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Articles of 2010

Port of Call: Blitzko for Klitschko, Hospital Digs for Briggs



ALTONA, HAMBURG -In Germany Shannon Briggs hospitalization subsequent to absorbing 36 minutes, or quite possibly a lifetimes worth of heavy leather was a major headline of the weekend.

The bout received plenty of prefight sports related coverage but Briggs dramatic futile stand and sensationalized medical treatment propelled the story into Deutschlands public consciousness, even as Briggs was reportedly losing his after the fight.

I am nointellectual experton thegeneral German psyche, but I have observed a unique, uniform pridein the ability to swallow bitter things with stoic resolve, be they (by USA standards) rigid social contracts or bizzaro traffic etiquette. The audience of around 14,500 at O2 Arena deeply appreciated the resolve Briggs showed as Klitschko basically dropped the building on him but couldnt drop Briggs.

Broadcasting RTL network reported 15 million viewers, with a market share of 66.9%.

He was very brave and never gave up, understated Klitschko.

Briggs gained the crowds respect eating right hands.His postfightaddress made him a beloved part of theadopted national family.

I fought George Foreman, I fought Lennox Lewis. Vitali is the best Ive fought. Ive been hit by Foreman, and Vitali hits harder, said Briggs with a face that swelled as he spoke. I just want to say to all the people of Hamburg that although I was fighting their champion, everybody treated me with respect. All the people in the city were great, all the people at K2, even the chef. I love Germany and I hope I get to come backhere some day.

Briggs may get the key to the city before somebodydemonstrates the key to giving Klitschko a real fight.

By the time news dispatches fromsponsoringRTL had spread internationally, data on Briggss injuries got blurred in mis-translation. The security guard who escorted Briggs from the ring said the fighter was disoriented and stumbling, and Briggs reportedly collapsed while waiting for a urine test. Other unverified scuttlebutt said Briggs tried to refuse medical treatment but was forced by his promoter Greg Cohen to hit the hospital. Good, if obvious call.

There was quickly growing outrage over Briggss widely perceived lack of proper protection. Somewhere, his last second highlight reel stoppage of Sergei Liakovich probablygot playeda bit too much.

This fight should never have gone even ten rounds, said commentator and semi-active heavyweight Luan Krasniq.

Ringside doctor Stephan Bock told RTL that he would have recommended the fight be stopped, but nobody ever asked him. After the fight Briggss pupil reflexes were fine, but he was drowsy, indicated Bock.

Klitschkos trainer Fritz Sdunek said the words everybody feared, Briggs will never be the same after this.

Perhaps, in light of various personalities and subjective issues, boxing should take away the human factorin what decides a technical stoppage and switch to a numeric or statistic basedmodel.

Instead of leaving itup to hopefully well informed and intended but often inconsistent players like referees, doctors and corner men, let the numbers make the call. Similar to a 10 run baseball rule or11-zip racquetballshutout,fights could have a designated boxers dozen, in which an 8 count is delivered if one guy gets hit flush more than 10 times in a row withoutlanding anything back at all.

Or, in a case like Briggss totally awesome, totally unnecessary display of durability against Klitschko, something along the lines ofa if a guys head gets spun 160 degrees while his face looks like putty and his counterpunches miss by more than a foot, and this occurs ten consecutive times a round in round after round, then forHeavens sake pullthe plug kind of rule.

Johannes Brahms is one of this citys most famous sons, and the musical theme for tonights easily translatable Das Deull der Knockouterwas who could really deliver the lullaby. Klitschko landed thuds that looked and sounded gigantic, but Briggss heart for the task was equally bigand somehow kept him upright, though often dazed and wobbly, for the 12 roundduration.

There will doubtlessly be many a wise guy who says Klitschkos monotonous whomping of Briggs put them to sleep, and US viewers may never wake up to Klitschkos style.

Not so the O2 Arena, where the placekept rocking with cheers, chants andcollective gasps at Briggs endurance thatgained affection from a satisfied audience who watched him pay the price for plentyofprefight howling hype. Itwasnt a good boxing match, butit was riveting theatre until around the middle frames when it the outcome becameobvious.

Klitschko probed with straight lefts andscored with the first big right he threw. Briggs smiled, but soon his left eye blinked with the look of a guy who knew it would be a long evening. Briggs huffed and puffed and briefly got on his toes, but Klitschko kept a disciplined drumbeat of short rights into Briggss tenderized countenance.

There was a reality check type moment in the fourth frame during a lull in crowd noise. The fighters landed resounding, simultaneous shots that clearly illustrated the kind of painful popspresented inside the strands. Nobody looked anxious to trade places with either principal. Briggs managed to put some welts on Klitschkos torso with surprisingly fast body shots, but for the most part it was all Klitschko from the sixth frame on. By then, Briggs had earned his paycheckwhile Klitschko had already landed enough right hand mallets to flattenmany contenders.

Klitschko threw very few body shots, buthe didnt need to. Kill the head and the body will die. Unless its Shannon Briggs.

By the seventh it wasnt really a fight any more. Klitschko landed multiple, variedcombinations as Briggsfelt furyfrom all angles. The crowd stomped their feet and chantedin anticipation of a knockout that never came.

It was surprising thatBriggs lasted through the eighth andshocking that he lasted through every round after that, but you could see in Briggss puffy eyes that he was willing himself to continue. Now the real drama began. Everybody in the place except maybe Briggs knewwho would win the bout, but nobody could tell whether hed actually go the distance, which still seemed almost impossibleas Klitschko blasted him senseless in the tenth and it became a slaughter. Howard Cosell spun in his grave.

Briggs reeled and rocked, thentrudgedback for more even though he could barely face his foe. Klitschko walloped him around the ring but couldnever back him into the ropes, let alone put him down.

When the bell rang ending round eleven, Briggs, who dragged badly for much of the recent evening, got a bright, wide-eyed look as if to say,Hey, I made it.

Not quite yet. Briggs still had to weather even more serious trouble in the12th, but somehow he took blast after blast without dropping. I dont know if it was a moral victory or not, but it sure was amazing to see.

Klitschko raised his arms and shruggedin acknowledging his frustration at failing to stop Briggs. Many fans cheered not theobvious shutout, but Briggss gutsy survival.

Otherperformers who logged Hamburg incubation time are The Beatles.Insertsong titles likeA Hard Days Nightfor your personal gag about Klitschkos widespread victory. What it really came down to was Help.

Guido Caravalleri and Victor Cervantesscored the bout120-107, with Anek Hongtongkam logging 120-105. Thats quite a few 10-8tabs without a knockdown, and quite justifiable.They might as wellhave scored the final sessions 10-0.

Whats not so justifiable, hindsight or not, is why Briggs didnt either go for broke or call it a dutiful day much earlier, torn biceps none withstanding.In Vegas you might think of high stakesover/under betting considerations, but that doesnt seem to be a factor here.

I wanted to knock him out and Im disappointed I did not, but he deserves a lot of respect, mused Klitschko. I couldnt believe he was still standing after some of the punches. I almost got discouraged.

Charlemagnes forcesestablished Hamburg around the year 800 AD. What is probably Germanys most diverse, funky metropolis has since seen eras ofsacking, plagues, and catastrophic blazes. It has also risen and remained one of Europes both most well to do and grittydomains.Hamburg is said to have by the countrys highest per-capitapopulation of millionaires by far, and it looked to me like home for most of the lands freaks and street people.K2 events feature elaborate video introductions and tonight Klitschkos highlighted his family life and training around various city landmarks.

The crowd ate it up so much he should probably try arun for office here instead ofthe Ukraine.

Klitschko had his pro debut in Hamburg, andkeeps a residence here.Hes endured some setback injuries, defeats, and a still present public skepticism in some quarters including the dominantUS market.That never stoppedKlitschko from widespread personal achievements and still growing acclaim and fortune.

Haters complain that since the K bros have cleaned out the division and wont fight each other, theres almost no point to many of the fights.You could say that about much of tonights affair, butby the conclusion there was a twisted beauty to Briggs refusal to fold.

Anybody can be a hero when its easy. Trash proclaims itself legendaryafter minor endeavors all the time.

It is immeasurably harder and usually more costly, in abstract nobility, to achieve heroism with the short end of the whipping stick.

There are many legitimate, contradictingperceptionsabout the Klitschko – Briggs battle but a couple thingswere undisputable. One is Klitschko looked formidible andcreamedBriggs so badly that stopping the fight should have beena much more pending optionin terms of future health.

Another is how Briggs overwhelmingly earned the esteem of the highly partisanswarm. He had played the formidible foil in grand stylethroughout the promotionand by the time his gigantic, dramatically enhancedimage blared across a darkened arena during his introductionBriggs wasa perfect dragon forKlitschko to slay.At the end of the contest, he hadearned thecrowds uniformly heartfelt admiration. You could almost say he stole the show.

By the end of the night Briggs was theguy Germanytalked about, with good wishes in their hearts.

Articles of 2010

Judah To Fight Mbuza March 5 In NJ




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

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

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

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

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

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Articles of 2010

UFC 125 Preview: Frankie Edgar Vs. Gray Maynard



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Edgar versus Maynard should be a good one.

Other bouts:

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

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

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

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

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

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Articles of 2010

Borges Looks Back, And Forward With Hope




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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