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Articles of 2006

Jimmy Lester: The Harder the Fight, the Better He Liked It



The word from San Francisco is that at age 62, Jimmy Lester is in the final round of the fight everybody loses by 10-count. Death triumphs over us all, but after this one The Grim Reaper will probably be pissing blood for a while and looking for a much softer touch than the 1960s middleweight contender called “The Bayview Blaster.”

Win or lose, it was that way with most of the guys who tangled with the hell-for-leather Lester. “In the pictures the papers printed (of his fights) nobody comes out of a Lester fight unmarked, nobody looks comfortable in the ring with the Bayview Blaster,” noted San Francisco Examiner reporter Edvins Beitiks in a piece published when Lester was honored 10 years ago by a group of ex-fighters from the Bay Area called “The Round House Boys.”

Jack Campbell of the Northern California Veteran Boxers’ Association put it this way: “I wouldn’t get into the ring with Jimmy unless I had a hand grenade. He was bad!”

Every Jimmy Lester fight was a war he fought as if the very right to continue breathing was at stake instead of a mere purse. That was a birthright from his father, Vern Lester, who fought in the 1940s under that name and also as Jimmy “Top Row” Allen.  He got the nickname because he hit so hard spectators sitting in the top row could hear the punches when Allen fought at National Hall and Dreamland in the City by the Bay.

Look up the ringside reports from San Francisco in The Ring magazines from that era and you’ll find the phrase “hammer and tongs” used over and over to describe Top Row Allen’s fights. In 1947 he headed East, and in the April, 1948 issue of The Ring it was said that while “Lester doesn’t have an imposing record (he’s) a good body puncher and an exponent of aggressive ring tactics.”

Jake LaMotta found out for himself on October 18, 1948. Just eight months before he became middleweight champion of the world, LaMotta was lucky to win a split-decision over Lester at the Eastern Parkway Arena. LaMotta had almost 12 pounds on Top Row, but according to the report in The Ring, “several times in vicious exchanges, Lester forced his heavier rival to give ground.”

In the last fight of his 25-24-8 career, Vern Lester lost by fifth round TKO to then-welterweight champion Sugar Ray Robinson, in New Orleans. “Lester was in there leveling from the opening gong, and fans gave Ray and Lester a great ovation at the finish,” reported The Ring.

Jerry Lee Lewis probably didn’t make his kid play Tchaikovsky, and Top Row Allen sure as hell didn’t bring up Jimmy Lester, born on January 1, 1944, to be James J. Corbett.

“My old man said, ‘Son, every round is the first round.’ And I fought like that,” Lester told Edvins Beitiks. “Fighting came natural to me. It was just as natural as could be.”

He was a standout in football at Mission High School, and also played a mean guitar. But music and especially team sports never satisfied him the way boxing did. “Football was OK, but in the ring it was you and me and nobody else,” he said. He turned pro at 17, knocking out Marcel Scott in three rounds. That was in 1963, and of his first 11 fights, Lester won 10 inside the distance.

His first loss was by split-decision in 10 rounds to former junior middleweight champion Denny Moyer, whom Lester had beaten earlier in 1965. Top Row worked his son’s corner until he passed away between the Moyer fights. Lester was 17-1 when he met ranked contender Florentino Fernandez at Kezar Pavilion in San Francisco on October 20, 1965. Fernandez was a feared left-hooker who’d given Gene Fullmer 15 rounds of hell in a losing 1961 title fight, and had knocked out future light heavyweight champion Jose Torres. The San Francisco boxing press fretted that the local prospect was being rushed too fast, but after two rounds Fernandez left the ring with a broken jaw. “Lester didn’t miss Fernandez with many punches,” reported Eddie Muller. “He put him down in the first with a left hook. He dumped him the second time in the second round with a right.”

“Jimmy was sensational,” recalls Paul Cavagnaro, a 1940s heavyweight prospect from San Francisco. “What an exciting fight that was. Jimmy was nailing Fernandez with hooks and right crosses, punching with reckless abandon. There was nothing fancy about him. When the bell rang he’d walk right out and start throwing punches. You couldn’t get him off of you.”

After four more exciting wins, Lester was knocked out by veteran Stan Harrington in Hawaii, on July 5, 1966. He came back with two wins, and on November 28, 1966, Lester met Carmen Basilio clone Andy “The Dakota Kid” Heilman in a 10-round match in Oakland that shared the bill with a 10-rounder between middleweight contenders Bobo Olsen and Don Fullmer.

Ten minutes after it ended, nobody remembered the latter match; but today people who saw it still talk about Lester-Heilman. “It was probably one of the greatest fights we ever had in the Bay area,” recalls Promoter Don Chargin. “It was toe-to-toe for 10 rounds. They did not stop.” Poet Tom Smario later immortalized the fight, won by Heilman on a decision, in a wonderful poem titled “Fight of the Year” (“Heilman threw punches like a claustrophobic madman with a baseball bat. Lester fought like Lester was. A man swinging an axe in wide arcs and roundhouses that tear meat from the bone”).

Lester was ranked as high as number-two in the 160-pound division, but losses to Benny Briscoe, former welterweight champion Luis Rodriquez and then-147-pound champ Curtis Cokes set him back. But he beat the Hurricane Kid, Art Hernandez, Ralph McCoy, Rocky Hernandez and Charley “Bad News” Austin, and fight crowds were always mesmerized by the sight of Lester winging punches till the last bell.

“Everything was a war. If some trainer had contained him a little bit, what a fighter he would have been,” says Paul Cavagnaro. Bay Area former junior lightweight contender Ray Lunny III agrees. “What a toughie he was! Nothing clever, a rugged puncher who never stopped coming straight at you. What conditioning –– and talk about built! Unfortunately, Jimmy’s manager, Bill Sanford, had more guts than brains and matched Jimmy with all the good ones: Denny Moyer, Any Heilman, Luis Rodriquez, Benny Briscoe and Curtis Cokes.”

Lester’s attitude about fighting may have been summed up best by what happened before the final round of a rematch with Art Hernandez in the latter’s hometown of Omaha, Nebraska in 1970. As Lester stood waiting for the bell for the 10th, he turned to his manager and said: “Already the last round? Awww _____!” Hernandez got the decision after what Wally Provost of the Omaha World Herald called “the best 10-rounds of fighting Omaha has seen in years.”

After retiring from boxing with a record of 41-20-3, Lester became a security guard. While his dream of wearing a real law enforcement badge was never realized, Lester was always in the corner of the men in blue. Dan Hance is a retired San Francisco policeman who prizes a photo he has of himself and Jimmy Lester taken after Hance won a local Golden Gloves light heavyweight title in 1969. Hance also prizes the memory of what happened in the late 1970s when he and his partner on the force answered a call about gunfire in a run-down housing project. Two teenagers were banging away at one another. When Hance and his partner arrived on the scene, one of the shooters ran away. They apprehended the other, but as they tried to take him away a large, angry crowd materialized and out of it stepped a guy about Hance’s age who began taunting him and demanding that he let the young suspect go, calling Hance a “sissy” and challenging him to fight “a real man” like himself.

Just as things were getting ugly, Jimmy Lester appeared out of nowhere and confronted the ringleader. “I have known you your whole life,” he told him. “Dan could kick your ass.”

Not only did Hance get his suspect to the station without incident, but later that evening the agitator from the housing project showed up there to turn himself in for several outstanding warrants against him. With him, says Hance, was Lester, who’d “beat the crap out of the guy and then made him drive his own car” to jail.

Over the last decade, Lester’s health has steadily declined from a series of crippling strokes. He wasn’t in very good shape when I spoke to him by telephone several years ago, but managed to make himself perfectly clear on a couple of points. “I had a lot of hard fights. They were fun. I just loved hard fights,” he said. And he wished that he were 21 years old again so he could do it all over.

God bless this great warrior.

Articles of 2006

Peter/Toney Ii: Peter Has The Brutal Punch



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, 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



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


Chris John (Indonesia) #1
In Jin Chi (Korea) #3
Takashi Koshimoto (Japan) #5
Hioyuki Enoki (Japan) #7

Jr. Featherweight

Somsak Sithchatchawal (Thailand) #4


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


Pongsaklek Wonjongkam (Thailand) #1
Takefumi Sakata (Japan) #7
Daisuke Naito (Japan) #10

Jr. Flyweight

Koki Kameda (Japan) #1


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



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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