Diego "Chico" Corrales need to take the step up and prove he was one of the sport's best, as opposed to one of those guys who could come close but not close the show. This was a fight that could make or break Corrales, who had struggled mightily the first time on the big stage when Floyd Mayweather stood in the opposing corner. Of course, after his first fight with Joel Casamayor was cut short due to a weak defense, suspect chin and hand cut mouth piece, Corrales had even more to prove. And he did. Best known for his heavy hands and explosive finishes it was time for "Chico" to take on a world-class opponent and prove he was more than a one-trick knockout pony. What he proved this past Saturday was that he could do a lot more than knock out over-matched opponents . . . he could box a little too.
Working behind a solid jab from the get go, Corrales built a lead on all scorecards and stuck to his plan like never before. New trainer Joe Goosen must have taken Corrales back to school as the Sacramento native looked near unbeatable for much of the night. The jab - as it always is - was the key that unlocked his true potential. At a towering 6-feet tall, a focused Diego Corrales is the type of boxer who can make for a lot of trouble at the top of any division from 130 to 140 pounds.
Problems in the past, aside from those outside the ring, have meant that Corrales has often been looking for the knockout from the moment he steps through the ropes. His head movement has been poor, and his chin tested and failed. Still, he has never been seriously hurt by anyone other than Mayweather and despite being knocked down has always come back strong with the heart of a champion. Add some defense and the work off the jab that we saw on Saturday and we should expect many great things from Chico.
Mark "Too Sharp" Johnson was too sharp, too skilled, and too strong for Colombian Luis Bolano. While Bolano came into this bout undefeated in 38 fights, he clearly had never been in the ring with anyone close to the caliber of Johnson. A 38-0-0 record with 28 whacks is only as good as the level of competitions it was achieved against, and Bolano ran that record up almost exclusively in his native Colombia versus lower level fighters. That being the case, it was no surprise to see Johnson work Bolano up-and-down, head-and-body, dropping him twice before a merciful end to the bout was called.
It was vintage "Too Sharp" taking an opponent apart with speed and power, something that had been missing when he lost twice to Raul Marquez at 118-pounds. In the second of those two fights many had written Johnson off. He looked slow, confused, and got hit more than ever before. Now, back down to his championship weight of 115, Johnson again looks "Too Sharp" for the rest of his division.
By the end of the night, two fighters who had faced adversity in the past had battled through their past failures and proven themselves true champions. It was nice to see.
Like Lennox Lewis, I was hoping he already decided to saddle up his tired horse, say his overdue good-byes and ride off into that already faded sunset.
So much for high hopes.
Evander Holyfield never saddled the horse. He never went near the barn. He just remembered what it was like to be heavyweight champion of the world and decided it was a good feeling. And at 41, he'd like to have it again.
Maybe he's just an adrenalin junkie, a poor guy hooked on the excitement, challenge, danger and high drama of the fight game. A different kind of monkey on his back.
It's a disease, that kind of high. It keeps old fighters in the ring too long, and though they might not jump off a building suddenly believing they're Peter Pan, they can still pay a steep price for their addiction. If you're in your 40's and you can't remember where you live or why you're standing in the middle of the grocery store with a list in your hand, you're not going to be a lot of fun to be around.
If Holyfield keeps this up, he might want to consider carrying his address tucked inside his wallet.
I understand why he's stuck around the last few years. He was still trying to hold onto the high, still trying to find that right combination of strength, speed, endurance and ring smarts that come with age.
Or maybe he just kept waiting for the caliber of heavyweights to take a header, and then he could move in and claim a title or two.
But it didn't happen. Instead, he's won only two of his last eight fights, which are tomato-can numbers regardless of who you're fighting.
In Holyfield's last fight, former middleweight champion James Toney made him look like an old man, which is what he is in fight years. Evander's corner mercifully threw in the towel. They saved him from a severe beating and might have cost themselves a job at the same time.
But he still wants to fight, even though his legend becomes a little more tarnished every time he steps into the ring.
At a news conference this week, Holyfield said that if he didn't believe he could still win all three heavyweight title belts, he wouldn't be fighting.
Contact the authorities. That statement alone should be enough to force the commission to conduct tests.
Holyfield also announced he has a new management team behind him called the Avondale Management Group.
The new group is experienced in marketing and entertainment, but not in boxing. That's good. Ignorance is bliss. If they don't know anything about the fight game, maybe they can't be held responsible.
But new management isn't going to bring Holyfield back to the fighter he once was. Neither is a new corner, a new philosophy or a new attitude.
The one thing that could bring him back is a DeLorean outfitted with a flux capacitator.
It's part of the culture of the fight game. You want to sell tickets? Accuse your opponent of wearing a nightgown to bed.
But this is different because you've got to be careful when you're working with two nice guys. They're getting to be rare in this business. You have to treat them special, pamper them, offer to buy them lunch. Wash their car. They'll even say thank you.
Just don't put them in the same ring together because one of them is going to lose, and then you've got one less nice guy holding a title.
Face it. Good guys this far up boxing's food chain are at a premium, an all-time low.
So how did nice guys Winky Wright and Shane Mosley get put together? How do you pick one good guy to cheer for when either one would be welcomed to grandma's for turkey and stuffing? How do you pick a favorite when you have two of them?
Don't get it wrong. Just because they're nice guys, don't think they can't fight. Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward are both nice guys, but you wouldn't want to be hitting on their dates or asking them to step outside because they spilled beer on your shoes.
Maybe that's why they came up with the catchy slogan, 'The War ar 154,' for their March 13 junior-middleweight unification championship fight at the Mandalay Bay Casino. They don't want anyone to get the wrong idea.
And besides, all great fights should have a little jingle attached to them, something snappy that you won't forget 20 years from now. You know, something like, 'The Thrilla in Manilla,' or 'The Rumble in the Jungle.' It's better if it rhymes.
But for this fight? Well, there isn't going to be a lot of name calling or back-stabbing or wrestling around on the floor at a press conference a week before the fight. No one is questioning the other's heritage or suggesting they wear a tutu into the ring.
But that's OK because this fight can carry itself. It doesn't need any outside help, any drama played out before the bell.
The only bad thing about this fight is that on March 14, we'll have one less class act holding a world title.
Forty seven month's prior to fighting "Smokin" Joe Frazier, Muhammad Ali was stripped of his undisputed title for refusing induction into the United States Army. Ali's refusal was based on being a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War, due to his Religious beliefs. When Ali was taken out of boxing at age 25 on April 27th 1967, he was 29-0 (24).
This turned out to be the beginning of a forty three month exile from boxing. He had just made the ninth successful defense of the title by stopping Zora Folley in Madison Square Garden on March 22nd 1967. This would end up being the last time Ali would fight during the 1960's.
In April of 1967, 23 year old Joe Frazier was coming off of his 15th pro fight, and was 15-0 (14). Over the next forty plus month's, Ali was in and out of court and becoming public enemy number one, due to his conversion to Islam, and refusing Military Induction. Frazier on the other hand was totally cleaning out the heavyweight division going 11-0 (9).
On February 16th 1970, Frazier stopped WBA Heavyweight Champ Jimmy Ellis in five rounds. This was the fight that basically gave Frazier universal recognition as World Heavyweight Champion. By this time Frazier had gone through the top heavyweights in the World. The only thing Frazier didn't have was the name Muhammad Ali on his win column. The talk of an Ali comeback was always hovering over Frazier's title claim. Joe knew he would never be accepted as the real champ until he faced Ali in the ring and defeated him. In October of 1970, Ali was finally granted a boxing license by the state of Georgia, which did not have a boxing commission. On October 26th of 1970, Ali fought for the first time in 43 months. In his comeback fight, Ali stopped second ranked Jerry Quarry in three rounds in Atlanta Georgia.
At this time the whole World was watching. The Ballyhoo for an Ali-Frazier fight had been building up since Frazier won the New York Title in March of 1968 when he stopped Buster Mathis in the new Madison Square Garden. What made the fight so intriguing was that Frazier looked every bit as impressive going through the division, as Ali had a few years earlier. There was constant chatter from early 1968 on, suggesting that the powers that be were close to putting together an Ali-Frazier fight. However, every time it seemed like it was going to happen, something or someone always pulled the rug out from underneath it. Most of the time it was some high powered Politician who succumbed to the Political pressure at the last minute, causing the fight not to be realized.
Once Ali was granted a boxing license in Georgia, all the other states followed suit and it was now accepted that Ali was back. After he beat Quarry in October of 1970, Frazier knocked out undisputed Lt. Heavyweight Champ Bob Foster in two rounds at the Cobo Arena in Detroit in November of 1970. Three weeks after Frazier's destruction of Foster, Ali stopped third ranked Oscar Bonavena in the 15th round of a gruelling fight at Madison Square Garden. After the Ali-Bonavena bout, the hype and build up for Ali vs. Frazier exploded. For the next nine plus weeks, the coverage of this fight and its subplots were unprecedented.
On December 30th 1970, Joe Frazier 26-0 (23) and Muhammad Ali 31-0 (25) signed to face each other for the undisputed Heavyweight Championship of the World. The fight was scheduled for March 8th 1971 at Madison Square Garden, and was billed Frazier vs. Ali, and nicknamed "Fight of The Century". Frazier's name would be first on the Marquee since he was the recognized champ, although Ali hadn't lost the title in the ring. In fact Ring Magazine recognized Ali as the champ until the Frazier-Ellis fight. Once Frazier beat Ellis, he was viewed as the established Champ.
Both Frazier and Ali were guaranteed 2.5 million dollars apiece for facing each other. They were actually offered 1.5 million dollars and a percentage of the total gate, but both took the guarantee. Little did they know how big the fight would turn out to be. Although maybe Ali had an idea. After they signed the contracts, Ali stood up and said to Frazier, "hey Joe, they got us cheap". He may have never spoken truer words, the fight end up grossing over 30 million dollars. Had Frazier and Ali taken the 1.5 million and the percentage, they would've grossed over 6 million dollars each.
Sometimes in life, the stars line up perfectly. Which was definitely the case leading up to Frazier vs. Ali. At this time in America, there was a Political and Culture War going on surrounding the Vietnam War. Ali was the Champion of the Liberals and the antiwar movement, and painted Frazier as the Champion of the establishment. Even though Joe never commented on the War or any other Political issues publicly.
Here we had two undefeated heavyweights who both had a claim to the title. On top of that, both fighters were head and shoulders above their peers. Not only were both Frazier and Ali the top heavyweight's in the World, they were both great fighters. What made it even better was that they were polar opposites in and out of the Ring. Ali was a showman and drew attention to all that he did. Ali was definitely a true superstar. Frazier was the quiet and humble hardworking man respected by all, in much the same manner as Joe Louis was. No controversy flying around Joe Frazier, he wasn't a superstar, he was a fighter in the purest form.
Not only were they completely different from a personality vantage point, they were totally different as fighters. Other than both being black men who were born under the Zodiac sign of Capricorn, and being fighters, they shared nothing else. One was tall and the other was short. Ali used the whole ring, where Frazier tried to shrink it as much as possible. One wanted to fight at a distance, the other wanted to be in your chest. Frazier tried to do damage with every punch, Ali picked his spots and scored with sharp combinations. Ali liked to move and dictate the pace, Frazier applied constant pressure. One's strength was the other one's weakness, and vice versa. Yes, the stars were in place for this one.
From December 30th 1970 when Frazier and Ali signed the contract, the build up and hype was like nothing seen before or since in sports history regarding the promotion and build up! There were specials on ABC's Wide World of Sports almost weekly. Interviews by celebrities, politicians, and even the average person were constantly being aired. Newspapers and Sports sections always had something on the fight from a variety of different angles. And Vitalas shave lotion filmed two television commercials with both fighters taking turns hanging up on each other. Everybody had an opinion on this fight, and you didn't have to be a Boxing or Sports fan to have one.
The biggest magnetism about this fight for me was the style and personality contrast of both Frazier and Ali. The fact that both fighters seemed unbeatable by March of 71, I just couldn't picture either one losing. Yet I knew on the morning of March 9th, one of them would have a loss on their record. I know on the way up Frazier was dropped by Bonavena, and Ali was dropped by Banks and Cooper. However, that was early in their career, by March of 71 both of them had arrived and were legitimate great fighters.
The style contrast was the ultimate boxer vs swarmer match up. Frazier had never faced a fighter with the speed and overall ability that Ali possessed. And Ali never faced a fighter who applied the constant pressure like Frazier. Frazier was a fighter who was not about to let Ali dictate the pace of the fight. It was just a question of whether Frazier could get to Ali in order to slow him down. As Larry Merchant once said, Frazier was a truth machine.
On the morning of March 8th 1971, Frazier and Ali weighed in at Madison Square Garden. Frazier weighed 205.5 pounds and was never in better shape in his life. Ali weighed in at 215 pounds, the heaviest of his career to date. The fighters weighed in separately because Yank Durham, Frazier's manager and trainer didn't want Joe to see or interact with Ali until they were in the ring that night. By midday, Frazier was a 6-5 betting favorite.
Since Ali weighed in second, he encountered and unforeseen problem. By the time he was through, and ready to go back to his New York Hotel, the crowd outside had grown to almost riot proportion. Meanwhile Frazier had sneaked out the back before the crowd had gathered to its enormous capacity. When the people outside heard that Ali was inside, they surrounded the building. When the New York Cops tried to move the crowd, they were met with serious resistance. When the crowd heard that Ali was still inside, they said they were not leaving until they saw him. Once the cops realized the situation and danger, they went back and told Ali that if he left the Garden, they couldn't guarantee his safety.
The decision was then made that Ali better spend the day in the basement of Madison Square Garden, or there may not have been a Championship fight that night. So Ali and his entourage set up camp in the basement of the Garden. Bedding, TV's and Stereo's were brought in and they tried to make it as close to a makeshift Hotel Suite as possible. I was told by Garden President Harry Markson years later, that the Ali entourage ran up a food bill of over four thousand dollars just for that day.
By 8:00 O'clock on fight night, New York City was literally shut down 10 blocks outside of the Garden. I know this because I was in a car with my father and cousin, and we just beat the crowd on our way to the fight. Needless to say this was like no other night in Garden History. I've read and talked to many writers who were also there that night. They have all said that nothing they have ever been too or experienced comes close to the excitement and anticipation that reached it's pinnacle right before the bell rang for the first round. In fact well known and respected Philadelphia sports writer Jack Mckinney once told me that he kept saying to himself right before the fight, "I can't believe it, I can't believe it, Ali and Frazier are actually going to fight, and nothing can stop it now!"
At the bell for round one Ali came out flying, he knew Joe was vulnerable early and was trying to end it quickly. Ali's plan was to go at Frazier with an all out early assault in the hopes of getting him out, or at least slow him down. In the first five rounds Ali did all he could to try and get Frazier out. The thought in his corner was that even if he failed, Frazier would have absorbed so much punishment that he wouldn't have anything left in the last third of the fight. Little did they know.
During those first five rounds, Ali threw and landed some of the hardest punches and swiftest combinations that he had on any other fighter in his career. The problem turned out that Ali didn't posses the tools needed for the quick execution that he had planned. Frazier on the other hand was doing something to Ali that had never been done before, he was taking away his security blanket, his jab. By Joe bobbing and weaving so continuously, he was making Ali miss more often then he ever had before in his career. This was also accomplishing something else, it was enabling Frazier to get inside and work Ali's body. By the eighth round, Ali was slowed to a walk, and was fighting flat-footed which was exactly what Durham and Frazier had wanted.
Going into the ninth round, it appeared that Frazier was taking the play away from Ali and the tide was turning in his favor. Midway through the round, it was still up for grabs. Then Ali exploded with a series of stinging right hands and hooks, and actually had Joe backing up. It turned out to be the only time in the fight that Ali had Joe really shook, and would be the last round he would win in the fight other than the fourteenth. Round ten was even and saw sustained action and could've gone either way. After 10 furious rounds of fighting, it was very close and still not yet decided.
About two minutes into the eleventh round, Frazier corned Ali and caught him with a beautiful double left-hook, one to the body followed by one to the head. Ali was hurt and was in serious trouble, he staggered all over the ring in the last minute, but Joe couldn't finish him. In between the eleventh and twelfth rounds, Dr. Harry Kliemen stepped up on the ring post near Ali's corner and was considering stopping the fight. But to his dismay, Ali and Angelo Dundee were talking and Ali appeared to have all his senses and didn't seem hurt, so he sat back down and let the fight continue.
In round twelve Frazier took a breather but still managed to win the round. Round thirteen saw them spend the last two minutes of the round trading in one corner without moving. This round had to go to Frazier because he finished strong, and was scoring to the head and body opposed to Ali just scoring to the head. In round fourteen Ali got a slight second wind and moved and boxed well, doing just enough to stay ahead of Joe and win the round. Twenty four seconds into the fifteenth and final round, Ali was set to throw a right uppercut when Frazier beat him to the punch and connected with one of the most brutal left-hooks ever thrown. The punch dropped Ali like his legs were taken out from under him. However, Ali was up before referee Arthur Mercante could pick up the count at three. For the rest of the round Frazier was all over Ali, and won what was the biggest round of the fight for either fighter.
Just as the bell ended the fifteenth round, Frazier put his hands up and yelled something at Ali. Exactly what he yelled I don't think anybody knows for sure. But through talking to the people involved with both Ali and Frazier over the years, it was either one of two things. Either Frazier Yelled, "I Kicked Your Ass," or "Who's The Champ Now". Both remarks have come up more than once from people close to both fighters.
When the decision was announced, it was unanimous in favor of Frazier. Judge Bill Recht scored it 11-4 Frazier which was absurd, and drove Ali nuts afterwards. Judge Artie Aidala scored it 9-6 Frazier, which is probably what it really was. And referee Arthur Mercante scored it 8-6-1 Frazier. No doubt it was a clear Frazier victory and he was the better man on the night of March 8th 1971.
Regardless of where you rank Joe Frazier in the all-time heavyweight pantheon, on March 8th of 1971 he was one of the greatest heavyweights of all-time. And in my opinion no fighter in boxing history was ever more prepared and entered a boxing ring as mentally and physically ready as Joe Frazier was for Muhammad Ali in their first fight. It is without a doubt that the biggest and most anticipated fight in boxing history was won by Joe Frazier. And yes, despite the layoff, Ali was a great fighter that night, and was only beaten by the Herculean effort of Frazier. The first Frazier-Ali fight was one of the rare Superfights where the realization actually exceeded the expectation. On Monday Night March 8th 1971, Ali was great, but Joe Frazier refused to be denied. It really was the Fight of The Century .
An interesting fight was anticipated, though I would venture to say that few fans expected the match that was to come. And for me, it provided perhaps the most indelible memories of my early years of involvement around boxing.
That's because Miami, which had not played host to many fights of world significance for some time, was chosen as the site for this mega-bout, something that in a sense, was actually quite appropriate, given the fact that Arguello lived in nearby Coral Gables and had a strong appeal among the Latin community in the area.
I was 21 years old, and was publishing a small boxing newsletter at the time, zipping around from fight to fight like a lot of aspiring internet writers are doing now. As such, I was able to wangle a press credential for the event.
I also had two general admission tickets for the fight, which were situated in the "peanut heaven" section of the Orange Bowl. I was set to go to the fight with Brad Jacobs, who some of you now know as the advisor to WBA heavyweight champ Roy Jones. At the last minute my girlfriend decided she wanted to go, so I left them with the tickets and took off to join the rest of the "press".
They wound up with a much better view of things than I did.
Because of my "status" in the media, I was situated in, or perhaps to put it more accurately, relegated to, the auxiliary press area, which was nowhere near ringside, but instead in the Orange Bowl press box, which was probably closer to Key West than it was to Pryor or Arguello.
There was a sprinkling of press up there; mostly people who represented so-called "secondary" outlets - weekly newspapers, small radio stations, even smaller boxing magazines, some international people, and me. They were all stationed toward the entrance of the press box, seated in front of the press counter.
All the way at the other end, I noticed a small TV set, hung up in the corner. On it, they were showing the HBO feed of the broadcast. I sat down in front of it, all by my lonesome.
This was not really meaningful at the outset, because even those guys in the press box who could not see the action clearly from such a distance were able to watch on two giant video screens on each end of the stadium. I was the only one watching the small screen on the far end. And as it turns out, I may have been the only one in the stadium, at least as far as I've ever known, who was actually listening to the audio component of the telecast - something that became significant, since I would have been one of the few people in the entire building (including the television crew) who was able to fully witness one of the more controversial moments in recent championship history.
Pryor's trainer, Panama Lewis, had been asking for a certain "bottle" in between some of the rounds, which Pryor drank, presumably to the exception of pure water. Before the 14th round, he said those words - clearly - that will be remembered by many people forever - "Give me the other bottle. The one I mixed", he told his assistant. I remember wondering just what the hell was in that bottle. All I know is that Pryor sprung out of his corner in the 14th, with what seemed like renewed vigor, and laid a frightful beating on Arguello, thus ending one of the more brutal fights in recent memory.
Most of the "cognoscenti" who were at the Orange Bowl that night did not even bother to watch the walkout fight, which featured a "washed up" Roberto Duran laboring to a decision over Jimmy Batten; instead, they departed for one of the several post-fight parties at hotels around the area.
When I got to one of those gatherings, I sought out some of the boxing people I knew and told them about some of the strange things I had heard in Pryor's corner. Nobody seemed to know what the hell I was talking about. The video screens in the stadium, to my recollection, had muted the sound.
I don't really know what was recorded in all the newspaper accounts after the fight, but over the course of the next few days, of course, the "mystery bottle" was a big issue. A few things contributed to that - one is that the next day, Deu Koo Kim suffered the injuries in his bout with Ray Mancini that would kill him a few days later. The way Arguello had been knocked out had a lot of people worried. And the feeling was that if Pryor was using some kind of artificial stimulant, it would be something that would haunt everybody forever.
A lot of people had questions, naturally, but there were very few satisfactory answers. Lewis' subsequent explanation was that he had put together a carbonated mix with water because Pryor had been having some problems with diarrhea that may have been the result of a stomach virus or something. If that's the case, the solution he used would be relatively benign, except for some alleged commission rules that disallowed anything but water.
But no one was ever going to know for sure, and primarily, it traces back to the way commissions were set up in Florida at the time. You see, back in 1982, the state of Florida did not in fact have a boxing commission. Each municipality was authorized to set up its own commission as it was needed. Miami Beach had an active commission, because there were a reasonable number of shows at the Convention Center and other locations along the beach. But the city of Miami, where the Orange Bowl is located, did not have a commission.
So one had to be established, rather late in the game, and to paraphrase words of the late Paddy Chayefsky, "its debut was not auspicatory". At a hearing that was held to address the issue of the "mystery bottle" in the Pryor-Arguello fight, it was revealed that the Miami Boxing Commission had only taken urine samples of the fighters before the fight, and not afterward. Why? Well, it was simple, though it took the responsible parties quite a while to admit this - they only brought two vials with them. It didn't occur to them to take samples after the fight. Among other things, the commission had also forgotten to bring a bell (though one was eventually hunted down that night).
Neither fighter was ever really the same again after that fateful evening. Sure, they fought a rematch, in September of 1983, and this time Pryor had to get off the deck to score a 10th-round TKO, but the fight was not as thrilling or fast-paced as their first meeting.
Pryor moved to Miami full-time, became involved in drug use, fought twice more, retired, then came back in Fort Lauderdale with a TKO loss to Bobby Joe Young in August of 1987. That was his only professional defeat. He ended his career in 1990, amid controversy because of eye injuries, fighting in Oklahoma, a non-commission state at the time, with a win against Roger Choate, who had all of four pro fights on his record.
Arguello made a couple of different comebacks in search of his elusive fourth world title, but never got there. His last fight was in January of 1995, losing to the late journeyman Scott Walker. His personal problems over the years have been somewhat well-documented.
The Miami Boxing Commission made a few cameo appearances, but drifted away with the formation of the statewide commission in 1984.
Seven months after the Pryor-Arguello fight, Panama Lewis received a lifetime ban from boxing by the New York State Athletic Commission for his role in doctoring the gloves of Luis Resto before a fight with Billy Collins, leaving the previously undefeated Collins with ring injuries that were completely unnecessary (Collins fell into depression and later died in a one-car accident). Lewis still works in gyms around New York and elsewhere, but doesn't work any corners.
And to this day, the "mystery bottle" remains a just that - a mystery, at least as far as conspiracy theorists are concerned. And you know what? That's okay with me.
Saturday night, the first 6 rounds of the WBO Super Featherweight bout followed a familiar pattern. It was Corrales who controlled most of the action. With the jab constantly in his face and the threat of Corrales' power forcing him to be careful, Casamayor chose to box defensively throughout most of the first half of the fight. Though Casamayor was effective at times throughout the early action, it was Corrales who was clearly pressing the action and in the ascendancy.
With the fight approaching the middle rounds and Corrales seemingly in front, a subtle shift in the tide emerged. Despite trainer Joe Goosen imploring Corrales for more of the same, the Corrales jab started to disappear. With Corrales' jab less of a factor, Casamayor began to find the range more often.
By the 10th round Casamayor was back in the fight and the exchanges between the fighters began to multiply. Midway threw the round Corrales went to the right hook, but was beat to punch by a straight left from Casamayor, sending Corrales reeling to the canvas. As Corrales rose to his feet, it was obvious he was hurt. Casamayor pursued Corrales for the rest of the round, but still wary of walking into a power shot as he had in the first bout , Casamayor was unable to finish the job.
In the 11th round Corrales momentarily stemmed the tide with a right hand, but could not follow up with Casamayor appearing dazed. Shortly after, the fighters clashed heads, with Corrales getting the worst of it, cuts appearing around one eye and on his nose.
Seemingly bothered by the cuts, Corrales allowed Casamayor to edge the remaining action to set up anxious moments for both boxers as the judges' scorecards were tallied. After the scores were announced, Corrales was the WBO Super Featherweight champion, winning a split decision by scores of 115-112 twice, and 113-115.
"I told you, I told you, I'm back," Corrales had shouted before the decision was announced, sensing he had won the fight. At the post fight press conference Corrales emphasized how the jab was the key to his victory.
Casamayor was not in agreement. He said, "I definitely felt that I won the fight. I did my job. I did exactly what I wanted to do, and that was to box. He never hurt me. He was chasing but he wasn't doing anything. I hope we fight one more time."
Though the decision could be debated either way, the big winners on this night were boxing fans. It was boxing at a high level, with both fighters in peak condition and ready to execute. The display of professionalism, technique and courage by both combatants will surely leave fight fans wanting more.
In the main undercard bout, Mark "Too Sharp" Johnson stopped Luis Bolano in the 4th round to win the WBO Super Flyweight championship. Southpaw Johnson sent Bolano to the canvas for the first time in the 4th with a sweet left-right combination. When the groggy Bolano rose to his feet, Johnson finished him off with a series of uppercuts to the body, the final one convincing Bolano that the task ahead of him was futile.
The ageing Johnson's performance last night conjured up memories of just what a sensational talent he was in his prime. Though he is no longer the fighter he once was, Mark Johnson is still a force to be reckoned with at 115 lbs. and a boxer of true quality.
Back in 1996 when Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko turned pro, it was a widely held opinion that Wladimir was the better fighter of the two brothers, and had the better future. He was the more Americanized fighter with better balance and more fluidity. He had faster hands, was a better boxer, and more versatile. Basically, Vitali was considered second string when compared to his younger brother Wladimir. Boy, have things really changed in the last 365 days? Now most view Vitali as possibly being the fighter to succeed Lewis, and Wladimir with trepidation and doubt.
Since Wladimir's stoppage defeat by Corrie Sanders, he has had two fights which have proved absolutely nothing. Nor have the questions hovering over his durability and chin ceased. And they won't go away until he steps up and fights one of the world's top heavyweight's. I doubt his next opponent, Lamon Brewster, is the one to change that perception.
On the other hand, Vitali's career has skyrocketed. It was just a few short years ago that the heart and toughness of Vitali were being questioned. After Vitali resigned in his corner after the ninth round against Chris Byrd, due to a torn rotator cuff, some closed the book on him and his career. Just as some are now doing the same to Wladimir. Over the course of the last year, Vitali has been on a roll. In June of 2003, Vitali gave recently retired heavyweight champ Lennox Lewis all he could handle in losing after the sixth round due to a severely cut eye. Six month's later, he destroyed one of the world's top ranked contenders, Kirk Johnson, in two rounds. Now the perception of the Klitschko brothers has totally flip-flopped.
Corrie Sanders, the man who landed the shot heard round the heavyweight world last year, has done nothing since. All he has done is kept his pace of fighting once a year. Fighting once in 2001, once in 2002, and only Wladimir Klitschko in 2003. Sanders has been an enigma. Before fighting Wladimir, he wasn't viewed as a serious contender, and thought to be a set-up for Wlad. In fact Wladimir was even ridiculed for fighting Sanders, due to his disappointing loss to Hasim Rahman in May of 2000. Since beating Klitschko, now some think he's the most dangerous heavyweight in the world? Don't count me among them. He just turned 38, and has fought a total of five rounds in the last three years. Lucky for him, he finally may have parlayed his big win over Wladimir into a big fight with Vitali for the vacant WBC title this coming April 24th.
Lennox Lewis this time last year was still basking in the glow of his utter destruction of Mike Tyson. Three month's later he would have one of the toughest fights of his career with Vitali Klitschko. The fight with Vitali took a lot out of Lennox mentally and emotionally. And probably had a lot to do in influencing the decision he would later make to retire. It's quite possible Lennox realized he wasn't the same fighter he was just a year or two ago?
When looking back over the last 365 days, Lennox Lewis and Vitali Klitschko had the best year. Corrie Sanders didn't capitalize on his victory over Wladimir Klitschko. And Wladimir hasn't done anything to make anyone forget the Sanders fight. In early April Wladimir fights Lamon Brewster, and Vitali fights Corrie Sanders. Most likely these two fights will start to pave the heavyweight landscape for 2004?
Last March Wladimir Klitschko was supposed to be the main man in the heavyweight division. Now there are legitimate questions about his chin and durability. Corrie Sanders was a non factor, and thought to be nothing more than a stepping stone for Wladimir. Although he has not fought since then, he is in line to fight for the vacant WBC title versus the other Klitschko. This time last year Vitali Klitschko still hadn't erased the stench of the loss to Byrd. Now he has replaced Wladimir as the main man in the heavyweight division and is about to get a second title shot. And this time last year, Lewis was three month's shy of making the last defense of his heavyweight title. Now he is a retired ex-champ, who will most likely never fight again. Lewis beat the odds by retiring champ with good health and more money than he'll ever need. If he never attempts a comeback, his legacy will no doubt endure and grow through the years. What a difference a year made in the heavyweight division.
The point is Byrd, despite being a relatively small heavyweight has only been taken apart and stopped once. Young, like Byrd fought some monster heavyweights as well. Young shared the ring with big men who could really punch like Shavers twice, (don't give me Shavers only weighed 210-213, the fact is he could punch as good or better than any of today's big heavies) Lyle twice, Foreman, and Norton. Shavers was the only one of those fighters to drop Young, and was also the only one to stop him. But in all fairness to Young, when he fought Shavers he was a veteran of only 11 fights compared to Shavers who had 44 fights and was 42-2. A year and a half after being stopped by Shavers in the first round, Young fought him to a 10 round draw in a fight many thought Young deserved the nod.
Over the last few years, it has been a hotly contested debate about the bigger heavyweights fighting today and if they would have a significant advantage over those of past era's? In my opinion there is no absolute answer, there are pro's an con's on both sides. Just to set the record straight on my behalf, I think the size factor of today's heavyweights is way overblown. I think the top heavyweight's from the 60's, 70's, and 80's could have held more than their own versus the heavyweight's of the 90's & 2000's. Remember, I said the top heavyweights, not the journeymen. Today's heavyweights have a supposed advantage in weight and presumably strength. The heavyweights of the past 40 or so years were a little quicker, and in my opinion were better fighters. I also think that they were in better condition, despite the so-called advances in training and nutrition.
In the mid 1970's Jimmy Young was ranked as high as number three in the world. He was a legitimate top ten heavy from 1975-77. I think Young, like Chris Byrd could've held his own with a majority of today's top ten contenders. Below I've matched Young with some of today's top ranked heavyweights. Outside of a few of today's best heavyweight fighters, I don't think Young would've been beaten decisively. Remember, Young was the victim of some bad management decisions early in his career. Most of his defeats came early in his career and after 1978. Even in those defeats he took many top young prospects the distance. Only Gerry Cooney in 1980, when Young was 32 did he get beat up. And that was mainly due to a terrible cut over his eye that hindered his vision while Cooney teed off on him. Cooney's left-hook was every bit as devastating as any punch in the arsenal of anyone of today's top heavyweights, and Young didn't go down nor was he staggered or shook.
Young vs Byrd
What an eye sore this would have been to watch. The fighter who assumes the role of the aggressor would've been the one who was at the style disadvantage. We saw when Byrd fought Oquendo, he wasn't at his best when he attacked and pushed the fight. And Young was also a fish out of water when he had to be the aggressor. No doubt that Young-Byrd would've gone the distance. In this fight I could see either fighter winning. I would make the best Young a slight favorite over the best Byrd. I think Young would've drawn Byrd to him and been able to counter him. I also think Young beat better fighters. Basically, he beat Ali and was screwed out of the decision, though it was an eroded and terribly out of shape Ali. Young holds two solid wins over Lyle, beat the once beaten Foreman. And in my opinion was shafted in a title elimination bout versus Norton losing a split decision. Byrd's best wins are over Vitali Klitschko by stoppage, though he was losing when the fight was halted. He beat Tua, and a shot Holyfield. However, Byrd does have great credentials.
Young vs Sanders
I'm sure many think this would be automatic for Sanders. The main reason for that is Sanders upset stoppage win over Wladimir Klitschko. The fact is Sanders was being called a bum, and Klitschko was being ridiculed for fighting him before their fight. Many were highlighting that Sanders ran out of gas and was stopped by Rahman, and was beaten by Nate Tubbs. Young could've definitely survived with Sanders. At 224 Sanders isn't a giant and isn't that great of a puncher that Young would've been blown out. Sanders also isn't a fighter who fights bell to bell and throws non stop punches. Young fought bigger punchers than Corrie, and better boxers than him. This won't be popular, but I could definitely see Young at his best frustrating Sanders and winning a stinker.
Young vs Vitali Klitschko
This is a very tough fight to imagine Young winning. Vitali is too tall and has too much reach for Jimmy. Klitschko wouldn't have to fall prey to Young's tricks and traps in order to hit him. He could outscore him with his jab from outside. Young doesn't have the strength or punch to keep Vitali off. Klitschko is just too much for Young. Although Young is skilled, he just isn't good enough to overcome his physical deficiencies to beat Vitali. I see Vitali stopping Young in the mid rounds, but not putting him down. Young stayed up versus too many good punchers to go down. Even a faded Young remained up right versus a close to prime Cooney, whose hook was harder than any punch in Vitali's arsenal.
Young vs Tua
I think this fight would've resembled Tua's fight against Byrd. Tua is so one dimensional, I can't see Young getting cornered and banged out by him. Rahman, Lewis, and Byrd proved beyond all doubt that if you move and jab, Tua has no clue how to get close enough to do damage. On top of that, Tua constantly looks to get his opponent out with one punch. Young would've had no shot versus Tyson because Tyson threw more punches and was better than Tua at cutting the distance and getting inside. But Tua's is a different story. I can easily see Young tying up Tua and frustrating him. Again, Young had an outstanding chin, and stood up to Lyle, Foreman, Norton and Cooney when he was at or close to his peak. I don't think Tua throws enough punches to get Young out. Young decisions Tua.
Young vs Rahman
In this hypothetical match up, I see Young winning by a comfortable margin. Rahman is not an outstanding boxer or puncher. He is not a busy fighter who overwhelms his opponents with non-stop punching. Rahman is a basic one-two fighter. He looks to get his opponents out with one big right. Rahman also goes through patches during his fights where he stops fighting and does nothing. Hasim is just not busy enough to out work or hustle Young. After seeing Ruiz out-box Rahman, I see Young easily outscoring him and frustrating him. The only shot Rahman has is to catch lighting in a bottle like he did in the first Lewis fight. I don't see that happening. Young takes Rahman to boxing school and wins a one sided decision.
Young vs Wladimir Klitschko
Like with Vitali, I see Wladimir a tough match up for Young. Wladimir is a faster and better boxer than Vitali. Wlad's reach and jab would cause Young fits. Wladimir could out-box him from ring center without worrying about being countered. Even if Wladimir's chin is his biggest liability as a fighter, it wouldn't be a problem versus Young. Jimmy just doesn't have the strength to out box or punch Wladimir. Klitschko would dictate the pace of this fight and would also outwork Young. I see Jimmy having his hands full in this potential match up. Wlad beats Young convincingly like he beat Byrd.
Young vs Oquendo
This is another match up that I think favors Young. Fres is not real fast, and can be out boxed. Young would lure Fres to sleep and then open up with three or four punch combinations beating him to the punch. Fres would no doubt try and press Young and impose his will on him. Those are the type fighters that Young usually had his way with. One way Fres could've made it interesting would be to try and draw Young to him like he did Byrd. This is a strategy that Young would've been vulnerable too. However, I think Fres would most likely try and out muscle Jimmy and bang him around. Jimmy's too quick and cute for Oquendo. I don't see Fres stopping Young or wearing him down. Young wins a clear cut decision over Oquendo.
Lennox Lewis is not included among the top fighters I matched Young against because of his recent retirement. Obviously, Lewis is a bad match up and would've been a significant favorite over Young. I also didn't include James Toney or Roy Jones because they are smaller heavyweights who moved up from middleweight. Both Toney and Jones are smaller and quicker fighters, the type that would give Young trouble. I used Byrd only because his style is sometimes compared to Young's. The point is not that Jimmy Young was a great fighter, because he wasn't. He was a good boxer who fought out of a defensive posture. He wasn't big and he couldn't punch. However, he was skilled and when he was in shape he was a very hard guy to fight. If Young was around today, he wouldn't be champ, but he easily could've been a top ranked contender despite his lack of power and size.
In my opinion, Jimmy Young could've easily held his own in today's heavyweight division. Although Young retired with a lot of loses on his record, an overwhelming majority of those came at a point in his career where he was out of shape and well past his peak. Some of those loses were to highly touted prospects 14-0 Michael Dokes, 18-0 Greg Page, 15-0 Tony Tubbs, and 25-0 Tony Tucker. All four of those fights were decision losses for Young, and all four of those fighters went on to win a piece of the heavyweight title. In those fights against Dokes, Page, Tubbs, and Tucker, Young was out-hustled and worked and not beaten up or punched around.
Now, I may be biased, but shouldn't all of them be boxers? Yeah, you could throw in guys like Ray Lewis and Steve McNair and you wouldn't hear any complaints from me, those guys in another time and place would be heavyweight contenders and they are as tough as they come in football, which is a brutal sport in it's own right. But my friend went on to say that the list had folks like Annika Sorenstam, a female golfer who made a stab at a mens tourney this past year. Huh?
Then that must make teenager Michelle Wie some sort of iron-woman, then.
I bring this up because this past weekend I was in Las Vegas to watch Jesus Chavez defend his WBC jr. lightweight title against Erik Morales. Chavez, is a good, solid prizefighter from Austin, Texas that was thought to be nothing more than another 'belt-holder', just baby-sitting Jose Sulaiman's green trinket until Morales, a true 'pound-for-pound' performer came along and took the belt as a mere formality, on his way to bigger and more challenging fights.
In the opening stanza, Chavez would shock everyone inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena by rocking Morales with a terrific right hand that had ' El Terrible' wobbling and holding on. It was clear that Chavez was here to be a champion, not cannon fodder. Morales, being the consummate Mexican, tough guy, would fight back on even terms the rest of the round. In round two, he would come back with some blistering heat of his own, sending Chavez to the canvas twice.
The bout was shaping up into 'Fight of the Year' material. Here you had the well known, brand name fighter in Morales getting shook to his toes in the opening frame, coming back in the second round to send Chavez to the floor twice. The 8,000 or so fans lucky enough to be inside the tent for this fight were buzzing. It was one of the those rare moments only 'the sweet science' could provide.
But strangely as the preceding rounds went on, Chavez wasn't nearly as active as he was the opening round. He would stalk Morales, only to run into some hard, accurate right-hand uppercuts and crosses. What had started off as a well-matched slug-fest had quickly turned into a one-sided shellacking. You had the feeling that Chavez would be stopped in the middle to late rounds.
Around the fifth or sixth round I kept wondering to myself,' Funny, this guy hurts Morales in round one with a big right hand and he hasn't thrown one since.' And there was a good reason for that, it turned out that Chavez had badly injured his shoulder in the opening round and may have compounded that ailment in falling to the canvas in the very next round. For the last 11 rounds of this fight, his right hand would be as rare boxing on network television. In the land of one-arm bandits, Chavez, himself had become one. As the rounds were put into the bank, a familiar pattern was developing: Morales would land the consistently harder and cleaner shots, while Chavez would keep trying to get on either side of Morales and crank up left hooks- and left hooks only. And at times he would be effective with them, the only problem was that he didn't exactly have the left hook of Joe Frazier, but his son Marvis.
And it became increasingly clear to everyone in attendance- except Morales and his corner, who weren't nearly as perceptive- that Chavez simply couldn't use his right hand. Yet there he was plugging away and it wasn't just about keeping his title or protecting his payday- he could have easily retired early in the fight without much protest- but it was more than that that kept him fighting. He's a true fighter, and that's what they do- they fight till the bitter end.
In this game, you can't go to the bullpen, you can't call a timeout, there's no two-minute warning or halftime. All Chavez could do was keep winging hooks and duck, over and over again. By the late rounds it was clear that Morales would win his third world title, but by this time it was evident that this fight was just as much about Chavez's courage as it was about Morales' lofty achievement.
Morales won the fight, Chavez won our everlasting respect.
The plucky underdog would even have the temerity to win a few rounds down the stretch as Morales would tire from his relentlessness. It was just about a year-and-half-ago that Chavez took some ridicule for having his fight stopped by his then-trainer Ronnie Shields against Floyd Mayweather. You'd have to think he made amends on this night. Without being 'Shield-ed', Chavez erased any doubts that may have lingered about his ticker.
But that really shouldn't surprise any of us, after all, they're fighters, we shouldn't expect anything different from them.
On the same weekend that Chavez fought gallantly against one of the games most lethal boxers, a golfer by the name of Davis Love III, had the temerity to throw out a fan because he was heckling him. Last I checked, nobody hits you while you're putting or driving. And I'm assuming that Love still had use of both his arms and shoulders. After that incident, Love would fall apart like Howard Dean's campaign.
But then, that's the difference between boxers and guys who play golf for a living. It's the fundamental thing that will separate the Jesus Chavez's of the world from the Davis Love's.
So remember the next time some golf analyst talks about what a 'courageous putt' a guy hit, think about this, nobodies trying to clock him while he's doing it.
Let's face it. When some fighters speak, the words coexist like inmates doing a ten stretch in a federal penitentiary -- uneasily. When Tarver is in the mood to give you his thoughts, which is pretty much always, his sentences are like a commune during the Summer of Love. Every syllable full of love for the next and no end in sight.
And it's a good thing the Magic Man wasn't hanging with E.F. Hutton back in the day. A whole generation's retirement plans may have been turned upside down. Back then, when E.F. Hutton spoke, apparently everybody listened. Had the Magic Man been in the room at the time, E.F. wouldn't have been able to get a word in edge wise.
Currently, most of Tarver's verbal bombast has been aimed at Roy Jones Jr. and, to a lesser extent, Bernard Hopkins. That is, when he is not roasting HBO and the role it plays in, as Tarver suggests, promoting fights and protecting its house fighters.
Recently, Tarver has applied his own labels to Jones and Hopkins, a pair of future Hall of Famers. Jones is, amongst other things, a punk-pint sized donkey-bipedal female canine. I've paraphrased here, and I'll leave it to you to fill in the blanks. In reference to Bernard "The Executioner" Hopkins, Tarver's rhetoric has taken on a slightly more creative flourish. Hopkins is "The Extortionist," an allusion to Hopkins' unbending-or self-defeating, depending on how you look at it, negotiating style, a negotiating style which has resulted in Bernard negotiating himself out of some lucrative paydays.
In the never ending game of boxing he- said-she-said, apparently Hopkins made disparaging remarks about Tarver, and Tarver responded by inviting Hopkins up to 175 to settle their differences. The invitation, needless to say, was not so much an invitation as the kind of tirade that had the Magic Man's mother reaching for a bar of soap for deposit between Tarver's high beam, pearly whites. As for the Executioner, he now has a more profitable score to settle with the Oscar De La Hoya at whatever weight the Golden Boy decides is the middleweight limit.
The thing about Hopkins, though, is that he talks, and then he talks, and, much like the Magic Man, sometimes he talks some more. But Hopkins backs it up. The Executioner threatens to give opponents professional beatings, then he goes out and does it. Tarver could learn something from Hopkins.
Tarver has been telling everyone for months now that he whipped Jones' ass (pint sized donkey) when they met late last year. The fact is that Tarver fought a very good fight, exceeding the expectations of pretty much everybody, but when it mattered most--in the championship rounds --the Magic Man could not perform the sleight of hand required to put any significant leather on Jones. Tarver chose to play it safe when greatness mandated a rabbit be pulled out of the hat.
Though it should be said that the judges' scorecards had Tarver losing by a ludicrously large margin, it was still Jones who in the closing rounds fought with the urgency necessary to pull the fight out of the fire. It was a close fight, which in moments of humility Tarver has conceded, but it was still Jones who deserved the decision for digging down deep in the 11th and 12th rounds.
A rematch is a tantalizing possibility for fight fans and looks like it may be in the offing. Recent reports suggest Tarver has signed for a rematch which could take place in May. The contract, though, still awaits Jones signature.
It's one contract Jones needs to sign. The overall effect of Tarver's ongoing campaign to call Jones out has had all the subtlety of a Golota low blow, but darn it once again if that Tarver doesn't talk a good game. If Jones walks away from a rematch now his reputation will be irreparably damaged.
As for Tarver, if he handles Jones this time around with half the skill, daring and dexterity he displays whenever a microphone meets his acquaintance, Roy could be in trouble. Big trouble.