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Articles of 2006

Sorry, More About Heavyweights – But Not as Sorry as They Are

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LAS VEGAS, Aug. 30 –When John L. Sullivan walked into a saloon and declared, “I can lick any man in the house,” it was obviously not because he was the gay white hope. He was verbalizing just why the public – especially American and British – are most attracted to the heavyweight division. The heavyweight champion, the Great John L. pronounced, was simply the toughest s.o.b. in the world. Here, before Bruce Lee, Bruce Willis and mixed martial arts, was the guy no one would mess with, not even with kryptonite-loaded gloves.

We’ve come a long way, baby. Down. The big guys keep getting bigger, the fascination with them remains, but the bigger they are, the easier they are to keep in perspective. The flagship may not have completely sunk, but it has sailed away, kind of like how today’s consensus No. 1 heavyweight champion, Wladimir Klitschko, does from danger (see Samuel Peter, DaVarryl Williamson et al). Muhammad Ali moved, yes, but the better to set up angles from which to attack. The Great John L. was not a skittish fighter.

At least, James Toney won’t run from Samuel Peter this Saturday night in what I’m fearful has been overhyped as an “intriguing” Showtime heavyweight matchup from the Staples Center in Los Angeles. We know Toney can’t run. There aren’t too many fighters who pose in the gym with giant-sized cakes, the way James did the other day with a tribute to his 38th birthday. For Toney, it probably was just another cupcake, of the type Dan Goossen likes to give all his fighters.

Peter is no cupcake, but he’s not exactly the classic gateau framboise I remember from Allard’s on the Left Bank (we’ll get around to Paris and A.J. Liebling later, promise). He is as crude and as obvious as an upside down lump of unrefined sugar. This doesn’t make him a bad guy, but the winner Saturday is promised Oleg Maskaev next and it does not behoove the division to have as one of its titular leaders someone who has yet to master the fundamentals.

I am more concerned with that than I am with what colors wave from the front yard of the champion. Only Maskaev salutes the American flag these days, but like the three other flaggots – as Toney might say – he hails from one of the former Soviet training grounds. Peter is from Nigeria. The last fully acknowledged REAL heavyweight champion was from England and Canada.

So what? As George M. would say, the Yanks are comin’.

Shannon Briggs is getting a title shot, maybe not the one he impatiently frittered away, that has gone to Calvin Brock. Monte Barrett will get another swing, to be followed by John Ruiz. Evander Holyfield is on his way back. I do not foresee that American-bred fighters will take their birthrights from these foreigners, though when mediocrity is well-matched, anything can happen, maybe even a good fight or two.

Briggs, who deserves a title shot about as much as Sedrick Fields, would have had a chance if he had gotten the Nov. 11 date with Wladimir Klitschko. It was possible he could have run right out and scared Klitschko, the way Corrie Sanders of South Africa did. Alas, Shelly Finkel put Briggs on hold while he tried to get Maskaev to come right back after his victory over Hasim Rahman. Maskaev took enough lumps in that fight, however, to make that unification bout impractical. Before Finkel could turn back to Briggs, the third – and least of the Brownsville Bombers, behind Mike Tyson and Riddick Bowe (ah, the good old days) – had signed with Don King and was looking to challenge one of the promoter’s half-share champions, Sergei Liahkovich, even though the man from Belarus, who now lives and trains in Phoenix, was not really interested.

In now appears that Liahkovich will meet Briggs –King should seek a venue in Brooklyn to capitalize on Shannon’s roots – on Nov. 4 when Showtime goes up against the pay-per-view Floyd Mayweather Jr. challenge of Carlos Baldomir in Las Vegas.

You can safely watch Showtime, instead of boxing’s best, knowing of course that on Nov. 11, when Klitschko now faces Calvin Brock at Madison Square Garden, HBO will show the tape of the welterweight fight.

Liahkovich, even though once stopped by Maurice Harris, should be able to outlast Briggs, who tires dramatically after a few rounds. Klitschko should be too big for Brock, who will find it difficult landing meaningful shots against the Ukraine’s current finest (still think the retired Vitali was better).

Before all this goes down, the 7-foot-2, or whatever, Nicolai Valuev of St. Petersburg – no, he’s not trained by Dan Birmingham, he’s from the real St. Petersburg – should play Mutt to Monte Barrett’s Jeff in Chicago on Oct. 7 for HBO. Again, Showtime has a better attraction that night – the rubber match between Diego Corrales and Joel Casamayor from Vegas.

In the meantime, of course, despite all the clamor, the division remains the Balkans of boxing. There was another disgraceful possibility of Ring magazine coming to the aid of HBO and proclaiming the winner of the possible Klitschko-Maskaev unifier as the surreal heavyweight champion.

Ring argues that all its past peccadilloes, from Nat Fleischer to Johnny Ort and beyond, does not mean that the current crop of slime is corrupt. Sorry, but when you anoint the Vitali Klitschko-Corrie Sanders fight as the determination of the title, when Sanders had not fought in 14 months, you can junk the current troika. Now, suddenly, Maskaev is ranked No. 2 by Ring, which means if he fought the magazine’s No. 1, Klitschko, it would have no choice but to do HBO’s bidding and, assuming the network’s house fighter wins, proclaim him champion.

Never mind how Maskaev, after a victory over Rahman, gets to be No. 2 – how the hell does Klitschko deserve No. 1? His last victory was over a guy Ring no longer rates in its top ten, Chris Byrd. If Byrd wasn’t that good, then why is a guy who lost to Corrie Sanders ranked ahead of a guy who lost to Corey (the Maryland version) Sanders?

Beating Rahman does not seem cause for celebration, either. The Rock managed to lose to John Ruiz, remember, and since then, who’s he beaten? Monte Barrett? Maybe losing to Ruiz is the key. Valuev is hardly ranked, possibly because he beat Ruiz (at least on the official cards, I haven’t seen the holding contest nor do I wish to). Liahkovich must have been disqualified from Ring’s consideration because he beat Lamon Brewster, who knocked out Wladimir.

The only fair way to sort this out, of course, is by having the contestants face each other. That may be fair to them, but it hardly seems fair to boxing fans, who probably would like a little more talent to watch.

Which brings us back to Saturday night’s possibly “intriguing” match between Toney and Peter, more of which will be coming later this week because I don’t get paid enough to keep writing about heavyweights in one sitting.

PENTHOUSE: It’s good having a column. I don’t have to scurry around to look for Jay Larkin’s phone number or e-mail address. I can thank him publicly by honoring him this week with a trip upstairs because he so kindly sent me a copy of a collection of A.J. Liebling essays on one of our favorite life forces, “Between Meals: An Appetite for Paris.” The former Showtime boxing chief and I shared a couple of meals in my old town….Picture on the cover, identified by the publisher as a café in Montparnasse, in fact was the famed Closerie des Lilas, where Hemingway and Liebling often stopped (not at the same time), and which was just a few steps down the boulevard from my first domicile in Paris….There’s a few mentions of boxing, one of Liebling’s other loves, in the book, including a wonderful description of Panama Al Brown, but like any gourmand I relished the food writing, though some of it almost gave me a stomachache. For example, Liebling describes a fellow doer, a French writer of comic plays from the Belle Epoque before World War I, named Yves Mirande, who was in his eighties when our hero met him. “….M. Mirande would dazzle his juniors, French and American, by dispatching a lunch of raw Bayonne ham and fresh figs, a hot sausage in crust, spindles of lamb larded with anchovies, artichokes on a pedestal of foie gras and four or five kinds of cheese, with a good bottle of Bordeau and one of champagne, after which he would call for the Armagnac and remind Madame (the proprietress) to have read for dinner the larks and ortolans she had promised him, with a few langoustes (lobsters) and a turbot – and of course, a fine civet made from the marcassin, or young, wild boar that the lover of the leading lady in his current production had sent up from his estate in the Sologne.” Adds Liebling, “And while I think of it,” I once heard him say, “we haven’t had any woodcock for days, or truffles baked in the ashes….” Go ahead, eat your hearts out at the Vegas buffets, which is what Toney looks like….Speaking of which, from the recent press conference photos, it looks like Erik Morales is moving up to cruiserweight.

OUTHOUSE: Speaking of which, I am of the minority who believe that the punishment meted out by the state of Nevada to Jose Luis Castillo for his second straight mocking of the scales was not particularly lenient. A fine of $250,000 – the maximum under the law – for a guy who hasn’t had a payday in a while is harsh, then not being able to fight for the rest of the year adds to it. Plus, Castillo is already in financial straits because of the lawsuits he faces for failing to make the contractual weight for his rubber match with Diego Corrales. Besides, if someone has trouble with the scales, far be it from to jump on.

PLUG FOR US: Two must-read pieces by my TSS colleagues: Ed Schuyler’s fond farewell to Roger Donoghue and Michael Woods’s disturbing piece on Evander Holyfield apparently dumping Lester Bedford for Murad Muhammad. Well, at least it’s nice to see a good Christian getting along with a Muslim.

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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