Written by Jim Amato
Sunday, 07 September 2003 18:00
When I called Harold to conduct this interview, I quickly learned that he was a man who had a true passion for the sport. It wasn't just a job to him. He was a fan first and foremost. That is what led him into judging. He was still a fan but now he has just had a better seat. He has come up through the ranks and paid his dues from the four and six rounder in small clubs to the main events in major venues. If he hasn't seen it yet, it's doubtful that it is going to happen. Yet Harold seem to approach every fight with a fresh outlook. It has given him a chance to travel and meet some of the most influential people in boxing.
In the whole time I talked with Harold he did not utter a negative word about anyone as a person. He is a true ambassador for the sport. Harold was born on January 26, 1940 in the Bronx where he was raised. Among his childhood friends were Vinnie Rinnone, Joe Santarpis, and Tony Perez. All three along with Harold are highly respected in the boxing community. Harold had nothing but immense praise for his long time buddies. You could hear the pride in Harold's voice when he spoke of his wife Eileen and their daughters Julie and Iris. Success has not gone to Harold's head. He's your everyday boxing fan who just accepts that fate has handed him one hell of a great job!
When did you start judging boxing matches?
HL-Around 1965, amateur fights. I loved boxing. Before judging I went to as many fights as I could.
When did you start judging pro bouts?
Did you ever box?
HL-No, just a few street scraps as a kid.
Did you ever work as a referee?
HL-Never really had the interest.
What was the first major fight you judged?
HL-The rematch between Ken Buchanan and Ismael Laguna. Laguna's manager Cain Young objected everybody. I found out at the last minute that I was judging the match.
The decision of the New Jersey commission to only let New Jersey residents work as officials took a lot of work away. What was your take on that?
HL-I was not happy about it. I didn't understand the reasoning. I can live in New York and be a pharmacist in New Jersey but not a boxing judge? It didn't make sense to me. It was political so there was not a whole lot I could do about it. I just accepted it and moved on.
How did you hook up with HBO?
HL-I was friendly with Ross Greenberg who was in charge of boxing at HBO. I had watched a fight on HBO one night and to be honest with you, the announcers must have been watching a different fight then I was. I just thought looking at it from a judge's point of view that they were missing a lot of things going on.
I conveyed this to Ross and he said he'd think about it. I had really forgotten all about it but later he called and invited me to a guest judge at an upcoming fight. I think it took me about three seconds to say yes!
What was your first main event on HBO?
HL-Plinkton Thomas vs. Trevor Berbick, March 22, 1986. Thomas was a huge favorite and I told Eileen, watch Thomas will take out Berbick early. Then no one would hear too much between rounds from me and my chance at HBO would possibly come to an end. Well Berbick had Eddie Futch in his corner and Eddie mapped out a great fight plan and got Berbick to follow it. As the rounds progressed I was able to show my card with Berbick in the process of an upset. In the end I had Berbick winning and he did. He won the title in an upset and my tenure at HBO was on its way.
What was your favorite fight?
HL-The best fight I ever saw was Wilfredo Gomez-Lupe Pintor in New Orleans. I was a judge for that.
Who was your favorite fighter?
HL-Bad Bennie Briscoe. Hagler-Briscoe was one of my favorite fights. I had nothing to do with it. I was just there to watch.
What were some of the best fights you worked for HBO?
HL-Hagler-Leonard, the Bowe-Holyfield trilogy, Lewis-Tyson, Lewis-Mercer, Roy Jones-James Toney, Danny Romero-Johnny Tapia, Barrera-Kennedy McKinney, both Ward-Gatti fights, Ward-Shea Neary, Foreman-Moorer, Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Diego Corrales, and Hopkins-Trinidad.
Your daughter Julie is now a boxing judge. How did that come about?
HL-Julie was a very shy girl but I took her to a lot of fight shows with me. She got to meet many boxers and watched a lot of fights. She really began to understand the sport and she has become a very capable judge. She is a WBC judge and very resected. She was recently a judge at a very high profile boxing card in Japan. A very important assignment for her.
Who are some of your favorite referees?
HL-Larry Rozadilla comes to mind and Arthur Mercante Sr. My friend Tony Perez has been involved in several major fights. Larry Hazzard was a great one. Chuck Hassett, Lou Fillipo and Joe Cortez.
You mentioned to me that you judged a major bout in my hometown of Cleveland. Do you remember who fought?
HL-It was Michael Moorer and Ramzi Hassan for the vacant W.B.O. light heavyweight title. That day Michael Moorer was a truly awesome fighter!
I have given you a list of fourteen names and asked you to just make a short comment to describe them. What were your comments?
HL - OK, here goes:
Muhammad Ali - "The Greatest."
Mike Tyson - "The Badest Man on The Planet"
Jim Lampley - "Boxings Greatest Commentator."
Larry Merchant - "A Great Analyst."
Emmanuel Steward - "Blackie Bimstein."
Chris Byrd - "He can do more with what he has then anyone who has ever lived."
Don King - "Boxing's Greatest Promoter."
Bob Arum - "Boxing's Most Brilliant Promoter."
Oscar DeLaHoya - "I wish I was him."
George Foreman - "The only man I know with two great lives ten years apart."
Roy Jones, Jr. - "Boxing's Number One Pound For Pound."
Evander Holyfield - "The Consummate Warrior."
Riddick Bowe - "I was so proud to call him my friend."
Sugar Ray Leonard - "He drank from the fountain of eternal youth."
Harold, thank you so much for your time.
HL-Jim, you are very welcome.
In closing I would just like to say that talking to Harold Lederman was as easy as discussing boxing with someone at a neighborhood tavern. It was truly my pleasure to have this conversation with him.
Written by Frank Lotierzo
Saturday, 06 September 2003 18:00
Bonavena was Frazier's 11th pro bout, and he dropped Frazier twice. Jones was Clay's 18th fight and there was some controversy over the scoring and decision. Although I don't see why, I thought it was close, but a clear Clay win. If these were rare showings it would be great. However, both of these fights have been shown on ESPN Classic Sports countless times. It's no longer unique to see them?
If you're like me, you were ecstatic when you heard ESPN Classic was buying the fight film collection of Bill Cayton. Bill Cayton and his partner Jimmy Jacobs owned a company called "The Big Fights Inc." Big Fights Inc. held all the rights to most of the fight films that were in existence through the 1990's.
Big Fights Inc. was the brainchild of Bill Cayton and the late Jimmy Jacobs. Jacobs, started collecting fights after the controversy surrounding the first Louis-Walcott title fight. What happened was Jacobs missed seeing the fight and only knew about it from the newspaper coverage. Most boxing fans are aware that the fight ended in a controversial decision in favor of heavyweight champion Joe Louis.
At the end of the 15th round Louis left the ring before the decision was announced. Louis was totally disappointed and felt he was out-boxed by Jersey Joe. Louis had to be summoned back to the ring for the decision. In the opinion of most who actually saw the fight, Walcott should've been declared the winner. The controversy over the decision is what spurred Jacobs to want to see the fight. He was frustrated that he had no way or access of seeing a replay of the fight immediately. He wanted to see for himself if the immortal "Brown Bomber" was really bettered by Walcott that night. This was the beginning of Jacobs' obsession in the fight film business.
Jim Jacobs is widely known as the greatest Handball player of all-time. He was also quite a boxing enthusiast. In his travels to other countries to give Handball exhibitions, he began buying fight films that were no longer available in the United States. In 1961 Jacobs merged his collection with another collector, Bill Cayton, who owned the "Greatest Fights of the Century". Cayton at the time was a network Television producer, which gave him access to many network fight telecast. Together they formed a corporation called "The Big Fights Inc." to restore and preserve fight films.
Big Fights Inc. produced over one thousand boxing features and documentaries. They were nominated for three Academy Awards, for "Legendary Champions", "The Heavyweight Champions", and "Jack Johnson". They also produced "The Fighters", which is a documentary on the first Frazier-Ali fight. This feature was shown in theatre's throughout the country months after the fight. Big Fights Inc. has the largest library of boxing films in the world, with over 16,000 films.
In March of 1988 Jacobs died of Leukemia. He had been diagnosed with the fatal disease for sometime and even those closest to him were unaware of it until his passing. His partner Bill Cayton and Steve Lott over saw the fight collection after Jacobs passing until selling them to ESPN for what has been reported at upwards of a 100 million dollars!
When this deal was announced, I was thrilled and looked forward to Tuesday night. I thought great, I can finally see how great Sugar Ray Robinson was as a welterweight, or how great Benny Leonard was. Wrong, no such luck. Since ESPN Classic Boxing has been on the air we've been fed nothing but a steady diet of Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson fights. Being a fight collector myself for about the last 25 years, I can tell you that the two fighters for which there is an abundance of films are Ali and Tyson!
From the late 70's through to about 1984, I used to purchase fight films from Jacobs himself out of his New York office. If you caught him when he had time, he would talk boxing non-stop. If he didn't have time he would say, Frank, I can't talk now, call me next week. However, he had one Golden Rule. He said to me, Frank, and I'm paraphrasing here, I trust and believe you, but if it ever gets back to me that you gave out or sold any of the fights you got from me, I'll never do another transaction with you.
Back To ESPN Classic. My contention with them is how many times do we have to be shown the same fights over and over and over? We all know that Ali beat Foreman and Douglas upset Tyson, yet we have been shown those fights continuously. Haven't we seen Clay-Jones, Frazier-Bonavena I, Foreman-Peralta I, Robinson-Fullmer III, and Liston-Machen countless times?
Overall, there is a base of about 15 or 20 fights that have been constantly shown over the last four or five years? Its to the point now that I don't even check the guide on Tuesday nites to see what fights are being aired. The odds are that I've probably seen it many times already, just as you have. I have no doubt that most hard-core boxing fans have to be disappointed! How could you not be?
Here's the reason why I think we get the same select few fights repeatedly. I believe that ESPN is greedy! They are so afraid that if they show some of the really good stuff that we'll tape it and have it in our collection. And they're right, but so what? They have over 16,000 fights, why can't they give us one or two new ones per month? It's not like they are going to run out of fights. No, it's just their way to keep us at their mercy, and hoping to see something we haven't.
The bottom line is that it's greed. They fear so much that if they show the good stuff, their collection will lose some of its value because we will record these treasured fights. I don't know about you, but I'd love to see Robinson-Gavilan, or one of the Charles-Moore fights? However, It's all about money, and they don't want anyone else to have access to any of the unseen footage. It's that simple!
I've tried calling ESPN and complaining about seeing the same fights over and over. They have responded in one of two ways, depending on who you get when you call. The first lie I've been told is that they will be showing some fights never seen before later this year or early next year. The second lie I've been told is that they are giving the public what they want to see. Another words, according to ESPN Classic Boxing, all the fans want to see are Ali and Tyson. Somehow I don't belive this.
For what reason do we get stuck seeing the same fights repeatedly other than ESPN fearing that we'll copy them? The only reason I can think of is that maybe part of the agreement between Big Fights and ESPN states that they can only air certain fights. If that's the case, then why did Big Fights sell them? It's not like they can profit from them any more since they no longer own the rights.
In my opinion ESPN Classic doesn't care about what the fight fans want to see. They'll just continue to tell us what we want to see. I believe ESPN Classic Boxing's concept is the following. Lets show mostly heavyweights because that's who most fight fans want to see. Lets give them some vintage Ali and early Tyson, and sprinkle in some bouts from the 50's and that will appease them. Who cares about Harry Greb or Sam Langford, they won't bring us ratings.
Lastly, in my opinion ESPN Classic doesn't have enough boxing people in the decision or selection process. The bottom line is Ali and Tyson get the ratings, so that's who we'll continue to see. However, don't ever be fooled into thinking or believing that ESPN really cares about boxing, or the fans. Because they don't! If they did they would give us more than just the same old same old?
Written by Frank Lotierzo
Wednesday, 03 September 2003 18:00
Currently, Tua is officially 1-0-1 vs Rahman. In reality he should be 1-1 vs Rahman, and if not for a left hook after the bell in their first fight, he could be 0-2. Is it possible that just maybe he and his corner will have figured out how to fight Rahman? Going by their track record, it doesn't look promising. In two fights between Tua and Rahman, Tua has been totally out-boxed by the most basic boxing technique and style in the book. Tua has been rendered totally ineffective by Rahman just jabbing and moving to his left away from Tua's big left hook. It's quite obvious that Tua has shown throughout his career that he has no defense for a jab; you can't miss him if you throw it. Tua has also shown that when confronted by movement, he has no answer.
Tua is as dangerous as any heavyweight in boxing if you back straight up against the ropes and stand there and try to fight him. Tua, being a tremendous two-handed puncher can really do damage under this scenario. The problem is, no top heavyweights are foolish enough to be caught in this position when fighting him.
I have said since first seeing Tua fight that he is blessed with two tremendous gifts that most heavyweights would give up ten years of their lives to have: dynamite in either hand and a concrete chin. These are traits that can't be learned. On the other hand, it seems Tua can't be taught what he needs to do to beat the fighters who beat him with the jab and movement. Lennox Lewis, Chris Byrd, and Rahman twice have totally befuddled him with the jab. In those four fights, Tua had yet to use any head and upper body movement. On top of this he has not learned how to cut off the ring, and the importance of it.
What Tua hasn't had embedded into his head yet, is that when you're a short heavyweight with a short reach, you have to get inside. He can't trade jabs with Rahman and expect to win or even compete. Short heavyweights must get inside to be effective. However, there is a way to go about getting inside that is no secret in boxing. The formula for it is: head and upper body movement, cutting off the ring and stepping in front of the opponent, and going to the body so you can come in low underneath the jab. This strategy has been proven to be more than effective. Tom Sharkey, Rocky Marciano, Joe Frazier, and even Mike Tyson in some of his early fights, proved this to be a winning strategy when fighting against fighters who box and use lateral movement.
Watching Rahman fight, I think it's safe to say that he doesn't move like Ali, or Holmes. For Tua to have a chance in this fight, he must emulate Frazier in his fights with Ali, especially the first. In his first fight with Ali, Frazier forced Ali back by slipping his jab and cutting off the ring while going to the body while moving forward. Rahman doesn't have an exceptionally fast jab, and it certainly isn't hard enough to discourage Tua from pressuring him. Rahman's jab is decent, but it's not something Tua shouldn't be able to penetrate. The key is, his technique and strategy must be worked on and perfected during training camp.
For Tua to land any of his big punches, he must force Rahman into position so he can deliver the big hooks and overhand rights. He just can't follow Rahman around the ring eating jabs and expect to get in the one big shot to end the fight. He used this strategy in the previous two bouts with Rahman, and other than the left hook he connected with after the bell in the first fight, he hasn't landed enough big shots to end the fight.
In the upcoming third bout between Tua and Rahman, I expect Rahman to be in tremendous shape. In their last fight Rahman was in poor condition and came in very heavy which almost cost him the fight. Rahman will be very determined this time since he thinks he has beaten Tua twice, but hasn't a win on his record to show for it. Rahman doesn't have to change his strategy a bit for Tua. He knows that as long as he keeps his jab working, and his feet moving, Tua doesn't have an answer. Look for Rahman to fight the same as he has in the previous fights, only with more purpose.
For Tua to finally gain a piece of the elusive title for which he has clamored, it will take a career effort. To accomplish this he must get in great shape, weighing in the low 230's is a must. He must give Rahman head and upper body movement while closing the distance by stepping in front of him and cutting off the ring. Tua has to go to the body early to try and take Rahman's legs away, forcing him to fight flatfooted. And Tua must have a high punch out put, as it's imperative to be busy from bell to bell. This is his last chance to prove he's not just going to go down as a fighter who will be mentioned as one of the best to never win the title.
Written by Joey Knish
Tuesday, 02 September 2003 21:00
Mosley is thought to be 'gun shy' and unsure of himself after his successive losses to Vernon Forrest. De La Hoya, armed with a new trainer in Floyd Mayweather Sr. has adjusted to a 'new' style of boxing and last year vanquished his arch nemesis Fernando Vargas in dramatic style.
De La Hoya is thought to be ascending, Mosley, on a steep decline. And you know what? I'm still picking Mosley to win in another closely contested fight.
Why, you ask? Well, just like Ken Norton always gave Muhammad Ali fits, Iran Barkley had Thomas Hearns number, Ricardo Mayorga haunts Vernon Forrest, Bill Russell always seemed to find a way against Wilt Chamberlain, how the Minnesota Vikings would always ruin the post-season of the Los Angeles Rams and how Bob Stoops regularly out-coaches Mack Brown, 'Sugar' Shane is simply too sweet for Oscar.
The bottom line is very simple, Mosley's hand-speed, quickness and athletic ability will always trouble De La Hoya, who's not exactly a turtle himself in the speed department. And yes, I realize that Mosley is considered the smaller fighter once again in the rematch- just like he was in the first encounter when he was moving up from lightweight to take on De La Hoya at welterweight. This time De La Hoya comes in as the unified jr. middleweight titlist( with both the WBC and WBA titles) but lets be real, he could probably make 147 if he really wanted to. Hey, let's face it, Mosley will always be shorter than Oscar and will always be at some kind of size advantage. This is nothing new.
No Mosley did not look spectacular in any of his two losses to Forrest or particularly impressive in his last bout against Raul Marquez in February- but who's idea was it to take on a southpaw in what was supposed to be a showcase fight, anyway?- but has De La Hoya really done THAT much since his loss three years ago.
Think about it, he beat a blown-up Arturo Gatti, an ordinary Javier Castillejo and then a Fernando Vargas last September that many considered to be damaged goods, thanks to the powerful hands of Felix Trinidad. And in his last bout he engaged in a highly lucrative sparring session against the faded Yory Boy Campas.
Now, do any of these plodders have the speed and explosion of Mosley? Fugheddaboutit. That's like comparing a cable modem or DSL to a dial-up connection. And let's not forget that Vargas was virtually even up with De La Hoya before he landed that big left hook at the end of the 10th round that basically ended things. I don't care what mental state Mosley is in, Mosley- even at 154 pounds- is a much better athlete than Vargas and doesn't come in with an anger that is detrimental to himself against Oscar.
And what about the teachings of Mayweather and how they might effect this fight? I don't think there's any doubt that Mayweather has made a positive difference for De La Hoya in the corner but the bottom line is that in the heat of battle, boxers, like anybody else will revert to what they do best. But if Oscar is insistent on sticking with what has been taught to him the last few years, it could be even more detrimental. The bottom line is this, this style still isn't natural to him and if he has to think about doing certain things, against a fighter with the quickness of Mosley, he'll lose every exchange with him.
It says here that if Mosley reverts back to his form- which is being a busy fighter, who works the body and tries to throw sharp combinations- he wins this fight. Somewhere along the way, when he was blowing out over-matched foes like Antonio Diaz, Shannon Taylor and Adrian Stone, he began to rely more and more on his right hand. The truth of the matter is that he got away from what he was best at, he was more Meldrick Taylor than Thomas Hearns. Against De La Hoya he is at a strength deficit, but he has the advantage in speed. Just rewatch the 12th and final round of their first fight, Mosley would hit De La Hoya with a tidal wave of punches from all angles that had Oscar looking like a man drowning in the torrent.
Those who point to a De La Hoya victory believe that he is in the better state of mind while Mosley comes in with doubt. But just remember this, it was Mosley who basically swept the last six rounds of their fight and when it comes to their individual match-up, it's Oscar who comes in with doubt.
It was just a few years ago that Mosley was being mentioned in the same breath as other past 'Sugar's' like Robinson and Leonard. Now, after his recent slump, it seems like he's being lumped in with the likes of Ray Seales. Obviously, both were an over-reaction and exaggeration in both cases. As usual, the truth is probably somewhere in between but I think it's closer to the latter than the former. Mosley is the real thing, always has been, always will be.
I think he proves it again on Saturday night.
Written by Steve Kim
Monday, 01 September 2003 21:00
Well, that's basically what boxing does for the summer months. From the middle half of June till early September, the game of boxing takes a siesta. Yeah, they'll have an occasional fight here or there, but for the most part promoters and networks are very weary of putting on it's biggest events during the summer.
And the reason is very simple, studies have shown that viewer ship levels on television are at their lowest because most folks are taking their vacations at this time. But as you can see with the 'Back to School' commercials running on TV now, the only group of people that should be happier than parents with school kids are boxing fans.
Because not only is school starting up again, but so is big time boxing.
* September 13th, Oscar De La Hoya-Shane Mosley II: Now, when was the last time you had a 'super fight' have a guy that hadn't won in the more than two years and was 0-2-1 in his last three bouts? But regardless of the recent slump of Mosley this is a 'super fight', De La Hoya is coming off his big win over nemesis Fernando Vargas last year and then had an easy tune-up victory over the aged Yory Boy Campas. Believe it or not, his star has never been brighter.
But what's really the story here is the revenge factor that exists. In June of 2000, Mosley would clearly out-point De La Hoya with his speed and quickness to hand, what Oscar believes, is his only real legitimate loss. It's interesting to note that in many respects both guys are putting their careers on the line here. A win for Mosley and he's back among the games elite, a loss and he's the modern day Donald Curry. If De La Hoya wins it just opens up the possibility for more mega paydays and his legacy is basically secured. A loss, and he probably retires. Make no mistake about it, plenty is on the line here at the MGM Grand.
And do you need anymore proof that this is a big fight? Consider that over $11 million in tickets have been sold for De La Hoya-Mosley II and pay-per-view sales could reach in excess of a million.
Now, that's a 'super fight'.
Also on that same day boxing fans will be treated to boxing over the free airwaves as NBC will be showing featherweight prospect Rocky Juarez against David Murrillo. Now, this isn't a big fight in any respect except that anytime a fight is shown on one of the big networks it has to be considered a big deal.
Remember, before embarking on a three week experiment with 'the sweet science' in May, 'the Peacock' hadn't shown boxing in about a dozen years. The series did very well and not only is boxing back on the same day as this years biggest fight but sources indicate that NBC will be doing 10 more shows next year in conjunction with Main Events.
* September 20th, Chris Byrd- Fres Oquendo: Ok, lets be honest, if you could pick out of hat and choose two top-10 heavyweight that would make the most horrific fight stylistically, this would be it. Byrd, with his unusual southpaw style never makes for good fights anyway but when you combine that with 'the Big O's' awkward movements, you're in for some boxing agony.
But at least Byrd, the reigning IBF heavyweight champion, can finally defend his crown and make some money. I mean, you had to figure when he out-pointed Evander Holyfield last December for this vacant title that he'd finally get some fights against the marquee heavyweights and he'd make a pretty good living for himself after being avoided for much of his career. After all, who'd fight this crafty boxer with nothing to gain, but with a belt around his waist, he was going to get offers to fight all over, right? Uh, no.
In fact, while he is contractually bound to have two fights a year with his promoter Don King, this will be his first outing of 2003. Is Byrd so avoided or the game so watered down that a heavyweight titlist has to walk around with a sign reading:"
Will make title defense for food"
Look for Byrd to out-box Oquendo in a rather tepid affair. Hey at least on this HBO broadcast, they will be running a replay of the De La Hoya-Mosley rematch.
* September 27th, " The New Generation": Is an HBO triple-header featuring the new lot of heavyweights. But what does it say about this supposedly new group when most of these guys are already above the age of 30?
- DaVarryl Williamson- Jose Mesi: Mesi, has gotten some attention because he's undefeated and can punch- and oh yeah, he's white. And 'Baby Joe' has a chance to show against the hard-punching Williamson that he's not just another in a long line of 'Great White Hopes'. And he comes into the bout with a decided home ring advantage as the card is emanating from his hometown of Buffalo, New York. But as they say, ' You can't bring'em with you' and it will be the moment of truth for Mesi who so far has been matched with a collection of has-beens and never-were's.
Williamson, was stopped in his only professional loss but he possesses a big right hand and he has been tested in ways that Mesi hasn't. He had to get off the canvas to stop the gargantuan Corey Sanders. You get the feeling here, whoever lands first, may land last.
- Dominick Guinn- Duncan Dokiwari: Now, if there is really a guy that can be considered a young, up-and-comer, it's Guinn, who's 28 years old and actually comes with a background in boxing. He's not one of these guys who decided to give boxing a try after an unsuccessful stint in other sports.
Which is precisely what Michael Grant was, a guy that gave boxing a go after exhausting his other options. And when Guinn knocked out Grant this past June, you could see the difference. One guy was a fighter, with a deep amateur background, the other was a failed power forward. And what makes Guinn even more refreshing is that he stands at a modest 6'2, 220 pounds, in other words, he's not the kind of guy that will have talking heads gushing about how there needs to be 'super heavyweight' divisions and that he's the 'new millennium' fighter. No, he's just a guy that knows how to actually fight. Fighting is about skill not size.
And in Dokiwari, he'll be facing a bigger man who got off to a promising start in the late 90's only to be halted by promotional and managerial difficulties. You get the feeling that his time has come and passed.
- Juan Carlos Gomez- Sinan Samil Sam: Rounding out this trio of heavyweight fights is a bout between Gomez and the unknown Sam. Well, lets be honest here, Gomez is unknown here too but at least he had 10 successful defenses as the WBC cruiserweight titlist. Sam, has never been seen by American audiences.
But again, what does it say that a former cruiserweight, above the age of 30, unknown to the public, is put on a show featuring heavyweight hopefuls?
It doesn't say a lot, but y'know what? It beats being on vacation.
Written by Rick Folstad
Saturday, 30 August 2003 21:00
Finally, keep your fight plan tucked away in a safe place. Hide it where no one can find it but you and maybe your dad. Keep it a secret.
If Mosley thinks his second fight with Oscar De La Hoya is going to be even easier than their first fight, he needs to be slapped around a little, brought back down to earth. Reality needs to be part of his fight plan, and De La Hoya is on a mission. You don‘t scorn guys on a mission, especially world champions.
Besides, it‘s been more than three years since Mosley beat De La Hoya in June 2000 in what turned out to be a squeaker. And three years is a long time in the fight game.
Since that first fight, De La Hoya has coasted along undefeated, picking up wins against fighters like Fernando Vargas and Arturo Gatti.
Mosley, meanwhile, has had a rough ride. Sure, he beat Shannan Taylor, Adrian Stone and Raul Marquez, but those names aren’t usually tossed around the water cooler at work. They sound more like band members than contenders.
But it’s the Vernon Forrest thing that could stop Mosley from a repeat against De La Hoya. Two losses. Two nightmares. Two ego beatings. That might be the real knockout punch that stuns Mosley, the shadowy right hand he never sees coming until it rocks him.
Just when he thinks he might be all the way back from the losses to Forrest, wham, the mental thing kicks in and Mosley is suddenly swinging wildly at all the doubts that have been haunting him since Forrest took away his swagger.
De La Hoya knows how it works. He’s wrestled with the same ghost. That’ s why he’s on this crazy Redemption Tour of his, trying to erase the bad taste of losses to Mosley and Felix Trinidad. It’s a short list and Mosley is at the top.
That’s because De La Hoya also knows he will probably have to live with the Trinidad loss and its sour taste. Felix just isn’t coming back to the fight game, and De La Hoya is slowly beginning to realize it. That means his only chance at revenge starts and ends Sept. 13 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas when he gets his second shot at Mosley.
Mosley says his advantage this time is the same advantage he had last time: his superior speed. He claims he has the right style and gifts to beat De La Hoya, and make it look easy.
"I believe in my heart that I will win spectacularly," Mosley claims. "I have the tools to beat him. I‘m looking to win a unanimous decision by a large margin."
Just be happy you don’t get hurt.
When De La Hoya gets in the right mood for a fight - when he forgets about his record sales, his promotional company, his love life, the color of his trunks and the size of his purse - he’s as good a fighter as they‘ve seen on the Vegas Strip in the last 10 years. And against Mosley, you can be sure he put all the silly games and distractions away.
He also understands what Mosley could be struggling with.
"Sometimes your confidence goes down after not winning," said De La Hoya, who isn’t real familiar with the condition. "Physically, (Mosley) will be ready. I don‘t know about mentally."
There it is. The key to this fight. If De La Hoya beats Mosley, he should donate a share of his purse to Forrest. It’s like opening a jar of pickles. De La Hoya may unscrew the lid, but Forrest loosened it first.
Written by Frank Lotierzo
Saturday, 30 August 2003 18:00
It was Sunday Night August 31st, 1969 when he was called to his final resting place, on the eve of his 46th birthday September 1st. There was a terrible thunderstorm that night with a low ceiling. Rocky had talked the inexperienced pilot into making the flight against his better judgement. Typical Rocky bravado, oh it's only some rain, we'll be fine!
Rocky was anxious to get back to his Ft. Lauderdale home for the birthday party that was planned for him by his 16 year old daughter Mary Ann. It was a party he would never make. Rocky was going to make an appearance at ringside of a fighter in which a friend of his had an interest. He was flying from Chicago to Des Moines for his appearance. Tragically the plane crashed into an open field with a tree in it near a wooded creek. All three aboard the plane were killed instantly, the pilot, Rocky, and his friend. The National Transportation Security Board's report stated that "The pilot attempted operation exceeding his ability and level."
I remember it was Monday morning Labor day, and it was a beautiful sunny day. I was nine years old and boxing had been an obsession of mine for about four years. It was late summer 1969, and a lot was happening in the heavyweight division, and I couldn't get enough. In June of 1969 Joe Frazier had stopped Jerry Quarry in seven heated rounds. Jimmy Ellis, who held the WBA heavyweight title, tried to upstage Frazier while he was being interviewed by Howard Cosell after stopping Quarry. A few months later Ellis and Frazier signed to meet in February of 1970 for what was being billed as the undisputed heavyweight title.
During the summer of 1969 rumors were flying around that Ali and Frazier were going to fight in some obscure place so the government couldn't intervene. Some of the rumors had them fighting on a Jet plane flying at 30,000 feet, or on an Indian Reservation where the government supposedly had no jurisdiction. The best one was that Ali and Frazier were going to fight at Frazier's gym in north Philadelphia for free!
On that fateful Monday morning I rode my bike over to Radnor baseball field at the end of Radnor Avenue in Haddonfield N.J. where I grew up. As a kid I loved riding a bike and looked for any excuse to ride. I always would go over to Radnor field on weekend mornings to see who was out. We used to play football or shot baskets and just hang out. I was friendly with a guy named Bob Mitchell who lived at the end of Radnor Ave. He was older than me, maybe 15 or 16. He was a good basketball player and started on the high school basketball team. But, the main reason I used to look for him was because he was a big boxing fan.
Bob was also big Ali fan, and I was always pestering him to see if he thought Ali could beat Frazier if they ever fought. Since he was a fan of Ali, he always assured me that if they ever fought, Ali would win. That morning around 9:30, I remember going up the street and not seeing anyone. So I parked my Schwinn Apple Krate and sat on the bleachers hoping Bob would come out and talk some boxing, he probably saw me and was waiting for me to leave. I used to hound him constantly about Ali and Frazier.
After a while I got back on my bike and started to leave. Just as I was passing his house he came running out with a newspaper in his hand. I turned around and rode up to him thinking he was going to show me and article on Ali or Frazier? When I approached him he held up the paper, it was the front page of The Philadelphia Inquirer. It had a picture of Rocky Marciano knocking out Archie Moore in what was his last fight 14 years ago. The headline read, "Former Champ Marciano dies in Plane Crash".
I couldn't believe it. I heard so much about Marciano from my grandfather who used to come over our house for dinner on Sunday's. My grandfather was one of those ol' school Italians, and as far as he was concerned, nobody coulda beat the Rock. I used to tease him saying, "granpop, Ali would've cut Marciano to ribbons". He would actually get mad at me for saying that, and he'd start yelling at my father for letting me talk that way. My father would have to warn me not to tease my grandfather about Ali being able to beat Marciano when he came over. Although I was petrified of my father, I'd still sneak it in and my grandfather would smack me on the back of my head as my father gave me the eye!
My grandfather was absolutely sure Marciano would've knocked Ali out. Remember, this is late summer of 1969 and some still had questions about Ali's heart and chin. At that time the Ali story was only about half complete. Ironically, Marciano and Ali had just completed filming the fight scenes for their computer fight in July. Unfortunately Marciano never lived to hear that the computer picked him as the winner.
On January 20th of 1970, Woroner Productions released the hypothetical computer fight between the only two undefeated heavyweight champions in history at the time. The computer picked Marciano as the winner, stopping Ali in the 13th round. Over the years my grandfather and I would argue over who would've won had Rocky and Ali crossed paths at their best. The one thing I never told him was that I wasn't as confident and certain as I had always projected to be. My grandfather never let me forget it until the day he died in 1997, that the computer picked Marciano to beat Ali. Rest assured, I did get my shots back at him! "I told him the guy who programmed the computer was a little fat Italian who hated Ali."
What I Respect About Rocky Marciano
What I respect about Rocky Marciano is that the title meant something to him. Being undefeated meant something to him. This is why he trained and prepared like no other fighter in history. Marciano knew he wasn't the most talented or gifted fighter. This is why he pushed and challenged his body. Rocky's mind set was, you may be able to beat me, but you can't beat my body!
I also like that he never sold out! He could've made a King's Fortune to come out of retirement to fight Patterson, Johansson, or Liston, but he didn't. He loved being perfect too much, and was smart enough to know that he could never summon the greatness back. There was no way he'd let Patterson, Johansson, or Liston have his name on their record, knowing that the name was all that remained. Marciano was too selfish in a good way to let his name be on their record, like Louis' is on his, or Ali's is on Holmes, or Holmes' is on Tyson's. Being undefeated separated him from other former champions and he knew it. Marciano was shrewd and he knew that 49-0 (43) gave him certain bragging rights over all other heavyweight champs. It can argued forever and a day who could've or who would've beaten Marciano, but nobody ever did. A famous boxing trainer once said, you are what your record is.
Written by Frank Lotierzo
Friday, 29 August 2003 18:00
The best thing about the end of that week was, starting November 7, boxing fans were led to believe that we could start looking forward to the Bowe-Lewis clash for the undisputed title. If you remember that was the plan in making those two fights, so the winners could face each other. Going into those two bouts, Holyfield was undefeated and held the true title after making three successful defenses against Foreman, Cooper, and Holmes. Ruddock was coming off two good showings against Tyson, Bowe and Lewis were both undefeated and Tyson was sitting in the Marion County Correctional Institute.
The purported Bowe-Lewis title bout had it all, but unfortunately, a guy named Rock Newman decided that he had other ideas. Newman, Bowe's manager, convinced him to do the Cus D'Amato-Floyd Patterson shuffle. That would be making title defenses against weak opposition to make the most money. I guess that's looking out for the fighter by getting the max dollars for the least risk. However, it really screwed the fans and cheated boxing out of what could have been one of history's super fights between the two best heavyweight champions of all time who stood over 6'4".
Take a second and think back to the year 1974. On January 1 of '74, George Foreman was the undefeated heavyweight champion, Muhammad Ali was the top ranked contender, Joe Frazier was the second, and Ken Norton was the third. At the time, they were without a doubt the top four heavyweights in the world. All boxing needed was a way to shake out who was really the best fighter of the four. Back at that time the best fighters actually wanted to fight each other, imagine that. It meant something to be the champ to all four fighters and none of them took the easy way out.
With all four fighters wanting to prove they were the true champion, it wasn't hard getting them to agree to face each other. So a two-fight mini tournament was held. In the first fight, Ali and Frazier were to meet in a rematch to settle their score. The second fight would see Foreman defending his title against Norton with the winners to face each other to decide who was the undisputed heavyweight champ.
On January 28, 1974, Muhammad Ali evened the score with Joe Frazier and won a 12-round unanimous decision at Madison Square Garden. On March 26, 1974, heavyweight champ George Foreman walked through Ken Norton in two rounds to retain the title in Caracas Venezuela. With Ali and Foreman both winning, the stage was set for them to meet for the undisputed title, and unlike Bowe and Lewis, they fought.
On Tuesday night October 30, 1974 in Kinshasa Zaire, Muhammad Ali stopped George Foreman in the eighth round to become the second fighter in history to regain the heavyweight title. The Foreman-Ali fight is no doubt a fight for the ages and one of boxing's most memorable. Think if there was a Rock Newman around then managing Foreman, look what we may have been cheated out of!
If you think about it, that's sort of what Newman did by not following through with the purposed plans that were on the table to make Bowe-Lewis happen. Bowe-Lewis had the makings of a truly great fight. As I said earlier, they are probably the two best heavyweight champions in history who stood over 6'4", and they both could fight!
If you're like me, you hate not really knowing who was the better fighter. For every person who says Lewis was better and would have won, you can find another who says Bowe was better and he would have won had they fought at their best. Picking between Bowe and Lewis as to who was really better is quite a task. For every argument, there's a counter argument.
Boxing is the great sport that it is because of the signature fights and rivalries that it has showcased over its long, storied history. Fights like Greb-Tunney, Robinson-LaMotta, Zale-Graziano, Ali-Frazier, Pryor-Arguello and Leonard-Hearns, to name a few. I know, as you read this you're thinking how could he leave out this one or that one, believe me I didn't, but I know you know the inference I'm making.
Riddick Bowe vs. Lennox Lewis had the potential to be mentioned in the same vein as those mentioned above. Think about it, in Bowe and Lewis you had two heavyweights who were around 6'5" who could fight, and were only separated by two years on their birth certificates. They both showed outstanding boxing ability and they both could hit. Heavyweight history has never seen a generation that boasts two heavyweights 6'5" with outstanding skills. Plus, there was a rivalry between them dating back to when they fought for the Gold Medal in the 1988 Olympics.
Without speculating, what do we know about both fighters and their careers? We know that Lewis stopped Bowe in two rounds in the 1988 Olympics to capture the super-heavyweight Gold Medal. However, any objective observer would have to admit that the stoppage was premature, and the referee did a horrible job officiating during the entire bout. On the other hand, I have no doubt that Lewis was on his way to winning the fight regardless of the premature stoppage. Lewis was the more experienced fighter and was competing in the Olympics for the second time. So, lets clear the Olympic fight up once and for all. Lewis was the more experienced amateur, the fight was stopped too quickly, but it didn't change the outcome. Lewis was on his way to winning it anyway.
When they turned pro, both were showered with high praise and were predicted to be can't miss prospects. Bowe received more notoriety, but that's probably because he fought in the States from the start of his career. Lewis fought many of his early bouts in London. They both were moved along at about the same pace and scored some impressive wins along with a few stinkers.
Early into their pro careers, it seemed that Bowe was advancing a little better and faster than Lewis. I remember from about mid 1990 on, Bowe started garnering more attention and most of the boxing magazines and commentators were projecting Bowe to be the better fighter. They felt this way because Bowe appeared to be the more complete fighter and had less perceived holes in his game.
By October of 1992, Bowe and Lewis were approaching the biggest fights of their careers and seemed to be on a collision course. When Lewis devastated Ruddock in two rounds on Halloween night 1992, he appeared to have arrived and at the very least showed he was Bowe's equal or maybe better. The following week, Bowe fought the best fight of his career in taking a 12-round decision over the undefeated, undisputed heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield. With Bowe's performance against a prime Holyfield, he showed that maybe he was all that he was built up to be. However, off Lewis' knockout of Ruddock, Lewis showed that Bowe could not be truly declared the world's best heavyweight without defeating him.
Coming off their signature wins, the boxing public was split as to who would win when they finally met. Some automatically assumed Lewis would win, based on the Olympic win, and some thought Bowe, due to his better progression in the pros. Regardless of what side you came down on, a compelling case could be made to support your opinion.
In my book, it's almost criminal that we never got to see it! Bowe-Lewis is a fight that would have cleared up a lot of confusion and answered many questions. Maybe we would've have gotten to see it two or three times just so the slightest doubts could've been quelled and eliminated. Without a doubt, this is one of the biggest travesties in heavyweight history.
Since we were cheated out of this potential super-fight, what do we have to go on to base an opinion as to who was the better fighter? The way history unfolded, there can be no doubt that when ranking them, Lewis has to be ranked above Bowe in heavyweight history. He had the longer career, beat more quality fighters and participated in 18 world heavyweight title fights, opposed to only four for Bowe. The statistics clearly favor Lewis, but does that mean he was the better fighter and would've defeated Bowe if they fought on their best night?
They were close in height, reach, and weight. These two are so similar and evenly matched, it's almost impossible to give one a decided advantage over the other when breaking down their fighting styles. I guess Lewis has to get the nod when it comes to jab and right hand, and Bowe gets the nod with the left-hook and right-uppercut. Regardless of which fighter you feel gets the nod over the other in certain categories, I think the fighter who has the edge is only by a minuscule margin. The one thing that stands out to me is that Lewis was effective moving to or away from his opponent. Bowe was most effective when he was pushing the fight.
I know that the Holyfield that Bowe beat in their first fight was better than any fighter that Lewis ever fought or defeated was. I also know that Lewis devastated Golota and Golota retired Bowe. Lewis just lasted much longer and has accomplished so much more than Bowe. On the other hand, I can't see Bowe at the top of his game ever losing to McCall or Rahman, let alone getting knocked out by them with one punch.
It's also a fact that Bowe beat a prime Holyfield much more cleanly and decisively than a supposed prime Lewis beat a shot Holyfield, but that doesn't mean Bowe was better. It's also a fact that other than Holyfield, Bowe didn't beat any other top fighter that comes close to some of the top contenders that Lewis beat.
When it comes to assessing Bowe and Lewis, I can draw three solid conclusions. One, I don't know who would've won had they fought in 1993. Two, Lewis without a doubt has to be ranked above Bowe in heavyweight history. Three, boxing is missing a significant page of heavyweight history due to Bowe and Lewis never facing each other.
The short career of Riddick Bowe totally mystifies me. Other than Holyfield and Golota he wasn't in any wars. Actually, he was shot after the third Holyfield fight, a fight in which he was only a couple seconds away from being counted out. Bowe had all the talent and ability in the world, especially for a fighter 6'5". The one thing he didn't have was self-discipline. I believe this had much to do with his early demise. Never have we seen a heavyweight balloon up so much in weight between fights as Bowe. Often it was reported that Bowe was up over 300 lbs after fights.
I believe this was a major factor as to why he eroded so quickly. After ballooning up so high, he would go on starvation diets and cut off his fluid intake to get his weight down. Not only does this weaken a fighter, but also the reduction in fluid around the brain increases the damage from the impact of getting hit. With no fluid around the brain, there's no protection for the brain when it slams into the skull. Multiply this by how many times he was hit during sparring and during the fight. I believe this was the major contributor to his rapid erosion.
When fighters dehydrate themselves, they are playing with fire. Lack of fluid around the brain leads to many problems. Most fighters cut their fluid intake to get down to weight and this is why most of the ring deaths involve fighters below heavyweight. Since heavyweights don't have to make weight, they usually don't deprive themselves from fluids like the lighter weight fighters do who are under tremendous pressure to make weight. This is a serious health issue in boxing and isn't addressed enough. I believe this was a major factor in why Riddick Bowe had such a brief prime.
Written by Frank Lotierzo
Wednesday, 27 August 2003 18:00
Bob Foster's first fighting experience came as an amateur fighting out of Albuquerque NM (his hometown). He also fought while serving in the Air Force. Foster was undefeated in over 100 amateur fights and won a berth on the 1959 Pan American Games team. Foster forfeited his goal of fighting in the 1960 Olympics when the only slot open to him was as a middleweight, because the light heavyweight berth went to Cassius Clay.(Foster said he couldn't get down to the 165-pound middleweight limit).
Bob Foster turned pro in 1961. He was mismanaged early in his career, resulting in Foster being matched with many of the better heavyweights who were more experienced and bigger than he was. Doug Jones stopped him in his 10th fight (Jones would go on to fight Cassius Clay five months after beating Foster). Losses to heavyweights Ernie Terrell and Zora Folley followed.
After losing to Folley, Foster ran off eight straight wins in the light heavyweight division, scoring seven knockouts. In his next fight Foster knocked out light heavyweight champ Dick Tiger in the fourth round. Foster's KO of Tiger was the only time Tiger was ever stopped in a long and brilliant career. After beating Tiger, Foster ran off 12 consecutive wins scoring 11 knockouts. In his 13th bout, he fought undefeated heavyweight champion "Smokin" Joe Frazier and was knocked out in the second round. After losing to Frazier, Foster won his next nine fights scoring eight knockouts. In his tenth fight, Foster faced former and future heavyweight champ Muhammad Ali and was knocked out in the eighth round. After losing to Ali, Foster never abandoned the light heavyweight division and fought for two more years.
Foster reigned as light heavyweight champ from May 1968 to August 1974 and in 15 world title fights, he went 14-0-1 (11). The draw came in his last defense against Argentine Jorge Ahumada. Foster only lost one fight as a light heavyweight, an eight round decision to Mauro Mina in his 13th fight. He retired as undefeated light heavyweight champion at age 36, and then made a comeback two years later going 5-2.
Michael Spinks compiled an overall amateur record of 93-7. He won a Gold Medal as a Middleweight in the 1976 Olympic Games. Spinks turned pro in 1977. After blazing through his first 16 fights, which included knockout wins over former light heavyweight champ Marvin Johnson and veteran Yaqui Lopez, he was the top ranked light heavyweight in the world.
In his 17th fight, Spinks would drop WBA light heavyweight champ Eddie Mustafa Muhammad (formerly Eddie Gregory) in the 12th round in route to winning a 15 round unanimous decision to capture the title. After making five successful defenses of the WBA title (winning all five by knockout), Spinks fought WBC champ Dwight Muhammad Qawi (formerly Dwight Braxton). In the most anticipated light heavyweight championship fight in boxing history, Spinks would score a unanimous decision over Qwai to become the undisputed light heavyweight champ, the first since Bob Foster.
Spinks would defend the unified title four times, winning three by knockout. After cleaning out the 175lb division, and hearing the call of the heavyweight dollars, Spinks set his site on trying to be the first light heavyweight champ to win the heavyweight title. Spinks relinquished his undisputed title as the undefeated champ, including an 11-0 (8) record in light heavyweight title fights.
Four months after giving up the 175 lb title, Spinks won a 15 round decision over the undefeated reigning IBF heavyweight champ Larry Holmes (becoming the first light heavyweight champ in boxing history to capture the heavyweight title). Seven months later, Spinks would defend the title against Holmes. In the rematch, Spinks won a controversial split decision over Holmes to retain the title.
Shortly after winning the rematch with Holmes, Spinks was stripped of the IBF title for not taking place in HBO's heavyweight unification tournament. Spinks would score two knockout wins, including a fifth round stoppage over the come backing Gerry Cooney before facing the tournament winner, Mike Tyson. A year after beating Cooney, Spinks would fight Tyson for the undisputed heavyweight title. In a fight similar to Frazier's destruction of Bob Foster, Tyson knocked Spinks out in the first round. It was the only time Spinks was beaten, or stopped in his 11-year pro career. A month after losing to Tyson, Spinks announced his retirement and never fought again.
Bob Foster and Michael Spinks are two of the most dominant light heavyweight champions in the 100-year history of the division. Foster possessed one of the most powerful punches ever seen on a light heavyweight, his left hook. The left hook of Foster left more than a few top fighters on the canvas for a count of well past 10. In more than a few fights, some thought the opponents were actually dead while they were being counted out; Dick Tiger, Vincente Rondon and Mike Quarry come to mind.
Foster also had a dynamite left jab, which carried knockout power and was capable of busting up the face of his opponent. Although it isn't often mentioned, Foster had KO power in his right hand. Foster was comfortable boxing at a distance or trading--either way he could get you. The only time Foster's chin ever betrayed him was in his bouts versus the upper tier heavyweights. No light heavyweight ever had him close to being stopped.
Michael Spinks was one of the most versatile light heavyweight champions in history. Like Foster, Spinks could box or punch. In fact, Spinks was even more adaptable than Foster. Spinks could fight moving away or moving forward, whereas Foster was only effective going forward. Spinks was effective fighting inside or outside. He also had knockout power in both hands. He could take his opponents out with either his left hook or uppercut, and his right hand (The Spinks Jinx) was probably the hardest punch in the division since Foster's left hook. Spinks also had very underrated hand speed, especially on the inside. Another thing Spinks was very good at was adjusting to his opponents' style. Spinks could handle pressure, speed, counter punchers and punchers. He also had an outstanding chin. The only time Spinks was ever shook or stopped were in his fights with Holmes and Tyson.
Who Would've Won?
I have discussed this fight with many writers, historians and friends throughout the years. Trying to pick the winner between the two is a very close call. From a style vantage point, Foster may have a slight edge because of his jab. That being said, Spinks was definitely the fighter who was more capable of adjusting to varied styles. In this fight, I see Foster taking the lead, because he has to. Foster would push the fight with his jab, trying to force Spinks into his left hook. Spinks would most likely box moving away while looking to counter. If Foster keeps the fight outside, he probably wins, if Spinks can catch Foster coming in, he may be able to land the Jinx in hopes of slowing Foster down so he can come on down the stretch.
I'll say this; I think Spinks has the better-suited style to fighting in the heavyweight division, and can see why he was more successful against them. Spinks can neutralize a bigger fighter better than Foster because he doesn't have to meet their strength and power head on. In my opinion, Spinks is better against the heavyweights. However, I would probably pick Foster to win if they fought at 175 while both were in their prime--most likely by decision.
Written by Steve Kim
Monday, 25 August 2003 21:00
It really is the latter, it means that not only do you get enough plaudits and accolades for your skills, it also means that you're largely ignored.
But that's if you're truly worth of being labeled as such. I mean, how many times have we see things be given the 'underrated' tag so much, that they in effect, really become 'overrated' Like for instance when you get a pizza and those around you will say how the crust is the best part. Hogwash, if the crust was that good, you'd get extra crust on your pizza, not cheese or pepperoni's. But you hear about the crust so often it's become gospel. Seriously, when was the last time you had an all-crust pizza?
It's the same in boxing, a smaller fighter wins multiple titles in two or three weight divisions- oftentimes against the worst titlist available and they get the 'underrated' tag put on them. Meanwhile, upon closer inspection they've fought absolutely nobody and were guided to their titles.
When you say the 'U' word in this sport, it has to go to guys that are battle-tested, skilled and largely ignored or not given enough credit for what they've accomplished. Y'know, they're underrated.
And this term doesn't just go to champions who are not marquee names, but guys who are journeyman, contenders, pound-for-pound types and fighters of all shapes and sizes. Here are five that truly fit the description.
- Orlando Salido- Jr. Lightweight: Salido is a guy with a mediocre mark, 18-8-1, but upon closer inspection you find that this was the classic case of a young eager Mexican who simply didn't get the proper guidance early on in his career.
He turned pro at the age of 16 and would lose seven of his first 15 bouts. But since that point he has gone 10-1-1 over his last dozen with wins over former world champion Reggie Tuur, Lamont Pearson, Carlos Gerena, Jorge Monzon, Radford Beasley and his one loss was a highly controversial loss to another former world champion Alejandro Gonzalez.
In what is becoming a deep 130-pound division, Salido is becoming a dangerous contender. Salido is maturing rapidly( he's just 22 as we speak) and he possesses a big right hand that's capable of starching anybody. Just ask his last foe, Freddy Neal, who came in with a record of 17-1-2, who got iced with a single right hand.
For Salido, it's not how he starts but how he finishes.
- Manuel Medina- Featherweight: 'Mantecas' has been written off more times than chalk and after he got blown out in seven rounds by Juan Manuel Marquez this past February, everyone figured the end was near for Medina. In July he was brought in to be sacrificial big name lamb for WBO featherweight king Scott Harrison in his home country of Scotland. Well, guess what? Medina pulled the improbable by winning a belt for the fifth time in out-punching his younger and stronger opponent.
And y'know what, even with his record of 63-13, he's a Hall-of-Famer. Yeah, you heard that right, in the old days that meant you were battle tested and took on eveeverybodyhich is exactly what Medina has done.
Just look at his ledger: Johnny Tapia( in a highly disputed 12 round loss), Frank Toledo( TKO6 for the IBF belt), Paul Ingle(L12), Hector Lizzaraga( W12), Derrick Gainer(KO'd 9), Luisito Espinoza( LTD 8), Naseem Hamed( KO'd 11), Victor Polo( WTD 9), Alejandro Gonzalez( W 12), Tom Johnson( fought three times to a win and two close defeats), John-John Molina( L12), Troy Dorsey( W12 for his first title, the IBF featherweight crown).
Now, he lost his share of fights but outside of 'Smoke' Gainer and Marquez, he gave everyone- and I do mean everyone- a tussle. Can you name me another fighter today that has encompassed as much in one weight division as he has? From Reagan's second presidential term to George W. this guy has been in the thick of things at 126 pounds.
- Manuel Gomez- Welterweight- Ok, here's a guy, like the above mentioned Salido that I label a 'Mexican Pendleton', you all remember Freddie Pendleton, right. He was this tough-as-nails Philly fighter in the late 80's, early 90's that was basically a .500 fighter up until his 45 pro bout and then suddenly became this world-class guy that gave everyone hell and even won a world championship. Well, Gomez is a 'Mexican Pendleton' with his 23-10 mark, no it's not a record that says anything more than journeyman but look closer and you see a surging fighter who's a world class 147-pounder.
Like a Salido, he had a slow start to his professional career losing seven of his first 17 bouts and he was just another tough guy that was brought in to provide rounds and an eventual win to bigger name fighters. In November of 1997, he would go 11 surprisingly tough rounds with Shane Mosley for his IBF lightweight crown and despite the loss it was beginning of renaissance for 'Rana'.
In his last eight fights he has notched seven wins- most notably against undefeated prospect Kofi Jantuah, who came in at 21-0 and former two-time champion Miguel Angel Gonzalez in back to back fights in 2001. The only thing that has stopped the hard-punching and iron chinned Gomez is a dispute with Don King that kept him on the sideline for months at a time. But with a new promotional deal with Top Rank, he could be headed for bigger and better things.
His last bout against Jeffrey Hill is one of the best fights of 2003. He would get decked early and on the verge of being KO'd before he landed a devastating right hand to the chin of Hill who went down like a sack of potatoes- and it all happened in the first round.
Despite his relatively unimpressive record, Ring Magazine rates him the sixth best welterweight on the planet.
Maybe he's not completely underrated after all - Juan Manuel Marquez- Featherweight: Ok, so you might be wondering how a guy who many( like myself) have listed in the pound-for-pound rankings can be underrated. That's a good question, but the bottom line is this, for as good as he is( and he is very good) he still doesn't get the credit he deserved.
I mean being the third most well-known featherweight in the world the past few years behind guys like Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales must be like being the middle sister in 'the Brady Bunch' in between Marsha and Cindy, uhhhh, what's her name.... oh yeah, Jan. You see what I mean?
But it says right here that even before Morales made the move up to 130-pounds that he may have been the best featherweight, period. Remember what I said about Medina earlier, well, he was one of the very few guys to really spank him like he did earlier this year. And lets look at his mark of 41-2. His first loss was a bogus loss in his pro debut where he was stolen from by the Mexican commission and their outlandish rules that punishes fighters for being the recipient of cuts in accidental clashes of heads. Then his second loss was a controversial loss to Freddy Norwood in 1999 for the WBA crown.
But with the teachings of Nacho Beristain- who's a very underrated trainer in his own right- he has become the complete and consummate boxer and by far the most deadly and accurate counter-puncher in the game.
- Mark Johnson- Jr. Bantamweight: Yeah, I admit it, 'Too Sharp' has always been one of my favorites and it did bring a smile to my mug when he beat the undefeated Fernando Montiel for the WBO 115-pound title. There was never a doubt in my mind that Johnson was a Hall-of-Famer, after this latest win, he's first ballot material.
But the real story of Johnson is that forget all his impressive wins, like the ones against Montiel, Jorge Lacierva, Ratanchai Sor Vorapin, Arthur Johnson, Cecilio Espino, Alejandro Montiel, Franciso Tejedor, Enrique Orozco and Alberto Jimenez, he'll be forever defined by the guys that found ways to avoid him. Guys like Danny Romero, Johnny Tapia, Chiquita Gonzalez and Michael Carbajal. The bottom line is that like a Mike McCallum, who never got to face the likes of Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns and Marvin Hagler, he was simply too good, for his own good.
Johnson, a quicksilver southpaw is among the most electrifying and yet sound fighter the game has seen the past 25 years. Not only could he box, but he could bang as well. He was as slick as any inner-city fighter and yet could get down and dirty inside like a Mexican. And take away his loss to Richie Wenton in his second pro bout, he's basically undefeated when he fights at or below 115 pounds.
He was thought to be 'Too Shot' after his successive losses to Rafael Marquez( with the first fight being a highly controversial decision that was changed two hours after Johnson was declared the winner) but as his fight with Montiel proved, he ain't done yet.
Hopefully, one day he'll get his proper due respect.