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Articles of 2010

KIMBALL RINGSIDE: Bute Deposits Miranda On Rue Queer

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Nothing about Lucian Bute’s showing at the Bell Centre Saturday night will discourage the notion that the world’s best practicing168-pounder is not to be found among the seven names who have thus far made up Showtime’s so-called Super Six.

The undefeated Romanian émigré was embraced by the Quebecois as one of their own even when his perfomances were, shall we say, spotty (see Bute-Librado Andrade I), but like aging wine, Bute would seem to be improving at the age of 30, and you might say that the HBO people are embracing him as one of their own too. Fighting for the network for the second straight time since being frozen out of Showtime’s World Boxing Classic, Bute elevated his game yet again in dominating onetime divisional tough guy Edison Miranda for the bit under eight minutes it lasted, scoring a third-round TKO over a man who had extended Super Six betting favorite Andre Ward the distance in his next-to-last outing.

Bute insisted that he wasn’t trying to make a statement, though he surely did by giving Miranda a worse thumping than of his previous tormentors (Arthur Abraham, twice, Kelly Pavlik, and Ward) had managed. Bute not only out-jabbed El Pantera, landing 24 to Miranda’s 11, he out-landed him at better than a 2-1 ratio in power punches as well – including the perfectly timed, perfectly delivered left uppercut with which the southpaw champion left his foe for dead in the third round, much to the delight of the more than 13,000 who packed the Home of Les Habs Saturday night.

(Although Miranda struggled to his feet, he was plainly out for a stroll along Rue Queer at this point, and referee Ernie Sharif took him into custody at 1:27 of the round.)

New trainer Joe Goossen had promised an improved and more disciplined version of Miranda in Montreal, but if that illusion didn’t unravel the first time he got hit, it had disappeared forever by the end of the first, when, several seconds after the bell had ended the round, Miranda chased after Bute and punched the back of his head as he walked back toward his own corner.

Sharif appeared tempted to take a point, but in the end bought Miranda’s explanation that the crowd noise had drowned out the bell. But Bute clearly heard it, and so did the referee. Exactly why else he thought Bute would have been strolling away with his back turned remained unexplained.

Bute was the stalker from the outset, but even as he fired right-left combinations at Miranda, he was warily eyeing Pantera’s right, which the Colombian tried to counter off Bute’s jab on several occasions.

By the third Miranda had reverted to form. Less than a minute into the round he stood in mid-ring, where in response to a Bute body shot he pounded on his abs, daring Bute to go to the body again.

Bute, evincing mild amusement, then lashed out with a lefthand lead of his own that send a corona of perspiration from Miranda’s head. Shaken, Miranda lowered his head and charged at Bute in an attempt to land a punch of his own, but didn’t get within a foot of him. Instead, he would shortly discover, he might as well have offered up his head on a silver platter.

Bute, who could scarcely believe his own good fortune when he saw Miranda come hurtling through the air like a batting-practice pitch, slammed home a left uppercut and then merely stepped out of the way to watch the resultant belly landing. As HBO’s Max Kellerman pointed out, it was a bit like watching Thomas Hearns’ stunning 1984 knockout of Roberto Duran.

For Bute, now 26-0, it was the fifth defense of the IBF title he picked up after it had been vacated by Joe Calzaghe three years ago. Miranda’s loss leaves his overall mark at 33-5 and his future decidedly murky.

Where does Bute go from here? When the possibility of a bout against Bernard Hopkins was mentioned, Bute allowed that he wouldn’t mind that at all.

(Pavlik’s name came up in the same discussion, but that was rendered moot an hour or so later in Atlantic City – and while Sergio Martinez did not find the leap from 154 to 160 disorienting, a move to 168 would probably be asking a bit too much of the Argentine-born, Barcelona-based Martinez.

What was left unsaid, of course, was that B-Hop, or just about every other credible foe you could name, would have to be willing to come to the Bell Center, the site of 12 of Bute’s last 13 outings should they still want a piece of him after Saturday night. Put it this way: Bute is’t going to budge from his place — and you can’t exactly blame him for that.

* * *
Dionisio Miranda, unrelated to Edison but a fellow Colombian who describes himself as “Mister Nacaut, solidified his grip on the moniker when he was KO’d for the third time in his last four fights, this time by the relatively light-punching Renan St.-Juste, a 38 year-old fixture on Quebecois undercards. St.-Juste, now 22-1-1, was handily leading on the scorecards when be broke the fight wide open in the ninth round, catching Miranda with a left that catapaulted him from the center of the ring to the blue corner, and by the time Miranda stopped his backward flight he looked up to see another left coming at his head.

Although he managed to beat Michael Griffin’s count, Miranda was staggering around in the corner on legs to unsteady that the referee took him into custody at 1:27 of the stanza.

Miranda, knocked out by Roman Karmazin in one IBF eliminator earlier this year (after being KO’d by Giovanni Lorenzo in yet another IBF eliminator in Newark in February of ’09), saw his record drop to 21-4-1.
St. Jerome 122-pounder Sebastian Gauthier (18-2) won a unanimous decision over game but outclassed Newfoundlander Jason Hayward (6-9-1) in their 8-round prelim. Gathier scored the only knockdown when he drove Hayward to the canvas with an accumulation of punches, the last of them a body shot, although in truth Hayward seemed happy enough to take refuge at that point, and was sufficiently revived by Alain Villenueve’s mandatory eight count that he was still battling at the end. Judge Jean (no relation) Gauthier scored it an 80-72 shutout, while Pasquale Procopio and Richard De Carufel returned 79-72 scorecards.

Pier-Olivier Cote, a popular lightweight from Quebec City, remained unbeaten at 11-0 after flooring Mexico City journeyman Hugo Pacheco (6-13) three times in the third round, the last triggering referee Emile Bolen’s intervention at 1:02 of the round.

Chicoutimi (Quebec) light-heavy Francy N’Tetu decked Halifax-based journeyman Juan Sanchez (3-6-2) in the first round and then coasted to a unanimous decision that made him 3-for-3 as a pro. All three judges (Procopio, Claude Paquette, and Gauthier) scored it 40-35.

Forget Forget: Imported from the Dominican Republic at what was presumably some expense in order to improve the record of unbeaten local Nathalie Forget, featherweight Dominga Oliva instead bloodied the nose of the Montreal lass on the way to posting a unanimous decision (60-54 Pacquette, 59-55 Richard De Carufel, 58-56 Gathier). Oliva is now 8-5-1, Forget 2-1.

* * *
BELL CENTRE
Montreal, Canada
April 17, 2010
SUPER MIDDLEWEIGHTS: Lucian Bute, 167 ¼,Galati, Romania TKO’d Edison Miranda, 167, Buenaventura, Colombia (3) (Retains IBF tltle)

LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHTS: Francy N’Tetu, 172, Chicoutimi, Quebec Dec. Juan Sanchez, 171 ¼, Halifax, N.S. (4)

MIDDLEWEIGHTS Renan St.-Juste, 159 1/4, Rependtigny, Quebec TKO’d Dionisio Miranda, 159 ¾, Barranquilla, Columbia (9) (Retains NABA title, wins WBC Continental Ameriacas title)

LIGHTWEIGHTS: Pier-Olivier Cote, 134 ¾, Quebec City, Que . TKO’d Hugo Pacheco, 133 ½, Mexico City, Mex. (3)

FEATHERWEIGHTS: Dominga Olivo, 124 ½, Santo Domingo, D.R. dec Nathalie Forget, 122 ¾, Montreal (6)

JUNIOR FEATHERWEIGHTS: Sebastien Gauthier, 121 ½, St. Jerome, Que. Dec, Jason Hayward, 121 ½, St. John’s, Newfoundland (8)

Articles of 2010

Judah To Fight Mbuza March 5 In NJ

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Totowa, NJ – Kathy Duva, Main Events CEO, announced their promotional firm won the purse bid held at IBF headquarters in East Orange, NJ, Thursday. The bid was for the right to hold the IBF's junior welterweight title fight between Zab Judah of Brooklyn, NY and Las Vegas, and South Africa's Kaizer Mabuza.

IBF Championships Chairman, Lindsay Tucker explained, “It is a 50-50 split of the earnings between the two fighters. Kaizer is ranked No. 1 by the IBF, and Judah is No. 2. Where the fight will be held is up to the winning bidder.”

Judah (39-6, 26 KOs) is promoted by Main Events and his own firm Super Judah Promotions, and Branco Milenkovic, of South Africa, promotes Mabuza (23-6-3, 14 KOs).

Kathy Duva confirmed the fight will take place at Prudential Center in Newark, NJ, late February or early March this year as part of Main Events' Brick City Boxing Series.  (Saturday Update: the fight is March 5th, in NJ at the Pru Center. The bout will be part of a PPV card.)

“We are very happy that Zab has the opportunity to fight for the IBF Junior Welterweight title right here in New Jersey.  Winning this fight will put Zab right in the mix with the winner of Bradley-Alexander and Amir Khan.” Duva elaborated, ” Zab will work very hard to win this fight so that he will be one step closer to his ultimate goal of unifying all of the Junior Welterweight titles by the end of 2011!”

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Articles of 2010

UFC 125 Preview: Frankie Edgar Vs. Gray Maynard

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UFC_Edgar_and_Maynard_Dec._2010
Few predicted Frankie Edgar would grab the UFC lightweight championship last year but he did. Most felt he would eventually win it but Edgar not only took the title, he beat one of the best mixed martial artists in history to do it.

Edgar (13-1) has emerged from the milieu of nondescript MMA fighters to become one of the more brilliant performers for Ultimate Fighting Championship. Next comes a rematch with Gray “The Bully” Maynard (11-0) tomorrow at the MGM Grand Casino in Las Vegas. UFC 125 will be televised on pay-per-view.

All it took was not one, but two victories over BJ Penn.

If you’re not familiar with Penn, he’s one of the most versatile fighters in MMA history and had been nearly unbeatable in the 155-pound lightweight division. That is until he clashed with Edgar. Until he met New Jersey’s Edgar, the Hawaiian fighter chopped down lightweight opponents with ease. It was only the heavier welterweights he had problems against. Namely: Canada’s Georges St. Pierre.

Edgar showed poise, speed and grit in defeating Penn in back-to-back fights. The world took notice.

“You know, if I keep winning fights, the respect will come eventually,” said Edgar during a conference call.

Now Edgar will find out if he can avenge the only loss on his record.

“I just think I grew as a fighter. You know, mentally, you know, physically I, you know, possess differently skills, increased – you know, I think I boxed and got better, my Jiu-Jitsu got better and, you know, just have much more experience now,” Edgar says.

Maynard seeks to find out if Edgar has added any more fighting tools to his repertoire. Back in April 2008, the artillery shelled out was not enough to beat the Las Vegas fighter.

“It’s a perfect time. He had the chance and, you know, he took it and the time is now for me and I’m prepared,” said Maynard (11-0). “Any time you’re going up against the top in the world, you evolve and change and so I’m prepared for a new fight, so it will be good. I’m pumped for it.”

Though Maynard’s record indicates he is unbeaten that’s not entirely true. He did suffer a defeat to Nate Diaz during The Ultimate Fighter series and subsequently avenged that loss last January.

The UFC lightweight title is in Maynard’s bull’s eye.

“Looking to take the belt for sure,” said Maynard. “We’ll see on January 1.”

Edgar versus Maynard should be a good one.

Other bouts:

Nate Diaz (13-5) faces Dong Hyun Kim (13-0-1) in another welterweight tussle. Diaz is the only fighter with a win over Maynard. Anyone watching TUF remembers Maynard tapping out from a Diaz guillotine choke. The Modesto fighter has a tough fight against South Korea’s Kim.

Chris Leben (21-6) fights Brian Stann (9-3) in a middleweight fight. Leben is a veteran of MMA and if an opponent is not ready for a rough and tumble fight, well, that fighter is not going to win. Stann dropped down from light heavyweight and we’ll see if the cut in weight benefits the Marine.

Brandon Vera (11-5) meets Thiago Silva (14-2) in a light heavyweight match up. Vera is trying to rally back to the promising fighter he was tabbed several years back. Silva is a very tough customer and eager to crash the elite. A victory by either fighter could mean a ticket to the big time.

Clay Guida (27-8) versus Takanori Gomi (32-6) in a lightweight bout. Guida has become one of the most feared fighters without a title. No one has an easy time with the long-haired fighter. Gomi lost to Kenny Florian but knocked out Tyson Griffin. Can he survive Guida?

Marcus “The Irish Hand Grenade” Davis (22-8) clashes with Jeremy Stephens (18-6) in another lightweight fight. Davis is a go-for-broke kind of fighter and is looking to get back in the win column after a tumultuous battle with Nate Diaz last August. Stephens needs a win too. In his last bout he lost to Melvin Guillard.

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Articles of 2010

Borges Looks Back, And Forward With Hope

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As the end of another year approaches, there’s no need to invoke Charles Dickens to describe what went on in boxing. It was neither the best of times nor the worst of times. It was just too much time spent on The Fight That Never Took Place.

For the second straight year the sport could not deliver The Fight, the only one fans universally wanted and even casual fans craved – the mix between Floyd Mayweather, Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao.  No one has to be singled out for blame for that failure because this time there’s plenty to go around on both sides. The larger issue is what does it say about a sport when it cannot deliver its top event?

What would the NFL be without the Super Bowl? Where would major league baseball be without the World Series? Golf without the Masters? College basketball without March Madness?

They would all be less than they could be and so it was with boxing this year. Having said that, the sport was not without its signature moments. It was not bereft of nights that left those of us with an abiding (and often unrequited) love for prize fighting with good reason to hope for the future.

Three times promoter Bob Arum took the sport into massive stadium venues just like the good (very) old days and each time boxing drew a far larger crowd than its many critics expected. Twice those fights involved the sport’s leading ambassador, Pacquiao, who brought in crowds of 40,000 to 50,000 fans into Cowboys Stadium against inferior opponents Joshua Clottey and Antonio Margarito. Imagine what he might have done had Mayweather been in the opposite corner?

While both fights were, as expected, lopsided affairs, they showcased the one boxer who has transcended his sport’s confining walls to become a cultural icon and world celebrity. Pacquiao alone put boxing (or at least one boxer) on the cover of TIME and into the pages of such varied publications as Esquire, GQ, The Wall Street Journal, the American Airlines in-flight magazine and even Atlantic Monthly.

As history has proven time and again, that is what happens when boxing has a compelling personality to sell it and Pacquiao is that. Mayweather is such a person as well,  but for different reasons.

The one night he appeared in a boxing ring, he set the year’s pay-per-view standard against Shane Mosley while also leaving a first hint of dark mystery when he was staggered by two stinging right hands in the second round.

Mayweather was momentarily in trouble for the first time in his career but the moment passed quickly and Mosley never had another. By the end he had been made to look old and futile, a faded athlete who’d had his chance and was unable to do anything with it. So it goes in this harsh sport when the sands are running out of the hour glass.

As always there were some surprising upsets, most notably Jason Litzau’s domination of an uninterested and out of shape Celestino Caballero and Sergio Martinez’s one-punch demolishment of Paul Williams. The latter was not so much an upset as it was a stunning reminder that when someone makes a mistake against a highly skilled opponent in this sport they don’t end up embarrassed. They end up unconscious.

SHOWTIME did all it could to further the future of the sport, offering up a continuation of its interminably long but still bold Super Six super middleweight tournament as well as the launching of a short form bantamweight tournament which already gave fans to two stirring and surprising finishes with Joseph Agbeko decisioning Jhonny Perez and Abner Mares upsetting Victor Darchinyan in a battle of contusions.

While the Super Six has had its problems – including several of the original six pulling out – it also lifted the profile of former Olympic gold medalist Andre Ward from nearly unknown to the cusp of universal recognized as the best super middleweight in the world this side of Lucian Bute. If Ward continues winning he’ll get to Bute soon enough because that’s why SHOWTIME signed a TV deal with the Canadian and America may get its next boxing star if Ward proves to be what I think he is – which is still underrated and underappreciated.

HBO and HBO pay-per-view put on 23 shows, few of them compelling and many of them paying big money to the wrong people while doing little or nothing to grow the sport that has helped make their network rich. But they did have the knockout of the year – Martinez’s second round destruction of Williams – and some fights in the lower weight classes that were left you wanting more.

Two new names popped up who are causing the kind of fan reaction that also gives us hope for 2011 – American Brandon Rios and Mexican Saul Alvarez. They are two of the sport’s brightest young prospects because each comes to the arena the old-fashioned way – carrying nothing but bad intentions.
Aggression and knockouts still sell boxing faster than anything else and each exhibited plenty of both this year and left fans wanting to see more. Alvarez is already a star in Mexico without having yet won a world title and Rios is the definition of “promise.’’ Whether the star will continue to shine and promise will be fulfilled may be answered next year and so we wait anxiously to find out.

Backed by Golden Boy Promotions, there is no reason 2011 shouldn’t be Alvarez’s year and if it is people will notice and remember him because he has a crowd-pleasing style that is all about what sells most.

That is what boxing needs more of – fresh faces and new stars… so as fans we should root for guys like Alvarez, Ward, Rios and young Brit Amir Khan, who is a star in England but still a question mark with a questionable chin but a fighter’s heart here in the U.S.

Those guys and others not yet as well known are the future of boxing, a sport that for too long has been recycling the likes of Mosley (as it will again in May for one last beating against Pacquiao in a fight that's a joke), Bernard Hopkins (who can still fight although it is unclear why he bothers or where it’s all headed), Roy Jones and, sadly, even 48-year-old Evander Holyfield, who continues to delude himself but not many other people into believing he will soon unify the heavyweight title again.
If fighters like Ward, Alvarez, Rios, Khan, WBC welterweight champion Andre Berto and middleweight king Sergio Martinez continue their rise they could be the antidote for the art of the retread that Arum and Golden Boy have been forcing fans to buy the past few years at the expense of what boxing needs most – fresh faces.

The heavyweight division, which many believe determines the relevancy of boxing to the larger world, remains a vast desert of disinterest here in the US. The Klitschko brothers, Vitali and Wladimir, hold 75 per cent of the title belts but few peoples’ imaginations in the US, although to be fair they are European superstars and don’t really need U.S. cable TV money to thrive economically.

Each defended their titles twice this year, Vitali against lame competition (Albert Sosnowski and Shannon Briggs) and Wladimir against better fighters (Sam Peter and Eddie Chambers) but not competitive ones. Sadly, there is no American on the horizon to challenge them, a comment on the division and on our country, where the athletes who used to be Joe Louis or Muhammad Ali now opt for the easier and frankly safer road of the NFL or the NBA. Who can blame them considering all the nonsense a fighter has to go through to just make a living these days?

The one heavyweight match that would be compelling and might lift the sport up for at least a night would be either of the Klitschkos facing lippy WBA champion David Haye. The fast-talking Brit claims to not be ducking them but he’s had more maladies befall him after shouting from the rooftops how much he wants to challenge them that you have to wonder if Haye is simply a case of big hat no cattle syndrome.

For the sake of the sport, we should all be lighting candles each night in hopes our prayers will be answered and Haye will finally agree to meet one of them. It may not prove to be much of a fight but at least it will give us something to talk about for a few months.

Whatever Haye and the Klitschkos decide the fighter with the most upside at the moment however seems to be Sergio Martinez.  He has matinee idol looks, a big enough punch to put Paul Williams to sleep with one shot and a work ethic second to none. The Argentine fighter had a year for himself, starting with a drubbing of Kelly Pavlik followed by his demolishment of Williams. Those kinds of victories, coupled with his Oscar De La Hoya-like looks, are the type of things that if HBO or SHOWTIME would get behind him could allow Martinez to capture the attention of both fight fans and more casual ones.

In general, Hispanics fighters continued to dominate much of the sport’s front pages with Juan Manuel Marquez’s two victories in lightweight title fights leading that storyline. His war with Michael Katsidis is a strong candidate for Fight of the Year and his technical skill and calm demeanor make him the uncrowned challenger to Pacquiao. The two have unfinished business that should be settled this year if Arum stops standing in the way.

Two other fighters who gave us moments to remember in 2010 were Juan Manuel Lopez, who knocked out three solid opponents including highly respected Mexican warrior Rafael Marquez, and Giovani Segura, who won four times (that’s three years work for Mayweather) in 2010, all by knockout. Along the way, Segura defeated one of the great minimum weight fighters in history, slick Ivan Calderon, to win the belt on Aug. 28.

Lastly, boxing gave us another magical cinematic moment as well with the release of “The Fighter,’’ a film based on the life and hard times of junior welterweight scrapper Micky Ward. The film has won rave reviews and many awards and seems likely to have several of its actors nominated for Academy Awards, most notable Christian Bale for his sadly humorous portrayal of Ward’s troubled half brother, former fighter Dickie Ecklund.

Boxing has a long history of providing the framework for memorable movies and it did it again with “The Fighter,’’ a film that did more for boxing than any promoter did all year.

All in all, it wasn’t the best of years for boxing but it was a good year that picked up speed in the final months and, like that great golf shot you finally hit out of the rough on the 18th, left us with reasons to hope for a better year in 2011. If somehow it gives us Mayweather-Pacquiao, the emergence of Alvarez and Rios, the ascension of Martinez and Haye vs. the best available Klitschko in addition to the kind of solid performances that always come along, it could be a year to remember.

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