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Articles of 2006

What’s The Real Deal On Holyfield’s Comeback And The Man Running The Show?

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There were hints, little things that made Lester Bedford think he wouldn’t be a part of Team Real Deal for much longer while he was overseeing the Evander Holyfield fight last week in Dallas.

The event marketer got a call from a matchmaker a few weeks ago, asking about opponents for Holyfield’s next fight, and the matchmaker was someone who’d done work for the promoter Murad Muhammad.

Bedford is now in his third decade in this business and had heard, like everyone else, about Muhammad’s dealings with Manny Pacquiao and Roy Jones, and how he’d been ditched from each affiliation.

But Bedford shrugged the queasy feeling in his stomach and the tinkling warning bells in his head, and went back to work packing people in to American Airlines Arena to watch the 43-year-old comeback kid beat on an insurance salesman from West Virginia.

Bedford tried to placate his worries when he asked George Hutson, the director of business development for a Texas law firm who was working with Holyfield from a negotiating/legal angle, if there was anything he should know? No, Bedford says Hutson told him, everything’s the same. Just keep doing what you’re doing, look ahead to a Sept. 30 date in San Antonio. Holyfield’s trainer, Ronnie Shields, was also kept in the dark about the change in status, Bedford said, and also about the speed of Holyfield’s comeback and level of opposition as he attempts to line up a title shot.

So Bedford went back to work, making sure all the ads were out for the fight, performing PR for the event with due diligence.

But the queasy feeling turned in to a full-on stomachache when he got a load of Hutson after Holyfield took care of business against Jeremy Bates on Friday, according to Bedford. Hutson took on the role of manager/promoter, in effect, when he took the mike and rattled on about Holyfield’s next outing, which in fact had not been locked down, against 26-3 Turk Sinan Samil Sam. This was before Holyfield had a chance to address the media, who were eager to hear from the comeback “kid,” and were aching to get some quotes to make late deadlines.

Bedford pulled Hutson aside and confronted him in a heated manner in a hallway at the post-bout press conference and asked him what gives? Bedford already knew that he was expendable, basically, as the promoter Muhammad was in attendance, but he wanted to be told to his face, to be given that consideration. “This is what Evander wants to do,” Hutson replied.

Evander may well not know that Muhammad, a former member of Muhammad Ali’s entourage who sometimes said he was a bodyguard for The Greatest, was accused of bilking Manny Pacquiao out of millions of dollars. The Real Deal may be unaware that the IRS swooped down on Pacquiao to snatch up a portion of his purse money for fighting Erik Morales because his taxes were not paid on his earnings, as he was promised. Muhammad was accused of acting in concert with Pacquiao’s business managers in forming a shell company, and deducting 30% from Pac man’s earnings to pay the taxes, but never actually performing the task.  

The whole mess went to the courts in April 2005, with Pacquiao filing a $33 million breach of contract and was settled minutes before the case went to a jury in June 2005, with Muhammad paying $800,000 to Pacquiao. Muhammad also agreed to let Pacquiao pursue another promotional situation, with whom he’d been aligned since 2001.

Bedford, a man who has done promotional work on more than 100 title fights, paints a picture of Hutson as a neophyte in the game, who may too be unaware of the recent negativity surrounding Muhammad and his dealings. To be succinct, Bedford thinks he has been screwed by Hutson, who he says had never been to a live boxing event before the Dallas show.

“Big time,” he tells TSS. “I found out I had been dumped at the press conference. I was made out to be the bad guy. I’m a good team player. I was a good soldier.”

Some whispers may have been tossed at Holyfield, Bedford theorizes, to try and convince the fighter that the event marketer wasn’t wholly on the up and up. Also, he heard grumbling from Holyfield’s new crew that the last press conference, on Tuesday, wasn’t at the arena, but was a twenty-minute drive from the venue, at the Texas Motor Speedway.

Regardless, Bedford will protect his interests. As he hasn’t been paid for his efforts, he has alerted an attorney to be on the ready so he can recoup what he is owed.

Clearly, Bedford knows to his core that he did a bangup job with the promotion, convincing 9,127 people to pay to see a sparring sesh, and lobbying Fox to air the event. He is stung by the turn of events and while he won’t pin the hard-hearted dealings on Holyfield, his image of the fighter has definitely been affected.

“If you’re in the big leagues,” Bedford says, “and you hit .385, you don’t expect to be released.”

TSS called Hutson to get his side of the story. I left messages on his office voicemail and on his cell phone on Tuesday during the day, letting him know I wanted to get the scoop on Holyfield’s forthcoming plans. I heard nothing on Tuesday, so I tried again Wednesday.

I left a more specific message, saying that I wanted to give Hutson the opportunity to answer some negative press that appeared about him in the San Antonio and Atlanta press. He got my voicemail and called me back after 3 PM on Wednesday. All questions regarding Holyfield’s direction will be answered at a press conference next week and as for the negative stories, Hutson said, there would be no comment.

I called him back, leaving a voicemail saying that I wanted to at least get the scoop on who he is, so I can inform readers who the man leading Real Deal Promotions is. He called back quickly.

“The bottom line is I have no comment on the negative stories. Evander is the guy who makes the decisions on Real Deal events, I take directions from him,” Hutson said. He was virtually in filibuster mode, barely pausing to take a breath. When I got an opportunity to speak, I asked him about his background.

“So, you are an attorney at a law firm?” I asked.

“That’s irrelevant to what we’re doing here,” Hutson said. “That’s not the issue.”

The credentials of the person directing the career path of the iconic, four-time heavyweight champion, a man revered in some circles for his boundless faith and status as a warrior for Christian values, are not relevant?

“I’m curious because I don’t know your name from boxing circles,” I told him, and one of the printed pieces referred to Holyfield’s advisory crew, apart from Bedford, as ‘inexperienced boxing people.’

Hutson kept his cool, but stayed on message, as curious and cryptic as it appeared to be.

“You don’t need to know me from the boxing scene,” he said. “I appreciate you called me numerous times…”

I had no more time or interest in this time-wasting exercise, so we parted ways on that note.

My questions to Hutson, about his suitability to act as a spokesman for Holyfield, or act as a negotiator for him; or whether or not trainer Ronnie Shields had ever been informed that a fight with Sinan Samil Sam was in the works; or if Murad Muhammad would be part of the new Holyfield promotional entity that Bedford had advised him to set up; or if Bedford had been mislead about Holyfield’s near-future plans; or if Holyfield knew that Muhammad had to settle a court case with Manny Pacquiao, went unasked, and unanswered.

Just know that we tried to get all sides of the story, but were rebuffed.

Bottom line, we all know this is business. And just because Lester Bedford apparently did a bangup for Holyfield it doesn’t mean he will be rewarded for his excellence. That is quite likely not fair. Life seldom is. But one has to wonder about Holyfield’s state of mind as he attempts the seemingly impossible, a fifth heavyweight title, at an advanced age and years of declining skills. He fashions himself as a man of God, who follows a higher set of principles than the average man, and so his dealings are judged accordingly. From my vantage point, with the information that has been given to me, I can only conclude that Lester Bedford got screwed over. Hey, you can argue, that’s business for you. But this is Evander Holyfield, a man who should know and do better.

Are Holyfield’s stated beliefs the Real Deal, or not?

Or are his beliefs, in context with his recent actions, irrelevant?

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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