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Articles of 2010

Brandon Rios (Boo) Gets TKO-5 Win In PPV Opener; Jones, Rigo Also Get Ws

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In the final undercard bout before the main event, Phillys Mike Jones tangled with Jesus Soto-Karass in a welterweight scrap.

Jones was looking to send a message, take himself to the next level, into the mix with the top dogs at welter. It didnt happen that way; Jones showed himself to still be more of a bottom half of the 147 pound top 20 type, rather than the top. No shame in that, hes no slouch, but still has some holes to patch.

After ten rounds of solid action, the up no comer and the gatekeeper waited for the scorecards, including one from the esteemed Gale (Im Not A Gal, Im A BOY) Van Hoy: he saw it 94-94, while the other less notorious arbiters saw it 95-94, 97-93, for Jones.

He did outland the loser 258 to 141, so if youre a stathead, youll wonder why Boy Van Hoy saw a draw. Relax; it was close, and not another prototypeTexas screwup.

The 23 year old Jones (22-0 entering; NABO, NABA welter champion) was 145 1/2 pounds, while the 28-year-old S-K (24-2-3 coming in; from Mexico) was 147 pounds.

In the second round, Jones threw one of the longest combos Ive ever seen…it looked like it lasted about six minutes. He landed some, but missed a ton. S-K came out of the fire with a bloody nose, but he pressed forward right at Jones, who has a tendency to wing with his arms. S-K was in Jones face in the third, though blood came from both of his eyes. He had Jones eating on the ropes.

Jones really did seem to punch himself out in the second, trying to go for that flashy KO.

He seemed in danger of getting stopped himself through the middle rounds, but came around in the eighth. The fight was up for grabs in the tenth.

Overall, Jones squares up too much, arm punches too much, backs up straight too much, does commit to the jab and body work, mixes up his punches, has a good heart, and room to improve.

Unbeaten Guillermo Rigondeaux, in just his seventh pro bout, after taking part in about ten thousand amateur bouts, fought for an interim 122 pound belt, against Ricardo Cordoba, who came in with a 37-2 mark.

Well..is fought the right word, considering Rigo spent much of the fight on his unicycle, looking to stay out of harms way? Word choice aside, the judges spoke after 12 snoozy rounds: they saw it 114-112 for Cordoba, 117-109 for Rigo, 114-112 for Rigo.

This split decision win earned about a .05 on the decibel chart for Rigo, as the crowd was too busy trying to slap themselves awake to cheer.

The winner outlanded the loser 126 to 78, but both men had best run to the bank, and cash the check before someone stops payment.

This, the second TV fight of the pay per view show from Dallas, didnt start out all that promising, with both men in countering mode.

The lefty Rigo is trained by Ronnie Shields, who said after the second round, You gotta shoot the uppercut, and then come with the hook.

A right to the body, one in which Rigo invested fully, sent Rico down in the fourth. Would he make it to the fifth? Yes, he would. His trainer Orlando Cuellar told him to keep his elbows close to his body after the round.

Rigo went down, just his glove actually, supposedly for the first time EVER, and that includes in the gym, in the sixth. The shot was a right jab, for the record. In the seventh, Rico was in a new ballgame. He was coming forward, taking it to the Cuban. Rigo was running a whole bunch in the eighth, and Rico got sick of it. He ran more in the ninth, to the crowds displeasure. You moving too much now, Shields told Rigo. He asked him to be more aggressive, believing he could stop Rico. Shields told Rigo to win the last round, unsure of what the judges might be seeing, before the 12th. What the judges and we were seeing was a guy, in Running Man Rigo, who needs to overhaul his strategies and tactics if he wants to be a star.

Classy quipster Brandon Rios went the Floyd Mayweather route, and got himself a weight advantage against Omri Lowther in the opening bout on the Pacquiao-Margarito pay per view broadcast on Saturday night. The Kansas born Californian, who made news in a not good way when he mocked Freddie Roaches Parkinsons on video, weighed 140 pounds for a 138 pound catchweight. Hell pay $5,000 to Lowther for the two extra pounds. He looked just fine in the ring, as he stalked Lowther, who did score periodically with some left hooks that didnt seem to bother Rios.

Rios grinned more broadly after every round. After the fourth, there was some talk from his corner that Lowther might say no mas, but he went out for the fifth. He moved, but wasn;t quick or smooth enough to get enough distance from Rios to slip hard shots. Rios is like a bad recurrent dream; hes in your face, again and again and again, and leaves you shaken. Analyst Manny Steward thought his corner should not have let his man out for the round, and just then, ref Raul Caiz saw enough. His head was snapping back, and his legs were getting more and more flimsy.

SPEEDBAG Freddie Roach wanted to make Antonio Margarito shave his beard, but when he brought it up to Pacquiao, saying hed get the Texas commission make him shave, Manny said forget it. Classy Pacman, as always.

—Margarito weighed 165 today, after making 150 yesterday, while Manny is 148, after hitting 144.6.

—We saw Freddie Roach watching Robert Garcia wrapping Antonio Margaritos hands in the Mexicans dressing room. He didnt send a stand in to play the scrutinizer, nossir.

—Steward noted that both wrappers were putting tape right onto skin, rather than over gauze. Most places, he said, that isnt allowed. We saw Pacquaio interrupt Miguel Diaz, who was wrapping Pacman, and take a piece of tape off. Was it the right move to have Freddie in Tonys room, instead of wrapping Manny? Indeed, Manny was doing the job himself when the crew checked backed after the eighth round of the Rigo-Rico bout.

—Team Margarito didnt like the looks of Mannys wrap, saying that they saw some twisted tape. The commission said it looked fine to them. But trainer Robert Garcia persisted, wondering why his man didnt get a chance to watch the entirety of Mannys wrap session. Analyst Max Kellerman explained that Garcia said his team didnt see Team Manny roll up one of the twisted tape pieces that gets placed in between the fingers. Roach said that Team Margarito had a person watching, and it was their fault if they didnt see the twistup. Then, Roach said that he believes Margarito ingested ephedra orally, ephedra being a banned substance in Texas for fighters. He asked for a urine test, pre fight. The commission said that the urine test would occur after the bout, as per usual. Roach said the ephedra would be out of his system. The two beefs were tabled, so the fight could go on. Viewers saw a Margarito team member empty two packages of powder into a cup, and Lampley said he saw Tony sipping from a cup, presumably the same cup. HBO was trying to get the name of the powdered product as Jones and Soto-Karass battled.

Kellerman said the substance was HydroxyCut, which he said contains ephedra. Then it was said that Margarito drank a few cups of coffee, which Steward said was a no-no in most jurisdictions. Then, it was put forth that perhaps the paper packages torn open, from which the powder came, might be packages of Splenda, not a banned substance.

Kellerman during the eighth of the Jones-S-K, said he had the last word on the ephedra charge. He said a Pacman team member said he piped up when a Margarito team member offered Tony HydroxyCut. A doctor present, Max said, said it was up to Tony if he wanted to take it, while acknowledging that ephedra is a banned substance. Team Pacman didnt get that reasoning. The HydroxyCut went unsipped, as far as the Pacman watcher knew…Stay tuned for more on Wrap Flap 2, and the HydroxyCut Affair.

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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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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