The Cyber Boxing Zone Journal
A TRULY TERRIBLE TIM GETS FRANKIE TEAR-DROPPED; NAZ-TY AS HE WANTS TA BE? GO ASK ALICE[A]. . .
by Dave G
Frankie Liles-Tim Littles/Naseem Hamed-Daniel Alicea (Showtime: 6/8/96)Words almost fail me. a chess match between two relatively unknown cuties that erupts into a Sattidy-night Mississippi-road house ass-whuppin', and a "Prince" whose bruise-purple reign started off looking like a bad out take from "Cleopatra," nearly turned into a hometown upset a la Nunn-Toney, and ended looking like he could party until 1999. a lot of thrills for a card that I was counting on to be the fistic equivalent of a night light.
Fabulous Frankie ended up turfing Timmy in the third with one of those patented Marciano six-inch right hands from which few fighters ever rise. If Marciano could use the punch to make someone go down like "flour spilling down a chute," Liles' punch made Littles look like the whole silo fell on top of him. But that result was only reached after one of the wackiest, woolliest mills of the year.
Southpaw Liles floored the stalking Littles with a right uppercut and left-hook combination in the middle section of Round One and seemed poised to pounce and close the deal when, at the 2:00 mark of the round, the British Boxing Board of Control's timekeeper called a halt to the round! (Remind me not to set my watch by Big Benjamin next time I'm in London. . . ) Even Screech and Zack were never "saved by the bell" in as timely a fashion as this. (To their credit, the BBBC did acknowledge a "mistake" in Round One. Ah, that Brit gift for sophisticated understatement.)
Given the time to revive, Littles came out for Round Two well-recovered enough to launch an offensive that was, well, truly offensive. The scrappy challenger proceeded to turn the sanctioned prize fight into something that looked like it erupted in the parking lot of Tyrone's Bar and Grill over a bad numbers debt. Clutching, wrestling, body-slamming, hitting on the break, rabbit punching, kidney punching and all manner of rough head-first bullrushing were the bill of fare for the rest of the round (which seemed to last FIVE minutes), with Mitch Halpern (who should have copped, as Steve Albert put it, hazard pay for this one) just barely hanging on to the reins. Liles, to his credit, held when he had to, danced out of trouble and kept his head, avoiding Littles' invitation to thumb his nose at the Marques and return to the London Prize Ring rules. Even after suffering a point deduction in the frame (a little like imposing economic sanctions on Genghis Kahn), Littles continued the pattern in the third stanza, taking the play, continuing the WWF tactics and actually punching Liles through the ropes Firpo-style, until he had his unfortunate appointment with Frankie's right hand and was left to make sweat angels on the Newcastle Arena canvas.
Sweet revenge was had by Liles for Littles' earlier victory over him, and Frankie impressed many broadcast viewers with his self-possession, cool-headedness and, last but not least, the formidable power in his right hook. For Tusslin' Tim, a refresher course in professional technique awaits, along with, I'm sure, an Ansaphone full of offers from the Ultimate Fighting brain-trust. Good night, Gracie... As Ferdie put it, "the acme of violence." As he should have put it but did not, the nadir of sportsmanship.
Words can scarcely express the over-the-top, comic-book majesty of Prince Naseem Hamed's ring entry, an Egyptian pageant complete with enough dry ice for a David Copperfield honeymoon, scantily-clad Nile nubiles carpeting the aisle with rose petals, a glittering litter carried by muscular bearers and, perched atop, the Prince himself, looking like a swarthy, mini-Gorgeous George. The British fans, who have canonized the diminutive dynamo as Ol' Blighty's latest hope for fistic domination, ate it up with a spoon. Or a dagger. Or a reed, or whatever the hell they ate with in ancient Egypt.
At least none of the fans felt E-gypped by Naseem's WBO featherweight title tilt against #1 contender, Puerto Rican Daniel Alicea. Alicea appeared to be an earnest, serious, well-schooled, if uninspiring challenger, and went after his Yemeni enemy from the opening bell, hands high, looking to land his right hand power against Naz's leaning, craning, twisting, taunting defense, which had him twirling around with the rubbery flexibility of a piece of overcooked macaroni. To his credit, Alicea did not get frustrated, and proceeded to connect with three consecutive right hands which dumped the Prince on the seat of his royal papyrus trunks. a sobering moment for The Man Who Would Be King.
In his defense, Naz showed some chin and some bottle, rising from the canvas and storming into the second round a little more focused on destruction and a little less focused on loco-motion. a right hook froze Alicea like a deer in headlights, stopping him in the kind of delayed-reaction nervous system short-circuit that betokens real power. Daniel rose, but was bandy-legged, and when the Prince, sensing the end was near, launched a decisive three-punch combination at center ring, highlighted by a crashing left uppercut and a hook/uppercut resembling a Razor Ruddock "smash," Alicea's head hit the canvas with a thud that they heard all the way from Portsmouth to Ponce. Referee Raul Caiz wisely saw that Alicea was in wonderland, and prevented Prince Naseem from administering unnecessary punishment to Alladin trouble.
Call Prince's premature popularity a Sign O' The Times in a sport where flash and P.R. often seem to trump honest toil and ability. Naseem obviously is a quick, powerful talent with a bright future. But many questions remain. Will Naseem's break dancing style result in something really getting seriously broken? Can he pull off his lunging Roy Jones hooks against Tom Johnson, Azumah Nelson, M.A. Barrera and other world-class bangers who have proven their mettle against the world's best? Beating up on European fairground no-hopers is a different universe from besting the top fighters at Naseem's weight. And if Alicea, a little-known, unheralded WBA challenger-of-the-moment can floor Naz with telegraphed right-hand power, what would a craftier, more dangerous veteran do? Does the Prince need less Naz, more nads? Only time will tell. . .
Prince's Brit success has already bought him a big house and a Little Red Corvette, but while his English fans are shouting "Let's Go Crazy," stateside boxing pundits are withholding judgment. US fans may agree that he's got the look, but from where we sit, he'll never take the place of our men.
NAZ FIGHT REPORT
by Gareth Trotter(email@example.com)
Tonight in Newcastle Naseem Hamed defended his WBO Featherweight Crown against the No.1 contender Daniel Alicea and retained his title in 2 rounds but had to go through a scare by suffering the first knockdown of his career.
Prince Naseem Hamed's fight with Alicea was expected to be the toughest of his career and in the end it was, although not if you assessed it in length.
Before the fight, the boxers displayed their preparations with various extremes. Alicea was focused, concentrated and talking to himself while having his hands taped, Naseem at the other end of the scale was challenging Frank Warren (his promoter) to a game of Tekken on the Sony Playstation while wearing a Newcastle United football shirt with 'Naz' stenciled on the back.
The entrances also displayed various ends of a scale with Alicea's pretty low-key, and Hamed's as usual verging on the side of cinema. It began with a view of smoke flowing over his entrance so nothing could be seen behind it, then two rose bearers came through the entrance, with Naseem close behind carried on a pedestal by four men as is he were some ancient Egyptian pharoah, the boy definitely adds something to the glamour of boxing (even if it doesn't completely please the purist).
When the first round began, Alicea came out looking purposeful, the entrance certainly hadn't fazed him, his guard was tight and his punches were sharp. Naz as usual dropped his hands and weaved around on his rubbery torso, Alicea though was getting through and looked good as he landed a few on Hamed's constantly exposed chin. With any other fighter this type of defense would be suicidal (except maybe Roy Jones Jr.), but Hamed turns it into advantage because of his flexibility he can use his chin as a target to draw his opponent out.
Tonight though, things went slightly against plan as Alicea cracked in a beautiful right (a similar punch to the one that Frankie Liles had used to poleaxe Tim Littles earlier in the evening) to Hamed's chin that snapped his head round, he didn't appear shaken but the right that followed caught him again, slightly off-balance and Naseem suffered the first knockdown of his career. When he got up at the count of two he appeared more embarrassed than shaken and even managed to offer Alicea a few taunts as the round concluded.
The second round offered us the last of the night's extremes as Hamed left his showboating in the corner and stepped up a gear to destroy Alicea and show his champion spirit. His chin was no longer so exposed and the punches were now accurate and more importantly powerful. a few minutes into the round a straight left crashed into Alicea and wobbled his legs severely, an arm punch followed but it was all that Hamed needed to floor the Puerto Rican challenger for a mandatory eight count. Alicea got up but was shaken, and Hamed was increasing the pressure on the troubled challenger when with about 20 seconds left of the round a right to the side of the head followed by a straight left through the guard left the challenger on the canvas for good, the glazed eyes told the story and the referee called a halt to the bout.
Hamed said afterwards; "I'm never going to get beaten. I will never lose. I want to box the best fighters in the world because I'm the best." When questioned about the knockdown; "It felt so good. The guy hit me with a good shot and I went down but I got back up and put him away. I could have boxed better than that, but I hit him so hard, it was just 'BOOM' there you go!"
Hamed also offered challenges to Marco Antonia Barrera and Azumah Nelson. Frank Warren though would not be drawn on who Naseem's next opponent would be, although he said an announcement would be made during the week. There are rumors of a match on the Tyson undercard.
Opinion; Personally, I think the knockdown was the best thing that could have happened to Naseem. He now knows he's not indestructible, and his method is not yet perfect but he does know he can take a world class punch from a good fighter (who I think could be a world champ within the next year) and come back with so much better. To beat Hamed I think you need fast hands and one-punch KO power which I don't see in anyone around at the moment.
Also, the knockdown could help his marketability because fighters who once may have refused a fight with Hamed may now accept because they think they may have at last an outside chance. But there's still a long way to go until the Prince becomes King.
BOXING PROFILES -- IRISH BOXING AND PRINCE HASEEM
by firstname.lastname@example.orgIreland has risen considerably in the boxing world in recent years. Since the skillful Barry Mc Guigan put our small island on the map as Featherweight World Champion in the mid-eighties, people have sat up and taken notice of the gutsy fighting Irish.
a few may remember Galway's Sean Mannion extending Mike Mc Callum to the distance in a losing attempt to capture the Light-Middleweight Title in the early eighties. Dave McCauley, from Northern Ireland held the IBF Flyweight Title in the late eighties and defended it successfully against Baby Jake Matlala among others. Dublin's Steve Collins also had two epic battles with Mc Callum, but failed to wrestle the Middleweight crown from his hands. Wayne McCullough from Belfast is the current WBC Flyweight Champion and Collins is the WBO Super-Middleweight king, finally succeeding last year against Chris Eubank. Eamon Loughran from Ballymena has just lost his WBO Welterweight Title to Jose Luis Lopez in his sixth defense.
This level of success in the square ring has increased the level of interest in boxing in this country, and there is quite a crop of young talent emerging at present. Arguably leading this bunch is welterweight Michael Carruth from Dublin who won gold in the Barcelona Olympics (where Mc Cullough took silver). Following a mediocre start in the pro game, Carruth has recently shook off the amateur cobwebs and is beginning to make more waves. In his last outing, he avenged his only pro defeat, forcing Scotland's Gordon Blair to retire after the third round. Carruth showed his maturity in this March fixture with some very clean, flowing combinations and Blair had no answer to his controlled aggression. Carruth, a pro since February 1994, has a record which reads 11-1 with 7 knockouts. As he is no "Spring chicken" at 28, he plans to challenge for a version of the World Title before the year is over.
Paul Griffin, also from Dublin, is another hot prospect. He won a host of National Amateur Titles but opted not to hang around the amateurs for Atlanta '96. Since turning professional last Summer he has notched up seven straight wins in the Featherweight division. Southpaw Griffin has a style not unlike that of ex-Featherweight Barry Mc Guigan, pressuring opponents and throwing a pleasing variety of punches. He has just moved to the Brendan Ingle stable in Sheffield, England which is the most promising camp on these islands. His new stablemates include WBO Featherweight king Prince Naseem Hamed, along with prospects Jonathan Thaxton, Johnny Nelson, Ryan Rhodes, Pele Reid and Clifton Mitchell. Griffin is currently sparring with Hamed's next challenger Daniel Alicea, and will be fighting for the European Title before the year is out.
London-Irishman P.J. Gallagher is also a hot talent to watch. Gallagher is the current British and WBC International Super Featherweight Champion. He is unbeaten as a professional with sixteen victories, eight coming via the shorter route. In his last outing on April 22, he stopped Scot Davey McHale in the tenth round of a thriller to take the vacant British Title. Before this, on January 19, he got off the floor to outpoint Rakhim Mingaleev and claim the also vacant WBC International Crown. Gallagher has an all-action aggressive mode of attack and displays courage well beyond the call of duty. He was caught with a worrying amount of shots against Mingaleev, but proved against McHale that he had learned from this experience and exhibited a tightened defense. With his natural ability and willingness to learn, Gallagher will go all the way to winning a World Title in my view -- probably next year.
Eamon Loughran defined the term "bad timing" on April 13 in Liverpool, England. Having showed admirable consistency in successfully defending his WBO Welterweight Title five times, he was knocked out in his sixth defense just as things were starting to happen for him. He was knocking on the door of a unification campaign involving fellow, more famous Champions Pernell Whittaker, Ike Quartey and Felix Trididad. It wasn't just 'how to lose a fortune in 51 seconds' (how long the fight lasted) by Loughran however, Jose Luis Lopez displayed all the chilling power of a Tyson or Barrera, and may well be a new star on the rise. Loughran plans to return "a much better fighter," and will hopefully regain his right to be included in the big match-ups.
As for the current World Champions, unbeaten Wayne Mc Cullough made his second defense of his Bantamweight Crown here in Dublin on March 30. He became involved in a tough war with another Mexican (what DO they eat??) Jose Luis Bueno and emerged the battered and bruised victor via a split decision. Wayne was due to fight as the main undercard attraction on the Chavez-De La Hoya bill but will sacrifice this high-profile exposure in favor of a well-earned rest and a possible move up in weight. He was obviously feeling the pressure of making 8st 6 in the Bueno fight.
Steve Collins, following his two upset victories over previously unbeaten Chris Eubank has defended hid Title successfully against Cornellius Carr and Neville Brown, both from England. His last defense was, in my opinion, his best performance to date. He weathered a storm from Brown in an all-out war (yes, the Irish fighters have a penchant for those) and stopped him in round eleven. Collins seemed to have shaken off the awkwardness which he has shown since changing styles from a boxer/counter puncher into an aggressor. He is now set to defend his WBO Super Middleweight Title against recently dethroned WBC Champ Nigel Benn in what promises to be his toughest test yet.
Also worth a mention in the list of Irish prospects are Mark Winters (Antrim))), Vince Feeney (Sligo), Kevin Mc Bride (Clones), and Steve's brother Paschal Collins (Dublin). As for the amateurs, Cathal O' Grady (Heavyweight) from Meath became the first Irish boxer ever to win gold at the European Championships last year. He failed to make the Olympics but at just 19 years and with ferocious punching power, he should become a force to be reckoned with. If you're watching events in Atlanta, look out for Francis Barrett who will box for Ireland at Light Welterweight. Whether he can win a medal or not remains to be seen, but I expect him to make waves.
So the 'land of saints and scholars' is slowly becoming the land of sporting sluggers! Look out for the talents I have profiled in the months and years to come. Their progress will be followed on these pages.
Profile: Prince Naseem Hamed, the Man Who Would Be King
With Mr. Roy Jones Jr. shifting the balance of his energies towards basketball, the boxing world is searching for a new superstar.
Someone has always been held head and shoulders above the rest by the boxing public -- that figure who seems immortal in between the ropes. Without delving too far into the history books, remember Curry before Honeghan, Tyson before Douglas or Jones before. . . nobody (or basketball!). We watch their fights, partly marveling at their skills and partly urging their opponent to find a single flaw that would indicate mortality in the champion.
Sheffield, England is home to boxing's next superstar. His name is Prince Naseem Hamed. I recall watching this young upstart in Dublin in his ninth pro outing. He was on the undercard of a Wayne McCullough fight (in September '94), and he caught the eye of everyone in the Arena -- a jewel in a host of mediocre supporting bouts. This young man, unheard of at the time, demonstrated sheer natural ability, speed, awesome punching power, and confidence exhibited through flashy showboating. At the end of his short performance, it seemed that he was also bored by the undercard on the night, and just wanted to finish his nights work. This he did in style, and promptly left the building.
Hamed is now just 22 years old, unbeaten and holder of the WBO Featherweight Title. He has scored four top 40 hits in the British Pop Charts and has just signed a sponsorship deal with Addidas. In a typical performance, he struts his way from the dressing room to the ringside to the sound of loud hip hop music, somersaults over the ropes and attempts to "psyche out" his opponent. At the first bell, he walks to the center of the ring, hands held at his waist, and begins to flick out head-turning shots from the strangest of angles. At the end of the fight -- usually following a KO victory -- he performs a backflip in the ring, demonstrating a complete 360-degree turn that would put many of today's leading gymnasts to shame. One wonders if he spends more time perfecting his theatrics than his fighting skills, the latter already being so complete. In the post-fight interview you will be guaranteed to hear him say: "I'm not bragging or anything, but I'm just too good, too fast, too strong. . . "
The assets which make 'Naz' such a complete and dangerous fighting machine are as follows: He possesses a tremendous defense, and even though he fights with his gloves at his waist he very rarely gets tagged due to razor-sharp reflexes and superb head movement. He demonstrates uncanny punching power -- even though he doesn't set himself, has a very slight build and appears to be throwing 'arm' punches, these shots bowl over opponent after opponent. His elusiveness and lightning hand-speed make opponents miss and pay when they attempt to launch an attack, which disheartens the opposition very quickly. His self-confidence is without question, although viewed by many as sheer arrogance. The only piece of the jigsaw which remains to be fitted is whether he can take a punch. So far however, no one has managed to break down his defense sufficiently to find out.
There is an entertaining tale of how Naseem became involved in boxing. Seemingly his trainer Brendan Ingle was passing a Sheffield schoolyard thirteen years ago while traveling by bus. He noticed a child -- smaller than the others -- ducking and diving to avoid the blows of a group of bullies. Ingle was so impressed by the natural skills of what turned out to be a nine-year old Hamed that he jumped off the bus and asked the child to do some boxing training with him. The rest, as they say, is history!
In just over three years as a pro, Hamed has catapulted himself into World Class. He won the WBO Title in Cardif, Wales last September via a seventh-round stoppage of Steve Robinson. Robinson did all that seemingly can be done against Naz -- held his gloves right up to his face and tentatively threw an occasional jab in the challengers direction. It didn't take long however for Hamed to home in on gaps in Robinson's defense and wear him down, winning every round.
The only opponent that really troubled Hamed came next -- a right hand injury which came during training for a December defense. This kept him out of action for seven months, which is a long time for the normally active champion. Following a cortisone injection, he defended his title for the first time on March 16 (the same night as the Bruno-Tyson bout) in Glasgow against Austrian-based Nigerian Said Lawal.
This fight has been described by the press as "35 seconds of magic from Sheffield's Prince of power!" The punch count read: Hamed 3, Lawal 0. It wasn't that Lawal was overmatched, Naseem's power would have taken any of the division's fighters out on that particular night. He shuffled across the ring at the first bell and knocked Lawal to the canvas with a right hook, breaking the African's nose in the process. Lawal did well to rise at five, and Hamed casually finished him off with two uppercuts. In one almost effortless stroke, the Prince entered his name into the record books as one of the top ten quickest finishers in World Title fights, and dispelled any doubts about his right hand -- not using the left at all. What I saw as a new ingredient in Hamed fights in this outing was the fear in Lawal's eyes before the first bell even sounded. The look of intimidation on his face was reminiscent of that of an opponent of the young Mike Tyson.
So what's next? Naz defended his title against the number one contender Daniel Alicea in Newcastle, England on June 8. Meanwhile, Naseem's promoters claim that the 'big two' in the Featherweight division are running scared of him. Tom Johnson (IBF), Azumah Nelson (WBC) and Marco Antonio Barrera (WBO Super-Bantam) have all either refused to negotiate with Naz's people (Johnson) or demanded more money (Nelson and Barrera).
So if unification battles are elusive, Hamed will probably move down to Super-Bantamweight and/or up to Super-Featherweight in his search for more titles. Personally, I can't see him meeting any stumbling blocks on the road to world domination unless a big puncher connects with Hamed's chin and hurts him. On with the Prince!
UNHAPPYCHAPPIE TAKES THE RED-EYE BACK TO PALOOKAVILLE; LENNOX PROVES HE'S NOT MADE OF CHINA; AND a RESURGENT SPOON MAKES a CUBAN HEEL (HBO, 5/10/96)
By Dave G.
CHAPPIE'S THEME(with apologies to Mel Torme, sotto voce, to the tune of "The Christmas Song")
Czyz-nuts roasting on an open fire,
Vander busting up his nose,
Fight-night boos raining down from the choir
And some of them just might be HBO's. . .
Good promotion and a Mensa-tee
Help to keep the odds in sight;
They're matching Holy with a middleweight
Cause no one could produce a willing light. . .
And now, Lipton's on his way
To euthanise a bout that's looking D.O.A.,
And New York ring inspectors vainly try
To see if Vander rubbed Ben-Gay in Chappie's eye.
And so, I'm offering this simple phrase
For fans from one to ninety-two
Though, it's been said many times, many ways
"It's a mismatch. . . Who knew?. . . "
Christmas in May? Well, not quite. But here's my scorecard: one rousing pier-sixer, one entertaining blowout and one esthetically unsatisfying near-farce. HBO scores a majority decision victory with its 5/10/96 heavyweight triple-header card.
I thought I had seen every bizarro finish to a fight, but the Holyfield-Czyz denouement was a new one on me. I must confess: I was wrong about the extent of Holyfield's deteriorating stamina. He was clearly no world-beater, but he was more than enough fighter to turn back Bobby Czyz on this night. Or maybe Czyz was just too teeny to really test Evander's bottle. But this was clearly no contest, with EH owning all the serious play from the opening bell and, but for Ron Lipton's timely standing eight count, possibly deserving a KO. Holy's punch rate slowed markedly by round four, so who can tell how he would have reacted to a stiff challenge from a legitimate big man? (He'll have one soon from a certain Michael Gerard Tyson.) But, for now, the eyes/ayes have it. Vander deserves one more fight. Let's hope he makes it count.
I still think he'd do well to hang em high and enjoy the interest on his eight-figure kitty, but it's a free country and Holyfield has shown us he's not quite shot just yet.
Czyz's eyes were indeed unnaturally red by the end of this contest (if we can call it that), and I'd like to think that Mr. C is telling the truth about the burning sensation that impaired his fight plan, but my jury is still way, way out on the veracity of the foreign-substance claim. Seems to me that Lipton or one of the NY commission inspectors would have found some evidence of illegal substances on Holyfield or in his corner if such substances were, in fact, used. EH has a sterling reputation, and hardly seemed to need any chicanery to overcome the challenge of the blown-up middle Czyz. Dave Algranati points out Czyz's prior quit in his fight with Izigwere, and this creates a nasty implication that Bobby or Tommy Parks was looking for a reason to go home and found it in BC's burning eyes. Sadly, the implication is unavoidable in this case. My guess is that the only folks who were intentionally burned on this night were the guys who paid for ringside seats and had to endure Bobby's Visine moment.
Let's not get too macho here, but, consider for a moment. Would we be idolizing Muhammad Ali today if he had told Angelo Dundee he couldn't "realistically" finish his first fight with Sonny Liston? They don't make heroes like they used ta.
Maybe it was some Mensa-latum Deep Heating Rub that got into Mr. C's eyes. As a side note, Bobby's Mensa t-shirt has to rank as the single funniest boxing gimmick I've seen in quite some time; in fact, I'd put it right up there with Vince McMahon dressing Leaping Lanny Paffo in a mortar board and graduation gown and calling him "The Genius." Couldn't Mr. Mensa do a simple calculation? 72 inch reach - 68 inch reach = one early night. Squared.
At any rate, you'd have to say Bobby's heavyweight debut was a hundred-megaton balm.
A quick note on Spoon-Gonzales: frankly, Jorge-Luis worries me. This guy is a loose nut. No trainer, then a kickboxing trainer, and him all the time wearing that Alfred E. Neuman, "what me worry" smile? Does this guy know what time it is? He was clearly havana helluva time tonight, as he was woefully prepped for the fight with Spoon, who in his last two contests now (vs. Gonzales and Ice Cole) has looked better than at any time within recent memory. But Terrible Tim didn't have to look very good to best J-L, who pawed sadly with a limp jab, chased with his hands low like a less properly-schooled Razor Ruddock and showed no ability to work out of trouble. The first knockdown, which had J-L: on queer street for some time, resulted from a punch/elbow combination that freakishly landed on the top of his knob. How do you compensate for a glass head? a good show for Tim, who may be vaulting himself into the first rank of heavyweights again and looks a solid challenger for a number of the top contenders. As for J-L, maybe the Krishnas are looking for extra airport help. . . he's already got the hair-don't. . .
The stellar bout of the evening was clearly the excellent Lewis-Mercer tilt. Again, I confess: I sadly underestimated the Merciless One. I was fixated on the blubbery, unmotivated Mercer that let Francesco Damiani waltz a nose from a decision win, and that may/may not have conducted in-ring negotiations with Jesse Ferguson for a little last-minute step-aside cash. I chalked his performance against Holyfield to a fading Evander instead of an ascendant Mercer, clearly the wrong conclusion. This was not the Damiani-Ferguson Mercer, but a rejuvenated, reinvented fighter. Mercer showed his trademark iron chin, walking through the kind of uppercuts and hooks that leveled Tommy Morrison so easily. Still not a stylish boxer, Mercer showed that he could work inside a strong, tall fighter with a reach advantage and do real damage. It was the kind of defeat which will only make Ray's stock go up. I sincerely hope that his "to hell with boxing" quote was the result of temporary frustration, because Mercer clearly has bigger and better things ahead. Mercer might be one of the handful of colorable Tyson challengers who would last longer than a post-fight interview.
That having been said, I do believe that Lewis was sufficiently slick and aggressive in the late rounds (7,8,9) to gain a slight advantage on the cards. Kudos to Lennox for proving that, under the tutelage of Manny Steward, he will not fold up when the going gets tough. This fight showed a side of Lewis that we have rarely seen: the gritty battler who can suck up punishment and impose his will and mental toughness on a game and durable opponent. One wonders if, in making Lennox a more complete fighter, Steward hasn't caused Lennox's once-mighty right hand KO punch to go AWOL. But then, a one-dimensional slugger trading blows with the immovable Mercer might have had less success than the more fluid and mobile fighter we saw tonight.
Post-fight notes: Will we ever see Lewis-Tyson? Lewis-Bowe? Or will these three gallant warriors keep ducking each other forever? Tyson has at least managed to step up to the plate a bit by contracting to fight Holyfield (the lightest, smallest and least-threatening of the "dangerous" heavies) in the fall. Lewis has teed it up against Mercer. Bowe-Golota (the real-life Great White Hype) might be amusing for a while, but Riddick is clearly lagging behind the remainder of the big three heavies in quality of recent opposition. With all the inactivity, could Riddick be heading for another calorie-induced career rash? Is Rock Newman too embroiled in the Incredible Shrinking Barry Administration's perpetual stream of DC gov't imbroglios to tend to the business of making competitive matches? As to Eyegate, ESPN unveiled a videotape of Czyz and Tommy Parks that seemed, when viewed out of context, to show Czyz complaining about his back and Parks counseling him that he was stopping the fight, not of the grounds of his back injury, but due to eye problems. The intended inference was clearly that Parks and Czyz conspired on a trumped-up ground for halting the bout. Maybe, maybe not, but I must admit: it sure looked odd, and Parks' no-response when asked about the tape did little to dispel the smell. Czyz, in his role as a Showtime announcer, was later given a bully pulpit on his home network from which to refute any imputations of wrongdoing. Frankly, I don't know which was worse: the smirking manner in which the video was presented on ESPN's Sports center, with lots of knowing asides about the sleaziness of the boxing biz, or the way that Czyz was allowed to make a one-sided presentation of the "real" story on Showtime, a network with an obvious bias in the matter. The truth will never be known, but Czyz should consider himself lucky. He got away with a pair of red eyes: the sport got tattooed with yet another pair of black beauties.
TYSON: UNBLOODIED, BUT ALSO STILL UN-BOWED. . .
by Dave G
Well, well, well.
I suppose that, like millions of others, I thought that Mike Tyson, the then-uncrowned "champ" of heavyweight boxing might, upon his release, show up all of the paper champs, clean out the ranks of contenders/pretenders and deep-enders and restore some athletic integrity to a sport riddled with weaselly politics and charlatanism. Whatever his personal ethics, we could count on him as a fighter to meet and beat the best, right? Wrong. According to a recent story published in the Washington Post, Don King's one-time strategy for Mike Tyson was to avoid a Lennox Lewis fight, pay Lewis $4 million step-aside money, then, rather than fight Lewis for the WBC (and presumably the WBA) title, have Mike surrender the WBC crown, avoid Lewis again, and fight Axel Schulz or Tex Cobb or Oscar Bonavena or whichever nonentity the IBF put up as its champ/chump-of-the-moment. King said unequivocally at the time this twisted path was plotted that he did not believe Riddick Bowe or Lennox Lewis, the only two challengers people really need to see Tyson fight, were in Mike's immediate future.
In a subsequent Showtime interview, King went even further in his outrageousness, claiming that Lewis' close decision win over a resurgent Ray Mercer tarnished him, and that Lewis and Bowe would have to fight an eliminator to earn a shot at "the major leagues," ie Iron Mike. Any rants that this might have (justifiably) engendered about Iron Mike taking the easy path to mega-wealth must be tempered somewhat in light of his recent decision to fight Evander Holyfield. But this begs some essential questions:
1. Did Iron Mike choose Evander, a blown-up cruiser who is clearly on the downside of his career and suffering from a potentially serious heart ailment, because he was the easiest of the Big Three credible opponents for him to take on? Mike would clearly have a size advantage over Evander and, on the basis of Evander's showing against Bowe in their second meeting, he would probably also have a very substantial edge in stamina. (Although who really knows how much stamina Tyson has these days? Has he had to break a sweat in any of his post-Indiana fights?) The Tyson-Holyfield match was very appealing five years ago, when Holyfield was The Man Who Beat the Man Who Beat the Man. All the water that has since flowed under the bridge has substantially diluted the value of this clash. a Tyson win will do little to still calls for Tyson-Bowe or Tyson-Lewis.
2. Where does this leave Riddick and Lennox? Neither Tyson nor King has indicated any plan to fit either of the two best heavies on the scene into Tyson's future dance cards. What are we to make of this? King's explanation of how "tarnished" Lewis is after the Mercer fight does not wash. Indeed, it smacks of excuse-making. (And major journalistic jeers for Showtimes's Steve Albert for parroting the Tyson camp's comment comparing Lennox Lewis to Jerry Lewis. Can you say "conflict of interest?...") "Mike Tyson doesn't need Riddick Bowe or Lennox Lewis," King is quoted as saying. This shows how little Don King understands about boxing fans. Mike Tyson definitely DOES need Riddick Bowe AND Lennox Lewis, if not to fund his retirement plan, then to cement his legend. Without a win over at least one, and preferably both, of these fighters, Mike Tyson will be remembered as a great missed opportunity, a could-have-been who took the easy way out and whose bank balance lasted longer than his reputation. Old-timers will laugh derisively when people compare Tyson with Larry Holmes, a guy who took on and beat everybody for seven long years. Tyson will be remembered alongside Walcott and Charles as the best of the also-ran, second-tier champs. What an achievement, for a guy who had more natural ability than anyone in the division save Ali. Tyson-Seldon. Tyson-Schulz. Tyson-Witherspoon. Tyson-Foreman. Even Tyson-Holyfield. Without Bowe or Lewis on the ledger, will any of these fights really have lasting significance when it comes to placing Tyson in historical context? The post-Holyfield road for Tyson is unclear. Some cynics hint that Mike may dodge Lennox by ditching the WBC belt (although a New Jersey court has sought to prevent this), allowing himself to be installed as #1 contender and wangle a fight for the vacant title with Oliver McCall (another King pawn). The injustice of this would be obvious. To this writer, the scenario sounds almost like science fiction, but one thing for sure about boxing: just when you think the sport has gotten away with all the trickery possible, it comes up with something even more outrageous. Nothing surprises me about the fight game. It should be obvious to everyone with even a passing interest in the heavyweights that the din calling for Tyson to fight Bowe and Lewis will one day become as inescapable as the hue and cry for a Patterson-Liston bout. Let's all hope that Mike continues along the path of rising competition and makes these fights while they still have sizzle, instead of lining up White Buffalos and White Elephants for fast, easy eight-figure paydays. So, Lennox, how much immortality can you but for $4 mil?
MAY RATINGS (as of 15 May)
by email@example.com (Phrank Da Slugger)
HEAVYWEIGHTSChampion: Riddick Bowe (WBO)
1. Lennox Lewis
2. Mike Tyson (WBC)
3. Evander Holyfield
4. Michael Moorer
5. Tim Witherspoon
6. Oliver McCall
7. Henry Akinwande
8. Axel Schulz
9. Bruce Seldon (WBA)
10. Ray Mercer
Last word on this for me -- titles don't mean shit anymore. All that matters is who the fighters fight, and the only fights anymore are between Bowe, Tyson and Lewis. OK, throw Witherspoon in there for a nice round robin. I don't care about excuses anymore -- Bowe dumped his belt to avoid Lewis, Tyson won't fight either because of contracts, blah, blah -- it's all BS. There is money -- BIG money -- to be made, so these fights CAN be made. Unless they fight each other, it's cuz they're either in it for the money or they're cowards. If they're in it for the money only, fine, my advice is to avoid the other 2. But if that's the case, I no longer care -- I don't root for mercenaries. If they don't fight each other, they're chumps and not worthy of our respect. . . The Champion looks set to fight in July vs. Andrew Golota. BFD. . . The Mercer win wasn't Lewis' best performance, but maybe it'd help if he'd have fought in the last 7 months. However, he won by 3 on my card and a win doesn't hurt your standing. Good prep work if he ever faces Tyson. . . Holyfield's being criticized for not KOing Czyz, but I think given another round or 2, he would have. Keep in mind that Czyz has a good chin and Evander was totally dominating him. I'd pick him to take the winner of Moorer-Schulz if he gets a shot. . . Witherspoon looked GREAT -- and is now assured no one will give him a title shot. . . Even though it now looks like Seldon will have the opportunity to get KOed by Tyson this summer, at the time these ratings were compiled, he was still MIA, so he dropped a notch. Oh well, it's just a prelude. . . Mercer, with his strong showing vs Lewis, enters at #10, replacing Frank Bruno.
Champion: Nate Miller (WBA)
1. Marcelo Dominguez
2. James Toney (WBU)
3. Ralf Rocchigiani (WBO)
4. Alexander Gurov
5. Adolfo Washington
6. Chris Okoh
7. Alfred Cole (IBF)
8. Torsten May
9. Karl Thompson
10. Patrice Aoussi
Odd month, one full of questions. . . Dominguez gained the WBC title, but not in the ring. Previous-titlist Anaclet Wamba showed up overweight and so forfeited his title. He's been idle for a year and a half now and exits. . . Toney weighed in -- amazingly -- at the Light Heavy limit in his latest win, but you never know with him. He'll stay here for a while. . . WBC 175-lb titlist Fabrice Tiozzo did the opposite, coming in as a Crusier to KO former-titlist Leslie Stewart. He says he can't make weight anymore, so he may a new addition to the Top 10 soon. . . Cole drops another notch -- he's been MIA now for 10 months. This is his last month here. . . May moves ahead of Thompson with a good win over Drew Maynard. . . Thompson made it back with a win, as did Okoh and Gurov. . . And Aoussi returns with a win. Good month for the Crusiers.
Champion: Henry Maske (IBF)
1. Roy Jones
2. Fabrice Tiozzo (WBC)
3. James Toney (WBU)
4. Dariusz Michalczewski (WBO)
5. Graciano Rocchigiani
6. Montell Griffin
7. Lou Del Valle
8. Virgil Hill (WBA)
9. Dirk Wallyn
10. Merqui Sosa
Some movement here this month with the return of Toney. He pulled an Archie Moore losing 35 lbs in 6 weeks to look like his old self in dispatching Earl Butler in 3 rounds. I had Butler at #11, so the win is somewhat significant. . . Questions regarding Tiozzo who said he couldn't make weight anymore and fought as a Crusier. Stay tuned. . . Biggest move is the plummet of Hill to #8. New #7 Del Valle got robbed in his challenge of the insufferable Hill. Please, HBO, get Jones in against the WBA titlist soon. . . Wallyn remains very active, fighting every month. . . The ascents of Toney and Del Valle displace Eddy Smulders and Mohammed Siluvangui.
Champion: Roy Jones (IBF)
1. Steve Collins (WBO)
2. Thulane Malinga (WBC)
3. Nigel Benn
4. Henry Wharton
5. Frank Liles (WBA)
6. Bryant Brannon
7. Michael Nunn
8. Charles Brewer
9. Luciano Torres (WBF)
10. Vincent Nardiello
Jeez, another month of NOTHING. . . Jones will defend in June against Eric Lucas which is a JOKE. . . On the same card. Liles will defend against undeserving Tim Littles. Who cares about that?. . . Collins-Benn and Malinga-Nardiello are good match-ups, but they won't happen 'till summer. . . Brannon, mysteriously idle for months now after a good 95, goes on the watch list -- he'll drop next time unless he fights. Many others here will join him soon.
Champion: TITLE VACANT
1. Bernard Hopkins (IBF)
2. Keith Holmes (WBC)
3. Shinji Takehara (WBA)
4. John David Jackson
5. Jorge Castro
6. Quincy Taylor
7. Lonnie Bradley (WBO)
8. Chris Pyatt
9. Dana Rosenblatt (WBU)
10. Aaron Davis
Bradley less than impressive in decisioning Lonnie Beasley, but it's tough to gauge 'cuz Beasley simply wouldn't fight. Bradley should try Taylor, Jackson or Castro for a real test. . . Where's Pyatt?. . . Castro finally active. . . Davis will fight in June -- saves him from being dropped this month. Looks like he'll fight sometime-Middleweight and rated Jr. Middle Glenwood Brown. . . Some good stuff on the horizon: Takehara-William Joppy, Holmes-Castro and Hopkins-Otis Grant. I'd like to see HBO put together a 160-lb tournament, like they tried a few years ago.
Champion: Terry Norris (WBC & IBF)
1. Julio Cesar Vasquez (WBA)
2. Winky Wright
3. Simon Brown
4. Andrew Council
5. Gianfranco Rosi
6. Paul Vaden
7. Bronco McKart (WBO)
8. Glenwood Brown (IBO 160#)
9. Laurent Boudouani
10. Carl Daniels
Little action here this month. . . This is the calm before the storm. Wright took McKart's WBO title with a solid performance after these ratings were compiled. Expect repercussions from that next month. . . Rosi drops again -- even though the Italian Supreme Court lifted his 2-year suspension, he doesn't seem interested in fighting and will drop next month. . . Vaden is supposed to fight in June, but if not will join Rosi.
Champion: Pernell Whitaker (WBC)
1. Felix Trinidad (IBF)
2. Ike Quartey (WBA)
3. Oba Carr
4. Jose Luis Lopez (WBO)
5. Luis Ramon Campas
6. Derrell Coley
7. Vince Phillips
8. Adrian Stone
9. Hector Camacho (IBC)
10. Anthony Stephens
Being that Trinidad's impressive KO of Fred Pendleton occurred too late, there was little else to report here. . . Coley fought in a fight I missed in March, but he gets credit for activity now. . . Camacho also fought, at 154 lbs, I guess in preparation for his proposed Middleweight fight with Duran. This is probably Camacho's last month here. . . Yes, Stone was down twice against Skipper Kelp and had there been an 11th round, he would've been a knockout victim. But Kelp only landed 2 good punches prior to the last round, and it was a 10-round fight. The scores were outrageous -- the judges need to be told that body punches DO count. Still, it was not a sterling performance and Stone (who I thought won) drops a notch.
Champion: Julio Cesar Chavez (WBC)
1. Frankie Randall
2. Kostya Tszyu (IBF)
3. Juan Coggi (WBA)
4. Oscar De La Hoya
5. Giovanni Parisi (WBO)
6. Charles Murray
7. Fred Pendleton
8. David Kamau
9. Dingaan Thobela
10. Khalid Rahilou
Coggi-Randall was on and then off because Coggi had a cold. Give me a freakin' break. My prediction is that Coggi will never fight Randall again. . . Pendleton was blasted out and probably retired by 147-lb titlist Felix Trinidad late. He won't be here next month. . . Parisi's defense against Carlos Gonzalez has been moved to June. Good match-up. . . Tszyu defends against Sharmba Mitchell later this month, and finally Chavez-De La Hoya comes off in a short 3 weeks. . . Rafael Ruelas made his debut at 140 lbs and it was spectacular. But you have to keep in mind the quality of the opponent. One good win would get Ruelas into the Top 10.
Champion: TITLE VACANT
1. Orzubek Nazarov (WBA)
2. George Scott (WBU)
3. Stevie Johnston
4. John-John Molina
5. Jean-Baptiste Mendy (WBC)
6. Lamar Murphy
7. Ivan Robinson
8. David Totteh
9. Cesar Bazan
10. Phillip Holiday (IBF)
Wow, did I miscalculate -- 1st, Mendy decisioned Murphy. The latter tired and Mendy used his reach and won wide. Maybe if Murphy had been active he woulda had more stamina. The new WBC titlist enters at #5. . . 2nd, after these ratings were compiled, Holiday blasted out future Hall of Famer Jeff Fenech in 2 rounds. He'll rocket to the top next month. . . Nazarov beat yet another WBA-ranked nobody. The fight here now is Naz-Holiday. . . Bazan was active, and Totteh has a fight scheduled. . . Rafael Ruelas exits as hes fighting at 140 now. . . Molina was active as well, defeating former-contender Jaime Balboa, and he moves up a notch.
Champion: Azumah Nelson (WBC)
1. Arturo Gatti (IBF)
2. Regilio Tuur
3. Tracy Harris Patterson
4. Gabriel Ruelas
5. Jose Vida Ramos (WBF)
6. Jungsoo Choi (WBA)
7. Anatoly Alexandrov
8. Robert Garcia
9. Aaron Zarate
10. Affif Djelti
a bit of action this month, including Patterson coming back. He scored an unimpressive decision over veteran Harold Warren. . . Ramos also active with a win. . . Choi looked good in rising to KO Orlando Soto in 8. He moves up a notch. . . Jeff Fenech disappears after rising to 135 for a title shot. Course, we know now what else happened. . . Former-contender Djelti replaces Fenech w/a win. . . We haven't heard from Zarate since his loss to Ramos. He begins to drop next month.
Champion: Luisito Espinoza (WBC)
1. Tom Johnson (IBF)
2. Eloy Rojas (WBA)
3. Kevin Kelley (WBU)
4. Manuel Medina
5. Naseem Hamed (WBO)
6. Jose Badillo
7. Alejandro Gonzalez
8. Angel Vasquez
9. Derrick Gainer
10. Juan Marquez
Some activity, but not much of significance. The fight that was important occurred after these ratings were done and that was Rojas's loss to Wilfredo Vasquez. Expect changes to come. . . Johnson defended his title, Vasquez and Medina were active. . . Gainer up a notch with a win. . . And Miguel Arrozal departs as Marquez enters. Marquez looked good with a win over former-titlist Julio Gervacio.
"The reason I quit boxing is because they wouldn't let me smoke my cigar between rounds."
-- Jake La Motta, Saturday, June 8, 1996, at The International Boxing Hall of Fame
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