First of all, don’t blame the Hall of Fame. Neither Brophy, nor any member of his staff have a vote. The responsibility falls on members of the Boxing Writers Association of America, other international boxing journalists and noteworthy historians. This contingent, which numbers over 100, is hardly the College of Cardinals.
If a voter doesn’t take the time to review all 45 boxers in the “Modern” category he has failed in his responsibility as an elector. There’s nothing the Hall of Fame can do. It’s no different than any other sport. The electing process in the major sports halls of fame differ as much as the sports themselves. Every so often an athlete is enshrined that nobody admits to voting for.
Either way, take note of anyone who suggests that there were no great boxers on the ballot who deserve enshrinement. They don’t know boxing, or, at the very least, lack the mental capacity that is required to make informed, intelligent decisions.
I proudly put checks next to (alphabetically): Jung-Koo Chang, Humberto Gonzalez, Yoko Gushiken, Pone Kingpetch, Ernesto Marcel, Lloyd Marshall, Brian Mitchell, Masao Ohba, Holman Williams and Myung-Woo Yuh. Only the top three vote getters will be enshrined.
Chang, who had a record of 38-4, was the WBC light flyweight champ from March 1983 to June 1988. The Korean Hawk made 15 successful defenses of the title in a reign that lasted 5 years and 3 months before retiring, as champion. The native of Pusan, South Korea, was unsuccessful in his comeback, but was 16-4 in world title fights.
Humberto “Chiquita” Gonzalez won and lost the WBC light flyweight title three times from June 1989 until he retired in July 1995. The southpaw brawler and crowd favorite made 12 successful defenses. All three of his fights with IBF champion Michael Carbajal were epics; and his last fight, a thrilling seventh-round knockout at the hands of Saman Sorjaturong, was voted Fight of the Year, by The Ring magazine. He had a 43-3 (31) record with all three losses coming in world title fights.
Yoko Gushiken made 13 successful defenses of the WBA light flyweight title during a reign that lasted from October 1976 to March 1981. He was undefeated until he lost the title in his last fight. He retired, 23-1 (15).
Pone Kingpetch was the world flyweight champion from April 1960 to October 1962. He had two additional reigns and title fights through April 1965. He was 6-3 in world title fights, including wins over Hall of Famers Pascual Perez (twice) and Fighting Harada (1-1).
Ernesto Marcel of Panama was the WBA featherweight champion from November 1971 through February 1974. I first saw him on film as a featherweight contender in a 1970 fight against another up-and-coming star named Roberto Duran. Although Marcel didn’t beat his countryman, he did amass a 40-4-2 (23) record, including four defenses. He retired after retaining his title via unanimous decision, by a comfortable margin, against Alexis Arguello. What ever became of Arguello?
Brian Mitchell made 12 defenses of the WBA junior lightweight title from September 1986 to September 1991. Mitchell’s career was severely hampered by the boycott against South African athletes due to that country’s apartheid system. So title defenses on his native soil, let alone unification fights, were out of the question until the government reformed. He proved his mettle in 1991, scoring a unanimous decision and a draw in two tough matches against IBF champion Tony Lopez. Mitchell won the WBA title from Alfredo Layne, who dethroned Hall of Famer Wilfredo Gomez, and retired – as champion -- with a record of 45-1-3 (21), including 13-0-1 in world title fights.
Former WBA flyweight king Masao Ohba reigned less than two years in the early 1970s before he died in a car accident. But Ohba did make five defenses from April 1971 through January of 1973 and finished with a 35-2-1 (16) record, including a win over Betulio Gonzalez, who was a top flyweight throughout the decade and who reigned, several different times as the WBA or WBC champ.
Myung-Woo Yuh is a personal favorite. I took notice of the lad while I was on the ratings committee of KO magazine. He made 18 defenses of the WBA light flyweight title over two reigns from December 1985 through July 1993. He avenged his only defeat and retired as champion with a 39-1 (14) record, including 20-1 in world title fights.
You won’t find an entry for Lloyd Marshall or Holman Williams in The Ring Record Book. However, you will find them on the ledgers of Hall of Famers and other champions of their era. The press, as well as boxing fans of the day, respected their accomplishments.
Marshall was a top middleweight and light heavyweight who fought from 1936-51. He owns wins over Hall of Famers Joey Maxim, Ezzard Charles, Charley Burley and Jake LaMotta.
Williams, whose career spanned 1932-48, was a top-rated middleweight during WWII. He didn’t get a title shot because all titles were frozen during the war (and champ Tony Zale was in the Navy). Nevertheless, Williams fought and beat the top middleweights of his day. He was 1-1 against Moore; engaged in an epic seven-fight series with Burley (3-3, with 1 No Contest) and was 2-1 in three-bouts with Marshall.
With half as many weight divisions and only one champion per division, winning a world title was a significant achievement. So was beating future Hall of Fame talent.
It’s a shame that only the top three vote recipients will be enshrined. The rest will have to hope for next year.
I can easily mount a more passionate defense of my selections. Yet, I also acknowledge that some folks may differ with some of my choices. But to suggest that none of these 10 men, or any of the other 35 eligible fighters in the “Modern” category is worthy of enshrinement is absurd.
With the recent slew of third-rate pay-per-view extravaganzas â€“ Taylor-Hopkins II, the Tarver-Jones III, those drab heavyweight cards â€“ the PPV experiment needs to be reassessed, or declared a failure.
Those behind this phenomenon will find more excuses than Taylor and Hopkins threw punches to help us explain away that gnawing feeling inside. We can almost hear the doubletalk now: styles make fights; itâ€™s boxing and anything, pro or con, can happen; the game isnâ€™t what it used to be; the talent pool is so thin as to keep making consistently meaningful fights next to impossible; it's Bernard's fault. (Feel free to insert the excuse of your choice at the end of this graph to defend an indefensible business model.)
We know the cable giants are bottom line businesses where profit is God and everything else is atheistic. Thatâ€™s fine, theyâ€™re not alone, itâ€™s the way of the world, but the time will come â€“ has come â€“ for those who love the fights and respect the fighters to stop forking it over in the vain hope weâ€™ll be entertained and not bored out of our minds.
Because democracy in boxing is as illusory as democracy in Iraq, and often as bloody, we have no other choice but to make our voices heard by voting with our pocketbooks. Maybe if no one tunes into this nonsense theyâ€™ll stop foisting this selfsame nonsense on a public that should know better. Maybe profiting from gullibility is just another word for thatâ€™s the way it is; and if thatâ€™s the way it is, well, a pox on all their houses. But for the fight game to suffer and for the fans to feel had is the sort of madness worth fighting against.
If you agree with the above statement keep your money to yourselves. If you disagree, enjoy Taylor-Hopkins III. Read more at the BLOG
However, because he was so certain that he could win Olympic gold in 2004 he turned those offers down and opted to remain an amateur for another four years. Although he won the 2004 Olympic Trials, he lost a heartbreaker in the American qualifiers and was not invited to Athens.
Realizing it was time to turn pro, the now 25-year-old Benitez was disheartened by the lack of interest from promoters. He returned to his native New York, where he was born and raised on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
While preparing for the 2004 Olympics, he had been living in Marquette, Michigan, where he trained under the stewardship of the esteemed Al Mitchell. He also earned an associate’s degree in business from Northern Michigan University, which he attended on a boxing scholarship.
“I was surprised at how little interest there was in me as a professional entity,” said the extremely intelligent and articulate Benitez, whose parents were both born in the Dominican Republic. “I spoke with a few promoters, but they seemed to think that I’d be a hard sell because I was a lower-weight Dominican from the East Coast. They didn’t share the same vision that I had.
“But that has only given me a stronger hunger to succeed. I respect successful people, not just successful athletes. I know that anyone who has achieved true success has not had an easy road. And I appreciate that.”
When asked if he would have been willing to relocate, perhaps to Las Vegas, California, or Texas, where there would be no shortage of quality opponents, Benitez was circumspect.
“If the appropriate package came along I would be willing to move, no doubt,” he said, while citing that Florida, where his beloved four-year-old daughter Janiyah resides, also has a vibrant boxing scene, much of which is based on fighters of Latino descent. “But I don’t want to lose control of my career by signing with people that don’t share the same enthusiasm that I have for my future.”
Benitez, 3-0 (2 KOs), now trains at the Church Street Boxing Gym in downtown Manhattan with Ray Velez, who compiled a 6-4 (1 KO) record as a professional welterweight from 1985-89. He concedes that Velez is not yet known as a top-flight trainer, but hopes that they can both grow together in what is perhaps the world’s toughest vocation.
He also has a small consortium of friends who assist him with his business affairs. From both a logistical and financial standpoint, it has been far from easy, especially for a fighter with such a good amateur pedigree.
Benitez’s pro debut, a four round unanimous decision over Jenkins Alvarez, was televised by ESPN2 from Miami on April 8. Since then he has fought in Duluth, Georgia, and Dorchester, Massachusetts. The latter, which occurred on November 19, was a first round blowout of Nick Shaheen.
He is next scheduled to lace them up on December 29 at the Amazura Night Club in Queens, New York. He then travels to Salt Lake City for a January 26 bout against an opponent to be determined.
“I am a project in the works,” said Benitez. “Once people see me fight, I believe they will be impressed. Michael Carbajal and Junior Jones were both able to establish themselves as HBO fighters. I feel as if I have as much fan appeal as they do.
“Being Dominican doesn’t hurt me at all. I think that is a tremendous market to tap into. I’m proud of my Dominican heritage, and take that proudly into the ring with me.”
Because Benitez is not currently aligned with any promoter, the logistics involved in establishing himself in such a challenging sport have been vexing. But he is smart enough and patient enough to realize that his time will come if he doesn’t lose focus.
“I absolutely envision myself being an HBO fighter,” said Benitez, who hopes that his unique good looks will also garner him future modeling assignments and film roles. “I have the heart, skills, tools, and desire to make it in this sport. Someday the right people will share that vision and, if necessary, help me get there.”
Among the championship-caliber fighters Benitez has worked with are Joan Guzman and Kevin Kelley. Even though he is a veteran of over 200 amateur fights, of which he lost about 13, he says he learns a little something from everyone he spars with.
Benitez’s boxing ability can only be matched by the apparent gratitude he seems to have for all of the hardship he has endured. Deep in his psyche, it seems, he realizes that for one to be truly happy with their success they must know that they earned it through their own grit and determination.
He admits that he only started boxing at the age of 10 because he was regularly bullied at school and was not very good at any team sports.
“I loved boxing from the first moment,” he said. “It was the first sport I was really good at, and I loved hearing all the positive feedback. I got so much confidence from boxing, I went to the gym everyday just because it made me feel so good about myself.”
Although Benitez is now fighting hard to see all of his lofty dreams come to fruition amid financial instability and the harsh realities of an unforgiving sport, his sense of self-belief is awe-inspiring. Without sounding the least bit arrogant or bombastic, he serves as his best public relations representative.
His website, www.rbenitez.com, is regularly updated with articles and photos, and he bends over backwards to accommodate the press. Unlike many of his contemporaries, his cell phone number does not change weekly and he calls back when he says he will.
“It’s easy for people to lose interest and when they lose interest you lose your credibility,” said Benitez. “In boxing, you are only as good as your last fight. It’s a grimy business, which only makes me more determined to be successful. People like to tell me all the things that I don’t have going for me; mainly that I’m a lighter-weight fighter from the East Coast.
“But I’ve won five U.S. [amateur] championships and have done everything there is to do as an amateur. I know the pro game is different, but I’m not going to let that stop me. I have a lot to offer this game. I’m not looking for anything I haven’t worked hard to attain. I’m not looking for a handout or easy fights. I’m willing to put in my time and I take nothing for granted. Pretty soon the boxing community and the fans are going to realize that they have a new star on their hands.”
In the current crop of heavyweights there are four semi-recognized belt holders, and a series of worthy and not-so-worthy mandatory contenders, but in almost every quarter one name is conspicuously absent from mention for true contention: Britain’s Audley Harrison.
Harrison, set to take on onetime Mike Tyson conqueror, Danny Williams in London on December 10th, is rarely mentioned as a future titlist and is on no one’s shortlist to challenge for a belt despite his unbeaten record and an Olympic gold medal in the 2000 games.
He has regularly been savaged by the British press and boxing fans for the conduct of his career – the issue which is likely the central factor resulting in being largely ignored, particularly by the American sporting public.
Perhaps no one summed up the state of the big man’s career as succinctly as David Payne writing for The Sweet Science.
“Rare commodities like Olympic gold medallists are traditionally pursued, signed, nurtured and guided by established promoters,” wrote Payne. “Preceding his present reincarnation and relocation to Las Vegas, Harrison’s career has been punctuated by injury, savagely criticized by jealous and bitter promoters, and undermined by creative but cautious matchmaking.”
The 6’5½” southpaw has admittedly fought infrequently for a fighter rising to contender status. His 19 fights have spanned the four years since his 2001 professional debut.
Harrison is currently on the fringes of contention by the alphabet organizations: WBC #14; WBO #14; IBF #13 and he is inexplicably unrated in the top 15 of the WBA. (Harrison remains at # 8 in the monthly Grant Top 25 Heavyweights based largely on his potential).
Post-Olympic fervor was certainly in his favor. He signed a massive television contract with the BBC and was allowed to choose his opponents – a deal almost unheard of in the business for all except the most elite of amateur stars.
As Harrison’s wins accumulated, however, his opposition did not progress accordingly. He was eventually dropped by the BBC and became a subject of much derision by fans in Britain – fans generally as loyal as any anywhere.
Unfortunately for Harrison the British boxing public’s loyalty is exceeded only by their knowledge of the sport, and they knew they were not getting their money’s worth.
Despite demonstrating the willingness to overcome adversity in the Olympics, fighting the gold medal fight in pain from a knuckle injury, Harrison’s detractors question not only the path his management has taken, but also his commitment.
Since moving his base of operations to the United States and linking up with the very successful promoter Dan Goossen, he has beaten hard battlers Robert Davis and Robert Wiggins. He may also be on the threshold of breaking out of his years in the wilderness.
Wiggins had built a reputation as a tough southpaw fighting largely on the club circuit and he had been stopped only once in his 25 fights coming into his bout with Harrison.
Harrison pummeled and dominated Wiggins en route to a fourth round stoppage. But in that bout another of the many reasons his detractors cite as cause for distaste was in evidence.
Harrison wastes no motion or punches ever. Consequently, his fights can be on the dull side, particularly if his opponent feels Harrison’s power early and elects to go into a shell.
In the opening rounds with Wiggins, neither man appeared to have the fire to destroy the opponent despite the fact that Harrison had clearly pulled ahead. Not until he unloaded his considerable power onto the head of Wiggins, effectively ending the fight (officially it came between rounds), did it seem he was all that interested.
As he faces Danny Williams, he faces not only a fellow countryman; he significantly steps up in opposition, and potentially takes a giant leap in required output. Williams is big – he will likely weigh as much as 15 pounds more than Harrison – and his punching power is respected if not feared.
Williams fought in June stopping unheralded Zoltan Petranyi in three rounds. Of course his preceding two bouts, a stoppage of the shell of Mike Tyson, and his gutsy stoppage loss to defending WBC titlist Vitali Klitschko push his name into the “known” opponent category.
Though Williams is unrated by the alphabet bodies, a Harrison win in their bout would perhaps provide enough evidence for the sanctioning bodies to nudge him into a top ten ranking. Their bout will undoubtedly generate a large gate in London.
“Danny fits the criteria of opponents that I am looking for at present. I see this as a good opportunity to give something back to the fans,” wrote Harrison on his fan website recently. “It will be a tough fight and I will prepare for it as though it is a world title fight.”
What is also clear is that in order for Harrison to force a title shot he will likely have to secure a number one rating in one of the alphabet ratings.
Promoter Don King effectively owns all optional defenses for three of the titles, while Vitali Klitschko and his K-2 Promotions controls the WBC belt. Needless to say, Harrison will not be the recipient of an optional shot unless he’s willing to sign away future rights – an unlikely scenario.
The Williams bout provides the first venue on the road to wide recognition and could lead to another all-Britain showdown with the winner of the upcoming Matt Skelton-Kevin McBride match. It could also mean a short road to a world title match.
For now, Audley Harrison will remain the world’s most underrated heavyweight and it is in his hands to remove that mantle.
Harrison’s bout with Williams will take place at the ExCeL Arena in London.
No way. It will be the first of a series of fights. I already have a fight planned with the Opi 2000 promotional company, another fight for January 2006, and a European title match for May or June 2006. I will fight only in the welterweight division. It’s the best one for me. You know, since I turned professional I had problems with my weight. In the early years, I could make the lightweight limit. My first major title was the Italian lightweight title. I know that many boxers don’t consider the national championship a major one, but it’s just their opinion. Personally, I think that those intercontinental and international belts are just trophies. I never wanted to fight for them, because I considered it a waste of time. As a matter of fact, I directly aimed to the WBO lightweight title. On September 25, 1992 I defeated Javier Altamirano (whose record was 39-3-3) by 10th round TKO. Going back to the weight issue, as the years progressed it became impossible to make the lightweight limit and I choose to compete in the upper division. In the last few years, I had problems even with the super lightweight limit.
Talking about the WBO lightweight title, why did you abandon it?
I never did. I was stripped of the belt. Anyway, I’m proud of my title reign. I have an interesting story about my defense against Micheal Ayers, who I beat by unanimous decision on April 16, 1993. The original idea was to put me in the ring with Eusebio Pedroza, who had lost to Mauro Gutierrez on November 1992 (it turned out to be Pedroza’s last match). I told the promoter that Pedroza was 40 years old and beating him wouldn’t have been such a good publicity. So, the promoter found Micheal Ayers who was 28 years old, had a record of 13-0 and was considered a future star. About 8,000 fans packed the Palaeur in Rome. I won easily: 118-109, 118-110 and 119-108. In the following years Micheal Ayers became British and IBO lightweight champion. He retired in 2003 with a record of 31-5-1. My final defense of the WBO belt was against former IBF featherweight champion Antonio Rivera. It was September 24, 2003. I got another unanimous decision win. After that, I signed with Don King. I stayed with him until 1995.
How do you judge your American experience?
It started the right way. In 1994, I fought three times in Las Vegas getting three wins against journeyman Mike Bryan (1st round TKO), good prospect Richie Hess (2nd round KO), and former IBF lightweight champion Freddie Pendleton (on points). The last victory, maybe, harmed me because some people in the business started considering me dangerous and didn’t want to put their fighters against me. Anyway, I didn’t want to fight anybody but the best. That’s the main reason why I signed with Don King. In a situation where four men can claim to be world champions, the only way to be the undisputed one is to defeat the best of them. In my division, that man was Julio Cesar Chavez. I was told many times that my fight with Chavez was close, but never happened. So, I went to Don King’s office in Florida and spoke with Carl King. We had a discussion and I was so angry that I called my lawyer. Sometime later, Don King called me and said that my fight against Chavez was almost made. I flew back to Florida, talked to Don and we signed the contract. I had 40 days to train. I spent the first 20 days in Italy, the last ones in Las Vegas. You won’t believe it, but I had a hard time finding good sparring partners. Finally, I got two guys who wanted $500 each and I had to pay them with my own money. I’m not looking for excuses, but I was used to prepare my major fights within 90 days.
What about the fight?
We fought on April 8, 1995 for the WBC super lightweight title. Julio Cesar Chavez turned out to be a good opponent, but not as tough as I expected. I must recognize that he won clearly, but the scorecards were outrageous: 120-107 and 118-109 (twice). He won, but with a three or four point margin. We were in Las Vegas, in front of a pro-Chavez crowd, so I understand the reasons for those ridiculous scorecards. You know, my experience in the United States made me grow up professionally. Before signing with Don King, I was focused on fighting. When Don King started talking to me about promotional activity, sponsors, television networks, I understood how much money centers around boxing and how I could take advantage of it. For example, Don told me that he wasn’t getting any money from Italian television and sponsors, so I was not profitable for him (he had to pay me anyway). When I came back to Italy, I wanted to be part of the team which decided my career. I wanted to have a word on the opponent, the venue, the networks involved and every other aspect of the business. It’s the same thing today. I don’t have money problems; I fight only for the pleasure of it and I want to do it at the highest level. So, it’s just a natural that I participate in the decision process.
Was Don King the most important person in your career?
No way. I had three managers. From 1989 to 1993 I fought for Renzo Spagnoli. From 1993 to 1995 I was managed by Don King. Since 1995 I’ve been with the Opi 2000 company. The most important persons for my career have been Salvatore Cherchi and his partner Andrea Locatelli.
Are you aiming to the world welterweight title?
The welterweight title always attracted me because I would like to be the first Italian to win the world championship in three divisions. That’s why I accepted to face WBO welterweight champion Daniel Santos, on July 29, 2000. We battled in Reggio Calabria, a coin toss from Sicily, and he KOed me during the 4th round. I have no excuses. I didn’t train properly.
What about Carlos “Bolillo” Gonzalez? According to many journalists, he was your toughest opponent.
They think so because I had a hard time with him, twice. On June 20, 1996 we fought to a draw: 114-112 for me, 114-112 for him and 114-114. On May 29, 1998 I played Roberto Duran with him saying No mas during the 9th round. I just wasn’t motivated anymore. In fact, I announced my retirement. After one year, my love for boxing brought me back to the ring. I fought twice in 1999, once in 2000 and retired again. I got back in action three years later, beating Miguel Angel Pena. That match proved that you don’t need a fake title to excite the crowd: eight action-packed rounds between good fighters are enough. Getting back to Carlos Gonzalez, he is a great fighter. He is still active and his record comprises 55 wins (46 by KO), 8 losses and 1 draw. Before meeting me, he had won the WBO super lightweight title and defended it four times.
One final question: how much has winning the Olympic gold medal helped your pro career?
It depends on your point of view. My win at the Seoul Olympics brought me a total of 80,000,000 Lire from the national Olympic committee (CONI) and the national boxing commission (FPI). Today it would be 41,316 Euros ($48,339). Back in 1988 it was good money, but it cannot be compared to the millions of dollars that the gold medal brought to Oscar De La Hoya. In the United States, boxing can turn a man into a multimillionaire.
Birthplace: Vibo Valentia, Italy. This town is in the Calabria region.
Date: December 2, 1967
Height: 173 cm
As an amateur: Olympic gold medal, in 1998
Professional Record: 40 wins (28 KOs), 4 losses and 1 draw
Italian lightweight champion (1991)
WBO world lightweight champion (from September 25, 1992 to September 24, 1993)
WBO world super lightweight champion (from March 9, 1996 to May 29, 1998)
He won the title against Sammy Fuentes (8th round TKO) and successfully defended it against Carlos Gonzalez (a draw), Sergio Rey Revilla (4th round KO), Harold Miller (8th round TKO), Nigel Wenton (8th round TKO) and Jose Manuel Berdonces (on points). He lost it against Carlos Gonzalez (9th round retirement).
All judges (Dave Moretti, Chuck Giampa, Patricia Morse Jarman) saw it at 115-113 for the defending champion.
The result was less clear to the rest of us. An informal exit poll showed equal support for each side. Maybe the question is whether or not Hopkins did enough to take the unified belts. The intangible edge said to favor a champ may have been the only margin of victory Taylor had. Such an edge is not actually supposed to exist on the scorecards.
The fact remains that as of now Taylor owns two victories over Hopkins where it counts, in the record book. How the narrow margin translates in terms of Taylor's public persona remains to be seen. Taylor will have plenty of chances to further prove himself.
"He didn't come out like he did in the first fight," said an unmarked Taylor, "I was determined to win, but I've still got a lot of work to do. He kept catching me with that right hand."
For Hopkins, time and how to spend it may be much more hazy.
'Everybody saw it," said Hopkins, also unmarked. "I thought I won the majority of rounds. I'm proud of myself. I stayed there and countered. He was told to grab me any time he was hurt and that's what he did. I was getting stronger as the fight went on."
The big question now is what Hopkins will elect to do once tonight's result and any subsequent fallout sinks in. Hopkins indicated it was time to think about his promise to his mom to retire by his 41st birthday in January. Right now that's a pick 'em over/under if there ever was one.
"My career has been tremendous," said Hopkins accurately, "I don't have anything to be mad about. I've changed my whole life and become a role model. Nobody can box forever. I've got good friends and good business partners. It's time to pass the torch, whether it's next year in January or right now."
There were signs before, during, and after the bout that Hopkins's star power was waning.
Hundreds of patrons showed up at the weigh-in and it sounded like they were all for the new champion. Hopkins garnered some polite applause, but as Taylor approached the scales there was loud encouragement and "Soo-eey Razorbacks" calls and response from across the bleachers.
It seemed like Hopkins, 160, was continuing a slow burn as he stared intently ahead, looking as if he refused to acknowledge that Taylor, 159, even existed.
Both men came in very strong. With pros like Hopkins and Taylor, there remained no pre-fight controversy besides which amazing athlete was superior. Bernard's arms and deltoid area looked like he had been throwing a lot of heavy leather in training, but Taylor looked just as strong.
The odds stayed close in the final days before the fight, with late cash rolling in on Taylor to make him a slight favorite by a few dimes. You could win an extra fiddy cent or so for every buck you put down on Hopkins.
It was a busy weekend with an even more eclectic swarm than usual in town for the fight. There was the National Finals Rodeo and Las Vegas Marathon, and many came in full respective regalias, which conjured strange images of characters running into some neon saloon for a gigantic brawl.
If it sounds like some zany cinematic creation, well, there was plenty of true Hollywood too, as clips for the 6th "Rocky" installment were filmed around the real fight events.
The fight may not have been a sellout, but it was close, with an announced crowd of 10,621.
Like the initial encounter last July, it was not a classic battle by any means. At first, there were as many clinches as punches. There were isolated chants of "JT" and "B-Hop" but they were no more sustained than the few fistic flurries.
They feinted, then feinted some more. In some sessions, just a handful of leather landed for either man. Once again, Taylor built an early lead and Hopkins came back. Down the stretch it was up for grabs.
Hopkins started to find the range with rights by the fifth round. Taylor was more composed than before, and used his stiff jab to keep a comfort zone he enjoyed. Hopkins got more aggressive in the middle frames, and when Taylor looked frustrated in round seven it seemed as if the tide had turned for Hopkins.
But Taylor has definitely learned since the first time. He kept throwing punches whether they were holding against the ropes or waltzing at mid-ring. That little difference of staying busy instead of giving ground may have been Taylor's margin of victory.
Even considering the elite skill level, it was still a chess match with few thumping consequences. A draw would not have been unjust.
"He's a great fighter for his age," said Taylor without sarcasm. For Hopkins, it's an age that may have passed.
"I'd like to thank everybody that's supported me over the past 18 years," said Hopkins,
"You've got champions and you've got People's Champions. As they look at my archives, I'll have that respect until the day I die. Tomorrow the world will be buzzing about this, then it will be 2006 and we'll see what happens."
For Taylor, it may have been time to party like New Year's Eve. For Hopkins it may be Auld Lang Sine.
In the cold, predawn hours after the fight there were fireworks for the start of the marathon, set off in the dirt across the Strip from where the fight had been. An echo of thunder shook the gold Plexiglas towers at Mandalay Bay.
The sound could also be a brilliant, starter's gun symbol of the emerging future for Jermain Taylor. Or it could be a signal of the blasts that have passed, in his own long run, for Bernard Hopkins.
In a fast-paced, hotly contested slugfest between two young, top 10-ranked featherweights, Diaz showed that he was not afraid of ghosts by taking a thrilling 12-round split decision over one of boxing’s brightest stars, the previously unbeaten Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero, Friday on “ShoBox: The New Generation” on SHOWTIME.
By handing the World Boxing Council No. 2-ranked 126-pounder his first loss, Diaz, who entered the ring rated No. 7 by the WBC, won the North American Boxing Federation (NABF) featherweight title. In the “ShoBox” co-feature, undefeated World Boxing Association (WBA) No. 13/International Boxing Federation (IBF) No. 15 welterweight contender, Paul “The Punisher’’ Williams, knocked out former Mexican champion, Alfonso Sanchez, in the fifth round.
The doubleheader, which took place at the Tachi Palace Hotel & Casino, was promoted by Goossen Tutor and aired at 11 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on west coast). The telecast – the last in what has been a sensational year of competitive, exciting fights on “ShoBox” -- was the 69th in the popular boxing series, which debuted on SHOWTIME in July 2001. “ShoBox” resumes on Jan. 6, 2006.
Diaz (20-5-2, 9 KOs), of Mexico City, Mexico, won his United States debut and 11th consecutive start by the scores of 115-112, 114-113 and 112-115 despite losing a point in the final round for hitting behind the head. Diaz, who is unbeaten in his last 18 outings (16-0-2), has not lost since July 29, 2000. He fought like a winner throughout against Guerrero, performing with intelligence, confidence and poise against a well-regarded, highly skilled opponent in a hostile environment. A two-fisted banger who never seemed seriously hurt, Diaz scored often with counter punches and had the more effective jab.
Guerrero (16-1-1, 9 KOs), of Gilroy, Calif., never seemed to get into a comfortable groove, particularly during the first seven or eight rounds. Spurred on by a raucous crowd, the extremely popular southpaw rallied strongly in the last few sessions to make it close, but it was too little too late. Guerrero, who is unusually tall and rangy for a featherweight, is known for tremendous speed and defense, but he got nailed often by Diaz, who dictated the pace for the most part. Guerrero came in also ranked in the IBF (No. 9) and WBA (No. 12). He was making the third defense of his NABF title.
Williams (28-0, 20 KOs), of Augusta, Ga., mostly dominated, scoring two knockdowns. Sanchez got up after going down in the fourth, but he was counted out after the second knockdown in the fifth. The bout ended at 1:12. The 6-foot-1 Williams had a six-inch height advantage and he utilized it by keeping the fight on the outside and working in and out with both hands. Williams, who seems ready to step up in class, showed he had a good chin, especially in the initial couple rounds when Sanchez caught him flush.
Sanchez (20-4-1, 18 KOs), of Tijuana, Mexico, came out banging, as expected, and landed several solid shots. It is all or nothing with the slugger, however, and once he was unable to sustain his attack or get inside, and once he saw that Williams could handle his best shot, he became discouraged.
Nick Charles called Friday’s action from ringside, with Steve Farhood serving as expert analyst. The executive producer of the telecast was Gordon Hall, with Richard Gaughan producing.
In addition to the rebroadcast on Saturday, Dec. 3, at midnight, Friday’s bouts also will be replayed on SHOWTIME EXTREME Monday at 8 p.m. and Wednesday at 11:30 p.m. and back on SHOWTIME TOO Thursday at 11 p.m.
The next “ShoBox’’ telecast on Jan. 6, 2006, on SHOWTIME (11 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the west coast.) will feature promising, hard-hitting, undefeated Jorge Julio (25-0, 22 KOs) against Irving Garcia (11-2, 5 KOs) in a 10-round welterweight match.
The following night, Jan. 7, SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING will offer a world championship doubleheader at 9 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the west coast). In the main event, two reigning cruiserweight champions will collide when WBC/WBA champion Jean-Marc Mormeck faces his IBF counterpart, O’Neil Bell, in a world title unification bout. In the co-feature, one of the world’s best pound-for-pound boxers, undisputed welterweight champion Zab “Super” Judah will defend his WBC 147-pound crown against mandatory challenger and No. 1 contender, Carlos Baldomir.
Bernard Hopkins made it clear as he spoke to a national Canadian television audience that he absolutely believes he must win his rematch with champion Jermain Taylor by a knockout. “There is no doubt… I must take him out!” His eyes sunken and blackened with what appeared to be fatigue, Hopkins gave the impression of a man bundled inside the kinetic energy of frustration fed by irritation. By comparison Jermain Taylor looked invigorated and youthfully energized, his eyes shifting as if to see the completed vision just beyond viewing, his near future which he trusts will bring him an ultimate victory over the strident figure of the ex-champion Hopkins.
“I’m a lot less nervous than I was, you know, the first time going around. Now it’s a different kind of nervous anyway this kind of nerve. I want to go in here and I want to look good. I want to – I want to make sure all my punches land. I want to make sure every combination I throw hits him,” Taylor admits with assurance.
“I must execute… that’s the key difference… this time I must finish the job; I must execute,” was Hopkins counter. Hopkins’ body slightly lifts out of his seat as he says the word “execute.” Staying in the intensity of the committed moment, that’s what Hopkins has been doing in the run-up to their middleweight rematch showdown. Keeping on message, the verbal reiteration of bringing a definitive ending to brief reign of Jermain Taylor and showing that justice shall be served has kept Hopkins, almost via a hypnotic sense of certitude, grounded within a resolution of purposefulness.
The ex-champion looked almost burdened by the compulsion he bares, the hunger for revenge and the need to again be the middleweight champion. No doubt we are letting literary license and imagery run too far a field; of course, Hopkins encourages the use of descriptors and metaphors and indulgent symbolism himself. He’s made his late career fame out of such self-stylization. He often invokes phrases like “the American Dream” and “the people’s champion” and “I’m street, he’s country” to put himself forward as an iconic figure in his sporting time. We can let pop cultural mediation decide.
One thing we do know is that Hopkins has always been able to channel what we might call negativity and harness it for the purposes of self-interested intention. That’s why he’s been so careful to explain to boxing writers and other journalists how he has always reacted to facing up to rematches. Familiarity with the subject has, in Hopkins’ case, always provided him with ammunition and confidence to better him, to assert his dominating characteristics. Taylor remains unconvinced, almost indifferent to what Hopkins says about their rematch. As in the quote by Patterson above, Taylor seems that he’s already found out what he needed to know about Bernard Hopkins. Having engaged Hopkins, having encountered the man and the myth, Taylor stripped away his sense of unknowing, the inevitable doubt that manifests itself as apprehension.
“He put no fear in my heart,” the champion Taylor tells boxing fans. “All of boxing want to see a fight, a real fight and that’s exactly what I am going to give them… I’ll be a lot more relaxed in the ring.”
Taylor has met Hopkins at ring center; he’s mixed it up with Hopkins and in so doing has now reduced “The Executioner” to “just another fighter” whom he intends to defeat. The challenge of character and facing the unknown that Patterson referred to has already been encountered by Taylor. And in the days leading up to the fight Taylor has looked a man who doesn’t have to indulge in the nervous energy of doubt. That’s a transformation of major significance as he readies to fight Hopkins again. What Hopkins has been trying to seed in the mind of the champion is the notion of doubt as a portent to inadequacy. If Hopkins can internalize the battle, make it a contest of image projection and applied psychology, he believes he can dilute the champion’s fortifying reserves of emotional energy reserves, that natural bounty of the young he can take away that which separates them by the simple fact of chronology. There’s a lesson in how Marvin Hagler made Thomas Hearns wear himself down emotionally in the weeks and day leading up to their classic middleweight showdown.
How do we consider then the irony that it was Hopkins who’s looked slightly frayed this week? Taylor puts it clearly, “I’m the champion now; he’s got all the stuff in his head because I have all the belts now.” It’s an interesting notion of transference. For months Hopkins has denied the validity of the middleweight belts and that Taylor usurpation of them only proves how vacuous his standing is. But the new middleweight champion stands his ground then changes the course of the preflight war of words by saying, “I’m going to have to work every round and now I know that… I feel like Bernard has no power, he has no speed. He’s just looking for a way out. And I’m going to give it to him!”
So we must infer that Taylor has been listening, at least to some of Hopkins’ ranting rhetoric about being denied his just due, victimized for being a career long critic of “the system” as he calls it in Oliver Stone terms. But Taylor listens to bantering Bernard and hears rationalization and excuses. Where is the calmed assurance of knowing, the deep unspoken belief in the obvious? Probably, the champion is applying traits he fancies he would show were he in Hopkins’ situation. Still, when the champion says he believes that Hopkins, warrior extraordinaire and divisional menace is “looking for a way out” we cannot help but take notice.
Does Taylor really believe that with the right amount of applied pressure it will be the bully in Bernard that will come to the surface and not the avenging spirit of Philadelphia maulers past? No Mas! No Mas? Astoundingly that one very contentious line of quote passed earlier this week – until now – almost innocuously, not so much as raising a comparison to Duran and Leonard. Was it just a passing phrase, an exaggeration on the part of a fighter feeling the movement toward the absolute prime of his career? If the truth can be ascertained, it appears that Taylor’s self-belief is more deeply founded, his confidence more essentially grounded in the total belief he’s now the force in the middleweight division. Naturally enough Hopkins radiates his own sense of missionary conviction, though there’s a strained willfulness where once there was brazen certitude. Are we splitting semantic hairs merely for the sake of doing so or have we defined variance, the generational cleaving from one dominating persona to the next figure of the middleweight high command?
We restate to make our case transparent. Championship boxing has been Bernard Hopkins’ life as it is becoming Jermain Taylor’s way of life. How essential the mantle and recognition of being a world champion is to both fighters. Between them remains only the issue of their personal vanquishing of the other, the figure in the mirror, haunting them, shadowing them. Since his July 16th loss to Taylor, Hopkins has effectively denied the factual basis which has rendered him and labeled him a former world champion. Each day “The Executioner” lives out the personal conviction envisioning him bringing himself back to ‘his’ championship, though stating all the while – as if by common report – his status as “the People’s Champion”; Bernard will always be Bernard.
The former heir apparent and now middleweight champion Taylor has done his best to embody the championship, his final stewardship, of course, still all for the making. Rhetorically unsophisticated, shy by natural temperament and as well mannered as a diplomat, Taylor’s public face has matured over the four and a half months since his title win. Speaking with something like reticent assertiveness – charmingly contradictory – Taylor declares his intention to “leave no doubts this time” and effectively silence Hopkins on the matter of their rivalry for good. He’s not about symbolism or self-aggrandizement or the insulting invective, not this middleweight champion. He’s never even thought about an all-time middleweight dream opponent for himself; he’s just dealing with his own near future, the responsibilities he feels to his loved ones, his fans and his sense of himself as a champion. Jermain Taylor has his feet on the ground; he dug in, ready to rumble, intent on laying some serious heat on the old man he once had nothing but respect for.
But you cannot engage, let alone beat, Bernard Hopkins without throwing out the rule book, getting down to the basics and taking it to him, right where he lives. That’s what it means to fight Bernard Hopkins. For all the disciplined applications of technique necessary to match up with Battling Bernard, you have to fight it out. In the end, the man that beats Hopkins, the guy that banishes Hopkins from the middleweight thrown for good will have to subdue and destroy him as a predatory force, a relentless survivor of all-out championship fighting. There’s nothing neat and analytical to be done with Hopkins raging at you; even as he boxes, he’ll find moments to hold and hit and go low and butt and forearm and generally break the rhythm and eventually the mind and heart of the man who dares to better him.
In the end, victory for Taylor can only be about vanquishing, winning about annihilating, because masterful threats of mere excellence Hopkins counters with ease, eats it for lunch. Just how basic can Taylor get? If Hopkins is ‘street’ then Taylor will have to leave him for lost, deep in the woods.
For Taylor, the future is at stake. A repeat victory over Hopkins means a bigger piece of history.
Taylor could subsequently engage some relatively safe challengers like Ike Quartey while gaining marketability, then add piles to his bank account with payday opponents like the winner of Shane Mosley – Fernando Vargas, leading up to a mega-fight with Jeff Lacy.
For Hopkins, the past is at stake. A glorious past tainted by a split decision, fair or not. A revenge victory over Taylor means a bigger piece of history for him, too. If Hopkins is indeed the all-time great he was pegged to be before Taylor put the skids on his 20 title defense winning streak, the old boy should find a way to win, big.
Since the first fight, Hopkins has emerged bitter but more determined than ever. He wants his marbles back. Unless Taylor completely and immediately implodes after the holidays, he’d be recognized as a quality close to a Hall of Fame career. Hopkins wouldn’t have to worry about criticism for his grand finale against mild opposition.
Taylor- Hopkins II is one of those intriguing scenarios with many feasible conclusions, as close as the split second it takes for a punch to land or miss. There’s really no way to know what’s likely to transpire, unless, as some including Hopkins have implied, it’s a set-up. If so, how much we’ll never know. The first fight looked like a legitimate, squeaker win for Taylor, but the argument for Hopkins was certainly realistic.
“This is going to be the storybook ending to my American dream,” said Hopkins, “Certain things you can’t turn the other cheek on.”
Hopkinsfudged a little on retiring by his forty-first birthday this January, now reportedly indicating he wants a farewell bash not long afterward. He was quoted saying Taylor will be his last “meaningful” ring battle, with a goodbye gala early in the year. Whatever happens Saturday night, Hopkins will fight again as a pro at least once more.
“I don’t think anybody’s going to bust my chops for being an hour late on my promise (to retire),” said Hopkins.
The latest dismissal of Bouie Fisher shows Hopkins has kept his latest game face on, financial motivations aside. Hopkins didn’t appear to enter the ring in that fine-tuned frame of mind last time. Complacency can be as eroding as time.
Taylorhas progressed in handling his newfound attention. He’s getting more and more comfortable in the spotlight and he won’t surrender his undefeated slate easily. Taylor has grown more callused in his respect toward Hopkins, with some real resentment possible for the way Hopkins refused to give him proper post-fight due.
When Taylor says he wants to erase any doubt, you can count on him giving everything toward that end. Which could be the new kid’s demise. If Hopkins can get inside Taylor’s head and get him throwing wildly, there will be no doubt for sure. Except Taylor won’t be happy.
“I’m gonna take it out of the judges’ hands this time,” said Hopkins.
“Anybody that knows the real me knows I’m going to take care of business, no question,” said Taylor.
We have here the classic conflict of youth versus experience. It’s still just a matter of whether Taylor’s strength can overcome Hopkins’s guile. Clues to the rematch come based on how you scored the first affair, but no head-banging hints get any clearer.
The odds are basically pick ‘em all around. Our handicapping logic leans a little to Taylor, but you’d still have to be crazy to bet against Hopkins. Crazy isn’t always bad.
So, the foundation is set for a great night at Mandalay Bay to wrap up what’s been a fine fistic season for most of 2005. We could see the Fight of the Year for an early winter treat. Let’s hope nothing spoils it. Win, lose, or not such a long shot draw, may Hopkins go into that sweet sunset with the class he, Taylor, and the sport deserves.
A southpaw like Mitchell, Camarena was brought in to work as many as eight rounds a day with Mayweather.
One of the hottest prospects in his division, the 23-year-old was 15-0 as an amateur and his only loss as a pro came via eight-round unanimous decision to Louis Antonio Arceo, who was also unbeaten at the time.
Trained and managed by Aurelio Martinez of Denver, he has no promotional ties.
TheSweetScience.com: What was it like sparring with Floyd Mayweather?
Donald Camarena: We went a different number of rounds each day. It depended on what they wanted to do. Sometimes we’d go six rounds, sometimes eight, sometimes four. We went three or four days a week.
TheSweetScience.com: Did you learn anything from him?
DC: Oh yeah, you always learn something from someone like that. He didn’t offer me any pointers, but he said I was a real good fighter and was going to be a world champ one day. Roger Mayweather said that he hasn’t seen anyone give [Floyd] work like that in a long time.
TheSweetScience.com: You were in Las Vegas when you were working with Mayweather. What kind of daily routine did you have?
DC: I’d get up in the morning and run about three or four miles, I mean I wasn’t getting ready for a fight. Then I‘d go to the room and lay down. Then I’d go to the gym and spar and do my regular workout. They’d close the gym and Mayweather would come train at 3 p.m. He was a cool dude. I got along with him fine.
TheSweetScience.com: Are they going to invite you back?
DC: Yeah, when he fights Zab Judah or Winky Wright. He says I fight similar to Winky Wright.
TheSweetScience.com: What do you know about Friday’s opponent, Bocanegra?
DC: I know he beat Daniel Attah. He’s a typical Mexican fighter. He’s a brawler, comes after you. (Editor’s note: Bocanegra scored a seventh-round TKO over former world-ranked contender Attah in 2003.)
TheSweetScience.com: Your only loss was to Arceo by decision. Did you learn anything from that loss?
DC: Yeah. I learned to be careful where you take your fights at. I thought I got robbed, but you can’t cry over spilled milk. If you look at it now, his record is going down and mine is going up. We tried to fight him again, but they didn’t want it.
TheSweetScience.com: How difficult is it to sign for a big fight without a big-name promoter backing you up?
DC: It’s been kinda tough. The fight is here and then they pull out.
TheSweetScience.com: How did you get involved in boxing?
DC: I was messing up, hanging around with the wrong crowd and getting in fights, so my mom made me go into the gym one day. I took off from there.
TheSweetScience.com: What’s your best asset as a fighter?
DC: My conditioning. I’m always in shape.
TheSweetScience.com: You‘ve fought on TV three times now. How do you like it?
DC: It’s cool. Better than recording the fight yourself with a little camcorder.