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Articles of 2006

Don Lutz: A Champion Any Way You Look At It

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His record was 18-2-2, his manager was Angelo Dundee, and he trained alongside Muhammad Ali and the other world champions at the famous 5th Street Gym in Miami Beach, Florida.

Under the circumstances, says Don T. Lutz, “I had a feeling there was going to be more to me than just Wisconsin Golden Gloves champion.”

He turned out to be 100 percent right. But not because of what he was in the ring, but rather because in 61 years, no punch, war, or anything else that has knocked Don Lutz down has been able to keep him from getting back up. His life – and the kindred lives and service of all the military veterans we honor today – is a tribute to the kind of spirit and valor that outshine any championship belt.

After his father died when Lutz was five-years-old, Don and his sister and brother were raised by their mother in West Allis, Wisconsin, with help from two aunts. In school, he was policed by Catholic nuns. Not surprisingly, by the time he was 12, “I wanted to do something men did,” he says. So his mother turned him over to a neighbor who had been a boxer, and pretty soon a ring and punching bags were set up in the Lutz garage.

Don won three Golden Gloves championships, and was good enough to fight in the 1964 U.S. Olympic Trials. He lost, but caught the eye of Dundee, who told Lutz that if he ever got down to Miami Beach to look him up.

Just a year out high school, Lutz had no car and no money. But he lived just a block away from State Fair Park. He walked over, got a job with the Royal American Show that operated the midway rides, and worked his way to Florida as a carnie. That’s how much he wanted it.

In addition to Ali, who won the heavyweight title from Sonny Liston that year, Dundee’s fighters at the time included champions Willie Pastrano (light heavyweight), Ralph Dupas (junior middleweight), Luis Rodriquez (welterweight), and Sugar Ramos (featherweight); plus plenty of top-flight contenders.

“When you’re around those kind of guys, you get good just by osmosis sometimes,” Lutz says. “Being with the champs got you feeling like you had a chance.”

He reveled in the life. “I wish I could explain how much a thrill I get when I fight,” the young middleweight wrote to a friend in 1966. “When I’m in shape and am fighting the way I can really fight, I’m there – really there. Nothing else really matters.”

But then in December of that year the 21-year-old Lutz was notified to report for induction into the U.S. Army.

America had been at war in Vietnam for two years, and as our military effort there escalated many young men of draft age fled to Canada to avoid conscription. Drafted too, Ali declared himself a conscientious objector, was convicted of violating the Selective Service Act, and as the legal wheels slowly turned lost three of his prime boxing years.

At Dundee’s insistence, Lutz attended Miami Dade Jr. College while he boxed. The trainer even loaned him tuition money. Like a lot of other students, Lutz could have obtained a student deferment from the military. But his father had been a disabled veteran of World War I, and two uncles were killed in World War II.

That wasn’t all of it, though. “I got to live in this country, and some of the things I got to do were grand and great, like go to school and live where I wanted,” he says. “So I decided that if they wanted two years of my life, they got it.”

Don Lutz wants this made clear: “I’m not a ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’ or ‘America, Right- or-Wrong’ guy. But I am a product of my family, and did what I thought was right. I made my choice, and I’ll stand by it.”

Even though that choice turned the next decade of his life into a nightmare.

“You see,” he says, “the war was ghastly. It was ungodly.”

The Army gave him 10 weeks of medical training and made him a battlefield medic. “The third tracheotomy I ever saw being done,” he says, “I was doing it.”

But the worst duty of his 18 months in the jungles of Vietnam was something called triage, which meant that when the casualties mounted up it was up to Lutz, as senior medic, to decide who could be saved and who would be left behind to die.

“I did a lot of triage. I left a lot of kids to die. You couldn’t help them all.”

But a lot of times Lutz had to be dragged away after holding as many of the dying as he could, because “19-year-old kids shouldn’t have to die by themselves.”

His own number almost came up several times. Three times Lutz was in helicopters that crashed. Once he was the only survivor. Another time, he was sleeping when an enemy rocket hit his bunker. Thinking him dead, his comrades stacked Lutz’s unconscious body with the other corpses, and then reacted as if he were a ghost when he suddenly rose, blood streaming from his ears and mouth, to help tend to the wounded.

To escape the insanity, Lutz and some buddies went to orphanages to hold babies.

“It was a nice getaway,” he says. “We did it because we had to do it, or that war would have eaten us up.”

His Vietnam tour ended when Lutz took a spray of bullets in the leg. He spent two and a half months in a Veterans Administration hospital in Miami, where Ali almost caused a riot when he came to visit him.

In addition to the leg wounds, Lutz came home with incessant ringing in his ears, two Purple Hearts, and the Bronze Star.

The ringing has never gone away. The medals he threw away after people protesting the Vietnam War spit on him for fighting in it. For Lutz and other returning soldiers, the homecoming was almost as bad as the war itself.

“It’s a little known fact,” he says, “that more Vietnam veterans committed suicide than were killed in action.”

He could have been one of them. Tortured by nightmares and depression, Lutz became an alcoholic and slept with guns under his pillow.

He wanted to box again, but Dundee saw that he wasn’t the same and declined to book him. So on his own Lutz took fights all over the world, often using phony names. He mostly lost, and found what little peace he had in a prayer printed on a holy card he had picked up one day amidst some battlefield litter in Vietnam and saved:

“Oh Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned.”

Then he came home to Wisconsin for a family reunion and found Zeta again.

They had been friends in high school, but went their separate ways, she says, because “he wanted to be the middleweight champion of the world, and I wanted to go to college.” Eventually she married someone else, had two kids and got divorced.

When Zeta saw Lutz again after all those year, “I knew this was not the same person I went to high school with.”

When they started dating again, she told him, “I don’t do guns.” Lutz got rid of his arsenal and started going to Alcoholics Anonymous. In 1979, they got married. The doctors had told Lutz that fatherhood was out for him on account of his war injuries, so their daughter Melissa was a wonderful surprise.

The Lutzes went to counseling together and started counseling other Vietnam-era couples. But Don continued to suffering from interminable headaches, and problems with his short-term memory.

“The things he wanted to do he couldn’t, because he couldn’t remember things,” she says.

Don worked at the Milwaukee County Detention Center. Twice he received commendations for using CPR to revive kids who had tried to hang themselves. But he still lost his job because on a required written exam he had trouble listing in their right order the steps used in CPR.

Medical tests disclosed a mass of dead brain cells. But the Veterans Administration doctors blamed boxing for that and refused to grant him the war-related disability status Zeta insisted he deserved.

It took her eight years, but she finally tracked down the soldiers who had pulled him, seemingly dead, out of the hole in the ground where his bunk had been when that Vietcong shell exploded. Lutz was granted war disability status that helped him get hired as a tree-trimmer by Milwaukee County. Once his crew came upon the scene of a car accident on the freeway. Lutz administered first-aid to the injured, and received another commendation.

Sometimes Lutz was so exuberant that his crew bosses insisted he get drug tested. But he wasn’t high on anything artificial or chemical. He was just deliriously happy to be alive, thrilled with his wife and three kids and the opportunity to take care of them, and as in awe of the miracle of life as only someone who has seen death too many times can be.

In 1996, Lutz was chosen to run with the Olympic torch as it made its way to the Games in Atlanta. He wore shorts, a t-shirt, and military combat boots, as a tribute to the 55,000 Americans who never came home from Vietnam. May 30 of that year was officially proclaimed “Don Lutz Day” in Milwaukee County, in recognition of his “outstanding accomplishments and commitment to the community.”

Don and Zeta are retired now, and enjoy their lives more than ever. “I’ve had it all,” he says. “I know, because I’ve been down there in the gutter. I’m fulfilled.”

Even without the boxing glory that once seemed his destiny. Looking back now, Lutz says, “I was just a shot away from being ordinary. I can use ‘Nam as an excuse, but the truth is I just wasn’t good enough.”

His old trainer isn’t so sure about that. “If he didn’t go to Vietnam, he’d have licked an awful lot of good fighters,” says Angelo Dundee. “That happened to a lot of them in that war. It sucked the goodness right out of them.”

The Hall of Fame trainer knows one thing for sure: “Don is a sweetheart. All good things should happen to him.”

The best, of course, is Zeta. “We laugh a lot,” she says. “We know and appreciate what we have. Our favorite thing is to be together.”

But the self-described “schmuck who just keeps going on” gives boxing some of the credit, too, for how things turned out. “It gives you a little sense of who you are,” says Don. “I learned from boxing how to analyze things – that and Hemingway’s thing: grace under pressure.

“It saved me. It made me keep getting up.”

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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