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Articles of 2010

Jones Promises Hopkins KO; Hopkins Wants Haye-Ruiz Winner

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I'm not all that enthused about the April 3rd Bernard Hopkins-Roy Jones rematch. Judging by the comments readers send us, it seems like many of you share my lack of enthusiasm.

The main reason this one doesn't light the proverbial fire is because it looks to me like Roy Jones' chin has been fatally compromised. In his last bout, a punch from Danny Green, who does have heavy hands, admittedly, to the side or behind the head put Jones on the mat. He got up, and then Green threw about 45 punches against the defenseless legend. The ref halted the bout, and with that sad, shocking stoppage it looked for the world that the world wouldn't be seeing another Hopkins-Jones scrap, 17 years after they first got it on. But then a spin campaign began…Hopkins was eager to save the promotion, which figured to be the best risk/reward proposition, so he went public with the contention that the stoppage wasn't kosher. A vet like Jones, Hopkins said, deserved time to clear his head, and fight back. I heartily disagree, seeing as how Jones simply wasn't adequately defending himself on December 2nd, and was standing on jello legs when the ref interceded.

Then, Jones started a movement to cast doubt on the stop by alleging that Green's handwrap was an illegal weapon, that it it basically functioned as a cast. Skeptics dismiss the claim as sour grapes, as a method to muddy the facts, which are that Jones has been stopped three times since 2004, by Antonio Tarver, Glen Johnson, and Green.

Grudging respect must go out to Jones, because he and Hopkins' lobbying sent me to YouTube, to study the tape, and I must admit, that first heavy right may well have landed behind Jones' head. But all in all, I'm not pumped to pony up dough to see the 45-year-old Hopkins (50-5, 32 KOs), and the 41-year-old Jones (54-6, 40 KOs), and would've greeted this promotion with, if not open arms, then at least semi open arms, were it shown on “free” TV.

This is not to say I'm not still interested in seeing Hopkins perform. A clash with Chad Dawson, for instance, in a legend vs young lion scrap, to see if the Philly technician can tear up another upstart, like he did Kelly Pavlik in 2008, would be salivated over here at TSS. Hopkins-Jones, not so saliva inducing…

Still, a Wednesday conference call featuring the two ultra vets did prove entertaining. Jones chatted with media first.

Jones didn't exactly blow us away with his salesmanship when he implied that a good reason to buy the event would be to reward he and Hopkins for their past performances. He did step it up, though, with a promise to stop Hopkins, who as one of the most skilled defenders of all time, pound for pound, has never been stopped. “It's a stoppage,” Jones predicted. “I'm guaranteed to stop him. I guarantee you, he's going to sleep.”

My eyes and gut tell me Jones' chin, his wiring, has been rendered screwy in the last six or so years. Give the man points for allowing that this is so. Could his chin be broken? “It's very possible,” he said. “And if that's the case and Hopkins is not a big puncher, then it's time to hang it up.”

Jones said he'd consider hanging them up, win or lose, after this tussle. But, he said, he hasn't contemplated losing.

Then Hopkins got on the line. It was basically vintage Bernard. He still stands by the stance that the Green stoppage is suspect, both because the ref stepped in early, and the hand wrap assertion. “Absolutely, the hand wrap (issue) holds water,” said Hopkins, citing his own experience with the issue before his scrap with Felix Trinidad in 2001. He wouldn't bite on the proposal that a win, especially if he stops Roy, would be a Catch 22 scenario, because fight fans will dismiss Jones as a shot fighter entering the ring. Hopkins said his age would mean people would tear down a Jones win, so both fighters, he maintained, are on similar ground.

To anyone dismissive of this ultra-vet vs ultra vet beef, he offered an analogy to a Magic Johnson vs. Michael Jordan one-on-one faceoff. Fair enough..though I offer that any pay per view producer offering that for anything over $1.95 would lose his shirt…

The Golden Boy exec/age defying wizard said that after this fight, he'd like to take on the David Haye-John Ruiz winner. They clash on April 3, and though we know both Klitschkos want a piece of Haye, since Haye, Ruiz and Hopkins all are with Golden Boy, read in between the lines…”I want to fight the winner of that fight,” he said.

Speaking of reading in between the lines, Hopkins railed against unnamed “Mafia” in the sport who are irking him. He wouldn't name names, and asked us to fill in the blanks. These “powerful people,” he said, want to make things happen when they want them to happen, and shouldn't be confused with the bent-nosed, stogie chomping Mafiosis of the 50s and 60s. Wouldn't be prudent for me speculate their identity, but this being a free world, TSS readers can offer their guesses as to who Hopkins is referring to…

I asked Hopkins if he wouldn't like to try his hand at another young gun, in WBC light heavyweight champion Dawson (29-0, 17 KOs), and he couldn't have sounded less amped. An added level of respect attached to his name, he said, doesn't appeal to him. Unless a fight bolsters his legacy and his bank account mightily, it doesn't make sense to book it. Since Dawson isn't a draw, and “hasn't sold out any arena,” a fight with the Connecticut up 'n comer doesn't float his boat. “He's beaten no one of significance,” Hopkins said.

So…as we draw closer to April 3rd, I'm curious. Are you getting any more interested in purchasing this fight? Could it exceed expectations? Do you see yourself giving in at the last minute, and buying the card? If you do, are you afraid that the rumble will in fact be a cautious do-over of their first clash, that their styles are not compatible with a fan-friendly fight? Weigh in!

RELEASE: “The Rivals: Hopkins vs. Jones II,” set for Saturday, April 3 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nev., is promoted by Golden Boy Promotions and Square Ring Promotions and sponsored by Cerveza Tecate and AT&T.  The event will be broadcast live on pay-per-view, for $49.95, beginning at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.  Tickets priced at $750, $500, $300, $200 and $100 are on sale now at all Las Vegas Ticketmaster locations (select Smith's Food and Drug Centers and Ritmo Latino).  Ticket sales are limited to eight (8) per person.  To charge by phone with a major credit card, call Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000.  Tickets are available for purchase at www.mandalaybay.com or www.ticketmaster.com.

— LOS ANGELES (March 24, 2010) – Three exciting televised fights will warm fans up for the long-awaited rematch between future Hall of Famers Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones Jr. “The Rivals: Hopkins vs. Jones II” is scheduled for Saturday, April 3 from the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada and live on pay-per-view.

Heading up this stacked pay-per-view undercard will be a 10-round showdown between talented up and comer Jason Litzau and perennial contender Rocky Juarez for Litzau’s NABF super featherweight title.  Also featured is the return of former Junior Middleweight World Champion Sergio Mora against veteran Calvin Green and unbeaten Ukrainian prospect Ismayl Sillakh steps up to the big time to face 175-pound standout Daniel Judah in another NABF title bout, this time in the light heavyweight division

“The Rivals: Hopkins vs. Jones II,” set for Saturday, April 3 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nev., is promoted by Golden Boy Promotions and Square Ring Promotions and sponsored by Cerveza Tecate, AT&T and Southwest Airlines.  The event will be broadcast live on pay-per-view beginning at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT. 

Tickets priced at $750, $500, $300, $200 and $100 are on sale now at all Las Vegas Ticketmaster locations (select Smith's Food and Drug Centers and Ritmo Latino).  Ticket sales are limited to eight (8) per person.  To charge by phone with a major credit card, call Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000.  Tickets also will be available for purchase at www.mandalaybay.com or www.ticketmaster.com.

26-year old Jason Litzau (26-2, 21 KO’s) first arrived on the world scene  a few years ago with a series of exciting televised performances that captivated fight fans.  These victories led him to a world featherweight title shot against Robert Guerrero in 2008 and though “The American Boy” fell short of victory, he refused to get discouraged.  He has since won three in a row at 130 pounds, leading him to this pivotal April 3 showdown against Rocky Juarez.

One of the top contenders of recent years, 2000 Olympic Silver Medalist Rocky Juarez (28-5-1, 20 KO’s) is returning to the 130-pound weight class after a 2009 return to featherweight and two hard-fought battles with WBA 126-pound champ Chris John.  In Juarez’ last bout at super featherweight, he stopped Jorge Rodrigo Barrios in 11 rounds in September of 2008 and the Houston native plans on picking up where he left off at 130 pounds when he takes on Jason Litzau.

Known to fight fans as “The Latin Snake”, Sergio Mora (21-1-1, 5 KO's) became a household name to millions of fans when he won the first season of the reality series “The Contender” in 2005.  Following the series, he went unbeaten in his next five fights, leading to a shot at the junior middleweight world title which he capitalized on as he won a hard-fought 12-round decision over the late Vernon Forrest.  Three months later, Forrest would win his belt back in an exciting rematch, but the 29-year-old Mora has been eagerly awaiting his return since then, as he’s ready to make his move towards winning a title again in 2010.  Mora will face Baytown, Texas’ Calvin Green (21-4-1, 13 KO’s) who has won three out of his last four bouts and is looking to derail the world title track on which Mora is heading with an upset on April 3.

A gifted amateur standout who is now making huge strides towards professional gold, 25-year-old Ukraine native Ismayl Sillakh (11-0, 10 KO’s) is on the fast track to the top.  Unbeaten as a professional, Sillakh is currently on a seven-fight knockout streak.  One fighter who won’t be intimidated by this impressive record, is Brooklyn southpaw Daniel Judah (23-4-3, 10 KO’s).  Judah has been in with some of the best fighters in the world over the course of his career, including Glen Johnson, Yusaf Mack and Eric Harding, and he will be looking to show the young Sillakh that he has some more tricks up his sleeve on fight night. The Hopkins vs. Jones II pay-per-view telecast begins at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT and has a suggested retail price of $49.95.  The telecast will be available in HD-TV for those viewers who can receive HD.  The main event will begin live immediately following the college basketball semi-finals. For Hopkins vs. Jones II fight week updates, log on to www.goldenboypromotions.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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