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Articles of 2006

Monroe Ratliff: “Everybody I fought, I love ‘em.”



In the ring his calling card was a left hook potent enough to almost get him fired from the training camp of heavyweight title challenger Roy Harris in 1958.

Today it’s a small rectangle of white cardboard that introduces Monroe Ratliff as onetime California state champion (light heavyweight) and proclaims in Second-coming type: “I WHIPPED ROLAND LASTARZA.”

If his skills had been as robust and shining as his personality, Ratliff would need a card bigger than a billboard to list the highlights of his nine-year boxing career. But that’s not important to him. “There’s a lot of heartbreak in there,” he says about the 15-22-4 ring record he compiled between 1955-’63, “but a lot of good memories, too. I had more fun than anything.”

And it all started with a simple question from his older brother, Cleo. The natives of Lexington, Mississippi had moved to California, and were watching fights on TV one night when all of a sudden Cleo turned to Monroe and said, “How’d you like to be a fighter?”

“I’d love it,” answered Monroe as promptly and enthusiastically as if his brother had offered him a cheese puff.

After a short amateur stint, Ratliff turned pro against Sammy Seals on July 12, 1955. They fought a four-round draw at the Ocean Park Arena. Over the next two years, Ratliff batted .500 in the ring, winning seven, losing seven and fighting three more draws, all in preliminary bouts. On September 10, 1957, he jumped into boxing’s deep end, traveling to Phoenix, Arizona, for a 10-round main event against top-ranked heavyweight contender Zora Folley. Ratliff lost the decision but says it was questionable, unlike their return match two years later. “I got hit on the chin, and that was it,” says Ratliff cheerfully about his two-round exit then.

He was durable, though, and that left hook gave the much more experienced Frankie Daniels problems in successive 10-rounders Ratliff dropped by decision. By then, Ratliff was headquartered in San Diego, and after he ended the career of 10-2 Bob Parish with a four round KO in mid-1958, Ratliff was invited to serve as a sparring partner of challenger Roy Harris as Harris prepared to go after Floyd Patterson’s heavyweight crown on August 18, 1958.

The Harris camp was at the Arrowhead Springs Hotel in Big Bear, in the San Bernardino Mountains. In their inaugural sparring session, Ratliff put pressure on Harris and scored often with the hook. Too often, in the view of Henry Harris, the father of the challenger from Cut ‘N’ Shoot, Texas. After two rounds, the elder Harris ended the sparring session, and when Ratliff was in the locker room the man known as “Big Henry” came in and suggested that Ratliff keep the left hook mostly holstered for the duration of camp.

In his classic book “Once They Heard The Cheers,” W.C. Heinz wrote about his first meeting with the father of Roy Harris: “Big Henry was six-feet-two-and-a-half inches handsome, and at age 47 weighed 237 pounds. He said that when he was in his twenties he weighed 210, and had a 33-inch waist, a 17 1/2-inch neck, and 16-inch biceps, and I used to imagine him –– rather than his six-foot, 190-pound second son –– fighting Floyd Patterson.”

So when Big Henry suggested keeping the left hook under wraps, Monroe replied “I’d love it,” or some polite variation thereof. He and Big Henry got along just fine after that, even after Monroe took $20 off him by climbing a nearby mountain that Harris figured was insurmountable. He offered the money to anybody in camp who could prove him wrong, and Ratliff told him, “I can climb that mountain in 10 minutes.”

He did it, too. But then, recalls Monroe with a laugh, “I couldn’t work out for three days, I was so tired. I was sore all over, and couldn’t do nothing.”

Maybe Big Henry ought to have let Roy learn how to cope with those left hooks. Patterson knocked Harris down with several of his own in their title bout at Wrigley Field, and stopped him in 12 rounds. On the undercard, Ratliff won a six-round decision over Obie “Dusty” Rhodes.

In his next fight, Ratliff stopped highly-regarded Reuben Vargas in six rounds, and then kayoed Tony Emanuel and onetime heavyweight contender Tommy Harrison, for five wins in a row.

Ratliff’s manager induced him to go on a starvation diet to get down to 175-pounds and go after the California light heavyweight title owned by Sixto Rodriquez, who’d lost just once in 22 bouts. The night before the January 30, 1959 fight, Ratliff watched movies in an all-night theater to keep his mind off food. He made the weight and then upset the heavily-favored Rodriquez to take the Golden State belt on a 12-round decision.

Less than two weeks later, he was in the ring at Madison Square Garden in New York City. But Ratliff needed his mother’s help to get there. The day of his fight with heavyweight Larry Zernitz it was discovered that Monroe’s 21st birthday wasn’t until the day after the February 13 bout. The rule was that a fighter had to be 21 years old to box a Garden main event, so they ended up contacting Elvira Ratliff in Mississippi, who gave her permission for her son to box. But there were other problems not even his mother could solve. Zernitz had a 20-pound weight advantage over the California fighter. Plus, Ratliff’s right hand had been badly bruised in the Rodriquez fight, and was too painful for him to use. But for all that, the biggest advantage for Zernitz turned out to be the calendar. When the opening bell rang, says Monroe, “All I could think of was that it was Friday the 13th, and believe you me, I’m superstitious.” Zernitz won on points.

Ratliff returned to San Diego and defended his California title by knocking out Willie Gilbert in two rounds. On June 12, 1959, Sixto Rodriquez took the belt back on a 12-round decision.

Of his last 11 fights, Ratliff won only the one against LaStarza. It was almost eight years since Roland had fought so valiantly against Rocky Marciano for the world heavyweight title, and according to his agent LaStarza’s boxing comeback was designed to boost his stock as a budding actor, not as a fighter. “Roland is colorful and has lots of personality,” Jerry Rosen told Harvey Rockwell of the San Francisco News-Call Bulletin. “He would do well as an entertainer, but for prestige purposes he must win a few fights first.”

Not this one. The decision for Ratliff in the fight at Kezar Pavilion was unanimous.

“I’d heard so much about LaStarza and Marciano, I was scared,” Monroe says. “I trained hard and I prayed, ‘God, whatever you do, let me win this fight.’ For the first five rounds, I like to get killed. For the last five rounds, I like to kill him.”

(LaStarza never fought again, but he did go on to co-star in the TV series “The Gallant Men,” a World War II drama whose 33 episodes aired on ABC in 1962-’63.)

After he knocked out Zora Folley in 1961, Argentina’s Alejandro Lavorante was widely regarded as a lock to become heavyweight champion of the world. The third-ranked Lavorante knocked Ratliff down in the fifth round of their May 8, 1961 bout in San Francisco, and once again Monroe appealed to a higher power for direction.

“Well, Lord, I’m down,” he said. “I know he’s gonna knock me out, but I’ll put everything I have in the next few rounds.”

In its report of the fight, The Ring magazine said, “Ratliff surprised by lasting the limit and gave [Lavorante] some rough moments in the late rounds.” The News-Call Bulletin’s Al Corona said Ratliff did even better than that. “Monroe came storming back to make the fight an interesting one,” he wrote, “copping four of the last five rounds and also bloodying Lavorante’s nose in the process.”

When a young Cassius Clay came west to fight Archie Moore in 1962, Ratliff was a sparring partner for the future Muhammad Ali, and proved himself as adept a prognosticator as Clay himself, who correctly forecast that “Moore will fall in four.”  “This will be another Sullivan-Corbett match,” Monroe assured Clay beforehand. “You is Corbett and Archie is Sullivan. Moore will run out of gas.”

Since his retirement from boxing, Ratliff has tried his hand at numerous creative undertakings. He’s written poetry and designed display tables honoring Sugar Ray Robinson, Dr. Martin Luther King and Elvis Presley. (There was also a table immortalizing O.J. Simpson’s pursuit in the White Bronco by three squad cars on the LA freeway.) He’s made and distributed bumper stickers with a cartoon likeness of himself squaring off against a huge likeness of Lavorante, and proclaiming, “Taking drugs is like taking on a fight where you know you’re overmatched!”

What he enjoys most now, in his late 60s, is getting in touch with the men he fought in the ring. “Everybody I fought, I love ‘em,” says Monroe, and to prove it he spends hundreds of dollars each month calling them up all over the country. He always reminds them, and everybody else with whom he talks, to “Keep your hands up!”

Recently he got hold of Roy Harris in Texas. It was the first time they’d spoken since that Big Bear training camp 48 years ago. When Ratliff asked Harris if he remembered him, the former heavyweight title challenger said without hesitation, “Hell yeah … the mountain climber!”

Maybe the peaks he scaled in boxing weren’t so towering, but when it comes to attitude and heart, Sir Edmund Hillary doesn’t have anything on the man who whipped Roland LaStarza.

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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