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Articles of 2006

Shannon Briggs: Only in Don King’s America

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PHOENIX– There has never been a major league no-hitter thrown at Chase Field, the Arizona Diamondbacks' baseball stadium.

Boxing fans almost saw one in the heavyweight title contest between Shannon Briggs and Sergei Liakhovich, until Briggs salvaged the Showtime show with a last pitch grand slam that sent the previously jeering crowd home with a buzz.

In this case, knocking one out of the park meant a couple of huge upper deck conks that dropped Liakhovich twice in the final forty seconds. The second splatter sent Liakhovich sprawling through the strands and onto the ringside apron, where his spaghetti legs got caught beneath the canvas.

Referee Bobby Ferrara waved it off, and Briggs had broken the ballyhooed hold former soviet bloc fighters held on the four most recognized titles.

The punches that actually separated Liakhovich from his senses and WBO belt landed a fistful of wild moments before his concussive collapse. Briggs landed a good series with about a minute to go that staggered Liakhovich, then draped him across the ropes with huge thuds from both sides.

Briggs’s finishing flurry consisted of nothing more than glancing gloves and missed missles, but by then Liakhovich was out on his two left feet.

Briggs was behind 106-103 on two scorecards and 105-104 on the third when he turned things around.

“It’s been a long hard road,” said Briggs. “Life, turbulent, crazy, but I got here thanks to Don King. I tried to gun Sergei out of there by the first round. I was waiting a lot and I got tired. I’ll be honest with you, I was exhausted. He’s a tough kid, with good movement, but I didn’t really think he was winning because he was just bouncing around not really doing anything.

“I was supposed to fight Wladimir Klitschko at the Garden next Saturday. But Shelly Finkel kept lying to me for two and a half months, saying the deal was a thousand percent done. [So] we went to Don’s house and said let us in. We ate, we talked, we laughed, and he signed me on the spot. Say what you want about Don King, but he’s made another heavyweight champion. I said I’d bring the title back to America. Hopefully I’ll get the giant (Nicolai Valuev) next.”

“I don’t take anything away from him,” said Laikhovich. “I fought a stupid fight. He caught me with a good punch. I made so many mistakes. He didn’t surprise me. I know he’s an experienced guy.’

Liakhovich reportedly earned around $747,000 for the disappointment, based on foreign TV rights.

Briggs earned $400,000 but put himself squarely in front of the line for major heavyweight paydays. Among the other currently conflicted champions, Briggs’s entertaining personality and engaging wit should give the maligned division a much needed jolt.

The fight itself was a plodding prime example of big boy doldrums almost all the rest of the way. Until the fight’s stirring conclusion, the thirty-six minute scheduled duration held only about thirty-six seconds worth of action. Then, with about half a minute left on the clock, it was time for the highlight reel, quite possibly the knockout of the year.

The audience was listed at 12,000 but didn’t really appear much more than half that size.

A fine post-fight scene was held in a hot, relatively tiny room used for such occasions but turned out to be just the right intimate setting for a heartfelt discussion.

“Scott Hirsch rescued me,” said Briggs of his beaming manager. “Not just from a financial standpoint but as a friend and mentor. He came to me with different things about life, calming me down when I was ready to blow the fuse and just pack it in. I was like, this sh– ain’t working for me man, I’m gonna have to get a job.’

“We took fights for little or no money to be ready when the opportunity came,” said Hirsch. “What strikes me is how Don King has been two-hundred percent honest with us. He said what he means and he means what he says. You hear a lot of things but I believe what I see.”  

It seemed like the bruised Liakhovich was really only concerned about speaking to one unpleasant subject, and he struggled to make his point with appropriate English grammar. He plainly desired to clear things up about Briggs’s pre-fight assertion he’d made racial slurs.

Briggs understood the Scottsdale based Belarusian transplant’s dilemma, and set the record straight with more amusement than guilt.

“I made all that up,” confessed Briggs. “He always treated me like a gentleman. I like them (Team Liakhovich) and wasn’t trying to offend them in any way. I had one thing in mind, to get under his skin. He lost to Maurice Harris because he got frustrated.”

King and some other USA homeboys, black and white, seemed to suppress their smirks.

“It’s the old-fashioned way of talking trash in America,” said King. “That’s one thing the foreign fighters ain’t learned yet. That vernacular is unbelievable and foreign to them.”

Briggs added apologetic props to a distinguished looking Liakhovich backer from Africa, who looked like he was trying to figure out his first Halloween party.

Liakhovich’s manager Ivaylo Gotzev raised knowing eyebrows like a guy who’s played plenty of poker or pool.

Liakhovich exchanged a glance with his wife that was part “aw shucks,” part “what the hell.”

“Losing a fight don’t mean nothing,” advised King to the couple. “Just don’t lose your wife. That’s what’s important.”

Welcome to America, bro.

The night’s biggest con job may have belonged to Briggs’s trainer Chuck MacGregor, who previously worked with Liakhovich.

“Everybody knew that Shannon had to throw all his artillery in the first or second round and try for a knockout within five rounds because if not Sergei was gonna walk to an easy victory,” said MacGregor facetiously. “We trained to stand still and counterpunch until late in the fight.”

“In the 12th round Chuck gave me a tongue lashing,” smiled Briggs. “He was like, ‘You son of a bitch. You better get your ass out there and do something because your life is going to be summed up by tonight.’ He was right.”

King is rarely at a loss for words. His sincerity is often questioned, with probable just cause. But the sad truth is, through much of his history, criticism of King comes from nothing more than the color of his skin. Unfortunately, that’s just like the reason a couple very vocal African-Americans stalked around the field area with disgust during the main event because a smaller, pale skinned pugilist was making Briggs look bad.

Simply because buttheads who talk like John Rocker are jerks doesn’t mean it’s ok for Carlos Mencia or Dave Chappelle to cash in saying the same type thing. Two wrongs and all that.

It’s been said often the only color that matters in boxing is green. What’s wrong with that?

Still, there will probably always be sorry situations like Gerry Cooney (not his fault) with “Rocky”on the cover of Time magazine before the Larry Holmes fight.

Meanwhile, a press conference filled with diversity held proud moments. Too bad some media types with little boxing background, who show up at events then criticize the game, weren’t around to see it.

Venezuelan Fernando Angulo, who lived alone in the jungle as a child, got rave reviews for his surprising, gritty stand against heavily favored Juan Diaz. A pair of international reporters with BBC voices searched for “Baby Bull” stuffed animal momentos Team Diaz had distributed.

King repeatedly squeezed one of the noisemaking toys on the podium, with a continued chuckle knowing Bulls don’t “moo,” apparently amused at the sound.

Based on witnessing a historic land rights agreement between Arizona’s Hopi and Navajo Tribes, King spoke about Native Americans with insight and compassion. Firsthand knowledge shows that hanging out on the Rez can do that for people.

When recognized by King, a member of the Russian press stood up and remarked about how he’d hoped for a different result but was impressed to visit the United States and witness such a multi-cultural gathering interact so positively.

It may be naive optimism speaking, but the scene reflected very well upon the sport.

“To see these type of evolutionary processes go on is sometimes very moving,” said King, making eye contact with much of the small assembly.

For the star-crossed New Yorker Briggs, an almost full moon shined on the infield like the end of a life journey’s rainbow.

“I don’t know where to begin,” sighed Briggs, choking up. “I put it on the line. At least I can go to my grave saying I did something with my life. My mom died on my birthday in 1996, she overdosed, man. It was heartbreaking.

“I said now my birthday is a month away, I’ve got to do this. They had the stadium roof open and my mother was looking down on me with one second left. I’m a nobody from Brownsville, but I did it. I could have fought a much better fight, but I won and I’m just happy. I want to make some money in a couple more fights, then raise my kids and be with my girl while I can still talk pretty good. I’m lucky. I’m blessed. I’m a very grateful man.”

Only in boxing.

Only in Don King’s America.

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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