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Articles of 2006

Destiny and the Legend of Erik Morales

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“No one has ever booed me out of a ring and no one ever will. As far as I am concerned there is going to be a fight. We are there to fight.”

Classic boxing careers are defined by evolution and entropy. A budding brilliance for combat decides personal signatures of fate, wearing down doubt, culminating in the destruction of valiant and passionate foes. Erik Morales, born above a boxing gym, began his journey as a prizefighter, forging his ultimate individuality as a champion, by developing the artistry of a boxer imbued with the raw determination of a slugger. Besting Mexican legend Daniel Zaragoza in 1997 and then obliterating the feared Junior Jones inside of four rounds a year later, the young gun Morales displayed the leveraging prowess of Carlos Zarate born up upon the robust willfulness of Ruben Olivares. Catapulting past hard rock Wayne McCullough he faced up to a showdown with Marco Antonio Barrera, the parallel light of Mexican boxing, barely more than a month and a half into the new millennium.

In Morales’ epic first contest against fellow phenom Barrera, the boxer bled and the punisher thrashed out at a fellow champion, until the marks of their respective greatness were there for all to see and celebrate. Refusing to be denied victory, Morales showed that his ultimate weapon was his will to push himself to the limits of tolerance. The native son from Tijuana went on to cultivate a pure form of precision power boxing, able to finish off opponents with decisive flurries, the lancing jab giving instantaneous access to a withering right hand. And it was Morales’ sheer hunger – the ability to inject and sustain tactical malice and heart – that drove the fans near to delirium when ever he disrobed to punch it out for pay.

Champions reign, regale and then fade, sometimes in one night, one torrid night. The prime of Erik Morales began almost a decade ago and that’s twice the normal life span of a champion, even an exceptional one. A simple bow deep in the embrace of his corner, a faint kiss of his right glove before it reaches toward heaven; thusly, Morales acknowledges the cheers of the crowds who adore his fighting spirit, his professional dignity and the manner of a common man blessed with industrious excellence. Intense and committed always, Morales boxes feet angling in, around or out, a simple skip backward, spine rigidly erect, then the flashing of jab melds into a spearing right hand, then folding inside a left hook searches out the pulp of opposing flesh, in that instant Morales is outside again skipping back in, and out of no where an uppercut erupts against a quivering jaw. For those who have seen Morales fight this past decade he’s as recognizable in a boxing ring as Roy Jones, Oscar De La Hoya, Bernard Hopkins or Lennox Lewis. You always have the feeling when Morales fights, it’s a title fight because he’s a champion with or without belts, having paid or spurned paying sanctioning fees. If you can, search out the fourth round of Morales battling the great Manny Pacquiao the first time and you will see in miniature the meaning and measure of the man; Morales in motion there needs no knockout signatures, no absolute ending.

But is Morales now to be viewed only in retrospect? Is there now no future left to Erik Morales, just thirty, but by general accounting a ravaged thirty? The rumors of sparring struggles float about while images of a hyper ecstatic Pacquiao training under the watchful eye of Freddie Roach, proprietor of the Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles, makes for acidic speculation. Pacquiao’s thousand dollar Nike designer ring foot wear is not expected to dim Morales’ ardor. But the sheer pulsating energy Pacquiao exhibits forms a gulf separating the two champions or so it would appear. Trainer Roach tries to keep his observations as politically correct as he can – insulting Morales with rhetorical whimsy – nevertheless making Morales a long shot to last the entire scheduled 12 rounds.

That kind of disrespect wrapped up as matter of fact confidence in his charge is precisely the kind of flash point that has, in the past, tended to irritate Erik Morales. For as much as any fighter of his generation the Tijuana born Morales expects professional respect from those who make their living within the boxing establishment. His customary training at the secluded training facility in the Otomi Mountains, 50 minutes from Toluca, Mexico, again proved an assuaging, sobering experience for Morales. The cold autumnal air helped cleanse Morales’ fighting spirit, things falling into familiar ordering, winning ways remembered, his small band dedicated to making a renewal of committed discipline toward one objective: victory. Victory now spells out redemption yet again for Morales. The mood in the camp was as meditative as the Pacquiao training routine was frantic. With his father Jose back in camp to oversee training, Morales steadily brought his 20 weeks of training to a cutting edged finality.

What time had seemingly deducted from the arsenal of Morales, long training sessions with Velocity Sports Performance was calculated to reimburse. The admission by Morales earlier this week that, “I have never lost weight correctly… and weight has always been a major problem for me, losing weight and retaining my strength has been a problem.” So the periodization for training has meant balancing the strengthening of stabilizing muscle groups and developing explosiveness in his legs and upper shoulder, both enhanced by overall stamina. And range of motion translating into strength over time is really what Morales has been lacking in his ring performances for about two years. Has Morales found the detailing and discipline to remake his body for this critical rubber match against the dynamic Pacquiao? Therein lays the mystery and ultimately the destiny of Erik Morales, the fighter.

“There is not much to change,” Morales explains, “it about being able to go 12 rounds, 12 tough rounds and bringing all of your technique and experience and power… I feel no pressure. I’ve done it before. The main thing is to be prepared to fight and I have done all the work… knowing your opponent… it happens in training…. I have prepared perfectly… I like to think I am ready to win.”

No one, it seems, is asking if Pacquiao overtrained, for he’s in his prime years as an athlete. The issue of Pacquiao having signed with Golden Boy Promotions for an extended contract, leaving his current promotional house and vender of this rubber match, Top Rank, doesn’t leave the same lingering stains as his divorce from Murad Muhammad, in the run-up to Morales-Pacquiao I. In such regard is Manny Pacquiao held. Science, the science of the human body in elite level athletic competition, has been invoked by Team Morales and Top Rank to steel their man Morales. But the ides of March have swarmed near, in November; an inexorable decay has gripped Morales and – so it is being whispered – only the boxing legend, the mythic past of Morales is left. Erik Morales, the king of the ring, is no more; he belongs enshrined in the warring glory of his own marvelous past: yesterday’s man. Common report can cut to the bone.

All those days in the Otomi Mountains hitting, reacting, concentrating, Morales knew what was being said about him, paranoia could hardly have amplified the doubts any more clearly.

Pacquiao has his admirers at a fever pitch, his celebrity casting him in movies, chanting till he sings them love songs. Everyone wants him, demands he be theirs. He sees only stars of his reflection. As if to rebel, he takes refuge in the ring to be alone, readying himself to set alight Erik Morales and then Marco Antonio Barrera. The world is his for the taking, Morales’ for the breaking?

The man in the bandana effuses combinations, a blurring application of energy emanating, a body transforming itself for warring literally burning itself alive.

Showing mostly diffidence, the legend from Mexico gathers his momentum, transmissions clearing signal pathways. Morales’ body appears to be awakening, quickening, still drawing upon itself, coiling, the transition to flight and fight aligning to the exact mark, Pacquiao’s certitude, poised to release the anvil of dynamism.

For Morales, it must be his last great night. He’s Erik Morales, the legend.

(Patrick Kehoe may be reached at pkehoe@telus.net)

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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