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Articles of 2006

Some Books About Boxing

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Boxing attracts writers in much the same was as politics attracts money. The list of those who have been drawn to and written about boxing resembles here and there a list of the glitterati of modern literature. Some writers sentimentalize the noble art while others adopt a realism approach, some write about it from the inside and try to put themselves in the minds of the fighters and then there are some who approach it as an outsider looking in, some brave scribes even take part and become part of their own stories while their contemporaries are happy to remain on the sidelines. For the boxing reader, perception is opened out beyond the ring and voices speak from beyond time and the grave. And then there are the match-ups: Hemingway trying to take on a retired Gene Tunney in his living room and realizing too late how out of his depth he was, Paul Gallico unwisely sparring Jack Dempsey in his prime and paying for it (although it launched his writing career) and the ubiquitous George Plimpton stepping through the ropes to go through a torrid three rounds with Archie Moore. These meetings between boxing and the intelligentsia produced, among other, “The Fight,” “Fifty Grand” and “Shadow Box.” None of these books were the best works of their authors but they stand among the best works written on boxing.

The godfather of modern boxing writing is A.J. Liebling whose book “The Sweet Science” has probably influenced every writer of boxing since 1960. “The Sweet Science,” from which this website takes its name, is a collection of Liebling’s boxing pieces from The New Yorker. Languidly written and bristling with both detail and insight, “The Sweet Science” reanimates the personalities of some of the biggest names in boxing history as Liebling covers, among others, fights involving Archie Moore, Rocky Marciano and Joe Louis. For a brief biography of Liebling, check out my first piece for this website, “Joe Liebling’s Sweet Science.” LINKKK  For a longer appraisal of Liebling, check out David Remnick’s “Reporting It All,” originally published in The New Yorker.

Another writer, equally as great as Liebling, is Scotland’s Hugh McIlvanney of the UK papers The Times and, formerly, The Guardian. “McIlvanney on Boxing,” his collected columns on the noble art, stretch over three decades from the second Ali-Cooper bout in 1966 to Mike Tyson’s disqualification to Evander Holyfield in 1997. McIlvanney is a brilliant writer, concise in description and razor-accurate in observation. His prose is informative and thought-provoking without ever jarring the reader from the narrative. To read McIlvanney is to be lured into a comfort zone before being disarmed with logical, concise and constructive arguments. Over forty years, McIlvanney has won the British Press Award for “Sports Journalist of the Year” eight times, the British Sports Councils “Sports Journalist of the Year” three times, the British Press Association’s “Journalist of the Yea”’ and the Boxing Writers’ Association of America’s “Nat Fleischer Memorial Award.” Those four facts recommend McIlvanney more than anything else to a boxing reader.

Just released in a newly-expanded edition that doubles the length of the original, “On Boxing” by Joyce Carol Oates discusses and dissects both the appeal of boxing and its inherent symbolism. “On Boxing” is intelligently written and well-argued but lacks the readability of McIlvanney or Hauser, which makes it unsuitable for light reading but persisting with it brings rewards. Oates is a fine writer and “On Boxing” is more than a fine book. The new edition contains new chapters on Mike Tyson, Muhammad Ali and Jack Johnson.

The first book I read on boxing was Geoffrey Beattie’s “On the Ropes,” a series of pieces in book form about boxing in the British city of Sheffield, specifically around the Wincobank gym run by Brendan Ingle. I believed when I first read “On the Ropes” that it was one of the best books ever written about boxing; I still do. “On the Ropes” is less concerned with the business of boxing than with the lives of the boxers who careers and lives are centered around the undercard. These fighters lose more than they win and get paid fulfilling a niche in boxing not found in any other sport – that of the professional loser. “On the Ropes’” importance in the canon of boxing literature is doubly ensured as Beattie devotes an entire chapter to the burgeoning career of Naseem Hamed back before the Prince’s ego was only beginning to threaten taking-over. In a similar vein, Beattie’s “The Shadows of Boxing” revisits the same area and subjects after the decline of Hamed; and “England After Dark,” which pre-dates both books, focuses on the night-time activities of the people of Sheffield and is, in itself, another wonderful book about England’s dark heart.

As would be expected for a sport with so many flamboyant personalities and real-life tales of success against the odds, biographies and autobiographies abound and although there is a lot of dross, there are some gems. At the forefront is Roger Kahn’s “A Flame of Pure Fire” which is the definitive biography not only of Jack Dempsey, but the Roaring Twenties when the Manassa Mauler reigned supreme as the heavyweight champion. The only drawback to Kahn’s book is that Kahn paints Dempsey as more of an angel than he probably was. Kahn argues convincingly that Tunney won their 1927 with the aid of the Philadelphia crimelords but at the same time disputes that Dempsey had a loaded glove for his 1919 bout against Jess Willard when evidence clearly suggests otherwise.

A subject as big and with so many differing perceptions as Muhammad Ali seems impossible be summed up in just one book but David Remnick manages it well in “King of the World.” The title, which suggests a book solely about Muhammad Ali, is misleading; “King of the World” is a thoroughly researched, exquisitely crafted and beautifully written work about the Patterson-Liston-Clay/Ali fights of the 1960s, the political background of the period and the significance in terms of ethnic identity that the three fighters represented. I doubt there are better books on Liston or Patterson, and “King of the World” competes easily with my next choice as the best book ever written on Ali. The only drawback to “King of the World” is the poor TV-movie of the same name which, although based on the book, jettisons much of the political and social commentary.

I’m currently about 10% through “Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times.” Up to now, it’s pretty good and Thomas Hauser’s oral history approach both suits his subject and reads well. Hauser won the “William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award” for this book, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, and this authorized biography of Ali comes with a recommendation from Hugh McIlvanney. Nothing else is needed for a review or recommendation.

Far more revisionist and skeptical of the Ali legend was the late Mark Kram whose “Ghosts of Manila” retells the three battles between Ali and Frazier. Kram writes wonderfully and his prose is vividly descriptive of the passions aroused by the Ali-Frazier trilogy but his continual denigration of Ali turns rapidly from focused dissection to character assassination and it’s this absence of neutrality in the author that ultimately renders “Ghosts of Manila” an interesting curio rather than a definitive work in its own right.

A far more balanced reassessment of a single contest is Kevin Mitchell’s “War, Baby” which recounts the 1995 fight between Nigel Benn and Gerald McClellan. Mitchell recounts the fight in great detail, using it as the springboard for an exploration of violence and the human desire to observe it. The book is also an update on McClellan’s present condition and a reminder of the dangers inherent every time a fighter steps into the ring.

Davis Miller (who, in the interests of disclosure I’m currently writing an article on) is the author of three books about his childhood worshipping of Muhammad Ali and, later, Bruce Lee. Miller went on to have a close relationship with the Ali family that later soured. Of the three books, “The Tao of Muhammad Ali” and “The Tao of Bruce Lee” are the best; the third, “The Zen of Muhammad Ali” is a collection of magazine pieces and short fiction, most of which made up the previous two books. There are a few new articles in “The Zen of Muhammad Ali,” and the fiction is also a new addition. Although the Ali/Miller relationship is expanded by a new essay in “The Zen of Muhammad Ali,” we do not learn much else; the first two books are commendable in their own right and well worth reading.

Ralph Wiley recounts a similar narrative of a life reflected in boxing with his book “Serenity,” a litany of experiences involving boxing from his many years as a sports writer. The best chapter is the chapter titled “Mike Tyson” which is written as a letter to his son. The most refreshing and engaging part of “Serenity” is Wiley’s view of Mike Tyson where the author argues convincingly that early public misgivings about Iron Mike’s conduct had more to do with racism than Tyson’s perceived misdemeanors against his early management.

Other honorable mentions for merit in boxing writing go to “Rope Burns” by F.X. Toole, “Dark Trade” by Donald McRae, “Fighting Chance” by Derick Allsop and “Unforgivable Blackness” by Ken Burns.

There are many more books that deserve to be read and discussed and I fully intend to cover them at a later date. Right now, I’ve got 90% of one to finish.

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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