The tall and lanky Michael could not have been more different than his brother Leon, who also won Olympic gold the same year, in the light heavyweight division.
While the fun-loving Leon always had aspirations of turning pro, the more thoughtful and introspective Michael was sick and tired of the vagaries and politics of boxing. He had planned on hanging up the gloves for good and took a job as a graveyard shift janitor at a local factory.
“Boxing was such a dirty game, I didn’t want to lose my mind,” said Spinks, who is now an extremely fit 51 years old, and one of the greatest success stories that the sport of boxing has ever known.
One night while he was supposed to be cleaning toilets, Spinks fell asleep in the women’s restroom. He wound up getting cursed out by his boss, who didn’t give a damn that he was a boxer, much less the winner of Olympic gold.
“I told him that I was going to do him and I a favor and resign,” said the normally mild-mannered Spinks. “I told him that I didn’t want to do something that we would both regret for the rest of our lives.”
Spinks wound up turning professional as a light heavyweight. Brother Leon became a professional heavyweight, and dethroned Muhammad Ali for the title in just his eighth pro fight.
Spinks was matched tough early on in his career, beating such tough customers as Tom Bethea, Ramon Ranquello, Murray Sutherland and Alvaro “Yaqui” Lopez.
His one-punch knockout of former champion Marvin Johnson was one of the best of the past few decades. Even Spinks, who is not prone to bombast, was impressed.
“I saw the picture-perfect left hook and then I took it,” said Spinks, who ironically was best known for his vaunted right hand, which was nicknamed the Spinks Jinx. “I don’t think anybody could throw a better left hook. If he got up from that, then I would have quit.”
Johnson was counted out and in Spinks’ very next fight, in July 1981, he beat Eddie Mustafa Muhammad by unanimous decision to win the WBA light heavyweight title.
He would go on to make 10 defenses, and along the way also picked up the WBC and IBF crowns from Dwight Muhammad Qawi and Eddie Davis respectively.
Spinks was undefeated in 27 fights when he and his promoter Butch Lewis decided to go after the heavyweight crown, which was then held by Larry Holmes. When Holmes, the IBF champion who was 48-0 at the time, selected Spinks as the opponent for his 49th fight, he was widely criticized for choosing such an easy foe.
If he won, which was generally regarded as a given, he would have tied Rocky Marciano’s monumental record of 49-0.
It seemed that the only people who believed in Spinks becoming the first light heavyweight champ to win the heavyweight title was Mackie Shilstone, who was brought in to devise a scientific regimen to add muscle and flexibility, and promoter Butch Lewis, who Spinks is still tight with to this day.
“If anyone could beat Holmes, it was Slim,” said Lewis, who has called Spinks by that nickname for years. “He was a tremendous fighter who could do anything. I never had any doubt he would beat Holmes, no matter what the press was saying.”
Lewis initially wanted to give Spinks a year to prepare for Holmes, who had already stopped Leon Spinks in a title defense, but Shilstone insisted he could have him ready much sooner.
“Mackie had me ready in eight weeks,” said Spinks. “I started training at about 200 pounds, but he got me down to 185 of lean muscle mass. Then he built me back up.”
Spinks would eventually weigh 199 3⁄4 pounds against Holmes for their first fight, while Holmes weighed in at 221 1⁄2.
Although Spinks kept much of his feelings to himself, he admits to having no shortage of trepidation in the weeks leading up to the Holmes fight.
“I’d be in my bed at night, and I couldn’t get any sleep,” said Spinks. “My nerves were shot.”
Finally the strong-minded Spinks managed to find a way to co-exist with his negative feelings in more positive ways.
“I would say that Larry is not just getting in the ring with any light heavyweight, he’s getting in the ring with me,” said Spinks. “I told myself that one thing I was really good at was not letting someone else get the best of me, so I was determined that Larry wasn’t going to do that.”
By fight night, Spinks had more confidence than he could have ever imagined. He put on a masterful performance, outhustled Holmes, and denied him the tie with Marciano’s record by winning a unanimous decision. RING magazine called it the Upset of the Year.
Because Spinks seems like a somewhat sensitive soul, I asked him if he ever felt bad for denying Holmes, who was a great champion, the record he worked so hard to attain.
“Just the opposite,” said Spinks. “He had beaten my brother and he had beaten Ali. He liked to hurt guys. It was a gratifying feeling to beat him, to not have gotten my ass whooped. He didn’t get the best of me, and when I saw him up close I wasn’t afraid of him.”
Spinks was thrilled to make history and, perhaps more importantly, he finally felt comfortable fighting as a heavyweight. He beat Holmes by decision in a rematch, and then defended the title against Norwegian Steffen Tangstad, who he stopped in four rounds.
He and Lewis then made a decision to relinquish the IBF title rather than defend it against Tony Tucker for a mere $750,000 in an HBO sponsored tournament whose ultimate goal was to crown the then rampaging Mike Tyson as the world’s best heavyweight.
Spinks and Lewis opted to fight the hard-punching Gerry Cooney, who towered over Spinks, with no title on the line. Lewis, who put his money where his mouth was by promoting the bout, believed that not only would Spinks beat Cooney, but that a victory would result in an even greater purse for the eventual bout against Tyson.
Many experts believed that Cooney was too big and strong for the much smaller Spinks. Spinks, however, was a lot less concerned with Cooney than he had been with Holmes.
“Gerry had never been in the ring with someone like me,” said Spinks. “If I didn’t let him hit me, he couldn’t hurt me.”
Utilizing the herky-jerky style that he employed against Holmes, Spinks stopped Cooney in five rounds. A year later, his fight against Tyson for three versions of the heavyweight title would gross him more than $13 million.
Spinks admits to being concerned with the ferocity of Tyson during that era.
“I looked at him sideways and he was this wide,” he said as he extended his arms. “I knew I had my hands full with him. He was hard and fast puncher. When I fought Mike, I think he was at his best.”
Spinks was never in the fight against Tyson, and was stopped in just 91 seconds. He never fought again, which is a decision he does not regret. His final ring ledger was 31-1 (21 KOS).
As good as he was a fighter, he said that what he remembers most fondly, besides the paydays, are the training camps and all the laughs he had with Lewis, as well as sparring partners such as Elijah Tillery, Eddie Gonzalez and Al Evans.
“I really enjoyed the camaraderie,” said Spinks. “My sparring partners were all great guys and we had lots of fun together.”
Spinks, who was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, isn’t all that involved in boxing these days. But he is still closely associated with Lewis, who is always promoting something. He and Lewis attended a WBCares event in New York last month.
Michael is happy to see the success that his nephew Cory, who is Leon’s son, has had in the ring, and does not believe the criticism of Cory for being a safety-first fighter is warranted.
“He’s keeping the Spinks name alive, and he has us looking good,” said Michael. “And he beat that tough dude, (Ricardo) Mayorga. He (Mayorga) is a tiger.”
Michael does not welcome the comparisons to his brother, whom it is obvious he still loves, but says they are completely different people who took divergent paths in life. While Michael looks, talks and acts like an urban professional without an iota of pretense, Leon, who seems to have found inner peace, shows no signs of the outward success that his kid brother does.
“Leon’s a big boy,” said Michael. “He chose his route and I chose mine.”
Asked how he wiles away his days, Michael says that he sees his 26-year-old daughter as much as possible and hangs with Lewis often.
Other than that, he says, “I do a lot of lying around.”
The scores were 95-94 (Ouma) and 96-93 twice for Roman. Ouma, who fights out of West Palm Beach, Florida came in to the bout ranked #5 by the WBC and #8 by the IBF. Roman was coming off two knockout losses.
Roman came out aggressive from the first bell, landing repeatedly to the head and body of a lackluster looking Ouma. A hard short left hook momentarily shook Ouma.
The African fared better in the second round as he landed some left and right hooks to the face of Roman. Roman fought back with some nice body shots, in a very active round for both men.
Roman and Ouma engaged in a phone booth war in the third with both men trying to keep the fight in the middle of the ring. It was one of many close rounds that were tough to score.
The fourth was more toe to toe action with Ouma landing some excellent hooks to the head.
In the fifth, Ouma worked Roman’s body over well as the Mexican kept moving forward and throwing hard shots. Both men exchanged punches with Roman landing some hard lefts followed by uppercuts.
The sixth was Roman’s as he used his height advantage to land some over hand rights on the native of Uganda. Double left hooks by Roman and a right hand scored well for the Culiacan, Sinaloa fighter.
Ouma came out determined in the seventh and raised his work rate as the toe to toe war continued. A left hook put Ouma in serious trouble as Roman pounded him against the ropes.
The eighth turned into a gift for Ouma as he was awarded a bizarre knockdown after hitting Roman several times to the lower regions. Referee James Jen Kin erroneously started an eight count when Roman went down after the third low blow. The obvious foul went in Ouma’s favor in a round that Roman was winning.
Roman finished strong in the ninth and tenth as he landed more hard combinations on a tiring Ouma whose work rate diminished as Roman kept landing wide left and right hooks. It was a very close fight with Roman closing well and taking the final round.
“I showed everyone that I came to fight,” said Roman afterwards. “Hopefully the boxing world will take notice.”
“It wasn’t my best night of course,” said Ouma afterwards. “I have to give credit to Roman. He came to fight and was very strong. The fight could’ve gone either way. I’ll be back.”
Munguia upsets “Pit Bull Diaz”! Featherweight Miguel Munguia (16-7-1, 13 KOs) scored a surprise win over previously unbeaten Jose "Pit Bull" Diaz (14-1, 4 KOs) in a ten rounder. Scores were 96-93 (Marty Denkin), 95-94 (David Mendoza) and 97-92 (Pat Russell). Diaz is the brother of lightweight champion Juan “Baby Bull” Diaz.
Munguia kept the onrushing attack from Diaz at bay by employing a stiff jab from the very first round. Diaz mimics his more famous brother’s pressure tactics but Munguia used a busy offense for his defense as he constantly kept busy and managed to outland the Texan. Munguia used the counterpunch effectively and was able to measure the oncoming Diaz.
Diaz was breathing heavily by the third round as Munguia blasted his body with much success.
Diaz was deducted a point in the fourth for losing his mouthpiece for a second time after getting clipped with a punch. The action continued hot and heavy as both men fought hard for the win. A hard right hurt and wobbled Munguia who hung on until the bell rang.
Munguia used most of the fifth round to recover but picked up the pace at the end as he landed some nice combinations to win him the round.
Munguia kept Diaz at arms length for the sixth and seventh with constant jabs and combinations to the body.
In the eighth, Diaz seemed to be tiring as his work out-put slowed. Munguia kept pushing forward and was the busier of the two.
The ninth round came and Diaz again caught Munguia but the Mexico City native hung tough and managed to end the round with some effective combinations.
The final round came and Munguia closed strong as he came forward and pressured his opponent who slowed down considerably by the end.
“I wasn’t intimidated at all by him,” said Munguia after the fight. “I knew it was a great opportunity to get back on top and I had to take advantage of it.”
In other bouts: Nestor Rocha stopped Cesar Morales at fifty one seconds of the ninth round.
Craig McEwan defeated Anthony Cannon by unanimous decision. Scores were 59-54, and 60-54 (twice).
Ricardo Delgado won by unanimous decision over Andres Reyes. Scores were 39-37 all the way across.
Brian Ramirez defeated Sytel Wilbarn via majority decision with scores of 39-37, 38-38 and 40-36.
Ana Julaton won her pro debut over Margarita Valentini in a one sided affair. The scores were 40-34, 39-35 and 40-34.
The bouts were televised by Telefutura and promoted by Golden Boy Promotions.
The Showtime televised gala may have been justifiably one sided in the scoring department, but it was anything but easy. Both heroes got busted up plenty, but Juarez was definately the worse for the whapping wear.
"I knew Juarez would be tough," said a multi-bruised Marquez. "He fought like a champion. I'm very happy from this fight. Now I want Manny Pacquiao."
"I tried my best," said Juarez, who has nothing to be ashamed of. "I got cut from a headbutt in the first round and that made it tough for the rest of the fight. I give Marquez credit for giving me the shot. I respect him a lot. I like to think I've fought the best, and Marquez definitely is. I still plan on winnning a title sooner or later. Rocky will be back."
Coming in, the contest shaped up as a potential Fight of the Year situation based on the fighters' qualifications, but depending on how the Calzaghe-Kessler bout turned out, Marquez-Juarez may not have even ended up as the tilt of the weekend.
It turned out to be an excellent contest, but there was little drama since Marquez seized most of the momentum and never let go.
Juarez came in with his guard up and tried to apply pressure, but Marquez fired huge shots underneath to keep him off.
Marquez controlled the distance with a stronger jab, and the cut over Juarez's left eye, from an accidental butt, bled all night long.
Juarez scored with some big right hand blasts, but Marquez shrugged them off and came back with harder, and many more rights of his own.
Marquez reached around with brutal thumps to the ribs. By the middle rounds, it seemed like the fight was out of reach for the challenger.
Marquez put on a great display of boxing prowess. Juarez put on a great display of guts.
Juarez tried to rally down the stretch and hung tough, but Marquez looked like the Hall of Fame performer he is.
Scoring: Robin Dolpierre 118-110, Burt Clements 117-111, Chris Wilson 120-108. Referee Bobby Ferrara did a good job letting them rumble. The Sweet Science saw it all Marquez, who may get the mega-rematch with Pacquiao in March.
"Pacquiao said he's the Mexican killer," summed up Marquez. "He hasn't proved that to me."
Promoter Oscar de la Hoya said Golden Boy would work to secure the face off as soon as possible.
Chambers gave away some early rounds to Brock, but pulled away from the veteran down the stretch, as he used his far quicker hands to pile up points, in the program's 100th episode.
The 25-year-old Chambers, owner of the quickest jab in the division, entered with a 29-0 (16 KOs) mark. Brock, the 32-year-old, was 31-1 (23 KOs). That lone loss came to Wladimir Klitschko in 2006.
Brock came to the ring wearing a t-shirt advertising CalvinBrockTravel.com. That covered up his beefier frame, until he stripped it off and showed that his 241 pounds wasn't exactly composed of more muscle that had transformed from fat, as he'd boasted. Chambers was only 213, and a viewer figured that Brock would have to catch and stop Chambers early to maximize his chances of winning.
Both men got to work in the first. Chambers, with his guard up high, set the table with his jab. Brock didn't waste much time sizing up his foe, as he looked to find a home for his money power shot, the right.
In the second, Brock came out with combos, placing some solid body shots that had Chambers asking him to aim higher. Chambers several times smiled after Brock scored, leading some to wonder if he was as focused as he could be, or maybe he was too relaxed? For a small heavyweight, by the way, Chambers does not move the feet, and dance, as much as you might think. Maybe that'll come later, against a true bomber, like Klitschko.
In the third, Brock got right to work, putting together well-thought out combos. Chambers made it easy by standing flat footed in front of his foe, especially in light of Brock's soaring poundage. It looked to me like Chambers was waiting to get cookin' later, when Calvin started huffing and puffing.
In the fourth round, Brock was backing up, and it looked like Chambers might start to press more. His jabs were landing obviously, even to a half-blind judge.
Chambers popped the jab from second one in the fifth. Even at this stage, Chambers is one of the coolest customers in the class...his ample gym experience in the Philly area has paid dividends in that area. Chambers stepped it up a half, not whole, notch.
Brock picked it up to kick off the sixth. But Chambers snapped him back into line, with crisp jabs, quick left hooks and the odd straight right. Brock's right eye looked puffy by now, and he looked like I used to look the morning after, after a night of slurping beverages. Chambers had Brock on the ropes at the round's close. Pernell Whitaker, working Brock's corner, asked him if he was alright. Things were slipping away.
Brock's punches to start the seventh looked like love taps while Chambers had full velocity on his throws. Brock's hands were low, dangerously low, at this time.
On to the eighth: Chambers invited Brock in to throw, to tucker his man out. Chambers could have stepped on the pedal, and sped up the process, but he is a deliberate sort, content to dissect, rather than overwhelm.
In the ninth, Chambers, coasted too much, but punctuated his effort with a solid right to steal the round, perhaps. He probably should have pressed Brock more, and made the older man work harder.
The tenth round saw Brock busy early. He took the first two-thirds of the frame, and it was an even last third. Chambers should've been on him, and this lack of urgency, which manifested as coolness before, must be addressed, if Chambers is to reach his potential. Eddie Sr., in the corner, gave him the what for.
Brock wasn't shot in the 11th, as you might figure he would be at this weight. Brock had his best flurry, as he caught Chambers with some solid rights. Chambers answered later with a scoring right, but did he steal the round? The action was fairly plentiful for this late stage.
"I need this round," Whitaker yelled at Brock after the round.
In the 12th, Brock didn't come out gunning for a KO. In fact, he moved, looking to avoid conflict. The crowd booed as Brock shuffled to and fro. Chambers landed the only telling punch of the round, a right, with 12 seconds to go. The bell rang, and the judges would speak. It took awhile, as computations were checked, and re-checked. Clueless ring announcer George Chung called out the verdict: Glen Hamada had it 115-113, Chambers; Tom McDonough saw it 115-113, Brock; and Steve Weisfeld called it 115-113, Chambers.
I say "clueless" George Chung, because he betrayed the verdict by announcing McDonough's card as "113-115, Brock." The crowd and the viewer knew then who got the short end of the stick.
Chambers' stock went up a tick in my book as he came down hard on himself after the bout.
"You gotta really step it up, throw more punches, do more to win a fight like this," he told Steve Farhood. "You can't get in there, BSing like I did, and I should step it up next time, and I apologize to all my fans out there who wanted to see a blowout, next time I will get it for you."
Brock blamed his corner, especially his dad, for telling him he merely needed to coast to a win in the last two rounds. Senior told Farhood that his son controlled the action, and thought he won. Brock said he moved twelve rounds, and thought he beat Chambers. His future, Brock said, is still bright.
Chambers meets Alex Povetkin next, and the winner of that one gets Wladimir Klitschko, in what may well be a "be careful what you wish for, you just might get it" bout. No venue has been chosen yet.
We'll truly see what Chambers is made of when he takes on Povetkin, and we'll see if he takes his self-critical take to heart, and works harder to impress 1-12.
It took Calzaghe a few rounds to figure out what he had in front of him, which was a basic (in a good way and a bad way), sturdy, straight ahead sort who could be outboxed.
Calzaghe's jab was effective throughout, as he tossed it in Kessler's face non-stop, and upset the Dane's rhthym. Kessler to be sure landed some good cracks, and was still working to toss a home run shot in the twelfth round.
The judges saw it 117-111, 116-111, 116-111, and I saw it 117-111. The fight was a bit closer than those wide scores indicated, especially if you deem Calzaghe's punches to be of the "slap" variety.
Kessler found a home for his right uppercut against the lefty, but Joe tightened up in the second half and cut off that option.
He never did manage to convince the crowd or the judges or probably himself that youth was on his side, as Calzaghe looked mighty fresh all the way through.
The most curious section of the bout took place with 30 seconds to go in the eighth. Calzaghe piled up some slaps, and had Kessler buzzed. The Dane held on, and Joe clubbed him behind his head twice to get him to break. Referee Mike Ortega grabbed Calzaghe, yanked him away and chided him. That interlude bought Kessler about eight seconds, an eternity if you're drowning in a sea of strikes.
The stats weren't any kinder to the Dane than the judges were. Calzaghe landed 285 of 1010 throws, a fairly crappy 28% margin. But his foe threw only 585 punches, and connected on 173, a paltry number.
Kessler's stock doesn't dive with the loss, but he needs a higher caliber corner, for starters, if he hopes to recoup and climb upward and onward.
Calzaghe is 44-0, while Kessler finds himself 39-1.
Calzaghe, slapper or not, should now come to the US, away from that home cooking, and see how he handles an "away game."
The winner of the 12-rounder in Tacoma, Washington will face 2004 Olympic Games gold medalist Povetkin, who tapped a nail into Chris Byrd’s hopes to once again be a heavyweight player on October 27, and gain the right to challenge IBF heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko.
Getting out my predictor cap, I’m leaning towards the speedier, of foot and fist, Chambers sending the 32-year-old Brock closer to the end of this vocational road.
“When the opportunity to fight Brock popped up, I jumped at the chance,” the 25-year-old Philly-honed Chambers said. “To be a fight or two from fighting for the world title is really exciting and what it is all about. I am totally enjoying all of this.
“I have a lot of respect for Calvin and expect a pretty tough fight. But because I respect him doesn’t mean I am intimidated.
“Calvin is good at a lot of things and I expect to see him at his best Friday. The only fights I watched of his were when he was at his best.”
Not to be deliberately flip, but there haven’t been as many of those sort of outings in Brock’s six-year pro career as he, or those that touted him, would’ve liked.
Yes, he has only one loss, but that came in his potential breakthrough bout, against Wladimir Klitschko on Nov. 11, 2006, at Madison Square Garden. He never got untracked in that effort, which saw him getting finished off in the seventh round of the title shot. His best wins came against an end-of-the line Clifford Etienne (Jan. 2005) and Jameel McCline (April 2005) in a tight tussle. Tilting the tone more toward the negative, it turns out that Brock has weighed in at 241 pounds yesterday for the beef, his highest recorded poundage in 32 pro tiffs.
“I feel I am coming up to my best fight,” Brock maintains. “You are going to see me faster and lighter on my feet. I will be working the jab, letting my punches go with both hands. Condition wise, I feel better at this weight than I did at 225. He is supposed to be quick. I think I am quicker.”
That would be a nifty trick, if he’s able to weigh 20 pounds more than he did two years ago, and be faster than when he was trimmer.
Chambers begs to differ, too.
“Brock he is not all that fast and that is one of the things I expect to take advantage of and will try to exploit,” he said. “He may try and jump on me early, but I am ready for that or anything.
“I know if I pick my spots, give him lots of angles, fight smart, throw him off and disrupt his timing, I’ll be OK. I’ve had the best training, am totally focused and definitely ready to fight.
This may not be a barnburner, as neither man has an overabundance of shark blood in their veins. Expect to Chambers to confound the beefier “Boxing Banker,” pepper him with swift but light flurries, and take a resounding decision.
Brock maintains that he’s not looking past the unbeaten, but only minimally tested pup.
“I am not overlooking or taking Chambers for granted because I respect him as a fighter,” he said. “But I really don’t see how he is going to beat me. He is undefeated, but I am not totally impressed. I thought his fight with Dominick Guinn was a whole lot closer than the judges had it.
“You are going to see a different Calvin Brock than the one who fought Klitschko. I have worked really hard for this fight, but unlike the Klitschko fight, this time I am not overtrained. I peaked three weeks too early and was stale against Klitschko. It’s been a tough camp, but a good one. Having the great Pernell Whitaker working with me has really helped, too. I am really looking forward to having a great night on Friday.’’
I think it’s possible, or probable, that because Brock had too many “great” nights of eating in training, that tonight will not be a great success for him.
But Marquez can’t buy his youth back and Juarez has bottle full of it. Can youth beat wisdom?
Marquez, the stylish fighter from Mexico City, defends his WBC junior lightweight title against Houston’s Juarez on Saturday Nov. 3, at the Desert Diamond Casino in Tucson. The fight promoted by Golden Boy Promotions will be televised on Showtime.
For 14 years the fighter known as “Dinamita” has flourished under the tutelage of Mexico City’s master trainer Nacho Beristain to become one of the more polished prizefighters to ever come out of that country.
With his precise counter-punching style Beristain has guided the careers of Juan Manuel and Rafael Marquez. And before that he led Ricardo “Finito” Lopez to a Hall of Fame career that ended with that fighter never suffering a defeat in his amateur and pro career.
Marquez (47-3-1, 35 KOs) is one of the best fighters on the planet and has been for a number of years. But the ticks of time are catching up.
It’s Texas-born Juarez’s turn to see if its quitting time for Marquez.
Juarez is a product of the U.S. amateur system for who he participated in the 2000 Olympics in Australia. He captured a silver medal with his plowing style of mowing down opponents with body punches and more body punches.
Many experts say that’s a chink in Marquez’s armor that has never been tested thoroughly.
One highly recognized trainer says that fighters begin to lose a bit of their resistance to body punches at the age of 30 due to the countless rounds of sparring as an amateur and pro. The ribs, liver and stomach area can only take so many blows before the mind reacts.
“You can do all the sit-ups you want but the body weakens,” said Roger Mayweather, a former world champion who now trains his nephew Floyd Mayweather. “Some guys can take a shot to the head their entire lives, but not to the body.”
For a murderous body puncher like Juarez, it’s what he’s counting on.
“Well I choose not to say how I’m going to fight him,” said Juarez during a telephone press conference. “But that is something we look into.”
Spar thousands of rounds
Throughout boxing history it’s evident that the great boxers possess the ability to take a shot to the chin and keep fighting. Guys like Sam Langford in the early 1900s to Sugar Ray Robinson in the 1950s could absorb punches from the best during their heydays. Despite fighting more than 200 fights Robinson was never knocked out.
But it was the blows to the body that caused many of their losses later in their careers.
“What a lot of people don’t realize is that boxers spar thousands of rounds with boxers constantly hitting them to the body,” said Rudy Hernandez, a former fighter who now trains lightweight contenders Jose Armando Santa Cruz and Urbano Antillon. “People only see the fighters during a fight but forget about all of the sparring.”
Ageing fighters always face a risk of losing despite an iron chin. Jesse James Leija couldn’t sustain the body shots Arturo Gatti fired on him and Gatti couldn’t withstand the blows to the body from Alfonso Gomez. The body can only absorb so many punches before the brain says no more.
Oscar De La Hoya’s only knockout loss was to Bernard Hopkins. And though Hopkins was a true middleweight, his blows to the head didn’t faze De La Hoya, but the left hook to the body sure did.
Ricky Hatton whipped Jose Luis Castillo but not with shots to the head. It was a single punch to the liver that dropped the Mexican warrior to a helpless heap.
The constant battering to the body makes 30-year-olds more protective of their stomach area.
Earlier in the year Rafael Marquez and Israel Vazquez collided in a explosion of punches that ended in a win for Marquez in their first fight. But if you examine that first contest, it was evident that Vazquez realized his body punches were opening up the Marquez’s defense. In their second encounter Vazquez exploited Marquez’s vulnerability to body shots then lowered the boom when Marquez lowered his guard.
Juarez has a puncher’s chance if it’s to the body. He experienced that against the great Marco Antonio Barrera in two fights.
“I feel that those two fights with Barrera gave me a lot of confidence to allow myself to know that I can compete against the best out there,” said Juarez, who had been scheduled to fight for the IBF featherweight title against Robert Guerrero but was offered this fight and took it. “Every fight whether it’s Barrera or Marquez I go in thinking I’m going to win.”
Marquez, 34, likes to fight from the outside and punishes opponents who cross an invisible line on front of him. But even Marquez can be hit in the body as Barrera proved when they fought last March. Several perfectly placed lefts and rights to the body forced Marquez to cover those areas and leave his chin exposed. Barrera feinted to the body and caught Marquez on the point of the chin for the only knockdown of the fight. But he managed to evade Barrera’s body attack for the rest of the fight.
“I know that Rocky Juarez is a tough and dangerous opponent,” said Marquez. “I don’t just prepare for one style. If he can move, he can run, he can throw punches or stop throwing punches. I know that everything can happen in the ring.”
Age and experience vs. youth
Could this be the fight where that accumulated punishment catches up to him?
“You can’t always go by age because I’ve seen some fighters past 40 that have beaten much younger guys,” said Hernandez who is preparing Jose Armando Santa Cruz to meet veteran Joel Casamayor on Nov. 10. “But Marquez now is more aggressive. He has to be careful not go get caught coming in.”
Juarez, at 27, has probably sparred several hundred rounds less than Marquez. That means he’s endured thousands of punches less to the body than the Mexico City world champion. If the battle is fought in close quarters, it could be the difference between winning and losing.
“If you get hit with a good body shot you can go into shock,” said Hernandez.
It won’t be a shock if one of the fighters is stopped due to a blow to the body that’s for certain.
Imagine: A Dane and a Welshman have America watching.
It’s the ultimate unification bout when Kessler (39-0, 29 KOs) tosses in his WBA and WBC belts against Calzaghe’s (43-0, 32 KOs) WBO (and IBF title in reality) belt in Cardiff, Wales on Saturday Nov. 3. The battle in Wales will be televised live on HBO.
So what does Kessler think about entering the Dragon’s den when he walks into Millennium Stadium before an expected 50,000 anti-Danish fans on Saturday?
“It’s just a boxing ring like any other,” said Kessler, 28, who has fought in the U.S. and Australia against that country’s Anthony Mundine and emerged the victor after 12 rounds. “I’m more focused for Calzaghe.”
It’s a rare moment this Saturday. One could say it’s like watching a solar eclipse. It doesn’t happen very often that two Europeans or two fighters from other than North America and South America are part of a televised championship fight.
The last time it happened Wladimir Klitshcko faced Corrie Sanders in Hanover, Germany and got knocked out and lost his heavyweight title in a big upset in March 8, 2003. That was shown on HBO too.
And why are we watching two European boxers?
It’s academic. These are two of the finest boxers anywhere in the world in the 168-pound weight division. They are superb.
Kessler, born and raised in Copenhagen, resembles Jean Claude Van Damme and has displayed a European boxing style that combines speed, precision and power and has steamrolled through competition every time he enters the ring.
“I guess you could call my boxing a European style,” said Kessler chuckling a bit. “I throw in combinations and have a good left hand.”
American audiences saw Kessler fight in the U.S. back on March 4, 2000, on the under card of the Paulie Ayala and Johnny Bredahl bantamweight world title fight in Las Vegas. What the 8,000 in attendance saw that night was a particularly strong middleweight who mowed down Puerto Rico’s Israel Ponce in a quick two rounds. Kessler was faster, stronger and precise.
“I’m not a brawler I stand up and fight,” Kessler said this week by cell phone from Wales. “I’m a clean fighter who uses his skills.”
Kessler gave a good example of his fighting skills against American fighter Librado Andrade who was ranked number one and had accepted $75,000 to step aside and let Kessler fight Germany’s Markus Beyer. The Dane obliterated Beyer and then out-boxed Andrade over 12 rounds from the outside last March.
“He was the strongest fighter I ever fought,” said Kessler, 28, by telephone. “I couldn’t allow him to hit me because I knew I wouldn’t be able to last 12 rounds.”
Kessler bounced on his toes and gave movement while lashing out with quick jabs and effective combinations. Andrade was unable to land one of his patented killing blows.
“His foot movement is one of his strong points,” said Andrade, who seeks a world title rematch with Kessler. “He also throws very straight and accurate punches.”
Kessler is not a paper champion and he didn’t earn the title through his promoters. He beat several quality fighters including Australia’s Mundine, former champion Eric Lucas of Canada, former champion Manny Siaca of Italy and took the WBC belt from Germany’s Beyer by knockout.
“He’s the younger and hungrier fighter,” says Andrade. “I think he has the advantage.”
Because he’s not American or Latino, Calzaghe’s career tended to get lost in the shuffle in the states. But the Welsh fighter of Italian descent won the title in 1997 and has successfully defended it in 20 consecutive confrontations. No matter what nationality that’s an incredible feat and it lends to his comfort.
“I feel really confident,” said Calzaghe during a telephone conference call. “That’s what it’s all about, looking for the big fights.”
Other huge fights await the winner including possible bouts against Bernard Hopkins, Kelly Pavlik or Jermain Taylor.
It almost makes Calzaghe rub his hands in glee.
“This is going to be a fantastic occasion,” said Calzaghe, 35. “I still want to achieve greater goals perhaps in the light heavyweight division as well.”
The winner of this super middleweight bout will be the first professional fighter in the division’s history to be the true undisputed world champion. Forget about the IBF titleholder Alejandro Berrio. That’s really Calzaghe’s belt too.
Whoever wins between Kessler and Calzaghe will make history.
Super middleweight history
A super middleweight division was created in 1984 by the International Boxing Federation and Murray Sutherland was its first world champion.
Then the World Boxing Association established a super middleweight division in 1987 with Korea’s Chong Pal Park as its first champion.
In 1988 Sugar Ray Leonard won the first World Boxing Council super middleweight title with a knockout of Don Lalonde.
Later in 1988, the World Boxing Organization established its champion when Tommy Hearns defeated James Kinchen by majority decision in Las Vegas.
When a fighter has remained undefeated for more than 14 years and has beaten fighters from all points of the globe with styles that pretty much cover A to Z like Calzaghe, he’s pretty much the favorite to win.
Though Calzaghe’s resume includes wins over former champions like Chris Eubank, Richie Woodhall and Robin Reid. It’s his wins over American fighters like Omar Sheika, Charles Brewer and Byron Mitchell that caught the attention of American boxing fans.
Then came Jeff “Left Hook” Lacy who had been attempting to mimic a super middleweight version of Mike Tyson. Though Lacy always had problems against boxers like Calzaghe (see Sheika and Richard Grant), many power-ogling boxing fans felt Lacy was indestructible. Calzaghe proved he was not with a commanding boxing performance that shocked most of America and stamped his name as one of the best fighters in the business.
Not everyone is convinced but Calzaghe knows that Kessler has more talent.
“Kessler is a better fighter than Lacy, he’s a taller fighter,” said Calzaghe. “I’ve seen him fight he has a good European style with good power in either hand, but he boxes the same way. I believe he’s not adaptable.”
Kessler likes that most people believe it will be a one-sided affair in favor of Calzaghe.
“Calzaghe is an awkward fighter,” said Kessler whose second pro win came against a Michael Corleone. “I’ve trained for weeks for the way Calzaghe fights.”
Kessler truly believes he will win against Calzaghe and the Welsh fighter is just as confident.
The "Pride of Wales" and the "Viking Warrior", because of their division and locations, don't have a worldwide fan base. They fight in a class that packed with very few American superstars and Pound for Pound favorites.
The super middleweight division, which was established in 1984, lacks the rich history that helps define the classic weight classes, such as the middleweight division and the light heavyweight division. Being sandwiched between the two classics, the 168lb division has often been considered by some as nothing more than a rest home for those aged middleweights who get blown up in weight or a safe house for those shot light heavyweights who could no longer make the cut. With no undisputed champions in its 23 years of history, the reputation of this "newcomer" is further undermined.
Although Calzaghe and Kessler are superstars in their respective home country, fighting largely in UK and Denmark hindered them from gaining more popularity worldwide.
China Central Television (CCTV), China's largest national TV network, will not air the super middleweight unification showdown live between longtime WBO King Joe Calzaghe and WBA/WBC reigning champion Mikkel Kessler, according to its preview. Instead, the TV network will fill the gap with a super featherweight bout, which pits two little men, Juan Manuel Marquez and Rocky Juarez, against each other.
Does it manifest the issues of television broadcasting, or the lack of world influence, at least in China, of the name Joe Calzaghe and Mikkel Kessler?
Holyfield vs. Tyson, Mayweather vs. De La Hoya, even Mormeck vs. Bell were shown live on CCTV. But the name Calzaghe and Kessler just couldn't ring their bells.
In my standpoint, the upcoming showdown between the two undefeated super middleweights is one of the most significant fights the sport of boxing has had in years. Not only does the fight have all the makings of a classic, but it's a fight to define history.
The Makings Of A Classic
A championship unification battle between two undefeated pugilists is bound to be intriguing, no matter what division they are fighting in. This is especially true when both fighters possess superb boxing skills.
The 35-year old Calzaghe, whose perfect record stands at 43-0 with 32 KOs, is a very gifted veteran with some blazing hand speed and nifty footwork. He can unload combinations with precise accuracy. When you saw him throw over 100 punches in the very first round against fellow prospect Mark Delaney, send the then WBO champion Chris Eubanks to the deck in just 15 seconds and outbox the overmatched American would-be-star Jeff Lacy in a lopsided one-man show, you would have nothing to say but marvel with your mouth wide open at his phenomenal output, superior tenacity and sensational adaptability.
The 28-year old Kessler who registered an impressive record of 39-0, 29 KOs is an extremely skilled budding star with stunning power in both hands. His stand-up European fighting style makes him more comfortable boxing on the outside behind a stinging left jab. He won the WBA crown by an eighth round TKO over the mediocre Manny Siaca on November 12, 2004 and defended that title four times before picking up the WBC title with a brutal third round stoppage of the German Markus Beyer last year in October. In his latest fight, Kessler showed off a remarkable left jab followed by a solid right in pounding out a twelve round unanimous decision victory over the then undefeated iron-chinned Librado Andrade.
Calzaghe, who possesses an aggressive southpaw style has the edge in experience, hand speed and footwork while Kessler, the combo puncher who is always willing to trade, is younger, more solid and powerful. This is a beautiful mixture of styles between the old leopard and the young lion, which makes it one of the most anticipated boxing matches the world has to offer. A Fight To Define History
Throughout the brief history of the super middleweight division, there has never been one unified champion. Sure, greats like Roy Jones, James Toney, Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns have competed and won world titles at this weight class, but they just roamed around before moving up to the light heavyweight division, and none of the four aforementioned masters had ever been the undisputed champion in the 168lb division.
Since the departure of Roy Jones and James Toney and the retirement of Chris Eubank, Steve Collins and Nigel Benn, the supper middleweight division had been occupied by a bunch of mediocre champions such as Byron Mitchell, Robin Reid, Markus Beyer and Manny Siaca. Only Calzaghe has looked like a worthy champion and has been considered the best in the division. However, for his 10-year reign as the WBO king, he has landed only one significant bout, that is the WBO/IBF unification showdown with the muscular yet one-dimensional Jeff Lacy.
Now, the time has come. If the number one of the division beats the number two, Calzaghe will not only become the greatest champion the division has ever had, but also surpass Larry Holmes and Bernard Hopkins in title defenses as he successfully defends his WBO title for the 21st time, that is, only four fights to go to before breaking Joe Louis's 25 consecutive title defenses record.
Come on Joe. Catch it. The history will be yours!
Zhenyu Li is the columnist for People's Daily online and a member of the International Boxing Research Organization (IBRO). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Having amassed a combined record of 82-0 and four major world titles, Joe Calzaghe and Mikkel Kessler are undisputedly the best 168-pounders on the planet. But arguments abound as to who is number one.
Yet the two fighters have distanced themselves from the quarrelling and instead treat each other with deference, secure in the knowledge that their boxing will do the talking this weekend. Both men even broke into laughter when they were forced into a head-to-head stare-down at a press conference last month.
Neither combatant has the desire for trash talk and hyperbole, while shunning the glamorous lifestyle that can accompany a champion. Their ambitions have always encompassed the squared circle.
“A lot of my mates used to go out for a beer or three, it was very tempting to go on drinking benders,” reveals Kessler about his youth. “But I wanted to be a world champion and if I partied hard, I couldn’t train properly the next day. I had to be strong and disciplined. I did not allow myself to party if I had nothing to celebrate.”
Likewise, Calzaghe has adopted a resolute dedication to his craft.
“Maybe I’m just a boring person. I don’t have anything to do with my time except fight,” he admits. “I’ve always been a winner and need to win. I’m not a person who craves attention. I like my privacy and probably couldn’t handle it if I was a footballer or film star. I just don’t crave the spotlight. I’m a fighter and all I crave is respect for being a fighter.”
Saturday’s event at the Millennium Stadium is being sold on both combatants’ exceptional fighting ability rather than their outside-the-ring personalities. Hence, a crowd of over 50,000 and a worldwide television audience will be watching in anticipation of witnessing a top-class boxing match rather than a glitzy pantomime.
“Everybody knows we’re the best two super middleweights in the world so there’s no need [for us] to badmouth each other,” says Calzaghe, 43-0 (32).
And in a year that has borne an abundance of mouth-watering matchups, Calzaghe-Kessler is viewed by many insiders as the premiere showdown.
“This, I believe, is the most competitive fight of the year, for Joe Calzaghe and Mikkel Kessler are, by a distance, the two best super middleweights in the world,” says Brian Doogan, European correspondent for The Ring.
“Calzaghe-Kessler is as mouth-watering a matchup as boxing can produce because the fighters are a combined 82-0, and clearly the best in their division,” believes ShoBox commentator Steve Farhood.
While laying claim to The Ring belt and having accrued 20 defences of his WBO strap, Calzaghe enters the bout as the recognized 168-pound champion, and his 14-year professional resume backs up that assertion.
His list of conquests includes a mixture of dangerous veterans (Chris Eubank, Charles Brewer, Byron Mitchell) and touted prospects (Mario Veit, Jeff Lacy, Peter Manfredo) that have covered a diversified range of styles and personalities. Yet throughout his long career Calzaghe has never confronted a fighter with Kessler’s impressive statistics.
Having built a 39-0 (29) slate in nine years, the 28-year-old Dane has comprehensively overcome experienced foes like Dingaan Thobela, Julio Cesar Green and Manny Siaca and elite titlists such as Anthony Mundine, Eric Lucas and Markus Beyer. Moreover, Kessler boasts a height advantage over Calzaghe, a feature that the Welshman has rarely encountered.
In his most celebrated victory, the 2006 drubbing of Jeff Lacy, Calzaghe was able to utilize his athletic advantages by peppering the squat American with rapid flurries. Throughout the twelve rounds Lacy motioned forward in a hunched manner, looking to land with winging hooks. But such a strategy was doomed to failure against a fighter of Calzaghe’s exceptional speed.
Similarly, Calzaghe’s other notable wins against Charles Brewer and Byron Mitchell were against volume punchers who tended to walk forward while neglecting a strong jab. But Kessler brings an antithetical approach, employing a traditional European style of an upright stance while focusing on a stiff jab and straight right hand.
“[Calzaghe is] going to be in for a big surprise,” predicts Kessler. “He’s never fought a guy like me before, that’s why he’s going to be in trouble. I hit harder than him and I’m going to hit him directly. The main thing is to hit Joe and not get hit back, and I’m good at not getting hit. I’ll win as I hit a bit straighter, a bit harder and with greater focus.”
“I’ve covered Kessler’s bouts for The Ring since he won the WBA title from Manny Siaca [in 2004] and I’ve been very impressed by him,” says Doogan. “In terms of technique, attitude, power and fitness, there are not many flaws.”
Kessler’s upright style and prodding jab could conceivably negate the Welshman’s superior speed, but Calzaghe seems well aware of that threat.
“This fight is all about movement,” he says. “[Kessler] likes to fight in straight lines, he’s more of a straight puncher, so when I throw my combinations, it’s important for me to stand off to the side and give him angles and throw punches from all different sorts of angles, hitting him so fast that he thinks he’s surrounded.”
“He likes to come out in the center of the ring,” continues Calzaghe. “He doesn’t fight good going back. He doesn’t like to fight inside. So, there are two things I like to do. I like to go forward, that’s why I have to use my speed and use my angles and use my fast punching combinations.”
That tactic worked well for Calzaghe in his two meetings with Mario Veit, a tall contender who fought with a textbook European style. Calzaghe was able to get inside Veit’s long jab and pound the German with hooks and uppercuts. Veit crumbled inside a round when he fought Calzaghe in Cardiff six years ago and he was stopped in six frames in the needless rematch four years later.
In the 2001 meeting Veit offered minimal resistance and despite entering the ring with a glossy 30-0 record he was apparently struck with stage-fright in front of the raucous Welsh crowd. But such a fate is unlikely to befall Kessler, who out-pointed Australian Anthony Mundine in front of 16,000 fans in Sydney. Ironically, if either fighter is going to be affected by the partisan Welsh crowd it may be Calzaghe.
“If anything, [fighting in Cardiff] takes pressure off Kessler and adds more pressure on me, because obviously, fighting in front of your home crowd, you want to make sure you do the business. I don’t think it will affect Kessler unduly,” argues the Newbridge resident.
But Calzaghe’s ability to impress his hometown fans has been hampered in the past by reoccurring injuries to his left hand. The pain has even prevented the southpaw from sparring in preparation for some of his title defences, but he insists that at present his hands are healthy.
“At the moment, I’m sparring well, I’m punching out in the gym,” said Calzaghe during a conference call last week. “My hands feel one hundred percent, so you can’t go into any fight thinking about injuries or that you just shouldn’t fight. I’m going in there with one hundred percent positive attitude that I’m going to be punching twelve rounds full power.”
Yet logic would suggest that the 35-year-old Calzaghe has accumulated significant wear-and-tear during his quarter-century boxing career. Nonetheless, the champion believes that his maturity has made him a better fighter.
“I feel like I could fight until 40, there’s no deviation in my skills, I’m as quick as ever,” he claims. “I think I’d kick my ass five years ago and 10 years ago, so I feel that my best is still at the moment, I’ve still as fast as ever, I’m still feeling great shape.”
But there’s little doubt that Calzaghe has stagnated since his defeat of Lacy 20 months ago. A labored points win over Sakio Bika and a blowout of the inexperienced Peter Manfredo will have done little to maintain his sharpness, while adding to the mileage on his body clock.
Conversely, in the same period Kessler’s stock has risen exponentially thanks to his dismantling of Markus Beyer for the WBC title and dominance over the tough Librado Andrade in his HBO debut. The momentum advantage must surely reside with the streaking Copenhagen native.
“Kessler is younger, fresher, and technically superior, which will enable him to negate the southpaw’s edge in speed,” believes Farhood. “And one key factor: Calzaghe is Kessler’s Lacy, the fight that can catapult him into the pound-for-pound top 10. I have to believe the Dane is hungrier. I predict Kessler on points in a close one.”
“I think that Calzaghe has greater flexibility and adaptability,” counters Doogan. “But the case can be made that both men will be meeting the best opponent they have ever faced. I feel that Kessler, like Lacy, hasn’t faced anyone of Calzaghe’s quality to date and he will also be stepping into the dragon’s lair to do it with 50,000 fans or more cheering on the Welsh champion.
“I think it could be a terrific fight but I believe that Calzaghe has proved what he can do over the stretch while Kessler still has to prove that he can handle a boxer like Joe under these conditions.”
In such an even matchup various intangibles are likely to play a part in the outcome. Even the proposed 1:30 AM start time could have a detrimental impact on one fighter. Regardless, HBO’s request for the late start to facilitate the live US prime time screening of a fight between a Welshman and a Dane is further evidence of the growing globalization of the sport.