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Articles of 2009

Lennox Lewis-Vitali Klitschko Revisited



On June 21st 2003,  Lennox Lewis fought for the final time of his career. His opponent was Vitali Klitschko, the current reigning WBC heavyweight champion. When Lewis fought Klitschko he was the lineal heavyweight champ and was widely perceived as the best fighter in the division. Klitschko, who was viewed by most fight observers to be Lewis's biggest threat and most dangerous opponent, was a replacement for Kirk Johnson, who injured a pectoral muscle during training.

Eight months after stopping Klitschko, Lewis retired as champion with his health, wealth and legacy intact. Since the fight’s conclusion the Lewis and Klitschko factions have gone at it non-stop regarding the result of the fight. Moreso it's amazing how some live and die through the ups and downs of their favorite fighter or team. It's almost as if their manhood is threatened if they have to admit their guy lost. If you're a huge fan of either Lennox Lewis or Vitali Klitschko, you might want to stop reading this if you reside outside the world of reality. I live in the real world and as uncomfortable as it may be,  I never try to squeeze things so they fit into my perfect world as I hoped it to be. I'm a boxing guy more than I'm a fan of any one fighter.

How the fight was made:

Lewis was scheduled to fight Kirk Johnson on June 21, 2003. Mike Tyson was supposed to fight on the undercard in the hope of stimulating a rematch with Lewis who knocked him out in the eighth round a year earlier. When Tyson pulled out, a fight between Vitali Klitschko and Cedric Boswell was inserted to be part of the undercard in its place. At that time Klitschko was the WBC number one contender and was probably going to be Lewis's next opponent. So having them fight on the same card made sense.

Once Kirk Johnson was injured and couldn't go through with the fight, it seemed plausible to have Klitschko step up and challenge Lewis. At the time Boswell despite being undefeated was viewed as just another opponent. The only upper-tier opponent Vitali had faced before Lewis was Chris Byrd, a fight that he was leading in but suffered a torn rotator cuff that ultimately forced him to  withdraw, thus suffering the first set back of his career.

Why The Timing Favored Klitschko:

Whenever the Lewis-Klitschko fight is discussed, there's one aspect surrounding it that's never mentioned and it's huge. That being the mindset of a reigning champion who has reached his pinnacle versus the mindset of a challenger who has had beating that particular champion in the back of his mind since he turned pro.

When Joe Frazier turned pro in 1965 Muhammad Ali was the reigning heavyweight champ. Joe has said numerous times that beating Ali for the title was his goal when he turned pro. When Frazier met and defeated Ali for the undisputed title in 1971, he retired mentally as a fighter afterward. Once he had conquered the fighter he felt he needed to beat to finally get his due as the champ, he became complacent and didn't fight for 11 months, making his first defense against the lightly regarded Terry Daniels.

On top of that Joe never really got in great shape again until fighting Ali in a rematch almost three years later. In the interim he fought the hungry and powerful George Foreman. Forget for a moment that Foreman had the style to beat Frazier and would probably beat him 10 out of 10 times. The issue is that Frazier was too content with himself and viewed George as an untested wild swinging amateur.

Well the same thing applies to Lewis. When Lennox turned pro in 1989, Mike Tyson was the undefeated and undisputed champion. In truth Tyson was the Muhammad Ali of his era, stature-wise. Lewis, like Frazier, knew he'd never get his props as champ until he beat Tyson. Lewis and Tyson were slated to fight a few different times but something always disrupted it. Tyson paid Lewis four million dollars to step aside so he could defend his WBA title against Bruce Seldon, despite Lewis being the top ranked contender.

Finally they met in June of 2002 and Lewis got the monkey off his back after scoring an eighth round knockout victory over Tyson. Once Lennox had conquered Tyson, he retired mentally as a fighter. He only took the fight with Kirk Johnson to make some money and buy time until he officially decided what he wanted to do.

In regards to Vitali, Lewis was considered the measuring stick for him especially after he dispatched Tyson. Whereas Lewis looked at Klitschko with the same disdain Frazier did Foreman. In other words just a big strong clumsy guy who can't fight nor has he been tested.

Sure, both Lewis and Vitali had been training for a fight at relatively the same time, but they were miles apart in the way they were going about it. In reality, Klitschko hadn't really ever stopped training since he turned pro, whereas Lewis hadn't been near a gym in a year. Klitschko, was still hungry and was fighting to prove himself and to erase the quitter label he'd acquired after his fight with Byrd. In his mind he couldn't slip up and had to be impressive every time out. A contender who has yet to win the title can always fight on short notice easier than an established champion who is unsure of his future.

On the other hand, Lewis perceived Klitschko as a cumbersome non tested cartoon character that quit versus a blown up super-middleweight. Which is the wrong way to approach any fight, especially when you're 38. Lewis accepted Klitschko as a replacement for Johnson without hesitation. He was thinking, I believe, that he'd pull one over on the boxing public, being that most saw Klitschko as his biggest threat and successor. Only he didn't see it that way and thought he'd get over beating a guy who wasn't nearly as good as advertised, and it almost backfired on him.

So the bottom line is going into their fight, Klitschko had the mental and physical advantages. The fact is Lewis wrongly didn't think much of Klitschko, and for Vitali, Lewis represented the king of the hill who he had to knock off. It's also a fact that when a fighter takes another fighter lightly he can't adjust during the fight because the opponent is better than he thought; this was something Ali found out after about the third round with Frazier during their first fight. Ali thought Joe was a walk in can't miss punching bag. When he realized that Joe was really a great fighter and knew how to fight him, it was two months too late.

The Fight And The Aftermath:

For his fight with Vitali Klitschko, Lennox Lewis weighed in at 256 ½, the heaviest of his career. Klitschko weighed in at 248 which was within two pounds of what he was for his fight prior to and next fight after Lewis.

At the bell for round one Lewis and Klitschko both came out pawing with their left jabs strictly looking to set up and land their big right hands. There was a lot of holding and wild swinging during the round, but Vitali was busier and displayed a better punch variation. In the second round Klitschko bounced a perfect right hand off of Lewis's chin that had him hurt and holding on for a moment. Lennox tried to laugh it off but no one was fooled, he was clearly shook. For the remainder of the round Klitschko pot-shotted Lewis, yet Lewis still plugged forward with his hands down as if he didn't believe Vitali could really hurt him.

In the third round Klitschko was again the busier fighter, but Lewis landed the cleaner punches and opened a cut over Klitschko's left eye that worsened as the round progressed. Lewis fought more measured in the fourth round and seemed to make Klitschko throw his punches more with the intent of holding Lewis off than hurting him. By the end of the round both fighters looked dead tired and spent as they hung onto each other waiting for the bell. Throughout the fifth round Klitschko was busier and Lewis was looking to hit the lottery with one big right hand. However, Klitschko's eye cuts were getting worse from the few jabs and grazing rights Lewis landed.

For the first minute of the sixth round Klitschko once again was busier than Lewis, until Lennox landed the best punch of the fight, a right uppercut that shook Vitali for a brief second. That was shortly followed by a clean left hook while Vitali's back was to the ropes. As the round was concluding Klitschko was holding on as Lewis was trying to get room to punch. Right before the bell Lewis scored with another big right uppercut and went back to his corner and sat down hard on his stool.

Shortly after the fight was stopped due to Klitschko's cuts, Klitschko vehemently protested the fight being stopped. At the time of the stoppage all three judges had the fight scored 58-56 Klitschko. At best Klitschko was leading by two, but it could've been just one. Neither fighter had established themself as being in control. It was close and wasn't exactly the finest hour for either fighter. The best way to put it is there's no case for Lewis being in the lead and there was for Klitschko.

Due to the cuts sustained by Klitschko, the fight being stopped was the right call. It's ridiculous to argue who would've won. Championship fights are scheduled for 12 rounds so the score at the time of the stoppage means nothing. John Tate was leading Mike Weaver after fourteen rounds and had the fight under control. He was knocked out with 45 seconds remaining in the 15th round. So much for leading in the fight.

I do know Klitschko hit Lennox with more clean right hands than I've ever seen him hit with before in his career, and he went at Vitali as if he were handcuffed. So either Lewis's chin got better as he aged or Klitschko's punch isn't what we quite thought. And that was an old and terribly out of condition Lewis he was nailing throughout the bout. As far as the cut, it was caused by a punch Lewis threw with intent of doing damage, and it did. The fight continued and the cuts got worse and the fight had to be stopped. That's boxing. Durability is part of what makes a great fighter and as we know, Vitali's body, not his heart, has betrayed him against the two best fighters he's fought, and also in training, leading to many of his fights being postponed or canceled.

In regards to fighting a rematch, I don't buy for a second that Lewis feared Klitschko. He showed beyond a doubt that he wasn't a coward or lacked heart. Many forget that he came back from two devastating knockout defeats that very easily could've ruined him psychologically. And other than him being shook for a second he wasn't close to being in trouble or going out versus Klitschko.

As far as Klitschko, he no doubt wasn't convinced by Lewis that he was the better fighter. On top of that he probably didn't have a morsel of a doubt in his mind that he would've defeated Lennox in a rematch. In the end both fighters did what was best for them. Vitali yelled for a rematch and Lennox didn't want to give him a chance to possibly upset him at a time in his career when he was old and seriously contemplating retirement.

Six years out from the fight we now see how great Lewis was to be able to get a win over a formidable fighter like Klitschko so late in his career. Since fighting Lewis, Klitschko has proved his worth being that he hasn't been defeated and after a 46 month layoff came back and won a piece of the title in his first bout.

Lennox Lewis beat Vitali Klitschko in the final fight of his career. That's inescapable. However, neither fighter conclusively proved they were the better fighter that night. But Lewis won the fight and there's no controversy surrounding it.

Articles of 2009

UFC 108 Rashad Evans vs. Thiago Silva



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



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 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



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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