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Articles of 2009

Sugar Shane Mosley Returns (Pt. 2)

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Shane Mosley’s resounding victory over Antonio Margarito upended odds-makers, prognosticators and experts that most all predicted that the smaller man known as “Sugar Shane” was a mere shadow of his former self.

Back in September against Ricardo “Matador” Mayorga, a difficult win by knockout over the tough Nicaraguan was seen as evidence of Mosley’s lagging skills. Now that’s all gone. Now we’re talking about Mosley’s return to the Pound for Pound list and added legend to his lore.

Mosley has returned from the land of used-to-be-good to the home of champions.

A few weeks ago when we visited Mosley at his Big Bear training camp, the Pomona native told us that he was still upset that he was judged the loser against Miguel Cotto. He confesses that he could have done more, but wonders why Cotto was allowed to just run around the ring the last two rounds with nary a punch thrown or landed.

“I’m going to show people that Sugar Shane Mosley still has a lot left in the tank,” promised Mosley as he sat in one of his large couches upstairs. “I’m not going to run. I’m going to be right there in front of him.”

People felt Mosley’s performances against Cotto and Mayorga proved that he was probably Golden Boy Promotion’s least valuable asset and expendable to the ambitious company.

Not so.

Eric Gomez, who serves as matchmaker and is a vice president with Golden Boy, said Mosley has always been seen as a valuable asset but always wanted the toughest fights.

It’s been a common characteristic of Mosley to fight anybody at anytime. Lately, he has toned down that mentality a bit. Instead of fighting anybody he now looks at the business side of things and seeks the most profitable challenge, not just the most physical challenge.

Mosley’s more strategic now as you saw in the ring.

People forget that Mosley was the first fighter to give Winky Wright a shot at the title after that fighter gave Fernando Vargas a scare in 1999. For five years nobody with a world title would fight Wright until Mosley shrugged and said “why not?”

Today, Wright continues to be avoided and if he fights on April 11 against Paul Williams (another avoided fighter) he will have been forced to wait for almost two years to fight.

Mosley fought Wright not once, but twice and nearly pulled out a win in their second scrap.

“Winky was the toughest I ever fought,” said Mosley re-evaluating his career. “He’s real strong. He’s definitely the strongest fighter I’ve ever faced.”

The Pomona native knows about strong. I remember back in 2000 when he was preparing for a fight against Antonio Diaz he used to work out at the old Big Bear Fitness gym. Inside there were all types of weight machines and free weights. Mosley loves them weights.

“Hey, wanna see me lift 300 pounds?” asked Mosley.

It shocked me to hear him say that because weights are not good for a fighter trying to make weight. Muscle is harder to lose than fat.

Without much struggle Mosley lifted that 300 pound weight. The guy is a mini-Superman when it comes to pure strength.

“People don’t know that I’m physically strong,” Mosley said.

The Fight

The 20-minute walk to Staples Center was a nice jaunt. My wife had not seen the area since James Toney fought Samuel Peter in their first fight a couple of years ago. A lot has changed.

At the corner of Olympic and Figueroa we ran into a boxing manager of a couple of Texas prospects. One of them, Jerry Belmontes, would be fighting later in the night. Across the street an elderly man was playing Jimi Hendrix’s “Hey Joe” on his electric guitar. It sounded good but he might have been a little toasted cause he couldn’t remember the words.

Once we cross the street to the Staples Center we came across veteran corner man Tony Rivera. We talked a bit about Margarito coming in at 145 pounds and shaking our heads at the memory of Oscar De La Hoya doing the same thing a month ago. Ironically we’re standing about 50 feet from the statue of De La Hoya behind us.

Rivera says that coming in weak against Mosley is not a good thing. He should know, he worked the corners for Roberto Duran, Alexis Arguello, and Marco Antonio Barrera. In fact, he worked the corner for Mayorga when he fought Mosley.

“That Mosley is a tough son of a —–,” Rivera says.

We say our good byes to Rivera and go to the window to pick up our credentials.

Inside the belly of the Staples Center is the media room. It’s only 2:30 p.m. so we have about an hour before the first fight begins. We sit around one of the tables just gossiping about the fight game. Every time a new reporter comes in we get asked our predictions.

After a couple of cokes and ice cream and some chatter with photographer Paul Hernandez, writer Franklin McNeil, photographer Craig and writer Doug Fischer, it's time to go into the arena to catch the opening act.

Remarkably about 6,000 fans are already in their seats. That’s a lot of people for a boxing card’s first fight. It’s going to be a sell out.

As each fight ends, more and more people fill the massive arena that usually fits around 18,000 people. Not tonight. The balloon is going to burst.

By the time Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero fights the crowd is bursting at the seams and there are still two more fights to go. Guerrero wows the crowd with a picture-perfect counter left hand to the body that sinks Edel Ruiz to the floor for three minutes. The Ghost is impressive in his first fight under Golden Boy’s banner.

About 10 minutes after obliterating his opponent, Guerrero comes to the press table to talk to Robert Morales and me. Guerrero is a nice guy who doesn’t seem like a killer unless you’re on the other side of the ring. He’s not even sweating.

I looked at the bout sheet and could see that we were going to have a long break so I began walking around the crowd on the floor. Every five minutes I would spot a celebrity or two like Sylvester Stallone, Mark Walhberg or Tony Danza. I also ran into some boxing guys like Max from San Jose and Mark from OC.

When I returned to my seat I heard someone call my name and saw that it was Mia St. John. As usual she was as dazzling as ever. While we talked people screamed out her name to get a picture of her. Nobody screamed out my name, it was more “get out of the way buddy. We don’t want you!”

Finally after the Mexican national anthem and American national anthem, it was time to announce the fighters.

The announcement of Mosley and his entourage was met with a deafening blanket of boos that wasn’t surprising but still very, very loud by the mostly Mexican crowd.

Margarito’s announcement was met with waves of cheers that were the loudest I’ve ever heard in that arena. Ever. Reporters in the press area just looked at each other in amazement.

Finally the bell rang and Mosley immediately stepped right in front of Margarito. They parried and exchanged lightly but with about 40 seconds left in the round Mosley landed a thunderous right hand to Margarito’s stomach that buckled his knees. Seeing that made it evident that it was going to be a long night for Margarito.

You know the rest. Mosley fought when he wanted to fight and never allowed Margarito to get leverage on his punches. Maybe a blow landed here and there, but you could probably count the number of big blows Margarito landed.

The win itself by Mosley was not the surprise, it was the one-sided domination and the knockout of a strong fighter who had never been stopped in 15 years of prizefighting. The win also re-arranges a lot of future plans for the entire boxing landscape in the welterweight division.

“We have a fight coming up between Manny Pacquiao and Ricky Hatton, maybe the winner fights Shane Mosley,” said Eric Gomez, a Golden Boy Promotions matchmaker. “Anything can happen now.”

Sadly, Margarito was on the cusp of becoming a Mexican legend on the same plateau as Julio Cesar Chavez, Salvador Sanchez and Ruben Olivares. A win over Mosley would have placed him on a fast track to an eventual showdown with Pacquiao. It also would have meant sold out stadiums and superstar status.

Not anymore.

“It was a bad night, that’s the truth,” said Margarito after the fight. “Don’t take anything away from Shane Mosley. He’s a great fighter.”

The Future

Mosley’s victory proves several things especially that boxing is entering a new era where promoters are willing to match their best against each other to provide compelling and intriguing fights.

“Shane had been begging us to let him fight Margarito,” said Gomez. “He kept telling me that Antonio Margarito was perfect for him.”

Mosley’s win also proves that at 37 he physically still has a lot more left to give as a prizefighter and that he has a great chin and enough power to knockout anybody in the welterweight division.

“I didn’t get 38 knockouts for nothing,” Mosley said before the fight.

It also proves that his business partner and two-time former foe Oscar De La Hoya has a great chin too. In two battles between Mosley and De La Hoya, neither fighter was ever knocked down.

Sadly, during the announcement of De La Hoya, most of the 20,000 fans booed the Golden Boy. During the fight, De La Hoya’s father Joel De La Hoya could be seen excitedly cheering for Mosley during the fight as if he were his own son.

Last Saturday night was a very surreal setting as viewers and fans from around the world saw the new downtown Los Angeles area near Staples Center that now has restaurants, theaters and video game areas where once before tenements and homeless resided. The area has been revamped and reloaded much like boxing itself.

Across the street we ate at the ESPN Zone. Before eating, we saw Riverside heavyweight contender Chris “The Nightmare” Arreola and his trainer Henry Ramirez walk in with a few of their friends. All were in shock from what they had seen.

“I still can’t believe it,” said Arreola. “Sure I thought Mosley could beat Margarito, but not by knockout.”

That knockout could be the catalyst for another great year of professional boxing.

“Shane Mosley deserves a lot of credit for being the kind of fighter who will fight anyone,” said Muniz, who was denied the WBC welterweight title against Jose Napoles though that fighter could not continue in 1975 in their fight. “I really feel Shane Mosley deserves more credit than people give him. He’s a clean-cut guy who never says anything bad about anybody. He’s just like Sugar Ray Robinson.”

In the last five months Mosley has faced numerous problems outside of boxing including a divorce from his wife of seven years, a defamation lawsuit filed by a former trainer, and allegations of steroid use. He’s survived it all.

“Shane doesn’t let anything get him down,” said Jack Mosley, father of Shane who did not train his son in this fight. “Shane does what he has to do.”

The question now is what more can Mosley do?

Fights on television

Fri. ESPN2, 5:30 p.m., Herman Ngoudjo (17-2) vs. Juan Arango (20-1-1).

Sat. HBO plus, 10 p.m., David Rodela (11-1-2) vs. Antonio Meza (24-5-1).

Articles of 2009

UFC 108 Rashad Evans vs. Thiago Silva

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Former champion Rashad Evans meets Brazil’s venerable Thiago Silva in a non-title belt that can lead to a return match with the current champ, but first things first.

Evans (15-1-1) and Silva (14-1) meet in Ultimate Fighting Championship 108 in a light heavyweight bout on Saturday Jan. 2, at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. A win by either fighter could result in a world title bid. The fight card is being shown on pay-per-view television.

Events can change quickly in the Octagon and anybody can beat anybody in the 205-pound weight division. Just ask Silva or Evans.

Silva and Evans are both experienced and can vouch firsthand about the capriciousness of fighting in MMA and especially as a light heavyweight. On one day this man can beat that man and on another day, that man can beat this man. It can make you absolutely daffy.

Evans, 30, is the former UFC light heavyweight world champion who only defended his title on one occasion and lost by vicious knockout to current champion Lyoto Machida of Brazil. It’s the only defeat on his record.

Silva, 27, is a well-rounded MMA fighter from Sao Paolo, Brazil who is versed in jujitsu, Muy Thai and boxing. He can end a fight quickly in a choke hold just as easily as with a kick or a punch. His only loss came to who else: Machida.

Evans and Silva know a win can push open the door to a rematch with current UFC light heavyweight champion Machida.

“A win against Rashad would put me in the track against Lyoto,” said Silva, in a telephone conference call. “That's what – what I want to do.”

When Silva fought Machida the two Brazilians were both undefeated and feared in the MMA world. The fight took place in Las Vegas and with one second remaining in the first round a perfectly timed punch knocked Silva unconscious.

“I was humbled big time, man,” says Silva who fought Machida in January 2009. “I learned a lot from that fight.  I think I can correct the mistakes from that fight, not overlooking anything else right now, but just I want to get the chance to fight him again.”

For Evans it was a different circumstance. The upstate New Yorker held the UFC title and was defending it after stopping then champion Forrest Griffin by knockout. Still, many felt Machida was far too technically versed. Evans was stopped brutally in the second round.

“I've made it a point to not – to not get distracted on what I want to do, because you know Thiago (Silva) is a very hungry fighter,” said Evans who has not fought since losing the title to Machida last May. “My focus is just on Thiago so much.  You know I don't want to overlook him, you know, not even a little bit.”

Dana White, president of UFC, says the winner of this fight could conceivably fight Machida in the near future. Evans and especially Silva are motivated by the open window.

“I learned a lot from that fight. I think I can correct the mistakes from that fight,” says Silva. “Not overlooking anything else right now, but I just want to get the chance to fight him again.”

What a prize. The winner gets to face the man who beat him: Machida.

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Articles of 2009

Ten Boxing Wishes For 2010

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As 2009 comes to a close, one reflects on what went well and what went wrong during the year in boxing. There were many highlights. Pacquiao vs. Cotto and Showtime’s Super Six tournament were part of the best that boxing had to offer. But there were some low points too therefore the industry has some work to do in order to keep generating fans. Here are some suggestions for 2010:

10. Better pay per view cards

Paying 40 to 50 bucks to watch the main event gets old real quick. Why do we have to sit through a horrible under-card to get to the main course? It’s like being fed spam appetizers before the Thanksgiving turkey. It seems that the pay per view promoters just don’t get it. Are they watching what they put on or do they only watch the “big fight” as everyone else is slowly being conditioned to do so?

9. Time to make Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. fight

Okay, I understand he’s the son of one of the greatest fighters that ever lived. But he’s had 42 fights against low to mid level competition and has never managed to look spectacular. It’s time to throw the 23 year old out of the nest to see if he can fly. My suggestion is a fight against Sergio Mora or maybe even Yuri Foreman. Neither of these guys can punch. They may outbox Junior but they won’t totally humiliate him.

8. No more ridiculous Pay Per View mismatches

Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Juan Manuel Marquez should’ve never been made. It was a ridiculous fight when it was announced and it was more ridiculous when it took place. Unable to bring Manny Pacquiao to the bargaining table for a third match against Juan Manuel Marquez, someone figured that pairing up the 135 pound champion against a natural 147 pounder like Mayweather would be a great idea. The pay per view generated over a million buys but the fact that millions of people were treated to an incredibly boring mismatch is what’s truly worrisome. I can guarantee you one thing about this card. The sport of boxing lost fans once the show was over and done with. Talk about short term thinking.

7. Chris “The Nightmare” Arreola shows up for a fight in amazing shape

It was painful to see Chris Arreola take a beating from the Ukrainian giant, Vitali Klitscho. The champion certainly earned his “Dr. Ironfist” moniker as he plowed his powerful shots into the former #1 WBC heavyweight contender’s face. He reddened and bloodied the young Mexican American with an assortment of weapons and foot movement seldom seen on a six foot seven inch heavyweight. Arreola was brave and unrelenting in battle. He never stopped coming forward and took chances when he could. His work in the ring at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles wasn’t the problem. Where Arreola let himself down was outside the ring. His unwillingness to condition himself into a finely tuned athlete cost him certain immortality as the first ever heavyweight champion of Mexican descent. Arreola has the heart and skills but it was his mental fortitude that broke down. Anyone who’s followed the Riverside fighter knows that his best weight is somewhere in the 230 pound range. It certainly isn’t at the 252 pounds he registered on the scale at the Staples Center.  Those fifteen to twenty extra pounds might have made all the difference in the world. Maybe he would’ve been a little quicker, maybe he could’ve sustained a faster pace in order to tire out the champion. In his most recent fight against Brian Minto, Arreola weighed in at a career high 263. It looks like “The Nightmare” isn’t willing to change for anyone. At this pace, the only nightmares he’ll be providing will be to the management of Hometown Buffets all across Riverside.  Just kidding “Nightmare”!

6. More respect for the lighter weights

Real boxing fans know that the most exciting fighters in the sport are usually found toiling in weight divisions south of 154 pounds. Pacquiao, Cotto, Juan Manuel Marquez, Edwin Valero, Israel Vazquez, Juan Ma Lopez, Vic Darchinyan, Rafael Marquez and countless others have been the real driving force behind this sport. It’s those great fighters that have made boxing fanatics out of casual fans. The heavyweights may get all the money and glory but it’s the little guys who make the sport shine and it’s time they received greater compensation. It’s dismaying to think that a mediocre heavyweight can make three or four times as much as the great Rafael Marquez.

5. An American Heavyweight champion

Speaking of heavyweights, two Americans tried and failed at dethroning Vitali Klitschko this year. Both Kevin Johnson and Chris Arreola did their best to wrestle the belt away from “Dr. Klitschko” but came up short since they were easily outclassed. What happened to the great American Heavyweight? Where’s our new Joe Frazier or Ali? Even a new Gerry Cooney or a Ken Norton would do at this point. I’ve got a feeling that the only way we’re going to see an American champion is if Klitschko retires. My money is on Arreola. Although undisciplined and rough outside the ring, he’s got tons (no pun intended) of natural talent. He’s without a doubt the most talented American heavyweight on the scene.

4. More ShoBox

The Showtime Cable network gave us the best boxing on TV for the price of a cable television subscription. Their ShoBox series has been a proven hit for Senior VP of Sports Programming Ken Hershman. The concept is simple yet brilliant. Match up two up and comers with great records and let’s see what happens. Sometimes the results are surprising. Many have passed the ShoBox test and went on to bigger and better things. Others have been exposed as having padded records and eventually their careers stall and take a dive.

3. More safety in Mexico so I can attend a show without a gun battle breaking out

Having lived near the Tijuana border all my life I’m dismayed at the war zone that the city has evolved into. Every day there are reports of shootings fueled by the drug war trade. Believe it or not, there was a time when Tijuana was safe and most wouldn’t have thought twice about crossing the border for some seafood and nightlife. No more. Having covered several boxing cards on Revolucion Avenue many years ago, I got a taste of just how important the sport is to Mexican fans. It’s also important to me but not that important. For now I’ll stick to covering shows at the Pechanga Casino and in the less dangerous city of L.A. I never thought I’d say that.

2. Pac Man vs. Mayweather

This is the fight everyone wants to see. Seeing how Mayweather dominated Pac Man’s arch enemy, Juan Manuel Marquez, you have to wonder if the Filipino can handle Lil’ Floyd’s speed and size. One thing is for sure, betting against Pacquiao doesn’t usually work out for me. It never has. There’s no future in it. So if the fight gets done it’s Pacquiao by TKO in ten.

1. And finally

One final wish is reserved for all the readers of TheSweetScience.com I wish you all a healthy and happy 2010. Thank you for your continued loyalty to the site. It’s very much appreciated.

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Articles of 2009

A Very Special New Year's Day Column

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It has been just over four months since Nick Charles, the play-by-play announcer for Shobox: The New Generation, was diagnosed with stage IV bladder cancer and forced to take a medical hiatus from the monthly show that has aired since 2001.

Since then he has undergone grueling chemotherapy treatments that have resulted in him losing all of his hair as he forces himself to live as normal of a life as possible. Through sheer force of will, as well as the strength and support that he receives from his wonderfully loving family and his strong Christian faith, the 63-year-old Charles has managed to keep his weight up while not falling prey to the always lingering threats of depression, cynicism and negativity.

If one was unaware that he was battling such an insidious disease, you’d never know from talking on the phone to him that he has been to hell and back. He has lost none of the inspiring energy that has endeared him to members of the boxing community and legions of worldwide viewers.

“I’m doing great,” Charles said during a telephone conversation on December 30th. “I’ve been off the chemo for a month, and the doctors have told me that I’m 80 percent in remission. I’m going to see them again in three months. It may come back, but if it takes one year, or two years, or however long, I’m going to make the most of the good time.”

As physically and emotionally wrenching as the grim diagnosis and subsequent treatment has been, even for someone as perpetually positive as Charles, the longtime announcer said a lot of good things have come from it.

Having been married three times, Charles is the father of four children: Jason, 38, Melissa, 34, Charlotte, 22, and Giovanna, 3 ½.

While Charles is not big on regrets, he is the first to admit that he wasn’t always there for his older children. For many years he traveled the world as a CNN correspondent, often putting the demands of his career above all else, including those closest to him. Nowhere was the strain more evident than in his relationship with Melissa.

Having been divorced from Melissa’s mother since 1977, Charles said his relationship with that daughter has been especially “hot and cold, all of our lives.”

His illness has enabled them to forge a relationship that has been “based on a massive amount of forgiveness and understanding.”

“This has had a tremendous healing effect on both of us,” said Charles. “My illness has had a fortifying effect on a lot of things, the most important of which is my relationships with my family.”

That also includes his first wife, with whom he has had an often acrimonious relationship over the past three decades.

“It took a long time for the scab to become a scar, but we had lunch one day and it was so great to once again see the gentle, soft sides of each other,” he explained. “The whole divorce process creates a hardness that doesn’t always go away.”

Charles is also the grandfather to three children, some of whom are about the same age as his youngest daughter. He jokes that he has a “nuclear 21st century family” because of the similar ages of two generations of children. One of the hardest things for him has been the realization that he can’t always play with them in manner in which he would like.

“The hemoglobin is the fuel in your tank, so when it’s low you can’t will yourself to do things no matter how much you want to,” said Charles. “You can’t just sleep it off or work through it. I don’t want the kids to wonder why I can’t play in the backyard with them, or kick a soccer ball, or throw them in the air.”

Particularly difficult is when Giovanna reminds her father of how handsome he is, but then innocently asks him what happened to his hair, eyebrows and lashes.

“You try to keep things on a need to know basis, which is not easy when dealing with curious kids,” said Charles.

While Charles might look like the kind of guy that things have often come easy to, the reality is that his beginnings were far from auspicious. But, he says, his often challenging Chicago childhood blessed him with the steely resolve that has helped him so much during the arduous journey he is now on.

“I had it pretty rough growing up,” he explained. “I remember the lights and the heat being shut off and eating mustard sandwiches. I went to work at 13 and always had insecurities about the future. But I always expected and saw the best in people, so when I got sick, never once did I say 'Why me?”

Since taking a leave of absence from Shobox, the outpouring of support from the boxing community has warmed Charles’s heart. For a guy that is battling for his life, he actually considers himself fortunate to be surrounded by so much goodness in both his personal and professional lives.

“I always hear that boxing people are ruthless, but I couldn’t disagree more,” said Charles. “I’ve probably received about 1,000 e-mails, and people are always following in sending their best wishes. From the relatively unknown people in boxing to many of the more famous people, there has been an outpouring of true affection.”

Charles said that the Top Rank organization has been exceedingly kind and gracious. He was touched beyond description when he learned that officials in Oklahoma got special permission to have a seamstress sew “Keep Fighting Nick” onto their sleeves. He chokes up when talking about cut man Stitch Duran giving up an endorsement opportunity so he could put Charles’s name on his outfit. He never tires of hearing shout-outs from fighters on television.

Charles has always been a people person with an inordinate faith in the goodness of his fellow man. Battling this illness has only made his already strong faith in humanity even stronger.

“Adversity is a great teacher, and it really teaches you who your genuine friends are,” said Charles. “I have a lot of friends.”

He also has a remarkable wife, Cory, a CNN producer to whom he has been married for 11 years. She is the daughter of an electrician, a self-made woman who exudes all of the warmth of her native Brooklyn. She has reinforced her husband’s spiritual base by her love, optimism and strength of character.

“If I get down, she reminds me to not get too caught up,” said Charles. “I believe in eternity, and that has put me pretty much at peace.”

More than anything else, Charles wants to get himself back behind a microphone sooner rather than later, and hopefully on Shobox. He is the first to admit that viewers “don’t watch the series to see Nick Charles,” but he is proud of the fact that he was “part of the identity” of such a popular show.

“And people love comeback stories,” added Charles. “That’s the message I’m getting from the people out there.”

In boxing the word “champion” is often overused because it pertains only to winning belts and receiving worldwide recognition for being the best at your craft. The reality is that life’s real champions have other qualities, such as the innate ability to treat people well and always make them feel better about themselves, especially when the recipients of the goodwill are in no position to give them anything back.

By that standard of measure, Charles is as much, if not more of a champion than all of the boxers he has covered during the nine years that Shobox has been on the air.

I know I speak for scores of others when I say, “Happy New Year, Champ. We hope that you are the comeback story of the year in 2010.”

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