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Articles of 2009

Who's The Favorite In The Super Six World Boxing Classic?

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SUPER SIX WORLD BOXING CLASSIC

– The Super Middleweights –

NEW YORK CITY PRESS CONFERENCE QUOTES

What the executives, fighters and promoters had to say on Monday in New York City:

KEN HERSHMAN

“Throughout my career, I have been involved with some of the most major and historic events in the sport, including the legendary Corrales vs. Castillo fight which in my opinion is the best fight in history, the Tyson/Holyfield ear biting incident, and the Tyson-Lewis fight. But never have I been more proud then I am of this tournament or prouder of the work we have done. Getting five promoters together is a herculean task in itself — plus six of the best fighters in the division. That is a staggering accomplishment.

“(IBF champion) Lucien Bute was not invited (to participate).  He's a great champion but this tournament works. Not one promoter or fighter objected to the first-round draw. They all said ‘put me in front of anyone.’  Each promoter feels their guy is ready to take this tournament.’’

ARTHUR ABRAHAM

“I'm very happy to be in New York for the tournament. I want to win. I came here to participate and win. Each fighter, they are all exceptionally good, one better then the next. But I am here to win.’’

ANDRE DIRRELL

“Thank God and my Savior Jesus Christ. My heart is going 100 miles per hour. It is beating like hell.  This is the biggest stage of my career.  It is not because it is the hardest.  I know I am in a blessed position and the position to be the best of all-time.

“I thank SHOWTIME, Al Haymon, the three Europeans and my grandfather. I am ecstatic.  I have this tingling feeling.  I had that feeling when I came through the curtains today.  I had that same feeling at the Olympic Games each time I entered the ring. I know it is my time.  It is my time to shine.

“I love being the underdog. I am going to be in the finals. Whoever is there, that is who it will be (on predicting who he will meet in finals).  I guarantee you I'll be there. I have been hungry for a long time.  I just want to get it on.  I am the only one here not wearing a suit.  I want to wear a suit.

(On Froch) “I begged for that fight.  Froch is tailor-made for me. He hasn't showed me anything.  I think this will be my easiest fight.  If he can beat me, then he's a true champion.  (But) I will be victorious.

“I’m focused on getting the WBC title. Then, I'll get the WBA and leave the tournament with both belts.  Kessler stands out the most. He has only one defeat and has the most experience. My concern is not getting cut. I am naturally gifted and I will let the world know who I am. It’s a big plus that everyone knows they have three fights. I’m super hungry. All these are top guys and it’s going to take the best to beat the best. But I’m in a beautiful position. I’ve had only 18 fights. I’ll be unbearable. Everyone’s a world champ.  It's a one-man game, every man for himself. I don't care about the USA vs. Europe. Ward has the most prestigious position having won the gold.’’

CARL FROCH

“Thanks to all the promoters, and especially Ken Hershman for having the vision to put this together. I will remain the WBC champion throughout this tournament. All the fighters deserve to be here. We mean business and we are taking this seriously.

“I'm going to be the last man standing. I'm a world champion and I've worked so hard to get here that I'm not giving my belt up for anyone.

“This is what boxing is supposed to be about with the best fighting the best. These are the kind of challenges I've always wanted and I'm really fired up for this tournament.

“It forces the best fighters in the division to all face each other and that's something that has been missing from boxing in recent years. You've got established champions like Mikkel Kessler and Arthur Abraham, a former undisputed world champion like Jermain Taylor, who I already know all about, and then you have the two rising stars from the U.S., Andre Ward and Andre Dirrell.

“Right now Andre Dirrell is something of an unknown quantity for me because I haven't seen very much of him. He's coming into this tournament on the back of a lot of hype and he certainly talks a good fight. It's in the ring that it will count though, that's where he will have to back it up. But he's big at the weight, he's got that great amateur pedigree, he's unbeaten and he's some good scalps on his record.

“So he's definitely a dangerous opponent for my first fight.

“Ultimately I believe the series will come down to myself and Mikkel Kessler in the final. He's a reigning world champion just like me and I believe the experience of being world champ gives you that extra edge.

“He's an excellent fighter but I believe I'm the best of the bunch and it's just about going out now and proving that.’’

MIKKEL KESSLER

“Thank you to all the promoters and to SHOWTIME. This is a big opportunity for me to test myself. I never thought this would happen but when I got the call I said, ‘of course, I want to be a part of it.’ This is a big opportunity for me and all the fighters. A big thank you to all, and may the best fighter win.’’

JERMAIN TAYLOR

“I don't really care who I fight, with me there’s always plenty of action in the ring.

“Arthur Abraham is a brawler. I'm going to box him. That’s the key to winning the fight and beating a brawler. Who wants it more……..we will find out soon.”

“A fighter’s power will be key in this tournament; everyone has power. There will be KOs in most of the matches, but I will outbox Abraham.

“I'm glad to be a participant in this tournament SHOWTIME has put together. It’s good for boxing and the fans.”

LOU DIBELLA
““DiBella Entertainment and Jermain are thrilled to be a part of this historic and creative tournament. It’s a clean slate for Jermain and every one of these great athletes begins this tournament 0-0.

“The round robin nature makes this an unprecedented contest. We look forward to competing with the best in the world.”

DAN GOOSSEN

“I apologize for Andre Ward not being here, but he is in Mexico and he has a case of the flu and is on antibiotics.

“I think this tournament will deliver great ratings and media support, but it will really be great for the boxing fans.

“When this concept was brought to our attention, I saw the greatness in it for the fighters.  I believe the fans have always insisted on something like this.  No gimmicks.  No give and take on the weight. Everything is there before you. The best are fighting the best.  Real champions.  Real Olympians.

“I believe the winners will become stars. Not one star, but I think this tournament will create two or three stars. I think it will take these fighters to a whole different level.

“When Ken Hershman met with me — instead of Ken giving me the contract, I gave Ken the contract to get this started. There are great champions among the Europeans. Ward is the last gold medalist. You are going to see his great talent as he challenges these fighters.

“I think he will be achieving his greatness in the tournament and he will be the winner of this tournament.

“This brings boxing to the levels of the other major sports.  With the tournament format the fighters now have the chance to not only win the division championship and their conference championship but to take it to the Super Bowl. That I believe is what has driven these fighters to put it all on the line for supremacy.

“Andre has been on the biggest world stage as any of these athletes. It doesn't get any bigger than the Olympics and he overcame all of the odds on becoming the only Gold medalist for the U.S.

“And we believe that he is ready to go front and center on the professional world stage and be able to do what Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard and Oscar De La Hoya did after winning gold.”

MICK HENNESSY

“I'd really like to thank Ken Hershman and everyone with SHOWTIME. Sometimes it’s hard to get excited when you are promoting event after event, but I am excited for what’s coming up.

“This has got me very excited. Six incredible athletes, six warriors, will put everything on the line and agree to fight each other. This is something to congratulate them all for.

“I believe Carl Froch is the best pound-for-pound fighter coming out of the UK and by entering this tournament he'll be able to prove that.

“I'm very proud of him, he's up against the best of the best, but I believe he'll come out on top.’’

KALLE SAUERLAND

“This is a great turning point for the sport, especially in Europe. There are many questions right now in boxing, where the sport is going, who are the champions and others.

“But this tournament aims to clear it up.’’

WILFRIED SAUERLAND

“When we first thought about this, we weren’t sure it would happen, but they worked very hard and we owe it to all the other boxers and promoters and Ken Hershman.

“From what I've seen here and what I've heard from Europe, this will be great.’’

GARY SHAW

“I just received some ground breaking news. (Shaw reads a telegram from WBC President Jose Sulaiman). Sulaiman offered his deepest congratulations to the six great fighters and SHOWTIME while giving them the WBC official authorization and support of this great tournament.  There will be no mandatories.  The WBC will give its full support. This is most important to this tournament.

“Dirrell is one of the youngest in the tournament. He isn't a world champion, but he will be. I think he is the most athletic in this tournament. He can fight southpaw or orthodox. He's always switching during a fight.

“Andre has fought the toughest fighters in Anthony Hanshaw and Victor Oganov, who was 26-1 with 25 KOs. Oganov can really punch.  I believe Andre is going to win the tournament with his lighting speed.  That will take him a long way in the tournament. I think the experience that Andre, Jermain Taylor and Ward had in the Olympics will certainly help them in this format.

“It's America vs. Europe.’’

The tournament begins in October 2009 and runs through spring 2011.

The six fighters have signed on to fight any, and potentially all, of the five other contestants in the tournament.  All bouts will be scheduled for 12 rounds.  Froch’s WBC title and Kessler’s WBA championship will be on the line at the start of tournament competition.

In the first three Group Stages of the tournament, each fighter faces three different opponents over the next 12 months in a points-based competition.

Scoring will be as follows:
Win – 2 points (with a 1-point KO/TKO bonus)
Draw – 1 point
Loss – 0 points

Based on the point standings after the third Group Stage, the top four point scorers will advance to the Semi-Finals with the lowest two being eliminated.  (In the event of a tie on points, a tie-break mechanism is in place)

The Semi-Finals will match the point leader against the fourth place fighter and the second versus the third. (In the event of a draw in the Semi-Final bouts, a tie-break mechanism is in place).

The winners of the respective Semi-Final bouts will advance to the Final, which will be contested in early 2011 for the inaugural Super Six World Boxing Classic trophy.

Fights will be contested on both American and European continents. Dates and venues will be announced in the coming weeks.  Group Stage 1 matchups are as follows:

GROUP STAGE 1
CARL FROCH     vs.    ANDRE DIRRELL (for WBC World Championship)
JERMAIN TAYLOR     vs.    ARTHUR ABRAHAM
MIKKEL KESSLER     vs.    ANDRE WARD (for WBA World Championship)
Group Stage 2 and 3 matchups will be announced shortly.

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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