Castillo, the baby brother of Jose Luis Castillo, used the hometown cheers at Palenque del Fex in his hometown Mexicali to win a battle of wills against Mexico City’s Rodriguez in front of more than 2,000 fans. HBO-plus showed the fight.
“I’m happy to have got the win in front of my fans,” said Castillo (36-7, 25 KOs), who could be fighting for a world title this summer.
Both fighters hurt each other early in the fight. When it looked like Castillo was going to fold he seemed to ratchet up the punch volume and fight off the very strong Rodriguez.
Rodriguez was deducted a point for a head butt in the third round and seemed to get motivated. Some strong punches followed the deduction and he had Castillo teetering.
Castillo began using right hands to the Rodriguez head for several rounds, then he switched to left hooks. By the sixth round it was clear he had changed the momentum for good.
Just when the bell rang to open round 10, the corner of Rodriguez signaled to stop the fight 10 seconds into the round. Castillo was declared the winner by technical knockout.
“I’ve been promised a world title shot,” said Castillo. “I’m very glad I got the victory.”
In the semi-main event Oxnard’s David “El Peligroso” Rodela (12-1-2, 6 KOs) won by split-decision over Nicaragua’s Marion “El Raton” Aguilar (19-6-1, 14 KOs) in a 10-round junior lightweight bout.
Rodela used his speed and reach to keep the muscular Nicaraguan from landing too many bombs but more than a few did land. Neither fighter was in danger of being knocked down and the judges split their vote. Two saw it 97-93 and 96-95 for Rodela and the third saw it 97-95 for Aguilar.
The crowd booed the decision.
Obregon’s Ruben Tamayo (16-11-2, 14 KOs) stopped Tijuana’s Ricardo Lopez (28-18-1, 12 KOs) at 1:38 of the second round in a junior bantamweight bout.
Mexicali’s Carlos Garcia (3-0-1) and Roberto Hernandez (1-0-1) fought to a split decision draw in a four round lightweight bout.
Pablo Cano (14-0-1, 12 KOs) of Tlalnepantla, Mexico needed less time than it takes to pronounce his hometown to beat Obregon’s Luis Rey (at 1:58) of the first round with a left hand in a junior welterweight fight.
Chihuahua’s Luis Grajeda (4-0, 3 KOs) knocked out Mexicali’s Gilberto Avila (3-3-1) with a left hook to stun him, then a right hand to end the story 46 seconds into the first round of a welterweight contest.
Vera Cruz’s Azael Villegas (10-0, 10 KOs) pounded out his tenth knockout in 10 tries in a rugged test against Sonora’s Daniel Valenzuela (3-4). Most of the fight was tightly contested but the skinny Villegas turned up the juice in the last round of the six round fight and forced the referee to stop the fight at 1:16 when Valenzuela refused to punch back.
Mexico City’s Marco Periban (3-0) blasted out Navajoa’s Javier Esquer (0-6) with a three-punch combination 52 seconds into the first round of a super middleweight bout.
Mexicali’s Roberto Castro (5-1-1) landed a left hook to the body of Navajoa’s Daniel Yucupicio (3-8) at 2:17 of the first round to end the welterweight fight.
Tijuana’s Roberto Lopez (29-17-1, 13 KOs) was too busy and too clever for Mexicali’s Ruben Lopez (15-12-2, 13 KOs). Three successive bolo punches found their target and ended the fight at 2:10 of the fifth round.
When even Ingo’s body gave up the fight, at 10 minutes to midnight on Friday night in a nursing home in Kungsbacka, on the west coat of his native Sweden, the national mood in the Scandinavian country understandably wavered between grief at his physical passing and relief that he was finally free of the bar-less prison of a mind that had long since ceased to function beyond occasional moments of semi-clarity.
Ingemar Johansson, who was too ill to attend his induction ceremony at the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, N.Y., in 2002, was 76 when death, that most invincible of opponents, claimed what remained of him. His daughter, Maria Gregner, told the Swedish news agency TT that he recently had returned to the nursing home after being hospitalized with pneumonia.
Olof Johansson (no relation), whom American matchmaker and friend Don Elbaum describes as “the Larry Merchant of Swedish television,” recalled a recent visit with Ingo in which it was painfully evident that the end was nearing.
“Olof said he was with Ingemar three or four months ago when he got up from his chair, took one step, and froze,” Elbaum said. “Ingemar’s doctor said it was like his brain did not remember how to tell his body to move the other foot. It was tragic.”
More than likely, Johansson didn’t realize where he was trying to walk to in any case. Years earlier he increasingly failed to recognize friends and family members, until that familiar twinkle in his eyes went blank and he likely even forgot who he was and what he had accomplished in and out of the ring.
Assessing the career of Ingemar Johansson, prizefighter, is no easy thing. How he is regarded is largely contingent on which side of the Atlantic Ocean one resides. Here in America, where he achieved his single greatest success, the third-round stoppage of heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson on June 26, 1959, Ingo is generally regarded as one of boxing’s lesser titlists, someone whose induction into the IBHOF is the result more of a charmed summer night in Yankee Stadium than of the sustained excellence required for history’s acceptance. But in Sweden, where he rehabilitated his reputation from its low point nine years earlier in Helsinki, Finland, Ingo was the most popular prizefighter ever, a national hero and symbol of Swedish pride.
In 2000, the Swedish Sports Academy named Ingo that country’s third-greatest athlete of the 20th century, behind only tennis legend Bjorn Borg and renowned skier Ingemar Stenmark. That high placement is particularly amazing, given that Sweden banned professional boxing from 1970 to 2006 on the grounds it was too dangerous an activity.
Johansson seemed an unlikely candidate for such adulation during the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. Boxing in the heavyweight gold medal bout against a huge American opponent, Ed Sanders, Johansson refused to engage until, in the second round of the scheduled three-rounder, he was disqualified by French referee Roger Vaisberg for not giving his best effort.
Initially awarded the silver medal, Johansson – who later claimed his strategy was to play keepaway and to tire out Sanders in preparation for a furious, third-round assault – had it stripped from him before he left Helsinki, a turn of events that made him an object of scorn back home. For purposes of comparison, consider the seemingly irreparable damage done to Roberto Duran’s reputation in his native Panama after he turned his back and quit in his “No Mas” second fight with Sugar Ray Leonard. But Duran won back most if not all of his fans with incandescent performances against Davey Moore and Iran Barkley, among others, and Ingo similarly found his own path to redemption.
For a while, though, a comeback from disgrace seemed a longshot, at best. In Stockholm, the chairman of the Swedish Boxing Association contemptuously chided Johansson for “bringing shame to the Swedish name.”
It was under that initial cloud of suspicion and resentment that Johansson, impossibly handsome and just as charming, began his pro career on Dec. 5, 1952, with a fourth-round knockout of France’s Robert Masson in Ingo’s hometown of Gothenburg.
Johansson’s manager, Eddie Ahlquist, figured his guy had the looks, personality and punch, particularly his big overhand right, to rehabilitate his image, at least with his countrymen. All of Ingo’s first 20 pro bouts were in Europe, 17 of which were in Sweden, as Ahlquist employed a strategy later adopted by such European fighters as Dariusz Michalczewski, Joe Calzaghe and Ricky Hatton: fight and win at home until it became financially expedient to take your act across the pond to the United States.
Although he annexed the European heavyweight title in 1956 on a 13th-round knockout of Franco Cavicchi in Bologna, Italy, Johansson emerged as a legitimate threat to world champion Floyd Patterson when he whacked out a formidable U.S. contender, Eddie Machen, in one round on Sept. 14, 1958, in Gothenburg. So popular was Ingo by that time that his bout with Machen drew a crowd of 53,614 in Ullevi Stadium, which is still a record turnout for the venue. In second place is a concert by the Rolling Stones.
The fast takeout of Machen, who had long been ducked by Patterson, so impressed Nat Fleischer, editor of The Ring, that he elevated the Swede to the magazine’s No. 1 heavyweight ranking.
It at last was time for Ingemar Johansson, alleged Olympic coward, to come to the United States and challenge Patterson, who had won the middleweight gold at those same 1952 Helsinki Games in which Ingo came up small.
Although a 4-1 underdog, in no small part because of the lingering taint of his Olympic failure, Johansson hardly acted the part of an I’m-just-glad-to-be-here outsider. He set up camp at Grossinger’s resort, in the Catskill Mountains, and quickly revealed himself to be the very essence of a bon vivant. Sure, the 26-year-old Ingo told reporters, he liked to partake of strong beverages now and then, even in training. And women? The holy gospel of pugilism back then stated in no uncertain terms that sex weakens legs, and almost all fighters obediently left their wives or significant others at home when they trekked off to camp to prepare themselves for an upcoming fight. Johansson, though, arrived at Grossinger’s with his stunning, brunette girlfriend, Birgit, in tow, and it wasn’t long before rumors were rampant that at night he was going to the body in a far different way than he did with his sparring partners earlier in the day.
Although one publication dubbed Johansson as “boxing’s Cary Grant,” he was more of a predecessor to such swingin’ 1960s athletes as Joe Namath and Walt Frazier. His behavior left traditionalists like Hall of Fame trainer Ray Arcel aghast, but delighted others who figured that even heavyweight champion wannabes deserved to have some fun on their way into battle.
But none of that would have counted for anything had not Johansson done what he did on fight night in Yankee Stadium. After two rounds in which he landed nothing of consequence, Johansson clipped Patterson with a left hook and a right hand so allegedly devastating it had two nicknames, the “Hammer of Thor” and “Ingo’s Bingo.” Patterson went down, rose on wobbly legs at the count of nine, and turned to return to his corner, fuzzily thinking it was he who had had floored Johansson and that the round was over.
In one of the more unusual sights ever seen in boxing, Johansson ran up alongside the dazed Patterson and delivered an uncontested shot to the side of the head that sent the champion to the canvas for the second of an amazing seven times. There still were 57 seconds remaining in the third round when referee Ruby Goldstein finally stepped in and wrapped his arms around the game but defenseless Patterson.
When the fight ended, at approximately 3:15 a.m. Swedish time, people poured into the streets throughout Ingo’s homeland to celebrate the coronation of boxing’s new king of the heavyweights, and the first European to wear the crown since Italy’s Primo Carnera a quarter-century earlier.
It was a different time for sure, 1959 was. Seven knockdowns in one round? Wouldn’t happen today, but Goldstein, who is perhaps best known for his failure to jump in earlier in the March 24, 1962, bout in which Emile Griffith bludgeoned Benny “Kid” Paret into a coma and eventual death, had a reputation for letting fighters continue if they demonstrated even the slightest capability of returning fire. Johansson was named “Male Athlete of the Year” by The Associated Press, and when was the last time that happened for a boxer?
Ingo, not surprisingly, soaked up the adulation and sudden fame as if he were a sponge. He appeared in a 1960 movie, “All the Young Men,” as a Marine, cast alongside stars Alan Ladd and Sidney Poitier. He chatted up Dinah Shore on her daytime variety show, and wherever he went, in the U.S. or in Sweden, he had a beautiful woman on his arm and paparazzi snapping pictures.
That sort of lifestyle probably did not serve Johansson well in his rematch with Patterson, on June 20, 1960, at the Polo Grounds in New York. His championship reign ended in the fifth round when Floyd landed two left hooks, the first of which left Ingo woozy, the second of which – a leaping shot delivered with all the power Patterson could muster – left the Swede stretched out on the canvas, blood trickling from his mouth and his right leg quivering. Concerned that he had seriously injured Johansson, Patterson knelt beside him, gently cradling his head until medical help arrived. Five minutes passed before Ingo sat up, and another 10 ticked off before he left the ring, still a bit discombobulated.
The rubber match in the trilogy, on March 13, 1961, in Miami Beach’s Convention Hall, was perhaps the most competitive in the series. Johansson – who had sparred with an 18-year-old Cassius Clay as part of his training regimen – dropped Patterson twice in the first round, but Patterson survived the storm and went on to knock out Ingo in the sixth round.
For all intents and purposes, that was the end of Johansson as a big-time fighter. He did return to Sweden, fighting and winning four more times, but in his final bout, against Brian London on April 21, 1963, he was in serious trouble and in danger of being stopped when the final bell rang. Even though Johansson got the decision, he understood that it was time to step away, even though he was only 31. His final record: 26-2, with 17 wins inside the distance.
Retirement, though, was good to Ingo. He had a keen business sense and he invested wisely. For years, he summered in Pompano Beach, Fla., where he operated a motel and a fleet of fishing boats. He and Patterson, once rivals, became good friends and even ran together in a couple of marathons.
But then Johansson’s memory began to fade, and with it his recollections of the good life he had crafted for himself. Anyone who has had a friend or relative endure the slow descent into hell that Alzheimer’s can be surely understands how difficult it was for Ingo’s many supporters to realize their hero was leaving them in bits and pieces.
But gone does not necessarily mean forgotten. A contemporary of Johansson’s, Swedish boxing promoter Benny Rosem, plans to put on a pro fight card on June 26 in Gothenburg, the 50th anniversary of Ingo’s rout of Patterson. There is talk of erecting a bronze statue of Sweden’s greatest fighter, a fitting tribute to a man who, in 1982, finally received the Olympic silver medal he probably hadn’t deserved to have taken from him in the first place.
Elbaum, who has traveled to Sweden several times with heavyweight Joey “Minnesota Ice” Abell, said the passage of time has not diminished the legend of Ingemar Johansson, but rather enhanced it.
When does “gamesmanship,” the little tricks many fighters employ to gain any kind of an edge they can, cross the line into illegality and, just maybe, criminality? The names of disgraced trainer Panama Lewis and his fighter, Luis Resto, have been tossed around like Nerf footballs by those convinced that Margarito and his trainer, Javier Capetillo, not only crossed that line, but enthusiastically bounded over it.
Others -- for the most part, fans of the “Tijuana Tornado” – are insistent that this brouhaha is much ado about nothing, a minor controversy magnified for purposes of advancing someone else’s agenda.
But, to me and to others, the question is not whether Capetillo and Margarito knowingly cheated. (I think they did, although I reserve judgment as to whether their transgressions approach Panama Lewis despicability.) It’s whether state commissions are manned by qualified individuals who know what the hell they’re supposed to do and do it, and not by political hacks appointed solely or at least mostly because they contributed to the reelection campaigns of their state’s sitting governor.
Remember, the Titanic didn’t sink because it was struck by the tip of that iceberg; it went to the bottom because of a large gash in its hull below the water line, inflicted by the larger, unseen portion of the submerged threat.
I know more than a few employees of state commissions who are informed, dedicated individuals, who take their jobs seriously and follow every step necessary to ensure the safety and well-being of the fighters entrusted to their care. I also know others who wouldn’t know a legal hand wrap from the Saran Wrap their wives use to preserve last night’s dinner leftovers. And, even though they might not realize it, ignorance on the part of someone in their position is not bliss. It’s potentially lethal.
The Professional boxing Safety Act of 1996 and Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act of 2000 co-authored by Senators John McCain and Richard Bryan are well-intentioned, but they lack teeth in that enforcement is ceded to the Association of Boxing Commissions, which in turn relegates it to a particular state’s commission. And, as we have unfortunately discovered, some states hand out commission positions like candy because to political contributors to the “right” party or to friends of a person with high-enough connections.
Boxing these days is like a ship crossing the North Atlantic at night in 1912 and the lookout is calling out that he spots an iceberg dead ahead. But it’s what the lookout doesn’t see that can most hurt us, or more specifically the fighters who enter the ring a bit less secure than they should be that their opponents don’t have the equivalent of brass knuckles inside or under their gloves.
After Wrapgate reared its ugly head the night of Shane Mosley’s thrashing of Margarito, I dug through my voluminous clip file to find whatever I could concerning Naazim Richardson’s upheld assertation that Felix Trinidad’s hands were illegally wrapped prior to Tito’s Sept. 29, 2001, middleweight unification bout with Bernard Hopkins.
Prior to Trinidad’s May 11, 2002, fight with Hacine Cherifi in San Juan, Puerto Rico, I revisited the matter with Hopkins, the presumed beneficiary of Richardson’s observations, who dominated Trinidad en route to stopping him in the 12th round 7½ months earlier.
“If you put on tape, then gauze, then tape, then gauze, it’s like a (plaster) cast,” Hopkins told me. “It’s like being hit with a baseball bat.
“I’m giving out some secrets here, but you can dip your hands in ice water and that tape will, like, marinate and become harder. But it’s only cheating if you get caught. Personally, I think (Fernando) Vargas’ and (David) Reid’s people dropped the ball. Naazim did a brilliant job in spotting what (Felix Trinidad Sr.) was doing with the wraps.”
Boxing commissions have been – or at least should have been – more diligent in the enforcement of regulations designed to restrict unfair competitive advantages since the notorious incident in 1983 when Panama Lewis used tweezers to remove much of the horsehair padding from Resto’s gloves. Resto administered a horrific beating to Billy Collins, ending Collins’ career, and Lewis received a prison sentence and a lifetime ban from boxing.
Only last year, Resto came clean and admitted that he did in fact know that he went into the Madison Square Garden ring that night with rocks for fists.
Richardson wonders why the commissioner who oversaw Capetillo’s wrapping of Margarito’s hands allowed it to proceed prior to Richardson’s arrival on the scene. When Richardson protested, and the hard plaster-like substance was cut out of the left hand wrap, the on-scene commissioner insisted that the wraps to the right hand were A-OK and that he personally would vouch for them. Except, of course, that they weren’t.
I don’t know the identity of that commissioner, but this smacks of something more than incompetence. It has the taint of collusion, and if that is proven he should be dealt more than a lifetime ban from boxing. He should be criminally prosecuted.
Richardson himself has adopted a less forgiving stance over the years. After Hopkins schooled Trinidad, a fight in which Richardson worked B-Hop’s corner as an assistant trainer, he downplayed the fact that William Joppy had claimed he had been victimized in his fifth-round, middleweight unification stoppage loss a few months earlier.
“I think (the hand wraps) gave Joppy and some of the other guys Trinidad knocked out an excuse,” Richardson said at the time. “I mean, the kid can punch. Trinidad could punch before, he can punch now.
“Bernard just didn’t get hit a lot. If Trinidad had bricks in there, he still wouldn’t have beaten Bernard that night.”
So what does Richardson think now? He said he has had other conversations with Joppy, who continues to maintain that Trinidad’s power on the night they fought was something beyond all-natural.
“You know me, Naz,” Richardson said in relating what Joppy told him. “I take a good shot. I’ve sparred with heavyweights and gotten nailed. But nobody ever hit me like that before. It just didn’t seem right.”
Noted trainer and ESPN2 “Friday Night Fights” color analyst Teddy Atlas said the lack of proper oversight by various commissions is a matter that must be addressed, and soon, if boxing is to become as unsullied as it needs to be in order to maintain public confidence.
“This is why I’ve been calling for a national commission for the last 11 years,” Atlas said of the Margarito hand-wrap flap. “I’ve had this platform at ESPN where I can say something that I think needs to be said.
“We’re not going to get a national commission and even if we did, it probably wouldn’t be run the right way, anyway. I know I’m being cynical, but I have a reason for cynicism, unfortunately.
“We need uniform standards across the board and the possibility of actually administering those standards is low.”
Perhaps because Mosley has his own skeletons in the closet – he now admits that that “flaxseed oil” he thought was being rubbed on him by a personal trainer before his Sept. 13, 2003, rematch with Oscar De La Hoya probably was a designer steroid supplied by the infamous BALCO laboratory – he initially tried to downplay the hand-wrap issue and Margarito’s possible culpability.
“I don’t think Margarito was trying to do anything illegal,” Mosley said immediately after the fight. “I am sure it was a misunderstanding.”
Yeah, and Barry Bonds’ head grew two hat sizes larger because his skull was a late bloomer.
Atlas hears the excuses and the explanations and they ring as hollow as ever. What does the cheating husband tell his wife when she catches him in bed with another woman? He innocently asks “What woman?” as the naked lady gathers up her clothes and skedaddles out the side door For some, the best way out of an embarrassing situation is to deny, deny, deny.
“I don’t think it was a misunderstanding,” Atlas said of Margarito’s hand wraps. “I think he and his trainer understood exactly what was being put in there.
“Look, the California commission has not been the most glorious, to tell you the truth. They need to take some of the mystery out of this and tell us, at the earliest possible date, exactly what the device was. I’ve heard it was anything from a plastic shield to something that, if wet, acted like plaster of Paris.
“Identify it so we can know what the intentions were. Then we can go from there.”
Atlas said his cynicism is rooted in legitimate concerns. He’s seen commission members around the country who hadn’t enough sense to come in out of the rain, much less spot an illegal hand wrap if they saw it being applied before their very eyes.
“Look, nobody travels around the country to see boxing as much as I do,” he said. For the last four years I’ve doing two shows a week on `Wednesday Night Fights’ and `Friday Night Fights,’ although we aren’t running on Wednesdays anymore. I’ve been to places in the middle of nowhere, wherever an Indian casino pops up – and believe me, they pop up everywhere. Iowa, Wisconsin, Oklahoma. You think those places have stable, knowledgable commissions? No, they don’t.
“Sometimes I have to instruct my guys, the guys who go to weigh-ins and stuff like that, not just to tell me the weights supplied by the commission. I tell them to see if the fighters actually get on the scales. There have been times when a weight was announced and the fighter never stepped on the scales.”
The International Boxing Hall of Fame is located in Canastota, N.Y., about an hour’s drive from the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. Baseball’s high level of personal accountability has kept Pete Rose (gambling) and, to date, Mark McGwire (suspected steroid use) from the enshrinement their statistics on the field would otherwise merit. It’ll be interesting to see how Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa and Roger Clemens, all of whom are believed to have used performance-enhancing drugs, fare when their names appear on the ballot.
Boxing, meanwhile, winks at its bad boys because it holds itself to a lower level of accountability. You say Sonny Liston was arrested 19 times? No problem! That Jake La Motta threw a fight? So what? Their plaques and those of numerous other semi-shady characters hang in the IBHOF because, hey, it’s boxing. If the doors to Canastota were open only to knights in shining armor, there wouldn’t even be any doors to open in the first place.
Just remember that l’affaire Margarito might only be the tip of an iceberg of a scandal whose effects potentially are more far-reaching than any of us would care to admit. If Bonds and McGwire hit more and longer home runs because of injections in their buttocks, isn’t it reasonable to assume that at least some of the more spectacular butt-kickings we have witnessed in the ring were the result of doctored gloves and hand wraps?
Like Hopkins said, it’s only cheating if you get caught. For boxing, the unfortunate reality is that too often Inspector Clouseau, not Lt. Columbo, is on the case.
The big talker is not angry or crazy. He isn’t shouting or swearing and he seldom raises his voice. In fact, he sounds like a guy who is calmly telling you the best way to carve a turkey.
Some of what the big talker says is a little hard to understand, but that’s because he didn’t grow up in Dallas, Chicago or on the tough streets of Brooklyn. Now living in Sydney, Australia, he’s from Armenia, which is a long way from a southern drawl. He speaks English with kind of an Armenian twang. You have to listen closely.
But you don’t have to understand every word to know what he‘s saying. It‘s pretty basic stuff, dealing a lot with knockouts, pain and destroying things. Heavy punches.
Along with the big talk and the big ego, he’s a southpaw with a pretty big punch. And that’s what could decide this fight, the big punch and who lands it first. Or last.
“Knockouts are my style,” said Vic “The Raging Bull” Darchinyan (31-1-1, 25 KOs) on a recent conference call promoting his super-flyweight championship fight on SHOWTIME with Mexico ’s Jorge Arce (51-4-1, 39 KOs). “I believe I can knock out anyone, and Saturday night, you will see a big knockout. No one can stay with me for 12 rounds. I punch too strong. If I catch him, it’s over.“
Darchinyan knows a thing or two about catching things. A few years ago, he caught a Nonito Donaire left hook and it was over. It’s his only loss.
“Everyone keeps bringing up Donaire, but who is Donaire?“ said Darchinyan, who apparently suffered some serious memory loss from the beating. “I want to fight him again in the future and I want to destroy him.“
That’s fine, but like Pinocchio’s nose, Darchinyan’s potential hit list is long, impressive and still growing. Maybe he can get a rematch with Donaire before he fights Manny Pacquiao (“I want to move up and fight Pacquiao, but I will take my time“) or right after he faces super-bantamweight contender Israel Vazquez (“he gave me great sparring but I‘m confident I will defeat him if we fight“). He’s also got his eye on WBO super-flyweight champ Fernando Montiel.
It’s smart to plan your future, to look ahead, but Darchinyan still has to deal with Arce on Saturday night, a guy he says he dislikes.
“I am going to slow him down and punish him every round,“ Darchinyan said. “I’m going to play20with him like a cat plays with a mouse and show him how dumb he is. I want to thank his management because they don’t want him any more. They just want to write him off after the loss.“
Asked if he might be underestimating Arce a little, Darchinyan said he never underestimates an opponent. He just never shows them any respect.
“I believe any opponent I fight, I will dominate and destroy,” he said. “I believe I will knock (Arce) out, but I won’t knock him out in one round. That would be too easy for him. I am going to demolish him, destroy him and knock him out. He’s going to remember me all his life.”
He’s probably right. You can be pretty sure Darchinyan is going to remember Donaire all his life.
“Arce is a good puncher,” Darchinyan said. “He’s had good knockouts. But I am going to play him like a baby.”
Darchinyan doesn’t do a lot of tiptoeing around. He stomps. And say what you want about the guy, you’d want him covering your back in a street fight.
And if he mouths off a little, maybe he’s earned the right to put a little swagger in his walk. In the biggest win of his career, he upset reigning super-flyweight champion Cristian Mijares, stopping him in nine rounds this past November to win the WBA and WBC belts.
Not many figured Darchinyan had a chance against Mijares, who has already beaten Arce. In a prediction poll, 25 out of 31 members of the media picked Mijares to win. The six who picked Darchinyan included Darius Ortiz of ESPN.com., who also picked the round.
“When I fought Mijares, I told him what I was going to do to him,” Darchinyan said. “I told him I was going to break him down, that I was going to smash him and destroy him and knock him out. And I did.”
A man of his word.
“Watch carefully from the first round,” Darchinyan said of his fight with Arce. “I don’t want you to miss any of my artwork and my punches.“
Urango, who won this vacated belt in 2006, with a UD12 win over Naoufel Ben Rabah and then dropped it immediately to Ricky Hatton, almost closed out the show with a strong assault and two knockdowns in the third round; so it seemed like judges would have to veer into the realm of the nakedly obvious felony if they chose Ngoudjo, but this is boxing, where we come to expect the unexpected, and with PlasterGate fresh in all our minds, the right call was welcomed with glee. The right call allowed us to forgive the timekeeper who allowed round 10 to go 5:10!
Urango, the lefty, looked to bomb from the start, and the Quebec resident Ngoudjo moved smartly to steer clear of punishment. Urango banged to the body, sharply, and the crowd gasped in round one. In the second, Herman’s straighter shots hit the mark a bit better. But he’d need to be sharp defensively for the duration of the bout to be successful—could he pull it off? Urango scored a knockdown in the third, off a left uppercut. To me, it looked like it could’ve been a slip, from tangled feet. It was ruled a knockdown, and Herman didn’t protest. He held on, as Urango went into blitzkrieg mode. Herman went down again, off a straight left, with 24 seconds to go. He got up, on weakened legs, and held on for dear life as the bell sounded. Could he clear the fog in the fourth?
In the fourth, ref Marlon Wright, who astute readers know gave IBF 168 pound champ Lucian Bute extra time when he was knocked down in the final round of his Oct. 24 fight against Librado Andrade, warned Urango for hitting low. The hometowner stayed alive in the fifth; his legs were firm underneath him, and he made good use of them. In the sixth, we wondered if Herman could do more than merely survive. He did indeed have more luck, as he made better use of the distance, and didn’t get caught in no man’s land as much. In the seventh, Urango jammed a home a couple of right hooks. Herman’s respect for his foe’s power meant that he didn’t commit to offense like he needed to. In round eight, Urango’s body work again impressed, to both sides. But Herman did some decent work in close, too, in the ninth. In the tenth, both men held. The ref warned Urango again for going low. The prospect of a hometown special, a gift from the judges to Herman, didn’t seem so outlandish by this point. The round also went 5:10, by ESPN’s clock, which did neither man a favor. Then again, Herman did probably have more ground to make up, huh? In round 11, Herman ran, as Urango pressed forward with decent energy. No judge in his right mind could give the Canadian the round. Could he? In the 12th, Herman didn’t go all out, but maybe he didn’t need to…The crowd didn’t rise and transfer their passion to the hometowner, either. Both men held a bunch down the stretch. We’d go the cards…….. GULP. The 29–year-old Cameroonian Ngoudjo (139 pounds; ranked No. 1 by the IBF) entered with a 17-2 (9 KOs) record, while the 28-year-old Colombian Urango (139 pounds) was 20-1-1 (16 KOs; No. 2 in IBF). Brian Kenny chatted with Shane Mosley, via remote. Mosley told Kenny that his trainer, Naazim Richardson, took an Antonio Margarito “knuckle pad” which he thought didn’t “seem right” with him from Margarito’s dressing room back to Mosley’s on fight night, January 24.. Richardson, Mosley said, showed the pad to him and an unnamed physician. The physician scraped the pad, and a substance fell off the pad, and the physician said it looked to him like plaster. Then, the pad—or pads, because Mosley then referred to “pads,” rather than one pad, were boxed up and shipped off, to where he didn’t specify. Mosley said possibly the pads, when moistened, could conceivably become excessively stiff, and provide Margarito with an illegal advantage. But, Mosley said, he wasn’t getting hit with many shots of consequence and any Margarito edge would be minimal at best. Mosley stated that he thinks trainer Javier Capetillo should be help culpable, and that Margarito shouldn’t be blamed for the incident.
Margarito was also interviewed. He said that trainer Javier Capetillo and a commissioner and Richardson argued over taping protocol. He said his trainer told him that the incident was no big deal. He mentioned nothing about any plaster substance being on his knuckle protector pad. Margarito promised that he will return to action, “even stronger.” Atlas then spoke about said “pad” but described it as piled up gauze. He then called out the California commission, chaired by Tim Noonan, saying they should speak up now, to reduce all the conjecture knuckleheads like me traffic in.
SPEEDBAG Richard Schaefer of Golden Boy did contact Floyd Mayweather’s advisor Al Haymon, said studio analyst Bernardo Osuna (formerly of Telefutura), but Haymon told Schaefer that as of now, Floyd is still “retired.”
Back in September against Ricardo “Matador” Mayorga, a difficult win by knockout over the tough Nicaraguan was seen as evidence of Mosley’s lagging skills. Now that’s all gone. Now we’re talking about Mosley’s return to the Pound for Pound list and added legend to his lore.
Mosley has returned from the land of used-to-be-good to the home of champions.
A few weeks ago when we visited Mosley at his Big Bear training camp, the Pomona native told us that he was still upset that he was judged the loser against Miguel Cotto. He confesses that he could have done more, but wonders why Cotto was allowed to just run around the ring the last two rounds with nary a punch thrown or landed.
“I’m going to show people that Sugar Shane Mosley still has a lot left in the tank,” promised Mosley as he sat in one of his large couches upstairs. “I’m not going to run. I’m going to be right there in front of him.”
People felt Mosley’s performances against Cotto and Mayorga proved that he was probably Golden Boy Promotion’s least valuable asset and expendable to the ambitious company.
Eric Gomez, who serves as matchmaker and is a vice president with Golden Boy, said Mosley has always been seen as a valuable asset but always wanted the toughest fights.
It’s been a common characteristic of Mosley to fight anybody at anytime. Lately, he has toned down that mentality a bit. Instead of fighting anybody he now looks at the business side of things and seeks the most profitable challenge, not just the most physical challenge.
Mosley’s more strategic now as you saw in the ring.
People forget that Mosley was the first fighter to give Winky Wright a shot at the title after that fighter gave Fernando Vargas a scare in 1999. For five years nobody with a world title would fight Wright until Mosley shrugged and said “why not?”
Today, Wright continues to be avoided and if he fights on April 11 against Paul Williams (another avoided fighter) he will have been forced to wait for almost two years to fight.
Mosley fought Wright not once, but twice and nearly pulled out a win in their second scrap.
“Winky was the toughest I ever fought,” said Mosley re-evaluating his career. “He’s real strong. He’s definitely the strongest fighter I’ve ever faced.”
The Pomona native knows about strong. I remember back in 2000 when he was preparing for a fight against Antonio Diaz he used to work out at the old Big Bear Fitness gym. Inside there were all types of weight machines and free weights. Mosley loves them weights.
“Hey, wanna see me lift 300 pounds?” asked Mosley.
It shocked me to hear him say that because weights are not good for a fighter trying to make weight. Muscle is harder to lose than fat.
Without much struggle Mosley lifted that 300 pound weight. The guy is a mini-Superman when it comes to pure strength.
“People don’t know that I’m physically strong,” Mosley said.
The 20-minute walk to Staples Center was a nice jaunt. My wife had not seen the area since James Toney fought Samuel Peter in their first fight a couple of years ago. A lot has changed.
At the corner of Olympic and Figueroa we ran into a boxing manager of a couple of Texas prospects. One of them, Jerry Belmontes, would be fighting later in the night. Across the street an elderly man was playing Jimi Hendrix’s “Hey Joe” on his electric guitar. It sounded good but he might have been a little toasted cause he couldn’t remember the words.
Once we cross the street to the Staples Center we came across veteran corner man Tony Rivera. We talked a bit about Margarito coming in at 145 pounds and shaking our heads at the memory of Oscar De La Hoya doing the same thing a month ago. Ironically we’re standing about 50 feet from the statue of De La Hoya behind us.
Rivera says that coming in weak against Mosley is not a good thing. He should know, he worked the corners for Roberto Duran, Alexis Arguello, and Marco Antonio Barrera. In fact, he worked the corner for Mayorga when he fought Mosley.
“That Mosley is a tough son of a -----,” Rivera says.
We say our good byes to Rivera and go to the window to pick up our credentials.
Inside the belly of the Staples Center is the media room. It’s only 2:30 p.m. so we have about an hour before the first fight begins. We sit around one of the tables just gossiping about the fight game. Every time a new reporter comes in we get asked our predictions.
After a couple of cokes and ice cream and some chatter with photographer Paul Hernandez, writer Franklin McNeil, photographer Craig and writer Doug Fischer, it's time to go into the arena to catch the opening act.
Remarkably about 6,000 fans are already in their seats. That’s a lot of people for a boxing card’s first fight. It’s going to be a sell out.
As each fight ends, more and more people fill the massive arena that usually fits around 18,000 people. Not tonight. The balloon is going to burst.
By the time Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero fights the crowd is bursting at the seams and there are still two more fights to go. Guerrero wows the crowd with a picture-perfect counter left hand to the body that sinks Edel Ruiz to the floor for three minutes. The Ghost is impressive in his first fight under Golden Boy’s banner.
About 10 minutes after obliterating his opponent, Guerrero comes to the press table to talk to Robert Morales and me. Guerrero is a nice guy who doesn’t seem like a killer unless you’re on the other side of the ring. He’s not even sweating.
I looked at the bout sheet and could see that we were going to have a long break so I began walking around the crowd on the floor. Every five minutes I would spot a celebrity or two like Sylvester Stallone, Mark Walhberg or Tony Danza. I also ran into some boxing guys like Max from San Jose and Mark from OC.
When I returned to my seat I heard someone call my name and saw that it was Mia St. John. As usual she was as dazzling as ever. While we talked people screamed out her name to get a picture of her. Nobody screamed out my name, it was more “get out of the way buddy. We don’t want you!”
Finally after the Mexican national anthem and American national anthem, it was time to announce the fighters.
The announcement of Mosley and his entourage was met with a deafening blanket of boos that wasn’t surprising but still very, very loud by the mostly Mexican crowd.
Margarito’s announcement was met with waves of cheers that were the loudest I’ve ever heard in that arena. Ever. Reporters in the press area just looked at each other in amazement.
Finally the bell rang and Mosley immediately stepped right in front of Margarito. They parried and exchanged lightly but with about 40 seconds left in the round Mosley landed a thunderous right hand to Margarito’s stomach that buckled his knees. Seeing that made it evident that it was going to be a long night for Margarito.
You know the rest. Mosley fought when he wanted to fight and never allowed Margarito to get leverage on his punches. Maybe a blow landed here and there, but you could probably count the number of big blows Margarito landed.
The win itself by Mosley was not the surprise, it was the one-sided domination and the knockout of a strong fighter who had never been stopped in 15 years of prizefighting. The win also re-arranges a lot of future plans for the entire boxing landscape in the welterweight division.
“We have a fight coming up between Manny Pacquiao and Ricky Hatton, maybe the winner fights Shane Mosley,” said Eric Gomez, a Golden Boy Promotions matchmaker. “Anything can happen now.”
Sadly, Margarito was on the cusp of becoming a Mexican legend on the same plateau as Julio Cesar Chavez, Salvador Sanchez and Ruben Olivares. A win over Mosley would have placed him on a fast track to an eventual showdown with Pacquiao. It also would have meant sold out stadiums and superstar status.
“It was a bad night, that’s the truth,” said Margarito after the fight. “Don’t take anything away from Shane Mosley. He’s a great fighter.”
Mosley’s victory proves several things especially that boxing is entering a new era where promoters are willing to match their best against each other to provide compelling and intriguing fights.
“Shane had been begging us to let him fight Margarito,” said Gomez. “He kept telling me that Antonio Margarito was perfect for him.”
Mosley’s win also proves that at 37 he physically still has a lot more left to give as a prizefighter and that he has a great chin and enough power to knockout anybody in the welterweight division.
“I didn’t get 38 knockouts for nothing,” Mosley said before the fight.
It also proves that his business partner and two-time former foe Oscar De La Hoya has a great chin too. In two battles between Mosley and De La Hoya, neither fighter was ever knocked down.
Sadly, during the announcement of De La Hoya, most of the 20,000 fans booed the Golden Boy. During the fight, De La Hoya’s father Joel De La Hoya could be seen excitedly cheering for Mosley during the fight as if he were his own son.
Last Saturday night was a very surreal setting as viewers and fans from around the world saw the new downtown Los Angeles area near Staples Center that now has restaurants, theaters and video game areas where once before tenements and homeless resided. The area has been revamped and reloaded much like boxing itself.
Across the street we ate at the ESPN Zone. Before eating, we saw Riverside heavyweight contender Chris “The Nightmare” Arreola and his trainer Henry Ramirez walk in with a few of their friends. All were in shock from what they had seen.
“I still can’t believe it,” said Arreola. “Sure I thought Mosley could beat Margarito, but not by knockout.”
That knockout could be the catalyst for another great year of professional boxing.
“Shane Mosley deserves a lot of credit for being the kind of fighter who will fight anyone,” said Muniz, who was denied the WBC welterweight title against Jose Napoles though that fighter could not continue in 1975 in their fight. “I really feel Shane Mosley deserves more credit than people give him. He’s a clean-cut guy who never says anything bad about anybody. He’s just like Sugar Ray Robinson.”
In the last five months Mosley has faced numerous problems outside of boxing including a divorce from his wife of seven years, a defamation lawsuit filed by a former trainer, and allegations of steroid use. He’s survived it all.
“Shane doesn’t let anything get him down,” said Jack Mosley, father of Shane who did not train his son in this fight. “Shane does what he has to do.”
The question now is what more can Mosley do?
Fights on television
Fri. ESPN2, 5:30 p.m., Herman Ngoudjo (17-2) vs. Juan Arango (20-1-1).
Sat. HBO plus, 10 p.m., David Rodela (11-1-2) vs. Antonio Meza (24-5-1).
As referenced in multiple reports over the past twelve years, Mr. Morrison has not been able to document negative HIV status thereby not meeting the minimum medical requirements to insure the safety and protection of himself, his opponent or ring officials. As such, the AAPRP is concerned about the potential of transmission of infectious diseases should bleeding occur.
Currently, the State of Wyoming does not have a boxing commission. Thus, we recommend that this fight be canceled until such time as an appropriate supervisory commission is appointed to oversee the medical aspects of this contest and blood test are performed by an AAPRP approved physician to document the health status of each competitor.
Should this contest take place without proper regulatory oversight and experienced medical personnel, we believe there is a possibility that the health and safety of the competitors and ring officials may be compromised; an unnecessary risk which should not be permitted.
This is why we have an egregious situation in the fight game that needs to be remedied. No, not the excess of fare offered on a pay-per-view basis. For now, that model has been smacked down by the harsh overhand right dispensed by the marketplace, as fans that could previously be relied upon to buy PPVs are now saving their money for other more necessary expenditures, like food, and rent.
I’m talking about the absence of “little guys” on pound for pound lists. Go ahead, get Googling, and bring up some pound for pound lists from your fave fightwriters. You’ll notice that men weighing under 135 pounds are severely underrepresented on said lists. It’s a case of, “If you ain’t big, you ain’t go the gig.”
Of course, P4P lists are ultra subjective, so we can argue til we’re blue in the face that a bias against smaller fighters doesn’t exist. But I point to myself as Exhibit A in building a case for bias against the minis. I’ve always been a fan of the big boys. Something about the frame, and the possibility of a one-punch rubout, has always appealed to me. I can identify with them, being of a large frame myself, and there is also an element of aspiration involved; I look at (insert your own archetypical heavyweight of awe inspiring physique and marble-shattering punching power) and see what I could be, if only I reign in my bad eating habits and genetic failings.
But when I look at Vic Darchinyan, or Jorge Arce, or Chris John, I cannot say the same. No offense to any of them, master pugilists all. But they all weigh 120 or 130 pounds, walking around. In that context, I find I have very little in common with them. And for that reason, me and others who are of average and above-average size tend to have a conscious or subconscious aversion to giving them their due when it comes time to craft a pound for pound list.
But now that I have named this glaring defect, it is high time I tame it, or at least, spread the word about the mistreatment of the smaller pugilists at the hands of fuller framed fightwrighters.
Because really, the more time you spend watching the under 130 crowd, the more impressed you are bound to be, and the more likely you are to place guys like Vic and Jorge on your P4P list.
With this in mind, I am gearing myself up for the Feb. 7 Vic Darchinyan/Jorge Arce clash at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.—-to be shown on Showtime--in which Darchinyan’s 115-pound International Boxing Federation (IBF), World Boxing Council (WBC) and World Boxing Association (WBA) world titles will be on the line. The winner should, with a strong showing in a reasonably tight scrap, be rewarded with a place on more P4P lists.
Arce himself delved into the issue of the smaller pugilsts being overlooked and perhaps more tragically, underpaid, on a Wednesday conference call to hype the faceoff.
“Little guys don’t get paid the money we deserve,” said the 29-year-old Los Mochis-Mexicao native with a 51-4 record. “We give exciting fights every time we go out there. I just go in there and do the best I can to give the fans a good fight. Once this fight is over I hope people will remember it for a long time.”
The man has lost once since 1999, and that was to a world class talent, in Cristian Mijares (UD12 loss in 2007). If there is a compelling reason why he isn’t on more P4P lists, let’s have them.
But Arce, smartly, isn’t consumed by the slight and instead will work to convince non-believers that he deserves both their respect and fatter paydays. ”It doesn’t bother me (that I’m not in the pound-for-pound rankings),” he said. “I try to do the best I can. If I win this fight I think that I have to be considered as one of the best fighters in the world.’’
Certainly, the trash talk between the two men cannot be dismissed as dimunitive. “I will knock him out,” said Arce, who unfairly was dismissed as all style and no substance after the Mijares loss, because of his showy ring entrances. He shot down this line of thinking.
“I know when I can do my entrances and when I can plan things. Sometimes fights are not interesting so I have to do something to entertain them. But this fight speaks for itself and I don’t have to do anything. He is a great champion and this will be a great fight. I know he will do everything to knock me out in one punch and we’ll do everything to put on a show. The extra isn’t needed. My career was taking off, (but) then when I lost to Mijares, people thought I wasn’t as good of a boxer as some people thought I was. They thought I was just a singer and a celebrity and an entertainer. But everyone has bad nights. I just had a bad night that day. The media and fans don’t understand that I can have a bad night.’’
No, there is nothing jockey-sized about Arce’s determination as he counts down to Feb. 7. “I don’t see this fight going 12 rounds,” he said. “I see it as a knockout. If he knocks me down once I’m going to get back up. He’s going to have to throw a lot of punches to knock me out. He’s in for a long night. I’m always self assured who I am and what I am about. When I train for fights like this I feel invincible. If he hits me three times I hit him six. If he hits me five I hit him ten. I’m fighting for life or death. No one can stop me.”
Still on the fence, or think you’ll pass on the Feb. 7 super fly showdown? Still hold onto your supersized bias? Maybe you think the flys can’t and don’t deliver the mayhem and controlled violence you crave? Maybe Arce’s promise to deliver the goods, in stark terms, will change your mind.
“I love to see blood,” he said. “I give fans blood, and when I get blood on me, I love that. It gets me more aggressive. I hope we can give fans a long fight on February 7 with a lot of blood.”
What more can we ask? If he delivers on his promises, of knockdowns on both sides, a KO against a fighter with a 31-1 record, Arce deserves a payout in the realm of money and respect.
Jorge Arce is big talent, in a small package, and I am, moving forward, pronouncing myself more open to appreciating the skills and talents of fighters in and around his weight class.
This message has been sponsored by the International Society For The Advancement Of Lighter Weight Pugilists (ISALWP).
“You have to go back to Sugar Ray Robinson to find a boxer that kept coming back and beating guys he was not supposed to beat,” said Armando Muniz, a former welterweight challenger himself in the 1960s and 1970s. “That was incredible what he did tonight.”
Back in the 1950s it was Robinson who kept coming back from defeat with victory after victory until the chains of time finally wore him down. He had his moments against Carmen Basilio, Randy Turpin, Gene Fullmer and Bobo Olson who all beat him but also tasted defeat against the ageing middleweight.
Now we have Mosley kicking age in its teeth with a display of boxing prowess that wowed even the most hard-bitten boxers, boxing fans and boxing critics. It was a win for the ages.
Let's paint a picture of what Los Angeles was like on Saturday, the morning of the big fight that most boxing experts felt would be a one-sided drubbing of the Pomona fighter by the WBA titleholder Antonio Margarito.
More than a few hundred insisted that since Mosley was beaten by Miguel Cotto (in a very close contest), and since Cotto was destroyed by Margarito, it made sense to figure Margarito would easily beat Mosley. Maybe even destroy the proud 37-year-old Californian.
A few weeks ago while at Margarito’s training camp the Mexican fighter was very careful about predicting a win. He insisted that the fight would be the hardest of his career because of “Mosley’s experience” and the toughness he’s shown in every fight. Margarito knew what he was talking about.
You see, Margarito trained in the same gyms as Mosley and sparred on occasion with the same guys as Mosley, and he knew that the Pomona speedster was more than proficient at fighting the inside Mexican style of prizefighting. But maybe he felt age would prevent Mosley from staying inside. Bad decision.
Mosley may have won the fight on Friday afternoon during the weigh-in when Margarito stepped on the scale at the Nokia Theater and weighed a mere 145 pounds. The first thing that went through my mind and others during the announcement of Margarito’s weight was “the Oscar De La Hoya syndrome” where he left everything in his training camp.
Mosley stepped on the scale and was two ounces over. No big deal. He just waited 20 minutes and the weight was gone.
As the two fighters stepped next to each other to pose it seemed Margarito was more gaunt than usual. Mosley looked strong.
De La Hoya’s poor showing against Manny Pacquiao had been discussed with both Mosley and Margarito during their preflight press conference back in early December. Both said the East L.A. fighter was too weak and had over-trained. This past weekend history repeated itself.
It’s not to say that a prime Margarito would have beaten Mosley, just like a prime De La Hoya may not have beaten Pacman either. But they might not have looked so bad in the ring.
Later that Friday night I drove to a fight card in Montebello and spoke to numerous boxing writers, boxers and trainers. All were surprised about the 145 pounds too. The common question was: “why so light?”
As I waited for the weigh-in to conclude Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero and his father walked over to talk about their fight tomorrow. Guerrero told me he actually ate three meals on Thursday and had also eaten breakfast before jumping on the scale. He couldn’t believe how easy it was for him to fight at the higher junior lightweight division.
“I feel real strong,” said Guerrero.
Another fighter who said hello was little Luis Tapia, a fighter I had met before his pro debut in Las Vegas last summer. That day he stepped in against junior middleweight Joseph Judah who towered over him and nearly dropped him. He told me he put some weights in his pockets to make the extra weight so he could fight. He did it again in Montebello last November. This time he was going to fight Brian Ramirez, a nice kid that Margarito manages. Both would fight each other at lightweight. Tapia weighed 130 and a half. That is his fighting weight. He was happy this time because he knew he had a real chance to win against somebody who only weighed 135 pounds, not 152 pounds.
At the Friday night fight card were boxers Rico Hoye and Joell Godfrey, who are part of the fifth season Contender reality television show now on Versus TV on Wednesdays. Hoye trains in California now. Another boxer from the area on the show is Deon Elam. It’s a pretty good lineup of boxers and probably the best since season 1. It plays at 7 p.m.
That night in the main event super middleweight Fernando Zuniga hit Danny Z flush on the chin about eight times in the first two rounds and quickly realized why nobody has ever stopped the Russian boxer. He’s got a great chin. For the first time Zuniga was on his bicycle popping jabs and moving out of range of Z’s big right hand. Zuniga won by decision. Kaliesha West, a top ranked bantamweight who was sitting next to me, said Z looked like Wolverine of the X-Men. He sure did.
A few other boxers attended the show. One was Roberto Garcia, a little known but dangerous welterweight who resembles Pipino Cuevas and hits like him too. He was there with his pretty wife Nana to take in the fights. Kingsley Ikeke was there and boisterous as usual.
After the long boxing show in Montebello, I headed back to Riverside to hurry up and go to sleep. I had to get home early so that I could return to Los Angeles for the 11 a.m. press conference scheduled.
Azteca TV and Darchinyan
A shower woke me up and two cups of coffee kept me awake and off to Los Angeles I drove along with my wife Jeannie to catch the morning press conference.
Top Rank planned two press conferences at the Wilshire Grand Hotel in downtown L.A. The first was to detail the new deal with Azteca TV that plans to show 26 to 29 boxing cards in 2009. The new host will be Adrian Garcia-Marquez, a very good young announcer I met at the Dodger games last year. He reported for one of the TV news teams on a daily basis and was excellent. He will be teamed with former junior middleweight champion Raul Marquez.
The press conferences filled to capacity with every high-powered boxing writer from Boston to Mexico City. The big guns were in the house including Franklin McNeil, George Willis, Kevin Iole, Dan Rafael, Lance Pugmire, Doug Fischer, Robert Morales, and I’m not even including many of the TV guys like Rich Marotta and Bernardo Osuna.
Funny how when one window closes others open. The loss of Telefutura’s weekly show has led to ESPN Deportes expanding its boxing coverage, Versus adding more shows and now Azteca TV jumping into the boxing scene. I can’t wait till the middle of the year when all of those boxing shows will be in full swing.
Around the room a number of boxers like Alfredo “Perro” Angulo, Francisco Arce, and of course the guest of honor Vic Darchinyan sat inside the too small room that was at capacity. Absent was Jorge Arce who promoter Bob Arum said wanted to remain in the mountains in full training.
Arce’s brother “Panchito” attempted to hand Darchinyan a basket of eggs. The IBF champion was not taking any gifts. Armenia is pretty close to ancient Troy and they’ve seen that trick before. Never accept gifts or Trojan Horses.
When it was Darchinyan’s turn the tiny pocket-sized destroyer said what he always says, "I am going to destroy him.”
The good thing about Darchinyan is he always tries and usually does destroy everything in his path like a Tasmanian Devil.
After the two press conferences some of us headed back to our cars to gather our equipment before heading on foot to the Staples Center about three city blocks down the road.
Great trainers, one would presume, must know how to properly condition their boxers, craft intelligent fight plans, make in-bout adjustments on the fly and push the proper buttons when extra motivation is needed at a critical moment. But is the ability to do all that always enough to gain a reputation as one of the sport’s finest teachers? How much is attributable to simply being in the right place at the right time? Having one or more gifted pupils whose high-visibility successes serve to illuminate your contributions?
Larry Holmes, after he had been heavyweight champion of the world for a good, long while, once offered the opinion that the shifting cast of characters in his corner were necessary evils, unable to add to or detract from the boxing acumen he had already accumulated. Others – such as Shane Mosley, who was lavish in his praise of Richardson after last Saturday night’s stunning, nine-round beatdown of Antonio Margarito – have no hesitancy in suggesting that the right voice in the gym and on fight night can be the deciding factor in any bout, all other factors being more or less equal.
Richardson, best known as a longstanding trainer of Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins, but only occasionally in the lead role since 2005, became a hot commodity because his exquisite fight plan was followed so perfectly by Mosley against Margarito, and because his observations of the manner in which the “Tijuana Tornado’s” hands were wrapped before the fight led to the impounding of hard inserts in those wraps. The prefight drama in Margarito’s dressing room – the California commission at this date has yet to announce its findings -- at least hinted that the soon-to-be-dethroned WBA welterweight champion’s already formidable punching power sometimes has been enhanced by artificial means.
Considering that Richardson was at the forefront of another hand-wrap expose, when he successfully argued to New York State Athletic Commission officials that Felix Trinidad’s hands were illegally wrapped prior to his Sept. 29, 2001, middleweight unification showdown with Hopkins in Madison Square Garden (B-Hop won on a stunning, ninth-round stoppage), his increasingly high visibility might owe as much to his keen eye for possible rules infractions as well as for his more standard duties.
Like that noted baseball philosopher, Yogi Berra, once observed, it’s amazing how much you can see by looking.
That 1-2 punch delivered by Richardson – Mosley benefiting first from the dressing room flap, then from the tactical suggestions offered by his new trainer, for which Margarito’s chief second, Javier Capetillo, seemingly had no answer – vaulted the Philadelphian from the ranks of I-think-I’ve-heard-of-him trainers into elite status.
By the end of the seventh round, HBO blow-by-blow announcer Jim Lampley was advising viewers that every big-name fighter considering a change in his corner almost certainly would soon be putting Richardson on speed-dial.
Steward, the Hall of Fame trainer whose humble beginnings with amateur kids at Detroit’s Kronk Gym 30-plus years ago mirrors Richardson’s grunt work with the Concrete Jungle Boxing Team in gritty North Philadelphia, joined Lampley in singling out Sugar Shane’s new guy as a master instructor whose ability to wring the most out of his charges only now is being recognized after years of laboring in the shadows.
“I don’t think words can even describe how much he has improved his worth,” Manny said when asked about Richardson.
“It started with Bernard’s upset win over Kelly Pavlik. Then to have another major upset with Shane – which was a little difference because Shane was working with Naazim for the first time, whereas Bernard has been with him for so long – it was like a revelation. Naz came away from (Mosley-Margarito) with a better image, a higher niche … everything.”
Not bad for someone who, not so very long, was so debilitated by a stroke that he barely could speak or mount the three steps to the corner without becoming exhausted. Although Richardson remained on Hopkins’ payroll for his bouts with Winky Wright and Joe Calzaghe, it was in a secondary role to Freddie Roach.
Now fully recovered, or close to it, Richardson is demonstrating that he is back, and back in a big way.
“One of the things we didn’t even get around to mentioning during the telecast, which we should have, was that just over a year ago this man was so physically handicapped that he could hardly speak or walk up the steps,” Steward said.
“Now he comes along and gives two of the best performances of any trainer’s life, back go back. It’s just unreal. Naz’s work with Bernard and Shane these last two fights showed technique, strategy, planning. I was so impressed that he didn’t try to completely overhaul Shane. During my interviews with Naz, he wasn’t, like, `I’m bringing this and that to the table.’ He didn’t make it all about himself, like one guy I can think of.”
If you think the mystery egomaniac to whom Steward is referring to is the person who sired a recently retired welterweight champion and pound-for-pound king, that probably would be an astute guess.
But if Steward detects something special in Richardson, someone else is going to have to play devil’s advocate, if only for the purpose of sparking a debate. Not surprisingly, that person is another noted trainer, ESPN2 “Friday Night Fights” color analyst Teddy Atlas.
“He’ll be the flavor of the month, like Buddy McGirt was,” Atlas said of the former WBC welterweight champion whose reputation was buffed and burnished during a heady run a few years ago with Antonio Tarver, Vernon Forrest and Arturo Gatti. “There’s a whole succession of guys that get noticed in big fights and gain recognition, with recognition equation into more work for a while. The boxing business is fickle that way.”
So which is Richardson? A professor of pugilism worthy of his new-found acclaim? Or, as Atlas at least wonders, a holder of a winning lottery ticket whose good fortune is as much the product of luck as of actual expertise?
“Richardson had two experienced fighters in Hopkins and Mosley,” Atlas said. “Come on. I don’t know who or what he is. Those guys had a lot of success before he came along. Not taking away anything from him, but, jeez, keep things in perspective.
“Those were made-to-order opponents. Pavlik was made to order for an experienced fighter who could box a little bit, who could stay calm, not be broken down by pressure and knew how to counterpunch. I mean, that’s Boxing 101.
“And it was the same thing (with Mosley-Margarito). Margarito now has six losses in his career. He’s a guy who walks straight in. It’s hard to miss him. He broke down (Miguel) Cotto, but he got hit with a lot of punches before that. Really, his style was made to order for Mosley.
“Mosley didn’t look much different than I’ve seen him look in the past. The way he fought is the way he usually fights.”
Gauging the true value of coach to player, of trainer to fighter, is a question which has long been debated. In team sports, circumstances matter, too. Former quarterback Terry Bradshaw, the winner of four Super Bowl championships with the “Steel Curtain”-era Pittsburgh Steelers, once was asked for his opinion of Archie Manning, a gifted passer for mostly dreadful New Orleans Saints teams during his NFL career.
“If Archie had played with the Steelers, and I had been with the Saints, he’d have those four rings and everybody would be talking about poor Terry,” Bradshaw concluded.
Makes you wonder, doesn’t it? Casey Stengel won nine American League pennants and seven World Series in 13 seasons with the New York Yankees, but he finished last in all four seasons with the New York Mets, an expansion team he took over in 1962. Did the “Old Perfesser” suddenly stop being a genius in the dugout? Or did his winning percentage dip precipitously because he had to write Marv Throneberry’s and Choo-Choo Coleman’s names on the lineup card every day instead of Mickey Mantle’s and Roger Maris’?
Would the sad-sack Washington Generals have started beating the Harlem Globetrotters if Phil Jackson was diagramming isolation plays for Red Klotz instead of Michael Jordan?
There are those who insist that Bouie Fisher is one of the finest trainers ever in Philadelphia, but the veteran of so many gym tutorials didn’t start to get his due until Hopkins came along and blossomed, like a spring flower, into the future Hall of Famer we know him to be. Same with the venerable Bill Miller in Detroit until James Toney showed up.
Truth be told, talent-devoid fighters could benefit only so much from having a brilliant trainer in their corner, just as otherworldly fighters like Sugar Ray Robinson and Muhammad Ali probably couldn’t have been screwed up that badly by having substandard seconds barking out instructions. Somehow, some way, their natural brilliance would have shone through.
But put just the right fighter with just the right trainer and magic can happen. It’s a partnership, like Fred and Ginger, Montana to Rice, Butch and Sundance. One can make the other look good, and vice versa.
Richardson’s fondest dream is to take some of the Concrete Jungle fighters he introduced to boxing, most notably his son, welterweight prospect Rock Allen, to pro titles. The long road to the top always is more satisfying than the quick fix. Steward started out that way, putting his faith in Tommy Hearns and riding the skinny kid’s comet’s tail to a shared superstardom. Once he became established, Manny continued to build upon his legacyby taking on such noted fighters as Evander Holyfield, Oscar De La Hoya, Lennox Lewis and Wladimir Klitschko and making them better.
Maybe it’ll be that way for Richardson, too, if the pied piper’s tune played by Hopkins and now Mosley leads even more star clients in need of a career rejuvenation to his door. Flavors of the month have been known to become flavors of the year and of the decade, if the taste of what they’re churning out is delectable enough for mass consumption.
And, until further notice, it doesn’t get much sweeter than that double scoop of Sugar Shane that Richardson helped lay on the unfortunate Margarito.