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Articles of 2010

TSS TAKEAWAY: Readers' Cleanest, Hardest Shots Post Marquez, Ward Wins

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It as quite fitting that on Thanksgiving weekend, as so many fortunate souls in the US added another inch on to their waistline, as they tucked into a plethora of leftover goodies from the holiday, us boxing fans enjoyed an embarrassment of riches on the tube.

The premium cablers offered up dueling cards, with HBO getting the nod, with their presentation of the masterful Mexican, Juan Manuel Marquez, who had to work his tail off to shoot down the challenge of the inspired Aussie, Michael Katsidis. They got an extra couple of points for showing Jason Litzaus shocker UD over Celestino Caballero, while fans of the brutal KO had their mouths watering at Andre Bertos perfect putdown of overmatched Freddy Hernandez.

No offense to Showtime…its not like they served up a bone dry turkey, lumpy gravy and burned crescent rolls. You had to admire Carl Frochs precise work against Arthur Abraham, who looked like he was in a tryptophan coma in the Super Six showdown. Andre Ward didnt leap up the P4P ladder with his win over mauling brawler Sakio Bika, but the revelation that his left index finger was busted going in to the bout helps us understand why he didnt use his jab to keep the Cameroonian from mugging him, round after round.

TSS Universe weighed in, with their typical salient points, offering the take of the average ultra informed Joe, and shared their thoughts on JMMs outing, the prospects for a third tangle with Pacquiao and much, much more. With a month to go in the year 2010, its looking like reader Brownsugar is out in front of the pack for TSS Reader of the Year, by the way. This is the top 12, in honor of the number of pieces of pecan and apple pie Ive eaten since Thursday.

12) Isaiah: I know one thing. Just because Andre Berto destroys a bum with a pretty record does not mean he beats Manny Pacquiao, but I still want to see that fight. Bertos youth, speed and slick style just may give Manny enough problems to wake him up out of this trance of beating on slow moving, coming forward giants. To be noted though, Miguel Cotto was and still is a good win no matter how you slice it and the size difference between Manny and Clottey or Margarito was unreal, but now its time for a whole new set of problems that Mannys not used to from Berto. Of course, only an idiot would say Juan Manuel Marquez isnt worthy for a 3rd fight, especially after that throwdown with Katsidis, but if that happens, it better be at 140 pounds and not a pound higher or Manny would be a COWARD for doing that to Juan. Dont listen to Freddie Roach, Manny! Dont pull a Floyd Mayweather! If you fight Marquez again, you fight him like a man at junior welterweight where there wouldnt be a big advantage for either one of you! Manhoods on the line! Shut Juan up in a FAIR fight, Juan more time! LOL!

11) Leo: Seriously, I dont want to see Marquez fighting Pacquiao at this stage. Pacquiao will seriously hurt JMM and force him into retirement just like ODLH and Hatton. And may even cause irreparable damage to JMM because Im pretty sure the fight will end in a brutal KO. So for the love of God, If you are a true fan of JMM, who really cares about his future and well being, stop this murder-to-be.

10) Brownsugar: So Freddy Hernandez was 29-1?? Against who???. Something is very suspect but it was still a beautiful knock out….if Hernandez had a bigger name I would even call it the KO of the Year. The announcer painted Berto into a corner, making him half-heartedly call out Pacman. But you can tell that Berto really wants Cotto or Mosley first. I dont think Berto is afraid of Pac, but he clearly knows his limitations and wants time to develop and raise his level of confidence. However, Bertos time to step up is overdue. He needs to beat a Mike Jones, or at least a Shane Mosley before he even thinks about Pacman. I think Berto would make an interesting fight against Pac but if they rush it too soon based on the results of the Hernandez fight, then his braintrust is just compromising Bertos best career options for an opportunity to cash out.

9) Oraclem: I think the only reason most people want the third fight is for Pacquiao to put an exclamation point to their rivalry. Marquez is a warrior and skilled gladiator, no doubt about it, but the probability of pulling out a convincing win is on Pacquiao. He has better legs. He has better footwork now as evinced from fighting larger and stronger opponents. Marquez seems flat-footed in his recent fights. I will bet on Pacquiao to seal it off. Yet if the victory happens people will say Marquez is old and it would be different if they are in their primes. Jesus! Pacquiao fought Barrera, Marquez, Morales, twice and thrice, Hatton, Cotto and Margarito in near succession. Compare that to Marquez opponents. In the last analysis, Manny could sleep soundly without thinking about Juan while Marquez can never sleep soundly if Pacquiao is still alive. Nonetheless, I want the fight to happen for lack of better options and drama.

8) #1 PacFan: What amazes me is that many experts can scrutinize Mannys victories by saying he has faced nothing but hard charging guys who lack skills. But when a guy like Marquez faces the same kind of fighter he gets the full praise. Lets be clear here folks, an aggressor is more tailor made for a counter puncher. Aggression vs aggression, one must have to get away from his gameplan and box the aggressor if the other man is stronger. Counterpuncher vs aggression, moreso than often the counterpuncher wins, especially when he is very skilled. Counterpuncher vs counterpuncher, one has to get away from his gameplan as one has to engage. For example, Marquez was force to be the aggressor against Mayweather. The point Im trying to make is that Marquez also has been carefully matched against guys who lack skills boxing wise who just come forward. Has he been scrutinized for it? Absolutely not. Why was he not matched with Soto or Guzman who are the legit #1 contenders in the division?

7) El Maromero@ #1 Pacfan: Im going to disagree with you on this one (partially). I do not feel like Marquez has been carefully matched because he is pretty old now and he is still taking on young strong fighters. Manny is a different story cause he still in his prime and no one could really give him a decent scrap except for Mayweather. The catchweights just give us something to talk about cause he doesnt seem to need it but its like a insurance plan. One thing you must agree on is that JMM has been in better fights since 08.

6) Isaiah: I cant deny that Marquez has earned a 3rd fight with Manny Pacquiao, but if Andre Berto wants to finally step his game up and get whooped, I wont argue with that. Anyway, great performance by the future Hall of Famer, urine gulping, counter punching supreme, light weight champion of the world, Juan Manuel Marquez! If Pacman fights him again, it better be at 140 or bust! Otherwise, I heard a prediction from Nostradumba$$ that Manny would be a cowardly chump to fight Juan at welterweight. You heard it here first!

5) Radam G – HUM! : Who will it be for da Manny sweepstakes? Marquez or Berto – neither! Martinez is FINE for NINE. Let Marquez continue to canvas kiss and whine. Berto is talking about fighting Sugar Shane Mosley and Miguel Cotto first, Obviously for a Pac-thrashing, Berto has no thirst. Holla!

4) The Roast: How am I supposed to sleep at night in a world where not only does Christy Martin get shot and stabbed by her husband, she then has her house broken into while she is in the hospital recovering from said injuries? I have to breathe into a paper bag right now or I will fall on my face like LTP. Get well soon CMD.

3) Mortcola: First, no one is ducking anyone here. A third Pac-JMM fight wasnt gonna fit anyones schedule in the last few years. Sorry you havent gotten the rubber match when you wanted it. Second, Pacs defense has improved dramatically. All aspects of his game have improved. Whatever happens in a rematch, fact is that Pac is a much evolved fighter compared to their first two, not to mention physically at a peak. JMM is a brilliant technician, but he managed to fight on an even level, with moments of domination, against a Pac who is half the fighter, and smaller, compared to what he is now. I wouldnt mind the rematch, but I see it as being a bad whupping for JMM, which the great warrior doesnt need.

2) Brownsugar: MMA, STRIKEFORCE, and OCTAGON fans…. rejoice… you have a reason to come back to boxing, and his name is Andre Ward. Ward channelled the spirit of heavyweight John Ruiz with his jab and grab style of fighting. He also possesses one of the sneakiest elbows in the sport. Ward is widely known for his SOG monicker. But he fought more like an SOB last night in one of the roughest, dirtiest, and grimiest fights Ive ever witnessed on Showtime. It was rougher than a shank fight in Folsom prison. My son and his fiancee literally got up and went into another room to watch Marquez vs Katsidis. But I like the hard ugly fights; they tend to tell you more about a boxers character. Ward demonstrated amazing reflexes and athleticism, while Bika made the most of his title shot opportunity. Theres no doubt that Bika left it all in the ring and his phone will continue to ring when promoters need a solid opponent to flesh out a card. I thought Ward was too tentative in the early going. It seemed like he could have let his hands go a bit more and fought Bika from a distance (like he did with Kessler). But this was excellent preparation for the always dangerous Arthur Abraham. Abraham may have been exposed(again), but all he needs is one clean shot to end a fight. Ward vs AA and Froch vs Johnson… wouldnt miss either for the world.

1) Brownsugar:What an incredible conclusion to a full night of boxing. The best fight was saved for last. From an entertainment standpoint Marquez /Katsidis is contender for FOTY. Both men left a piece of themselves in the ring last night. Katsidis went down like a true Spartan, no complaints, no excuses. I think Larry Merchants unnecessarily invasive question about what Katsidiss recently deceased brother hurt Michael more than all the punches he absorbed from Marquez. Marquez is boxings most accomplished counterpuncher, going after him is like diving into a wood chipper. Not many boxers can thrive under aggression and pressure the way that he does. Marquez should give some thought about his exit plan from boxing, these type of fights do tend to catch up to a fighter in their later years. Pacman has outgrown Marquez and has declared that if the two were to meet, it would have to be at 147. That would be an unnecessary and unfortunate fight for a proud warrior like Marquez.

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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