This Monday America paid tribute to it's fallen soldiers of past wars. This year the national holiday is made even more significant by the happenings of the past few months.
We salute all of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for this country and it's freedoms.
Thankfully, boxers, aren't expected to give that much- although, tragically, at times they do. But every man and woman that does decide to participate in this game does give a little something of themselves that they may never get back.
Sometimes, it can be their lives like Duk Koo Kim or Bennie Paret, or the consciousness like Gerald McClellan and in the case of Muhammad Ali, a loss of their faculties and spirit.
The committment to box is high, sometimes the price is even higher.
So this weeks column is dedicated to todays boxers who seem to give the most of themselves inside the ring.
* Micky Ward and Arturo Gatti: Yeah, they're listed as one guy basically because you get the feeling that in about 25 years when you discuss one guy, inevitably the other name will come up. They are forever linked and paired together like peanut butter and jelly.
Gatti, has been boxing's 'Cardiac Kid' for the past seven or eight years with his pulsating bouts against the likes of Wilson Rodriguez, Angel Manfredy, Tracy Harris Patterson, Ivan Robinson and Gabriel Ruelas. No, he hasn't been victorious against all of these fights, but that's beside the point when you talk about Gatti. How exciting and compelling are this guys fights? He's the only fighter we know of that makes HBO appearances even when he's in the midst of losing streaks.
Ward, was known for being a solid journeyman for most of his career until a string of come-from-behind stoppages with the use of his devastating left-hook to the body would propel him to wins over such favored opponents as Pancho Sanchez and Reggie Green. He would then engage in give-and-take battles with hard-nosed fighters like Shea Neary and Antonio Diaz. It almost didn't matter if he won or lost as his 38-12 record proves.
Last year when Gatti and Ward met in May, it was one of the most exciting fights of the past 50 years- trust us, it was no exagerration. Gatti, would jump out quickly but Ward would get back into it with his patented left hook downstairs that would floor Ward in a ninth round that should be held in a time capsule. Ward would eventually win a ten round decision that was avenged six months later in November with Gatti boxing smartly to his own ten round verdict.
The rubber match comes on June 7th in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Who knows who wins, but boxing has been the real winner in all this fun and excitement.
* Antonio Margarito: Margarito was thought to be nothing more than a journeyman early in his career after suffering some early losses. But this tough-as-nails Mexican has turned things around to become not only the WBO weltwerweight titlist, but one of the most entertaining fighters around. He couldn't be in a bad fight if he tried.
Margarito doesn't have great one-punch knockout power, despite his early blowout of Andrew Lewis this past February, he is a fighter that takes as good as he gets and he steadily chips away at his opponent. Eventually, he will out-last you and make you succumb to his persistence.
Margarito has shown that he will continue the time honored Mexican tradition of simply out-willing his opponents in grueling bouts.
* Erik Morales: 'El Terrible' is not one for too much finesse, even though with his lanky and long frame he can box and work off a jab consistently if he wanted too.
Instead, Morales is one to simply get down and dirty with his foe and test their manhood. And no fighter today, is as much man as Morales. Just look at his bouts with Marco Antonio Barrera- their epic first bout is still the best fight I've ever attended- or his struggles with In Jin Chi or Guty Espadas. Those fights were against guys clearly a cut below him but instead of cruising his way to wins he made them tough, grind'em out contests. And not because he always wanted to because sometimes his battles at the scales gave him no choice- many times he has been spent and physically drained before even coming into the ring.
Soon, he will be moving up to 130-pounds, which means one thing. The Acelino Freitas', Joel Casamoyers, Jesus Chavez's, Carlos Hernandez's and Steve Forbes' of the division had better watch their back. One of the toughest men in the game is someone they now have to deal with.
* Ben Tackie: Yes, ' Wonder' is about as mobile as a statue but he's as solid and as tough to move as ' the Rock of Gibralter' No, he'll never be a titlist, as his losses to Kostya Tszyu and more recently Sharmba Mitchell have proved, but his rugged and straight forward style always makes for an entertaining night at the fights.
And it's a good thing that he's durable because he isn't exactly Willie Pep or Pernell Whitaker in there, the next punch he slips will the first. But he is a suffocating fighter that continually puts the heat and pressure on his opponents and with his heavy hands he is dangerous till the very last bell.
As was shown in his bouts with Edwin Santana and Robert Garcia. In both of his bouts with these men, he would be soundly beaten in every round- up until the tenth and final rounds against each guy- where he would walk through his opponents fire to extinguish them with heavy punches just before the final bell. If there ever was a buzzer-beater in boxing, this guy is it.
His will, determination, chin and activity rate always make Tackie fun to watch.
* Antwon Echols: If there was ever a guy in todays game that could be described as 'crazy tough' this is the guy. Have you ever seen this guy get cracked on the chin by a good shot? I mean, he seems to get emboldened by it and come at you even more. And the look in his eye is of an assassin.
And on top of all that, he can flat out punch with either hand, although it is his big right hand that gave him the moniker 'Kid Dynamite'. Yeah, fundamentally he could be a lot better, but I ask, how many guys who are sound are also a tad bit boring? I rest my case.
If Echols were a football team, he play in a lot of 49-45 games, or if he was a basketball teams he'd be in a plethera of 120-119 games. In other words, he's in a lot of shootouts and with his punch, he's never, ever out of a fight. Just ask Brian Barbosa, who seemed to be controlling things in their match-up back in 1997 in the late rounds when suddenly out of nowhere a right hand to his temple would not only send him to the canvas, but completely of the ring and counted out.
As Jimmy Walker once said,” DIE-NO-MIIIIITE!!!”
Yes, he can and will explode at any moment. But unfortunately for him, his life outside the ring has been as turbulent as it's been exciting for him in it. Just recently he was the victim of a shooting in his hometown of Davenport, Iowa. But true to form, he'd quickly dismiss the bullet to his arm and was out of the emergency room in no time.
* Oscar Larios: Have you ever seen this guy? If you haven't, I think the best description of 'Chololo' is that of a human windmill that continually throws punches and punches and never stops.
Larios is a lean and skinny fighter who doesn't really use those physical advantages to box. But instead, Larios, who currently holds the WBC 122-pound title, uses his long limbs to out-hustle his opponents. And he isn't just content to stay on the outside, he'll more than be willing to bang away on the inside and take a few on his solid set of whiskers.
Speaking of Davenport, Iowa, it's best known to boxing fans as the hometown of one Michael 'Second To' Nunn, who in his heyday in the late 80's and early 90's was thought to be one of the games best practictioners and was even talked about as the supposed heir to Sugar Ray Leonard for a short while.
But after leaving trainer Joe Goossen in the early 90's, his career would never find it's balance and even though he would end up winning titles as both a middleweight and super-middleweight, you always got the sense that he had underachieved.
This past week, according to the Associated Press, Nunn has admitted to dealing drugs for the better part of a decade and could face significant time in prison.
Who would have thought back after his sterling performances against the likes of Frank Tate and Sumbu Kalambay it would end up like this?
I don't know if anyone caught Danny Romero's bout against Trinidad Mendoza this past Friday on Telefutura. Romero, in my opinion, was the beneficiary of a questionable decision against the plucky Mendoza.
When Romero first burst onto the scene in the mid-90's as a flyweight he was built up as a 112-pound Mike Tyson. And he's had a pretty decent run as a pro, capturing titles at both flyweight and jr. bantamweight. But he has never really broken through in a big fight and now campaigning as a jr. featherweight, it's clear that he is nothing more than a name opponent for the Oscar Larios and Manny Pacquiao's of the division.
He simply can't box well enough to employ that type of gameplan or does he possess the power to punch with legitimate jr. featherweights like he once did with smaller fighters.