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Articles of 2006

On Paper, Rock and No Scissors

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LAS VEGAS, Aug. 11 – Trainers come, trainers go. The Rock remains as solid as quicksand, as steadfast as a yo-yo.

It is the only reason I can think of that the odds on tomorrow night’s fight at the Thomas & Mack favor Hasim Rahman by only minus $2 over Oleg Maskaev and don’t give me 1999.

On paper, this is a minus $5 fight, and who cares if Maskaev put Jim Lampley’s lap between The Rock and the hard place of the Atlantic City floor. On paper, this is a $50 pay-per-view ripoff.

Maskaev, now 37, went on from his spectacular 1999 knockout of Rahman to be knocked out in three of his next seven starts. His longtime trainer advised him to retire. Instead, he hooked up with the son of the man who had poor Gerry Cooney and his chronic sore shoulder punching walls. Maskaev has now won ten straight against opposition that began with Erol Sadikovski and ended with Sinan Sam.

Win, lose or draw, Rahman has gone on from 1999 to face people like Lennox Lewis, Evander Holyfield, David Tua, John Ruiz, Monte Barrett and James Toney. It shouldn’t be much of a match, despite the 1999 result.

Yes, Maskaev’s right hand is still dangerous, especially since Rahman has not grown another chin. But the underlying cause of the low odds, I believe, was best expressed by The Rock’s trainer, Eddie Futch disciple Thell Torrence, before their last fight, the draw last March 18 against James Toney:

“I’m not worried about James Toney,” Torrence said. “I’m worried about Rock.”

Was he ever right. He had devised a perfect game plan, and kept reminding Rahman between rounds, of just using his jab and staying away from the out-of-shape counter-punching master. Rahman should have won every round, easily. Instead, he got it in his head he wanted to beat Toney at his own game, fighting on the inside, and was lucky to wind up with a draw.

This fight, Torrence said, “Rock’s jab should be a very effective weapon.” Rahman could probably win with just that punch. Ah, but we’re talking about The Rock. So maybe it is a contest.

“Everything works off the jab,” said Rahman. “He’s going to be a bloody mess after the first round.”

Of course, there’s always the 1999 knockout. Dennis Rappaport, Maskaev’s promoter, says Rahman wakes up every morning in a cold sweat after dreaming about it.

“Dennis Rappaport is like a locust,” said Rahman, always one of boxing’s best quotes, “he returns every 17 years.”

Kelly Swanson, Rahman’s publicist, shook her head: “It’s a cicada,” she corrected.

The real bug though is whether the knockout almost seven years ago bothers Rahman.

“It’s over,” said Torrence. ‘I haven’t seen any indication that there’s any effect.”

Rahman explains away the 1999 result by reminding everyone that, knowing Maskaev had been knocked out in one round by Oliver McCall (it was the former Soviet amateur star’s seventh pro fight), HBO had provided “a gimme” when it came up with a late substitution for the injured Kirk Johnson, his original opponent.

Rahman said he broke camp three weeks before the fight to help celebrate a daughter’s birthday and didn’t bother returning. It was as easy as he thought when he piled up a clear margin after seven rounds. “One round, I had him gone,” Rahman said. “He spit his mouthpiece out.”

But then he got hit. It was a right hand and, he said the other day, “it was the first time I’ve really been hurt. The next punch was just icing on the cake.”

Maskaev moved right in and landed the highlight reel shot that sent Rahman threw the ropes, ricocheting off Jim Lampley and with a crash of the back of his head on the floor.

Someone asked what it felt like to be knocked out like that.

“Surely you don’t think I remember?” The Rock replied. “I was out when I went through the ropes.”

No, he doesn’t sound too perturbed about his history with Maskaev. But then, The Rock could always talk, could always find excuses. Evander Holyfield was butting him from the beginning, finally creating “another head on my head” in reference to the grotesque swelling that forced the bout to be halted. His stoppage by David Tua, in their first meeting, was “bogus,” he said – and indeed, he was well ahead though probably on his way to being knocked out when Tua clocked him after the bell ending the ninth round. Tua should have been disqualified, or the fight should have gone to the scorecards. Instead, it resumed and the still-groggy Rahman was stopped early in the tenth.

But for the rematch, he actually showed up in worse shape than did Tua, almost as if he had James Toney as his conditioning coach. For his horrible 12-round performance against John Ruiz, “something happened the day of the fight.” For the Lennox Lewis rematch, which he said was “legit,” he said he had been “sleepwalking, daydreaming.”

“If I’m in shape, it’s hard to deal with me,” he said.

He’s in shape. He weighed in at 235 pounds yesterday, only one more than he did seven years ago for Maskaev. But his conqueror, at 238, was only two pounds heavier than he was in 1999. He’s in shape, too.

In a very real sense, Rahman could be grateful for his loss to Maskaev. Only 17 months later, he knocked out Lennox Lewis with one right hand to strike gold in South Africa.

“Sometimes,” he said, “a loss can be better than a win. I’ve seen guys land title shots after they lose.”

Victor Valle Jr., Maskaev’s trainer, says his man has improved dramatically since 1999. Maybe, but Maskaev hasn’t proven that against anyone in the major leagues. Rahman, too, can claim to be improved.

“I can adopt to fighters much better than I used to,” he said. “Inconsistency is definitely in the past.”

Without looking past Maskaev, he looks past Maskaev and says – like the challenger – he would like next to go after Wladimir Klitschko, the biggest name among the three other titleholders.

Klitschko has a card set for HBO in November. Rahman said he could be ready. “I’ll be able to fight in September,” he said.

He has no interest in Sergei Liahkovich, the Belarussian who upset Lamon Brewster for one title earlier this year. “Lamon makes guys look much better than they are,” he said.

The 7-foot-2 Russian, Nicolai Valuev, who beat John Ruiz for a belt, “once fought on one of my undercards. He’s getting better and if he doesn’t want to play for the Sixers, he might get a shot.”

Of course, there’s always a rematch with Toney. “He has to get past Samuel Peter first (Sept. 2),” said Rahman. “He should – easily.”

Evander Holyfield doesn’t think so. “Toney is definitely a clever fighter,” said the hardy perennial on the phone from Shreveport, La., where he was trumpeting his return next Friday in Dallas against Jeremy Bates. “But he’s going to have problems. Sammy, he swings down, so you really can’t duck him. It’s like George Foreman and Joe Frazier. George kept hitting him on the top of the head. Even if you think you’re ducking, you’re going to get, in the back of the head, on top the head.”

For the record, Holyfield picks Rahman tomorrow. “I would like for him to win,” he said.

Me, I like both contestants. They’re both joys to talk to, good people. On paper, Rahman should have it easy. But frankly, I don’t give a damn who wins as long as they both make money, nobody gets hurt and Bob Arum stops waving flags.

PENTHOUSE: Omar Nino, in his first fight outside Mexico, upset Brian Viloria last night at the Orleans here and it wasn’t close. Nino, who has been stopped twice in his career but also holds a victory over Jorge Arce, was in complete control of the 108-pound title bout after the opening round and won by scores of 118-1l0, 117-112 and 117-111. Off television, I had it 117-111. It’s good for the game every now and then for the popular house fighter to not only lose, but for the judges – Adelaide Byrd, Chuck Giampa and Mark Green of Britain – to see it clearly….Also, credit Wallace Matthews on OLN (Our Lady of Nookie?) to point out in the second or third round that the funk Viloria was in looked like it was going to be a major upset….I’d say it was almost as big as Carlos Baldomir beating Zab Judah, but Viloria was hardly as respected as the bling king from Brooklyn.

OUTHOUSE: Bob Arum, who was trumpeting Viloria for a major payday against Koki Kameda in Japan. Sometimes, you shouldn’t start promoting big fights before your guy gets past the man he’s first facing. Remember, Bob, how Tommy Morrison was going on to face Lennox Lewis until you put him in – at my suggestion, I might add – with Michael Bentt?

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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