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Articles of 2004

The End of one of Boxing’s All-Time Greats




This past weekend in Memphis, Tennessee, we saw the conclusion of a Hall-of-Fame career. One of the best prizefighters of this past generation was stopped by a heavy underdog. Oh, wait, you think I'm talking about Roy Jones?

Sorry, but the boxer I'm talking about is one Marcellus Joseph Johnson, known to most of you as Mark 'Too Sharp' Johnson. Johnson came into Saturday night as the reigning WBO jr. bantamweight champion but would get halted in eight rounds by the previously unknown Ivan Hernandez.

It's a shame it had to end this way, long before the bright lights of HBO came on—where Jones would later be knocked cold for the second consecutive fight—Johnson would fight in near anonymity. But perhaps it was appropriate because in his heyday in the mid-to-late 90's, when Johnson was one of the best flyweights you'll ever see, but he was basically a hidden treasure on the west coast at the Great Western Forum.

During that time while smaller fighters like Marco Antonio Barrera, Kevin Kelley and Erik Morales were cashing in on the 'Boxing After Dark' bonanza, for some reason Johnson never broke through that threshold. Instead, many of his sterling performances were on regional telecasts out west, the casual boxing fan would never get to see the best of Mark Johnson.

But what a fighter he was. Although he was a quicksilver southpaw who could be elusive as winning lottery numbers, he chose to bang it out with one tough Mexican after another. Developing a reputation as a smaller version of Roger Mayweather—the original 'Mexican Assassin'—Johnson wore the black hat every time he fought inside the Forum in front of the partisan crowds in Inglewood, California.

Johnson could simply do it all. He was the complete package, but unfortunately flyweights are the migrant workers of boxing. The work is hard, and the pay is meager.

It was once said about Marvin Hagler that he had three strikes against him. One, he was a southpaw. Secondly, he was black. And lastly, he was simply too good for his own sake. Johnson was all this, and he was a 112-pounder to boot.

Johnson was willing to take on all-comers, which he did, but the few marquee names surrounding him didn't reciprocate those same feelings. Both Danny Romero and Johnny Tapia decided to move up in weight instead of fighting him, Michael Carbajal and Ricardo Lopez refused to come up and face him.

Much like a Mike McCallum, Johnson is a fighter who, in many respects, will be judged and defined by who didn't want to face him.

Instead of being involved in big 'small' fights, he was stuck with making one meaningless title defense after another and inevitably, it seemed that complacency and boredom set in. Then would come legal problems stemming from a domestic dispute with his former wife that had him incarcerated for over a year in 2000.

When he became a free man in 2001, he made a run at the bantamweight division—where he would lose two bouts to current 118-pound ruler Rafael Marquez—before settling back in at jr. bantamweight. Time, it seemed, had eroded 'Too Sharp'.

But last August Johnson was tabbed to face Fernando Montiel on HBO for Montiel's WBO title. Johnson was brought in to play the role of the old lion who would soon be the sacrificial lamb to the young, rising Mexican star.

But a funny thing happened. Johnson, using his guile and savvy, somehow hustled Montiel over 12 rounds, winning his third major world title. He would then follow up that performance with an impressive fourth round knockout of Luis Bolano on Showtime. Perhaps, Johnson would finally get his shot at the big time.

But alas, he was still a little guy, which meant that unlike most Saturday Night Live cast members of the past, he would always be a 'Not Ready for Prime Time Player.'

In July, he would struggle in a non-title bout against Paulino Villalobos (who came in with a mark of 23-24-2). But the biggest indignation was that he was on the undercard of Laila Ali—which is akin to 'the Temptations' opening up for Milli Vanilli. It just ain't right.

Then came the fateful day this past weekend. Within a span of seven days, Oscar De La Hoya, Jones and Johnson were knocked out—and maybe out for good in the game of boxing. Three of the best fighters we've seen in recent years, falling like dominoes.

But while De La Hoya's and Jones' losses generated plenty of headlines, Johnson's loss was barely a blip on the radar and something that probably couldn't even be found in the small print in the 'transactions' section.

He was an all-time great, his only downfall was that he wasn't blessed with 30 more pounds.

Articles of 2004

2004 Boxing Pound for Pound List




The final boxing pound-for-pound list of the year for 2004.

1. Bernard Hopkins: The top guy from beginning to end, Hopkins took care of Oscar De La Hoya with a body shot in the biggest fight of 2004. Now, he'll wait for Jermain Taylor to progress a little further, or he'll go the rematch route with Felix Trinidad. Either way, Hopkins stands to earn a lot of money in 2005 and extend that all-time middleweight reign.

2. Floyd Mayweather: How long has it been since we've seen Mayweather in a meaningful fight? Certainly not in 2004, when he outpointed the difficult DeMarcus Corley. He's slated for a January outing against a no-name. Enough stalling, already, “Pretty Boy”. Fight someone we care about (preferably Kostya Tszyu), or you'll lose your #2 position sometime in 2005.

3. Felix Trinidad: “Tito” stormed back with a magnificent knockout of Ricardo Mayorga in 2004, and now hopes to capitalize on it with big money fights. He'd like nothing more than a rematch with his only conqueror, Hopkins, but he may also opt for old nemesis Oscar De La Hoya. Either way, Trinidad is sure to fight a big fight sometime in the coming year.

4. Kostya Tszyu: What a difference one fight makes. As recently as late October, the boxing world was wondering whether Tszyu was even serious about the sport anymore. We found out with a second round demolition of Sharmba Mitchell. And that made the junior welterweight division very attractive. Tszyu has several options now, including Arturo Gatti and Mayweather or even a hop up to welterweight to challenge Cory Spinks. Let's hope one of them happens in 2005.

5. Manny Pacquiao: Pacquiao fought twice in 2004, and what a fight the first one was. His thrilling war with Juan Manuel Marquez was the best brawl of the year, and there is a chance that the two rivals will go at it again in 2005. If not, Pacquiao has a list full of options: Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, etc. Pacquiao will fight one of them in the next year.

6. Marco Antonio Barrera: Another guy thought to be washed up when the year started, Barrera resurrected his career for the second time with a masterful victory over Paulie Ayala and a close decision over rival Erik Morales in another great fight. Barrera is obviously shooting for a return with Pacquiao, who decimated him in November 2003. Barrera says it was an off-night. Hopefully, we'll find out if that was the case.

7. Winky Wright: Winky entered the “superstar” realm in 2004 with a pair of decision victories over Shane Mosley. The first was very impressive, as Wright practically shut Mosley out. The second was closer, but proved once again that Winky was the superior fighter. He'd like a shot at Trinidad or Oscar De La Hoya, but neither will happen. He'd probably be best off shooting for a name like Fernando Vargas or Ricardo Mayorga.

8. Juan Manuel Marquez: After several years on the outside looking in, Marquez is finally in a position to make some money after his courageous performance against Pacquiao. He rose from three first-round knockdowns to wage the fight of his life in a fight that was ruled a draw. It would also be interesting to see Marquez against countrymen Barrera and Erik Morales.

9. Erik Morales: “El Terrible” fought another great fight against Barrera, but, again, it was in a losing cause. He has now lost two of three to his fierce rival, and probably wants nothing to do with him anymore. But, eventually, talk of Barrera-Morales 4 will come up again. In the meantime, Morales could shoot for Pacquiao or Marquez.

10. Glencoffe Johnson: The newest entry, Johnson pumped some life into boxing in 2004 with a pair of upsets of Roy Jones Jr. and Antonio Tarver. Now, he's set to make some really big money in rematches with either, or a shot at old conqueror Hopkins. Either way, Johnson is better than anyone imagined.

11. Jose Luis Castillo: Castillo made some comeback noise of his own in 2004, beating Juan Lazcano for his old vacant title and decisioning Joel Casamayor for another big win. He says he wants Kostya Tszyu next, and if that materializes, boxing fans will be in for a treat. If not, Castillo vs. Diego Corrales is a great fight.

12. Oscar De La Hoya: Hard to erase that picture of De La Hoya grimacing in agony courtesy of a Hopkins shot to the ribs, but the “Golden Boy” had no business fighting at 160 pounds. He should drop down to junior middle or even welterweight again if he has any hope of regaining his past form. But 2005 could be the final year for one of boxing's all-time great attractions.

On the brink: Antonio Tarver, Diego Corrales, James Toney

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Articles of 2004

Heavyweight Joe Mesi Bringing Lawsuit





As reported by the Buffalo News, Joe Mesi is suing the New York State Athletic Commission and the MRI center that conducted tests on the heavyweight boxer after his bout with Vassiliy Jirov. Mesi reportedly suffered brain injuries in the Jirov bout, which has left his boxing status uncertain.

The lawsuit alleges Mesi's medical records were improperly released to the NYSAC. The records, the lawsuit goes on to allege, were then released to the media, prejudicing Mesi's right to have his status reviewed by the appropriate boxing authorities.

The lawsuit does not seek specific monetary damages, as the extent of damages will be affected by whether Mesi is able to resume his career as a leading heavyweight contender.

Mesi hopes to have his status reviewed by the Nevada State Athletic Commission within the coming month. The ruling of the NSAC promises to be key in whether Mesi will be able to resume his boxing career.

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Articles of 2004

The Best in Chicago Boxing Returns





Dominic Pesoli's 8 Count Productions and Bob Arum's Top Rank Incorporated along with Miller Lite presents SOLO BOXEO DE MILLER, THE ARAGON RUMBLE, another installment of The Best in Chicago Boxing on Friday, January 14th, broadcast live internationally as part of Telefutura's Friday night professional boxing series.

The newly remodeled Aragon Ballroom is located at 1106 W. Lawrence Ave. near the corner of Lawrence and Broadway in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood and is easily accessible, just 4 blocks west of Lake Shore Drive and just 4 miles east of the Kennedy expressway. There are three large parking lots located within a 1/2 block of the Aragon Ballroom. Additionally, the Howard Street Blue Line stops just across the street. Doors will open at 6pm with the first bell at 7pm.

Headlining the action packed card is the American debut of super-bantamweight Ricardo “PIOLO” Castillo, 12-2 (6KO's) of Mexicali, Mexico as he squares off in a scheduled ten rounder against WBO Latino Champion, Edel Ruiz, 24-12-3 (13KO's) of Los Mochis, SI, Mexico. Castillo will be accompanied to the ring by his brother, World Lightweight Champion Jose Luis Castillo.

In the co-main event of the evening, one of Chicago's most popular fighters, middleweight “MACHO” Miguel Hernandez, 14-1 (9KO's), battles hard swinging local veteran “MARVELOUS” Shay Mobley, 7-4-1 (2KO's), of One In a Million a scheduled eight rounder.

The huge undercard bouts include;

Carlos Molina vs TBA, six rounds, junior middleweights
Frankie Tafoya vs TBA, four rounds, featherweights
Ottu Holified vs. Allen Medina, four rounds, middleweights
Francisco Rodriguez vs. LaShaun Blair, four rounds, bantamweights
Rita Figueroa vs. Sarina Hayden, four rounds, junior welterweights

Said Dominic Pesoli, President of 8 Count Productions, “it was a terrific evening last month and our fans were thrilled to be at the Aragon to watch David, Speedy and Luciano. David Diaz's fight against Jaime Rangel was a fight people will talk about for a long time. Our commitment to our fans is to make every event of ours better than the last one. This main event is terrific, both guys are very tough Mexicans who won't take a step back.

The fans love Miguel and Mobley figures to be a very tough opponent. Him and David Estrada had a six round war last June at our show. And the undercard showcases a lot of new, younger talent that is coming out of Chicago right now. Tafoya and Holifield have both had very successful beginnings to their careers and Francisco Rodriguez comes with fantastic amateur credentials and David Diaz says he has all the talent to be a great pro.”

“We've got big plans for 2005 and this show should take up right where last months show left off. The huge crowd loved the action last time and I'm sure they'll say the same thing this time.”

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