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Articles of 2006

Manuel Siaca, Entrenador de Campeones

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Last July 27 at the famed Velodromo Vigorelli in Milan, Manny Alejandro Siaca challenged Silvio Branco for the interim WBA light heavyweight belt. As everybody knows, Branco put on a boxing clinic and won largely on points. On that occasion, Siaca was accompanied by his own father Manuel Sr. The first time I spoke to him, I didn’t know that he is one of the most successful trainers in the business. Salvatore Cherchi informed me about that, when I met Siaca: “He trained more world champions than I can remember, he is the one who should be interviewed.”

While the other journalists were busy with Manny Alejandro, I started talking to Manuel Sr. and found out that he worked with Edwin Rosario, Leo Gamez, Esteban De Jesus, Manuel Serrano, Wilfredo Vasquez, Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, Jesus Kiki Rojas and Noel Arambulet. If Manny Alejandro did the masterpiece of winning by split decision against Anthony Mundine in Sydney (Australia) on May 5, 2004, it is largely due to the experience of his father, and the son is the first one to give his dad the credit he deserves: “My father worked with many world champions, developing most of them. He knows everything about boxing. If he tells me to follow a certain strategy, I do it without discussing.”

Like all the top guys I met during my 16 years in journalism, Manuel Sr. is a very simple man. He doesn’t speak continuously about his success because he doesn’t need to; he knows that a journalist will find out easily. He also knows that being nice is never a mistake and that’s why he is treated with respect by everybody. I got further proof of this when I met him again at the two press conferences and at the post-fight dinner. Even if his son lost, Manuel Sr. was polite and shook my hand the moment he saw me. He also gave me his numbers telling me to call him if I ever visit Puerto Rico.

I heard many theories about Branco’s win, which wasn’t supposed to be that easy. Most journalists wrote that Manny Alejandro was overrated or that he just had a bad night. Nobody wrote that Silvio was in great shape and had faced a long list of dangerous opponents; in short, Branco had the skills and the experience to become WBA light heavyweight champion again. In some fights, Branco relaxed and was KOed. He didn’t repeat that mistake on July 27 and won. He did what he had to do. On the other hand, Manny Alejandro underrated him. When I asked the young Siaca about Branco, this was the answer: “I never saw him fight, my father did and told me that Branco is a European boxer: you know what I mean, the kind of fighter who  moves a lot and doesn’t brawl. He won’t be a problem for me.”

It’s very common for American and Latin boxers to underrate Europeans, but that’s also the fastest way to lose. If a fighter doesn’t watch the tapes of his opponent, how can he study the right way to beat him? Everybody has his own strengths and weaknesses. About the Europeans’ lack of willingness to brawl, the point is if brawling is useful to win. There are many brawlers who get headlines because they always put on a great show, but are they really great? Most of them are not even average boxers. Just look at their records and you will find a long list of losses.

The all-time greats are the ones who always did the right move at the right time. Do you remember Julio Cesar Chavez vs. Meldrick Taylor? The Mexican legend knew that he needed a KO to win. Instead of brawling, he just kept at distance from Taylor preparing the big one: when the last round was almost over, Chavez launched THE PERFECT PUNCH sending down Taylor who was stopped two seconds from the final bell. Referee Richard Steele did the right thing, because he understood that Taylor was on another planet when asked him if he wanted to keep on fighting. Julio Cesar Chavez beat WBA lightweight champion Edwin Rosario by TKO 11on November 21, 1987 when Manuel Siaca Sr. was in Rosario’s corner. That’s why the famed trainer can express a judgement on both guys.

Manuel, do you think that Edwin Rosario was as good as Julio Cesar Chavez?

Chapo was as good as anybody. I met him when he was 8 years old, because he lived in my town: Toa Baja, just 10 minutes from San Juan. I understood that Edwin was talented the very first time I saw him punching the heavy bag. From 1979 to 1997, Rosario built a record of 47 wins (41 KOs) and 6 losses. He became world champion four times. In 1983/1984, he won the WBC lightweight title. In 1986/1987, in the same division, he conquered the WBA belt. In 1989/1990, he became WBA lightweight champion again. In 1991/1992, he won the WBA light welterweight crown. I consider Edwin Rosario an all-time great.

Who are the all-time greats who made you fall in love with boxing?

Even if I was born and grew up in Puerto Rico, my idols were Joe Louis and Ray Robinson. When I hear journalists making comparisons between today’s boxers and those guys, I laugh. There are so many world champions who couldn’t have shined Robinson’s shoes.

Did you ever tell your fighters to copy Robinson’s style?

No, because everybody has his own characteristics. A trainer must improve the natural skills of his fighters, not try to make them copy somebody else’s style. My son, for example, started as a volleyball player and became very good at it. One day, he told me that he wanted to become a professional boxer and win the world title. He had already built his physique in a certain way and I couldn’t wait until he made his debut. He had about 16 amateur fights and lost only a couple against a Jamaican and a Cuban whose names I don’t remember. He debuted as a professional in 1997, when he was almost 22 years old. In Latin America, usually, fighters start at 18 (many of them even at 16) because there’s no money in amateur activity. It’s not like in Europe where the boxing commission gives everything (including a daily paycheck and prizes for medals) to the fighters who make the national team. Today, in Puerto Rico they are starting to give incentives to the most talented kids to convince them to have a long amateur career. Going back to my son, he had only 15 professional bouts (14 won and 1 lost) when he traveled to France to meet WBA super middleweight champion Bruno Girard (whose record was 37-3-1). The Frenchman got a split decision, but shortly after that the WBA stripped him of the belt for refusing to give us a rematch. When my son finally won the WBA crown, he became the first-ever Puerto Rican to win the world super middleweight title.

Talking about Latinos, many of them have 50 bouts before they turn 25 while in the United States and Europe nobody fights that much. How do you explain that?

[It’s because of] the low-quality of opponents available in Latin America. Look at the records of those guys who fought 80-100 times, you won’t recognize any name among the first 50 opponents they faced. I don’t believe that a boxer should get in the ring more than five or six times a year. Also, it’s more useful fighting against the very best abroad than KOing bums at home. That’s why I told my boxers to never turn down a challenge. My son fought in Puerto Rico, Japan, Venezuela, USA, France, Australia, Denmark and Italy.

Obviously, you don’t worry about partisan verdicts.

No, because they are part of the game. I worry about other things, like the food. A fighter must be careful about what they bring him. During my three decades in boxing, I’ve seen many dirty tricks…
don’t make me add anything else!

Since the United States is the capitol of boxing, did you ever consider moving there?

When I was young, I went to the USA, entered the Navy and fought in Vietnam. After the war, I went back to Puerto Rico. Today, I live between Toa Baja and Orlando (Florida) where I bought a house.

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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