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Articles of 2010

Adamek Takes Care Of Grant In Warmup For A Klitschko

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NEWARK, N.J. — It was a fight that bore the trappings of a horror film. If Tomas Adamek appeared to have had a close encounter with your friendly neighborhood axe murderer, six-foot-seven Michael Grant spent eleven rounds impersonating The Mummy before going Monster on Adamek. It may have been a rout on the scorecards, but over the last three minutes Adamek was in fear for his life.

Bleeding from cuts beside both eyes (one from a Grant punch, the other the result of a collision of heads for which the Pole was not exactly blameless) and stung by a couple of big twelfth-round right hands, Adamek finished on his feet only because he was able to first limbo his way out of Grant’s grasp and then run for all he was worth as the final minute ticked off the clock.

For most of the evening Adamek had been content to dart inside Grant’s reach to tattoo the bigger man with quick flurries, and was usually able to escape without fear of retaliation. Grant, who did not seem hurt, or bothered, or even particularly annoyed by Adamek’s tactics, unwaveringly pursued his own game plan – whatever that was.

Grant pawed away with a jab that rarely even grazed Adamek. Once every three or four rounds he cut loose with a roundhouse right, and on those occasions when he was able to so much as graze Adamek, seemed to wobble him a bit. Unfortunately, from Grant’s perspective, he didn’t really hurt him until the last round – and then he couldn’t catch up with him to capitalize on the damage.

“I thought I hurt him a few times, said Grant.

“Was big test, said Adamek. “I am happy I am win. I am not happy I am cut. (In Adamek’s parlance, that comes out more like “I am coot.

Main Events had entitled this one “The Big Challenge, and at 261 pounds, Grant was indeed the largest man Adamek has faced in his heavyweight incarnation. The other thing that keeps getting bigger are the crowds. Some 10,972, most of them Adamek’s Polish countrymen, turned out at the Prudential Center for this one. They were decked out in red shirts and red caps and waving red-and-white scarves and happily cheering their man – and that was before either fighter had landed a punch. As a group, you’d have to describe them as pretty easily satisfied boxing fans, but if Michael Grant can expose this many chinks in Adamek’s armor one shudders to think what a more talented heavyweight might do to him.

Even his late display of firepower Grant could manage no better than two rounds on two of the cards. Henry Grant had Adamek winning 118-110 and John Potrraj (who scored the sixth even) 118-111. Robert Grasso returned a 117-111 card that matched that of The Sweet Science. Adamek said he thought he had won all twelve rounds. If he really did believe that, Grant must have hit him even harder in the 12th than originally suspected.

It’s hard to blame Adamek, or his promoters, for what was in sheer boxing terms an essentially pointless charade. On the other hand, the crowd went home happy. That may be your answer right there.

At almost any stage of a boxer’s career an opponent who is a former world title challenger with a 46-3 record can be a good scalp to collect, and the fact that the 6-7 Grant towered over Adamek helped foster the illusion of competiveness among a loyal and mostly Polish-born audience already eager to suspend disbelief, but in the end you have to sort of wonder a couple of things: Why is Michael Grant still doing this, and what benefit, if any, accrued to Adamek’s career from a fight like this one?

A decade ago the late Bill Cayton had spent half a dozen years constructing a house-of-cards career that would earn Grant four million dollars for freezing in his tracks against Lennox Lewis at the Garden. We saw Grant for the first time, if memory serves, on the undercard of George Foreman’s historic upset of Michael Moorer. A year later we found ourselves in Lewiston, Maine, when Grant knocked out 6’10 Stanley Wright.

Muhammad Ali was another witness at ringside that night. Cayton later approached me to eagerly ask what I’d thought of Grant’s performance against Wright.

“Well, I replied diplomatically, “it was interesting to see him in the role of the smaller and quicker boxer.

Forget the fact that Adamek was the first man to defeat Grant in more than half a dozen years. The fact of the matter is that it has been 11 years since Michael Grant beat an opponent of consequence, and in that one Andrew Golota had a seven-point lead on two scorecards when he quit in the tenth.There must be something else Grant can do for a living.

It was in any case the fourth straight win for Adamek in his heavyweight incarnation. The Pole is now 12-0 since surrendering his light-heavyweight title to Chad Dawson in his only career loss three and a half years ago.

“You have not seen the last of me, said Grant afterward.

That’s what we were afraid of.

***

The Love Child reclaimed a spot on the winning side of the ledger, but he didn’t do much to reclaim his place among the world’s best junior middleweights. Joel Julio, who had lost three of his last four fights (to Alfredo Angulo, James Kirkland, and Sergei Dzinziruk) coming into his co-feature against Jamaal Davis, won a unanimous decision but not much else in a decidedly indolent showing against the Philadelphia journeyman.

Early in his career Julio (36-4) was knocking everybody out, but his last three wins have all come by decision. Although Davis gave a good account of himself in the early going, once Julio was cut under the right eye in the third round it seemed to energize him, and for several rounds he slapped Davis around the ring before lapsing back into the languid rhythm that had obtained in the first couple of rounds.

Davis, now 12-7, never seemed close to going out, and seemed much the fresher boxer at the conclusion of the putrid ten-rounder. Donald Givens scored it 99-92, Alan Rubenstein 98-92, and Lynn Carter 97-93. (TSS had it 96-94.)

Although the Main Events show was domestically televised as a modestly-priced pay-per-view card, the bill was also beamed back to Poland, where it was televised live. One can only imagine the reaction in living rooms back in Gdansk when they tuned to PolSat and discovered they were watching an eight-rounder between Sadam and Lenin.

That all-despot matchup saw Brooklyn’s Sadam Ali knock out Lenin Arroyo with a fifth-round body shot. Now 9-0 as a pro, the 2008 Olympian had dominated his Costa Rican opponent, winning each of the first four rounds on all three cards even before the pivotal punch. Set up by a straight right, Ali landed a hard left to the body that utterly paralyzed Arroyo, who could not beat Steve Smoger’s count. In absorbing his sixth straight loss Arroyo fell to 20-13 – though his defense it should probably be noted that Ali was Arroyo’s fourth straight undefeated opponent. (The quartet of Ali, Mike Jones, James De La Rosa, and Mike Alvarado was an aggregate 70-0 when they went up against Lenin.)

“He’d had more than twice as many fights as I had, pointed out Sadam, who spent the first four rounds pressuring the Costa Rican veteran – when he wasn’t dancing away from the spectacularly wild roundhouse punches Arroyo occasionally threw.

“I like to entertain, said Ali, who pointed out that he was just the second man in 33 fights– Alvarado, in his last fight, had been the first – to have stopped Arroyo short of the distance..

Fighting for the first time since he was stopped by Vincent Arroyo to incur his only pro loss on the Martinez-Pavlik card back in April, Paterson junior welter Jeremy Bryan was awarded a first round TKO when his Pittsburgh opponent Daniel Mitchell quit on his stool before the bell could signal the second. Mitchell, a reluctant participant even before he got hit, went down of his own volition in the first, and seemed mildly annoyed when referee Randy Neumann ordered him to his feet instead of ruling a knockdown. Once the round ended, Mitchell took matters into his own hands, and claimed to the ringside doctor that he couldn’t see out of his left eye as the result of a Bryan punch. The argument might have been more persuasive, “but the other eye was the one that got hit, said Neumann. Bryan, in any case improved to 14-1 with the win. Mitchelll is 5-2-1.

In a bout that represented the pro debut for both fighters, Tyrone Luckey made short work of Floridian Larry Yanez in less than a minute. Luckey dropped Yanez with a jolting left hook. Although he made it to his feet, Yanez was so wobbled that Smoger quickly intervened to stop it with the official time 54 seconds of the first round.

Atlantic City junior lightweight Osnel Charles improved to 4-2 with a unanimous decision over Hector Collado (0-2-1) in their four-round prelim.(39-36 Givens; 38-37 Carter and Rubenstein.)

Brooklyn southpaw Shemuel Pagan, turning pro after an amateur career that saw him win five Daily News Golden Gloves titles, posted a lopsided decision over Philadelphia’s Raul Rivera (0-3-1). Cut by what Smoger ruled a punch in the first round, Pagan came back in the second to deck his opponent, following a jab with a hard right hook. Although Rivera was wounded, he fought gamely, and Pagan displayed impressive patience in taking his attack to the body. By the time the fourth round ended, Pagan was hitting Rivera with everything but the ring post, but the Philadelphian was still there at the end. Rubenstein and Givens both gave Pagan a two-point round in the fourth and returned 40-34 scorecards, while Carter had it 40-35.

**

The Big Challenge

Prudential Center

Newark, N.J.

August 21, 2010

HEAVYWEIGHTS: Tomasz Adamek, 217, Goral, Poland dec. Michael Grant, 261, Blue Bell, Pa. (12)

JUNIOR MIDDLEWEIGHTS:Joel Julio, 152, Monteria, Colombia dec. Jamaal Davis, 153, Philadelphia, Pa. (10)

WELTERWEIGHTS: Sadam Ali, 145, Brooklyn, NY KO’d Lenin Arroyo, 146, San Jose, Costa Rica (5)

JUNIOR WELTERS: Jeremy Bryan, 139, Paterson, NJ TKO’d Daniel Mitchell, 137, Pittsburgh, Pa. (1)

Osnel Charles, 137 ½, Atlantic City, N.J. dec. Hector Collado, 139 ½ , Union City, N.J. (4)

LIGHTWEIGHTS: Tyrone Luckey, 133, Middletown, N.J. TKO’d Larry Yanez, 135, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (1)

Shemuel Pagan, 135 ½, Brooklyn, N.Y. dec. Raul Rivera, 135 ½, Philadelphia, Pa. (4)

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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