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Articles of 2009

A Night At The Roxy

Springs Toledo



June 28, 2009. The Cappiello Brothers Boxing and Fitness Gym, located in downtown Brockton is where promoters Rich and Mike Cappiello make their headquarters. Together they provide the backbone of boxing in Massachusetts. It can’t be easy. In these parts, the Sweet Science has been given a standing eight for decades now, but the Cappiellos are proving themselves to be great corner men with an endless supply of smelling salts -and their shows aren’t bad either. There’s a rock in their lineage which may explain their dedication: the Cappiellos are cousins to the Marcianos. “The Showdown at Early Sunset” was hosted at the Roxy, a nightclub located in Boston’s theatre district across the street from the Wang Center, where less sincere spectacles are presented for more than the $40 charged here.

I took my seat a half-hour before fight time. Goody Petronelli went strolling by with a spit bucket. I silently saluted him. Soon the joint was filled from purple wall to purple wall. It was a young crowd, so it got loud. Someone evidently thought it should be louder still because death metal started blaring over the speakers. The chairs were rattling, as was the cochlea of my inner ear.

Philadelphia’s Frankie Trader began the night’s mayhem against unheralded Geraldo Alarcon of Veracruz, Mexico. Both men are twenty-three years old and both had a “4” and a “0” on their respective records, though Alarcon’s “0” comes first in the listing. Trader came sliding out of his corner to showcase his progress as a stylist –he relies on his legs, spins off of left hooks when cornered, and uses elegant combinations. He had the same look on his face as you’d find on a phlebotomist at the nearby Tufts Medical Center. Alarcon was game, but he was a slip late and a jab short until his efforts were arrested when the bout was stopped on cuts in the fourth round. The phlebotomist was jubilant.

This is a common response of victorious boxers, this jubilation. It is not something we see much of in a society that has become well-fed and jaded. And why would we? Progress has seen the government knit giant pillows to cushion our every fall –except for the six foot one. Expressions of uninhibited joy are reserved for those who had everything to lose but didn’t, it is found among those who know famine and see a feast, or who felt the touch of the Reaper and emerged unscathed. We watch the victorious boxer leap or cry for joy and vicariously share it from our seats. Sometimes we see a battered journeyman transform himself into a conqueror, or a great champion grasp a glory reserved for gods. Sometimes we may even get goose bumps.

Death has touched us collectively lately; perhaps the small victories at the Roxy were more poignant because of that. Michael Jackson’s music has been playing all over the city of Boston since his death Thursday. When thirty-four year old heavyweight Phil “Killah” Miller danced into the ring, Jackson’s falsetto accompanied him. Miller skipped merrily around celebrating life and contemplating concussions, and then with a flourish straight from the “Smooth Criminal” video, he spun his sweaty fedora hat into the crowd. The crowd ducked. Miller fought with his hands at waist-length and leaned back as if he were a heavyweight from 1910. Bald, with a belly like a witch’s brew, his stance looked less like Jack Johnson’s and more like James Earl Jones’ portrayal of Jack Johnson in the film “The Great White Hope”. Miller’s punch of choice was an overhand right, which suggested to me that he was restless to end the fight and recommence his authentic self –a dancing machine here to rock with us. His opponent was the unrated Steve “Jigsaw” Jaeger. Jaeger looked willing, but spent four rounds grinding his teeth until Miller mounted an attack. When that happened, Jigsaw would come apart –barreling forward with wildly swinging arms. Miller won a majority decision. At fight’s end, “Don’t Stop til You Get Enough” went blaring again and the victor moon-walked across the ring, gyrated like an unemployable stripper, and proved that his sedated performance in the fight was only to conserve energy for the entertainment.

Another heavyweight bout followed between Rashad Minor (1-1) and Lewis Cotuna (0-0). It was a wild affair until Minor caught Blackwell with a winging left hook; Blackwell fell over with the rigidity of a telephone pole struck by lightning. If there were any abolitionists in the crowd, this was a fight for the file. Boxing purists can also point to it and argue strenuously that professionals, particularly in the heavyweight division where the danger is greater, should not be licensed until they develop a defense with fewer holes than a sieve.

The Russian Andre Nevsky demonstrated real promise as a future mechanic against Philadelphian Roberto Burgess. Both were southpaws though the similarities ended there. Nevsky was loose. Burgess was tight. Nevsky got low and hit the body; Burgess aimed for the head and missed. Nevsky threw combinations on the move; Burgess threw single digits and was stationary. During the first round, a rotund corner man pranced around at ringside chanting “U-S-A, U-S-A!” Nevsky, though entering the ring with a Russian flag unfurled, resides in Clinton, MA. So no one joined the chant; no one, that is, except for a well-lubricated fellow fat man in the fourth row who could barely stand up to show his camaraderie. In the fifth, Nevsky landed a straight left, which hurt. Then he landed four right hooks, which hurt more. Finally, a right hook, left cross combination and the tension left Burgess all at once as he collapsed to the canvas. He got up because Philadelphians never lay down for long. Even their beds are vertical. He got up, but gravity and gravitas in the form of a right hook sent him down again. A towel sailed in. The Russian flag waved triumphant. The Philadelphian got up.

Light middleweights Derek Silveira and Petronelli-trained Antonio Chaves-Fernandez fought a frenetic four rounds with chins up in the air and enthusiastic, though unleveraged shots peculiar to beginners. “Irish” Danny O’Connor, 7-0, arrived like Michael Collins to an IRA rally. O’Connor, a welterweight and southpaw, has a fighting style that is difficult to draw a bead on. He sways to and fro, though not for leverage so much as positioning. He sneaks shots between and around his opponent's guard from the back foot. Canadian Sebastian Hamel (10-20) seemed to have an epiphany during the last twenty-five seconds of the bout, suddenly realizing that O’Connor’s shots didn’t hurt, and so came on royally. It was too little, too late.

The main event was intended to showcase the return of Mike “Machine Gun” Oliver (21-2) who was outgunned in his last two outings and stopped. Oliver, pinned to the ropes by Castulo Gonzalez (9-8) in round two, threw so many punches that I lost count of the rat-a-tat-tats. Castulo did what the old-timers say you should do when you’re dealing with a rapid-fire stylist –make it a dog fight. Unfortunately for Gonzalez, the likelihood of injury increases in dog fights, and he sustained a cut over his right eye. The bout was declared a “no decision” after the cut was ruled the result of an unintentional headbutt at 1:43 of the second round. Oliver swore that his right hand did the damage.  

Two middleweights consecrated the evening and winked at Michael Jackson with a three round Thriller. After this his second bout since the KO loss to Arthur Abraham in Germany, Elvin Ayala (20-3) paused during his post-fight interview and thoughtfully offered that “boxing …is a lifestyle”. Eddie Caminero (5-2) put Ayala to the test. True to his nickname, he dispensed thunder on loan from Thor from the opening bell. The presence of Micky Ward in his corner proved symbolic.

To the roaring crowd it appeared to be a brawl, but they were only half right. The more experienced Ayala was punching hard and often, but with more purpose. Maneuvering behind a mid-range jab, he was investing in the future with body shots. Caminero fought like it was personal, like there’s no such thing as tomorrow or the next round. He’s a hedonist living for the moment. In the second, he proved himself an anarchist too when he nailed Ayala low. The brief respite following that seemed to have been just what Caminero needed to shelve dubious doctrines and take up geometry. Suddenly there’s the hope of Lawrence, MA using angles and delivering short shots to the ribs. Ayala even took a wicked left hook that sent his head halfway down his left arm.

Alas, the rally didn’t last and the rear ends from Lawrence were planted in chairs again while Ayala demonstrated how a well-timed jab can tame any beast, wild or not.

In the third, Caminero went down from a right uppercut. He got up. A left hook, right hand deposited him back to the canvas and the referee stopped the fight. He got up and went down again. He got up again. I couldn’t help but notice that even as his legs gave way, the fire in his eyes said something else. Ayala saw the same thing: “He’s game. He’s a strong guy.” The problem as the victor saw it was that he “tried too hard.” Eddie cut right to the chase: “My balls are too big for my own good.”

Elvin Ayala is now gunning for John Duddy. After that he’s looking for middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik and an eventual rematch with Arthur Abraham. The traffic light on his road back turned green at the Roxy.

But what’s next for the vanquished?

Whenever a new pugilist like Eddie Caminero suffers a knockout, the question is always the same: Can he come back from it? It is a question that probes the mystery of that individual, a mystery that he answers under the garish spotlight of a boxing ring when he is under fire again and his body screams surrender. It looks good for Caminero. His approach to boxing between the ears exceeds his approach between the ropes. For him, it’s therapeutic: “If I have a bad day at work, I come in the gym and take it out on someone, and I don’t get arrested.” He stands straight and looks his interrogators in the eye, accepting his knockout loss as a byproduct of his style. There is no apology, no shame in his parting words:

“It’s a learning experience. I gotta keep myself tighter.”

Such is the truth of optimism. Eddie goes down, he gets up. He won’t allow a foot to get stuck in the mud of past misfortune like so many –he’s looking forward. He will take the experience for what it is, put it in his gym bag, and continue on. Echoes of Theodore Roethke’s “The Waking” go with him:

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near…
I learn by going where I have to go.…..

—Toledo can be contacted at

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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