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Articles of 2006

2006: A Pretty Decent Year For Boxing

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Even with the newfound popularity of the Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and Ultimate Fighting, the latter of which presented a December 30 pay-per-view extravaganza from Las Vegas that was headlined by Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz, 2006 was a pretty decent year for boxing.

While the self-absorbed Floyd Mayweather continues to win, his inability to understand that boxing is as much about entertainment as it is displaying one’s vast skills has made him a source of perpetual disappointment.

Whatever happens in his eagerly awaited matchup against Oscar De La Hoya in May 2007 will determine the direction of his future. But there is no reason to jump ahead just yet. Here is a strictly subjective year in review of 2006:

Fight of the Year
At the beginning of the year, Sergei “The White Wolf” Liakhovich was a little known heavyweight from Belarus who had moved to Phoenix, Arizona, and was toiling anonymously in the vast Don King stable for years. By April he was one of the most talked about heavyweights in the business.

Using his quicker hands, engaging in powerful exchanges, and displaying an unyielding determination, he won a unanimous decision over the harder punching and heavily favored WBO champion Lamon Brewster in Chicago.

To Liakhovich’s surprise, and the disappointment of fans, lightning couldn’t strike twice for him. He was shockingly knocked out in the final second of his first title defense against Shannon Briggs in November. Making things worse for him was the fact that had he hung on, he would have won a decision and retained his title.

Although Liakhovich has protested the stoppage, citing the fact that because he was knocked out of the ring he should have been given 20 seconds to climb back in, whatever momentum he had going for him seems to have dissipated. For the nearly all 12 rounds that the fight lasted, Liakhovich was listless, distracted and seemingly disinterested.

Runner-Up
It is rare that rematches of great fights live up to the originals, but light heavyweights Tomasz Adamek of Poland, who won the vacant WBC title with a sensational majority decision over the hard-punching Australian Paul “Hurricane” Briggs in May 2005, disputed that notion in another wild slugfest in October.

Although the Pole was knocked down in the first, and had a point deducted in the ninth round for a low blow, he won a hard-fought and well-deserved majority decision. If these two bombers fought 10 times, chances are that all ten bouts would be ebb-and-flow battles that would bring the ringside crowd to its feet.

Fighter of the Year
Manny Pacquaio has long been the most popular athlete to ever hail from the Philippines, but he is quickly becoming one of the most popular fighters in the United States as well. He has already scored two sensational knockout victories over the once great Erik Morales, the latest of which was a third round blowout in November.

Earlier in the year, he won a lopsided 12 round decision over Oscar Larios. Pac-Man is such a cash machine, promoters like Bob Arum and De la Hoya are currently engaged in a nasty court battle for his services and Don King was compelled to put out a December press release to deny rampant rumors that he was trying to steal the wunderkind.

Runner-Up
Although Carlos Baldomir lost his WBC welterweight title by unanimous decision to Mayweather in November, the granite-jawed Argentinean still had a marvelous year. Despite a nominal 41-9-6 (12 KOS) record in January, Baldomir, who was known as the consummate road warrior, hit New York and totally outfought local product Zab Judah at Madison Square Garden to win the crown.

Six months later he defended the title with a savage ninth round knockout of Arturo Gatti in Atlantic City. Gatti had been selling out Boardwalk Hall in that city for years. One of Baldomir’s cornermen, Sean Gibbons, said that in the hours leading up to the Gatti fight, Baldomir was loose as a goose.

“He doesn’t know what stress is,” said Gibbons. “I’ve never seen him tense, never seen him nervous. He just loves to fight and he couldn’t care less where he’s fighting or who he’s fighting.”

Baldomir was equally calm and cool against Mayweather, even though he stood virtually no chance of winning. That didn’t stop him from trying for every minute of every round. Although beaten handily, he was in as good of a mood at the end of the bout as he was at the beginning.

Baldomir, who had subsidized his boxing income as a street vendor in Argentina for much of his career, gave hope to all of the little guys in boxing who travel on short notice for small purses. He also gave the cynical boxing press, who fell in love with him after he beat Judah, something to smile bout. Baldomir is like the little engine that could. Even if he never fights again, the mark he left on boxing is indelible. He is a true Cinderella Man.

Knockout of the Year
The Liakhovich-Briggs fiasco was about to go down as one of the worst heavyweight title fights in history. However there was a measure of redemption when the asthmatic Briggs scored a sensational knockout of Liakhovich at 2:59 of the twelfth and final round.

Unfortunately, many viewers didn’t get to see the grand finale because they had already been put to sleep by the previous inaction of the participants. It was hard to watch Liakhovich, who had been so mobile and active against Lamon Brewster earlier in the year, look so dispassionate against Briggs.

Amazingly, Briggs, who most people view as a good three round fighter, found the emotional resolve and the physical strength to pull this one out down the stretch. It is always memorable when an athlete snatches victory from surefire defeat with just seconds remaining in a contest.

Runner-Up
While Pacquaio’s third round blowout of Morales in November was unforgettable, Colombian middleweight Edison Miranda’s first round destruction of once-beaten Willie Gibbs a month later in Florida was even more thrilling.

The 5-foot-11 Miranda, who had lost a decision to IBF middleweight champion Arthur Abraham in his previous outing, scored the knockout on HBO’s final telecast of the year. With a record of 27-1 (24 KOS), he has established himself as one of the sport’s premier punchers and a top-flight attraction. With the power of HBO behind him, his career potential seems limitless.

Upset of the Year
Zab Judah planned on using Baldomir as a warm-up for a $5 million payday against Mayweather. Although Judah had every imaginable advantage going into the fight, the rugged Argentinean refused to follow the script and totally out-hustled the over-hyped former champion. It was refreshing to see such a likeable, honest and down-to-earth fighter humble such an arrogant and bombastic champion.

Runner-Up
Every one expected the heavily muscled and highly touted American Jeff Lacy to walk through long reigning WBO super middleweight champion Joe Calzaghe in March. Little did it matter that the fight was taking place in Calzaghe’s adopted hometown of Manchester, England.

Instead, Calzaghe won every round en route to scoring a unanimous decision. Besides destroying the Lacy myth, he proved that he was much more than an overprotected European product. Having shown himself to be an extremely sore loser, it is doubtful that Lacy will ever regain the formidability that he enjoyed prior to this defeat.

Prospect of the Year
A 2004 Olympic silver medalist, the 5’10” junior welterweight Amir Khan is 10-0 (7 KOS) as a pro. Now promoted by Frank Warren, he was one of the most highly touted European amateurs in history.

Khan will be showcased in an HBO special attraction on the undercard of Calzaghe’s 20th WBO title defense against Peter Manfredo Jr. in Wales in April. Chances are that on that evening, a new international star will be born.

Runner-Up
Trainer Emanuel Steward is not known to stretch the truth, so his calling middleweight Andy Lee “a white Sugar Ray Robinson” counts for something. Lee, an Irishman who now lives and trains with Steward in Detroit, is a southpaw with a 6-0 (3 KOS) record.

Steward is already beating the drums for a future date against New York-based Irishman John Duddy in an all-Celtic showdown. Should both fighters remain undefeated until then, Steward believes that bout has the potential to be the highest grossing fight in history.

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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