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Articles of 2009

Latin Fury Colts



The participants in the four televised bouts on Top Rank’s PPV show at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall Saturday night are from eight different nations. Although the card is being billed as “Latin Fury 9,” only three of the eight headliners are from Spanish-speaking countries — and should Imperial Hank follow Boardwalk equine tradition and drown Jorge Arce in the Atlantic Ocean Thursday morning, Latin Fury’s Latino Quotient could be down to two.

In a 1931 episode subsequently immortalized in the film “Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken,” 24 year-old Sonora Webster plunged off a tower and into an 11-foot swimming pool while astride a horse named Red Lips. Red Lips reportedly dove like Jorge Arce fights, which is to say awkwardly. Although both horse and rider landed in the pool, Ms. Webster, who was fond of watching her horse’s shadow during the descent, hit the water face-first with her eyes open, incurred two detached retinas and was blinded for life.

Arce, a jockey-sized former 115-pound champion from Mexico, will attempt to emulate Sonora Webster Thursday morning by galloping up the Boardwalk aboard a New Jersey-bred nag named Imperial Hank. Although no flying leaps into the ocean are on the agenda, with the fun-loving Arce you never know, and should the publicity stunt devolve into a horse-bites-man story Bob Arum probably won’t even be surprised. (Ed. Note: JuanMa rode the horse on the boardwalk on Thursday.) That’s just about the only injury that hasn’t yet visited this star-crossed card.

Originally, remember, this was going to be Kelly Pavlik vs. Sergio Mora, but that bout was scrapped when the middleweight champion came down with a staph infection. Paulie Malignaggi was going to fight undefeated Coloradan Mike Alvarado, but that one fell apart with an injury to Alvarado, and Paulie, rather than face a substitute, signed to fight Juan Diaz instead. Fernando Montiel’s bantamweight title defense against Eric Morel also blew up when Montiel hurt his hand sparring.

Arce (51-5-1 and coming off a one-sided butt-kicking at the hands of Vic Darchinyan) was actually supposed to be riding a Mexican horse in Tijuana last Saturday night, but with the participants dropping like flies, Arum figured that it would be a good idea to have a couple of actual Latins on Latin Fury 9, and transferred Arce’s bout against Fernando Lumacad to Atlantic City.

Described as a “Filipino Fireball,” Lumacad is 19-1-2, but will be fighting outside his homeland for the first time. In introducing him, Arum said Lumacad was from Manila, and when an interpreter pointed out that he was actually from General Santos City, the hometown of a somewhat more prominent Filipino boxer, the promoter quickly recovered, saying “I just didn’t want to scare Jorge.”

Actually, the thought had already occurred to the Lollipop Kid anyway:  “When I told my friends in Mexico I was fighting a guy from the Philippines, they all said ‘Oh, no, not Manny Pacquiao!” revealed Arce.

Despite the wholesale defections, the multi-national array on the PPV show (the others are from Puerto Rico, Cameroon, Armenia, Ukraine, Belarus, and the United States) boasts a staggering aggregate record of 219-14-5.

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On August 22, 2004 I was at the Peristeri Boxing Hall in Greece when Vanes Martirosyan lost a decision to two-time wold champion Lorenzo Aragon of Cuba in a quarterfinal match of the Athens Games.  Aragon was a wily 30 year-old veteran, and Martirosyan had just turned 18 and was (behind Rau’shee Warren) the second-youngest member of the Ameican team, few had really expected him to win then, but it was a significant occasion nonetheless, because he hasn’t lost since.

Actually, no one, including Matrirosyan himself, had expected him to be even in Athens. Born in Armenia, he had moved to the United States at the age of four, and 13 years later his father had told him “Go ahead and go to the Olympic Trials, have some fun and get some experience, and hopefully you’ll be ready by the 2008 Olympics in China.”

Vanes was one bout away from elimination at the Trials that year, but then came the Andre Berto body-slam to Juan McPherson that knocked both guys off the US team. McPherson wound up in the hospital and Berto, disqualified, wound up fighting for Haiti, and the next thing he knew, Martirosyan was fighting his way through qualifiers to win a spot on the squad for Greece.

“The plan was still to aim for 2008, but then I started beating guys like (current world champions) Timothy Bradley and Andre Berto and I knew I could hold my own,” said Vanes. “So I decided to turn pro after the Olympics.”

He originally signed on at Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Gym, but left two years ago to train under Ronnie Shields in Houston. Then earlier this year, said Martirosyan, “I knew if I was going to get to the next level, Freddie was the guy to train me,” so he moved back to California.  He and fellow Roach disciples Pacquiao and Amir Khan share the same personal trainer, Alex Ariza, and are workout partners.

Although Roach’s stable has swelled with his burgeoning reputation, Matrorosyan doesn’t feel overlooked. In fact, he says he gets more quality time with the three-time trainer of the year now than he did in his first go-round at the Wild Card.

Roach had intended to be in London with Khan Saturday night, and even after Khan-Andres Kotelnik was postponed elected to remain in LA with Khan. The latest addition to Roach’s training staff, Jesse Reid, accompanied Martirosyan on the trip east.

The original plan had been that Michael Moorer would handle the Martirosyan corner for Saturday’s bout against Joe DeGuardia’s Andrey Tsurkan (25-4), but Roach’s already fragile relationship with the former heavyweight champion reached the boiling point a week ago, and last Friday Freddie showed Moorer the door.  Pfft.

Roach was already more than somewhat annoyed six weeks earlier when Jim Lampley claimed on the Pacquiao-Hatton telecast that Freddie had brought Moorer on board as a concession to his physical limitations as a result of his Parkinson’s Disease. It wasn’t true (Lampley was apparently repeating the fanciful brainstorm of a 24/7 producer), but neither did Moorer attempt to disabuse TV people of their assumption.

“I didn’t hire Michael Moorer because I was sick,” Roach told us then. “I hired him because he was broke and he needed a job.” But even then Moorer’s overbearing presence was wearing thin.

“He’d antagonized a lot of people in the gym,” confirmed Reid, who trained Gaby and Orlando Canizales and who was the chief second in Hector Camacho’s corner when he ended Sugar Ray Leonard’s career. “Personally, I like Michael, but many people find him difficult to get along with.”

Roach said last week that Moorer had alienated “five or six” boxers with whom he worked. Martirosyan says if so, he wasn’t one of them: “I liked his kind of ‘tough love,” said Vanes. I wasn’t uncomfortable with Michael, and I’m not uncomfortable with Jesse.”

Martirosyan is 24-0 as a pro, and his roots notwithstanding, will be more familiar to many Latio Fury watchers than some of the actual Latinos will.  A boxer serving his apprenticeship with Top Rank is bound to wind up on a lot of Spanish-language telecasts, and Vanes has been on at least half a dozen of them, where his action-packed style has resulted in some head-turning performances.

After he beat previously undefeated Michael Medina in Primm, Nev. last September, Martirosyan experienced an unsettling moment when he found himself surrounded by a small army of Mexican boxing fans.

“Then I realized they were my fans,” said Vanes. “Even though I was fighting a Mexican guy, they all knew me from television and they’d been cheering for me.”

In addition to handing Medina his first loss, Martirosyan has also established something of a yardstick for comparison against John Duddy foes. Before he knocked out Harrison Cuello in one last month, Martirosyan beat Billly Lyell two months before Lyell put the first ‘W’ on the popular Irishman’s record, and last November he had a KO1 of Charlie Howe, who had extended Duddy the distance five months earlier.

Tsurkan represents a step up over his usual fare, and if all goes well Saturday night, Martirosyan says he is prepared for even deeper waters.   Paul Williams, for example.

If fighting on a Latin Fury card is a new experience for Tsurkan, so, apparently, is fighting for Top Rank. The Ukraninan’s entire address at Wednesday’s New York press conference couldn’t have been more than 30 words long, but five of them were “I’d like to thank HBO.”

“It’s not on HBO!” shouted Arum, who looked ready to strangle him. 

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In the other fight on the PPV card, Belarus-born, New York-based rabbi-in-waiting Yuri Foreman (27-0) faces former Contender Cornelius (K-9) Bundrage of Detroit. Foreman, whom Tsurkan battled to a controversial split decision two years ago, will be fighting for the third consecutive time in Atlantic City, this time in a bout that has been designated an eliminator for the IBF 154-pound title. The 36 year-old Bundrage (29-4) beat former champion Kassim Ouma last year, an accomplishment that seemed more meaningful then than it does now – particularly in light of K-9’s performances in other fights in which has stepped up to a comparable level – he has lost to Grady Brewer, Joel Julio, and Steve Forbes, and was knocked out in one by Sechew Powell.

Saturday’s card was originally booked into the main arena at Boardwalk Hall, but when Pavlik-Mora went south it was moved to the more intimate Adrian Phillips Ballroom. In addition to the quartet of televised bouts, the 10-fight card includes a couple of interest. In one, Philadelphia junior welter Demetrius Hopkins (28-1) returns to the ring for the first time since dropping a split decision to Kendall Holt in last December’s WBO title fight, with Hector Munoz (18-2-1) of Albuquerque furnishing the opposition. In the another, 6-0 Russian middleweight  Matt Korobov will face 9-2-1 Mexican Benjamin Diaz.

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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