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Articles of 2010

Winner Gets A Date With Vitali

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WBC World Heavyweight Championship Eliminator

At AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Dec. 17

WBC No. 1-Ranked Ray Austin Faces Undefeated WBC No. 2-Ranked Odlanier Solis
To Determine Who Will Face WBC Heavyweight Champion Vitali Klitschko;
Tallahassee Native and Undefeated IBF Light Heavyweight Champion Tavoris Cloud
Will Make Second World Title Defense Against Colombian Puncher Fulgencio Zuniga

MIAMI—Undefeated Cuban Olympic heavyweight gold medalist Odlanier “La Sombra Solis (16-0, 12 KOs) will face the toughest test of his young career on Friday, Dec. 17 at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami when he meets World Boxing Council No. 1-ranked Ray “The Rainman Austin (28-4-4, 18 KOs) with the winner earning the right to next face WBC heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko.

Undefeated International Boxing Federation light heavyweight champion Tavoris “Thunder Cloud (21-0, 18 KOs), from Tallahassee, will appear in the co-featured bout, defending his crown against respected Colombian puncher Fulgencio Zuniga (24-4-1, 21 KOs).

Tickets priced at $200, $150, $75, $40 and $25 are on sale now at the AmericanAirlines Arena Box office, all Ticketmaster outlets, online at www.ticketmaster.com or by calling (800) 745-3000. The event is being promoted by Don King Productions. Austin vs. Solis is a co-promotion with Arena Sportspromotion.

This will be the most significant heavyweight fight in South Florida since the 2007 WBC elimination bout promoted by Don King at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino featuring No. 1-ranked Samuel “The Nigerian Nightmare Peter against No. 2-ranked James “Lights Out Toney. Peter won a unanimous decision and went on to become WBC heavyweight champion.

This marks Don King Productions’ first return to AmericanAirlines Arena since Felix “Tito Trinidad vs. Mamadou Thiam in 2000. Don King sees this event as a holiday present for South Floridians.

“Tis the season to be merry and enjoy the company of friends and family, and South Florida boxing fans will have one more reason to rejoice on the week before Christmas with two big heavyweights in Ray Austin and Odlanier Solis fighting to see who will get the chance to face WBC heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko. That’s about as big as it gets in the heavyweight division right now.

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Austin vs. Solis Dec. 17 in Miami release – Page 2

King added, “And there will be many other important fights on the card including a world championship featuring Florida’s own IBF light heavyweight champion Tavoris Cloud defending his belt against a tough Colombian in Fulgencio Zuniga. This will be a big night of boxing in Miami.

Solis, born in Havana, enjoyed one of the greatest amateur careers in history before defecting in 2006. At just age 18, he defeated his legendary Cuban teammate Felix Savon in 1999 and again the following year. He also defeated two future professional heavyweight champions, Sultan Ibragimov and David Haye, at the 2001 amateur world championships. He won every major world tournament he entered.

Solis based his professional career out of Hamburg, Germany, in 2007 before relocating to Miami last year. Magnificently quick-handed for a fighter that normally weighs between 260 and 270 pounds, he has thus far performed with impunity in the ring. Blessed with a full compliment of boxing skills, Solis is positioned at age 30 to realize similar success as a professional that he enjoyed in the amateur ranks.

One of Solis’ secret weapons is a penchant for precision body shots—a propensity for which Cubans have long been trained for and for which they are well known.

Austin, from Cleveland, is also a mammoth man at 6 foot 6 inches tall who normally weighs just below 250 pounds. His size and strength alone present challenges for anyone stepping into the ring with him.

When he is in peak physical condition, he can contend with anyone as evidenced by the fact that he fought all of the following notable fighters to a draw: Lance “Mount Whitaker, Larry Donald and future heavyweight champion Sultan Ibragimov.

Austin earned his first and only world-title shot when he faced IBF heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko on March 10, 2007, where he suffered a second-round technical knockout at the hands of the Ukrainian giant. Now he would like the opportunity to fight Wladimir’s brother, Vitali.

In his last outing, Austin scored a fourth-round technical knockout over respected veteran DaVarryl “Touch of Sleep Williamson in Las Vegas on Oct. 31, 2009, in an elimination bout that moved him to the top of the WBC rankings.

Boxing insiders are highly intrigued by Tavoris Cloud, 28, but not simply by the fact he is a world champion with a perfect record. What excites the experts and fans most is his 86-percent knockout ratio that stems from his aggressive, two-handed power that can end a fight on a moment’s notice.

Cloud faced the stiffest test of is career in his last fight on Aug. 7 in St. Louis against Glen “Road Warrior Johnson, the former IBF light heavyweight champion and 2004 Fighter of the Year.

There was no posing or posturing when these two straight-ahead fighters met in Cloud’s first title defense. The younger Cloud gave more than he received during this crowd-pleasing slugfest that saw power shots falling like rain. It was either man’s fight to win going into the championship rounds. After 12 rounds, the three judges at ringside favored Cloud by identical scores of 116-112.

Cloud won the vacant IBF title from Clinton Woods at the Seminole Hard Rock on Aug. 28, 2009. Woods, always a consummate boxer, had held the IBF crown from 2004 to 2008. He held his own against Cloud, but it wasn’t enough as Cloud won the decision by identical scores of 116-112.

Woods and Johnson are two of only three fighters that have been able to go the distance with the notoriously hard-hitting Cloud.

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Austin vs. Solis on Dec. 17 in Miami release – Page 3

Cloud’s opponent, Fulgencio Zuniga, is a hard-hitting 33-year-old Colombian who has made five previous world championship appearances. In addition, he has faced notable world champions like Daniels Santos, Kelly Pavlik, Lucian Bute and Dennis Inkin. He scored a knockdown over Pavlik when the two met.

Zuniga has proven his power as evidenced by a 72-percent career knockout ratio. His most notable wins came against rugged contender Antwun Echols and against a tough Mexican veteran, Jose Luis Zertuche.

Zuniga has fought in world championship matches at 154 pounds, 160 pounds and 168 pounds. Last year he moved to the 175-pound limit and has notched two wins.

A full undercard will be presented. Those bouts will be announced when the matches have been made.

MIAMI—Don King was welcomed by Miami Mayor Thomas Regalado at a press conference held at Miami’s AmericanAirlines Arena today where King formally announced a WBC heavyweight final elimination bout—with the winner earning the right to face Vitali Klitschko—between 2004 Olympic gold medalist and now undefeated Odlanier “La Sombra Solis (16-0, 12 KOs) and WBC No. 1-ranked Ray “The Rainman Austin (28-4-4, 18 KOs).

“It’s great to have another King in Miami, Don King, Regalado said.

Austin said he plans to make the most of his opportunity.

“I feel blessed to be in this position, the Cleveland native said. “I’m going to bring the rain, and you know what comes with that: the pain.

Solis made it clear that fighting as a professional was always a dream while he lived in Cuba. Now living in Miami, he has arrived where he always wanted to be.

“This match is the key we have been missing, the chance to fight for the heavyweight championship. It’s been a long road. I will not let anyone down.

Undefeated IBF light heavyweight champion Tavoris “Thunder Cloud (21-0, 18 KOs), from Tallahassee, will defend his crown against hard-punching Colombian native Fulgencio Zuniga (24-4-1, 21 KOs).

“I know Zuniga is a puncher, and I am taking him very seriously, Cloud said. “After I’m done with him—which I will do—I’ve got some bigger fish to fry.

Raw Quotes

Ray Austin (WBC No. 1-Ranked Heavyweight): “I feel blessed to be in this position. I’m bringing the rain and you know what comes with that: the pain.

“Don King is the best thing that ever happened to me and boxing. I will make the most of this opportunity.

Odlanier Solis (WBC No. 2-ranked heavyweight and 2004 Cuban Olympic heavyweight gold medalist): “This match is the key we have been missing, the chance to fight for the heavyweight championship. This is what I have been dreaming and working toward since I first picked up a pair of boxing gloves.

“It’s been a long road, and now I’m here. I will not let anyone down.

Ahmet Oner (co-promoter of Odlanier Solis): “It’s great to be working with Don King. I chose Don to present this because he is a great promoter.

“Odlanier Solis was one of the biggest fighters ever in Cuba. I believe he will win this fight with Austin and go on to defeat Vitali Klitschko to become the WBC heavyweight champion. I became a promoter with Solis, so it’s great to see him so close to achieving his dreams.

Tavoris Cloud (Undefeated IBF light heavyweight champion): “This is going to be a great fight and a great event. I know Zuniga is a puncher, and I am taking him very seriously. After I’m done with him—which I will do—I’ve got some bigger fish to fry.

Al Bonanni (Trainer of Tavoris Cloud): “I saw Tavoris for the first time six years ago at Miami Jai-Alai. He was brought in as an opponent, but he won the fight.

“What I saw in him—and you will all see on Dec. 17—is if you hit him, he hits you back harder. He’s aggressive, a real crowd-pleasing fighter.

Mike Marrone (Heavyweight contender who will be fighting in a WBC elimination bout against Darrel Madison): “My trainer Eddie Chambers and I are going to do great things. Vero Beach [Florida] is behind me. Darrel Madison is a good heavyweight like me. His nickname is “King David. What I want him to know is we are developing the best jab in boxing. When we are done with him, his new nickname will be “Burger King.

Guillermo Jones (WBA Cruiserweight Champion): “I work and train hard. I am always hungry like the tiger, and a tiger likes to eat meat. I am ready for my next challenge.

Ricardo Mayorga (Former three-time world champion): “I want people to believe in me again. I have a hunger to be world champion again. I expect to win on Dec. 17.

Selcuk Aydin (Undefeated welterweight): “I am here to support Solis. I have been waiting two years to fight Andre Berto, and it looks like Ahmet Oner and Don King are going to get it done.

Angelo Santana (Undefeated lightweight contender from Cuba): “I am happy to be going back to the ring on Dec. 17. I am happy with the progress in my career, and now it is time for me to move to next level of competition.

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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