The hard-slugging Peter, unlike Toney, is one of those strong, silent types notorious for letting their fists to the talking one the opening bell sounds, but the Nigeria Nightmare is as confident as ever and determined to turn Lights Out™s lights out for good.
œI have got dynamites in my two hands,? said Peter, according the Lagos, Nigeria Vanguard, œand I will crush James Toney once and for all. The Toney camp made the mistake of their lives by protesting and seeking a rematch. I am ready to teach him a bitter lesson.?
Sam Peter walked away with the W for Peter/Toney I at the Staples Center in LA last September, but it was by disputed split decision”a verdict so disputed, there was even a dispute about the dispute”which forced the WBC™s hand into mandating Saturday™s rematch.
Samuel Peter is the biggest thing to hit African boxing since Ghanaian superstar Azumah Nelson rocked the feather and junior welterweight divisions. The President of the Nigeria Boxing Board of Control, Prince Olaide Adeboye, admitted, according to allAfrica.com, We are rooting for Samuel Peter, of course. He is one boy we believe in to bring back the country™s lost glory in professional boxing. I am personally making arrangement to be at the ringside to see him fight Toney again. I was at the first fight in Los Angeles in September.
œPeter has the brutal punch, and to me he was the clear winner of the first fight. But the WBC Board of Governors, of which I am a member, voted 21-10 for a rematch. There was nothing those of us Africans on the board could do in the circumstances. But I believe Peter will confirm he is better than Toney and will then go ahead to meet the champion and claim the belt for Nigeria and Africa.? Read more at the BLOG
The punching machine Liddell (20-3, 13 KOs) repeated his victory in UFC 66 over the much-improved grappler Ortiz who has improved his punching and blocking. Ortiz was trying to avenge his loss of April 2004.
Despite all the new weapons displayed by Ortiz it wasn’t enough as Liddell pummeled the former champion and retained his title with a technical knockout at 3:59 of the third round. Referee Mario Yamasaki stopped the bout.
“This was the most satisfying victory of my career,” said Liddell, 36, of Santa Barbara. “Tito came back real tough.”
Ortiz (15-5, 8 KOs), a former wrestler, worked on his boxing technique knowing he would need it against the former boxer Liddell. But Liddell’s experience allowed him to find the right moment to pounce on Ortiz.
“I had him hurt, I just kept throwing punches,” said Liddell who also knocked down Ortiz in the first round with a left hook.
Ortiz was gracious in defeat.
“Chuck is the best fighter Pound for Pound in the (mixed martial arts) world,” said Ortiz, 31, who suffered a gash on the side of his left eye from a punch. “I’m disgusted by myself. I let my fans down.”
Underdog Keith Jardine (12-3-1) knocked out Forrest Griffin (13-4) at 4:41 of the first round in their light heavyweight showdown. A right uppercut followed by a left hook wobbled Griffin who was sent to the floor by a barrage of punches. On the ground Jardine landed right after right until referee John McCarthy stopped the fight for a technical knockout.
“I couldn’t believe he was hurt,” said Jardine about Griffin who is known for his resiliency. “I was so nervous coming into this fight, but now I know I belong here.”
Canada’s Jason McDonald (18-7) choked out Chris Leben (15-3) in a middleweight bout that was up for grabs. Though Leben seemed to control the fight with stunning left hands, once the fight went to the ground McDonald managed a chokehold at 4:03 of the second round. Referee Steve Mazagatti saw Leben was unconscious and stopped the fight.
Former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski (12-5) caught Brazil’s Mario Cruz (2-2) with a sneak right hand while both were tangled on the ground. Then the Belarusian pummeled Cruz until referee Herb Dean stopped the fight at 3:15 of the first round.
Third season winner of the Ultimate Fighter television reality season Michael Bisping (12-0) of Great Britain won by technical knockout over Eric Shafer (9-2-2) at 4:29 of the first round. A knee knocked Shafer groggy then Bisping knocked him to the ground and pounded him. Referee Mario Yamasaki stopped the bludgeoning.
Thiago Alves (16-4) caught Peru’s Tony De Souza (15-5) with a knee as he attempted to dive for his legs in a welterweight contest. After that it was pretty much over as Alves pummeled De Souza at 1:10 of the second round forcing referee John McCarthy to halt the bout.
Gabriel Gonzago (7-1) proved too strong for Carmelo Marrero (6-1) in a heavyweight bout. At 3:22 of the first round Gonzago of Massachusetts manipulated his way into arm bar forcing Pennsylvania’s Marrero to tap out.
Japan’s Yushin Okami (19-3) pounded Georgia’s Rory Singer (11-6) into submission at 4:03 of the third round of a middleweight bout. Okami seemed the more-rounded fighter with effective kicks to the head and more accurate punching.
Christian Wellisch (8-2) jumped to a quick start with an accurate left hook that rattled Australia’s Anthony Perosh (5-3) in a heavyweight bout. During the first round it seemed the Sacramento fighter might end the fight but the Aussie hung tough. Wellisch won by unanimous decision.
While Asia isn’t Vegas or Atlantic City, it is a region packed of diamonds in the rough; undiscovered gems and potential superstars who wait for their moment in the sun.
The Sweet Science P4P Rankings – Asia
1) Manny Pacquiao – There’s no way to dispute Pacquiao is the best fighter in Asia, if not all of boxing. He’s exciting, he wins with Je Ne Sais Quois and is definitely “the man” in boxing.
2) Pongsaklek Wonjongkam – Although his competition leaves much to be desired, his longevity and skills are undeniable. He is currently Thailand’s only world champion and is undefeated in ten years. Need I say more?
3) Chris John – A victory over Juan Manuel Marquez, however controversial, shows he belongs at the top of the heap. He easily outpointed Renan Acosta to close out 2006 and should have no trouble defending against Jose Rojas in February. A fight with Pacquiao would not be a good move on his part but a rematch with Marquez would not hurt – especially if he defeats the Mexican again.
4) Hozumi Hasegawa – Hidden away in Japan, Hasegawa is a sharp punching southpaw who put former champion Veeraphol Sahaprom to sleep. He recently bested Genaro Garcia and his herky-jerky style will give fits to any one who steps in the ring with him.
5) Masomori Tokuyama – Tokuyama has never shied away from a good fight and although he only fought once in 2006 (UD12 Jose Navarro), he ledger shows wins over Katsushige Kawashima (twice), Gerry Penalosa (twice) and In Jin Chi (twice). A fight with Hozumi Hasegawa is a distinct possibility in 2007.
6) Nobuo Nashiro – With only seven fights under his belt he took on WBA champion Martin Castillo – and defeated him. Although he’s only fought a total of nine fights, nearly all have been against quality opposition. A victory in a rematch with Castillo would cement his claim as the king of the 115-pound division.
7) Yukata Niida – This light-hitting minimumweight defended his title twice in 2006, winning a technical decision against unbeaten Eriberto Gejon (Tech Win 10) and the other on points over Ronald Barrera (W 12). Scheduled to meet Katsunari Takayama early next year – the best has yet to come for this WBA belt holder.
8) In Jin Chi – Won back the title he lost to Takashi Koshimoto in January from Rudolfo Lopez. While there’s little uncertainty to his skills, at thirty-three, 2007 may provide some insight as to just how much he has left.
9) Yodsanan Sor Nanthachai –Sor Nonthachai is an exciting, top-shelf fighter with an iron chin. Has no trouble making mincemeat of mid-level opposition and deserves a title shot in 2007. Time is running out.
10) Rey Bautista – He’s young, relatively inexperienced in big-time boxing, but will continue to shine in 2007. One of the better prospects in boxing, he should snag a title in 2007.
Asian Fighters Ranked in Ring Magazine
Pound for Pound:
Manny Pacquiao (Philippines): #2
Manny Pacquiao (Philippines): #1 Yodsanan Sor Nanthachai: #9
Chris John (Indonesia) #1 In Jin Chi (Korea) #3 Takashi Koshimoto (Japan) #5 Hioyuki Enoki (Japan) #7
There’s no shortage of boxers in Thailand. With a huge pool of Muay Thai fighters to draw from and several talented amateur boxing prospects turning pro after the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Thailand seems destined to remain a boxing powerhouse in Asia.
The country is known for having tough, determined and disciplined fighters who give their all whenever the step in to the ring. However, consistently losing while fighting abroad and padding their records with no-hopers has done nothing to enhance their reputation.
Whether because of a lack of marketability, a lack of funds or their unwillingness to travel abroad, the vast majority of boxers from Thailand remain a mystery to fans in the west. If anything though, the boxing scene involving Thai fighters will be active. In fact, it’s one of the most active in the world; since 2000, the number of fights has nearly doubled in the country.
The Sweet Science P4P Rankings – Thailand – August 2006
1) Pongsaklek Wonjongkam (Flyweight) – Definitely the top dog in Thailand
2) Yodsanan Sor Nanthachai (Super Lightweight) – He’s a seasoned fighter who has proven himself in the big-time. He’s one Thai who can fight outside of Asia. He has an abundance of skills and one-punch power. His overall ability and ease in dispatching anyone other than championship caliber get him the runners-up spot.
3) Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym (Super Bantamweight) – After losing to Vladimir Sidorenko he’s bounced back. He’s young, he can punch, but the former interim champion needs to prove himself against a name fighter.
4) Somsak Sithchatchawal (Super Bantamweight) – Was his win over Monshipour a fluke or was Celestino Caballero just that good? Did Sithchatchawal catch Monshipour at the right time and can he rebound from the devastating loss? The jury is still out.
5) Wandee Singwancha (Flyweight) – He doesn’t have much of a punch which will be his downfall in the end. He can box, as was evidenced in his recent victory over Juanito Rubillar, but this won’t be enough. He can no longer make the Jr. Flyweight limit and with no punch he’ll have a hard time competing against the “big boys.” Although he’s now rated second by the WBC, he doesn’t deserve to be.
5) Sirimongkol Singwancha (Super Lightweight) – Get this guy a fight. He’s better than Jose Armando Santa Cruz and would have beat up Inada had the fight taken place. He’ll fight anyone but his biggest obstacle is staying motivated fighting tomato cans in Thailand. Like many Thais, he needs a fight against a name opponent. 6) Wandee Singwancha (Flyweight) – He doesn’t have much of a punch which will be his downfall in the end. He can box, as was evidenced in his recent victory over Juanito Rubillar, but this won’t be enough. He can no longer make the Jr. Flyweight limit and with no punch he’ll have a hard time competing against the “big boys.” Although he’s now rated second by the WBC, he doesn’t deserve to be.
7) Pramuansak Phosuwan (Super Flyweight) – A genuine tough guy. Always calm and focused no matter how heated the battle. But at thirty-eight, he’ll be in trouble should he fight one of the division’s elite. 8) Veeraphol Sahaprom (Bantamweight) – Will be lucky to get another crack at the title. Although he has a puncher’s chance of winning a belt, that’s about all he has left at this point. A third shot at Hasegawa is unlikely.
9) Oleydong Sithamerchai (Minimumweight) – He’s fought better than the usual opponents faced by Thais at his level and he moves up one spot with the departure of Terdsak Jandaeng. He lacks the punch and is in the wrong division to become a superstar. He’ll need to defeat a name opponent to convince me.
10) Saenghiran Lookbanyai / Napapol Kittisakchokchai (Super Bantamweight) – These two square-off in early March, supposedly to see who deserves a shot at Israel Vasquez. Kittisakchokchai has the edge in experience but some feel Lookbanyai has the edge in heart and is the favorite.
Neither has defeated a top twenty fighter and yet are ranked number one and two respectively in the WBC’s world.
In Kittisakchokchoi’s lone shot at the big-time, he was TKO’d in 10 by Oscar Larios. His dreadful performance against Larios and lack of quality opposition leads me to believe Saenghiran might have more of a shot at beating him than some suspect. Regardless, neither of them lasts longer than six rounds with Israel Vasquez.
While the self-absorbed Floyd Mayweather continues to win, his inability to understand that boxing is as much about entertainment as it is displaying one’s vast skills has made him a source of perpetual disappointment.
Whatever happens in his eagerly awaited matchup against Oscar De La Hoya in May 2007 will determine the direction of his future. But there is no reason to jump ahead just yet. Here is a strictly subjective year in review of 2006:
Fight of the Year At the beginning of the year, Sergei “The White Wolf” Liakhovich was a little known heavyweight from Belarus who had moved to Phoenix, Arizona, and was toiling anonymously in the vast Don King stable for years. By April he was one of the most talked about heavyweights in the business.
Using his quicker hands, engaging in powerful exchanges, and displaying an unyielding determination, he won a unanimous decision over the harder punching and heavily favored WBO champion Lamon Brewster in Chicago.
To Liakhovich’s surprise, and the disappointment of fans, lightning couldn’t strike twice for him. He was shockingly knocked out in the final second of his first title defense against Shannon Briggs in November. Making things worse for him was the fact that had he hung on, he would have won a decision and retained his title.
Although Liakhovich has protested the stoppage, citing the fact that because he was knocked out of the ring he should have been given 20 seconds to climb back in, whatever momentum he had going for him seems to have dissipated. For the nearly all 12 rounds that the fight lasted, Liakhovich was listless, distracted and seemingly disinterested.
Runner-Up It is rare that rematches of great fights live up to the originals, but light heavyweights Tomasz Adamek of Poland, who won the vacant WBC title with a sensational majority decision over the hard-punching Australian Paul “Hurricane” Briggs in May 2005, disputed that notion in another wild slugfest in October.
Although the Pole was knocked down in the first, and had a point deducted in the ninth round for a low blow, he won a hard-fought and well-deserved majority decision. If these two bombers fought 10 times, chances are that all ten bouts would be ebb-and-flow battles that would bring the ringside crowd to its feet.
Fighter of the Year Manny Pacquaio has long been the most popular athlete to ever hail from the Philippines, but he is quickly becoming one of the most popular fighters in the United States as well. He has already scored two sensational knockout victories over the once great Erik Morales, the latest of which was a third round blowout in November.
Earlier in the year, he won a lopsided 12 round decision over Oscar Larios. Pac-Man is such a cash machine, promoters like Bob Arum and De la Hoya are currently engaged in a nasty court battle for his services and Don King was compelled to put out a December press release to deny rampant rumors that he was trying to steal the wunderkind.
Runner-Up Although Carlos Baldomir lost his WBC welterweight title by unanimous decision to Mayweather in November, the granite-jawed Argentinean still had a marvelous year. Despite a nominal 41-9-6 (12 KOS) record in January, Baldomir, who was known as the consummate road warrior, hit New York and totally outfought local product Zab Judah at Madison Square Garden to win the crown.
Six months later he defended the title with a savage ninth round knockout of Arturo Gatti in Atlantic City. Gatti had been selling out Boardwalk Hall in that city for years. One of Baldomir’s cornermen, Sean Gibbons, said that in the hours leading up to the Gatti fight, Baldomir was loose as a goose.
“He doesn’t know what stress is,” said Gibbons. “I’ve never seen him tense, never seen him nervous. He just loves to fight and he couldn’t care less where he’s fighting or who he’s fighting.”
Baldomir was equally calm and cool against Mayweather, even though he stood virtually no chance of winning. That didn’t stop him from trying for every minute of every round. Although beaten handily, he was in as good of a mood at the end of the bout as he was at the beginning.
Baldomir, who had subsidized his boxing income as a street vendor in Argentina for much of his career, gave hope to all of the little guys in boxing who travel on short notice for small purses. He also gave the cynical boxing press, who fell in love with him after he beat Judah, something to smile bout. Baldomir is like the little engine that could. Even if he never fights again, the mark he left on boxing is indelible. He is a true Cinderella Man.
Knockout of the Year The Liakhovich-Briggs fiasco was about to go down as one of the worst heavyweight title fights in history. However there was a measure of redemption when the asthmatic Briggs scored a sensational knockout of Liakhovich at 2:59 of the twelfth and final round.
Unfortunately, many viewers didn’t get to see the grand finale because they had already been put to sleep by the previous inaction of the participants. It was hard to watch Liakhovich, who had been so mobile and active against Lamon Brewster earlier in the year, look so dispassionate against Briggs.
Amazingly, Briggs, who most people view as a good three round fighter, found the emotional resolve and the physical strength to pull this one out down the stretch. It is always memorable when an athlete snatches victory from surefire defeat with just seconds remaining in a contest.
Runner-Up While Pacquaio’s third round blowout of Morales in November was unforgettable, Colombian middleweight Edison Miranda’s first round destruction of once-beaten Willie Gibbs a month later in Florida was even more thrilling.
The 5-foot-11 Miranda, who had lost a decision to IBF middleweight champion Arthur Abraham in his previous outing, scored the knockout on HBO’s final telecast of the year. With a record of 27-1 (24 KOS), he has established himself as one of the sport’s premier punchers and a top-flight attraction. With the power of HBO behind him, his career potential seems limitless.
Upset of the Year Zab Judah planned on using Baldomir as a warm-up for a $5 million payday against Mayweather. Although Judah had every imaginable advantage going into the fight, the rugged Argentinean refused to follow the script and totally out-hustled the over-hyped former champion. It was refreshing to see such a likeable, honest and down-to-earth fighter humble such an arrogant and bombastic champion.
Runner-Up Every one expected the heavily muscled and highly touted American Jeff Lacy to walk through long reigning WBO super middleweight champion Joe Calzaghe in March. Little did it matter that the fight was taking place in Calzaghe’s adopted hometown of Manchester, England.
Instead, Calzaghe won every round en route to scoring a unanimous decision. Besides destroying the Lacy myth, he proved that he was much more than an overprotected European product. Having shown himself to be an extremely sore loser, it is doubtful that Lacy will ever regain the formidability that he enjoyed prior to this defeat.
Prospect of the Year A 2004 Olympic silver medalist, the 5’10” junior welterweight Amir Khan is 10-0 (7 KOS) as a pro. Now promoted by Frank Warren, he was one of the most highly touted European amateurs in history.
Khan will be showcased in an HBO special attraction on the undercard of Calzaghe’s 20th WBO title defense against Peter Manfredo Jr. in Wales in April. Chances are that on that evening, a new international star will be born.
Runner-Up Trainer Emanuel Steward is not known to stretch the truth, so his calling middleweight Andy Lee “a white Sugar Ray Robinson” counts for something. Lee, an Irishman who now lives and trains with Steward in Detroit, is a southpaw with a 6-0 (3 KOS) record.
Steward is already beating the drums for a future date against New York-based Irishman John Duddy in an all-Celtic showdown. Should both fighters remain undefeated until then, Steward believes that bout has the potential to be the highest grossing fight in history.
Two years have passed since Liddell and Ortiz first met and now the world anxiously awaits the aftershock of their first encounter with a sold out show at the MGM Grand and an expected record-breaking pay-per-view telecast.
Forget about the numbers, Ortiz wants his title back.
“That title is mine and I’m taking it back,” said Ortiz (15-4) during a press conference held in November. “I’m not the same fighter I was when we last fought.”
The rather lithe Liddell bludgeoned Ortiz on April 2004 with his usual fistic attack that few have been able to solve. With his pure knockout power in either hand, Liddell continues to build a more rounded attack to his game.
“I began as a boxer,” Liddell (19-3) said. “Over the years I’ve learned to adapt my style.”
Both fighters have evolved from their original elements. For Ortiz, his wrestling base that enabled him to win the UFC light heavyweight title before losing to Liddell was more than enough. But the loss showed him he needed more to remain with the elite.
“I picked up a lot of boxing technique. I’m not the same fighter I was when I lost the title,” said Ortiz, 31, who grew up in Huntington Beach, California.
One boxer who worked with Ortiz was former junior middleweight world champion boxer Fernando “El Feroz” Vargas. Others have come to his aid with boxing secrets.
Ortiz used his newly added boxing technique to his wrestling skills to beat Forrest Griffin and Ken Shamrock twice in the last year.
Liddell, 36, a boxer changed into a martial artist, has evolved from the other side of the spectrum. He too has added other sheets of armor to his war chest.
“Yes I’m really a boxer who has learned to adapt to mixed martial arts,” Liddell said. “If you look back to the beginning of UFC, you can see how much everyone has changed from those early days.”
In the beginning the grapplers controlled the UFC, but soon other elements of full contact along with adjusted rules have caused changes that make it mandatory for all mixed martial artists to combine boxing, wrestling, jujitsu, kickboxing and street fighting.
Liddell, a noted dangerous striker, explained how a true boxing stance proves too vulnerable to take downs by grapplers.
“I don’t want to take it to the ground,” says Liddell. “My strength is standing up.”
In his wide almost goofy-like stance, Liddell has developed a method of striking and evading takedowns.
“I developed it over the years,” Liddell says.
On Saturday the world will see whose evolution is more adept.
Tickets are still available and can be purchased at the MGM Grand or by going to www.UFC.com. The first bout begins at 4:30 p.m.
According to Frank Espinoza, choosing the right fighter to manage is the key to success.
If anyone knows, it’s Espinoza. He’s been in the management biz for fifteen years with five of his fighters having laid claim to world titles.
“First and foremost I try to find out what kind of person the fighter is. In order for me to sign someone, we have to be able to get along well. I ask the fighter about their goals. I ask them what they want out of boxing,” said Espinoza. “The answer I look for is ‘I want to be world champion.’ I also scout the fighters before I sign them. I follow their progress. I make sure they have a strong work ethic in the gym. I’m looking for guys who aren’t willing to settle for anything less than a world title. That’s what I saw in Martin Castillo and Israel Vazquez before I signed them.”
Vazquez and Castillo are Espinoza Boxing Club’s two highest prized fighters. Vazquez is the reigning Super Bantamweight champion and considered one of the game’s top pound for pound fighters. Martin “Gallito” Castillo is a former Super flyweight champion who recently lost his title in what Espinoza describes as a fluke. Although Castillo is now belt-less, he’s still considered one of the top boxer-punchers in the game. A fight against the extremely popular Mexican champion, Jorge Arce, is currently being discussed with their promoters at Top Rank.
Espinoza’s affinity for boxing began early in life when he was exposed to the sweet science by way of his family. “I’ve been following the fight game since I was a kid. I used to go to the Olympic Auditorium with my father and uncle and I’d see a lot of great fighters,” remembers Espinoza. “My favorite was Mando Ramos. I really liked his style. I liked the way he boxed and moved. Every once in a while I see him at the Boxing Hall of Fame events and it’s still a big thrill for me. He was my idol even though we were practically the same age.”
After achieving success as a retail businessman, Espinoza decided to get involved in the sport he loved in 1991. Among the champions who’ve been part of the Espinoza stable besides Vazquez and Castillo, were former WBO Flyweight champion Isidro “Chino” Garcia, former WBA Super Bantamweight champ Enrique Sanchez, former WBO Super Featherweight titlist Mike Anchondo and Miguel Huerta who currently holds a minor Super Featherweight world title (N.B.A).
Success didn’t come without its lessons. “I made some mistakes as a manager early on but I learned from them. If I could change anything I would’ve focused more on younger fighters,” said Espinoza. “I used to sign fighters that were over their prime. That was a mistake. I turned that around and started signing younger fighters who I felt had a more realistic opportunity to make an impact on the sport.”
After actively seeking new fighters for his stable during 2006, he sees a bright future in two young prospects he currently signed. Manny “Suavecito” Roman (9-0, 5 KO’s) and Jesus “Pollo” Hernandez (2-0) joined the Espinoza stable this year. Espinoza sees the same qualities in them that he saw in Vazquez and Castillo.
“There’s incredible potential in both Manny and Pollo. I see a lot of talent in them. They both had very good amateur careers and I see hunger in their eyes,” said Espinoza. “They want to be something special, they’re willing to devote themselves to the sport and work very hard in the gym.”
Espinoza is bringing them along patiently as they hone their skills and physically mature. “They’re both eighteen years old. By the time they’re 20 or 21, their bodies will change as they turn into adults and I think they’re going to be even better and stronger. I predict big things for both guys.”
If anything, Espinoza has demonstrated a belief in his fighters rivaled by few. During the negotiation phase before the Vazquez-Gonzalez fight, Gonzalez’s manager, Oswaldo Kuchle, referred to Vazquez as a “chicken” after negotiations momentarily broke down. Espinoza responded by asking Kuchle to put his money where his mouth was. He showed up at the pre-fight press conference with a giant, symbolic check for $50,000 he was willing to wager on Vazquez if Kuchle could match the bet.
Somehow, Kuchle turned into the invisible man and wasn’t heard from regarding the subject. Ultimately it was a good move by Kuchle who would’ve taken a massive hit as Gonzalez was stopped by Vazquez in a thriller.
One of Espinoza’s ambitions is to find boxing’s equivalent to a rare diamond. “I would love to find a good Mexican heavyweight to manage. A Mexican heavyweight champion would propel Espinoza Boxing even further. That would be quite a find.”
As 2006 ends, Espinoza expects 2007 to be another great year for his stable. “I’m going to look for Martin Castillo to come back and to become a world champion again,” Espinoza stated. “I think his loss to Nashiro was a fluke. I feel he should fight Jorge Arce. Arce has never fought anyone like Martin.” Castillo lost his title due to some nasty cuts suffered in a hotly contested fight in Japan against Nobuo Nashiro.
Espinoza’s stable shined this year with Vazquez’s impressive come-from-behind TKO win against Jhonny Gonzalez. It was Vazquez’s third straight pay-per-view appearance. “I want Israel to continue his winning streak and to defend his title a couple more times before he moves up in weight to the featherweight division. Eventually he’ll move up to super featherweight,” said Espinoza.
First, he’s aiming Vazquez towards a “battle of little giants” against another top pound for pound fighter in bantamweight king Rafael Marquez.
“I think that’s the fight Israel needs. I also think it’s a fight Marquez needs. He’s thirty two years old and running out of time. He already beat all the best bantamweights in the world and its time for him to move up and fight Israel,” Espinoza said. “They’re two of the top fighters in the world and it would make for a memorable fight for the boxing public. The fireworks are guaranteed.”
Although a proven success as a businessman and boxing manager, Espinoza wants to ensure he leaves his mark on the sport of boxing, his fighters and their families. “I want them to recognize me as a fair and straightforward person. I want to be remembered as someone who always fought for his fighters and always tried to get them the best deal possible. It’s the least I can do for them. They’re like family to me. ”
Former champion Yodsanan Sor Nanthachai stayed busy against decent opponents while Sirimongkol Singwancha fought just twice, both times against fighters who had little chance of winning.
Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym came up short against Vladimir Sidorenko in his bantamweight title fight and Veeraphol Sahaprom was starched in nine by Japan’s Hozumi Hasegawa in their rematch.
Wandee Singwancha won the WBC’s light-flyweight interim title and then promptly lost it on the scales in his next fight. Somsak Sithchatchawal made it to the top of the mountain when he defeated Mahyar Monshipour, only to be sent crashing down three rounds later by Celestino Caballero.
Grizzled veteran Ratanachai Sor Vorapin came back from his November 2005 loss to Jhonny Gonzalez to win all four of his fights in 2006. Another female prisoner failed in her bid to win a world title and in doing so had her life story chronicled in a movie, Fight for Freedom. She’ll get another crack at a title early next year.
Here are the 2006 Sweet Science Awards for Thailand:
Thai Fighter of the Year: Pongsaklek Wonjongkam (63-2, 31 KO’s) hasn’t lost in ten years and is Thailand’s lone world champion. No active Thai fighter comes close to besting Wonjongkam’s accomplishments and thus, he is my pick for Thailand’s fighter of the year.
Wonjongkam defeated South African fighter Monelisi Myekeni in November to make his sixteenth successful title defense in a row and plans to make four more before retiring. He needs a marquee fight or two in order to be considered among the division’s all-time greats and may get his chance late in 2007 if a rumored bout with Vic Darchinyan comes to fruition.
Thai Promoter of the Year: Virat Vajiratanawongse – how can you not give him the award? He’s guided the career of Pongsaklek Wonjongkam and has another flyweight, Panomroonglek Kratingdaenggym, waiting in the wings to take over the flyweight championship once Wonjongkam calls it quits.
Fight of the Year: Somsak Sithchatchawal vs. Mahyar Monshipour – Although the bout wasn’t high-profile, it was high energy and high drama. It’s my runaway choice for fight of the year.
Gutsiest Performance: Somsak Sithchatchawal – involved in what is arguably the fight of the year with Mahyar Monshipour. Although hurt several times throughout the bout, he stayed upright long enough to finish Monshipour in the tenth round. What a fight!
Mismatch of the Year: Sirimongkol Singwancha (54-2, 32 KOs) vs. Lito Gonzaga (24-24-1, 8 KOs).
Singwancha is a former WBC Bantamweight and Super Featherweight belt holder. Gonzaga had dropped thirteen of his last fourteen fights and had only fought once in eight years. He did not belong in the ring with Singwancha, period. The Games and Amusement Board had not issued a letter of clearance for Gonzaga allowing him to engage in the bout and yet the Thai promoter and matchmaker made the fight.
Gonzaga was disposed of in three rounds. When asked about the bout, one WBC official stated, “It was really just a sparring session. It wasn’t even like Singwancha went at it with him.”
It was, however, an official bout and not an exhibition. Need I say more?
Fortunately and to his credit, Singwancha didn’t totally obliterate the Filipino but it’s unlikely this bout would have ever made it past a boxing commission in the US or UK or the Philippines.
Upset of the Year: – Lito Sisnorio (5-3-1, 2 KOs) TKO5 Fahpetchnoi Sor Chitpattana (13-1, 9 KOs)
Ranked fifth by the WBC at the time, undefeated flyweight and WBC Youth title holder Fahpetchnoi Sor Chitpattana of Thailand met unranked Filipino Lito Sisnoria in what was expected to be an easy win for the Thai. Sisnorio came with guns blazing in round one and promptly dropped Sor Chitpattana. He put him down again in round two and for the third and final time in round five. The fifth ranked flyweight in the world (the WBC’s that is) had just been destroyed by a fighter not even ranked in the top fifty.
Sor Chitpattana dropped to the WBC’s number eleven spot while Sisnoria moved to number twenty-one. The Thai has yet to fight since losing the contest and is currently ranked eighth by the WBC.
Most Overrated: – Panomroonglek Kratingdaenggym (15-0, 8 KO’s) and Prawet Singwancha (30-2-1, 18 KOs).
Panomroonglek Kratingdaenggym is somehow rated first by the WBC. Out of his fifteen wins, he’s beaten three fighters with winning records. Three, count ‘em. He’s beaten no one ranked in the top twenty but is somehow worthy of the WBC’s number one spot. What would justify him being ranked first?
Prawet Singwancha, rated number one in the lightweight division by the WBA, has somehow managed into wangling a shot at Juan Diaz’s title in February. He is unranked by The Ring magazine and Fight News and is ranked 98th by BoxRec. He holds victories over Dennis Laurente and Nonoy Gonzalez, which means very little unless you’re on the WBA’s rating committee. If you consider winning the PABA title deserving, then you can somehow justify is number one ranking.
Where Is He Now Award: Ratanachai Sor Vorapin – He’s still fighting and has won his last four fights, all by KO, but is a ring worn thirty years old. His clock is ticking and with seventy-five fights already on his ledger, 2007 is a make or break year.
Steep Decline Award: Yoddamrong Sityodtong – Sityodtong has dropped his last three in a row, one to light-hitting Thai prospect Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo. He was scheduled to fight for a WBF title in England, however the show never materialized. His better days are far behind him and unless he wants to fight Filipino stiffs in Thailand for the rest of his career, it might be time to hang ‘em up.
Asian Fighter of the Year: Manny Pacquiao – He’s not Thai but I had to throw him in for good measure. Pacquiao may very well deserve the top pound-for-pound spot and is undoubtedly the top fighter in Asia. He’s got a host of sensational bouts ahead of him – Barerra, Marquez, Valero – and he looks to provide fans at least a few more years before calling it quits.
Adjective of the Year: Mike Marley – I know, he’s not Thai or even Asian, but he did somehow manage to use the word ‘dyspeptic’ in a sentence so I felt it necessary to give him an award. The word is D-Y-S-P-E-P-T-I-C, not septic.
Using it to describe ESPN boxing scribe Dan Rafael may have been inappropriate, but nonetheless, he did manage to use the word in a sentence.
In the United States, for all intents and purposes, MMA is synonymous with UFC. This Saturday, two of the UFC’s most marketable and capable stars, Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell, a soft-speaking, serial-killer-looking striker with a serious hard-on for kayoes, and Tito “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” Ortiz, a bleached-blonde trash-talking badass whose fan base is split 50-50 between lovers and haters, will step in to the Octagon and get it on.
Why, you ask, does this effect me, I can hear you saying…
I’ve logged on to a website called “The Sweet Science,” haven’t I?
And correct me if I’m wrong, but mixed martial arts doesn’t have a cool ‘nom de nick’ like “The Sweet Science.”
Again, correct me if I’m wrong, but mixed martial arts couldn’t even agree on the name of their sport until 2005. Before that it was called extreme fighting, wasn’t it, Woods?
And if I want to watch human cockfighting, which is what I’ve read in mainstream publications some people call the UFC’s product, then I’ll go into one of the warehouses where they hold these unsanctioned, ultra-brutal contests, and check it out. OK, Woods?
Duly noted, one and all. Let me tell you why it matters.
On Saturday night, the UFC powers that be are betting that the card pitting Liddell, their light heavyweight champion, against Ortiz, their former poster boy who fell from grace after wanting too many slices of a pie that was smaller than he thought, will do bang-up business. What constitutes bang-up business, you might ask?
Maybe, like, 250,000 people might pony up for this thing?
Is that what you’re guessing?
Because while you know this sport is on the upswing, and you’re aware that the reality show on Spike has been a success, and that you’ve heard some people in boxing refer to the fact that boxing is on the decline and MMA is picking up the slack, if you’re thinking, a quarter mill, you are off.
Bigtime off, like “weapons off mass destruction are a slam dunk,” off.
Try 1.2 million.
That’s the PPV magic number UFC bigs, like president Dana White, are theorizing they could get for the card which pits Liddell against Ortiz for the second time (Ortiz succumbed to Liddell’s destructive hands in the second round of their 2004 encounter).
And what’s the big deal about 1.2, you say, you query-crazy interrogator, you?
Well, no boxing PPV card in 2006 went over a million buys. Oscar De La Hoya’s beatdown of the bullying Nicaraguan Ricardo Mayorga in May did 925,000. That was the highest figure among boxing, MMA and the WWE juggernaut, which is also smarting from the siphoning of their fans and their fans’ discretionary PPV fundage. For comparison, know that the record for buys in this arena is 1.99 million—Christ, let’s just round up, shall we, the 2 million people who paid to watch Tyson/Holyfield II in 1997. White, who clambered his way up from working as a hotel bellman in Boston in the late 80s to be the public face of the UFC hierarchy, thinks Saturday’s card can approach the record for boxing in the non-heavyweight category: 1.4 million buys for De La Hoya/Trinidad in 1999.
I recently called White, and asked him how he views the MMA/UFC vs. Boxing matchup.
“I picture a scene with UFC chasing after Boxing, looking to clamp down on Boxing with a rear naked choke,” I said to White, who with the brothers Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta has marshaled a sport on life support into the sports growth story of the decade. “How close are you guys to catching boxing?”
“We’ve already choked them out,” White said, chuckling. “Boxing and the WWE, too. My opinion is, once Oscar is gone, boxing’s in a lot of trouble, unless another star breaks soon, which I don’t see coming.”
White is confident that the 37-year-old Liddell, who he cheerily admits looks like a serial killer (with those prominent ears and that Mohawk) and the former UFC light heavyweight titlist, the 31-year-old Ortiz (with whom he’s sparred with verbally in bitter fashion after heated contract talks a few years back) will surpass the 925,00 mark for ODLH/Mayorga.
“We’ll be the top dog once Oscar leaves,” he said.
White, age 35, is not a standard issue CEO sort who is trained to underpromise and overdeliver.
He’s unafraid of combat, be it literal (he and Ortiz were set to glove up and box, but that’s been postponed for a spell) or figurative (he’ll provide inflammatory, pull-quote-ready fare on a moment’s notice to a reporter). And his backstory fits snugly with many of the fighters in his organization—he could have settled into an unexceptional middle-class existence, but he stepped it up, ramped up his desire and ambitions, and now has arrived financially and as a cultural treeshaker. So if you haven’t delved into his story, or his sport, you will have more opportunities to do in 2007. Showtime will run their first MMA show on Feb. 10, featuring Renzo Gracie against Frank Shamrock. And HBO is dipping its big toe in the warm waters in 2007, and will run four MMA programs.
So, an obvious question is, is boxing backpedaling, on the ropes, sagging, with jellied legs and unfocused eyes? Or is boxing the survivor specialist, rope-a-doping for a spell while it catches its breath and waits (prays?) for a second wind?
I’m not in the camp that cries persistently about the deterioration of boxing.
Yes, the sport is relegated to cable and thus misses penetrating 15% of people who own TVs but don’t have cable. And HBO has about 30 million subscribers, and Showtime has about 14 million, so there are a lot of houses that aren’t set up to easily tune in to the premium fight fare available day to day. And thus boxing is allowing potential new fans to latch on to other combat sports every day because it is absent from free-TV, a situation which anyone who might want to make a living in this business for a few decades might want to attend to…But do not shed tears for boxing, no way, not when Oscar might be picking up $25 million to fight Floyd next year.
So yes, let’s look at the bottom line here: money, great gobs of it in fact, is still being made by some boxers, and people in the boxing business. But some gobs are going elsewhere now, and that fact must be acknowledged. Any media outlet with their head not in their arse did a piece on UFC in ‘06, and I predict that next year we’ll see a UFC athlete on the cover of both ESPN The Magazine and Sports Illustrated. OK, so I’m not Jon Landau, but here’s my version of "I saw rock and roll's future, and its name is Bruce Springsteen.”
MMA is here to stay, in a big way, and it’s getting bigger, and anyone who doesn’t see this fact must acquaint themselves with the product if they want to stay current, or risk looking like a Discman in a world of iPods.
He looked positively geriatric against Larry Donald at Madison Square Garden.
Donald, no Hall of Fame talent, made The Real Deal look like a done deal.
At that point, we all waited for some years to pass, so we could install Holyfield, with his undersized body and supersized heart, into the Boxing Hall of Fame.
But the man persevered, and let some nagging injuries heal, and lo and behold, he’s a win away from getting a crack at a belt. He’s 44 years old, and were he to pull off this an improbable feat, and win a heavyweight title for the fifth occasion, the praise heaped on the Christian warrior would be unrelenting.
While we’re on the subject of perseverance, however, it is unfortunate that I must report some people who did business with the promoter Holyfield aligned himself with in his last outing, Murad Muhammad, are being forced to persevere in their quest to get paid what they were promised. In fact, Holyfield himself may have been misled by the promoter, as a source tells TSS that the boxer hasn’t received the bulk of his purse for the bout.
On November 10, Holyfield won a unanimous decision against 33-year-old Fres Oquendo (26-4) in San Antonio. Against Oquendo, Holyfield (40-8-2, 26 KOs) didn’t look great, but he looked more than acceptable for a 44-year-old.
He’d agreed to a $2 million purse for the bout, which was presented on pay-per-view by Fox Sports Net. The card was available for $44.95, but despite what Barnum said, there weren’t enough suckers available to make much of a dent towards paying Holyfield’s purse.
Really, it doesn’t take an especially sharp mind to comprehend that putting Holyfield (who had just fought on free TV two months before) on a PPV offering might not be the right course of action. In fact, no more than 40,000 people bought the card on PPV, a source close to the promotion tells TSS.
Muhammad, Holyfield’s representative, likely will derive around $500,000 when the PPV take is tallied and paid out. If he was hoping that a strong live gate would bail him out, he thought wrong. (Note: Typically, the local cable systems take around 60% for providing the platform to show the event, and for promoting it. Then the fight promoter and the distributing network, which in this case was Fox, split the other 40% or so of the pie. In this case, a source tells TSS that Muhammad enjoyed something like a 70/30 split of the remaining 40% of revenue generated.)
The San Antonio Express News said that an estimated 4,000 people paid to get in to the Alamodome on fight night, and about 6,000 were allowed in for free. That, in an arena built to seat about 23,000 people for an event of this sort, or more than 35,000 if an upper deck is put to use, was a woeful turnout.
The Nov. 10 gate probably netted Muhammad $400,000, the paper said. Again, common sense would indicate that perhaps many Texans’ desire to see the Real Deal in the flesh may have been sated by his appearance in Dallas, a scant two months earlier. Also, there was no advertising for the event started until two weeks before the card.
It is assumed that Muhammad also took in some monies for international TV rights and sponsorships, which may have brought him another $200,000. Those revenue streams add up to perhaps $1,400,000. Considering Holyfield was supposed to get $2 million, Muhammad is in the red right there, without factoring in payments to the other fighters and other miscellany expenses, which likely total another $400,000-500,000.
TSS called Muhammad’s office and left a message on afternoon of Dec. 27 to delve in to specifics on the matter, and allow the promoter to have his say, but Muhammad didn’t respond.
We also know the boxers, such as undercard fighters Oscar Diaz and Golden Johnson, were given checks for their performances that bounced. Subsequently, however, they were compensated properly almost a week after the event. And Oquendo’s promoter, Lou DiBella, is still playing the waiting game.
He fronted Oquendo most his $100,000 purse, as Muhammad promised the former head of HBO boxing that he’d pay him back ASAP. It hasn’t happened, and DiBella is irked.
“Murad scammed me,” he said to TSS. DiBella told TSS that he’d give Muhammad a bit more time to make good, as he’s been assured by one of Muhammad’s associates that payment would be arriving in a timely fashion, but his patience, he said, is wearing thin.
Soon, he says, he will sic lawyers on Muhammad to recover the $85,000 the promoter owes him. He may have to stand in line behind Holyfield himself, though, if the fighter is indeed waiting on the majority of his promised purse.
The fighters and DiBella weren’t the only people involved with the promotion who were touched by Muhammad’s financial distress. The Radisson Downtown Market Square in San Antonio is still waiting to get paid for rooms they rented to Muhammad for use during the show, to the tune of about $25,000. The GM of the facility, David DeSimone, told TSS that he didn’t want to talk about the specifics of the matter, but did acknowledge that Muhammad hasn’t paid up, and said “it has become a legal matter.”
It didn’t have to be this way.
In the first leg of his comeback, Holyfield was being advised by Texas event marketer Lester Bedford, who advised him to set up his own promotional entity, so he could run the show the way he saw fit, and not be reduced to ticket-selling cameos to pad out big-named promoters’ cards.
Holyfield responded to that wisdom, but allowed a boxing neophyte named George Hutson* (see Aug. 26 TSS piece by Woods for more on Hutson) representing a Texas law firm, to head up the business side of Real Deal Events.
As Hutson took over more and more control of Holyfield’s career resurrection, Bedford was shunted aside, and Holyfield’s choices worsened noticeably. Instead of taking incremental steps to rebuild his credibility, as Bedford advised, Holyfield leapt right from journeyman Jeremy Bates on Aug. 18 to awkward vet Fres Oquendo. Instead of pursuing a slow, steady buildup to rebuild Holyfield’s aura, Hutson listened to Muhammad, who talked up Holyfield’s PPV potential.
Muhammad had come on the scene during the Bates promotion, and worked to dislocate Bedford from the mix. He succeeded, and Bedford was told that his services were no longer needed. His realistic outlook, and years of expertise in the field were jettisoned, and Hutson relied instead on Muhammad. Bedford, in a heated back-and-forth with Hutson after the Bates fight, warned Hutson that Muhammad’s business record wasn’t free from controversy; he had been sued for $33 million by Manny Pacquaio in 2005, and had been forced to settle the case with an $800,000 settlement check.
Hutson didn’t heed the warning.
But the point was soon made moot, because not long after that, Hutson himself was dislodged from the scene. As the Holyfield/Oquendo promotion heated up, he became more and more scarce, and Muhammad’s persona was front and center.
As of Dec. 27, it looks like Hutson is no longer associated with Bond, Hunt & French, and all calls to his line are redirected to a partner in the firm. TSS called the law firm, and left a message with one of the partners to determine if Hutson was still an employee at the firm, but didn’t hear back.
After Holyfield and Oquendo battled, Muhammad went on the record as saying that he’d like to see Holyfield fight Wladimir Klitschko, and that he would hand Klitschko $20 million for the task of bludgeoning the aged warrior. There was no interest shown by Team Klitschko, which some might find surprising. After all, that sort of payday for a simple demolition job seems enticing on the outside. But if Klitschko were interested, where would Muhammad, who’d just written a bunch of bad checks, come up with any up front money if he weren’t able to pay DiBella what he owed him? Or the Radisson?
But then again, Holyfield could be waiting to get paid himself. TSS has been told that Holyfield was paid an advance of $250,000 and has lawyers looking into securing the remaining $1,750,000. TSS has been unable to confirm this development.
On Dec. 28, TSS contacted the Texas boxing commission, and was put in touch with spokesman Jeff Hill.
Hill said that the commission has forwarded complaints on bounced checks to an enforcement division, which will gather the facts in the case. Muhammad did have to post a bond in order to maintain a license to promote in Texas, but that is a modest $10,000. That bond wouldn’t do much to make a dent into Holyfield’s purse, for sure, and if other persons or businesses are owed money by Muhammad from the bout, money from the bond will be distributed on a pro rata basis.
As of now, Muhammad still holds his license to promote in Texas, and the whole process of gathering facts, and of holding a hearing that will provide a ruling on whether or not Muhammad acted improperly, will likely take months, Hill said.
Bottom line—if there is one vocation where a man deserves honest pay for an honest effort, it’s boxing.
So c’mon, Murad, do what you have to do, within the bounds of the law, and make good on your IOUs. Presumably, you still want to take part in this business that you have graced with your presence for parts of four decades. Making good on your debts will enable you to keep in the game.
Evander, I’m certain that there is a line in the Bible that talks about loyalty, and not being swayed by promises of excessive riches, but that is your department, not mine. But Evander, if for no other reason than to keep your legacy from being further tarnished, please be aware of the entirety of this financial quagmire that threatens to drag you down by association.
Durelle's wife, Theresa, told the Toronto Star, "He's in serious, serious condition. We're praying and hoping for the best. That's all we can do"
Born Oct. 14, 1929, Durelle was one of 14 children who grew up in Baie-Ste-Anne, a small Acadian fishing village in New Brunswick, which earned him the nom de guerre the Fighting Fisherman.
Durelle turned pro in 1948 and proved he was a man who could box as well as punch, but he was a very hard man, an almost impossible man, to knock out. Durelle won the Canadian middleweight championship in 1953. In 1954 he had his first fight outside Canada, traveling all the way to Brooklyn, New York to fight an up-and-coming young panther named Floyd Patterson. Durelle lost that bout by decision, but he opened a lot of eyes and was suddenly ranked in the top-ten.
Durelle won the British Empire light heavyweight championship in 1957 and defended three times, setting up the bout for which he is best known, the Dec. 10, 1958 challenge at the Forum in Montreal, Quebec, for Archie Moore's light heavyweight title. A 4-1 underdog going into the fight with the wily Old Mongoose, Durelle dropped the champ three times in the first round, shocking not just Archie, not just the world, but all of Canada.
After the fight, Moore described the first knockdown: œThe first thing I remember was I heard the number five and I saw [referee] Jack Sharkey's big mouth as he leaned over me, counting. I knew I had to get to my feet. I felt as if the top of my head was blown off. I walked the street of dreams.?
Moore not only walked the street of dreams, he fought the street of dreams, and with his tight defense and wizened ring generalship, Arch, although he was dropped again in the fifth, snuck his way back into the fight, battled his way back into the fight, to eventually wear down and KO the Fighting Fisherman in round 11.
In 1959 Durelle lost to Moore in a rematch via the KO route in the third. Also that year, Durelle lost a 12-rounder to Canadian heavyweight champion George Chuvalo, before finally winding it down and calling it quits after 117 fights.