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Articles of 2010

THE TSS TAKEAWAY: Readers' Cleanest, Hardest Shots Post JuanMa, Judah Wins

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Fightwatchers had been through a pretty rough time, almost having to go cold turkey in recent weeks. The fare was meager. But Saturday night, we got our dose, and then some.

The Puerto Rican vs Mexican/Youth vs Age battle pitting Juan Manuel Lopez versus Rafaael Marquez didnt disappoint. JuanMa, as is typical, helped make the fight exciting with both his offense, and his defense. His punishment, and the rigors of aging, took him to the win, with Rafa having to go out on his stool, instead of his shield, with an injured wing.

The Fighter of the Night, to many, was Glen Johnson, who looked fresh, fit and fast at 168 pounds, after spending a decade at 175 pounds. At age 41, he is a credit to a superior gene pool, and a clean-living lifestyle. It is mind boggling to know that unlike fellow oldster Bernard Hopkins, who more so confounds kids with ring generalship, Johnson does it with volume and a better work rate. Truly an inspiration for anyone looking to turn back the clock…

And then theres Zab Judah. All are happy that Judah, now 33 years old, seemingly has seen the light, and embraced religion, which seems to have given him a needed focus and serenity. But in the ring, well, that transformation hasnt really taken. Lucas Matthysse, his foe on Saturday, deserves much credit for being a fine pugilist. Read some of the takes on Judah from readers below to better understand what keeps Zab from performing up to his capability. As is typical, we got a solid batch of comments from the best and brightest on the web, the insightful and articulate inhabitants of TSS Universe.

RED: Judging by the numbers, JuanMa dominated Marquez, but true to form, he showed how his vulnerability will keep any solid fighter in the game against him. JuanMas chin has proven to be soft (or at least softer) multiple times. Yet, he still goes for the money punch while leaving his guard open for counters. He counts on his power to end the fight and imposes that power through the raw motion of just dropping bombs looking for his opponents head. No body punching, very little jab set up. Felix Trinidad used to do that. Then, a guy by the name of Hopkins took the bomb away and had his way with him. JuanMa will have to adjust. However, his power is undisputed and if hes able to establish it, even he doesnt blast his opponent in one shot, the punishment hell inflict will catch up. I will say this,…If Rafa Marquez indeed had an injured shoulder BEFORE the fight, he was irresponsible in getting in the ring. That was not fair to him, to JuanMa and certainly not the fans. Hopefully, theyll face each other again next year, although judging by Arums comments, he already has JuanMas proximate future planned out for him.

Mortcola: Zab was in great shape. But he is Zab, and always will be. Fine athleticism and technique, good power and defense, but absolutely no ability to establish or maintain a battle plan, no ability to go out and take the W. So much self-doubt, which turns him into a fighter who postures and then mostly reacts to what the other guy does. Matthysse lost his opportunity by being a plodder, following Zab around. But he still could have taken the decision with different judges. Zab just, as usual, didnt earn it, even if he wins respect again for hanging in while a hungrier fighter tries to take his head off.

Amay@Mort: You dont think Zab won this fight? What did Lucas do the first eight rounds? Nothing. He couldnt land anything, Zab out boxed him handily those rounds, tight defense, controlled distance, used his jab, occasional left hand down the middle, a left uppercut at times. Lucas could not get to Zab and threw hard at the body but Zab was not there or caught most of those on his gloves or elbow. Lucas came on strong at the end but in the end mathematics was in Zabs favor. I think Zab gives Alexander some fits, probably out-boxes him, not sure about Bradley though. And if Zab can get to Khan he knocks him out, but Khan is fast and tall. Lucas did not do enough to win this fight, point blank.

Mortcola@Amay: Its not a robbery in either direction. Judahs skill kept him in the fight. Close fight, which, for me, revealed a lot that is wrong with each guy. Matthysse has lousy footwork, for one thing. And Judah has a lousy trainer, at least as far as tactics, strategy, motivation, and corner advice are concerned. He has always fought like a boy because his Daddy remains the Man, and Zab just seems scared to fail. Which makes him fail. Irony.

Real Talk: Good Fight from Juan Ma and Rafa but if Tony Weeks didnt jump in to take a point JuanMa probably wouldve been seeing stars looking up at the lights. Hes got power but he walks into some mean shots and its a matter of time before he gets KOd. Bob Arum better hurry up and make what ever fight he wants to make happen with this kid. Seems to me like hes regressing, becoming too dependent on his power. Caballero would eat him for breakfast. No way Bob Arum puts him in the ring with him. Gamboa maybe, but not Juan Ma. Love to see Glenn Johnson get what was his and leave it out of the hands of the judges. Hes going to be a tough fight for anybody in the tournament, and Im sure the last thing they wanted to see happen was him advance. I got him beating King Arthur, matter of fact he can beat anybody in the tournament with the pressure and power. Zab got a blessing from the judges, he really needs to start working on leading with the left and then the right hook sometimes to change the gameplan. Looking forward to the rest of the year of boxing. 

DaveB:
Green the Hyena looks the part of a tough boxer but he isnt squat. He kept giving up the side and back of his head by bending low. It wasnt as though Johnson were stepping to his side or behind to deliver rabbit punches. Anybody would have and should have thrown the punches that Johnson threw. Like he said it wasnt personal it was just business. Johnson may wish his friend could advance but Im sure none of us do. Green did nothing to earn anything in this tournament. He has suffered two beatings…and is worthy of nothing. Adios. The Marquez/Lopez fight was very riveting. Lopez seemed to me to be the dominant fighter, although Marquez had his moments. Marquez seemed to be bending over too much at the waist, but Lopez was pushing his head down. Marquez took a beating although you never know when he is going to score with a nice punch or combination when he was hurt. I agree with Antonio Tarver, if Lopez had of invested in some body work he probably would have gotten Marquez out of there. Those hard headed fighters seem to go from body shots. Marquez showed an ability to hurt Lopez but Lopez was a game fighter. It was a great fight. I feel Lopez should move on to other fights now. He is not at a point in his career where he should fight a rematch. There are other more compelling fights for him right now.

Mortcola: Lopez is for real. Still immature in some ways, but what a beautiful puncher! But, by the third I was asking, where is Marquez right hand? Lopez wasnt doing anything to neutralize it, but it wasnt coming. Still, Marquez had him badly hurt, but Weeks took away the flow by choosing that moment to address the lower-priority holding-head-and-hitting, possibly saving Lopez from a KO. Then we find Marquez fought mostly one-handed, and was able to do real damage. Marquez has taken too many shots for my liking, but if they have a rematch and Marquez hasnt aged overnight, I see a two-handed Marquez winning another war if they have a rematch, because Lopez, brave as he is, goes cross-eyed when hit solidly, and RM has the track record of hanging in during the trench warfare.

In Touch: Could not be more happy for Johnson. The man deserves everything he gets. Somebody on this site had made a comment to contradict a thought I shared: My thought was that Johnson would probably beat Green based on the fact that he dominated their sparring on a regular basis. Somebody on the site (dont mean to be ignorant as to who is was, but it was a while ago) said, sparring is not an indication of how the fight will go. I disagreed then and still disagree now. It usually is a good sign. If one fighter has the upper hand over another fighter in a gym on a repeated basis, he has figured out the style to beat him. It is a fact. And sure enough that was proved last night by Johnson.

BrownSugar : What an incredible night of boxing. Im still soaking in the ambient violence left behind in their wake. Fight of The Year bar none. Not many fighters are gifted to truly enjoy what they do like JaunMa..the kid truly lives to perform for his people, I bet hed fight for free. You could tell the end was near when the eighth round resembled the Penalosa fight. But Marquez lived up to the advertisement, he can still hold his head high, stick his chest out and walk tall in the knowledge that hes still a beast (although one whose lost a fang or a claw along the way). Congrats to Green for being in an entertaining fight. If Green could have stayed mobile he could have beaten Johnson like Dawson did in their second fight but Johnson marshaled his remaining strength to attack in bursts whenever Green slowed down. Johnsons legs looked stiff as stilts hardly no give at the knees but he didnt let a little thing like that stop him. Bute didnt seem threatened at ringside. And Zab got a gift. 2 out 3 good fights aint half bad on a Saturday nite…is it now?

FeRoz : Always ready to go all out, come what may, is Juanma beginning to remind any else here of the Ferocious One…. Fernando Vargas? I mean this guy loves to fight, has awesome firepower and alway seems to get clocked. I want to add a few words about his resiliency. It has been great so far but Rogers Mtagwa can barely punch straight on a good day and when he had JML out on his feet he just needed to tap him…but he couldnt. Last night, Rafa had him out again but between Weeks and the fact that Rafa was fighting over his natural weight for the first time, it makes me question whether that Rafa was throwing with the power he normally carries into the ring. In other words, did Juanma just get hurt by a little man.

Mortcola@FeRoz: You said it, dude. Brilliant puncher, JuanMa is; defensively terrible and, sorry, the chin is china. Not the heart, which is fine. But he freezes and shimmies whenever he is hit solidly, which is usually. Rafa IS too small…but still might win a rematch. He fought like a one-handed fighter, and couldnt execute his inside counterpunching game, with his usual accuracy. Weeks and the shoulder won JuanMa that fight. With JuanMas offensive gifts, hell have a fine time of many of his fights – he is even better offensively than Vargas – but the chin and defense will place him on the losing side of some dramatic KOs before long.

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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