Archive for March, 2012

Judah, Adamek back on radar, joined by unbeaten Jennings

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Zab Judah

Zab Judah improved to 42-7 with his 29th career knockout. (Ed Mulholland/US Presswire)

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Three thoughts from three strong fights Saturday night …

Zab Judah is back. In the aftermath of Judah’s uncompetitive fifth-round knockout loss to Amir Khan last summer, many believed his days as a big-fight headliner were over. But the resilient Judah bounced back, stopping undefeated prospect Vernon Paris with a blurring flurry in the ninth round. It was a dominant win by Judah, who was first with the jab, first with combinations and confused Paris with angles all night. Before the fight Paris claimed he was going to put pressure on Judah, but it was Judah who was coming forward throughout the fight.

With the win, Judah becomes the mandatory challenger for the winner of the May fight between Khan and Lamont Peterson. A rematch with Khan is unlikely — even if Khan wins, he’s eyeing a move up to 147-pounds — but there are plenty of options for Judah (42-7) to choose from. The junior welterweight division is flush with talent, including Peterson, Marcos Maidana and Danny Garcia as well as Juan Manuel Marquez and Brandon Rios. Judah’s performance and his popularity — the overnight numbers on NBC Sports Network were up 12 percent from the first show in January despite competing with an HBO show on the same night — will make him a marketable opponent.

Paris (26-1) is at something of a crossroads. At 24, Paris is young enough to bounce back. But he doesn’t seem to take his training seriously. He admitted he didn’t train a day for his 2010 fight with Ramon Guevara and was four pounds overweight on the day before the weigh-in. Paris is talented, but he needs to sharpen his focus if he hopes to advance his career.

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  • Published On Mar 25, 2012
  • Martin Murray withdraws from June fight with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.

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    Great Britain's Martin Murray (right) battled middleweight beltholder Felix Sturm to a draw in December. (Uwe Anspach/DPA/ZUMAPRESS.com)

    British middleweight Martin Murray has withdrawn from a June 16 fight with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. due to legal issues preventing him from obtaining a visa to enter the United States. The issues are connected to Murray’s past criminal behavior, which included street fighting and robbery, crimes that resulted in four separate stints in prison.

    “I’d signed the contract and everything was agreed, so to be told I cannot box Chavez Jr. because of my past is gut-wrenching,” Murray said. “As a human being, I couldn’t have done any more to turn my life around over the last seven years. I have a fantastic wife, Gemma. We have two wonderful children, Archie and Amelia. They are my life and everything I do is for them.”

    Murray, 29, popped on the international radar last December, when he battled WBA middleweight champion Felix Sturm to a draw. Murray’s manager Neil Marsh and promoter Ricky Hatton said in a statement that they would work to resolve the visa issues quickly. In the meantime, they will look to make a fight for Murray (23-0-1) in the U.K., where he could defend his minor domestic titles.

    “I am a qualified youth worker and spend lots of time working with kids making an effort to help keep them out of trouble,” Murray said. “I am pleading with the youth of today not to make the same mistakes I did when I was young. Even if you change your life around it can still come back to bite you.”

    Meanwhile, Chavez Jr. will look to fill Murray’s slot. Industry sources say unbeaten junior middleweight contender Vanes Martirosyan and middleweight Andy Lee are the leading candidates.

    – Chris Mannix


  • Published On Mar 20, 2012
  • Victor Ortiz completes Los Angeles marathon in personal-best time

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    Victor Ortiz (left), who ran the L.A. Marathon on Sunday in a personal-best time, fights a return bout with Andre Berto (right) on June 23. (AP)

    Victor Ortiz returned to action Sunday for the first time since September’s knockout loss to Floyd Mayweather — but it wasn’t in the prize ring.

    The former WBC welterweight champion completed the Los Angeles Marathon in a personal-best three hours, 27 minutes, finishing among the top third of an estimated 30,000 starters.

    “It was such great fun running with all these world class marathoners,” Ortiz said. “I know that made me run better than ever. In many ways it couldn’t be any more different that boxing. I mean nobody is punching you in the nose, the gut, the kidneys and on the chin and up the side of your head.

    “But in other ways doing this very much relates to boxing. Conditioning the lungs, the legs and building endurance. That’s why all fighters do road work. But 26-plus miles is something else.”

    The Ventura, Calif., native is scheduled to face Andre Berto on June 23 in a rematch of last year’s crowd-pleasing title fight, a split-decision win for Ortiz. That triumph vaulted Ortiz into a pay-per-view showdown with Mayweather in September, when he lost his title on a fourth-round knockout.

    “I won’t say going 12 three-minute championship rounds is easy,” Ortiz said. “Anything but. But Berto must know how prepared I’ll be when he hears I ran this well three months before our fight. I’m very happy.”

    Ortiz’s manager, Rolando Arellano, also participated but injured his knee and said he’ll require surgery.

    “Victor would have finished even faster if he didn’t lay back with me during the early miles,” Arellano said. “When I insisted go get it and don’t worry about me, he took off like he had rockets in his shoes.”

    Arellano did finish the race eventually.

    “Rolando is a bulldog,” Ortiz said. “He finished the marathon hurt knee and all … in eight hours.”

    – Bryan Armen Graham


  • Published On Mar 19, 2012
  • Mikkel Kessler withdraws from April title fight with Robert Stieglitz

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    Former 168-pound champ Mikkel Kessler was forced to pull out of April's super middleweight title fight with Robert Stieglitz. (Christinne Muschi/Reuters)

    Mikkel Kessler is out of next month’s super middleweight title fight against Robert Stieglitz. Kessler said on Monday that his recovery from hand surgery last November has slowed his training and will keep him out of the ring until May 19.

    Kessler’s promoter, Sauerland Event, said a new opponent will be announced next week.

    “I hate to keep my fans waiting and I am really sorry about the delay,” Kessler said. “As a boxer, my fists are my biggest weapon. To fight and to win at the highest level, I need my hand to be fully recovered. Unfortunately, the April 14 date comes just a little too early but I will be ready on May 19th. I have kept my shape and can’t wait to be fighting again in front of my Danish fans.”

    Kessler appeared to be building some momentum in 2010, when he outpointed Carl Froch in the group stage of Showtime’s Super Six tournament. But a subsequent eye injury knocked him out of the tournament and his only fight since was a knockout win over Mehdi Bouadla.

    “Although I believe that Mikkel would defeat 90 percent of the super middleweights out there with just one hand, we will not let him into the ring when he is not fully recovered,” promoter Kalle Sauerland said. “His health has always been our top priority. The five-week delay is disappointing but it´s not the end of the world. On May 19th, Mikkel will come back in style and put on a great show.”

    – Chris Mannix


  • Published On Mar 12, 2012
  • TUFL speed-dates 16 into Fighter House

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    The big reveal during Friday’s relaunch of The Ultimate Fighter Live on FX was single-round fights, which allowed the network and UFC owners, Zuffa LLC, to squeeze 16 qualifier fights into two-and-a-half hours. But did this abbreviated system yield the best competitors?

    Here’s what we know. UFC President Dana White debriefed the 32 fighters regarding their condensed bouts on Wednesday when they congregated in Las Vegas, giving them all two days to adjust and strategize accordingly. In the past, TUF competitors fought two to three rounds (like in standard MMA bouts), which allowed the fighters time to feel out their opponents, switch up game plans, come from behind in the later round(s), and (possibly) use their hard-earned stamina to their advantage – all nuances that help define a fighter beyond his skillset alone and add depth to a fight in general.

    Though it successfully weeded out the slow-starters, the single-round fights did deprive viewers (and scouting coaches Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber) of all these detailed “tells” that could have really helped them in their evaluations.

    Cruz put it best when asked by UFC President Dana White which winners were standing out for him after a few bouts. The UFC bantamweight champion said it was difficult to evaluate fighters within one round, and he was right.  Cruz and Faber were being asked to speed-date their auditionees and are going to have to use their gut reactions a lot more than usual during their team selections on Saturday. It all felt a bit rushed.

    The single rounds also posed the potential quandary that a fight between two closely talented fighters could deprive us of a decisive and fair outcome. Surprisingly, this issue never really came into play. Half the fights ended with a submission or knockout (Zuffa giving out $5,000 bonuses for finishes was a stellar call), and of the eight decisions, only one was difficult to decide and not because both performed so well.

    James Vick and Dakota Cochrane stalemated in a wrestling match in the ninth bout. Neither did anything definitive to win the round, so the split decision in Vick’s favor was a true toss-up moment.

    Had there been a close fight between two talented opponents, it would have been much harder to let go of the defeated fighter, especially under these circumstances. It wouldn’t have seemed fair. The decision to use single rounds would have come under a lot more scrutiny had this happened, but that bullet was dodged here.

    On two day’s notice, most of the fighters seemed to adjust well and there were a few fighters who understood how to use condensed bouts  to their benefit. British import Andy Ogle secured his win in the final seconds by jumping to his back and latching a guillotine choke onto Brendan Weafer, who’d kept Ogle tied up for much of the round in a triangle choke and could have swayed the judges.

    You can’t argue with the eight finishes (they’re almost always dramatic), though should it be assumed the fights would have ended this way no matter how many rounds they were assigned? It’s hard to say. Would some of these matchups have gone past the first round had the fighters been given the option? We’ll never know. Not all fighters hunt for the finish from the opening bell. Some are strategists who pace themselves, while others excel in adapting to unexpected turns in the fight. Were a few of these fighters lost in this process?

    And should these fights be counted toward the fighters’ pro records? Is it fair to weigh these fights alongside two, three, and five-round fights? (I’m leaning toward no.)

    Thankfully, these won’t be issues next week, when the show shifts to its more traditional format, with one live, multi-round fight to culminate each episode. The 16 lightweights who advanced into the fighter house and are now in the hunt for a UFC contract will have the chance to show what they’re made of in lengthier bouts, which is a good thing. It’s far more intriguing for fighters to work within multiple rounds with all of its nuances, as that’s an integral part of this sport.

    TUFL 1 Qualifying Bout Results

    Joe Proctor def. Jordan Rinaldi — Submission (Guillotine Choke) 2:08

    Cristiano Marcello def. Jared Caristen — Submission (Rear-Naked Choke) 2:43

    Sam Sicilia def. Erin Beach — KO 0:08

    Chris Tickle def. Austin Lyons – KO 0:24

    Andy Ogle def. Brendan Weaver — Unanimous Decision (10-9 all)

    Vinc Pichel def. Cody Pfister — Submission (Rear-Naked Choke) 3:39

    John Cofer def. Mark Glove — Unanimous Decision (10-9 all)

    Chris Saunders def. Chase Hackett – Unanimous Decision (10-9 all)

    James Vick def. Dakota Cochrane — Split Decision (9-10, 10-9, 10-9)

    Michael Chiesa def. Johnavan Vistante — Submission (Rear-Naked Choke) 2:05

    Mike Rio def. Ali Maclean – Submission (Rear-Naked Choke) 3:32

    Justin Lawrence def. James Krause — TKO (Punches) 1:25

    Daron Cruickshank def. Drew Dober — Unanimous Decision (10-9 all)

    Jeremy Larsen def. Jeff Smith — Unanimous Decision (10-9 all)

    Al Iaquinta def. Jon Tuck — Unanimous Decision (10-9 all)

    Myles Jury def. Akbarh Arreola — Unanimous Decision (10-9 all)

    -Loretta Hunt


  • Published On Mar 10, 2012
  • Huck to drop down, defend cruiser title

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    Marco Huck

    Marco Huck (right) impressed in his heavyweight debut, despite losing a narrow decision to Alexander Povetkin (Thomas Kienzle/Getty Images).

    Cruiserweight titleholder Marco Huck, who impressed in his heavyweight debut despite earning a narrow loss to Alexander Povetkin last month, has decided to drop back down to cruiserweight to defend his title. Huck will defend his belt against mandatory challenger Ola Afolabi.

    “We believe that defending his WBO cruiserweight title is the best thing for Marco to do,” said Huck’s promoter, Wilfried Sauerland. “At the age of 27 he is still very young for a boxer. He can always move up to heavyweight later.”

    Huck won the WBO title in 2009 and made eight defenses of it — including a competitive decision win over Afolabi — before deciding to make the jump to cruiserweight. In the aftermath of the loss to Povetkin, Huck called for an immediate rematch. But with Povetkin required to fulfill a mandatory defense of his minor title against Hasim Rahman in his next fight, Huck elected to go back and defend his title.

    “I would have loved to remain at heavyweight but my team convinced me to stay at cruiserweight for the time being,” Huck said. “That’s fine for me. I am happy to continue my domination and keep destroying opponents. I will start with Afolabi. He is a dangerous fighter but he has no chance against me.”

    Sauerland Event GM Chris Meyer told SI.com that a Povetkin-Huck rematch was possible — if both fighters want it.

    “We would love to do the rematch, though there is always bad blood if two fighters in one stable fight each other,” Meyer said. At the end it is only up to the fighters if they want to do it.”

    – Chris Mannix


  • Published On Mar 08, 2012
  • CSAC re-licenses Josh Barnett for May 19 bout with Daniel Cormier

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    LOS ANGELES — The California State Athletic Commission voted 4-2 on Monday to re-license former UFC heavyweight champion Josh Barnett for a May 19 bout against fellow Strikeforce grand prix finalist Daniel Cormier — his first fight in the state in more than three years.

    Barnett, 34, had been denied re-licensure in July 2009 for one year after a pre-fight test revealed an anabolic steroid in the fighter’s system prior to a headlining bout against Fedor Emelianenko for the now defunct Affliction promotion.

    As part of Barnett’s current application for re-licensure, the fighter had to submit to a urinalysis test around Feb. 29, of which the results came back negative for steroids. In its decision, the CSAC also stipulated that Barnett will be subject to random pre-fight urinalysis testing prior to his fight with Cormier, as well as any other bouts he accepts in California.

    On Monday, Barnett (31-5) told the attending six-member commission that he hadn’t knowingly ingested steroids prior to the 2009 test.

    “I can only assume that [the positive test] could have been from some sort of [tainted] supplementation that I unknowingly had taken,” Barnett said. “I know that I wasn’t taking steroids; that’s what I do know.”

    Barnett and his attorneys had previously begun the process to appeal the license denial in 2009, but never presented their case before the commission before the suspension expired in July 2010.

    In December 2010, Barnett appeared alone before the CSAC for re-licensure, but was instructed to return with legal representation. In the interim, Barnett fought bouts for Strikeforce in Ohio and Texas.

    When asked, Barnett also denied taking steroids prior to another positive test in 2002 conducted by the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

    In 2002, Barnett served a six-month suspension after a post-fight urinalysis detected three anabolic agents (Boldenone metabolite, Fluoxymesterone metabolite and Nandrolone metabolite) in his system following his victory over Randy Couture for the heavyweight title at UFC 36.

    Strikeforce general manager Scott Coker, who was in attendance at the hearing, said the promotion plans to hold the finals of its heavyweight eight-man tournament in California, possibly at San Jose’s HP Pavilion or an alternate Southern California location.

    – Loretta Hunt


  • Published On Mar 06, 2012
  • Gamboa-Rios in jeopardy after no-show

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    Yuri Gamboa

    Yuri Gamboa's trainer has 'no idea' why he missed Monday's press conference in Miami. (Martin Rose/Getty Images)

    The highly anticipated April fight between Brandon Rios and Yuri Gamboa is in jeopardy and frankly, no one knows why. On Monday, Gamboa was a no-show for his press conference in Miami to promote the bout, a press conference his promoter, Top Rank, says Gamboa specifically asked for.

    “I’m totally confused,” said Gamboa’s trainer, Emanuel Steward. “I called [co-promoter] Ahmet Ohner and he told me he was having problems. What I gathered from Ahmet is that he doesn’t have much control over the situation. He seemed very frustrated.”

    Steward, who just returned from training unified heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko, said the plan was for him to begin working with Gamboa after Andy Lee’s fight on March 10th. Now, Steward reiterated, “I have no idea what is going to happen.”

    Complicating the situation is the possible involvement of Floyd Mayweather. On Monday night David Levi, Mayweather’s personal assistant, posted a picture on Twitter of Gamboa working out at Mayweather’s boxing gym. Last month Roger Mayweather reportedly told boxingscene.com that Gamboa had signed a promotional deal with Mayweather Promotions.

    Top Rank President Todd duBoef says that not only does Gamboa have an ironclad promotional contract with Top Rank, but the two sides recently agreed to an extension.

    Top Rank issued a press release Monday confirming Tuesday’s scheduled press conference in Los Angeles to promote Rios-Gamboa will go on as planned.

    Said duBoef, “We’re expecting him to be there.”

    – Chris Mannix


  • Published On Mar 05, 2012
  • Three thoughts from Klitschko-Mormeck

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    Wladimir Klitschko

    With no heavyweight rivals, Wladimir Klitschko must set his sights on history to stay interested. (PATRICK STOLLARZ/GETTY IMAGES)

    DUSSELDORF, Germany — Three thoughts from Wladimir Klitschko’s fourth-round knockout win over Jean-Marc Mormeck:

    Well, that was predictable. I understand that there are no heavyweights that can reasonably be expected to challenge one of the Klitschko’s. But Mormeck was a terrible choice. The 39-year old former cruiserweight titleholder (with knockout losses to O’Neil Bell and David Haye on his résumé) had no business being in the ring with Wladimir. His heavyweight résumé consisted of wins — decision wins — over Vinny Maddalone, Fres Oquendo and Timur Ibragimov. He isn’t ranked in the top eight by the WBA (an organization that ranks Hasim Rahman as its No. 1 contender), WBO or IBF and isn’t ranked by the WBC at all.

    This was considered a massive mismatch, and it lived up to its billing, with Mormeck driving his head into Klitschko’s chest trying to get inside and Klitschko pot-shotting him from the outside when he couldn’t. Mormeck connected on three — three –punches before a brutal combination put him down and out in the fourth. In a word: pathetic.

    So where does Klitschko go now? There is a mandatory title defense due against Tony Thompson — the same Thompson who Klitschko knocked out cold in 2008 — which Klitschko’s manager, Bernd Boente, told me would take place in July. Down the road, Klitschko and his trainer, Emanuel Steward, both seem locked in on a fall fight with Chris Arreola, last seen getting his face carved up by Vitali Klitschko in 2009. Arrreola has lost some weight and put together a seven-fight winning streak, albeit against largely anonymous competition, and Klitschko told me in the ring after the fight that he believes he has proven himself worthy of a title shot. Klitschko’s motivation to fight Arreola is simple: He’s an American. Klitschko badly wants to fight in the U.S. and sees Arreola, who has an aggressive style, as part of the plan. Look for the two sides to work on putting that fight together in October or November, likely at Madison Square Garden.

    Is there anyone else? Klitschko rattled off a list of contenders — Tyson Fury, David Price, Seth Mitchell, among others — after the fight but really, there is no one who can touch him. Klitschko is simply too big and too talented. His footwork is flawless, his power is concussive and his long, stinging jab is a potent weapon. To stay motivated, Klitschko must set goals. His win over Mormeck was the 11th straight defense of his title; Joe Louis holds the heavyweight record for title defenses with 25. Klitschko will be 36 this month, making Louis’ mark a daunting task. But with so many inferior opponents in front of him and no real threat on the horizon, he needs to strive for something.

    – Chris Mannix


  • Published On Mar 03, 2012
  • Experts’ predictions for Strikeforce: Tate vs. Rousey

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    Miesha Tate (left) defends her Strikeforce women's 135-pound title against upstart Ronda Rousey (right) on Saturday in Columbus. (Esther Lin/Forza LLC)

    SI.com analysts Ben Fowlkes, Loretta Hunt and Jeff Wagenheim provide their predictions for Saturday’s Strikeforce card at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.

    Miesha Tate vs. Ronda Rousey

    FOWLKES: We don’t know enough about Rousey yet to know whether she should be the favorite or the underdog. We know almost nothing about her, in fact, because she has less than a round’s worth of pro experience. That’s why I have to side with the known quantity and the current champ, who’s better and more experienced than anyone Rousey has faced. Tate by decision.

    HUNT: Can anyone stop Rousey’s armbar attack? There has to be someone, but I don’t think Tate will be the woman to do it. Rousey by submission.

    WAGENHEIM: Rousey is 4-0, all submission wins, none lasting more than 49 seconds. I don’t care if you’re fighting the Little Sisters of the Poor — that’s impressive. Sure, Tate is a big step up in competition, but what does that mean? Maybe it’ll take “Rowdy” Ronda two minutes this time. Rousey by submission.

    K.J. Noons vs. Josh Thomson

    FOWLKES: Thomson used to be a heck of a fighter before injuries descended on him like a plague. Now he fights only sporadically, and has to be careful not to hurt himself in training. That’ll cost him against a savvy striker like Noons, who won’t have the same concerns about rust and frailty. Noons by decision.

    HUNT: Thomson’s wrestling and submissions are superior, and I’d say their striking is closely comparable. The unknowns are 1) how the 15-month layoff has affected Thomson and 2) if Noons is still on the growth spurt we saw in his December fight against Billy Evangelista. Thomson by decision.

    WAGENHEIM: The oft-injured Thomson hasn’t fought since 2010, so he’ll have to contend with not just Noons but also his own rust. But “The Punk” has the more well-rounded game here — if he can find it. Thomson by decision.

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  • Published On Mar 02, 2012


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