Usually winning is the main goal of any fighter, but on Friday night, Nov. 23, several fight cards including the main event between Fernando Vargas and Ricardo Mayorga perfectly exemplified that even losers can be winners.
In the semi-main event big hitting Cintron was looking to add Feliciano to his growing list of scalps in early stoppages. Within the first minute a right hand bounced off Feliciano’s head and echoed in the arena, but the Las Vegas fighter was still standing and still moving forward.
Feliciano had the crowd at Cintron’s first hello.
Cintron was not amused.
“I hurt my hand the first time I hit him,” said Cintron afterwards.
For the remainder of the fight Feliciano followed instructions and pre-fight plans to stick his head into Cintron’s chest and force a toe-to-toe battle with no survivors. It was a gritty maneuver and often resulted in resounding shots that had the crowd gasping and putting their hands to their faces. But Feliciano never wavered.
“Everybody underestimates me,” said Feliciano, whose electric personality and fighting style could be likened to the fictional “Rocky” movie character.
Before the fight the square-shouldered pulverizer had predicted a slugfest after watching films of Feliciano’s previous fights. He was ready and armed.
“I’ve watched him before. He’s a very hungry fighter and a very dangerous fighter,” Cintron said days before their actual encounter.
For numerous rounds Feliciano moved forward like a rumbling Sherman Tank withstanding the constant shelling from Cintron’s quick and precise blows. When a big punch would land on Feliciano, he would absorb it like a pillar of marble.
Feliciano won over the crowd in the first round with his refusal to back away and his ability to withstand ringing shots from the power-pumping blows of Cintron. Each round Feliciano seemed to get stronger and more determined as he rained blows on the champion and occasionally was hit with return fire.
Hollywood’s Sly Stallone could be seen shouting encouragement to Feliciano as he walked through punches that few others could. Often reality exceeds fiction and this was one of those premium moments.
“I always have wars,” said Feliciano before the fight. “I don’t like to get bored.”
Finally, in the 10th round, Cintron connected blows from every angle that snapped Feliciano’s head backwards and forced him on his heels. After several blows landed referee Jon Schorle stopped the fight though the Las Vegas brawler never was dropped.
Feliciano looked at the referee with eyes of shock.
“I felt the referee stopped the fight too early,” Feliciano said after the fight. “I was never hurt, but Cintron does punch hard.”
Cintron’s hand was raised for his ability to force a stoppage by the referee. But he was mindful of congratulating Feliciano on his performance.
When the ring announcer called Feliciano’s name the crowd roared its approval. They recognized the fighter’s heart and soul and willingness to fight through hellfire to grab the welterweight title. Though he was announced the loser, he smiled as the crowd clapped and cheered for him.
Then came the main event.
Vargas was seeking to go out a winner in his last pro fight and Ricardo Mayorga was intent in proving he still has more to go. No title was at stake but sometimes it really doesn’t matter when you have two warriors with intense pride.
The two former world champions had already erupted into blows during the initial press conference in August and Vargas’s fans wanted retribution.
From the first round Mayorga let the fans know that he was far from being a pawn for a Vargas victory party. A flurry of blows caused a flash knockdown of Vargas and from then on the two warred for 12 rounds.
Though most of the 10,000 fans cheered in support of the Oxnard fighter, Mayorga also had his followers including legendary champion Robert “Hands of Stone” Duran who shouted instructions and encouragement.
When the fight ended all the built up anger and fury dissipated as the winner Mayorga humbly walked up to Vargas to beg for forgiveness for his previous mischievousness and taunts. Though he captured the victory, the Nicaraguan boxer who cursed and belittles opponents openly sought forgiveness for his acts.
Vargas hesitated but accepted the apology. It’s one of the reasons he has so many fans. He’s always credited opponents who beat him in the ring and refuses to denigrate even his enemy’s performances. It’s one of the traits his fans greatly admire.
“I’m not going to take anything away from Mayorga,” said Vargas.
After the fight, Mayorga proved again that his bravado and insults are mainly a way of promoting a fight.
“Part of his (Mayorga’s) persona is to sell tickets,” said Shelly Finkel who co-manages Vargas. “He’s a great salesman and a pretty class act.”
Those words are shocking to many fans who remember Mayorga attacking not only Vargas’s manhood, but also Oscar De La Hoya, Vernon Forrest and others. But after the fight, all was forgiven.
For the fans watching in person and via television, there were no losers.
“We had a night when we (boxing) looked very, very good,” said Kathy Duva, president of Main Events. She also added that the preliminary figures showed that more than 300,000 pay-per-view buys were predicted. More than the total accumulated for Miguel Cotto’s showdown with Shane Mosley.
In the end, Vargas was very thankful to the fans that witnessed his last fight and supported him throughout the years through winning and losing.
“I get on my knees and thank God everyday for my fans,” said Vargas on Saturday.
It was a night of entertainment where even the losers looked like winners.
By emerging from obscurity to annex the European 122-pound title in just 86 seconds from the highly-touted Bernard Dunne, the 21-year-old Martinez lived up to his moniker “La Sensación”.
The crushing hooks that crashed into Dunne’s exposed chin have become a hit on YouTube, while newspaper reports of the bout liked the Spaniard to a miniature Mike Tyson.
Yet if anyone has the credentials to withstand thunderous blows, it’s McCullough. Despite standing toe-to-toe with some fearsome punchers, the Irishman has never been floored and earned recognition from The Ring as owner of boxing’s best chin.
But to merit such acknowledgement a fighter must take a myriad of blows to the head. Many would argue that McCullough has absorbed too many.
In his last outing, 27 months ago, the “Pocket Rocket” endured ten rounds of unremitting exchanges with the then-premier super bantamweight Oscar Larios, before McCullough’s trainer for the fight, Freddie Roach, asked the referee to save his fighter from further punishment.
In the aftermath, the Nevada State Athletic Commission suspended McCullough for six months, while Roach, an ex-fighter who suffers from trauma-induced Parkinson’s disease, publicly stated that the Irishman should retire.
“I don’t think he should fight anymore,” said the esteemed trainer. “I definitely don't want to see Wayne end up like me [with Parkinson’s]. I don’t see him doing well in the future and I told him it’s time to retire. I just worry about what might happen.”
The boxing community may not be fully supportive of McCullough’s fistic ambitions, but throughout his 37-year life the Las Vegas resident has never relied on encouragement from the masses.
Even though he was a Protestant from the notorious Shankill area of Belfast, McCullough had no reservations about carrying the Irish Tricolour when representing Ireland at the 1988 Olympics.
“I was fighting for Ireland first and foremost,” says the silver medalist from the 1992 Games. “And the way I saw it was ‘if I fight under the flag I should be happy to carry it.’ If I was to say ‘no’ what kind of coverage would I have gotten? I am a sportsman, not a politician.”
McCullough originally planned on starting his professional career in Belfast, but a lucrative offer from American promoter Mat Tinley and the opportunity to train under the celebrated tutelage of Eddie Futch lured the 22-year-old to the neon of Las Vegas. The scorching desert heat and synthetic surroundings didn’t deter the self-effacing Irishman, and after rattling off twelve undemanding victories he was matched with the respected 51-bout veteran Victor Rabanales.
McCullough was given a severe test by the rugged Mexican, but the novice dug deep to record a unanimous decision victory in a frenetic contest.
“That fight against Victor Rabanales was just so tough,” recalls McCullough. “It’s the earliest win that means the most to me, simply because he had so much more experience than me. It was definitely a learning fight and I had to think on my feet.”
The win was enough to garner McCullough a shot at a world championship, but it would come in the form of a daunting challenge against the leading bantamweight titlist Yasuei Yakushiji, in Nagoya, Japan. But McCullough was undeterred by the exigent task and produced an almost flawless performance of non-stop punching and relentless aggression to win a split decision and the veritable respect of the Japanese crowd.
The prospect of an easy defence of his WBC title in Dublin against the limited Jose Luis Bueno convinced McCullough to grind his body down to the 118-pound limit, even though he knew it was no longer his natural fighting weight. The anticipated straightforward showcase never transpired, and the weakened McCullough was forced into an arduous battle, with some observers deeming him lucky to retain his belt on a split points verdict.
McCullough was so exhausted that he was rushed to the hospital immediately after the bout.
“I do not remember anything until the next day,” he admits. “I won the fight yet my face was busted up. I was in the hospital after the fight and Bono from U2 held my hand for thirty minutes and I don’t remember it.”
McCullough’s days as a champion ended after that night in Dublin. He moved up to the 122-pound division, but was narrowly defeated by the future Hall of Fame entrant Daniel Zaragoza in one of the most exciting fights of 1997.
Problems with Tinley began to materialize after a rematch with Zaragoza could not be arranged and McCullough’s in-ring appearances became an irregular occurrence.
Meanwhile, across the Atlantic in Spain, Real Madrid were proving themselves to be the leading football club in Europe, and their lessons in dominance were being watched by a young man in Alicante.
“I have always loved watching Madrid,” Kiko Martinez would tell the Belfast Telegraph.
And a decade later he would follow the team’s example and capture a European crown of his own. But football was not his only inspiration.
“Mike Tyson was my big hero,” he said. “I admired Sugar Ray Leonard but Tyson was fantastic. I loved watching him fight and I have modeled my style on him. He was very exciting and he hit very hard, just like me.”
Kiko then set out on a mission to emulate the fighting style of “Iron Mike”. Blessed with the same stocky build as his idol, Martinez was able to intimidate his amateur opponents with his thick neck, wide shoulders and killer instinct.
While Martinez was developing an interest in the sweet science, McCullough was enduring spells of inactivity. Ironically, that predicament ultimately made him a more attractive opponent to the bigger name fighters and subsequent title challenges against Naseem Hamed and Erik Morales came about in the late nineties.
While the two marquee fighters had built up fearsome reputations and a combined 64-0 (56) record, the Irishman was merely regarded as a recognisable name whose light fists would pose little trouble to the undefeated champions.
Yet McCullough showed no respect for his opponents’ reputes and attacked without inhibition. Whereas Hamed opted to retreat for much of the twelve round contest, Morales stood his ground, but later admitted he contemplated quitting, such was the Irishman’s resiliency.
After lasting the distance with the Mexican, McCullough received recognition as one of the toughest fighters in the sport, but his resolve was severely shaken when his licence was revoked after a routine MRI scan for the Brirish Boxing Board of Control [BBBC] showed a cyst on his skull before a planned homecoming bout in Belfast.
It was a day that would ingrain itself on McCullough’s memory.
“For six months I lived in October 18, 2000,” he reveals. “I was here but I wasn’t here.
“I was told [by the promoter Billy Murray] that one more punch to the head could kill me. I actually thought I was going to die because of the way it had been said. I thought if I took a knock to the head at all, by just banging it against a door or whatever, that would be it.”
After undergoing a rigorous series of tests, McCullough was eventually cleared to compete again by the BBBC, but his ultimate reward was a brutal 12-round beating by the potent fists of Scott Harrison in 2003. The featherweight titlist appeared to be at least two weight classes bigger than McCullough, and he administered a pounding to match.
“When I weighed in for the Harrison fight, I thought ‘we’re around the same size’,” says McCullough. “Then we got in the ring and he was huge, like a welterweight.”
Even though his ear had swelled grotesquely, McCullough managed to hear the final bell, but the referee was given numerous opportunities to stop the one-sided fight. Consequently, the beaten fighter was forced to spend a night in a Glasgow hospital, but his desire for combat would not be quenched and he remarkably summoned the will to engage Oscar Larios in two vigorous encounters.
But since the second fight on July 16 2005, McCullough, 27-6 (18), has been inactive, waiting for another chance at glory.
Conversely, Martinez has powered his way to the European title, swatting aside seemingly overmatched opposition to build a 17-0 (14) record. And even though the Spaniard was expected to struggle with Dunne in front of a partisan Irish crowd in Dublin, Martinez blitzed his way to victory, while demonstrating chilling power.
Now he wants to cement his standing as world-class prospect. And he has no objections about fighting in front of a pro-McCullough gathering at the Kings Hall in Belfast.
“I will be the first man to knock out McCullough,” he claims. “I give him respect but I expect to stop him. Fighting away from home is what I like very much. I get a real buzz from the fact that the crowd are against me. I prefer fighting away from Spain.”
But why would a rusty McCullough want to step back into the ring against such a formidable opponent, especially considering Martinez’ European title will not be on the line? McCullough has plenty of external interests such as reporting for The Ring magazine, training a crop of upcoming fighters and acting as an ambassador for the UFC.
Are financial constraints forcing him to once again lace up the gloves?
“People are saying that I’m just back fighting for the money, but I’m not,” he retorts. “If I beat Martinez then I can go on to fight for a world title maybe against Israel Vasquez next year.
“And I’m not rusty. Boxers develop ring rust by not training and staying away from the gym for long periods of time. I’ve been training for two years twice a day. I’m feeling in great shape.”
“Martinez hasn’t got the experience I have,” he adds. “When he beat Dunne he caught him cold and caught him around the temple. That can happen to anyone. I had 17 wins and I was world champion and had 13 knockouts but did that make me a big puncher? I know that it didn’t, so you can’t just go with his record.”
McCullough can take heart from the fact that Martinez’ knockout streak loses some of its lustre when it’s noted that, excluding Dunne, his previous five opponents had 70 losses between them.
Moreover, how will the relative neophyte react if his punches bounce off the concrete jaw of McCullough? Then again, can the Irishman’s punch resistance possibly be as stout as it once was?
Ultimately, the victor will likely need to possess a quality that is often cited in English soccer; unfavored teams that aim to remain in the top division are said to need great “bouncebackability”.
And if that word ever makes it into the English dictionary, a picture of Wayne McCullough would make a fitting explanation.
But as I came back from the kitchen with a tall glass of Diet Pepsi, I was startled to see my TV had turned, seemingly by itself, to the Fox News Channel.
The President, George W. Bush, was addressing me, in front of a roaring fire. I picked up my remote and confirmed that my TV was tuned to the PPV channel 301, not Fox.
What's going on here, I wondered?
Has Dubya packed it in, waved the white flag of surrender, admitted that he's in over his head, and jetted from the White House? Is Dubya in the boxing promotion business?
Not so much, it turns out. Bush is, though, still in the war promotion business, as around 70% of the nation regards our forces' presence in Iraq to be a folly that has frittered away hundreds of thousands of our most valuable resource, human beings from the US and Iraq, and billions upon billions of dollars.
"Before we get started, I have a very good friend, my friend and your friend," came the unmistakable proclamation from the one and only Don King, co-promoter of the PPV show, and ardent Bush backer, "the President of the United States, George Walker Bush."
Sure, enough, there he was.
Sonofugun, the old man pulled it off.
He got the leader of the free world to appear on his show, and give him a stamp of approval. No matter your politics, or whether you thought it proper for the President to inject this heated political grenade into this presumably non-partisan athletic event, you had to tip your cap to King.
He hung with the Pope a few months back, now he got the President to do an infomercial.
Props to DK.
"Thank you Don," Bush said. "I appreciate your traveling to Iraq to be with our troops and bring them a little reminder of home this Thanksgiving weekend. I thank the USO for helping to make this event possible. I send my regards to General David Petraeus and to the men and women serving under his command in Iraq. And I salute all the Americans in uniform around the world who are watching today. Today's fight brings together two tough competitors, but they would be the first to tell you that the real champions are not the boxers in the ring, the real champions are the men and women who have stepped forward to defend our nation. All around our great country your fellow Americans are praying for your safety, and for the strength and comfort of the families who support you. You are keeping America safe, and America will always be grateful. Now I'm pleased to turn it back over to Don. Enjoy this break, you've earned, and have fun watching the fight."
What to think?
That maybe the two fighters in the main event would perhaps not want to be used as instruments in the speech that makes a case for the Iraq invasion and occupation as having unfolded to defend our nation, from an increasingly toothless dictator, while the mastermind of the 9/11 blitz giggles in his underground castle?
That maybe it would have been a nice gesture for the Commander in Chief to head to Iraq and chew turkey with the troops as a show of gratitude, rather than boxing's Barnum?
That perhaps the familys of the soldiers now on a seemingly indefinite tour would prefer they be allowed home, for a real "break," when their tour finishes, rather than being forced to re-enlist?
A cynic might wonder why King is such a fervent flag waver for the President.
The cynic might ponder, might King be trying to cozy up with a man who could insulate him from being the focus of federal prosecution, as he had been for much of the 80s and 90s?
This is how DK explained his admiration for 43 to NY Magazine in 2004, when he was busy trying to sway voters from Kerry to Bush, even as it became more clear that the buildup to the Iraq invasion and the actual effort were various parts quagmire, fiasco and swindle.
"George Walker Bush—he’s tough-minded but he’s tender-hearted," King said. "He’s trying to reclaim that glory of that American Dream for all Americans. He put African-Americans in top policy positions higher than any president. He took two people, black, and put them in charge of 300 million people for their security. Even the racists and the extremists and all those who are untoward and un-American, we’re protecting them, too. This is a devastating blow to the color barrier."
Mind you, this is pre Katrina, when the "tender-hearted" leader sat on his hands as New Orleans nearly drowned. But I guess that debacle hasn't dimmed Don's admiration for POTUS. You must give King points for loyalty, I suppose.
Those same cynics could note that the Feds have by and large let King be since about 1999. By 2001, King was extolling Dubya's virtues on, you guessed it, Fox News. Coincidence, they ask?
I'm not quite willing to connect those dots. King has consistently lauded Bush for tapping Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice as Secretary of State; the non cynic could make a reasonably compelling argument that King is simply showing his thankfulness that Bush saw fit to bestow such important duties on fellow African-Americans.
And what about King's visit with the Pope at Vatican City in March? The Pope doesn't hold much sway with the Feds, I don't think. So maybe King is simply assessing his legacy, and attempting to use his powers of persuasion and superlative dealmaking tactics to rub elbows with a better breed of being than in the swamp of the sweet science.
Either way, getting this extra, extra special guest star to come on his show proves once again that the mold was broken when King was created. This is a creature that one might think could only exist in the fertile mind of a novelist.
Golden Boy and Top Rank and Team Manny are with you.
Here's the release: "Golden Boy Promotions and Top Rank, in association with Romanza Boxing Productions and MP Promotions, are proud to announce that on Saturday, March 15, 2008, Juan Manuel Marquez (48-3)will defend his WBC Super Featherweight Title against number one contender Manny Pacquiao (45-3-2) at the Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino on HBO Pay-Per-View."
Have at it, gang. Who do you like in this one?
The more youthful Filipino, who's about to turn 29, or the Mexican, age 34, who may well be at the peak of his vocational arc?
Donaire (18-1, 11 KOs) defends his IBF flyweight title against Mexico’s hard-hitting Luis Maldonado (37-1-1, 28 KOs) at Foxwoods Casino on Saturday Dec. 1. The fight will be televised on Showtime with two other title fights.
But don’t miss Donaire.
For the last few years a stream of heavy-hitting fighters from the Philippines has arrived and shaken up more than a few divisions. Filipino fighters have always been good but now the world is getting a true understanding of their talent.
Donaire’s like a small bottle of nitro just waiting to be dropped.
But the whole flyweight division has boosted its image with more knockouts than seen in 20 years. Fans like knockouts and the 112-pounders are beginning to deliver.
Just last July it was Donaire’s Fourth of July when he bopped out Aussie slugger Vic Darchinyan with a left hook from Manila. One punch and it was over.
Darchinyan had been doing the same thing with his brand of seek and destroy fighting that had starched 10 consecutive opponents including Donaire’s older brother Glenn.
It must be something with the ozone because flyweights aren’t supposed to be doing this.
Now, Donaire faces Maldonado, a fighter who lasted 10 rounds against Darchinyan but that doesn’t fool the Filipino fighter.
“Styles make fights,” said Donaire who flew to the Philippines where he practiced his craft for a month. “Darchinyan was over-powering him but when he fought Cristian Mijares (WBC junior bantamweight titleholder) he got a draw. It shows he has a lot of heart and he’s a tough guy.”
Maldonado showed a variety of ploys and cutesy movements that enabled him to survive the Darchinyan storm. He also has a lot of power that has sent 28 opponents to the hammock.
Donaire decided to go to the Philippines to find sparring.
“Everything I needed to do was available there,” said Donaire who trained at the famous ALA Gym in Cebu in the Philippines. “It was really hot and it helped get my weight down.”
The likeable Donaire sparred with Filipino veterans Michael Domingo and others on a daily basis. He also worked with AJ Banal, Rey “Boom Boom” Bautista and Z Gorres who is preparing to meet former champion Darchinyan in January.
“We talked a bit about his fight with Darchinyan but we didn’t spar much,” said Donaire who plans to move up in weight to the junior bantamweight division too. “I sparred with Rocky Fuentes too. He’s the Philippine champion.”
Cebu City proved to be the right choice for Donaire and the young budding star wants every advantage when he faces Mexican threat Maldonado.
“Everybody poses a threat,” Donaire says. “I can’t let anybody try and take it (the title) away from me.”
The flyweight division could possibly be on the cusp of a rebirth of earlier times.
“I’m looking to validate that I’m a world champion,” Donaire said.
For more than two years Vernon “The Viper” Forrest traveled from one side of the country to another looking to find the groove he lost due to injuries.
He’s got his groove back now.
Forrest, the WBC junior middleweight titleholder, rides a four-fight victory streak that includes impressive wins over Ike Quartey, Sergio Rios and Argentina’s Carlos Baldomir.
In the last fight he grabbed the vacant WBC junior middleweight with a 12-round slugfest with hard-nose Baldomir.
It was impressive because he fired indiscriminately with disregard of previous injuries.
“Early on I was a little concerned about it,” said Forrest (39-2, 28 KOs) who endured several surgeries to repair injuries to his elbow and shoulder. “ I’m more comfortable now, it was more of a mental thing than a physical thing.”
Now Forrest faces former welterweight titleholder Michele Piccirillo of Italy in a junior middleweight title defense.
“He’s a very intelligent fighter, a former world champion. Anytime you can win a title that speaks volumes,” said Forrest, 36, of his next foe Piccirillo. “He’s trained by Sumbu Kalambay one of the great fighters.”
Piccirillo, 37, who captured the vacant IBF welterweight title against Cory Spinks then lost it in the rematch, says he knows it could be his last world title opportunity.
“It will be a tough fight for me, but it will also be a tough fight for Vernon,” said Piccirillo (48-3, 30 KOs) of Puglia, Italy. “Winning in the United States is not easy.”
Forrest won’t even talk about a future opponent.
“I learned my lesson,” said Forrest about losing twice to Ricardo Mayorga. “Mayorga taught me a very valuable lesson. Do what you’re supposed to do.”
Florida’s Antonio “Magic Man” Tarver is treating his upcoming IBO title defense against Danny Santiago as if his Hall of Fame credentials are riding on it.
After losing to Bernard Hopkins and beating Elvir Muriqi by a majority decision that he felt was badly scored by the judges, Tarver seems about to explode in the ring as proof of his talent.
“It’s more than just fighting in the ring,” said Tarver (25-4, 18 KOs) during a conference call. “Just winning isn’t enough for me. I have to go and do something dramatic.”
Santiago, a good natured and intelligent person, dreamed of being in this position and jumped at the chance to fight Tarver when the original scheduled fighter was unable to fight.
“I’m going to make a name for myself,” said Santiago (29-3-1, 19 KOs), who lives in Florida too. “I’m definitely getting up for it.”
Until Tarver ran into Bernard Hopkins, he had been recognized as the best of the light heavyweights. But 17 months ago their encounter proved that the Philadelphia fighter was far from retirement with a convincing win over the Floridian. It makes Tarver angry.
“He got one win over me. I was a shell of myself,” Tarver said. “Bottom line is he has never been in the ring with the Magic Man.”
In Tarver’s last fight, this past June against Muriqi, three judges scored the fight tightly because of the overwhelming amount of punches fired against Tarver.
Tarver said they weren’t connecting.
“Just because a guy is throwing punches doesn’t mean he was landing,” said Tarver who won by majority decision. “I’m going to make sure I do everything on my side to make sure the fight don’t go the distance.”
Santiago calmly listened to Tarver’s rants and seemed content to wait for his moment.
“It’s an honor and a privilege,” Santiago said of fighting Tarver. “He’s achieved a lot of things well deserved.”
Tito jumped from 147 to 154 to fight David Reid early in 2000. At that time, Jones was in his fourth year at 175, after jumping from 168 to fight Mike McCallum for the WBC’s light heavy title. It would’ve taken too much haggling to get that done at that time.
But now, with the magic of aging, and lengthy layoffs (cough cough Tito), the weight differential impediment has been eliminated. The January 19 contest in NY pitting two future Hall of Famers will be contested at a “catch weight” of 170 pounds or less.
I like that term, and find it useful to make my main point in why I think this fight has, unfortunately, the makings of a severe snoozer.
I don’t see Tito (42-2), whose best work came when he was weighing 23 pounds under that “catch weight,” actually being able to catch the Jones (51-4), who is still elusive enough to dance circles around the plodding Trinidad.
Happily enough for both men, they will make plenty of millions to engage in a match in which there is quite a strong possibility that no deeply impactful blows will be landed.
And Tito, who turns 35 on January 10, could make a side sponsorship deal with Rust-Oleum to garner a little something extra until the next time he gets bored, and decides to come back. Tito’s fought three times since 2001, and fighting someone who can slip and move like Jones, even reduced capacity Jones, is not a match made in heaven.
Jones, who turns 39 on January 16, certainly likes his chances.
“Some of the odds makers have me as a five-to-one favorite,” said the Floridian, who looked reasonably sharp against Tony Hanshaw (UD12 win) in July. “They don’t know what they’re talking about. I should be a 50-to-1 favorite.”
Trinidad well knows that he best get to Jones early, or risk relying on his legs and stamina holding up in late innings.
Jones maintains, for the press anyway, that he foresees an early night, too.
“Tito says it won’t last two rounds,” he said. “I’m going to be nice and give him two more rounds and beat him in four.
Trinidad, for his part, believes that fighting at 170 won’t be a detriment to him.
“I don’t think fighting at 170 pounds is going to be a big deal,” Trinidad said. “The heaviest I’ve fought has been at 160 pounds. I’m a little older now so I carry my weight a lot better than I used to.”
I’m trying to be fair and balanced here, so I’m trying to drum up a positive or two for Tito going into the fight. Hey, how about overconfidence on Jones’ part?
“I can fight at practically any weight right now,” he said. “ I can drop down to 168 pounds and take on (Joe) Calzaghe. I’ll fight him anywhere he wants. Jones Jr. is back and ready to fight.”
Both guys have been disturbingly gentlemanly in the leadup to the fight, leading me to believe even more heartily that a polite sparring sesh could take place on January 19. I hope not, as you guys all know I’m a crusader for the consumer, and want everyone to get a good bang for their PPV buck.
Poll time: check in, and tell us whether you will or will not buy this fight…
I kid Ricky Hatton, or “Ricky Fatton,” as he has referred to himself, in the self-deprecating fashion that has made him one of the UK’s most beloved athletes, in all sports.
No, Hatton has proclaimed himself in the best shape of his life, and ready to show the world, and all those bettors laying down money on Floyd Mayweather, that he has what it takes to hand Floyd his first “L.”
He may not have the edge in the feet department, or in handspeed, or hell, even the power department. But Hatton does have an abnormally large heart for a 5-6 pipsqueak of relentlessness, and come Dec. 8, the Brit thinks he will stalk Mayweather 24/7 in their scrap, and pull off the greatest win in British boxing history.
“My confidence is building every day that passes by,” he told journalists on a Tuesday conference call. “I have no doubt what the outcome will be. I look forward to shocking the world.”
Hatton was so bold as to send a message to Mayweather, who, word is, may be having issues with his brittle hands.
Don’t blame Dancing With the Stars, or your brittle hands, if and when I beat you Floyd, he said, because if you win, I won’t make any excuses.
The characteristics that put Hatton on everyone’s most humble list, in any and all sports, were on display.
Yes, I like my brew.
Yes, I like to devour crap food, enormous amounts of it, when not training.
Yes, I bloat up like Chris Farley in between bouts, Hatton will tell you, without a solitary ounce of pretense.
You have to love Ricky Hatton, even if you think he doesn’t have the pop to stun Floyd long enough to land a sequence of finishing blows, and that if he can’t do that, he will not be able to take a decision from the best technical fighter in the world.
His talent, paired with his humility and brilliant sense of humor, in fact, makes him my choice as the best athletic representation of All-American values, in any and all sports.
As an athlete and role model, Hatton is who I’d aspire to be, and the sort I’d like my culture to churn out more of.
Hatton could easily fall into a rote mode, and slag Mayweather mercilessly to hype the PPV numbers. Instead, he took the opportunity to compliment PBF on spending ample time with his kids on the latest installment of HBO’s 24/7.
Hatton did note that seeing Floyd sparring with Carlos Baldomir made him lick his lips, but of course, the All-American lad made certain to not diss Baldy (“no disrespect to Carlos”) when he mentioned that even an in-shape, prime Baldy couldn’t hope to imitate Hatton’s footspeed and angle-searching purposefulness.
My dream All-American athlete cannot be so worried about public perception or be so PC that he sanitizes his speech. Sure enough, Hatton’s mouth flared up when he talked about his underdog status.
“It suits me fine,” he said. “I think a lot of people in Vegas will lose a lot of money. I wouldn’t give two s**** if everybody picked Floyd. The last time no one gave me a chance was against Kostya Tszyu, and we made him quit. I think I’m gonna make Floyd quit.”
Really? Won’t Floyd’s flashy hands tattoo you while you blunder forward, a PBF fan might ask.
“I’m more worried about power than speed,” he said. “You’ve got to stop me coming forward.”
Floyd’s power, he said, isn’t Tszyu level, and won’t be enough to keep him at bay.
Hatton showed that he hasn’t been rattled by Floyd’s yapping, and even played down the incident at Hopkins/Taylor when Floyd refused to shake his hand and muttered something about knocking him out. “That’s just Floyd,” is Hatton’s answer to nearly all of Floyds’ barbs.
The “Ricky Fatton” tag Floyd has used won’t get under his skin, he explains, and Floyd should know why—because he himself made up the cruel moniker. “I don’t lose a wink of effing sleep over it,” the All-American boxer said.
Many fans who watched Jose Luis Castillo battle Floyd Mayweather in April 2002 thought the Mexican deserved the nod.
In his prime, Hatton said, he doesn’t think Castillo was his match in footwork, body punching, power, technical and work-rate departments. “In his prime I edge him in nearly every department, and Castillo nearly beat Floyd,” Hatton said.
Oh, in my book, the prototype All-American athlete doesn’t resort to false modesty. He has a healthy level of self-confidence, but he delivers his state of mind with seeming like a boastful blowhard. Hatton has it.
Hatton did offer his opinion of Floyd from a psychological perspective.
“I think he’s an insecure person,” Hatton said, stemming from the “five or six bodyguards who seem to be yes men” who hover around PBF.
Through the course of the months of buildup, Mayweather has unleashed some decent material, meant to get under Hatton’s skin. Hasn’t worked, said the All-American fighter.
“He has to know as he’s looked in my eye,” Hatton said, “that I’m not scared, that I have no fear of him.”
That’s the level of healthy fearlessness I need to see in my prototype All-American athlete.
Hey, England, you mind if I borrow Hatton as my ideal of an All-American sporting role model?
Karim grew up in the Fillmore section of the San Francisco Bay Area. He currently trains at the Straight Forward Boxing Club, the hottest gym in the Bay Area, located in the heart of downtown San Francisco. Like most fighters before him, Karim’s upbringing was rough: “I have seen a lot of death and poverty. But my family and closest friends keep me inspired to keep going.”
And keep going he has. Like the Road Runner. After only five years of boxing training, a Golden Gloves championship, and an impressive 40-5 amateur record on his resume, “The Hard Hitta” has built a 5-0 record with all five wins coming by way of knockout. One of his victims was a man named Alejo Sepulveda who was actually considered Roger Mayweather’s hottest prospect until he met the quick hands of “The Hard Hitta” and lost via first round knockout.
“Growing up, I could have easily gone down the wrong road," he said. "But I have been lucky my family has always been there for me. I have a wife and three beautiful children. My grandmother, parents and my older brother have all been my greatest inspirations.
"My older brother beat me up a lot as a kid. He actually taught me how to box. We fought many times growing up I remember trying to attack him with my head down throwing roundhouse punches. He used to hit me with the jab every time. He would always tell me to keep my head up when I punch. Fighting with my older brother helped me become a better boxer.”
Ricky Hatton has taken notice. “You can make some good things happen man. You have an awkward style. It is hard to mess with,” he told Mayfield.
In his defense, Mayfield pointed out the positive reinforcement received from the Hatton statement. “Hatton says I have an awkward style. But to me, awkward means unique. I have a unique style. I come in throwing punches from all angles. If I had to compare it to any fighters it would be Mike Tyson, Prince Naseem Hamed, and Roy Jones Jr.”
When Karim’s trainer Ben Batista received a call from Robert Diaz, the Golden Boy Promotions matchmaker in request of Mayfield’s services in the Hatton camp, they were both excited and willing to take the opportunity. “I wanted to see if I could compete at the highest level,” Karim said. “I also wanted to train with one of the best fighters out there, Ricky Hatton. It was a tremendous honor.”
The one week adventure started with a near bang but ended in a boxing culture shock. “My first day in Manchester, I almost got hit by a car crossing the street," Mayfield said. "I completely forgot that traffic in Europe goes in the opposite direction.”
Unlike Floyd Mayweather Jr. who is notorious for treating his sparring partners like trash, Ricky Hatton did everything he could to make Karim Mayfield’s visit as comfortable as possible.
“I felt like the Prince of England,” Karim said. “Hatton’s people treated us like royalty. They flew us out from San Francisco business class and took care of everything. They took care of the hotel, taxi, food, and also got us box seats to a Manchester soccer game. The Manchester soccer team signed their team flag and gave it to us. It was a great experience. Everyone there was really great.”
Batista agreed but was also impressed with the boxing culture in England. “It was huge, you know," the trainer said. "Training with a world champion and being a part of the HBO 24/7 thing. Being around the Golden Boy people was a mega experience. They treated us royally in England. But one thing I realized about Manchester is that boxing is mega hot out there. In Manchester, they stay true to boxing. They have boxing in the school curriculum. I mean it is crazy. The top sport there is soccer then its boxing.”
Batista continued with his assessment of the Manchester fight scene. “There are fighting gyms everywhere. It is a good feeling to know that I could pick up a newspaper and read about boxing. In England you can go into a super market and you will see Everlast clothes for sale and Lonsdale clothes for sale. In the United States, it is a shock to find any sports store carrying boxing gear. In America, you see wresting shoes before you see boxing shoes. Boxing is a culture in Manchester.”
Aside from the royal treatment Ricky Hatton conveyed to them and the obvious difference in boxing popularity between England and the United States, both Ben Batista and Karim Mayfield were impressed with Ricky Hatton as a person and a fighter. “Ricky is a nice dude,” Batista said. “Real humble, but he is a beast in a ring. If he gets a hold of Floyd in that fight it is going to be a long day.”
“Seeing how boxing is in England inspires me even more as a trainer. I want to go global with this thing (SFC)," said Batista, who is the owner and head trainer at the Straight Forward Boxing Club in San Francisco, Ca. His goal is to instill the sweet science of boxing into the minds of the inner city youth. Karim Mayfield and Ashante Jordan, who recently signed with Golden Boy, are his greatest prospects. “Karim Mayfield and Ashante Jordan are knocking down doors for San Francisco fighters. They are helping boxers in the Bay Area become recognized,” he said.
Karim is not only the SFC’s hottest talent but he is also a contributing trainer. “I want all the kids from Fillmore and the rest of the Bay Area to know that I am willing to help," he said. "If anyone wants to come by the gym and train I am here for you.”
Basically, Johnny Mason was to Cus D’Amato what Ben Batista is to Teddy Atlas. That is the resemblance to Mike Tyson’s career.
However, unlike Tyson, Karim Mayfield has had a strong family background.
“I am in boxing to provide for my family," he said. "I have three kids that I love to play with everyday. I have so much energy, sometimes I get them tired. I only want to keep boxing for about 8 to 10 more years. I am not in the sport to become a legend. If I could make a million dollars then I could make a million dollars. But now I take it one fight at a time.”
Family values are the essence of Karim Mayfield. He has a strong appreciation for where he comes from. Our conversation about boxing seemed to always return to a reference about another family member that had a lasting effect on him.
“My brother taught me so much about boxing," he said. "I used to rush my opponents like a mad man throwing punches with my head down. He told me that I could control the fight better if I keep my head up and use my strengths wisely.”
Karim’s greatest strengths are the right uppercut and left hook to the body. If you don’t believe him ask Ricky Hatton. Now “The Hard Hitta” is starting to get what every good young prospect should receive: recognition. The Ricky Hatton camp is not the only one Mayfield has on his resume. He also helped Zab Judah prepare for his fight against Carlos Baldomir in January of 2006.
Mayfield knows his boxing history and he figures that he is at the cusp of great things. Most young prospects that became great champs had to pay their dues by working as sparring partners for elite championship level fighters. A young Larry Holmes was famous for abusing Muhammad Ali during sparring sessions and more recently Paul Williams was wrecking havoc in the Antonio Margarito camp before he got his title shot.
Once Larry Holmes and Paul Williams became seasoned they defeated Ali and Margarito respectively to become champions. So does Karim Mayfield think that he can follow the trend and overthrow an undefeated champion like Ricky Hatton?
“I would never say anything bad about Ricky. He treated so me good out there. It just felt good to train with a world champion. If Floyd gives Ricky a target, he is going to rip right through him. Preparing Ricky Hatton for the biggest fight of his career is an honor.”
Karim Mayfield and his trainer Ben Batista arrived in Manchester, England seven weeks into Ricky Hatton’s training camp. “I was there helping Ricky train with three other boxers," the fighter said. "We all felt like he was training to beat us up. That guy is like a machine. He just does not get tired.” For Karim it felt like a privilege being a contributor to the Hatton camp but he wanted to prove his worthiness: “I went there to benefit. I wanted to see if I could compete with Ricky.
Ricky Hatton spars three times a week: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. When I asked Karim Mayfield to describe his experience in the ring with Ricky Hatton, he gave a vivid visual description on how a fighter feels inside the ring with the English champion.
At times Mayfield stood up and mimicked Mayweather’s defensive stance to show me how Ricky Hatton could exploit certain areas. He also posed as Ricky Hatton and threw punches in midair like a shadow boxer to give me a better idea on how Hatton fights inside the ring.
“Hatton has one style. There are no tricks. He is coming straight at you. He hits you everywhere man it does not matter. He will hit you on the elbows, your back, and your shoulders whatever he sees. Hatton does not back up. He comes straight forward like a bull.
"Ricky has a lot of natural strength. Ricky does not throw many jabs. If he does, then it’s a quick one just to get inside. He is a killer body puncher. But I felt like I neutralized him while we were sparring. I am naturally strong too and I was throwing punches from many different angles. After a few rounds I felt like I got his rhythm down. I have a unique style and I think it had an affect on him. I was hanging in there. I knew what he was doing every round. But can you stop it? That is the key.”
Aside from the training, he said, “Ricky is a cool dude. He is really down to earth. We were laughing and joking most of the time. I have a great amount of respect for him. We were working our asses off. That guy is in tremendous shape.”
Mayfield also noticed that his trainer Ben Batista uses completely different tactics than Billy Graham, Ricky Hatton’s trainer. “Billy Graham is not much of a strategist," he said. "I did not notice him giving Ricky many pointers in the corner. It is probably because Ricky Hatton fights like a madman. There is not much you can say to a fighter that just comes out to attack non stop.”
At this point in his career, Karim Mayfield is similar to a number one draft pick learning his craft while the veteran starting quarterback continues to play over him. In Mayfield’s eyes he can compete with anyone, he is just patiently waiting for the opportunity.
“I know I am on the right track in my career after this session with Hatton because I feel like trained with the best," he said. "After about 15 fights I think I could possibly fight for a world title.”
Mayfield is a student of life as well as boxing. His teachers come from everywhere and his family is not far from his mind.
“My father taught me how to be a dad and build structure. My mom and grandma are like angels. My brother taught me to keep my head up and my three children mean the world to me. ”
Karim was vigilant during his journey in England. Like he said before, he was there to learn and try to compete with the champ. Before we know it, the Super Fight between Ricky Hatton and Floyd Mayweather Jr. will long be over.
But Karim “The Hard Hitta” Mayfield will continue to work. “I stay in the gym everyday," he said. "I am learning more about when to use my jab and how to use the ring to my advantage.”
It was Vargas last appearance in the ring and despite hoping to go out with a win, Mayorga wasn’t cooperating.
“I thought that Mayorga would be much wilder,” said Vargas (26-5, 22 KOs). “Unfortunately that wasn’t the case.”
Before more than 10,300 fans, Mayorga (28-6-1, 22 KOs) proved the stronger and more resilient boxer in a fight that displayed many low blows, elbows, and head butts throughout the entire fight.
But it was an exciting fight from the first round until the very end.
Despite two extremely low blows by Vargas in the first round, the Nicaraguan brawler fired a left hook then followed up with a barrage of punches that floored Vargas. He beat the count near the end of the round.
Mayorga seemed to be toying with Vargas and landed two right hands. But a counter left hook stunned Mayorga to stop the momentum.
Vargas stunned the Nicaraguan fighter with a right hand in the third round but was unable to land more telling blows. Mayorga was satisfied to weather the blow. It was the same pattern in the fourth round.
Mayorga dominated the seventh round as Vargas seemed to lose steam. The Nicaraguan fighter picked apart the Oxnard fighter with little fear of return blows.
The ninth round began with Mayorga apologizing for a late punch from the previous round, then the two brawled and scrapped in the best round of the fight. Both fighters exchanged vicious punches.
The last three rounds found both fighters tiring, but neither fighter refused to surrender. If anything there was a mutual respect that was gained.
With seconds left in the 11th round, a right hand counter dropped Vargas on the seat of his pants as he backed away from the punch.
“Vargas came out with a different style than I had anticipated,” Mayorga said. “I adjusted well and was able to land heavy punches.”
In the final round both fighters raised their hand in anticipation of victory. But two of three judges favored Mayorga. The scores were 113-113, 115-111, 114-112 for the Nicaraguan fighter.
“Vargas was faster than I thought,” Mayorga said. “But I stuck to my game plan and put the pressure on him.”
Vargas had wanted to end his career with a victory but it just didn’t happen.
“He was the better man tonight,” Vargas said. “This is absolutely my last fight.”
It was vintage Vargas, who went out on his shield as promised, but Mayorga was the winner.
Both fighters shook hands after the fight. Mayorga went down on a knee to thank Vargas for the fight and ask for forgiveness for his crazy method of promoting a fight.
“I thank all my fans for all the applause,” said Vargas.
Kathy Duva, president of Main Events the co-promoter of the event, said the pay-per-views outsold the Miguel Cotto-Shane Mosley event several weeks ago.
“It was a night that we (boxing) looked very very good,” said Duva.
IBF titleholder Cintron hit Jesse Feliciano with one of the hardest blows of the night in the first round, but nothing happened. From then on it was a nose-to-nose battle with both fighters fighting for 10 rounds and neither giving an inch.
“I hurt my right hand with the first punch I landed,” said Cintron (29-1, 23 KOs), who writhed on the floor from the pain immediately after the fight. “I tried to use it but it was difficult.”
Feliciano (15-6-3, 9 KOs) grinded out a battle in the middle of the ring and followed Cintron everywhere he moved. He never gave the titleholder room to load up on too many punches. And those that landed with a thud, didn’t seem to faze the Las Vegas brawler.
“It was a rough start but I battled back,” Feliciano said.
After nine rounds of infighting, Cintron took it to the outside and used his reach. A blistering 11-punch combination had Feliciano’s head sustaining a battering until referee Jon Shorley decided to step in an halt the fight at 1:53 of the 10th round. But Feliciano never was knocked down by the hard-hitting Cintron.
“I think fans know now that I give 110 percent and I’m another Rocky,” Feliciano said. “Cintron is a tough guy.”
A clash between two former world champions ended in a count of 10 as Russia’s Roman Karmazin (36-2-1, 23 KOs) fired a four-punch combination that floored Mexico’s Alex Terra” Garcia (25-3, 23 KOs) in 1:24 of the third round.
Karmazin, who picked up the WBC Intercontinental junior middleweight title with the win, had been dangling his left arm that left his face unguarded. But Garcia was unable to capitalize and instead was dropped once in the first round and then again for good in the third round with body shots. Referee Raul Caiz Jr. counted out Garcia.
“I knew I was going to knock him out after the first round,” said Karmizin, a former IBF junior middleweight titleholder. “I knew my speed was too much for him.”
Minnesota’s Jason “All American Boy” Litzau (23-1, 19 KOs) and Edel Ruiz (28-18-5) engaged in a 10-round seesaw lightweight battle. Litzau emerged with the victory by unanimous decision and proved he cannot engage in a boring fight. The judges scored it 98-92 twice and 97-93 for Litzau.
Welterweight sensation Henry Crawford (17-0-1, 8 KOs) rolled on with a unanimous decision over San Jose, California’s Jose Bermejo (10-6-2, 7 KOs). The judges scored it 80-72 for Crawford. No knockdowns were scored.
Venezuela’s Nelson Linares (15-0-1, 8 KOs) dropped Mexico’s Jorge Padilla (7-5-3) with a right hand in the sixth and coasted to a unanimous decision 80-71 twice and 79-72 in a junior middleweight contest.
Nicaraguan heavyweight Evans Quinn (15-2, 14 KOs) unleashed an eight-punch salvo against Oxnard’s Victor Barragan (8-3) and floored him with two final right hands. Referee Jerry Cantu stopped the fight at 54 seconds into the first round on the advice of ringside physician.
Post fight notes
Robert Ferguson, the conditioning coach for Vargas, said his fighter lost 100 pounds in less than a year.
“He weighed 264 pounds last January,” Ferguson said at the post fight press conference.
In the audience was Felix Trinidad, Roy Jones Jr., Shane Mosley and Sylvester Stallone.