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Articles of 2006

Monarchs and The Middleweights – Part One

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In this our young, convulsive millennium, we struggle with meanings of the past and the implications of our possible futures. We live with and via machines close to the processes of thought itself, our very existence political commerce for sale. How far have we gone from the hierarchy of kings, the commerce and battlefields of definable honor?

One of the lasting imprints from a more romanticized time has been the idea of noble hierarchy, in boxing the kings of the ring, one fighter set above the rest triumphant, pulsars in the galaxy of telegenic fame, meant to reign supreme, fending off challengers deposing their hungry wills and heraldry against the king, the champion who preens in his exalted time, showered in the glories of title, deed, daring and the sentiment of a supreme nobility of purpose. Even in the mythic champions of memory, Jack Johnson, Jack Dempsey, Henry Armstrong, Joe Louis, “Sugar” Ray Robinson, or for that matter Gene Tunney, Beau Jack, Archie Moore, Ezzard Charles, they were taken to be royal men, at their time of superiority, for a fight or a decade, champions of the world. Those world champions only lost right of supremacy, the mantle of being champion in the ring, contesting their distinction as champion, defending a symbolic honor, battling.

Yes, boxing champions were part of the greater modernist myth, centered round the booming tide of American geopolitical dynamism making heroism out of fame. Yes, there was the gambling graft of John L. Sullivan and Jack Johnson, the economic rape of Shelby, Montana by Tex Rickard, “Doc” Kearns and King Dempsey himself, Jake LaMotta taking a canvas nap for hire. Every sort of chicanery, misfortune and evasion was at one time or another woven into the misrule of the men who held boxing’s world championships, be they heavyweight legends or flyweight oddities, regardless of weight. Yet the men, who fought their way to the championship ring and won, joined the lineage of champions past. To take the title away meant facing them in the ring and winning. For those who have long been fascinated by the squared ring and its ultimate fights, those truly ultimate fighters of the code of the fist, the romance was a woven story of combative art, romantic reflections spun as dedicated reporting by Damon Runyon, Jack London, W.C. Heinz, Jimmy Cannon, A. J. Leibling and Dave Anderson among a host of others. And yet in the last 30 years the exacting toll of legal recourse and organizational oversight of championship boxing means being a sanctioned belt holder has effectively replaced the singularity of being champion, THE world boxing champion.

There no longer exists the distinction of world champion in the sense known in boxing before the rise of the WBC and WBA in the early 1970s. And by the time that the IBF and the WBO established global constituencies and satellite distribution of fights as entertainment product boxing was subject to a division of powers and delivery that left it open to manifest manipulation. Indeed, more boxing is seen now than ever. But gone is the imperial aura of its sporting presence. What exists today in the place of world champions is the titleholder of the moment, sanctioned to wear a belt of authenticity, as such, by a governing body within the sport for the purposes of marketing his fights as title bouts for the mass consumption of a global television audience. Fighters no longer reign as champions, de facto kings of their divisional realms – divisions having been subdivided for product/market diversification.

Fighters, such as middleweight great Bernard Hopkins, toil for the balance of their primes, in the relative obscurity of chasing sanctioned title defenses alongside rival claimants for the now lapsed notion of the – THE – world championship. Hopkins’ successor, heir to HBO patronage and validation as dominant titleholder at middleweight, Jermain Taylor himself tries to exact justice from a media environment that commonly critiques his standing as universally recognized constantly calling into doubt that distinction because of the presence of legitimate contenders such as Ronald “Winky” Wright. As if champions were not to have contenders.

As soon as the fighters settle the issue of dominance by fighting, the wheels of managerial, promotional or governmental self-interest can disavow the winner, the very legitimacy of the title or titlist itself. The ring result is called into question, debated, debased and made to stand against legal or statutory criteria. Winning a title essentially secures the status of being one of the best. Champions of a division become part of a PR parlor game endlessly moving between gossip, speculation, ridicule and fantasy. As a substitute for world championship status, the plotting of a pound-for-pound #1 act to fill in for the tradition of the true champion’s mantle. Note here the current flip-flop between those hoisting Floyd Mayweather and those trumpeting Manny Pacquiao as the true pound-for-pound king of the ring, partly because their divisional status cannot absolutely confirm them as world champions.

In what turned out to be defined retroactively as the Hopkins Era, he fought as IBF champion alongside titleholders William Joppy and Julio Cesar (WBA) and Keith Holmes (WBC) to name just three. Many in boxing felt this was as it should have been: the new normal before the new normal; yet, for boxing fans that sense of a tradition of knowing the person and persona of the world champion was muddled into a frustrating obscurity. What also became lost was the right of succession that connected the championship winners to the over all historical lineage in the sport. The confusion of Hopkins’ assertion of breaking the middleweight title defense record of Carlos Monzon – whose reign bisected the traditional and the postmodern periods – became a subject of contention prompting the polling of experts.

The issue for debate became: was a titleholder who fought mostly as a single organization’s champion able to count his defenses retroactively after unifying – and only temporarily – the middleweight titles? Even the notion of champion and championship, championship equaling the unification of say three of the four major belts, became a point for debate and moot consensus was reached only by the ability of a major broadcaster like HBO to make a dominant assertion filling in for established fact. Who indeed were the real world champions at any weight? Unification fights were held and titles dropped, recognition splintering by weight defections, divisional retirements, governmental stripping, legal challenges of all kinds blinding the empirical data of ring results. Defining real, that became the issue. Then in so far that the issue of the middleweight championship was settled with the Hopkins-Trinidad 9/11 postponed showdown in New York City, multiple titlists soon popped up not long after, the threads loosed, ready to fray. The very idea of postulating the question of Hopkins’ number of title defenses as middleweight title defenses to be compared to Monzon’s proved that even Hopkins’ eminent position was not automatic, obvious.

Sadly, fans have come to expect that whatever the fighters can settle with will and skill the courts or boardrooms will soon call into perplexing question, stripping titles, over regulating and mandating defenses against bogus mandatory contenders. Just review the career of Roy Jones Jr. for example, checking his opponents against the luminaries of his time he never did engage in a championship contest. Self-exploiting tailored marketing for HBO millions, indeed! And we consider also Roy Jones was a tremendous talent, a fighter of unique ability and capacity. One might also ponder upon the issue of the great triumvirate Morales, Barrera and Marquez, THE great unsolved mystery of this generation.

Pick your division and think of the permutations, considering what a true champion title reign might look like. At middleweight, Jermain Taylor fills in nicely for the picture of the world middleweight champion. Inside boxing his claim as champion is as universal as any in boxing today. To the general public, however, and to casual sports fans Jermain Taylor remains invisible, without the form and significance of even celebrity, without valid meaning of being the world champion. World championship boxers no longer inhabit the status of being at the summit of a pyramid. Because the mythic status, to be a king, means an acceptance of the role of fealty, suspending rights, for the masses who do not question until an ultimate challenge ground swells.

Yes, we can acknowledge Jermain Taylor as champion by ignoring the torrents of disinformation spewing forth about how he robbed Bernard Hopkins of the seat of power, the symbolic mirror of being the man at middleweight. Others are offended by the draw against Winky Wright and point to their seemingly inevitable rematch in 2007 as the final determination of the middleweight championship. So Taylor is a king in title only, a symbol without meaning? But of course, we know that it will never be final. Some look to HBO’s boxing team to tell them the truth of Taylor’s manifest championship designation, others flip through The Ring magazine and believe what they read, what they want to read. Most fans just shake their heads and try to remember who was THE last king of the ring?

No wonder three decades after he lost the heavyweight championship Muhammad Ali’s name keeps reappearing as the template for what no longer exists in championship boxing. In our time, with democracy and the internet tidal forces for individual liberty as self-expression making us all independent voices, we have a difficult time standing still to venerate or appreciate or allow for meaning to add up and unfold as given, established. We are constantly looking for the next, brightest star forcing an evolution of process to happen for us like steaming video, expectation for novelty our designer drug of choice. The global game of producing boxing as sports entertainment programming merely follows the predictable course of meeting market demands for temporary importance and titillating controversy.

Mike Tyson remains an imploding marvel for us, the anti-heroism of his life having devoured his championship talent, his youth passing comet like before it was fully formed, merely posing as his mature prime prowess, the force of his bipolar nature a continuous replay of a very public death via ultimate success and total fame. Where Tyson lived the nightmare of a continuous celebrity humiliation, Oscar De La Hoya eventually walked out of the simulation, preened his PR perfection for us to generate the last epic standard of regal boxing that prizefighting has seen since Roberto Duran and “Sugar” Ray Leonard. No wonder the expectation for his showdown with the Michigan genius Floyd Mayweather Jr. looks like such a retro classic of 1980s superbouts, a genuine pay-per-view crossover event bout of towering importance. In a fight between two supreme ring talents, only De La Hoya stands out as a king, his mere presence defining the possibilities for the contest financially, symbolically and emotionally.

Many see this fight as the last flickering of a mythic flame, and with it the end of boxing’s romantic past.

Read Part 2 of Monarchs and The Middleweights

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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