A pair of real professionals, Winky Wright and Sam Soliman, will try to make a next-to-last step Saturday night, on a cold December night in Connecticut.
Wright, of course, is dancing closer to the bright light than is Soliman. But a win for either fighter could catapult him into a chance to reach that brass ring. Will Jermain Taylor, now the two-time conqueror of age-defying Bernard Hopkins, give these men their shot? Time will answer that one for us.
Actually, Wright could probably have gotten that date — even without his Saturday night tango with Soliman. His last three victories — twice over Shane Mosley and most recently a near shutout of Felix Trinidad — have put him on the precipice. Fight fans are beginning to acknowledge his 49-3 record, acknowledge that he has become a special fighter.
And so why Saturday night’s fight with Soliman?
“I know how Sam feels about trying to get a big fight and no one would give it to him because I was in that same predicament,” Wright said. “It’s an honor for me to be able to give him the same chance that Shane Mosley gave me. He deserves it. You know he’s going to fight me to win. He can do it with an attitude that he is going to get a world title shot and get another big fight. For me, I need a big fight. I need a fight that can get me excited and coming off of the fights with Mosley and Trinidad, it’s kind of hard to look forward to somebody who isn’t of the same caliber. So we came out, we got them Sam, who is No. 1 in the IBF. We have got to go out there and prepare ourselves and get ready for the fight and, like I say, we are looking for a great fight. We are coming to fight. We always come to fight. The fans better come because it’s going to be a great fight.”
Soliman is 31-7 over his fascinating journey through the world of professional boxing. He has traveled the world, fighting all comers. He has fought at any weight from middleweight to cruiserweight. He has won 19 consecutive fights ... has not lost since 2001. Still, Sam Soliman hardly perks the attention of fight fans the way Felix Trinidad or Shane Mosley does.
“Well, I can’t lie,” Wright said. “It’s not the same fighting Sam as it was fighting Tito Trinidad. But Sam is the number one contender. We’ve got to train hard and we’ve got to get motivated because we want to show the world that we’re the best fighter out there. So, to do that, you know what I’m saying, we’ve got to motivate ourselves. And, like I say, it’s not hard to do that against a guy like Sam, because he’s a different kind of fighter.”
Wright correctly called last Saturday’s Taylor-Hopkins showdown, picking a Taylor victory. Now, he simply has to hope that Taylor gives him that shot at stardom. Oh, and by the way, he must take care of business Saturday night in Connecticut. He must give himself a very early Christmas present.
Soliman is taking the same trek. He knows his career gets a huge boost with a victory Saturday night, catapulting him into a possible bang-off with Taylor. At the least, it gives him another big, big fight. After years of wandering the planet in search of fights, it would be quite nice.
“Well, we’ve got a lot in common, me and Winky,” the Australian said. “And the fact we both travel the world, we’ve both looked around for the best fighters that are out there all over the world; took our bags and went out to find and fight the best and I used all my power and ability as a manager, managing myself to be able to get me up there ... and I took the fights on short notice. I took fights out of my weight division. I flew to fights from Europe to Australia ... 24-hour flight to take a five-day notice fight with Anthony Mundine. So I’ve done things like someone like Winky Wright was doing.”
Soliman’s trainer, Dave Hedgecock, sees yet another similarity.
“I think most people in the States thought that Shane Mosley was probably unbeatable and would probably beat Winky,” Hedgecock said. “Well, I think we’re coming from the same sort of area and I think that the people over there are gong to get quite surprised.”
For his part, Wright knows he is on the verge of center stage. He is so close he can feel it, taste it, smell it. He is playing it cool. But you know he wants to make that one final giant step ... that magical step into public adulation, the step into far bigger paydays, the step into a small corner of the boxing history books.
“Well, like I said for me, I’m trying to fight the best,” Wright said. “If they want to say I’m pound for pound best, that’s cool. If they say I’m not, then that’s cool with me. But for me, I want to fight the best fighters. I do. And if the best fighters don’t want to fight me, then that goes to show that I’m a pretty good fighter.”
Pretty good, indeed.
Soliman is also pretty good, too. And he had a particular interest in the Wright-Trinidad fight. And he had a fine time watching.
“We had a nice barbecue, couple of things on the barbie and watched the fight,” he said. “And that was very interesting because I was a big fan of Tito and I still am a big fan of Tito’s. You don’t forget what he’s done. I’ve got posters on my wall of Tito Trinidad. So, I’m a fan through and through and after Winky took him out the way he did, he just proved he’s one of the best pound-for-pound.”
Soliman will not be home in Australia Saturday night. It will not be nearly that relaxing. Nothing on the barbie; though it could get pretty warm. But, most of all, it will be a special moment for him. It will be his chance. He knows. But he also knows it will be one tough night.
“He’s (Wright) is a package deal,” Soliman said. “He can box. He can brawl. He can do a bit of both. He can punch. You don’t get 25 knockouts by luck.”
But he says he is ready. For everything.
“I’m prepared for anything, really. Anything he puts on the table, we will be prepared for. Planning for it like there’s no tomorrow. And this is why it’s going to be one of the best fights of this year.”
Is Winky Wright ready for that kind of challenge? Is he taking that tiny, costly ... forever costly, mental dip because he is not fighting a Mosley or a Trinidad ... or not yet a Jermain Taylor?
“Like I said, I’m not taking anything away from Sam,” Wright said, “but it’s just that once you get to that factor where everything is on the line ... where you're fighting someone where everybody thinks that he does this and does that ... and you’re training to beat him, you know, for a true professional you’ve got to train for everybody. I know Sam’s going to be training hard. So I have to be ready. I’m going to be prepared for that. I want to win and I have to train as hard for Sam as I did for Shane and Felix. I cannot afford to lose any fights.”
The training is almost at an end now. It is time for glossing and spit-shining.
Soon there will be the weigh-in. Soon there will be the walk in. Soon there will be the showdown.
Winky Wright made his pro debut way back in 1990. Sam Soliman began his professional career back in 1997. They have wandered, traveled the planet, chasing dreams. Saturday night a very big dream will be there in that Connecticut ring with them.
One man will reach out, grab it. He will move on. He will take that next-to-last step toward center stage. The other will go on wandering, go on chasing. Boxing is like that.
“It would be a crime to put Jermain in another tough fight without a breather after going 24 rounds with Bernard Hopkins,” DiBella was quoted as saying in a press release from Wright’s camp, which is doing whatever it can to drum up a fight with Taylor. “We expect a fight with Winky by next summer, but Jermain deserves a rest. I’m going to line up something so his fans in Arkansas can come see him.”
Next summer? That’s kind of a long time to wait for a title fight, isn’t it? Some careers and a lot of marriages don’t last that long. Next summer? That’s two seasons from now, or three-and-a-half years out of my dog’s life.
But Lou is right. Jermain does deserve a rest. So give him the keys to a secluded beach house for two weeks and tell him to get back into the gym right after Christmas. Sure, he went 24 rounds with Hopkins, but that was two fights spread out over six months, and they weren’t exactly Ali-Frazier reminders. No one stood up and shouted “fight of the year.” In both fights, the judges had a tougher night than Hopkins or Taylor.
Used to be, champions fought more than twice a year. Sugar Ray Robinson fought 11 times in 1951, going against guys like Jake LaMotta and Randy Turpin (twice). In a span of three months, he fought Gene Fulmer twice, going 15 rounds both times. From March 1948 to April 1949, he went 10 rounds seven times and went 15 rounds once.
Then he got busy.
A rest for Jermain? Sure. How about an extra hour of sleep next week.
DiBella isn’t suggesting that Taylor take the next few months off, but he is implying he wants Taylor to fight a bum next. What else do you call it? And how do you sell tickets to a mugging?
There’s nothing wrong with taking an easy fight now and then, but it shouldn’t tie you up for four months.
It’s not like Taylor is lazy. He’s doing what all champions do today. He fights every four or five months or maybe twice a year. It’ a habit no one is trying to cure.
In the meantime, Wright, who is the WBC and WBA’s No. 1 middleweight contender, is wondering why, as the mandatory challenger to Taylor’s crown, he’s left standing out in the rain with his hat in his hand, trying to find out what he has to do to get a fight with Taylor before the AARP signs him up.
On top of that, DiBella said he might want to pass on Wright and go with Fernando Vargas if Vargas beats Shane Mosley in February.
Vargas? I don’t believe he’s the mandatory.
Can’t blame DiBella. Wright has ruined more careers than the company snitch at the office Christmas party.
And Winky isn’t exactly Mr. Excitement in the ring. It’s like watching the Terminator fight. Efficient and cold-hearted, but not a guy to bring down the house. But he is a big name now, and that always fills seats. Besides, it’s the only fight out there for Taylor.
Of course, all this might be just premature chatter after Saturday night. Before Wright (49-3) goes on an unofficial Jermain Taylor chase, he has to get past Australian Sam Soliman (31-7) this weekend at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn. (HBO).
All this talk about Taylor – whose fight with Hopkins will be shown on HBO Saturday night – isn’t showing much respect for Soliman, the IBF’s No. 1 contender. But that’s just the nature of the beast.
However, El Paso’s signature fight wasn’t much of a fight. It was a sparring session.
On June 13, 1998, Oscar De La Hoya – then in the prime of his career and the defending WBC welterweight champion – fought unknown challenger Patrick Charpentier before more than 45,000 people in the Sun Bowl. That De La Hoya knocked Charpentier out in the third round wasn’t the story.
The El Paso fans were the story.
The screaming women that showed up at De La Hoya press conferences. The hordes of cars that followed his bus. The overflow crowds that waited in long lines at local recreation centers, just to watch him spar.
The electricity that shot through the stadium when De La Hoya walked out of his dressing room dressed as a mariachi.
That was seven years ago. Even then, Texas boxing coordinator Lester Bedford knew that El Paso – a poor-but-passionate border town of more than 560,000 people on Texas’ western tip, sandwiched between New Mexico and Mexico – would deliver if he brought in one of the sport’s premier attractions. And while it took some doing to convince Top Rank boss Bob Arum to risk his cash cow in a virtual boxing outpost, there was no second thoughts once "Bottom Line Bob" saw the city’s reaction upon De La Hoya’s arrival.
Bedlam tends to make cash registers hum.
El Pasodidn't disappoint. De La Hoya-Charpentier was a stunning success – one of the largest boxing crowds in history, and one of the largest crowds in Sun Bowl history.
So, when the early-2006 Las Vegas boxing schedule began to fill up, Arum began to contemplate non-Strip venues in Texas for the rubber match between Jose Luis Castillo and Diego Corrales.
There was San Antonio, whose boxing fans reacted similar to El Paso’s when it hosted a De La Hoya fight with David Kamau in 1997.
And there was El Paso.
Arum threw out the possibility of El Paso hosting Castillo-Corrales 3 to Bedford.
And Bedford gave an emphatic approval.
Within days, Castillo-Corrales 3 was good-to-go for the Don Haskins Center. The fight’s co-promoter, Gary Shaw, certainly didn’t have a problem with the fight venue. His fighter, Vargas, was greeted with De La Hoya-like enthusiasm in 2001.
So the "Sun City" will be the place on Feb. 4. And El Pasoans can hardly believe it.
"El Paso is one of the great fight towns in America and has always supported quality boxing events," Arum said. "With both Castillo and Corrales having fought there in El Paso in the past, and all the great support El Paso has shown, we felt this was the best place for the fight."
"The Don Haskins may be one of the best boxing facilities in the world to watch a fight," he said. "With such a small arena floor and such steep elevated seating, the fans are right on top of the action. And with the fans in El Paso being so loud and enthusiastic, it should be a great scene there at the Haskins Center and a perfect setting for this great rematch."
Yes, the fight tradition is rich. Besides the aforementioned fights, Julio Cesar Chavez, Marco Antonio Barrera, Salvador Sanchez, Floyd Mayweather, Kostya Tszyu, Shane Mosley, and, as Arum pointed out, Castillo and Corrales, have all fought there.
The results have varied. Some of the fights were predictable blowouts. Barrera’s knockout of Mzonke Fana; Others were competitive: Sanchez-Juan LaPorte; Mosley-Manuel Gomez. Some were surprising: Corrales’ early knockout of Angel Manfredy; Mayweather’s blitz of Luis Leija; Tszyu’s domination of Rafael Ruelas; Cesar Bazan’s shocker over Stevie Johnston.
And some were very good: Paez-Cruz, Morales-Zaragoza.
And, don’t forget, El Paso is home to a couple of guys who came very close to winning world titles themselves: bantamweight Fernie Morales and lightweight Juan Lazcano.
But never has there been a fight of this magnitude. Not a legitimate superfight, where the eyes of the sport will be focused on one patch of canvas in West Texas.
None of El Paso’s previous big-time fights had the combustible ingredients of Castillo-Corrales 3. None were so evenly matched. None were so primed for controversy. None had such a hearty, juicy, pre-fight storyline.
None were the completion of an epic boxing trilogy.
The 28-year-old British and Commonwealth king was a little cautious going into the contest as it was his first since summer surgery to repair a ruptured extensor hood on his right hand. Despite a rigorous run-out, however, there were no signs of the old problem.
"When you have had an injury you always have those niggling little doubts that it is going to play up in fight conditions, even though everything has gone fine in training and sparring," Froch explained. "That’s why I took my time a bit against Groenewald. I wanted to pick my shots and not catch him somewhere awkward like his elbow, just in case.
"But as the fight went on and the hand held up I got more and more confident and started to let my shots go.
"By the time of the stoppage I was catching him hard and flush with practically every shot in the book and I didn’t even feel a twinge."
As such, it is now full steam ahead for “The Cobra.”
"The injury has hindered me a bit this year," he admitted. "It happened in April in my fight against Henry Porras and I carried it into my fight against Matthew Barney in July.
"Even though I won both fights well, I believe I would have done better if I was fully fit, particularly against Barney. If I could have loaded up I would have definitely stopped him.
"But after my hand held up against Ruben, I know now that the problem won’t be bothering me again. I am completely back to my best.
"I can get on with the business of winning more genuine titles. Opponents permitting, I would love to win the Lonsdale belt outright before moving up to European then world-class."
The win over Groenewald underlined Froch’s potential. After stepping on the gas he completely overwhelmed the rugged South African, who had previously more than lived with respected opposition.
"Ruben has my complete respect," Froch added. "He is a tough, talented campaigner. Don’t forget that just last year he went to Germany and by all accounts beat former European super middleweight champion Danilo Haussler, only not to get the decision.
"He had never been stopped before, but I blew him away. He couldn’t live with me. I don’t think anyone could take my best shots. I was very happy with the way I performed."
Dunne features in the fight before the main event when he takes on Marian Leondraliu in front of an expected European TV audience of over six million. The Neilstown man’s Irish fans will be catered for too with RTE 2 televising the fight live from the Leipzig Arena. Live Coverage begins at 8.30 and continues until 10.30.
Last time out Dunne won the IBC Super Bantamweight title last time out with an explosive second round win over Sean Hughes. His title won’t be on the line on Saturday night with the opportunity to fight in Leipzig having come up at such short notice.
“I’m continually getting offers from both sides of the Atlantic for Bernard”, said Dunne’s manager, Brian Peters. “There’s a lot of interest in him returning to the U.S. to fight and that’s certainly something we’ll be looking at in the future. This opportunity came up at short notice but we felt it was just too good to pass up. The exposure this will give Bernard is tremendous and it’s a great showcase for him to increase his profile on the continent.”
Dunne’s opponent on Saturday night will be Marian Leondraliua. The experienced Romanian had been due to fight WBU featherweight champion, Steve Foster Jr., in London on Saturday night, but when that fell through he quickly accepted the offer of a fight with Dunne.
“This guy has been in training for a fight with Foster so he’ll be in great shape”, said Peters. “He’s campaigned as high as light welterweight previously and clashed with World rated fighters like Souleymane M'baye and Mohamad Abdulaev. In fact M'baye is the mandatory challenger for Ricky Hatton’s titles which tells you the kind of calibre of opponent Leondraliua has been mixing with.”
Peters is also thrilled with RTE’s commitment to bring the fight live to Irish fight fans. “The fact that RTE are screening the fight live underlines their commitment and belief in Bernard and the revival in Irish Boxing that’s been going on over the last twelve months.”
“Any one who’s witnessed any of Bernard fights at the National Stadium will know that it’s a special atmosphere but the next best thing to being there is watching it live on RTE and I’m delighted that they will be there in Leipzig on Saturday night to make sure that Irish fight fans don’t miss out.”
Dunne is currently unbeaten in 17 fights since turning professional almost four years ago. After having his first 14 contests in America Dunne returned to his native Dublin last year. Since his homecoming the 25-year-old has proved a big hit at the box office adding a further three wins.
Now though he’s looking to rack up his eighteenth straight win back on the road. “This is a great opportunity for me to round off a great year in style. To be fighting on such a big stage is fantastic and I’ll be looking to win some new fans in Europe with a great performance.”
Peter will be looking to rebound from his tough loss at the hands of Wladimir Klitschko on September 24th in Atlantic City, in which he had the Russian giant down three times, coming ever so close to beating him.
While most fighters may take the easy road following a disappointing defeat, promoter Dino Duva knows Robert Hawkins is no sure victory. "Robert Hawkins is a tough and credible fighter,” says Duva. "This fight proves Sam Peter is a true warrior not afraid of anyone."
Assuming Peter is victorious against Hawkins, his manager Ivaylo Gotsev expects Peter to cement his spot as the future of the heavyweight division. "We are ready to challenge any big heavyweight that is willing to take Samuel Peter on," said Gotsev. "Whether it be Shannon Briggs, David Tua or whoever the champions are at that time, Sam is ready for them."
Gotsev also feels a matchup of Peter against the winner of the co-main event, Lance “Mount” Whitaker (31-3-1, 26 KOs) vs. unbeaten 2000 Olympic silver medalist Russian bomber Sultan Ibragimov (18-0, 15 KOs), who brawled at a November press conference would be a possibility.
Tickets are on sale now for “Global Warfare.”They are priced at $150, $100, and $50. For moreinformation please call the Hard Rock Live Box Office at (954) 797.5531 or contact Ticketmaster at (954) 523.3309 in Broward, (305) 358.5885 in Dade, (561) 966.3309 in Palm Beach, or visit www.ticketmaster.com.
“Global Warfare”will airlive on In Demand Pay-Per-View. Suggested retail price is $19.95.
Doors open at 6:30pm and the first bell rings at 7:30pm.
Legendary boxing promoter Don King filed a $2.5 billion lawsuit against corporate giants Disney, ESPN, ABC Cable Networks and Advocate Communications Inc., last January, for airing a highly defamatory and reckless broadcast against King on Sports Century that also portrays King in a false light.
“We are delighted with Judge Martinez’s decision to remand the case back to state court,” said Gary. “This victory will be one of many as we continue to battle on behalf of our clients.
“Disney, ESPN, and other defendants had a duty to the public to make sure they checked their facts before airing such a defamatory piece against Don King. Sports Century not only falsely portrays Mr. King as a con artist, and a thug, but it published statements that are flat out untrue and could have been easily verified. In America, the press must be held accountable for the truth and accuracy of its publications and broadcasts. When the media publish or broadcast statements that show such reckless disregard for the truth, they must give an account for their actions.”
The lawsuit also contends that Disney, ESPN, and other defendants broadcast statements that intentionally and recklessly portray Don King in a false light and create an inference and innuendo that King was dishonest and engaged in illegal activities including physically endangering others in order to succeed in his profession.
Gary, who is best known in the legal circles as a “Giant Killer” in the courtroom, has built his reputation on defending his clients who have been wronged by corporate America. Gary is perhaps best-known as a trial lawyer for his half billion-dollar verdict against Canadian corporate giant the Loewen Group in 1995. Gary is also no stranger to Disney in the courtroom. He won a $240 million verdict against Disney for Disney’s misappropriation of a concept from his client in 2000. Last year Gary also won a landmark case for millions of dollars against media giant Gannett for similar actions as those alleged in Mr. King’s lawsuit against Disney and ESPN.
"It's a great feeling to fight in front of all of your friends and family,” he said. “With every combination I throw and every punch I land I know they are cheering me on to victory."
Stark Jr. was born into a boxing family on February 11, 1980. His father Gary Stark Sr. was an amateur boxer from 1978-1988 so he grew up around the fight game. Dad actually began training young Gary when he was only four years old.
Stark began his amateur career with his first competitive tournament at the Metros in 1999, and he made it to the finals. That success began to fuel his love for boxing. The same year, he reached the finals in the Golden Gloves. The following year Gary won the 2000- 112 pounds open Golden Gloves, the 2000 Metros and the Regionals. He also made it to the finals in the Eastern Olympic Trials. Other successes included the winning the Golden Gloves at 119 lbs and the Metros in 2001 and 2002. He also won the Empire State Games in 2002 and reached the quarter-finals in the U.S. championships.
He finished his amateur career as a 3-time Golden Glove champion and was ranked fifth in the country. Gary turned pro in late 2002, and made his pro debut in Birmingham, Alabama against Freddie Collins who had already had seven professional fights. Gary started off his pro career with a bang, knocking out his opponent in the very first round. He went on to reel off 11 consecutive victories and is now 12-0 with 6 KOs, with the help of his father, his trainers, and Damon Dash of Rocafella Records.
"It is a thrill to be fighting again. Unfortunately, this Christmas the only holiday colors my opponent will see are black and blue," stated Stark. "I have been training hard since my last fight in June and I know I will be ready for this fight."
Keep an eye out for this up-and-coming prospect as he looks to extend his unbeaten streak to thirteen. Not only did he appear in a recent issue of Playboy magazine but Gary was also featured on the Emmy Award-winning WB 11 morning news earlier this month.
For the record, Cedric Kushner, Joe DeGuardia, Luis DeCubas, R. Paniagua and Roberto Duran are the promoters putting on the show. Each piecing together the card with their own talent. On the surface, it would appear that they are all matched competitively. Which is something akin to a different kind of Paradise: that reserved for the fight fan.
There are also a pair of Bronx fighters in action – Maureen Shea, currently best known for sparring with Hillary Swank while the actress prepared for "Million Dollar Baby" and unbeaten lightweight Jorge Teron. There will also be live entertainment from Reggaeton OG Black and Master Joe.
But the meat of the card exists in the 10-rounders. The interesting element is that each fighter resides in the 135-pound to 140-pound range, meaning there are significant fights on the horizon for the winners.
Let’s start with the main event, which features former WBO junior lightweight champion Mike Anchondo (25-1, 18) against Antonio Ramirez (24-9-6, 17).
Anchondo was on the fast track to stardom earlier this year before losing his title on the scales – and then unofficially in the ring. He failed to make weight in an April title bout against Jorge Rodrigo Barrios and was stripped of the belt. To make matters worse, he was then TKO’d in the fourth round.
But Anchondo, as charismatic as he is tough, vows to return even stronger.
"I saw that fight as a fork in the road," he said. "I’ve grown up. I can sit here and say all these sophisticated things but that’s basically what happened. I have a job to do. I realized that everyone was doing their job and now I have to do mine. I want to be successful for a period of time, then seize that success and let it grow into something more."
Anchondo, formerly trained by Buddy McGirt, is now working with Roger Bloodworth and DeCubas and is training at the 4th Street Gym in St. Petersburg, Florida.
The former champ will weigh 137 in the Bronx and feels he can go either up or down, depending on where the best fight arises.
"I can go down to 130," he said. "In fact I want to go down to 130, even if it’s just to beat Barrios. Then I’ll fight anywhere else."
Another man moving down is Victoriano Sosa (41-4-2, 30) who meets Jaime Rangel (30-8-1, 26). Rangel may be best known for a one-round shellacking at the hands of Zab Judah.
"I don’t know anything about my opponent, but I feel confident," said Sosa. "I’ve been training very hard in Santo Domingo. I’ve been training for about 8 months because I had some fights fall out."
Sosa, who has campaigned at 140 pounds, feels that was too heavy and will now fight exclusively at lightweight.
"I’m going down to 135," he said. "It’s my natural weight. When I was fighting at 140, by the time I stepped into the ring, my opponents were weighing 155 and I was weighing 145. At 135, I feel I can fight with anyone in that weight class."
Sosa has beaten the likes of Harold Warren, Freddy Cruz and drew with Lamar Murphy. He lost a lightweight title bout to Paul Spadafora and fought both Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Miguel Cotto, two of the biggest stars in the junior welterweight ranks. He dropped a decision to Mayweather Jr. and was stopped in four rounds by Cotto. He was asked what might happen if the two met in the ring.
"It’s a tough fight," he said. "Mayweather is very good. He’s very difficult to hit. That defense is hard to break. I think both fighters are very good. But Mayweather has more experience. Mayweather can do more things in the ring."
Then there is 18-year-old Mexican Julio Cesar Garcia, who is 33-2 with 26 knockouts. He meets Moises Pedroza (25-8-1, 22). Garcia has been fighting pro since he was 15 and DeCubas signed the fighter after hearing that it was Garcia who hurt Luis Castillo during training for the Diego Corrales rematch. That injury, from a Garcia bodyshot according to DeCubas, is what prevented Castillo from making weight.
"When I heard about the sparring incident with Castillo, I began to look into it," said DeCubas. "I took him to Miami to spar and Duran said to me, I get goose bumps just by the way he goes into the ring."
During that sparring session, Garcia backed up Duran protégé Richard Gutierrez, a natural junior middleweight, with body shots.
"I think this is a special kind of kid who comes along once every 20 years," said DeCubas. "There’s no rush. He’s a like a diamond. We still have to polish him up."
The polishing – and the positioning – begins Friday night at 7 p.m. in the Bronx, where these fighters hope to bring new meaning to the phrase, Bronx Bombers.
Not long afterwards, he signed future junior middleweight title challenger Joe Gatti to a managerial contract. Gatti, who originally hailed from Montreal, was living and training with Panama Lewis in Jersey City.
“I started out as an investor and wound up becoming a manager,” Lynch said. “At the time I signed Joe, he was the chief sparring partner for Matthew Hilton, who was training for a  fight with [WBO middleweight champion] Doug DeWitt.”
Gatti told Lynch about his younger brother, Arturo, who was back home in Canada roaring through one amateur tournament after another. Lynch arranged for the teenaged Arturo to come to New Jersey, where he signed him to a professional contract. They have been together – through the best and worst of times – ever since.
“I became very close with Arturo very quickly,” Lynch said. “When I watch him fight, it is like I am watching my son. Sometimes it is very hard on my wife. He is the godfather to our youngest daughter and is very much a part of our family.”
Things were not always so intense in the lives of Lynch and Gatti. In the early days of Gatti’s career he was a sensational boxer – who also happened to have a debilitating punch. In another words, he was able to knock out opponents without taking a beating in the process. That was apparent from the start.
“Arturo won his pro debut [in June 1991], and then got a swing bout on the USA Network where he knocked his opponent out in 19 seconds,” Lynch said. “The fight was at the Blue Horizon and it set a Pennsylvania record. It made all the news stations.”
In his next fight Gatti took on Richard DeJesus, who was undefeated in one fight, at the Robert Treat Hotel in Newark. Promoter J. Russell Peltz warned Lynch beforehand that Gatti was being matched tough. Others even suggested that Lynch pull out of the fight because DeJesus had such a tremendous amateur background.
“The fight was on the old New York SportsChannel and even [commentator] Teddy Atlas thought we were taking a big risk,” Lynch said. “I mentioned it to Arturo and he said, ‘If I can’t knock out DeJesus, I’ll never be a world champion.’ He stopped DeJesus in 32 seconds.” (Boxrec.com states that the fight was stopped in 28 seconds.)
As they returned to the dressing room, Lynch saw Dino Duva, who was then involved in promoting Gatti, taking three steps at a time. Then Lou Duva came rushing excitedly into the room. “I knew then and there that we had someone special,” Lynch said.
In December 1995, Gatti won the IBF super featherweight title from Tracy Harris Patterson. He relinquished it after thrilling successful defenses against Wilson Rodriguez, Patterson in a rematch, and Gabriel Ruelas.
He was then stopped by Angel Manfredy, which was followed by back-to-back losses to Ivan Robinson. But, in typical Gatti style, the first fight was voted “Fight of the Year” by The Ring magazine.
Lynch began to grow concerned with Gatti’s future. Under trainer Hector Roca, he was no longer the fleet-footed boxer who just happened to have jaw-breaking power.
“I was a little worried about him, and I began watching him very closely,” Lynch said. “When Arturo fought Oscar De la Hoya [in March 2001], I think the HBO people were thinking this is it. Let’s get him a good final payday and see him retire.”
Although De La Hoya stopped Gatti in five rounds, Gatti believed in his heart that he still had a lot to offer the sport. He insisted on visiting Buddy McGirt’s training facility in Vero Beach, Florida. Within two days, Roca was dismissed as his trainer and former two-division champion McGirt went about reshaping Gatti’s style, and revitalizing his career.
“Buddy brought back Arturo’s boxing skills, which were evident when he knocked out Terronn Millett [in four rounds in January 2002], Lynch said. “Then he had the trilogy with [Micky] Ward, which is probably the second best boxing trilogy in history. But I have to admit, in the ninth round of the first fight I covered my eyes and was peeking through my fingers. It was very emotional for me.”
Although Gatti absorbed lots of punishment against Ward, a lot of that had to do with injuries to his hand that kept him from being a two-fisted fighter. Since those memorable bouts, of which Gatti won two, he outpointed Gianluca Branco to capture the vacant WBC junior welterweight title and made successful defenses against Leonard Dorin (KO 2), and “Jesse” James Leija (KO 5).
However, against Floyd Mayweather in June, Gatti was humbled via sixth-round TKO by the man who is who is generally regarded as the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet. Not counting the Mayweather debacle, Gatti, under McGirt’s tutelage, has looked like a defensive maestro in his most recent fights.
Lynch hopes that his two-division champion, 39-7 (30 KOs), who turns 34 in April, will display that form in his next bout, against undefeated Thomas Damgaard, 37-0 (27 KOs), of Demark on January 28, in Atlantic City.
“Arturo is a lot more sensible and intelligent than his fighting style might indicate,” Lynch said. “We talk all the time about the fact that he will someday have to retire. I believe that he will know when enough is enough.”
Lynch is extremely modest and seemed genuinely embarrassed when asked, if by virtue of his managing such a popular fighter, he felt at all like a mini-celebrity.
“A lot of people come up to me and congratulate me on my success,” Lynch said. “They say I did a great job with Arturo, and that makes me feel good. But I feel that he did all the work. I just happen to be the manager. I was along for the ride.”