,” says Viloria.

Arum says Kameda is so big in Japan he got a 52.9 TV rating – meaning more than half the sets in the country were watching him against Venezuela's Juan Landaeta.

“He's bigger than Mike Tyson was, he's the self-proclaimed Muhammad Ali of Japan,” says Viloria.

“I'm going to have Viloria say he'll fight him for nothing, to get even for what the Japanese did to the Filipinos,” says Arum.

“We have another legit angle, Pearl Harbor,” interjects Gittelsohn.

“We can have Douglas MacArthur come back,” Caplan suggests to his boss, the promoter who orchestrated the second comings of such heavyweights as George Foreman and Buster Douglas, though no one heard either say “I shall return” when they left boxing the first time.

“We can get someone to wear the sunglasses, hold the corn-cob pipe,” says Caplan, really into it now.

“He can be walking in water,” says Arum, conjuring up the staged photos of MacArthur going ashore.

Viloria is laughing. He does not walk on water, though he is a carpenter's son. His father, Ben, says “he could be anything, he got A grades in high school. He could have played soccer, any sport, but boxing got him into college.”

Viloria went to Northern Michigan, where trainer Al Mitchell runs a boxing camp, and though he majored in journalism, he knows better now. Now he is more interested in films, “producing or directing.” I can see him and Arum studying “Tora, Tora, Tora” together.

On the other side of the clean, well-lighted gym, Oleg Maskaev had been bristling about Arum's sales pitch for Saturday's heavyweight show, “America's Last Line of Defense.” Rahman is the only one of the four alphabet soup heavyweight champions from the United States. The other three – Wladimir Klitschko, Sergei Liahkovich and Nicolai Valuev – are from the former Soviet Union, as is Maskaev.

But Maskaev, unlike his former paisans, is now an American citizen. He lives in Staten Island, a rather red county in the midst of the blue sea that is New York City. He wryly resents being casted as the “foreigner,” saying that no matter who wins Saturday, an American will still hold at least one heavyweight title.

“Arum wants to keep fighting the Cold War,” Maskaev said.

War is hell, but the profiteers have their little golden linings. The boxing promoter, whose profession is to pay people to punch each other's heads for fun and profit, can rattle sabers when needed. The Cold War is for heavyweights. Junior flyweights get World War II.

Viloria doesn't mind. “Whatever it takes,” he says. He is not complaining about the $80,000 he's getting this week. Big fights, he says, “need two guys.”

Arum is saying maybe he'll take Viloria and Kameda to China, Hong Kong. He's been talking about Rahman, if he gets past Maskaev this time, fighting this fall in China, maybe in Macao, the former Portuguese enclave down the coast from Hong Kong where Arum's good Vegas buddy, Steve Wynn, is opening a casino.

Say this, Arum gets Kameda and what figures to be loads of Japanese TV money, there's no telling how high Viloria will jump.

PENTHOUSE: The Marquez brothers, for all the mismanagement by Nacho Beristain, are awfully good to watch and last weekend's Showtime doubleheader was better than usual. They were each in with tough, competent opposition – Rafael knocking out Silence Mabuza for a second time, though the South African had some nice moments. Then Juan Manuel, who had been showing signs of slippage, was more entertaining than ever in stopping Terdsak Jandong despite a nearly shut right eye. Beristain is obviously a brilliant trainer and hopefully new promoter Gary Shaw will keep the boys busy. Also fun to watch was Kassim Ouma, who showed Sechew Powell what life is like in the big leagues. The kid should profit from the loss, though. Now he knows what it means to stand up to pressure three minutes a round, every round.

OUTHOUSE: What were the judges watching? Or what was Harold Lederman seeing? Watching on the tube, I also thought Ike Quartey had won his crossroads bout with Vernon Forrest, but only by a point or two (one round, I lost the picture), including the uncalled for point deduction by Referee Arthur Mercante Jr. for an accidental low blow landed by Forrest. But to me, the result was no robbery – just a matter of disagreement. Neither mid-thirties guy looked like a serious player in the junior middleweight division, but both will get another nice payday (maybe even in a rematch). So who is in the OUTHOUSE? Anyone who scored this fight, like Lederman, by 5 points for one guy.

HOLY COW: Evander Holyfield turned down $100,000 to fight some shlub on the Roy Jones Jr. pay-per-view show from Boise, Idaho, in favor of promoting his own card next Friday in Dallas against the unesteemed Jeremy Bates. Guess what? The 43-year-old Holyfield, who also promotes, will probably make well over $500,000 – foreign TV and sponsorships making up $250,000, and this was before Fox Sports Network came aboard. It's hard to envision anyone having to hold a fundraising dinner for perhaps the second biggest earner in ring history, but when you have to staff a $38 million mansion – 109 rooms, 54,000 square feet – a half-million here or there doesn't hurt.

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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