Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Day Muhammad Ali Made the World Rumble


By Peter Silkov

 40 years ago today the world was witness to possibly the most bizarre, fantastic event in the long and colourful history of the sport of boxing. The event took place in a 19- foot ring, set up at the 20th of May Stadium in Kinshasa, Zaire, which was surrounded by a crowd of about 62,000. At the center of it all was Muhammad Ali, who inside that 19-foot ring square that morning, at just the break of dawn, performed the most extravagant and outrageous feat of his career, by beating a man whom most had believed would not only defeat him, but destroy him. There had been those, in the run up to Ali’s challenge of George Foreman, who had feared for Ali’s health and his life, against the rampaging destroyer that was George Foreman.

This was the fight that Ali was supposed to lose. Many watching it that night, either in the audience or in one of the numerous closed circuit theatres that were broadcasting the fight all around America and Europe fully expected this to be the last fight of Muhammad Ali’s career. Most people believed he would give it his best show his great heart, and some flashes of his former brilliance. But, then he would tire and Foreman would catch him, or else Foreman might even catch him before he tired, either way, few saw the fight lasting the distance, and that meant only one thing; a punishing knockout or stoppage defeat for “The Greatest.” 

Despite his amazing career up until that point, all expectations were that Ali was heading towards his doom in Zaire.

One of Foreman’s own trainers, Archie Moore, the former World light-heavyweight champion, who had been knocked out in 4 rounds by a young and skinny Ali (then Cassius Clay) in 1963, would later say that he had prayed for Ali’s well being before the contest, fearful that he could be killed. Foreman’s physical strength and punching power was such that he was known for wrecking punching bags in the gym, hitting them with such force that they would be torn savagely from their metal moorings.

Even Howard Cosell, the commentator with whom Ali had formed almost a double act with, and who had a genuine affection for The Greatest, gave Ali no chance against Foreman, saying on a pre-fight show that the match represented Ali’s ‘Last supper.’

Perhaps one of the biggest ironies of this contest was the similarity between Foreman and Sonny Liston, who a young Ali had won the world title from in 1964.  Liston had actually been Foreman’s idol and the two had sparred together when Foreman was just starting out on his professional career. Like Liston, Foreman was a brooding character, who built up a fearsome image both inside and out side of the ring. He was a dark force of destruction, just like Liston had been before him, and the media was already calling him unbeatable and invincible.

Yet, the comparisons between Liston and Foreman were not seen as good news for Ali. It had been a decade before when Ali had beaten Liston, with his mercurial speed and skills, when he was a fresh and a hungry 22-year-old. Those ten years included 3 and a half years when he had been banned from the ring for refusing the draft call up for Vietnam. Three and a half years in which he had lost his peak, where time and idleness had rusted up his marvelous speed and skills.

On his return, Ali was still ’great,’ but he was no longer as great as before. Joe Frazier had beaten him in 1971, as Ali struggled to jab and dance for 15 rounds, as he had been able to in the past. The speed and reflexes never came totally back for Ali and at times, he seemed to be almost an imitation of his former fighting self. 

The Greatest had racked up 13 victories in the three years since the Frazier defeat, but there was also the loss to Ken Norton. Although Ali had avenged it six months later, and followed this up with a revenge victory over Frazier, a broken jaw had accompanied the loss to Norton. The man who once had been so hard to hit was getting hit regularly now, and hard.

Ali’s victories over Norton and Frazier were almost workman-like when compared to Foreman’s own performances against the same two men. While Ali had gone 27 rounds with Joe Frazier and 24 rounds with Ken Norton, George Foreman had simply destroyed both men in 2 rounds each. When Foreman had won the world title from Frazier he had floored “Smoking Joe” six times in 2 rounds and he had knocked Norton clear of his senses also in the same time. 

So how could even The Greatest prevail against such a fighter! 

Originally scheduled for September 25, 1974, the fight was delayed for over a month when Foreman was cut beside the right eye by the elbow of sparring partner Bill McMurray. The delay just added to the anticipation and tension of the occasion. With people torn between hoping to see something truly special and historic from The Greatest, but fearing that they were about to watch his nadir.     

The fight was postponed until October 30, and Foreman seemed to be getting meaner by the day in training, his habitual beating upon his sparring partners reaching new heights. While Ali was visibly loved and feted wherever he went in Zaire, the brooding champion, Foreman, was a man apart. 

By the night of the fight the atmosphere had entered the surreal. The fighters entered the ring at around 4 am in the morning in order to facilitate American TV coverage.  Both fighters would be receiving 5 million dollars, in a promotion that had been coerced and manipulated from start to finish by Don King, in what was his first major promotional venture. He had even managed to get Zaire’s murderous president Mombuto Secko on board. Seldom has a World heavyweight title fight had a darker host. 

Almost from the start of the fight it became clear that Ali was supported by 90% of the crowd. The crowd that was made up of a large portion of native Congolese, and a selection of European and American members of the media, and celebrities who had come along for the ride.

Upon entering the ring, Muhammad Ali seemed to be the most relaxed person in the stadium that night, certainly more relaxed than his stone-faced corner and the blank- eyed world champion, whose unblinking stare spoke volumes for his intentions. 

As the anthems were played before the start of the contest, Ali mocked and taunted Foreman, whose expression never changed. Those watching Ali’s antics wondered if his humour was that of someone with real confidence or the bravery of someone heading towards the gallows.

At the first bell, Ali sprang his first surprise of the night! Instead of running, instead of moving away around the ring, he went right at Foreman, firing a right hand that seemed to surprise the champion, and then spearing Foreman with a flow of lefts that seemed to find the champion’s face with surprising ease. Foreman came forward menacingly; landing to Ali’s body and driving him into the ropes momentarily, but Ali came off the ropes and retook the center of the ring. Instead of running, Ali was taking the fight to Foreman, while moving side-to-side to avoid the punches coming back his way. Between rounds Ali winked across the ring from where he sat in his corner, with the air of a man who was just beginning to enjoy himself. Just before the start of the second round the crowd began to chant ‘Ali Bomaye’ (Ali kill him.) 

In the second round, Ali seemingly abandoned his plan of taking the center ring and allowed himself to be bulled onto the ropes by the champion, where he covered up and leaned back, as Foreman swung furiously with both arms, as if he were trying to chop down a tree.  Now and then Ali would strike back with some sharp jabs and straight right hands that would land flush in Foreman’s face, and then he would go back onto the ropes, as his corner screamed for him to move. By the third round the fight had formed a pattern, despite the exhortations of his corner, Ali was seemingly content to go onto the ropes and cover up, while Foreman belabored him with punch after punch, swing after swing.  Many punches were blocked by Ali’s arms or slipped, as he twisted and leaned back far on the ropes, but some were getting through, and when they landed, with audible thuds, those at ringside gave audible gasps.
Yet, just when things seemed to be getting totally one-sided, Ali would come back with punches of his own, sharp lefts, and heavy lead rights that were catching Foreman flush in the face.

This was the rope-a-dope, something that Ali would later say that he first developed in training when he was tired, laying on the ropes and daring his sparring partners to hit him as much as they could. It was an almost masochistic method of getting himself beat into shape. 

The fourth followed the same pattern as the third, with Ali laying on the ropes and seemingly taking punches which no other man had ever stood up to before. All the while he was talking to Foreman, ‘Is that all you got! They told me you could punch George!’ 

When struck flush, Ali would hold momentarily and wrestle with Foreman, while sharing his head at the crowd to assure them (and himself) that he wasn’t hurt. 


By the 5th round it was clear something strange was happening. Foreman’s face was starting to mark up from Ali’s punches, and more worryingly for the champion; he was starting to show visible signs of fatigue and frustration.  No one had ever taken his punches like this before, instead of destroying Ali with his punches, it was almost as if with every punch he landed or tried to land on Ali, he was losing a little more of his strength. Now, when Ali landed his own little retaliatory flurries, Foreman was visibly wobbling under the punches. And the crowd continued to cry ‘Ali Bomaye, Ali Bomaye!’

In the sixth round, Ali stayed off the ropes for much of the round, instead circling the outside of the ring and jabbing. Foreman was still in pursuit and throwing punches whenever he was in range and even when he wasn’t, but now the punches were weary and becoming more and more uncoordinated.  It was now Ali who was beginning to land the better more telling punches.

With hindsight the writing was on the wall for Foreman by the seventh round, but those watching the fight could still barely understand or believe what was unfolding before their eyes.  The seventh saw Foreman reduced to pushing out his punches, as he stumbled after Ali like an exhausted drunk. Ali’s punches were cruel and calculated, as they crashed in increasing volume into Foreman’s swelling face and head.

Ali came out with a determination to finish things in the 8th round, with added purpose in his punches, and he was now the aggressor. Foreman was still coming forward, but his attacks had been reduced to a blind stumble, by exhaustion, and the steady battering from Ali’s punches. When Ali got caught on the ropes, the punches seemed to be bouncing harmlessly off of him, and it was his own counters that were having the most effect at this moment.

The finish came in the final moments of the 8th round. A left right combination sent Foreman down with a heavy flop onto the canvas, where he lay in an exhausted daze as the referee Zack Clayton toiled out the count.  At ten, Foreman tried to rise, but his strength was gone; the butterfly had drained all the strength from the invincible giant.

Ali was the World heavyweight champion again, and he had regained his title by turning his style onto its head, from being the elusive target, to being a sitting target.  Ali’s performance must rate as one of the greatest single performances by a boxer in ring history. His ability to adapt his style and find a way to win, even when physically out-gunned, and the ability to beat his opponents both mentally and spiritually in the latter part of his career, is as much part of Muhammad Ali’s greatness as his youthful speed and skills.

Later on, even Ali would push on for too long, beguiled by his own greatness into thinking he could outbox time and the laws of nature. 

Six years after he beat Foreman in Zaire, Ali foolishly came out of a two year retirement and was battered and beaten to defeat by Larry Holmes in Las Vegas, in a fight of almost eerie sadness. 

Yet, the realization in the dying years of his career that Ali was after all only human serves only to heighten the depth of his career achievements. Here is a man who dominated the most talented heavyweight division that has ever been seen, at a time when he himself was well past his own physical peak. 

However, on one particular moonlit morning in Zaire, Muhammad Ali was indeed indestructible, superhuman, and magical.


Copyright © 2014 The Boxing Glove, Inc. Peter Silkov Art. All Rights Reserved. Peter Silkov contributes to www.theboxingglove.com and www.theboxingtribune.com

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Bobby Chacon: Glory and Punishment


By Peter Silkov

Of all sportsmen, it is the boxer who seems to live most precariously on the edge, often both in and out of the ring. Inside the ring, they take part in what is the most basic activity known to man; using their fists to hit the opponent standing in front of them. Everyone who knows even a little about boxing understands that there is so much more to it than just what meets the eye. It is about mental strength, spirit, and courage. It is about having the ability to put yourself on the line, and face down the kind of fears and thoughts of self preservation which keep the average man from ever stepping foot competitively between the ropes. Many fighters seem to live the same way out of the ring that they do inside it, wrapped up in a cloak of danger and drama.
This is one of the many attractions of the boxer. These are men who do not generally live their lives quietly or safely as the rest of us do. Perhaps here we have the reason why so many boxers have been the subject of biographies, and why Hollywood has always been so fascinated with the boxer in film, from “The Champ,” to the “Rocky” films.  Yet, despite all of the action that takes place inside the ring, it is the life outside of the ropes, real every day life without gloves on, which often proves to be far more dramatic and traumatic, than anything Sylvester Stallone has dreamt up for his famed ‘Rocky’ movies. Bobby Chacon lived a kind of life that was straight out of a Stallone or Martin Scorsese film; a roller coaster ride of more ups and downs than one person should be expected too deal with and remain in one piece. 

Like many that later find their way into boxing, Chacon grew up amid domestic strife. His father left when Bobby was very young, and by the time he was a teenager he was involved in a street gang and finding himself drawn into numerous street fights and petty clashes with the police. As his life descended into the chaos of the street, Chacon met Valerie, the person who would have a profound influence upon the rest of his life, an influence both hugely positive, yet, ultimately tragic. Valerie would become Bobby’s wife and a guiding light that would lead him from the street onto a path which would take him onto glory and stardom. It was Valerie who told the street fighting Chacon that he should take his fighting inclinations to a boxing gym where they could be of more legal use.  Bobby obeyed and a short, but successful amateur career ensured. 

He was a natural, and like all such fighters, the armatures couldn’t satisfy his ability for long. Bobby turned professional in April of 1972, at the age of twenty-one, picking up the nickname “Schoolboy” due to his youth and baby faced features.  Despite those youthful features, and a ready smile, Chacon could fight. 

The early 1970s were a time when boxing was enjoying a spectacular boom of both popularity and talent that seemed to have started with the rise of Muhammad Ali in the early 60s and slowly spread throughout every weight division within the sport.  Boxing was booming, but while it was a great time to be part of it all, it was also one of the toughest; there were few easy rides to the top. Young talented prospects had to fight it out amongst themselves. Success only came from hard work, and hard fights.  

Bobby Chacon certainly had no easy ride. His first professional opponent, Jose Antonio Rosa, was unbeaten in seven fights, and Bobby knocked him out in the 5th round.  Within four months and 11 fights, Bobby was already a main event fighter. 

As a boxer Bobby had it all, along with his youthful good looks, and charismatic personality outside of the ring. Inside the ring, Chacon had a mixture of angelic boxing skills, coupled with a devilish offence. Bobby was the perfect boxer-fighter, mixing speed, technique and power, and an inclination to go toe-to-toe even when he could have played it safe and rely more on his boxing skills. Unsurprisingly, the fans loved him from the beginning. In the 1970s, the West Coast was a hot bed of activity for the lighter weight divisions, and Chacon was another talented addition to a pool, which was literally over flowing with gifted and exciting fighters.

By early 1973, after barely a year in the professional ranks, Chacon had broken into the worlds top ten, with wins over top contenders Arturo Pineda, Frankie Crawford, and former world champion Chucho Castillo.  The Schoolboy was a sensation, but on June 23, 1973, he suffered his first professional set back when he was stopped after 9 rounds by former World bantamweight champion Ruben Olivares. Looking back today it seems incredible that Chacon could be put into the same ring with the already legendary Olivares, who had a record of 71-3-1, with 63 knockouts, after only nineteen fights, and one year as a professional. Although Olivares had left his best days behind him in the bantamweight division, against Chacon, he proved that he was still a very formidable fighter at featherweight. Yet, Chacon gave the Mexican idol all he could handle for much of the contest, which turned out to be an epic toe-to-toe classic, the kind of war that would become a habit for Chacon, and a defining feature of his career. In the end, Olivares’ extra strength and experience proved to be the difference, and The Schoolboy was pulled out of the fight after the 9th round, by his trainer/manager Joe Ponce.

Back in the days when a fighter was expected to fight his way into title contention, Chacon’s loss to Olivares was a setback rather than a disaster. He bounced back almost immediately, more experienced and a little wiser, and with his trademark grin intact. Over the next nine months, Bobby put together four wins, stopping Jorge Oscar Ramos in 10 rounds, knocking out Jose Luis Martin Del Campo in 9, then halting Ramos again, this time in 5 rounds, before stopping Genzo Kursosawa in the 9th.

On May 24, 1974, Chacon came face to face between the ropes with another rising star of the featherweight division, Danny “Little Red” Lopez. It was no surprise that the red headed Lopez with his Irish-American Indian descent, and Chacon, with his part Mexican heritage, would go together so well in the ring. This was the type of fight that would probably take years in the making today, but back in the 1970s, clashes like this were the accepted rite of passage for rising young contenders and budding future champions. Lopez entered the ring with an unbeaten record of 23-0, with 22 of his victories by knockout. If anything he had an even better punch than Chacon. For once, the fight lived up to all of the hype, with the fighters treating the Los Angeles crowd to one of the classics of the decade, as both men stood toe-to-toe  and traded bombs from the start. It was an electric spectacle as each man displayed his spirit and talent, in a clash that was the fistic equivalent of two young rock guitarists dueling against one another on stage. The fight ebbed and flowed, but in a performance, which in hindsight has to be seen as one of the most outstanding of his career, Chacon’s extra speed and skill gave him a crucial edge over Lopez, wearing him down, and finally overwhelming him in the 9th round. This was a night where Bobby put it all together, and displayed the kind of defensive skills and boxing technique, that few today realize he had before the all out slugging, ‘Rocky’ incarnation of his later career.

Four months later, Chacon was a world champion, knocking out the big-punching Alfredo Marcano in the 9th round, for the vacant WBC world featherweight championship, in front of his adoring fans at the Los Angeles Olympic Auditorium.

Chacon was still only 22 years of age and had the boxing world at his feet. Even in the ultra competitive and talent laden 126-pound division, he looked a sure bet to be world champion for some time. The glow of greatness seemed to be shining upon him. Yet, it is a well known irony in boxing, that for all the trials and tribulations involved with a fighter making his way to the top, it is far harder for him to stay there once the summit has been reached. Aside from all of the hungry contenders eager to pull a champion back down to earth, there are also the out of the ring factors that often come into play when a fighter finds fame and fortune; namely, the hangers on, the late nights, the fast cars, and the faster women. Soon after winning his world title, Bobby began partying with the same enthusiasm and energy that he usually displayed inside the ring. In the midst of a gathering whirlwind of fame and success, Bobby fired Joe Ponce, the man who had guided him in the ring since his amateur days. Like so many others before and after him, Chacon was quickly losing touch with what had taken The Schoolboy to the top in the first place.

Six months after winning his world title, Chacon made his first defence on March 1, 1975, knocking out Jesus Estrada in the 2nd round. For a young champion driving ever faster in the fast lane, it was coming all too easy for Chacon at this point, but the big crash was looming. On June 20, three months after the Estrada defence, Chacon put his title on the line against his old adversary, and the only man to beat him so far in his career, Ruben Olivares.  Olivares had already won and lost the WBA version of the world featherweight title, since the pairs first encounter, and despite being a party animal himself, was still a very dangerous fighter. 

Given his shot at Chacon’s WBC championship, Olivares came in as fit as he could be, while for Chacon, the party was about to end. One week before the fight The Schoolboy was 15 pounds overweight. Although he made the weight on the day of the fight, Chacon was pale and drawn, and having seen the champions condition, a confident Olivares predicted a knockout in one or two rounds. Chacon was stopped in the second round, after being floored twice; his weight weakened body defenceless.   Almost in a blink of an eye the world title was gone. As Chacon would later say himself “I had it all and I threw it all away.”

After the big party came the long hangover, and like most hangovers it lasted longer than the party that preceded it. Bobby’s hangover would last for the rest of his career.  No longer a world champion, and with his reputation stained, Chacon fell almost immediately into boxing’s version of the twilight zone, fighting journeymen and rising contenders for a fraction of the money he had commanded prior to losing his title. Worse still, having moved up to the junior-lightweight division, he turned up for these fights under-trained and under-motivated. On December 7, 1975, Chacon was out-pointed by the then unknown Rafael “Bazooka” Limon, in the first of what would be four brutal wars between the two men.  Limon was a raw, face-first, south paw, with a big punch, who was seemingly impervious to either punishment or pain, and he and Bobby would share a fistic feud of almost unmatched pugilistic savagery.
    
At just 24 years of age The Schoolboy was already being written off as a ‘has been’ by many observers; another of boxing’s burn out cases. The fans still loved to see him fight, that would never change, but the talent that had once flowed in such an exciting manner had been reduced to a splutter. Now, when Chacon went toe-to-toe it was not simply due to his innate love of a slugfest, but because his legs could no longer carry him like they used to do, and his reflexes were no longer as fast or as sharp. Now he was having wars against fighters that just a little while before, he would have handled with ease. 

Two months following the Limon defeat, Chacon was floored twice, and bloodied badly by journeyman David Sotelo. Despite gaining the decision, in his dressing room after the fight, a battered Chacon was begged by his wife Valerie to retire. It would be the first of many such scenes between Bobby and his wife. With a terrible irony, the person who had first inspired Bobby to take up boxing, couldn’t bare to see him fight anymore, especially now with his talent faded, and the fights getting harder and harder. 

He managed to stay out of the ring for nine months after the Sotelo fight, but Chacon was back at the end of 1976 with two wins. By now, Chacon was filled with the pain of unfulfilled potential, but his drive to recapture what he had lost was torn between his wife’s pleas for him to retire, and his ongoing penchant for the fast lane.  

Ironically, in late 1976, Chacon’s old rival Danny Lopez had won the WBC world featherweight championship, and would remain champion until 1980.  His career had become a telling contrast to that of the man who had beat him just a few years before.    

In 1977, Chacon made a concerted effort to get back where he had once been, fighting six times, he won all but one, including a belated point’s victory over Ruben Olivares, himself now an ex-world champion struggling to stay in contention.  However the year ended with Chacon losing a split points decision to Arturo Leon, and Bobby’s resurgence was halted.

After losing to Leon in November 1977, Chacon took six months out, then fought just three times in 1978, winning them all, but getting no closer to a chance at gaining a world title shot.  

Two more wins in 1979 came, along with a controversial 7th round technical draw with Rafael “Bazooka” Limon, in what was the pair’s second fight. This match served to make the pair’s rivalry more bitter than ever after the fight was ended in the 7th due to a severe cut on Limon, caused by an accidental head butt.  The controversy fanned the flames of a mutual animosity.  

Then on November 16, 1979, Chacon was granted a shot at Alexis Arguello’s WBC world Junior lightweight championship. Showing glimpses of his former brilliance, Chacon started brightly and took a point’s lead over the first five rounds. Then in 6th, an Arguello punch opened up a two inch gash in the corner of Chacon’s right eye, and in the 7th, Arguello took control of the fight, as the bloody and tiring Chacon was forced to take a count. Between rounds the doctor stopped the fight, and with it, Chacon’s chance of fistic redemption seemed to have gone forever. 

Four months later, on March 21, 1980, Chacon met Bazooka Limon for the third time, in what turned out to be their most ferocious fight so far. Although he emerged from the brutal clash a points’ winner after ten rounds, Chacon had looked sluggish and out of sorts, and had shipped a tremendous amount of punishment. The decision was close and controversial, and at the end of the fight Chacon was battered and bloody, with his eyes swollen and cut. It was a look that he would wear with increasing regularity throughout the remainder of his career.

After the third Limon battle, Chacon stayed away from the ring for 10 months, but the temptation to recapture unfulfilled potential is irresistible, as is the urge to hear the roar of the crowds once again.  Despite Valerie’s pleas, Bobby couldn’t keep away, boxing was all he knew. So he returned again, with two wins in early 1981, and was given a shot at Cornelius Boza-Edward’s WBC world junior lightweight championship (Alexis Arguello having vacated the title and moved up to win the lightweight championship.)     

Edwards was a big-punching southpaw, who had captured the title from Chacon’s old nemesis Rafael Bazooka Limon, after a brutal slugfest.  Boza-Edwards had been born in Uganda, and brought up in England, but had found his boxing home in America, where his own inclination for fistic warfare had gained him the nickname “Mr. Excitement” amongst the American media.  

With Boza-Edwards, the younger and fresher fighter, Chacon went into their clash a clear underdog. Yet, seeing an unexpected chance of world championship glory within his grasp once more, Bobby shocked the so-called experts, who considered him washed up, rolled back the years, and gave Edwards a savage war. The two men stood face to face for much of the fight, breathing in each others breaths, and exchanging physical punishment with an almost maniacal glee.  Bobby gave as good as he got for the first 10 rounds, and even looked at times like he might turn back the clock completely and pull off an upset win.  It was a fight straight out of Rocky.

Chacon still had a vestige of the silky skills that had taken him to the top almost a decade earlier, the jab, the left hook, and that right hand. Bobby showed, in flashes against Boza, the fighter he had once been not so long before. However, from the 10th round onwards, Boza-Edwards youth and conditioning saw him take control of the match. By the 13th round Chacon was bloodied and tired and taking a beating, while Boza rained punches upon him in an effort to stop him. Though he was dazed and spent, Chacon refused to go down, and continued to try and fight back.

When Chacon’s corner stopped the contest after the 13th round, it looked to be the end, not only of the fight, but also of The School Boy’s career. He had given it one more shot and gone down to a defeat that was glorious in all its gory violence. Chacon had lost like a warrior. Surely he would hang up his gloves for good and retreat to a quieter life with Valerie and the kids. However, never one to take the easy road, Bobby didn’t want the song to end yet. The battle with Boza had awakened something inside Chacon. Amid all of the heavy blows, the blood and the bruises, he too had felt those flashes of past brilliance; the echoes of his lost youth and past glory. Chacon felt that if he had been better prepared physically he would have had a good shot at beating Boza-Edwards in their fight.

Six months after losing to Boza-Edwards, Chacon stopped Augustin Rivera in 6 rounds. He had reunited with Joe Ponce and at 30 years of age was talking about fighting regularly again in a final drive for one more title shot. It was too much for Valerie. Just when she had thought it was coming to an end, Bobby was starting up all over again, fighting every other month, often against men who had still been in school when he was a world champion. 

During the build up to his fight with Salvadore Ugalde, on March 16, 1982, Valerie begged Bobby not to go through with the match. As always Bobby was torn, he loved his wife and family, but the pull of the ring was undeniable and unavoidable, and as deeply embedded within him as his love for his family. On the day of the fight Valerie took a loaded rifle, put it to her head and pulled the trigger. That same night Chacon stopped Ugalde in the 3rd round and then wept uncontrollably in the arms of his cornermen.

In a life already laden with irony, Valerie’s suicide left Bobby with far more reasons to carry on boxing, rather than stop. In many ways, Boxing was all that he had left.  He was no longer torn. Her death also pushed Bobby straight back into the spotlight; he was no longer just another ex-champion chasing the shadows of the past, but a main player in a modern tragedy. 

Chacon scored two more wins, stopping Rosendo Ramirez in 8 rounds and out-pointing Arturo Leon over 10. Then on December 11, 1982, he faced Rafael Bazooka Limon for the fourth time and this time with Limon’s WBC world junior lightweight championship the prize for victory. In the months previously, Cornelius Boza-Edwards had lost the WBC title in an upset to Rolando Navarrete, who had then been beaten by Bazooka Limon.  Sylvester Stallone could not have dreamed up a better plot. Now Bobby was to have his final shot at glory and redemption, against the man who had become his arch rival over the past half dozen years.

With an almost hysterical Sacramento crowd looking on, Chacon and Limon waged a fight that almost defies description for the drama and intensity, and non-stop action that it produced. Both fighters seemed to reach deep into their own souls in a way that only boxers can sometimes achieve. While at times it seemed as if the vociferous crowd was powering both men on, at other moments it looked as if each man had become oblivious to everything surrounding them, save for the man standing in front of him in the ring. Both boxers seemed to give and receive an amount of punishment that was almost surreal. The fight had no fairytale beginning for Chacon, as the usually slow-starting Limon begun well, landing his southpaw jab and his left hooks upon The Schoolboy with alarming ease. Chacon was floored in the 3rd round, albeit briefly, as the omens seemed to point against a victory for the aging “Schoolboy.”  However, as the fight progressed, despite all of the punches he was landing upon his challenger, Chacon kept coming at Limon. As the fight passed its halfway point it was Chacon who was growing stronger, while Limon was beginning to wear the look of someone asking himself why the man in front of him is still standing.

Even when he was knocked down again in the 10th round, Chacon didn’t retreat, if anything, the knockdown seemed to make him even stronger and more determined.  Both fighters were bruised and bloody now, but it was Chacon who looked to be gaining strength, as Limon’s attacks seemed to be growing tired and desperate.  After fighting evenly through the 11th and 12 rounds, Chacon miraculously rallied over the last three rounds, as Limon began to slow under the weight of exhaustion. 
Bobby was a man inspired, fighting like someone who refused to be beaten. In the 15th and final round, two overhand rights by Chacon floored Limon, and although Bazooka beat the count and made it to the round’s end, the fight had been sealed.  The point’s verdict for Chacon was 142-141, 141-140 and 143-141. 

Chacon was world champion again after almost a decade in the wilderness and the fight was voted Fight of the year for 1982 by the Ring magazine. It was one of the final fights set for fifteen rounds, and one of the best examples of what a 15 round title fight could produce.

Despite his wonderful victory, and the plaudits that came his way in its aftermath, Chacon’s success was bitter sweet. He had made it back to the top, like he had wanted, but he had lost Valerie along the way.

Unfortunately, Chacon’s second reign as world champion was soon mired in controversy when he fell into dispute with promoter Don King over a proposed defence against rising star Hector “Macho” Comacho. King claimed he had a signed contract for Chacon to put his title on the line against Comacho, but Chacon denied the validity of the contract and when offered more money to defend against old foe Cornelius Boza-Edwards, took the Edwards’ fight instead.  Chacon defended his world title against Edwards on May 15, 1983. 

It was almost two years since the pair had first met in the ring, and with Chacon now two years older and coming off the incredible war with Limon, few gave the aging champion much chance of retaining his title against the younger and seemingly stronger Boza-Edwards. Incredibly, Chacon once again dug deep into his inner reserves and produced a performance that seemed to transcend his physical limitations. The fight itself was another savage and bloody affair, one where the two fighter’s ability to punish each other and withstand punishment themselves, becomes something peculiarly artistic, like a brutal and bloody ballet.     

Chacon floored Boza in the first and second rounds but was floored himself in the 3rd round.  By the half way mark, Bobby was badly cut over both eyes and spending much of his time on the ropes, absorbing Boza-Edwards heavy, slashing punches.  Every time it seemed that Chacon was about to be overwhelmed by his challenger, he would fight back, and shake Boza with punches of his own. The champion also had to survive a number of inspections by the ring doctor of his severely lacerated eyes. Somehow the fight was allowed to carry on, and as it travelled into the late rounds, just as he had against Bazooka Limon, Bobby began to wear down Boza-Edwards. The 12th and final round was like something straight from a Rocky film, as a swollen and bloody Chacon floored the tiring Boza-Edwards, having the challenger rubber legged and exhausted by the finish. Chacon retained his title with a point’s victory of 115-113, 115-112 and 117-111.  It was another seemingly miraculous performance from Chacon, in a fight that was voted fight of the year for 1983 by the Ring magazine, making Chacon one of the few boxers to win ‘fights of the year’ in two consecutive years.  Yet, Bobby’s triumph was soon taken away from him when the WBC sided with Don King in his contractual dispute with Chacon. On June 27, barely five weeks after his victory over Boza-Edwards, Chacon was stripped of his WBC world junior lightweight title for his failure to defend it against Hector ‘Macho’ Comacho. Despite the fact that Boza-Edwards had been rated the WBC’s number one contender, when Chacon defended against him, while Comacho had been ranked at number three. The WBC or any other boxing organization has seldom let logic or fairness stand in the way of its political or financial interests.

Shorn of his world title once again, Chacon was advised to retire by those close to him, but the cheers of the crowd are always a hard habit to break, and perhaps the greater the cheers have been, the harder it becomes to walk away for the final time.  
Eight months after the Boza-Edwards epic, Chacon moved up to the lightweight division and on January 14, 1984, challenged Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini for the WBA world lightweight championship. From some angles this match looked to be a ‘dream fight’ with two of the game’s most popular and exciting fighters squaring off against each other in a fight that was destined to be ‘fan friendly.’ However, from the first bell it was plain that Mancini was far too young and strong for the sluggish looking Chacon, who suddenly betrayed every one of his 32 years. The action took place mostly in a corner, with Chacon pinned against the ropes, and while both men were firing punches at one another, Chacon’s seemed to be simply bouncing off Mancini, while Mancini’s shots were rocking the challenger to his toes. By the third round, Chacon was already battered and bloodied around the eyes, and taking repetitive blows to the head, and referee Richard Steele who had worked Chacon’s last fight with Boza-Edwards had seen enough; stepping between the boxers, and ending the fight. 

The Mancini fight was the end of the big time for Chacon, and should have been the final time he entered the ring, but like so many others, Bobby couldn’t say no to the call of the ring. Chacon wasn’t fighting for world titles anymore; he was just fighting for the sake of fighting. 

He had remarried, but he would never get over Valerie, and the marriage ended in acrimony. Perhaps in the end, the ring was the only place where Bobby felt safe. Over the next four years Chacon would fight seven more times, and despite his faded skills and advancing years, would win all of his fights. Incredibly, amongst those seven wins, he was able to post victories against Carlton Sparrow, Arturo Frias, Freddie Roach, and Rafael Solis.  Despite the fact that his legs and balance were just about gone, and his reflexes were just a memory, Bobby retained the instincts of a fighter right up to the end. That and his heart, and an amazing will to win.

After stopping the fancied Rafael Solis in 5 rounds on October 4, 1985, Chacon seemed to slur his words in his post fight interview. There would be just two more fights in the ring. On June 23, 1987, in his first fight in over 18 months, Chacon was floored 3 times in the first two rounds before fighting back to stop Martin Guevara in the 3rd round. Twelve months later, Chacon swung and shuffled to a ten round point’s win over Bobby Jones. It was finally the end. The heart was still willing, but the body was no longer there.  

Since his retirement Bobby Chacon’s life hasn’t had a happy ending. He has suffered further tragedy, with the loss of a son in the early 1990s to gang violence. Chacon has also been diagnosed with pugilistic dementia, the dark hangover of all the many ring wars for which he became so famous. He has also seen his finances dwindle away into nothing.   

Bobby Chacon’s life is a bittersweet tale of incredible achievements against the odds, alongside the tragic consequences of those same achievements. Sometimes it is hard to justify one’s fascination with boxing, when even the best of this hard and unforgiving pursuit winds up with the physical cost of their profession.   

Perhaps Bobby was not born to live a safe nine-to-five life, wrapped in the cotton wool of the mundane and mediocre. Without boxing, the chances are that Chacon would have come to harm one way or another much earlier in life. Due to his boxing career, Bobby has carved out a formidable legend that will linger for as long as boxing itself does. 

Today Bobby Chacon is still beloved by the boxing public, a fighter whom embodied all that was dramatic and exciting within the game. His life and fighting career remain both darker and more spectacular than any film script yet created by a Stallone or Scorsese. Most importantly for his fans, Bobby Chacon was real, a fantastic fighter, with incredible gifts, but also a human being, with human failings.                

In a world of so many, Bobby Chacon is one of the comparative few to make his mark in something during his life. Perhaps in the end that should be enough.               




Copyright © 2014 The Boxing Glove, Inc. Peter Silkov Art. All Rights Reserved. Peter Silkov contributes to www.theboxingglove.com and www.theboxingtribune.com

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Friday, August 1, 2014

Sergey Kovalev vs. Blake Caparello: Kovalev Aiming to Krush Caparello

By Peter Silkov

 WBO world light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev (24-0-1, 22koes) returns to the ring this Saturday, to defend his title against Australian challenger Blake Caparello (19-0-1, 6koes) at the Revel Resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey.  

This will be Kovalev’s third defence of the title, which he ripped from the head of Nathan Cleverly, in four rounds last July. Sergey Kovalev had entered that match a bit of a mystery man to the general boxing public, but already rumoured to be a puncher of serious note. What transpired that night served to show why Kovalev has been given the nickname of ‘The Krusher.’ The Russian’s performances since winning the title have marked him out as one of the most destructive punchers in the world, pound-for-pound, alongside fellow Eastern European wrecking machine Gennady Golovkin. 

‘The Krusher’ shares a number of parallels with the WBA world middleweight champion Golovkin.  As with Golovkin, although he is primarily known for his powerful punching, Kovalev is also well schooled in the finer points of boxing.  Kovalev sets his opponents up with a good jab and is an excellent body puncher. His punches, like Golovkin’s, are also short and swiftly delivered, with pinpoint accuracy.  ‘The Krusher’ makes every punch count, and despite the brevity of the majority of his fights, performs his destructive work with impressive patience. 

This strong foundation of technique makes Kovalev a much more formidable all- round fighter.  He is not the stereotypical knockout artist who can simply be out-boxed by a fighter with a bit of speed and ring technique.

While Gennady Golovkin is seen as one of the most explosive punchers pound-for- pound in the world, Kovalev’s own punching prowess seems to be, if anything, even more explosive, to a point where it may well be in a class of its own. In his 24 victories, Kovalev has only had to go past the 3rd round five times.

Another thing which Kovalev shares with Golovkin since winning his world title, is a difficulty enticing the other big names of his division, especially the division’s other ’world champions’ to enter the ring with him.  At one point, a showdown with Adonis Stevenson (who holds the WBC and lineal titles) in what would have been a big unification fight, seemed to have been agreed by all parties, only for Stevenson to then turn around and move to rival network Showtime.  As well as generating a lawsuit, which is still in its early stages, this move by Stevenson has denied Kovalev of what would have been a defining fight. The other big name at 175 pounds is the remarkable Bernard Hopkins, who at the tender age of 49 years old, holds the WBA and IBF titles. Unfortunately for ’The Krusher,’ Hopkins has recently seemed far more interested in facing Stevenson in the ring, although some recent comments from ’The Alien’ may be cause for hope. Hopkin’s has said that he may be open to tackling Kovalev before he facing Stevenson. Then again, this statement could be an example of Hopkins’ mind games and a method of coaxing Stevenson to come to a decision in their negotiations.   

With the other ‘world champions’ avoiding him, Kovalev has had to take the challenges from the fighters that are willing to face him. Consequently, Kovalev has had the quality of his opposition questioned (another dilemma of Gennady Golovkin.) While Kovalev’s challengers so far may not include the names of elite level fighters, it’s worth noting that out of his past five opponents, three of them, (including Caparello) have been undefeated, and that the five fighters combined records come to (113-2-1, 78koes.)

The Australian challenger comes into Saturday’s contest unbeaten in 20 fights, with the only ’blot’ on his record being a 10 round draw in his 6th fight.   The challenger is a cagey southpaw, who stands six feet one and a half inches, and is a rangy boxer, who fights mostly off the back foot, and likes to counterpunch his opponents. Caparello’s most notable wins have come in his last two fights, with point’s decisions over Elvir Muriqi and Allan Green.  While long time solid contenders at 175, both fighters are notably past their peaks, at this point in their careers. 

One of Caparello’s biggest problems in facing ’The Krusher’, is that it is a huge leap up in competition for the Australian, and he is unlikely to appreciate just how high a leap it is until he actually feels the first punch land from Kovalev.

Another problem that the challenger has is that he is only a moderate puncher himself, with just 6 stoppage wins in his career so far.

Without a discernable punch to trouble Kovalev, the 27 -year old challenger’s only chance of victory in this fight is to employ his boxing skills, make himself an elusive target, and attempt to outbox the champion. Although Caparello is a good all-round boxer, he is not exceptional in any area.  He looks slower and less mobile than Ismayl Sillah, whom Kovalev made his first defence against last November, and dispatched in 2 rounds, and he does not have the solid defence of the champion’s last challenger Cedric Agnew, who managed to take Kovalev into the 7th round in April.

The biggest thing that Caparello has in his favour is that no one is giving him a chance, and that can sometimes prove dangerous for a defending champion.

However, ‘The Krusher’ has shown himself, up until now, to be an extremely focused and single-minded individual. He would seem unlikely to lose that hunger and intensity now, at the point of his career where he is poised to break into the elite level.

All-in-all, this looks like a straightforward ’keep busy’ defence for ’The Krusher’ with the main question being how long can the challenger survive. 

Kovalev will study his challenger early on, which will probably see him having to hunt down the Australian from behind his jab, and soften him up with his body attack.  The challenger’s apparent toughness and boxing style should see him through the early rounds, but by the 5th or 6th round Kovalev’s attacks would have taken their toll and Caparello will be slowed down enough for ’The Krusher’ to deliver the finisher.

With a possible high profile unification fight with Bernard Hopkins waiting in the near future for him, it is important for Kovalev to look impressive in this defence, and deliver what is becoming one his trademark spectacular knockouts.  The chances are that this is exactly what ’The Krusher’ will do, as he shows once more why he is fast becoming the most feared puncher, pound-for-pound, in boxing today.      






Copyright © 2014 The Boxing Glove, Inc. Peter Silkov Art. All Rights Reserved. Peter Silkov contributes to www.theboxingglove.com and www.theboxingtribune.com

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Monday, July 28, 2014

Gennady Golovkin vs. Daniel Geale: The GGG Man Guns Down Geale

Photo:Getty Images


By Peter Silkov

There was something beautifully brutal about Gennady Golovkin’s (30-0, 27koes) three round demolition of Daniel Geale (30-3, 16koes) on Saturday, in defence of his WBA world middleweight title, at New York’s famed Madison Square Garden.  Although this was Golovkin’s third appearance at ’the Garden,’ it was his first in the ‘main room,’ and he delivered a performance worthy of the historic venue.

Daniel Geale arrived with the credentials that made him the champion’s most formidable challenger so far. He was a former world champion himself, who had never been stopped during his career, and had not been so much as floored, for many years. However, in the end, Geale fell like all of the rest. Indeed, when faced with what was on paper, his greatest challenge so far, Golovkin gave one of his most comprehensively destructive performances to date. It was a performance, which surely took Golovkin one-step closer to the super fights that he craves. After this victory, the excuses of the divisions other ’world champions’ (specifically WBC, and lineal champion Miguel Cotto) for not facing the ‘GGG’ man, are becoming ever weaker.

The challenger entered the ring seemingly unnoticed by the crowd, but when Golovkin entered, the buzz around the historic hall became palpable. Golovkin approached the ring to the rocking strains of The White Stripes “Seven Nation Army” which is a fitting track for the hard-edged fighting style of the champion. The entrance music aside, Gennady was all business as he approached the ring like a man in a hurry. As he would later say in the post fight interview, ’This is no joke’. Golovkin’s business is destruction. 

Daniel Geale came to fight. That much was evident from the start of the first round, when the challenger looked to make use of his herky-jerky style by moving about on the outside of the ring, and firing off some jabs and uppercuts at the already stalking champion. Despite his ferocious reputation, Golovkin tends to use the first round or two of his contests to feel out his opponent, before committing himself totally to his decisive attacks. Even so, such is the destructive power in his hands that Golovkin usually manages to hand out some crucial damage, even while studying his competitor. While Geale tried to circle around him and landed some determined looking jabs, the champion stalked, taking centre ring, and fired some early jabs of his own, which were finding the challenger’s face already.

Golovkin’s punches are understated at first sight; they are not dramatic or flashy, his shots are short and precise, and delivered with perfect balance.  It is this mixture of precision, balance, timing, and speed, allied with a strength that seems to belie his almost slight frame, which merges together to create such impressive effects.

Perhaps the timekeeper was especially engrossed in this opening round, as it ran on for close to five minutes, before finally being brought to a halt. 

As the over long round moved on, Geale continued to stay on the outside of the ring, while stopping his movement every now and then to fire his sporadic attacks.  The challenger’s strategy seemed to be to move in and out, scoring with jabs and flurries, then getting back on the move, and providing as slippery a target as possible for his heavy-handed antagonist.  As strategies go, it made sense, and seemed the perfect fit for a durable, all-round boxer such as Geale.  Yet, as the fight unfolded, it would become evident that it will take much more than simply a good strategy to derail the fighting machine from Kazakhstan. 

Golovkin was already beginning to land his jab with more regularity the further the first round travelled. In the last minute of the round (which was actually its 4th minute), Geale slipped to the floor after getting his foot caught upon an over zealous camera operator’s camera.  No harm was done, but it was a portent of things to come. 
When the round was finally called to its conclusion, Geale was already cut over the right eye, by virtue of the champion’s pinpoint jabs.

Geale began the second round fast, landing some multiple jabs, and a good right hand. The GGG man responded with a scything left hook, and a series of left jabs that drove his challenger back onto the ropes, where a body shot, followed by a right-left-right combination, dropped Geale to the canvas by the ropes. No slip this time.

On regaining his feet, Geale was wearing the expression of surprise and bemusement previously seen on the faces of past Golovkin opponent’s.  For all of the talk surrounding his punching prowess, Golovkin’s challengers still seem genuinely shocked when they experience the full force of a GGG attack. Perhaps it is the speed and subtlety with which it strikes. Who can forget Curtis Stevens’ almost comical expression when he was floored in the second round in his fight with Golovkin last year. Certainly the impression Golovkin’s attacks have on his challengers is a lasting one, from beginning to end.

Showing admirable spirit, Geale returned to the fray, with a look of grim determination, although perhaps knowing deep down, that this fight was heading towards only one conclusion. With his cut right eye reopened, what had been a bright start to the fight by the challenger just minutes earlier was swiftly falling apart. 

Despite this disintegration, Geale continued to fight back, but there was a tinge of desperation in his work now, as his punches were mostly being deftly blocked, by the muscular arms of the champion. All the while Golovkin continued to take his time over his work, like a surgeon performing an operation, or an artist putting the finishing touches to his latest work. Nothing is wasted by Golovkin, every punch, and every step is measured, and has a reason and a purpose.

In the closing moments of the second round, Golovkin landed some thudding body shots that were all of the better to soften up his prey. While Geale’s punches seemed to simply bounce off the world champion, if they were not blocked or deflected by his long muscular arms, every punch that the champion lands seemed to have an ever-more debilitating effect upon the challenger.

The challenger’s spirit was unbowed, as he came out for the third round defiantly throwing leather, a left jab, then two right hands, first to the head, then to the body.  Once more, they seemed to simply bounce off the champion, who resumed his forward march behind a probing, pole-like left jab.  Geale grabbed onto a brief moment of glory, when after skilfully slipping some Golovkin punches, with a nifty bob-and-weave, he allowed himself some celebratory showboating. Geale’s mischievous display produced not a flicker of emotion on the champion’s visage, and yet, this is the point where Golovkin chose to step up his attack. Geale was shaken by a left hook to the head, which backed him up into a corner, where Golovkin landed thudding lefts and rights to his body. After gingerly escaping from the corner, Geale skirted around the edge of the ring, with the GGG man in cool pursuit, picking and probing, looking for that final opening. Geale’s movement, which at the first bell of the contest was part of his strategy to try and win, became his only method of survival. 

Geale couldn’t avoid the GGG man’s pinpoint shots for long, as the ring became smaller and smaller for him.  Golovkin fired a right, then a left hook, which momentarily froze Geale, and then a straight right to the chin dropped the challenger onto his back by the ropes. Geale got up quickly, but he staggered backwards, his balance gone, his eyes bleary. When referee Mike Ortega asked him if he was all right to continue, Geale gave a brief disconsolate shake of the head and the fight was over.  

This was Gennady Golovkin’s 10th defence of the WBA world middleweight championship that he won in late 2010 and his 17th straight stoppage victory.  Some critics have questioned the quality of some of Golovkin’s challengers, but since the beginning of his career, the GGG man has impressed not so much by who he has beaten, but how he has beaten them. There can be no denying that Golovkin is one of the most efficient and destructive fighters, pound-for-pound, currently on the planet. 
Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that the other ‘world champions’, at 160 pounds, are not beating down any doors to take on the GGG man. 

In his post-fight interview, Golovkin called out (politely of course) all of the other ’world champions’, but especially Miguel Cotto, the WBC and linerel champion.  While some would use trash talk and profanity to go with their challenges, Golovkin seeks to appeal to the fighting pride of his fellow champions.  Golovkin wants to give the fans what they desire, the best fighting, and the best in unification fights.  It is an almost quaint desire on the part of the Kazakhstan fighter.  He is a throwback to the time when the best really did fight the best, and this is another reason for the GGG man’s growing appeal amongst the boxing public. 

Gennady Golovkin may be running out of willing opponents, but those who are trying to avoid him are also running out of credible excuses.

Copyright © 2014 The Boxing Glove, Inc. Peter Silkov Art. All Rights Reserved. Peter Silkov contributes to www.theboxingglove.com and www.theboxingtribune.com

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Friday, July 25, 2014

Gennady Golovkin vs. Daniel Geale: Battle of the G-Men






















By Peter Silkov

One of boxing’s most exciting fighters takes to the ring again this Saturday, when Gennady Golovkin (29-0, 26koes) defends his WBA world middleweight title against Daniel Geale (30-2, 16koes) at New York’s legendary Madison Square Garden.  

Golovkin has the unusual problem of being one of today’s most popular boxers, with his fights having become ’must see’ events for most boxing fans, yet, he is still accused by some prospective opponents of not being a big enough name. Just recently, a short while after his fighter Miguel Cotto had beaten Sergio Martinez for the WBC (and lineal) world middleweight title, Freddie Roach dampened talk of a Cotto vs. Golovkin showdown with the claim that Golovkin is not a big enough draw to merit a fight with Cotto. Ironically, Golovkin is defending his title against Geale at Madison Square Garden in New York, a place that Cotto considers his home, but a venue that has also hosted three of Golovkin’s recent world title fights, and where he has proved to be very popular. In light of Golovkin’s popularity in New York, it is difficult to believe that a fight between Cotto and Golovkin at Madison Square Garden would be anything but a highly anticipated sell-out. 

Like another outstanding world champion, Guillermo Rigondeaux, the Kazakhstan born Golovkin has been finding it difficult to entice the other top names from his weight division into facing him. The accusations levelled at Rigondeaux, that he is a ‘boring’ boxer, are as outrageous and unjust, as suggestions that Golovkin is somehow not yet a big enough name to justify one of the other top middleweights fighting him.  Many times Golovkin has voiced his wish to unify the various world titles at 160 pounds, by fighting the other ’world title’ holders, especially lineal champion Miguel Cotto, but so far, his polite challenges have either fallen on deaf ears, or provoked hollow excuses. 

However, it’s not very hard for most people to figure out that the general avoidance of Golovkin by the other ’world champs’ has nothing to do with Golovkin’s credentials with the fans, and a lot to do with him simply being, like Rigondeaux; too good for his own good.

Golovkin faces what is likely to be his most formidable challenge on Saturday, when he defends his title against Geale. The Australian born Geale is a former ‘world’ champion himself, having held the IBF version of the world middleweight championship, before being dethroned in his last contest by England’s Darren Barker.  Ironically, Geale also held a portion of the WBA title for a time (the WBA out does itself these days by having as many as 3 world champions in each division) after beating Felix Sturm in a unification fight.   In light of Saturday’s fight, Geale then chose to vacate the WBA belt when he was asked to defend it against Gennady Golovkin. Now, having lost his IBF portion of the world title, Geale has opted to finally take up the challenge of facing Golovkin, with the knowledge that victory will send him right back to the top of the middleweight tree. 

Geal is a tough and clever box-fighter who likes to come forwards and throw many punches, but can also box, and has a decent jab. Statistically, both men are very well matched, being around the same height, age, and are both technically sound boxers with a penchant for going toe-to-toe.  The main difference between champion and challenger is that Golovkin is a much more dangerous puncher. Indeed, he has established himself over the past three years as one of the best punchers in the world pound-for-pound, and has been building up an ever more impressive highlight reel of stoppages with every fight. Golovkin’s major asset is that, unlike many big punchers, he does not rely on brute force alone, but uses technique and tactical awareness to pick his moments. While Golovkin’s fights often end suddenly and spectacularly (hence one of the reasons for Golovkin’s popularity with the fans) he has usually paved the way for these conclusions by his clinical breaking down of his opponent.  Golovkin’s body attack, in particular, is a vital and often overlooked part of his repertoire. The champion also has good hand speed and places his punches with pinpoint accuracy. 

Geale’s best chance of victory would seem to try to pressure Golovkin and attempt to take him out of his comfort zone. Geale is a volume puncher, rather than a knockout puncher like the champion, and while Golovkin has shown in the past that he can take a punch, he has yet been under the kind of pressure where he has taken a steady number of shots over a long period of time. Although Golovkin’s defence is often cited as being his one true weakness, the champion is adept at blocking and moving away from shots at just the right moment. While he is often in range seemingly to be hit, Golovkin has an underrated defence, and is not an easy fighter to hit cleanly more than once. Geale will have to try to force Golovkin onto the ropes, work the body, and attempt to take the fight away from the champion that way. Though, this will be no easy task for the challenger, as Golovkin is an expert at dominating the center of the ring. In order to force the champion back, Geale will have to walk through Golovkin’s own bombs, which are likely to test the Australian’s durability to its limit.

The challenger’s other option to win this match is to attempt to outbox the champion.  This would seem to be an even tougher assignment for the Australian, as Golovkin is an expert at cutting down the ring, and tracking down an opponent on the back foot.  Geale, despite his sound boxing skills, does not look to have either the speed or the defensive skills that would give him a chance of eluding Golovkin all night.

This is a big fight for both men, with Geale aiming to regain a place amongst the middleweight elite, while Golovkin is looking to continue his impressive run of  world title defences, with this being his tenth defense. Since winning the WBA world title in 2012,  Gennady Golovkin has convinced many in boxing, fans and media alike, that he is the world’s best middleweight, irrespective of who is the lineal champion, and if he becomes the first man to stop Daniel Geale this Saturday, then, his already formidable reputation will continue to grow.

Saturday’s fight also has an added poignancy for the champion, as it will be his first competitive outing since the sudden death of his father earlier this year. Yet, this is likely to increase Golovkin’s focus and determination to do a good job on Saturday. Look for Gennady Golovkin to provide further proof this weekend of why he is the best 160-pounder in the world, and one of the most wanted (by the fans) and unwanted (by prospective opponents), fighters pound-for-pound at the moment.  Golovkin may have to travel a little further than normal this time, but the chances are that his precise attack will wear down and pick apart the game Australian challenger, and open the way for a stoppage defeat around about the 9th round.

Whether another impressive victory will open the door for Golovkin to the kind of big fights that he has been seeking for some time now is debatable. In the perverse world of boxing, Golovkin may actually find himself further away from a unification fight with the other ‘world champions’ the more impressive he looks. The near future may see Gennady forced to move up to super middleweight in a search for ‘bigger’ fights.  Although having said that, there are signs that he would not exactly be welcomed with open arms by the top men at 168 either. There has been talk that Golovkin would be willing to move down to the light-middleweight limit of 154 pounds, if a suitable ‘big’ fight could be found there. 

All the indications are that Golovkin is doing his best to entice the big names into the same ring with him, and that those big names are doing their very best to avoid him.

Gennady Golovkin is a throwback champion, a no nonsense, do-all-his-talking-in-the- ring-kind-of-fighter, who is troubled by the very modern boxing problem of being a champion whom many contenders would rather avoid. Unfortunately, there are many alternative ’champions’ for a prospective challenger to search out and have a better chance to beat.  Modern boxing has reached a curious stage where champions are now chasing contenders for fights, rather than the other way round. 

The only solution for Golovkin is to keep on winning, against the people who are brave enough to enter the ring with him, and hope that the feeble excuses used to avoid him at the present moment will run thinner and thinner, until eventually there will be no excuses left.  Unfortunately, in the perverse world of modern boxing, it may be a long wait.

Copyright © 2014 The Boxing Glove, Inc. Peter Silkov Art. All Rights Reserved. Peter Silkov contributes to www.theboxingglove.com and www.theboxingtribune.com

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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Guillermo Rigondeaux Destroys Sod Kokietgym: The Jackal Unleashed

Photo: Chris Farina
By Peter Silkov

In the 1.44 seconds that it took Guillermo Rigondeaux (14-0, 9koes) to defend his World super bantamweight title against Sod Kokietgym (63-3-1, 28koes) earlier today, July 19, you could sense a quiet, almost silent fury that was almost palpable. It’s very possible that Rigondeaux was picturing the face of someone else upon the head of his opponent at the Sod Kokietgym, Venetian Resort, in Macao, China.  Certainly, Rigondeaux’s very public falling out with his promoter Bob Arum and the network HBO would have given the champion ample material for just such visualizations.  Rigondeaux was as cool and relaxed as ever on the surface, but the finish of Sod Kokietgym’s world title challenge came with a clinical and venomous right hand and left hook combination which seemed to vent quite a lot of the anger and frustration,  that has built up over the past 15 months.

Since he defeated and embarrassed Nonito Donaire in their unification fight last year, Guillermo Rigondeaux has been the target of an unprecedented campaign of career assassination by Bob Arum and HBO, in addition to various members of the boxing media who were happy to jump upon the anti-Rigondondeaux bandwagon.  Indeed, not since the days of Sonny Liston has a reigning world champion been treated with such barefaced contempt and discrimination.  

Any thoughts that the venerable Arum and HBO might soften their attitude for this defence, which marked the final fight of the champion’s contract with Arum, would have been quickly dispelled by the fact that Rigondeaux was handed a challenger who is unknown outside his native Thailand, save for two previous world title attempts, way back in 2005 and 2006.  It was almost as if HBO and Arum were doing their best to place their man in a no-win situation. The pre-fight build-up could be at best described as scant.  Many boxing fans seemed almost unaware of Rigondeaux’s first outing of 2014 until a few days before the event in Macao. Then, the event itself was lovingly built all around Zou Shiming; Bob Arum’s little Chinese pot of gold. Does it matter that Shiming can’t really fight at a world-class level?

When fight night in Macao finally came, Rigondeaux found himself buried in the undercard, without even the dulcet tones of Michael Buffer to announce him. 
The fight started with ’The Jackal’ finding his range with his sword-like southpaw jab, seemingly with his first punch. This might have been only Rigondeaux’s second competitive outing in fifteen months, but he looked as sharp as ever. Rigondeaux was landing the jab at will, with his left-hand poised by his chest, ready to fire. While the challenger made lunging attempts to come forward, Rigondeaux manoeuvred nimbly about the ring, with his legs seemingly barely moving. The action came abruptly to a halt after an accidental head clash that looked to be caused by Kokietgym lunging forwards into the champion.  Kokietgym seemed in some distress, as he recoiled back in pain, and then fell onto his knees upon the canvas, while gesticulating at the referee Mark Nelson.  The challenger was still grimacing and shaking his head, after he had regained his feet and walked into a corner, while the referee talked to him.  At this point, the referee seemed satisfied that Kokietgym was fit to carry on, and waved the fight to continue. The two men briefly touched gloves, in mid-ring, then, Rigondeaux landed a right hand and a left hook, which were like lightning bolts, and it is doubtful the challenger saw either punch, before falling down in a heap once more. Although he beat the count, Kokietgym looked in no condition to continue and despite his protests; the fight was waved off by Referee Nelson.

Some might try to say that Rigondeaux displayed a less than sporting side to himself by jumping upon his opponent so quickly after the accidental head clash, but the same people would probably have criticised Rigo had he allowed his challenger to recover and get into the fight. Faced with an unheralded challenger, and with everything to lose, but precious little to gain, Rigondeaux did the best and most impressive thing under such circumstances, and destroyed his opponent. For all of those who had called him boring, Rigondeaux’s display carried an air of cultured viciousness about it. Whether such a performance will encourage any of the other big names at 122 pounds to enter the same ring as him is another question. The likes of Kiko Martinez, Scott Quigg, Leo Santa Cruz, and Carl Frampton seem to be quite content to squabble amongst themselves and stay out of the way of the division’s real world champion. Now that he is free of the spiteful clutches of Bob Arum and HBO, we can only hope that he finds himself a new promoter and network, which will appreciate him, and work to get him the big fights, which he craves and deserves. Showtime executive Stephen Espinoza has already stated an interest in taking on Rigondeaux and such a move could pave the way for a fresh start for ’The Jackal’.

The ’Main event’ at Macao was Zou Shiming’s (5-0, 1ko) 10-round joust with Luis De La Rosa (23-4-1, 13koes) for something called the WBO International flyweight title.  Rosa had built his record up against mostly poor opposition, and has been beaten every time he has stepped up in class, including two stoppage defeats.  However, despite winning a wide point’s decision, the closest that Shiming came to scoring a stoppage against Rosa was the severe cut that Rosa suffered due to a head clash mid-way through the fight. Shiming’s lack of power is still impossible to avoid, despite the best efforts of trainer Freddie Roach. Rosa came bravely forward all through the fight, and while he never seemed to hurt Shiming, he never seemed to be overly hurt or in trouble himself, except for the aforementioned cut. Shiming has certainly improved since his debut as a professional, but improvement as a professional and being a fledgling world champion, are two vastly different things. 

It is the fact that, while some amateur stars grow in ability and stature when they turn professional, (as has Rigondeaux) others find their weaknesses and limitations exposed, as they never were in the amateur world.  Unfortunately, for Zou Shiming he falls into the latter bracket.  At the age of 33 years old and with the whole of China following his progress, there is huge pressure on Shiming to become a world champion in the very near future. However, with even the fringe ’world champions’ at flyweight being leagues above what Shiming has had to face so far as a professional, uncle Bob Arum will have his work cut out for him trying to fix this one.  Then again, where there is over one billion people, there must be a way!




Copyright © 2014 The Boxing Glove, Inc. Peter Silkov Art. All Rights Reserved. Peter Silkov contributes to www.theboxingglove.com and www.theboxingtribune.com

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Guillermo Rigondeaux: The Sour Treatment of a Master of the Sweet Science


































By Peter Silkov

Boxing is looked upon by many as a bloody and brutal endeavour, in which the object of both fighters is to inflict physical damage upon the other fighter. This is, of course, is a huge over simplification of the sport that is as much about the mental and spiritual side of the fighters, as it is about their physical attributes. At its best, boxing is a duel between two combatants on every possible level, the type of which cannot be found in any other sport. This is one of the reasons why boxing has been called ’The Sweet Science’.  There are times when boxing can be almost ballet-like, with both offense and defense coming together in a seamless flow. Unfortunately, boxing’s defensive artists are often the sports unsung heroes. Everybody likes the sluggers, and the knockout artists, but the boxers who give as much thought and ability top defence as they do to offence, are often a more acquired taste. In today’s boxing, the defensive masters are a dying breed.  Along with Floyd Mayweather and Bernard Hopkins, Guillermo Rigondeaux (13-0, 8 koes) is one of the few pure defensive geniuses in boxing today. 

The Cuban is a smooth boxing technician, whose defensive skills are so profound, that he can go through whole fights against top competition, and hardly are hit with a clean punch. The only boxer, who is comparable to Rigondeaux, in terms of overall boxing skill and technique, is Floyd Mayweather.  Like Mayweather, Rigondeaux is a master of the art of self-defence, but he also has a knockout punch in each hand. In many ways, there lies one of Rigondeaux’s main problems, faced with his overwhelming skill and his formidable punch, many of Rigondeaux’s opponents choose to retreat into their shells and wait until it is all over. Rigondeaux is that rare thing in boxing, with the ironic gift of being too good for his own good.  

Following an amazing amateur career, in which he won Olympic Gold at Bantamweight, at the 2000 and 2004 Olympic games, in addition to winning the National championship of Cuba seven times, Rigondeaux defected to America in 2009, with dreams of being able to test his skills against the best professionals in the world, and achieve the kind of wealth and glory that would be forever denied him in the Cuban regime. However, the American dream hasn’t worked out quite the way it was supposed to for Rigondeaux. It all started so well for ’El Chacal.’ In just his ninth professional fight, he knocked out Rico Ramos with a body shot, on January 20, 2012, to win the WBA world super-bantamweight championship.  Fifteen months later, on April 14, 2013, after two successful defences of his title, Rigondeaux was matched with WBO world champion Nonito Donaire, in a big unification fight.  

Donaire went into his showdown with Rigondeaux unbeaten in his last 29 fights (going back to his second professional fight in 2002) and regarded as pound-for-pound, one of the best boxers in the world. Although entering the match a clear underdog, Rigondeaux rose to the occasion and produced a sublime exhibition of  boxing, to not only outpoint Donaire, but dominate and ’school’ him.  Indeed, at times, Donaire looked like a novice against the fast and silky skills of the exiled Cuban, it was a masterful performance by Rigondeaux, and should have established him as an elite star and attraction.       

What should have been Rigo’s greatest night, and his pathway to stardom, turned into a bittersweet experience when his own promoter, Bob Arum, turned on him post-fight, and criticised his performance as dull and boring. The problem was that Rigondeaux was not supposed to beat one of Bob Arum’s and Top Rank’s biggest cash cows, Nonito Donaire, and he was most certainly not supposed to have out-classed Donaire and make him look like a hurt and befuddled novice at times.

With one of his biggest cash cows beaten and humiliated, Bob Arum responded by attacking the credentials and reputation of Rigondeaux. ‘The Jackal’ was now too boring, and a hard sell, according to Arum. Apparently, it was Rigondeaux’s fault that after being hurt in the first round of their showdown, that the usually extremely offensive-minded Donaire chose to fight a rear guard action against Rigondeaux. 

Fairly quickly, Rigondeaux’s network, HBO, had been dragged into the act as well, with Arum gleefully describing how the very mention of Rigondeau’s name provokes HBO executives to ‘vomit.’

In the ensuing, fifteen months since he defeated Donaire, Rigondeaux has fought just once(a one sided points decision over Joseph Agbeko, last December) all the while, being over shadowed by the bitterness and negativity aimed at him constantly by his own promoter and network.
            
The career of Floyd Mayweather Jr. has shown how high a defensively brilliant boxer can climb when he is promoted correctly. While Rigondeaux doesn’t have the out of the ring persona or American back story that Mayweather Jr. has, his ability and achievements still deserve much better treatment than what they are getting at the present time from Bob Arum and HBO. One wonders where Mayweather Jr.’s career would have gone had he stayed with Arum ,rather than opting to break away from him some years ago. He almost certainly would not be the global star in the same way that he is today. It is not hard to imagine, that with a little work, Rigondeaux could attract far more positive publicity and attention than he does at the moment. After all, in addition to his brilliant boxing skills, Rigondeaux has a compelling back-story of his own, having been forced to leave his wife and children behind in Cuba in order to chase his dream of becoming a professional boxing champion in America. 

Unfortunately, HBO’s and Arum’s treatment of Rigondeaux has done a good job of putting a negative slant upon the Cuban’s reputation. He has found himself out in the cold and avoided by the other big names and so called ’world title’ holders at his weight. Now the managers and promoter’s of fighters such as Scott Quigg, Carl Frampton, and Kiko Martinez can avoid putting their men into the same ring as Rigondeaux, by using the excuse that he is too negative and not a ’draw’ with the fans.

This Saturday, July 19, Rigondeaux finally enters the ring for the first time in 2014, when he defends his WBA and WBO world super-bantamweight titles against veteran Thai contender, Sod Kokietgym, at the Cotai Arena, Venetian Resort, in Macao, China.

With all due respect, to Kokietgym, this is the kind of fight that is more or less an insult to a boxer of Rigondeaux’s talent.  Instead of being given the kind of big fights which his ability deserves, Rigondeaux is being matched up with a fringe contender who has fought much of his career in obscurity, and will be a total unknown to many boxing fans outside of Thailand. Despite a statistically impressive record of (63-2-1, 28koes),  Kokietgym’s only real claim to having operated at anything approaching this level before in his career, is his two fights with Daniel Ponce De leon, for De Leon’s WBO world super-bantamweight title, way back in late 2005 and mid 2006 .  Kokietgym actually gave De Leon all he could handle in their first fight, dropping the champion in the 2nd round, and making a battle of it all the way, before losing on points. In the rematch some months later, Kokietgym was knocked out in the 1st round. These encounters with De Leon remain Kokietgym’s only career defeats, but in the years since, he has fought a long parade of mediocrity in Thailand, and this, along with his advanced age of 37, does not bode well for his chances against Rigondeaux.  In all honesty, Kokietgym looks to have little chance against the Cuban maestro, outside of being able to pull off something truly extraordinary. The main question about this fight is whether or not Kokietgym will be able to last the distance.  If he comes forward and really tries to make a fight of it against a master counter puncher such as Rigondeaux, then the answer must be a firm no.

Rigondeaux’s title defence has been hidden away on the same bill as Zou Shiming’s first ten-rounder.  Shiming is a former Olympic champion in his own right, but far less accomplished than Rigondeaux. With a possible audience of over 1 billion Chinese fans eager to follow Shiming’s professional progress, Uncle Bob is being very accommodating to his budding Chinese star. 

If there is a silver lining for Rigondeaux this Saturday, beyond finally being able to enter the ring again, it is that this fight will be the last under contract to Bob Arum and Top Rank, and that once it is over, Rigondeaux will be free to pursue new promotional avenues. Hopefully, Rigondeaux can find a promoter and network who will appreciate him for the special talent that he is and be willing to put the work in to promote him as an elite world champion. Rigo deserves as much. 

It doesn’t really take much of a search to find some interesting and exciting matches for Rigondeaux, provided that certain fighters can be tempted out of their comfort zones, and perhaps a new promoter, with a new and positive attitude towards Rigondeaux, can make some of these possible fights become a reality.

This weekend will hopefully signal the end of Rigondeaux’s bitter falling out with Arum and HBO, and the start of something fresh and new. One of today’s best exponents of the sweet science may finally find himself reaping the benefits that his ability deserves.


The star of the show, for the Chinese, will be Zou Shiming, (4-0, 1ko) who will be having his first 10-rounder, when he takes on Luis De La Rosa (23-3-1, 13koes). This fight will also be Shiming’s first professional title fight, as he and La Rosa, will be fighting for the WBO International Flyweight championship. Bob Arum will be hoping that this fight represents Shiming’s first step towards a world title, how realistic that hope is, remains to be seen.  Despite all of his fans, and uncle Bob’s best intentions, Shiming has so far shown himself to be woefully short of the type of talent needed to win a professional world title, even in these times of multiple and diluted, world championships.

Also on the card, will be former World flyweight champion Brian Viloria, (33-4, 19koes) who begins the road back with an undemanding looking fight against Jose Alfredo Zuniga (11-5-1, 5koes.)

Russian light-heavyweight Egor Mekhonstev (3-0, 3koes)  who won gold at the 2012 Olympic games, takes on Mike Mirafuente (2-0, 2koes.)

There is further Chinese interest with:

Super-flyweight Rex Tso (13-0, 8koes) vs. John Baja win (12-6, 6koes)
Lightweight Ik Yang (15-0, 10koes) vs. Rachamongkol Sorpleonchit (14-8, 6koes)
Lightweight NG Kuok Kun (4-0, 2koes) vs. Beau O’Brien (4-0-1, 1ko) 



Copyright © 2014 The Boxing Glove, Inc. Peter Silkov Art. All Rights Reserved. Peter Silkov contributes to www.theboxingglove.com and www.theboxingtribune.com

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