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Articles of 2006

Holyfield/Stevens: Boxer vs. Playwright

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NEW YORK – Given the fact that New York is literally the only jurisdiction in the world in which he is not allowed to box, Evander Holyfield’s decision to announce his Nov. 10 bout against Fred Oquendo in the Big Apple smacked of one-upmanship – particularly since the former heavyweight champion’s appearance at Gallagher’s Steak House Thursday preceded, by a matter of hours, the first performance of Cherry’s Patch, a play by Ron Scott Stevens which debuted a bit further off Broadway, at the SoHo Playhouse, that same evening.

The playwright also happens to be the chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission, and in that role 22 months earlier he had suspended Holyfield’s boxing license after what Stevens deemed a “poor performance” indicative of deteriorating skills, in the wake of Holyfield’s losing effort against Larry Donald at Madison Square Garden in November of 2004.

That Holyfield would defiantly march into Stevens’ home turf to announce a fight taking place in San Antonio appeared, on the surface, to be a provocative, in-your-face gesture.

In any case, Stevens, who rarely misses a boxing press conference, skipped this one, and not just because he was preoccupied with Opening Night jitters.

“I didn’t think I needed to fuel the fire,” said Stevens. “There was no reason for me to be there.”

“I don’t want to see him, either,” said Holyfield with a shrug.

The Real Deal insisted that his presence in New York had nothing to do with Stevens or the residual bitterness over his suspension there.

“I’m not sending a message,” said Holyfield. “I didn’t ask to come here. They (promoters Murad Muhammad and Lou DiBella) chose to have the press conference here. I’m here because I was invited. If I hadn’t been invited I wouldn’t have come.”

Although he is prohibited from boxing throughout New York State, Holyfield appeared to be under the impression that he was unwelcome only in New York City.

“I kind of feel that if anybody doesn’t allow me to fight here, the city would have to make that decision themselves – to get rid of him (Stevens) if they want me to fight here,” said Holyfield. “I don’t want to be nowhere where I’m not welcome, anyway. If they don’t want me to be there then I won’t be there.”

The Donald fight represented Holyfield’s third loss on the trot – decisions to Chris Byrd and Donald, sandwiched around a TKO at the hands of James Toney.

“It appeared to me that Evander was unable to pull the trigger when he wanted to, and that he couldn’t adequately defend himself that night,” recalled Stevens. “I went home that night thinking about that fight. I kept thinking of Anthony Quinn and John Lithgow (the protagonists in the screen and stage versions of Rod Serling’s Requiem for a Heavyweight) and the way they were stripped of their dignity. I was so upset to think of that happening to Evander.

“I contacted the other two commissioners and the Chief Medical Examiner, and they felt the same way. The decision was unanimous.”

The Donald fight had taken place on Nov. 11. On November 13, Stevens alerted FightFax that Holyfield had been placed on indefinite medical suspension, and within hours reporters were telephoning him from all over the country. According to the provisions of the Muhammad Ali Act, the suspension would have to be honored in all 50 states.

Holyfield accused Stevens of grandstanding by announcing the suspension at a press conference rather than confronting him directly.

“I’m not a kid. I’m an adult,” said Evander. “I respect anybody. I wouldn’t just come out and get you in front of the press and say ‘I don’t like what you said about me.’ If I didn’t like what you said I’d come to you in private and say ‘I don’t appreciate what you said about me,’ not wait till a press conference to make myself look good by telling somebody you can’t protect yourself and you got an ego.

“Look, if I had an ego I would have got on TV and told him how I felt,” continued Holyfield. “It’s not about egos. The point is that if you don’t respect me, you respect the next man. If you felt that I failed you should have come and asked me ‘What’s the problem?’ or even quietly said ‘We advise you to step down or we’re going to have to take your license.’

“In big major companies they still offer executives money to step down,” pointed out Holyfield. “They say ‘We want you to resign, because we don’t want to embarrass you by having to say we fired you.’ It’s just a point of respect. After all the things I’ve accomplished in the game of boxing you’ve got people who don’t care enough about me to ask me a question?”

Holyfield termed the New York action “disrespectful.”

“If you really care about me, you ought to come and ask me ‘What’s the problem?’” he said. “If they’d asked me, I’d have told them I’d had three surgeries. It’s just like a sprinter pulling a hamstring and people asking him ‘Why ain’t you running that 10-flat no more?’ A person don’t just stop overnight.

“It would be a different thing if I’d lived a rough life, but I haven’t lived a rough life. I live a decent life” pointed out the four-time champion. “My body ain’t just going to change overnight. People don’t just become old in one day. I think it’s disrespectful to embarrass a person by saying ‘You’re not smart enough to take care of yourself, so I have to take care of you.’

“I wouldn’t sit here and say ‘I’m not going to talk to you because I don’t like what you wrote,’” groused Holyfield. “I talk to you. But you need to show me some courtesy and respect and not try to make yourself look big ‘cause you’re helping Evander Holyfield.”

Stevens says that it was never his intent to embarrass Holyfield, and that he informed the ex-champion’s manager-of-record at the time before publicly announcing the suspension.

“But I didn’t want to delay it, either,” said the commissioner. “If we’d waited three or four days it might have appeared capricious.”

Holyfield, as anticipated, did not take the matter lightly. He fought back, and within a year of the suspension had undergone a battery of seven medical tests – six of which were taken in New York. He passed all of them.

New Yorklifted the ‘indefinite medical suspension,’ replacing it instead with an ‘administrative suspension,’ meaning that while Holyfield can still not box in New York, other states are not bound to honor the ban.

“I know what the tests showed, but I also know what I was able to see with my own eyes,” explained Stevens. “It was apparent to me that Evander’s skills have deteriorated to the point that I don’t think he should be allowed to fight. I’ve been around this business, as a matchmaker, promoter, and commissioner, for 25 years, so I think I know what I’m seeing. He thinks he knows what’s best, but I’m not sure he’s in a position to be as objective as we are.”

“If a state Athletic Commission is unable to protect boxers, what’s the point of having Athletic Commissions?” asked Stevens. “Are we supposed to just dole out licenses?”

“They lifted the ban for me to fight anywhere except New York,” noted Holyfield. “The person (his description of Stevens) said himself, ‘I don’t think he should be licensed.’ Here’s a man who set out for me to go get tested, and once I was tested and passed, he said he knew more than the doctors. He was bigger than the test itself.”

“And if Evander Holyfield suffers from pugilistica dementia in five or ten years down the road, everyone will be saying we ‘don’t take care of our own,’” said Stevens.

Ironically, the court of public opinion began to swing in Holyfield’s favor, not because of his ring activity, but because of his graceful performance on “Dancing With the Stars.”

At the very least, he didn’t dance like he was punch-drunk.

Licensed to box in Texas, he fought last month against Jeremy Bates, stopping him in two rounds. It had widely been assumed that Holyfield’s comeback would follow a path similar to the one George Foreman blazed two decades earlier, and that Jeremy Bates would be followed by Norman Bates. Instead, he has agreed to fight Oquendo, a man who could be dangerous even on a bad night.

All fighters are dangerous,” said Holyfield. “The worst thing would be to get beat by somebody everyone thinks can’t fight.”

Eighteen years have elapsed since Holyfield’s professional debut, a win over Lionel Byarm at, ironically, Madison Square Garden. A legend who was 36-3 after beating Vaughn Bean eight years ago has gone 3-5-2 in the ten bouts since. The win over Bates was his first since he turned 40. He will celebrate his 44th birthday nine days after he meets Oquendo.

At the same time, Holyfield might have a point when he claims that he is being punished as much for who he was as for what he is.

“I’m sure there’s a lot of other people who are 22 and 23 who can’t do what I do, and have worse records,” said Holyfield.

Case in point: Last year New York granted a license to 37-year-old Mitchell Rose, whose record is 2-10-1 and who hasn’t won a fight since he beat Butterbean Esch in December of 1995.

If Holyfield were a career-long punching bag with a record of, say, 8-39-2 instead of 39-8-2, might Ron Scott Stevens view the matter in a different light?

“Absolutely not,” said the Commission chairman. “I have the utmost respect for Evander, but he’s not being compared to what he once was. Contrary to what he might choose to believe, there is no ‘vendetta’ against Evander Holyfield. Our decision was based solely upon his poor performance in New York, and in the two fights previous to that, both of which we viewed.”

“Sure, they feel sorry for Evander,” groused Holyfield. “They say ‘he can’t make a decision.’ Well, I can make a decision for myself. If you’re looking to save somebody, save somebody who need saving. Don’t try to save the guy who can swim.”

And to Ron Scott Stevens he might have added (though he didn’t), “Break a leg!”

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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