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Articles of 2009

Breidis Prescott & Amir Khan Fight On Rival Cards

David A. Avila

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Two fighters with history together are fighting one day apart.

On Friday, July 17, at Planet Hollywood Casino and Resort in Las Vegas, Colombia’s Breidis Prescott jumps in the ring to face Miguel Vazquez (24-3, 12 KOs) in the main event of a card featuring several talented Cuban boxers.

On Saturday, July 18, at Manchester, England, Amir Khan vies for his first world title against WBA junior lightweight titleholder Andriy Kotelnik.

History was made when Prescott became the first fighter to beat the talented Khan with a crackling knockout victory. That victory prompted Khan to seek a world-class trainer in Freddie Roach. In the last nine months the talented British fighter has been molded into a more skilled defensive fighter.

The question many fans want to know, especially in England, is when will Khan face Prescott?

It’s clear that there is no rush to make the rematch especially when so much more money can be made once either Khan, Prescott or both hold world titles. That’s when they’ll get back in the ring.

Prescott (21-0, 18 KOs) is not just a one-punch wonder. He has skills to go with that power and hopes to continue his trek toward a world title and a mega rematch with the streaking star Khan.

The Las Vegas fight card also features several talented Cuban fighters including Erislandy Lara (6-0, 4 KOs) facing super tough Darnell Boone (16-11-2). If Lara is not careful he could end up losing to the Ohio fighter who has excellent boxing skills and has been around the ring. I’m surprised they’re making this fight.

Also on the card is Cuban junior featherweight Guillermo Rigondeaux (1-0) against Robert Guillen (4-2-2).

Scheduled to fight is Ghana’s Sharif Bogere, an extremely talented lightweight who could match skills with most fighters in his weight class today.

It’s an excellent fight card.

Meanwhile, on the next day, Khan will be in England.

Thousands of miles away from home Khan has found a second home amid the heat and sunny weather of Southern California.

Khan returns home to England against Ukraine’s Kotelnik (31-2-1, 13 KOs). The world title fight will not be televised but many eyes in the boxing world will be looking for the results.

“I’m really quite comfortable here in California,” said Khan, 22, who began training at the Wild Card Boxing gym in Hollywood last November 2008. “Everything has been brilliant.”

The last time Khan fought he put on a sizzling display of speed, power and determination while dominating Mexico City’s Marco Antonio Barrera. A huge cut on Barrera hampered his ability to keep step with the fleet-footed Brit and ultimately the fight was stopped due to excessive bleeding in the fifth round. The technical decision was awarded to Khan. No arguments.

“I was the bigger, faster stronger fighter and it showed,” said Khan (20-1, 15 KOs) describing his victory over legendary boxer Barrera. “Barrera is a great fighter but he never fought anyone quite like or as tall as me.”

That fight in March was held at the 135-pound lightweight division. When an opportunity arose to move up in weight to fight for the world title, Khan’s team jumped at the opportunity. Now he’s ready for the biggest fight in his young career.

“It’s a massive opportunity,” said Khan, who still has a size advantage at 140 pounds against most other junior welterweights. “I can always move back down.”

It was less than a year ago that Khan’s train to success was slightly derailed by Colombia’s power-punching Prescott. A right hand dropped the lanky British fighter hard but he managed to get back to his feet. Seconds later it was over for good. Khan lost for the first time in his pro career.

“Anybody can get caught,” Khan said of that loss. “You have to learn from that loss.”

Realizing that his defense was leaking, he sought world-renowned trainer Freddie Roach and was accepted as a student. Though it’s only been nine months, the gradual changes in Khan’s style have tightened up the flaws in his fight game.

“Speed and more speed is his best weapon,” said Roach, who also trains Manny Pacquiao and Vanes Martirosyan. “We still have some things to work on in his defense, but he’s getting there.”

Several weeks ago, Argentina’s Marcos Maidana, a former opponent of WBA titleholder Kotelnik, upset number one junior welterweight contender Victor Ortiz at the Staples Center. Both Roach and Khan were in the audience. Maidana barely lost to Kotelnik.

“What I’ve seen of Kotelnik is he’s a basic fighter who knows what to do. He’s not flashy or very fast but he does everything well,” said Roach, who has trained other elite fighters such as Oscar De La Hoya, James Toney and Israel Vazquez. “It’s not going to be easy. Amir has to be careful.”

In the two months of preparation Khan has shown during his sparring that his blinding speed is one weapon often talked about, but his accuracy is another seldom discussed. The former British Olympian can rattle off a four-punch combination before an opponent can even think of returning fire.

“Speed will win this fight,” said Khan.

Roach, who knows a thing or two about speed in a fighter, agrees that Khan’s speed both with hands and feet, can provide the difference in the fight.

“One thing we have to worry about is defense,” said Roach, who regularly adjusts and corrects Khan’s defensive lapses. “One punch can end a fight. But we’re not going to let that happen.”

Back in England the fans are both massively supportive or against him. Either way the boxer of Asian descent will fill the Manchester stadium.

“I’ll be focused,” said Khan eager for his first world title contest. “It’s going to be more of a technical fight. He has a bit of a peek-a-boo style.”

Fights in California

Tachi Palace

Covina’s John Molina (17-0, 13 KOs) meets Mexico’s Sandro Marcos (27-19-2, 23 KOs) in a lightweight contest on Thursday at Tachi Palace in Lemoore. Also on the card is Javier Molina (no relation to John), the 2008 US Olympian. The Commerce-based fighter meets Freddie Cisneros (1-0-1) in a junior welterweight match. The main event features heavyweight Travis Walker (31-2-1, 25 KOs) against Bakersfield’s Manuel Quezada (27-4, 17 KOs).

Corona Fight card

Thompson Boxing Promotions has become a sudden player in world boxing by scouting and signing fighters that others overlook. From WBO junior welterweight titleholder Timothy “Desert Storm” Bradley to IBF bantamweight contender Yonnhy Perez, the Southern California-based company continues to uncover gems in the boxing world.

The newest discovery is Daniel Hernandez of South Gate who only has six pro fights but has shown an exciting style. He was recently signed to a promotional contract by Thompson Promotions and headlines the card at Omega Products International on Friday July 17. Hernandez faces San Diego’s Jovann Jones (9-5) in a six-round bout.

Also on the fight card will be Alberto “The Substitute” Herrera, a schoolteacher by day and a fighter by night, who is the younger brother of fast-rising junior welterweight prospect Mauricio “El Maestro” Herrera. The Riverside teacher opposes San Diego’s Steve Macomber (3-4-1) in a junior middleweight bout.

The fights will be held outdoors. For information call (714) 935-0900.

Redondo Beach

Heavyweight Lance Whitaker (32-5-1, 27 KOs) fights Danny Batchelder (25-6-1, 12 KOs) in the main event in Redondo Beach on Friday July 17. Also expected on the same card will be several heavyweight matches including George Foreman III who is looking for a second win. Foreman had not signed a contract at press time but was in negotiations. For tickets and information call (702) 656-9570.

Roberto “La Amenaza” Garcia (26-2, 19 KOs), who trains in Maywood, Ca., fights Costa Rica’s Jaime Barboza (13-3, 4 KOs) in a junior middleweight contest on Saturday in San Jose, Costa Rica. Garcia is originally from Texas but trains along with Alfredo “Perro” Angulo. The fight card will be shown on www.boxingchannel.com at 6 p.m. Pacific Time. There is no fee to watch the fight card.

Fights on television

Fri. ESPN2, 7 p.m. Breidis Prescott (21-0) vs. Miguel Vazquez (24-3).

Fri. Telemundo, 11:30 p.m., Wilfredo Vazquez (15-0-1) vs. Cecilio Santos (23-10-3).

Sat. Azteca, 10 p.m., Jesus Soto Karass (23-3-3) vs. Alexis Camacho (17-2).

 

 

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Articles of 2009

UFC 108 Rashad Evans vs. Thiago Silva

David A. Avila

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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

A Very Special New Year's Day Column

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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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Articles of 2009

No One Is Leaving This Stage Of Negotiations Looking GOLDEN

George Kimball

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Early in his political career, the young Lyndon Baines Johnson served as a congressional aide to Rep. Richard Kleberg, the wealthy owner of the King Ranch who was elected to seven consecutive terms in the House of Representatives, at least in part because he often ran unopposed.

One year an upstart rival politician we'll call Joe Bob had the temerity to challenge Kleberg in the Democratic primary, resulting in the convocation of the Texas congressman's staff to plot an election strategy. Several ideas were kicked around before Kleberg himself came up with a brainstorm.

“Why don't we start a rumor that he [copulates with] sheep?” proposed the politician.

This was a bit over the top, even for Lyndon Johnson. The future president leapt to his feet and said, incredulously, “But you know Joe Bob don't [copulate with] sheep!”

“Yeah,” replied the congressman, “but watch what happens when the son of a bitch has to stand up and deny it!”

******

Events of the past week or two have seen the Floyd Mayweather camp adopt a similar tactic with regard to Manny Pacquiao.  But if introducing what would appear to be a red-herring issue — the debate over drug-testing procedures — to the negotiating process was intended as a negotiating ploy, it would appear for the moment to have backfired.  The idea might have been to force Pacquiao to go on the defensive, but Pac-Man instead responded with his stock in trade, the counterpunch — in this case the multi-million dollar defamation suit he filed against the Mayweathers, pere et fils,, with the U.S. District Court in Las Vegas on Wednesday.

In boxing even more than in life, you never say never, but you'd have to say that Pacquiao-Mayweather is a dead issue right now, at least in its March 13 incarnation. Bob Arum says Pacquiao is prepared to move along to another opponent, and Mayweather is supposedly looking at Matthew Hatton in England.

We'll believe that when we see it, for at least three reasons: (1) There would hardly seem to be enough money in that one to make it worth Floyd's time, (2) He's going to have to put so much into preparing a defense to this lawsuit that he mightn't have time to train and (3) He'd get a better workout if he stayed in Vegas and boxed one of Uncle Roger's girl opponents.

*****

Colleagues on this site have already done a good job of dissecting this process. Ron Borges is absolutely correct in noting that in the midst of all the posturing that's gone on, you'd be a fool to accept at face value anything coming out of any of the parties' mouths. And Frank Lotierzo is spot on in noting that if you had absolutely no desire to actually get in the ring with Manny Pacquiao but were still looking to save face, you'd do pretty much exactly what Mayweather has done. Which is to say, talk tough while you get others to run interference with a series of actions seemingly calculated to ensure that the fight doesn't come off.

But left almost unscathed in all of this heretofore has been the convoluted role played by Golden Boy — by CEO Richard Schaefer, by the company's namesake Oscar the Blogger, GBP's subsidiary enterprise, The Ring, and at least a few of the lap-dogs and lackeys whose favor GPB has cultivated elsewhere in the media.

In late March of 2008, Shane Mosley and Zab Judah appeared at a New York press conference to announce a fight between them in Las Vegas two months later. As it happened, the BALCO trial had gotten underway out in California that week. That day I sat with Judah and his attorney Richard Shinefield as they explained that they intended to ask that both boxers agree to blood testing in the runup to the fight. Citing Mosley's history with BALCO and its products The Cream and The Clear (which Shane claimed Victor Conte had slipped him when he wasn't looking), Shinefield and Zab, noting that Nevada drug tests were limited to urinalysis, proposed that the supplementary tests be administered by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Want to know what Richard Schaefer's response to that was?

“Whatever tests [the NSAC] wants them to take, we will submit to, but we are not going to do other tests than the Nevada commission requires,” said Schaefer. “The fact is, Shane is not a cheater and he does not need to be treated like one.”

But the fact is that Mosley had a confirmed history as a cheater. Manny Pacquiao does not. Yet in the absence of a scintilla of evidence or probable cause, less than two years later Schaefer was howling that the very integrity of the sport would be at risk unless Pacquiao submitted to precisely the same sort of testing he had rejected for Mosley.

And you thought it was Arum who was famous for saying “Yeah, but yesterday I was lying. Today I'm telling the truth!”

Schaefer, by the way, defended his 180-degree turnabout by saying he is now better educated on the issue. He couldn't resist aiming a harpoon at the media by adding that many sportswriters “don't know the difference between blood and urine testing.”

Don't know how to break this to you, Richard, but sportswriters, who have had to deal with this stuff for the past twenty years, probably know more about drug-testing procedures than any other group you could name.

*****

Now, the reasonable assumption would be that by assuming the role of the point man in this unseemly mess, Schaefer was insulating his boss (De La Hoya) and his fighter (PBF) by keeping their fingerprints off it while he made a fool of himself publicly conducting this snide little campaign.  

And yes, Money would have stayed out of the line of fire had not a two-month old, expletive-filled rant in which he described the Philippines as the world's foremost producer of performance-enhancing drugs not exploded on the internet at the most inopportune moment. That the lawsuit was filed less than 24 hours after “Floyd Meets the Rugged Man” overtook the Tiger Watch probably wasn't a coincidence.

And we're assuming that this Dan Petrocelli, the lawyer who filed Pacquiao's suit, knows what he's doing, because if there were an even one-zillionth chance that somebody could credibly link Manny to PEDs, then it was a pretty dumb thing to do. You could ask Roger Clemens about that.  Clemens' transformation from Hall of Famer-in-waiting to nationwide laughingstock didn't come from the Mitchell Report. It came from his wrongheaded decision to file a lawsuit against Brian McNamee, which in turn threw everything open to the discovery process.

*****

De La Hoya, in the meantime, was playing both sides of the fence. He let Schaefer play Bad Cop as he distanced himself from the negotiating process, but simultaneously was sniping away at Pacquiao from his First Amendment-protected perch as a Ring.com blogger.

“If Pacquiao, the toughest guy on the planet, is afraid of needles and having a few tablespoons of blood drawn from his system, then something is wrong…  I'm just saying that now people have to wonder: 'Why doesn't he want to do this?' Why is [blood testing] such a big deal?' wrote Oscar the Blogger. “A lot of eyebrows have been raised. And this is not good.”

Ask yourself this: Exactly what caused those eyebrows to be raised, other than the innuendo coming straight from Oscar's company?

Providing De La Hoya with a forum from which to dispense propaganda  only begins to illustrate the hopelessly compromised position from which The Ring continues to operate. They might as well give Schaefer a column, too, while they're at it.

Nearly seven months have elapsed since we last visited the Ring/Golden Boy relationship, and at the risk of winding Nigel up, it might be useful here to note that in the midst of last June's discourse, The Ring's editor offered a laundry list of the magazine's covers since the De La Hoya takeover as a demonstration of Golden Boy's restraint.

After listing them, Nigel Collins wrote “that's 28 covers over the course of 21 issues, of which Top Rank had 12 fighters, as opposed to eight for Golden Boy and eight for other promotional entities. Obviously, The Ring has shown no bias to Golden Boy when it comes to magazine covers.”

It had never even been suggested that the conflict of interest extended to the magazine playing favorites in choosing its cover subjects, but since Nigel brought it up it is probably worth noting now that of those eight covers given over to “other promotional entities,” two were of David Haye, whose promoter was properly listed as “Hayemaker,” but who had also signed a promotional deal with Golden Boy in May of 2008. (Just last month GBP issued a release in De La Hoya's name in which it described itself as “Golden Boy Promotions, the United States promoter of World Boxing Association Heavyweight World Champion David Haye.”)

And even more to the point, in four other issues Nigel Collins offered in evidence the cover subject was Floyd Mayweather (Independent), although what has transpired with regard to the Pacquiao fight doesn't make Money look very independent at all, does it?

We don't regularly keep track of these things, but in making sure we didn't misquote  Oscar's Blog we also came across a representation of the January 2010 issue on The Ring's website.  The picture on the cover of the Bible of Boxing is of the Golden Boy himself, and the cover story “De La Hoya: The Retirement Interview.”

Wow! Now there's a hot topic for crusading journalists.

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