As it turned out, the "Round the Way Rumbling" fightcard was not worth the wait.
Philly's own Yusef Mack certainly didn't disappoint, though, as he brilliantly out-boxed and out-hustled the more experienced Ray Berry (19-14-2, 7 KO's) in the evening's super middleweight main event. Mack improved to 15-0-1 (9 KO's) with his dominating performance and earned the 6 round unanimous decision victory.
Bruce Seldon continued on his comeback trail as he breezed by his mismatched, made-to-order opponent, Lenzie Morgan. Morgan, now 14-28-3 (7 KO's), had lost his last 10 fights coming in and, at 217lbs., was over 35lbs. lighter than the former world champion. Morgan hadn't won a boxing match since December 22, 1995 - over 8 ½ years ago - and he had no intention of winning this one either.
Seldon, nicknamed "The Atlantic City Express", rolled over Morgan in the 1st round with his solid jabs and hurt his game opponent with a big right hand. In round 2, with Morgan still hurt, the powerful Seldon dazzled the Philly fight fans with his best Joe Frazier imitation and sent the beaten Morgan crashing to the canvas with a picture perfect left hook. Morgan, with his head resting on the bottom rope somehow managed to beat the referee's count but was unable to continue. Seldon, with his dramatic 2nd round technical knockout victory, improves to 35-4 (32 KO's) and, while deservedly happy with his performance, must realize he will have to step up his competition soon if he wants to get back into the mix of today's "wide open" heavyweight division.
While not interested in a comeback of his own, Philly's beloved "Terrible Tim" Witherspoon delighted the crowd with his 3 round exhibition bout with former IBF Jr. Middleweight Champ Robert "Bam Bam" Hines. While the quicker Hines showed that he could still "bring it", it was the 2-time World Heavyweight Champion Witherspoon's dancing "up on his toes" and his crushing body shots which brought out the roar of the crowd.
On the undercard.....the talented Najal Turpin, now 10-1 (9 KO's), battered Gary Grant (10-18-5, 5 KO's). Turpin put on a boxing clinic en-route to his 3rd round technical knockout win. Light heavyweight David Hamilton (3-0) continued on his winning way with a close 4 round split decision victory over Bertrand Tchandjev, who slipped to 2-8. Derrick Ennis stayed perfect (4-0, 2 KO's) with his 4 round unanimous decision victory over the tough and courageous David Gogichaishvili. Gogichaishvili was taking a beating from Ennis in this jr. middleweight contest yet refused to quit and went the distance.
The fightcard was a tribute, in memory of Philadelphia fighter Tybius Flowers, former USBA Champion who was recently murdered. As all members of the James Shuler Gym entered the ring - with promoter, trainer and mentor Custus Percy - a final 10 count rang out for their loved and always-to-be-remembered fellow ring warrior. A donation to the Tybius Flowers family, as a gesture of caring, respect and dignity, was given by the Retired Boxers Foundation.
Joe Louis and Sugar Ray Robinson are two of the three most significant fighters who have ever Graced the Sport of Boxing. The other of course is Muhammad Ali. It's also no coincidence that Louis is the fighter Ali is most measured against, and Robinson is the fighter who Ali most emulated himself after.
Joe Louis won the Heavyweight title on June 22nd 1937 with an 8th round knockout of Champion James Braddock. He held the title for nearly 12 years and made a record 25 consecutive successful defenses of it, a record that still stands to this day regardless of weight class. Louis made his last defense of the title versus Jersey Joe Walcott on June 25th 1948, scoring an 11th round knockout. Shortly after defeating Walcott, Louis retired as Heavyweight Champion. Louis would un-retire and come back in 1950 and lose a decision to Heavyweight Champion Ezzard Charles failing to regain what seem to belong to him forever.
Joe Louis was the best offensive fighting machine in Heavyweight History. He had a dynamite left jab, a devastating short crisp left-hook which he delivered to the head and body with almost laser type precision and accuracy. His right hand had one punch knockout power and was delivered with the speed and accuracy of a striking Cobra. That awesome speed and power was packaged by the best pair of combination punching hands the Heavyweight division has ever witnessed before or since. On top of that he was a great finisher, nobody ever made it through once Louis had them hurt. Louis also had a tight defense, carried his hands high and didn't waste punches. He was great at cutting off the ring, and no fighter who he ever got a second look at made it to hear the decision.
Sugar Ray Robinson won the Welterweight title on December 20th 1946 with a 15 round decision over Tommy Bell, after turning pro in October of 1940. Robinson only suffered one defeat on his way to capturing the Welterweight title. That was a decision loss to top Middleweight contender Jake LaMotta who couldn't get fights against the other top Middleweights. LaMotta was a big Middleweight who rarely came in at the 160 pound limit. Robinson wasn't even a full fledged Welterweight when he fought LaMotta, and spotted him anywhere from 12 to 19 pounds in their first five fights excluding their fight for LaMotta's Middleweight title in 1951.
After making 5 successful defenses of the Welterweight title over the next four years, Robinson challenged for the Middleweight title as the Welterweight Champ. His opponent was his old Nemesis, Jake LaMotta. This would be the sixth and final meeting between these two. Heading into their Middleweight title bout, Robinson held a 4-1 edge in the rivalry. On February 14th 1951 Robinson stopped LaMotta in the 13th round and captured the Middleweight Championship of the world. Shortly after winning LaMotta's title, Robinson vacated his Welterweight title with a perfect record of never being defeated by a welterweight. Robinson would lose the title and win it back from Randy Turpin also in 1951.
On June 25th 1952 Robinson challenged Light Heavyweight Champ Joey Maxim. Robinson failed in his bid to win Maxim's title when he collapsed from heat exhaustion and couldn't come out for the 14th round. It was so hot in New York that summer night that the referee also collapsed from the heat after the 10th round and had to be replaced. After failing to win the Light Heavyweight title, Robinson retired.
Two and half years later Robinson came back and won the Middleweight Championship three more times from 1955 through 1958. It actually should have been four more times winning the title, had it none been for a horrendous decision in his third fight with Middleweight Champ Gene Fullmer in December of 1960, which was declared a draw. That decision was an outright robbery. It was a clear Robinson win, however at that time Ray had rubbed some of Boxing's top powers the wrong way and was not going to get the benefit in any close call. That being said, Robinson definitely beat Fullmer in their third fight and should be 2-2 versus him instead of 1-2-1. Robinson would fight for five more years but never again challenge for the title after 1961. On December 10th 1965, Robinson retired for good.
In my opinion Sugar Ray Robinson is the greatest fighter who has yet lived. He had no weakness and could do it all. He had blinding speed, he was a great boxer and a terrific puncher. He could throw any punch with power and speed. Sugar Ray could adapt to any style, fighting effectively moving away from his opponent, or moving towards his opponent applying pressure. Robinson knocked fighters out with a jab, he knocked them out moving backwards, and he killed them with hooks, right hands, and uppercuts. And to go along with all that weaponry, he had great foot speed and movement, and had a killer instinct complimented by a concrete chin. Robinson was never stopped in over 200 fights other than collapsing against Maxim in the scorching heat and who also out weighed by just about 20 pounds. Yes, Sugar Ray Robinson was the greatest of all time!
The reason I wrote this is that I can't believe that two of the three most famous and greatest fighters in Boxing history were both born in the month of May and are the same Zodiac sign. And more Ironically, they both passed away on the same day, April 12th. Joe Louis died on April 12th 1981 at age 66 and Sugar Ray Robinson died on April 12th 1989 at age 68. This is something I cannot fathom why it hasn't been written about more. Just for the record, Joe Louis is the standard by which all Heavyweight greats are measured, and Sugar Ray Robinson is the standard by which all non Heavyweight greats are measured.
As George Foreman was recently quoted as saying "they can fill a big void but none of them can hold the sport up, none of them will be a famous Heavyweight Champion." Unfortunately Foreman may be right. Not only does this current Heavyweight division lack depth, it also has no identity. It seems with the retirement of Lennox Lewis, the division is in dire need for some fighter to take it over and make it respectable again.
The Heavyweight division needs an outstanding fighter in it to carry Boxing, that is irrefutable. Regardless of how mediocre some thought their contemporaries were, Holmes and Tyson were able to keep the title somewhat respected. Holmes was a great fighter who had one of the best left hand's in Heavyweight history, which made it hard for any clear thinking fight fan not to see his greatness. Plus he had Sugar Ray Leonard underneath him keeping Boxing in the mainstream press and keeping the quasi Boxing fan interested.
As the Holmes era was coming to a close, Mike Tyson came along and bridged the gap into the Holyfield, Bowe, Lewis era. Tyson by himself kept Boxing on the mainstream Sports pages due to his combination of punching power and hand speed. And sometimes Tyson even put Boxing on the front page of the World's major newspapers for better or worse. The fact is Boxing had a fighter in which it could hang its hat on and declare this is our guy. He is the fighter we can be identified with for better or worse. At the worst people had an opinion. In order to have an opinion, whether it be good or bad, you have to care somewhat. This is what scares me. Who is that guy come the end of April who can possibly be defined as the future Holmes, Tyson, or Lewis?
Lets be honest, regardless of what happens in the Klitschko-Brewster fight, nobody on April 11th is going to be saying I saw the future of the Heavyweight division last night. If Brewster wins, Wladimir Klitschko will be looking up at both Mesi and Guinn in stature. If Klitschko wins, as expected, questions will still hover over him. Forget that fight settling anything.
The next title fight is John Ruiz vs. Fres Oquendo for the WBA belt. I certainly don't see the winner of this fight being the standard barer of the Heavyweight elite. I hate to rip John Ruiz, but he lost the title once to the Light Heavyweight Champ, all be it a great one. And hasn't fought a big time puncher since Tua. So it's not out of the question that he could get dumped again by either Klitschko, Sanders, or Golota. Oquendo is decent but just not good enough to be a major factor even if he beats Ruiz. Fres just doesn't have that one signature weapon that you can hang your hat on in thinking that he can beat the upper tier Heavyweight's that will hopefully emerge by the end of April.
The Chris Byrd vs. Andrew Golota IBF title bout will follow the Ruiz-Oquendo fight. Lets be pessimistic and say Golota wins. He definitely is not the fighter to bring any credibility back to the division. Not only did he quit against Tyson and Grant, he was destroyed in one round by Lewis back in 1997. The main reason Golota is a live dog versus Byrd is because he does have some skill and power, it's just that he makes Tyson look like the ultimate warrior when it comes to character and heart. The fact that Byrd is not a puncher will keep Golota in this fight much more than I'd like to believe.
What if Byrd wins? Along with Vitali Klitschko, Byrd has the best resume of all the Heavyweight's fighting in title fights this month. Byrd holds wins over Vitali, Tua, Holyfield, and Oquendo. And his two defeats are to the two fighters many thought were the future of the division at one time, Ike Ibeabuchi and Wladimir Klitschko. As good and as willing as Byrd is, the fact that he is not a big puncher or a seek and destroy style fighter makes it hard for him to capture the publics imagination. The average Sports/Boxing fan can't appreciate what he does in the ring. And lastly, only Muhammad Ali was a true superstar on the World's stage who wasn't a puncher. Byrd would have to beat Golota and the Klitschko-Sanders winner convincingly to gain acceptance as being the man in the Heavyweight division.
The last title fight in the month of April is between Vitali Klitschko and Corrie Sanders. This fight has one advantage over the others. It's for the vacated WBC title recently held by former Champ Lennox Lewis. Another thing this fight has is two fighters who the public just may accept provided they not only win, but perform like a champion. If Sanders wins, he'll have the fact that he can hit going for him which will make it easier for him to be accepted and taken seriously. And if he holds two convincing wins over the Klitschko's, it will add to his stature. However, he must beat Vitali impressively for this to be realized.
The fighter that has the most to gain and lose in this month of Heavyweight Championship bouts is Vitali Klitschko. Klitschko has many things in his favor when it comes to his body of work. He was the first fighter to stop Larry Donald. His two loses are to former Champ Lennox Lewis and current IBF Champ Chris Byrd. In the fight with Lewis he suffered a horrible eye cut which led to the fight being stopped, despite leading slightly in the scoring. Granted, Vitali may not have faced the same Lewis that fought Holyfield and Tyson, but he did beat Lewis up more so than either one of them did. His first defeat was to Chris Byrd when he tore his rotator cuff and had to stop after the ninth round. In the Byrd fight he was ahead in the scoring, and to his credit Byrd is one of the toughest guys to fight in the division.
The way I see it, Vitali Klitschko is the fighter who has the best chance to emerge as the fighter who may, I repeat may have the best shot to give this division someone to identify with. He's big and can punch, two things that usually always captures the publics imagination. He is also tough and showed against Lewis that he can take a good punch, another must for the Heavyweight Champion. And the thing that really looks good for him is that he fought the best Heavyweight in the world 10 months ago, and gave him nine kinds of hell.
I think that the only fighter who can possibly come out of this Championship month with a chance to bridge the gap from Lewis to the next generation of Heavyweights's is Vitali Klitschko. I know one thing, Boxing would benefit tremendously if one of these Heavyweight's makes a statement this month showing that he has what it takes to be a special fighter and possibly a great? I'm not sure that will be the case, but it would be a great place to start. What a great month to be a Fight Fan !!
For ten of twelve rounds Augustus danced, pranced and tapped his way around Trujillo with a smile on his face and spring in his step. This was the same Trujillo who had dispatched of 30-4-1 Luis Villalta in his previous bout. The man who dropped and decisioned Juan Valenzuela, who had starched Julio Diaz in one round, and erased the 'O' from US Olympic stud Ricardo Williams. Trujillo had also TKO'd the tough Emanuel Clottey, who went on to give Francisco Bojado fits for ten heats.
We thought Augustus-Trujillo was going to be a walk in the park. We just didn't know it would be Augustus taking the leisurely stroll. Short of the ring introductions, Emanuel Augustus did it all on this night. Augustus poked and pawed at his opponent like a cat playing with a wounded mouse, sending a message to all the fight managers out there: don't let the 28-23-6 record fool you.
Emanuel Augustus is like a box of chocolates. You really never know what you are going to get from him. Coming into the bout with Trujillo, Augustus had gone 0-4-1 in his past five fights and looked like a guy who just didn't have the hunger any longer.
He had warred with Micky Ward in 2001's Ring Magazine Fight of the Year, when Augustus and Ward threw everything they had at each other, including the kitchen sink, with Ward coming out ahead by decision. Ward will tell you, don't bring anything less than your complete toolbox when you step in with Augustus.
Later, Augustus took on 37-1-2 Carlos Wilfredo Vilches on two days notice and won by TKO. And after Lightweight prospect Mike Griffith had given undefeated IBF champion Paul Spadafora fits in losing a technical decision in 2000, Griffith's next fight was supposed to be a tune-up with Augustus. Griffith was systematically beaten down for 10 rounds and hasn't fought since.
So how does a guy who can beat the best of the best get introduced in the ring as a man with 23 losses? Well, he loses that many fights. Augustus mailed in losses to Leonard Dorin and failed to show up against Antonio Diaz. He was over-matched facing Floyd Mayweather and his corner recognized it in throwing in the towel after nine.
More recently, undefeated Kelson Pinto was simply too strong for Augustus. Still, there are many names on his resume that he could have beaten, but didn't. At just 29-years of age Augustus could easily pass for 39, as the years and wars he has been through have taken their toll.
He is so durable and such a high volume puncher that he can take a lot of punishment, and often does. That is both good and bad. Over 57 fights Augustus has only seen 15 end the short route. His norm is a grueling 10-12 round battle.
Heading into the fight with Trujillo on a 0-4-1 slide, a case could have been made for sticking a fork in Emanuel Augustus and turning him over - he looked done. Now he's shakin' and bakin' again as the IBA Light Welterweight champion.
But it's much more muddled in the heavyweight division in boxing. When Lennox Lewis decided to hang'em up a few months back, it opened up the floodgates to a cast of characters scrambling around to call themselves a heavyweight 'champion'. While the various titles will be fought and filled after a flurry of heavyweight title fights, we still wont have a true heavyweight champion.
But we will come a bit closer to filling out our heavyweight brackets.
APRIL 10TH- Lamon Brewster vs. Wladimir Klitschko: Now, this here is for the vacant WBO, which somehow always seems to end up in the hands of one of the Klitschko's because of their promoter Peter Kohl, who seems to wield a lot of influence on the Puerto Rican based sanctioning body.
Brewster, by definition of the Muhammad Ali Act, shouldn't even be fighting for any title since it's been more than a year since he's fought. But this being boxing, the show will go on. In fact, it was only a couple of fights ago that Klitschko himself was getting sent to the canvas repeatedly against Corrie Sanders last March in losing this title. He was on the canvas so often against the southpaw South African, you almost thought he was one of the fights sponsors.
Sanders, would eventually vacate the title and is facing Wlad's brother later this month for the WBC crown.
Klitschko is a huge favorite, about 10-to-1, but then, so was Sanders last year. Brewster has heavy hands and Klitschko's chin can now be called suspect. Klitschko, if he were a car would be terrible if he were a automobile going down the wrong way in a one way zone, why? Because he has no reverse gear. If Brewster can back up the big Ukrainian early, I think he's a live, live dog.
APRIL 17TH- Chris Byrd vs. Andrew Golota( IBF) and Fres Oquendo vs. John Ruiz( WBA): The best thing I can say about these two fights being held on the same night on Don King's card in Madison Square Garden is that at least they're taking place on the same night. It would be a shame to spread these fights over several weekends. For boxing fans, it will be like getting both your flu and tetanus shots on the same visit to the doctor.
Poor Chris Byrd, you think that winning a title would have finally given him the leverage to make some of the marquee names in the division have the gumption to fight him. Instead, he's remains as appealing as the IRS does every April 15th. It's bad enough that King hasn't paid Byrd his contracted minimum since winning the title( around $2.5 million) but then he sticks him with freak shows like Golota- who shouldn't come anywhere near a title shot or the Madison Square Garden for that matter- to sell a few seats and squeeze out some more pay-per-view buys.
The media has been highly critical of the undeserving Golota getting a shot at the title, and rightfully so, but what's unfortunate is that Byrd has been ostracized for accepting the fight. This guy can't win for losing. Hey, there's no doubt that Golota deserves a title shot as much as Saddam Hussein deserves a Noble Peace Prize, but the bottom line is, Byrd still has a right to earn a living and put food on the table.
But here's an interesting and altogether realistic scenario, what if Byrd manages to frustrate Golota like so many of his past opponents. I mean, there is a chance, that perhaps, feeling frustrated and angry, that Golota starts to hit Byrd a bit below the border. And then, who knows, anger and chaos mix and some civil unrest occurs and then.... Nah, that could never happen. Not with Andrew Golota and the Madison Square Garden involved.
In the other heavyweight title fight on that bill, a pair of Puerto Ricans duke it out for the WBA title, when John Ruiz faces Fres Oquendo.
Now, how's this for an eye-opening statistic: Ruiz is now a two-time WBA heavyweight champion. Yup, due to the maneuverings and machinations of King, Ruiz, after getting spanked by Roy Jones last year, was able to regain his crown after downing Hasim Rahman last December. Talk all you want about expansion diluting the pitching in major league baseball, tell me that boxing and it's proliferation of titles hasn't watered down this game. Now, that's not to say that every single titlist in the current game is undeserving, to the contrary, but the reality is that it's most pronounced in the heavyweight division because there are not enough solid fighters to go around to keep these belts warms.
Think about it, in any other division, is Ruiz a multiple time champion? I think not.
Stylistically, this is about as bad a match-up as you can make. They say that styles make fights. Well, these styles may set back heavyweight boxing back a hundred years. Both Ruiz and Oquendo are awkward fighters who are prone to being involved in ugly fights. Some guys like Ali and Frazier went together like peanut butter and jelly. Ruiz and Oquendo go together like the cold and flu.
And it's boxing fans who may become ill in watching this one. I don't know who the winner is in this one, but I do know who the losers will be.
The fans that have to sit through it.
APRIL 24- Vitali Klitschko vs. Corrie Sanders: Now, many are calling this bout at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, 'the' heavyweight championship fight. Which might be true to a certain degree. With a win, either Sanders or Klitschko can make a strong claim to being the worlds number one big man.
But let's get this clear, it does not make them the heir apparent to Lewis just yet. Remember, Lewis retired before he was beat again, so neither man can claim the all-important( well, at least in the heavyweight division) linear crown and neither Sanders or Klitschko have cleaned out the division like Lewis did in the previous decade.
Whoever wins this bout, to gain recognition as the one and only heavyweight champion, must go out and defeat at least some of the names mentioned above. Unless of course both Klitschko's win, then all bets are off, since both brothers have vehemently stated that they will never fight each other. Which is completely understandable. And if Sanders should pull off another upset, he'll become the champion of the Klitschko's, but not the world.
This is an interesting battle, Sanders again is dangerous early with his left-handed power which befuddled Wladimir. But you get the sense that if Klitschko can acclimate himself to that style and take the fight into the later rounds that he will surge to a victory. It's all about getting out of the early rounds, something that his brother couldn't do. So there you have it, a plethora of heavyweight title fights. Unfortunately, even after all this, we still wont have one true heavyweight champion.
Luis Alberto Santiago, now 18-4-1 (11 KO's), gave Aaron Torres all he could handle before finally disposing of the rugged, yet less experienced, challenger in the main event. Santiago took control of the action packed contest midway through the fight. Hurting Torres in round 4, Santiago also cut Torres over the right eye in round 7. Midway through round 9 Santiago had Torres hurt (blood gushed from Torres' nose and eye) when the Torres corner wisely threw in the towel, alerting veteran referee Steve Smoger their fighter had had enough.
With his well-earned, hard fought technical knockout victory Luis Alberto, Santiago retained both his IBF Latino and Pa. State Jr. Welterweight Championship belts, while Torres's record slipped to a still respectful 14-2 with 6 KO's.
On the undercard.....Brooklyn middleweight Giavannie Lorenzo improved to 12-0 (5 KO's) with a unanimous decision 6 round victory over gutsy Isreal Garcia (5-9, 4 KO's). Darling Jimenez, now 17-1-2 (7 KO's) and fighting out of the Bronx, looked good with his dominating technical knockout victory over Jose Ramon Disla (5-16, 3 KO's). Jimenez knocked his outgunned opponent to the canvas in each of the first two rounds. Disla was unable to continue after round two.
Three unanimous decision 4 round victories were gained by Leroy Fountain (now 7-0 with 3 KO's) over Keith Canton; Lt. Heavyweight Bobby Rooney, now 2-0, against Richard Moore (0-2); and Philly's Lenny DeVictorio (2-0) breezing by Earnest Scott (0-2) from Norfolk, Va.
The most entertaining fight of the night saw middleweight prospect Dennis Sharpe, now 16-0-1, pound out an 8 round unanimous decision victory over a game and unyielding Ron Boddie. Sharpe - a native of Chuck Wepner's Bayonne, NJ - showed much improvement with his disciplined body attack. Sharpe's aggressive pressure enabled him to take control of the bout from the onset. Boddie, now 14-21, fought with an injured hand and showed true heart in going the distance.
Greg Robinson and his Power Productions demonstrated why he was recently voted "Philly's # 1 Boxing Promoter". A full fightcard with seven competitive and exciting bouts, the professional services of Larry Tornambe as ring announcer and the Legendary Blue Horizon, as always, the ultimate Philly boxing venue added up to a great night of boxing.
Power Productions will be back at the Blue Horizon on June 4th. Scheduled for action are Philly favorites Prince Badi and Ivan "Mighty" Robinson in separate bouts.
Tickets are available by calling TicketMaster (215) 336-2000, Power Productions (215) 508-2810 or The Blue Horizon (215) 763-0500.
"I'm not one of the biggest heavyweights, I'm not really muscular and I don't fight pretty. So I guess I don't get much respect," stated the humble and gracious two-time world champion, who added, "I know I've come up short a couple of times, but I'm training hard and I fight with heart!"
Ruiz (39-5-1 with 27 KO's) takes on Fres Oquendo (24-2, 15 KO's) which has been dubbed the "All-Latino Heavyweight Championship" as part of Don King's April 17th -- The New Era Begins -- fightcard, which will be held at boxing's greatest venue, Madison Square Garden. This bout marks the first time in boxing history that two Puerto Rican fighters have fought for the world heavyweight championship.
As Don King would say, "Only in America, and only by Don King." Although he regained his WBA title this past December with a unanimous 12 round decision victory over former world champion Hasim Rahman, Ruiz realizes that he will forever be remembered for his March 1, 2003 loss to then Light Heavyweight Champion Roy Jones Jr.
"It bothered me that I wasn't ready for Jones. Three days before the fight I was in another world. My personal life, my divorce, I'm always apologizing for not being ready and for letting down my friends and fans." Ruiz also stated, "but I learned from it, from my mistakes. With Tua (a devastating 1st round knockout loss to David Tua, March 15,1996) I learned to be ready right from the very beginning of each fight."
Now smiling, the likeable Massachusetts native added, "with Jones I learned I need to always be physically and mentally ready, and now I am." Never too far from "my guy Johnny", Ruiz's manager, trainer, friend, father-like figure and boxing good guy, Norman "Stoney" Stone vehemently asked, "What's Johnny got to do to get respect? Three fights with Holyfield, he beats Kirk Johnson, Rahman-with the best right hand in boxing couldn't touch him. That doesn't get respect?" Stoney then added, "Johnny doesn't fight in bars, doesn't cause trouble or get arrested. It's too bad, but that's why he doesn't get his respect."
When Ruiz was asked about future opponents, Stoney, the perfect manager, answered, "We'd like to fight Tyson, if Mike is even going to fight. If not, we'll fight Joe Mesi in Buffalo!"
Stoney was now on a roll, "Wait till you see Johnny in this fight, he's ready. They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks-well, you can if you put an electric collar around his neck, and I'm the electric collar!"
When questioned about Fres Oquendo, Stoney quickly exclaimed "Let me say this, when someone comes into your house you don't clinch with him, you don't hold him. You kick his ass - that's what Johnny is going to do. We're going to kick his (Oquendo's) ass, and I guarantee it!"
Personally, I've always respected John Ruiz and appreciate the fact that while not the biggest, strongest or most skillful of today's heavyweights, he is the most resilient and also one of the classiest. He is willing to take on anybody and always comes to fight. When you are in a fight with John Ruiz, the current and two-time World Heavyweight Champion, you know you are in fight - and you also know that Norman Stone is in his corner.
"The Next Era Begins" fightcard, which will be televised on HBO pay-per-view, will also include IBF Heavyweight Champion Chris Byrd (37-2, 20 KO's) taking on Andrew Golota (38-4, 31 KO's) in an intriguing championship bout.
Welterweight World Champion Jose "El Gallo" Rivera (37-3-1 with 24 KO's) puts his WBA title belt on the line against the notorious Ricardo Mayorga (25-4-1, 23 KO's). While "El Matador" Mayorga relies heavily on bullying and intimidation he may find it very difficult to affect Rivera, who traveled to Berlin last September to capture the world title against Germany's own Michael Trabant.
And undefeated WBC Cruserweight Champion, Wayne "Big Truck" Braithwaite (20-0 with 17 KO's), will face Louis Azille (18-2-2, 15 KO's) in a title fight.
Tickets are available at the Madison Square Garden box office and all TicketMaster locations or by calling TicketMaster at (212) 307-7171, 9201) 507-8900, (631) 888-9000 or (914) 454-3380.
In Boxing if a fighter is a true knockout artist, he gets props suggesting that he is unbeatable. How many times has a really good Boxer been mentioned as being unbeatable? In the last 50 years we've had Robinson and Ali. I know there have been others, but Boxers never get the praise and adulation that punchers get. And it's a fact that Ali is the only former Heavyweight Champ who is consistently ranked among the greatest of the greats who wasn't known as a knockout artist. Greats such as Holmes and Holyfield are often overlooked because they never had that aura of invincibility.
I guess this is because in most cases when a big puncher ends a fight, it looks so final and destructive. Like Tommy Hearns drilling Pipino Cuevas and Roberto Duran like they were shot. In fact they fell forward because they were out. How about Bob Foster practically decapitating Dick Tiger, Vincente Rondon, and Mike Quarry. Did any fighters look more scary and unbeatable than Hearns and Foster did the morning after scoring those brutal knockouts.
It's funny how punchers usually always have the perception of being unbeatable. Yet sometimes they've suffered either their first defeat, or a defeat in a big fight coming off of one of their most impressive knockout wins. One that comes to mind is Felix Trinidad versus William Joppy. Trinidad literally devastated Joppy over five rounds. In fact it was Tito's first excursion into the 160 pound class and he looked awesome. However, in his next fight he fought a complete fighter in Bernard Hopkins. Hopkins went on to school Trinidad and show that he was a very one dimensional fighter. All of the sudden that devastating punch didn't look so devastating.
In looking back at some fighters who had the reputation of being big punchers who fought a "Catch an Kill" style, many of them were coming off some of their most impressive knockouts before being defeated. Foreman had just killed Ken Norton before he was beaten by Ali in his next fight. It was thought that no one could survive Foreman's punch, let alone beat him. When Mike Tyson was stopped by Buster Douglas, he was coming off of a one round stoppage of Carl "The Truth" Williams. Tyson, like Foreman was also perceived to be unbeatable.
Why is it that punchers are so often viewed as being unbeatable, when it's really the tough skilled Boxers who have more weapons to be considered unbeatable? Usually in most scenarios, the big puncher has one weapon, his punch and physical strength. They're usually not good boxers nor are they very fast. Sometimes they have a stamina problem, and aren't used to facing many fighters who don't back down from them. They also tend to move right into punches, they stand flat-footed, and they are so focused on offense that they often don't see the punches that knock them out.
A fighter like Evander Holyfield never had the "Killer" reputation of a Foreman, Liston, or Tyson. Yet he had more ways to win fights than they did. When most fans think about what it would be like to face one of the devastating hitters mentioned above, they shutter. However, they never consider that fighters like Ali, Holmes, and Holyfield are the tougher fighters to actually get a win against. A boxer with a great chin who is tough mentally is the hardest type fighter/boxer to try and beat. Even though they can't devastate their opponent like the punchers can.
When facing the Boxer, you are presented with more problems. Opposed to the puncher who if you can survive the onslaught, you're half way there. Fighter's like Ali, Holmes, and Holyfield are easier to survive against because they can't blow their opponents out so quickly and easily, yet they are harder to penetrate offensively. This is because they usually have good defenses and are harder to out maneuver and think along with having excellent stamina. On top of that they are usually super tough mentally and physically. Mainly because they had to be. Not many fighters were overcome by fear staring at Ali, Holmes, and Holyfield. Opposed to many who lost their nerve staring at Liston, Foreman, and Tyson. The Boxer is usually always tested, and fighters tend to fight their best when facing them. Punchers on the other hand have won many fights by just showing up with gloves on.
In the lighter weight divisions, Trinidad and Hopkins are a perfect example of how the puncher overshadows the Boxer/Counter-puncher. Going into their fight, the question most asked was how Hopkins would hold up to Trinidad's punch. When really it came down to what could Trinidad do if his punch wasn't able to knock Hopkins out? The perception of Trinidad being such a killer blinded some so much that even to this day some think he never caught Hopkins flush. Which is totally wrong, because he did. It's just that after seeing so many other fighters go down and out from Tito's power, they couldn't believe their eyes when a fighter took them and fought back.
That's another excuse the puncher is afforded if he doesn't score the big KO over the Boxer. Like Foreman never caught Ali with the shots he did Frazier and Norton. Some figure he couldn't have, if he did how did Ali remain upright and not horizontal? Same thing with Tyson against Holyfield. Some try and convince themselves that if only Tyson had really caught Holyfield, he would've stopped him. The fact is, Tyson did nail Holyfield with his best. Holyfield just took it and then came back with his own assault.
Punchers are great to watch and I love watching them. However, Boxing is much more than just hitting power. If it was, there would be a lot of journeymen who would've won World Championships. I don't care who the fighter is, nobody knocks out all of his opponents. When that Killer puncher comes up against that boxer who can fight and has a good chin, the puncher better have something like a Plan-B in his arsenal, or he's getting beat.
No doubt the perception of the knockout artist will always be a little over-hyped and convince some that he can't be beat. But the fact of the matter is, the overall well rounded Boxer with heart and a good chin is closer to being unbeatable than the exciting knockout artist! At the height of their career, Sonny Liston and Mike Tyson were thought by many to be unbeatable. On the other hand at the height of their career, Larry Holmes and Evander Holyfield were always perceived as being beatable. Yet when history looks back at them, it's Holmes and Holyfield who were actually closer to being unbeatable when they were at their best.
The dictionary defines "sound" as "a tone or noise that is heard." Therefore, if no one state-side has ever seen Sven Ottke, he couldn't possibly make a sound if he fell in the forest. Someone has to be present to hear the noise, at least as far as the folks who write the dictionary are concerned. Over an eight-year span, no one outside of Germany even knew what a Sven Ottke was.
This past Saturday Sven Ottke ended his perfect boxing career at 34-0 with a whopping 6 "did I really see what I think I saw" knockouts. At 37 years of age he retires the Super Middleweight champion, having spent his entire career fighting on his home turf in Germany. Okay, he did make one trip all the way over to Austria in his seventh professional bout, but he surely must have thought he was still in Germany to take the fight. His managers must have pulled one over on him for Ottke not to realize that he wasn't in Kansas, umm, err, Germany, anymore. Home cooking tasted so good to Ottke he never wanted to leave, and he didn't.
A few decisions on his resume are tainted with some local flavor and that just gave him more motive to keep doing what he was doing. The recipe of local fights, local promoters and local judging had worked for his team. They say that if you keep doing what you are doing you are going keep getting what you have been getting. According to those who might hear a noise if Ottke ever did fall - they saw him after all - close wins over Robin Reid, Mads Larsen, Byron Mitchell and Charles Brewer were more likely close losses. Still, Ottke kept doing what he was doing and kept getting was he had been getting. Wins.
As the book closes on the career of Sven "the Phantom" Ottke it is a shame we never got a chance to know him. Wait, how's that for irony, "The Phantom" was his nickname! Back to my dictionary, it says here that a "phantom" is "something apparently seen, heard, or sensed, but having no physical identity; a ghost or an apparition." Really, I couldn't make up stuff this good. Opponents of the slick moving feather-fisted German could likely attest to this moniker being a fitting one. You couldn't be sure that he hit you, his punches were so light, but you sure had a hard time finding him in the ring to land a meaningful shot against him.
With the absence of Ottke in the Super Middleweight rankings and Welsh WBO trinket-holder Joe Calzaghe moving up to Light Heavyweight, a committee will rule the division. It will remain mostly a European committee of fighters largely unknown to those residing in the United States. Denmark's Mads Larsen and Danilo Haussler of Germany will now contest the IBF title Ottke polished each night for 6 years between 1998 to 2004.
Fellow German Markus Beyer is the official WBC Super Middleweight champion with Australia's (hey, how did they let an Aussie in there?!?) Danny Green carrying that title on an interim basis. Once-defeated Anthony Mundine, also from the Land Down Under, guards the WBA title and has seemingly lost out on his opportunity to revenge the shocking KO loss he suffered to Ottke. It wasn't shocking that Mundine lost, only that Ottke was able to knock somebody out.
Canadian Eric Lucas surrendered his belt to Beyer in 2003, and lost his subsequent shot at the interim title by TKO to the hard-hitting Green. Too bad, Lucas was as close as there was to an American in the mix. Canada isn't that far off after all, but then again Lucas is French-Canadian so that wouldn't count anyway.
Ottke did it for so many years, never falling, nor making nary a sound. Having never known that he was even there, it seems ironic to suggest that the division just might miss its champion.
Now, from atop our soapbox, as columnists, we paint a certain picture with how we see things. Not only are we licensed to give opinions, it's expected of us.
But we have to be careful not to go overboard on things. Sometimes, we have to gather more facts, before giving out our opinions and forecasting the future. A few years ago I gushed about a young prospect by the name of Francisco Bojado. I thought like Coca-Cola, he was the real thing. Soon after that, he would lose to Juan Carlos Rubio in stunning fashion. Now, he's rebounded from that loss, avenging his loss to Rubio last November and winning the rest of his fights. But while it looks like he is developing into a solid young prizefighter, he certainly hasn't shown the star power I once forecasted for him.
I felt like one of those guys in the late '90's who threw down his mortgage payments on internet stocks, only to see them plummet. I learned a valuable lesson, no matter how good a prospect might look against carefully matched, handpicked opposition, before sizing up anyone's bust for Canastota, I should be more patient with my forecasts.
But then Dominick Guinn, happened. And it looks like I may have invested in a pyramid scheme all over again.
Now, it's not like Guinn was this heavily hyped prospect, in fact, he was a guy that flew under the radar since he wasn't an Olympian and was nurtured rather slowly by his promoter Main Events. He had been allowed to learn his craft slowly and surely and last year he broke out with big wins over Michael Grant and Duncan Dokiwari.
Ok, so beating Grant in 2003, is like pushing around Great Britain after the Revolutionary War, but the Dokiwari win I thought I stamped him as a legitimate player in the heavyweight division. In that fight he took some good solid punches from a big, strapping heavyweight and was able to turn the tide with his precise and powerful punching, to win an entertaining ten rounder. I thought to myself,' Hey, he showed a good beard, he overcame a noticeable size advantage and he showed that he could go the distance in a tough fight. He's proven himself'
And unlike like recent U.S. heavyweight failures, like Grant, Lance Whitaker and Jameel McCline, Guinn was a boxer first and foremost. He had a deep amateur background and a solid foundation of fundamental skills. Plus, like I mentioned above, he was battle-tested.
So by the time he was slated to face Monte Barrett, I was fully on the bandwagon. And Barrett was the perfect foe, he was coming off a close loss to Joe Mesi and every other time he had stepped up, he had lost to the likes of Wladimir Klitschko and Whitaker. This, was supposed to be the perfect opponent at the perfect time. Just to make sure everything was tilted in Guinn's favor, the fight would take place in his home state of Arkansas.
But I guess Barrett, never got the script.
From the very first round, Barrett would give Guinn fits with his movement and consistent jab. Guinn, had readily admitted that he preferred to face the bigger, more ponderous heavyweights, that are so prevalent today. They made for easier and bigger targets- and you didn't need as much skill to down them. But Barrett, while not exactly Larry Holmes, does have passable skills and he employed enough movement and offense to keep Guinn off-balance and out of kilter the whole night.
Guinn looked flatter than a pancake, but perhaps, it was Barrett that was flattening him. He would clearly establish control of the bout in the fourth round with a left hook that shook Guinn. It was at that juncture in the fight that Guinn seemed to acquiesce to Barrett, his body language and facial expression were eerily similar to that of Shane Mosley a few weeks ago during his losing effort against Winky Wright.
No matter how hard he was exhorted by his training team of Mark Breland and Ronnie Shields, Guinn, seemed only to be there physically, but not mentally. In a time when he needed to show passion, hunger, fire and a sense of desperation, he fought like a guy who was content to just survive and run out the clock.
Barrett, on the other hand is a guy with five mouths to feed and from what I heard, a marriage on the rocks. He would say that he wasn't just hungry, but he was flat out 'starving'. And it showed, he was clearly the one willing to walk through fire to win this fight. He wanted it more and it showed, and despite the best efforts of an Arkansas judge( who somehow had Guinn winning), his victory was so clear that he was awarded a split decision- that was anything but. Because it was unanimous to everyone else that the Brooklynite was the winner.
I guess P.T. Barnum must've been talking about me. Yeah, I can't help it, I'm a sucker for good young prospects. Hey, they are the future and sometimes you get smitten, like a young child who gets a new toy on Christmas. Yeah, in the beginning it's the greatest thing in the world, but soon, it might run out of batteries, or break, or perhaps you just get bored with it. And pretty soon, you realize that Tonka Toy or Lego set you've had for years is what you should've appreciated all along.
I guess that's me right now. But never again, I will absolutely, positively, not go overboard in my effusive praise of youngsters until they do something substantial. I've learned my lesson, I'm drawing the line right here.
But y'know, there's this young kid, undefeated and.....