Connect with us

Articles of 2006

Davis Miller’s Songs of Innocence and Experience

Published

on

“We struggle. Always. We are doing the best that we can. And we dream of transcendence.” – Davis Miller

“We admire them, we envy them, for great qualities which we ourselves lack. Hero worship consists in just that.” – Mark Twain

Some people are able to lift and inspire others. A sight of them is often enough to fill observers with hope while illusions of their heroism are safely preserved through remote distance. They are made into heroes because they embody qualities that others wish they had within themselves or may develop in the future. Hero worship is the worship of an image, an unrealised, projected self. When the observer first becomes conscious of the hero, it is as if the hero has already arrived into the world both fully-formed and perfect.

Davis Miller has written extensively about his childhood heroes, particularly Muhammad Ali, in his three books: The Tao of Muhammad Ali, The Tao of Bruce Lee and The Zen of Muhammad Ali. He’s also written for such magazines as GQ, Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated, Esquire and Arena; been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, won the award for best essay published in an American Newspaper Magazine (1989) and been anthologised in The Best American Sports Writing of the Century.

Miller’s interest in Muhammad Ali began in January 1964 as Cassius Clay was preparing to meet Sonny Liston for the first time. Miller’s mother, who had been ill for a number of years with an undiagnosed kidney disease, had recently died leaving Miller and his younger sister Carol in the care of their father.

The adolescent Miller; underdeveloped, grieving and bullied; saw in Cassius Clay something that changed his life. “I first saw Ali when he […] had recently turned twenty-two, and heat rose shimmering around his sleek, hard body as he prepared to meet Sonny Liston for the world heavyweight championship. I remember sitting mesmerised in front of Daddy’s small black-and-white television as Clay’s voice roared and crackled from the huge world outside and through the TV’s rattling three-inch speaker.” The die is immediately cast. “Since then, many of the events that have defined my life have been related to Ali.”

Ali’s appearance to Miller is akin to that of a god from a dream we only barely remember. Holding court from the TV set, the Ali of 1964 was, as Ferdie Pacheco once said, the epitome of human perfection and this physical beauty, his prettiness, extended into the ring. He neither appeared as destructive as Liston or exhibited the erratic vulnerability of Patterson. Ali, for the first half of his career, moved around the ring like a stone skimmed over water and his opponents were overwhelmed, not with concussive one-punch power, but with punches that flowed like silk in combination.

The cultural climate changed as the 1960s became the 1970s. The Democrats were seen out of the White House by the Republicans, the Summer of Love ended. Muhammad Ali lost and then regained his license, lost to Joe Frazier and then regained his championship from George Foreman while everybody believed that he was travelling on the descent of his career. More importantly, Ali went from the world’s most famous pariah to its most venerated icon.

In 1975, as Ali was preparing to meet Joe Bugner, Miller climbed to the top of a mountain in Pennsylvania to spar with his idol. Ali, the world heavyweight champion, was holding an open training session at his Deer Lake Camp; Miller was a junior-lightweight in the beginning stages of a kickboxing career. As Miller climbed into the ring, he was introduced by Ali as a master of Karate (he wasn’t). Face-to-face with Ali, Miller was distracted by his years of worshipping the bigger man: “I recognise once again that no one else on the planet looks quite like him. His skin is unmarked and is without wrinkles, and he glows in a way that cannot be seen in photographs or television.”

In what seems less than a single minute of a round, Ali dodges Miller’s kick, dances around the ring, takes a hard strike off the diminutive future writer and then stuns his opponent with a single jab. Putting his arm around Miller’s shoulders, Ali escorts him from the ring telling him “You’re not as dumb as you look. You’re fast. And you sure can hit to be so little.”

As Miller reflected later, “He may as well have said he was adopting me.”

The sparring session formed the basis for Miller’s first published piece which ran in Sports Illustrated. By the mid-eighties however, Miller had long given up on writing as a full-time career and had settled in Louisville, Kentucky with his family. He was working as the district manager of a video rental chain, all the time aware that he was in Ali’s hometown. Then, one day, it happened. As he was driving past Ali’s mother’s house he noticed a ‘block-long White Winnebago with Virginia plates parked out-front’ and instinctively knew that Ali was inside. Although in The Tao of Muhammad Ali, Miller states that the meeting took place in 1989, he revealed to me that it had actually occurred earlier in 1988. Ali had been retired for eight years and his Parkinson’s was a publicly-known fact. Usually, the saddest part of growing up is seeing our childhood heroes broken-down in the present day.

“I wasn’t at all disappointed in Ali when I met him in 1988 or at any time thereafter,” Miller told me. “Spending serious time with Ali I learned that he was no less Ali because of his infirmity. That was heartening.”

Over the next eight years until The Tao of Muhammad Ali, Miller and Ali remained in close contact, meeting in locations such as Louisville, Berrien Springs, Las Vegas, Miami and Philadelphia. Ali consoled Miller when his father died and welcomed Miller’s kids into his home, even allowing them to stay over.

According to Miller, the relationship soured in 1996 after he sent an initial version of The Tao of Muhammad Ali to Ali and his wife. Phoning to receive their reactions, Miller was surprised at the coldness of Lonnie Ali. “Lonnie answers the phone. When she recognises my voice, I feel her go cold; the phone suddenly gets heavier in my hand. This is not a situation I’ve had with her before.” After a brief, terse conversation, the phone-call and the relationship between Miller and the Alis is over. Miller no longer has any contact with the man he later labelled his ‘childhood idol, mentor and friend.’

Yet Miller, ten years later, says that he harbours no ill feeling toward the Ali camp. “I’ve never been upset or angry with Ali,” he told me. “For years I was frustrated and resentful that Lonnie Ali misunderstood what I’d done with The Tao of Muhammad Ali. That troubles me still.

“Over the past year, I’ve found myself thinking abut Ali again, and in tender ways.”

The subtitle for William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience is ‘Showing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul.’ Blake reasoned that one state cannot exist without the other; I see life as a progression from an infant state of Innocence to an adult state of Experience, the difference between the latter and the former the presence of regret.

Davis Miller’s Song of Innocence is his childhood adulation of Ali, the physical poet led by his own spirit into exile. “Like almost everyone else born before 1970, I can’t help but remember a time when Ali seemed to be constantly moving inside a private and wondrous rhythm, when his eyes shone like electric blackberries, when heat shimmered from his almost perfectly symmetrical torso. The young Ali’s seemingly endless energy promised that he would never get old.”

And, after Innocence – Experience brought about by the end of the relationship. As Miller discovered, Ali, who had danced across the ring so gracefully, is essentially human – the same as the rest of us. If Innocence is the admiration of the hero and the joy taken in the image, then Experience, the realisation that our heroes are human as well, should come inevitably as a disappointment.

Not according to Miller. “I learned that he was no less Ali.”

Muhammad Ali, the greatest boxer in history, a three time heavyweight champion took Miller from Innocence to Experience. But the real hero in Miller’s life lay much closer to home.

Roy L. Miller was an ordinary man with the decency of a loving father. As a young man, he had turned down multiple offers of college scholarships to play baseball; instead, he married Sara, his childhood sweetheart and worked for the rest of his lie in a corrugated box factory in the same small town in Carolina. As other jobs came and went, he stayed put in order to give his children stability. Before she died at the age of thirty-two, Sara Miller made him promise that he would ensure that their two children, Davis and Cheryl, received college educations. It was a promise that he kept. In the late eighties, when his son lost his job, Roy Miller sent the family a cheque for an amount he couldn’t afford on his wages. Soon after, he died of heart failure; one of his final wishes was that Miller not tell his sister that he was in the hospital; he didn’t wish to have her worry.

After his death, he reached out still to help his children with two large insurance cheques. The money granted Davis Miller the time to write, enough time to find out if he was truly a writer. “He would allow me the opportunity he’d not had,” Miller wrote, “The chance to do something with life apart from work some half-ass job.”

Miller sums up his father with simple logic. “Daddy would never be Muhammad Ali or Johnny Unitas or Mickey Mantle, or any of the other folks people idolise and buy books about. Much of the best of who I am is directly because of my Dad. Growing up stoically during the Depression and World War Two in the industrial South, the son of alcoholic parents, and losing his only childhood sweetheart when they were both so young, I still marvel at his uncommon tenderness.”

William Blake believed that Innocence and Experience were the only two states of the human soul, each complementing the other. It’s easy to disagree; I argue that there is a third stage: Wisdom – the knowledge that genuine heroism is not leaping over tall buildings or winning sports championships but the consistent, unsung application of unconditional love and sacrifice.

“My Dad is the hero of my books.” – Davis Miller, again.

“That a person can really be a hero to a near and familiar friend is a thing which no hero has ever yet been able to realize, I am sure.” – Mark Twain, again.

Articles of 2006

Peter/Toney Ii: Peter Has The Brutal Punch

Published

on

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.?

Continue Reading

Articles of 2006

The Sweet Science P4P Rankings for Asia

Published

on

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

Continue Reading

Articles of 2006

Iceman Stops Tito Ortiz Win Streak

Published

on

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.

Continue Reading

Trending