The seven-foot tall (2.13 meter), 324 lb. (157 kg) Valuev (44-0, 31 KOs) kept his unbeaten streak alive Saturday night, using his size and reach to negate the grab-and-hold tactics for which Ruiz is famous. Johnny could never figure out how to overcome the challenge Valuev presented without the aid of a stepladder.
("The Quietman" has been quieted a second time in two fights, Lights Out Toney’s steroid suspension at the end of fight one notwithstanding. Is the end of Ruiz at hand?)
Two judges scored it 116-113, 116-114 for Valuev; the third judge had it a 114-114 draw.
The crowd of 10,000 booed loudly when the verdict was announced. Ruiz's trainer/manager, the hotheaded Norman Stone, as if in response to the controversial decision, grabbed the belt away from Valuev and ran around the ring holding it over his head. That led to a fight between Stoney and a member of Team Valuev. No word yet on who won that tussle.
Kltischko’s retirement, however, casts a new light on the Ruiz-Valuev fight, which is set for Dec. 17 in Berlin. Ruiz, you see, is now not only one of the four belt-wearers known by at least some of the public, he is promoted by Don King – the promoter of all of the other belt wearers.
That of course means that should he prevail against the towering Valuev, he will almost undoubtedly cash in as a participant in an eventual title unification series.
The imposing figure of the 7-foot, 320-pound Valuev presents a seemingly mountainous obstacle to riches that Ruiz was ready to give up on just months ago, when he lost to James Toney. The fight was of course later ruled a no-contest due to the discovery of steroids in Toney’s blood, and presto, Ruiz was given back his title without a fight. His original talk of retirement was immediately rescinded.
Ruiz will enter the ring in Berlin as a decided outsider. Despite Valuev’s Russian citizenship, his last 10 fights have been in Germany and his manager is the German Wilfried Sauerland.
Ruiz is hardly on a hot streak. He lost his only fight of 2005 to Toney. The self-nicknamed “Quietman” was out-speeded and out-slugged by the former middleweight and cruiserweight champion.
In the Toney bout, Ruiz abandoned his infamous stab-and-grab style and threw punches with more bad intentions than in many of his other recent fights. In the end, whether it was skills supplemented by steroids or not – the debate is endless – Ruiz simply could not match the talent level of Toney.
Before that fight Ruiz engaged walking enigma Andrew Golota, and it was an ugly sight. Not just for the fans, but for Ruiz. He was decked twice and had a point deducted, yet managed to capture a controversial (to say the least) decision over the Pole. No one was pleased except Ruiz.
Of course many boxing insiders jump right from that series of less-than-stellar performances to his loss to Roy Jones Jr. Such is the animus against his painful-to-watch, clutch-and-mauling approach, that many are quick to overlook a substantial win over new WBC titlist Rahman.
Add in a real knockout over Fres Oquendo – in a fight that was incredibly dreadful until the moment of the knockout – and it is clear that painting Ruiz as an incompetent is not only unfair it is plainly inaccurate.
However, the Chelsea, Massachusetts, native’s career has been full of ups and downs. There’s a 19-second knockout loss to David Tua; a win, a loss and a draw against Evander Holyfield; a knockout of a depleted Tony Tucker; and losses to Sergei Kobozev and Danell Nicholson.
Despite the mix of results, Ruiz (41-5-1, 1 NC) remains an experienced battler who usually finds a way to win.
Finding a way to win is something none of Nicolay Valuev’s opponents have found a way to do. Only his record exceeds his mammoth height and reach. At 42-0 and 1 NC (31 KOs) one would expect the world to be standing still as he rumbles past.
Of course the details are necessary when evaluating his relative stature in the division and that’s where he runs into problems.
The 32-year-old built his record largely in Europe and Asia (with two fights in the U.S) against a group of opponents that could charitably be labeled as modest in ability.
His most recent win, a 12-round majority decision over the 38-year-old American Larry Donald in Germany, is by far his most important victory to date.
However, Donald, and many others in attendance, would differ sharply as to calling it a win. Indeed, a review of the highlights provided on Boxen.com, by Valuev’s promoter, presents a picture that is less than favorable to the big man.
What the tape shows is a man who is fairly skilled, though slow. He’s also extremely easy to hit as Donald, who is an inch taller than the 6-foot-2 Ruiz, demonstrated repeatedly. Most of Valuev’s punches are thrown from the shoulder and rarely does he get his weight behind his shots. Perhaps Valuev poked enough with his long punches to win, but it was not impressive.
His other notable victories include knockouts of former fringe contender Cliff Etienne, Attila Levin, and current EBU titlist Paolo Vidoz. Nothing in any of the victories gave particular insight into his ability at the highest level, but in each case he won handily.
Other than his 10-inch height advantage and the likelihood that he will enter the ring almost 100 pounds heavier than Ruiz, Valuev will enjoy a hometown crowd that is free of criticism of anything he may do against Ruiz. If Valuev looked somewhat dispirited at the end of the Donald bout, he almost undoubtedly has revised the history of that fight and will enter the ring against Ruiz with the confidence of an undefeated boxer.
Ruiz will have the confidence that comes from experience against top competition and perhaps the contempt he held for Valuev’s fellow European (and formerly Germany-based) contemporary Klitschko.
As Ruiz indicated in a recent rambling statement denigrating the then-soon-to-be retired Klitschko, it comes down to character.
“He doesn’t have the heart and soul of a world champ,” said Ruiz of Klitschko. “It’s not what’s on the outside, it’s what’s inside that counts.”
"Mike, he wants to be more of a talent scout. A lot of fighters come to him and ask him for advice on different promoters and fighters. We're trying to find a role for him in that area."
Wright also pointed out that Joe Public does not know the real Mike Tyson,
"people may not know it, but he's highly intelligent."
It seems like a pairing of wildly different pugilists: Wright - diligent, humble and unmistakably likeable, whereas Tyson's journey through both the sweet science and through life has been well-documented. But it may just be like Winky says, most of us don't know the real Mike or what he has to offer.
Upon hearing the news Don King surely must have uttered, Only In America. Myself, I coudn't help thinking: Only In Boxing!Read more at the BLOG
The champ recently sat down with Spiegel magazine’s Alexander Osang and Gerhard Pfeil to discuss life after boxing and the state of the heavyweight division.
The interviewers broke the ice by mentioning Saturday’s heavyweight title fight in Berlin, and news of the fight was news to the champ. “Who'll be fighting?” Lewis wanted to know. When told that John Ruiz would be defending his title against Nicolay Valuev, Lewis asked, “Who's the second one?”
Lewis, like so many others, had not heard of Valuev. They told Lennox that he’s the Russian giant everyone’s talking about, the so-called “Beast from the East,” 300+ pounds, 2.14 meters, 7 feet tall, a fighter as big as a tree. Valuev doesn’t climb through the ropes; he steps over them. He also decisioned Larry Donald in his last fight. Such is the big man’s fame.
Yet Lennox never heard of Valuev.
He had, however, heard of John Ruiz. “He's been around for a long time,” Lewis observed, “but he doesn't stand out as an exceptional fighter. That also applies to the other world champions, Hasim Rahman and – what's the third guy's name again?”
One of the boys from Spiegel filled in the missing blank. “Lemon Brewster,” he said. “From New York.”
The champ nodded his head. (And a former fact checker is looking for work.)
"Perhaps Vitali Klitschko would have had the necessary attributes,” Lewis continued, casting a learned eye over a bereft division. “At any rate, the current crop of contenders don't have what it takes. Not only are they poor fighters; they've got no personality at all. When I was growing up there were a lot of stars. Marvin Hagler, Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran, they were great fighters with extraordinary charisma. Guys like that don't exist any more.”
What Lewis said is true, more or less, time will tell, don’t hold your breath, but it wasn’t all that long ago that the heavyweight ranks had some razzle-dazzle, a little pizzazz.
"There was Mike Tyson, the animal,” Lewis reminisced. “There was Evander Holyfield, the devout, the priest. And there was me, the thinker, the intellectual boxer. So there was something for every fan, if you like. The public could always identify with one of us.”
Tyson the animal? Holyfield the priest? Lewis the intellectual? Isn’t that called checkmate or something?
“Boxing and chess are similar,” Lewis pointed out, returning to an earlier theme. “It's about the choice of means. Sometimes I need a pawn, a bishop or a knight to defeat my opponent. It's about finding the best way. A good boxer has to be variable. He doesn't just need to know how to punch. He must also know how to protect himself, how to defend, how to avoid the opponent's punches. Only a complete fighter can become champion.
“A great champion needs a background in amateur boxing, I'm convinced of that. There you learn everything that you'll need later as a pro. Someone who's got more than 400 amateur fights behind him no longer gets nervous before going into the ring and doesn't lose his nerve during a fight. You know all the boxing styles, you're prepared for anything, you've got the pedigree that you need to be a successful pro.”
“Tyson fit the American ideal of a boxer. A fighter who jumps out of his corner and hits out fiercely. That's what he'll be remembered for. But good boxing doesn't work like that. Tyson never won on points. It was clear that he'd come a cropper some day.”
Tyson became a cropper all right, but Lennox’s win over Mike meant a lot at the time.
“I had to shut his mouth,” Lewis said. “I could never stand big-mouthed types. I had problems with that at high school. I've still got the scars on my fists from the teeth of the guys I hit so that they'd finally shut up. I came from England to Canada, of course, and was often ridiculed because I had a strange accent. I was expelled from school and it was a long time before I could control myself. But the impulse remained: a punch in the mouth to get some peace and quiet.”
Muhammad Ali always figured prominently in Lewis’ life, albeit known to Lennox and Lennox alone, and that’s not about to change any time soon.
“Recently I donated money to the establishment of the Ali Foundation in Louisville. I regard that as a kind of payback. He smoothed the way for us. He wasn't just a great person who had conviction, but made the sport of boxing great. He was the first superstar, he made our stock rise. Without him we wouldn't have earned so much. Americans from every walk of life have contributed to the foundation: Bill Clinton, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt. Unfortunately I was the only American athlete to make a donation. There's not enough respect in our business.”
The champ was asked a second time about Vitali Klitschko – onetime heir apparent, recently retired, running for parliament in the Ukraine – and their May 21, 2003 fight, Lennox’s final bout, at the Staples Center in LA.
“Klitschko made a respectable showing, no question. I liked the fight,” Lennox admitted, “because he really stretched me. The people liked the fight too, because it was bloody and exciting. What most people didn't understand was that Klitschko would have lost badly if the fight had carried on. I made him tired over six rounds. It's like urging an inexperienced swimmer to swim further and further from the coast out into the open sea: sooner or later he'll drown.”
Lewis is pretty busy these days, busier in some ways than when he was king of the world.
“I've got a family. My son is one-and-a-half years old and we want to have more children. We're looking for a place to live. We lived in New York for a while, and now we've moved to Miami, where I'm taking acting lessons. In Oceans Eleven I played a boxer, and in an Irish feature film that being released soon I play a DJ. I've developed the concept for a reality show on TV, and I'm working with my sports management company, SEM, to expand its business in America.”
With such a hectic schedule, there’s not much time for left for boxing, even if the champ was so inclined.
"Boxing always was corrupt and always will be corrupt,” Lewis concluded. “The three world champion's belts really are absurd. One single association, as in football, baseball or basketball, would make this business more reputable. But it's not just the promoters who aren't interested in a solution like that. Just as powerful as the promoters, if not more, is the media. The cable networks control the cash flow. King can stage fights, but it's the cable stations that pay big money to air the fights, essentially paying for the fights. You can't ignore the influence the media and the promoters have on the sport. They have a financial objective – high ratings, selling pay-per-views and selling out arenas. Because of the system, the public may not be seeing the best the sport has to offer, but what sells.”
This year’s bittersweet affair was held at Bridgewater’s, a catering complex located in the South Street Seaport in downtown Manhattan. As usual, no shortage of celebrities—including several boxers—were in attendance to sign autographs, pose for pictures, and mingle with the hundreds of guests.
There was an undercurrent of tension in the air this year because less than seven hours earlier an off-duty police officer, Daniel Enchautegui, was shot and killed while attempting to thwart a burglary in his Bronx neighborhood.
The fact that one of the suspect’s in the murder, Lillo Brancato Jr., is an actor who had a starring role in the film “A Bronx Tale” and a recurring role in the HBO hit television series “The Sopranos,” was downright eerie because two actors who have had recurring roles on that show were in attendance.
One of them, Joseph Lisi, is a retired NYPD captain who played Dick Barone in several episodes during the 2000 season. He also played Lt. Swersky on the television series “Third Watch” from 2001-05.
Other celebrities included legendary disc jockey Cousin Brucie, former New York Yankees star Joe Pepitone, Randy Beverly and Mark Gastineau, both of whom played for the New York Jets, and the latter of whom was also a professional fighter, and actors LL Cool J and Skipp Sudduth, who played Officer John “Sully” Sullivan on “Third Watch.”
Representing the boxing community was former three-division champion Iran Barkley, who over the years has proven to be a cop’s best friend, heavyweight contender Monte Barrett, who glowed like a Christmas tree as he tried to keep tabs on his own handful of children, all of whom have virtuoso smiles that match their daddy’s, and Mustafa Hamsho, the middleweight madman of the eighties who has shown himself to have as big of heart when he is playing with children than he did when punching, head-butting, and fouling opponents.
“I am very happy to be here,” said Hamsho, as he played with the child of the late Vincent Ganz, an emergency services officer who was killed during the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. “I have a lot of my own kids, so I understand how much they miss their father. This is the least I can do.”
When Hamsho was introduced to Ed Mullins, the president of the 11,000 member Sergeants Benevolent Association, which is the fifth largest police union in the country, Mullins was incredulous.
“You’re Mustafa Hamsho?” he said surprisingly. “You were always bleeding, but you look nothing like a fighter. You look more like a movie star.”
When I informed Mullins that Hamsho had actually received about 100 stitches during his illustrious career, which included bouts against Marvin Hagler (twice), Alan Minter, Wilford Scypion, Curtis Parker, Donnie Lalonde, Wilfred Benitez, and Bobby Czyz, Hamsho quickly corrected me.
“One hundred and fifty,” he said almost boastfully before attributing his middle-aged good looks to “good healing power.”
As he does at the many police functions that he attends, Barkley does what he does best—which is to be his usual charming self. For a guy that has had no shortage of travels and travails over the years, he is never without a smile on his face and a pearl of wisdom to share.
Barkley, who sold himself to television as a bad dude from the mean streets of the South Bronx, is actually one of the nicest, kindest and gentlest souls you’ll ever meet. This was immediately apparent when he was introduced to the family of Sgt. John Coughlin (pictured), another emergency services officer who lost his life while saving countless other lives on 9/11.
Barkley got teary-eyed when he eloquently explained the difference between what boxers and police officers do. He spoke from his heart with a wisdom and warmth that belies the image of him as a freewheeling slugger.
“Boxers are just entertainers,” he said. “We fight to entertain other people. We get a lot of fans and those fans touch us. Even though we don’t know them personally, they touch us and make us fight harder, be better.
“But police officers, they risk their lives to protect us,” he continued. “They don’t have fans the way athletes do. That officer that got killed this morning—he was off-duty. He didn’t even have to get involved. That’s why they touch more people than they think. And that’s why I come to these things. If my being here touches just one person, that’s like an early Christmas present to me.”
Luigi, tell us what happened during the 10th round of the Hearns fight.
We had a very long exchange, throwing a big number of punches and landing most of them. At one point, Hearns turned toward his corner because he couldn’t take it anymore. I raised my arms in victory and started running around the ring. My cornermen entered the ring to celebrate. The referee pushed Hearns back to the center of the ring telling him to keep on fighting and he did. Six seconds later, the bell rang. The following round, I was discouraged. I thought that I would never win, no matter what I did. That was my mistake; I should have forgotten the incident, assaulted Hearns and got a KO. Looking at the video of the fight, I realized he didn’t recover. A few punches would have been enough to stop him. My cornermen also made a mistake. They should have taken my gloves off. Then, how could the referee make the fight continue? But you know, in those few moments it was difficult to make the right decision.
Was Hearns your toughest opponent?
No way. Marijan Benes was much more difficult to fight. I knew it from the beginning because I saw him fight Damiano Lassandro to a draw in Pesaro (the city where I always lived). Benes was a Croatian southpaw and had been European light middleweight champion. I respected him and trained very hard, but he still was very tough to face. I won by majority decision in San Severo (Italy). It was October 28, 1982. Benes closed his career with a record of 31 wins, 6 losses and 1 draw.
What about Mike McCallum?
We fought in Milan, on December 1, 1984. He was WBA light middleweight champion. He beat me by 13th round TKO. I have no excuses. I just had a bad night. He was undefeated (22-0), but I didn’t think he was as good as many of my previous opponents. As his career progressed, I changed my mind. Mike McCallum won the WBA middleweight and the WBC light heavyweight titles; that puts him on the same level as Thomas Hearns and Roberto Duran. Besides, McCallum had an excellent style and I cannot say that about many champions, not even Duran.
What do you mean?
Duran was a dirty fighter. He put his thumb in my eyes continuously. After the sixth round, I felt so much pain that I could have said No mas. But that wasn’t my style and I kept fighting until the tenth round. Roberto Duran always put his finger in his opponent’s eyes. Just ask Thomas Hearns and Marvin Hagler. I don’t understand why the referee let him get away with that. I can understand why he did it: as a light middleweight he wasn’t Hands of Stone anymore, his punches didn’t hurt. Also, he had a belly and lost a lot of speed. Roberto Duran was at his best as lightweight.
The judges gave him almost every round.
In my opinion, the fight was even until the sixth round. Anyway, losing by one point or by ten points is the same thing. When I lost, I accepted it. You know, I never talked too much, never complained, and always told what I thought. Even today, at 50 years old, I’m not an expert in diplomacy. I tell it like it is. Some people advise me not do it and I tell them: That’s the way I am.
Today’s fighters talk a lot. They even insult each other in the press conference. You never did it. Why?
I preferred to let my fists do the talking in the ring. I don’t approve of what today’s fighters do, even in the ring. I find most of the big fights boring. When I see two guys jumping around the ring and throwing ten punches each, I switch to another TV channel. In my opinion, that’s what hurts the popularity of boxing: the fans want to see two warriors giving 100% in each round. That’s also why I sold out Milan’s venues so many times. The people were sure I would give then their money’s worth. Today, even the best promoter with the best press office doesn’t make a sold out show. You know why? Because nobody wants to spend hard-earned money to see two dancers. Some boxers just don’t get it: boxing fans want to see a fight!
You were managed by Giovanni Branchini, son of the legendary Umberto. Many American boxing people consider Umberto the best Italian manager of all times. Do you agree?
Yes, I do. Umberto was the quintessential boxing manager. He was far more intelligent than anybody else. In fact, they called him The Cardinal. Giovanni is also very bright. I wasn’t surprised when he signed the most famous soccer player in the world: Ronaldo. Even in soccer, Giovanni turned out to be a successful manager.
You fought a guy who became the top manager in France: Louis Acaries. What kind of boxer he was?
I cannot make a judgement because he chose not to fight. He remained with his guard closed for the first 2 minutes and 30 seconds of every round. Only in the last 30 seconds, he threw some punches. How could he hope to get a decision? Anyway, I beat him easily for the European light middleweight belt. I must admit, that he was very fast and a few of his punches hurt me.
You were also Italian champion. Today’s fighters consider it a minor belt. Do you agree?
No way. I must recognize that, in my era, winning the national title was more meaningful because there were a lot of good fighters. When I became Italian champion, I knew I was the best in my own country. Today, you can get a title match after a very short time. Besides, the purses are not so big. In fact, most boxers have a job from Monday to Friday.
Didn’t you have to work when you fought professionally?
Yes I did, but only because I wanted to have another option if I got hurt. Even when I competed among amateurs, I had a job. From 1973 to 1976, I was a police officer. I participated to a couple of police boxing tournaments before becoming European welterweight and light middleweight champion. Since 1976, I’ve been working for the Province of Pesaro (a local government which regroups a big city and the surrounding towns, much like a U.S. county).
What about your regular amateur activity?
I won the Italian welterweight title and participated to the 1976 Olympics. Right after that, I got an offer to train in America. But I was married. We had two children and choose to stay in Italy.
You traveled a lot, anyway. They hired you in France, England, Monte Carlo, and in almost every Italian fight town.
Yes, but even in Italy they put me against foreign fighters. After winning the Italian light middleweight championship and defending it many times, I had no more challengers. So, I faced and defeated the best from abroad.
Among others, Sternburg has worked with Shane Mosley, Oscar De La Hoya and Riddick Bowe. He does some events for Top Rank, and he’s presently working with promoter Gary Shaw and with fighters such as Jeff Lacy, Winky Wright and Diego Corrales.
TheSweetScience.com: How did you get into your present line of work?
Fred Sternburg: Most of my business is boxing right now, but I’ve done almost every sport there is. I’ve done major league baseball, basketball, women’s tennis, the PGA and LPGA tours. I’ve even represented doctors. But I seem to be doing a lot of boxing. It all started back in November of 1985. I started as an intern with a gentleman named Charlie Brotman. He was famous in boxing for being Sugar Ray Leonard’s publicist. He had a sports and entertainment public relations agency in Washington, and for me it was a grass roots education where I just moved my way up and learned the business watching him with Sugar Ray. Then we got Riddick Bowe and did several fights with him and then a few accounts were handed over to me. When you work with people like Sugar Ray Leonard, Riddick Bowe and Simon Brown at that level, you get hooked pretty quickly because they are such fun guys to be with.
TheSweetScience.com: What’s the toughest part of your job?
FS: Keeping it fresh and keeping it interesting for the media and myself and keeping the client on track. You try to keep it fun. It’s very easy to make it routine, You just have to stay creative.
TheSweetScience.com: What’s the best part of your job?
FS: I get a kick out of everyone’s reactions. With me, it’s seeing the story in the paper. If something works, there’s nothing better to me. I’ll use Winky Wright as a case in point these past 10 days (prior to Wright’s fight on Dec. 10). We had him everywhere. It took a lot of planning to get to that point, but when the plan works out, it’s personal pride because you know you’re doing a good job for a client. I’m the first line of defense. If I fail, the promotion already has one foot in the grave. Fight week, they should be worrying about the logistics, not selling tickets.
TheSweetScience.com: How many fights do you attend in a year?
FS: I travel just over 50,000 miles a year. I’m on the road at least two weeks of every month. That two weeks also includes training camps, media days and press conferences. It averages out to one or two events a month. It takes a toll. It’s nice to have a very understanding family.
TheSweetScience.com: Of all the fights you’ve seen, is there any one fight that stands out in your mind?
FS: This year alone, the first (Diego) Corrales – (Jose Luis) Castillo fight. I still can’t believe what I actually saw. It’s like, you rub your eyes. It was such an unbelievable fight going into the tenth. What made it so remarkable is how that tenth round ended. I’m looking at my guy (Corrales) going down twice, and I’m thinking, “Well, he put up a great fight. He’s got nothing to be ashamed of.” And the next thing I know, I’m in the ring congratulating him. I still can’t believe it. Another great fight this year was Winky and Felix Trinidad. I thought that was an unbelievable exhibition on Winky’s part.
TheSweetScience.com: Any good stories to tell?
FS: There’s been a million of them, but a terrific story is when Gary Shaw and I were retained by Mosley to promote him for the second De La Hoya fight. Here’s De La Hoya with this huge entourage and this big promotion machine and, literally, it was just Gary and me and the camp going against them. And we went toe-to-toe with them in terms of all the PR. We had a lot of fun at all the press conferences. If you remember, there was a side bet of like $500,000 or something that De La Hoya was going to give Mosley if he won, and we came to the final press conference with a giant deposit slip already filled out. We tried to give it to De La Hoya but he wouldn’t even touch it. It was like a jinx to him.
TheSweetScience.com: What did it mean to win boxing’s good guy award?
FS: Wow, I’ll tell you, because I’m really not a good guy. I had to step on a lot of people to win that award (laughs). It was terrific because I was accepted by my peers. I am nowhere near the level that these guys are at. What they do day in and day out on a deadline, churning out great stories. For them to give me any kind of award! It was a terrific day in my life. I was thrilled because it came from the writers I respect. And they were genuinely happy for me.
TheSweetScience.com: What is your primary responsibility as a publicist?
FS: To sell. I am a salesman. I am selling a client, I’m selling an event or a personality. I have to sell a story and make it newsworthy, because that’s what you guys are all about. If it isn’t newsworthy, what do you care? It’s my job to find that hook. I’ve got to research it. I’ve got to not just talk to the client, I’ve got to talk to you and see where the fit is. That’s basically it. It’s selling the story and researching the story and presenting it and letting you guys run with it. That’s why people come to me.
TheSweetScience.com: If you weren’t in this business, what would you be doing?
FS: I really enjoy doing [public relations]. I love looking for new things and twists. It’s almost like picking a lock. You find that certain combination that opens the door. I have a pretty good sense of what’s newsworthy and what makes a good story. I enjoy that process. I enjoy making the pitch and getting a little success.
TheSweetScience.com: What did you dream of being when you were growing up?
FS: In college, I thought the biggest kick in my life would be to become a ring announcer for wrestling matches, because I thought those guys had a blast. How much fun that would be to be half actor and half ham. I had no aspirations to be an athlete because I wasn’t that good. Broadcasting was always something I fooled around with in college (at Syracuse University). I never took the TV part seriously, and I wish I had now. But you know, I love what I do. I fell into it by accident. A good friend of mine introduced me to Charley (Brotman) and said “this is what you should do.” And I said, “all right,” and sure enough, they were right. I just love it.
Judah: I respect Carlos for making it to the point where he made it at, but I am at a point right now where I am proving to the world that I am the best pound-for-pound fighter out there. And it just so happened that Carlos Baldomir is in my weight and he is going to be a prime example of how I am going to show everybody that I am the best.
Baldomir: I would like to thank everybody and wish them a happy holiday, Merry Christmas, and Feliz Navidad. Zab’s record speaks for itself, so nobody has to confirm the greatness he has already achieved. We are honored to come into the ring with him, but we still have to lace him up.
Question: Zab, do you have any further opening comments?
Judah: I am honored to be fighting the No. 1 mandatory challenger. I look forward to this. I am just looking to go in and prove to the world that I am the best. I am sorry that it has to be Carlos right now, but I am definitely going to go in there and I definitely am going to prove a point. I am happy to be back home in New York City. It is going to be beautiful.
Question: Carlos, do you have any further opening comments?
Baldomir: I really think I am going to win. I am confident in my preparation and in myself. For me, it will not be a surprise when I win.
Question: Zab, what will it be like defending your title in your backyard, New York?
Judah: It is a dream come true. I have not fought here since capturing my undisputed crown over another good fighter, another mandatory fighter. I knocked him out on the first round and I am going to go out there to show that I am the best. I am looking for the big matchup and a big showdown with “Pretty Girl” (Floyd) Mayweather and I want it to look good.
Question: Zab, how difficult is it to focus on a guy like Baldomir when the prospect of a real big money fight looms if you win?
Judah: Well, I would never overlook Baldomir because he is the person coming in who could spoil all the stuff. I am most focused on him because of the Mayweather fight. I am looking to go in there and show to the world that I am the best.
Question: Zab, are you predicting a first or second round knockout?
Judah: I am not going to predict that, but that is what I am working on. I am looking to go in there and come out in spectacular fashion. I am home. I have got to give him a good New York welcome.
Question: Zab, will all of your title belts be on the line in this fight or just your WBC title?
Judah: I put everything on the line. I have got my pride, my ego and my career, which is most important above anything, that is on the line. But the WBC belt is what this fight is about.
Question: Zab, is it difficult to have to be in training over the holiday season when most people would rather be enjoying the time off at the end of the year?
Judah: I want to be home with my family, but it is an accomplishment to be on the road working right now, because at the top of the year, I start boxing. I start the year 2006 with the first fight of the year – a mega fight – and I am going in to set the tone. That is what boxers have got to do, and those who cannot follow are going to look very, very bad.
Question: Zab, what about Cory Spinks? Do you feel any responsibility to give him a rematch?
Judah: I will give Cory Spinks a rematch at any point, any time that he chooses. I think right now, Cory does not want a rematch. I think he is looking to move on to other things. But he is a good friend of mine and I have the utmost respect for him.
Question: Zab, do you think it could be a problem staying focused on this fight?
Judah: The fight is really what I am focused on, the whole event of the fight. The event of the fight is Zab Judah coming home to New York City. Our fans are very, very tough on you. So if you do not go in there and do what you got to do, you get no love around here. Carlos Baldomir is coming to my backyard, and believe me, this will not be another Zab Judah-Cory Spinks – trust me.
Question: Zab, are you taking any lessons from what you did with Cory?
Judah: Definitely. I watched everything that Cory did leading up to the fight. I am the best fighter in the world. I am not worried about Baldomir. I have been training since September for this fight. I am in tremendous condition.
Question: Carlos, what are your strengths and what are Judah’s weaknesses?
Baldomir: I think the weakness for Zab is he cannot take a good punch in the chin. I definitely think I can put him down. Having Amilcar Brusa as my trainer gives me a lot of confidence because he already fought Judah once (Brusa trained Omar Weiss).
Question: Zab, what do you think the odds are that the Mayweather fight will be made?
Judah: We had a good meeting the other day and it is looking really good right now. Mayweather wants to have a non-title fight where he can get all the money. Everyone he calls out, money issues always come to that. As long as I come to the board and I walk away with what I want, I am happy.
Question: So (but would) you really would not be surprised if the fight did not happen?
Judah: I would not be surprised.
Question: Zab, how is training going for you in New York?
Judah: Oh, it is excellent. All it does is put me back to where I belong. I can adapt very well to where I am at right now.
Question: Who are you using for sparring partners right now?
Judah: I am burning two dudes. I have knocked out like eight different sparring partners, world champions and all. I am not going to use anybody’s name, because I am not trying to embarrass anybody. But I am on a roll right now and I am not playing.
Question: Zab, tell us about the journey you have had, from the low point in your career to becoming an undisputed champion?
Judah: To once be on top, and then to lose everything and come back and get it again, it is a beautiful thing. I am just proud of myself and proud of my team and everybody that participates with the whole Zab Judah camp in preparing us and getting us ready for every fight.
Question: Zab, in the weeks and months after it first happened, did you ever doubt yourself or did you always know that you would bounce back like this?
Judah: I knew I would bounce back because I knew I had to fight with Kostya Tszyu. It is not that you are a bum or a garbage fighter, it can happen to anyone. It is how you come back and show the world that you are the best. I came back with flying colors.
Question: Zab, are you frustrated by having to fight two mandatories in a row?
Judah: The IBF. WBA and WBC have all been great to me. This is what they put in front of me, so I have to go in there and deal with it. But I would love to be right now, Jan. 7, in a lockdown date with Mayweather or (Shane) Mosley or a rematch with Cory Spinks. That would be beautiful to me. But I do not want anybody to overlook Carlos Baldomir because he has done a great deal of putting himself here. His team has done a great thing in bringing him to this point. We want to give him his 30 seconds of fame because that is probably all the fight might last. Give him 30 seconds of fame and let him live.
Question: So you look at the mandatory fights as part of the job?
Judah: It is a job. I look at it as more like extra credit.
Question: How do you expect to knock out a guy who has only been stopped once?
Judah: If he wants to stand up and get beat up then that will be it. But at the end of the fight, I will still be the undisputed. Take it how you want it, but there will be no lucky shots. Carlos Baldomir is another person that is going to find out what Zab Judah is made up of.
Question: So with the possibility of a Mayweather fight, do you feel like it is in your best interest to try to get him out of there as quickly as possible?
Judah: Well, definitely. (But) Whether it goes one or 12, it is all about a win.
Question: Zab, if a Mayweather fight does not come off, how about inviting Tszyu for a rematch?
Judah: He has a personal invitation from Zab Judah and anytime that he feels that he is ready to step up to the plate, I am ready to show the world that that was a fluke. I showed everybody with Cory Spinks when I came back. I am ready for Kostya Tszyu.
Question: Carlos, do you have any experience with the type of quick southpaw that Judah is?
Baldomir: I have a special game plan and I will not reveal it now. But definitely I will throw the counter punch and use my right and my left hook to the victory.
Question: Zab, would you take Tszyu out quicker than Hatton did?
Judah: I promise you. I had him in the first round; you saw that. He was holding on for life. My speed and power is nothing to play with. A lot of guys look at it and take it for a joke. But you see time and time again they hit the floor like dust.
Question: Which is the biggest fight? What means the most to you?
Judah: The Mayweather fight, definitely. It is a bigger money fight. The world wants to see it. Excitement is what thrills the people. If somehow the Mayweather fight does not happen, I am welcoming with open arms Kostya Tszyu.
Question: Carlos, are you feeling disrespected about hearing all the questions about future fights for Judah?
Baldomir: I really do not care what people are saying. And to Mayweather, do not feel disappointed (if) you do not fight with Judah. You will be fighting with me.
Question: Carlos, can you comment on Zab’s claims that his sparring partners are beating you up in camp?
Baldomir: Let him think that is what is happening and we will just go by that.
Question: Zab, how hard do you think this fight is going to be?
Judah: I am focused. That is it. I will get him out of the way so I can go on to bigger and better things.
Question: Carlos, you are 17-0-2 in your last 19 fights. What fight, after starting your career, turned it around for you where you got the confidence to go on?
Baldomir: After I won the WBC International title in Italy in April 1999, I definitely felt I would be a world champion. So I trained really hard. That is when my mind changed.
Question: Zab, what is your walking around weight between fights and how long do you feel you will be at 147?
Judah: I do not know. Usually I walk around like 155, sometimes 160. It depends on how long the layoff. If a fight at 154 opened up and it looked good, I would definitely take it. But I will always hold on to my undisputed crown.
Question: Zab, confidence-wise, what is the difference between the Judah of today and the Judah of the past?
Judah: I am at the point in my career right now where I am going to do big things. So basically I think what got me so confident and so excited right now is that I am coming home to the Garden and in spectacular fashion.
Question: So the expectations are going to be real high when you are in front of your home fans?
Judah: I am looking to come here and blow them away. He is a puncher and he is stronger, but meet me in the middle of the ring and let us see where he is at. I have never been scared.
Question: Zab, talk about the pressures of fighting at home in front of your own crowd from a different perspective – friends calling for tickets, everybody wanting a piece of you. Does that bother your training?
Judah: I have been in the Garden before. So know how to prepare for things. You have to train hard, you have to get here, stay low, and then fight. You do not stay out in the open. You do not make yourself accessible to people.
Question: Carlos, how do you plan on dealing with Judah’s speed and power?
Baldomir: I know what I am going to do in the ring. I will definitely go forward. I will never go back. I will go forward.
End Press Questions. Begin Closing Comments.
Baldomir: I am really annoyed with everything Zab is saying about me. I will just wait until Jan. 7 and that will be the end of Judah.
Judah: I understand what Carlos has accomplished in the past, but trust me, this is not an easy task. Ask all those guys in L.A. They will tell you I am not an easy task.
Lange seeks revenge from Gilbert who upset and eliminated the Great Falls, VA native from “The Contender” competition in episode eight with a controversial five-round decision. While redeeming himself later in the series with a majority decision over Tarik Salmaci in the “fan favorite” match, the loss to the underdog Gilbert – only his second professional defeat and first since 1998 – still haunts Lange:
“I entered The Contender for one reason and one reason only, and that was to win it all,” said Lange, who is managed by his father, Johnny, and is trained by former world champion Buddy McGirt. “Losing to Joey – the best athlete on the show – was a huge disappointment, but getting a rematch for a major championship belt in my hometown is a great opportunity for redemption. I appreciate the support the fans have given me throughout my boxing career and I can assure you that a different Jimmy Lange will show up for this fight. I will train hard and there will be no doubt in the outcome of this one.”
After defeating Lange, Gilbert, a native of Reno, NV and former NCAA boxing champion, lost a split decision to Peter Manfredo Jr. in a bout that was stopped early as Gilbert suffered a cut from an accidental head butt. Gilbert’s last fight was a unanimous decision win in six rounds over James North (7-7) on the Jeff Lacey vs. Scott Pemberton undercard on November 5 of this year in Lake Tahoe, NV.
“I want to decide this business with Lange once and for all,” exclaimed Gilbert. “This time there is a title at stake, and all I can say is that it’s going to be a war in Virginia!”
Lange last fought on September 17, 2005 at the Patriot Center before more than 5,000 raucous fans where he scored an impressive 4th Round TKO against Perry Ballard to capture the World Boxing Empire (WBE) Junior Middleweight Title.
The fighter who emerges victorious on February 18 will not only wear the NABO Middleweight belt, but should also secure a top-ten World Boxing Organization (WBO) ranking.
A Northern Virginia press conference featuring Lange and Gilbert has been scheduled for January 6, 2006; details will be forthcoming.
Maryland’s own Lamont Pearson (22-3-1, 12 KOs) will defend his United States Boxing Association (USBA) 130-pound title against a yet to be determined opponent as part of the card.
Tickets, priced at $500 (VIP Ringside), $350 (Ringside), $250, $200, $150, $75 and $30, will be sold through all Ticketmaster outlets, including the Patriot Center box office, online at www.ticketmaster.com or via Phonecharge at 703-573-SEAT, 202-397-SEAT or 410-547-SEAT. For more information please visit www.patriotcenter.com. Tickets may also be purchased through Lang, Inc. at 703-536-6060.
Eight months ago he didn’t just lose a match but personified the word meltdown when he faced Jorge Barrios. Not “hurt” so much as overwhelmed and disoriented, Anchondo was reduced to crawling around the canvas like a bewildered toddler, never making it out of the fourth frame.
Anchondo, who also lost his WBO super featherweight belt on the scales, fortified himself with excuses during the aftermath. His conditioning coach sabotaged his weight-loss strategy, he spent the previous day camping out in the sauna, his legs felt fried just making the ring walk. Predictably, the media and message board warriors savaged him. His once-impressive victories over “Goyo” Vargas and Julio Pablo Chacon meant zilch. His 25-0 (18 KOs) record must’ve been built on canvas-backs.
Regular civilians ebb and flow over a manageable four score if they’re lucky. For fighters like Anchondo, who turned 23 shortly after the loss, a lifetime is stuffed into a few days. He says he had no comprehension of the depression that followed. But three weeks later, he appeared to be self-medicating on Häagan-Dazs and looked to be giving Marlon Brando a run for his money. The only thing lonelier than being down on all four in that ring must’ve been the months of self-examination that followed.
Last Friday, at the Bronx’s Paradise Theater, Anchondo displayed some of the work he’s put into himself.
Before we saw Anchondo under the lights, the choice of opponent augured his mental state. Antonio Ramirez is no soft touch, not the confidence booster you’d suspect. A rugged, come-forward brawler, he’s the type to capitalize on what Barrios exposed. Matchmaker extraordinaire Johnny Bos said he would’ve never put Anchondo in with the dangerous Dominican (24-9-6, 17 KO’s) his first fight back, and didn’t rule out an upset knockout. Anchondo’s promoter, Luis De Cubas, either has tremendous faith in him or wants to know immediately what he’s got left.
When Anchondo disrobed, his midsection looked chunky but you could spread a picnic blanket over his broad, powerful back. Squat and short-waisted, he probably puts on weight just glancing at a Las Vegas buffet. He weighed in a hair under 136, and must’ve put 15 back on by fight time. If he could shave another five pounds off, get back down to the jr. lightweight limit without harming himself, he’d be that much more effective.
In the opening round he showed flashes of why Golden Boy Promotions once figured they’d ride his back to the top. On lambent legs, he darted around the flat-footed Ramirez. His left hand alone contained a gallery of jabs, uppercuts and hooks. Over rounds two and three, Anchondo occasionally stopped boxing and succumbed to whiplash-inducing exchanges. While his hand speed was superior, Anchondo tended to square up and raise his jaw in the air like he was shaving underneath it. (An old nasty habit of his.) Toward the end of the third, two hard wide hooks of Ramirez’s—the only kind he throws—landed clean. Anchondo punished him in return, but left himself open in the process.
These were anxious moments because it’s assumed Anchondo now has as many questions about himself as we do. It reminded me of the physical discomfort I felt watching Wladimir Klitschko against Sam Peter in September; the former’s self-doubt or fragile structural integrity (could be either or both?) isn’t just obvious but has been intelligently developed into a scaredy-cat, grab-and-hold blueprint. But this isn’t how Anchondo fought. His willingness to hang inside and trade leather, when he should have been doing the opposite, suggests a healthy heart but a prohibitive need to overcompensate.
At the end of the fourth, Anchondo connected on a right hook behind Ramirez’s ear that made his legs develop a mind of their own. To his credit, he swung right back and was most dangerous when hurt. The next round had great action, or maybe only appeared that way because Ramirez’s corner applied so much water to his head. When he got hit, a dramatic spray burst from his hair like a school of flying fish. All we needed was some bluish cigar smoke and Charles Hoff would’ve risen from the dead.
Determined to play the spoiler, the undaunted opponent whacked Anchondo several times in the sixth, stalked him through out the seventh, and when “Mighty” Mike came out for the eighth, a long string of blood ran down his right eye. Had Floyd Mayweather been ringside, he’d have told the house fighter, “No easy work tonight.”
Realizing this himself, Anchondo finally got down to work and dropped Ramirez with a straight right. Sensing the end, Ramirez summoned one final salvo in the ninth, rocking Anchondo badly with sweeping hooks. Breathing through an open mouth, the former titlist kept his composure and dropped Ramirez again. The challenger beat the count but had nothing left when he was assaulted once more. The referee haulted the bout at 2:40 of the 9th round.
For a couple seconds Anchondo stared into space with a puzzling, blank expression. It didn’t suggest triumph nor defeat but a beautiful weariness that said, “This is me…at last.” One of his trainers, a 79-year old powerhouse named Leo Thalassites, hoisted the fighter onto his shoulders and walked him around the ring. Rejuvenated, Anchondo raised his arms, leaned his head back, and roared.
Lightweight Jorge Teron (9-0, 7 KOs) continues to impress. He ripped a game Celestino Rodriguez apart with digging left hooks to the body. A new fan of his, Roberto Duran, nodded in approval at the 20-year-old’s ferocious body work. Taller than Diego Corrales with comparable punching power, Teron’s shown that spark since he won his first of three NY Golden Gloves. Beyond his physical tools, it’s Teron’s mental maturity that makes you a believer.
Eighteen-year-old Mexican jr. welterweight Julio Cesar Garcia is nicknamed “Baby Face,” but looks older and more filled-out than Teron. Maybe that’s because he just matured his record to 34-2 (27 KOs). NOT A MISPRINT! This youth is the one responsible for damaging Jose Luis Castillo’s ribs before his rematch against Diego Corrales, and turned pro three days after turning 15. He KO’d Colombian Moises Alberto Pedroza (24-9-1, 21 KOs) with one blow as the bell sounded ending round two. This was only his third time fighting in the States, but file away his name. Soon you’ll be speaking it often.