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Articles of 2010

THE KIMBALL CHRONICLES: Visa Woes Dogged Khan, But Fight Goes On



NEW YORK – Given what we know of the way these matters are handled under the Patriot Act, the wonder shouldn’t be that it took Amir Khan two weeks to get back into the country, but that he didn’t wind up in Guantanamo instead of at the Madison Square Garden Theatre this weekend.

Saturday night’s WBA junior welterweight title defense against Paulie Malignaggi came nearer to foundering than most people realize, at least in part due to a miscalculation on the part of Khan’s U.S.-based promoters, Golden Boy, who appear to have blithely assumed that their client’s work visa would be routinely rubber-stamped with a quick visit to the United States Consulate in British Columbia.

There don’t appear to be many boxing fans operating out of the Department of Homeland Security these days. You may recall that a Ghanaian named Godwin Nil Dzanie Kotey was supposed to train Joshua Clottey for his March fight against Manny Pacquiao at Cowboys Stadium.

Kotey, who had spent considerable time in the states previously, flew back to Ghana over the Holidays, figuring that he would just drop by the U.S. embassy in Accra to pick up his visa stamp the way he always had. In the meantime, however, a Nigerian named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a/k/a the Underwear Bomber, tried to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight en route to Detroit on Christmas Day. By the time Kotey presented himself at the American embassy, Homeland Security had issued new screening guidelines for visitors from West African nations, leaving him without a hope of being approved in time for the Pacquiao fight, which is how Lenny De Jesus wound up as Clottey’s chief second in Dallas.

Amir Khan is a British subject who also holds Pakistani citizenship, and exactly what made Golden Boy think his application would be routinely processed in 2010 remains unlearned. The paperwork was filed in March, according to GBP COO David Itskowitch, by which time Khan, on a visitor’s visa, was already in Hollywood, at trainer Roach’s Wild Card Gym. The P1 Visa needed to be obtained outside the United States, so on April 23 the boxer was dispatched to Vancouver, on the understanding that he would be back in the gym two days later.

It was everyone’s misfortune that a week later, while Khan’s status remained in limbo, Faisal Shahzad tried to turn Times Square into an ash-tray by converting a secondhand SUV into a firebomb. Like Khan, Shahzad is of Pakistani ancestry. Unlike Khan, the bomber had an American passport.

The most likely explanation for the initial delay was Khan’s dodgy driving record back in Britain. He is 22-1 in the ring, but has been less successful behind the wheel of an automobile. Three years ago he ran a red light and injured a pedestrian. Then came a speeding ticket and a thousand-pound fine. In a third incident, he hit a bicyclist with his car.

Even taken together the driving offenses don’t necessarily constitute moral turpitude, but they might help to explain why Homeland Security had decided to give his case a closer look even before the Times Square episode put all Pakistanis under extra scrutiny.

Once it became clear that Khan wasn’t going to come zipping back over the border anytime soon, Roach made the best of a bad situation, moving the training camp to Vancouver, lock, stock, and barrel. Given the run of the Sugar Ray Gym in that Canadian city, Roach, conditioning coach Alex Ariza, and sparring partners Vernon Parris and David Rodella worked with Khan in Vancouver last week. The visa was finally approved on Friday, and the boxer and his entourage decamped for LA before flying to New York on Sunday.

Unlike the always-bustling Wild Card, the Vancouver Gym actually facilitated private workouts by locking the Khan party in, and Amir, who probably still doesn’t realize just how tenuous the situation had become, reportedly welcomed the opportunity to work out under more intimate conditions. (“If I’d been up there with my whole team it wouldn’t have bothered me, either, said Malignaggi (27-3), who doesn’t expect the distraction to be a factor at all Saturday night.)

Itskowitch says that to this day he has not been provided with an explanation for the two-week delay, but then he doesn’t expect one. “As a security measure, they never explain their reasons, said the Golden Boy operative. “Any time they explain something, it could be a tipoff to a potential undesirable to know what they’re looking for.

And as it turned out, obtaining the P1 visa didn’t get Khan completely out of the woods with Homeland Security. There does not appear to be a great deal of communication between the various federal agencies, as the boxer was detained when he attempted to re-enter the U.S.

“Even once he’d gotten the visa, when we got to the border Amir’s name got flagged on some terrorist watch list, said Roach. “They held us there for two more hours until they figured out it was a different Amir Khan.

Khan, in any case, must have been on his best behavior in the presence of U.S. consular officials, because if he’d started talking the same smack in Vancouver that he did at Wednesday’s press conference, when he promised (a) to shut Malignaggi’s mouth (b) to “teach him a lesson, and (c) to “hurt his American foe, he’d probably still be waiting.

For those of us who remember our introduction to Khan as a soft-spoken but talented lad of 17 who boxed his way to an Olympic silver medal at the Athens Games six summers ago, his debut performance at the MSG dais was disappointing.

Amir might have been better served by displaying a touch of humility, but instead conducted himself like the second coming of Naseem Hamed. Having been exposed to his father Shah’s ten-minute rant, it’s easy to see where he gets it.

* * *

Malignaggi by comparison seemed almost rational and restrained, though he groused about his apparent dismissal by Team Khan.

“I’m used to being the ‘B’ side in my fights, but all you keep hearing about this one is who Amir Khan is going to fight next, complained Malignaggi, whose parting shot was to remind the champion “Be careful what you wish for, Bro!

Garden Executive Vice President Joel Fisher is predicting a sellout at the 5,600–seat Theatre Saturday night. The HBO telecast will commence at 9:45. The network will showcase the potentially show-stealing co-feature, a crossroads fight for both former lightweight champion Nate Campbell (33-5-1) and 23 year–old Kansas up-and-comer Victor Ortiz (26-2-1).

HBO also plans to show highlights of unbeaten (19-0) New York middleweight Danny Jacobs’ undercard fight. The question is: Will there be any?

Not only did the network approve Mexican-born Juan Astorga (14-4-1) as the opponent for Jacobs in his 10-round prelim, but both the NABO and NABF have sanctioned the bout for minor titles. Doesn’t anyone remember watching Astorga’s execrable performance in his last fight? In the very same building four months ago he fell down the first time John Duddy so much as waved at him, and lasted less than two minutes.

HBO will cover the New York show with a two-man broadcast team of Bob Papa and Max Kellerman, not because Emanuel Steward is in Ireland with Andy Lee (who fights former European middleweight champ Mamadou Thiam in Limerick Saturday), but because that will apparently henceforth be the norm for all Boxing After Dark telecasts. HBO has no plans to replace Lennox Lewis.

Even Roach had to admire what he termed a bit of “psychological warfare on the part of Paulie Malignaggi’s promoter Lou DiBella, whose decision it was to add 21-2 Breidis Prescott to Saturday night’s undercard at the Theatre, where he will be opposed by Jason Davis (11-6-1) of Vancouver, Washington.

“Nice touch, Lou, bringing Prescott in, grinned Roach, who three weeks later will be back in New York to collect his fourth Trainer of the Year award from the Boxing Writers Association of America.

Prescott might represent a walking nightmare to Khan and his handlers, but it’s safe to say Roach doesn’t lose much sleep thinking about him. A year ago September before a packed house in Manchester, the then 25 year-old Colombian required less than a minute to knock out the previously unbeaten 2004 British Olympian.

Prescott, it might be noted, had been personally approved as an opponent by Jorge Rubio, the Cuban named to replace trainer Oliver Harrison after Khan’s handlers appeared to have offered the job to Roach. The error in judgment, in any case, led to Rubio’s stay in the Khan corner lasting exactly 54 seconds, and probably improved Freddie’s negotiating position the second time around.

Other bouts on the card will showcase a pair of unbeaten but largely untested DiBella prospects, 11-0 New York heavweight Tor Hamer and 8-0 New Jersey junior middle Dennis (Mama’s Boy) Douglin, who will be opposed, respectively, by 6-0 Floridian Kelvin Price and 13-18-1 Kenya journeyman Joshua Onyango. Irishman Jamie Kavanagh, a Roach-trained 140-pounder from Dublin, will make his pro debut against William Ware (1-2) of Athens, Ga.

Articles of 2010

Judah To Fight Mbuza March 5 In NJ




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



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




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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