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Articles of 2006

Rocky Returns

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In life, as in championship boxing, those brimming with ambition make sure they surge mightily at the nexus points where opportunity taken imprints fate in their likeness. Aspire though he did with his stoic power hitting, Rocky Juarez knows that while battling Mexican featherweight legend Marco Antonio Barrera he didn’t do everything required to make absolutely sure he was the better man on the night of May 20, 2006 at the Staples Center, in Los Angeles, California. That much Juarez freely admits. The mathematics of the fight left the matter unproven, as the announced draw was recalculated 20 minutes later into a decision and championship defending win for Barrera. Fighting legends doesn’t leave the aspirations of hungry men much room for luck; that lesson Juarez learned gloveless in his locker room, the career logistics of a draw being rationalized by trainer Ray Ontiveros and manager Shelly Finkel to the disappointed Texan.

No wonder Rocky speaks of the need to “start off quicker and take a bigger risks,” not that he didn’t know that the first time he fought Barrera. And Juarez certainly understands that the predicate to his promoters Main Events being able to negotiate a lighting quick turnaround rematch with Barrera has everything to do with their first fight being an embarrassment to MAB.

“One thing you learn in this profession is that losing makes you take two or three steps back.” Unless the loss has much to do with accounting for the actual empirical data accounted for and unaccounted for! Even late in a champion’s career, the tidal forces that make constant his or her standing depend on the currents of perception. A lot of people at ringside and watching on HBO thought that Juarez had done enough straight ahead power hitting and enacted sufficient effective aggressiveness to be awarded a victory. Nevertheless, Juarez is willing to concede that though he may have gained ground inside the head of Barrera, outside in the sometimes real world he’s still got quite a hurdle to clear if he wants to prove his superiority in the ring with the great Barrera. He also knows that he bruised the pride of Barrera – the current pride of Mexican boxing – and Barrera was effectively honor bound, if not promotionally compelled to lance the boldness of Juarez and the very idea that Barrera has any real unfinished business other than with Manny Pacquiao.

“I feel I have to beat him decisively the second time,” Juarez stating the obvious as intention. “I left the fight in the judges’ hands and… I was very disappointed… the key is to make him fight… force the exchanges.” The gallant Texan understands fully that countless fighters have tried to do just that – force the issue with Barrera – only to be boxed into near oblivion. Team Juarez leaned in the first fight that the challenger’s strength was a mitigating factor for Barrera. Tactically, they also realize that Juarez showed the champion perhaps undue respect during the critical early rounds of the fight; an assumption born out by the melodramatics of the post-fight re-tabulation.

“I have never doubted my ability… he’s a great fighter, a great champion, but I have to think he’s just another fighter and another opponent.” The age old transposing of the champion into mere opponent of the moment was a task that Juarez and his team understand was too long in the realization for Juarez. You get the feeling now that Juarez has gone one better than putting Barrera into a manageable mental framework. Having fought on equal terms, and in some estimations, more than equal terms with Barrera, Juarez readily asserts is own notions of eclipsing eminence.

“Barrera was given a gift… I believe he was in excellent shape for the fight and he certainly didn’t overlook me the first time… he knows he was in good shape and I know he was in good shape… I learned the inside style of fighting and I also learned how he rests.”

The would-be king of the featherweights might well have said, “I also learned when he rests.” Yes, we understand the implication of this confident assertion; the subtle secrets between champion and challenger have been revealed along with formidable strengths and undeclared liabilities. “I know I really have to make Barrera fight, fight when he doesn’t want to fight, and to do that I will have to get in more shots, maybe take some more risks punching earlier than I did in the first fight… and that’s going to make him fight back too ‘cause he’ll have to respond.”

Indeed, Team Juarez felt that the signs of Barrera’s storied career were to be found in his ability to avoid punches that would have reached most other fighters and in the fact that Barrera was not the stronger fighter down the stretch. Certainly, a paradox worthy of further gloved experimentation. To that vine they cling for added inspiration and informing evidence. Remember how the issue of which brand of gloves the fighters would wear dominated the last week of media coverage before their first fight? Juarez can only laugh at how much of a non-issue ‘glove-gate’ turned out to be. For in his mind, the critical opening frames during which he chose to box and punch selectively was the difference between allowing for the possibility of Barrera winning and securing the championship on his own merit, straight up with aplomb.

It isn’t in Rocky Juarez’s makeup to talk trash making outrageous statements as to his unmatched talent. We don’t have to listen to him rip the skin of decency or denounce his sport for the sake of taking his ego out for a very public examination, under the scrutiny of the world’s media. Yet the challenger has his designs and the confidence of knowing he’s unsettled, if not officially unseated, the champion, virtually catapulting him forward toward Saturday night’s championship rematch.

“Before the first fight I saw the belt around my waist… I could see it there… I reached over and touched it… for a second.” Interesting how something that didn’t happen is neither a dream denied nor irresponsible imagining. “It’s about getting the opportunity of getting the fight against a great champion; it’s about being champion of the world… I imagine myself in the middle of the ring as the next WBC champion of the world.” We all know that if you cannot picture yourself, as you will be in the near term future, then the short term future is not yours for the making. Apparently, Rocky has had a vision.

Determination must find activism in best practice, and in his own intuitive way Juarez understands the task of making his fighting effective against the adaptive sophistication of Marco Antonio Barrera’s operatic talents. “I am going to fight the best style possible to win and I am going to have to adapt, while being aggressive and getting in my big shots… because Barrera will want to land some,” Juarez almost recites for those who are ready to listen. The logic of fashioning reprisals in kind has forever been the essence of Marco Antonio Barrera under fire, his championship standing under siege. And Rocky Juarez wants nothing better than to see Barrera having to make a good old fashioned fight out of their rematch.

“But he got exhausted at the end… I just started late… he was surprised I was just as strong as him, then stronger… He knows he’s going to have to take some big risks, if he wants to stay with me in the middle of the ring and exchange punches… with the first fight, with the result, he might have felt like he really lost.”

Even Rocky Juarez – it seems – has some time for a sprinkling of bravado; he knows he fought well and gave the champion, the great Barrera, a night he’ll never forget. The real trick is making Barrera’s greatness ebb for a second time, making him mortal and then vulnerable. That’s going to take some doing; it might require finding a dimension of his professionalism he’s never given us reason to believe exists. But then again, when you dare to take the place of a legend you are promising to make good on second chances for becoming something akin to a second coming. Expectation is the pressure gauge of desire. How will Rocky handle all of this misfortune reversed, revised for his determining?

With Barrera slightly wounded and dangerous fighting for his reputation, what will Rocky make of this his second chance at greatness, this dangerous moment in time?

(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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