The foremost exception to the rule, of course, is Muhammad Ali, but then Ali broke the mould in so many ways. “The Greatest” got his knockouts, sure, but for the most part they were the result of accumulated damage, the oddity in the bunch being his somewhat dubious wipeout of Sonny Liston in their rematch in Lewiston, Maine. There are still millions of people – come on, you know who you are – who believe that Liston took a dive, for whatever reason.
Chris Byrd, as gentlemanly a practicioner of the pugilistic arts as anyone to have climbed inside the ropes in recent years, was an alphabet heavyweight champion a couple of times, but he was a puffed-up super middleweight whose duck-and-dodge tactics, effective as they were, never quite translated to big box-office. He was the heavyweight Pernell Whitaker, which is to say he was less appreciated than he would have been had he remained at his original, lower weight. Byrd made his mark not with pulverizing power, but by making the other guy miss a lot and thus look foolish.
Which brings us to Malik Scott, the Philadelphian whose exquisite boxing skills have never been in question. But his ability to dispense punishment, as was the case with Byrd, has often been called into question, leaving him on the periphery of significant contendership.
Scott (32-0, 11 KOs), now relocated to Van Nuys, Calif., continued his lengthy transformation into a more dangerous dude with an eight-round unanimous decision over Raphael Butler (34-8, 27 KOs) Saturday night in Cabazon, Calif., on the undercard of a show headlined by heavyweight stablemate James Toney’s 12-round split decision over Fres Oquendo (29-4, 18 KOs).
It spoke volumes that Scott – whom I once dubbed the “King of the Eight-Rounders” – again was fighting an eight when, at 28, his talent should have positioned him for main-event status, if not for a shot at some splintered version of the title.
Scott still considers himself a work in progress, but old habits sometimes can be hard to break. When you’re 6-4 and 255 pounds, fans don’t want to see you peck-peck-pecking with a metronome jab when they’d rather see spectacular stoppages.
It has now fallen to trainer Joe Goossen, with whom Scott has been for seven bouts, to bring out the power and the aura of danger he believes lurks somewhere within the heavyweight division’s gold standard for boring efficiency.
“You have to fight when you’re with me,” Goossen said earlier this year when queried about Scott’s overly cautious style. “Have I ever developed a fighter that I took to the top who was consistently boring? If anything, I’ve proven that I can make safety-first fighters into more entertaining fighters.
“Mike Nunn was being booed out of the Reseda Country Club when I got him. I turned him into an efficient, hard-hitting counterpuncher. I didn’t turn him into a brawler. I turned him into a smart boxer-puncher because that’s what his body type and skill dictated.
“The same is true for Malik. He got to 25-0 on natural talent. You don’t go undefeated that long unless you’re special. With his youth, height, reach, speed and athletic ability, I knew he could be more than special. He just needed the right tools and mentality. I want that ugly duckling because I know he can be a swan.”
Good analogy, but then Scott has always been a swan. Long, lithe and graceful, he glides around the ring almost effortlessly, snapping jabs and controlling the tempo with pure boxing skills. It is efficient, productive – and, from the fans’ perspective, drab and unexciting.
But, hey, he’s trying to make adjustments that will help him fill seats and rise more rapidly in the rankings.
“Joe is fantastic,” Scott said of the fine-tuning in the gym that’s being done by the veteran cornerman, younger brother of Scott’s promoter, Goossen Tutor’s Dan Goossen. “He’s really improved my inside game. I’m cutting guys up on the inside with short uppercuts, short left hooks and short right hands. I’m going to the body a lot more.
“I’m still as quick as I was, but I’m not doing as much `leg’ boxing as I was doing at one time. Joe taught me to use my ability to stand right there and make guys miss, then make them pay. He’s definitely added to my arsenal.”
All well and good. But Joe Goossen is attempting to draw out something in Scott that others have mined for in the past, with negligible results. If it quacks like a duck and waddles like a duck, it’s probably a duck, right? Same goes for elegant swans. Maybe it’s not possible to convert them into killer gamecocks.
As long ago as 2001, when Scott was still a member of the Main Events stable, his handlers spoke of rearranging his strengths so that he would be a more devastating puncher and, thus, more marketable.
“My coach (Anthony Jacobs) and dad (Leroy Scott) told me that I’m the most skilled heavyweight out there,” Scott said after he stopped Robert Anderson in two rounds to run his professional record to 4-0, with three knockouts. “Once I get that explosiveness, all these other guys are in trouble.”
Since he uttered those words, Scott has won 28 straight bouts, only eight inside the distance. And the skeptics continue to wonder how long the metamorphosis is going to take, or whether all the blame can be laid at the doorstep of America’s amateur boxing establishment.
Despite a lackluster performance at the U.S. Olympic Boxing Trials and Box-offs in 2000, Scott signed with Main Events and a marquee manager, Shelly Finkel, whose list of clients included such notable world champions as Evander Holyfield, Meldrick Taylor, Mike Tyson, Zab Judah and, yes, Whitaker.
While other promoters scouting the Trials and Box-offs saw Scott as a tall, somewhat robotic technician with little flair and punching power, Finkel saw someone who was limited by the dictums of USA Boxing, not by a lack of talent.
“I don’t know about anyone else, but it was obvious to me that Malik had great athletic ability,” Finkel said. “He just hadn’t learned how to box. The (amateur boxing establishment) was showing him all this silly stuff. Everything was geared toward that goofy computer.”
Scott, who is no longer with Finkel, admitted that he had been so thoroughly schooled in the prevailing amateur style that he sometimes found it difficult to try new things.
“Al Mitchell (who instructed Scott at the USA Boxing Education Center at Northern Michigan University) had me fighting out of a peek-a-boo stance, with my hands up high, so no (opponent’s) points could get through,” Scott said. “If I got the lead, I was instructed to run, run, run. Some of that carried over when I turned pro. I admit it. But by around my 14th fight as a pro, I had cut a majority of that (amateur) stuff out.”
Maybe, or maybe not. Even as Scott continued to win, it became increasingly evident that he was not a priority for Main Events, which moved him ever so slowly. He didn’t fight his first scheduled 10-rounder until April 5, 2007, his 28th pro outing and third with Goossen Tutor. That’s an extraordinarily long apprenticeship, especially for someone whom even his most vociferous critics would agree has a chance to outpoint almost anyone on a given night.
“Main Events has a roster of fighters, and that roster included me, Calvin Brock and Dominick Guinn at heavyweight,” Scott recalled. “It seemed to me that I was never the priority. I could never understand that, because I thought I was better than those guys.
“But, you know, everything happens for a reason. Somebody (actually, me) wrote that I was `King of the Eight-Rounders.’ I’m fighting more 10-rounders now. Even when I was fighting eights, though, I was going 10 and 12 rounds in sparring with Lennox Lewis.”
So, how much has actually changed? If Scott was No. 3 in a three-man heavyweight stable at Main Events, where does he stand with Goossen Tutor, which has the iconic Toney, undefeated knockout artist Chris Arreola and fast-handed Eddie Chambers? It could be argued that he actually has slid down a notch, and is now No. 4 with his current promotional company.
Mention any of this to Scott and he acknowledges that, yes, that criticism stings a little. But it only adds fuel to his fire to prove to the doubters that he is of championship timber, that a pure boxer in transition can make it big if only he can hike his knockout and entertainment ratios.
Some months ago, Scott paid me and ESPN.com’s Dan Rafael a compliment – at least I’m taking it as such – by mentioning us by name as his inspirations to raise the level of his game.
“Come to my crib right now and you’ll see negative articles about me all over my fridge,” he told an interviewer. “I’ve got about six from Dan Rafael on there, but I save the best for my bedroom mirror. Right now I’ve got one by Bernard Fernandez where I can see it every morning when I get up. He wrote that I was on the road to being an underachiever. He said I wasn’t on his list of top 25 Philadelphia fighters.”
And here you thought Angelo Dundee and Lou Duva were the last of the great motivators.
In speaking now with Scott, his tone is conciliatory, not angry. He understands there is such a thing as constructive criticism, and he takes it as such when it is offered. Besides, the best way to shut up a skeptic is to prove him wrong.
“I actually get motivated more by the negative than by the positive,” Scott said. “People will pat you on the back all the time when you’re going good, then turn on you just like that if somebody puts you on your ass.
“That’s why I have nothing but negative articles taped around my apartment. They make me feel like I have to do more to get those people to change their tune.”
Not that Scott is boiling over with rage to quash the criticism. He understands that he has to walk it like he talks it, and he hasn’t always done that.
“There is an element of truth to some of those negative articles,” he admitted. “There have been times when I was too cautious. I have been called a safety-first fighter, and I can see where people would get that impression. At other times, those same people are, like, `Wow. Where has that guy been?’
“I’m not angry with the naysayers. I just need to remember some of what was said so that I can motivate myself to get better. It makes me work harder and harder.”
Like Byrd, who at his best “clowned” opponents (which is to say, make them look silly), Scott has not always found it easy to be paired with higher-ranked opponents, especially the big hitters who prefer that the other guy come right to them and trade. It would be different if he had high rankings that would oblige high-visibility heavyweights to take him on, but he is nowhere to be found in the top 15 of all major sanctioning bodies, and his window of opportunities is gradually closing.
Ostensibly in his prime, Scott dares to believe that a rapid advance in the ratings and public consciousness is still achievable. He said the heavyweight division is not nearly as barren as some would have you believe, and that all it will take for a rebirth is for the networks to take a chance on fresh talent instead of continually recycling the old standbys.
“Everything runs in cycles,” Scott said. “Things go round and round. As far as the heavyweights are concerned, I believe there are a lot of good, young fighters. You got me, you got Chris Arreola, Kevin Johnson, Chazz Witherspoon, Eddie Chambers. But we all have to fight each other.
“Let the young guys settle them among themselves. Look, Holyfield was great, but we need to stop having sideshows like him and (Nikolay) Valuev.”
It would be one thing if Scott was a trash-talker, but he calls himself a “humble warrior” who leaves it to his promoter to make his matches.
“I don’t feel like I need to call guys out,” Scott said. “I’ve been calling guys out since I was 12-0, something like that, and that crap hasn’t gotten me nowhere. I don’t need to say I’m going to beat this guy or that guy. Put me in the ring with them and I’ll prove it.”
Toney won the early rounds and Oquendo took the latter rounds but the rabbit punch by the Puerto Rican heavyweight led to a point deduction in a close fight. More than 2,000 at Morongo Casino saw the Goossen-Tutor Promotion fight card.
It was a fight that started with a lot of holding, and moving by Oquendo that led to Toney opening up a lead on the score cards, but in the back stretch the Chicago-based fighter mounted a rally with jabs and combinations.
“It was an ugly fight and I won,” said Toney, 40, who won his second heavyweight world title. “I was more aggressive the whole fight. He ran the entire fight.”
A big overhand right by Toney staggered Oquendo in the first round, but the tall Puerto Rican fighter recovered quickly and held for most of the stanza. He had trouble connecting with his longer jab.
Toney continued using his overhand right with success. Oquendo tried to use his jab but was out-jabbed in the second round.
Oquendo landed his own overhand rights in the third but still received counter rights flush on the face from Toney. It was Oquendo’s best round after three and proved to be a precursor to a different mode of attack for the Puerto Rican.
In the fourth round Toney was tripped and pushed out of the ring. He landed a left hand to the body and a big right to the head to score big.
Both Oquendo and Toney had more exchanges in the fifth then all the previous rounds. Toney landed a big left hook and Oquendo a couple of right hands.
In the sixth round a big overhand right by Toney connected solidly. Several counter lefts and rights added to his winning the round solidly. He seemed to be taking command of the fight.
The seventh round proved to be crucial in this heavyweight title fight. A point was taken away from Oquendo for hitting behind Toney’s head. The Puerto Rican heavyweight had been warned a round earlier by the referee.
Oquendo used his jab to get back in the swing. Though he didn’t land many punches he was more aggressive in the 10th round and proved more accurate in the last three rounds as well. A few times he landed some big punches but did not move into to take advantage.
“I could have moved in but I wasn’t sure if Toney was setting a trap,” said Oquendo, who has lost fights in the past by not sticking to his boxing program. “He could be playing possum. I didn’t want to get into that.”
At the conclusion of 12 rounds the judges scored it a split-decision. Judges David Mendoza 115-112, Marty Denkin 114-113 for Toney. Judge Tony Crebs had it 116-111 for Oquendo.
The slow start by Oquendo and the holding in the first six rounds hurt the Chicago heavyweight. The lack of punching by Toney in the latter half stalled his momentum.
Oquendo was a last minute replacement for Tony Thompson who suffered an respiratory infection. Toney took the fight anyway knowing that it would be difficult against the more cautious Oquendo.
“If I had a choice I would not have matched Fres Oquendo with Toney,” said Dan Goossen- president of Goossen-Tutor. “He’s just an awkward fighter and gives everybody a tough time.”
Toney said he’s scheduled to fight in February and was afraid that he would be cut by Oquendo’s head. On several occasions Toney wiped at his forehead after clashing with the taller Puerto Rican.
“He’s a scary dude he comes in with his head and elbows,” said Toney who changed tactics a bit to avoid a cut. “It’s better to be safe than sorry.”
Now, with the IBA world title belt, Toney is looking for unification or any of the marquee heavyweights.
“I’ll fight anybody out there,” Toney said. “I’m the last of a dying breed. Me and Bernard Hopkins.”
Andre Ward (17-0, 12 KOs) continued his trek toward a world title fight with a dominating victory by stoppage of Mexico’s Esteban Camou (23-5, 19 KOs) in a super middleweight bout that ended at 2:46 of the third round. Referee Pat Russell ended it when a left hand snapped Camou’s head back and Ward followed with several pounding blows.
“He was a tough fighter but I expected it,” said Ward, who won the gold medal at the 2004 Olympics. “I fought southpaw out of instinct.”
Ward hurt his right knee this past summer and required surgery. He had a bandage over it during the fight but he said the knee was not a hindrance.
“My next fight is going to be in my hometown,” said Ward who comes from Oakland. “2009 is going to be my year.”
Former Olympian Shawn Estrada almost leaped out of his corner and forced referee Lou Moret to halt the fight 43 seconds into the round after two sudden knockdowns of shell shocked Shaun Spaid by right hands.
“I just wanted to jump on him. I feel confident, I’m in shape so I just let it go,” said Estrada who won by first round knockout two weeks ago in Ontario. “I want to fight two times a month.”
According to Compubox, Spaid never landed a single punch.
“If I can get them out of there, I get them out of there,” said Estrada about his seek and destroy mentality.
Fast Eddie Chambers (33-1, 18 KOs) out-worked big Cisse Salif (23-12-2, 21 KOs) in winning an eight round heavyweight bout between upper tier boxers. Salif had his moments with rights to the body and a stiff left jab, but Chambers worked the combinations from the second round on. The Judges scored it 79-72 twice and 79-73 once for Chambers.
Philadelphia’s Malik Scott (32-0, 11 KOs) kept his perfect record with a steady jab and a busier output against Minnesota’s Raphael Butler (34-8, 24 KOs). There were no knockdowns in the fight. The judges scored it 80-72 twice and 79-73 for Scott.
Scott is a well-schooled fighter who leaves very few openings. Butler had his moments and could have won a few more rounds, but he allowed Scott to out-work him at the end of most rounds.
Cincinnati’s Mel Crossty (2-0) and East L.A.’s Alberto Soto (1-2) fought an action packed four round lightweight bout with both landing good blows. The judges scored it 40-36 twice and 39-37 for Crossty.
Rahman arrived in this cold German winter wonderland looking jet lagged and sleepy but determined to make the most of his late replacement opportunity. Klitschko didn't make his trip any smoother.
The title of the latest installment of the Klitschko brothers slugging saga was "Des Nachste Bitte" which translates out to "The next one, please."
Immediately following the one-sided contest, Rahman was no more than an afterthought as the main topic of the postfight press conference was whether it would be Wladimir of Vitali who fought David Haye in England next year.
Maybe it was a case of the less said about Rahman's weak performance the better. Klitschko pitched a somewhat subdued shutout until :44 of the final frame in a bout where his jab was just about the whole story.
"I feel like I did what I wanted," said Klitschko. "He was a strong opponent so I think this was a good showing. As my brother said, the important thing was that the crowd was happy and I kept my titles."
I'm told the SAP Arena, which sits like a spotlighted flying saucer in the countryside outside the city, seats around 15,000. It didn't look as crowded to me as the equally modern O2 in Berlin, where Vitali fought Samuel Peter, but both houses were full of well heeled blue and gold Ukranian flag waving fanatics.
The ratio of dolled-up women in the crowd surpassed even the De La Hoya glory days in Vegas. Tonight featured the most over the top introduction I've seen. One again, there was a big video lead in, this one interspersed by renowned German actor Michael Mende doing a poetic performance art monologue in a strangely illuminated ring, followed by Il Divo singing operatic overtures above most of the masses.
At first the fight looked like a replica of Vitali-Peter, but Rahman tried to be more active, and by the third round Kltschko's lips looked as red as his bright trunks.
Still, Klitschko was basically unmarked and looked very strong and flexible inside. He consistently backed Rahman up behind thudding rights in what amounted to Klitschko's best showing in quite a while.
Big lefts sat Rahman down in the sixth, where it looked like he might stay. But to his credit, Rahman finished the frame and came out for more in the seventh. Referee Tony Weeks told Rahman he'd have to fight back more but Rahman could barely stand up in a display that went from helpess to hapless.
A few more glancing, one-two whomps and Weeks justifiably waved it over.
"I knew he was taking way too many jabs to do anything against me," said Klitschko. "It didn't matter if I knocked him out or if he quit. The important thing is to fight well, and I think I did."
"I'm very satisfied," said trainer Emanuel Steward. "Rahman couldn't get inside so he went to the ropes hoping Wladimir would get tired, but Wladimir fought a very disciplined fight."
Rahman didn't show for the press conference but Haye did, sporting a brown cowboy hat in young gun mode, which got the media buzzing. Haye stood quietly at first and listened to translations politely, but he grew agitated.
Klitschko manager Bernard Bonte indicated the most likely scenarios involved Wladimir meeting Chris Arreola in the US next while Vitali met Haye in London, but keeping all options open was the main theme.
"With Povetkin and Haye making a name for themselves, 2009 will be a very good year for me," mused Klitschko. "I still want to get the belt of Valuev or Chagaev, but I can't figure out who's supposed to have that title."
The conversation was more lively when Haye spoke up.
"Wladimir won tonight so congratulations to him, but I wasn't impressed at all," jabbed Haye. "Vitali spoke to me and said we'd fight. I'd prefer to fight him because he comes to fight. I don't like guys who fight like bitches, it should be a fight, not a jabbing contest. I can see in Vitali's face he wants to shut me up, but Wladimir doesn't."
"Haye came to me with a picture of my brother's head cut off," fumed Vitali. "In today's world that's a horrible thing to do. He's going to pay for that."
"You going to cut my head off?" mocked Wladimir. "This is not good. You must be punished."
"Do something about it," challenged Haye. "You need your big brother to fight for you."
"Cowboy, take care of yourself," said Wladimir like he was ready to sign the contract. "You won't like getting what you ask for."
Boxing fans have been waiting to long for some real action from the big boys. If things keep going like they have been among the heavyweights recently, the sport may finally see those overdue fireworks.
Judge Alan Rubenstein saw it 116-112 (Holt), Luis Rivera had it 117-111 (Holt) while Julie Lederman turned in a bit of an oddball card 115-113 (for Hopkins). Her tally wasn’t from Mars, though. She simply told you that she respects the possibility of a man doing more than his foe even though he spent most of his time in retreat.
Holt’s road to this fight was an impediment filled path. His original foe Ricardo Torres pulled out last Saturday, saying he had a virus, and wouldn’t be able to make weight. The rumor mill is running OT speculating on whether that explanation holds water. How overweight was he? What sort of virus could he not kick in a week? Then, Holt’s manager/cornerman Henry Cortes was charged with cocaine distribution. Holt himself had more than dabbled in that biz as a teen, so it came as a shocking disappointment that the seeming straight arrow Cortes—who must be seen as innocent until proven otherwise—could be involved in such a shortcut to riches. Viewers wondered if his head would be screwed on straight after all the chaos and drama. They also wondered if he could add another scalp to his resume, after handing David Diaz and Isaac Hlatshwayo their first pro losses. In the first, Holt was in forward mode. Hopkins backed up, but countered well. Nobody stood head and shoulders above. In the second, DHop got going with a stiffer jab, and Holt looked to land his heavier right. He didn’t jab enough for his corner’s liking. They clanged heads, but no one got cut, luckily. In the third, Hopkins stepped it up, with a couple heavy one-twos. Then Holt did too, with some neat body work. In the fourth, Demetrius moved well, but he got his trainer angry by clowning and smiling during the round. He landed a long straight right that maybe gave him the frame. In the fifth, Holt started getting frustrated that Hopkins didn’t want to engage much.
In the sixth, the men clinched more and more. Rather than stick and move, Hopkins kept his ground more, but then hugged. In the seventh, both men opened up more. But Hopkins wasn’t in ‘take the title’ mode, and he needed to step it up to get it done. In the eighth, Hopkins ran too much early, then got the jab going. But overall, his style wasn’t pleasing the fans or, my guess would be, the judges. In round nine, we saw Holt land a filthy right hand to the gut. There was too much ‘one and done’ from Hopkins. In the 10th, Holt was the aggressor, though neither man was in Fight of the Year gear. In the 11th, the action was more tepid than you’d like, considering that it wasn’t clear who had the lead. There were some power tossed laid out, but both guys can slip slickly, so no one landed a game changer. In the 12th, Holt danced more, figuring he held the lead. We’d go to the cards. Holt will now fight a title consolidation special against Timothy Bradley, the WBC supreme being.
Holt was truly looking forward to breaking a tie with Torres. They tangled in Sept. 2007, and Holt felt he got jobbed by a hometown special in Torres’ native Colombia. He got the short end of a TKO11 call. It looked like Torres had his number when he knocked him down twice in the first round of their July 2008 redo, but Holt roared back and stooped the Colombian with two minutes elapsed in the most insane round of the year, grabbing the WBO 140 pound crown. Instead, he had to deal with a switch in style, in the form of the more technically sound, slick Hopkins. In addition, these two had a history—as prospects early in their career, Hopkins slugged Holt and cut him, during an out of the ring faceoff. The cops came, but no charges were filed.
Bernard’s nephew Demetrius (28-0-1; age 28), who last fought 13 months ago, weighed 140 pounds while the 27-year-old Holt (24-2) was also 140.
Yuri Foreman showed he’s another league than Irishman James Moore in the Showtime TV opener. His hands and his feet gave Moore trouble from the staredown on. Both fighters are based in New York.
The judges spoke after ten rounds, and the result wasn’t up for debate. The NAVF junior middleweight champ Foreman got the nod, by scores of 99-90, 100-90, 99-91. The crowd mixed boos with cheers after the scrap. They would have liked Foreman to try and close the show in a more emphatic fashion, but that isn’t his style.
Moore (age 30) plodded after Yuri, not entirely surprising for those who saw him lose a pre-step-up fight to 9-2 Gabriel Rosado in June. He ate straight rights, repeatedly, and trainer Lennox Blackmoore told him, “You gotta work more!” after the fourth. His effort was not to be questioned by his genetics..well, he worked with the tools afforded to him at birth, and they were what they were. And he knew it coming in; they’d sparred a good 60 rounds over the years, and the Belarus-born Foreman won the vast majority of rounds handily.
The WBA’s No. 4 ranked 154 pounder Foreman (age 28) switches directions well. He circles left, then right; a pursuer has a hard time getting a bead on him because he isn’t predictable. His power, though, is middlin’, so when he meets someone who can match him in the feet department, he will taste loss.
Foreman clocked Moore in the left ear in the eighth, and made him drop his mouthpiece. His left eye was cut from a butt in the ninth, and he looked demoralized after.
A crowd of more than 2,000 appeared at the Alameda Swap Meet to see local favorite Antillon prove once again that he’s ready for a world title opportunity in dispatching the rugged Cruz (15-6-1, 11 KOs).
“That guy was tough,” said Antillon (25-0, 18 KOs). “In the first round I thought I had him but he came back and gave me some too. He was no pushover.”
Antillon, who fights at junior lightweight and lightweight, said this fight proves he’s comfortable at the higher weight class. Against Cruz, he seemed the stronger fighter from the first round when his first right hand counter dropped the Puerto Rican fighter to his knees for a knockdown.
Two more knockdowns followed in the third and the fourth round. By the fourth round it was evident that the brave Puerto Rican boxer was in way over his skill level. Finally, Cruz’s corner threw in the towel and referee Raul Caiz Jr. stopped the fight at 1:35 of the fourth round.
“It wasn’t a stroll in the park,” said Antillon who was tagged with a few punches in trying to end the fight. “But I think I proved I’m ready.”
Former world champion Brian Viloria (24-2, 14 KOs) was supposed to be facing a tough test against San Diego’s Benjie Garcia (13-11-3), whose record is very deceiving. That didn’t happen.
Viloria came out sharp with crisp left hooks and right counters that had Garcia reeling from the opening bell. A double left hook in the second round hurt Garcia who was eventually battered to the ground by a barrage of punches. Referee Jack Reiss counted Garcia out at 1:17 of the second round.
The former Olympian Viloria looked at his best since grabbing the junior flyweight world title several years ago against Erick Ortiz. Garcia had gone 10 rounds with Texas’s super tough Raul Martinez and had beaten former world champion Roberto “Mako” Leyva.
Viloria simply destroyed Garcia.
In a featherweight bout Jose Roman (3-0, 3 KOs) and Arizona’s Gabe Garcia (5-5-1) engaged in a firefight within seconds of the bell. Before the first minute had passed Roman was dropped with a left cross from the southpaw fighter. He got up and both resumed the slug out. A left hook dropped Garcia in the second minute of the first round. He got up but was caught again and battered. Referee Raul Caiz Jr. decided Garcia had taken too much punishment and stopped it at 2:49 of the opening round.
“I wasn’t warmed up,” said Roman who was told before that he would be the fifth bout, not the second. “I knew I could hit him.”
Carlos Molina (5-0, 2 KOs) kept his record perfect with fourth round stoppage over Miami’s Gernier Pit (1-1-1) in a four round lightweight bout. A perfect right hand caught Pit and a swarm of punches forced referee Reiss to stop the fight at 2:17 of the fourth round.
Glenn Gonzales (7-0, 4 KOs) of the Philippines proved too big and strong for Texan Lupe De Leon in a featherweight bout. The left-hander had some problems hitting De Leon but was seldom hit with big punches either. All three judges scored it 60-54 for Gonzalez.
Maywood’s Benjie Diaz (9-1-1) pulled out a split-decision against L.A.’s Alfredo Rivera (0-4) in a four round junior middleweight bout.
Junior middleweight Mario Evangelista (2-1-1) knocked out Mexico’s Jaime Ruiz (0-1) at 1:20 of the first round.
The best that can be said for the affair: that the 36-year-old Rahman, who stepped in for Alex Povetkin at the 11th hour, didn’t come to Germany just for some holiday spending money. He ate his share of shots, and hit the deck in the sixth round.
TSS would’ve liked to see maybe David Haye step in for Povetkin, instead of Rahman, who hasn’t done anything to deserve this opportunity apart from being alive and under 300 pounds.
In the first, Wlad fended off Rock’s jabs. Rock was bent more in the knees than we’ve seen before. His hands were low, though, and he looked open for the straight right. Wlad’s jab was stiffer, and he looked in complete command from the start. A left hook and right follow to the body ended the round well for him.
In the second, the the 32-year-old Wlad (52-3) jab was even stiffer. Ref Tony Weeks warned Rock (45-7-2) for hitting behind the head. Rock’s slow hands didn’t threaten to touch Wlad’s chin, which used to be seen as suspect. His feet were too stationary, and one suspected he wouldn’t get more energized as the rounds piled up.
In the third, Wlad caught Rock on the ropes. The American had his guard up but didn’t counter at all. He ate hard jab after jab, and answered with his own jabs, which missed. With a minute to go, he came off the ropes, but that didn’t help.
In the fourth, Wlad’s feet, as usual, got him out of harms way. He’d back up a step when he sensed Rock coming forward. And Rock doesn’t advance quickly enough to catch him unawares.
In round five, Rock in hung in there. He at least didn’t come to lay down early, we can say that. Wlad started with more one-twos, which means he would be trying to stop him soonish. Rock’s cornerman Buddy McGirt told him not to stay on the outside and get dissected.
In round six, Rock ate left hooks and a right and hit the deck. He got up, and backed up to the ropes. He held on, buying time, for what? A stoppage 30 seconds later? A round later? “Fight back, Rahman,” ref Weeks warned. He did, with ineffectual jabs. But, he did finish the round. Again, looking for silver lining, he didn’t look for a hole in the floor to escape. Weeks warned him after that he wouldn’t let him continue longer if he didn’t answer back.
In round seven, Rock ate shots, and backed up, and didn’t answer, and Weeks stepped in hastily.
The stats: Wlad went 178-369 against the immobile Rahman, who landed 30-207. Pathetic numbers, and I must say, this division isn't helped by the unimaginitive programmers, who instead of yanking Arreola or Haye or Toney or Valuev to step in, gave the shot to Rahman. Do I bore you with my critique? Too bad, the powers that be need to hear it, because they are poisoning the sport with their calls.
Tony Crebs was an Oquendo ally, seeing it 116-110 for O. But he was over-ruled by Marty Denkin (114-113) and David Mendoza (115-112), who tapped Toney as the winner, and allowed the slick but diminished elder to continue his hunt for a belt worn by a Klitschko.
Versus televised select portions from the card.
Toney (71-6; age 40) weighed 230 and Oquendo (29-5; age 35) weighed 219 pounds.
Toney had to know he needed to come on strong down the stretch, as cornerman Joe Goossen told him that he was behind. He wasn’t able to summon anything extra, and we went to the cards.
Check back for David Avila’s detailed ringside report.
Because the European heavyweights holding the various titles won’t fight Toney, he’s taking on Fres Oquendo for the vacant IBA heavyweight world title on Saturday Dec. 13, at the Morongo Casino. The fight card will be televised on Versus.
So why does Toney scare the bejeebers out of the Klitschkos and other Eastern Europeans?
Here is Toney, who stands two inches below six feet in height, weighs about 230, and has 40 years on this earth. Twenty of those years have been inside the prize ring so what is it that scares all the heavyweight champions?
Now there are going to be tons of people complaining that Toney doesn’t deserve the title shot and that he is not good enough and all that other blather.
But does Hasim Rahman deserve it?
Wasn’t it just last July that Toney was battering Rahman into quitting in the ring. Sure he had a bad cut due to an accidental clash of heads. But can you imagine Toney quitting like that?
I didn’t think so.
Toney has been scaring the heck out of heavyweights ever since he became one of the few in the division to knock out Evander Holyfield. Only Riddick “Big Daddy” Bowe could make that claim and he’s about a foot taller.
Before his fight with Holyfield he promised the Real Deal that he was going to knock him out if he didn’t run. Holyfield nearly laughed. Then, on October 2003 the California based heavyweight turned the lights out on the legendary warrior.
If Holyfield is the ultimate warrior, then what is Toney? Superman?
In two decades of facing the best fighters possible, Toney has never been knocked out despite facing heavyweights, speedsters or knockout artists.
He’s like the Rock of Gibraltar.
Other heavyweights look at him and look for an exit.
“Once we were supposed to meet the Klitschkos in Las Vegas but when I got there they had ran out,” said Toney about a meeting scheduled four years ago that evaporated. “They were afraid I was going to jump them.”
When you think about the scenario it prompts laughter because Toney is about seven inches shorter than both Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko.
One reason for the fear is trainer Emanuel Steward who saw first hand what Toney could do to opponents with his boxing prowess when he was a regular at the Kronk Gym in Detroit.
“The style is all wrong for Wladimir,” says Steward, who’s trained numerous Hall of Fame fighters including Lennox Lewis. “Toney is not the right style for my fighter.”
More than a few say that Steward knows Toney can beat the younger Klitschko and possibly the bigger one too.
“They’re cowards,” said Toney in the past who has lately toned it down a bit to “they’re afraid of me.”
Outside of the prize ring Toney displays an easy-going infectious charisma that appeals to boxing fans, inside the ring he exhibits a demeanor that has heavyweight champions walking out the door when his name is mentioned.
One fighter not afraid to face Toney (70-6-3, 43 KOs) is Chicago’s talented heavyweight Fres Oquendo (29-4, 18 KOs).
“He’s a legend,” said Oquendo who expects the fight to be more scientific than the normal fight but with lots of punches thrown. “Toney is a crafty veteran fighter.”
The original opponent was to be Tony Thompson but the basketball size boxer was felled by illness.
“It was a blessing to me,” said Oquendo, 35, who was searching for another fight this past year. “I had one tournament that fell out and another fight on Nov. 29, that didn’t come through. This opportunity came just perfect.”
Perhaps more snake-bitten than the Puerto Rican heavyweight is Toney who has tripped over bicep injuries, Achilles tendons, steroid detection, weight problems and downright avoidance by the holders of the world titles.
Nobody wants to face Toney.
“James Toney is the most avoided fighter in the heavyweight division,” said Dan Goossen, president of Goossen-Tutor Promotions. “That’s why we’re making this fight between two fighters that others avoid.”
Goossen intends to have the winner chase after one of the three holders of the other heavyweight titles namely the Ukraine’s Wladimir Klitschko (IBF and WBO), Vitali Klitschko (WBC) and Ruslan Chagaev (WBA) of Russia.
Oquendo has his own dreams of winning a title and he’s anxious to fight one of his idols Toney.
“I’ve been watching James Toney since I was an amateur,” said Oquendo, who has been fighting professionally since 1997. “I used to watch him fight in the Poconos (mountains).”
Though he’s already fought for a world title unsuccessfully on several occasions, Oquendo expects this to be his toughest assignment.
“He’s a veteran and he’s very hard to hit,” Oquendo says. “Toney is a very crafty fighter.”
Oquendo wants to atone for his losses in title fights to Evander Holyfield, Chris Byrd, John Ruiz and David Tua.
“We’re both one fight away from fighting for a world championship,” said Oquendo.
Toney doesn’t care who is facing him.
“I will fight whoever they put in front of me, God Bless them,” Toney says.
Ramos (9-0, 5 KOs) and Vallecillo (5-8, 2 KOs) fought a back and forth battle but Ramos was able to edge out every round as he used his speed and accurate punching to counteract Vallecillo’s rugged straight ahead style.
In the first round, Ramos showed a very quick jab which he followed up with some work to his opponent’s body. Vallecillo landed a right which Ramos countered with a combination to the head and body. In the second, Ramos showed some nice footwork and attacked the body with accuracy. Vallecillo came forward as the aggressor in the third round while Ramos waited for the counter and landed a nice uppercut just as the round ended.
A four punch combination by Ramos started the fourth as both men took the action to the middle of the ring. Vallecillo was moving forward and making a stance. A good over hand right along with some uppercuts and a left hook to the head momentarily stopped Vallecillo in his tracks but he kept on coming.
In the fifth round, Ramos kept landing several different combinations but it didn’t deter the fighter out of San Antonio, Texas. Vallecillo kept stalking but Ramos boxed well and landed punches from the outside.
More back and forth action in the sixth as Ramos landed to the body and momentarily rocked Vallecillo. It was Ramos’ jab that controlled the action in the final round as the Orange County fighter finished strong to take away the unanimous decision by scores of 60-53 all the way across.
“I felt good in there. My opponent was very tough and I give him my respect,” Ramos said afterwards. “I would grade myself a 7 out of 10 in this performance.”
With the win, Ramos won the “Battle in The Ballroom” lightweight championship belt. Tangaro beats Batey Johanna Tangaro (2-0) took on Carley Batey (4-4-2) in a four round women’s 117 pound fight. Tangaro boxed well and was able to get off quick and effective combinations on Batey who couldn’t seem to find the right distance to get her shots off. In the first round, Tangaro came forward and landed some nice body shots and a hard right. Batey fought back like she usually does but Tangaro kept finding a home for her right hand all night. Good action in the second round as both women mixed it up on the inside. It was all Tangaro though as her combinations and footwork led the way to a 40-36 decision from all the judges. Lopez halts Muro Featherweight Abraham Lopez (5-0, 4 KOs) stopped Alvaro Muro (6-11, 5 KOs) in the second round of a six round bout. Lopez came out and landed accurate one, two combinations in the first round as Muro tried to find his elusive target. Lopez took the first by repeatedly landing a hard left hook. Some nice uppercuts and left hooks in the second round by Lopez as he boxed effectively. There were more body shots and left hooks along with some wicked uppercuts which dropped Muro for the count. The fight ended at 2:59 of the second round. Rios defeats rugged Luque Ronnie Rios (2-0, 1 KO) defeated Carlos Luque (0-2) in a very good super bantamweight bout between two rough combatants. Rios came out in the first round using a nice jab to move forward. He followed up with some well-placed combinations that Luque took well. Rios was throwing punches with bad intentions all night but Luque was game. There was some excellent back and forth action in the third as both men landed with Rios getting the better of the exchanges by throwing two and three punch combinations. It was the right which kept landing for Rios and his tight defense that made the difference as he took the majority decision. The judge’s cards read 40-36 (twice) and 38-38. Other results: Angel Magdaleno defeated Ludwin Mondragon in a scorcher of a super flyweight bout. The fight fans showed their appreciation by throwing folded up dollars into the ring. The scores were 39-37 all across. Garcia crushes Solis Arquimedez Garcia (1-0-1, 1 KO) of Santa Ana stopped Francisco Solis (0-1) in the second round of a scheduled four round lightweight fight. It was an over-hand right that dropped Solis for the count. The time of the stoppage was 1:42. Notes: ---Tonight’s sellout was the 24th in a row for Englebrecht’s promotional company. ---Former “Battle in the Ballroom” alumni and current WBA Super featherweight champion Edwin Valero was presented to the audience. ---Three of the winners on the show, Rios, Lopez and Ramos are all part of The Espinoza Boxing Club and stable-mates of world Champion Israel Vazquez.
With only 16 professional fights and none against formidable opposition, Alexander Povetkin may have been the IBF’s mandatory challenger but he was not likely to challenge Klitschko for long. Povetkin lacked experience, pedigree and, frankly, the punching power to stand tall with the 6-6 Klitschko for very long.
Rahman, on the other hand, has legitimate one-punch power and a lot of experience against top shelf heavyweights, if such a thing still exists in the present dismal climate. What he doesn’t have is a decent work ethic in training, a decent chin and, most importantly, a decent heart for the business he’s in. As Joe Frazier once put it about an opponent he did not particularly respect, “His heart pumps Kool-Aid.’’
Rahman’s pumps blood but not much resolve, as he showed in his last fight when he quit on his stool after being cut by former middleweight champion James Toney. The opinion of most in boxing was that it was a Monty Python kind of cut (“Only a flesh wound’’) yet Rahman chose to retire, ultimately getting a no contest in a fight he should have lost.
At 36, Rahman (45-6-2, 36 KO) now seems to be the classic journeyman in search of a payday. Serendipity brought him this one Saturday night on HBO. After Povetkin sustained a foot injury and pulled out on short notice a scramble to find a replacement began and there was the always affable and agreeable Rahman and hence a title shot was born despite the fact he had done nothing to earn it except still being breathing and in a gym at the time.
The IBF has said it will continue to maintain Povetkin as the mandatory challenger but Klitschko was allowed to go forward with what now seems likely to be a cautiously boring affair for a number of rounds with Klitschko (51-3, 45 KO) using his long jab to stab at Rahman while seldom fully engaging with him until fatigue starts to set in. When it does, Rahman figures to fold his tent or have it folded up for him by the stiff jab/straight right hand combination Klitschko has used to erase a wide number of opponents.
Yet there remains one mystery that brings intrigue to this match. Or maybe it is two. The one-punch knockout power of Rahman, which first brought him the heavyweight title seven years ago when he stunned Lennox Lewis by knocking him stiff in Johannesburg, South Africa, is part of that mystery.
The other part is the designated landing strip for such punches – the formerly failed chin of Klitschko. The champion has been stopped three times (by Ross Purrity, Corrie Sanders and Lamon Brewster) and in each case Klitschko claimed he’d been hit with fatigue, a problem he insists he has since overcome. He was perhaps fatigued in those fights by the time they were stopped but that didn’t seem to be a problem until he got hit on the chin a few too many times.
That is why the words of his trainer, affable Emanuel Steward, carry some sense of veiled foreboding with them.
“We take him very seriously,’’ Steward said of Rahman this week. “We consider him more dangerous than Povetkin. He is the strongest one-punch puncher Wladimir has ever faced.’’
If he is, then Povetkin is in danger of not having Klitschko around to challenge next year. Yet the truth seems to be somewhat different. Rahman is dangerous because he can punch with unusual authority if he lands and Klitschko’s chin has proven suspect when reached by someone with power but being dangerous does not necessarily make you dangerous. The opponent will have something to say about that and in this case, the 6-foot-6 Klitschko appears to have the physical skills and size to hold off a faded Rahman until his resolve begins to wane, as it so often has since losing the world title a second time.
When Rahman’s hope begin to fade and he begins to fatigue and feel some pain himself, then and only then will the ultra-conservative Klitschko move in for the kill. When he does, what falls seems likely to be a fistic formality,
“I am not going to underestimate him in any way,’’ Klitschko said in Mannheim. “This is his last chance. I expect a challenge from Hasim Rahman because he’s up against the strongest man in the heavyweight division and three titles are at stake.
“Of course I expect I’ll be more than he can handle – like it is with everyone I face.’’
That seems a stretch of self-indulgence but it is difficult to refute Klitschko’s take on this fight. He could, as he has before, get lazy or become unfocused and get caught with a bomb from across the unseen horizon that dethrones him but the more likely scenario is that Klitschko out boxes and outhustles Rahman for the first half of the match, beating him to the punch and ever more steadily hurting him with big combinations until Rahman collapses as much from indifference as anything else.
Once that corrosive process begins, the fight is over, yet Rahman still will have one thing going for him besides power. He will have Klitschko’s on-going fear of firepower, a concern that while well placed considering his past has often made him seem a very reluctant dragon himself.
To push that psychological advantage, Rahman will first have to push himself and then push Klitschko as well. Yawning and nearly half asleep at a Monday press conference in Mannheim, Hasim Rahman did not appear to anyone in attendance to be ready to do that, so the likelihood is that he is looking at this fight the same way Klitschko is – as an early Christmas present, an unexpected bonus at the end of the year and nothing more.