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Articles of 2010

Sergio Vaults To TSS Lead In Fighter of the Year Vote, With KO of Williams

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ATLANTIC CITY — With a single punch, a devastating left hook, Sergio Gabriel Martinez retained his world middleweight title, separated arch-rival Paul Williams from his senses, and may well have ended Manny Pacquiao’s stranglehold on Fighter of the Year honors.

A year after dropping a majority decision to Williams in a fight many thought he won, Martinez left no doubt about the rematch, knocking the taller man stone cold just 1:10 into the second round of Saturday night’s card at Boardwalk Hall.

Many had expected the rematch to unfold as cautiously as had its predecessor, but after a frenetic first round (we gave Martinez a slight edge) the two picked up the pace in the second – for as long as it lasted. A minute into the round they threw simultaneous lefts, and suddenly only one man was standing.

“The difference was that I attacked in the second, said Martinez. “I thought if I applied the pressure he might make a mistake.

Mistake? A southpaw, Williams carelessly threw a long, looping, roundhouse punch – one that never arrived. Before it got within six inches of its intended target, Martinez had stepped inside it and turning his head to the side, driven home a left of his own that had his full weight behind it.

Referee Earl Morton counted, although he needn’t have bothered. Before Williams even woke up, Martinez was being paraded around the ring in a gold crown that looked as if it had been appropriated from the local Burger King franchise.

“I knew it was going to be a tough fight, said a rueful Williams. “I got caught with a punch.

Even happier than Martinez may have been promoter Lou DiBella, whose fortunes may also have turned with the punch. Forced by HBO into a rematch neither he or Martinez particularly wanted, both promoter and boxer will now likely find themselves in the drivers seat.

“Pacquiao, Mayweather, and Martinez are the three best fighters in the world, said DiBella, who was probably also correct in noting that the ferocity of Saturday night’s kayo isn’t exactly going to bring prospective opponents swarming to his door.

On the other hand, the emphatic nature of his victory is likely to put Martinez at the head table at the 2011 Boxing Writers Dinner. Pacquiao hasn’t had a bad 2010, but in Joshua Clottey and Antonio Margarito, he beat a couple of guys he was supposed to beat. Martinez, on the other hand, was a big underdog when he beat Kelly Pavlik to win the 160-pound title, and then topped that here Saturday night by punishing the Punisher. If he’s not the Fighter of the Year right now, he’s the leader in the clubhouse. (EDITOR MIKE NOTE: He has my vote.)

* * *
Multiple choice: Fot is:

(a) What Zsolt Erdei and Samson Onyango ostensibly did in the ring for eight rounds in their off-TV co-feature.
(b) A verb used in certain parts of New England to describe the act of passing wind.
(c) Zsolt’s hometown in Hungary.
(d) All of the above.

With a substantial contingent of his countrymen happily chanting (or so our translators inform us, “Let’s go, Firebird! and “We are Hungary from the peanut gallery in the upper regions of Boardwalk Hall, Erdei, the 35 year-old former WBC light-heavyweight and WBO cruiserweight champion, cruised to a one-sided decision over Onyango, his overmatched opponent from Kenya.

Fighting for the first time in a year, the Pride of Fot was initiating what he hopes will be a sustained American campaign, and received mixed reviews on his first outing under DiBella’s promotional colors. Though quick for a light-heavyweight – particularly a Eastern European light-heavyweight — Erdei seemed to disdain defense altogether, relying only on his rapid-fire jab to keep his opponent at bay. The logical extension of this is that when Zsolt stops jabbing, Zsolt gets hit. It happened more than a few times in Saturday’s tuneup against Onyango, and while the Kenyan simply doesn’t pack enough wallop to make Erdei pay a price for his periodic lapses, it is reasonable to suppose that a more accomplished foe probably will.

“I worked out the rust, Zsolt assessed his own performance. “I controlled the fight with my jab, but I was a bit hesitant with the right.

The win, in any case, was Erdei’s 32nd in as many pro fights. The Hungarian won every round (80-72) on the scorecards of Ron McNair and Joseph Pasquale, while John McKaie gave Erdei a round at 79-73. Onyango, who has lost all six of his fights contested outside Africa, is now 20-7 overall.

What was easily the most competitive – and most entertaining – bout on the six-fight undercard saw Philadelphia’s Steve Upsher-Chambers and Bayan Jargal, a Mongolian now domiciled in Virginia, trade leather nonstop for eight furious rounds, with Upsher-Chambers squeaking out a split decision. It was a battle of two talented young welterweights, and there wasn’t a great deal to separate the two. Pasquale favored Jargal 77-75, but was overruled by McNair (78-74) and McKaie (77-75). Upsher-Chambers is now 23-1-1, while Jargal, who absorbed his first professional defeat, is 15-1-3. Both will be heard from again, and if ever a fight cried out for a rematch, it was this one. We’d pay to watch these two go at it again.

Dominican-born Maryland middleweight Fernando Guerrero impressively stopped Mexican veteran Saul Duran four rounds into their scheduled 10-rounder. Guerrrero (20-0) was in complete command throughout, and had Duran on the floor in the second. Guerrero whiffed with a right hook, then came back to nail the Mexican with a roundhouse left to the neck. Guerrero had wobbled his foe with several hard right hooks in the third round, and then in the fourth lashed out to land a four-punch combination with blinding speed. Every punch of the barrage found its target, and Duran (36-18-3) slowly sank to his knees and, clutching the second strand of ring rope, took referee Ricardo Vera’s 10-count at 1:06 of the round. The loss was Duran’s fifth in six fights since 2005, during which time his only win was a decision over 48 year-old Hector Camacho.

The waistband of Tony (The Tiger) Thompson’s trunks bore the legend “WE R ONE. Unfortunately (for the audience, anyway), Paul Marinaccio wer one too, and the matchup of ungainly (and possibly dyslexic) southpaw heavyweights was predictably ugly for the 11 minutes it lasted. Referee David Fields finally rescued the 43 year-old Marinaccio at 2:02 of the fourth, after Thompson had landed a series of unanswered rights to the head of his unresponsive Washington opponent. Thompson (35-2) won his fifth in a row since his 2008 TKO loss to Wladimir Klitschko. The loss was the third on the trot for Marinaccio (24-6-3).

In earlier bouts, Louis del Valle, the reigning New York state featherweight champion, ran his pro mark to 11-0 by stopping Mexican Noe Lopez (6-7) at 1:48 of the third, while in the evening’s opening act, Cleveland’s Willie Nelson (16-0-1) disposed of San Antonio’s Quinton Whitaker (6-8) in less than a round, with Vera stopping it after 2:22.

* * *

AT BOARDWALK HALL
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J.
November 20, 2010

MIDDLEWEIGHTS: Sergio Martinez, 157 ½, Argentina KO’d Paul Williams, 156, Augusta, Ga. (2) (Retains WBC title)

Fernando Guerrero, 159, Salisbury, Md. Dec. Saul Duran, 161 ½, Juarez, Mexico (4)

HEAVYWEIGHTS: Tony Thompson, 250 ½, Washington, D.C. TKO’d Paul Marinaccio, 228, Cary, N.C. (4)

LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHTS: Zsolt Erdei, 175, Fot, Hungary dec. Samson Onyango, 173 ½, Nairobi, Kenya (8)

JUNIOR MIDDLEWEIGHTS: Willie Nelson, 149 ½, Cleveland, Ohio TKO’d Quinton Whitaker, 149 ½, San Antonio, Tex. (1)

WELTERWEIGHTS: Steve Upsher-Chambers, 143 ½, Philadelphia, Penn. Dec. Bayan Jargal, 142 ½, Ulan Bator, Mongolia. (8)

JUNIOR LIGHTWEIGHTS: Luis del Valle, 127 ½, Newburgh, N.Y. TKO’d Noe Lopez Jr., 127, Nogales, Mexico (3)

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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