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Articles of 2009

One-Sided Glove Affairs

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“Life loves the liver of it.”

~ Maya Angelou

July 18, 2009. Providence-based promoter and President of Classic Entertainment & Sports Jimmy Burchfield had a birthday Friday. He took the celebration to the Twin River Event Center in Lincoln, RI where he sponsored a boxing show called “Braggin’ Rights” –and gave his cake to the patrons: tickets were slashed and included redeemable free-play at the casino. Jimmy may have regretted the whole thing as he stood in the ring and was subjected to a regrettable rendition of “Happy Birthday” by local boxing notables Joey Spina, Reinaldo Oliveira, Bobby Harris, and Vinnie Paz. Golden voices rarely accompany golden gloves, but God bless them for trying.

The first bout of the evening featured local cruiserweight Jay Holland (3-0) against thirty-six year old Billy Greenwalt (1-6) of Youngstown, OH. A left hook by Holland was enough to convince all and sundry that whatever it is in Youngstown that gave us Tommy Bell, Tony Janiro, Ray Mancini, and Kelly Pavlik was not bequeathed to Greenwalt. The bout was over in 57 seconds.

It looked like the makings of another one-sided glove affair when Diego Pereira (4-0) landed the kind of left hook to the liver of Ramon Ellis (0-3) that would convince most to quit the ring and apply for community college. Ellis’s face contorted and down he went. In a bigger casino in Las Vegas that very evening, Robert Guillen went down after Guillermo Rigondeaux landed the same shot to his liver. Such a shot has ended at least one budding acting career: When aging heavyweight Earnie Shavers was in the ring with Sylvester Stallone auditioning for the role of Clubber Lang in Rocky III, he tapped him on the liver. Stallone left the ring and threw up in the men’s room. Shavers was handed a ticket home.

Ramon Ellis assumed the classic posture of prayer and submission on one knee while the referee counted. Someone nearby commented “he ain’t getting up from that.” He’d usually be correct, though after glancing at my program, I knew he’d be wrong here:

“He’ll get up –he’s a Philly fighter.”

Guillen is from Arizona -he was counted out. Stallone is an actor –he was crazy to invite Earnie Shavers into the ring in the first place. The Philadelphian not only got up and survived the round, he landed an overhand right that Pereira later told me convinced him to “lay back and counter.” Nevertheless, I counted at least four more shots to the right upper quadrant of Ellis’s abdominal cavity, though Ellis later claimed that he was deflecting them by keeping his right elbow tightly drawn to that side. Pereira won a unanimous decision after four rounds. Ramon will have to decide whether to risk his health again for the elusive first win. After the bout, I asked him a candid question:

“Why did you get up?”

“I wanted to win that fight! I’m not an opponent and I refuse to be an opponent” [emphasis his].

Ramon’s nickname is derived from his initials. “RTE” stands for Ramon Thomas Ellis, but is also an acronym for “Really Terrible Ending.” On Friday night, he didn’t fight well enough to win, but he did fight well enough to avoid a horizontal defeat –which would have injected his acronym with irony. In my estimation, his experiment with nomenclature isn’t bad for a man who takes shots to the liver with no thought of transferring from boxiana to academia. Diego Pereira, meanwhile, is progressing on schedule towards a master’s degree in debilitating body shots.

Super middleweight and University of Rhode Island (URI) graduate Vladine “Bad Boy” Biosse (2-0) entered the ring as if he were entering a cannon at a circus –complete with shiny robe, go-go dancing girls, swirling blue lights, and a roaring crowd hoping to gawp at the misfortune of a misplaced net or an involuntary nap. The URI mascot “Rhody the Ram” preceded Biosse down the aisle and hopped about the ring where the opponent, Frankie Reed (0-2), stood by patiently. Reed came all the way from South Carolina but looked like an envelope without an address. Two left hooks and a flying mouthpiece later, he found it on the canvas. Although he got up before the count of ten, his vim and vigor took the full count and the ref waved the fight off. Biosse embraced the hopping ram, posed on every turnbuckle, and left with nary a bead of sweat on his forehead. The crowd roared. I sat silently dithering over whether or not a proper ram hops.

The main event was scheduled to feature the rematch between Mickey Ward’s nephew Sean Eklund and the “Puerto Rican Sensation” Eddie Soto (12-0). Eklund got sick, and the ripped-and-ready Soto was matched with a slightly-built stand-in named Darrell Martin (4-10). Martin was willing to engage the Puerto Rican Sensation up to the moment he got dropped with a right hand in the second round. After that he became a poor man’s Willie Pep, though he was not unimpressive in evading the lefts, rights, ring posts, and spit bucket that Soto threw his way. However, Martin was all butterfly and no bee. Soto swung, missed, and grew frustrated, but at least he was trying. It soon became clear that Martin wasn’t concerned with the prospect of losing so much as he was with making Soto look bad winning. He even made the referee look bad refereeing after three close collisions. In the sixth, Martin kicked off his skates and decided to engage Soto in range. Soto quickly insulted him by landing another hard shot, and Martin went moving again as if nothing happened, floating to a decision loss.

The main event featured junior welterweights “Hammerin’ Hank” Lundy (14-0-1) and local favorite Josh “Steamin’” Beeman (4-4-3). At the pre-fight press conference, Beeman was anything but an accommodating host for the Philadelphian, choosing instead to dub himself the defender of the realm of Rhode Island. Lundy, the guest, couldn’t have been more insulted if his host poured coffee on his head at a tea party. He immediately morphed into a great winged dragon at the podium. The crowd of innocents gasped as he gave his word that he was going to “whoop” the local favorite’s “[beep] and knock him out.” Then he took a fiery breath, leaned into the microphone and hissed, “That’s all I have to say.” The microphone melted. The dragon stalked back to his cave to sharpen his talons.

At fight time, Lundy literally ran down the aisle and into the ring. His imperial beard provided a pictogram for the diabolical machinations he had planned in his cave. As the dragon roved the squared circle, swirling lights popped on in the back of the event center, the crowd erupted, and the music proclaiming the impending entrance of Josh Beeman erupted even more loudly than the crowd. I had vainly hoped for a trumpet blast but was instead subjected to a cacophony of disjointed thumpings set to obnoxious bravado. My distaste for rap music went undetected as all heads were turned towards the far end of the aisle. But there was no sign of the defender of the realm…

A minute and a half passed and the cheering dwindled. Hearken thus! Before the murmuring began he appeared.

Round one saw Beeman crouching behind a palisade of arms while Lundy was shooting out a jab like a medieval dragon would a forked tongue. Lundy soon found a breach and demonstrated an understanding of siege warfare by undermining the walls before him. The ancients called it sapping. We call it body punching. Beeman accomplished little in the first round, only slinging a couple of hooks to force not victory, but temporary relief. If I were a reader of men I’d postulate that Beeman was relieved to get the first round behind him; his delayed arrival into the ring, his tentative performance, and his realization that Lundy was an undefeated Philadelphian would suggest that his nerves were a bit frayed. I don’t know if Beeman knows his boxing history, but if he did he’d have had a deeper concern. See, Lundy’s style is a worthy reproduction of Archie Moore’s –complete with a rising jab, shoulder rolls, cross-armed defense, a concentration on the body, lots of slipping, a stance that saw his right crooked up across his chest, and of course, the imperial beard jutting out from his chin.

If Beeman was expecting to begin his noble assault after shaking loose the round one jitters, he forgot his sword. Lundy was already completely relaxed and in control to the point where he was dropping his hands, squaring off, and hitting Beeman at will. Before the bell for round three, he was dancing in time with the go-go girls stationed at the neutral corners.

Aficionados of the Sweet Science become familiar over time with the technical goings-on of a bout. The more astute among them eventually develop into uncertified psychologists. They can, for example, tell you the difference between an ‘outclassed fighter’ and a ‘veteran counterpuncher’. An indication that a fighter is outclassed is his reluctance to engage his opponent. To be sure, veteran counter-punchers will also seem reluctant to engage, but it’s purposeful. They are setting traps and demonstrating patience en route to a win. The outclassed fighter’s reluctance to engage is a reflection not of strategy, but of anxiety. The whys and wherefores are quite simple: any time a fighter throws a shot, he leaves a window open. The experienced fighter will make painful deposits through those open windows until the outclassed fighter is thoroughly dissuaded from mounting an assault of his own. Inclement conditions see him batten down the hatches. For him it’s a long fight.

Your eyes can also differentiate between the outclassed fighter and the veteran counter-puncher. If the fighter is lumpy, he’s probably outclassed. If his visage is unmarred, he’s probably implementing a grand strategy. Beeman was lumpy.

By round four, Hammerin’ Hank was living up to his audacious nickname and throwing five or six rapid-fire combinations to the body and head, spinning off, landing lead uppercuts from the outside, and switching from orthodox to southpaw. In the fifth round, the invading dragon ended the bout with a left hook to the body and then brought it up to the head. The defender of the realm absorbed both shots, then walked away from the fray on tottering legs and collapsed in a heap. His face contorted in pain and he clutched his right side. Ten seconds later, his tribulation was over.

Lundy was still channeling Archie Moore during his post-fight interview. He’s a raconteur. “I’m must see TV!” he proclaimed, “I’ll go into anyone’s backyard with my ‘0’ and I come out with my ‘0.’” When asked what shot finished Beeman, he said it was the left hook to the body –to the liver. Lundy is officially calling out The Ring’s number-one ranked Timothy Bradley.

Sloan Harrison, out of the Kingsessing Recreation Center in Philadelphia, is Lundy’s trainer. He has a stable of fighters including Eric “the Outlaw” Hunter, Pedro Martinez, Brian Cohen, and has also worked with Bernard Hopkins. “What I love about [Lundy],” Harrison offered, “is that he listens in the gym, he’s a nice, clean-cut guy, and in the fight he follows instructions.” No faint praise from a trainer who has been plying his trade in Philadelphia boxing gyms for over thirty years.

Among his favorite fighters is none other than Archie Moore.

…..

Special thanks to Bob Trieger. Springs Toledo can be contacted at scalinatella@hotmail.com. 

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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