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Articles of 2009

Foreman–What Was, What Could've Been: Nothing Short Of Mind Boggling



With George Foreman III, better known as “Monk,” about to fight for the third time as a pro in a few weeks, it's hard not to think about what a wrecking machine his father was.

When considering some of the most amazing feats in heavyweight history there are two that must rank at or near the top of everybodies’ list. Maybe the most impressive feat in boxing history is Joe Louis's almost 12 year reign as heavyweight champ in which he made 25 consecutive title defenses before retiring in 1949. As most are aware Louis didn't fight for over a two year span during his reign because of World War II, but even if you exclude that he held the title for nearly 10 years.

Rocky Marciano retiring undefeated in 1955 at 49-0 is probably boxing’s most known record and number. Since then only two former champs have reached 40 wins before suffering their first setback. In this context only legitimate or lineal champs are considered, not the Brian Nielsens of the boxing world. In 1974 George Foreman (40-0) was upset in his third title defense by Muhammad Ali, and Larry Holmes (48-0) was on the verge of equaling Marciano's record in 1985 when he was upset by reigning light heavyweight champ Michael Spinks in bout 49.

Obviously Mike Tyson being the youngest to ever win the heavyweight title at 20 and George Foreman the oldest at 45 are extraordinary feats. That said, there's one monumental feat accomplished by a former heavyweight great that ranks pretty high as well and is routinely overlooked. The fighter I'm talking about can actually lay claim to three stellar achievements during his boxing career that no other heavyweight great can come close to surpassing. Some greats have done one or two things that separate them from other fighters, but not three on the magnitude of this fighter. Had he won the signature fight of his 81-bout career a strong case can be made supporting him as the greatest heavyweight champ of all time.

The fighter I'm speaking about is former two time heavyweight champion George Foreman. Foreman was not an outstanding boxer nor was he very fast of hand or foot. Most of his punches tended to be arm punches and he seldom got full leverage behind them. However, he had such an overload of strength and natural punching power that his flawed fundamentals and technique rarely kept him from having his hands raised after his fights. In fact, had George Foreman ever been taught the correct way to punch like a Joe Louis, it may have been illegal allowing him to fight! Imagine–his career 89.4 % knockout ratio could have been higher!

Consider What Was:

In January of 1967 Foreman fought as an amateur for the first time and lost. In October of the following year he stopped three of the four opponents he faced at the 1968 Olympic Games to win a gold medal in the heavyweight division representing the United States. All of the fighters he faced during the Olympics had much more experience than Foreman and were closer to being pros than they were amateurs. Having less than two years boxing experience and winning the world championship as an amateur is nothing short of amazing.

In his gold medal winning bout, only his 26th fighting as an amateur, Foreman, 18, stopped 29 year old Russian Ionas Chapulis in the second round. The Russian fighter had over eight years experience fighting Internationally. For anyone who doesn't fully understand what an advantage that is, check the international records of the top U.S. amateur fighters before they ever qualified for the Olympic Trials, let alone before winning them. Mike Tyson had over five years fighting experience as an amateur, not to mention more supervision and training than most ranked pros and didn't even make the U.S. Olympic team in 1984. Imagine introducing a big 16 year old kid to boxing today, and him winning a gold medal at the Olympics 20 months later. Foreman winning a gold medal at the Olympics with slightly over a year and half experience and only 26 fights is off the chart.

On January 22nd 1973, six years after he had his hands wrapped for the first time, Foreman won the undisputed heavyweight championship of the world. In the process he put on one of the most awesome displays of punching power in the history of the division. Foreman's opponent was undefeated champ “Smokin” Joe Frazier 29-0 (25). In four and a half minutes of ring combat, Foreman put Frazier down six times before stopping him in the second round. Frazier, 29, was just two fights removed from handing Muhammad Ali his first career loss in “The Fight of The Century.” In Frazier, Foreman may have defeated the most formidable defending champ in heavyweight history and in the most spectacular fashion.

Some may view Jack Dempsey's destruction of old and out of shape Jess Willard to win the title as impressive as Foreman's title winning effort, but it's not, regardless of how one may try and spin it. Willard was certainly no Joe Frazier nor is he ranked among the top-20 heavyweight greats in boxing history by any boxing historian, whereas Frazier is without question among the all-time top ten heavyweight greats. Willard didn't turn pro until he was 29, he quit in one bout early in his career because he wasn't in shape, hadn't fought in three plus years and only once in the last four prior to defending his title against Dempsey. That takes nothing away from Dempsey's signature performance, but Willard didn't offer nearly the level of opposition that Foreman was confronted with in Frazier.

Rocky Marciano's one punch knockout of Jersey Joe Walcott was impressive, but Walcott was 38 and Marciano was trailing in the bout when he ended it with one right to Walcott's jaw in the 13th round. Sonny Liston's first round knockout over heavyweight champ Floyd Patterson was nothing short of frightening. The reason it doesn't equal Foreman's effort is two fold. One, Patterson was previously stopped by Ingemar Johansson and was down more times than any other heavyweight champ in history. Two, Liston outweighed Patterson by 24 pounds, while Foreman only outweighed Frazier by three.

The only other destruction close to Foreman's, is Mike Tyson's one round knockout over Michael Spinks. Spinks at 31 was no Joe Frazier and made his mark fighting as a light heavyweight in 28 of his 32 career bouts. If there's another example of the title changing hands since Corbett beat Sullivan where the defending champion was as highly thought of as Frazier and lost so convincingly, I don't know of it.

An overwhelming case can be made that Foreman beat the most formidable defending champ ever, in Frazier, to win the heavyweight title. Jack Johnson beat Tommy Burns to capture it, we know about the Willard who Dempsey beat. Tunney beat a past his peak Dempsey. Louis beat a 10-1 underdog in James Braddock. Marciano beat an old Walcott to claim the title. Sonny Liston beat Floyd Patterson who was too small for him and had been down many times before they fought. Cassius Clay beat an old Liston. Joe Frazier beat Ali after a 43 month long layoff. Larry Holmes beat Ken Norton who was 34 and pulverized by Foreman four years earlier. As far as Tyson, Holyfield, Bowe, Lewis and either one of the Klitschko brothers, not one of them has ever fought a title challenger on the level of the undefeated Frazier that Foreman won the title from, or the Foreman that Muhammad Ali beat to regain it. The common theme here is George Foreman is part of the mix on both accounts.

On November 5th 1994 at age 45, Foreman won the heavyweight title for the second time, becoming the oldest fighter in history to ever claim a world title. This occurred 17 years after Foreman retired in March of 1977, with a career record of (45-2) after he lost a decision to Jimmy Young as the top ranked heavyweight in the world.

Exactly 10 years after retiring Foreman fought for the first time in March of 1987 to begin his comeback. Four years later he challenged undisputed champion Evander Holyfield (25-0) at age 42 hoping to reclaim the title he lost to Muhammad Ali in 1974. Holyfield won a 12-round unanimous to retain the title and handed George the first loss of his comeback. Foreman refused to look at the loss to Holyfield as anything more than a minor setback and continued to fight.

Three and a half years later he challenged Michael Moorer (35-0) who decisioned Holyfield in his last fight to win the title. For nine rounds Moorer had his way with the 45 year-old Foreman, and was leading on all three of the judges’ scorecards. Then at 2:03 of the tenth round, Foreman caught Moorer with a short right on the chin and knocked him out to make history. Moorer admitted after the fight he never even saw the punch that knocked him out.

Over the next three years Foreman made three defenses of the lineal heavyweight title. In what turned out to be his last career bout and fourth defense of the title, he lost a highly controversial majority decision to Shannon Briggs (29-1) along with the title. Even at age 48 in a fight he'd lost, Foreman's awesome strength and toughness were on display. In Briggs’ next fight four months later, he was stopped by Lennox Lewis in the fifth round. Yet Briggs hurt Lewis badly in the first round, something he hadn't done to Foreman once in 12 rounds. Foreman never fought again after fighting Briggs and his career record stands at 76-5 (68).

Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at

In part two — Foreman's career will be further examined as to how his career may have unfolded had he won the “Rumble In The Jungle.” Reverse the outcome and it would be hard to deny Foreman rightfully going down as the greatest heavyweight champion in boxing history.

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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