A Few More Rounds

BY Tim Graham ON September 22, 2005
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Boxing is coming off a dreadful weekend.

Thursday's colossally tragic death of unseated IBF lightweight champ Leavander Johnson from a brain injury sustained five days earlier against Jesus Chavez punctuated a pathetic week in which three Hall of Fame careers crashed nastily, the only solace being that they at least survived.

Faded ring legends Julio Cesar Chavez, Johnny Tapia and Christy Martin were humbled by lopsided defeats, bleak harbingers for each to retire before something graver than embarrassment befalls them.

Chavez, 43, quit on his stool after going five rounds with Omaha car salesman Grover Wiley in Phoenix. Remember when Chavez lost to pet food salesman Willy Wise six years ago? At this rate he'll be getting knocked out over the phone by telemarketers within a couple years.

Making Chavez's latest loss even more humbling is that his camp tabbed Wiley (his previous three victories coming against pugs with an aggregate record of 48-126-4) after deciding J.C. Stuperstar wasn't in shape enough to fight Craig Weber, the original contracted foe who showed up, was paid his $30,000 purse and returned home.

In front of a lower-than-expected America West Arena crowd of 7,893, Chavez claimed he broke his right hand and refused to come out of his corner for the sixth round. His adios tour apparently ended there. Promoter Bob Arum said Chavez was done, his record to forever stand at 108-6-2.

But Chavez said through a translator afterward that he wanted to fight again. He indicated he didn't want to go out like a chump. He should have thought of that years ago.

Tapia found himself in a similar situation. The 38-year-old former bantamweight champ suffered his first knockout, chopped down by a second-round Sandro Marcos body shot in Chicago.

It was Tapia's third loss in six fights, but it was Marcos' first triumph over an opponent with a winning record since 1997. In fact, Marcos (25-13-2, 21 KOs) had never beaten anyone with more than one career win since 1999, according to www.BoxRec.com.

Marcos hadn't won at all since March 2002. His previous five victories, digging back to 1999, were against fighters with zero wins. Aside from Tapia (55-5-2, 28 KOs), the combined record of his other 24 conquests was 23-40-4, and one of those opponents accounted for 18-14-1 of that.

In other words, Marcos is one of those professional opponents, a guy who fattens up his record on street urchins to qualify him as a respectable B-side opponent for big-name fighters desperate for success.

Tapia's matchmaker should ask to borrow Marcos' Rolodex.

And how disgusted is Lucia Rijker these days? An injury cost her certain fortune because you'd have to assume she would have dissected Martin as easily as Holly Holm did last weekend in Albuquerque.

Rijker's ruptured Achilles tendon canceled her anticipated showdown with Martin, a pay-per-view event scheduled for July 30 and billed as the Million Dollar Lady. The winner would receive $1 million and, more importantly, bragging rights in what fans have viewed for nearly a decade as the greatest dream matchup in the history of women's boxing.

Martin publicly belittled Rijker, suggesting the injury was nothing more than a ruse to cover up her trepidation.

So Martin pompously moved on. The 37-year-old, once a Sports Illustrated cover girl, accepted the fight with Holm, who hadn't scored a victory over an opponent with a winning record in nearly two years. And Martin lost every round.

The combined record of the three burned out stars who lost last weekend: 209-15-6 with 146 KOs.

What are the odds of three future Hall of Famers losing on the same weekend?

PETER PRINCIPLE: The heavyweight division badly needs Samuel Peter to beat Wladimir Klitschko on Saturday night, but what boxing's marquee division could use even more is for Peter to develop into a well-rounded fighter for bigger those moments that could lie ahead.

The bout will be a crossroads moment for each man. Klitschko is running out of chances, yet he still represents the young Peter's first legitimate opportunity to prove he has what it takes.

Peter is power personified. He can end a career with one punch, as Jeremy Williams would attest.

At first glance he's exactly what fans are looking for: a hulking, undefeated heavyweight prospect (24-0, 21 KOs). That's something we really haven't had since Mike Tyson was a teen.

However, Peter hasn't evolved enough to be considered the real thing. He's shrouded in uncertainty. Sure, he'll likely win a title if he sticks around, but the savior of the division?

He's an unbalanced plodder. His hands are slow.

He needs to remedy those flaws.

And we haven't seen him take a punch. We haven't seen how he reacts when pushed to the limits of exhaustion. We haven't seen his heart on display.

If there's noticeable improvement or we see him deal with some adversity Saturday night, that's when I'll get excited.

And, believe me, I've been looking for a reason to get excited for a loooooooong time.

A FIGHTER TO THE END: Mzukisi Sikali refused to back down no matter the circumstances. Whenever confronted, he apparently was ready for a fight.

That fearlessness cost him his life.

The South African flyweight contender, who just six months ago fought Vic Darchinyan for the IBF title, was stabbed to death last weekend while trying to fight off a pair of thieves who wanted his cell phone. Sikali, 34, had been walking with a friend, who fled the attack – wisely, it would seem.

Sikali (29-7-2, 17 KOs) held several minor titles at light flyweight, flyweight and super flyweight. His biggest victories were over countryman and fellow contender Masibulele Makepula.

POCKET PRESENCE: Now I don't feel so silly for all those times, while walking in a crowd, I've tapped my back pocket just to make sure my wallet was there. If Oscar De La Hoya can have his big-ass wallet stolen, then so can any of us.

The Golden Boy last week had his pocket picked at a news conference to promote Saturday's HBO show that featured Marco Antonio Barrera and Shane Mosley in separate bouts.

De La Hoya wasn't so upset about the lost money or credit cards. He was most angry at losing a $1 food stamp he kept in his wallet as a reminder of his humble East Los Angeles beginnings.

"I was always very proud to show it," De La Hoya told the Associated Press. "It was a reminder of where I come from, who I am and where I’m going."

MORON OF THE WEEK: Nobody, and I mean nobody throttles Sugar Poo and gets away with it.

That's why former middleweight champ William Joppy takes this week's honor after getting charged with first-degree assault after a Sept. 8 road-rage incident with fellow prizefighter Henry "Sugar Poo" Buchanan in Prince George's County, Md.

Joppy, according to The Washington Post, turned himself in last week and was released on $100,000 bond after spending a night in jail. A hearing has been scheduled for Oct. 12.

A Prince George's police department news release stated Joppy approached the car of an unnamed individual -- the Post confirmed it was Sugar Poo through his handlers -- and the two engaged in an argument. Joppy, according to the report, reached into the car and choked Buchanan before the undefeated light heavyweight rode off. The report then described how Joppy got into his own vehicle and began pursuit, ramming Buchanan's care multiple times until it spun out.

BURNING QUESTIONS: Anyone else shocked to be reminded Wladimir Klitschko is only 29 years old?

Is it crass of me to be thankful that Hurricane Katrina at least forced the postponement of the Ann Wolfe-Bo Skipper abomination?

With the elimination of any remaining interest in the postponed Christy Martin-Lucia Rijker showdown, how long can women's boxing maintain a passing interest?

QUOTEMARKS: "If there is any comfort to be taken at this time of great sorrow, it is that Leavander lived his dream and died a champion doing what he loved most.” – Lou DiBella, Leavander Johnson's promoter

"All of my prayers are with Leavander Johnson and his family in this difficult time. He was a true warrior with a tremendous heart, and every day I will think of him and say a prayer for him. He will never be forgotten.” – Jesus Chavez

“His loss is a tremendous blow to the boxing community and to me personally.  He was a class act and a good man.” – Oscar De La Hoya on Johnson

"Because his wife is the boss. She tells him what to do. She tells him when to eat and sleep.” – James Toney on why he hasn't fought Chris Byrd yet

"When you put money into the bank and you go to write a check, you can get money out. But if you don’t put any in, you can’t get any out. Roy has made some deposits for this fight. So when he goes to write a check, the money is going to be there for him.” – Roy Jones' trainer, Alton Merkerson, on the Oct. 1 bout with Antonio Tarver.

"I do feel he can hurt me, though, if I don't bring my A-plus game. So I will be bringing my A-plus game.” – Hasim Rahman on his Nov. 12 opponent, WBC heavyweight champ Vitali Klitschko

"My personal opinion: He's the strongest fighter in the heavyweight division right now. He has a lot of weapons. I don't want to make the same mistake as Lennox Lewis.” – Klitschko on Rahman

"I hear people saying Marquez is a deep puncher, but the one question I have for Marquez and his camp is, can Marquez take a punch?” – Silence Mabuza on his Oct. 1 fight with IBF bantamweight champ Rafael Marquez

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