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Articles of 2010

Evander Holyfield Q n A-Part II

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I was privileged to sit down quietly with the only four-time heavyweight champion of the world and talk for half an hour with no interruption during the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

Although this interview was conducted over a year ago, it spoke a mouthful for the newly-crowned WBF champion, and the material has never been published elsewhere, only on TheSweetScience.com.

Part II

In the first episode of this interview, Holyfield talked with me about his seemingly endless inspiration, his take on the pound for pound king Manny Pacquiao and how he was influenced by the world-renowned Chinese Kung Fu master Bruce Lee. In the second chapter, the legend continued his China Journey by sharing with us his unique perspective on the oriental nation, his untold stories in between and his colorful bond with this exotic ancient nation.

Zhenyu Li: Youve been to China, to be more specific, Beijing several times. Whats your impression about this country and the city?

Holyfield: You know, when I came here for the first time, I was SO impressed, from the country being Communist to what people have said and stuff like that. When I got here, everybody looked so peaceful, everything looked good — the infrastructures, the highways, the hospitality of the people I met. And I was like, Wow, I think this is a different kind of world.

I was thinking that, back in our country, the things that you hear when you talk about Communism are about controlling you and how you dont have rights. But when I got here, the majority of people I saw were having a good time, so Im going to judge by what Ive seen. The fact is that everything I saw was good.

Zhenyu Li: You just said in the car ride over that you love China. Why?

Holyfield: You know, I respect this country, because all the things it went through all these years, the country didnt quit.

Its amazing that this country has been in working for so many years. If you look back in history, everything comes from China. Even when I was a kid, China, China, China, everything that I got, came from China, and all of a sudden, you realized that, you know, oh, shoot, everything with good quality comes from China, people love to get thing from China, because its cheaper and with quality.

Like this, when I came here, Id like to ask for some CDs. Its better than America at home! I came back and I brought two cases of so much stuff. Man! I could make a living by coming to China, taking something from China and selling them at home!

Thats because the quality is good. People do great quality work and stuff like that. And thats the most important thing.

In America, people kinda take me for granted, for that, I am the only four-time heavyweight champion of the world, but people in America like Muhammad Ali, they almost dont like me to break his record, they like the sport of boxing to stay in the same way.

But when I came here, first thing, people talked about me. Id never lived in a world that had ever done this. You know, I was thrilled about the hospitality of the Chinese people.

In fact, I am so thrilled that I went home and told my kids about it. I said, look, we all should take Chinese classes. I told my kids that you gotta learn to celebrate the people who celebrate you. And I said: Because they know me and know about me and my future. You know what, these people celebrated me; we need to learn their language. So my kids, they took Chinese (classes).

Zhenyu Li: Are there any stories worth mentioning in regard to you and China?

Holyfield: I am not supposed to offend you or make fun of you. But in America, therere not a lot of Chinese people. When I grew up, I only had one Chinese person around, a Chinese girl, you know. She looked different from everybody else. But I just think shes pretty, wow, I think shes beautiful, you know, shes different.

When I came in 2000, with a friend, he was seven years older than me. When we got here, and the Chinese people were laughing at him, because of his eyes. Theres a girl who kept doing like this (making a posture). Then I said to him, be honest and be truthful to me, when you were a kid, did you mess with Chinese people? He said yeah; I said that you never thought youd be in China, he went like, wow, man, that happened!

Everybody in life got to reap what he sow. So, if you treat people bad, youll get treated bad; what ever you do, it circles back around. We are minorities at some point wherever we go. You go to school, you are minority; you go to work, you are minority. You got to ask yourself, why did you be treated bad, perhaps in a given place you go, you may be trapped around with somebody that make you look different.

With me, I was always around with a lot of people. I came from a poor neighborhood, but because my mother brought me up right, I get along well with the people around me. I became a humble man because my mother always went against showing people up, and I was always quiet and I was always embarrassed. But being embarrassed allows me to, when I go around people, I make sure to treat people fair all the time, and not to discriminate, because I know how they feel.

You cannot take the skin color or race, and say its better than another. You know, if you give them the flexible and proper structure, then chances are they can be very productive people.

Unlike China, America is a place where you can be born poor and get rich. If you have the capability, America wont stop you from being what you want to be. They may tell you what you cannot (do), but they wont stop you from being the very best you could be.

Zhenyu Li: It seems that you do know something about China, are attached to it, to a degree, and traveled several times to this ancient country. So whats the purpose of your trip this time?

Holyfield: Actually, I came down here to choose some fighters. I got a promotion company. I want to start my promotion club. So I look into of all the fighters and stuff. Hope it can give me 10 to 12 fighters, someone who can become the champion in four years.

I havent seen anybody yet, but I talked with a person in the Shaolin Temple, he said they didnt start a boxing program, but they had Kung Fu, and they want the Holyfield boxing thing.

You know, the strongest amateur boxers the world has ever had are always in Cuba, because they were trained in a certain program. And the Chinese kids here do what the Cubans do, you know, great supervision and all that. All these little kids have been trained in such a strict program. So, if they learn boxing, after four years, theyll be able to win four or five gold medals, because these kids are very structured. This is what theyve been doing and they do it in a different method (in comparison with the American prospects).

Cubans do it; they eat well and their family is ok. And all of a sudden, they give it up, because they do it not because they love to, but because they have to. So every time they make money, because of somebody else, they lose concentration. But for the people here, they train and do it for a proper reason. And if people who do the things for the proper reason, theyll stay longer. I am a good example. I do boxing for a good reason, I love boxing; Ive been boxing for 37 years. I didnt break up with anything. Its because I do the thing for the right reason, not for the ego, you know; you do it because you love it, thats it, you dont do it for other motives. I didnt get into boxing for money. I got into boxing because I realized I found something I love and could do well too.

When I was a kid, I liked to do physical things, you know, like, look how fast he run, or, hey, hes tough, stuff like that. That inspired me. But when I was in the classroom, I was always mad because I couldnt compete (with the other students). They were a lot better than me. My mother told me that wherever you go, theres always somebody who know something you dont know, and youll know something that they dont know either. So thats the trade off of life. You can do this really well, and I can do this really well.

For example, if you do a good story, itll make you look good, and make me look good too. Everybody plays his part. I came over here and I saw, wow, all the people love me. I cant speak Chinese good enough to do anything, but I can have somebody who can speak both Chinese and English do it for me. I got to find somebody who understands them better than I do. We can be partners. Life is about communication. No one person is able to do everything.

Of course, if I get a lot of attention, therell be a lot of people who get envious and jealous, but it can be balanced through (classification and cooperation). This is what the life is all about. Its not about the ego. To make no one get envious and jealous, you got to let everybody play his part. If everybody is the best in his part, no one will get jealous and envious, (and there will be) enough money for everybody.

Putting the final stroke on The Real Deals China Journey of the TSS Exclusive: One On One With Evander Holyfield series in Part III, the ring legend reveals his training regimen, what he took from the legendary Chinese Shaolin training program, and his take on the connection between Kung Fu and boxing.

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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