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Articles of 2010

Counting Down To Marquez-Diaz II

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MARQUEZ VS. DIAZ II CAMP NOTES

MARQUEZ & DIAZ – EARLY TO RISE, READY TO TRAIN

For most people a typical work day starts at 9 a.m. This is not the case for current Unified Lightweight World Champion Juan Manuel Marquez and former Three-Time Lightweight World Champion Juan Diaz, who start their days at 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. respectively while they are making preparations to meet in Marquez vs. Diaz II “Fight of the Year: The Rematch, on Saturday, July 31 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nev. live on HBO Pay-Per-View®..

Marquez starts his day running in his native Mexico City at 4 a.m. Diaz is on the Stairmaster by 6 a.m. at the Savannah Boxing Club in hometown of Houston, Texas followed by 45 minutes of lifting weights. Both then eat breakfast before starting their intense training sessions with Nacho Beristain and Ronnie Shields, their respective trainers. Both fighters end up in the gym for boxing training at the same time at 11:30 a.m. (both Central Time).

MARQUEZ: BUSINESS AS USUAL

For Juan Manuel Marquez, it’s training as usual as the champion feels that he doesn’t need to change what has been working throughout his career. After his morning runs, he returns home for breakfast and relaxes with his family before heading to his gym, arriving by 12:15 p.m. to train for two hours with his esteemed trainer Nacho Beristain. He then sits in a hyperbaric chamber for two hours before returning home.

“I am following my past preparations that have proven to work for me, Marquez said. “My work so far has been with the same energy and dedication that I approach every fight. It feels good to be back at a weight that is comfortable for me which allows me to train at the right intensity and allows my body to get in fighting shape more easily.

Although Marquez comes from a legendary boxing family, he credits his success in the ring to hard work and dedication in the gym, and not his gene pool.

“Coming from a boxing family does not give me an advantage, said Marquez. “The advantage is discipline and the training I put in every day.

SAME FACES, SOME CHANGES

Juan Diaz has added a few new faces to his camp since he first fought Marquez on February 28, 2009, including a new dietician and swim coach. Diaz has regimented his diet to organic foods to boost energy and stamina for training. However, his longtime trainer and most familiar camp member is his legendary trainer Ronnie Shields, who has worked with the best of the best including Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Vernon Forrest and Pernell Whitaker and has been with Diaz for 30 fights. Diaz is working on being patient in the ring with Shields’ guidance. He knows that for this fight, he is going to have to carefully place his punches as opposed to going out and swinging.

“It is an honor to have the opportunity to work with a trainer of Ronnie’s caliber and our relationship has been solid ever since we started working together early in my career, Diaz continued. “I am fortunate that he lives here in Houston and that I get to work with him. Consistency in training is important to me and although I have added people that will help with my nutrition and conditioning, Ronnie’s place in my camp stays the same.

“This time around I am thinking more about where my punches need to land as opposed to throwing them in clusters and hoping they go where they should, said Diaz. “I am going to use my head more and I am going to be smarter. My team is really helping me take my time to target my punches.

MARQUEZ VS DIAZ I – LESSONS LEARNED

On February 28, 2009, Juan Manuel Marquez and Juan Diaz collided in the ring in what was voted as Fight of the Year by ESPN.com, the Boxing Writers Association of America and several other boxing organizations. Marquez came out on top with a ninth round knockout, but Diaz proved that he has what it takes to beat Marquez as he made his mark early in the fight.

In order to keep his winning attitude, Marquez is approaching July 31 as if the first meeting never happened.

“The first fight is in the past, said Marquez. “Diaz could completely change his style for this fight. I know this requires preparing differently and those differences will be reflected when I step in the ring this time around.

Diaz, who started out strong in the first fight, knows what he needs to do in order to come out victorious.

“This time I am going to be more relaxed, said Diaz. “I have already done this on a big world stage, so I know what it feels like. I am concentrating on what I am going to do in the fight. I need to outsmart him. I can’t fight recklessly. I need to focus on what punches I throw.

Diaz has studied the first fight and is extremely motivated to become World Champion again.

“The first fight was my fight to win and I didn’t, said Diaz. “When you leave something undone, it is a terrible feeling. I want nothing more than to be World Champion again and I know what I need to do to get there.

DIAZ ALWAYS FIGHTING FOR FREEDOM

DiazFourthofJuly1

In the photo above, Diaz poses with a fan at the Freedom Over Texas Fourth of July Festival in Houston

Photo Credit: KLOL Mega 101

After penning an op-ed piece for the Houston Chronicle that eloquently described his thoughts on freedom and why the Fourth of July means so much to him and his family, Juan Diaz celebrated the holiday with an appearance at the Freedom Over Texas Fourth of July Festival, which was attended by thousands of people and is known for having the largest land-based fireworks display in the country. Diaz, who was a guest of Houston Spanish radio station Mega 101, felt honored to be recognized as a Houston Champion in front of so many people. After being announced on stage, Diaz introduced a hugely-popular Hispanic band

La Orquesta Salmerum and signed autographs for fans.

MARQUEZ AND DIAZ “COME ON DOWN – THE 135 WEIGHT IS RIGHT

In Marquez and Diaz’s most recent respective fights, they moved up in weight and they both feel that it was not the right move for them. Now they are both back at 135 pounds and are confident that fighting at that weight is right where they are suppose to be.

“At 147 I felt very heavy, said Marquez who moved up in weight to fight Floyd Mayweather in September 2009. “Welterweight was just too much weight for me. I know that now.

Losing the weight has been a gradual process, but Marquez is taking the precautionary measures to move down to the weight at which he is most comfortable.

“I am taking it day-by-day, slowly and carefully, continued Marquez. “Losing weight is something that must be done cautiously. However, it is not just about losing the weight. It is about making sure that I come to the fight with that same intensity and conviction that I always do once I reach my target weight.

Diaz, has less weight to lose, but is still looking forward to fighting at 135 pounds.

“I didn’t feel right at 140, said Diaz, who fell short against Paulie Malignaggi in December 2009 at that weight. “I am ready to be back where I feel the most comfortable and come out strong on July 31.

ABOUT MARQUEZ VS. DIAZ II

Marquez vs. Diaz II Fight of the Year: The Rematch is promoted by Golden Boy Promotions in association with Marquez Boxing Promotions and sponsored by Cerveza Tecate and AT&T. The 12-round rematch of the 2009 Fight of the Year is scheduled for Saturday, July 31 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nev. and will be for Marquezs Ring Magazine, WBA and WBO Lightweight World titles. The championship fight will be produced and distributed live on HBO Pay-Per-View® beginning at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.

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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PacquiaoClottey_Booth_6

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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