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November 3, 2018
November 3, 2018
Kostya Tszyu

Action Images/Reuters/Steve Marcus

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1. OPINION was split on who would win the light-welterweight unification showdown between WBC and WBA champion Kostya Tszyu, and IBF king Zab Judah. The bout was set for the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on November 3, 2001.

2. JUDAH, unbeaten at 27-0, sneered at his opponent’s chances in the lead-up, believing he was on the brink of an “easy” fight. “Tszyu’s style is made for me,” he said. “He’s strong, stands up straight and comes forward. His style is like Swiss cheese – full of holes.”

Kostya Tszyu

3. TSZYU, 27-1, was equally confident, although his prediction carried a little more respect and, as a consequence, a little more menace. “I study boxers and their styles,” the Russian-born Aussie said. “I’ve studied Judah and know what it takes to beat him… He wants to prove he’s the best and so do I. Everything has been said and now we have to prove who the great champion is.”

4. BUT Judah would not be dissuaded. “I’ll give him angles – I’ll be like a blur to him. Against a slick, sharp boxer with a good defence you figure Kostya’s got to get lucky [to win]. He’s got to land a good shot to knock me out.” Prophetic, indeed.

5. JUDAH got off to a fast start, his quick combinations proving bothersome to the 32-year-old Tszyu. A left uppercut appeared to hurt the older man, and a follow-up right-left forced him to hold on. Undoubtedly, Judah won the opening round.

6. IN round two, though, Tszyu finds his form. The American is suddenly getting tagged, leaning away from punches with his hands by his waist, convinced he’s too quick. Then Tszyu lands a long, perfect, right hand. It sends Judah to the mat. Undoubtedly keen to save face, the American jumps to his feet quickly and brashly points to the referee in an effort to show he’s fine. But he’s far from it. His legs drunkenly give way beneath him, and he drops again. He eventually rises, still unsteady, and referee Jay Nady waves it off.

7. THE Brooklyn fighter was incensed with being pulled out. He appeared to throw a punch before launching a corner stool in the referee’s direction. The unsavoury conclusion to the showdown unfortunately deflects some of the glory away from Tszyu – who started as a 3-1 underdog.

8. JUDAH tried, but struggled, to explain his actions: “I got caught going backwards. The fight should have gone on. I’m just looking for fairness… I was not hurt. When you’re in shape you get up straight away… He’s not that strong. I hit him with a lot of punches.”

9. THE Nevada Commission fined Judah $75,000 and suspended him for six months.

10. SHANE MOSLEY was at ringside and there was a suggestion afterwards that he would be willing to accommodate Tszyu at welterweight. But the champion had no intention of moving up in weight. “I make weight so easily,” he explained. “My dietician does a great job for me. I sweat so easily in the gym, I can’t believe it. I eat breakfast and lunch on the day of the weigh-in.”

November 2, 2018
November 2, 2018
Featherweight boxer Johnny Tapia (L) of Albuquerque, New Mexico takes a
blow from Marco Antonio Barrera, of Iztacalo, Mexico during the final
round of their 12-round fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las
Vegas, Nevada November 2, 2002. Barrera won the bout by unanimous
decision. REUTERS/Steve Marcus

SM/SV
Reuters / Picture supplied by Action Images *** Local Caption *** RBBORH2002110300114.jpg

Action Images/Reuters/Steve Marcus

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1. THE November 6, 2002 showdown between diminutive legends Marco Antonio Barrera and Johnny Tapia was loaded with mutual respect. Eighteen months before, Barrera defeated Naseem Hamed and was accompanied in the ring by Tapia. “He is just a gentleman that I respect. He is a hell of a fighter, a great world champion. Just a friend, just a boxer, just a friend,” Tapia said when asked to describe his relationship with Barrera.

2. BARRERA regularly wore shorts with ‘TAPIA’ emblazoned on them. Some observers wrongly speculated this was out of the Mexican’s admiration for Johnny. However, Mexicans often had two surnames, the second of which was reference to their mother’s maiden name, which in Barrera’s case was Tapia.

3. “HE is definitely very motivated for this fight,” said Tapia’s wife and manager, Teresa Tapia. “This is actually a big thing for him. He is wanting to fight the best out there and Barrera is definitely one of the best. He is actually one of Johnny’s favourite fighters, so this is something that Johnny has always wanted. He is very much looking forward to this fight.”

4. AT 35, a history of drug abuse and a 56-fight career behind him, Tapia was thought to be in decline. He had lost two fights to Paulie Ayala – which he claimed were dodgy decisions – and was thought to be very lucky to get the nod over Manuel Medina in the bout before this Barrera clash.

5. THAT ‘win’ over Medina handed Tapia the IBF featherweight title. It was his third divisional world title after winning major belts at super-flyweight and bantamweight.

6. THERE was no governing body title at stake inside the MGM Grand in Las Vegas but Barrera’s ‘Ring Magazine’ belt was on the line in this 12-rounder. Tapia relinquished the IBF belt to secure the shot at Barrera.

7. BARRERA was regarded as one of the sport’s premier fighters, pound-for-pound. After trouncing Hamed, Barrera had defeated Erik Morales in their rematch – being the first man to defeat his bitter Mexican rival – to set up this fight with Tapia.

8. AS expected, Barrera was too much for his fading challenger. Barrera won via unanimous decision with two scores of 118-110, and one of 116-112 confirming the Mexican’s dominance. The victor landed 323 punches compared to Tapia’s 124.

9. ONE year later, Barrera was destroyed by Manny Pacquiao in a huge upset but returned again, beating the likes of Ayala, Morales and Rocky Juarez to confirm his quality. However, after losing to Juan Manuel Marquez and Pacquiao a second time in 2007, his spell at the top was over.

10. TAPIA struggled to cope with his advancing age. Aware he was not the force he was, but also struggling to exist without boxing, he fought on until 2011 at a level far below his wonderful peak. He died suddenly in May 2012 from heart failure. He was just 45.

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October 31, 2018
October 31, 2018
Les Darcy

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GENERALLY regarded as Australia’s best ever boxer, James Leslie Darcy’s inclusion in our list of the top 100 boxers in history is simply remarkable considering he fought professionally for less than seven years before tragically passing away at only 21 years of age. Nevertheless, his place among the all-time greats is without doubt warranted.

One of the finest middleweights ever to grace the sport, “The Maitland Wonder” contested all of his 50 pro fights Down Under. Although he never fought outside of his homeland, this was not for want of trying.

The precocious Aussie’s emergence coincided with that of World War I. With his family to provide for, Darcy naively decided to evade his country’s military draft in order to secure lucrative bouts in the USA.

However, fights for Les were not forthcoming in the States. American promoters and state governors were unwilling to issue the Woodville man a boxing licence, as they looked disapprovingly upon his failure to enlist in the Australian army.

Les Darcy

Despite failing to showcase his talents on US soil, Darcy was still able to share a ring with many of the top American middleweights of his era. He twice stopped Eddie McGoorty (rsf 15 and rsf 8) and also defeated Billy Murray on two occasions (pts 20 and rsf 6). Other notable victims included Jimmy Clabby (pts 20), George KO Brown (pts 20 twice) and Buck Crouse (ko 2).

Arguably his most impressive win came when he knocked out George Chip in his last ever ring appearance. Chip had claimed a newspaper decision victory over the legendary Harry Greb only three months previously, yet the deadly Darcy finished the Pennsylvanian off in nine rounds.

He never held the official world middleweight title (only the Australian version), but he was widely considered as the best in the division from around 1915-1916, with his innovative boxing style well ahead of its time.

After suffering from blood poisoning and subsequently developing pneumonia, he died in the USA on May 24, 1917. Australia mourned the loss of a native hero, who remains a national sporting icon to this day.

Les Darcy was ranked No.92 in the Boxing News 100 Greatest Fighters of All-Time. Order your copy here

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October 30, 2018
October 30, 2018
muhammad ali

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George Foreman vs Muhammad Ali, October 30 1974, Kinshasa, Zaire

WHAT can we say about this contest that hasn’t already been said? The fight when Muhammad Ali, apparently past his best at 32, stunned the world, knocked out the seemingly invincible George Foreman in eight rounds, and regained the world heavyweight title. Ali allowed Foreman to punch himself out, introduce his outrageous Rope-A-Dope technique, and in turn, reinvent himself from fading dancer to cunning assassin. All this happened in Zaire, a faraway place few people knew. It was, and forever will be, The Rumble in the Jungle.

But the passing years have attempted to hack away at some of truth. Many now claim Ali stood and took a beating from Foreman before the knockout. He certainly took some horrible blows but, in reality, the old master was in control from the start, as the judges’ tallies testify.

And although the young champion – with demolitions of Joe Frazier and Ken Norton already banked – was widely expected to win, the upset did not cause the kind of universal shock that, say, Buster Douglas’ victory over Mike Tyson would 16 years later. Several experts – including future Boxing News editor Harry Mullan – were picking Ali to win.

What should not be doubted, though, is the colossal significance of this event. It is arguably the most famous fight in the sport’s history, and added layers to the Ali legend. And let’s not forget about the loser, whose defeat made his return to the top – 20 years later – a sporting achievement unlikely to be matched.

Mission Impossible
FOREMAN was a terrifying and unbeaten specimen. Two men had beaten Ali, the aforementioned Norton and Frazier, and though he had gained revenge over both, they taken him hell to back along the way. But neither could last beyond the second round with Foreman. It was the most bombastic start to a world heavyweight reign in history.

Don King was in his infancy as a promoter, and he staged the showdown in Zaire. It was an obscure setting, but added to the intrigue. Ali was a hero over there. Foreman very much the villain.

And Ali’s trainer knew that his fighter was going to win. Angelo Dundee and Ali had studied the slugger carefully, and decided his strengths – the wide booming hooks – could also be his undoing.

“He punches like he’s a lumberjack trying to cut down trees,” said Ali.

“I knew he would win that fight with Foreman,” Dundee said in 2010. “George was a home run hitter and he would use up all his strength. He was made for him.”

The masterplan
“I’m going to dance,” Ali predicted. “I’m going to dance for 15 rounds if I have to. After eight rounds it will be obvious that he’s dead tired.”

But there would be no dancing in The Jungle. Ali realised early in the bout that a fleet-footed approach would not work. The ring, a prisoner to the extreme African elements, was heavy underfoot.

Ali began brightly, firing off counters, tying up the marauding brute when he got close. He banged in audacious right leads, and retreated to the ropes. He repeated his tactic in the second round.

“Get away from the ropes,” Ali’s corner yelled. Angelo Dundee later said, “When he went to the ropes, I felt sick.” Before the third, Dundee begged his fighter to stay away from the boundaries. Ali waved him away and said, “I know what I’m doing.”

Ali absorbed some frightful punches over the next few rounds. But he was dishing out more, and plotting one of the greatest performances boxing had seen.

By round eight, Foreman, behind on points but unable to change his seek-and-destroy formula, was absolutely exhausted. As the round approached its conclusion, Ali was locked in a corner with Foreman on top of him, raggedly chopping away. The older man saw his chance. He ripped in a stunning volley that twisted Foreman. The champion tried to retain his balance but punches cannoned off his tired skull.

Suddenly he fell forward, like King Kong tumbling from the Empire State Building, and landed in a heap on the canvas. It was an incredible sight. Mission impossible was all but complete. Referee Zack Clayton counted to 10 as the groggy beast tried to regain verticality.

“I didn’t really plan what happened that night,” Ali said. “But when a fighter gets in the ring, he has to adjust according to the conditions he faces. Against George, the ring was slow. Dancing all night, my legs would have got tired. And George was following me too close, cutting off the ring. In the first round, I used more energy staying away from him than he used chasing me. So between rounds, I decided to do what I did in training when I got tired.”

The reinvention would suspend his incredible career for seven more years.

Excuses, excuses
In the immediate aftermath, Foreman screamed foul play. He claimed he had been poisoned. In fact, he said all sorts of things to deflect the agony of defeat. Twenty years later, wearing the same shorts he wore in Zaire, he regained the title at the age of 45, knocking out Michael Moorer. It was, perhaps, the greatest comeback in the history of sport and finally vanquished the ghosts of the jungle.

“I had this complex after losing to Muhammad, and I truly didn’t understand why I lost that match,” Foreman explained in 2012. “And what bothered me more than anything was that it wasn’t supposed to happen. And to be honest with you, I was surprised I never got a rematch…

“And it ate me up for years, not that I didn’t get the shot, but it ate me up because I lost. I just couldn’t figure how I lost. I was in the right position and was doing all the right things and I didn’t get the win. I didn’t understand. Nobody had been able to stand up under those shots I had delivered beforehand, and it was odd. He really didn’t knock me out, I was almost knocked out myself from throwing all the shots. You know the rope a dope? I’m the dope. So that ate me up for a long time.

Then Allan Malamud from Los Angeles, a sports reporter, came down to my ranch. He was on his way to report on Muhammad Ali fighting Leon Spinks in the dome in New Orleans. And he stopped by and I was working in my garden, of all places, and he said ‘George, what really happened in Africa? I want to know the truth.’ And I looked him in the face and said ‘you know, I lost; that’s what happened.’ He said ‘what?’ ‘Yeah, I got knocked out and lost the title. I even have pictures to prove it.’ And we burst out laughing. And that was the only time I got a little freedom from that. I was done with it.”

Read this next: Angelo Dundee reflects on The Rumble in the Jungle

Read this next: Original 1974 Ringside Report

WHERE DID ALI-FOREMAN FIGURE in the 100 Greatest Fights of All-Time?

October 29, 2018
October 29, 2018
Muhammad Ali

The Courier-Journal/USA Today Sports

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ON this day 58 years ago Muhammad Ali, to some the greatest heavyweight champion in history, had his very first professional fight. Back on October 29, 1960, inside the Freedom Hall State Fairground in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, Ali, then known as Cassius Clay, met and defeated boxer/policeman Tunney Hunsaker over six largely one-sided rounds.

No-one, not even the 18-year-old Clay himself, could have possibly had any idea of all that lay ahead for the flashy, cocksure boxer.

Weighing in for the fight with the 15-9-1 30-year-old at just 186-pounds (Hunsaker wasn’t much heavier at 192), Clay would have been embarking on a cruiserweight career had the bout taken place today – and he’d have been a small cruiser at that. How times have changed, what with today’s huge juggernaut heavies; men who weigh around 250-pounds or more.

Back then, though, Clay was big enough to compete at heavyweight. Not that many people believed he was either big enough, strong enough or just plain good enough to do what he boasted he would do and become the world heavyweight champion. Clay had captured Olympic gold earlier that same year, at light-heavyweight. Nobody felt the teenager would one day go on to not only win the world title that was currently in the possession of Floyd Patterson, but to hold it for a number of years and even regain it on two occasions.

All that was still a long while away, however, and for now the man who would soon go on to be known as “The Louisville Lip” on account of his brashness and his big mouth, had to deal with Hunsaker, a man with a fair amount of pro experience. Hailing from Caldwell County in Kentucky, Hunsaker entered his fight with the Rome Olympian having lost his previous six fights, two by stoppage. The part time fighter was durable enough though, and he was a good test for Clay in his first paid fight.

After losing the unanimous decision to the man who would go on to “shock the world,” not against Patterson, but against Floyd’s successor, the terrifying Sonny Liston, Hunsaker had just seven more fights, winning just two. Tunney called it a day in the spring of 1962.

By this time, Clay was 13-0 and he had proven he could get up from a knockdown if he had to. Sonny Banks decked him with a left hook in their Feb. 1962 fight, only for Clay – who had by now begun making uncannily-accurate predictions ahead of his fights – to get up from his 1st-round trip to the canvas and halt him in the 4th-round. By now working his way up the world rankings, Clay was about to see the fearsome Liston rip the world crown from Patterson. Now “The Lip” had a new target to go after.

As history shows, Clay went on to “whup” Liston – refereed to by Clay as “The Big Ugly Bear” – and he did so twice, both times inside the distance. A mesmerising reign had begun with the Feb. 1964 win over Liston, and many more times through the years, Muhammad Ali, as he was now known, would thrill the entire world.

Muhammad Ali

From his local arena in Louisville, Ali went on to fight in places that would have blown his young mind in 1960: the African jungle of Zaire, the legendary Madison Square Garden in New York, Arsenal football stadium in London, England, the Waldstadion in Frankfurt, Germany, The Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta, Indonesia, the Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City, Manila, The Philippines and many venues in Fabulous Las Vegas.

Very much a world champion, Ali saw it all through his amazing boxing career. A career that began exactly fifty-eight years ago today.

Tunney Hunsaker passed away in April of 2005, aged 75. He will forever be remembered by boxing fans as “The Greatest’s” first professional opponent.

October 29, 2018
October 29, 2018
Wilfredo_Gomez011Copyright-(1)

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PUERTO RICO has produced many outstanding fighters, but arguably the best is Wilfredo Gomez – and that’s ahead of Wilfred Benitez, Felix Trinidad and Miguel Cotto.

Gomez held the WBC super-bantamweight title from May 1977 to early 1983, making a record 17 defences for the division. He didn’t lose the title in the ring, but relinquished to move to featherweight, where he became WBC champ. And he would eventually hold the WBA belt title in a third weight class, super-feather, when clearly past his best.

If he didn’t become a global superstar, it was probably because the 8st 10lbs class was still only a year old when he first became world champion, and many took it lightly as an “in between” weight. And when Wilfredo first stepped up to 9st, against Mexican Salvador Sanchez in 1981, he was dropped and stopped in eight rounds. But at his best he was a formidable fighter. His nickname of “Bazooka” suggests one-punch knockout power, but in fact Gomez overwhelmed opponents with blazing combinations of hurtful, accurate blows.

In 1978 former Boxing News editor Graham Houston described Gomez as, “a boxer-puncher with the feline quality of a smaller Jose Napoles. He’s very dangerous because he always seems poised to strike. He’s got the sloped shoulders of a puncher and his power’s combined with a very high degree of accuracy.”

Gomez was a precocious talent. He competed in the 1972 Olympics as a 15-year-old flyweight and lost first time out. Two years later, when still only 17, he struck bantam gold at the inaugural World Amateur Championships in Havana, destroying a Cuban in the final. His pro debut saw him held to a draw, but then Wilfredo won his next 32 bouts inside the distance. He so dominated the super-bantams that he had to seek other challenges, most notably in October 1978 when he defended against WBC bantam king Carlos Zarate. It was a superfight: the Mexican had won all his 52 fights, 51 inside the limit, while Gomez had 21 wins (all early) to go with that initial draw.

Yet Gomez made it one-sided, flooring a flu-weakened Zarate three times and stopping him in five rounds.

The Sanchez setback kept him down in the 8-10 division and in 1982 he figured in a breathtaking battle against Mexico’s Lupe Pintor at the New Orleans Superdome. Both slammed away non-stop until Pintor, a former unbeaten WBC bantam champion, wilted to be rescued in round 14.

That was on the Thomas Hearns-Wilfred Benitez bill, and six months earlier Gomez had retained in the chief support to the Larry Holmes-Gerry Cooney world heavyweight title fight in Las Vegas.

In the end, Gomez’s talent proved a burden as well as a blessing. It was said that he didn’t bother training specifically for an opponent, rather just worked out to shed weight. And in retirement he suffered drug problems, putting on so much weight that he was hardly recognisable. But nobody can mistake how good Wilfredo was in his prime.

Celluloid hero
In 2003 a biographical film entitled Bazooka: The Battles of Wilfredo Gomez was produced by Cinemar Films. The documentary was directed by Mario Diaz and filmed in New York City.

FAST FACTS

Born October 29, 1956 Wins 44 Knockouts 42 Losses 3 Draws 1 Best Win Carlos Zarate w rsf 5 Worst loss Salvador Sanchez l rsf 8 Pros Combination punching, power, speed Cons Didn’t like training

October 28, 2018
October 28, 2018
Georges_Carpentier003

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GEORGES CARPENTIER, known as “The Orchid Man”, came from a different era. In order to take his first paid fight, aged just 13, he walked 100 miles to Paris and won a four-round decision.

Even now, many years after his death at the age of 81, Carpentier remains France’s biggest boxing idol, jointly with the ill-fated Marcel Cerdan. His achievements fully justify that exalted status.

He boxed in every division then extant, from flyweight up to heavy, and possessed a devastating right hand, which he landed with great speed. He also had what Boxing News called “debonair good looks and suave charm”, which contributed greatly to his popularity at a time when boxers were often considered brutes.

He made boxing respectable and was actually the crowd favourite when he challenged the menacing Jack Dempsey for the world heavyweight title in 1921. That was also due to their respective World War I records: while the Manassa Mauler avoided active service, Carpentier had served as a lieutenant in the French aviation corps and held the Croix de Guerre.

The reigning world light-heavyweight king, Georges at 12st 4lbs conceded 16lbs – rumours had the difference much greater – but wobbled the champion with rights in round two before the bigger man reasserted himself and retained in the fourth.

Interest in the Jersey City fight was so great that Tex Rickard built a huge wooden bowl, with some 80,000 spectators cramming into the cauldron-like structure under a blazing afternoon sun.

Carpentier was not fazed, as befits one who had been contesting titles for many years, astutely managed by Francois Descamps.

He was only 15 when he beat Charles Ledoux to become French bantamweight champion. In October 1911, still only 17, he came to London and knocked out Young Joseph for the European welterweight crown. He would notch many other big wins in the UK capital, becoming very popular with British fans.

In February 1912, a month after his 18th birthday, Carpentier flattened Jim Sullivan in two rounds for the vacant European title up at middleweight. He kept growing and in 1913 became continental king at first light-heavy, then full heavyweight. He had not left his teenage years.

War brought a five-year break but when Carpentier returned in 1919 the Frenchman was as good as ever, and in 1920 he became world champion by knocking out Battling Levinsky in four rounds in Jersey City.

Following the unsuccessful Dempsey challenge, he scored two knockout wins in London, including a first-rounder over much smaller Ted Kid Lewis (just 11st 3lbs) in defence of his European heavyweight sceptre, before putting his world title at stake against Battling Siki in 1922.

A raw but strong man from Senegal, Siki battered the over-confident champion into a shocking sixth-round KO defeat, and while Georges boxed on until 1926 his glory days were over.

In retirement he ran a cocktail bar in Paris and was always a welcome, charismatic presence at major boxing shows.

Georges Carpentier was ranked No.69 in the Boxing News 100 Greatest Fighters of All-Time. Order your copy here

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