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Articles of 2010

Grinning Goossen

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Dan Goossen seems to be a happy man these days. Not sure if it is because two of his fighters, Paul Williams and Andre Ward are going to be fighting this month, or if he just enjoys this rainy California weather. But the head man of Goossen Tutor Promotions was in a perky mood when I spoke with him over the phone this past weekend.

Our first topic of discussion was Showtime’s decision to sign the highly regarded super middleweight Lucian Bute to a three fight contract, a move that Goossen was very fond of by the way. Perhaps Goossen sees dollar signs in his eyes as he envisions an ultimate showdown between Andre Ward and Lucian Bute, after Ward takes care of business in the Super Six Tournament of course.
The Super Six Boxing Classic started off as a revolutionary concept that pitted six of the best 168 pound fighters against each other in a round robin type of tournament. But after two rounds of action were completed, half of the participants pulled out because of injury. What were left in the tournament were three original contestants and three replacements, and a whole lot of unhappy fight fans. But the most glaring omission from the Super Six from the beginning was the undefeated Lucian Bute, who fought his last three fights on Showtime’s rival network, HBO.

The moment news broke out last week that the Canadian agreed to display his boxing skills on Showtime. The negative energy that was surrounding the Super Six turned into an apparent light at the end of the tunnel. Goossen put his normal promoters twist on the Bute signing but had some interesting things to say about Bute and Andre Ward.

“I think that it is always good to have targeted challenges under one roof, he said. “But it is way too immature to declare Bute to be a potential opponent. He has to take care of business with what he is doing. And we have to take care of business ourselves.

The Goossen side of the business is Andre Ward’s attempt to win the Super Six Tournament, which continues with his November 27th bout against Sakio Bika in Oakland, California. Ward has taken plenty of criticism for being an apparent hometown fighter. He is the only fighter in the Super Six that has fought all of his bouts at home in Oakland. Goossen reminds us that he has an agreement in place between him and the other promoters in the Super Six to have Ward fight his first three fights at home.

But Ward made it clear that he was willing to go on the road and fight outside of California. He was supposed to fight Andre Dirrell, his original opponent on November 27th at a neutral location. The Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas was being discussed. But last month Dirrell officially pulled himself out of the Super Six because a neurological injury and Bika took his place.

With so little time to get a promotion together, Goossen says he did not have many other alternatives but to stay in Oakland for Ward’s fight against Bika.

“The Super Six is a great concept and we love being a part of it. Despite the obstacles it has faced, it will still be a powerful tournament when it is all said and done. But the difference is that when you really get down to the day in and day out as a promoter, you are in essence just promoting an event. When you are promoting you are not thinking about how many points are being built up in the tournament. You are just thinking of a fight, and fighting for the championship. It is great that we are already being guaranteed a position in the semifinals of the Super Six. Having the unfortunate position of Dirrell unable to move forward, has really put us in a unique position.

The potential Ward versus Dirrell clash had boxing fans buzzing for months. But when Dirrell pulled out of the fight and the tournament for that matter, people began to question the legitimacy of Dirrell’s injury. Ward and Dirrell were Olympic teammates in 2004, and thought to be great friends. Therefore the majority of the media and boxing fans alike felt that Dirrell faked his injury so he would not have to throw punches against his friend. I wrote an article last month about the level of friendship between Andre Ward and Andre Dirrell, which is not as strong as people generally believe.

About Dirrell and his inability to fight, Goossen says, “I believe that fighters are the toughest people in the world. It takes a lot for one of the great athletes to take a step back. Andre Dirrell is a very talented fighter. It is a shame that he is unable to perform at this point. No one knows how quickly he could come back, but one would hope that he would.

On Ward fighting in Oakland again, the promoter said, “It is out of my control, (what people say). Andre has a great fan base in Oakland. Because of the circumstances of this fight, we had to make a fairly quick decision. Oakland was a great choice. I’d love to have him fight in Vegas, Atlantic City, or the Staples Center. My goals as much as Andre’s is to have him fight in Staples, Mandalay Bay, or the MGM, I think he could sell them out.“

On the potential of Andre Ward, Goossen said, “Andre Ward is a unique person. A lot of people think he is not going to be marketable without him throwing chairs around and making a fool of himself. I believe he is going to make classy fashionable. I believe he is going to be an athlete that people and fans from not only boxing, but other sports try to emulate. I think it is great that we have such a great athlete, with a good foundation, and he just happens to be one of the baddest asses on the planet.

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SAN LEANDRO, Calif. (Nov. 9, 2010) – Andre “S.O.G. Ward met with members of the local Bay Area press on Tuesday to discuss defending his World Boxing Association (WBA) super middleweight championship a second time against tough world contender Sakio “The Scorpion Bika (28-4-2, 19 KOs) of Sydney, Australia, via Douala, Cameroon, on Saturday, Nov. 27, live on SHOWTIME.

“Mentally, I was preparing to fight Andre Dirrell, said Ward who also met with his fans, mingling and signing autographs from Ricky’s Sports Theatre and Grill. “It was never our intention to not partake in the fight with Dirrell. But when it came down to the training we didnt have to make a lot of adjustments because we hadnt begun camp yet.

With a berth in the semifinals of the SHOWTIME Super Six World Boxing Classic already secured, Ward will return home to the Oracle Arena in Oakland where he has fought and won three of his last four fights.

The World Championship night of boxing will begin at 4 p.m. featuring undefeated Jr. middleweight and 2008 US Olympian Javier Molina (4-0, 4 KOs), Sacramento’s undefeated lightweight Stan Martyniouk (10-0, 1KO), Houston’s power-punching Cornelius White (15-0, 14 KOs), plus four other bouts with the main event featuring Oakland’s finest starting at approximately 7 p.m.

Tickets are priced at $150, $75 and $35 are on sale now at the Oracle Box Office or visit www.coliseum.com or www.ticketmaster.com.

Goossen Tutor Promotions and TNT Boxing are promoting this night of World Championship boxing, with the championship bout in association with Golden Boy Promotions, the promoter for Bika.

Here’s what Ward and his promoter Dan Goossen had to say on Tuesday.

ANDRE WARD:

There have been many twists and turns but we are still here and ready for our next opponent.

We have a good plan we started out on the tournament and we plan to see it through.

On whether Ward gets frustrated with the delays in the SSWBC Tournament:

I sometimes get a little impatient because I want it to move forward. It gets frustrating but SHOWTIME and Goossen Tutor Promotions keep working to continue with the tournament and I have to recognize and applause their perseverance.

His plan against Bika:

I am going to do what I do except a little bit better. Sakio has never been stopped. It would be great to get a stoppage in this fight.

Bika will come full steam ahead with wild punches. I am going to continue to do what I do and that is a little bit of everything. Just like when I fought (Allan) Green. We had a plan to fight on the inside but it ended up being a closed combat and I had to adjust. With Bika, depending on what he does Ill know how to adjust and what I need to do.

Im not going to call him (Bika) a dirty fighter but he tends to get frustrated and react. I know to expect that.

On whether or not Ward believes Bika to be the same fighter as when he fought Lucian Bute:

“Sakio Bika is the same fighter as when he fought Lucian Bute. His fighting style has awarded him a lot of merit and respect for his grittiness.

Where Andre Ward believes himself to be as a fighter at 26 years of age:

I have a lot of work to do. I’ve always been in the mind set of striving for more. I can fight a good fight and then get a call from Virgil (Hunter) telling me that I did good but I can do more. Its good that there is always room to do more — its good because it keeps me striving. The best is yet to come.

DAN GOOSSEN:

Its all about what Ward does. He puts in the work and is one of the hardest working fighters that Ive had and Ive had some hard working fighters!

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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PacquiaoClottey_Booth_6

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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