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Articles of 2006

Leroy Caldwell: Subtle and Quiet Dignity

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Former journeyman heavyweight Leroy Caldwell, who fought out of Las Vegas throughout the seventies and early eighties, was in New York in early December.

Yvonne Caples, who he has trained for three years, was here to battle Suzannah Warner of New York, via London, at the Paradise Theater in the Bronx on December 8. At stake was the NABF Atomweight (102 pound) title. Caples lost a competitive eight-round decision.

Caples, an English teacher at Silverado High School in Las Vegas, is a lot better fighter than her nominal record of 7-11-2 (1 KO) indicates. Much of that she attributes to Caldwell.

And Caldwell is proud of the work he has done with her. He guided her to the IFBA light flyweight title in July 2003. He helped make her a champion once, and he hopes to do it again soon.

Having fought the likes of Cleveland “Big Cat” Williams, George Foreman, Ron Lyle, Oscar Bonavena, Joe Bugner, Earnie Shavers, Trevor Berbick (twice), Pinklon Thomas, Gerrie Coetzee, John Tate, David Bey, Pierre Coetzer and Henry Tillman during a career that spanned from 1969-85 and produced a 27-31-5 (6 KOS) record, Caldwell knows a thing or two about boxing.

Considering the fact that his face is relatively unmarked and his mind is so sharp, no one can ever say that Caldwell was a catcher.

At one time or another he sparred with all of the great heavyweights of the seventies and early eighties.

He also worked for three years in the camp of longtime light heavyweight champion Bob Foster and helped prepare Gerry Cooney for his epic battle with Larry Holmes in 1982.

“If I didn’t fight them, I was their sparring partner,” said the 60-year-old Caldwell.

Several years ago Caldwell was banged up badly in a car accident. Although the injuries he incurred necessitated surgery on his feet and a right knee replacement, he is in relatively good health.

Unfortunately his health is about all he has going for him right now. He lost the gym in which he used to live and train several months ago when a local motorcycle club was able to pay a higher rent to the landlord than Caldwell could afford.

Before that he was partners in another gym, but opted out of that situation when things began to get ugly between him and his partner.

A month and a half ago, Caldwell, a Milwaukee native who had fought nearly 20 main events in various Las Vegas venues, found himself without a home. Although he has been forced to live in his 1992 Pontiac, he still trains fighters daily at the late Johnny Tocco’s gym at Main and Charleston.

Caldwell said that plenty of friends have offered to put him up and help him out. But, he adds, “I got a lot of pride. It’s getting cold now and people are inviting into their homes, but I don’t want to go. I don’t believe in asking. I believe in trying, but a closed mouth don’t get fed.”

A man of subtle and quiet dignity, it is hard to believe that Caldwell was the notorious street fighter that he says he was. Having never engaged in even one amateur bout, it was street fighting that led him to boxing.

Someone who saw him knock out two men at one time on a New Orleans street corner directed him to a local boxing gym. In very short order, he made his pro debut in June 1969. He stopped Speedy Heard in the third round. One month later Heard extended him the six-round distance, but Caldwell still emerged victorious.

Because Caldwell’s now gnarled right hand had been broken so many times in his street fighting days, he was forced to campaign as a pro with little more than his left jab. He says his jab was as much of a defensive weapon as it was an offensive one.

“I was a jabber,” said Caldwell, who although known in the seventies for his rare weightlifter’s build, says he never lifted a weight in his life. “I had hurt my right hand so much in street fights, I was afraid to use it. My left hand was my left hand, my right hand, my everything.

“I was always muscular,” he added. “It’s in my genes. I used to walk up and down stairs on my hands.”

After going 5-0, Caldwell was thrown to the wolves by his management.

In his eighth fight he was stopped in five by Terry Daniels in Corpus Christi, Texas. A little more than two years later Daniels would unsuccessfully challenge Joe Frazier for the heavyweight title.

In Caldwell’s next bout he was stopped by the murderous punching Cleveland “Big Cat” Williams in ten in Orlando.

“When I fought Williams he was past his prime. He had already fought [Muhammad] Ali and been shot by the [state] trooper,” said Caldwell. “He stopped me, but that had more to do with my inexperience than anything else.”

Caldwell still marvels at how muscular Williams was. Back then fighters with such heavy musculature were very rare.

“He had muscles up his [butt],” said Caldwell. “I thought I had big muscles until I met him.”

For the next two and a half years Caldwell stayed busy, picking up several wins in his adopted hometown of New Orleans.

He was matched with Ron Lyle, who was 4-0, in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, in July 1971. Lyle had recently been paroled from a Colorado prison where he served time for murder. A tremendous puncher, he was viewed as a can’t-miss prospect. Caldwell lost a five-round decision to him.

“Lyle could punch, no doubt,” said Caldwell. “But you can’t hurt what you can’t hit and he couldn’t find me.”

Two fights later, Caldwell squared off against George Foreman, who was then 29-0, in Beaumont, Texas, which was close to Foreman’s hometown. Foreman stopped him in two rounds.

“Foreman could punch about the same as Lyle,” said Caldwell. “He caught me. He was very strong and very determined.”

Nobody’s punching power, asserts Caldwell, came close to that of Earnie Shavers, who was 41-2 and still had hair when he stopped Caldwell in two rounds in a high school gym in Shavers’ home state of Ohio in October 1972.

“He was the hardest hitting human being I ever met,” said Caldwell. “He hit harder than Foreman and Lyle combined.”

Three fights after Shavers, Caldwell squared off against Oscar Bonavena at Circus Circus in Las Vegas. He was again stopped in the second round.

“I underestimated him,” said Caldwell. “I saw him fight Ali and wasn’t impressed. I was bouncing around the ring and didn’t realize how close to the ropes I was. I bounced off the ropes and he caught me square.”

After the loss to Bonavena, Caldwell was rarely stopped again. He battled Berbick to a draw in their first fight, in Berbick’s home country of Canada in June 1979, was stopped in ten by Pinklon Thomas, and went the distance with past or future titlists and prospects like John Tate, Berbick (in a rematch), Randy Mack (twice), Willie “The Cannon” Shannon, Stan Ward, David Bey, Pierre Coetzer and Henry Tillman.

During that same time period, he also beat prospects Jeff Shelburg, Dave Johnson, Fili Moala, and Mircea Simon, the latter of whom was 12-0-1. He battled to a draw with Kevin Isaac, and was stopped in five rounds by Gerrie Coetzee in South Africa. He later returned to South Africa to work as a sparring partner for Coetzee, who he described as a “good fighter and a good man.”

Although Caldwell was very busy, he wasn’t exactly breaking the bank. While his biggest payday was the $18,000 he earned against Coetzee, his purse for Foreman was

$1,500.  For Shavers and Bonavena, he made $1,000 each. Sad to say, those were his high end purses and those numbers are the gross amounts before expenses were deducted.

Throughout his career, Caldwell, who had several children, was forced to augment his income by working as a nightclub bouncer and store security guard. Although he fought hard and often, his nominal purses did little to provide him with a lifetime of security.

“I was forced to take what I could get when I was fighting,” he said. “Managers had me believing if I didn’t take this fight, I couldn’t fight there (at that venue) again. I had no one looking out for my interests. When I retired, I had nothing.”

Besides the fact that he took fights on short notice for short money, Caldwell says he was often forced to travel to his fights alone.

“Ninety-eight percent of the time,” he said. “I had to make a living, but I had to do what I had to do by myself.”

Caldwell remembers being treated like a king by the poor villagers in Soweto, South Africa. Having traveled to that country twice, to fight Coetzee and Coetzer, he said that even the white people in Johannesburg treated him with reverence.

However one day he wanted to take in a movie, so he and his escort, a local black man, went to the theater. The escort kept warning Caldwell how difficult it would be for him (the escort) to get in the theater because of the oppressive apartheid laws.

“I bought two tickets, but the lady wouldn’t let him (the escort) in,” said Caldwell. “I asked for the manager and they said only I could go in because I had a passport. They were very hung up on colors over there.

“You and I (a white man and a black man) could not stand on the corner and talk to each other back then,” he continued. “Even a light skinned black and a dark skinned black were not allowed to talk on the street.”

As badly as he was treated by the boxing establishment, Caldwell says that he refuses to be consumed by anger. But he seems genuinely hurt when he talks about all of the main events he fought in Las Vegas, but is still unable to get a ticket to the fights these days.

He still loves the boxing game and hopes to mold another champion over the next few years. He currently trains several amateurs, as well as Caples and his son Caleb, a light heavyweight who is 1-1-1 (1 KO) as a pro.

“I have a lot of boxing knowledge,” said Caldwell. “Sometimes it hurts that I did so much for so many people, but no one did anything for me. That will only help me as a trainer. Besides teaching people how to box, I can make sure they don’t have to go through what I went through. No one should have to go through their career like that.”

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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