|Boxing News: Jabs, Hooks & Uppercuts|
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A review of the latest news in the world of boxing.
California now appears to be the front-runner for a Lennox Lewis/Mike Tyson doubleheader on June 21. There are reports that the state athletic commission will approve Tyson for a boxing license -- something the governor of New Jersey claims he would not have permitted in his state. Lewis has reportedly signed to face Kirk Johnson instead of the WBC mandated Vitali Klitschko. Tyson will likely face Oleg Maskaev or possibly Ray Mercer -- whoever appears more likely to get KO'd in the first round.
The latest on Roy Jones Jr. is that he will remain at heavyweight and relinquish his 175 belts. The WBA is calling for a defense against their #1, Vitali Klitschko, but a bigger money - and possibly less dangerous - bout against Evander Holyfield seems more likely. However, all plans are on hold until more is known about the condition of Jones' right hand -- reportedly broken when a motorcyle he was working on in his garage fell over on his hand. It's always something in boxing ...
Vernon Forrest will get a shot at redemption - along with the WBA and WBC welterweight belts - on July 12 when he faces Ricardo Mayorga. "El Matador" shocked Forrest back on Jan. 25 via a dramatic third-round TKO. Fortunately for Forrest, a clause in Mayorga's contract required an immediate rematch should he defeat Forrest. Mayorga is rapidly becoming one of the most exciting fighters in boxing and it will be interested to see if Forrest can make the adjustments necessary to overcome Mayaroga's all-out attacking style.
As of now, the on-again off-again rematch between Oscar De La Hoya and Sugar Shane Mosley is on again. Tentatively slated for September 13 on pay-per-view from either Las Vegas or Los Angeles. Stay tuned.
Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward have reached an agreement for a third bout after splitting a pair of action-packed decisions last year. The rubber match will be held on June 7 in Atlantic City, NJ and televised by HBO. Ward plans on making this his last fight. Bet on another great fight. Don't bet on Ward retiring if he wins the fight ...
Lennox Lewis may fight on June 21 but that's about all that is known of the champ's plans. No opponent yet. Maybe Mike Tyson again? Not just yet. Vitali Klitschko? Unlikely. How about Roy Jones Jr.? Nope. Would you believe Kirk Johnson? Looking more and more likely after Johnson "reluctantly" gave a verbal OK to take on Lewis for a reported $1.4 million. If the Johnson that just beat Lou Savarese shows up (as opposed to the one who got DQ'd against John Ruiz), then the fight could be relatively competitive. If nothing else, it would mark the first heavyweight title fight between two Canadians. And Johnson's a much more credible opponent than the other name that has been tossed around -- Joe Mesi. Ugh!
Fernando Vargas is beginning to prepare for his July 26 comeback bout against Fitz Vanderpool. Let's hope the Ferocious One goes the "natural" route this time around.
Mike Tyson may return on the undercard of Lennox Lewis' next bout on June 21. Possible opponents include Oleg Maskaev and Ray Mercer. Why? Because both have some name recognition value and - more importantly - both appear to be shot.
Middleweight champ Bernard Hopkins held his belt but did nothing for his reputation by easily defeating perhaps the least qualified mandatory challenger in recent memory, Morrade Hakkar (remember Ricky Frazier> Or Patrick Charpentier?). Anyone who still required evidence that the rating organizations are completely corrupt and bad for boxing needed only to watch a few moments of the WBC's #1 challenger to be converted for life. Hopkins has missed every opportunity to cash in on his destruction of Felix Trinidad and appears intent on self-(mis)managing himself into retirement without another meaningful bout. Unfortunate because Hopkins could be competing against the likes of De La Hoya, Winky Wright, Vargas, Mosley, Sven Ottke or Joe Calzaghe. Don't hold your breath ...
David Tua and Hasim Rahman got what they deserved in their rematch ... a draw. In fairness to Rahman, he did enough to get the decision but neither fighter was in particularly good condition and neither pressed the action consistently enough to really impress anyone. Rahman bascially gave Tua the twelfth and final round and that was what earned Tua the draw in the eyes of the judges. Judge Bob Grasso had a particularly embarassing scorecard, giving the bout to Tua eight rounds to four. Totally impossible to anyone who watched the fight. The only good news for fight fans is that the draw should prevent either fighter from becoming a mandatory challenger for a title shot. Neither deserves one after this dreadful perfromance.
From the "Old Heavyweights Never Really Retire" department, former champ Tony "TNT" Tubbs, now 45, plans to travel to Argentina and fight Fabio Moli (28-2) in early May. The aptly named Tubbs is 3-4 with 1 no contest in the last nine years. Can a rematch with Jesse Ferguson be far behind?
Corrie Sanders Crushes Wladimir Klitschko!
It's only March and already 2003 is shaping up as the year of the upset. After being knocked down four times in less than two rounds, Wladimir Klitschko is no longer the heir apparent in the heavyweight division. A relatively inactive Corrie Sanders (six fights in five years) was supposed to play the role of "opponent" so Klitschko could score an impressive victory and play the role of "the future of the heavyweight division". So much for that script. Sanders looked sharp and confident from the outset. Klitschko, on the other hand, looked totally amateurish - first in his inability to deal with Sanders' southpaw style and then in his lack of survival instincts once hurt. Klitschko became increasingly easy for Sanders to hit with each knockdown and failed to hold on and give himself any chance to clear his head and get back in the fight. At 26, Klitschko is clearly young enough to still make an impact in the heavyweight division, but on this night he looked a lot more like the latest Michael Grant than the next Lennox Lewis.
Jones Cruises Past Ruiz!
It was supposed to be the biggest test of Roy Jones' career. Fight fans were finally going to see how Jones would react when hit by a heavyweight. Think again. After a fairly competitive first round, the bout resembled virtually every other Jones fight -- in other words, it was no contest. Jones took John Ruiz' WBA heavyweight belt with the same ease (116-112, 117-111, 118-110) with which he has dominated the middleweight through light heavyweight divisions for over a decade. In making history by becoming only the second light heavyweight champion to win a piece of the heavyweight title, Jones once again demonstrated that he is not only the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world today, but also one of the very best in the history of the sport. Ruiz, on the other hand, was exposed as the overachiever with limited skills that he always seemed to be until his three competitive - though tedious - bouts with Evander Holyfield. Styles make fights and Holyfield apparently had the one style against which Ruiz could look like something other than a club fighter. Ruiz completed his disaster of a night by showing an uncharacteristic lack of class by failing to give Jones any credit for the win, choosing instead to lamely blame referee Jay Nady for "not letting me fight me fight". Suggestion for Ruiz and his incredible jerk of a trainer, Norman Stone: watch a copy of the fight on video and then shut up and enjoy oblivion. Anyone for Jones against Mike Tyson? How about Jones against Lennox Lewis for the "real" heavyweight title? Neither sounds nearly as ludicrous as it did a few short hours ago . . .
Former WBC heavyweight champ Oliver McCall is out of jail and wants to return to the ring against - who else? - Mike Tyson. McCall's best days are long gone but he still has too good a chin for Team Tyson to want any part of him.
Johnny Tapia, another seriously troubled former champ, also is looking to resume his ring career. Tapia continues to battle drug problems including, most recently, an overdose/head injury that left him in a coma. Let's hope a close, honest look is given to Tapia's physical and mental condition before he is green-lighted to continue his ring career. One of these days his luck in dodging death is going to run out.
Bobby Czyz' recent drunk driving charge was actually his fourth since 1998. The Showtime fight analyst would be facing a six month jail term if New Jersey chose to enforce its mandatory sentence for three DWIs. New Jersey will likely let him slide again (if he walked after number three, why should number four be any different?), but let's hope Czyz gets the message before he kills someone.
Believe it or not, boxing is returning to network television! NBC will televise the following bouts on Saturday afternoons:
May 3 - Rocky Juarez (15-0) vs. Frankie Archuleta (22-3-1)
May 10 - Juan Diaz (20-0) vs. Eleazar Contreras (19-2-2); Panchito Bojado (11-1) vs. TBA
May 17 - Nate Campbell (23-1) vs. Tiger Martinez (20-2-1); Kermit Cintron (18-0) vs. TBA
Let's hope these bouts are entertaining and generate some ratings so that they entice the networks (and fighters and promoters) to make this more than just a one-month novelty.
Tyson Destroys Etienne!
After a week of of chaos and confusion outside the ring, Mike Tyson took care of business inside the ring in less than a minute. Both fighters stood toe-to-toe from the opening bell -- which is exactly what Tyson wants and exactly what Clifford Etienne should have avoided at all costs. Given his weak chin, it probably wouldn't have mattered what strategy Etienne had employed, but this was undoubtedly the one which guaranteed him the quickest exit. The end came just 49 seconds into round one when Tyson landed the first and only significant blow of the fight -- a perfect right hand to Etienne's jaw. The knockout, the sixth fastest of Tyson's career, was definitely impressive, but doesn't really tell us much that we didn't already know. It confirms that Tyson still has one-punch knockout power and can still overwhelm an outgunned and/or intimidated opponent. What it fails to tell us is if Tyson should proceed with a proposed rematch with undisputed champ Lennox Lewis. Before any diehard Tyson fans (yes, there are still plenty of them out there) jump back on the Iron Mike bandwagon, consider what Tyson himself had to say on the subject: "To be honest, I'm not ready to fight him [Lewis] at this time. I need more fights. I don't want to get beat up again."
In an untelevised bout on the undercard of Tyson-Etienne, former figure skater Tonya Harding lost a four-round majority decision to Samantha Browning. It was the first bout - amateur or professional - for either fighter ... unless, of course, you count Harding's defeat of Paula Jones in a celebrity boxing match. Harding is a legitimate athlete but has a lot of work to do before she can be considered a professional prize fighter. It will be interesting to see if she sticks with boxing or reconsiders the wisdom of starting a career in the most demanding and punishing of sports at the age of 32.
Tyson Bout Back On!
It's on ... it's off ... it's on ... it's off ... it's on!
Tyson Bout in Trouble
What a shocker! Mike Tyson pulling out of a fight on short notice? Forgive the sarcasm but this is becoming pathetically predictable. While it's not yet officially off, it's appears safe to anticipate Tyson's February 22 bout with Clifford Etienne will be postponed/canceled in the next few days due to at least one of the following:
-unhappiness over amount of advance payment
While there may be some truth to some or all of the above, the underlying problem is that Tyson no longer wants to fight and does not have the discipline to prepare properly for even a hand-picked opponent like Etienne. Tyson will always remain an attraction but he has become to boxing what Michael Jackson is to pop music -- a former king who, largely due to his own inability to handle fame and success, has been sadly reduced to a side-show curiosity.
Former champ Pernell Whitaker, apparently unable to conquer his drug and alcohol demons, was arrested and held without bail on a DUI charge in Virginia. Whitaker, already on probation due to a conviction on cocaine possession, was pulled over for alleged erratic driving. He failed a field-sobriety test and refused to take a breathalyzer test. Whitaker may have run out of second chances and could be looking at jail time.
Rafael Marquez scored a big upset by defeating IBF bantamweight champ Tim Austin via eighth round TKO. Marquez was trailing on all three scorecards before heeding the advice of his corner and putting the pressure on the champ. Austin may have either gotten old tonight, had trouble making weight or was caught looking ahead to bigger paydays at 122. In any case, February was a good month for the Marquez family as Rafael's brother, Juan Manuel, won the vacant IBF featherweight title with a seventh round TKO over Manuel Medina on the first of the month.
Put Ricardo Williams (now 8-1) in the Panchito Bojado category of highly touted prospects who got burnt by buying into their own hype. Last February, Bojada failed to get in top condition and had to rely on guts just to survive against unheralded Juan Carlos Rubio. This time around, it was Williams who was outhustled by a hungrier fighter in Juan "El Pollo" Valenzuela (17-6). Nice job by the official scorers for actually awarding the fight to the deserving underdog. Ironically, Valenzuela was a late substitute for Bojado's conqueror, Rubio.
Kid Gavilan Passes Away
Former welterweight champ Kid Gavilan has passed away in Miami at the age of 77. Gavilan, whose real name was Gerardo Gonzalez, compiled a record of 107-30-6 in a pro career that spanned from 1943 to 1958. Gavilan is credited with inventing the "bolo" punch. Gavilan said the punch - half hook and half uppercut - was developed after years of cutting sugar cane with a machete in his native Cuba. Gavilan was elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.
What Next for Sugar Shane?
"Sugar" Shane Mosley is back and now he's a junior middleweight. But the former contender for pound-for-pound supremacy is still winless since July 2001. Mosley's bout with former champ Raul Marquez ended in a third round no contest after Marquez was cut around both eyes by unintentional head butts. Despite the outcome, Mosley is in line for a big money rematch with Oscar De La Hoya. However, it looks as if Mosley may be overestimating his market value and may miss out on the payday. Mosley may have won the first bout, but he's done nothing since to enhance his reputation and must recognize that - like it or not - Oscar is the draw.
The February 22 fight between Mike Tyson and Cliff Etienne is likely to be over early -- Etienne is the perfect opponent to make a faded Tyson look impressive. However, the undercard is shaping up to be interesting to say the least -- with a legitimate up-and-coming fighter (Jeff Lacy), a faded ex-champ (Michael Moorer), an ex-champ recently released from prison (Diego Corrales) and a notorious figure skater (Tonya Harding, who else?) currently on the bill. While the undercard is - as always - subject to change, it's nice to see some preliminary bouts that generate a bit of interest on their own. It's become all too common recently for the undercards on PPV and cable fights to feature nothing but no-names and hopeless mismatches. Promoters would be wise to begin trying to give fight fans more value for their entertainment dollar if they want to generate increased interest in the sport.
Despite dropping a 10 round decision to Gilbert Martinez on January 17, former heavyweight champion Tony "TNT" Tubbs (43-9) has decided to continue fighting. Tubbs, 44, says "I'll fight 'em all. I just need someone to step up and accept me as a challenge. I'm a former champion with a good record, who can still fight." Former champ? Yes. Good record? Yes. Still fight? Two-out-of-three ain't bad.
A Prince Sighting?
Prince Naseem Hamed, basically invisible since having his aura of invincibility - not to mention his undefeated record - permanently removed by Marco Antonio Barrera back April 2001, may return on June 7 for a bout with Micheal Brodie (34-1). Hamed's only bout since the Barrera fight was a lackluster 12 round decision over Manuel Calvo in May 2002. While Hamed will likely never live up to his hype (who could?), he is a talented fighter who brings excitement to the lower weight classes. Love him or hate him, it will be good to have the Prince back in action.
Say It Ain't So, Bowe!
Riddick Bowe plans on returning to the ring after he finishes his 18 months in prison. While Bowe would still be a relatively young man by heavyweight standards, his final appearances in the ring against Andrew Golota - plus his instability and apparent "punch drunkenness" outside of the ring - would suggest that Bowe should be closely examined before being granted a license to fight again.
Wladimir Klitschko is the consensus #2 heavyweight in the world but needs to raise his profile to line up a big money fight with consensus #1 Lennox Lewis. So who does Klitschko schedule for his next WBO defense? David Tua? Hasim Rahman? Michael Grant? Kirk Johnson? Nope! Corrie Sanders, that's who! Sanders is 38-2 but is also 37 years old and has only fought six times in the last five years with a TKO loss to Rahman in his only bout against a world-class opponent. A win over Sanders does nothing to help create public demand for a Lewis-Klitschko fight.
Mike Tyson takes on Clifford Etienne on February 22, but he's already starting to talk tough about a possible rematch against Lennox Lewis: "I might have kissed him after our first fight, but I'll crush his head when we're next in the ring". Blah, blah, blah. Message to Mike: First take care of Etienne (a tailor-made opponent for Tyson to knock out in impressive fashion) and then you can start hyping your next ass whupping. Tyson will continue to earn sizeable paydays as long as he wants to fight but his days as the "baddest man on the planet" are long over.
Tony Ayala Jr. is out of jail - AGAIN - after his most recent stint of 7 1/2 weeks. Ayala's probation had been revoked amid allegations that he had sexual relations with a 14-year-old girl. However, the girl admitted in court that she had lied about the incident so Ayala can once again resume what's left of his career.
Sharmba Mitchell, shortly after knocking out Carlos Vilches on national TV, was arrested on domestic charges and spent the weekend in jail. Mitchell didn't know that the police were waiting for him when he exited the ring but his handlers did. Unbeknownst to Mitchell, his "team" had actually worked out a deal with authorities to arrest the fighter AFTER the fight. With friends like that in your corner, who needs enemies?
It now appears possible that Lennox Lewis might skip a proposed April bout with Vitali Klitscko and proceed directly to an easier and bigger money rematch with Mike Tyson in June. Fight fans would rather see Lewis against either - or both - Klitschkos but it's hard to argue with taking another mammoth payday to beat up a fighter he knows he can handle with relative ease.
There's a new welterweight king and it's chain-smoking Ricardo Mayorga. The free-swinging and trash-talking Mayorga took Vernon Forrest's WBC title with a shocking third round TKO. Forrest, who twice handled Shane Mosley, made the mistake of getting lured into a brawl with a brawler and paid for it dearly. Mayorga, a relative overnight sensation, can now command big money against any number of possible opponents: a Forrest rematch; the winner of Antonio Margarito-Andrew Lewis; Shane Mosely; Oscar De la Hoya and Fernando Vargas. And Mayorga would have to be given a puncher's chance in any one of those bouts.
On March 5, HBO will begin airing a weekly documentary series called "Legendary Nights." Each Wednesday, the series will showcase one of the 12 most memorable fights in the 30-year history of HBO Sports. Here's the line-up:
Leonard-Hearns (March 5, 10pm ET/PT)
Holmes-Cooney (March 12, 10pm ET/PT)
Pryor-Arguello (March 19, 10pm ET/PT)
Hagler-Hearns (March 26, 10pm ET/PT)
Hagler-Leonard (April 2, 10pm ET/PT)
Tyson-Douglas (April 9, 10pm ET/PT)
Chavez-Taylor (April 16, 10pm ET/PT)
Holyfield-Bowe (April 23, 10pm ET/PT)
Foreman-Moorer (April 30, 10pm ET/PT)
Bowe-Golota (May 7, 10pm ET/PT)
De la Hoya-Trinidad (May 14, 10pm ET/PT)
Lewis-Tyson (May 21, 10pm ET/PT)
Heavyweights in Trouble
First Trevor Berbick was deported from the United States. Now, after a search of Berbick's home allegedly turned up several stolen items (including an electric drill and a pickax!), the former heavyweight champ is being sought by Jamaican police on house breaking and larceny charges. Another former champ, Riddick Bowe, has been sentenced to 18 months in federal prison for abducting his estranged wife and children at knifepoint and taking them across state lines in 1998. Not a good day for ex-heavyweight champs.
Have Your Bell Rung by Mike Tyson
From "the truth is sometimes stranger than fiction" department: A new reality TV show has been proposed that would allow one "lucky" person to enter the ring against Iron Mike. Predictably, several networks have already shown interest, and Tyson could always use the cash -- especially after being ordered to pay Monica Turner a $6.5 million divorce settlement.
Tommy Hearns' scarcely anticipated comeback fight has been postponed until March or perhaps even later. The "official" reason cited was Hearns' opponent, Thomas Reid, falling ill with the flu. The real reason might be extremely slow ticket sales.
Now it apppears that Yori Boy Campas might NOT be the opponent for Oscar De La Hoya on May 3. Other names being mentioned include Winky Wright, Carlos Bojorquez and Alex Bunema. After that, it's a rematch with Shane Mosley in September.
In the span of just a few days, Johnny Tapia's condition has gone from to critical to serious to released from the hospital to his career has not been jeopardized. Talk about a comeback! Another strange chapter in Tapia's crazy life.
Tapia on Life Support After Fall
Only hours after he was charged with possessing drug paraphernalia, Johnny Tapia, 35, apparently fell and lost consciousness at his home. Tapia, listed in critical condition at a Las Vegas hospital, has been placed on a respirator and is being treated for head trauma. The former champ's turbulent life outside the ring has been plagued by drug-related problems, including an attempted suicide just two years ago. Tapia's most recent fight was a 12-round loss to Marco Antonio Barrera on November 3.
2003 IBHOF Inductees Named
The International Boxing Hall of Fame has announced its newest class of inductees. Living inductees are 2-time heavyweight champion George Foreman, welterweight Curtis Cokes, junior welterweight Nicolino Locche, 3-division champ Mike McCallum, journalist Jack Fiske and author/screenwriter Budd Schulberg. Posthumous inductees include Fred Apostoli, Battling Battalino, Louis "Kid" Kaplan, Tom Sharkey, Jess Willard, promoter Dan Duva, booking agent Dewey Fragetta, manager/matchmaker Al Weill, and Caleb Baldwin and Joe Goss in the "Pioneer" Category. Induction ceremonies will be held during the annual Hall of Fame Weekend, scheduled for June 5-8 in Canastota, NY. Congratulations to all!
The January 10 edition of ESPN2 Friday Night Fights features DaVarryl Williamson (17-1) vs. Robert Wiggins (17-1-1), Brian Viloria (10-0) vs. Alejandro Moreno (19-10-1) and Elvir Muriqi (24-1) vs. Mike Coker (9-6-1). Williamson is the one to watch. At 34, he's not really a prospect, but he's big, hits hard and has won 14 straight.
Part-time fighter, part-time promoter, part-time singer, full-time matinee idol Oscar De La Hoya returns to the ring on May 3 to face former 154-lb champ Luis "Yori Boy" Campas (80-5). Campas is an old 31 but is not bad for a "tune-up" opponent as De La Hoya prepares for a September rematch with Shane Mosley.
From the "I thought he was retired" department: Tommy Hearns, 44, and Donny Lalonde, 42, will be fighting in separate bouts on an untelevised January 17 card in Memphis, TN. It's safe to assume that the plan is for the geezers to win their fights and then face off against other in a bout that would have been interesting in the late 1980s but that, at this point, just makes you hope no one gets seriously hurt.
Las Vegas oddsmakers have installed light heavyweight champ Roy Jones Jr. as a slight (9:5) favorite in his March 1 bout with WBA heavyweight champ John Ruiz. This figures to be the most highly anticipated bout of the year as fight fans debate whether a great "small" guy can defeat a good "big" guy. Let's just hope the fight comes off as planned. Still haven't seen any Vegas odds on that ...
Felix Trinidad continues to insist that he is retired and will never return to the ring. He has mentioned returning to school to pursue a career as either an accountant or a physical education teacher. Trinidad seems like a decent enough guy .. and those are certainly admirable enough intentions ... but don't hold your breath. It won't take much GAAP, FASB and CPA before Tito is on the phone with Don King discussing the WBA, WBC and IBF.
Former 130-lb champ Diego Corrales, out of jail and back in the gym, returns on January 25 against Freddy Cruz for his first bout in two years. Corrales, who looked emaciated at 130, will fight at 140-lbs in his return bout and hopes to fight for a title before the end of the year. It will be interesting to see if Corrales can once again be a dominant fighter after first taking a beating from Floyd Mayweather, then being out of action for two years and now moving up 10-lbs in weight. Prediction: Pain. Not against the 40-year-old Cruz (4-26-3 in his last 33 fights!), but once Corrales faces a world class foe.
WBO 140-lb champ Demarcus "Chop Chop" Corley cruised to an uninspired 12-round unanimous decision over former champ Randall Bailey. Corley looked OK, but this definitely was not the performance he needed to jump ahead of the likes of Jesse James Leija, Arturo Gatti, Zab Judah, Ricky Hatton and Micky Ward in the Kostya Tszyu sweepstakes. Bailey, despite only three career losses (in his last eight bouts), appears finished at 28.
Paulie Ayala, after an unsuccessful jump up to 126-lbs to face Erik Morales, is wisely returning to the junior featherweight division. Possible opponents include Manny Pacquiao, Wayne McCullough or a third meeting with Johnny Tapia.