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Articles of 2007

Peter Dominates Toney In Rematch

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HOLLYWOOD, Fla.—Some of his business associates probably thought Don King was going soft in his old age when he bailed out erstwhile rival Dina Duva last fall, but history may record the promoter’s gamble in purchasing a 50 percent interest in Samuel Peter as one of his shrewder moves.

In his previous incarnations, Peter had been a plodding, one-dimensional heavyweight with a thunderous right hand and not much else, but the Nigerian Nightmare took the wraps off his new, two-fisted attack at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino Saturday night and did the unthinkable: Which is to say that Samuel Peter gave James Toney a boxing lesson, establishing himself in the process as a force to be reckoned with on the heavyweight scene.

Peter not only knocked Toney down, he did it with a jab – in the  second round, shortly after he had rocked him with a big right hand. And by the later rounds of their WBC-mandated rematch, it was Peter who was dancing on his toes while he stuck his jab in Toney’s puffy face.

Suffice it to say that what happened on a tribal reservation in Florida Saturday night isn’t going to do much for the future of Tae Bo or Billy Blanks.

“James was never able to get going,” admitted trainer Freddie Roach after the one-sided rout.

One judge, Peter Trematerra, had Peter winning all but one round at 119-108.  The international judges, John Keane of England and Danny Van De Wiele, weren’t far behind at 118-1110. The Sweet Science scorecard was marginally more charitable and had Peter winning 117-108, but the issue was never in doubt.

Peter hurt Toney in the very first round, landing a right to the head, and as Toney cringed Peter came down with two rights to the top of the head – or behind it, in the judgment of referee Jorge Alonzo, who warned Peter for the tactic.

It was essentially the same sort of chopping right that had dropped Wladimir Klitscho three times in their 2005 fight, but having been spoken to by the referee, this time Peter was on his best behavior. (Later in the bout, as Toney ducked in front of him, Peter had the right hand raised and cocked, but, doubtless recalling the referee’s remonstration, thought better of it and never threw it.)

In the second, Peter followed his right-hand bomb by felling Toney with the stiff jab for the fight’s only knockdown. And while he threw and landed plenty of rights, it was his other hand that got Toney’s attention.

Toney rallied to win the third on two cards, and won the next on ours as well, but after that Peter pulled inexorably ahead, punishing Toney round after round.

Ever game, Toney continued to plod ahead and occasionally catch Peter with combinations, but more often than not he paid for it. From the midpoint on it seemed apparent that his only hope was that the big Nigerian would run out of gas, but instead it seemed to be Peter who got stronger.

In the later rounds, Peter was even up on his toes and dancing as he fired jabs at Toney’s chin.

“You saw what I did,” said Peter. “I was taunting him. I gave him the Ali Shuffle, with a little Floyd Mayweather thrown in.”

“Toney always goes this way,” Peter indicated a clockwise circle as he explained his strategy. “When I made him stop doing that I was able to take away his power.”

Peter gained the WBC’s No. 1 ranking, and ostensibly next crack at champion Oleg Maskaev, with the win, and seemed confident that that match would be made.

“I’m not the best – yet,” said Peter after what he termed his best fight. “The champions have the belts. But I will be the best.”

We don’t know about that, but he is head and shoulders better than the Samuel Peter who couldn’t beat Klitscko when they fought 15 months ago.

Peter raised his ring record to 28-1 with the win, while Toney dropped to 69-6-3.

Toney seemed to be in total denial after the bout, but at least he wasn’t claiming that he’d won this one.

“I came all the way from middleweight,” he reminded you. “I took his best shots, and I’m still standing.”

The main event was preceded by a performance from the Hard Rock stage by the band of the late James Brown, who had been invited to participate after King met them at the Godfather of Soul’s funeral a week earlier. The sellout crowd of 5,238 at the Hard Rock Arena included a gaggle South Florida A-List celebrities: Shaquille O’Neal, Miami Dolphin brothers-in-law Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas, Mickey Rourke, Anna Nicole Smith, Hulk Hogan, and Fat Joe.

In the evening’s only world title fight, Travis Simms, fighting for the first time in over two years, emerged from “recess” to demolish Jose Rivera and reassume the WBA junior middleweight title.

The pivotal moment of the fight came in the second round, when Simms unloaded a big right-left combination that split Rivera’s nose open. The champion came away with a two-inch gash on the bridge of his nose, and blood poured forth from both nostrils as well. It didn’t quite take all the fight out of him, but it was close enough.

After the nose-flattening combination Simms had crashed into Rivera, sending him to the floor, but referee Frank Santore correctly ruled no knockdown. Moments later, however, when Simms switched up from southpaw to orthodox and battered Rivera across the ring, Santore (who was working the bout because the original appointee, Tommy Kimmons, got stuck in Pensacola when weather grounded his flight) intervened to administer a standing 8-count.

Simms, 25-0, of Norwalk, dominated the bout, and Rivera (38-5-1) didn’t even seem to start trying to fight until the fight had reached its midpoint. Rivera boxed awkwardly, looking as if he’d forgotten everything he’d learned in the past ten years, and Simms, increasingly confident, forced Rivera to chase him around.

“I knew I needed a knockout to win, and that’s what I was trying to do,” Rivera would say later.

In the ninth, Simms caught Rivera with another solid right-left combination, and the latter punch sent the soon-to-be ex-champion staggering backward halfway across the ring, with Simms in hot pursuit. When Simms finally caught up with him long enough to land another left, Rivera toppled over backward.

Although Rivera got to his feet, when Simms landed a right hook and then another left that dislodged Rivera’s mouthpiece, Santore jumped in and waved the fight to a halt.

“I didn’t want him to stop it,” said Rivera, who protested.

“I’m back!” shouted the victorious Simms, who was fighting for the first time in over two years. “When I hit him with that big left in the second it felt great, and I knew it was a matter of time after that.”

Neither Trematerra nor Billy Ray gave Rivera a round, scoring it 80-71 after eight, while Rocky Young had it 79-71. The Sweet Science had Simms winning 78-72 going into the deciding round.

The other James Toney on the Hard Rock card didn’t fare any better than his namesake. James Obede Toney of Ghana was stopped in four by former IBF junior middleweight champ Roman Karmazin of Russia.

Fighting as a full-blown middleweight for the first time, Karmazin was making his first outing since losing his title to Corey Spinks in St. Louis last July, and appeared to handle the extra weight well. Jabbing away in the first round, landing hooks behind the jab in the second, and then going to the body in the third, Karmazin had won all three rounds on the scorecards of all three judges even before the fateful fourth.

Although he hadn’t appeared to be particularly stunned, Obede seemed to have trouble finding his own corner after the third, and midway through the fourth Karmazin put him on the seat of his pants, standing him up with a solid left hook and then putting him down with the solid right cross that came right behind it.

Obede struggled to his feet, looked quizzically at his corner, and, finding no help there, attempted to defend himself, but when Karmazin landed several hard shots with no resistance, referee Frank Gentile stopped it at 2:02 of the round.

Obede, who was fighting for just the third time in the United States, was 19-0 in Ghana, but is now 2-3-1 in the rest of the world. He had fought as cruiserweight when he beat Micky Stackhouse in South Carolina last February, and as super-middle in previous outing, a loss to Lucien Bute in Montreal in September.

Panamanian Guillermo Jones made an impressive heavyweight debut, stopping Kentucky journeyman Jeremy Bates at 1:44 of the first.

Early in the bout Jones rocked Bates with a right uppercut, moved in to land a left-right combination followed by another right that stunned Bates badly enough that Frank Santore Jr. intervened to administer a standing 8-count.

Bates never recovered, as Jones landed two more rights that left his opponent draped over the ropes when the referee stopped it.

The fight marked the first foray into the heavyweight ranks for Jones, who a decade earlier came within a whisker – a draw with then-champion Laurent Boudouani – of winning the WBA junior middleweight title. Jones was fighting for the first time since stopping Wayne Braithwaite in a cruiserweight eliminator in September of ’05.  It was the fourth loss on the trot for Bates, who had most recently been stopped by Evander Holyfield in Dallas last August.

Las Vegas-based heavyweight Bermaine (B-Ware) Stevens scored his ninth knockout in as many pro bouts with a first-round TKO of an overmatched Otis Mills (5-3-1) of Cleveland. Stevens decked Mills with a hard right a minute into the fight, and while the opponent made it to his feet, he was absorbing enough punishment that Gentile rescued him at 1:48 of the round.

California heavyweight Javier (El Monstruo) Mora advanced to 21-3-1 with a unanimous decision over game North Carolinian Ear Ladson (12-13-1). Trematerra and Young scored it 59-55, while Ray had it 58-56.

In the women’s prelim, Florida super-middleweight Laura Ramsey (7-2) scored a mild upset, decking previously once-beaten Nigerian Ijeoma Egbunine three times in a minute and a half on the way to a first-round TKO. The third time Ramsey floored Egbunine (12-2) with a right hand, Santore stopped it at 1:44 of the first.

Ramsey hails from Winter Haven, which is also the hometown of unbeaten welterweight Andre Berto, who was at ringside to watch his old friend.

“We used to spar together,” said Berto of Ramsey. “When I was about 13 she used to beat me up in the gym.”

Devon Alexander of St. Louis, who goes by ‘Alexander the Great’ and owns the WBC ‘Youth’ title, went to 15-0 with a fourth-round TKO over Bronx veteran Maximino Cuevas, 9-5. Although there were no knockdowns, Alexander, a southpaw, peppered Cuevas with jabs and eventually opened a cut above his left eye, which by the fourth was bleeding in sufficient profusion that Santore halted the bout at 2:02 of the round.

The opening bout had seen Anges Adjaho, an unbeaten lightweight from the West African republic of Benin, post a unanimous decision over well-traveled Tampa journeyman Armando Cordoba. Ray scored it a shutout at 60-58, while Trematerra and Young gave Cordoba two rounds apiece (though, interestingly, not the same two) in returning 58-56 scorecards. Adjaho is now 15-0, Cordoba 23-32-2.

* *  *

SEMINOLE HARD ROCK HOTEL & CASINO
HOLLYWOOD, FLORIDA.
January 6, 2007

JUNIOR MIDDLEWEIGHTS: Travis Simms, 153¾, Norwalk, Conn. TKO’d Jose Rivera, 153, Worcester, Mass. (9) (Wins WBA title)

HEAVYWEIGHTS: Samuel Peter, 249, Akwaibom, Nigeria dec. James Toney, 234, Ann Arbor, Mich. (12) (Eliminator for WBC title)

Guillermo Jones, 213, Colon, Panama TKO’d Jeremy Bates, 222, Argellite, Ky. (1)

Bermane Stiverne, 246¾, Las Vegas, Nev. TKO’d Otis Mills, 216, Cleveland, Oh. (1)

Javier Mora, 255, Anaheim, Calif. dec. Earl Ladson, 229, Winston-Salem, N.C. (6)

SUPER MIDDLEWEIGHTS: Laura Ramsey, 168, Winter Haven, Fla. TKO’d Ijeoma Egbunine, 167, Lagos, Nigeria (1)

MIDDLEWEIGHTS: Roman Karmazin, 159¾, St. Petersburg, Russia TKO’d James Obede Toney, 159, Accra, Ghana (4)

WELTERWEIGHTS: Devon Alexander, 144¾, St. Louis, Mo. TKO’d Maximino Cuevas, 147, Bronx, NY (4)

LIGHTWEIGHTS: Anges Adajo, 131¾, Cotonou, Benin dec. Armando Cordoba, 133¾, Tampa, Fla. (6)

Articles of 2007

Pavlik Or 'Money': Fighter of the Year Is…

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There’s nothing like the terror felt when you have a big black bear snarling and snorting and hunting you down, eager to stuff your tender head into his mouth, to make you run as fast as you’ve ever run.

Thanks, Dana White, aka the big black bear.

Thanks for waking up the semi-slumbering powers that be, and forcing them to acknowledge that boxing needed to step up its game, or be eaten alive, and shifted even further back in the sports world’s relevance race, in 2007.

With UFC threatening to snarf up those much lusted after PPV dollars, the suits went into overdrive, and worked smarter, and harder, to give fans compelling matchups.

They agreed to get along to get money, and they relegated the sanctioning bodies, with those moronic mandatories, and instead listened to you, the consumer, and booked the fights that made sense.

Nobody worked smarter or harder than the PR arms for HBO, and “Money” Mayweather, the artist formerly known as Pretty Boy Floyd. Through his appearance on the ABC reality dance competition “Dancing with the Stars,” and stubbornly effective marketing by HBO (24/7 before the De La Hoy and Hatton showdowns were masterful mini-movies which whet appetites of even non fight fans), “Money” emerged as a pay per view attraction who can take the baton as the premier earner from Oscar De La Hoya.

He transcended the sport, and boxing added another player to the mix of fighters that even non-fight fans in the US recognize the name of. Now there’s Mike Tyson, Oscar De La Hoya, and Floyd Mayweather…

Boxing, a sprawling mess of interests lacking a central organization that insures cohesiveness in marketing, and message, and mission, relies on a central figurehead to maintain its precarious perch in the mainstream sports information flow. Mayweather, a savvy marketer who has outgrown his periodic outbreaks of youthful indiscretions, is a superstar that fits our age to a T.

He knows exactly what buttons to push to keep his name in the papers-—or, more accurately today, on computer screens—and feeds us rabid presshounds of negativity and turmoil red meat, with his intra-familial beefs and 50 Cent-inspired rants proclaiming his peerlessness.

The only thing holding Mayweather back is his own talent, probably, as he owns too much of it. He blew out De La Hoya, and Hatton, and like Roy Jones in his heyday, he so dominates his opposition, that drama is missing from his fights. Most of us tune in to the sport to savor the drama that comes from one man reaching deep into the well of heart and guts to bring forth reserves even he didn’t know he possesses, and imposing his will on an opponent who had been imposing his will upon him. That sort of drama, as manufactured by the late Diego Corrales, is the variety that the sweet science can deliver like no other sport.

We saw it in excess in 2007, from my personal choice for 2007 Fighter of the Year, Ohio’s Kelly Pavlik.

He dug into his well, after getting knocked to the floor in the second round of his tussle with middleweight champion Jermain Taylor, and refused to lose.

All of us could apply his tenacity in staying on his feet, and roaring back to topple Taylor with a furious flurry in the seventh round of their Sept. 29 battle, in our own lives. We all could identify with, and root for, the TSS Fighter of the Year.

One could argue that Mayweather, with ultra high profile wins over De La Hoya and Hatton, who did as much as anyone to keep the sport relevant in the last 12 months, deserves the TSS FOTY honor. As referenced before, maybe his superior level of talent has set the bar too high for us nitpickers. We may be prone to be too hesitant to bestow praise on Floyd, because he makes it look too easy. Sorry, Money, it’s possible you are being penalized for just being too damned good. You certainly are the runaway frontrunner for Fighter of the Decade…

Pavlik, we didn’t know how good he was coming in to this year. We knew how good his promoter, Bob Arum, thought he was. But we reserved judgment, unwilling to make too much of wins over Lenord Pierre and Bronco McKart. We became believers, to a point, when the Ohio native showed boxing skill and a closer’s mentality with his January win over Jose Luis Zertuche (KO8), and true believers with his dominant march over Edison Miranda (TKO7), the heavily hyped Colombian who was no match for the Youngstown hitter’s work rate in their May match.

But we still withheld a measure of respect before Pavlik met Taylor, the middleweight king, in Atlantic City. Maybe we had been burned by (not as great as we were led to believe) white hopes in the past, and were worried that hype and marketing were his greatest attributes as a boxer. The respect came pouring forth when he stayed on his trembling legs in the second round of his September scrap with Taylor, and intensified when he closed the show with a KO crack in the seventh.

The fighter has to be rewarded for staying the course, and not allowing himself to be knocked off the title path since turning pro in 2000, and progressing at a sometimes snailish pace, and sticking with his no-name trainer Jack Loew even though some experts urged him to trade Loew in for a flashier model, and battling frail hands, and getting pinched for slugging an off-duty cop in 2005.

Pavlik’s rise in 2007 came the old fashioned way, via training his tail off, and staying on message mentally, and rising to the occasion when the situation offered a softer, easier choice.

There was no mega marketing machine bombarding our short attention spans with a campaign to make Kelly Pavlik into the torchbearer for the sport in 2007.

But the 2007 leg of his march to prominence reaffirms the best of what the sport has to offer, and reminds us that with talents like Pavlik, the sweet science will never crumble into obsolescence.

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Articles of 2007

Resolution Time For Harold Sconiers

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When Harold Sconiers of Tampa, Florida, looks in the mirror these days he doesn’t see the journeyman heavyweight with a 15-17-2 (10 KOs) record that most other people do.

What he sees is the dynamic, hard-hitting heavyweight who made it to the finals of the 1996 Olympic Trials, and began his pro career with six straight knockouts and one decision victory.

Since being stopped in the first round by then undefeated Bermane Stiverne, who had won all nine of his fights by knockout, in February 2007, Sconiers has completely reassessed his life and career.

He has come to understand what transformed him from an exciting amateur and fledgling young pro with seemingly limitless future to a nominal heavyweight who had at one point lost 10 fights in a row.

Now aligned with a new manager, David Selwyn of New York, he plans on utilizing that newfound knowledge to embark on what he believes will be the comeback story of 2008.

“I always knew I had a lot of talent, but I never let that talent completely develop,” said the 31-year-old Sconiers, who has lost to such notables as Clifford Etienne, Maurice Harris, Donovan “Razor” Ruddock, David Defiagbon, DaVarryl Williamson and Eric Kirkland.

“I had a lot of different problems, but my biggest problems were self doubt and self sabotage. I would do things to make sure I never rose above a certain level.”

During his intensive, exhaustive and brutally honest re-examination of himself, he chose to forego all of the negative aspects of his career and instead focus only on the positive. Through lots of reading and candid discussions with his former trainer Larry Berrien, he went about changing the mindset that made him so comfortable with losing.

The first thing he did was look at his complete record from a totally different perspective. Rather than just dwell on the losses, Sconiers lauded himself for beating six previously unbeaten or once beaten fighters. Among them was Ray Austin, who was 14-1 at the time and later challenged Wladimir Klitschko for the heavyweight title.

He also fought Edward Escobedo, who was 12-1, to a draw, and lost a split decision to Ruddock, who has always been a formidable ring presence.

When he examined his 10 fight losing streak, he realized that his opponents had a combined record of 164-32-8. Of the 32 losses, Harris, who had revitalized his once dismal career in much the same way Sconiers hopes to, had incurred 10 of them.

And the always competitive Sherman Williams, accounted for another 10, which means eight other opponents had only 12 losses between them. Several were undefeated at the time they faced Sconiers.

“Losing to all of those guys gave the boxing world the perception that I was washed up and just didn’t care anymore,” said Sconiers. “I realized I had to change that perception, and the only way to change it was to change my old habits and my old ways of thinking, dissect everything I’d been doing wrong, and working really hard to establish a new belief system.”

Tapping deep into his own psyche, Sconiers came to realize that much of his lack of self worth was rooted in childhood issues. As a kid he had a passive personality, and both of his parents were college graduates who held what he calls high ranking positions in the corporate world.

He was bright enough to skip grades in school and he scored high on IQ tests. In no way was he destined to become a boxer. His parents had told him on many occasions that he would be well-suited as psychiatrist or attorney.

His life changed when his father held a Mike Tyson fight party at the family home. To say that Sconiers was mesmerized would be a gross understatement.

“I was instantly locked in,” said Sconiers. “I told myself that I have to do this.”

Sconiers ventured to the Frontline Outreach Gym in Orlando, where he met Antonio Tarver, who was roaring through the amateur ranks en route to the 1996 Olympics. Because Tarver was a few years older than Sconiers, he became a surrogate big brother to him. To this day, Sconiers has the utmost respect for Tarver as both a fighter and a friend.

During Sconiers’ amateur career, which consisted of 77 fights, of which he lost 9, his mother continuously reminded him that, in her opinion, “boxing was for dummies.”

Still, he managed to win a silver medal in the 1996 U.S. Nationals, where he beat eventual Olympic representative and future heavyweight title challenger Calvin Brock, as well as the finals of the 1996 Olympic Trials. In that tournament he lost to Williamson and Lamon Brewster.

When his pro career began to get derailed, the young and immature Sconiers blamed everyone but himself for his shift in fortune.

“I thought the problem was outside me, and thought everyone was responsible but me,” he said. “I dumped Larry in order to self-manage myself. I left what had always kept me grounded. Some of the fights I lost I could or should have won. There’s no way I should have lost to Etienne, but all I did was show up. The Ruddock fight should have been mine.”

As Sconiers lost interest and motivation, he also began dabbling in drugs and alcohol. More times than not, he would take fights on short notice. Even if he had time to train, he never cared if his opponents were switched or where he was lacing them up. Resigned to the fact that he was just fighting for money, he didn’t train hard, if at all.

He’d also pick up a few dollars working as a sparring partner for the likes of Etienne, Shannon Briggs, Jameel McCline, Larry Donald and Kirk Johnson, but the passion was gone. Many of those fighters, as well as their trainers, told Sconiers to snap out of his trance because he was a lot better fighter than he gave himself credit for.

While working with Etienne, the esteemed trainer Don Turner told Sconiers he could make him heavyweight champion of the world if only he’d “get his (stuff) together.”

Sconiers said he was at his personal abyss in mid-2003, when he was stopped by Kirkland, who was 16-1, in the first round in Vallejo, California.

“That was a real bad time for me,” he said. “I was up all night using drugs and alcohol and just didn’t care about anything.”

Although it would be nearly four more years before Sconiers embarked on his personal renaissance, when he looks back on his sordid past that is his most vivid memory. He has learned to use that memory to his advantage.

“A lot of people go down the same route I did and destroy themselves completely,” he said. “I was close to that point around the time of the Kirkland fight, but managed to survive another four years. It is so obvious to me now that I was trying to destroy myself.”

Sconiers is the first to concede that once you fall into the role of an opponent, it is hard to extricate yourself.

“A lot of guys go through this and fall by the wayside,” he said. “Look at Emanuel Burton (Augustus). He’s an immensely talented guy who’s good enough to be competitive and probably beat anyone. But he is in that opponent role, which is hard to snap out of.”

Having done lots of reading on positive thinking and overcoming psychological roadblocks, as well as completely revising his physical training regimen, Sconiers believes he has snapped out of it.

Besides the steadfast support of his beloved wife of six years, Jennifer, who just earned her master’s degree, he believes that his association with Selwyn is a pivotal component to the success he foresees for himself.

They plan on having a momentous and memorable 2008.

“Harold says he is going to be the Cinderella Man of 2008,” said Selwyn. “We plan on keeping a very busy schedule. History has shown that heavyweights are always just a few wins away from redemption. At his best, Harold is very good. It is undeniable that he was his own worst enemy in the past. Now he believes in himself, Larry believes in him, and I believe in him. I’m really looking forward to working with him so he can reach his full potential.”

“We plan on a busy schedule and a lot of upsets,” added Sconiers. “After my first couple of wins, people will probably say they were a fluke. I’m not quite the Cinderella Man and I’m not quite Rocky, but I am an underdog who can make it. Hope sells in boxing, and I plan on being one of the biggest stories of the new year.”

Manager Dave Selwyn can be contacted at: Boxingkid@aol.com or 845-893-2829.

*photo courtesy Harold Sconiers

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Articles of 2007

St-Pierre, Liddell, Clementi Win @ UFC 79

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LAS VEGAS-A reinvented Georges St. Pierre proved he’s ready for the true Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight title with a dominating win over Matt Hughes and Chuck Liddell returned to the win column in his big showdown on Saturday.

St. Pierre took the final chapter in the trilogy with Hughes and now is the UFC interim champion at the 170-pound division.

Hughes just shook his head after tapping out before a sold out audience at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. It was called “Nemesis” and St. Pierre conquered his nemesis.

“Georges is just a better fighter,” said Hughes (43-6) who beat St. Pierre several years ago, but lost two years ago in a title match. “I just don’t know how much longer I got.”

St. Pierre (15-2) found Hughes using a left-handed stance to change up his attack, but the Canadian quickly adapted and used his quickness, skills and raw strength to take Hughes to the ground.

“If it wasn’t for my wrestling training I wouldn’t have been able to adjust,” said St. Pierre who had been preparing to represent Canada’s Olympic wrestling team.

Inside the Octagon the Canadian was never in danger. In fact, Hughes was the fighter teetering for the entire fight that ended in 4:54 of the second round.

It wasn’t supposed to be that way.

Hughes, known for his wrestling skills, just couldn’t solve St. Pierre’s quickness. Every move the Illinois fighter attempted was squashed.

St. Pierre is now promised a fight against the current UFC welterweight champion Matt Serra, who pulled out of the fight with Hughes because of injury.

“If I don’t get my belt back, I’m going to consider myself champion,” said St. Pierre filled in for Serra with less than a month of training.

After dominating the first round on top of Hughes, the second round was even worse as St. Pierre landed elbows and fists. Though the Illinois fighter escaped from underneath, he was quickly thrown down. Within seconds St. Pierre grabbed Hughes left arm and turned it into an inescapable arm bar.

Hughes screamed out: “I tap!”

St. Pierre now awaits Serra to recover from his back injury.

The semi-main event was no less intense.

The light heavyweight showdown between Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell and Brazil’s Wanderlei “The Axe Murderer” Silva was a three-round punch out between two famous sluggers. In the end Liddell’s sharper punches in the first and third round decided the fight despite a knockdown in the second scored by Silva.

Silva (31-8-1) dominated the second round for four minutes and 30 seconds but Liddell rallied and took the Brazilian to the ground. Two judges were somehow impressed by Liddell’s last 30 seconds and inexplicably gave him that round.

With both fighters huffing and puffing, and Silva with a bad cut over his right eye, Liddell seemed the stronger puncher and landed a back-handed fist and a right hand that stunned the former Pride FC fighter Silva. But he survived the round.

The judges scored it 29-28, 30-27 twice for Liddell who won his first bout after back-to-back losses.

“I knew it was a big fight for everybody and especially for me to get back on track,” said Liddell (21-5). “He had a lot more than I thought he had.”

Silva, who was making his first UFC appearance, was gracious in defeat.

“He won,” said Silva. “I gave my best.”

Temecula’s Rameau Sokoudjou fell short against Brazil’s undefeated Lyoto Machida (12-0) in their light heavyweight contest. The Cameroon native was unable to use his punching power with effectiveness against the karate-trained fighter. Then, unexpectedly, Machida landed a left hand that dropped Sokoudjou (4-2) and proceeded to gain an arm triangle that forced a submission at 4:20 of the second round.

“I’ve been working on my ground game,” said Machida who wants a world title match. “I beat the Alaska assassin, the African assassin, what other assassins are left?”

A heavyweight bout featured two Southern Californians eager to punch out. But San Diego’s Eddie “Manic Hispanic” Sanchez’s experience proved decisive in beating Temecula’s Soa Palelei (8-2) with uppercuts for three rounds. With his nose bleeding profusely and sustaining three consecutive uppercuts, referee Mario Yamasaki stopped the fight at 3:24 of the third and final round for a technical knockout.

“He was out of gas,” said Sanchez (10-1). “He was always putting his head down.”

Undercard

A grudge fight between two Louisiana fighters ended in a decisive submission victory by Rich Clementi of Slidell over the favored Melvin Guillard of New Orleans. A rear naked choke at 4:40 seconds of the first round forced Guillard, who had been predicting domination, to tap out. Though the fight was definitively over, Guillard attempted to assault Clementi but referee Herb Dean grabbed the fighter.

“He still didn’t learn his lesson,” said Clementi after Guillard attempted to rush him after the fight. “I validated what he’s known for six years, I’m the better man.”

James “The Sandman” Irvin (13-5-1) was nearly put to sleep by an illegal knee to the eye from Brazil’s newcomer Luis Cane (8-1) in the first round of a light heavyweight fight. Unable to continue, Irvin was declared the winner by disqualification at 1:51. Cane seemed unaware that UFC rules disallow knees to the head while the person is on the ground. Some mixed martial arts organizations allow it.

Former Ultimate Fighter participant Manny Gamburyan (6-3) quickly took his fight to the ground with former boxer Nate Mohr (6-5). Once on the ground the lightweight used his quickness to grab an ankle and twist. Mohr screamed to stop the fight at 1:31 of the first round.

“I’m so sorry for you man,” said Gamburyan who suspects he broke Mohr’s leg. “Nate’s a great guy.”

San Diego’s Dean Lister (10-5) scraped out a unanimous decision win over Bulgaria’s punch-crazy Jordan Rachev (16-2) in a middleweight bout. The judges scored it 29-28 for Lister.

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