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Articles of 2006

Fighting at the crossroads

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This is the boxing spectrum. Two world champions climb into the ring and go to war for 45 minutes and earn more money than most can imagine. Two four-round fighters climb into the same ring and trade vicious punches for less money than Donald Trump spends on shoes.

In between those two destinations is the fighter’s journey. And along that journey young fighters meet old fighters. Sometimes the timing of that meeting is perfect and you see a fantastic and competitive fight. Of course, sometimes experience wins the day and sometimes youth steals the show. Along the way you also learn about the pain that comes with boxing. The pain isn’t always in an acute physical form. There is mental anguish and that can hurt so much more because the fighter gives so much to boxing but often takes so little out of it.

Most of this was on display recently at Madison Square Garden’s Theater, that flashy little venue for those contests not deemed big enough for the main arena. In the main event, former world champion Ike Quartey lost a very close decision to another former world champion, Vernon Forrest. Clearly, the disappointment, the agony of that decision hurt far more than any of the blows Forrest landed.

Then, earlier in the night, we saw Jaidon Codrington, the brilliant 21-year-old super middleweight prospect who is still coming back from that other kind of pain. Last November he was knocked cold in one round by Allen Green in a nationally televised bout. This would be his third fight since that loss and by far the toughest.

For most, fighting in the Theater is a step up. And two weeks ago, Codrington was ready to take another step up. There to provide that step would be former WBA junior middleweight champion Carl Daniels.

“This is the kind of guy he should be fighting,” said Codrington’s trainer, Nirmal Lorrick.

It was a typical scenario, one that demonstrates the harsh, live-for-the-present mentality that has fueled boxing for decades. Codrington was the young lion on the way up and Daniels was the sacrificial veteran on the way down. The only thing left to be taken by the 35-year-old Daniels was the punches.

Codrington is known in boxing circles as “The Don,” and they literally summoned him to the ring with the subtle strains of a trumpeter, who stood inside the ring while blowing the theme from “The Godfather.”

They summoned Carl Daniels to the ring – to New York, to climb back into harm’s way – with a payday. Their purses were in the range of $3,000 to $4,000 for this six-round fight. That’s a good night’s pay for a preliminary fighter but a pittance of what Daniels fought for during his heyday. This was a man who made six figures in some very high-profile bouts. The cash he put in his pocket on this night afforded him the luxury – so to speak – of a few more months before accepting that job on a construction site.

The Don arrived from Queens with his entourage, his fans, his gaggle of cornermen and all the hype and expectations that travel with a future world champion. Daniels arrived from St. Louis with his suitcase. At the weigh-in, he ran into Ross Thompson, a boxing acquaintance, and asked him to work his corner. He also sought out George Mitchell, New York’s cutman-for-hire, to assist in the corner. Daniels walked into the ring without a robe, instead wearing a black t-shirt. Mitchell was still wearing a cornerman’s jacket with the name Pat Mwamba scripted across the back. Mitchell had worked his corner earlier in the evening.

Across the ring, Codrington was loosening up in a matching robe and trunks and all his cornermen had matching jackets. That’s the same way Daniels once entered the ring for a fight.

Codrington has the kind of amateur pedigree that makes promoters and managers salivate. He won a New York Golden Gloves title and a National Golden Gloves title while building a 73-9 record. He is fast and he can punch, a rare combination in our sport. Do you want to know what boxing people thought while assessing Codrington’s natural ability before he turned pro? Here’s a hint: Try to imagine what must have run through the mind of that baseball scout for the Yankees after the first time he saw Mickey Mantle on a ball field.

$$$$$$$.

Now you understand Codrington’s potential.

Once the bell rings, Codrington sets the tone. He is faster and stronger and better. He is boxing beautifully. A residual effect from his knockout loss to Green cannot be found.

This would be one of those times when youth steals the show.

“I was happy,” said matchmaker Joe Quiambao, the man promoter Lou DiBella has trusted to advance Codrington’s career. “Carl Daniels was in shape. He had a month to prepare for this fight, he didn’t take this at the last minute. He called me once a week to tell me how he was training.”

This made Quiambao, himself a former Golden Gloves champ, happy because he knew that Codrington would be tested. How much he would be tested is that important subtlety in the art of matchmaking. On this night, Quiambao perfected that art.

Daniels came to fight, he upheld that ethic that all fighters carry into the ring. Never quit. And Daniels was certainly not going to quit, no matter how much speed or power was displayed by Codrington.

But this is the catch, he wasn’t going to win either. Unless there was some kind of fluke knockout, Codrington was going to be tested just enough without jeopardizing his future.

Here’s why: Daniels was throwing punches through a filter and that filter was age. His punches were slow and muffled. Think of a man throwing punches under water and you’ll get a sense of the difference between the punches Daniels threw at The Theater as opposed to those he threw in his prime.

Yet there came a moment, in the third round, when Daniels wasn’t restricted by age or ring rust and his punches were moving the way they did 10 years ago. At this moment, Quiambao and DiBella and about 1,000 fans who paid their way to see “The Don” experienced something a little queasy in the stomach. And it wasn’t the dirty-water dogs they were selling outside of the Garden.

All of a sudden, Daniels drove home a left hand and Codrington felt what it was like to be in the ring with a world champion. He retreated. Could this happen to Codrington again? Youth was on the run. A better fighter may have been able to finish the deal right there. Or, more precisely, a younger Carl Daniels.

But this was Codrington’s night. He recovered quite nicely and regained control of the round and the fight. Daniels never threatened that golden future again. “He never really hurt me,” said Codrington. “The punch landed straight on my eye and it affected my vision. The fact that you noticed it, and that Daniels noticed it means I didn’t do my job. You are never supposed to let the other guy know you are hurt.”

Added Quiambao: “He got stung with a left hand and Carl looked like he was coming on. Then Jaidon took the fight back. Jaidon did what he was supposed to do, which is beat guys like this without much trouble.”

The phrase “Guys like this” means Daniels has become a steppingstone. He’s lost six straight now and seven out of nine since challenging Bernard Hopkins for the middleweight title in 2002. Each of the last six losses were against prospects or contenders with an average age of 25 and a combined record of 91-5.

It was a unanimous decision for Codrington. The scores by all three judges were 60-54, which means “The Don” won every round on every card to improve his record to 12-1. Daniels record is now 49-10-1.

“They said [Codrington] was struggling to comeback from a setback,” said Daniels. “I didn’t see it. I think he has his stuff together. He has potential. I think he’s very good.

I think he can box. They said he was good boxer and he was.”

This is another cruel irony of boxing, one that leaves many ambivalent. You want to like both of these guys. After the fight, they had nice things to say about each other. They are what athletes should be – respectful, intelligent, earnest. You’d prefer that the conversation take place over dinner somewhere where you could talk about things far less dangerous than boxing.

Daniels was asked what he would be doing if he wasn’t boxing. He spoke about carpentry and a construction job that he once held, “I was pretty good at it,” he said.

You want to care about Daniels and Codrington and when a man steps into the ring you know that at some point he is going to get hurt. That’s what hurts most when you cover this sport. But at same time, you know, that’s what boxing is all about. It’s been said so many times by so many fighters, “This is a hurt business.”

Here’s why this fight hurts more than most. If Daniels’ punches were filtered, so too was his vision. Not that the New York State Athletic Commission would have noticed when it issued him the standard pre-fight eye examination. Daniels passed that one. But what he can’t see is that his sport has passed him by.

“I just want to find out and see what I can still do,” said Daniels. “I’ve been a world champion. I want to see what else is left for me. But I won’t be taking any more fights at super middleweight. I’m more comfortable at middleweight. That’s where I belong.”

Is it? Is the ring where Daniels really belongs? Does he fight on for the glory and at the same time risk his mental faculties, risk the ability to even consider a job on a construction site? When these two men stepped into the ring, they were each risking their future. Codrington’s risk was immediate. But the longer Daniels takes these punches, the riskier his own future becomes.

The sport that Daniels loves, the sport that made him exactly who he is, has left him. It is a sport for the young. But how do you tell a man to stop doing what it is that has defined him to the world? How do you tell him to stop being the man he is?

“I told Daniels after the fight that I respected him and that I appreciated the chance to fight him,” said Codrington. “Without guys like him, there wouldn’t be guys like me.”

That is precisely the point. That is a question that boxing has been struggling with for decades. The young overcome the old in this game just as often as the strong overcome the weak. Perhaps if George Foreman didn’t shock the world and win the heavyweight title at the age of 45 to culminate an improbable comeback, we would have less men fighting past their primes. But what if someone told Foreman, “No, you are too old.” Then boxing – sports in general – would have been denied one of the greatest stories of the last 50 years.

We don’t know what will become of Codrington, if he will fulfill all that potential. We already know what Daniels became – a champion of the world. What he becomes from here is unclear. What he becomes from here is a scarier proposition than anything Codrington did to him over six rounds in The Theater.

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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