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Articles of 2010

Sergio Mora Knocking On Sugar Shane?s Door

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Sugar Shane Mosley and Sergio ?Latin Snake? Mora are both products of blood-letting gyms in East Los Angeles. It?s where you go to get the best sparring and preparation.

Luckily, I?ve been fortunate to witness each fighter?s pot-holed climbs from dense obscurity to eventual world championships.

On Saturday, at Staples Center, Mora (22-1-1, 6 KOs) and Mosley (46-6, 39 KOs) perform on a grand scale in a non-title bout set for 12 rounds before an expected large crowd of Los Angelenos. Golden Boy Promotions is staging the battle between L.A. fighters and HBO pay-per-view will televise.

Mosley, 39, was born in Los Angeles and moved with his family to Pomona on the eastern outskirts of Los Angeles County. It?s where the annual LA County Fair is held every September.

As a youngster Mosley?s father and trainer Jack Mosley would often tote him to various gyms in the East L.A. area. Places like Resurrection Gym (now Golden Boy Boxing gym), Brooklyn Boxing gym (now defunct), LA Boxing (now defunct) and Azteca Boxing gym had an abundance of hard core fighters from Mexico, El Salvador, and from the streets of East L.A.

You could not visit those gyms without expecting all-out war. Nobody took it easy and Mosley was always a target because he was one of the few non-Latinos that would venture to those sweat boxes.

The speedy Mosley traded blows toe-to-toe with many a Mexican fighter looking to add his scalp to their reputation. It?s where a young Mosley sparred with the great Julio Cesar Chavez and other great pros while still an amateur. It?s also where he learned to fight the ?old school Mexican style? fighter. You know, guys like Antonio Margarito, Zack Padilla and Genaro Hernandez.

?People say I?m a black Mexican cause of the way I fight,? Mosley says. He?s not exaggerating.

Nine consecutive knockouts

After completing his amateur career Mosley fought some of the toughest no-name fighters of the early 1990s. Each of those guys was gunning to be the one to topple Mosley and earn serious street cred. It never happened though it almost did on several occasions. But nobody seemed to be watching Mosley war with Greg Puente, Mauro Gutierrez, and Manuel ?Shotgun? Gomez who were anything but pushovers.

Even after winning the lightweight world title Mosley wasn?t gaining recognition despite knocking out nine consecutive contenders.

Mosley?s moment came when he returned to the streets of East L.A. to offer a public challenge right in that town?s heart of Whittier Boulevard and Arizona Street. A boxing magazine Uppercut Magazine captured the moment and a copy of it was sent to Oscar De La Hoya. Next thing you know De La Hoya accepted the challenge. The Golden Boy never refused a good challenge from somebody that would bring money.

It was 10 years ago on June 17, 2000 when Mosley and De La Hoya met for the first time and gave the Staples Center its first taste of big-time boxing. Everybody from Muhammad Ali to Halle Berry was there. It was an electric night and an even more blistering fight between the L.A. guys who grew up in the same gyms. It?s the fight most memorable and meaningful to Mosley.

?Oscar de la Hoya fight is my favorite. My fight against him is the one I watch the most. He is my partner at Golden Boy and I have a great amount of respect for him,? said Mosley while at the press conference today.

Latin Snake

Mora, 29, born and raised in East L.A. where the Golden Boy was also raised a few miles west, said watching that fight and others was a watershed moment.

?Oscar de la Hoya represents everything I want to accomplish – championships, status and the ability to give back to the community,? said Mora.

He also watched Mosley make the move from brilliant but unknown prizefighter to one of the most talented and respected fighters in the world.

?I have nothing but respect for Shane Mosley and what he?s accomplished,? says Mora who has also experienced the same potholes as Mosley on his way up the professional ladder. ?It?s tough.?

Despite making shockwaves during Olympic tryouts of 2000, Mora never was one of the sought after fighters that were signed by boxing managers and promoters. Even though he made it to the finals where he lost a close decision t Jermain Taylor he was overlooked by the professional boxing establishment that preferred more conventional boxing styles. Mora is not even close to conventional.

The first time I saw Mora in action was at the Arrowhead Pond that is now called the Honda Center. The East L.A. boxer was matched against Eric Tzand and I took note because he was from the East Los barrios. Most fighters from that area usually are battle tough and Mora didn?t surprise in that regard. But he did surprise me with his herky jerky movements and speed. He befuddled his opponent and won easily that day on October 2000. I jotted down his name.

Mora?s next match was against undefeated Charles Blake who I had seen before and knew was pretty decent and powerful. Not against Mora who perplexed and frustrated the hard-hitting Blake and nearly stopped him. I was convinced Mora would be hard to beat.

A year and a half would pass before I saw Mora fight again. This time he was matched against Warren ?Wardog? Kronberger a no-nonsense warrior who loved to trade blows. The trouble was Mora was never where Wardog expected him and absorbed blow after blow until the referee stopped the fight at the Irvine Marriott. I spoke to Mora?s team right after the fight to find out more.

From that moment on I knew he would become a world champion one day and asked some of the managers and matchmakers if they saw the same thing. None were interested. This went on for a couple more years.

Fernando Vargas was the guy who made the break for Mora. He allowed Mora to be a sparring partner and discovered that the East L.A. fighter was tougher to grab and corner than a buttered eel. Another sparring session was arranged and though Vargas was able to figure some things out, he still liked Mora?s ability. From that moment on he felt Mora was something special.

When casting calls went out for the Contender reality TV show it was Vargas who convinced the show people to put Mora on the roster. Sure enough he won it all: the million dollars, the car and the adulation of millions who watched that first series in 2004-2005.

Still, the road to recognition was a tainted one as most boxing fans felt Mora was a second tier fighter. This reputation followed him all the way until he fought the late great Vernon Forrest and ripped the WBC junior middleweight title from him with a convincing performance.

?I learned so much from those two fights with Vernon Forrest,? says Mora, who lost the rematch to Forrest several months later. ?But I?m honored to know that I lost to a great fighter.?

It?s all about honor for Mora. Yes, he wants to make millions but being able to show his ability in a match with one of Southern California?s boxing icons means just as much.

?To defuse a bomb like Mosley its going to be a hard task. This guy comes to knock everybody out,? said Mora, who will be walked into the ring by Los Angeles Laker star Ron Artest thanks to Claudia Ollis a budding power in boxing promotions. ? If I can?t defuse this guy I?m going to have to battle this guy.?

Youth vs. Experience

Mosley?s one-sided loss to Mayweather last May showed that the lengthy time off after his big win over Margarito may have dulled his usual razor sharp skills. Or maybe not?

Mora, though inactive for just as long as Mosley until last April, is 10 years younger, bigger and just as fast. Can he be the one to show Mosley out the door of elite status or will he be shown out instead?

?When do I have the leisure of a loss? Nothing else matters but to win,? Mora says.

Mosley knows the stakes.

?I know he thinks he can beat me,? said Mosley. ?I?m not looking past him.?

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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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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