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Articles of 2006

Dennis the Menace Turns Into Fairy Godfather for Coal Miner’s Son



LAS VEGAS, Aug. 10 – The trainer who advised Oleg Maskaev to retire “because of my concern for his welfare and health,” who “lost confidence walking up the steps with him,” who worried for the fighter’s wife and four children, hasn’t changed his mind about what he did four years ago.

But Bob Jackson thinks Maskaev will again knock out Hasim Rahman in two nights at the Thomas & Mack Center. “I’ll be rooting for him, too,” he said from his base at Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn. “I love him.”

Maskaev is difficult not to love, a playful bear of a man despite Bob Arum's, Rahman’s promoter, attempt to picture him as some sort of robotic Ivan Drago fighter off the Soviet assembly line. Not that Maskaev resembles his own promoter’s attempt to paint him as boxing’s latest “Cinderella.”

“He’s got a wonderful sense of humor, very wry,” said Jackson, who suggested Maskaev retire in 2002 after the fighter suffered his fifth loss by knockout, this one to Corey Sanders – not the South African who once stopped Wladimir Klitschko, but the Maryland journeyman, “T-Rex,” who has been a frequent sparring partner for Rahman over the years.

According to Jackson, who with his late partner Al Gavin shared the James J. Walker Award for “long and meritorious service to boxing,” most of the denizens at Gleason’s not only will be rooting, but they’ll be believing the fable spun by Dennis the Menace.

Imagine Saddam Hussein as Santa Claus. That’s Dennis Rappaport playing fairy godfather for the son of a Russian coal miner.

It’s been a quarter-century since Rappaport, as Gerry Cooney’s co-manager, helped Don King turn the Larry Holmes-Cooney heavyweight title fight into a battle of the races. There seems no point now in opening old wounds. Rappaport seems to have mellowed. It would not surprise me if his association with Maskaev was responsible.

There is something clean and honest about the Kazakhstan-born son of Russian emigrants. Rappaport said Maskaev may have been the worst mismanaged fighters – in his seventh pro fight, he was thrown in with Oliver McCall in McCall’s first fight since losing the heavyweight title to Frank Bruno. His original backers padded his record with six victories, allegedly scored in old Soviet haunts. Maskaev refuted them from the start.

“They were made up,” he said.

He grew up on an organic farm in Kazakhstan. His father was also the foreman in a coal mine and got young Oleg a job there, greasing the rails for the trams carrying the ore to the top. One day, a cable broke and the coal-laden trolley came roaring down the track, straight at Maskaev. There was hardly any room, but he managed to squeeze himself against one wall, thinking, “You know, boxing may not be so dangerous.”

At 18, he walked out of the mines and enlisted in the Soviet Army. “Less of a chance of being sent to Siberia,” he said with his dry delivery. He became a lieutenant, but boxing was his main job. In one military tournament, he met a Ukraine officer named Vitali Klitschko and knocked him out in the first round.

Maskaev could always punch.

He had visited the United States with a Soviet amateur team in 1991. Four years later, he decided to move to what he perceived as the promised land, with his wife and three children.

He settled in Staten Island, the most Republican bastion in all of New York City. Where in Staten Island, I asked the other day, since I have family there.

“Right in the middle,” he said. “New Jersey on the left, Manhattan on the right.”

Four years after arriving here, after suffering knockout losses to McCall and David Tua, he was a late substitute – for Kirk Johnson – on an HBO card and faced Rahman. He was coming off an operation on his right hand and during the third round he injured it again, which would necessitate further surgery after the bout.

He was trailing on all cards after seven rounds of that 1999 bout in Atlantic City. In his own mind, though, he said “I wasn’t behind, I believe the fight was even. I remember we were hurting each other.”

In the eighth round, he landed a big right hand that badly hurt Rahman, “that’s for sure, and I was looking for a way to knock him out.” He followed up with another right that sent the unconscious Rahman through the ropes, briefly onto Jim Lampley, and then to the floor with a crack of the head.

Less than a year and a half later, Rahman would knock out Lennox Lewis with one punch and become heavyweight champion of the world. By that time, Maskaev had been knocked out by Kirk Johnson and Lance Whitaker.

When he was stopped by Corey Sanders in 2002, Bob Jackson suggested he find other gainful employment. Jackson said it was not so much that Maskaev had lost faith in himself. “But I lost confidence,” he said. “I couldn’t go up the steps with him that way.”

Almost automatically, Maskaev would still show up at Gleason’s. Victor Valle Jr., whose father had trained Cooney for Rappaport, would see the “lonely looking figure” in the gym, “he looked like he was crying.”

Valle, 54, worked with his father, not only with Cooney, but with Billy Costello, Wilford Scypion, Eddie Davis, Jose Nieto and Vince Costello. He knew Maskaev had been with Jackson and asked the trainer about taking over the fighter. Jackson gave him his blessing. Jackson knows Valle is, like his father, a good person, though he doesn’t appreciate Junior telling people Maskaev didn’t know how to fight before.

Valle went over with some pads and began to work with Maskaev. To his surprise, he said, he discovered a fighter with sharp reflexes, intelligence and, of course, the big punch. He told Rappaport about Maskaev and in six months, with manager Fred Kesch, the fighter had a new team.

If there’s one thing Rappaport knew, it was how to move a heavyweight. Victory over victory ensued, mostly knockouts, mostly against the dregs of the division. He stepped up to journeymen and somehow earned a shot at the former European champion, Sinan Simail Sam, to become the WBC mandatory challenger.

Rahman, through little fault of his own, had emerged with that title a second time. So after Maskaev scored a decisive 12-round decision over Sam in Hamburg, Germany, a rematch of a seven-year-old fight was made.

“It wasn’t easy in Germany,” said Rappaport. “We had three fistfights on the way to the ring.”

Valle said what was most impressive was the improvement as a boxer shown by Maskaev. He said it was a 3D package – discipline, defense and dancing. Maskaev, who had been somewhat stiff, can now move his feet, said Valle.

Rahman, of course, liked the idea of avenging his 1999 loss, which he blamed on leaving camp three weeks before the fight to celebrate a daughter’s birthday and not bothering to go back because he thought Maskaev was “a gimme.” Bob Arum, who always likes a “story” to help sell a fight, dredged up the flag, a la King (Don).

With the three other heavyweight titles in the grips of Ronald Reagan’s old “evil empire” – Wladimir Klitschko of the Ukraine, Nicolai Valuev of Russia and Sergei Liahkovich of Belarussia – Arum entitled the pay-per-view card “America’s Last Line of Defense,” as if patriotism would sell tickets.

This annoyed Maskaev, who two years ago proudly became an American citizen. “It’s the old Cold War again, America and Russia,” he said.

Rappaport, of course, could not let it rest at that. The entire camp wears T-shirts with Maskaev’s picture on an American flag. At yesterday’s press conference, Maskaev showed up with his certificate of citizenship. Not one word was said about Maskaev being white.

PENTHOUSE: And who would ever believe it, Dennis Rappaport! The Mellowed Menace has been behaving himself. Yes, he asked the Nevada commission to pad the area of the floor around the ring in case Rahman was launched again, and yes, he revealed Rahman woke up in cold sweats after dreaming of Maskaev (and how would you know that, Dennis?). But that’s all in the line of duty. I give Maskaev’s innate decency credit for part of the reformation.

OUTHOUSE: Hey, if Rappaport is in the other place, there’s no one who could possibly replace him here.

Articles of 2006

Peter/Toney Ii: Peter Has The Brutal Punch



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, 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



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


Chris John (Indonesia) #1
In Jin Chi (Korea) #3
Takashi Koshimoto (Japan) #5
Hioyuki Enoki (Japan) #7

Jr. Featherweight

Somsak Sithchatchawal (Thailand) #4


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


Pongsaklek Wonjongkam (Thailand) #1
Takefumi Sakata (Japan) #7
Daisuke Naito (Japan) #10

Jr. Flyweight

Koki Kameda (Japan) #1


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



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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