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Articles of 2009

Ali And Frazier, Separated By Three Measly Rounds

Frank Lotierzo



It was nice to see a documentary on the Ali-Frazier trilogy shot from the Frazier perspective as was the case in the one presented by HBO this past weekend. Other than referee Carlos Padilla revealing that Muhammad Ali sang a few nursery rhymes to Joe Frazier during the “Thrilla In Manila,” I don't think much else  in the way of news was learned from the piece. Most boxing observers are aware of Frazier's disdain for Ali and his theatrics before all three of their historic bouts. And like all HBO specials and documentaries, the production was terrific.

In full disclosure I must submit that I trained at Frazier's gym as an amateur and professional middleweight circa 1978-82. I befriended Joe's oldest son, Marvis, who happens to be one of the best people I've ever met in my life. Along with that, I've always considered Joe Frazier and Sonny Liston the two most underrated heavyweight champions in boxing history.

During the documentary, “Smokin¹” Joe conveyed how deeply hurt and bothered he was by the rants and cutting insults hurled at him by Muhammad Ali. And it's true that Frazier testified before Congress and President Nixon with the hope of persuading them to re-instate Ali's boxing license. He also lent Ali money during his 43 month exile. It's also a fact that Marvis Frazier bore the brunt of Ali's insults on the schoolyard playground the day after they were made in front of the whole world. However, Frazier isn't totally pure in his actions either, and his self-interest was in play too. Remember, Joe's biggest pay day before he fought Ali in 1971 was slightly less than half a million dollars. He knew Ali represented his lottery ticket ($2.5 million guarantee for their first bout). More importantly, Joe knew if he never fought and defeated Ali, history would view him as a caretaker to the heavyweight title, and not the all-time great he truly was. There's no doubt about it that it was in Frazier's best interest for Ali to return to the ring.

Joe's bitterness, although he may have carried it too long, is justified. Sure, Ali was a showman and drew attention to everything he did, but in the run-up to all three of his fights with Frazier, there was a reason for his sometimes over the top antics. And that reason was Ali knew Joe Frazier had no fear of him whatsoever. It didn't slip past Ali that he couldn't irritate or get under Frazier's skin like he did Sonny Liston, or disrespect him the way he did Ernie Terrell, nor could he intimidate him like he had Cleveland Williams and some other title challengers. Frazier clearly understood that he had the perfect style to give Ali a fit and make it hard on him in the ring, and by 1970 he had that style down pat. In Frazier, Ali was facing a fighter for the first time who he couldn't conquer psychologically before the bell to begin the first round. The fact is, Joe was not con-able.

The thing Frazier struggles with today is Ali's mythic popularity. And don't give me it's that way because of Ali's current physical affliction. Look how popular George Foreman became in his second career imitating Ali in many ways. Imagine Ali with good diction and clarity doing color on HBO Boxing during the years Foreman¹s second act unfolded? Had that been the way history progressed, Ali would be even bigger than he is today. Joe's blinded by his belief, and it's a legitimate one, that he's Ali's equal as a great fighter. It must be frustrating living in Joe's world watching Ali being celebrated on the world stage when he's not. Joe never got the credit he deserves for winning the biggest and most celebrated fight in boxing history on the night of March 8, 1971. Do you think Joe ever goes a day without remembering he won the biggest fight in history, and it was Muhammad Ali who lost it? Unfortunately for Frazier, losing the biggest fight in history turned out to be a blessing for Ali. By him losing to Frazier, it provided Ali with two great fighters and foils to conquer in Joe Frazier and George Foreman during the early to mid-seventies.

As a personality, Ali dwarfs Frazier and every other living athlete, with the possible exception of Michael Jordan, as a legend and icon. Frazier is punished in ways he can't control because of Ali's career transcending boxing. Ali's life inspired conversations throughout the world on war, politics, culture and race. On top of that, he just happened to face and defeat the greatest generation of upper-tier heavyweights in history. Yes, in many ways lady-luck smiled upon Ali more than once or twice. Joe, outside of being an all-time great heavyweight champion, was just another citizen of the world. In a crazy way, just as Frazier can't grasp why Ali is so popular and beloved, Ali never understood the more he denigrated Joe, the worse he made it for himself on fight night.

Separated By Three Rounds

Over the years the Ali-Frazier trilogy has been discussed and debated. The question is, how close were the 41 rounds they fought spanning three fights? I know this will upset some Ali fans, me being one of them, but I live in reality. Had there been no “Thrilla In Manila,” it is Frazier who got the better of Ali during their first two fights encompassing 27 rounds.

Here's Why:

Joe clearly won the first fight 9-6 in rounds. He won the 11th round big, and almost had Ali out. So much so, that Dr. Klieman who was the attending ring physician considered stopping the fight before the start of the 12th round, but was convinced by Ali's interaction with trainer Angelo Dundee that he’d recovered and was fit to continue. In the 15th round Joe floored Ali with a massive left-hook, which Ali had to get up from his grave to finish the fight. Thus, Frazier was the clear winner of fight one via a unanimous decision.

When they met in a rematch 34 months later Ali was in much better shape and Frazier had been dethroned by George Foreman a year earlier almost to the day. Like in the first fight Ali came out fast and hurt Joe in the second round. Referee Tony Perez mistakenly separated them 20 seconds before the bell rang to end the round. However, Joe quickly recovered and would've
survived the round regardless. In fact Ali never had him in trouble again during the next 10 rounds. When the fight concluded Ali had stabbed and grabbed his way through the fight winning a unanimous decision, 7-5 in rounds, thereby giving Frazier the edge 14-13 in rounds overall. But more than that, Frazier won the first fight by a wider margin than Ali did the rematch.

As it has often been said the Manila fight represented the championship of each other for both Frazier and Ali. In truth, it was three fights in one. Ali had the better of it through the first five rounds and Frazier had the better of it through the mid-point of the 11th round. It has been documented that Ali took a terrible beating to his body during the fight, and said it was the closest thing to death he'd ever experienced.

Starting in round 12, finally, Ali's physical size and reach started taking a toll on Joe. With both eyes closing, he was no longer able to get low and inside on Ali, and Frazier became a sitting duck for Ali's suddenly crisp left jabs and lead right hands. In the 13th round an Ali right hand sent Frazier's mouthpiece into the crowd some 10 rows back from ringside. Round 14 saw Ali hit Frazier at will as he couldn't miss a slowed Frazier who no longer held the edge in punching power. This had to cause Frazier's tranier, Eddie Futch great concern. Seeing Joe at center ring confronting Ali who was now fresher and sharper, not to mention carrying the bigger guns, left him no choice but to stop the fight before the start of the 15th and final round.

What Separated Them?

Had there been an earthquake after the 11th round in the Quezon City of the Philippines, Ali and Frazier would have to be considered equal, at least in their head-to-head match up inside the ring. Therefore it wasn't until the last three rounds of their trilogy that Ali's size, speed and reach became too much for Frazier to overcome. That's why I believe they're only separated by three rounds as fighters.

One last thing about the fight in Manila. Anyone who thinks Muhammad Ali would've quit had Eddie Futch allowed Frazier to come out for the 15th round, isn't the most informed boxing person around. If you watch the end of the 14th round, a round Frazier almost went down two or three times, Frazier has to be guided back to his corner by referee Carlos Padilla. Ali walks briskly back to his corner. The idea that Ali or Frazier would ever submit to the other while they still had a heartbeat is completely asinine. Had the Manila fight gone to a 15th round, it would've ended like the final fight between Sugar Ray Robinson and Jake LaMotta. Like Jake, Joe wouldn't have gone down, but he would've endured an unnecessary pummeling and been stopped while on his feet, end of story.

Joe Frazier sees the world more literally than Muhammad Ali– being they were near-equals as fighters, he believes that their recognition and fame should be equal. The inescapable problem for Joe is, Muhammad Ali is a much bigger personality world wide than he is, and that clouds the projection of most fans and people when they think of Frazier and Ali as the great fighters they were.

It doesn't seem right that some recall Frazier's career by hearing Howard Cosell's call of “Down goes Frazier,” and Ali yelling ³It's gonna be a thrilla and a chilla when I get the gorilla in Manila.” Hopefully, one day Joe Frazier will get his due as the great fighter he was.

Joe Frazier won the most celebrated fight in history and Muhammad Ali lost it!


Articles of 2009

UFC 108 Rashad Evans vs. Thiago Silva

David A. Avila



Former champion Rashad Evans meets Brazil’s venerable Thiago Silva in a non-title belt that can lead to a return match with the current champ, but first things first.

Evans (15-1-1) and Silva (14-1) meet in Ultimate Fighting Championship 108 in a light heavyweight bout on Saturday Jan. 2, at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. A win by either fighter could result in a world title bid. The fight card is being shown on pay-per-view television.

Events can change quickly in the Octagon and anybody can beat anybody in the 205-pound weight division. Just ask Silva or Evans.

Silva and Evans are both experienced and can vouch firsthand about the capriciousness of fighting in MMA and especially as a light heavyweight. On one day this man can beat that man and on another day, that man can beat this man. It can make you absolutely daffy.

Evans, 30, is the former UFC light heavyweight world champion who only defended his title on one occasion and lost by vicious knockout to current champion Lyoto Machida of Brazil. It’s the only defeat on his record.

Silva, 27, is a well-rounded MMA fighter from Sao Paolo, Brazil who is versed in jujitsu, Muy Thai and boxing. He can end a fight quickly in a choke hold just as easily as with a kick or a punch. His only loss came to who else: Machida.

Evans and Silva know a win can push open the door to a rematch with current UFC light heavyweight champion Machida.

“A win against Rashad would put me in the track against Lyoto,” said Silva, in a telephone conference call. “That's what – what I want to do.”

When Silva fought Machida the two Brazilians were both undefeated and feared in the MMA world. The fight took place in Las Vegas and with one second remaining in the first round a perfectly timed punch knocked Silva unconscious.

“I was humbled big time, man,” says Silva who fought Machida in January 2009. “I learned a lot from that fight.  I think I can correct the mistakes from that fight, not overlooking anything else right now, but just I want to get the chance to fight him again.”

For Evans it was a different circumstance. The upstate New Yorker held the UFC title and was defending it after stopping then champion Forrest Griffin by knockout. Still, many felt Machida was far too technically versed. Evans was stopped brutally in the second round.

“I've made it a point to not – to not get distracted on what I want to do, because you know Thiago (Silva) is a very hungry fighter,” said Evans who has not fought since losing the title to Machida last May. “My focus is just on Thiago so much.  You know I don't want to overlook him, you know, not even a little bit.”

Dana White, president of UFC, says the winner of this fight could conceivably fight Machida in the near future. Evans and especially Silva are motivated by the open window.

“I learned a lot from that fight. I think I can correct the mistakes from that fight,” says Silva. “Not overlooking anything else right now, but I just want to get the chance to fight him again.”

What a prize. The winner gets to face the man who beat him: Machida.

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Articles of 2009

Ten Boxing Wishes For 2010




As 2009 comes to a close, one reflects on what went well and what went wrong during the year in boxing. There were many highlights. Pacquiao vs. Cotto and Showtime’s Super Six tournament were part of the best that boxing had to offer. But there were some low points too therefore the industry has some work to do in order to keep generating fans. Here are some suggestions for 2010:

10. Better pay per view cards

Paying 40 to 50 bucks to watch the main event gets old real quick. Why do we have to sit through a horrible under-card to get to the main course? It’s like being fed spam appetizers before the Thanksgiving turkey. It seems that the pay per view promoters just don’t get it. Are they watching what they put on or do they only watch the “big fight” as everyone else is slowly being conditioned to do so?

9. Time to make Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. fight

Okay, I understand he’s the son of one of the greatest fighters that ever lived. But he’s had 42 fights against low to mid level competition and has never managed to look spectacular. It’s time to throw the 23 year old out of the nest to see if he can fly. My suggestion is a fight against Sergio Mora or maybe even Yuri Foreman. Neither of these guys can punch. They may outbox Junior but they won’t totally humiliate him.

8. No more ridiculous Pay Per View mismatches

Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Juan Manuel Marquez should’ve never been made. It was a ridiculous fight when it was announced and it was more ridiculous when it took place. Unable to bring Manny Pacquiao to the bargaining table for a third match against Juan Manuel Marquez, someone figured that pairing up the 135 pound champion against a natural 147 pounder like Mayweather would be a great idea. The pay per view generated over a million buys but the fact that millions of people were treated to an incredibly boring mismatch is what’s truly worrisome. I can guarantee you one thing about this card. The sport of boxing lost fans once the show was over and done with. Talk about short term thinking.

7. Chris “The Nightmare” Arreola shows up for a fight in amazing shape

It was painful to see Chris Arreola take a beating from the Ukrainian giant, Vitali Klitscho. The champion certainly earned his “Dr. Ironfist” moniker as he plowed his powerful shots into the former #1 WBC heavyweight contender’s face. He reddened and bloodied the young Mexican American with an assortment of weapons and foot movement seldom seen on a six foot seven inch heavyweight. Arreola was brave and unrelenting in battle. He never stopped coming forward and took chances when he could. His work in the ring at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles wasn’t the problem. Where Arreola let himself down was outside the ring. His unwillingness to condition himself into a finely tuned athlete cost him certain immortality as the first ever heavyweight champion of Mexican descent. Arreola has the heart and skills but it was his mental fortitude that broke down. Anyone who’s followed the Riverside fighter knows that his best weight is somewhere in the 230 pound range. It certainly isn’t at the 252 pounds he registered on the scale at the Staples Center.  Those fifteen to twenty extra pounds might have made all the difference in the world. Maybe he would’ve been a little quicker, maybe he could’ve sustained a faster pace in order to tire out the champion. In his most recent fight against Brian Minto, Arreola weighed in at a career high 263. It looks like “The Nightmare” isn’t willing to change for anyone. At this pace, the only nightmares he’ll be providing will be to the management of Hometown Buffets all across Riverside.  Just kidding “Nightmare”!

6. More respect for the lighter weights

Real boxing fans know that the most exciting fighters in the sport are usually found toiling in weight divisions south of 154 pounds. Pacquiao, Cotto, Juan Manuel Marquez, Edwin Valero, Israel Vazquez, Juan Ma Lopez, Vic Darchinyan, Rafael Marquez and countless others have been the real driving force behind this sport. It’s those great fighters that have made boxing fanatics out of casual fans. The heavyweights may get all the money and glory but it’s the little guys who make the sport shine and it’s time they received greater compensation. It’s dismaying to think that a mediocre heavyweight can make three or four times as much as the great Rafael Marquez.

5. An American Heavyweight champion

Speaking of heavyweights, two Americans tried and failed at dethroning Vitali Klitschko this year. Both Kevin Johnson and Chris Arreola did their best to wrestle the belt away from “Dr. Klitschko” but came up short since they were easily outclassed. What happened to the great American Heavyweight? Where’s our new Joe Frazier or Ali? Even a new Gerry Cooney or a Ken Norton would do at this point. I’ve got a feeling that the only way we’re going to see an American champion is if Klitschko retires. My money is on Arreola. Although undisciplined and rough outside the ring, he’s got tons (no pun intended) of natural talent. He’s without a doubt the most talented American heavyweight on the scene.

4. More ShoBox

The Showtime Cable network gave us the best boxing on TV for the price of a cable television subscription. Their ShoBox series has been a proven hit for Senior VP of Sports Programming Ken Hershman. The concept is simple yet brilliant. Match up two up and comers with great records and let’s see what happens. Sometimes the results are surprising. Many have passed the ShoBox test and went on to bigger and better things. Others have been exposed as having padded records and eventually their careers stall and take a dive.

3. More safety in Mexico so I can attend a show without a gun battle breaking out

Having lived near the Tijuana border all my life I’m dismayed at the war zone that the city has evolved into. Every day there are reports of shootings fueled by the drug war trade. Believe it or not, there was a time when Tijuana was safe and most wouldn’t have thought twice about crossing the border for some seafood and nightlife. No more. Having covered several boxing cards on Revolucion Avenue many years ago, I got a taste of just how important the sport is to Mexican fans. It’s also important to me but not that important. For now I’ll stick to covering shows at the Pechanga Casino and in the less dangerous city of L.A. I never thought I’d say that.

2. Pac Man vs. Mayweather

This is the fight everyone wants to see. Seeing how Mayweather dominated Pac Man’s arch enemy, Juan Manuel Marquez, you have to wonder if the Filipino can handle Lil’ Floyd’s speed and size. One thing is for sure, betting against Pacquiao doesn’t usually work out for me. It never has. There’s no future in it. So if the fight gets done it’s Pacquiao by TKO in ten.

1. And finally

One final wish is reserved for all the readers of I wish you all a healthy and happy 2010. Thank you for your continued loyalty to the site. It’s very much appreciated.

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Articles of 2009

A Very Special New Year's Day Column




It has been just over four months since Nick Charles, the play-by-play announcer for Shobox: The New Generation, was diagnosed with stage IV bladder cancer and forced to take a medical hiatus from the monthly show that has aired since 2001.

Since then he has undergone grueling chemotherapy treatments that have resulted in him losing all of his hair as he forces himself to live as normal of a life as possible. Through sheer force of will, as well as the strength and support that he receives from his wonderfully loving family and his strong Christian faith, the 63-year-old Charles has managed to keep his weight up while not falling prey to the always lingering threats of depression, cynicism and negativity.

If one was unaware that he was battling such an insidious disease, you’d never know from talking on the phone to him that he has been to hell and back. He has lost none of the inspiring energy that has endeared him to members of the boxing community and legions of worldwide viewers.

“I’m doing great,” Charles said during a telephone conversation on December 30th. “I’ve been off the chemo for a month, and the doctors have told me that I’m 80 percent in remission. I’m going to see them again in three months. It may come back, but if it takes one year, or two years, or however long, I’m going to make the most of the good time.”

As physically and emotionally wrenching as the grim diagnosis and subsequent treatment has been, even for someone as perpetually positive as Charles, the longtime announcer said a lot of good things have come from it.

Having been married three times, Charles is the father of four children: Jason, 38, Melissa, 34, Charlotte, 22, and Giovanna, 3 ½.

While Charles is not big on regrets, he is the first to admit that he wasn’t always there for his older children. For many years he traveled the world as a CNN correspondent, often putting the demands of his career above all else, including those closest to him. Nowhere was the strain more evident than in his relationship with Melissa.

Having been divorced from Melissa’s mother since 1977, Charles said his relationship with that daughter has been especially “hot and cold, all of our lives.”

His illness has enabled them to forge a relationship that has been “based on a massive amount of forgiveness and understanding.”

“This has had a tremendous healing effect on both of us,” said Charles. “My illness has had a fortifying effect on a lot of things, the most important of which is my relationships with my family.”

That also includes his first wife, with whom he has had an often acrimonious relationship over the past three decades.

“It took a long time for the scab to become a scar, but we had lunch one day and it was so great to once again see the gentle, soft sides of each other,” he explained. “The whole divorce process creates a hardness that doesn’t always go away.”

Charles is also the grandfather to three children, some of whom are about the same age as his youngest daughter. He jokes that he has a “nuclear 21st century family” because of the similar ages of two generations of children. One of the hardest things for him has been the realization that he can’t always play with them in manner in which he would like.

“The hemoglobin is the fuel in your tank, so when it’s low you can’t will yourself to do things no matter how much you want to,” said Charles. “You can’t just sleep it off or work through it. I don’t want the kids to wonder why I can’t play in the backyard with them, or kick a soccer ball, or throw them in the air.”

Particularly difficult is when Giovanna reminds her father of how handsome he is, but then innocently asks him what happened to his hair, eyebrows and lashes.

“You try to keep things on a need to know basis, which is not easy when dealing with curious kids,” said Charles.

While Charles might look like the kind of guy that things have often come easy to, the reality is that his beginnings were far from auspicious. But, he says, his often challenging Chicago childhood blessed him with the steely resolve that has helped him so much during the arduous journey he is now on.

“I had it pretty rough growing up,” he explained. “I remember the lights and the heat being shut off and eating mustard sandwiches. I went to work at 13 and always had insecurities about the future. But I always expected and saw the best in people, so when I got sick, never once did I say 'Why me?”

Since taking a leave of absence from Shobox, the outpouring of support from the boxing community has warmed Charles’s heart. For a guy that is battling for his life, he actually considers himself fortunate to be surrounded by so much goodness in both his personal and professional lives.

“I always hear that boxing people are ruthless, but I couldn’t disagree more,” said Charles. “I’ve probably received about 1,000 e-mails, and people are always following in sending their best wishes. From the relatively unknown people in boxing to many of the more famous people, there has been an outpouring of true affection.”

Charles said that the Top Rank organization has been exceedingly kind and gracious. He was touched beyond description when he learned that officials in Oklahoma got special permission to have a seamstress sew “Keep Fighting Nick” onto their sleeves. He chokes up when talking about cut man Stitch Duran giving up an endorsement opportunity so he could put Charles’s name on his outfit. He never tires of hearing shout-outs from fighters on television.

Charles has always been a people person with an inordinate faith in the goodness of his fellow man. Battling this illness has only made his already strong faith in humanity even stronger.

“Adversity is a great teacher, and it really teaches you who your genuine friends are,” said Charles. “I have a lot of friends.”

He also has a remarkable wife, Cory, a CNN producer to whom he has been married for 11 years. She is the daughter of an electrician, a self-made woman who exudes all of the warmth of her native Brooklyn. She has reinforced her husband’s spiritual base by her love, optimism and strength of character.

“If I get down, she reminds me to not get too caught up,” said Charles. “I believe in eternity, and that has put me pretty much at peace.”

More than anything else, Charles wants to get himself back behind a microphone sooner rather than later, and hopefully on Shobox. He is the first to admit that viewers “don’t watch the series to see Nick Charles,” but he is proud of the fact that he was “part of the identity” of such a popular show.

“And people love comeback stories,” added Charles. “That’s the message I’m getting from the people out there.”

In boxing the word “champion” is often overused because it pertains only to winning belts and receiving worldwide recognition for being the best at your craft. The reality is that life’s real champions have other qualities, such as the innate ability to treat people well and always make them feel better about themselves, especially when the recipients of the goodwill are in no position to give them anything back.

By that standard of measure, Charles is as much, if not more of a champion than all of the boxers he has covered during the nine years that Shobox has been on the air.

I know I speak for scores of others when I say, “Happy New Year, Champ. We hope that you are the comeback story of the year in 2010.”

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