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Articles of 2010

Kimball Chronicles: DQ In Detroit-Dirrell Wins After Illegal Blow By Abraham

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DETROIT — Handily leading in their fight, Andre Dirrell handed Arthur Abraham his first defeat when referee Laurence Cole disqualified the German for an intentional foul at 1:13 of the 11th round last night at the Joe Louis Arena. The win in the opening act of Stage Two of Showtime’s World Boxing Classic came after Dirrell, off balance, slipped and fell with his knees tucked beneath him on the canvas, only to have Abraham knock him ass over teakettle with a right hand.

Dirrell remained on the canvas for several frightening and tension-filled moments before the official outcome was announced.  Even as the ringside physicians, Drs. Higham Admed and Peter Samet, attended Dirrell, it was not immediately clear what might have been going through Cole's mind. Despite the flagrant nature of Abraham's foul, members of Dirrell's posse, including his brother Anthony, had by then spilled into the ring and joined a throng. With nearly fifty people in the ring and no decision rendered, a few bottles landed in the ringside seats. It wasn't clear whether they had been thrown by Abraham's disaffected German supporters or by partisans of Dirrell who feared that the Flint native was about to get shafted.

In the end, depite Abraham's protests (“He is not a boxer; he is an actor,” the former IBF champion complained of DIrrell), justice was served. The outcome was fitting not only because of the flagrant, and seemingly deliberate, nature of the foul, but because Dirrell, a 2-1 underdog, had fought the fight of his life before his home-state audience and had so dominated the previously unbeaten Abraham that only a knockout could at that stage have beaten him anyway.

Abraham's game plan, if he had one, seemed curious from the outset. For several rounds he allowed himself to be cuffed around by Dirrell's high-energy attack without offering much in return. Even when Abraham was taking many of the punches with the gloves with which he covered his face, he was plainly absorbing much of the shock from the blows, and on several occasions DIrrell was able to penetrate the shield to land straight down the middle.

For three rounds Abraham never put two punches together, and when he finally did it proved his first undoing. He charged at Dirrell and tried to throw a wild left, but the American simply shoved his arm out of harm's way and came over the top to deck him with a chopping left, scoring what proved to be the first knockdown of Abraham's career.

If Abraham was increasingly frustrated, he pulled out all the stops in his bag of gamesmanship in an effort to slow down the process. When Dirrell opened the sixth with a punch to the midsection, Abraham protested to Cole that he had been hit low, and even though the referee had made no acknowledgement when it happened, he cut Abraham some slack and allowed him time to recover.

By the seventh Abraham had been cut above the right eyelid, and attempted to pick up the action. At this point the real question was whether Dirrell could sustain the same high-energy pace over the final third of the bout, and whether Abraham could summon a reservoir of power with which to turn the tide.

In the ninth round Cole called time and brought the doctors in to check Abraham's cut, and in the tenth Abraham appeared to have scored a knockdown when Dirrell went down from a right hand to the face, but Cole ruled that the punch had come when the fighters had their feet entangled and disallowed the knockdown.

A wise man once said “Be careful what you wish for; you might just get it.” Abraham's German promoters had bellowed long and loud when they learned that the Michigan commission intended to use local officials in the Super Six fight, and appeared to have gotten their way when the WBC decided to sanction Dirrell-Abraham as a title eliminator, bringing neutral judges into play. (Only Frank Garza was from Michigan on the international trip that included Anek Hongtongkam of Thailand and Guido Cavelleri of Italy. Even more ominously, they got Cole. Just two weeks earlier, after the WBO had nominated Cole to work the Manny Pacquiao-Joshua Clottey bout, that choice was overruled by Cole's home state commission, owing to his erratic history in big fights.)

Earlier in the bout Dirrell had gone down in the Abraham corner following a shove. Cole had summoned a towel from the Germans and given a quick swipe at mopping up the sweat, but he must have missed some of it.  As Dirrell ducked away from an Abraham punch in the 11th his feet slipped literally out from beneath him, leaving him in the exposed position in which he sat when Abraham uncorked the punch that ended the fight.

It was sweet redemption for Dirrell, once he revived. Having dropped a controversial split decision to Carl Froch in England during Super Six first round action, the American not only had his own back to the wall in the Showtime series, but Abraham with a win could have assumed a commanding position. Now it's a whole new ball game.

Dirrell, the 2004 Olympic bronze medalist, saw his record improve to 19-1 with the biggest win of his career. Abraham, 31-1, may have some good performances left in him before this thing is over, but having watched the way Dirrell undressed him at the Joe, it seems unlikely that his fellow Super Six participants will be intimidated in the future.
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Any lingering suspense over the outcome of Ronald Hearns’ co-featured bout pretty much evaporated the moment well-traveled journeyman Marteze Logan was substituted as the opponent. Once Logan (26-43-2) was cut above the left eye early in the sixth there appeared a sight chance that the crowd might be spared three more minutes of it, but the ringside physician bravely waved the opponent in, and both men finished on their feet. Fighting in the building his father once called home, Hearns fils improved to 24-1 as he swept the cards of judges Scott Dexter, John Parish, and Gerard White in a 60-54 rout.

Fighting outside Europe for the first time, Sauerland Events’ 22 year-old German middleweight Dominick Britsch made an impressive America debut at the JLA, stopping West Virginian Matt Berkshire in less than two rounds. Britsch hammered Berkshire to the canvas with a pair of hard lefts to the body. Berkshire struggled to his feet, but no sooner had referee Ansel Stewart administered his count than the opponent signaled his distress by bending over double, and Stewart stopped it at 1:52 of the second. Britsch is now 18-0, Berkshire 10-2-1.

Lateef Kayode, the undefeated (11-0) Nigerian cruiserweight trained by Freddie Roach, exploded to put Chris Thomas (17-10) down with two big right hands in the fourth. Thomas regained his feet, only to be taken into protective custody by referee Ron Cunningham at 1:43 of the round.

The Showtime audience was at least spared the disconcerting performance of ring announcer Kara Ro, who managed to go through her recitation of the first eight undercard bouts at the Joe without once supplying the scores or identifying the judges. The Michigan Boxing Commission claimed that Ms. Ro was stonewalling the information at the behest of promoter Gary Shaw, who had directed her not to reveal the scoring information.

“I don’t know anything about that,” was Shaw’s non-denial denial. “All I’m trying to do is move the show along.”

Dirrell’s 2004 Athens teammate, the troubled Ron Siler (1-1), also appeared on last night’s card. Fighting for just the second time as a pro (his debut was delayed on several occasions by run-ins with the authorities), Siler was floored by substitute opponent Vincente Alfaro (1-!) in the fourth round on route to dropping a unanimous decision: 39-36 twice (Parish and White) and 38-37 (Dexter).

Detroit super-middle Darryl Cunnningham advanced to 19-2 with a unanimous decision over Illinois veteran Pat Coleman (29-17), with all three judges scoring a 40-36 whitewash, while Detroit-based, Yemen-born middleweight Brian Mihtar (13-1), outpointed Ugandan veteran Robert Kamya (17-11) in another shutout. (60-54, three times).

In earlier action, Detroit middleweight Purnell Gates (18-1) pulled out a split decision in his four-rounder against Grand Rapids journeyman Chris Grays (9-19). Parish (40-36) and White (39-37) scored it for Gates, with Dexter (39-37) favoring Grays.

Keego Harbor (Mich.) heavyweight Rich Power remained unbeaten at 11-0, but he had to climb off the floor following a first-round knockdown by opponent Ray Lopez (1-1) to do it. Once he righted the ship, had trapped Lopez in a neutral corner and was pounding away without resistance when Stewart stopped the bout at 1:06 of the third.

Yet another six-rounder on the card saw undefeated Detroit welter Vernon Parks (20-0) outpoint Colombian Oscar Leon (28-12), 60-53 on all three cards.
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JOE LOUIS ARENA, DETROIT
March 27, 2010

SUPER MIDDLEWEIGHTS: Andre Dirrell, 167 1/2, Flint, Mich DQ over Arthur Abraham, 168, Berlin, Germany . (11)
Darryl Cunningham, 166, Detroit, Mich. dec.  Pat Coleman, 165, Rockford, Ill. (4)

HEAVYWEIGHTS: Rich Power 229, Keego Harbor, Mich. TKO’d Ray Lopez, Holland, Mich. (3)

CRUISERWEIGHTS: Lateef Kayode, 198 1/2, Nigeria TKO’d  Chris Thomas, 193, Chicago, Ill. (4)

MIDDLEWEIGHTS: Ronald Hearns, 158 1/4, Southfield, Mich. dec,  Marteze Logan,  157 3/4m , Covington, Tenn.
Dominick Britsch, 158 1/2, Neckarsulm, Germany TKO’d Matt Berkshire, 158 1/2, Morgantown, W.Va. (2)
Purnell Gates, 156, Grandville, Mich. dec Chris Grays, 160, Grand Rapids, Mich. (4)
Brian Mihtar, 157, Sanaa, Yemen dec. Robert Kamya, 156, Kampala, Uganda (6)

WELTERWEIGHTS:  Vernon Paris, 140, Detroit dec. Oscar Leon, 144 3/4, Cartagena, Colombia (6)

JUNIOR FEATHERWEIGHTS: Vincente Alfaro, 121, Minneapolis, Minn. dec, Ron Siler, 121, Cincinnati, Ohio (4)

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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