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Articles of 2009

The Deck Was Indeed Stacked: Diaz Gets Help From Judges In Texas

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One wondered whether Paulie Malignaggi was laying down an alibi when he complained bitterly before his fight with Juan Diaz that the deck–the ref, the judges, the small ring–were stacked against him. Nope; the streetwise Brooklyn boy knows human nature, and he was worried that a pro-Diaz group of judges wouldn't give him his fair due in the main event at the Toyota Center in Houston on Saturday night. He was right, they didn't, and shame on them. It was not the robbery of the century, as the Texan Diaz landed impactful power punches, especially early on. But for Texan Gale Van Hoy  to turn in a card that read 118-110 for Diaz, well, that's hard to swallow. Malignaggi was in control in the last third of the fight, sticking, moving, and frustrating the less mobile Diaz with his dancing. California's Raul Caiz had it 115-113 for Diaz, a plausible card, while Oklahoman David Sutherland saw it 116-112, again within reason, I suppose. Paulie shook his head, as if to say, ‘I knew it, I told ya so,’ after he heard Michael Buffer say, “From Houston…” and called Diaz the unanimous decision winner.

After, Paulie spoke to Max Kellerman. “How'd you guys score it? 7-5 me, right? At least some people got the score right. I don't know why Houston is booing me, you guys are a great fight town.  I have nothing against Houston man. This is a great fight town, you guys were a loud crowd. It ain't nothing against you guys, man, but I had to deal with a lot of politics, man. That was ridiculous. I knew I was going to have to deal with this. You got guys like Raul Caiz, guy is Golden Boys' girl friend. I said before, then he was. And he actually had the closest scorecard, man. I'm telling you, this state never gives a fair shake to anyone coming to this state to fight hometown fighters. It never happens!” He was incensed, and well within his bounds to be crazed, in my view.

“I thought I edged it out, I thought I outboxed him. But man, Juan is a great warrior, I expected that from Juan, I knew he was going to come to fight, I knew he was going to come to throw down, knew he was going to throw punches, the ring was small, I couldn’t always move because he was going to get to me, I had to break it up, between smothering him and moving. But Juan showed heart.”

Max asked him about a rematch. “You know I ain’t getting a rematch, this is boxing, boxing is full of s—, I used to love this sport, I cannot stand doing this, the only reason I do this is cuz it gives me a good payday. Boxing is full of s—.”

Let me take a stand and say: there needs to be a rematch, on neutral turf, on in NYC, with a 20 foot ring, where I do believe you will get impartial judging.

Malignaggi continued. He ranted that Diaz can call out the Mayweather/Marquez winner, and that he’d have to hope an offer to be an opponent in the favorite’s hometown gets thrown his way. He congratulated Houston for being a great fight town and Diaz for his effort. Bob Papa then said he did himself no favors with his rant; I disagree with Papa; let's see how he reacts after putting his butt on the line for twelve rounds, and then hears a 118-110 card after such a fight. My guess is he'd be just as furious as Paulie.

Diaz (age 25; from Houston; 137 ¾ at weigh in, 145 on fight night) last fought in February, when he was stopped (TKO9) by Juan Manuel Marquez.

Malignaggi (age 28; from Brooklyn, NY; 138 ¼ at weigh in, 149 on fight night) wasn’t happy coming in that two of the four officials were from Texas. The Magic Man drew beaucoup boos when his name was announced. He paid tribute to Arturo Gatti as he strolled to the ring to AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” and Houston fight fans backed off a bit.

In the first round, Paulie used his hand speed, and his snappy jab, to take the round. A cut suffered in camp on his left eye opened up just a bit, but it didn’t look too threatening. Diaz scored with left hooks, and then smacked Paulie three on the belt line. Paulie worked inside in the second, to his detriment. Diaz had a cut on his left eye, on the eyebrow, and it looked more severe than the New Yorkers.’ It may have been caused by a right uppercut. In round three, Paulie worked with both hands, always a good sign for him, with the copious problems he’s had with his right paw. Diaz’ left hook up top hit home, but didn’t look like it bothered Paulie all that much. But, after six rounds or so, would he still be so quick to shake off the effects? In the fourth, once again, a Diaz left hook impressed the heck out of the crowd. This reaction would not bode well for Paulie come card time…Paulie stumbled off a left hook at the 1:50 mark, but he was probably clowning. Decent enough to sway the judges in Diaz’ territory? Doubtful.

In the fifth, Diaz was scoring with the more telling blows and we wondered why Paulie didn’t use the same tactics that worked in the first.  Ref Laurence Cole, the worst big fight ref in the business, gave Paulie a second warning for pushing Diaz back, and once again injected himself inappropriately into the flow. Not the first time, and surely not the last…The blood flowed, from a new cut, from a head-clash, and bothered Diaz; would Paulie target the slice with his right hand? In round six, Diaz went low, and Cole didn’t notice. Then he chided Paulie for pulling Diaz’ head down. Paulie jabbed like crazy as he circled left, and indeed, didn’t move to his right, and go after that bad cut. (HBO ran late, and the fight went beyond the allotted time frame, so the seventh round was seen only by folks watching live or those who DVR’d the show after BAD. HBO rarely goes over…) Harold Lederman had it even after six, but I have to think the Texas area judge would not agree.

In the seventh, Paulie moved more, as he needed to if he wanted to get the win, but then Diaz slowed him with rights over the top. Wouldn’t Paulie have liked a ring bigger than 18 feet around at that time? “I want some lead right hands,” Paulie’s trainer Sherif Younan said after the round. In the eighth, Paulie did the jab thing, and Diaz didn’t upset his rhythm early. He was slow afoot, and Paulie’s energy was ample. His trunks, though..they were falling down. Where was Cole when you actually needed him? “How does the ref not see that?” Bob Papa asked. We’re talking Laurence Cole, here!

In the ninth, Paulie’s trunks were hiked up, and he was still slippery. He moved right, repeatedly, but Diaz never really factored that in, and tweaked his plan. In the 10th, Paulie’s movement was still the story. The crowd was flat, and that should tell you somewhat what your scorecard should probably read by this juncture. Paulie yelled at the HBO crew at the 36 second mark, and his confidence level was sky high. Ronnie Shields again told Diaz to use feints; not sure that would be the first thing I’d tell Diaz, who was having difficulty being accurate against a defensive wiz. In the 11th, Paulie’s ring generalship had to even sway a pro Diaz judge early. He shoe-shined Diaz, nothing too heavy, but these were scoring blows nonetheless. Would Cole stick his snout in the affair? It was a pure Paulie round. In the 12th round, the crowd didn’t lift Diaz to kick off the round, surprisingly. The Magic Man’s spell was in effect, on Diaz and his rooters. Diaz hooks didn’t wow the crowd like before. He made Diaz miss buffoonishly, but Diaz had the edge in power shots overall. We’d hear the cards.

SPEEDBAG HBO will run the first Mayweather/Marquez 24/7 next Saturday at 10:15 Eastern. On Sept. 19, Mayweather and Marquez will get it on.

—Max Kellerman, in his wrapup, pointed out that the marketplace, and Paulie’s lack of fanbase, gave us the decision we saw. I see his point, but I can’t shrug it off with a dismissal shrugging it off to free market forces. Crap judging is crap judging, no matter what town you’re in and who’s the favorite. Van Hoy submitted a crap card, and those sort of cards do the sport no favors. Gale owes Paulie an apology, and his optician a visit. (Yes, Gale is a fella.)

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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