Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Boxing’s life-blood – the big fights

By JE Grant

Professional boxing is a maze of sanctioning bodies, promoters, and government overseers in an international, year-round sport. While frequently (though figuratively) spat upon by critics who extol the supposed virtues of the more mainstream team sports, boxing endures for one primary reason: the big fight. In years past, the big fight included title fights and key bouts between top contenders vying for the chance at the one true champ in each weight class. Today there exist no less than nine “world” sanctioning bodies (take a deep breath before trying to recite this list): WBC, WBA, IBF, WBO, WBU, IBA, IBC, IBO and NBA. That does not include the vaunted Ring Magazine belt. I’m sure that by the time you finish this article there will be a new organization that springs into existence…Read the entire article at Boxing's Lifeblood - The Big Fights at The Sweet

Monday, April 25, 2005

The New Cruiserweight Division

By JE Grant

All cruiserweights fighting today should give a note of thanks to Jean Marc Mormeck and Wayne Braithwaite. The two put on a quality title-fight which led to the first unified champion since the great Evander Holyfield cleaned-up the field.

Mormeck, the winner and now WBC/WBA and Ring Magazine champion, showed that a solid 200-pounder (he weighed officially at 198) could demonstrate competence and not have the look of a fat light-heavweight or freakishly thin giant. At 6’0” he’s rock solid and retains endurance and skills.

The fact is, except for the brief episode that put Evander Holyfield and Dwight Muhammad Qawi in front of us, the cruiserweight division has been widely – and undeservedly – ridiculed.

The first title bout in the division, which until recently was set at a limit of 190-pounds, was between two veteran light-heavyweight campaigners, Marvin Camel and former WBC light-heavweight champion Mate Parlov on Dec. 8, 1979. Their first meeting, as in auspicious as it was, resulted in a draw.

Camel captured the belt Mar. 24, 1980 in a rematch with Parlov with a 15-round decision.

In the years that followed the only stellar names that stood out besides Holyfield and Qawi, was Carlos DeLeon, a three-time champion in the division, power punchers Lee Roy Murphy and S.T. Gordon, and recent “names” Vasily Jirov and James Toney. Except for Toney, not household names but able fighters.

The division, however, caught a bad rap right from the beginning. Part of the problem stemmed from the proliferation of junior and super weight classes, most of which were formed in the 1970's and 80's and had (and have) a diluting effect to the word "champion."

It can be argued that the addition of the cruiserweight division makes the most sense when viewed from the perspective of competition.If we were to accept the removal of the cruiserweight division we would in effect be saying that a 176-pound man would have a real chance to win the heavyweight championship. In view of the increasing size of current champions, witness Vitali Klitschko, such a possibility is remote at best.

Yes, we all know about the successful challenge by a light-heavyweight champion for the heavyweight title, Michael Spinks v. Larry Holmes, and Spinks weighed 200 pounds for the challenge. (For history's sake we should note that Spinks actually weighed 199 pounds but was listed at 200 at the suggestion of Larry Holmes).

And more recently, of course, Roy Jones, 193, captured a piece of the very fractured pie in defeating champion John Ruiz for the WBA title. He certainly would not have been able to do similar magic over the real champion at the time, Lennox Lewis.

But in both instances, the exception proved the rule. Spinks and Jones were all-time greats in the light-heavyweight division. No one --- no one --- would expect that current IBF champion Clinton Woods, WBA champion Fabrice Tiozzo, or WBO champion Zsolt Erdei could do the same.

(The WBC title is vacant due the stripping of Antonio Tarver prior to his bout with then IBF champion Glen Johnson. Of course that whole stripping debacle is a story for another article).

Consider the other great light-heavyweight champions who unsuccessfully challenged for the heavyweight title, such as Billy Conn and Bob Foster, and we can quickly surmise that a division should indeed exist to provide opportunities for gifted 200-pound fighters.

It is true, and hard to swallow, that many of the heavyweight champions of decades past would be hard-pressed to compete with today’s 230-250 pound champions. Had they campaigned today – without the benefit of major gains in nutrition and weight-training – several fighters would likely never have gained a heavyweight title, notably, Tunney, Charles, Marciano, Patterson, or Johannson – and probably more.

In his record 25 title defenses, Joe Louis weighed an average of 203 pounds. Evander Holyfield, often considered a "small" heavyweight, or even a "blown-up" cruiserweight, weighed below that mark only in his first fight as a heavyweight.

The division, now in the hands of France’s Jean Marc Mormeck, a gritty, competent fighter, can gain some prominence if given a chance. He may not have to wait long before facing a North American IBF counterpart or even settle for a unification with Britain’s WBO champion Johnny Nelson.

In May, contenders American O’Neil Bell, 23-1-1 (22 KOs) and Canadian Dale Brown, 33-3-1 (21 KOs) (and already a Mormeck victim), will vie for the IBF crown. This should set up a good opportunity for a future showdown with Mormeck, the man most consider the real champion.

Champs, contenders, and no-talent fighters enter the ring at all weight classes. The cruiserweight division is no different. With the new limit of 200-pounds, a solid man at the top, and some potentially worthwhile bouts in the near-term, the division can take on a prominence it has never been accorded.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Brother Wladimir keeps his name in the mix

By JE Grant

Former WBO heavyweight belt-holder Wladimir Klitschko (44-3, 40 KOs) scored a much-needed and convincing stoppage of previously undefeated Eliseo Castillo (18-1-1, 14 KOs) in four rounds in a scheduled ten-rounder in Dortmund, Germany Saturday.

Klitschko peppered the much smaller and less willing Castillo with jabs before landing a right hand that sent the Cuban to the canvas at 2:51 of the fourth. Castillo managed to beat the count, but as he stumbled to his corner, referee Daniel van de Wiele stopped the contest.

Backers and detractors could easily find whatever they wanted from this fight. Backers could point to the fact that Klitschko, 241, patiently cut-off Castillo, 215, and controlled him with a powerful and accurate jab.

Wladimir's jab, quite likely the best in the division since all-time great Larry Holmes’ piston-like weapon, never allowed Castillo to get anywhere near his chin --- you know, the thing that everyone of the 9,000 fans in attendance held a collective breath wondering about.

Klitschko’s right-hand, held back for most of the fight, was drilled with precision when the time came to launch.

Detractors could see early that Castillo, did not come to strike fear into the heart of Klitschko. He never pressed the action. His hand and foot speed, considered his best attributes coming into the bout, were not even close to that of Wladimir.

Call it what one will, it was the kind of fight a busy contender fights. Castillo was undefeated and generally able, if somewhat under-gunned. Klitschko will likely need to pound out another win or two until one of the sanctioning bodies forces one of the belt-holders into the ring with him.

The truth is, Wladimir was never the wunderkid that he was hyped as. He’s also not the empty shell of a fighter that the naysayers claim either. He has some limits but many of the top fighters today would not have a chance to expose his chin problem.

There’s no mystery when it comes to Chris Byrd. Klitschko pounded him throughout their bout; Byrd never threatened Wladimir for one second of any round. Byrd crashed to the canvas twice and spent the rest of the fight barely holding onto his consciousness. There is no indication whatsoever that any future bout between the two would be much different. If anything, Byrd has slowed since then and is likely to make a few more trips to the canvas --- possibly not beating the count.

John Ruiz likewise poses limited opposition to Wladimir. One must give credit to Ruiz for finding odd ways to win fights, but he would be controlled by Klitschko’s jab much the way Wladimir controlled Castillo. Ruiz is no real hitter --- thus he has no real chance.

Of course Lamon Brewster does indeed stand a chance. He took Klitschko’s best, hit the deck, and came back to win. It is true that except for the last round of their bout, it appeared that he bordered on being stopped himself. It is also true that he would enter a rematch with the confidence of knowing that he could take the blows and keep on chugging. That is no small advantage.

Naturally, a fight with his brother Vitali is a non-starter.

Wladimir still has to climb the mountain to take one or more of the titles --- nothing will be given to him. There really are no shortcuts. He will continue to have critics and that makes his fights have an edge that they didn’t when he was walking over the field of contenders pre-Sanders and Brewster.

A quick prediction: Wladimir Klitschko will capture either the IBF or WBA title within one year. There are those who say he doesn't deserve a shot --- and all that blather --- but he of course has real victories on his record against real contenders. That cannot be dismissed so easily. He must keep winning and must do it often. This writer thinks he will.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

April predictions

By JE Grant

April 23 --: Shane Mosley (39-4, 35 KOs) vs. David Estrada (18-1, 9 KOs) - welterweights

Shane Mosley, once the king of the pound-for-pound club, is coming off consecutive losses to Winky Wright, which only compounded the problems caused by his consecutive losses to Vernon Forrest. He was a great lightweight, a good welterweight, and a passable junior middleweight. This bout marks a return to the welterweights where he figures his power will prove decisive. David Estrada, though ably backed by Angelo Dundee, is not to going to spoil the party. Mosley by KO in 8.

April 23 --: Kermit Cintron (24-0, 22 KOs) vs. Antonio Margarito (30-4, 21 KOs) WBO welterweight title

OK no one except the WBO considers this a championship bout. We have a true champion in the form of Zab Judah. Nonetheless this may prove to be a solid fight with long-term division consequences. Margarito has defended his belt but in his attempts at fellow WBO belt-holder for the 147 and 154-pound crowns he came up short. Cintron pulls this out with a 10th round KO.

April 23 --: Jameel McCline (31-4-3, 19 KOs) vs. Calvin Brock (24-0, 20 KOs) heavyweights

Folks say that Brock is taking a huge leap forward and is assuming risk. Really it is McCline who is taking the risk – and perhaps unnecessarily. Brock, the college graduate, hasn’t yet graduated to the elite level of the heavyweight division but a victory here gets his foot in the door. I believe McCline was robbed of victory against Chris Byrd, and along with it the IBF belt, but that isn’t saying much ask the list of other robbery victims vs. Byrd – Fres Oquendo and Andrew Golota. Brock cracks the top ten with a decision victory.

April 23 --: Wladimir Klitschko (43-3, 39 KOs) vs. Eliseo Castillo (18-0-1, 14 KOs) IBF heavyweight eliminator

Is Klitschko shot? This is a question that will be asked no matter how many more fights he has. Castillo is an earnest campaigner. He’s tough and workmanlike. He’s also not a huge banger. Klitschko will likely sport a 25-pound weight advantage to go along with advantages in height and reach. Klitschko is bigger, faster, and hits much harder. Castillo will hang in there with the hope Klitschko folds. It won’t happen on this night. Klitschko by KO in 3.

April 30 --: John Ruiz (41-5-1, 28 KOs) vs. James Toney (68-4-2, 43 KOs) WBA heavyweight title

John Ruiz, a heavyweight with a solid physical appearance is a stab-and-grab artist whose primary skill appears to be finding inartful ways to win. And win he does. James Toney is a heavyweight who will win no body beautiful contests but wins with as much artistry as anyone in the game today. His only problem going into this bout is that all of the masterpieces were created on middleweight through cruiserweight canvases. He has scored exactly two wins in the heavyweight division: he stopped a 40-something Evander Holyfield, merely confirming, again, what most of us have known for the last several years – Evander is way past his day. The other fight, against Rydell Booker, proved nothing. Toney is also starting to fall apart. A series of injuries has to catch up to him soon. April 30th will prove to be that day. Ruiz will punch, push, and mangle his way to a lack-luster 12-round decision.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Brief Comments -- Vitali Klitschko vs. Hasim Rahman delayed again

By JE Grant

Vitali Klitschko, 33, WBC heavyweight champion has once again delayed his twice scheduled title defense against former champion Hasim Rahman.

A thigh injury delayed the bout the first time, but his latest injury is apparently more serious. A back injury is affecting his left leg perhaps necessitating surgery. Such injuries often involve injury to the spinal column and require either medication or surgical repair. In either case, healing is not quick and though September has been set for the rescheduled event, that may also be optimistic.

According to Eastside Boxing, "the WBC could call for an interim championship bout between Hasim Rahman (40-5-1, 33 KOs) and number # 3 WBC ranked challenger, Monte Barrett (31-3, 17 KO’s). " Such a bout is very dangerous for Rahman but the upside for him is that if Klitschko is deemed unfit to fight again, he would be made permanent champion, something that seems unlikely. Barrett has proven to be a tough battler and Rahman has a history of not being "up" for lesser bouts --- this could be a bad combination for the former champ.

Only time will tell about Klitschko. We'll continue to monitor his condition.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Jeff Lacy vs. Robin Reid -- Lacy to defend again

By JE Grant

Jeff Lacy, 19-0 (1 NC) (15 KOs), has the potential to rise to stardom in the boxing world. Already a title-holder, he appears to have the skills, the motivation, and more importantly, the willingness to put it on the line against the best in the business. While his nickname “Left Hook” is somewhat confusing, given that it does not appear to be his best weapon, he certainly is potent with both hands.

The announcement that he will take on the current number 1 (IBF) ranked Robin Reid, is at once a disappointment and fully expected. He must take on Reid, 38-4-1 (27 KOs) at this point in his career. It is probably a good calculation on his part to engage in a mandatory defense. Their bout, now set for August 6th, is yet another fight featuring a champion and someone who is rated number 1 --- but who isn't really the top fighter in the division.

Of course a fight with Joe Calzaghe or Mikkel Kessler would prove satisfying, or even more entertaining would be fights with stars such Bernard Hopkins, Glen Johnson, Antonio Tarver or Roy Jones. None of the sanctioning bodies can pretend to rate only the best to be number 1 if they simply ignore the existence of other sanctioning body champions.Hopefully he doesn't become so beholden to the sanctioning body that he forgets his dreams. He's already said he would fight Hopkins for relative pocket change.

He knows that to be the best he must beat the best.Lacy also hopefully understands that Robin Reid does not represent the best in the business. Reid, already a title challenger (and loser) to then-WBA/IBF champ Sven Ottke, and long-time WBO belt-holder Calzaghe is indeed a former champion from many years back. However, his best is likely well behind him despite him having won several recent fights.Reid's biggest victory in the years since his short WBC super middleweight tenure has to be Brian Magee. Magee, a fighter who has fought only in Ireland and England, has proven as reluctant to take on the major world powers as Calzaghe. The fans of boxing in the British Isles are as loyal as any on the face of the Earth, but eventually they will grow tired of seeing their local fighers protected against all legitimate foes.

And forget Reid’s IBO and WBF "titles" as quickly as possible. They weren't world championship caliber bouts by any stretch of the imagination.

Just as surely, we can't say yet that Lacy has beaten a slew of world beaters. Although his wins over Omar Sheika and Syd Vanderpool represent solid efforts, neither was anywhere near the class of Jones or Hopkins. What makes Lacy's case different is that he understands that fact and wants to face the super champs. He is not hiding (at least so far) behind the rules of a sanctioning body for long stretches and has actively sought big bouts. He is also just 19 fights into his career. Stretch that streak to 30 without facing a real contender and we’ll criticize him just as surely as we criticize Calzaghe and crew.

He has learned from his Sheika and Ruben Williams defenses but he must continue to improve. He seems to know that.Lacy can quickly remove himself of the self-imposed obscurity that is besetting Calzaghe. Calzaghe seemingly always has a reason to not fight the top fighters in his or any other weight class. He just couldn't seem to make a deal with Ottke; can't ever come to terms with Hopkins; and never quite got in there with Roy Jones. He's 38-0, a long-term titleholder, and we still don't know if he can fight. Perhaps he'll leave the British Isles long enough to prove he can really make a go of it.

Perhaps Lacy will continue to be motivated by his 2000 Olympic experience where he lost in the quarterfinals and went home without a medal. No medal has apparently pushed him to excel above expectations as a pro. He fights as if he has something to prove each time out.

"Not winning an Olympic medal was a blessing," said Lacy in a Showtime website profile (Showtime will air his bout with Reid). Since that time he has been on a mission to confirm his status as a fighter to be reckoned with.

When all is said and done, Lacy may wear multiple straps at super middleweight and perhaps have a much longer reign as a light-heavyweight. Robin Reid should prove a mere bump in the road. None of us can say for sure where Lacy will end up, but he clearly wants to go to the mountain, something which is refreshing for the super-middleweight division.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Want to destroy boxing? Create a federal commission

By JE Grant

For more than 40 years there have been those in and around the boxing world who have called for the creation of a federal (U.S.) commission to oversee the sport. Boxing, being the only sport in the United States that is governed at any level by government bodies, by the account of some is not governed enough.

Currently, boxing is governed primarily by states. For the folks who want a federal commission this isn’t enough. The primary driver today appears to be the growth in the number of sanctioning bodies and a general sense that promoters and managers are pulling the sport down with unscrupulous tactics.

Even with state-by-state control, the federal government has seen fit to establish the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act. Right upfront, the act jabs at the sanctioning bodies:

It says that, “professional boxing differs from other major, interstate professional sports industries in the United States in that it operates without any private sector association, league, or centralized industry organization to establish uniform and appropriate business practices and ethical standards.”

The law goes on to forbid certain binding contractual relationships, makes the sanctioning bodies provide public information about fees, and requires promoters to provide state commissions with data, among its provisions.

Of course all of that sounds reasonable on its face. Sanctioning bodies are the subject of much derision and the quality and enforcement of some state commissions is not what some think it should be.

Although there has been some adherence to the law, there isn’t much in the way of enforcement from the federal level, hence the continued call for the creation of a commission.

So why not have a commission you say? Wouldn’t it clean up the bad promoters and scheming managers, not to mention forcing out aging? Wouldn’t we have fair and competent rating system that ensured only the top challengers vied for the title “champion”?

Let me be the first to burst the glowing bubble that surrounds this issue. A federal boxing commission is a patently bad idea.

First, boxing is an international sport with a strong fan-base in places such as England, Australia, Germany, Thailand and the list goes on. We should not assume that everyone in the world wants the control of their sport, one in which many people make their living, to rest in an office building in Washington D.C.

Secondly, there is no success model on which to base the federal government running a commercial venture. From time-to-time the government has taken over businesses, usually attempting to collect back tax revenue after the owners are arrested. Running a professional sport with as many variables that, that includes such as market share, boxer development, and state interests, would prove difficult at best. It is more than unlikely that a governmental institution could do so.

Third, who would make up the membership of the commission? Don’t fool yourself; no administration would view a federal boxing commission as its top priority. No up and coming politician would see membership on the commission as a means toward advancement. There is no indication at all that the bureaucracy that would surely develop would prove guided by an interest in improving the sport. I would also suggest that many in the bureaucracy would have little appreciation or understanding of the sport, what constitutes fair competition, or who is truly qualified to be a champion. Such a commission would, like most bureaucracies, seek to continue its existence as its primary focus and commissioners would see membership as a consolation prize.

Fourth, boxing is an entrepreneurial business – no one knows what the effect will be on promotion. We all know that boxers risk much each time out, but so do promoters. Promoters build a new product, fund it, publicize it, and take a significant monetary chance on every card. Unlike in team sports with regular schedules, sweetheart deals with cities for arenas and stadiums, the boxing promoter bares his wallet and reputation repeatedly. High profile promoters such as Don King and Bob Arum are constantly seen as the source of evil --- perhaps, but they make the sport go. Bureaucracies, laden with massive rules and directives have a proven history of squashing entrepreneurs. Boxing without promoters equals no boxing at all.

Of course the safety of boxers is the risk assumed by entering a ring to hit an opponent to the head and shoulders. While that part of the risk won’t disappear, I suggest that many of the states have safety records that do not require further oversight. With the numerous cards in states such as Nevada and New Jersey, solid state commissioners have proven themselves as concerned and able.

Finally – and this is aimed primarily at American readers – the United States government is supposed to be guided by the Constitution. There is no place in the document that even hints that a good and proper role of federal government includes overseeing sports. Politicians at all levels are keenly aware that collecting more power fuels the source of their power. I have no doubt that there is some support for creating a federal commission. We, who want boxing to continue, should ask that the feds keep their noses out it.

Who wants some day to see at a Senate hearing a group of senators quibbling on the floor about whether Hasim Rahman or Wladimir Klitschko should be the number one contender? Or more dramatically, what about a congressman from any district who wants one of his constituents to be pushed forward in the ratings, and threatens hearings if he’s not satisfied?

So many unintended consequences. So many opportunities to truly ruin the sport.

For more insights visit JE’s website at or email him at

Monday, April 11, 2005

Brief Comments --- Hagler - Hearns revisited

By JE Grant

Twenty long years ago Marvelous Marvin Hagler entered a boxing ring against a hard-punching, skilled Thomas Hearns. The bout, though only lasting three brutal rounds, became an instant classic as Hagler and Hearns engaged in a slugfest from the word go.

As the years continue to slide by, Hagler vs. Hearns will stand as the benchmark for top champions meeting at the summit and giving it their all. The recent Morales-Barrera and Ward-Gatti trilogies come to mind as being of a similar nature. Such bouts don't need the hype of good writers, agents or promoters. Their effort in the ring tells the tale.

Thanks again to Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns, both great fighters who gave us their very best.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Brief Comments --- Vitali Klitschko vs. Hasim Rahman

By JE Grant

The upcoming Vitali Klitschko vs. Hasim Rahman bout figures to be the most competitive matchup in the heavyweight division since Lewis-Holyfield I. Indeed it may be true that Klitschko and Rahman are 1-2 (pick your order) in the division. Obviously the winner is in the driver's seat for any proposed unification bouts with the champions of the other sanctioning bodies.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Tyson vs. Holyfield III -- Will it happen? Count on it

By JE Grant

Evander Holyfield is of late saying that he wants another crack at Mike Tyson. Tyson, to his credit, is saying that both he and Holyfield need to win a few fights before engaging each other again. But, will the bout ever happen? With only a few minor bumps in the road to overcome, my bet is that it will.

Holyfield, 42, of course has the immediate obstacle of a suspension leveled by the New York commission and enforceable nation-wide. I think it is clear that the suspension won't hold --- it's based merely on the gut reaction of boxing commissioner Ron Stevens. Although it is hard to disagree with the sentiment that Holyfield should pack it in, objectively it will be hard to sustain a suspension in light of the fact that he just fought 10-rounds against a ranked boxer and was not knocked out or even staggered during the contest. That fact, coupled with the considerable monetary resources Holyfield can put into lawyers, will make this suspension short-lived.

Holyfield is 38-8, but is only 2-5-2 in his last nine fights. It is clear to most observers, the notable exception being Holyfield himself, that he is long past his prime. He was indeed a great fighter and has accomplished much. Undisputed cruiserweight and heavyweight championship belts adorned his palatial estate. He has also earned more money than any man who has entered a boxing ring.

His desire for more heavyweight boxing titles brings with it the need to keep fighting top fighters. The truth is he can no longer compete at the top 10 level. He can likely beat some lesser journeyman well into his 50's --- but why?

Iron Mike, (50-5, 44 KOs), has himself experienced a devastating KO at the hands of then-champion Lennox Lewis, and a KO loss to Danny Williams in relatively recent history. Sandwiched in there was a quick win over Clifford Etienne that added little luster to Tyson's record. That makes him 1-2 in his last three fights with a lot of time between each bout.

Tyson has been training in Phoenix and is poised to begin a comeback against a slew of journeymen, this time under the tuteledge of former champion, Australia's Jeff Fenech. This is likely the best, and potentially most lucrative, route for Mike. He's pushing 39, has fought infrequently, and has faced some big hitters. What made Tyson viable in the early part of his career was the confidence built from fighting often, mixing in top fighters with average opponents. There are plenty of heavyweights who won't be able to stand the early heat that Tyson can still bring.

While it was obvious that Holyfield was the better fighter in each of his bouts with Tyson, he still had a vestige of his dwindling skills. (And yes, I think he was past his best when he met Tyson. I would have picked a prime Holyfield over a prime Tyson). Today, Evander's skills are gone. And, while he was an above average puncher, he usually won with a volume of punches delivered at angles and as counter-punches. He does not have a great punch on which to rely --- leaving him with not much in the way of offense. Defense? Lately his defense seems to be a sturdy chin and tremendous willpower --- it was not enough against James Toney and Toney is not a power-hitter by any stretch.

For that reason alone, I would pick Tyson over Holyfield at this point in their boxing lives. Tyson despite the loss of the speed and head-movement that separated him from the pack, still has solid power and is willing to throw shots with abandon. I see a bout in which Holyfield comes right after Tyson as his did in their previous matches, but, unable to counter or finesse Tyson, gets clipped early and often. He may not make it out of the first round.

I actually hope this fight never happens. While Tyson can go on to win some significant fights on power alone, Holyfield’s significant wins are all in his past. There’s no shame in being 42 and being finished as a fighter. He gave it his all, and at the top of his game his best was spectacular. Something tells me that he wants at least one last hurrah.

Send your insights to JE at his email

Friday, April 08, 2005

Brief Comments --- Riddick Bowe

By JE Grant

Riddick Bowe won a split-decision over Billy Zumbrun last night in California. Bowe weighed in at a very heavy 280 and barely scraped together a win over a journeyman who does not appear on anyone's "top" list anywhere. Perhaps it's too early to write-off Bowe's comeback, but he will have to improve dramatically if he is ever to compete for a real world-title.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Pardon Jack Johnson

By JE Grant

Legendary heavyweight champion Jack Johnson, was at once seen as brilliant and dominant in his time -- and he was as thoroughly castigated as any person ever to claim the title "world champion." Of course his sole offense was that he was black and he was not one for accepting a second-class role.

He found himself a fugitive from the law for violating provisions of the Mann Act, a law prohibiting the interstate transportation of women for an "immoral purpose"-- and as it was applied to Jack Johnson that meant transporting a white woman across state lines, a woman that was in fact willing to be in his presence. Deeming Jack Johnson a criminal was clearly designed to bring down the brash champion down using the law for twisted, racist purposes.

He was convicted and served a year for this dubious crime. A pardon now, though symbolic, is an important repudiation of a part of our nation's history --- a part that must be as fully exposed as possible in order for us to keep moving forward on issues of race.

Pardon Jack Johnson.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Ruiz-Toney -- Hopefully the first step toward unification

By JE Grant

On April 30th, WBA heavyweight titlest John Ruiz (41-5-1, 28 KOs) will defend his belt against the colorful multi-division champion James Toney (68-4-2, 43 KOs) in New York on HBO.

Will this be Ali-Frazier redux? Hardly, but what it can be is the first step toward unification of the heavyweight belt.

Ruiz, to his credit, is defending against a difficult foe in Toney. Although it is clear that Toney has vaulted ahead of deserving contenders based on only two heavyweight fights, it is equally clear that Toney brings more to the match than fighting skills, as considerable as they may be.

His prowess as a ringmaster borders on legendary. In winning titles in several weight classes --- the exact number depends on what sanctioning bodies one chooses to view as legitimate --- Toney has never suffered from feelings of insecurity no matter what weight class. He has established greatness in wins over Michael Nunn, Vasiliy Jirov, and Mike McCallum. He has also proven mysterious in his twin losses to Montell Griffin, a highly controversial win over Dave Tiberi, and of course his lackluster loss to Roy Jones. As a heavyweight, he has beaten a shop-worn Evander Holyfield and an unknown in Rydell Booker. All-in-all he really remains less of a proven product at heavyweight and more of the enigma we've come to love and hate at the same time.

Ruiz, on the other hand, has proven to be a bundle of insecurities, which probably explains his current fighting style. Although he has found a way to win over the likes of Tony Tucker, Evander Holyfield (plus a draw and loss to the same), and former undisputed champion Hasim Rahman. Perhaps his most import fight was a one-round knockout loss to David Tua. He tightened his defense and developed his clutch-and-grab style that has been the subject of much derision. That new style has also produced a lot of wins. In fact an embassassing loss to Roy Jones seems a distant memory as he climbed right back into the win column.

Both fighters have benefitted from questionable decisions, for Toney, as noted in the Tiberi bout, and some even suggest in his Jirov win, and recently for Ruiz in his bout with Andrew Golota.

On paper, this clash looks like dullesville. Ruiz, sure to come forward in an effort to stab and grab and Toney satisfied within laying back and countering the much taller Ruiz. Don't count on it going this way. Both fighters are out to prove their worth. Ruiz may come out of his protective shell against the weaker punching Toney. Toney will likely attempt to put on a high-punch volume clinic.

I'm actually looking forward to this bout -- something I thought I would never say about any fight with John Ruiz. We should all be hopeful that it produces the first contestant in a series that leads to a unified championship.

Last night's cruiserweight title bout

By JE Grant

Wayne "Big Truck" Braithwaite and Jean-Marc Mormeck's title struggle last night proves that the boxing's cruiserweight division is not inhabited by men plagued by arthritis or more interested in women's fitness than boxing. Mormeck is now the real champion and I hope this unification trend continues. Yes, it is a shame that the sanctioning bodies continue to reap big fees, but at least with a unification little doubt remains about who is on top.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Braithwaite and Mormeck – Cruiserweights in a class of their own

By JE Grant

Tonight Wayne "Big Truck" Braithwaite (21-0, 17 KOs) of Guyana and Jean-Marc Mormeck (30-2, 21 KOs) of France square-off to unify the WBC and WBA cruiserweight titles.

Much will be made of the division’s weakness and some will question will the reason the cruiserweights exist at all.

While its true that numerous “junior” and “super” weight classes, as well as a proliferation of sanctioning bodies, has made the word “champion” much less meaningful, the cruiserweight division is the one truly necessary add-on to the original eight.

If we were to accept the removal of the cruiserweight division we would in effect be saying that a 200 pound man or below would have a reasonable chance to win the heavyweight championship. In view of the increasing size of current champions, such as Vitali Klitschko, or contenders such as Samuel Peter such a possibility is unlikely.

The only real chance the smaller guys have is to cherry-pick one of the numerous heavyweight champions. Such was the case with Roy Jones’ race past John Ruiz. He would not have done so against Lennox Lewis, the real champion at the time. He more than likely would have ended up in the third row.For the only successful challenge by a light-heavyweight champion for the heavyweight title, Michael Spinks v. Larry Holmes, Spinks weighed 200 pounds for the challenge. (It is in fact true for history's sake that Spinks actually weighed 199 pounds but was listed at 200 at the suggestion of a promotionally-minded Larry Holmes). Both Spinks-Holmes bouts resulted in disputed decisions. It must also be said that the fights occurred past Holmes’ prime.

Consider the other great light-heavyweight champions who unsuccessfully challenged for the heavyweight title, such as Billy Conn and Bob Foster, and we can quickly surmise that a division should indeed exist to provide opportunities for gifted 200 pound fighters or for light-heavyweight fighters who legitimately outgrow the 175 pound limit. Foster was a dominant boxer-puncher as a light-heavyweight, but couldn’t crack Ali or Frazier in any meaningful way.

Finally, thinking of great of fighters in history it is likely we would never have known the names Tunney, Charles, Marciano, Patterson or maybe even Joe Louis, had they been forced to compete with today's 230-250 pound champions. In his record 25 title defenses, Joe Louis weighed an average of 203 pounds. Evander Holyfield, often considered a "small" heavyweight, or even a "blown-up" cruiserweight, has always weighed above that mark as both a heavyweight contender and champion.

No one writes articles questioning the existence of the junior lightweight – junior welterweight divisions. A fighter can win three titles within ten pounds. Even worse, a fighter can become a triple crown champion fighting between 115 and 122 pounds.

Anyone who has fought against light-heavyweights and heavyweights understands instantly the huge jump in power a 200 pound-plus fighter possesses. The difference is not replicated between any other divisions.

Champs and chumps enter the ring at all weight classes. The cruiserweight division is no different. In its short history, the class has had some champions of note including Carlos DeLeon, Dwight Muhammad Qawi, and of course Evander Holyfield.

Either Braithwaite or Mormeck can add luster to a division that will continue to grow in importance. Both have proven themselves as high quality fighters and they are to be commended for engaging in a unification when they could instead settle for “manditories” forever.

To contact JE email him a

Friday, April 01, 2005

15-rounds…One more time – I was right, they were wrong

By JE Grant

In my recent article calling for the reinstatement of the 15-round championship distance, I was alarmed by the weak-kneed responses by those opposed to the change. Yes, I expected some would be against it – virtually any idea calling for change is challenged.

What surprised me was the fact that most of those opposed worried about the length of the championship distance being too much to ask of professional fighters. One dissenter even said rounds 13-15 would be fought in “pure exhaustion.”

I am worried that the essence of the game has been lost on some who consider themselves fans of the game. The object is to beat your opponent by knocking him loose from his senses or, if necessary, to outbox him over the distance. Needless to say, this is not a safe sport and the intentions of both opponents should not be misconstrued --- this is a hitting and hurting game.

Society determined at the end of the 1800s that bare-knuckle fighting would have to end. And, it was a good change. Why? Was bare-knuckle fight resulting in death and destruction? No, it was boring. That’s right it was boring. Fighters rarely wasted punches to the head because of the damage it caused to their hands. There was much clinching, wrestling, and inside body-punching (kind of like a John Ruiz fight) and occasionally some shots to the chin. Rounds were fought until one of the fighters went down and were given one-minute to return to “scratch,” a line in the center of the ring that both fighters had to put a toe on in order to signify they could continue. Fighters often went down repeatedly in order to gain rest time.

Gloves came about as a measure to protect fighters’ hands and allow for more exciting fights. While there was some added protection to the fighter’s face, it was a secondary concern.

The change to 12-round fights was merely a clever way of fending off substantial criticism following the nationally-televised bout between Deuk-Koo Kim and WBA Lightweight Champion Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini. Kim died after being stopped in the 14th round of the bout.

Boxing has often been seen as a renegade sport and there will always be an element of society calling for banning the sport. Boxing will never be a women’s fitness sport or work for the weekend homebuilder. It is a tough, brutal exchange of blows to the head and body.

Surely changing the distance of title bouts to 15-rounds will not alter boxing’s relative standing in either the sports world or in society at-large. It will, however, make the sport better, by allowing the world’s best fighters the full opportunity to prove their ability.
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