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Articles of 2010

Bad Girls Boxing Camp: Empowerment 101

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Anne-Marie Saccurato yelled out instructions like a Marine drill instructor as the female boxers pounded on the heavy bags non-stop in a manic frenzy.

Five minutes passed, then 10 minutes, the sweat on their faces dripped to the floor but no one stopped as Saccurato prodded the women to continue and dig deep for energy.

After 20 minutes of pounding that left them physically exhausted they stopped to rest.

Saccurato, a world champion, looked at them proudly.

Twelve female boxers met this past week in Coachella to participate in the Bad Girls Boxing training camp. The non-profit group organized by Lori Steinhorst met for the second time this year.

?It?s to see what quality boxing is all about,? said Steinhorst who lives in the desert area.

From beginners to world champions the women converged in the steamy Coachella Boxing Club for one week where they were taught proper training regimens, contract negotiations, and awareness of one another in the sometimes unforgiving sport of boxing.

?Laila Ali, Lucia Rijker and Kaliesha West stopped by to speak to the girls,? said Steinhorst who also trains fighters. ?We wanted to empower them.?

All of the women were impressed.

Perhaps world champion Saccurato exemplified most what the seven-day camp represented with her neo-Marine drill sergeant instructions and one-on-one training.

?This camp was an incredible opportunity. I jumped all over it,? said Saccurato a no-nonsense type of person who takes that same mentality in the ring when she fights. ?I take honor in being able to do this.?

Interaction

Saccurato, like most other boxers, realize their sport is really not a team sport and that at times one can get lost in the nomad mentality. The Bad Girls Boxing camp allowed the girl fighters to interact and learn not only about boxing, but about each other as well.

?Ann-Marie (Saccurato) has been conditioning us and telling us we have to help out each other,? said Ronica Jeffrey, a former amateur star now fighting as a professional out of Brooklyn. ?We can refer each other to fights and other things. Why not help someone else??

Imparting networking ideas was just a small portion of the weeklong camp. Visitors like Ali, West and Rijker dropped by to give some of their world championship knowledge on boxing technique and preparation.

Ali had planned to stay for an hour and ended up staying most of the day with the boxers and sharing not only technical aspects but her experiences too. West recently captured the WBO bantamweight title and shared her insight as well. Rijker, considered one of the best female boxers of all time, has taken an interest in Saccurato.

Zero experience, no sweat

But it wasn?t all about pro boxers. Three girls arrived with zero experience in the ring whether as a pro or amateur.

Tarrah Zael, 20, who lives in Murrieta, was intrigued by the invitation to participate in the boxing camp. Though rather pixyish, the passion to fight looms large in the smallish boxer. Meeting the fighters has further convinced the novice to pursue putting on the boxing gloves.

?It?s something I want to do,? said Zael who is still deciding where she?ll continue learning the science of boxing.

Carolynne Meyers, 10, took part in the camp for a day and so did mixed martial arts fighter Inez Madera.

?I love fighting,? says Madera, 23, who lives in Compton and practices Muy Thai. ?I just want to fight and I don?t care if I lose, but I love winning.?

The pros

The professional female boxers arrived from different parts and with varying experience as a prizefighter. All sparred with each other despite size differences.

?At first I was scared. I?m not afraid to admit it,? said Jennifer Salinas, 28, who has 13 pro bouts and lives in Virginia. ?You got to get beat up to learn something.?

Salinas has been fighting professionally for seven years and admits feeling insecure about her technical boxing knowledge. Despite only two losses in 13 fights the fighter known as the ?Bolivian Queen? doubted herself until arriving. Now after sparring with top notch fighters in different weight classes she feels a big boost of confidence.

?Boxing is not about making appearances and signing autographs,? Salinas says. ?You have to get hit to know this is what you want to do.?

Jeffrey, Gena Taylor, Lucia Larcinese, Brandy Badry and Pia Porter fought as amateurs and now are testing their skills as professionals. All love the sport and found the training camp to be more valuable than anything encountered before.

?I got my confidence back,? says Larcinese of Montreal, Canada.

The Canadian of Italian descent recently lost a close decision in Nevada and also lost confidence in her abilities to fight. But speaking with the others helped her understand that a loss or two doesn?t mean dreams are shattered.

?I can go to New York and be a nurse,? Larcinese says. ?But my heart wants to box.?

Taylor has aspirations of entering the medical field too. But boxing has a tighter grip on her at the moment despite losing by technical knockout in her last fight due to a cut.

?I?ve been training on auto-pilot till I came here,? says Taylor of New Orleans who lost 95 pounds once she began training as a boxer. ?It?s given me a whole new respect being here. It?s been very hard. People always criticize me but this is what I want to do.?

One of the fighters has a 17-year-old son and is just starting her professional career out of Canada.

?It was so motivating and empowering,? said Badry, 35, who has one pro fight and fights out of Edmonton, Canada. ?I believe boxing has always been inside of me. Once opened, it?s hard to stop.?

Former amateur star Jeffrey has seen the differences between amateurs and pros but maintains politics still plays a powerful chip in the sport.

?Boxing is really, really hard. It?s not what you know but who you know,? said Jeffrey, who is an undefeated featherweight. ?But it makes me feel like I?m a part of something.?

One major difference Jeffrey knows is defense is paramount in pro boxing.

?In pros you can feel the shots,? says Jeffrey, adding that without headgear and bigger gloves the punches are much more painful. ?You take less chances.?

No parties

Kymmberli Stowe, 32, is still an amateur and attempting to make the US Olympic team.

?I need as much sparring as possible,? said Stowe of Philadelphia who left boxing for five years and lost 70 pounds since returning. ?I?m learning different techniques from the collaboration of styles. It?s unbelievable.?

Even outside of the gym the female boxers accumulated knowledge.

?We shared a lot of stories about the struggles we experienced,? said Porter, who grew up in Germany as a self-professed party girl. ?I?m blessed I can work as a boxer. I went from hell to heaven in boxing.?

The German citizen is now living in Seattle and moved to the U.S. to learn superior boxing skills and conditioning. All she had to do is look across the gym where Saccurato was standing.

?I can put my tools to work here,? said Porter who is slated to fight in Washington on October 30.

Saccurato knows all about finding refuge in boxing. Before taking up boxing, the upstate New Yorker once endured a horrific car crash that rendered her with so many broken bones and injuries that a doctor feared she may never walk again. But here she was showing the dozen boxers what its like to be in top condition.

?This is bigger than me. This camp is a great opportunity to bring all these girls together,? said Saccurato. ?Everyone is hungry, no animosities, and great willingness to support each other.?

Female empowerment is exactly what Steinhorst had in mind.

Fights on television

Thurs. Fox, 11:30 p.m., Juan Velasquez (10-1) vs. Noe Lopez (6-5).

Fri. Showtime, 11:00 p.m. Patrick Lopez (20-2) vs. Tim Coleman (17-1-1).

Fri. Telefutura, 11:30 p.m. Jorge Barrios (49-4-1) vs. Humberto Martinez (19-4-1).

Articles of 2010

Judah To Fight Mbuza March 5 In NJ

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Totowa, NJ – Kathy Duva, Main Events CEO, announced their promotional firm won the purse bid held at IBF headquarters in East Orange, NJ, Thursday. The bid was for the right to hold the IBF's junior welterweight title fight between Zab Judah of Brooklyn, NY and Las Vegas, and South Africa's Kaizer Mabuza.

IBF Championships Chairman, Lindsay Tucker explained, “It is a 50-50 split of the earnings between the two fighters. Kaizer is ranked No. 1 by the IBF, and Judah is No. 2. Where the fight will be held is up to the winning bidder.”

Judah (39-6, 26 KOs) is promoted by Main Events and his own firm Super Judah Promotions, and Branco Milenkovic, of South Africa, promotes Mabuza (23-6-3, 14 KOs).

Kathy Duva confirmed the fight will take place at Prudential Center in Newark, NJ, late February or early March this year as part of Main Events' Brick City Boxing Series.  (Saturday Update: the fight is March 5th, in NJ at the Pru Center. The bout will be part of a PPV card.)

“We are very happy that Zab has the opportunity to fight for the IBF Junior Welterweight title right here in New Jersey.  Winning this fight will put Zab right in the mix with the winner of Bradley-Alexander and Amir Khan.” Duva elaborated, ” Zab will work very hard to win this fight so that he will be one step closer to his ultimate goal of unifying all of the Junior Welterweight titles by the end of 2011!”

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Articles of 2010

UFC 125 Preview: Frankie Edgar Vs. Gray Maynard

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UFC_Edgar_and_Maynard_Dec._2010
Few predicted Frankie Edgar would grab the UFC lightweight championship last year but he did. Most felt he would eventually win it but Edgar not only took the title, he beat one of the best mixed martial artists in history to do it.

Edgar (13-1) has emerged from the milieu of nondescript MMA fighters to become one of the more brilliant performers for Ultimate Fighting Championship. Next comes a rematch with Gray “The Bully” Maynard (11-0) tomorrow at the MGM Grand Casino in Las Vegas. UFC 125 will be televised on pay-per-view.

All it took was not one, but two victories over BJ Penn.

If you’re not familiar with Penn, he’s one of the most versatile fighters in MMA history and had been nearly unbeatable in the 155-pound lightweight division. That is until he clashed with Edgar. Until he met New Jersey’s Edgar, the Hawaiian fighter chopped down lightweight opponents with ease. It was only the heavier welterweights he had problems against. Namely: Canada’s Georges St. Pierre.

Edgar showed poise, speed and grit in defeating Penn in back-to-back fights. The world took notice.

“You know, if I keep winning fights, the respect will come eventually,” said Edgar during a conference call.

Now Edgar will find out if he can avenge the only loss on his record.

“I just think I grew as a fighter. You know, mentally, you know, physically I, you know, possess differently skills, increased – you know, I think I boxed and got better, my Jiu-Jitsu got better and, you know, just have much more experience now,” Edgar says.

Maynard seeks to find out if Edgar has added any more fighting tools to his repertoire. Back in April 2008, the artillery shelled out was not enough to beat the Las Vegas fighter.

“It’s a perfect time. He had the chance and, you know, he took it and the time is now for me and I’m prepared,” said Maynard (11-0). “Any time you’re going up against the top in the world, you evolve and change and so I’m prepared for a new fight, so it will be good. I’m pumped for it.”

Though Maynard’s record indicates he is unbeaten that’s not entirely true. He did suffer a defeat to Nate Diaz during The Ultimate Fighter series and subsequently avenged that loss last January.

The UFC lightweight title is in Maynard’s bull’s eye.

“Looking to take the belt for sure,” said Maynard. “We’ll see on January 1.”

Edgar versus Maynard should be a good one.

Other bouts:

Nate Diaz (13-5) faces Dong Hyun Kim (13-0-1) in another welterweight tussle. Diaz is the only fighter with a win over Maynard. Anyone watching TUF remembers Maynard tapping out from a Diaz guillotine choke. The Modesto fighter has a tough fight against South Korea’s Kim.

Chris Leben (21-6) fights Brian Stann (9-3) in a middleweight fight. Leben is a veteran of MMA and if an opponent is not ready for a rough and tumble fight, well, that fighter is not going to win. Stann dropped down from light heavyweight and we’ll see if the cut in weight benefits the Marine.

Brandon Vera (11-5) meets Thiago Silva (14-2) in a light heavyweight match up. Vera is trying to rally back to the promising fighter he was tabbed several years back. Silva is a very tough customer and eager to crash the elite. A victory by either fighter could mean a ticket to the big time.

Clay Guida (27-8) versus Takanori Gomi (32-6) in a lightweight bout. Guida has become one of the most feared fighters without a title. No one has an easy time with the long-haired fighter. Gomi lost to Kenny Florian but knocked out Tyson Griffin. Can he survive Guida?

Marcus “The Irish Hand Grenade” Davis (22-8) clashes with Jeremy Stephens (18-6) in another lightweight fight. Davis is a go-for-broke kind of fighter and is looking to get back in the win column after a tumultuous battle with Nate Diaz last August. Stephens needs a win too. In his last bout he lost to Melvin Guillard.

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Articles of 2010

Borges Looks Back, And Forward With Hope

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As the end of another year approaches, there’s no need to invoke Charles Dickens to describe what went on in boxing. It was neither the best of times nor the worst of times. It was just too much time spent on The Fight That Never Took Place.

For the second straight year the sport could not deliver The Fight, the only one fans universally wanted and even casual fans craved – the mix between Floyd Mayweather, Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao.  No one has to be singled out for blame for that failure because this time there’s plenty to go around on both sides. The larger issue is what does it say about a sport when it cannot deliver its top event?

What would the NFL be without the Super Bowl? Where would major league baseball be without the World Series? Golf without the Masters? College basketball without March Madness?

They would all be less than they could be and so it was with boxing this year. Having said that, the sport was not without its signature moments. It was not bereft of nights that left those of us with an abiding (and often unrequited) love for prize fighting with good reason to hope for the future.

Three times promoter Bob Arum took the sport into massive stadium venues just like the good (very) old days and each time boxing drew a far larger crowd than its many critics expected. Twice those fights involved the sport’s leading ambassador, Pacquiao, who brought in crowds of 40,000 to 50,000 fans into Cowboys Stadium against inferior opponents Joshua Clottey and Antonio Margarito. Imagine what he might have done had Mayweather been in the opposite corner?

While both fights were, as expected, lopsided affairs, they showcased the one boxer who has transcended his sport’s confining walls to become a cultural icon and world celebrity. Pacquiao alone put boxing (or at least one boxer) on the cover of TIME and into the pages of such varied publications as Esquire, GQ, The Wall Street Journal, the American Airlines in-flight magazine and even Atlantic Monthly.

As history has proven time and again, that is what happens when boxing has a compelling personality to sell it and Pacquiao is that. Mayweather is such a person as well,  but for different reasons.

The one night he appeared in a boxing ring, he set the year’s pay-per-view standard against Shane Mosley while also leaving a first hint of dark mystery when he was staggered by two stinging right hands in the second round.

Mayweather was momentarily in trouble for the first time in his career but the moment passed quickly and Mosley never had another. By the end he had been made to look old and futile, a faded athlete who’d had his chance and was unable to do anything with it. So it goes in this harsh sport when the sands are running out of the hour glass.

As always there were some surprising upsets, most notably Jason Litzau’s domination of an uninterested and out of shape Celestino Caballero and Sergio Martinez’s one-punch demolishment of Paul Williams. The latter was not so much an upset as it was a stunning reminder that when someone makes a mistake against a highly skilled opponent in this sport they don’t end up embarrassed. They end up unconscious.

SHOWTIME did all it could to further the future of the sport, offering up a continuation of its interminably long but still bold Super Six super middleweight tournament as well as the launching of a short form bantamweight tournament which already gave fans to two stirring and surprising finishes with Joseph Agbeko decisioning Jhonny Perez and Abner Mares upsetting Victor Darchinyan in a battle of contusions.

While the Super Six has had its problems – including several of the original six pulling out – it also lifted the profile of former Olympic gold medalist Andre Ward from nearly unknown to the cusp of universal recognized as the best super middleweight in the world this side of Lucian Bute. If Ward continues winning he’ll get to Bute soon enough because that’s why SHOWTIME signed a TV deal with the Canadian and America may get its next boxing star if Ward proves to be what I think he is – which is still underrated and underappreciated.

HBO and HBO pay-per-view put on 23 shows, few of them compelling and many of them paying big money to the wrong people while doing little or nothing to grow the sport that has helped make their network rich. But they did have the knockout of the year – Martinez’s second round destruction of Williams – and some fights in the lower weight classes that were left you wanting more.

Two new names popped up who are causing the kind of fan reaction that also gives us hope for 2011 – American Brandon Rios and Mexican Saul Alvarez. They are two of the sport’s brightest young prospects because each comes to the arena the old-fashioned way – carrying nothing but bad intentions.
Aggression and knockouts still sell boxing faster than anything else and each exhibited plenty of both this year and left fans wanting to see more. Alvarez is already a star in Mexico without having yet won a world title and Rios is the definition of “promise.’’ Whether the star will continue to shine and promise will be fulfilled may be answered next year and so we wait anxiously to find out.

Backed by Golden Boy Promotions, there is no reason 2011 shouldn’t be Alvarez’s year and if it is people will notice and remember him because he has a crowd-pleasing style that is all about what sells most.

That is what boxing needs more of – fresh faces and new stars… so as fans we should root for guys like Alvarez, Ward, Rios and young Brit Amir Khan, who is a star in England but still a question mark with a questionable chin but a fighter’s heart here in the U.S.

Those guys and others not yet as well known are the future of boxing, a sport that for too long has been recycling the likes of Mosley (as it will again in May for one last beating against Pacquiao in a fight that's a joke), Bernard Hopkins (who can still fight although it is unclear why he bothers or where it’s all headed), Roy Jones and, sadly, even 48-year-old Evander Holyfield, who continues to delude himself but not many other people into believing he will soon unify the heavyweight title again.
If fighters like Ward, Alvarez, Rios, Khan, WBC welterweight champion Andre Berto and middleweight king Sergio Martinez continue their rise they could be the antidote for the art of the retread that Arum and Golden Boy have been forcing fans to buy the past few years at the expense of what boxing needs most – fresh faces.

The heavyweight division, which many believe determines the relevancy of boxing to the larger world, remains a vast desert of disinterest here in the US. The Klitschko brothers, Vitali and Wladimir, hold 75 per cent of the title belts but few peoples’ imaginations in the US, although to be fair they are European superstars and don’t really need U.S. cable TV money to thrive economically.

Each defended their titles twice this year, Vitali against lame competition (Albert Sosnowski and Shannon Briggs) and Wladimir against better fighters (Sam Peter and Eddie Chambers) but not competitive ones. Sadly, there is no American on the horizon to challenge them, a comment on the division and on our country, where the athletes who used to be Joe Louis or Muhammad Ali now opt for the easier and frankly safer road of the NFL or the NBA. Who can blame them considering all the nonsense a fighter has to go through to just make a living these days?

The one heavyweight match that would be compelling and might lift the sport up for at least a night would be either of the Klitschkos facing lippy WBA champion David Haye. The fast-talking Brit claims to not be ducking them but he’s had more maladies befall him after shouting from the rooftops how much he wants to challenge them that you have to wonder if Haye is simply a case of big hat no cattle syndrome.

For the sake of the sport, we should all be lighting candles each night in hopes our prayers will be answered and Haye will finally agree to meet one of them. It may not prove to be much of a fight but at least it will give us something to talk about for a few months.

Whatever Haye and the Klitschkos decide the fighter with the most upside at the moment however seems to be Sergio Martinez.  He has matinee idol looks, a big enough punch to put Paul Williams to sleep with one shot and a work ethic second to none. The Argentine fighter had a year for himself, starting with a drubbing of Kelly Pavlik followed by his demolishment of Williams. Those kinds of victories, coupled with his Oscar De La Hoya-like looks, are the type of things that if HBO or SHOWTIME would get behind him could allow Martinez to capture the attention of both fight fans and more casual ones.

In general, Hispanics fighters continued to dominate much of the sport’s front pages with Juan Manuel Marquez’s two victories in lightweight title fights leading that storyline. His war with Michael Katsidis is a strong candidate for Fight of the Year and his technical skill and calm demeanor make him the uncrowned challenger to Pacquiao. The two have unfinished business that should be settled this year if Arum stops standing in the way.

Two other fighters who gave us moments to remember in 2010 were Juan Manuel Lopez, who knocked out three solid opponents including highly respected Mexican warrior Rafael Marquez, and Giovani Segura, who won four times (that’s three years work for Mayweather) in 2010, all by knockout. Along the way, Segura defeated one of the great minimum weight fighters in history, slick Ivan Calderon, to win the belt on Aug. 28.

Lastly, boxing gave us another magical cinematic moment as well with the release of “The Fighter,’’ a film based on the life and hard times of junior welterweight scrapper Micky Ward. The film has won rave reviews and many awards and seems likely to have several of its actors nominated for Academy Awards, most notable Christian Bale for his sadly humorous portrayal of Ward’s troubled half brother, former fighter Dickie Ecklund.

Boxing has a long history of providing the framework for memorable movies and it did it again with “The Fighter,’’ a film that did more for boxing than any promoter did all year.

All in all, it wasn’t the best of years for boxing but it was a good year that picked up speed in the final months and, like that great golf shot you finally hit out of the rough on the 18th, left us with reasons to hope for a better year in 2011. If somehow it gives us Mayweather-Pacquiao, the emergence of Alvarez and Rios, the ascension of Martinez and Haye vs. the best available Klitschko in addition to the kind of solid performances that always come along, it could be a year to remember.

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