Sharkie’s Machine: Undisputed End Of The Year Boxing Cheer

14.12.03 - By Frank Gonzalez Jr.: The Holidays are upon us and hard-core fans that paid fifty bucks to watch this weekends Don King Pay-Per-View event got their money’s worth. King showed boxing fans how to really throw a party Saturday night in Atlantic City (for a fee of course). Here’s a rundown of five of the fights featured on the card.

The Lightweights - Zab Judah vs. Jaime Rangel:
This great card of fights started with Super Lightweight Zab Judah knocking out ‘unheard of’ Jaime Rangel in the early moments of the first round. We didn’t get to see if Rangel had any skills since the fight ended as soon as Judah connected with a big straight left that put Jaime down and out. I expected Judah to win against this fighter from Colombia that I never heard of before. Might as well open the show with a knock out. Credit to Judah for his expedience in a job well done.

This fight does little to advance the case for a rematch with Kostya Tszyu since Jaime Rangel may be a somebody in Colombia but is a nobody here in the USA, though I’m sure it made Zab feel vindicated. Tszyu might retire after his next fight and I doubt he cares about what Judah wants. If Judah had better manners, Tszyu might’ve already given Zab a rematch. Judah sickened Kostya Tszyu with his poor sportsmanship after he knocked Judah out in the second round in November of 2001. After Judah’s memorable dance, he threw a tantrum, flinging a stool in the ring and sticking his fist into Referee Jay Nady’s throat, which got Judah suspended for six months. The brief suspension was a slap on the wrist for disgracing himself and his sport. Judah should consider chasing Sharmba Mitchell instead. But, no point in discussing what won’t happen so lets look at the next fight.

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The Jr. Middleweights
Alejandro Garcia vs. Travis Simms
(22-1-0-21 KO’s) (23-0-0-18 KO’s)

This was a battle of unbeaten Super Welterweights. Simms had been inactive for 13 months coming into the fight and I wondered if ring rust would be a problem against Garcia, a big puncher.

The fight was close, with Garcia’s punches having more pop and Simms’ superior boxing skills setting up his well-timed shots. It ended in the fifth round, when Simms caught Garcia not “protecting himself at all times” after a break and landed a big left hook that put Garcia down and out. Garcia made a huge mistake and paid dearly. The ref was not between the fighters but he was instructing them to break. As they separated, Garcia looked at the ref for a second and Simms took the opportunity to whack him and that was the end of the fight. When Garcia views the tapes, he’s going to drop his head between his knees as he sees where his 0 went. A life lesson he best never forget.

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The Heavyweights
John Ruiz vs. Hasim Rahman
(39-5-1-27 KO’s) (35-5-1-29 KO’s)

In a Heavyweight eliminator bout that featured former WBA Champion, John “The Quiet Man” Ruiz against perennial contender and former WBC champ, Hasim Rahman. I expected Rahman to beat Ruiz by decision but I underestimated the ability of Ruiz to rise to the occasion. This was an ugly fight that featured John Ruiz doing what he does best—holding and hitting. There’s nothing complex about Ruiz fight strategy, throw a one, two, and hold. Rinse and repeat. I expected Rahman to use his considerable reach advantage and box Ruiz from the outside, ever popping him with the jab and scoring points. That didn’t happen.

Ruiz dictated the tempo of the fight from the opening bell. He would stay close enough to always clinch as soon as Rahman set to punch. He nullified Hasim’s ability to get into rhythm or do much of anything. I only scored two rounds for Rahman in that fight. I was SHOCKED that Ruiz not only fought passionately, but that he fought SMART. Even after Rahman was able to make John’s nose bleed, he stuck with his strategy and pace.

After seeing Ruiz awful performance against Roy Jones Jr. last February, where John fought a good first round and then went into a shell for the rest of the fight, giving Roy practically every round, my expectations of Ruiz were understandably low. Maybe personal problems played a bigger role in Ruiz vs. Jones then I thought possible. Ruiz spirit seemed right Saturday and he ruled Rahman.

One thing was reinforced for me on Saturday night, and that is that on any given night, anyone can win. Boxing is truly the theater of the unexpected and Ruiz domination over Rahman was surprising to me since I consider Rahman to be a pretty good boxer and Ruiz to be one of the least skillful fighters to ever wear a Title-belt. I’m happy to say, Ruiz proved me wrong. He does have skills, albeit unbecoming aesthetically—effective, nonetheless.

Ruiz used his jab and scored at will. He caught Rahman with some big shots and was never once in trouble himself the whole fight.

Had Ruiz not been hampered by Referee Jay Nady to do what he does best (hit and hold) against Roy Jones Jr. there’s a good chance Jones would have two losses on his record today. But Jay Nady nullified Ruiz best weapon in that fight last February. Referee Randy Newman let them fight. Ruiz was frustrating for Rahman to endure and since Hasim never decided to take charge of the direction of the fight, he fought Ruiz style and got beat to the punch all night.

I had this fight scored 118-112 in favor of Ruiz, with Rahman winning only two rounds out of 12. Two of the Judges’ scores were consistent with mine; Joseph Pasquale had it, 118-110 for Ruiz and George Hill had it, 116-112 for Ruiz. Judge John Pottery had it 115-114 and I don’t know what fight he was watching. But all had it unanimously for Ruiz and surprisingly, the right call was made and the winner won.

There is four months left for Roy Jones Jr. to decide whether he will defend his WBA Heavyweight Title or be stripped. Will he fight a rematch against Ruiz? The outlook is doubtful. Unless Jones is assured that Nady will ref that fight, don’t hold your breath. After Roy was granted the decision win over Antonio Tarver (at Light Heavy), Jones said that he only wants one more fight—against Mike Tyson. He said if he couldn’t get a Tyson fight, he would probably retire.

Fighting Tarver exposed how hittable Jones really is if you pressure him. It’s doubtful that Jones will risk getting hurt in any more tough fights; one per decade is enough for Jones. Did you see his face after Tarver?

I doubt Tyson will take a fight with Roy in the next four months and Tyson would hardly be a legitimate Title defense, since Tyson is NOT the #1 contender in ANY division. But, as we all are aware…that can be fixed. Even if it is arranged, will Tyson face Roy within the next four months? No way. So, John Ruiz will probably assume the WBA Title as his once again.

Lennox Lewis was in attendance and I wondered what he thought of Ruiz scrappy win over his former two-time opponent, “Has-been” Rahman? Lewis could opt to fight Ruiz before he retires instead of Vitali Klitschko. That would not enhance Lewis’ legacy much if he won but its probably safer then a rematch with Vitali. I hope Lewis does decide to make Lewis vs. Klitschko II because if Lewis gets in the right shape and Vitali stays the course—it could be one of the most anticipated (and profitable) events of 2004

* * *

The Welterweights
Ricardo Mayorga vs. Cory Spinks
(25-4-1-22 KO’s) (32-2-0-10 KO’s)

This was the upset of the year. Few people expected the little traveled Spinks to last more than a few rounds against one of the most vicious punchers in boxing. Spinks had not fought anyone more famous then Michele Piccirillo of Italy or Antonio Diaz of California. Spinks only claim to fame is his relatives who were stars of Boxing’s past, uncle Michael Spinks, the Light HW champ that went up to Heavyweight and beat Larry Holmes and his father Leon Spinks, who once beat Muhammad Ali and won the HW world title. (And still never did get dentures.)

All the hype leading up to this fight found Mayorga, in his celebrated bravado, shooting his mouth off and saying some below-the-belt remarks directed at Spinks. He promised to send Cory to be with his dead mother—a serious low blow. That, in my opinion, was one of the (spiritual) reasons Mayorga lost this fight. Bad karma followed him right into the ring after making that terrible remark.

Spinks entered the ring with what looked like exaggerated calm, dancing strangely to strange music and looking possessed as he wiggled awkwardly into the ring. Memories of Vernon Forrest entering to rap music in their first fight crept into my mind.

Ricardo Mayorga entered the ring clad in a black leather jacket and a blue Nicaraguan colored ball cap on backwards and a cold expression on his face, the kind a Central American Death Squad commander might fancy.

I figured Mayorga would knock Cory out by the third round. I gave Cory no chance. Then the fight started.

Cory proved light on his feet as he danced around Mayorga, boxing and slipping some of Mayorga’s big shots. Ricardo didn’t try to close the show right away and I guessed that he was so confident, that he was going to extend it to four rounds (as he said he would) and then knock Spinks out. Mayorga chased Spinks and pressed the action and won the first round.

From the second round on, Cory was showing great ability to slip all of Ricardo’s power punches and land a few of his own. He did especially well countering Mayorga and scoring at will.

I thought about how Mayorga must have taken Spinks too lightly because Mayorga didn’t look as sharp as I’ve seen him before. Maybe Spinks was just better than I expected. Spinks put on a clinic Saturday night called—“How to beat Ricardo Mayorga.”

The referee, Tony Orlando had to warn Mayorga several times about holding behind the head and hitting, throwing elbows and hitting after the bell. At the end of the second round, Mayorga had some unfriendly words with Orlando, who paid him little mind and kept doing his job, trying to keep things clean.

The frustration mounted in the third round as Spinks out-boxed him and made Mayorga look amateurish. Spinks was connecting, slipping, sliding, circling and frustrating Mayorga. Mayorga would come on late in the rounds (trying to steal) with flurries of power shots that mostly hit air and always throwing punches after the bell and having to be restrained by the ref.

By the fifth round, Mayorga had a point deducted for hitting after the bell. In that round, Mayorga scored well but Cory still did just enough to win, making that a 10-8 round for Spinks.

Cory continued to win rounds by jabbing, moving and avoiding Mayorga’s power. Even when Ricardo scored, the punches were not landing flush. When Mayorga landed shots, Spinks showed a damn good chin. Spinks slipped in the eighth and one hand touched the canvas. It was ruled a slip. In the ninth, Spinks toyed with Mayorga, who just couldn’t catch Cory. By the tenth, it was clear that Cory was the master over Mayorga as he kept on out-boxing him.

In the eleventh round, Orlando took another point from Mayorga for holding behind Cory’s head and punching. Spinks slipped again on the wet canvas, ruled a slip. It was like the Gods were toying with Mayorga too as the only way Cory was going down would be if he slipped. Bad karma. In the 12th round, Mayorga looked like he caught Spinks and put him down but it was ruled a slip. Instant replay proved that Cory had in fact slipped and fell into the ropes and Mayorga had nothing to do with it.

Cory out boxed Mayorga all night long and won big on my scorecard, 116-109. The Judges scores were shady. Arthur Ellenshon had it 114-114, a Draw. Apparently he filled out his card after the third round. Eugene Grant had it 114-112 for Spinks, unrealistically close. Judge John Keane had the most realistic score, 117-110 for Spinks.

Mayorga lost his WBA and WBC titles. The ride was over. El Matador was served up a slice of humble pie. Mayorga ate the pie and draped his lost belts over Cory’s body and grabbed Spinks hand and kissed it in a sign of respect from a man with a hard code of honor. He apologized for the remarks he made to Cory and said it was all in promoting the fight. Spinks was a gentleman and accepted his apology.

Congratulations to Cory Spinks for an amazing display of boxing skill and proving that sometimes—good boxing skills CAN nullify the most eager power-punching slugger. Now it is Cory Spinks that is the Undisputed Welterweight Champion. So, will Spinks fight Shane Mosley in place of Ricardo Mayorga this up coming April?

We will find out soon enough.

* * *

The Middleweights
Bernard Hopkins vs. William Joppy
(43-2-1-31 KO’s) (34-3-1-25 KO’s)

The last fight was a Middleweight Championship bout between Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins against William Joppy, owner of a confusing piece of the title that Hopkins already owns. No one expected Joppy to win but at 38 years old, Hopkins is going to lose one of these days.

This fight was the most boring of the night, with Hopkins dominating Joppy all night long in an ugly clinch-fest that had Joppy coming up short in every single round. A 12 round shut out.

The only interesting thing about this fight was the bet between Joppy and Hopkins. If Joppy were to go the distance, Hopkins would pay him $50,000. If he didn’t go the distance, he would owe Hopkins $25,000.

Joppy fought like his aim was to just go the distance. He didn’t punch enough and allowed Bernard to dictate every facet of the fight. Joppy came in to the fight with an angular shaped face and left with a head shaped like a pumpkin, compliments of all the shots Hopkins landed on it. After the fight, Hopkins praised Joppy as a tough guy “from the hood”. As much as Hopkins was scoring, he could not knock Joppy down. That, for Bernard was call for much respect. Interestingly, Tito Trinidad knocked Joppy out and then Hopkins went on to knock Tito out but Hopkins couldn’t knock Joppy out. Go figure.

During the post fight interview, conducted by one of my favorite Boxing writers, Wallace Mathews (formerly of the N.Y. Post Sports pages), Hopkins said that this was the most exciting fight on the entire card. Obviously Hopkins must not have seen the other fights.

With Joppy defeated, there’s not much left for Bernard at Middleweight besides maybe Howard Eastman, which won’t bring the kind of money Hopkins wants. He’s going to have to wait and see if he can cash in on a mega fight with Oscar De La Hoya, who clearly don’t want to fight Bernard. Hopkins has called out DLH for quite some time now and to no avail. Oscar may fight one more 154-pounder who’s not named Hopkins and retire from boxing and focus on promoting fights instead.

Bernard might want to consider moving up to 168 and face the fighter who claims to want to fight him so badly—Joe Calzaghe, the WBO Super Middleweight Champion from Wales. That would be a great fight. Calzaghe enjoyed two impressive victories in his last two outings against Philadelphia fighter Charles Brewer and former WBA Champion, Byron Mitchell and he’s a dangerous proposition for Hopkins but worthy of serious consideration. If they fought in England, the purse could be huge. Waiting for smaller men to step up to him has proven to be a waste of time and time is the one thing Bernard does not have at 38 years old and counting. As for William Joppy, at least he’ll have an extra $50 thousand to get him through the holiday season.

Happy Holidays.

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Article posted on 14.12.2003

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