Saturday, March 08, 2008


I was just watching a video about the greatest lightweights. I hadn't thought about it before, but four out of my top ten all timers held that division's title at one point. Another lightweight (Ike Williams) only just misses making it. That sure makes a case for 135 pounds, and not middleweight, being boxing's greatest division. Of the four lightweights I'd put in my top ten (Roberto Duran, Benny Leonard, Joe Gans, and Henry Armstrong in that order), the videos showed Armstrong to be by far the least accomplished. That's a pretty staggering thing to have to say about Henry Armstrong. But Gans was a synthesis of Jack Johnson and Joe Louis (but better than either of them), Benny Leonard was a defensive and strategic genius who also punched with terrifying power and accuracy, and Duran was Duran.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Your Weekend Itinerary for March 7-8

The major fights which will be televised in America this weekend will probably land, both on the sporting and entertainment scales, somewhere between last week’s shining Vazquez-Marquez 3 and the previous week’s stinking Klitschko-Ibragimov 0.

Highly-touted South African featherweight Thomas Mashaba (20-1-4, 12 KOs) makes his American debut Friday, March 7, on ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights” and at the final fight card at the Fox Theatre in the Foxwoods Casino in Mashantucket, Conn. His opponent is Mexican journeyman Cristobal Cruz (31-11-2, 23 KOs), who has dropped two of his last three and four of his last seven fights, albeit against accomplished fighters Zahir Raheem, Francisco Lorenzo (twice), and Steven Luevano. This is a showcase for Mashaba, but what else can we expect from this increasingly dreadful show?

Saturday, March 8, brings a full slate of important title fights on the American premium networks.

Showtime, as usual, has a compelling fight with their telecast from England of the cruiserweight unification fight between David Haye (20-1, 19 KOs), holder of two of these belts and generally regarded as the best in that division, against another titleholder, Enzo Maccarinelli (28-1, 21 KOs), trained by Enzo Calzaghe. This fights starts at 2 AM GMT at the O2 Arena in London to accommodate us Yanks, who will see it live at 9 PM EST. Setanata has the TV honors in the UK. Haye says he will move up to heavyweight after this one. Both men’s knockout power may be especially on display before this international audience. In the U.S., Showtime’s boxing telecast is followed by a mixed martial arts card, also from England.

At basically the same time, HBO gives us more heavyweights. Finally, after many had given up on ever seeing this fight, WBC regular heavyweight champion Oleg Maskaev (34-5, 26 KOs) takes on WBC interim heavyweight champion Samuel Peter (29-1, 22 KOs) in Cancun, Mexico. Supposedly the winner has WBC heavyweight champion emeritus Vitali Klitschko next, another matchup about which we skeptics shake our heads. With Peter being dropped three times and almost stopped by late substitute Jameel McCline last year in Madison Square Garden, and the 39-year-old Maskaev sitting inactive since Dec. 2006 and postponing this bout a couple of times, it seems best to wonder who will lose rather than who will win this fight.

If these heavyweights manage to deliver yet another performance worthy of purgatory, the HBO co-feature has the exciting and unbeaten multiple lightweight beltholder Juan Diaz (33-0, 17 KOs) defending those straps against the slick and dangerous Nate Campbell (31-5-1, 25 KOs). A lot of the prefight drama has focused on the battle between Diaz’s promoter Don King and his manager Willie Savannah. King announced yesterday that he will no longer promote Diaz after this fight, citing his numerous disputes with Savannah over money, opponents for Diaz, and the like. This controversy may or may not play a role in the fight’s outcome between the 24-year-old college student Diaz and the 35-year-old veteran Campbell, or, if it goes to the judges, their decision. But this one will be televised widely, so whatever happens in Mexico may not simply stay there.

HBO will not be televising the undercard, which includes the return of the vastly underrated heavyweight (and supposedly retooled by trainer Manny Siaca Sr.) John Ruiz (42-7-1, 29 KOs), still just 36, against Jameel McCline (38-3-3, 23 KOs), and a super lightweight eliminator between unbeaten Timothy Bradley (21-0, 11 KOs) and former champion Jose Luis Castillo (56-8-1, 48 KOs).

Ruiz, the victim of questionable decision losses in Germany against Nikolai Valuev and Ruslan Chagaev in the WBA title roulette game, only fought once in 2007, against journeyman Otis Tisdale. Showing movement heretofore absent or at least underutilized in his approach, Ruiz stopped Tisdale in two. If he is given the chance, and especially with today’s heavyweight wreckage, Ruiz could capture one or more of these belts once again.

If you want to see the undercard on this typically loaded Don King show, you either have to be in Mexico, be in a country where the international feed is available, or know how to watch these things online. The same can be said of Friday’s card in Nottingham, England, featuring unbeaten junior featherweight Kiko Martinez vs. Rendall Munroe; Saturday’s fourth bout between flyweight champ Daisuke Naito and former champ Pongsaklek Wonjongkam in Tokyo, Japan, which should be available both on Japanese and Thai TV; and the women’s fights of Ina Menzer vs. Sandy Tsagouris and Alesia Graf vs. Fatuma Zarika from Krefeld, Germany, which will be telecast there on ZDF ( The latter telecast will apparently feature just the two women’s fights on that card, but after all, March 8 is International Women’s Day, so what better way to celebrate that than televising women fighting each other?

Now make sure that you do all your shopping and errands before this busy weekend.

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The Next Great Champ?

According to the information provided with this video on YouTube, this is live footage of six-year-old Pretty Boy Bam Bam of Toledo, Ohio, training with his father, Toe Joe. The footage is part of a documentary called “Raising A Champ” being produced by Frank Wright of Wright Tyme Media.

More information on this project is at

Thanks to our buddy Mo Lawal for posting this video on his blog.

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Knockout Reporting

All you need do is search for the words “Obama knockout Clinton” in Google, and you will get a plethora of news articles and headlines comparing tonight’s Democratic primaries to a boxing match. We get them from coast to coast, and in print and online.

The New York Times reports, “Spending Heavily, Obama Attempts Knockout Blow.” titles an AP article, “Obama seeks knockout, Clinton bids for revival.” The Honolulu Advertiser writes, “Final punches thrown before fateful voting.” By the time you could list them all, the primaries would be over.

These are not merely the product of cliché-mad writers having to grind out headlines day after day. They not only reflect the reality that boxing can be seen as a microcosm of life. What they signify is that interest in fighting, in struggle, in battles, is as high as ever. We also know that the same cannot be said about the sport of boxing, at least in the regions that the media obsessed with these primaries operate.

Yet most of these media outlets make little or no attempt to recognize the connection of boxing to the rest of life from the other side, and cover this universally compelling sport. The New York Times, for example, on the same day they were writing about Obama’s attempted “knockout blow,” had absolutely nothing about the previous night’s fight of the year candidate between Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez. All the news, indeed.

Part of the blame, alas, has to lie with the way boxing positions itself. Besides weekly bombastic cons that every televised fight will be a great one, little is done to connect the sport to the rest of life, save in a few unimaginative areas like appealing to crude nationalism, sentimentalism about dying relatives, or just cheap trash talk borrowed from the fake pro “wrestling”.

What parades itself as the boxing media follows in kind. It does not take a sizable budget or expense account to ask fighters more than just how they plan to beat their opponent or who is next. This sport is obviously completely different from those where you hit or throw a ball. What does it mean to these athletes to hit each other and get hit in return in this sport? We rarely ever find out.

The drama inherent in such a sport is incomparable to any that can be produced in the non-combat sports, at least in my estimation. While the clock ticking down in an intense, close game, or a full count with the bases loaded and the score tied in the ninth inning, might be entertaining to some (and it is at times to me), the stakes in those sports are entirely different from that in sports like boxing. A batter may strike out, a receiver may drop a pass, or a basketball player may miss a free throw, but those are all in different galaxy from getting knocked out.

I, for one, wouldn’t mind all these politicians knocking each other out, for real. I would settle for writing and reporting of the sporting knockouts which had the equivalent depth that the sport itself does. For that, just like we cannot rely on the politicians for anything other than passing gas, we have to go beyond what our lame, established boxing media is doing and produce it ourselves.

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NO HOLDS BARRED: Charles Farrell and Frank Lotierzo on the Fight of the Year: Vazquez-Marquez 3

  • NO HOLDS BARRED on PodOmatic

  • On this edition of NO HOLDS BARRED, host Eddie Goldman speaks with our colleagues Charles Farrell and Frank Lotierzo of The Boxing Standard.

    Our lengthy discussion focuses mainly on this past Saturday's thrilling rubber match between super bantamweight champion Israel Vazquez and former world champion Rafael Marquez, won by Vazquez by split decision. We analyze this fight, what it means for boxing, how the American boxing media once again largely blew this story, and more.

    To listen to NO HOLDS BARRED, click here and just press the play button on the player.

    You can also download it by scrolling down that page and clicking on the download link (right-click to save it).

    You can also listen to it through the player on this blog and the NO HOLDS BARRED MySpace page, also by pressing the play button on the player.

    Also, NO HOLDS BARRED is available through iTunes.

    The show is in MP3 format, so may take some time to download.

    The NO HOLDS BARRED theme song is called "The Heist", by musician Ian Carpenter.

    NO HOLDS BARRED is free to listen to and is sponsored by:

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    Monday, March 03, 2008

    Vazquez-Marquez "Everything Boxing Should Be"

    This past Saturday night Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez fought for the third time in 367 days. In the ring two titles were on the line. The minor title was Vazquez's WBC Super Bantamweight title, the more important one was the Championship of each other. And after three Fights, you can realistically say that one has yet to be decided. The Ring record book will forever show Vazquez the winner via a 12-round split decision, and holding a 2-1 advantage in the trilogy between them until they meet a fourth time.

    During the course of the 25-rounds they've shared in the Ring, what stands out even more than the excitement the fights provided, is how they exemplify everything that professional boxing should be. The first one being, winning really means something to them, evidenced by their preparedness. They were in excellent shape, and showed intelligence and versatility while in the ring. Both Marquez & Vazquez not only listened to what their corners told them, they implemented it in the following round, that is until the other made the proper adjustment.

    Marquez, who is at his best fighting on the outside behind his hard jab and punishing right cross, showed Vazquez, who is an in-fighter who likes to throw his big left-hook to the body and head, that he too has an inside game and is capable of hurting him. On the other hand, Vazquez showed he has an outside game, and disrupted Marquez with his jab while pushing the fight. I can't remember the last time I saw a Fighter like Marquez who could box and move, yet still could take your head off. Nor have I seen many swarmers like Vazquez who isn't a fish out of water from outside, let alone in the same Ring together in what has to be an early favorite for 2008 Fight of The Year.

    Marquez and Vazquez fought like true warriors. Both had the stamina and heart to go as long as it took to get the job done, both got up off the floor to come back in the same round to either win it or stabilize it enough not to yield the mental or tactical advantage to the other. In the process they threw every punch in the book, the way it was meant to be delivered, and with power. And they both showed they're quite capable of thinking on their feet. In fact, not only is the Marquez-Vazquez trilogy as good as any other in boxing history, there isn't one single thing that can be asked of a Championship fight that wasn't delivered. And we just might get to see it one more time.

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    Still They Came

    WBC super bantamweight champion Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez at the postfight news conference after their third fight, March 1, 2008, at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. Vazquez won by a split decision. Photo by Tom Casino/SHOWTIME.

    They stood in front of each other for twelve rounds, both knowing that one had a slight edge in power, the other in technique. They had each stopped the other, splitting their last two fights, within a year, yet they both advanced fearlessly, without questions or complaints. They both knew from the opening bell that this would be yet another war, with the outcome uncertain, but with their bodies certain to be bloodied and racked with pain afterwards, and still they came. They threw jabs and uppercuts and straight rights and left hooks from every angle imaginable, all the while knowing that their counterpart would do the same, and land about as frequently as they would. Still they came, still they battered one another, still they took it all in stride.

    This was glory in the ring, valor on TV, and the best boxing has to offer. Arguments about the referee’s calls, the possibility of a fourth meeting, and so on, while they have their place, are petty in comparison to the need to celebrate and honor this classic performance.

    In an age when mediocrity is shamelessly paraded and peddled to the public, here was true greatness, here was historic nobility on display before our eyes.

    This is the replay schedule in the U.S. for the third fight between Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez:

    Monday, March 3, 8:00 p.m. ET/PT SHO EXTREME
    Tuesday, March 4, 10:00 p.m. ET/PT SHO 2
    Wednesday, March 5, 11 p.m. ET/PT SHOWTIME

    My guess is that Showtime will add more replays as the word spreads about the significance, ferocity, and beauty of this fight.

    If you say you are a fight fan and failed to catch this battle the first time, do not fail again.

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