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Articles of 2007

The Professional Grounder (Sweet Science Fiction)

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“Of course he’s probably broke,” said Frank. “All those boxers are. I remember I was at a wrestling match one time when I was a kid in Knoxville and Primo Carnera was the main event. After the match, he had to ask his manager for a nickel to go buy a soda!”

“Think he’s got a drug habit?” asked Ben.

“Probably,” said Frank.

Danielle rolled her eyes. Frank was the agent for A-List action movie star Scott James, her boss. Frank was persuasive enough to convince an aspiring actress that couch favors were necessary to garner the role of Victim #4 in “Zombie Hookers from Outer Space.” Even though his knowledge of athletes was severely lacking, however, it did not stop him from speaking on the subject with authority. Ben, Scott’s personal photographer, appeared to be eating it up. For renowned boxing trainer Bobby Dee, the drug speculation had been enough.

“Moon is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet,” he said, “but for the life of me, I can’t figure out why he is doing this.”

“You think Scott has a chance?” asked Frank.

Bobby laughed.

“Even if Moon was suffering from heroin withdrawal, he would still tear Scott to pieces,” said Bobby.

Danielle had been Scott’s personal assistant for eight months, ever since her old boss, magician Wendell Mosser, had lost his network television contract. Despite the switch from magician to action movie star, she was still miles away from an inside track to the film industry. Yet her eight months with Scott had been refreshing. While Wendell had required her to work long hours, seven days a week, fulfilling the most miniscule and whimsical demands, Scott had allowed her to work from 10 am to 6 pm Monday through Friday and her only duty was to fulfill his one addiction: risk.

In the past eight months, she had coordinated his climb to the summit of Denali, an iron man competition in Hawaii, and a $20 million winner-take-all Texas Hold ‘Em game in Geneva. The job had been taxing on occasion, but her main worry was that her boss came back from all his jaunts in one piece.

Three months earlier, Scott had blackberried her with a message that said, “I want to fight a former fighter at my home in Maryland. I don’t care who. Just make sure he’s a heavyweight around my size and has fought the best. Set the fight up for October.”

When she coordinated Scott’s climb of Denali, she had no idea that it and Mount McKinley were one in the same. In setting up the fight, she learned a great deal about heavyweight boxing as well. After extensive research, she finally found www.moonmozier.com

Moon Mozier was a former fighter who had compiled a record of 35-3 throughout his career with 30 knockouts. He had also unsuccessfully challenged for the heavyweight title on two occasions. His last title shot ended with him being knocked out in the ninth round by Kwame Orange. The knockout was forever embedded in the memories of sports fans by a Katya Sorenson photograph that showed an unconscious Moon lying on the canvas while Kwame leaped in the air with his arms raised in victory. The picture earned the prestige of being part of Sportsweek’s top 15 photographs of the 20th Century. After the loss, Moon retired at the age of 32. That had been eight years earlier.

Danielle had learned that most fighters who retire in their early 30s usually live pretty comfortably. That is why she was shocked to see that Moon had a “Challenge Moon” page on his website that read:

Think you can take Moon? For a fee, Moon will give you a shot at besting the greatest heavyweight to never win a title. If you are interested, please click here.

She was the assistant to the number three box-office star in America and felt that she was above using the “contact me” icon on a website. However, the website did not offer a number. The next day, she received the response:

Dear Ms. Holden,

Thank you for you contacting us. We are huge fans of Mr. James’ work. Moon is available during October. His fee for a sparring session is $100,000. Also, Mr. James would be required to cover Moon’s transportation, accommodation, medical examinations, and licensing fees. Please get back to us on this as soon as possible as Moon’s schedule fills very quickly.  Thank you.

Jacob Kilrain

Moon Mozier, Inc.

(404) 555-1717

When she brought the information to Scott and Frank, all she received was criticism.

“Why did you mention Scott’s name?” asked Frank. “This guy probably has a group of attorneys pimping him out. The minute you mentioned his name, they are trying to shake us down for a hundred grand. We probably could’ve gotten him for much cheaper had you not given him so much information.”

However, Scott was 6’2” and weighed 190 pounds. Moon weighed around 215 but was 5’11”. Scott thought that this may have allowed him to have an advantage when Moon closed in. After letting Frank berate her for a few more minutes, Scott told Danielle to have his attorneys finalize the deal with Moon.

Moon arrived alone at Scott’s Aberdeen mansion around 2:00 that afternoon, and Danielle led him to one of Scott’s many bedrooms to use as a dressing room. In street clothes, he did not look like a broken man in need of a paycheck. However, she had seen many a well-groomed actor who concealed their hand-to-mouth lifestyle with charged designer clothing.

Scott built a boxing ring in his gargantuan basement, hired Bobby, made sure Ben would be there to photograph the event, and trained for two months. He had played a prizefighter early in his film career and had learned the fundamentals of the sport then. Despite the prior knowledge, Bobby did not hesitate to tell him he was making a big mistake fighting Moon.

The contract between Scott and Moon had stipulated that both fighters be in the ring by 3:15 that afternoon. At 3:10, Scott walked down to the basement wearing a red silk robe. Danielle bit her upper lip to keep from laughing as he posed for Ben.

“Well, that’s real practical,” said Bobby.

Scott laughed.

“I don’t care,” said Scott. “I’ve always wanted one of these. Hey Frank, check this out.”

He turned around to reveal a patch on the back his robe reading, “Shamrock Meats, Inc.” Frank shook his head.

“I always figured Rocky was your inspiration for this,” he said.

Frank looked his watch. 3:12.

“Moon better get out here soon,” he said. “The contract stated 3:15.”

“Don’t worry,” said Bobby. “I taped him up 15 minutes ago. He’ll be out any minute.”

Seconds after Bobby spoke, Moon walked down the stairs into the basement wearing only boxing trunks and shoes. He did not resemble a former athlete who had buried his Adonis-like body under frequent trips to the buffet table nor did he look as if he was skipping many meals. His physique was not chiseled, but it had country boy healthiness. Moon stepped into the ring and walked over to Scott’s corner and shook the star’s hand.

“Mr. Mozier,” said Scott. “Thank you for the opportunity.’

“It’s your money,” said Moon.

He studied Scott’s robe and smirked, as Bobby placed the headgear on his head. After Scott put on is headgear, both fighters went to their respective corners.

Round one of their four-round sparring session got underway at 3:30. Moon walked out of his corner and slowly circled the ring. Scott kept his distance and stayed parallel with him. Occasionally, Moon would fire a soft jab, which Scott would either slip or slap away. A little more than two minutes into the round, Moon threw a loopy left hook, and Scott ducked under it and pounded a right into his side. Moon winced and tottered a bit and backed against the ropes. Scott closed in and threw wild rights and lefts at his opponent, who had built himself a cocoon of gloves and limbs. With about ten seconds left in the round, Moon glided out from under Scott’s attacks and threw a right hand lead at his shoulder. The bell rang with Moon backpedaling.

In Scott’s corner, Bobby quickly went to work on his elated employer.

“He didn’t become the number heavyweight contender in the world for nothing,” said Bobby. “Don’t get cocky, and only punch when you have an opening.”

When the bell rang for round two, Scott charged out of his corner.

“Don’t go after him!” screamed Bobby.

Scott stopped three feet in front of Moon and stepped backwards. Moon continued to throw a very weak jab and spoke while he did.

“You ain’t too bad,” he said. “But you got a lot to learn. When you fight for the heavyweight title, come talk to me then.”

Danielle frowned as Moon threw another limp jab. Frank leaned in next to her.

“It’s a testament to boxing if this old pug was once considered to be a star,” he whispered into Danielle’s ear.

She shuddered and moved away from him. Moon once again tossed a left hook with the velocity of a wet noodle, and Scott was again able to slip under it. However, this time he was met with a bone-crushing right uppercut under his chin. Scott’s head snapped back and he dazedly staggered backwards. Danielle closed her eyes. Moon followed up with a quick left and right into his chest sending him back into the ropes. Scott did not fall, but his arms were dropped at his sides. Moon looked over at Scott’s corner.

“Think he’s done, Bobby?” asked Moon.

“Yeah, he’s done,” said Bobby as he climbed into the ring to help Scott.

Ben set his camera down and helped Scott to his feet as well, as did Frank. As they helped lead Scott upstairs to a bedroom, Frank turned around to look at Danielle and Moon.

“Mr. Mozier, Scott would say goodbye, but he’s too woozy,” he said. “Danielle, what time is your flight back to L.A.?”

“7:00.”

“Ride with Mr. Mozier to BWI and see that he gets situated,” said Frank.

It took Moon about 30 minutes to shower and change clothes. Danielle met him in one of Scott’s many hallways. As they walked to the front door, they passed a large detailed print of the famous photo of Moon and Kwame. He stopped, stared at it, and shook his head.

“Wonder if any photos of me and Scott will go up next to that?” he asked.

The limo ride was mostly quiet. Three years ago, Danielle would have had difficulty concentrating if she had been alone in a car with a beastly prizefighter, but now she just passed the time reading The Baltimore Sun.

Moon’s cell phone rang when they were five miles away from the BWI exit. He pulled it off the holder attached to the belt holding his jeans up.

“Hello.”

A few moments passed.

“Thanks for calling me back, Bill. I can make that show on the 13th. And I’ll be happy to sit with Kwame and sign that darn picture. The only thing is that I want $150 for every one that I do.”

Moon held the phone away from his ear. She could not decipher any of it, but Danielle could hear very intense verbiage coming from his cell phone.

“Bill, I hear you and I’m sure Kwame will be upset if I make more money than him on this. But Kwame has to understand that I’m the draw here. He’ll sign that picture any old day of the week. I won’t. The swallowing of my pride should be worth a few extra bucks. Also, more people want Kwame’s autograph than they do mine so in the end, he will make more money anyway.”

Ten seconds passed before Danielle could hear some noise from the phone.

“Thank you. I appreciate you understanding. We are pulling into the airport so I will touch base with you in the next couple of weeks about logistics for the 13th. Take care.”

The lines at Baltimore-Washington International Airport were slim and Danielle and Moon quickly got their boarding passes and made their way through the security checkpoints. As they walked to their respective gates in Terminal C, Moon turned to her.

“Can I buy you a drink?”

Danielle could not find an ulterior motive.

“Sure,” she said.

They went to the Beer Garden and sat at the bar. A tanned man with salt and pepper hair was chiding the bartender as he poured a Guinness.

“Do you not put a spoon in it?” he asked. “It ruins it when you don’t put a spoon in it.”

The bartender paid him no mind and continued.

“Go to any pub in Ireland, or even New York for that matter and you’ll see.”

Moon rolled his eyes.

“Where’d you learn that from? Guinness.com?” said Moon.

There was silence as the bartender handed him his beer and approached Danielle and Moon.

“I’ll have a double Johnny Walker Black on the rocks,” said Moon. “You know I went to a Johnny Walker taste-testing once and learned that it’s blended from 40 different scotches. If I were a jackass, I would tell every bartender that poured me one about it.”

The finicky man took his Guinness and moved to a table. The bartender turned to Danielle who was trying her best to keep from laughing.

“Dirty Martini.”

“You got it,” said the bartender as he quickly went to work on the drinks.

Moon rolled up the sleeves on his button-down shirt.

“I wasn’t going to do anything,” said Moon. “I just hate to see people act that way.”

She nonchalantly held up her hand letting him know it was okay.

“So is Scott from Maryland originally?” he asked.

Danielle nodded.

“He grew up in Rockville,” she said. “After he signed his first million dollar contract for Under the Knife, he bought that house in Aberdeen so he would have a place to go to get away from it all.”

“Nice place.”

The bartender delivered the drinks. They clinked their glasses together and Danielle took a sip.

“I don’t know what it is with him though,” she said, “with these endeavors. He actually thought he could beat you. It’s like these guys have things fall the right way for them movie-wise and they all of the sudden think that they are invincible.”

Moon smiled.

“A lot of guys of his stature – guys with money to burn – let their ego get the best of them,” said Moon. “It’s how I make most of my living. Guys like Kwame Orange are too proud to waste their time boxing with some pampered movie star or flash-in-the-pan wide receiver. For me, it’s an easy way to make money and an excuse to stay in halfway decent shape. And at the end of the day I think I give them a greater respect for the sport and a bit of a humbling experience at the same time. I like to think of myself as a professional grounder.”

Danielle almost spit up her drink.

“Come on,” she said. “You carried him for an entire round.”

“I gotta keep business coming in,” he said. “If I really unloaded on him in the ring – and I’m not saying this to toot my own horn – he wouldn’t last thirty seconds and he would likely get seriously hurt. Taking someone with no experience and putting him in the ring with a professional fighter is like sending a guy with no mountain climbing experience up K2.”

“Then why would Bobby Dee do it?” she asked.

Moon winked at her.

“Because Bobby and all the other trainers these rich boys hire aren’t fools,” said Moon. “If I destroy someone inside a round, I’ll never get another gig like this and neither will they. So what I do is spend a round, maybe two, figuring out their glaring weaknesses or just baiting them. Once I’ve done that, I can finish them off in four punches or less. I get paid and they get a bit of self satisfaction.”

Danielle tilted her head in disbelief.

“You just wait,” continued Moon. “Scott will come back in a couple of days bragging about how he lasted almost two rounds with Moon Mozier. Someone else will hear that and think they can do even better.”

They finished their drinks and walked out of the bar into the concourse.

“Thanks for joining me,” he said.

“Thank you for the drink,” she said as she gave him a slight hug.

They started to walk their separate ways before Danielle remembered the money.

“Oh,” she said. “Do you want me to contact Jacob Kilrain about wiring you the rest of the money?”

“Naw,” he said. “Just contact me. Jake Kilrain was an old bareknuckle boxer from the 1800s. I just use his name so y’all won’t think you are dealing with some sad sack with a website.”

She bit her bottom lip and smiled.

“Take care,” he said. “Have a safe flight.”

Danielle smiled as she walked to the gate. She wondered if Scott’s next adventure would teach her as much as this one had.

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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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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