Saturday, January 14, 2006

Is Country Music Too White? 

[Note: I've already posted this on the forums at the New York City Bartenders & Patrons page, where I am nominally the music editor. And I thought such a gig would land me bazillions in payola. Anyway, I am reposting it here with the permission of the author (me -- just trying to see if you're still paying attention). There have already been several thoughtful responses there, all, in fact, more sober-minded than the original piece which spurred them. Of course, we don't go to all these bars to leave sober-minded, but the discussion thus far shows that a lot of the folks who frequent these honky tonks have more between their ears than stale beer.]

Village Voice music critic Tom Breihan has tried to tackle the often taboo subject of what he still unscientifically calls "race" and its relation to what is undoubtedly a form of music predominantly performed by and popular with whites: country music.

On his Voice blog, in "Country Music Grapples With Race", Breihan writes, "Here's the thing: pop music, as it exists in 2005, is basically black music, and it has been for some time. Country music is enormously popular. But country music is hugely, overwhelmingly white enough that it becomes an obvious target for the people who don't buy it, almost a punchline in itself."

By the way, he also doesn't like African-American country rapper Cowboy Troy, who calls his style hick-hop, at all. When Troy was in New York in September for some free concerts to hype the CMA Awards, Breihan dissed him. He wrote Troy "has no idea what rappers do onstage," as if he should merely mimic existing rappers.

In any case, Breihan's piece is attracting some attention outside of those few who still read this ad-filled giveaway. The country music industry web site All About Country has reposted this piece, and is even running a poll on the questions it raises.

As someone who is both a country music enthusiast and one who also abhors any kind of racism, I'd be interested to read folks' comments on this before jumping into the fray.

I would add that even those this piece might be taken as incendiary by some people, more important are the issues which it raises rather than the Voice's tone. So while strongly stating your case, please try to avoid turning this into a name-calling contest. Thanks.

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Friday, January 13, 2006

Corrales Injures Rib in Training, Rubber Match with Castillo Postponed 

When the third fight between Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo was announced as being scheduled for Feb. 4, 2006, many boxing observers just shook their heads. These two had fought their first classic war last May, a certain to be named 2005 Fight of the Year, with a brutal rematch held in October. Many asked why these two would have to do it all again so soon, the third time in just nine months. It was like asking for trouble, with the memory of the late Leavander Johnson still fresh in everyone's minds.

As a sort of validation of those fears, it was revealed Friday afternoon that Diego Corrales has suffered an injury to his ribs while training, and the Feb. 4 date for his fight with Castillo has been postponed. Corrales's promoter Gary Shaw said in a press release posted below that he hopes to reschedule this fight for the late spring, probably meaning May or June so it can appear on Showtime on their monthly shows the first Saturday of each month.

Here is that press release:



RESEDA, Calif. (Jan. 13, 2006) - Lightweight champion Diego "Chico" Corrales suffered a rib injury while training this week forcing the postponement of his world title defense rematch against José Luis Castillo. Castillo-Corrales III, promoted by Top Rank and Gary Shaw Productions, was scheduled to take place Saturday, Feb. 4, and televised live on SHOWTIME from the Don Haskins Center in El Paso, Texas. Bob Arum and Gary Shaw announced that they are looking for a new opponent to fight Castillo on Feb. 4.

"Chico hurt his ribs in sparring earlier this week," said promoter Gary Shaw. "He tried to fight through it, for a day or two before getting examined by a doctor late Thursday, who prescribed no training for the next three weeks to allow the injury to completely heal. Bob Arum and I will sit down with Showtime and discuss a new date for this fight, but we are confident it can be rescheduled for later in the spring."

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NEW YORK, January, 13-The Boxing Writers Association of America has voted to bestow a rarely-given honor upon four members of the boxing community. The James S. Farley Award is given in recognition of a career marked by "honesty and integrity." The last person so honored by the organization was Eddie Futch in 1996. This year, the BWAA extends the honor to four individuals.

Dr. Flip Homansky and Dr. Margaret Goodman are longtime advocates for high medical standards in boxing. During their tenure with the Nevada State Athletic Commission, they fought for implementation of life-saving medical reforms and refused to deviate from their commitment despite pressures that were put upon them.

Angelo Dundee is revered as a thoroughly decent man in an often mean spirited and back-biting business. Over the past half-century, he has trained fighters like Jimmy Ellis, Luis Rodriguez, Sugar Ramos, Willie Pastrano; and of course, Sugar Ray Leonard and Muhammad Ali.

Howie Albert has been part of the sweet science for decades as a manager, cutman, publicist, and jack-of-all trades. His designation is, by extension, an honor for all of the less famous men and women who toil in boxing's vineyards.

The James S. Farley Awards will be presented to recipients at the annual Boxing Writers Association of America dinner to be held on May 5th in Las Vegas.

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Eddie Joins TheSweetScience.com and Guests On Joey Reynolds Show Friday Night 

Here is the first of what should be at least a few announcements in the coming weeks about my media activities. (I'm the one in the photo wearing glasses.)

Starting next week, I will be writing a weekly boxing column for TheSweetScience.com, one of the most popular and prestigious boxing web sites, and also easily the fastest-growing in this genre. We finalized this with editor-in-chief Robert Ecksel Thursday, so look for some more no-holds-barred boxing commentary commencing there next week.

I also will be one of the guests late Friday night, early Saturday morning, Jan. 13/14, on the nationally-syndicated "Joey Reynolds Show", originating from WOR 710 AM radio in New York. This talk show airs live beginning at 1 AM ET and runs to 5 AM. My segment will likely be in the last two hours of the show.

Joey is celebrating his tenth anniversary on WOR and having a series of special shows featuring many of his regular guests. Also on this show will be veteran boxing writer Bert Sugar, but he will first be there to discuss his book The Complete Idiot's Guide to Pro Wrestling, written with Captain Lou Albano. I won't be on that segment but will stick around with Bert to discuss boxing, and maybe even real wrestling.

You can also listen to the "Joey Reynolds Show" online. For more information on the show's webcast, go here.

The "Joey Reynolds Show" is heard on over 80 radio stations. For more information on the show, go here.

For more information on Myra Chanin, who is a producer for the show, and also about Joey and the show, go here.

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Top College Wrestling Teams Set for National Duals Tournament, Jan, 14-15, in Cedar Falls, Iowa 

Every season most of the top Division I college wrestling teams compete in a dual meet tournament which provides a preview of the NCAA championships. This year's event, called the 2006 NWCA Cliff Keen National Duals, takes place Sat., Jan. 14, and Sun., Jan. 15, at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls, Iowa, on the campus of the University of Northern Iowa.

This year's tournament will include eight of the top ten teams in the latest NWCA/USA Today Top 25 poll of January 10: #1 Oklahoma State, #2 Minnesota, #3 Oklahoma, #5 Michigan, #6 Iowa, #7 Central Michigan, #8 Iowa State, and #9 Missouri. Also competing are #12 Cornell, #13 Northwestern, #14 Nebraska, #18 Arizona State, #19 Hofstra, #23 Northern Illinois, #24 Northern Iowa, and upstart Kent State, which recently upset Ohio State.

The official web site for this event is here.

Also, there will be a pay-per-view webcast of the finals and semifinals by Live Sports Video. Information on that can be found here..

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Vote for College Wrestling on ESPN.com Poll! 

ESPN.com is presently running a poll asking its users to vote for their favorite NCAA winter sport, "aside from basketball", they add. The five sports they offer as choices are wrestling, ice hockey, track and field, gymnastics, and swimming and diving.

Wrestling -- dubbed by this sport's fanatics (including moi) as the world's oldest and greatest sport -- is thus far winning this poll in a rout, and even without any hanging chads or faulty voting machines in the opposition's strongholds.

After 5459 votes (mine was the 5459th), here are the results:

Wrestling -- 67%
Ice hockey -- 22%
Track and field (indoor) -- 5%
Gymnastics -- 3%
Swimming and diving -- 2%

So go vote here, near the bottom of the page, and let the world know that wrestling has a sizable fan base which is likely more passionate about their favorite college sport than those of any other sport.

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Thursday, January 12, 2006

A Unified Theory of Boxing and Economics 

Nobody seems to want to fight anymore in boxing.

Winky Wright and Jermain Taylor won't fight because of money. Right now Taylor is fighting no one. Floyd Mayweather might want to fight Wright or even Carlos Baldomir after the latter's victory over Zab Judah last Saturday, but Judah wants to fight Baldomir who only wants either Mayweather or Mosley. Arturo Gatti may want Baldomir who also probably won't want him. And few if any seem to want Ricky Hatton, who just may win a bunch of 2005 Fighter of the Year awards.

John Ruiz wants a rematch with Nicolay Valuev, but his new co-promoter Don King wants to bring the "Russian Giant" to America against someone else. King wants a heavyweight unification tournament, but Bob Arum, now promoter for WBC heavyweight champ Hasim Rahman, doesn't. And whatever happened to the Chris Byrd-Wladimir Klitschko rematch?

Behind all the moral posturing of all these souls is the quest to make as much money as possible. Since boxing has no formal structure like, say, the NFL, no one has to fight anyone, really. And money is at the root of all this delaying, postponing, avoiding, and maneuvering. Meanwhile, we're stuck with "Friday Night Fights".

So here's my solution: Abolish money, everywhere, for good. Then it is guaranteed that everyone, including you and me, will have to fight.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Newsflash: No Bloodshed at Rahman-Toney Presser! 

Flanked by a small detail of grim-looking security men wearing sports jackets, ties, and lapel pins with a big "S" on them, WBC heavyweight champion Hasim Rahman and challenger James Toney managed to have a press conference Tuesday at New York's Tavern on the Green restaurant without turning the place red.

These two will get to square off against each other March 18 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, NJ, in a bout which will be shown in the U.S. on HBO and is promoted by Top Rank.

Both fighters confidently predicted that they would win by knockout. That is as it should be. But things have sunk so low in boxing that all involved must be applauded for their discipline at this crowded press conference and their desire to promote this fight not as a brawl fueled by personal antagonisms but as a major sporting event.

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BWAA Press Release

NEW YORK-January, 10-Tim Graham has been elected president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Graham, who covers boxing and hockey for the Buffalo News, succeeds Bernard Fernandez of the Philadelphia Daily News, who had served four one-year terms from 2002 through 2005.

The remaining slate of officers -- first vice president Steve Farhood, vice presidents Ron Borges, Thomas Hauser and Jack Hirsch, secretary Denis Nolan and treasurer Scott Shaffer -- was retained in a vote of members at the BWAA's annual winter business meeting in New York.

As a reporter for the Buffalo News, Graham has been honored by the Associated Press Sports Editors, New York State Associated Press Association and Missouri School of Journalism. Before joining the Buffalo News he worked at the Las Vegas Sun where he won six Nevada Press Association awards and received a Knight Center for Specialized Journalism fellowship. He also writes for ESPN.com.

"The strength of any professional association lies in its brotherhood," said Graham, who stated he would increase the content of the BWAA's website, www.bwaa.org, to make it "more functional and helpful. I also believe members should be encouraged to become more familiar with and write about some of the pressing reform issues in boxing today. There's so much more to the sport than what goes on inside the ring."

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Kinky Friedman: The Next Governor of the State of Texas? 

Is the campaign to place Kinky Friedman on the ballot as an independent running for governor of Texas just another gag by the humorist, mystery novelist, and country singer?

Consider all these facts: Kinky's campaign manager is former Minnesota Senator Dean Barkley, who managed the successful campaign of Jesse Ventura when he ran as an independent for governor of Minnesota.

While the incumbent Republican Governor Rick Perry remains the favorite to be reelected, a major split has developed in the Texas Republican Party and Perry's adminsitration.

State Comptroller Carole Strayhorn has recently announced that she is also entering this race. Although she is a Republican, she, too, will try to run as an independent. Strayhorn is quite well-connected: She is the mother of White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan.

Meanwhile, Friedman's campaign is steaming ahead. This Thursday, Jan, 12, he will be having a major fundraiser in Houston.

It will be hosted by noted fundraiser and philanthropist Dr. Carolyn Farb. There will be performances by country legends Jerry Jeff Walker and Billy Joe Shaver. Also appearing will be comic Ruth Buzzi as well as Little Jewford, noted as the “last surviving member” of Kinky's original band, Kinky Friedman and The Texas Jewboys.

And note this: To get in, minimum contributions are $500 per person.

So how are the voters in Texas reacting? Well, in a Zogby Poll in November, Perry still led with 41 percent, but Kinky had 21 percent. And that was before Strayhorn's defection from Perry, the recent round of positive media coverage for Kinky, and a shift in Kinky's campaign from mainly slinging comedic one-liners to putting forth real positions and explaining a viable strategy to win a race with several major candidates.

Now that sounds serious.

Thankfully, however, the Kinkster hasn't completely dropped his act. Just sit back and view the first KinkyToon and decide for yourself, whether you live somewhere down in Texas or somewhere else.

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First, of course, we at Sycuan Ringside Promotions congratulate Carlos Baldomir on his terrific performance and tremendous victory in capturing the World Boxing Council welterweight championship Saturday night in New York City. We're thrilled by that awesome showing, one that has catapulted both Carlos and Sycuan Ringside Promotions to the forefront of the boxing world.

Sycuan Ringside Promotions also thanks Carlos Baldomir for his inspired effort, one that thrilled boxing fans around the world. It was an effort that proved that determination, dedication, focus and hard work enables a person, not just a boxer, to overcome any obstacle and achieve his or her goal, no matter how daunting a proposition it may appear to be. Carlos put forth a lesson in life, not merely a lesson in boxing.

Next, Sycuan Ringside Promotions and Carlos Baldomir want to express our appreciation to The Ring Magazine, the long-time 'Bible of Boxing,' and Joe Santoliquito of The Ring for joining boxing fans around the world as recognizing Carlos as the undisputed welterweight champion. This is a wonderful tribute since The Ring championship has a storied tradition of tracing title lineage in a weight division. This is a championship that was held by welterweight legends such as 'Sugar' Ray Robinson and 'Sugar' Ray Leonard, and all of us are proud to be part of that history.

Now, let me put to rest all the misconceptions and misinformation that may have arisen regarding Carlos' championship status.

The fight was only for the WBC welterweight championship. Neither Sycuan Ringside Promotions nor Carlos Baldomir were ever contacted or approached by the International Boxing Federation or the World Boxing Association in regards to paying sanctioning fees to those organizations for the right to fight for those titles. Don King was absolutely right when he said that only the WBC championship was at stake.

In fact, Carlos was the WBC's No. 1 mandatory challenger, a right he earned with a win in the WBC's title-elimination bout last May. While it would have been nice had Carlos also been the IBF's and WBA's mandatory challenger as well, the fact remains he was not.

So, any notion or suggestion that Carlos or Sycuan Ringside Promotions were not ready, willing and able to post any sanctioning fees with any organization prior to this fight are both patently absurd and grossly inaccurate.

However, Sycuan Ringside Promotions, pen in hand, is prepared and would welcome the opportunity to write checks to both the IBF and the WBA in the amount of the appropriate sanctioning fees if they want to recognize Carlos Baldomir as their welterweight world champion as well.

Regardless, Sycuan Ringside Promotions joins boxing fans and the media around the world in recognizing Carlos Baldomir for exactly who he is--the undisputed welterweight world champion, the man who beat the man who held three world title belts.

Winning the WBC title means so much to Carlos because, as he pointed out, it came on the 10th anniversary of the death of the greatest boxer Argentina has ever produced, Carlos Monzon.

Carlos dedicated this fight--and now this victory--to his wife and four children; his hometown of Santa Fe; the late, great Carlos Monzon; every man, woman and child in Argentina; and, I quote him here now, 'Argentina's great president, the Honorable Nestor Kirchner.'

And Carlos wants to thank his trainer, the ageless Amilcar Brusa, who also trained Monzon plus 13 other world champions, for his invaluable assistance in making all this possible.

We at Sycuan Ringside Promotions salute Carlos Baldomir--the first welterweight champion ever from Argentina--for his superb accomplishment and look forward to future success.

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World Sumo Challenge Replay on ESPN, Sat., Jan. 14, 4-6 PM ET 

If you missed the telecast in December of the debut show of the World Sumo Challenge, you are in luck. A repeat showing will take place this coming Saturday afternoon, Jan. 14, on the main ESPN channel, from 4 to 6 PM ET.

There has already been a lot of coverage of this event on this blog, including the "No Holds Barred" Special Preview Show: World Sumo Challenge and Mayhem On Mulberry Muay Thai Events in New York as well as an article World Sumo Challenge Plans 2006 Tours.

Below is the latest press release about this new telecast:

For Immediate Release


Taped at Madison Square Garden on October 22, 2005, Programs Featuring24 World-Class Heavyweight Sumo Wrestlers, Was Originally Broadcast on ESPN 2 In December, 2005

ESPN will telecast two one-hour specials, back to back, on Saturday, January 14, 4:00 to 5:00 PM and 5:00 to 6:00 PM featuring all the action and excitement of WORLD S.U.M.O. CHALLENGE -- BATTLE OF THE GIANTS, the international world-class Sumo competition taped at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, October 22, 2005. The competition attracted 24 of the world's best heavyweight Sumo wrestlers from countries all over the globe who competed for the 1st Annual World S.U.M.O. Challenge Cup. (The programs were originally broadcast on ESPN2 on December 24 and 30, 2005.)

Presented by Big Boy Productions, LLC, a New York-based sports and entertainment production company whose mission is to develop and present world class international SUMO to national and international audiences, the championship competition was sanctioned by the International Sumo Federation, the Japanese-based world governing body for Sumo. The Garden competition attracted more than 10,000 enthusiastic fans and was the inaugural event of a new international Sumo organization - Sumo Ultimate Masters Organization (S.U.M.O.) - which is currently setting up tours of North and South America for the spring and summer of 2006 and Europe in the fall of 2006. The tour will be broadcast on national television. The 2nd Annual World S.U.M.O. Challenge has already been booked into Madison Square Garden on October 21, 2006.

The Sumo competition at the Garden, governed by traditional Japanese Sumo rules, was contested in the main arena and featured the spirituality and mystique inherent in traditional Sumo wrestling. It was punctuated by spectacular special effects as well as live music provided by Taikoza, a thunderous percussion group that features taiko drums - large barrel-like drums that produce a magnificent sound -- creating a visual and audio treat for spectators.

The two dozen wrestlers who competed in the 1ST ANNUAL WORLD S.U.M.O. CHALLENGE - BATTLE OF THE GIANTS, and are featured on the ESPN2 telecasts, represent Japan, Bulgaria, Hungary, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Republic of Georgia, and United States. They include: Georgiev Stiliyan and Petar Stoyanov (Bulgaria); Jorg Brummer, Karsten Grapp and Torsten Scheibler (Germany); Dezso Libor and Barnabas Toth (Hungary); Mitshuhiko Fukao, Takayuki Minami and Kaleo (Japan); Sydney Carty (Netherlands); Ronny Allman and Hans Borg (Norway); Jacek Jaracz, Marek Kraszewski, Marek Paczkow, Robert Paczkow and Marcim Roczum (Poland); Levan Altunashvili, Jondo Dabrundashvili and Levan Ebanoidze (Republic of Georgia); and Kena Heffernan, Oni pa'a Imua Pa'a'aina and Harrington Wa (USA).

The TV commentary is provided by sportscaster Al Pawlowski with expert commentary by the 67th Yokezuna, Masashimaru. The emcee at the Garden is Ryan McDonough.

Executive Producers are Big Boy Productions (Noah Goldman and Jeff Daniels) and Executive Producer of the television specials is Ron Honsa. The event producer is Ted Kudyla. The post-production services were provided by Moving Pictures and the programs were edited by Alan Miller.

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Monday, January 09, 2006

Boxing, Pay-Per-Views, and Piracy: So Just Who Are the Real Pirates Anyway? 

The debate on boxing pay-per-view piracy has been taken to another level as Thomas Hauser has written a follow-up to his recent piece on this subject, called “More on Pay-Per-View Piracy and The Internet”.

This new piece quotes extensively from the flood of many intelligent responses he received about this issue. We also blogged about the original piece, and had our own smaller set of exchanges here. Hauser's original piece was here.

What is clear from the intensity of this debate as well as the volume of responses is that many people regard the networks like HBO as being bigger and worse pirates than those individuals who steal their pay-per-views. The proliferation of so many of these pay-per-views is a bigger problem to the boxing business than their piracy, with the sport's increasing marginalization to a major degree a result of this policy.

Of course, boxing faces more issues, such as the rampant corruption in the sport and its inherent violence as well as disregard of fighter safety.

Case in point: Saturday's card at The Theater at Madison Square Garden was given the name “UNDISPUTED”, in all caps. The poster clearly stated that the Judah-Baldomir fight was for the “WBC/IBF/WBA UNDISPUTED WELTERWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP”. Yet when Baldomir won this fight, as we reported, he only took home the WBC belt.

Whether it was through misunderstanding, miscommunication, or trickeration, this fight was not, as it was advertised, for the undisputed world title. Baldomir and his camp pointed out that he was only Judah's mandatory challenger for the WBC, and that fighting for all the other titles would have only meant paying more sanctioning fees to these alphabets which had not ranked him as their top contender. Scott Woodworth of Sycuan Ringside Promotions, which promotes Baldomir, said of these groups, “Rape me.”

As I wrote to a colleague about this title confusion, “It all should be very simple, like in other sports. Judah was the undisputed champion, a distinction he won in the ring against Spinks. Baldomir beat Judah fair and square, also in the ring. If they ran football like they run boxing, the Giants would still be in the playoffs.”

Hauser's latest article closes with a poignant quote from someone not named who commented on his first piece:

“Les Moonves and Tom Freston [then the co-presidents of Viacom] each received $52,000,000 in compensation last year. Who did you say was ripping off the system?”

Let the anti-pay-per-view rebellion begin.

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John Ruiz Petitions WBA for Valuev Rematch 

[Note: We are waiting for a video to arrive of the Dec. 17 fight between John Ruiz and Nicolay Valuev in Berlin, Germany, which ended in a highly controversial majority decision for Valuev. Nonetheless, virtually everyone who has seen this fight – including the bulk of the 10,000 German fans who heartily booed the decision – believe that Ruiz deserved to win. Below is a press release from the Ruiz camp asking the WBA, whose heavyweight title Ruiz had held, to order a rematch, a position we support.]

Ruiz Petitions WBA for Valuev Rematch

LAS VEGAS (January 8, 2006) – Two-time world heavyweight champion John "The Quietman" Ruiz (41-6-1, 28 KOs) has petitioned the World Boxing Association for an immediate rematch against Nicolay Valuev for the WBA heavyweight title. Last month, Ruiz lost a controversial decision to Valuev in Berlin.

Ruiz' petition is based on the WBA's rule 7.3 (see below) that allows for a rematch based on a controversial decision in a championship match. Valuev won by 12-round decision by scores of 114-114, 116-114, 116-113.

"I'm focusing on our WBA petition," Ruiz said. "I enjoyed everything about our trip to Germany other than the decision. The German people were great to me. I deserve a rematch and would fight him again in Germany if I had to. I remember thinking mid-way through the fight that it was the easiest fight I'd had in a long time. I couldn't believe it when the decision was announced. The fans in Germany booed the decision. I felt I won the fight. You're supposed to take the title from the champion; they gave it to him. I'll continue fighting until I feel it's time for me to retire. I'll retire on my terms. Right now I'm looking forward to my next fight and want it to be for the title against Valuev."

Compubox's PunchStat Report, which HBO uses for its broadcasts, after a review of Ruiz-Valuev revealed that Ruiz clearly was the aggressor, holding advantages against Valuev in terms of total punches landed, 195-157; power shots landed 128 of 194 versus 43 of 184. Ruiz out-punched Valuev in eight of 12 rounds. Valuev received seven warnings from referee Stanley Christodoulou, although no penalties were deducted, and Valuev clinched 76 times compared to Ruiz' 29. Most observers felt Ruiz dominated the 12th round, as the punch-stats indicate: Ruiz landed 18 of 41 punches thrown (44% connect rate) and 11 power shots, versus Valuev's 7 punches out of 44 thrown, and only 4 power shots (16%). However, Valuev received a 10-9 advantage on two of the judges' scorecards while the third scored 10-10.

In the last four rounds the judges were completely uneven in their scoring: Milhelm (2 Even, 1 Ruiz, 1 Valuev), Hernandez (1 Even, 1 Ruiz, 2 Valuev), Martinez (3 Ruiz, 1 Valuev).

WBA Rule 7.3
If a championship match ends in a draw or if the match is extremely close and one of the contenders receives a controversial decision regarding the other, the World Championships Committee, at its discretion, may recommend that the two (2) boxers be ordered to fight again for the Championship, within a period to be set by the World Championships Committee.

Ruiz is the first and only world heavyweight champion of Hispanic heritage. He has beaten world champions Evander Holyfield, Hasim Rahman and Tony Tucker, as well as top 10 contenders Andrew Golota, Fres Oquendo and Kirk Johnson.

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New York Times on New Epidemic: Diabetes 

Every so often the mainstream media hits a home run, including even The New York Times.

Currently the lead story on The Times' web site, and presumably in their print edition of Monday, Jan. 9, is a lengthy piece entitled "Diabetes and Its Awful Toll Quietly Emerge as a Crisis" by N. R. Kleinfield, along with several accompanying pieces.

The article uses the growing number of diabetes cases in New York to illustrate how this disease is becoming a nationwide epidemic. This piece states:

"An estimated 800,000 adult New Yorkers - more than one in every eight - now have diabetes, and city health officials describe the problem as a bona fide epidemic. Diabetes is the only major disease in the city that is growing, both in the number of new cases and the number of people it kills. And it is growing quickly, even as other scourges like heart disease and cancers are stable or in decline."

At the greatest risk of falling prey to diabetes are the poor, the obese, Blacks, Latinos, Asians, immigrants, and, of course, the elderly -- in other words, the majority of New Yorkers. The article also documents the frightening growth of this disease among children.

To make this sports-related, the growth of diabetes into an epidemic is to a major degree related to the decline in both our culture and public school programs of exercise and athletic programs:

"The studies ascribe the other 40 percent to lifestyle changes: the fundamental shift that has people eating jumbo meals and shunning exercise as if it were illegal. At every turn, technology has made physical activity unnecessary or unappealing. Gym class has largely been deleted from schools. Fewer than a third of junior high schools require physical education at all, the C.D.C. says."

It would also of course be nice if mainstream media outlets more regularly reported on both the decline of these school athletic programs, as well as the results of more sports other than just basketball and football.

Nonetheless, this is one of those seminal articles which is designed to be a catalyst for major societal and cultural change.

And after reading it, I took a nice, brisk walk.

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Sunday, January 08, 2006

The "Undisputed" Audio Interviews: New Champs Carlos Baldomir and O'Neil Bell, and Contender Steve Cunningham and Sycuan's Scott Woodworth 

Following the stellar boxing card Saturday night, Jan. 7, at The Theater at Madison Square Garden, and shown in the U.S. on Showtime, we got a chance at the crowded madhouse of a post-fight press conference to speak with the main stars of this show.

Almost no one had given Carlos Baldomir from Argentina, who went into this fight with a record of 41-9-6 and only 12 KOs, any chance to defeat Brooklyn's own undisputed welterweight champion Zab Judah, and especially in a building filled with Judah's hometown fans. But after 12 tough rounds, it was Baldomir who was awarded a well-deserved unanimous decision. We spoke with the new champ after his victory, and you can listen to that here and here .

Even though Baldomir clearly bested Judah, he won only one of the now-former undisputed champ's three belts, the green WBC one. According to promoter Don King, the WBA and IBF belts previously held by Judah will now become vacant (although since Judah was the undisputed champion and was thus the WBA's "super champion" with Luis Collazo recognized as its regular champion, this could get even more complicated). To help straighten this all out, we spoke with Scott Woodworth, the vice president and director of boxing operations of Sycuan Ringside Promotions, which promotes Baldomir. You can listen to that here and here.

One undisputed championship that is not being disputed, at least for now, is in the cruiserweight division. IBF champion O'Neil Bell came into his fight Saturday night with WBA and WBC champion Jean-Marc Mormeck as a distinct underdog. But after mounting an effective attack throughout the fight against a flat Mormeck, Bell closed the show with a tenth-round knockout. We got a chance to speak with the new undisputed cruiserweight champion of the world, O'Neil Bell, at the post-fight press conference, and you can listen to that here and here.

In the opening bout of Saturday night's card, Philadelphia's undefeated cruiserweight contender Steve "USS" Cunningham (19-0, 10 KOs) scored a TKO at 1:40 of the fifth round over Lloyd Bryan (21-12, 9 KOs) of Memphis, Tenn. Many members of the boxing media had to miss this fight as it began before the conclusion of the annual meeting of the Boxing Writers Association of America which was taking place nearby. Nevertheless, we caught up with Steve at the post-fight press conference to find out his future plans. You can listen to that here and here.

These interviews are all free to listen to and are in the MP3 format, so you may have to wait a few moments for them to download.

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The Undisputed Opportunists 

NEW YORK, Jan. 8 -- While walking up 7th Avenue after Saturday's fights at the Garden towards the subway, a beggar near Penn Station asked me for some money. When I said no, he turned away but then grumbled, "Devil."

I continued up, but only about two steps further I noticed a green rectangular piece of paper with a big "5" lying on the sidewalk. No one seemed to be claiming it, so I pocketed it. I would have just given it to this beggar if only he hadn't acted so dumb.

Sometimes you miss opportunities, sometimes opportunities fall into your lap, and sometimes you have to make your own opportunities.

That is what happened earlier Saturday night at The Theater at Madison Square Garden as two major upsets took place in bouts billed as being for undisputed world titles.

This was supposed to be a virtual tuneup for WBA-WBC-IBF welterweight champion Zab Judah, a mandatory defense to get out of the way en route to a pay-per-view payday with Floyd Mayweather, already being derided by Judah and on T-shirts worn by his camp as "Pretty Girl."

Judah had calmly denied to every reporter who asked that he was underestimating and overlooking opponent Carlos Baldomir, the little-known WBC mandatory from Argentina who went into this fight with a decent but unremarkable record of 41-9-6, with only 12 KOs. He insisted that he was not taking the underdog Baldomir lightly and would not lose focus with an April 8 date with Mayweather almost a certainty. Judah remembered vividly how last year in St. Louis Cory Spinks let all the hometown hoopla swell his head before Judah fought and defeated him to capture all those colorful belts he now had. The Brooklyn-born Judah vowed he would never make such an obvious error.

But Judah did exactly that, and more. He did not make the 147-pound weight limit on his first try at Friday's weigh-in. Just about an hour and a half before his main event appearance, he stayed for all four rounds in the corner of brother Josiah Judah for his bout with someone from North Carolina. And then he had to start his day's work against a 34-year-old veteran who almost nobody expected to win let alone go the distance, and who thus was fighting with nothing to lose.

For the first three rounds it appeared that even an unfocused Zab Judah had enough to coast against the slower and less mobile Baldomir. But before the fourth round, veteran trainer Amílcar Brusa, who had helped guide the great Argentinian champion Carlos Monzon to his world title, hobbled up the ring steps to offer some advice to his latest charge.

From the fourth round on, the punches from the southpaw Judah became less and less frequent. Baldomir began to crowd him and land solid right-hand leads, the classic offense of an orthodox fighter against a left-hander. And while Judah still possessed more speed that Baldomir, slowly and at varying moments it began to dawn on the fans, the media, the judges, and the fighters themselves that we may just be seeing a remake of "The Tortoise and the Hare".

The damage from Baldomir's rights began to accumulate. In the seventh round, Judah was severely rocked by Baldomir's right-handed assault, and wobbled as he tried to hold on to avoid a visit to the canvas, perhaps only held up by the ropes. The tide of the fight had most visibly changed by this round.

The remainder of the fight also saw Baldomir being the aggressor, although Judah never again faced the kind of trouble he had in the seventh. When the unanimous decision for Baldomir was announced, even the many Judah diehards in the crowd did not protest.

With the loss, Judah’s record dropped to 34-3, 1 NC, and 25 KOs. As we discuss later, his titles were now all gone, as also was his rich showdown with Mayweather.

We had just seen something special, where one guy tried to take the night off and still punch his timecard, while the other guy fought what was probably the fight of his life. To all those who have ever been called hopeless underdogs, this had to be gratifying.

Just before this bout we saw more of the same. Few outside of IBF cruiserweight champ O'Neil Bell's camp expected him not to go to sleep sometime in his fight with WBA-WBC champ Jean-Marc Mormeck, much less knock his French foe out himself. Yet from the very start of the opening round, Mormeck seemed flat and out of sync. Most expected Mormeck to jump all over Bell, but early on he began retreating and positioning his back to the ropes.

Bell's attack reached a crescendo in the tenth round when he first dropped the weary Mormeck. He beat the count of ten, but shortly after Bell closed the show by pounding Mormeck in the corner so forcefully that when Mormeck went down he lay on the canvas long past any count would have passed ten.

Bell, now 26-1-1 with 24 KOs and the undisputed cruiserweight champion, had also told all who would listen before this contest that he should not be judged by his questionable performances last year against Dale Brown, which many felt Brown deserved to win, and Sebastian Rothmann. He said he was now at 100 percent, and in this case he was telling the truth.

At the post-fight press conference, promoter Don King candidly admitted, "All my favorites lost." Not only had his fighters Judah and Mormeck, now 31-3 with 21 KOs, both been dethroned, but earlier Will Grigsby had dropped the IBF junior flyweight strap to Ulises "Archi" Solis. Even on a Don King card, you just never know in boxing.

So this was a night of opportunism, in the positive sense of the word signifying making the most of opportunities placed in front of someone, as opposed to the negative meaning referring to someone without scruples. I am still not a betting man, but the odds on this daily double upset of Baldomir and Bell both winning had to have been astronomical, and I hope these upsets put some bookies out of their parasitic business.

If you weren't among the 4735 fans at The Theater at the Garden or the smart viewers watching on Showtime, make sure to catch the replay on SHO Extreme Monday, Jan. 9, at 11 PM ET/PT. I have already suggested to them that they also rebroadcast this fight on their main Showtime channel within the next week or so.

Just a week into 2006, and boxing is back with a bang.

Ringside Notes: At the post-fight press conference, King explained that Baldomir only won Judah's WBC belt since the others were not at stake, meaning he was not their mandatory and he had not paid them sanctioning fees. But, he added, since Judah lost, the WBA and IBF welterweight titles will now become vacant. It would take this nonsense from the ridiculous alphabets to try to spoil an otherwise memorable night at the fights.

King also said that next in line for Bell is undefeated mandatory Steve Cunningham, who won an undercard fight by fifth-round stoppage here. Cunningham challenged Bell also.

Congratulations also go out to Tim Graham of the Buffalo News, ESPN.com, and Thesweetscience.com, who was elected as the new president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Now that he is in office, we urge the boxing writers to bug him about the BWAA's dreadful web site. But Tim knows this as I already began raising this with him. I think he just might get it.

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Baldomir and Bell Steal the Show at Madison Square Garden: Showtime Press Release 

Baldomir (in left photo above) lands a right on Judah, and Bell (in right photo above) after knocking down Mormeck. -- Photos: TOM CASINO/SHOWTIME

Baldomir and Bell Steal the Show on a SHOWTIME Championship Doubleheader from the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York City

World Championship Twinbill will be Replayed First Time on SHO Extreme Monday, Jan. 9, at 11 PM ET/PT

NEW YORK, Jan. 8 /PRNewswire/ -- Coming off a tremendous 2005, America's No. 1 Boxing Network picked up right where it left off with an incredibly exciting, action-packed world championship doubleheader Saturday on SHOWTIME.

Let the network's 20th Anniversary Celebration of televising meaningful, competitive fights begin!

Huge underdogs Carlos Baldomir and O'Neil Bell got the year off to a rousing start by registering major upsets in the SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING co-features. In what in all likelihood will be the 2006 Upset of the Year, Baldomir registered a close, unanimous 12-round decision over undisputed welterweight champion Zab Judah. In what may turn out to be a leading candidate for 2006 Fight of the Year, Bell knocked out Jean-Marc Mormeck in the 10th round to become the first undisputed cruiserweight champion of the world since 1988.

Not bad for starters, eh?

The thrilling world title fights at The Theater At Madison Square Garden were promoted by Don King Productions and aired at 9 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the west coast).

By defeating Judah, a prohibitive favorite, Baldomir (42-9-6, 12 KOs), of Los Angeles, by way of Santa Fe, Argentina, not only spoiled the homecoming of the Brooklyn-born Judah but destroyed the chances of Judah fighting Floyd Mayweather later in the year. Baldomir took home the World Boxing Council (WBC) belt, but he did not paying sanctioning fees to the International Boxing Federation (IBF) or World Boxing Association (WBA) so those belts are expected to become vacant.

It mattered little to the gallant, albeit lightly regarded Argentine.

"I said before the fight that this was going to be better than a Cinderella story, and it is," he said. "This is a dream come true. I am the new Cinderella man."

Dictating the pace throughout, the aggressive Baldomir won by the scores of 115-112, 115-113 and 114-113 despite fighting the last half of the fight with cuts over both eyes and on the bridge of his nose. It was his sixth consecutive victory and upped his record in his last 20 starts to 18-0-2.

His biggest round may have been the seventh when he connected with a right hand that badly shook and staggered Judah.

"Judah never hurt me, but I knew I was hurting him," Baldomir said. Despite the crushing loss, Judah (34-3, 1 NC, 25 KOs) offered no excuses.

"Baldomir is a good fighter, and he put up a good fight. He took the fight to me," Judah said. "I am not going to make any excuses or argue with the judges, but I will be back."

Judah was making the second defense of the undisputed 147-pound title he won with a ninth-round TKO over defending champion Cory Spinks on Feb. 5, 2005, on SHOWTIME. In that one, the slick-boxing southpaw defeated Spinks before 22,370 fans in Spinks' hometown of St. Louis. On Saturday, Baldomir shocked Judah in his hometown. So much for homecourt advantage.

Bell (26-1-1, 24 KOs), of Atlanta, by way of Montego Bay, Jamaica, flattened Mormeck at 2:50 into the 10th round. The IBF champion was leading the WBC/WBA champion on two of the scorecards (87-84 and 86-84) and behind on the other (86-85) at the time of the stoppage. Bell, now unbeaten in his last 26 starts (25-0-1) dating to April 1998, became the division's first undisputed champion since Evander Holyfield defeated Carlos DeLeon in 1988 -- and just its second since the division's inception in 1980.

Mormeck (31-3, 21 KOs), of Rosny-sous-Bois, France, by way of Point-a-Pitre, Guadalupe, France, had a 28-fight winning streak end.

Bell-Mormeck was a slugfest from the outset. Each took turns clubbing each other with his best shots. Mormeck was slightly ahead on two of the scorecards and tied on the other after six rounds before Bell edged ahead.

SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING's Steve Albert and Al Bernstein called the action from ringside with Jim Gray serving as roving reporter. The producer of the SHOWTIME telecast was David Dinkins Jr. with Bob Dunphy directing.

In addition to Monday night, Saturday's fights also will be replayed in their entirety on SHOWTIME TOO at 11 p.m. ET/PT on Tuesday, Jan. 10.

The next SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING telecast is Feb. 4 at El Paso, Tex. "In the War To Settle The Score On Feb. 4," Diego "Chico" Corrales (40-3, 33 KOs) and Jose Luis Castillo (53-7, 47 KOs) will collide in an eagerly awaited rubber match to decide once and for all the No. 1 135-pounder on the planet. It will be their third meeting in less than 10 months. In the 2005 Fight of the Year, Corrales won the epic first meeting when he dramatically rallied from the brink of near-certain defeat to register a memorable 10th-round TKO and capture the WBC lightweight title on May 7. Castillo avenged the loss with a suddenly shocking, controversial fourth-round knockout on Oct. 8. Corrales kept his title belts, however, as Castillo failed to make the 135-pound limit.

Rounding out the greatest opening quarter (first three months of the year) in SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING history, SHOWTIME will deliver a special 20th anniversary gift to fans on March 4 with the most meaningful world title unification fight of the decade when IBF super middleweight champion Jeff "Left Hook'' Lacy (21-0, 1 ND, 17 KOs) squares off against World Boxing Organization (WBO) titleholder Joe Calzaghe (40-0, 31 KOs) to determine the best in the 168-pound division. The Lacy-Calzaghe fight comes almost 20 years to the day of the first SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING telecast when "Marvelous" Marvin Hagler defeated John "The Beast" Mugabi in a spectacular and unforgettable 11th-round knockout.

For information on SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING and "ShoBox: The New Generation" telecasts, including complete fighter bios and records, related stories and more, please go the SHOWTIME website at http://www.sho.com/boxing.

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