On a conference call to hype his Nov. 10 showdown with Shane Mosley at Madison Square Garden, Cotto (30-0, 25 KOs) put forth a confident aura, as he asserted that Mosley will feel his power in NY, and that he will do anything necessary to insure victory.
The call came a day after Shane’s father and trainer, Jack Mosley, spewed some provocative fodder at Cotto. He called Cotto a dirty fighter, a boxer who always aims for the groin when he gets in trouble. He also insinuated that Cotto or his promoter, Top Rank, had something to do with the release of specifics on Mosley’s use of performance enhancing drugs prior to his 2003 bout with Oscar De La Hoya. Not done there, the elder Mosley said he’s seen fear in Cotto’s eyes, and alleged that the boxer, nine-plus years younger than SSM, is running scared.
Cotto didn’t seem scared on the call, and his promoter, Arum, said that he was giddy when he heard Papa Jack talkin’ smack.
“The comments were music to my ears,” Arum said. “I heard the same music a month ago with Kelly Pavlik before his fight with Jermain Taylor. That’s music to my ears in the case of Emanuel Steward and Jermain Taylor and Jack and Shane. They’re afraid, they knew the kind of fighter Pavlik is. They say those things to demean fighters, to get their fighter more confident. They’re worried…Jack is worried about Shane’s confidence. Shane’s fought a whole host of easy opposition, and I’ve never heard Jack demean an opponent, never before heard Emanuel demean an opponent.”
Cotto answered the dirty fighter charge.
“I’m a fighter,” he said. “I have to do what I have to do to win. I have to do things like in the Judah fight that wasn’t on purpose.” Was or wasn’t, I asked? “It was not on purpose,” he reiterated.
The steroid tipoff scandal is no scandal, Arum then said.
“That’s preposterous,” he said. “That took place a year prior, it was grand jury testimony from a year ago. The idea that we had anything to do with it is absurd.”
Arum said he thinks Shane is a clean fighter, and that he considers the steroid angle a non-issue.
But Cotto, if I didn’t know better, tossed in a sly reference to Shane’s admitted usage of steroids, which he’s said were given to him unknowingly before the second bout with ODLH.
Asked about what his advantages were against Mosley, Cotto said, “I always train pretty good. I go into the fight with my own energy, that’s an advantage I have over Mosley.”
Cotto scored a verbal body blow when he brought up the age thing. Mosley is 36 (he turned on Sept. 7), while Cotto just turned 27 on Monday.
“I was more worried about Zab Judah (than Mosley),” he said. “I don’t think at the age of 36 he can handle Miguel Cotto. Zab was more dangerous than Shane.”
One writer put forth the theory that Mosley is bigger than Cotto, and Cotto put the kibosh on that reasoning.
“Mosley is coming from 135 pounds, I’m coming from 140 pounds, who is bigger here?” he asked rhetorically.
Cotto very nearly admitted that he will target the privates if need be, at one point.
“Whatever it takes to get a win, I will do it,” he said. “This is professional fighting, you do what it takes to win.”
SPEEDBAG Cotto’s list of sparring mates is pretty strong. Henry Crawford, Randall Bailey, Henry Bruseles and Hicklet Lau have been eating left hooks to the body in camp.
--I love Arum’s saltiness. A writer asked three questions on the call in rapid fire, and Arum told his PR man, Lee Samuels, to nix that practice. That’s a pet peeve of mine. One question, sure, two, alright, but anything beyond that is veering toward piggishness. Same goes for getting in queue twice on a call, when you darn well know other writers are waiting to ask a question. Doesn’t matter if someone is from a small paper, or a smaller website…no one writer should think his piece is so much more important than everyone else’s that they monopolize a call. Let’s play nice, people, and give everyone a chance.
--Arum cut off another writer who tried to debate Cotto on the size matter. Cotto said Mosley is coming from 135, not down from 154. The writer didn’t agree and started to speak up, when Arum took out the machete and ended the debate. Salty!
“I can’t wait for this fight to happen,” Mosley said on a Tuesday conference call to hype his Nov. 10 showdown with Miguel Cotto at Madison Square Garden in New York City, a match that the promoter Oscar De La Hoya referred to as the probable “fight of the year.”
That assessment, which is an interesting slight to the Dec. 8 Floyd Mayweather/Ricky Hatton bout, also overseen by Golden Boy, is shared by a large faction of fight fans.
They’re curious to see how the young gun Cotto, with his sledgehammering bullishness, will fare against the slickest boxer he’s every faced, Mosley. Will the combo-tossing vet, at 36, age overnight, as fast as you can say “TKO stoppage, round eight,” though we all concede he has rebounded nicely from a down period in 2005/2005 when it looked like maybe packing it in would be for the best.
Mosley’s dad, Jack, played the role of s--- stirrer, accusing Cotto of being scared to fight his son, of hitting low on purpose, and of being in concert with that person or persons who tried to re-dredge Mosley’s BALCO/performance enhancing-drugs-usage dirty laundry.
The father, who got kicked to the curb as trainer and mentor in 2005, supposedly caught in a triangle with Mosley’s wife, said his son is back to where he was, speedwise.
“He’s getting his speed back to where it used to be,” the father said. “It fell off when he was lifting weights and things, his slow twitch muscles.”
The 27-year-old Cotto is “not as fast, does not hit as hard, is not as strong as Shane,” the father said, in an assertion that may well be only 33% correct. We’ll see come Nov. 10.
“Shane is too powerful for Cotto,” he stated.
“Cotto is worried sick at fighting Shane, just look at his eyes,” he said.
I wanted to follow up on that statement, but some members of the media sometimes tend to monopolize these calls, asking two, three, four questions at a time, as though they are the only ones on the call, and nobody else wants to file.
“Cotto might have some jitters,” he said. “The title of the promotion is Fast and Furious, and that fits Shane. Cotto’s worried about fighting Shane. They think age is a factor, it’s not a factor at all.”
If that is so, a vigorous tip of the cap must go to Jack and his son, and his son’s superior genetic makeup. Shane stated on the call that he’s going all organic, supplement free for this fight, and he’s feeling groovy, clean and mean.
To be certain, Mosley hasn’t looked close to the end of the road in recent outings, whatever fuel may have been propelling him. He suffered back to back losses to pound-for-pounder Winky Wright in 2005, and was underwhelming as he tried to figure out his weight class and training regimen in 2005 in wins over solid vets David Estrada and Jose Luis Cruz. It’s debatable how much stock a fan or analyst should put into back to back wins over Fernando Vargas in 2006, but anyone and everyone has to be impressed with the Mosley who took a UD12 from Luis Colazzo, ten years his junior, in February.
The Mosleys tried mightily to remind, or convince, writers that SSM has heavy in his fists, too. And he does have 37 stops in 44 gloveups, yes. But SSM has just two stops, both coming against Vargas, in his last 11 beefs. My subjective injection of two cents here: SSM does not have equal pop to Cotto, who has 25 stops in 30 pro matches.
But again, on Nov. 10 we’ll see whose claims play out, and whose retain the credibility of the denials of a Republican Senator caught in a public bathroom stall playin’ footsie.
Mosley isn’t portraying this tussle as the be all, end all. The first match with Oscar De La Hoya—he won that one, SD12, in June 2000, he said, and his first title win, against Philip Holiday, in 1997, both rank higher in importance for SSM.
The California-based vet didn’t really duck questions about BALCO, but was he able to deflect the question or sidestep it with credibility?
Mosley has admitted publicly that he took designer steroids, unknowingly, before his second fight with De La Hoya, in 2003. A month ago, SI.com laid out specifics on Mosley’s usage, stating that he took designer steroids, and a hormone used to artificially boost one’s red blood cell count, and thus, one’s stamina.
Mosley countered that he’d been misled on the substances he took by Victor Conte, the man who ran a “sports nutrition center” in California, which was shut down by authorities. Conte went to prison on a steroid distribution rap.
Mosley’s dad insinuated that the rehashed allegations on his son’s use of banned substances surfaced via Team Cotto “because of insecurity.”
Mosley looked to close the steroid issue by labeling the usage of the ‘roids, which he was “basically tricked into” using, as a “disadvantage.”
“I don’t see it as a hindrance to my reputation, I’m a standup guy,” he said.
The father tossed his own allegation, that every time Cotto gets buzzed, he throws a low blow. SSM, though, tried to minimize his father’s slap, and offered that maybe Cotto went south because he was “woozy” and “blurry.”
“I don’t buy that low blow thing,” he said, disputing his father’s theory.
Mosley is typically a gentleman sort, who steers clear of personal attacks leading in to fights. Maybe some astute readers can delve into their memory banks, and share with us if Jack Mosley has gone this route of trash-talking before. Is he trying to get into Cotto’s head, fire up his son?
SPEEDBAG SSM would still like a crack at PBF, who he says is ducking him whenever the subject comes up.
--Twice Jack Mosley brought up his son’s fine performance against Wilfredo Rivera. Is that pertinent? SSM was jumping from 135 to 147 in one fell swoop…but it happened back in 1999.
---Ole Jack was in fine form, with his sharpest stick poking into the hornet’s nest. He said that Cotto would be one of the smallest guys his son has fought in awhile.
--Shane said he’s pumped, as his son Shane Jr. is contemplating jumping into fighting with both feet. Interesting, as so much of the time fighters tend to steer their kids away from their vocation, towards less violent pursuits.
--Cotto will have more on his plate than he did against Zab Judah, who SSM said has less disciplined in rennet years, and is prone to throwing one punch at a time after petering out in the second third of a fight. “I’m not up from 140 pounds, like most guys Cotto’s beaten or stopped,” he said.
Margarito (34-5, 24 KO’s), of Tijuana, Mexico will take on Golden Johnson (25-7, 18 KO’s) as part of the well stacked under card. Johnson, the NABF Welterweight champion, is coming off a quality TKO win over Oscar Diaz and should make things somewhat complicated for the hard brawling Mexican.
The question is, what happened to Paul Williams? Williams took a close decision over Margarito and relocated the WBO belt to his waist. You’d think a rematch would be the first thing on Margarito’s mind after such a close loss.
“I wanted the rematch against Williams immediately but Bob (Arum) decides what we do,” said Margarito. “Paul Williams will be there down the road and if his people want to make a fight then we’ll do it again.”
Margarito and manager Sergio Diaz realize that a fight against Cotto is the smartest wager on the table.
“If we can get a chance at Cotto we’re going to take it,” said Diaz. “We’d be crazy not to. Paul Williams was a tough fight and we’d like to eventually face him again. It was a very close fight.”
And you can bet that the folks at Top Rank promotions are praying for Cotto and Margarito victories. The Mexico vs. Puerto Rico rivalry lends itself to an easily promotable and very lucrative Pay Per View event.
“We know that some of the greatest fights are fought between Mexican and Puerto Rican fighters,” said Margarito. “I’m hoping Cotto wins since I think the fight will be big in Mexico and Puerto Rico. It’s a passionate rivalry.”
Margarito was anointed as the most avoided man in the welterweight division by himself and some in the media, a claim further fueled by #1 Pound for Pound king, Floyd Mayweather Jr., when he reportedly turned down an eight million dollar offer to tangle with the “Tijuana Tornado”.
Never at a loss for great quotes, promoter Bob Arum still believes Mayweather didn’t want anything to do with Margarito or anyone else with a shot at beating him.
“I think the question should be phrased differently. Would Floyd Mayweather, the dancing star, ever face Cotto or Shane Mosley?” said Arum when questioned on the subject. “Mayweather would never fight Margarito or any of these guys so forget Floyd Mayweather. He can keep throwing away hundred dollar bills at night clubs or whatever he does.”
In the meantime, Margarito prepares for Johnson in Los Angeles under the watchful eye of conditioning coach Javier Capetillo and sees his loss to Williams as a lesson that will ultimately benefit him.
“I think that the loss to Paul Williams was a mixed blessing,” said Margarito. “Some of the better fighters will think I’m more beatable now and I’ll get the fights I want.”
For now, Golden Johnson remains the target.
“He’s a smart and experienced fighter. It’s not an easy fight by any means,” said Margarito. “That’s why I’m going to come in at a hundred percent so there will be no surprises.”
This is Margarito’s big chance. He’s been working at it since he was sixteen years old when he had his first pro fight in Tijuana. Now he’s one win away from a big pay per view showdown.
“It’s all about the sacrifices,” said the twenty-nine-year old.
“Eventually all the sacrifices pay off. I’ve been waiting since I was sixteen. I have to win this fight to make everything I’ve dreamed of happen.”
Although he’d rather see the Puerto Rican as the winner, he wants an opportunity at either man.
“Cotto or Mosley. I hope the winner will give me a shot,” said Margarito. “If it’s Mosley, then great. I know he‘s got an excellent shot at winning but naturally I’d like to see Cotto win.”
Of course it should be Paul Williams in this position. But this is boxing and what makes sense isn’t always what happens. And let’s not forget that Mosley and Johnson could realistically alter any plans for a Mexico vs. Puerto Rico showdown.
“I know that could happen and I’m aware of it but all I can do is my part and show up in the best condition possible,” said Margarito. “Everything else is in God’s hands.”
The Margarito/Johnson fight will come on before the Cotto/Mosley main event from Madison Square Garden in New York City. Also on the under-card will be former world champion Joel Casamayor vs. Jose Armando Santa Cruz in a lightweight clash. Opening up the H.B.O. Pay Per View will be Oxnard’s rising prospect, Victor Ortiz, taking on former Junior Welterweight champion Carlos Maussa of Colombia.
Ring Bytes: Former superflyweight champion Martin Castillo took a ten round unanimous decision over Johnathan Perez in a decent performance on Friday night in Chicago. I don't think "Gallito" is back to his former self yet but he's making some progress. The word is that he'll fight Jorge "Travieso" Arce next. That's going to be a tough one for Castillo. His fans hope he hope he can get into the same mode he was in before he first defeated current WBA titlist Alexander Munoz when he looked like a virtuoso in the ring.
The bout, which is arguably the most important of the year, is expected to attract as many as 60,000 fans.
“According to a lot of people, this is the biggest historical boxing event in European history,” said the 50-year-old Ortega, a resident of New Haven, Connecticut, who is the son of welterweight boxing legend Gaspar Ortega.
“To be part of this is a tremendous honor.”
Ortega last saw ring action in early October, when he refereed the heavyweight title bout between Samuel Peter and Jameel McCline at Madison Square Garden.
Prior to that fight he spent a lot of time at his friend Dennis Hill’s martial arts academy in Connecticut. He wanted to put in some extra preparation because those fighters had a combined weight of over 500 pounds.
“I knew I’d be dealing with two big guys, so I worked on stuff like breaking up clinches,” he said.
For Calzaghe-Kessler, Ortega has viewed lots of footage of the fighters, especially in their most recent fights. He actually has already worked one of Calzaghe’s 20 title defenses, against Juan Carlos Giminez Ferreyra in Wales in April 1998.
Ortega realizes that fighters can change over the years. Having been a world class referee since 1996, he has come to expect the unexpected.
For that reason he has spent much of the past few weeks at the Town of Hamden gym, working on his fundamentals.
“I always study the fighters I’m going to work with so I know their tendencies,” he said. “I’ll go up in the ring and work on my mechanics, such as moving backwards or going side by side.”
While he is not speaking specifically about Calzaghe and Kessler, he says some fighters might be prone to hit on the break, hit behind the head, or come out of their neutral corner too early.
“I try to break it down early, so I have an idea in my head what to expect,” he said. “I’ll go in the dressing room and say I know you like to do this, but…..”
While Ortega is much too professional to offer any opinions on the Calzaghe-Kessler matchup, he does say that when a southpaw like Calzaghe fights a conventional boxer like Kessler it is necessary to closely monitor the fighters’ footwork.
“”You always have to be in position to pick up (observe) an accidental trip,” he said. “You have to be able to see if the knockdown was clean or if it was a slip. It’s easy for fighters to trip when a lefty fights a righty.”
Ortega, who is in peak physical condition, says that by the end of an active 12 round bout he is more mentally than physically exhausted.
“You have to have total concentration in there,” he said. “Not just during the action, but even between rounds. Sometimes a fighter might be hurt and want to quit, but his corner will be convincing him to go out for another round. If that’s the case, I need to know that.”
Like all of the good referees, Ortega makes a very difficult job look extremely easy. Although he engaged in only one amateur fight, he has been around boxing all of his life.
As a youngster he would accompany his father to the gym on a regular basis. In order to keep the youngster out of the way of boxers in serious training, Gaspar would tell his son to go in the ring and shadow box if the ring was empty.
If no one was using the heavy or speed bags, he’d tell him to go play with them. As a result, Ortega might not be conventionally or classically trained but he feels very comfortable in the ring.
“As a kid the ring and the gym was like a playpen for me,” he said. ‘I grew up in the ring, so I was never intimidated by it. Not even now, when I’m doing bigger fights in front of bigger crowds with major titles on the line.”
Besides his father, who is now 72 with his mental faculties intact, Ortega was mentored by esteemed referees Joe Cortez and Arthur Mercante Jr., as well as the late Chuck Minker, the former head of the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
Ortega remembers attending a convention with those officials, as well as great referees like Carlos Padilla and Richard Steele.
“Chuck (Minker) told me you are among the cream of the crop,” recalled Ortega. “He told me to stay close, to listen and watch, and that some day I’d be in the same class as them.”
To say that Cortez is like family to the Ortega’s would be an understatement. When Gaspar first came to New York from Mexico at the age of 18 in the early fifties, he lived in Spanish Harlem. It was there that he met Joe and his brother Mike, both of whom went on to become New York City Golden Gloves champions.
“They came from a broken home and were running wild on the streets,” said Ortega. “My father couldn’t speak any English, and Joe liked the way he talked. Joe became my dad’s interpreter and my dad, who had turned pro at 15, took Joe under his wing.”
Not only did Gaspar get the Cortez brothers involved in boxing, he and his wife were given permission by Cortez’s mother to raise Joe in their home. Joe was like a big brother to Mike, who is 14 years his junior.
He was also Mike’s best man at his wedding and is the godfather to his children, Miguel, who along with Ortega’s wife Suzette will accompany him to Wales, Joseph, who is named after Cortez, and Gabriella.
“He’s showed me so much, taught me so much, really showed me the ropes,” said Ortega. “When people tell me my style is like is, it is a great compliment.”
Among the many championship caliber fighters that Ortega has officiated are Jermain Taylor, Acelino Freitas, Sultan Ibragimov, Antonio Tarver, Paul Malignaggi, Evander Holyfield, Diego Corrales and Zab Judah.
While he won’t comment on any of them personally or professionally, he admires them all for the dangerous and daunting work they do. He is especially in awe of the hard work they put forth to reach the championship level.
Because Ortega works by day as a maintainer for the Town of Hamden Parks and Recreation Department, he is asked if officiating is a vocation or a hobby.
“A hobby is like stamp collecting, where no one is going to get hurt,” he responded. “Being a referee is a part-time job that requires full-time preparation. I’ve seen what can happen to fighters, so I take my job very seriously. If a fight should be stopped I will stop it. I won’t allow someone to take a needless beating.”
That, he says, is why it is so important to prepare so hard for every fight. Even when Samuel Peter was dropped several times early on by McCline, Ortega never panicked. He let Peter continue, and Peter went on to win the fight by unanimous decision.
“You have to watch very closely, every second of the bout,” said Ortega. “There is no time to take a breather in there. You have someone’s life, as well as their career at stake.”
As chaotic as the atmosphere will be on Saturday in Wales, in the hours before the main event Ortega will find a quiet place to be by himself and say a prayer. He’ll pray for “swiftness of foot and sharpness of eyes.”
Most importantly, he says, he’ll pray to keep the fighters he’ll be working, as well as all other fighters, safe.
“A lot of spiritual preparation goes into this work, too,” said Ortega. “I always try to do my best and pray to not be afraid to make the right decision. Every fighter deserves a fair shake to advance their career and help their families. But the last thing I would want is to see a fighter get hurt.
“When you are in that ring, you can’t be intimidated by the fighters or the crowd or the television networks.”
Although Ortega will be working too hard to actually enjoy what many people believe will be the fight of the year, having just turned 50 in early October he says that being the referee for it is the greatest birthday present he could have received.
“I’m going to Wales, which is one of the most beautiful places in the world, with my family and working a really important fight,” said Ortega. “What a great way to celebrate my birthday.”
With the busiest month for professional boxing approaching Southern California-based fighters are ignoring the ring of fires in San Diego, Valencia, Malibu, Lake Arrowhead and Santiago.
Martin Castillo, the former junior bantamweight world champion, was busy working out in various gyms in the Los Angeles area. Last Friday he beat the rugged and slightly dirty Jonathan Perez in a 10-round bout in Cicero, Illinois. The Mexico City native looked fresh after eight rounds then seemed to take a safety-first approach. It’s been said he’s in line for a fight against WBC titleholder Cristian Mijares. Castillo tends to cut badly after every fight. He was very careful in this fight, preferring to fight outside while Perez repeatedly tried to rope him in with one arm every time the Mexican fighter was close.
Giovani Segura, the junior flyweight contender, trained at Azteca Boxing Club in Bell. Though the area is more than 40 miles from any fire the constant wind and smoke covered the entire Southern California sky with an orange cloud cover. It definitely was not good to breathe. But Segura wasn’t tested by his opponent Wilfrido Valdez. After getting tagged a few times by the Colombian the Acapulco native countered with a single left hook to the liver and down went Valdez for the count.
Maybe the California-based fighters prefer bad air quality.
Jorge “Raton” Paez, the son of the popular Jorge “Maromero” Paez, trained in Montebello under the tutelage of Javier Capetillo. Previously all of Capetillo’s fighters trained in El Monte but the boxing teacher moved his army into Sergio Mora’s gym because of the lack of air conditioning. Capetillo prefers his guys to work up a sweat. Paez won his junior welterweight contest against Aaron Drake by unanimous decision. But he doesn’t look like a 140-pounder. It’s only going to get tougher for Paez despite the win. He looks more like a junior lightweight.
Also in Montebello is Antonio Margarito who’s anxious to return to the ring and save his place at the top of the welterweight list.
“I want to make sure I stay number one,” said Margarito, who fights veteran Golden Johnson at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 10. “I’ve been told I’m going to fight the winner of Shane Mosley and Miguel Cotto.”
Margarito looks in shape and much sharper than in his last fight against Paul Williams that he lost.
“It’s good for him so he doesn’t end up staying out of the ring so ling,” said Sergio Diaz, who co-manages Margarito.
The Tijuana resident says he learned his lesson from his last performance.
“I know now I started to late against Paul Williams. That’s why I want another fight to stay sharp,” Margarito said. “It doesn’t matter who wins the fight between Mosley and Cotto. I’m going to be concentrating on my fight with Golden Johnson. He’s a very smart fighter.”
Also training in Montebello were Jorge “El Travieso” Arce who is scheduled to fight Dec. 1, in New Mexico against Wyndel Janiola. If he wins, then it opens up the dance card for Arce to face a number of popular fighters.
Francisco “Panchito” Arce was also training in the same gym. Both are tutored by Capetillo. The younger brother is one of the hardest workers in the sport. If he had the same power then he would be a top tier fighter. But every opponent turns into a war.
Also in the gym were Isidro “Chino” Garcia and Alfredo Angulo. Garcia lost his last fight against Abner Mares in a heavier weight class and undefeated middleweight Angulo was said to be fighting undefeated James Kirkland. Both had sparred with Sergio Mora during the summer. But according to Angulo’s trainer Clemente Medina that fight is not taking place. A good thing, both should wait a awhile to build an audience.
Ortiz avoids car accident
Victor Ortiz drove past two major wildfires on his way from Oxnard to the Montebello Gym and almost ended in a car mishap while on the freeway. His brother was driving the car when the front left tire suffered a blowout and nearly tipped over. But the younger brother held the wheel and managed to keep the control under control. Inside the car were Victor, Robert Garcia and Javier Garcia.
“We were scared,” said Ortiz. “The first thing I thought was there goes my fight. But my brother kept control. That was a close one.”
Ortiz fights Carlos Maussa on the Nov. 10 card and the southpaw power-hitter has performed impressively with three consecutive knockouts include Joshua Clottey in his last fight.
It’s his first fight at Madison Square Garden.
“It’s just a boxing ring,” said Ortiz.
Bolo and Nightmare
Chris “The Nightmare” Arreola is preparing in the middle of two massive fires near his boxing gym in Riverside. The heavyweight contender meets Teke Oruh on Nov. 16 at St. Lucia.
Helping out with the sparring was none other than former foe Damon “Bolo” Wills who tangled with Arreola last year in Las Vegas. Both were undefeated at the time and Arreola emerged the winner. But it was clear that Wills has the fortitude to go on to success if he continues.
The pair of heavyweights sparred four rounds at the Lincoln Boxing Club and neither fighter held back though it was the first sparring session. It was a continuation of their fight a year ago and though not in condition, the punches and blows were furious. Uppercuts and left hooks by Wills and right hands and body shots by Arreola could probably be heard a block away.
“I think he still has animosity,” said Arreola who shook hands with Wills.
Both fighters are a California force.
Also working out was Josesito Lopez who had been scheduled to fight against New York’s impressive Darling Jimenez. But the East Coast fighter was unable to meet the commitment. Now Lopez faces Michigan’s Tyrone Harris on Friday in Washington. Both fighters hit hard. Look for a knockout. The fight will be shown on Showtime. Lopez recently signed a contract with both Thompson Boxing and Goossen-Tutor Promotions. The lightweight has improved greatly and is now ranked by the WBC.
Fernando “El Feroz” Vargas is scheduled to fight on Nov. 23, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles against Ricardo “El Matador” Mayorga. The former world champion from Oxnard was training near one of the first big fires in Valencia. No word on whether he moved his training camp or stayed in the smoke-filled area near Magic Mountain amusement park.
It’s going to be the last fight for one of the most popular fighters to ever come out of the Southern California area.
It rained on Saturday in Southern California, not a lot but just enough to hopefully slow up the massive fighters that surround the southern part of the state.
Mosley stayed in his Big Bear camp though the fire was running up the mountains about 10 miles west of his cabin.
Through fire and smoke the show must go on.
Just a prayer for those who lost their lives to the fires and those unable to return home. It was a tragic two weeks for thousands and thousands of people.
He is still best friends with Michael Spinks, who he took from being a 1976 Olympic gold medalist to the world light heavyweight championship. Under Lewis’s tutelage, Spinks also became the first light heavyweight champion to win the heavyweight title.
Spinks, who compiled a 31-1 (21 KOS) record between 1977 and 1988, scored the biggest of upsets when he broke the undefeated streak of long established heavyweight champion Larry Holmes in September 1985.
Had Holmes won, he would have improved his record to 49-0, which would have tied the record of Rocky Marciano, the only heavyweight champion to retire with an undefeated record.
Lewis was also the man behind Leon Spinks, Michael’s brother, who also won a gold medal at the 1976 Olympics, and scored a startling upset over Muhammad Ali in just his eighth pro fight to win the heavyweight crown in February 1978.
“There was no other team like us in boxing, ever,” proclaimed Lewis. “Not only did two brothers I handled win the heavyweight title, but Michael was the first light heavyweight champion to ever successfully fight for the heavyweight title. I’m very proud of that.”
Lewis and Michael are still tight. They recently attended a WBCares function together in Manhattan.
“Me and Slim (Michael), we’re like family,” said the 60-year-old Lewis. “He hasn’t thrown a punch in 20 years, but we are still the best of friends.”
Unfortunately, Lewis is not as friendly with Leon, who was as wild and unmanageable as Michael was thoughtful and introspective. He seems genuinely saddened when discussing Leon’s meteoric ascension and equally cataclysmic downfall.
“Leon was a challenge to manage, but he was not a mean, vicious person,” said Lewis. “He did things to hurt his career, but he would never hurt you, me or anyone else. He still pulled off one of the greatest upsets of all time when he beat Muhammad Ali. No one can ever take that away from him.”
Lewis loves both brothers, but says they are like night and day. “They are both great people,” he said. “They just had completely different personalities.”
Over the years, Lewis also managed or promoted Bernard Hopkins, long before anyone knew who the future middleweight champion was. But their relationship ended contentiously when Hopkins hurled a lot of ugly accusations at Lewis, none of which were ever proven.
“Nobody even knew Bernard’s name when I had him,” said Lewis. “He came to me after five pro fights, out of prison and totally broke. I took him to two shots at a title before he won one. Networks didn’t want to put him on TV because of his style, so I took money out of my pocket to put him on BET. I made him a commodity, and then he ditched me.”
(In Hopkins’s first shot at the vacant IBF middleweight title, he lost a unanimous decision to Roy Jones Jr. in May 1993. In his second attempt for the same vacant title, he was dropped twice and held to a draw by Segundo Mercado in December 1994. Four months later he stopped Mercado in the seventh round to win the crown).
At the time Lewis was part owner of the Black Entertainment Network (BET), which was later sold to Viacom. It was just one of many deals that helped Lewis amass his current fortune.
When Hopkins first went public with allegations, Lewis said he was brought to tears. “I took that mother to the top,” said Lewis. “And then I got the shaft.”
As the years passed, Lewis felt more and more vindicated as Hopkins accused nearly every promoter he ever dealt with of similar transgressions. Lou DiBella even won a hefty award after defending himself against allegations of dishonesty by Hopkins.
“Other people saw Bernard’s character down the line,” said Lewis. “People always accuse promoters of being greedy, but I didn’t put in eight years with him to not reap the benefits at the end.”
While much of Lewis’s relationship with Hopkins has been forgotten, his masterful handling of Michael Spinks’s career is a prototype for excellence. Although Michael defended the IBF title he won from Holmes twice (once against Holmes), he relinquished it rather than battle Tony Tucker for a $750,000 purse in an HBO heavyweight tournament.
Lewis opted to promote a bout himself between Michael and Gerry Cooney, which garnered millions for both participants. Not only did Lewis believe Michael would beat the much bigger Cooney, he knew that a victory would increase the value of a future fight between him and the then rampaging Mike Tyson.
“Boxing is a risk business, so we put our own money up for the Cooney fight,” explained Lewis. “Nothing was guaranteed. I had to talk like I walk, so Slim and I went on our own. After we beat Cooney, the floodgates opened for the Tyson fight. Everyone wanted to see it.”
In a pay-per-view extravaganza, Spinks stopped Cooney in five rounds, then fought Tyson for the unified titles, was stopped in one round, and never fought again.
Even though Spinks did not beat the mighty Tyson, Lewis still thinks his fighter went out on top. His purse was so hefty, the sensible Spinks could conceivably be living off the interest of that payday alone today.
“Look at Slim today,” said Lewis. “He’s sharp (mentally) and he’s happy. All he does is go to the bank and count his money everyday.”
Lewis currently handles Faruq “The Dream” Saleem, a 33-year-old heavyweight with a 37-0 (32 KOS) record. At 6’7”, Saleem is a physical specimen, but whether or not Lewis can make a champion out of him is yet to be seen.
Regardless of what happens in his future, Lewis, a onetime car dealer extraordinaire, is a content man.
“I’m a deal maker,” he said. ”I’m in the people business. Selling cars is a people business. Boxing is a people business. All sports is a people business. I represent a lot of people and I do a lot of deals.”
Doing deals is what keeps the immensely likeable Lewis going. It is what nurtures him and keeps him so youthful.
“People tell me I work hard, but I don’t feel like I work at all,” said Lewis, the father of four children and grandfather of five. “I don’t have to work hard to keep in shape because I have so much energy. I’m always running, but I’m doing what I love. When you do what you love, it’s not work.”
When asked if retirement is in his future, he looked at me incredulously.
“I’ll never retire,” he asserted. “I’ll be making deals and raising hell for a long time to come.”
JT hooked us up with some email trading, back and forth, to touch on where his head is at, post-loss.
Q) Please share your mindset now, as some time has passed since the loss. Are you eager to get back in with Pavlik and tear him up, get revenge?
(JT) "Well, let's just say I want to exercise my rematch and I'm very confident in a rematch. To be so close to winning the fight in the second round and not finishing was disappointment for me."
Q) Will the KO weigh on you mentally in a rematch? Possible that you could be gunshy, or are you over it?
(JT) "No, let's not forget Kelly got hit also and went down, I just didn't finish or close out the way I was suppose to. There have been a lot of great fighters and world champions that have been knockout and came back in a big way."
Q) How hard was it for you to make 160? Were you extremely weak?
(JT) "I did not have a problem making 160 at all, I was on schedule. I wasn't weak and I'm not making any excuses. I lost the fight."
Q) Will Emanuel Steward be back working with you? Are you leaning towards working with him again, or bringing back Pat, or someone else? Also, did Manny give you good advice that night? Didn't he tell you that you were losing?
(JT) "I will be gathering with my advisors very soon and will address my corner situation very soon. Right now I have been relaxing with my wife Erica and family, we are expecting are 3rd child in December and we are looking forward to a wonderful Christmas holiday."
Post Q and Analysis: A couple things stick out for me. One, I think Taylor is showing incredible class when he doesn’t cite his weight woes for the loss, and gives Pavlik full credit. Duh, his people put in the rematch clause that a sequel would be held at 166. They knew 160 was no longer feasible for him. But it seems as though he doesn’t want to make excuses for the loss. Standup guy.
Also, JT chose not to delve into the question about Manny’s work in the corner that night. Very skillful JT, turn it around and remind me that I’m a human being first, and reporter second, by mentioning the wife’s pregnancy. So we’ll have to see how the Manny stays or goes? Storyline plays out. What’s your guess, readers? Sayonara Steward? Or you think JT looked solid until he got caught, and he and Steward can regroup, and take down Pavlik?
There was talk that Pavlik would take an interim fight before Taylor and he gloved up for a sequel, but the interim option has been junked, as Taylor says he’s ready to get his revenge on the Youngstown hitter.
One hitch—-the middleweight title won’t be up for grabs in the rematch, which will likely take place around mid February, maybe in Las Vegas.
Instead, Taylor has conceded that he had no business, at age 29, trying to demand his body make 160 pounds, the self-same class he debuted at as a pro back in 2001. So he’s calling for the sequel to be fought at or under 166 pounds, and thus, no belt will be on the line. Unless, maybe Floyd Mayweather buys Boxing Digest magazine, and BD goes into the sanctioning body business.
TSS talked to Taylor’s promoter, Lou Dibella, and asked him if the absence of the belt diminishes the sequel somewhat.
“Jermain was such a good champion, he would’ve moved up to 168 pounds, but he insisted that he stay there and give Kelly a chance,” Dibella said. “I don’t think it matters at all that the middleweight title isn’t on the line. It was a sensational fight. We’re not doing this because we don’t want a sanctioning body not to get paid. But Taylor is a big guy, not as young as Pavlik, 166 makes more sense. You can make the argument that belts are less relevant these days, but this isn’t being done to diminish the belt.”
Dibella gives Taylor props for sticking at 160 to give the 25-year-old Pavlik a crack, and maintains that the Ohioan would’ve been fighting Giovanni Lorenzo on Boxing After Dark for the vacated middleweight strap had Taylor gone north before testing Pavlik.
Maybe that fact is being considered when we learn that it appears that the money for the sequel will be split 50-50 between the new champ and the now challenger.
Hats off to all involved, if this does turn out to be the case when all T and Is are crossed and dotted. An even split, which prevents ego-fueled feuding (cough cough Winky Wright) and lessens the momentum for the return engagement, is so reasonable, and so wise, and so instructive to all promoters and fighters. The terms could still be up for debate, as Pavlik’s trainer Jack Loew has been making noise that his guy might not fight for a 50-50 split, as he considers him the main drawing card in the equation.
The rematch will likely land on PPV, so of course there should be plenty of pie to slice up.
One question that is on many minds: will Emanuel Steward get a piece? The sage of Kronk stepped in for Pat Burns after Taylor/Hopkins II, and it is clear that if Taylor hasn’t slipped in that time frame, then he certainly hasn’t flourished either. There’s no way blame can be attributed accurately. We can’t discern from the outside if Taylor loves the sport as much as he did, if the weight drain sapped his energy too much, if Steward cannot hope to give ample time to JT with all his top tier clients and rising stud prospects.
Dibella doesn’t know what Taylor’s corner will look like in his next fight.
“It’s not my decision to make,” the promoter said. “It’s not for me to say.”
So, will Taylor say?
Co-trainer Ozell Nelson, Taylor confidante, told TSS that Team Taylor and Steward will get together soon, and see where they stand. “We haven’t really talked about it,” Nelson said. “We’ll get together in the near future. But you can learn a lot from a loss. And I betcha the next time if Jermain gets Kelly hurt, he’ll pick him apart this time.”
The absence of the belt won’t make the sequel any less compelling, Nelson says.
“The belt really doesn’t matter,” he said. “It’s about whipping that boy’s ass.”
Not now. Fire surrounds the mountain but this time the massive forest fires are not in Big Bear but nearby in Lake Arrowhead.
Training resumes despite the biggest fires in four years.
“It’s the best place to train for a fight.” says Shane Mosley as he wraps his hands with gauze.”
Now 36, Mosley (44-4, 37 KOs) runs through his regular training regimen in Big Bear Mountain like most people exhale and inhale oxygen, it’s all very routine. But on Nov. 10, the Pomona fighter will be facing WBA welterweight titleholder Miguel Cotto (30-0, 25 KOs) at Madison Square Garden.
It’s a match that takes fight fans breath away.
Both Jack and Shane Mosley have held training camps in the pine tree covered tourist town for nearly seven years. It’s been a sanctuary where they practiced and refined the tools of their craft for past opponents like Winky Wright, Fernando Vargas and Oscar De La Hoya.
A few years back Mosley bought the cabin that is located about 100 yards from a ski range and is about four blocks from De La Hoya’s former training camp. During that time Vargas also had a training camp about three miles north. Now Mosley remains the only one of the Southern California trio remaining in Big Bear.
“We like to get away up here,” said Jack Mosley, who returned to train his son for the second Vargas fight that ended in a knockout win for Mosley. “I designed all of the outside of this place.”
Guarding the Mosley camp are two fearsome gray colored dogs that look like gargoyles come to life. They don’t bark much but will growl and readily show their teeth. Kind of like their owner.
Mosley never has been one to boast, brag or predict the outcomes of his future fights. Usually he mildly sits through press conferences with his easy-going manner discussing his opponent’s traits. But inside the ring he transforms into a fearsome sight.
“What can I say, he beat me twice,” said De La Hoya. “He does so many things well.”
Mosley has slowly transformed from an athletically gifted prizefighter with uncanny speed combined with splendid power to an expert craftsman of his sport and still maintains his athleticism. He can easily break down an opponent’s tendencies, defensive style and trademark combinations.
Following a sparring session with a light heavyweight fighter Mosley showed the combinations he wants that fighter to adapt because it’s similar to Cotto’s.
“Cotto likes to throw this combination,” says Mosley, who mimics the movement and punching style of his next opponent. “He likes to do other things too but that’s his favorite move.”
Before jumping in the ring Mosley observed his speedy young protégé named Billy “The Kid” Dib from Australia spar with former featherweight champion Freddie Norwood. Like math professors the two Mosleys quickly break down the formula of boxing science for the young featherweight who’s in a fierce sparring session.
“That’s how you learn by fighting somebody of championship caliber,” says Mosley. “When he (Dib) fights somebody that good it won’t be a surprise.”
The former lightweight, welterweight and junior middleweight champion Mosley explained to Dib and others in the gym that sparring casually or against inferior opponents serves no purpose.
“When I was young I was sparring against the toughest guys I could find like Genaro Hernandez and Zack Padilla at the old Brooklyn Gym,” said Shane Mosley about his war-like sparring sessions in a now defunct boxing gym located in East Los Angeles. “Sometimes I would come out of there dizzy. But it was the best sparring I could have.”
Mosley related a story of his current Big Bear sparring partner who helped De La Hoya prepare for a fight a couple of years ago.
“That guy knocked down Oscar during sparring,” said Mosley of his Puerto Rican sparring partner. He further explained that after getting flattened De La Hoya demanded that the Puerto Rican fighter be kept in his camp. “That’s how you learn. You can’t have it easy even in sparring.”
Can take a punch
Cotto, 26, who’s become more impressive since moving up in weight from 140 pounds to 147, has the same easy-going manner and refuses to degrade opponents.
“Shane Mosley is a great champion with a lot of experience,” Cotto says. “I’ve heard that Shane Mosley can take a good punch.”
Mosley expects the WBA champion Cotto to maintain his famous pressure style that includes concentrating to the body with heavy and sharp punches.
“Miguel Cotto is a very strong fighter. He likes to throw that left hand. That’s his best punch,” says Mosley while demonstrating the Cotto left hook. “It’s different fighting somebody his size.”
In the past, Mosley’s opponents were all much taller and posed a different target for the speedy Pomona fighter’s punches.
“It’s a big difference punching somebody taller, it makes you change everything,” he says.
In his last fight, Mosley bested Luis Collazo a slick southpaw Puerto Rican fighting out of Brooklyn. Now he faces a strong Puerto Rican fighter from the island, who blasted out his last two opponents.
Mosley shrugs and smiles when asked about Cotto.
“I’ve seen him fight quite a few times,” said Mosley, as his mind races through his memory banks recalling Cotto’s fights.
Bob Arum, who is co-promoting the event with Golden Boy Promotions, said Cotto was dubbed a future superstar when he participated as an Olympian for Puerto Rico in 2000. Now he simply needs to beat a superstar to be a superstar.
Cotto’s uncle feels his nephew stands at the precipice.
“We’re waiting to fight one of the best pound for pound fighters in the world,” said Evangelista Cotto, uncle and trainer of Miguel Cotto. “We’ll see if Miguel can beat a pound for pound fighter.”
Outside the Big Bear training camp compound, the pair of guard dogs are mulling around not concentrating on any single person but acutely aware of people milling around. Inside the boxing gym Mosley spars with a muscular fighter who out-weighs him by 30 pounds but has speed in his punches.
Nothing is planned.
“It’s better to be prepared for anything,” says Mosley. “After training up here in the mountains I feel much stronger when I get to sea level.”
After the two-hour workout concludes, the gate to the compound closes and in the background the two guard dogs perk their heads up. They’re prepared for anything too.
Although his pro boxing career consisted of 10 fights, all of which he says he won by knockout, he is better known as Uncle Pat Blundetto, the role he played on four episodes of “The Sopranos” television show between 2004 and 2007.
His character was the owner of a country farm who was suffering from dementia. He couldn’t remember where the bodies were buried when the characters played by James Gandolfini and Steve Buscemi came to dig them up because a condominium complex was going to be built on the property.
Over the years, the 76-year-old Albanese, who looks fit enough to still go a few rounds, has also appeared in uncredited roles in two of the three “Godfather” movies, as well as credited roles in “Dead Presidents” and “Goodfellas.”
As much as Albanese loves acting, he says he was “devastated” that he had to give up boxing at the age of 19 after it was discovered that he had scar tissue on his brain during a routine examination.
Although he sparred on many occasions with such greats as Rocky Marciano, Archie Moore and Roland LaStarza, the thick-necked, wide-shouldered Albanese, whose hands are as big as frying pans, believes the head injury was incurred in any one of the numerous bar brawls or street fights he engaged in while growing up on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
“I loved boxing,” he said. “It killed me to have to give it up. There was so much camaraderie. I loved going to the gym and training. I liked the training as much as fighting.”
Although Albanese is not listed on boxrec.com, Henry Wallitsch, the President of Ring 8 and a popular New York pro during that era, said Albanese was a “killer” in the gym and extremely formidable in actual fights.
Wallitsch remembered clearly that it was well known in boxing circles that Albanese had never been defeated in four amateur or 10 pro bouts. Moreover, he had won every one of them by knockout.
Albanese, who was extremely close friends with middleweight champion Rocky Graziano, remembers his sparring sessions with Marciano, Moore and LaStarza, all of whom he has the utmost respect for.
“Rocky never got tired, he was unbelievable,” said Albanese. “He never got arm weary or leg weary. He had tremendous stamina. You couldn’t wear him out or outlast him. It was like he was inhuman.”
He described LaStarza as being “a brilliant boxer with a tremendous right hand.” He also said he was very clever and fleet-footed, which made it hard to hit him solidly.
But the all-around best, he says, was the masterful Moore. “He was such a complete fighter,” said Albanese. “Once in a while I’d get lucky and graze him with a left hook or a jab, but I could never touch him with a right hand. I couldn’t get anywhere with him. He was the best I ever boxed with, probably the best anybody ever boxed with.”
After Albanese was forced to give up fighting, Graziano, who was a mainstream sports celebrity, helped him break into show business. While he got sporadic stage and screen work over the years, he was also employed as a longshoreman, truck driver and cab driver.
He has carved out a little niche for himself as a member of the fictional GAG, which stands for Gangsters Actors Guild, a parody of the legitimate SAG, which stands for the Screen Actors Guild.
Besides the aforementioned movie roles, Albanese also played mob chieftain Paul Castellano in a 1989 episode of the television show “America’s Most Wanted.”
Castellano was rubbed out several years earlier in front of Sparks Steak House in Manhattan. His death ushered in a new era of organized crime in New York.
Albanese seemed overjoyed to be at Ring 8. “All of my old friends from Stillman’s Gym are here,” he explained.
He said that as disappointing as his boxing career was, he was happy to have fought during what he considers the golden age of boxing.
Having been trained by the esteemed Whitey Bimstein, he was very fortunate to have had the best in the business in his corner. He feels the same about his film career, and considers himself blessed to have worked with actors as talented and generous as those on “The Sopranos,” as well with such elite directors as Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese and Martin Ritt, the latter of whom directed him in “The Brotherhood,” a 1968 mob film with Kirk Douglas and Alex Cord.
Even at his advanced age, Albanese is still pounding the pavement looking for work. He auditions for parts several days a week, and says he is happy to apply the same commitment to his new craft that he had given to boxing.
On the day he was hired for “The Sopranos,” he had just dropped off a photo and resume at casting agent Georgianne Walken’s office. One look at his craggy face, and he was auditioned on the spot.
When asked whether boxing or acting has been more satisfying to him, he was a bit circumspect before answering.
“That’s a tough,” he said. “Each one is very challenging, and you are all alone in front of a crowd.
“But,” he added, “I think I liked boxing better.”
Other Ring 8 notes:
Tickets to the public are available for the organization’s annual holiday party, which will be held at Leonard’s of Great Neck on Long Island on Sunday, December 16th. The cocktail hour begins at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $125 for non-members and can be purchased by sending a check to Ring 8, 2-03 Borden Avenue, Long Island City, NY 11101.
In support of our fighting troops overseas, Ring 8 recently sent a box of hats and plaques to military personnel in Iraq. The soldiers wrote back and stated that they engaged in wrestling matches, with the winners receiving the coveted trophies.
Ring 8 was thrilled to forward “Uncrowned Champion” belts to Alvaro “Yaqui” Lopez and Armando Muniz, two extremely popular 1970s era fighters who were in attendance at the World Boxing Hall of Fame annual awards dinner in California on October 13. Lopez was actually inducted into the HOF on that date.
The organization also sent a Mass card and basket of fruit to the family of the late champion Fritzie Zivic, whose son recently passed away.
During a spirited discussion about the use of steroids by boxers, former middleweight champion Vito Antuofermo was adamant about his feelings on the matter. “I don’t care what anyone says,” he angrily proclaimed. “It’s like going into the ring with a gun.”
Adding to the festivities at the October meeting was the fact that it was held two days before President Henry Wallitsch’s 72nd birthday on October 18th. All of the members in attendance sang him a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday” before presenting him with a delicious cake.
Looking decades younger, Wallitsch leaned down, bobbed, weaved and threw some awfully good-looking punches before blowing out the candles with no effort whatsoever. You’d never know from looking at him that he is a septuagenarian.