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Articles of 2010

MEMORIES WITH MLADINICH: Randy Neumann

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Former heavyweight contenders Randy Neumann and Chuck Wepner split the first two of their three fights, both of which had the New Jersey State heavyweight title on the line.

Neumann was from Cliffside Park, the same town that spawned former light heavyweight champion Gus Lesnevich. Wepner, who hailed from Bayonne, was nicknamed the Bayonne Bleeder because of the prodigious amount of blood that he shed in nearly all of his fights.

In the rubber match, which was held at Madison Square Garden in March 1974, Neumann suffered a severe gash from a clash of heads. When the referee stopped the fight in the sixth round, Wepner, who incorrectly assumed that it was his blood that was causing the stoppage, pleaded with the referee for a little more time.

Wepner was as shocked as anyone when he realized the fight was being stopped because the other guy was bleeding. That was indeed a rarity.

“It was probably the only time in history that one of Chuck’s fights was stopped because of someone else’s blood,” said the now 61-year-old Neumann, who attended the holiday luncheon hosted by the Veteran Boxers Association, Ring 8, in New York, on January 10.

Neumann regrouped from that loss by going on the road, winning five fights in a row in the Bahamas (twice), Milwaukee, Orlando, and London. Wepner, on the other hand, got a much bigger prize. A year later he challenged Muhammad Ali for the heavyweight title. Not only did he garner a $100,000 payday, he became the prototype for Sylvester Stallone’s “Rocky” character.

In December 1975, Neumann fought then undefeated Olympian Duane Bobick at MSG. Had he won, he too would have earned a shot at Ali. It was the eighth fight of the year for Neumann, and he was stopped because he says he “was knocked down too many times in the fourth round.”

During a career that lasted from 1969 to 1977, Neumann compiled a record of 31-7 (11 KOS). He won decisions over Jimmy Young and Boone Kirkman, but incurred high-profile losses to Bobick and Jerry Quarry.

Known as a smooth stylist more than a knockout puncher, he said he gave “boxing lessons” to both Young and Kirkman, and was beating Quarry until he was purposely hit low. After that, he could not get back on track and was stopped in the seventh round of their January 1973 fight, also at MSG.

Considering that Neumann had only begun boxing in 1967, in order to maintain fitness while attending college, he had come a long way in a short time. He had been a football player and wrestler in high school, but quickly became enamored of the sweet science.

Neumann was smart enough to realize his boxing career wouldn’t last forever, so he never gave up on his education. By the time graduated from Farleigh Dickinson University in 1975, he was the ninth ranked heavyweight in the world.

After the loss to Bobick, however, he decided to call it quits. In an article he penned for the New York Times on November 20, 1977, he wrote, “I started when I was young. I was 18 and a freshman in college. Now that I’ve finished, at 28, I no longer feel young.”

Not surprisingly, as much as he thought that boxing was out of his system, he was lured back by the opportunity to compete in the newly created cruiserweight division in 1977.

In his only bout in that weight class, he was stopped by Ibar Arrington in five rounds. By this time, Neumann had grown completely disenchanted with the sport. His career high paydays were the $10,000 he made against Quarry, and the same amount he earned for a fight where he had to threaten the promoter after the check bounced the first time he tried to cash it.

“The promoter had an office on the 55th floor of a building, and I told him I’d bounce him out the window if the check bounced again,” said Neumann. “Later on he bragged that I was one of the [few] guys that he actually paid.”

As much as he thought he’d enjoy his post-boxing life, Neumann couldn’t give the sport up altogether. He said he did not want to be a “flesh peddler,” a term he uses to denigrate managers, or a promoter, so he set his sights on becoming a referee.

He called the late John Condon, an MSG executive, who got him the experience he needed and put him into the pro ranks. His success as a referee was almost as meteoric as the success he enjoyed as a boxer.

The first fight that really put him in the public eye was his decisive actions in the Mike Tyson-Carl “The Truth” Williams world heavyweight title fight in July 1989.

While there was some controversy associated with the first round stoppage, mainly because Williams still insists that he should have been allowed to continue, Neumann dismisses all of the hoopla.

“That was an easy one,” he asserted. “The man was concussed. He couldn’t hold his hands up. How do I know that? Because when I let them go, after rubbing them free of debris, they went limp. A lot of referees conduct a personal interview, the ‘how do you feel bullspit.”

Neumann defended his actions in that fight in an article he wrote for the New York Times on July 30, 1989. It was titled “Truth Didn’t Understand the Consequences.”

He was very critical of what he referred to as the sport’s “Dark Ages,” meaning the days in which he toiled as a pro. He lambasted the old practices of corner men dragging fighters to their corner to let them fight another round, using ammonia capsules to revive hurt fighters, a practice a doctor in the article compared to shoving a fork up your nose, and the use of Monsel’s paste, an iron-based compound used to stop bleeding but was also capable of causing blindness if exposed to one’s eyes.

Neumann also said the residue of the paste could leave “rocks” under your skin if not completely removed by a scalpel before sutures were applied to a cut.

Neumann specifically and articulately defended his actions related to The Truth’s condition. “He went down without a parachute reaction; i.e. extending his arms to cushion the fall. He got up clumsily at three, only to fall back again. At six he was unsteadily on his feet leaning on the ropes. Cognizant of all of the evidence of a concussion, I asked him a simple question, ‘How are you?’ Such a question is open-ended. I was not concerned with what he had to say, but how he said it.”

Neumann proved his mettle in that fight, and has been on a whirlwind ever since. He has been the third man in the ring for hundreds of fights, both big and small, in every corner of the globe.

Among the scores of champions he’s officiated are Wladimir Klitschko, Iran Barkley, Buddy McGirt, Pernell Whitaker, Roy Jones Jr., Chris Byrd, John Ruiz and Sven Ottke. There is no sign that he will slow down anytime soon.

In December he officiated the compelling bout between Paul Williams and Sergio Martinez in Atlantic City. The fight was won by Williams, but Neumann thought that Julie Lederman’s score of 114-114 was on the mark.

Neumann said he was exhilarated to be part of such a competitive bout. He’s also glad that Williams is only middleweight, because he said that he had been accidentally hit by him several times during the action.

Over the years he has been impressed with Chris Byrd’s ability to dominate a rough fighter like Andrew Golota, who he admits to having had to work hard to keep the unpredictable Pole under control.

In another Golota fight, against Mike Mollo, Neumann said he was surprised that Mollo, who was taking a dreadful beating, kept egging on his opponent. “I really wanted to tell him to shut up, that he was making things worse for himself, but that was not my place,” he said.

Boxing is not the only passion that the multi-talented Neumann is involved in. A Certified Financial Planner, he is the president of Randy Neumann & Associates, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor based in Paramus, New Jersey.

His syndicated columns on financial matters have appeared in scores of publications, including the New York Times, Forbes, Signature, and Travel & Leisure.

On his web site, it states that his mission is “to assist our clients in achieving their goals and dreams.”

Another person he is assisting these days is his son Patrick, a promising amateur heavyweight who, despite being relatively inexperienced, battled to the finals of last year’s New York City Golden Gloves tournament and also won the Ringside Tournament in St. Louis.

The older Neumann, who is the father of four children, was asked what it’s like to mentor his son in a sport in which he has had no shortage of ambivalence over the years.

“It’s all good stuff,” he said. “It’s like I’m back in the ring myself.”

Check out Neumann’s web site at: www. randyneumann.com

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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