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Articles of 2010

BLOWING SMOKE? Ricardo Mayorga Says He Has Found Peace

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Top Boxers Participate in Media Workouts
At Angelo Dundee’s World Famous 5th St. Gym
Supporting Dec. 17 Miami Card at AmericanAirlines Arena

MIAMI—Three of the top boxers appearing on Don King Productions’ Dec. 17 card at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami—Ray Austin, Odlanier Solis and Ricardo Mayorga—participated in media workouts yesterday (Nov. 30) at the famed 5th St. Gym in Miami.

World Boxing Council No. 1-ranked heavyweight contender Ray Austin (28-4-4, 18 KOs) was dismissive of his opponent, Odlanier Solis (16-0, 12 KOs), who never lost a major tournament as an amateur, won gold at the Olympics in 2004 and who remains undefeated as a professional while currently ranked No. 2 by the WBC.

“I don’t see anything about Solis that impresses me, the towering 6-foot-6-inch Austin said while toweling off in the ring. “I’ve seen the guys he has fought, and it looks like they came to lose. It’s going to be different for him when he’s got a man in front of him that’s willing to do anything to win.

“This ain’t amateur boxing, it’s professional boxing. You score points in the amateurs with fast hands. Now Solis is in the big leagues. You’ve got to take it to a new level.

It was clear after Solis entered the ring and began throwing fast, heavy-handed punches that anyone who underestimates this heavyweight does so at their own risk. His longtime promoter, Ahmet Oner of Arenasports Promotion, added fuel to that fire.

“I honestly believe we are looking at the greatest heavyweight in the world right now, and I’ve been with him for his entire professional career, Oner said while Solis went about his ring business in the same fashion a carpenter throws his hammer.

“This is my job and I take it very seriously, Solis said. “I’m not a boxing fan. This is my work. I don’t watch tape on Ray Austin or Vitali Klitschko. I don’t watch any tape of my opponents. I just focus on doing my job to the best of my abilities.

Resolute in the task at hand, Solis added, “I want to knock out Ray Austin on Dec. 17 and then take on Vitali Klitschko on March 17. I am going to show many new things I have learned during this training camp.

Solis was rejoined last year with trainer Pedro Luis Diaz, the man that guided him during one of the more successful amateur careers in boxing history and has also coached 21 Cuban gold medalists in his career. (Diaz treated the media—and Miami Beach onlookers in shorts—to an unusual training regimen whereby both Solis and WBC light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal, whom Diaz is training to fight Bernard Hopkins on Dec. 18, hit the training mitts in the ring at the same time.)

Solis has weighed as much as 271 pounds but has said he expects to be closer to 250 for this fight.

“My weight is not any matter, Solis said. “I am in shape. Look at me. I’m not even breathing hard. I’m comfortable at this weight. I’m not even thinking about weight, only my conditioning.

The always colorful former three-time world champion Ricardo Mayorga participated in a spirited workout before sharing some new insights that indicate he may be taking seriously what could be his last chance to get in line for another title shot.

“I learned a lot in the last two years, Mayorga said of being away from the ring. “I have found peace. On December 17, I will show you a new Mayorga. I give special thanks to Don King and his staff for staying with me.

“I don’t think I will be hurt by my recent two-year layoff. I don’t think it will be an issue. I actually think it has helped me. I’m training very hard and I feel great. We’ve done great work in the gym. I feel strong. I plan to win by knockout.

Mayorga added, “I want to fight at 154 pounds. Cotto, Pacquiao, any of them will do. I can beat the Filipino. If his preference is to fight me, I’m ready. Pacquiao gave an opportunity to Margarito, and he could do the same for me.

(Special Note: Legendary trainer Angelo Dundee, who, with his brother Chris made the 5th St. Gym in Miami Beach one of the most memorable boxing haunts in history, planned to attend these media workouts but suffered a broken hip over the Thanksgiving holiday. Subsequent surgery has him on the mend, and Don King and everyone at Don King Productions wishes to send our best to Angelo—a gem of a person—for a speedy recovery.)

Raw Quotes

Ray Austin (WBC No. 1-Ranked Heavyweight): “This ain’t amateur boxing, it’s professional boxing. You score points in the amateurs with fast hands. Now Solis is in the big leagues. You’ve got to take it to a new level.

“I don’t see anything about Solis that impresses me. I’ve seen the guys he has fought, and it looks like they came to lose. It’s going to be different for him when he’s got a man in front of him that’s willing to do anything to win.

Odlanier Solis (WBC No. 2-ranked heavyweight and 2004 Cuban Olympic heavyweight gold medalist): “My weight is not any matter. I am in shape. Look at me. I’m not even breathing hard. I’m comfortable at this weight. I’m not even thinking about weight, only my conditioning.

“This is my job and I take it very seriously. I’m not a fan. This is my work. I don’t watch tape on Ray Austin or Vitali Klitschko. I don’t watch any tape of my opponents. I just focus on doing my job to the best of my abilities.

“I want to knock out Ray Austin on Dec. 17 and then take on Vitali Klitschko on March 17. I am going to show many new things I have learned during this training camp.

Ahmet Oner (co-promoter of Odlanier Solis): “I honestly believe we are looking at the greatest heavyweight in the world right now, and I’ve been with him for his entire professional career.

Ricardo Mayorga (former three-time world champion now campaigning at middleweight): “I’m training very hard and I feel great. We’ve done great work in the gym. I feel strong. I plan to win by knockout.

“I learned a lot in the last two years. I have found peace. On December 17, I will show you a new Mayorga. I give special thanks to Don King and his staff for staying with me.

“I don’t think I will be hurt by my recent two-year layoff. I don’t think it will be an issue. I actually think it has helped me.

“I want to fight at 154 pounds. Cotto, Pacquiao, any of them will do. I can beat the Filipino. If his preference is to fight me, I’m ready. Pacquiao gave an opportunity to Margarito, and he could do the same for me.

“Everybody knows Cotto is from Puerto Rico. Cotto is nobody for me. I’m not afraid of anyone. I’ll go to Puerto Rico and fight Cotto there.

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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