Saturday, December 17, 2005

ESPN "Sportscenter" to Show Post-Fight Ruiz-Valuev Clip 

On American television, ESPN is running promos for "Sportscenter" saying that it will air a clip of the post-fight brawl from Ruiz-Valuev, and hopefully more. This may also air on the ESPNews channel as well.

(Update #1: Of course, during this, the signal provided to my home by Time Warner Cable of Manhattan's so-called digital service keeps going out.)

(Update #2: The signal came back but all the ESPN report emphasized was the post-fight brawl and that Valuev reminds them of Ivan Drago. They didn't even mention that it was a majority decision. A typical Mickey Mouse report. -- 12:26 AM EST)

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German Fans Cheer John Ruiz and Norman Stone: Post-Fight Notes From Ruiz vs. Valuev 

We have just been sent the post-fight notes from Ruiz vs. Valuev in Berlin on Saturday from publicist Alan Hopper of Don King Productions. Although this is a press release from a promotional company, its substance agrees with several other independent reports we have seen, so here it is:

Nicolai Valuev Defeats Ruiz to Win WBA TitleValuev Becomes First Russian Heavyweight to Win a World Title

BERLIN—When the undefeated giant Russian Nicolai “The Beast from the East” Valuev entered the ring in Berlin on Saturday—all 7 feet and 323 ½ pounds of him—to make his first appearance in a world championship match against World Boxing Association champion John “The Quietman” Ruiz, it was much the same as when Valuev fought another American in Germany, Larry “The Legend” Donald, in Oldenberg on Oct. 1.

Huge banners throughout the sold-out 10,000-seat Max Schmeling Halle hung from the rafters, and not a single photo of Ruiz was featured on the cover—or inside—the event program.

If one didn’t know better, they might think that Ruiz was the challenger and Valuev the champion, until Ruiz did see his name illuminated in sparkling fireworks during his walk to the ring.

But just as the audience in Oldenberg lustily whistled and booed when Valuev won a majority decision over Donald in their country village—that crowd of about 5,000 was not swayed by the one-sided propaganda they were fed and rightly sided with the American whom they felt had clearly out-boxed the Russian—the crowd in Berlin reacted in similar fashion when it was announced that Valuev had won a majority decision to become the first Russian to win a world heavyweight title.

In fact, possibly the loudest applause of the evening erupted after the fight when Ruiz’s colorful trainer, Norman “Stoney” Stone ripped the belt off Valuev’s shoulder and held it up to the crowd in defiance.

That started a melee inside the ring with Stone being struck by Valuev cornerman Hagen Sevecke and the corresponding retaliation from Stone before order could be restored.

Ruiz did exactly what he promised at the beginning of the fight by coming right at Valuev, delivering left jabs and burrowing in to attempt to neutralize the Russian’s huge advantages in height, reach and weight.

Ruiz then did what nobody thought he would do midway into the round. He removed himself from the inside, content to stay on the outside. Valuev himself appeared a bit confused when Ruiz stepped back. The Russian waited to fire shots, and Ruiz came back inside with a flurry that delighted the crowd at the end of the opening stanza.

Ruiz continued to press the action in the second, but the lumbering giant seemed to have just warmed up. Ruiz then landed his best punch of the fight to that point, a big right hand. He tried to follow it with another shortly thereafter but missed while Valuev rallied to land a few jabs.

Valuev continued to establish his jab in the third round, which was enough to win the round on one of the judges scorecards—the first judging deviation after all judges were in agreement that Ruiz had won the first and Valuev the second.

Ruiz seemed comfortable to stay on the outside during the first minute of the fourth round and paid the price by again being on the end of Valuev’s jab. Ruiz was better served when he moved back inside and began to throw combinations, many of which scored including a right hand that landed flush on Valuev’s face that seemed to stun him just before the bell sounded ending the round.

It wasn’t enough for Ruiz to win the round on two of the judges’ scorecards, and the judge who sided with him, Francisco Martinez of New Zealand, was the only judge to side with Valuev in the second.

The bout, which had the appearance of a tugboat battling a supertanker at times with the size difference of the fighters, moved into the fifth round where Valuev landed his best right hand of the fight to that point, which may have been the difference in a close round that was unanimously won by the Russian—as he did again in the sixth round.

Ruiz sensed that he needed to rally, and he did with strong combinations in one of the better rounds of the fight, the seventh. All three judges gave that round to Ruiz, and all three judges were in agreement that Valuev was ahead by one point going into the eighth.

Valuev’s trainer screamed at him to increase his intensity, and Ruiz remained right where he wanted him to be—on the outside—where Valuev again worked his jab and also landed a solid right, which was enough to win the round on all three cards and extended the Russian’s lead to two points across the board.

Ruiz burrowed inside again in the ninth where he boxed effectively and won the fight on two scorecards while the third judge, Derek Milham from Australia deviated by scoring it a 10-10 draw. (This wouldn’t be his last 10-10 scoring as he did the same thing in the final round, which had produced some of the most spirited action in the contest.)

The tenth appeared to be an even round until Ruiz unloaded a right hand and promptly followed with another that may have been his best punches of the fight. Valuev answered with a right of his own with both fighters still punching at the bell.

The scorers differed in this round as well: two gave it to Ruiz, probably swayed by those strong back-to-back rights, but Hector Hernandez from Mexico gave it to Valuev.

The fight was still up for grabs entering the championship rounds where one judge had the fight even, the two others were at 96-95 and 96-94 favoring Valuev.

It should also be noted that referee Stanley Christodoulou, from South Africa, had warned Valuev repeatedly throughout the fight for throwing elbows and holding but never deducted a point.

Ruiz slowed his punch output in the first half of the eleventh round while both fighters had marks showing under their eyes by this point. The judges were obviously confused in this round as two judges split the round and the other, Hernandez, scored it a draw.

Stone yelled at Ruiz during the break before the final round, much like Valuev’s trainer had implored his fighter to step up the action earlier.

Both fighters seemed to give what they had left in the final round with many ringside observers feeling Ruiz had won the round but two judges gave it to Valuev. The remaining judge, Milham, inexplicably scored the final round of a heavyweight championship match a draw.

In the end, one judge scored the fight 114-114, while the two remaining judges favored Valuev by scores of 116-114 and 116-113, giving the Russian the WBA title by majority decision.

“I worked 12 years for this moment,” Valuev said after the fight. “I excuse myself for not having the most beautiful performance but the most important thing is that I won the decision and the title.”

Ruiz felt he was robbed of his championship.

“I think this [decision] is ridiculous,” Ruiz said in his locker room after the fight. “This is a sad moment. Not only does this destroy me but it doesn’t do any good for boxing. It’s up to the people of Germany and around the world who saw this fight on TV to decide what they thought of this decision.”

Ruiz added: “Other that the [bad] decision, I loved everything about Berlin, Germany and its people. I’m gonna let them decide but I want a re-match. Boxing is on a path to destruction [with decisions like this].

Ruiz was also critical of the Christodoulou, who he said didn’t do enough to stop Valuev’s holding and elbows.

“The referee didn’t do his job. He should be fined. If they [referees] can’t maintain the rules its chaos in there.”

Ruiz’s attorney Anthony Cardinale said at the post-fight press conference that he would petition the WBA to review the fight and determine if a re-match is in order.

Ruiz did his part for sportsmanship when he and his entire team entered the ring wearing specially made warm-ups with the German national soccer team’s logo emblazoned across the front. This was done to wish the team good luck in the World Cup being staged in Germany in 2006 and to also pay tribute to Berlin and the people of Germany.

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Valuev "Wins" Decision -- Why Are We Not Surprised? 

He didn’t get a knockout, so the judges KO’d his title reign.

John Ruiz lost what all reports are calling a highly controversial majority decision to Nicolay Valuev Saturday night at the Max Schmeling Halle in Berlin, Germany. Valuev thus captures the WBA heavyweight belt from Ruiz.

The story on this fight by the French-based AFP had this headline:

Valuev wins controversial WBA heavyweight title

The European-based Reuters described this scene from ringside:

The sell-out 10,000 crowd in the Max-Schmeling arena booed loudly when the decision was announced even though Valuev, who is 2.13 meter (7ft) and 147 kg (324lbs), is based in Germany.

We await more detailed reports but once again everything indicates that most Europeans and Americans agreed that another robbery, as had been warned, has occurred in the ring.

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Waiting for Johnny and Nicolay 

(photo from Boxen.com)

While the American television networks continue to devalue the heavyweight division by refusing to air Saturday's WBA title defense by John Ruiz in Germany against Nicolay Valuev, you can see some preview footage online.

Boxen.com , the web site of Valuev's German promoter/manager Wilfried Sauerland (yeah, they're the same there) has clips of Valuev's last fight with Larry Donald on October 1.

Valuev won a majority decision in that one over Donald, whose role is basically a gatekeeper for aspirants seeking title shots.

Even though only a few clips are shown, you can clearly see Valuev's version of defense includes no head movement at all and moving straight back, when he bothers to move at all, after Donald's jabs.

Let's just hope that the verdict is fair and the best man wins (and that Frosty the Snowman doesn't melt this spring).

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Some Old But True No-Holds-Barred Advice: Run "Mixed Martial Arts" Like A Sport, Not A Spectacle 

I've gotten several inquiries as to when we will actually revive my "No Holds Barred" Internet radio show. I had hoped to have it up by now, but we've faced a few delays, both technical and otherwise. I do hope to have it up in a few weeks if all goes well. It may be a podcast, also.

I have not commented much in the last couple of years about what is now known as mixed martial arts. Frankly, I have neither watched many of its shows nor followed it that much of late, preferring to focus on combat sports which are more closely organized as sports ought to be, with all their defects. Even boxing, with all the crap I have been campaigning against relentlessly, is run more like a sport than the sum of all these scattered, individual, warring mixed martial arts promotions are, including the best-intentioned ones.

UFC, for its part, has largely built its new-found audience by positioning itself as a form of pro "wrestling" except that, of course, its contests are real. Yet it has mimicked the type of anti-social themes promulgated by the likes of WWE, especially in its so-called reality series, as if a real sport doesn't provide enough reality for real sports fans. Examples include endless trash-talking, ultimate disrespect for opponents including even urinating in a rival's bed, ad nauseam. It succeeded in retaining enough of the audience watching WWE's Monday night spectacle, with the first season of "The Ultimate Fighter" immediately following it on Spike TV, to get decent ratings.

That it had long ago sold the soul of the combat sports and the martial arts in the quest of Jerry Springer-like ratings didn't seem to matter much to its well-heeled owners. Remember, shortly after these guys took over, they tried to give us Carmen Electra as the group's spokesperson. The Carmen Electra Era was a short one, but it was one of the first chapters in the dumbing down of what was once a thinking fan's sport.

These are by no means new themes for me. So to keep folks on their toes, and to dig up an old chestnut in the season many listen to Nat King Cole crooning about them roasting on an open fire, here is a piece I wrote back on March 9, 1997, for the long-defunct newsletter Vale Tudo News, of which I was editor, in a time long lost and a galaxy far, far away:

by Eddie Goldman

Just when we thought the biggest legal battles for no-holds-barred fighting (NHB) were behind us, that unaccountable merry band of men and women known as politicians pulled a double-cross that was remarkable even for people with as few scruples or principles as them. Barely four months after signing into law near-unanimously passed legislation legalizing NHB in New York, Governor Pataki signed yet a new law, also almost unanimously passed, repealing that one, and making NHB illegal in the State of New York. Now we can safely send the kiddies back into the streets to play.

But let's face the hard facts. Scoundrels and no-counts as the politicians may be, this fiasco could never have happened without a series of major miscalculations on the part of many of the people who run the NHB companies. Most importantly, the public seems to be tiring of the present direction of NHB. Despite the enormous free publicity UFC XII got in the mainstream media because of the legal and political controversy, despite coming off a good show in UUFC2, and despite having a marketable showdown between the old and new stars of UFC in Severn and Coleman, a gimmick that works in every other sport, the reported buy rate was between .4 and .5, or flat, about the same as the last two shows.

For those who support the sport of NHB and want to see it prosper, it's time some issues be addressed promptly and properly. NHB has surely reached a decisive crossroads, and it is unclear just how much time it has left to reverse its present slide.

The single biggest weakness of the NHB companies -- all of them -- has been their failure to run consistently and thoroughly their promotions and NHB as a sport. This is not just a case of too much hype in their advertising, which we pointed out in issue #9 of VTN. In fact, their promotional materials have improved since then. No, the problems appear deeper.

The major NHB companies need to field cards involving athletes and only athletes. They must be professionals with real, and verifiable credentials. There are still too many stiffs with 98-0 and 200-0 records being passed off on us, like we're too dumb to figure out we're being lied to by the promoters. There is only one athlete in the world, to my knowledge, that in any type of combat sport, has anything even approaching that kind of astronomical record. That distinction belongs to none other than the three-time Olympic gold medalist Alexandre Karelin, undefeated in international Greco-Roman wrestling competition in the last 10 years or so.

The major league NHB promotions should not be presenting the equivalent of minor league talent on their pay-per-views. Those fighters can and do appear on many of the smaller, regional shows. For example, on the February 28 I.F.C. show, several of the fighters were introduced as making their professional NHB debut, and that is the way it should be. But if the $19.95 and up pay-per-views remain populated by guys who look like they are amateurs and maybe won a few club or bar fights, why should anyone expect the buy rates to do anything other than nosedive? And what the hell are guys like this doing fighting for supposedly major championships? Let fighters like these first accomplish something somewhere else first. This is the kind of Don King crap that is killing boxing. Let's leave such tactics for promoters like him.

If NHB is ever to be accepted as a sport, and not a spectacle that resembles pro wrestling, there must be independently-verified steroid testing implemented immediately. One well-known NHB competitor told me recently that at a major NHB show held not long ago, EVERY fighter was on the juice. I have heard similar stories from other insiders. Whatever the actual numbers, it's obvious to the naked eye that this has been at least more or less the case. Get rid of steroids. Now. Completely.

Another disaster waiting to happen is the conflict of interest involving those who work in a promotion and have an interest in a particular fighter or group of fighters. Also, similarly, there are those who represent both fighters in the same fight, or more than one fighter in the same tournament.

The rule should be simple: one manager, one fighter per fight or tournament or weight class, alternates included.

No wonder that both insiders and fans alike have been openly speculating on whether or not some NHB fights have had pre-determined finishes. This alone could cause the death of NHB.

How on earth can you convince an ill-educated public, a dim-witted press, and a bunch of money-hungry politicians that NHB is a legitimate sport deserving of the same sanctioning and tolerance as other sports, when it is being run like this?

There are also many pro and cons on such issues as time limits, judges, and rounds. The fact is that people have limited time to view spectator sports, and that most people want to see a winner and a loser wherever possible. Remember ABC's "Wide World of Sports" classic opening line about "The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat"? NHB must be run as a sport, and the appeal of sports is due in large part to the universal appeal that exciting drama holds for most people. Drama without conclusion and finality is incomplete and not satisfying. Without victory or defeat there is little thrill or agony, and, thus, little appeal.

These, I believe, are some of the reasons the buy rates for NHB have dropped, and remain at a record low point. Their marketing has been generally incapable of bringing in new fans, but they have been even more incapable of keeping the fans who had already shelled out some money to tune in. The problem, then, is in good part internal, and with the product that has been offered as of late.

It is thus unfortunate that some of the suits in the NHB world, in the wake of the New York fiasco, have begun a campaign of finger-pointing and painting rival promoters as "the enemy", "the bad guys", etc. The fact is, the New York legislation legalizing NHB was passed without public opinion first being changed. In fact, at the time it was passed, there were articles in the New York papers quoting New York legislators who were in general lamenting the fact that they were often voting on bills they had neither read nor understood, but just because their party leaders had instructed them to.

If half as much money that was spent on paying a lobbyist were spent on doing good public relations and familiarizing the public with the fighters, and showing that they were not a bunch of half-crazed, bloodthirsty killers, but a group of mainly disciplined and highly-skilled athletes, then maybe we all wouldn't be in this mess today.

But, it seems that the strategy of some of these suits was to keep the public in the dark as much as possible about the legal maneuverings going on in the inaccessible chambers of the State Capitol in Albany. So when the New York Times ran its now infamous front-page story on NHB coming to New York, this house of cards quickly collapsed. Had a serious attempt first been made to change public opinion, whatever political attacks were forthcoming would not have had such a devastating effect. This is also specifically why UFC expected to win its Federal Court case after the New York State Athletic Commission issued its ridiculous set of rules designed solely to sabotage UFC XII. They were telling everyone that it was a sure thing that they would win in court. Maybe they had read in a college textbook somewhere that courts and judges make decisions based on the merits of the facts, and what the law allows, and not how much raw power those on each side of the aisle bring with them. The courtroom is an octagon, too.

No, but the finger-pointing is intensifying, with everyone else to blame, including even the Mohawks who dared to run a NHB show in their own Nation that is partially inside New York's borders. It is easier to find enemies than to keep friends for some, and apparently not even yours truly is exempt from this exercise of "who lost New York?". You see, as I have written in these pages two months ago, and informed all of my various editors, producers, and publishers, I make a few bucks from working on the long-delayed Extreme Fighting page on the Penthouse web site. To some, but not the WBAI Program Director, or anyone else I must report to, this has become a problem. I'll just stand on my record of being one of the most vociferous defenders of NHB in the media, and that goes for all companies. Anyone that thinks that the mainstream media, that finances itself through advertising and investors, and that the journalism schools that fund themselves from grants from the many media giants, really separate fact from opinion, and really represent the unbiased search for truth, and not the interests of those who fund them, is naive at best. And anyone who thinks that a couple of bucks can get me to say or write something that I don't wholeheartedly believe, whether I may be right or wrong, just confesses that they are the ones whose butt is for sale. I'll just stand on what I have done in the light of day.

But make no mistake about it. The NHB press is partisan, as well. We support this sport and work to promote its health. We are not like most of the martial arts magazines. Those are mainly glossy-paged shoppers whose editorial content seems to be infomercials about the wonders available through the products and services of those who just happen to advertise on the adjoining pages. We, on the other hand, try to put the fans and fighters first. If we falter, you, the readers, should let us know.

It is to these ends that it has become time to raise these issues publicly. The very future of this sport of the future is at stake.

March 9, 1997

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Friday, December 16, 2005

Our Man in Berlin 

Ron Borges of The Boston Globe (and our former Boxingranks.com colleague) has traveled the globe, presumably at The Globe's expense, to cover John Ruiz's defense of his WBA heavyweight title this Saturday in Berlin, Germany, against the seven-foot undefeated Russian Nicolay Valuev. Borges's report on The Globe web site, entitled "A Fighting Chance" , includes some instructive and frightening examples of how numerous American fighters have been ripped off in this part of the globe with such an unsavory history.

Borges quotes WBO heavyweight champion Lamon Brewster about his taking extraordinary precautions before his Sept. 28 fight in Germany with Luan Krasniqi, won by Brewster by ninth-round TKO. Brewster went so far as to avoiding any contact with anyone German before the fight that, he is quoted as saying, "We knew the Germans were leaders in chemical warfare so there was no shaking hands."

Brewster did prevail in that fight, but only after being behind on the scorecards before scoring a knockdown en route to the eventual stoppage. "They gave him a 17-count," Brewster is again quoted as saying.

Although less suspicious treatment is expected for Ruiz since Brewster's fight was promoted by the more odious Peter Kohl and this one is promoted by Wilfried Sauerland, Brewster still warned Ruiz, "And understand you can't win a decision there."

This is a must-read article, whether you do so over your morning cereal or over your afternoon hangover remedy. In either case it should make you think about how insanely this boxing business is run.

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Thursday, December 15, 2005

It's Awards Time for the Boxing Writers Association of America 

The Boxing Writers Association of America has contacted its members (of which I am one) that is has opened the nomination process for its end-of-the-year awards. Only members, of course, are eligible both to make nominations and to vote. Nonetheless, it still would be instructive to get some input from other folks.

Here are the categories, with my brief comments:

Fight of the Year -- This is a no-brainer for Corrales-Castillo 1. It might just be a unanimous vote.

Fighter of the Year -- I'm sticking with Brian Viloria, although strong cases can be made for Ricky Hatton, Antonio Tarver, Zab Judah, Floyd Mayweather Jr., and several other fighters. I just hope that Viloria gets nominated.

Manager of the Year -- This one I've got to think about. Last year it was Bernard Hopkins. This award is not always given out every year if there are no strong candidates.

Trainer of the Year -- Ditto. Maybe Dan Birmingham again, who also won last year, after a perfect year for his charges Winky Wright and Jeff Lacy?

Long and Meritorious Service to Boxing -- This and the next two awards can only be won once by their recipients, according to BWAA rules. I am repeating a nomination I have made a few times before, but is even more timely this year: Dr. Flip Homansky and Dr. Margaret Goodman. They deserve it as much as they ever did, and Flip's not being reappointed to the Nevada commission in place of some political donor with no boxing experience is an outrage which requires a strong response, if only symbolic. Flip was a ringside physician for about two decades, head of the commission's medical board, and a full commission member for about five years. Both he and his colleague Dr. Goodman were among the leaders, in the Association of Boxing Commissions and elsewhere, for strengthening requirements for fighter safety and medical exams.

Good Guy Award -- I'll nominate them Drs. Homansky and Goodman as well. The BWAA, by the way, does have a history of accepting nominations in tandem for their awards, so this should be no problem.

Excellence in Broadcast Journalism -- You can only win this one once and frankly, no one who hasn't won stands out.

The five top votegetters in each category will be placed on a ballot, which will then be sent to all members. Winners in other categories, such as for the annual writing awards, are selected by special panels.

The BWAA will also be holding elections for officers. Bernard Fernandez, president for many years, will not, we hear, be standing for reelection, in large part due to health problems. Most of the top officers do not seem to want this position (which, obviously, is unpaid and requires tons of work), so we'll have to wait to see who ends up with it.

And what say you?

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Online Excerpt from Carlo Rotella's "Cut Time: An Education at the Fights" Posted 

I've read countless books on innumerable subjects over the years and thus tend to approach being summoned to read another one with skepticism. A couple of years ago when I was asked to read "Cut Time: An Education at the Fights" by Carlo Rotella and appear with Carlo on Joey Reynolds's radio show my initial reaction was, "Yeah, right, another boxing book." But then I started reading this collection of his insights into the world of boxing and, frankly, couldn't put it down (which almost never happens, even with books filled with pictures). In fact, once when reading it on the subway, I became so absorbed in it that I missed my stop by several stations (which also only happens once a decade or so).

The paperback edition of "Cut Time" has just been published by the University of Chicago Press. They have also just posted a lengthy excerpt from the book on their web site. You can see it for free by clicking here: http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/725561.html .

Read, learn, enjoy, and buy the damn book.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Best Heavyweight in the World Today Fights Saturday 

He defeated the current WBC heavyweight champ Hasim Rahman, now receiving all sorts of accolades from so many affluent and opulent corners, by unanimous decision just two years ago, on Dec. 13, 2003.

He beat Evander Holyfield, really twice in 2000 and 2001 followed by a controversial draw, when Holyfield was still real and was himself able to beat Rahman in his next fight on June 1, 2002 (when Rahman suffered that famous hematoma in his head).

He beat the fouling Andrew Golota on Nov. 13, 2004, despite Golota being allowed to land numerous unpenalized illegal blows. We covered that fight in depth and later spoke with him along with his colorful and blunt manager, trainer, and friend, Norman "Stoney" Stone (click on the link to the audio to hear it for yourself).

He knocked out Fres Oquendo on April 17, 2004, and forced Kirk Johnson essentially to foul out on July 27, 2002.

Who is my number one heavyweight? By now you should have gotten over whatever unnecessary shock you may be in by realizing that my top man in the heavyweight division is the current WBA heavyweight champion, John “The Quietman” Ruiz.

If you disagree, tell me who is better than him. IBF champ Chris Byrd is clearly fading while WBO champ Lamon Brewster still seems tentative in his major fights, such as with Wladimir Klitschko and Luan Krasniqi, even when he wins.

Vitali Klitschko, now retired, was vastly overrated and avoided top opponents -- like Rahman -- after LOSING to an overweight Lennox Lewis, who then himself retired. Wladimir Klitschko? If Sam Peter learned how to box, he'd have had him for lunch, as Lamon Brewster eventually did.

The only men to defeat Ruiz in the ring in recent years have been Roy Jones Jr. and James Toney. In their fight of March 1, 2003, won by Jones by a clear-cut unanimous decision, Ruiz employed the wrong strategy by trying to box with Jones. This bout also turned out to be the Jones's last top-notch performance, and, of course, he then returned to the light heavyweight division.

On April 30, 2005, Ruiz lost a unanimous decision to a roided-up Toney, later changed to a no decision. We have discussed this already at length in Ruiz and Toney: The Next Chapter .

So who is a superior heavyweight, who has a better record in actual fights in the division, and who better deserves to be ranked number one in what is admittedly a weight class thin on talent?

So he fights ugly. Since when has pretty been part of boxing? Who is his promoter, Don King or Halle Berry? You want pretty? Read the blog of Trust Me, I'm A Blonde or watch Desperate Housewives (hey, nothing wrong with that as I do, too).

The next performance of John Ruiz is this coming Saturday, Dec. 17, in Berlin, Germany, against the undefeated seven-foot Russian Nicolay Valuev. This fight will be shown live on German television, but not at all on American television and neither online, as far as we know.

Part of this American blackout is due to the relentless attacks on Ruiz by many in the boxing media who somehow lose their bravado when it comes to writing about really important issues such as the struggle for a boxers' union.

This is one fight I wish were available for viewing worldwide. Again boxing fails to serve a hungry market.

One hopeful sign for a fairly officiated fight is that the referee will be veteran Stanley Christodoulou, who was the only judge who scored Lewis-Holyfield I correctly.

Below in full is a press release put out Wednesday called "Travel Notes from the final press conference held today in Berlin for Ruiz vs. Valuev" by Don King Productions:

John Ruiz to Defend WBA Heavyweight Crown Against ‘Giant Russian’ Valuev on Saturday in Berlin

BERLIN--The final press conference prior to John “The Quietman” Ruiz’s defense of his World Boxing Association heavyweight championship against Nicolay “Giant Russian” Valuev, which will take place on Saturday at Max Schmeling Halle here in Berlin, was staged today before a full audience at the Maritim proArte Hotel.

The fight will be shown on free German television on ARD channel 1 but will not be seen in America and is co-presented by Berlin-based Sauerland Event, promoter of Valuev, and Don King Productions, promoter of Ruiz.

The assembled German media seemed interested and curious to be covering the build up to a rare occurrence: a world heavyweight championship being determined in Berlin.

The press conference took place adjacent to the U.S. Embassy and a stone’s throw from the seat of government for Germany, the Reichstag and Bundeskanzleramt (the Reichstag is to Congress what the Bundeskanzleramt is to the White House….).

Another 500 yards down the road is the site of the former Berlin wall.

Today, a unified Berlin is a bustling, modern city of about 3.5 million people that is in the middle of its winter weather, which is almost always overcast and chilly.

Santa Claus and his reindeer are ubiquitous in this capital city with posters throughout town announcing the return of the annual holiday Wienacht Circus featuring, you guessed it, Santa Claus and more reindeer.

It will be staged on the former site of the castle of the Prussian Monarchy, where the German emperors lived beginning in 1871 with Wilhelm I. Frederic III took over in 1888 but he died after just 100 days. Wilhelm II then came to power until being exiled to Holland after World War I, ending the German monarchy and paving the way for the first German republic.

The castle of Prussia no longer stands. It was bombed out during World War II and later completely removed by the communist East German government after they took over in 1949, thus making it a perfect site for the circus.

Noteworthy in their holiday spirit, Berliners seem to have saved some of the old world flavor of the season as compared to what is seen in most malls of America during December. Shopping and eating at open-air clusters of temporary booths abound on various streets and corners throughout the heart of Berlin creating a festive holiday atmosphere.

Many of these booths are operated by craftsmen who have traveled into the city from the surrounding countryside to sell items they have created themselves for sale.

The undefeated, No. 1-challenger Valuev, who stands 7 feet and weighed in for his last fight against Larry Donald at an astonishing 324 ½ pounds, was asked by a reporter to explain how he obtained his “Beast from the East” nickname. He explained that was done by former management and that he now prefers the Giant Russian moniker, although.

A better description may be provided visually when Valuev enters the ring. He doesn’t step through the ropes, he steps OVER them.

Valuev says Ruiz’s star-studded world championship fight record including wins over Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield, Kirk Johnson, Hasim ‘The Rock” Rahman, Fres Oquendo, and Andrew Golota do not faze him.

“I am not any more nervous for this fight because it is my first world championship match,” Valuev said. “I will try to keep Ruiz away from inside clinching to use my height and reach advantages to prevail.

John Ruiz has been in Berlin for a week and was also polite when he spoke, noting this was the first time he has visited Germany.

“I’m honored to be in Germany defending my title,” Ruiz said. “If a KO comes it comes. That just means I get to leave work early. I’m coming into this fight in great shape to go 12 rounds.

“I’m not worried about his height or reach advantage. I trained to fight and will come to fight. My game plan is to take the fight to him, which will neutralize any height or reach advantage.”

When asked if he fears the bout going the distance, Ruiz spoke plainly.

“I know there have been questionable decisions [in Germany] but what can I do? I can only do my best.”

One journalist asked Ruiz if it was true that he arrived in Berlin with 28 pieces of luggage, and if so, why?

“We plan to bring pieces of the giant Russian back to the United States” he quipped. “We’re going to give them out as Christmas presents.”

Ruiz’s manager Norman Stone, normally colorful, was uncharacteristically demure in addressing the Berlin media.

“We respect Valuev,” Stone said. “He’s a big guy and a tough guy and anything can happen. That’s why preparation is so important. Johnny’s prepared. My guy’s ready and it’s going to be a great fight.”

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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

News to Culture You Up 

Judah, Baldomir, Mormeck, and Bell Speak

As expected, the quotes from Monday's press conference at Madison Square Garden have been posted on the Showtime boxing web site.

After all these years, the combination of Don King, Showtime, and Madison Square Garden are still delivering top-notch shows.

That photo is of WBA and WBC cruiserweight champion Jean-Marc Mormeck, courtesy of Showtime.

For the Redneck or Blackneck in You

If you are looking for some music to buy either for yourself or someone you really respect, included in my recommendations are anything by Big & Rich and their MusikMafia pals such as Gretchen Wilson and Cowboy Troy.

For those too uninformed, ignorant, prejudiced, close-minded, and/or without any soul to have already gotten the news about country music, check these folks out and find out what all the fuss is about. The MusikMafia slogan is "Country music without prejudice" and they are breaking a lot of barriers once thought impenetrable.

Live Forever with Billy Joe Shaver

Big & Rich, by the way, also appear on the remake of that grand old song, "Live Forever," by Billy Joe Shaver. You can see this remarkable video, directed by Rick Schroeder, for free at Billy's page on CMT.com .

Billy's own web site also has more info on this song as well as lots more goodies essential to people of good taste and appreciation of working class culture.

Kinky TV

Now there is a good reason NOT to skip all the commercials on TV -- at least if you are fortunate enough to live in the great state of Texas, that is.

Starting Monday, the first television commercials for Kinky Friedman's campaign for governor began airing on numerous major network and cable shows. These ads star the Kinky Friedman Talking Action Figure.

The commercials can also be seen online at Kinky's web site.

Jake Shimabukuro, the "Hendrix of the Ukulele"

Another quite unique member of the MusikMafia will appear on television late Tuesday night. Jake Shimabukuro, known as the "Hendrix of the Ukulele," will play on NBC's "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" (12:35 AM/11:35PM CT). You can also find out more about him on his own web site, which is both in English and Japanese.

Sportswoman of the Year

Finally, when we made our pick for who should have been selected by Sports Illustrated as Sportsman of the Year, we didn't know of a certain potential candidate.

Since then, we have learned of one of the greatest sports fans in the world, Trust Me, I'm A Blonde .

She doesn't specify what year this took place, but this episode, explained in her blog, should qualify her for all sorts of awards:

I got kicked out of the Spectrum for pressing my bare breasts against the glass at a Flyers v. Devils game, and play was stopped because of it. I was drunk. It made the local news.

I'm gonna live forever now.

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Monday, December 12, 2005

A Garden of Champions 

We're going to post some audio interviews, hopefully soon when we revive my "No Holds Barred" Internet radio show, from today's press conference for the Jan. 7, 2006, boxing show at The Theater at Madison Square Garden. Showtime's site already has the initial press release up and will no doubt soon have the press conference quotes up, so we'll link to that when we can.

This will be the first major card of 2006 and it looks like a dandy. Unified welterweight champ Zab Judah, originally from Brooklyn, will have the hometown crowd on his side as he defends against Argentinean Carlos Baldomir. There has been a lot of talk about what likely will be Zab's subsequent fight, against Floyd Mayweather Jr., but Zab stated Monday, "I don't want to overlook Carlos before we get to Pretty Girl."

I hope you read the column I did recently for Bodyguard Magazine called "Decoding Boxing" about the meaning of the pre-fight ritual of trash-talking. They haven't posted it, but the point of that essay, written about how Mayweather and Gatti went from dissing each other to loving each other after they fought, was what pre-corporate controlled rap taught: Don't believe the hype.

Zab (34-2, 1 NC, 25 KOs) should not have a particularly difficult time with the 34-year-old Baldomir, with a record of 41-9-6 and only 12 KOs, but who hasn't been knocked out since 1994. This is a showcase fight for Zab and one meant as an appetizer for a spring showdown with Mayweather, which no doubt will be on pay$per$view.

What is the real deal on this card may escape the attention of the more casual fans. Jean-Marc Mormeck (31-2, 21 KOs), who holds the WBA and WBC cruiserweight belts, will be fighting IBF champ O'Neil Bell (25-1-1, 23 KOs) to unify this division's major titles.

Mormeck has mainly fought in France and only twice before in the U.S. Before you start making cracks that belong on Fox News, Mormeck, born in Guadeloupe, decisively defeated then-unbeaten WBC champ Wayne Braithwaite on April 2, 2005, in Worcester, Mass., in the good ol' U.S. of A. to unify the two belts he has. Before that, Mormeck racked up victories over Virgil Hill (twice), Dale Brown, and Alexander Gurov. Mormeck suffered his only two career losses back in his fourth and fifth pro fights, a four-round and a six-round decision, in 1997.

Something tells me that this muscular Frenchman, with the bleached trimmed beard, could just steal the show Jan. 7.

Mormeck also has his own web site, in Francais, at: http://www.mormeck.com/ .

Showtime boxing will also begin a feature on Dec. 19 on their web site where fans can pick a nickname for Mormeck. Once again, France and America collaborate in democracy!

The Showtime telecast in the U.S. will just show these two fights, Judah-Baldomir and Mormeck-Bell. On the non-televised but interesting undercard, Will Grigsby will defend his IBF junior flyweight belt against Ulises Solis, and unbeaten featherweight prospect Elio Rojas of Brooklyn via the Dominican Republic will display his talents.

At the press conference, we got a chance to chat with Teddy Blackburn, who has just published “In the Other Corner: A Tribute to Gerald McClellan” to help raise funds for that stricken ex-boxer. All the proceeds from the sales of that book go directly to assist Gerald. We wrote about this last week, and Teddy said you can also contact him by e-mail to get information on purchasing the book, at this address: TBlackburn@aol.com .

We also heard that the annual New York meeting of the Boxing Writers Association of America has been postponed from this Thursday to Jan. 7, just before this card at the Garden.

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Blog News: Brian Moore, Paul Katcher, and Trust Me, I'm A Blonde 

The revolution is being blogged.

Brian Moore, our fellow former co-conspirator at Boxingranks.com, has just begun a brand-new blog known as Limited Thinker.

Besides writing about boxing, Brian could continue in the great literary tradition of writers like Damon Runyon and Charles Bukowski, but only if he drank more. Make sure to bookmark his new blog and let him know what you think of it.

Thanks go out to fellow Yogi's beer-drinkin' veteran Paul Katcher for mentioning this blog on his own popular blog, at: http://paulkatcher.com/ . Paul is a mucho talented writer who deserves a nice salary cutting up the powers-that-be in the sports world. Then he could have more money for beer and porn, two of the four major food groups. So bookmark Paul's blog and post there to join in on the fun.

Through Paul we were able to get a comment on this blog from the Arturo Gatti-lovin' blogger known as Trust Me, I'm A Blonde, who lets the world in on all the juiciest parts of her mind and body at: http://trustmeimablonde.blogspot.com/ . Make sure also to bookmark her blog, visit it regularly, and shamelessly flirt with her until you hear the front door being unlocked.

So who's next with these blogs, folks? Keep 'em coming, y'all!

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The Week Ahead: Yes, Virginia, There Is Boxing In New York 

Santa Claus delivers his bounty early this year for the boxing media in New York as there are four straight days of press conferences and more.

The Don King Show Starring Don King, and also the fighters on his Jan. 7 card, makes its way to Madison Square Garden Monday. Welterweight champ Zab Judah will headline that card, along with a unification fight between two cruiserweight champs, Jean Marc Mormeck -- who could steal the whole show -- and O'Neil Bell.

On Tuesday Shane Mosley moseys on into town for a press conference to hype his Feb. 25 fight with Fernando Vargas in Las Vegas.

On Wednesday, just announced, is another press conference to push the Jan. 27 Atlantic City show featuring several title fights including, I believe, one of the strawweight champs, Muhammad Rachman, defending against Omar Soto.

Then Thursday is supposed to have, last I heard anyway, the annual New York meeting of the Boxing Writers Association of America, followed by the DiBella-promoted card at the Manhattan Center featuring Dimitry Salita against somebody, dead or alive.

And then on Friday we rest, because there may be a transit strike in New York by then.

It all goes to show that there is not, never has been, and never will be a Santa Claus.

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Sunday, December 11, 2005

Wright-Soliman: HBO Does It Again 

Did you know that Winky Wright had a cold this week coming into his fight Saturday night with Sam Soliman? Not if you watched the HBO live telecast of this bout, where this pertinent fact, which may have at least partially explained Wright's less-than-spectacular if victorious performance, remained unreported.

Did you know that the network which aired in the U.S. some of the best and most important fights of 2005, including Corrales-Castillo 1, Hatton-Tszyu, and Judah-Spinks 2, was Showtime? Not if you watched HBO's recap of 2005, after Wright-Soliman, where clips of these fights appeared without either mention of or graphics about their appearing on HBO's main premium cable rival.

Did you know that Wright's opponent Saturday night, Sam Soliman of Australia, is a highly unorthodox but durable fighter who has great endurance while fighting from wildly strange angles? Well, you may have learned that by watching this fight, but HBO's announcers seemed woefully unfamiliar with Soliman going into this bout, with one even admitting on air that he had never even watched a tape of him before (and how many others were also guilty of this but without such a confession?).

And as for HBO's matchmaking Saturday night, as our colleague Charles Farrell wrote us:

Did anyone from HBO bother to scout Sam Soliman? If the intention was to make Winky Wright look bad, they did a good job. I thought that Mike Hunter threw junk, but he was Lew Jenkins next to Sam.

The unpreparedness of the HBO mob even extended to when they heaped praise on fighters. While repeating ad nauseam that the heavyweight division is weak (maybe they should have had fellow Time Warner cable network CNN issue a breaking news alert about this), Larry Merchant praised the "featherweights" Erik Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera, and Manny Pacquiao, despite the fact that none of them have fought at that weight in over a year, and in Morales's case, since 2003.

But there was one highlight of this dreadful telecast of an entertaining fight. Before the fifth round, in response to an online question from a viewer about why they do not show the ring card girls, HBO finally gave us a full and lengthy shot of the lovely Rosanna of the Roundcardgirlz.com.

Of course, true to form, at no time in this telecast did these Time Warner-HBO journalists either report her name or ask her for any comments, as if the ring girls are inanimate objects who are just part of the scenery.

But then again, remember: It's not TV, it's HBO.

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