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Articles of 2006

The First Fight, April 2002

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I have a special place for Tony Dodson, the Liverpool super-middleweight who lost to Carl Froch. That place is the Everton Sports Park Centre, April 13, 2002.

Back then, I was new to boxing. A lot of eating and even more drinking during my first year at university had caused me to go over two hundred pounds; for perspective, nine months earlier, when I had fist arrived as an undergraduate, I weighed, at most, one-sixty. But easy access to bad foods and cheap beer coupled with being away from home for the first time had led to a growth spurt in my width and, unfortunately, not in my height.

It was at this time, the end of my first year at university, that I met my first proper girlfriend, G. I’d started running every day around the local streets and doing some weight training on a self-assembled workout bench. But self-discipline was a problem and my weight yo-yoed as periods of disciplined exercise and wasteful sloth followed one another. With some direction from my then-girlfriend, I even joined a gym but managed, in three months, to go only a handful of times.

That Christmas, which was 2001, I made the decision to get into shape. I gave up alcohol and junk food. I went back to the gym, picked up my personal exercise program again and began this time to stick to it. This took up three days of the week but I still wanted something else. I’d thought about boxing on and off for a few years so I rang the A.B.A. to get the number of All Saint’s Boxing Club in York. All Saint’s told me that there were open adult sessions every Tues and Thurs from 7:00 to 8:30. I went and although it was hard, I stuck to it.

At first I was every word in the thesaurus under ‘bad.’ I had no stamina and didn’t know how to throw a punch. My power and strength, despite the weight-training, was dismissible. I quickly became the gym’s barometer of awfulness. I froze every time I sparred, unable to throw punches or even move around the ring due to my nervousness. I felt like I was dying during every run and after every exercise. Being a southpaw made things worse. I was both well-known and anonymous at the same time – so anonymous in fact that one of the trainers, Jack, for two years called me “Harry.” Eventually, I got used to the name and answered to it; I was too polite to ever correct him.

Over time I managed to improve although, in honesty, improvement is relative. With the time spent at the gym plus the boxing, I went down quickly to one-seventy; the weight loss was so rapid that I developed stretch marks. I became able in every session to do twelve rounds on the heavy bags, twenty-five minutes of various muscle-breaking exercises and four rounds of sparring. I learned the punches – jab, cross, hook, uppercut – and developed a sweet southpaw jab that disguised my poor stamina. The jab was hard, fast, fired repeatedly and covered my other deficiencies (of which there were many) well. I learned to box orthodox although I always felt more comfortable leading with my right hand.

I wasn’t perfect, not even good by a long chalk: the weightlifting ended up causing my elbow to hang permanently three inches away from the sides of my body and this, coupled with the fact that body shots would put me out of action, made me susceptible to… well, everyone. There’s also no shame in admitting that I lack the mentality for fighting; I enjoyed the sport of it too much.

G. didn’t understand my new obsession with boxing as she thought it was a stupid sport, a relentlessly and unforgivably damaging vocation to its participants. She worried about me when I sparred; she had a point.

It was while I was still improving that I went to watch live boxing in my pseudo-hometown of Liverpool. I say ‘pseudo’ because I was actually born outside Liverpool and have never lived within the boundaries of Merseyside which makes me, in scouse terms, a “woollyback.” But when people, especially abroad, ask where I come from I always tell them that I’m from Liverpool because the correct answer requires a lot more explanation. This approach has its benefits: in Tokyo, a group of Japanese guys started chanting “Gerrard” on a subway train and supplied me and my friend with beer until our station.

At the time we bought the tickets, I had no idea who was to fight that night as back then, I didn’t check the boxing news anywhere near as obsessively as I do now. In the days leading up to the fight, we learned something of the fights and the fighters.

Originally, Brian Magee had been scheduled to face Brian Barbosa but had withdrawn in the week leading up to fight and was replaced by Tony Dodson. Dodson, at the time, was 12-1-1 while Barbosa was 29-5. In the days before, the American was predicted a swift victory and the Englishman a painful defeat.

The fights were to be held in the Everton Sports Park Centre, a walk of some fifteen minutes from the city’s central Lime Street Station. We sat a few rows up on the left of the sports hall and, as is usual with British boxing events, security was tight; we observed the scores of tough-looking men dressed in uniform canary-yellow who were stood in clusters around the ring, the entrances and exits to the main hall and the ringside area. To our left, at the far end of the hall, Sky Sports had set up their cameras and presenters for the evening.

In one of the first fights, Luke Simpkin (4-16-2) upset the applecart by outpointing Fola Okesola (2-0) over four rounds. Okesola, an Olympian at heavyweight in the 1996 Olympics (he was beaten by Nate Jones, one of the bronze medal winners in the second round of fights), had just one more fight after that night, seemingly retiring with a professional record of 3-1. Simpkin, apparently trained by his brother, fights on, having gone 4-8-2 since then, bringing his record to 9-24-3.

There were two other bouts of note that night before the two main events. The first, a fight between Michael Jones (14-0) and Mark Richards (7-2-2), was notable for events after the bell rather than anything that happened in the minute or so that it lasted. Jones, the future British light-middleweight champion, separated Richards from the parts of himself holding the rest of his body up within what appeared to be the first minute of the first round. Richards went down, stayed there and was counted out, remaining on the floor for a minute or two after the fight was declared over before regaining his feet and leaving the ring with the assistance of others. Richards, apart from allowing his face to connect with a Jones punch, had made an earlier mistake that night, although its consequences occurred as Richards left the ring. That night, the beaten man had opted for a pair of pink and purple trunks. They were neither overly flamboyant or ridiculously designed but they still caused one spectator close to me to remark as Richards left the ring, “He looks like a Teletubby!” This first remark went unheeded but its follow-up was delivered in a moment when the entire hall and its occupants had simultaneously fallen deathly silent.

“Nice one, Tinky-Winky!”

Richards stared into the crowd with dagger eyes, towards the direction of the cat-caller.

The voice sang out again. “Oh s***! Don’t you just hate it when that happens?”

The other fight of note on the undercard was a brutal, high-velocity fight between two featherweights who I believe were Jamie McKeever and Barry Hawthorne. It went far beyond just being a tough six-rounder as the two fighters battered the living daylights out of each other. There were no knockdowns in the fight and every round ebbed and flowed as the two fighters battled for control of the fight. Such was the effort of McKeever and Hawthorne that every non-partisan fan in the crowd wished for a draw. McKeever got the decision though. Later, one of them came and sat close to me. He was wearing sunglasses. When he turned his head and I saw him in profile, I saw that the swelling around his eyes touched the black plastic frames.

There were two main events on the card – Dodson-Barbosa and Moon-O’Malley. Alex Moon, a Liverpool taxi driver, was defending his Commonwealth Super-Featherweight title against the Australian Mick O’Malley. The fight was set for twelve rounds; Dodson-Barbosa, a non-title contest, was scheduled for eight.

I’d never heard of Dodson before that night but I heard plenty about him in the hall in the run-up to the main event from listening to the voices around me in the crowd. Dodson, I overheard, was a local celebrity whose tough choice of sport lay in contrast with his kind nature. According to the voices around me, he visited a lot of sick children in hospital.

I can’t remember for Dodson-Barbosa which of the fighters came out first but it’s no word of a lie that the reception meted out to Dodson’s entrance far outstripped that of Barbosa’s. Barbosa looked mean on his way out, surprisingly bulky for the weight division he was fighting in and he had the look on his face of a man who just wanted to throw the one big punch that would end it, pick up his money and get on a plane as soon as he could. If Magee had upset Barbosa by pulling out, Barbosa made no secret of it in his expression. Whether it was Magee or not, Barbosa looked pissed off.

Not that it bothered Dodson much.

Five years later, the fight to me is now a blur. I remember few specifics apart from the fact that Dodson fought the best fight of his life on that card in Liverpool. Barbosa looked as if he was going to be felled throughout the second half of the fight. Barbosa landed a low blow at one point and Dodson was forced to crouch, waiting for the pain to subside, in a neutral corner. The crowd further turned against the American who looked so lost that he looked as if might have soon stumbled across a gingerbread house. As it was, the rest also benefited Barbosa who held on until the end, heard the decision go against him and then left the hall while Dodson celebrated the night he could have licked any man in the house.

We watched a few rounds of the Moon-O’Malley fight, had a drink away from the main hall and then, like everyone else, made out way out into the Liverpool night. Moon won by TKO in the eighth but I wasn’t there; I heard the result much, much later.

When I got back to G. a day or so later, she asked me what it was like and I described it all to her. She looked at me, smiled and said, “I want to go to a boxing match now.”

After that, both Dodson and Barbosa vanished from my radar. Barbosa returned to the US where he had a quick victory over Ronald Boddie but failed the post-fight drugs test and the result was changed to a No Contest. He has not fought since.

Dodson remained off my radar despite him winning the British Super-Middleweight title. I became aware of him again when Carl Froch appeared on TV and a showdown between the two seemed inevitable. With the form Dodson showed at the Everton Park, it was a close match but a spate of injuries and a car crash to Dodson forced the fight to be cancelled three times.

I’ve seen Dodson fight in the flesh once more since that night in Liverpool. This time, it was in Manchester on the undercard of Jamie Moore-David Walker. Dodson struggled to outpoint Varuzhan Davtyan, a journeyman he’d already won and lost to, a journeyman who had taken the fight on the same day after the original opponent fell through. Dodson looked fortunate to win the four-rounder.

When the Froch-Dodson fight was made, I knew instinctively and logically that Froch would end it quickly with Dodson gone in five rounds or less. The injuries, the time out of the ring and the struggle in Manchester convinced me that the improving Froch would now be too much for the Liverpool Warrior.

I was right. But I still have the Everton Sports Park Centre, 13th April 2002. Tony Dodson was the Liverpool Warrior, king of all he surveyed that night and I was there.

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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