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Articles of 2006

A Talk With Jake LaMotta

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The last time I spoke to Angelo Dundee, I told him that I saw a documentary produced by the English network BBC where he talked about Muhammad Ali and where Jake LaMotta spoke about the boxing business in the 1940s and 1950s. I told Angelo that I would love to interview the Raging Bull during my next visit to New York City and he said: “Why wait until you go there? I will give you Jake’s number. My friends are your friends.”  Immediately after that, I called Mr. LaMotta and told him that I got the number from Angelo Dundee. The legendary middleweight champion, asked me: “What can I do for you?” My answer was: “Give me an interview, I will keep you on the phone for just  five minutes.” When he said yes, I was really excited; not only about getting an interview with a real boxing legend, but just for the pleasure of being able to talk with him.

Like many other people, I got to know about Jake LaMotta through the movie Raging Bull. When it was re-released, in 1980, I was 12 years old and couldn’t care less about boxing. I bought the movie six or seven years later and was so impressed that I also bought a collection of 48 VHS tapes about the greatest fighters in history and LaMotta was one of them. The tape showed LaMotta’s fights against Marcel Cerdan, Laurent Dauthuille, Eugene Hairston, Norman Hayes, Bob Murphy and Billy Kilgore. What I liked about the Bronx legend is that he threw hundreds of punches, got hit many times and never slowed down. Today, that could never happen: after ten consecutive unanswered punches, the referee would step in and declare the fight a TKO. That’s only one of many differences between boxing in LaMotta’s era and our times. Another major difference is how many times a boxer fights during the year. Today, six bouts in twelve months are considered a big deal. During LaMotta’s first year as a professional, in 1941, he fought 20 times with a record of 16 wins, 3 losses and 1 draw. After 13 years in the ring, LaMotta’s final record was made of 106 wars (that’s what they were): 83 wins (30 KOs), 19 losses and 4 draws. Surprisingly, he was world middleweight champion for only one year, seven months and 29 days. That looks a short reign compared to some modern champions, but who will remember about them ten years from now? LaMotta is already in the history books and will be remembered by any and every boxing fan. That’s because he won the title in an era when great warriors abounded, fought the greatest boxer in history six times (that was Sugar Ray Robinson, if you are too young to know) and always packed arenas.

Among today’s champions, only a few remind me of Jake LaMotta, because of their willingness to take it and give it back without making a step backward or doing wrong things like holding and headbutting. I’m referring to Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, Manny Pacquiao and Miguel Angel Cotto. I’m sure that for them it is a big compliment being compared to LaMotta, but don’t tell it to the Bronx legend. Why? Let’s hear what Jake LaMotta has to say.

“Among today’s champions, I like nobody. Talking in general, I don’t like what boxing has become: they give world title shots to people with 20 fights of experience, the referee stops the fight after a cut over the eye, too many so-called champions find excuses to refuse fights. Back in the 1940s and 1950s, nobody even considered refusing a fight. We all needed to make money and were willing to fight even on short notice. Besides, nobody ever told us that fighting too often was risky and we didn’t think about that. The first time I faced Fritzie Zivic, he had more than 100 fights. Can you name anybody, among today’s boxers, who fought as much? I defeated Zivic three times and lost one.”  (Note: Fritzie’s record was 128 wins, 35 losses and 7 draws before fighting La Motta for the first time. Zivic started as a welterweight and became word champion defeating the legendary Henry Armstrong. Zivic retired after 232 fights: 157 wins, 66 losses and 9 draws).

When I asked him about the heavyweights, LaMotta’s answer didn’t change:

“I like the old ones. The best were Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano and Muhammad Ali. I cannot choose one of them.  All the other heavyweight champions, are way below them.”

Maybe that’s just a coincidence, but Angelo Dundee gave me the same answer. Like Angelo, the Raging Bull has Italian blood (his real name is Giacobbe). Unlike Angelo, who came to Italy so many times that he lost count, La Motta’s first trip to Italy happened last year. Instead of travelling the well-trod tourist’s itinerary – Venice, Florence, Rome and Naples – he chose to visit Sicily because that’s where his father came from: “My father was from Messina, while my mother was born in the United States from Napolitano parents. My dad talked about Sicily his whole life. I don’t understand why I waited so long to go there. I really liked my time on that island.”  Believe it or not, nobody knew about LaMotta’s trip. A Sicilian journalist recognized him while LaMotta was drinking a cup of coffee in a sidewalk café in the small town of Bagheria (close to Palermo), asked him a couple of questions and shot a photo of him which was published by a national newspaper. Before any other journalist could try to contact the Raging Bull, he was back on a plane heading home to New York.

When I asked Mr. LaMotta about the best boxer he fought, he had no doubts: “It was Ray Robinson. He was, by far, the greatest of them all. In my time, there were so many outstanding boxers who never won the world title. One of them was Tony Janiro. Everybody was scared to fight him, but I accepted immediately. I wanted to be recognized as the best and… I needed the money. In the other divisions, I liked world featherweight champion Willie Pep a lot. He would have crushed everybody today”

The interview ended when I asked Mr. LaMotta about the Billy Fox affair: “I answered that question a million times.  When a journalist wants to talk about it, I tell him: goodbye and God bless you.” Right after that, he hung up the phone. I didn’t call him back to get an answer, it would have been disrespectful. If Mr. LaMotta is reading this, I want to tell him that I consider it a huge honor to have spoken with the legendary Raging Bull.

Jake LaMotta

Born in New York City on July 10, 1921.

Record: 83 wins (30 KOs), 19 losses e 4 draws.

World middleweight champion from June 16, 1949 to February 14, 1951.

He won the title at Briggs Stadium, in Detroit, against Marcel Cerdan who quit on his stool at the beginning of the 10th round.

On July 12, 1950 at Madison Square Garden, LaMotta defended the title beating Tiberio Mitri on points.

On September 13, 1950 in Detroit, La Motta made his second defense with a KO 15 win over Laurent Dauthuille. The RING magazine called it the Fight of the Year..

On February 14, 1951 in Chicago, LaMotta lost the title to Ray Robinson by TKO 13.

The six wars against Ray Robinson

10 Rounds

October 2, 1942 at Madison Square Garden: Robinson won on points.

February 5, 1943 at Olympia Stadium in Detroit: Robinson won on points. During the 9th round, La Motta knocked down Sugar Ray.

February 26, 1943 again at Olympia Stadium: LaMotta won on points. In the 7th round, LaMotta knocked down Robinson. It was the first loss for Sugar Ray.

February 23, 1945 in New York: Robinson won on points.

12 Rounds

September 26, 1945 at Comiskey Park in Chicago: Robinson won on points.

15 Rounds

February 14, 1951 at Chicago Stadium: Robinson won by TKO 13. This bout was billed The Valentine’s Day Massacre because of the huge number of punches absorbed by LaMotta… who never went down.

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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