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Articles of 2006

Will Taylor do Wright by Ouma?

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Yes, we know that cable pay masters at HBO have a monogrammed play-day all made out for middleweight champion Jermain Taylor on November 25, a Lou DiBella endorsed home court special for the honorary razorback at the Alltell Arena, in Little Rock, Arkansas. The pride of Arkansas boxing would like to think he’s the kind of man of method and mayhem who could realize the serious project of filling a 20,000 seat arena. Yet, though trainer Manny Steward and promoter Lou DiBella want the champion of the middleweights to get in some punch for pay time, get a very public knockout win live on HBO and solidify the symbolic claims of his being champion – before stepping into the contractual webbing of the rematch clause with Ronald “Winky” Wright… well… da champ don’t!

Just punch out a Roy Jones Jr. special against jr. middleweight Kassim “Henry Armstrong” Ouma, that’s the combined wisdom of the mega-part of the inside team at Team Taylor, Inc. Manager to Taylor, Ozell Nelson, ducking heat better than his fighter in not telling those who inquire of him as to what his preference would be, says it’s really up to Jermain; apparently Taylor really has grown up in the last year. He’s being allowed to make his own mistakes from now on. Or so it would seem.

You do have to wonder why Taylor wouldn’t want mix it up with his little friend Kassim Ouma instead of going over to “Winky’s World” and again getting into all kinds of trouble. Wright’s feeling more than a little left out in the cold, if you are talking big money fights of historical or even momentary importance. Of course, Winky’s been feeling left out for most of his counter-hitting, slap-them-till-they’re- silly championship career. All that south-pawing talent, such a fine pedigree to his championship moniker, and yet the reality remains: Wright’s borderline boring, his significance coming to a head, if and only if he’s matched up with someone named Vargas or Mosley or Trinidad or even Taylor. That’s not to say Mr. Wright doesn’t have his groupies; he certainly does. Those are the boxing fans that love art for art’s sake.

And yes, it is also true, that Jermain Taylor for all of his man on a mission hype and Hopkins highlighting hasn’t set the imagination of boxing fans – let alone sports fans – ablaze with the majesty of his reign as middleweight champion. Still, Taylor continues to pay his dues, making the tough outings his legacy within a very sedentary era and generally trying to fight his way into the minds if not yet the hearts of cable subscribers across America.

Whatever you think of the result between Jermain Taylor and Ronald Wright registered June 17 at the FedEx Forum in Memphis, Taylor gave Winky his shot, just as he’d done his best to rip into the legend of Bernard Hopkins’ late career flights of exploitive fancy. Taylor brought the heat and the passion for engagement and Winky supplied the counter beat, those smatterings of applied guile. The two men still feel like champions and seem to want to do it again, pronto. HBO want to set the fight up again, build a rematch into something more than the mildly reactive curiosity the first fight turned out to be.

Remember HBO has a reputation they promised to start and live up to; history for the current executives at HBO meaning pay-per-view numbers dating only back to 1999. That way they don’t have to compare their flat-lined pay-per-view numbers with the Tyson-De La Hoya-Holyfield-Lewis numbers when they really were pushing serious entertainment product, counting by the millions instead of the ten of thousands over 400,000. Besides, HBO has internally planned for a renewal, a generational phase over of talent development. At least they are desperate to! If they could only find some talented fighters with pretensions to stardom!

To do that they need men like Taylor and Wright to buy into product development. Specifically, they need both men to fight this fall and win, ready for reciprocal ringside or live feed commentary as analysis on the other man’s outing. Pool or fireside interviews are a given. Since no innate elements exist to make a Taylor-Wright fight a combustive proposition, then, it will come down to good old manufacturing of the ‘event status’ for market and building up the case for why it’s the only logical move for either man to make, as soon as they have their respective calendar-time filler tune-ups, on HBO, naturally. In this case the fiction of rationalization actually meets near the bulls eye of merit because these two men must do it all again. Not that anyone but hardcore boxing fans care.

Look out for HBO to tell us this week – or later this month – how the pieces of the puzzle in the middleweight division are falling into place for what should be a rousing final determination of the middleweight championship of the world some time soon, i.e. the spring of 2007. In order to create the idea that the next 12 rounds between them might actually look compellingly violent or provokingly like, say, a Pacquiao and/or Morales tilt, better to get them into the ring with someone they might be able to actually pound on, for something less than 12 rounds. Then it might be possible to imagine Taylor-Wright as a battle royal instead of a royal coronation, all ceremony and no contest of champions.

The brilliant DiBella must be shaking his head this week; we can imagine the phone charges he’s piling up trying to talk Taylor off his higher than necessary horse. Because it’s not like Taylor and Wright aren’t going to joust again come spring. There are all kinds of middleweights not under contract to Sugar Ray Leonard that Wright can practice on in the meantime, December 2, live on HBO, presumably HD, can’t you just see it? HBO thinks we who love boxing can see it perfectly. Without anticipation what would elite sports be, golf in the era of Tiger Woods? Then again, at least golf has Tiger Woods and tennis has Roger Federer. What does boxing have? Floyd Mayweather? Jermain Taylor? The question doesn’t seem to make sense because it cannot even be asked rhetorically.

Does it matter that this week Jermain Taylor has been letting it leak that he’d rather get this ‘situation’ with Ronald Wright over with, this rematch of what was for the champion a successful defense and what was for Mr. Wright all wrong, by the numbers wrong. Poor little Kassim and his 120 punch attempts per round; seems you can’t make a spectacle out of yourself by winning or losing and he’s tried both of late. Still, you get the feeling that HBO will want to package this deal with some sugarcoating, Taylor needing to top up the intangibles of his still solid reputation BEFORE fighting to determine if he’s really the master of Winky. And you can bet Jermain Taylor, middleweight champion of the boxing universe, will be listening to an awful lot of sweet nothings in his ear for awhile.

Such an oddity this practice of getting fighting champions to fight. For his part, Jermain Taylor has no problem with taking the more arduous road; he’d rather finish his business with the dangerous Winky Wright. And if Wright has had a few months to forget the hurt endured from the champion’s body barrage, he too wants to go back in and fight the most dangerous opponent in his division, ASAP. Then again, boxing is business and timing dictates the economics for fights that cannot stand outside the consideration of marketing prefabrication. Here we remind ourselves, this is 2006 and boxing itself no longer retains the cultural significance to generate a stand-alone athletic ‘moment’ to enrapture the general public hungry for sporting excellence or novelty. Boxing now has to generate its own particular momentum, the simple operational dynamics of fitting somewhere into the crowded war game architecture of mass entertainment production.

Back at ground level, the fighters make their contingent plans hoping to maximize the profitability of plying their brutal trade. Taylor hopes to make his fortune in becoming the legend after the legend of Hopkins. Wright fights for the dignity of his ever-searching cause to enrich his fortunes, his family and the memory of his excellence over time. All Kassim Ouma can do is wait to see if he really can be the dream that wishing makes truer than fiction.

(Patrick Kehoe may be reached at pkehoe@telus.net)

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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