“I don’t think there’s any more exciting fight for the fans right now than one between me and Jermain Taylor,” said Miranda. “We both come to fight, we’re both warriors, and I’ll get to keep my Knockout of The Year streak going when we step into the ring with each other.”
Fresh off a devastating knockout of Manuel Esparza on January 14th that upped his stellar record to 31-3 with 27 KOs, Miranda – whose knockout of David Banks a year ago was ESPN.com’s Knockout of The Year for 2008 and ESPN2’s Knockout of the Decade – wants nothing but big fights from here on out. But he’s a little skeptical when it comes to Taylor’s intentions – bad or not.
“I hear of him fighting Allan Green or Carl Froch, but Froch has priced himself out” said Miranda. “I destroyed Green two years ago and he hasn’t been the same since. I will fight you for a very reasonable amount of money. If you’re serious about fighting the best, then you’ll fight me.”
A Miranda-Taylor bout was originally talked about in 2007, but Miranda, weakened by sickness and the inability to get down to 160 pounds, lost a title elimination bout to the man who eventually dethroned Taylor, Kelly Pavlik. Now, with both fighters at their best at 168 pounds, the time is right for the fight to finally take place.
“We should have done this two years ago Jermain, but I was sick and unable to make 160 pounds anymore,” said Miranda, addressing the pride of Little Rock, Arkansas. “You know the struggle to make weight, and now we’ve both moved on and gotten stronger and better. We owe this fight to the fans, and I’m ready to do it at anytime and place. Are you ready?”
Torres counted among his friends literary lions like Norman Mailer, Budd Schulberg and Pete Hamill. He’d impressed them all with the skill he showed with his hands, and those hands were similarly blessed when he hung up the gloves, and he authored two books. Torres wrote “Sting Like A Bee,” a look at the incomparable Muhammad Ali, and also “Fire and Fear,” a take on the complicated slugger Mike Tyson.
Torres also contributed to the website ibopboxing.com, which morphed into thesweetscience.com. Please click on this link to check out Torres’ archives, and check back to TSS to read Ron Borges’ homage to “Chegui.”
The inquiring writer never got the answer he was searching for and his phone line was cut off when he pushed the issue during the teleconference sponsored by the co-promoters of the event, Golden Boy Promotions and Top Rank. (Editor Note: I do not support the act of cutting off the phone line. The steroid issue is a legitimate question, and to cut off the questioner smacks of censorship. –Ed) You can’t blame Mosley for dodging questions about his reported past use of performance enhancement drugs. That was then. The Pomona native has a huge task ahead of him in trying to derail the sizzling hot career of the Tijuana fighter aptly nicknamed “The Tijuana Tornado.”
Focus and a top rate preparation camp is a must. “You have to be in tremendous shape to beat him,” Mosley said. “When you fight someone like Margarito you have to work on everything. Boxing and moving, turning and dipping. Like I always do, I’m going to do my best to get my shots in.”
Trainer Nazim Richardson, who also trains the legendary Bernard Hopkins, feels that Mosley’s speed will make a huge difference against Margarito. “Speed is always going to be a factor when you face Shane Mosley,” said Richardson, who is working in place of Mosley’s dad, Jack, who has parted ways again with his son. “It’s not just about speed, it’s about using it correctly. It’s about finding Margarito’s vulnerable spots and attacking them.”
After witnessing Margarito’s crushing and emphatic victory over Puerto Rican idol, Miguel Cotto, Mosley is definitely the underdog among the so called “boxing experts.” Cotto’s undoing, Mosley feels, was that he didn’t know what he was up against in the fierce and determined 30 year old Mexican. “I think Cotto was fighting great for most of the fight but he didn’t know what Margarito brought to the table,” Mosley said. “I’ve fought a lot of Mexican fighters so I know what he’s bringing. I know that type of style. I know how to pace myself and I know how to throw body shots and Margarito gets bothered by body shots.”
Margarito’s resistance to punches has been remarkable during his career. Paul Williams and Cotto, two fearsome punchers, tried but couldn’t dent Margarito’s chin. “I think it’s something that people are born with,” Margarito said. “The preparation in the gym makes you even stronger and more durable. I don’t rely on my ability to take punches. If anything, I’m always looking to get hit less.”
Win or lose, it’s been rumored that Margarito will eventually face Cotto in a rematch. Some far fetched reports have even insinuated that #1 pound for pound king, Manny Pacquiao, might be next on the list. “I’ve heard about all those things but I don’t pay any attention to that. I have a mission and that’s to beat Shane Mosley. Nothing will take my focus from that,” he said. “If my promoter Bob Arum decides that those are good fights for me then he’ll make them happen. For now I’m just thinking about the 24th and nothing else.”
After Mosley’s less than spectacular performance against Ricardo Mayorga, many spectators felt that “Sugar Shane” lost some of his sweetness. Margarito isn’t buying it. “People say that he’s not the same as before but I’m not going to take much stock in that,” he said. “He’s got world class experience and he’s a great fighter. I’m at my peak and that’s the only thing I’m going to count on. I believe I’ll win. It’s all about the way I train, that’s what always wins me fights.”
There were press releases that came out from Mosley’s camp questioning Margarito’s eagerness to fight during the initial stages of negotiations. “When I heard about the reports, I just laughed. How’s it possible that I’m scared of Mosley since I’ve been the one looking to fight him for years. That was just ridiculous. Now that the opportunity is here I’m going to take full advantage of it.”
Thirty seven year old Mosley thinks he will again pull off the big surprise like he did before at the exact same venue against Oscar De La Hoya in June of 2000. “I feel more comfortable and confident right now than when I fought Oscar,” he said. “I’m confident that I’ll look spectacular and I’m confident that the fans watching around the world will be shocked and surprised.”
The event is on pace to sell out the 19,000 plus seat venue.
Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero (22-1-1, 15 KOs) has been penciled in to meet Edel Ruiz (31-21-4, 22 KOs) as part of the supporting show. No disrespect, but Edel Ruiz against “The Ghost”? Really?
Margarito vs. Mosley will be televised live on HBO's World Championship Boxing beginning at 10pm ET / 7pm PT. Remaining tickets, priced at $150, $75, $50 and $25, are available at the STAPLES Center Box Office, all Ticketmaster outlets, by phone at 213-480-3232 and online at www.ticketmaster.com
These days it is so rare that tough matches like this one are made that there is a tendency to dismiss the winner as less than what you thought he was when it’s over rather than to see such a fight for what it should be – the maturation process of a guy who admitted to TSS before the fight that he knew he was not yet a complete fighter.
Berto was right about that and it is only from difficult challenges like the one Collazo posed that he can close the circle and make himself all he is potentially capable of. Yet you can expect to hear in the days and weeks ahead that A) Collazo deserved the decision, which he did not although he most certainly deserves a rematch and a chance to prove he did; and B) that Berto is not boxing’s next great thing as a six-page magazine article claimed he was not too long ago.
This is more a sign of the times than of any weakness in Berto. Back in the days when there was boxing, baseball and everything else, these were the kind of fights that made great fighters. They were demanded of you long before you became a 25-year-old champion, as the WBC welterweight champion is today.
Most importantly, they were how you learned your difficult craft. You learned by taking risks and surviving them or not, which is what Berto managed to do.
Sure he was wobbled in the opening round by a big left hand behind Collazo’s distracting right jab. Sure he slumped into the ropes and looked to be in trouble. Sure he seemed confused at times by the southpaw Collazo and struggled on the inside with few answers to Collazo’s counter punching but he also fought back from it all and by the end of the round had hurt Collazo.
Mismatches and one-sided domination have become so much the norm these days that there is a tendency for many fight fans and more than a few television network executives to panic after a night like Berto went through because most promoters and matchmakers do their best work not by making fights but by avoiding them. Yet the 25-year-old Berto found himself in the opposite situation with Collazo. He found himself in a contentious battle and he found a way to win, which is the definition of his job.
Collazo (29-4, 14 KO) is an underrated guy who is far more difficult to beat than the general public knows. He lost a portion of the welterweight title that he briefly held in a similarly close and controversial fight with Ricky Hatton two years ago when many people left the Boston Garden believing he deserved the decision and some folks surely felt the same way at Beau Rivage Casino in Biloxi, MS. Saturday night at the conclusion of the hotly contested battle despite the fact the WBC welterweight champion rallied late and was clearly the stronger fighter in the final round that decided the outcome.
The real controversy should not have been the decision, a unanimous one for Berto, but rather the 116-111 card of judge Bill Clancy. According to him, Berto won all but three rounds (Berto suffered a one-point deduction for excessive holding), a conclusion that was so far from reality that someone should immediately schedule an appointment with an optometrist for him.
“That’s crazy,’’ Collazo (29-4, 14 KO) said. “One of the judges had it 116-111? There is no way in hell the fight was so far apart. It should have been 114-113 all around.’’
It was on the other two cards and rightfully so after Collazo, known much more for his relentlessness than his punching power, was unable to follow up on his early advantage but he kept hurting Berto through the first half of the fight on the inside, countering him and damaging his body.
It was there that Berto made clear there remains much work to do for he seemed to have no idea how to score at close quarters and spent much of his time there holding until he was finally penalized a point for his constant grappling.
Berto’s corner wanted him on the outside, working from behind his fast jab at long range but it took half the fight for him to figure out how to get there. In the meantime his deficiencies were obvious and troubling. But the important point is not so much that he struggled for a time against a worthy opponent but rather that he kept fighting and ultimately found a way to fight at the range that was best for him.
Before the fight Berto conceded he was still an incomplete fighter and the proof was right there in front of him at Beau Rivage when he was repeatedly tied up or left holding inside while Collazo was damaging him to the body and with crisp counter punches. But when Berto finally found his distance he began to take control of the fight with superior hand speed and power and it wore the 27-year-old Collazo down. As the fight moved into its second half, Berto was the fresher fighter and he took advantage of it only to see the challenger rally back late, cutting Berto with an accidental head butt and hurting him to the body again in rounds nine and 10. It is from such moments that fighters are born or exposed.
“He banged it up with me,’’ the undefeated Berto (24-0, 19 KO) said. “I knew I had to win the last round. I dug deep down to get it.’’
It was not so much that Berto was particularly effective that round but he was far busier, as he had been in most of the final four or five rounds, and that carried the day for him. Sure it was by the thinnest of margins but that is not significant. What is significant was in Round 12 he was the one throwing and landing and seemingly wanting the title more than Collazo did and finding a way to keep it.
“It was a close call,’’ Berto admitted. “Luis Collazo is a monster. He caught me with some clean shots and he knocked me off balance (in the first round). This was two tough young guys going at it in the toughest division in the sport.’’
The sad thing is that boxing has become so used to not seeing these types of tight fights between young equals that when it happens there is too often a rush to doubt the future of the winner rather than praise him for his victory. What Andre Berto showed was that he needs work to master in-fighting but also that when pushed he will push back and when challenged he will stand his ground and deliver. He may not yet be ready for Antonio Margarito or Miguel Cotto but this should have come as no news bulletin to anyone paying attention. What was more apparent was what his potential is if he takes the time to hone his craft completely.
Poor Collazo, meanwhile, has now been life-and-death with both Hatton and Berto and come up on the short end but he certainly has established himself as a worthy title contender for anyone in the welterweight division. Berto’s promoter, Lou DiBella, promised him a rematch after Berto’s next title defense and although it may not happen, boxing being what it is, he’s a guy more likely to stand behind his word than most. Either way, the fact is Andre Berto became a better fighter Saturday night because of his close encounter with Luis Collazo.
“We left it all in the ring,’’ the game Collazo said. “He came out with the decision and hopefully we can do it again.’’
Once there was a time when that would have been forced by the public but today the sport works differently. Managers and promoters are not often looking for the kind of challenge Andre Berto got Saturday night, which is a shame because it is only from those kind of fights that he will learn both his craft and who he really is inside a boxing ring.
Anybody who tried to tell you women's boxing was dead would look like a fool among this typically high spirited crowd. The swarm was announced at a near sell-out with 4000 paying customers. My personal head count put it closer to around 3,500 but there are always plenty of people in the "alt" or "pils" (local beer type) line or outside on smoking breaks. You can get a contact high just walking past a smoking area doorway or standing on some train platforms in these parts.
Now, I understand that the gals' gloved up game is in much different, usually weaker condition at various other locales, and I know times are hard between the coasts of San Diego and Atlantic City.
I'm hoping that reports of boxing's general demise are as premature and inaccurate as they were prior to my temporary relocation outside my beloved USA last summer. Like I said back then to those who could only criticize boxing year after year: ok, quit beating the dead horse, bury it in your personal graveyard, then shut up and leave it alone.
Sometimes it reminds me of writers in Vegas who'd complain about everything from the matches to the promoter's personal life. Funny how they always shoved their way to the front of the buffet line, or whined that media gifts weren't good enough.
But the point is that professional pugilism, men's and women's alike, is alive and well in Deutschland.
If you stroll down the famous "Ko" shopping district or hit the Alstadt waterfront area of Dusseldorf, you'd never know there was a global financial crisis amidst all the everyday glamour and cuisine. Better informed people than I say Germany too will feel a consumer crunch in the near future, but it doesn't look like that day is right around the corner.
Current business here also seems to be good in regard to ringpost corners. Promoters like Universum, who put on Menzer's latest showcase, have strong stables that travel well throughout the country and play to big crowds and live TV audiences. I've heard that when Universum's broadcast contract with German TV is up for renewal next year the profit margin is expected to decline, but there's no speculation that female fighters like Menzer or Suzi Kentikian will lose their star power.
Which brings us back to Saturday night's main event.
As in Kentikian's appearance a few months ago, there was never any doubt about who was the star of the show, despite the presence of some decent duking men on the undercard. It was the women who's picture covered the fight posters or were seen or heard in the newspapers or TV broadcasts. It was their names on the tickets, which ranged from around 20 to 200 US dollars at the current exchange rate.
Price wise, it seemed similar to what I'm hearing about Mayorga - Mosley. Good fight + good price = good crowd.
And after solid preliminaries, which included a surprisingly dramatic brawl for the "interim" WBO Cruiserweight Championship, the crowd was there to applaud Menzer and Schouten. Even after Victor Ramirez rallied for a televised upset stoppage over touted local favorite Alexander Alekseev it still clearly remained a warmup act for the ladies, who earned their distinction with a fine, two way firefight.
After a glamorous, lighthearted prefight buildup, both women looked primed for battle by their dressing room warmups. Shouten continued to display good spirits and a big smile for her entrance while Menzer came in looking much more lean and mean intense as she tagged herself during her walk to the ring. Both had weighed in at 125 3/4.
Shouten seemed to carry more power, Menzer more technique. At first things got so attentively quiet you couldn't hear anything but their feet shuffling across the Adidas sign on the canvas. There was so much anticipation the two minute rounds flew by in more like thirty seconds as Menzer fired continuous jabs and Shouten countered with rights over the top.
Neither threw many body shots at first. Menzer's jab made Shouten's face red quickly and her right eye looked tender, but Shouten moved Menzer with powerful counters. Action looked as close as their corn row hair styles, but I thought Menzer controlled the pace better.
By the fifth frame, it looked like Shouten was calmer and more composed, as if her game plan was starting to kick in. Since a WBC belt was involved, there were open scoring announcements in German. I translated later that Menzer was up by a point after 4, and by 2 on a pair of cards after 8. The tallies never appeared to effect anyone in the building.
Shouten scored with some big rights and had Menzer backing up during the middle rounds, but Menzer's jab still made the crucial difference.
In the 8th, Menzer fired almost a dozen jabs before Shouten could get set to throw a punch. When Shouten's rights did come, Menzer countered near-perfectly and drew a trickle a blood from her challenger's nose.
Shouten kept things dramatic by upping the pressure and swinging for the fences in the 9th, but Menzer stayed on her toes and kept control with a series of one-twos.
In the 10th, Menzer finished strong and caught Shouten with crunching rights coming in. It was an excellent fight.
Scoring went 97-93 twice and 96-94 for Menzer. The judges were Jurgen Langos (GER), Andrew Smale (RUS), and Roger Tilleman (BEL), but who scored what got lost in translation. I had it 99-92 Menzer. Referee Daniel van de Weile did a great job staying out of the way.
"This was a great fight," said Menzer, still undefeated at 23-0 (9). "I knew she'd be very tough and that I'd have to be well prepared, and I think I deserved this important victory. She should be proud of how well she did. This was a very hard contest for each of us, I'm glad I have such a strong team behind me."
"I can't complain about losing and I'll keep my head up," said Shouten, now 22-5-1 (11). "She's an excellent fighter and deserves to be champion. I did all I could do."
Both fighters expressed gratitude to the audience by TV microphone after the contest, and both earned loud cheers. There were scattered shouts of "Susi!" in reference to Kentikian. If Kentikian decided to gain weight and tackle Menzer ( 28 year old Menzer has no fighting weight to lose), Universum would need to find a much bigger building for a match that would be something similar to if Felix Sturm and Arthur Abraham ever engaged.
I'm no expert on women's boxing by any means, but I've seen a number of the top female performers over the years and my appreciation is growing, probably to increased exposure and better overall audience reaction on this hemisphere. At Valuev - Holyfield, where the entire undercard played to a vocal crowd of around 12,500 a women's bout was better received than almost all the others.
When I first heard about Menzer - Schouten, I was more concerned about who the supporting acts were.
Over the next few months I look forward to sharing the stories of these two fighters with the readers of the Sweet Science, and I look forward to hearing from any and all of you. --KS
Otis Griffin walked towards the dressing room carrying his bag. Simms waved him over and said, "This is—" but he had apparently forgotten my name. "What's your name, again?"
"Kaelan," I said. Griffin nodded, but did not look interested in shaking hands.
"Who do you write for, again?" asked Simms.
"The Sweet Science," I said.
"He's doing an article on the fight," said Simms. Griffin did not seem particularly interested, and went in to change.
"Do you need to get ready to spar?" I asked.
"Probably," said Simms. He did not get up. The advent of Griffin had, it appeared, interrupted Simms' train of thought, but it had not spoiled his desire to talk. That passion, unlike perhaps his energy for training in the gym, was inexhaustible. "Like I was saying," he said, "I never abused myself throughout my whole career as far as drugs and alcohol or the party life. Only time I do drink, I maybe a beer or a glass of wine on Christmas. Like right now I think the last time I had a drink was two years ago at Christmas."
I myself have been sober for almost three years, and I considered informing him of this, to cement the camaraderie we were developing, but I decided that I didn't need to establish a deeper trust. He was already very open.
"I keep myself focused training," Simms was saying, "and I try to stay strong-minded. But like I said, I'm on a little downhill right now, with my career."
Griffin came out of the dressing room and walked past us. He sat down on one of the weight benches in the corner and began wrapping his hands. Simms was looking out the front window of the gym into the parking lot. "The last fight I had," said Simms, "was about a month and a half ago over in Russia. The guy I fought, I think for the first time, was really prepared for me." Even as he recounted this he still sounded surprised. "I found out after the fight that this guy had been studying tapes of me, because everything I did in that ring he was a split second ahead of me, like he was waiting for everything I did. They told me after the fight that, yeah, he'd watched my New York fight, the last fight I'd had in Russia, and the fight I'd had in Germany. So he knew everything I was capable of doing. On the ropes he'd come in, throw a combo, and then back away. He said after the fight he knew I was trying to set him up, hoping that he would stay there. And he stayed one time, for a split second, and I caught him with a hook to the body and a hook to the head, and I maybe hurt him, and he backed off me." Simms laughed here, remembering this minute victory encapsulated in the larger loss. "And he stayed away from me."
"He wasn't letting you fight off the ropes?" I asked. Earlier, Simms had touted this as one of his tactics.
"No. He wouldn't let me fight anywhere where he felt that I might be comfortable." Simms saw this almost as unfair, as if his opponent were obliged, at least for a round or two, to engage in his territory. "He came out boxing," Simms continued, "and he was trying to out-box me. Then when we got on the inside, he knew I could bang, so he would stay to a certain side where he knew I'd have to turn southpaw to throw right hooks. He wouldn't go nowhere near my right side.
"I told my trainer, 'Any time we fight internationally, we get a good heads-up notice. I want tapes on the guys I'm going to fight so I know what I'm walking into.' I never believed in studying opponents because I had 164 amateur fights, been around the world, fought every type of style, height, and everything else, so I'm like fighting these guys in the pros, I don't care what they got. Ain't nothing he can do in that ring that's going to surprise me." It had, apparently, taken Simms five consecutive losses to realize that he could be surprised.
"Only thing that's been my downfall," Simms said suddenly, "is my conditioning and my mental state." By my arithmetic that left him with only natural talent. "If you look at my record, up to the time my first manager, Sid Tenner—when he died, that's when everything went downhill for me. Financially, he was taking care of a lot of things for me. Whatever bills I had he had them coming to his house. He got me a sponsor, and for the months I didn't fight he'd give me some money to get through or whatever." As he said this he tried to act as if it didn't bother him any longer, and perhaps enough time had passed that it didn't affect him daily.
"When did he die?" I asked.
" 2003, I think it was. Hey, Eric," Simms called across the gym. Eric Regan, who was still leading a class of kickboxers, walked a few steps towards us, still watching over his flock. "What year was that when Sid passed? 2003?"
"Yeah," said Regan. "'02 or '03. Man, that was a long time ago."
"Yeah," said Simms. (Later that afternoon I researched Sid Tenner, and discovered that he'd died in the summer of 2004, but perhaps their imprecise recollections of the date suggested how long they really felt they'd been without him.)
"He wouldn't take nothing from me when I fought," Simms said. "His whole thing was, why take something from nothing? Financially in his life he was cool. He knew that I was the one that needed finances to make sure everything was okay. He wanted me to focus completely on boxing. That's what you're supposed to do: eat, sleep, and box. Try to have no mental problems at all. He passed away. He was on dialysis. He had kidney failure. I was in Chicago for a fight and I found out the day of the weigh-ins that he was in the hospital. And then the day of the fight he died—that morning."
"What happened in that fight?" I asked.
"Lost a close decision to Felix Cora, Jr. One judge had it for me, one judge had it for him, and one judge had it a draw. But the judge that had it for him gave him a couple more rounds. Plus, the fight was in Chicago, Cora's promoter's hometown, and all the judges were Chicago judges." That majority decision loss was only the second of his career.
Simms didn't appear interested in dwelling on the Cora loss, and I didn't want to press him. "I look at my career," said Simms, changing the subject, "and I'll tell you: I'm nineteen and nine now, and I done lost five in a row. And I can say honestly a few of the losses I fought for the wrong reasons. The reason I fought on 'em was for finance. It was kinda like, I know I wasn't quite ready to step into the ring for that kind of a fight, but that kind of money, I couldn't pass it up. It ain't like I got money in my bank account, or money at home, where I can say, 'That fight? $10,000? Nah. I'm not ready yet.' I'm broke, so I gotta take whatever I can get just to keep these bills off me. Since Sid passed away, I haven't had a fight I'm happy going into. Now, every time I get paid, all the money I make goes back to make up for the months that went by when I didn't fight. I get two or three months when I ain't fought, and I get like a $10,000 fight purse, the money's gone before I even get it. 'Cause I got to go back and make payments on this, payments on that, and try and keep myself on the good side of the law. I mean, with child support and everything, it's a killer."
On the floor the kickboxers were finishing their workout. The two women were already sitting on the bench, unwrapping their hands. A few of the men were punching and kicking the heavy bags. Regan walked over to the ring where I sat with Simms.
"You could write a book on this guy," Regan said. "I was gonna go get you another pad of paper." Simms laughed at this.
"Win some, lose some," Simms said as he stood up. "One thing about boxing, you can't please everybody. I gotta please myself first." He added after a pause, "It's crazy. I'm gonna get some sparring in."
Unlike in a champion's camp, or even a strong contender's, where a trainer can acquire at whim any species of sparring partner, the lowly ranked boxers, of which Simms is still included, must fill up their time in the ring fighting with whomsoever they can. In Simms case, the only other orthodox pugilist at Niavaroni's (the others were all as accustomed to using their knees and elbows as their fists) was Otis Griffin. Griffin is a light heavyweight, shorter and, obviously, lighter, but more muscular, faster, and as he proved later in the sparring rounds, more aggressive.
After the two men had climbed into the ring, Eric Regan, who was standing on the edge of the mat, leaning on the ropes, helped the fighters on with their gloves. They had on their sparring headgear, which, because of the thick padding on the temples and jaws, lends the head an almost humorous frame. It diminishes the intensity of a scowl, and Griffin, who was "mean mugging," as Simms might have said, looked much more benign than he might have had he been stripped for real battle. Simms was also frowning, but his face is rounder, and therefore kinder, and the protective pads only exaggerated his apparent docility.
But there was a key difference: the fights on UFC 93 were competitive and entertaining, regardless of their brevity.
Just two of the eight bouts went the full three rounds, but the 9,369 crowd at the O2 Arena in Dublin didn’t disapprove. They were under the impression that the matchups were relatively even, despite the fact that one fighter scored usually a conclusive victory in quick fashion.
None of the bouts featured a fighter evidently out of his league and there was never a hint that any fight was merely a showcase opportunity for a favored contestant.
Some of the fights did lack quality, such as the tangle between Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Mark Coleman, but that clash had the crowd roaring its approval up until the knockout finish by the Brazilian.
This was the first UFC event in Dublin, a city that has feverishly supported the sweet science over the years. It’s an old school fight town, populated by a plethora of boxing gyms and the prospect of a night of fights, regardless of their discipline, saw intense demand for tickets to UFC 93, with all seats selling out within two weeks.
The attendance generated an exhilarating atmosphere, getting vocally involved in all bouts on the five hour show, leading Dana White to describe the crowd as “pound-for-pound one of the best crowds” the UFC has observed. The organization’s U.K. President, Marshall Zelaznik, announced that the UFC plans to host an annual St. Patrick’s Day card in Ireland and will make the nation one of its key hosts.
The newfound presence of the UFC will test the Irish fight fans’ loyalty to boxing. After seeing a well-produced, invigorating UFC show their appetite for pugilism may wane, as the prospect of evenly matched, unpredictable fights overshadows the likelihood of a cumbersome undercard beneath a big boxing match. Value for money matters during these economically tough times. Fans can’t afford to feel cheated anymore.
Many observers maintain that boxing and MMA followers are mutually exclusive, but Irish boxing stars Wayne McCullough and Bernard Dunne, seated at Octagon-side, were inundated with attention from fans throughout the night, indicating that a sizeable portion of the crowd were genuine boxing supporters.
In recent years the Irish public has turned out in force to support John Duddy, Andy Lee and Dunne and it is likely that each of the three fighters will make appearances at the O2 Arena within the next year. But when they do, ticket sales may be adversely affected by the prospect of an upcoming UFC card. National pride will always see the Irish public show strong support for their boxing heroes, but if home-grown UFC stars arrive, fans may decide to pump their money into MMA instead.
Such a scenario may never materialize, but ultimately Ireland will prove to be a case study as to whether fight fans really do switch allegiance from boxing to UFC.
In the main event of UFC 93, Dan Henderson gritted out a split three round decision over Rich Franklin to take a major step towards a title shot. Even though this contest was at light heavyweight, Henderson will next face Michael Bisping at middleweight.
Henderson, 38, looked physically smaller than Franklin, even though both men were listed at 6’1 and just under the 205-pound limit. Franklin figured to use his cleaner striking ability to subdue the rugged former two-time Olympic wrestler, and the strategy worked at times, but Henderson’s ability to control affairs on the ground ultimately proved the difference.
“He did well on the outside, landing some nice kicks,” admitted Henderson after the fight. “But I landed some good shots in close as well as from on top.”
On entering the octagon, Henderson seemed thoroughly relaxed in his surroundings, his nerves eased by the experience of battling some of the sport’s biggest names in his 23-7 career. His renowned looping right-hand staggered Franklin early, providing the opportunity for Henderson to take a dominant position on the ground, while landing a series of knees and right hooks.
Franklin, 34, managed to scramble to his feet and thereafter he recomposed himself and enjoyed some success with left kicks from his southpaw stance. But an accidental head clash dampened his momentum, opening a deep cut on the top of his head.
Franklin’s superior strength saw him push Henderson around in the clinch, but a single-leg takedown from the Californian saw him govern the majority of the round, pounding Franklin with forearm blows and looping punches. It wasn’t the prettiest action of the night, but it was effective, as Henderson maintained his position to stifle the technically smoother Ohio native.
The third round was Franklin’s best, as his leg kicks found their mark, but he was still unable to get leverage into his usually dangerous left cross. The threat of Henderson’s right-hand may have limited Franklin’s output and an inadvertent finger to his eye brought a stop to the action, enabling Henderson to regroup. Both fighters winged punches at the fight’s close, with the decision uncertain as the contest ended.
Two judges scored it 29-28 for Henderson, while the other somehow had it 30-27 in favour of Franklin.
“At the most I would have given Rich the third round,” said Henderson. “I didn’t feel any power in his punches. I tried to time his [left cross] and land my right-hand, but he did a good job with the [left] kick.”
Henderson will now take on the role as coach of the U.S. team in the upcoming The Ultimate Fighter reality series which begins filming in Las Vegas on Monday.
Both fighters in the co-main event, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Mark Coleman, showed a lack of conditioning and shoddy technique but still managed to captivate the crowd throughout the 14 minutes of their affray.
The bout was awarded Fight of the Night status [along with Marcus Davis –Chris Lytle] by the UFC, but the distinction is arguable given the lack of quality on display. Both fighters had nothing left after just three minutes of a fight that moved at an ordinary pace.
Coleman, despite showing some of the wrestling skills that made him the first UFC heavyweight champion, was on rubbery legs after absorbing a series of leg kicks, knees and punches from Rua in the opening minutes. But with the 44-year-old apparently ready to be taken out, Rua shockingly was unable to summon the energy to finish the job and live up to the hype that preceded his arrival in the UFC in 2007.
Coleman then somehow found his way back into the fight, though only by default, as Rua struggled to maintain any sort of attack. The American’s left jab found its mark on Rua’s face with regularity, but the 27-year-old had numerous chances to wrap up the contest but had to wait until the dying seconds before a right hand sent Coleman reeling and a followup uppercut sent him down. The referee quickly intervened to halt the bout at 4:36 of the third.
Both fighters were visibly drained afterward. Coleman can maintain a degree of pride, as few expected the rematch to their 2006 encounter to be so competitive and there were calls that the contest was stopped early. But Rua looked a shell of the fighter that thrilled audiences with his striking skills in PRIDE.
Rua blamed his poor performance on inactivity since his upset loss to Forrest Griffin in 2007.
“I stayed sidelined for one year and a half,” explained Rua at the post fight press conference. “I went through surgeries. That is not easy, and that took a lot of my conditioning. It’s one thing to train and another thing to fight.”
Despite’s the crowd’s involvement in this fight, there will be no imminent rematch as Dana White announced that Rua will face Chuck Liddell at UFC 97 in Montreal on April 18.
The unpredictability of MMA was demonstrated in Alan Belcher’s submission victory over the much heralded Denis Kang in a middleweight matchup. Belcher had a reputation for being a one-dimensional kickboxer, but he showed improved ground skills in defending against Kang’s submission attempts and securing a decisive guillotine choke.
Kang was in control up until the fight’s end, showing impressive boxing skills while working in a variety of submission attempts. But Belcher used his strength to escape from Kang’s attempts of a d’arce choke and kimura.
When Kang attempted a takedown in the second round, Belcher stuffed the attempt and used Kang’s momentum to lock in a guillotine choke, forcing the Canadian to tap out.
“I think I’ve established myself in the UFC,” said Belcher. “Kang is one of the top middleweights in the UFC.”
Marcus Davis and Christ Lytle showed why they are regarded as two of the UFC’s most durable fighters by electing to engage in a standup battle that featured an abundance of clean blows.
The bout started with Lytle enjoying some success with kicks to Davis’ legs, but the latter constantly threatened with sharp straight lefts from the southpaw stance. A right hook from Davis momentarily floored Lytle, but “The Irish Hand Grenade” was unable to capitalize.
Lytle enjoyed more success with his punches in the second, trapping Davis along the cage and unloading with a barrage of hooks. Davis was forced to run from his opponent to escape the combinations. But the Maine native rebounded with a double-knee combination and landed a number of clean punches as the round drew to a close.
Both fighters embraced at the start of the final frame, but the hostility soon resumed as Davis began to land the straight left with increasing frequency. A variance of leg kicks and nifty footwork saw Davis take control of the fight drawing winces from the stationary Lytle, but the hard-hooking Indianapolis resident remained a danger throughout.
The judges scored the contest 29-28 (twice) and 28-29.
“I’ve fulfilled a dream,” said a tearful Davis as the crowd roared their approval. “To beat someone as tough as Lytle in front of my family’s homeland is amazing. I knew how important movement would be in this fight.”
Jeremy Horn and Rousimar Palhares put on an exhibition of technical ground fighting in their middleweight tussle. Palhares ultimately proved to be too strong for the UFC veteran.
Horn, a 104-fight veteran, used all of his experience to provide a tough test for the Brazilian submission specialist. Palhares was unable to trap the slippery American, who used his long limbs and agility to escape from any submission attempts.
Horn looked the better fighter standing, but the stocky Palhares used his strength and low center of gravity to routinely bring Horn to the ground. Palhares cited a broken hand as the reason he could not finish off his opponent.
John Hathaway clinically ended the ambitions of hometown hero Tom Egan, taking the fight to the ground and controlling the action until the stoppage at 4:36 of the first round of their welterweight clash.
Hathaway wasted little time in taking Egan off his feet and doggedly pressurized the Irishman, never allowing him to regain his footing. As mush as Egan struggled to escape, Hathaway maintained control, smothering his opponent until securing the mount and raining in strikes until the referee called a halt.
The 21-year-old Englishman was relentless in his pursuit of victory and never gave Egan a chance to settle into his debut UFC contest.
Martin Kampmann got back to winning ways in his welterweight debut, stopping Alexandre Barros at 3:09 in the second round of their contest.
Eric Schafer used his noted jiu-jitsu skills to dominate Antonio Mendes, forcing the referee to halt the light heavyweight fight at 3:35 of the first.
Poland’s Tomasz Drwal wasted little time in beating Ivan Serati, pounding on the Italian until the fight’s end at 2:02.
Knockout of the Night honors went to Denis Siver, who landed a devastating spinning back kick to the solar plexus of Nate Mohr. A follow-up assault brought the fight’s end at 3:47 of the third.
Both men worked their tail off, and gave more than their share of blood and sweat for the fans in attendance and those watching on HBO.
After twelve tight rounds, the judges spoke: Bill Clancy saw it 116-111, while Gary Ritter and Larry Ingall saw it 114-113, in favor of Berto. Berto exulted after the decision, and Collazo accepted the call with grace.
Berto’s work in the last round took it for him, and he must be applauded for digging into the depth of his heart to summon that last bit of reserve. Berto landed more (266-222) while Collazo threw more (812-682) according to Compubox. TSS had no problem with either fighter having his hand raised at the end, or both.
Berto’s WBC welterweight title was up for grabs. He had a 23-0 record, with 19 KOs, coming in. Collazo was 29-3, with 14 KOs.
In the first, Collazo hit Berto with a straight left that almost put him down. He swarmed him, but Berto got his wits about him. Berto then turned it around with a minute left, with a sharp counter right, and had Collazo trapped on the ropes. Berto looked a little anxious, and overeager over all.
In round two, Collazo’s one-two was working early. Despite his trainer Tony Morgan’s between rounds admonition, Berto kept on backing up straight back, instead of moving laterally. Berto landed with two rights that told Collazo he couldn’t sleep on the Floridian.
In the third, Collazo got back to work, getting in Berto’s face, staying close and staying busy. Berto worked the right to good effect, but Collazo was slipping adeptly. He tossed an uppercut that Berto felt, and Berto was open for that, because too often he was squared up. The crowd loved the trading, and the fact that both men wanted to stay close, and bang.
In the fourth, the ref took a point from Berto for holding. It was not the right call. Overeager ref, putting himself too far into the action.
In round five, Berto was moving more, something he started in the fourth. Wise move.
In the sixth, Berto was moving early but fell back into his trade mentality later.
In the seventh, Collazo was more active, working harder to stay close to Berto. But he looked tired, and his hands were at his sides. Was he trying to lure Berto in? Berto looked wary and didn’t take advantage. There was a slice on Collazo’s left eyelid.
In the eighth, Collazo complained about a kidney punch. His will was crumbling, it looked like. Berto’s energy was ample at this juncture. His body work he’d dropped in throughout was paying big dividends.
In the ninth, Collazo was busier. But Berto worked the jab a little, and the right. The Collazo started that straight left, and had Berto right in front of him, so he could swipe him with rights.
In the tenth, the two were toe to toe. This wasn’t a smart strategy for Berto. The champ wasn’t slipping well, and he was loading up and missing badly. He looked beat, but Collazo wasn’t fresh as a daisy either.
In round 11, Collazo was busy, showing the judges that he wanted it, badly. He was still moving his head to avoid Berto’s launches, and he deserved credit from the judges for his defense. He did eat a right at the ten second mark that might’ve tilted the round to Berto.
In round 12, both men showed they knew this was the 12th. But Berto stepped on the gas a little harder early. He kept it up, and we thought Collazo might drop. He didn’t. We’d go to the cards.
After, Berto said he'd welcome a rematch, and that he knew he'd need to win the last round to take it. Collazo was classy after, and said he'd like to do it again. "There was no way in hell it was 116-111, it should have been 114-113 all the way around," he said. TSS tips the proverbial cap to both men for working their butts off, for their class and especially Collazo's for his grace in defeat .He is now 0-for-3 against ultra marquee names, having lost to Ricky Hatton Hatton, Shane Mosley and Berto, but his skill cannot be demeaned. And I admit that I'd like to see him prevail in one of these big bouts, to reward him for his effort.
One after-effect that will be interesting to see play out: the call to replace Berto's amateur coach Morgan with a big-name trainer will now be intensified. Will Bert shrug it off, and stick with his boy, or make a tough call?
The World Boxing Council champion, who will defend that title Saturday night in Biloxi, MS. against former title holder Luis Collazo, had hoped to be fighting a week later against a far more high profile opponent but Shane Mosley made clear even when their representatives were negotiating that he really had no interest in getting in the ring with a 25-year-old undefeated power puncher who arrives at every arena with one intention – to knock you unconscious. So he wrote down his thoughts and moved on.
Mosley, a former champion at lightweight, welterweight and junior middleweight champion, seemed headed on a collision course with Berto when negotiations for a fight with WBA champion Antonio Margarito hit a monetary snap but that hurdle was cleared when HBO agreed to throw more money at Margarito and so Berto was left out in the cold, although not for long. It was then that he went back to his notebook, the place where he records his thoughts as well as reminders to himself that success in the ring is often determined by how life is handled outside it.
On both fronts, Andre Berto has been doing just fine, something he believes will continue on Saturday against a difficult southpaw who is not only the best fighter he’s faced since turning professional but someone who is far more than the public thinks he is.
“I’ve been blessed to be a thinking type man,’’ Berto said from his room at Beau Rivage, the Mississippi casino where the fight will be held. “Even though I have a lot going on I like to go home and sit in my house and analyze my life, what’s happening and where I’m going.
“I’ve always been that type of kid. Even in middle school I’d lock myself in my room, listen to some slow music and envision my life on the international scene. I understand what this fight is for me.’’
For the undefeated (23-0, 19 KOs) Berto, it has taken five years as a professional to get to this point, yet he knows he has not yet really arrived. Although recently ESPN the Magazine did a six-page spread on him entitled “1506 days with Boxing’s Next Great Thing’’ not even that has fooled him.
Lose Saturday night, he understands, and it will be 1506 days alone with whom again? Such is the solitary life and the dangerous existence of living the life of boxing’s next great thing.
“Life in general is a test,’’ Berto said. “It’s the same in the ring. This fight is one of those tests. I was disappointed we couldn’t work it out to fight Mosley but I can’t look past Luis Collazo.
“To be successful in boxing you’ve got to get above the hype. You can’t take a lot for granted or you’ll get caught up in the hype and lose a fight. If that happens you’ll see how fast it all stops. I’ve written that in my notebook.’’
Berto has written many things in that notebook about life and the difficulty of finding success inside a boxing ring but he hasn’t written about Collazo. Everything he needs to know about him is etched in his mind, the place where he believes the fight will be won Saturday night.
Collazo is a slick moving southpaw who most of the world believed defeated Ricky Hatton three years ago in Boston. He didn’t get the win that night and so was forced to surrender the WBA welterweight title he’d won just 13 months earlier but few ringside observers agreed with the decision.
Unlike Berto, the light-hitting Collazo (29-3, 14 KOs) got a shot at Mosley and the interim WBC title nine months later but fractured his thumb early in the fight and lost a unanimous decision that seemed to send him back into boxing’s dark shadows where most fighters are forced to scramble for a living.
That loss was followed by surgery and an 11-month layoff but Collazo has fought twice this year against inferior opposition to prepare himself to do more than face Boxing’s Next Great Thing this weekend. He’s in Biloxi to beat him, believing if he does it will open the same kind of doors for him Berto believes he’s already knocking on.
Andre Berto consults his notebook and is reminded of the history of so many young fighters before him who got to this point and then forgot how it happened and he has concluded that Saturday night is the only important night in his life right now. For the moment, Luis Collazo is his Mosley. He is his Margarito. He is his Miguel Cotto or Paul Williams.
He has put Collazo mentally in that mythical spot because if he doesn’t beat him, Berto understands there is no Mosley in his future. No Margarito. No Cotto. Nobody but a familiar opponent to a lot of young fighters – Mr. Nobody.
“I believe 2009 is going to be the year I get to one of those big name fights but if I don’t get by Collazo first that doesn’t happen,’’ Berto said. “When Mosley made it clear he didn’t want to fight me it showed me where I’m at but I know I’m the youngest guy in the group (of top welterweights) so I have to fight guys like Collazo and Steve Forbes (who he dominated in a lop-sided decision last September) first.
“I have to fight the type of people they don’t want to fight and I have to beat them. It’s not easy to look good against those style fighters but I have to do it if 2009 is going to be the year I make my name.
“People know me already and they want to rush me along but I have to stay patient. I know I’m not a complete fighter yet. I’m still learning. Collazo is like another test.’’
Maybe he is a final exam of a sort because after him the list of names grows short for Berto. He is almost there. Almost at the place where the top welterweights can deny him no longer.
For a brief moment he thought he’d already reached that point when the Margarito-Mosley fight fell apart but now it’s back on for Jan. 24 and so he has other work to do. In the end, it may be the kind of graduate work a student needs to really have command of his subject.
“Guys like Collazo are spoilers,’’ Berto said. “He has a style that could give me problems and I have to be ready to solve those problems. I believe I am.
“He’s a measuring stick for where I’m at. I believe everything happens for a reason. I’m trying to pave my own path and this is another step down that path to where I want to be. Eventually I’ll get in with the top guys. When I do, I intend to prevail.’’
If you’ve got a notebook write that down. Somewhere Andre Berto already has.
Are there things I’m not doing in training that I could do to improve?
Am I simply not the right type of athlete for this sport?
Do I like the sport enough to continue, or am I in boxing out of a sense of duty or obligation?
The look on the 26-year-old McGirt’s face when the judges’ tallies at Mallory Square, in Key West, Florida were read spoke loudly. How did this happen? How did this blown up 147 pounder six inches shorter than me even stay close in this fight, let alone steal a decision?
McGirt’s first loss came in April 2008 against Carlos DeLeon. And his second came in November. Technically, that was a draw, against Marcus Upshaw, but the tie cost him an HBO showcase gig. Now, McGirt drops further back in the mix, and he will have to decide if this is all for him. Hernandez was in his face throughout, throwing pesky shots. McGirt didn’t use his length advantage at all, and instead let the 33-year-old Hernandez get in his grill and convince the judges that he wanted it more. McGirt isn’t a mover, and he fights tight, and doesn’t stay in the pocket and dissect a guy either. His defense doesn’t flow, and he moves his head 12 inches when he three inches would do. McGirt, if he was the prospect some peg him to be, should handle Hernandez, 5-5 in his last ten. That said…good for Angel. He lost a title crack to Winky Wright in 2003, and one would’ve figured this gig was intended as a steppingstone loss.
Eromosele Albert (22-2-1), age 34, took down Germaine Sanders (27-7), age 38, in a junior middleweight ten. He won a UD10. Carlos Quintana was supposed to fight Albert, but Carlos pulled out a week ago. Sanders is a survivor, a crafty mover who knows how not to get hurt. Too bad—a Quintana/Albert fight would’ve been something of a legitimate elimnator matchup. Albert needed this. His 2008 stunk. He suffered a loss to James Kirkland and then a draw to Ossie Duran. However, Sanders has lost four straight and this win doesn’t prove all that much.
SHOBOX ACTION In action taking place at the Million Dollar Elm Casino in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Leonilo Miranda (30-1, 28 KOs), a Mexican making his US debut, took on Orlando Cruz, a Puerto Rican (16-0-1). The lefty Miranda tried to work off his jab and land a thudding left. The super feather scored well in the third, but hey, why was Cruz still there? Cruz moves quite well but lacked the pop to keep Miranda honest, or so we thought. In the fifth, Cruz landed naaasty left hand, which put the “slugger” on his tush. He tried to get up, and was up before ten, but was leaning on the ropes, dazed. The time of the left counter, thrown after a slow jab, was :39 seconds of the fifth. We probably saw the career ender for junior lightweight Nick Casal (18-4-1), formerly a highly touted prospect who has battled injuries and substance abuse woes. He took punishment from Mexican Marvin Quintero (15-1) for two rounds, then sat on his stool, said he didn’t have any legs and called No Mas. Trainer Sam Colonna was surprised, to say the least.
Gary Russell (age 20) proved himself to be one to watch. The amateur stud thought he’d take gold in Beijing at the Olympics but instead couldn’t make weight and was bounced before fighting. He showed what he’s capable of when he destroyed the gutsy Antonio Reyes (3-3). Ref Steve Smoger halted the scrap at 23 seconds elapsed of the third. Russell, out of DC, has super fast hands, and importantly, he has transitioned out of the pitty-pat am style. He looks to lay some hurt on a foe. Again, one to watch.