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Articles of 2006

What Ever Happened to Boxing Reform? (Part 2)

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Read Part 1 by Patrick Kehoe on Boxing Reform

Boxing reform typically becomes topical on the heels of scandal, tragedy or political housecleaning. A fighter dies in the ring and suddenly there are siren calls for improving safety measures and commission safeguarding of fighters, be it monitoring health records, watchdogging for promotional mismatches, activating refereeing discretion on the side of prevention, etc. When an official or promoter or any other boxing insider is caught on tape taking a bribe or tangled within documented conflicts of interest, editorial trumpets sound and business rivals point fingers upon the cancerous matters of which they themselves are, of course, never a party to, never in any way complicit. Thus, we all understand that boxing reform, typically, takes on the character of reactionary necessity within a particularly conspicuous moment.

For many in boxing, reform is an irritant. Why? Because boxing reform tends to blunt profit motives and established routes for maximizing the bottom line of financial solvency and profitability by limiting license and unchecked opportunism. One might say reform exists as an intermittent rhetorical promise or future tense expectation inferring that in the end – that never elapsing someday – the goodwill of all the faithful, the committed and the specialized interests who make up the business community of professional boxing will – indeed – do the right thing.

We all know about doing the right thing, how it involves selflessness, sacrifice and a dedication to extending ethics from idea to practice. Doing the right thing means looking at the broader view for the vital interest not always recognizable at first; somehow, in boxing, that extending, that outreach never reaches the heart, the vital organs. Boxing as an intensive care patient certainly goes through a battery of tests. The diagnostics certainly seem high-tech, state of the art and yet, so often, too often, the patient expires or is left uninsured and functionally brain dead. The liberal use of metaphorical allusion here is as distracting as useful: agreed. Hopefully, the point is made, taken.

Not that boxing should be singled out for malpractice, excessive relativism and shoving its mitts through the remaining panes of rose colored glass left to house one of the last romantically saturated specimen in professional sport, the sweet science. Think about the drug scandals chocking the life out of baseball’s mythic story arch as America’s Pastime, the grizzly tales from the Gridiron and, not to be outdone, the Tour De France and International Track and Field, a.k.a., eugenics in the grass. In the age of designer pharmaceuticals and the billion dollar earnings threshold, boxing’s red light district zoning problems aren’t as singularly conspicuous as they used to be.

Still, we need to look within our own house, vigilant and ready to do the right thing. In the meantime, fighters continue to get promoted and preened, insulated for purposes of manipulated, enriched and impoverished, their individual expiration dates almost always coming before they are ready to live the rest of their lives beyond the ring, as citizens, parents and ex-athletes. A fighter battling under the intensive ring lights remains the only image of a professional boxer that many, ultimately, value. We cannot forget to look at the end result the life individual fighters will or could lead, just as we cannot forget his security and prospects while he or she tries to ply his rough trade during a career. So as we take the time now to concern ourselves with matters elemental to boxing reform, getting lost in the architecture of the boxing business as it has evolved is not an option.

And we shall try to remember the individual, the mediocre talent, the journeyman (and woman) for they are the grist for the mills of boxing’s glittering pantheon.

We turn to recent measures addressing our concerns, such as the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act (Senate approval April 7, 2000) which was essentially meant to limit the scope of contractual indentures and manipulations commonly practiced in boxing as ‘options.’

The great boxing writer and attorney Thomas Hauser feels that the Ali Act has come up short on providing the necessary safeguarding promised by the Act, “Because it doesn’t go far enough and isn’t being enforced!”

Longtime boxing insider, writer, editor and broadcaster Steve Farhood agrees. “The Muhammad Ali Bill was a good idea, but what good is legislation if it's not enforced? To legislators and law enforcement officials, boxing is not a priority… and probably never will be. The only time it becomes a priority is when politicians can garner headlines by abusing the sport.”

“To tell you the truth I cannot really see if it did or not,” boxer turned trainer John “Ice” Scully intones from the heart. “I mean, I still see fighters getting robbed in the ring and out. If it helped in any way it has helped; but, it hasn't solved all the problems yet. That's for sure. I think one thing is because many people, especially fighters, have no idea whatsoever what the Ali act even is. The terms of it aren't well known enough for a fighter with questions to even seek help from it.”

The longstanding reality of boxing has been the fighter-manager relationship and has been tied to the overall dictates of the promoter, save for an exceptional few of mega-stars such as Oscar De La Hoya, Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis and Evander Holyfield, or in an earlier time Ali, Monzon in Europe, Leonard and Duran. Though all the above names typically found their best business practices facilitated by extended, though not universal, working arrangements with promoters such as Don King and Bob Arum, to name the most influential. What fighters like Holmes found out, however, was that contractual exclusivity meant both profitability but also formulistic indenturing in the form of endless contractual options on future services, massive hidden financial deductions and coercive promotional manipulation. At least that was what fighters like Larry Holmes and Tim Witherspoon publicly asserted was status quo business practices in boxing from contender level status through championship status. Success in boxing can be a very limiting experience.

Basically, the relationship of promoter to sanctioning bodies and tangentially the TV broadcaster orientates the monetary and symbolic possibilities of topflight professional fighters. At the developmental stage, fighters are almost completely regulated by promotional self-interest. The Ali Act was supposed to act as a default mechanism or legal recourse for fighters and their management to opt out of promotional indenturing that represented interests counter to their own. Thus, fighters who established themselves could foster the status of independent contractors negotiating agreements of shared self-interests with whatever promotional and broadcasting entity interested in their short-term services.

Hauser reminds us of the effects of championship level fighters working as independent contracting entities. “The elite fighters are making more money for less work today.”

“I don't see much change in the financial status of boxers,” is Farhood’s observation. “This should be a priority, but until all U.S. boxing commissions have the same medical and rules standards, any other reform is premature.”

Is it too easy to take broad swipes at the promoters, in this age of network controls of the financial purses for major boxing events? Then again, that represents only the very elite within the global game of professional boxing. John Scully expands on the topic under discussion offering us the following:

“You know, every once in a while there comes these guys, the saviors with the big plans. Sometimes it is a government investigation into the sport that never, ever turns up anything. They supposedly reach deep down for the dirt and they always come up with lint for some reason. You also always get these guys that say they want to revolutionize the business end of the game and make it better for the fighters. Maybe these guys will have some success, too, but I am sure that fighters will continue to get robbed and misled by others in the sport for a long while. People need to understand that when these guys talk about making it better for the fighters they aren't talking about four-round kids from Los Angeles and Newark, New Jersey. They are talking about the kids that they deem worthy of putting money into. The big prospects and the Olympians, etc.”

So, what then of the promise of ‘transparency’ that was floated and highlighted so often in 2000 and 2001? Transparency, that clear window for business practices and financial accountability which was to drive out all of the backroom dealing and conflicts of interest rampant in the practice of making and broadcasting fights? And what of the sport’s governing bodies, the WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO, to name four? Is there any good news there?

“As for the alphabets, there has been a change, but it hasn't been for the better,” Farhood characterizing the influence of boxing’s world governing organizations. “The alphabets no longer pretend to rank fighters according to their relative abilities. Instead, they openly rank them according to the organization's needs. The fact that The Ring magazine belt has gained stature is a good thing, but until the fighters themselves turn their backs on the alphabets (fighters love belts, ANYBODY'S belts), there won't be any changes.

What a lot of people don't want to acknowledge is that to do away with the alphabets would be a positive step, but somebody has to fill the void.”

John Scully’s urgency rings through when he says, “Well, I can tell you one thing. I am in a situation right now where a boxer that I train, WBA 154 pound champion Jose Rivera, won his title this pastMay and he is still waiting to see who he will fight next because the WBA hasn't decided if it will be their mandatory challenger or another guy who they are trying to settle a court case with. We really wanted to fight a Cory Spinks or a Margarito but they say we have to satisfy our mandatory first. At the same time, though, nobody from the WBC ever says Oscar has to satisfy his mandatory at the same weight or else he will be stripped… Why the double standard?”

Listing problems certainly represents the simple part of beginning to deal with what ills contemporary boxing. Herein we offer re-notification, reminders to the collective conscience. And next time we will look more closely into the Ali Act and take upon us the mystery of why boxing so often defiles the obvious, the commonsensical issues troubling it. And in offering up concerns, we will try to act responsibly, looking out for the welfare of the fight game.

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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