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Articles of 2006

All the Noose That’s Fit to Print

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LAS VEGAS, Sept. 7 – It’s time for boxing to revive the concept of hanging judges. In the Old West, “hanging judges” were the guys who said, “Let’s hang him and then give him a fair trial.” In boxing, the idea would be to hang the judges themselves for ludicrous scorecards. It may sound like cruel and unusual punishment, but it could save lives.

Like mine.

And the people sitting next to me at ringside when a decision like the one handed down in the Samuel Peter-James Toney fight is handed down.

Actually, it would probably take a much worse decision than that one to threaten ringside, press and public. Let me flash back to January, 1979, Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan.

I had talked my New York Times editors into letting me take a side trip to Puerto Rico before heading to Miami for a Super Bowl. I wanted to do a piece on a fighter who, though I had never met him, had become one of my favorites, Carlos Palomino. I figured this might be the last chance I had, because I felt he was about to lose his welterweight title – this was in the days when more often than not there was only one title per division – to the hometown hero, Wilfred Benitez.

For once, my prognosis was correct. Sitting in the hot late summer sun at the baseball stadium, I watched as the self-proclaimed “Bible of Boxing” put on a clinic. The art of self-defense was never more pervasive. The masterful Benitez won at least 12 of the 15 rounds, I figured. Then they announced a split decision. The crowd moaned.

Pat Putnam, the Sports Illustrated giant who was seated next to me, tugged my arm.

“Get your stuff, we’ve got to get out of here,” he said.

The first scorecard was announced. Judge Zack Clayton had Palomino ahead.

The crowd’s anger could be measured by the debris suddenly flying through the air. Putnam and I scurried to the safety of the third-base dugout. It was a precaution that presumably was unnecessary when the final two scores overruled Clayton’s. But there often have been situations where crowds are turned into mobs without Rock Newman being in the house. After one unpopular decision at the old Felt Forum at New York’s Madison Square Garden, a bottle came flying out of the stands, skipped along the canvas and hit me squarely in the chest.

At least, it was a classy bottle.

Remy-Martin.

Empty of course.

Now, there are some ring officials of whom the late Frankie Carbo – the mobster who pretty much ran boxing in the Fifties – would say, “See that guy? I can buy him for a cup of coffee.”

I’m not saying Clayton was one of these. I’m not saying he wasn’t, either. After the Benitez fight, I confronted the Philadelphian who was better known as a referee. I demanded that he explain his strange scorecard.

“You’ve got to count body punches,” he said.

Palomino was a fine body-puncher, but in this fight, Benitez landed most of those shots. His elbows took care of Palomino’s. I pressed on with the interrogation. Finally, Clayton said, “Well, the sun was in my eyes.”

Remember when the flaky Brooklyn Dodger pitcher, Billy Loes, lost a World Series groundball in the sun? Of course you do.

Maybe that explains Dick Flaherty and Alejandro Rochin, the two WBClown judges who scored last weekend’s bout for Samuel Peter by 116-111 counts, despite Peter losing a point deducted for cuffing James Toney’s ears with both hands.

Scoring off television, I had Toney winning, 115-113. I would not have minded if someone had Peter ahead by a point or two, though my gut told me that the St. James version of the Bible of Boxing had successfully outscored the crude Nigerian.

There have been worse decisions. Mr. Flaherty, a competent Boston referee, gave Kassim Ouma an improbable shutout over Sechew Powell earlier this year. That’s two fights where he was pretty far off. I’m not saying we should hang him, but let him swing before he judges again.

I know my standing proposal to, pardon the expression, “fix” boxing by doing away with judges completely and allowing the contestants to fight until the finish may be considered a bit too harsh for some tastes, but the decision of the judges can’t be final unless the judges know what the hell they’re looking at. And that includes you too, Harold Lederman.

PENTHOUSE: Peter and Toney deserve credit for putting on an entertaining show at the Staples Center. And who cares who won? I mean, for heavyweights to have a good show is enough. There still is little future for the division unless Peter can show much more improvement, as he did from his failed effort to outpoint Wladimir Klitschko.

And the division, as sorry as it’s been, has produced some decent action this year – Sergei Liakhovich’s victory over Lamon Brewster and Toney’s controversial draw with Hasim Rahman (from TV, I was in the minority who had Toney slightly ahead). This does not in any way contradict the premise that the division sucks. You can get competitive matches in novice Golden Gloves battles between game but incapable guys – or gals – who have no conception about the finer points.

That is all we can hope for with these clowns. And at least they are providing some interesting matchups – not that Nikolai Valuev vs. Monte Barrett will be found on anyone’s must-watch list, especially since it will be going up against the rubber match between Diego (Chico) Corrales and Joel Casamayor on that same evening of Oct. 7.

More intriguing, perhaps, is the Nov. 4 match between Liahkovich and the undeserving Shannon Briggs. Okay, so Briggs is just another in the long line of Foul Pole Golotas who get title shots for no perceived reason – you can’t blame Don King, this time, though the two great hair stylists recently joined follicles; before King, Shannon seemed set to get it on with Wladimir Klitschko on Nov. 11 – he hits hard enough to usually make it interesting for a few rounds before the asthmatic kid starts huffing and puffing.

But while this may be of some interest, especially in Brownsville, the big fight of the night will be Floyd Mayweather Jr. challenging Carlos Baldomir for the welterweight championship of the world.

But we do have some other heavyweight bouts to anticipate, if only for the geography. On Nov. 11, the younger of the Klitschko boys will defend his alphabet title against the undefeated Calvin Brock at Madison Square Garden. And though Oleg Maskaev must eventually make a mandatory defense against Samuel Peter, his promoter, Dennis Rappaport, is hoping to squeeze in a voluntary defense, probably against one of the many Europeans deemed unlikely to threaten bigger bouts for the 37-year-old American, in Moscow – the first heavyweight championship bout to be held that close to Lenin’s tomb.

Maskaev wanted to make the Nov. 11 date with Klitschko, but a bum elbow pushed him back a month and, because I like the guy, I hope he doesn’t get upended in a comparatively low-budget fight before making a big score against Peter or Klitschko.

I’d give him a shot against either, too. He has the kind of right-handed punch that, if he could land the way Toney did on Peter, would very likely shake the bigger man’s foundations. And he already knocked out the big Klitschko brother, though that was in the amateurs.

No, there are no saviors out there, but as long as the big boys can churn out competitive fights, as long as Floyd Patterson and Ingemar Johansson don’t come back to kidnap the division for two years, we’ll wait. And in the meantime, we still have Marco Antonio Barrera and Rocky Juarez type fights to whet our appetites.

OUTHOUSE: Besides those two out-of-whack scorecards from out-of-state judges, the California commission – if any – should be concerned about the terrible refereeing job done by Maynard G. Crebs in the Robert Guerrero-Eric Aiken rout.

LIGHT ENTERTAINMENT: James Toney, of course, is not going anywhere, especially not to a fat farm or a school for diplomacy. But as long as he matches up well, and is perceived to be of diminishing risk as he ages, he’ll always get a shot at some unsuspecting character. No way, of course, Samuel Peter would give him a rematch and maybe I’m not the only one in believing that a second go-round with Hasim Rahman makes little sense. The four titleholders have their dance cards filled for the moment, so here’s a suggestion for Toney, straight from the lawyer for Wladimir Klitschko, Floyd Mayweather Jr. and, in this appropriate case, Chris Byrd.

“It’s time for James to fight Chris Byrd,” said John Hornewer, who has long wanted this matchup for his undersized heavyweight client. He was working for Roy Jones Jr. when Toney was undressed by that former heavyweight champion in the days both were super-middleweights. He feels Byrd, though the smaller (certainly lighter) man, would have little trouble with Toney. But the reason I recommend the bout is that for the first time, Toney – who says “I have no respect for no one” – might lose the pre-fight trash-talking contest. Maybe not to the goody-goody Byrd, but to Hornewer.

Horny has already started. He said Toney should have his nickname changed from “Lights Out” to “Flicker,” as in, “when he hits the switch, nothing happens.”

He cited Toney losing a belt due to steroids after outpointing John Ruiz, surviving the draw with Rachman and now demanding a rematch after a loss to Peter (a bout, by the way, Hornewer thought Toney had won after watching on TV). “He’s had so many reincarnations,” said Hornewer, “he should change religions. The thing that amazes me is how he comes back fat every time.”

MORE DIS AND THAT: Rocky Balboa will be going home to the Philadelphia Art Museum, not atop the steps where the movie character ran in training, but at the bottom. The Rocky films helped revive boxing in the late Seventies, maybe as much as the 1976 (same year as the movie) Olympic class, but I’m glad it is not this department’s duty to comment on its art value. I will say this: Sylvester Stallone should build a statue to Joe Frazier, the real Philly fighter on whom a lot of Balboa – especially using sides of beef in place of a heavy bag – is based….Evander Holyfield is going to face Fres Oquendo, a fair test to see if the soon-to-be 44-year-old should make some titleholder a bit of easy money, Nov. 10 at the Alamodome….Reminds me of the line Jose Sulaiman, being chauffered from the airport into San Antonio for Kevin Kelley’s losing defense to Alejandro Gonzalez in 1995 (yes, almost 12 years ago, Flushing Flash fans), spotted the Alamadome and, according to his driver, now Main Events VP Carl Moretti, said:

“That’s where they do that terrible thing to Julio.” Yeah, that’s where Jose’s judges “robbed” Julio Cesar Chavez against Pernell Whitaker. There should be enough rope to stretch the WBChief-for-life, too….I hope we won’t be crying “Remember the Alamodome” in November, but San Antonio seems to have become, if not the graveyard, at least the old age home of boxing. On Sept. 28, the aforementioned Mr. Kelley will be shoveled in front of Carlos Hernandez for Bob Arum’s bloody enjoyment and profit. And then Holyfield….What the hell, if Davey Crockett, Jim Bowie and John Wayne could all finish in San Antonio….Happy birthday to my little brother, Steve, who turns 63.

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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