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Articles of 2006

Slaughterhouse Henry Baker: The Heavyweight Champion of Halloween

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It's the season for ghosts, apparitions, graveyard specters and headless horsemen, which makes it the perfect time to remember Slaughterhouse Henry Baker, boxing's headless heavyweight.

The rugged 1890s fighter once heralded by the Brooklyn Eagle as “the coming heavyweight champion” did have an actual head on his shoulders, of course. James J. Jeffries figuratively handed it to him in Baker's most notable fight. But according to newspaper reports widely circulated at the time, Baker and his noggin were literally separated by the wheels of a train on October 9, 1908.

Which makes it all the spookier that he kept popping up from time to time for another 50-plus years.

Boxing records that exist for Baker, as well as many newspaper reports of his important fights, call him a native of Chicago. Baker did fight several times in and around the Windy City in the 1890s, and his nickname, “Slaughterhouse,” was said to have derived from his employment in Chicago’s stockyards. (On October 30, 1893, Slaughterhouse Baker met Mike “The Stockyard's Giant” Queenan in Chicago. Baker knocked him out in two rounds to rule the meatpacking roost.)

But according to The Milwaukee Journal of May 23, 1895, Baker was “Milwaukee born and bred,” operated a popular tavern in downtown Beertown, and was also the high-profile boxing instructor at the Milwaukee Athletic Society. His nickname in his highly Teutonic hometown was not as colorful as the one he picked up in the abattoir. In Milwaukee they called him “Heine.”

When Baker got his start in prizefighting in the early 1890s, boxing was illegal in most places. Thus, when The Evening Wisconsin reported that Baker would fight Dick Moore for a $500 purse on June 4, 1892, the newspaper would only narrow down the location of the match as somewhere “within 100 miles of Chicago.”  Baker lost that one, but the rematch the following November 20 –– “at, or at least somewhere near Chicago” –– was taken by him via 15-round KO.

In a newspaper series about his career published after he retired as heavyweight champion in 1905, Jeffries wrote, “Baker was a real fighter. He was built like Tom Sharkey, but more smoothly muscled, and his weight, like Tom’s was 185-pounds. He was one of the most confident men I ever saw.”

That confidence was born of Baker’s success early in his career as a middleweight. By 1894, noted The Evening Wisconsin, he “had a standing challenge to fight any man in the country at 158-pounds for $2,500 a side.”

In September of that year, Baker scored his biggest victory to date by whipping Denver Billy Woods in Chicago. The well-known Woods went down within 10 seconds of the opening bell, and was put down again in every succeeding round. Baker’s easy win led to a four-round match a couple months later against the famous Jim Hall. The agreement was that if Baker lasted all four rounds against the Australian who was knocked out by middleweight champion Bob Fitzsimmons a year earlier, the Milwaukee man would automatically get the decision. Which is what happened. (Right after he fought Baker, Hall went through the same drill with Billy Woods, who also got the decision for going the distance with the Aussie.)

Fitzsimmons himself arrived in Milwaukee right after the dawn of 1895, and the middleweight king and Baker met in an exhibition match at a local theater. “(Baker) was not only aggressive all through the bout,” reported The Journal, “but his protection was strong and effective.”

Another famous middleweight of that time was Dan Creedon of Australia. He and Baker fought a six-round draw in Chicago on April 8, 1895, after Baker broke both of his hands in the second round. It was the start of a downturn in the Milwaukee fighter’s fortunes. On June 9, Baker and Lem McGregor were matched in a private fight in the woods south of Milwaukee. But when less than $100 turned up in the hat passed around by the 60 spectators for the fighters’ purse, McGregor declined to go ahead with the match. “Baker called him a coward, but that did not stir his Southern blood to boiling,” reported The Evening Wisconsin. Out of the audience stepped one George Curtis, who agreed to spar with Baker for $50, and was knocked out in four rounds for his trouble.

A month later, Baker and a Chicago fighter named Michael Brennan stepped into a ring set up inside a dance hall on the city’s southern outskirts. Just after the bell rang to start the fight-to-the-finish, a posse of county sheriff’s deputies finished it by busting through the door and announcing that everybody there was under arrest for violating the state statute against prizefighting. “Consternation seized the crowd and there was the liveliest kind of a scramble for the freedom of adjacent fields,” reported The Evening Wisconsin the next day.

Baker and Brennan didn’t make it, and became the first persons charged with violating the anti-boxing law in Milwaukee County in eight years. It was a crime punishable by up to five years in the can and a fine of $1,000, but the next day they each pleaded guilty to mere assault-and-battery and were fined just $10 plus court costs. Supporters of the fighters in the courtroom took up a collection to pay their tab.

Heine Baker liked to live dangerously. Exactly one week later, he was on the lam from the law again. A private fight in the backroom of a northside Milwaukee tavern on July 22 between Frank Klein and Louis Schmidt ended when Schmidt, 18, was knocked out in five rounds. The knockout blow also ended Schmidt’s life. Klein was arrested for murder, and his chief second in the fight, Henry Baker, was also indicted. Baker lammed out of town, and was arrested a week later in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and extradited to Milwaukee.

This time the fine was stiffer, and Baker decided it was time to leave Milwaukee for good. He started a tour of the East by knocking out Yank Kenney in Cleveland, and made his New York debut by stopped Fred Morris in two. Then he KO’d 21-1-1 Joe Butler in less than three minutes, and fought a six round draw in Philadelphia with Frank P. Slavin.

On October 24, Baker and Dan Creedon fought 20-rounds to a draw, and at the end of the year he joined Bob Fitzsimmons on the West Coast to help prepare Freckled Bob for his December 8 match against Tom Sharkey in San Francisco. “The fact that Bob Fitzsimmons has selected Henry Baker of this city to assist him in training for his bout with Tom Sharkey goes to show that the Milwaukee boy is well thought of by the middleweight champion,” said The Evening Wisconsin. “There has never been a ‘Dutchman’ who has displayed more gameness in the roped arena than this same Henry Baker.” The paper went on to express the hope that Baker would “gain some valuable pointers while with Fitzsimmons.”

If he did, Joe Butler didn’t give Baker time to demonstrate them in their rematch on January 25, 1897. Butler, “the colored wonder,” knocked Baker out in 1:15 of the first round in Philadelphia.

Which brings us to May 18, 1897. “Baker Is Expected To Win,” said The Milwaukee Journal hopefully on the day that Slaughterhouse Henry stepped into the ring against undefeated-in-four-fights Jim Jeffries in San Francisco. It was scheduled for 20 rounds, and “the prediction is freely made by the Chicago sports that if Baker manages to land either glove on Jeffries, the latter’s gallop toward the championship will be stopped.”

Baker had his moments. He “did some pretty footwork for half a dozen rounds, and once or twice managed to land left and right on the Los Angelan when the latter least expected it,” according to the San Francisco Examiner report of the fight.

“I must say that the stockyards champion gave me good, hard work to do,” recalled Jeffries years later. “As soon as we began he rushed at me and swung on my jaw with all his might. It was a great punch. He kept on swinging and tearing at me. He surely was a husky, tough fellow.

“I began nailing him with lefts and rights, and as the fight went along I measured him and knocked him down half a dozen times. In the seventh round, I remember, I hit him so hard that his heels flew up in the air and he turned a complete somersault.”

They stopped it in the ninth, after two left hooks from the taller, heavier Jeffries made Slaughterhouse Baker flounder like a cow on his way to the hamburger factory.

Speaking of food, Jeffries also related that Baker was so confident of beating him that the Milwaukee fighter not only bet his entire end of the purse on himself, but also offered to stand a dozen of his backers to an expensive oyster dinner afterwards. He got nothing for fighting, said Jeff, and “poor Baker had to hustle around and make a touch” to cover the cost of the meal for his pals.

His gameness made Baker popular in San Francisco, and after the Jeffries fight he won fights there against John Miller and Tom Ball. But an increasing aversion to training made him an increasingly easy mark for younger, better fighters, and the losses mounted up.

In 1903, he was knocked out in eight rounds by Bob Long in Kansas City. Baker quit the ring and went to work for the street department in KC, and was out of the news until October 10, 1908.

Under the headline “Heine Baker Dead,” the Milwaukee Free Press reported that “The headless body of Henry Baker, one of the best known heavyweight boxers in the country at one time, was found on the railroad tracks near the Union depot” in Kansas City. “It is thought he was run over by a Burlington train.” The Kansas City Star reported that services were held at Stewart’s Chapel a few days later, and that Baker was laid to rest in Union Cemetery. He was 42.

“Baker was a big, good-natured German and he had many friends here,” eulogized The Evening Wisconsin. “He was never considered a clever man, but was as strong as a bull and (was) always picked out for the big fellows when they wanted a real try-out.”

Apparently, though, Slaughterhouse Henry was a hell of a lot stronger than a bull, and any big fellow he ever went up against in the ring. Because he didn’t let a little thing like losing his head stop him from living a very long life.

In April, 1951, a newspaper in California’s Bay area ran a small item announcing a sports entertainment show for residents of the Livermore Veterans Home. “Among participants,” it said, “will be Sailor Tom Sharkey and his former sparring partner, Henry Baker, who contributed so much to Sharkey’s standing as a heavyweight 50 years ago.”

In January, 1961, another newspaper brief from the West Coast reported that “Henry Baker, who was Jim Jeffries’ third San Francisco opponent in 1897, died here last week of a kidney ailment. Close friends say he was 91. Baker appeared on the old Orpheum circuit at various times with Jim Jeffries, Jim Corbett and Tom Sharkey.”

A simple case of identity theft? Maybe. But believers in the occult and the other-worldly might propose otherwise, and suggest that at the very least the Kansas City gravediggers didn’t do a very good job of covering their Heine.

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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