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Articles of 2006

Santa is checking ESPN’s list twice

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This is the season for lists, right? Santa gets inundated with lists. We make a list of things that we will resolve to do, or not to do, in the coming year.

There are all kinds of sports lists. Best plays, best games, best chemists.

You get the point. And first, let me point this out: when ESPN bills itself as “The Worldwide Leader in Sports,” it is true. No other organization – with its network, web site, magazine – covers the world of sports with the same depth and expertise as the team hailing from Bristol , CT.

ESPN has also done much to promote the sport of boxing, with its weekly live cards, Classic fight segments, Brian Kenny’s “Ringside” from Gleason’s Gym and this year’s installment of “The Contender.”

Now that I am on record affording the network its proper respect, I have to take issue with ESPN’s list of the 20 greatest fighters of all time. Here is list as it appeared on a recent show broadcast on ESPN Classic:

1 – Muhammad Ali
2 – Joe Louis
3 – Sugar Ray Robinson
4 – Rocky Marciano
5 – Jack Dempsey
6 – Henry Armstrong
7 – Jack Johnson
8 – Sugar Ray Leonard
9 – Marvin Hagler
10 – George Foreman
11 – Joe Frazier
12 – Archie Moore
13 – Willie Pep
14 – Roy Jones Jr.
15 – Roberto Duran
16 – Mike Tyson
17 – Gene Tunney
18 – Evander Holyfield
19 – Julio Cesar Chavez
20 – Larry Holmes

For now, I will tackle the list using ESPN’s 20 fighters and later I will deal with the omissions. At first glance, it is obvious that the list has too many heavyweights. And while this is a common tendency to overexpose boxing’s glamour division, the fact that 11 of the top 20 fighters of all time are heavyweights is simply wrong.

The second point I wish to make is the inclusion of Roy Jones Jr. – a great fighter and certain hall-of-famer. But I believe he had to be included simply to give ESPN’s younger viewers a fighter with which they can identify. To gauge boxing achievement in this era is difficult. There are too many world titles being dished out, fewer active fighters competing and far more political machinations that go unchecked. Statistics can be deceiving in any sport and that goes for boxing as well. The number of belts, title defenses and wins doesn’t necessarily define the fighter.

More than ever, what defines the fighter today is the opposition he faces. There is no doubt that Jones Jr. is a great fighter, he just didn’t have the opponents in front of him to rank him among the game’s historical elite.

Back to the list.

I agree with the first three fighters on the list, but not the order. I would rate them Robinson, Ali and Louis. While this is like splitting hairs, I think Robinson rates the top spot because he could box or punch. Ali could box, Louis could punch (and box), but neither did both with the same proficiency as Robinson. Robinson and Ali both have the advantage over Louis when it comes to quality of opposition (See: Bum of the month club) but I give Robinson the edge because he dominated two divisions of great fighters.

Moving down the list, I believe that Marciano is rated too high. Yes, he retired undefeated at 49-0 but my biggest complaint with The Rock also rests with his quality of opposition.  His biggest wins – Louis, Charles, Walcott and Moore – were against older fighters.

Every fighter on ESPN’s list is certainly a great fighter. But are they the greatest? I believe a few names were left off. Here’s my list:

1 – Sugar Ray Robinson
2 – Muhammad Ali
3 – Joe Louis
4 – Henry Armstrong
5 – Jack Dempsey
6 – Willie Pep
7 – Sugar Ray Leonard
8 – Roberto Duran
9 – Archie Moore
10 – Rocky Marciano
11 – Jack Johnson
12 – Marvin Hagler
13 – Benny Leonard
14 – Mickey Walker
15 – Carlos Monzon
16 – George Foreman
17 – Pernell Whitaker
18 – Evander Holyfield       
19 – Emile Griffith
20 – Salvador Sanchez

The two lists share 14 names. Here is the argument for the seven I include on my list. Among each of them, will be the top notable competition and length of time fighting at the championship level:

Benny Leonard: Arguably one of the best pure boxers of all time. The lightweight champion (1919-23) fought over two hundred times and suffered only four knockouts: three early in his career and the fourth in his final fight. He beat Lew Tendler, Johnny Dundee, Jack Britton, Rocky Kansas and Johnny Kilbane, and drew with welterweight champ Ted “Kid” Lewis.

Mickey Walker: A two division champion – welterweight and middleweight – who routinely fought and beat bigger men. At 147, he beat Jack Britton, Lew Tendler and Pete Latzo. He lost a middleweight title fight to Harry Greb but later won the 160-pound belt by beating Tiger Flowers. He lost to Mike McTigue, Tommy Loughran and Maxie Rosenbloom in light heavyweight title fights. Although he beat McTigue and Rosenbloom in non-title fights. Among the rated heavyweights he beat were Paolino Uzcudun, King Levinsky and Bearcat Wright. He drew with Jack Sharkey. He was a champion from 1922-29.

Carlos Monzon: Held the record for 14 successful title defenses at middleweight until broken by Bernard Hopkins. A tall and rangy boxer with exceptional power at 160 pounds. Among the men he defeated include Nino Benvenuti, Bennie Briscoe, Emile Griffth, Jose Napoles and Rodrigo Valdez. He dominated the division from 1970 until his retirement in 1977.

Emile Griffith: His trainer Gil Clancy has said that Griffith may not have done any one thing great, but he did everything very good. He boxed from 1958 to 1977 and held the welterweight and middleweight titles. His record in world title fights was 16-6. Here is a sample of whom he defeated: Luis Rodriguez, Benny Paret, Gasper Ortega, Florentino Fernandez, Don Fullmer, Dick Tiger, Joey Archer, Nino Benvenuti, Gypsy Joe Harris and Bennie Briscoe.

Pernell Whitaker: A four-division champion (lightweight, junior welterweight, welterweight and junior middleweight) who had a 19-3-1 record in world title fights. While fighting as a lightweight from 1984 to 1991, he lost just once. And that was a disputed decision to Jose Luis Ramirez which was later avenged. Heck, there were stretches in Whitaker’s career that he didn’t even lose a round unanimously. Among those he beat were Ramirez, Greg Haugen, Azumah Nelson and Buddy McGirt. Many people also believe he defeated Julio Cesar Chavez in a bout that was scored a draw.

Salvador Sanchez: Who knows what might have been? The legendary featherweight champion was a boxer-puncher who had incredible balance, rhythm and agility in the ring. He was 23-years-old at the time of his death in 1982 but already compiled a 44-1-1 record with 36 knockouts. Among those he defeated were Danny Little Red Lopez, Juan LaPorte, Wilfredo Gomez and Azumah Nelson.

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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