Saturday, February 18, 2006

Friday Night Fouls 

It was an increasingly bizarre edition this week of ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights” in a show coming from the FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee.

The first televised fight proceeded smoothly enough. There undefeated junior welterweight prospect Lamont Peterson notched his record up to 16-0 (7) with a near-shutout ten-round decision against an overmatched Leo Moreno, now 12-2 (10). According to the ESPN2 Punch Track numbers, the busy Moreno actually threw more punches than the far speedier Peterson, 1196 to 928, but it was Peterson who was by far the more accurate and effective, and almost as busy. Peterson landed 316 of his punches for a 34 percent connect rate, to 259 and just 22 percent for Moreno. Peterson also outlanded Moreno in head shots, 269 to 124. Peterson deservedly won by scores of 100-90 twice and 99-91, the latter also being ESPN2 announcer Teddy Atlas’s score.

Thus it was mission accomplished, as Peterson had beaten an opponent hand-picked to showcase his speed and boxing ability, and who did not have the power to hurt him. Such is usually what “Friday Night Fights” is for.

Then things went downhill.

The main event pitted welterweight prospect Delvin Rodriguez against Alexis Divison. This one started out as a competitive fight, as in the first round the underdog Divison landed with high, overhand, looping rights. Although Divison seemed to be doing well, the first round ended with referee Bill Clancy warning him for hitting behind the head.

As the fight went on, Rodriguez was soon able to time these shots and outbox the awkward and wild Divison. That, however, did not become the main story of this main event, as more warnings for more fouls by Divison followed.

In round two, Clancy told Divison, “Arriba,” Spanish for “Up,” after he hit low. Then he was cautioned for holding. Later he told Divison, “No mas” after another blow to the back of Rodriguez’s head. And yet another low blow by Divison rocked Rodriguez, who was given extra time by Clancy to recover.

Round three saw Clancy warn Divison for hitting with his elbow, with yet another warning for yet another low blow.

Round four started with Divison smacking Rodriguez in the back of his head, for which an increasingly annoyed Clancy deducted one point. The ref then stated, “No mas.” He next told Divison and his trainer, in a warning clearly picked up by the ESPN2 microphones, “He does it again, I’m going to toss him.”

So what did Divison do? Just seconds after the fight resumed following this warning, Divison landed still another low blow on Rodriguez. Clancy had seen enough, and so had we, as Divison was disqualified for repeated fouls. Rodriguez is now 18-1-1 (10) while Divison, who has faced much more limited opposition, falls to16-3 (12)

Since this bout ended short of the distance, another one had to be televised to fill up this valuable prime time slot. We would have been better off, however, seeing the entire Brian Kenny interview with Floyd Mayweather from last week.

Next up was a bout billed as a heavyweight fight, but with only one real heavyweight. Alonzo Butler, 20-0-1 (15), 253 pounds, and 26 years old, with his most impressive credentials apparently being that he was a top high school wrestler and football player, was matched, or more precisely hopefully mismatched, with cruiserweight Terry Porter, 15-17-3 (9), 38 years old, only 197 pounds, and the loser of seven of his last nine fights. Even this didn’t go as planned.

Fast forward to round three of this scheduled six-rounder, the best way to view this one anyway. In the opening minute, Butler landed a few punches which caused Porter to flee to the ropes on the other side of the ring. Butler pursued him, swinging wildly and clearly missing with a right. As Butler arrived at the other side of the ring, Porter crouched down to avoid this blow, but was met instead by Butler’s butt. Butler’s momentum carried him right into Porter, which pushed the smaller man right through the ropes and onto a ringside table. Porter was unable to arise, and the fight was over.

Butler’s butt butt, if you will, was clearly inadvertent. No punch had caused Porter to fall through the ropes, only this accidental push. Nonetheless, referee Randy Phillips ruled that Butler was victorious by a knockout.

Whatever rules were in effect for this bout in Tennessee, if the fight is stopped because of an accidental foul in the third round, the uninjured fighter should not be declared the winner by knockout. We’ll see if this verdict is corrected.

Even the appearance of junior welterweight champion Ricky Hatton as a guest commentator on this show didn’t work out that well. While sitting, a close-up shot of Hatton made his face and chin look pudgy and soft. He did not look that way when showing his boxing moves to Brian Kenny and hitting a heavy bag, so Hatton is just one of these guys who looks fat on TV.

And you wonder why boxing has trouble getting enough commercial sponsors to return to network TV in the USA.

Note: After writing this, I read another, similar critique of this show, “ESPN's Pathetic Excuse of a Fight”, by Alex Stone on TheSweetScience.com. You can read it as well by clicking here.

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Friday, February 17, 2006

Broadway Boxing 

Veteran boxing writer George Kimball has a nice piece on Thursday's Broadway Boxing card in New York on TheSweetScience.com.

We will have some audio interviews from this show, but we'll announce just where they will be in a few days. I'm not trying to tease anyone, just waiting until we get it done and posted for all to hear.

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Thursday, February 16, 2006

Sports Sites Fall Short of the End Zone When it Comes to Accessibility 

Note: I just came across this very important press release from the American Foundation for the Blind, posted below. The issue of accessibility is one of great importance to me, and should also be to anyone who has a sense of decency and fairness. And if you can, please support organizations like the American Foundation for the Blind. - Eddie Goldman

Sports Sites Fall Short of the End Zone When it Comes to Accessibility

2/1/2006 8:31:00 AM

To: National Desk, Sports and Technology Reporter

Web: http://www.afb.org

NEW YORK, Feb. 1 /U.S. Newswire/ -- With Super Bowl XL just a few days away, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is reporting that sporting web sites are not high scorers in the game of accessibility. After evaluating NFL.com, ESPN.com, and SI.com, AFB found that many of the sites' features were difficult, if not impossible, to navigate with a screen reader-an assistive technology product used by people who are blind to read the text on a computer screen.

"All three sites are extremely cluttered and have design problems that prevent screen reader users from easily navigating the pages," said Jay Leventhal, editor of AccessWorld(r), AFB's online technology magazine. "But the good news is these sites can get back in the game and please all their fans by incorporating accessible design into their web sites."

Using a Window-Eyes screen reader-a popular and well respected access program-AFB evaluated NFL.com, ESPN.com, and SI.com for usability. Rather than focusing on every unlabeled graphic or link on the web sites, AFB looked at the sites' overall accessibility, and the ease and efficiency with which information could be found and analyzed by screen reader users.

AFB found all three sites to be difficult to navigate, but SI.com did score more points than the others in the access department because it was easier to find articles. NFL.com was found to be difficult, but possible to use for frequent site visitors with extensive knowledge of screen reader software. ESPN.com was found to be the least accessible of the three. For the full report visit http://www.afb.org/SuperBowl.asp.

Making a web site user-friendly to people with vision loss isn't as hard as it sounds. With a few changes in web page design-like properly labeling forms when building web interfaces and providing descriptive alt-text for graphics-it is possible to make web sites accessible to the millions of computer users with vision loss worldwide.

The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is a national nonprofit that expands possibilities for people with vision loss. AFB's priorities include broadening access to technology; elevating the quality of information and tools for the professionals who serve people with vision loss; and promoting independent and healthy living for people with vision loss by providing them and their families with relevant and timely resources. AFB is also proud to house the Helen Keller Archives and honor the over forty years that Helen Keller worked tirelessly with AFB. For more information visit us online at http://www.afb.org.

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A Look at Mayweather-Judah and the Rankings 

It has been a little over a week since the official announcement of the April 8 fight between Zab Judah and Floyd Mayweather Jr. for Judah’s tainted IBF welterweight belt. Just about everyone who knows how to type, talk, shout, or bark has denounced the IBF for letting Judah retain his belt after his unanimous decision loss to Carlos Baldomir Jan. 7 at Madison Square Garden, and rightly so. And the billing of Judah-Mayweather as a welterweight title fight has also aroused much sensible ire and disgust.

But Brian Kenny’s outburst against Mayweather on last week’s “Friday Night Fights” on ESPN2 was a misdirected tirade by a representative of one of the major TV boxing networks against a fighter who, as he stated, doesn’t “make the rules in boxing.” I went into this in depth in my “Nasty Boyz” column on TheSweetScience.com this week.

This controversy led me to examine just where Judah and Mayweather stand in the boxing rankings of independent media outlets, as opposed to the nonsense put out by the various alphabets. What it revealed was eye-opening.

Both the latest rankings of Dan Rafael on ESPN.com and The Ring are dated through Feb. 8, meaning, of course, that they take into account both Judah’s Jan. 7 loss and the official announcement made at a Feb. 7 press conference in New York of Judah-Mayweather for April 8.

Both Rafael on ESPN.com and The Ring have Judah ranked number 3 at welterweight (147) and Mayweather ranked number 2, but at junior welterweight (140).

Keeping Mayweather at 140 is pretty puzzling. His most recent fight, a sixth-round TKO win on Nov. 19, 2005, over Sharmba Mitchell, was fought at welterweight. Mayweather still holds the WBC 140-pound title, which he won from Arturo Gatti on June 25 of last year, but his next fight with Judah will be, of course, also at welterweight. By the time Mayweather fights after that, it will be well over a year after capturing that WBC belt, and less likely than ever that he will go back down to 140 to defend it, especially if he beats Judah.

The WBC, whose welterweight belt was won by Baldomir in his victory over Judah, still ranks Zab as number 2 at welterweight. And like ESPN.com and The Ring, they also still only have Mayweather at 140, the weight from which he has now moved up. So once again we see more agreement than many would have imagined between ESPN.com, The Ring, and the WBC.

There are two other fledgling boxing media polls which, despite their weaknesses, rank these fighters at the weights at which they are now fighting.

The WBM Pro Boxing Poll of Feb. 1 ranks Mayweather number 1 at welterweight with Judah number 4. They do not rank Mayweather at 140.

The Boxing Writers Rankings Poll of Jan. 25 has Judah number 3 at welterweight, and Mayweather both number 4 at welterweight and number 2 at junior welterweight.

All these polls agree on one thing: Both Zab Judah and Floyd Mayweather Jr. are ranked no worse than in the top four in their weight classes. We don’t know where ESPN.com, The Ring, and the WBC would put Mayweather if they ranked him at welterweight, where he is presently campaigning, but judging from their high rankings of him at 140, and his overall, undefeated record, no doubt it would be quite high.

So yes, it is absurd to bill this April 8 bout as a welterweight title fight, as is being done by the promoters and HBO. But don’t blame the boxers for this.

Finally, can we look at more than just this title charade? Judah vs. Mayweather will involve two of the top fighters in the sport today going head-to-head against each either in the ring. It would be a shame if the alphabets’ title madness obscured that more important fact.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

MySpace.com Boxing Forum 

Special thanks go to colleague and old buddy Tom Luffman for reposting the announcement about my latest audio interviews on the boxing forum he runs on MySpace.com.

As of Wednesday evening, the member count in that group was 2167.

It is free to join, as long as you also have a free account at MySpace.com, so check it out.

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New Article, "Nasty Boyz", on TheSweetScience.com 

My latest weekly column is up on TheSweetScience.com.

Called "Nasty Boyz", it continues the debate about the April 8 Mayweather-Judah "title" fight and who is responsible for that mess, ESPN2's Manfredo-Pemberton fight Monday, The Ring's awarding of title belts, and the potential roll of a boxing media rankings poll.

Read, learn, enjoy, and comment.

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Curtis Stevens Audio Interview 

Lots of young fighters bring an enthusiastic group of friends and family to cheer them on at local boxing shows. Not as many create a body of followers by their efforts in the ring.

20-year-old Curtis Stevens of Brownsville, Brooklyn, a rising, undefeated super middleweight with a record of 10-0 with 9 KOs, is one of that latter rare breed. Stevens’s aggressive style and effective power-punching have earned him the notice of the local boxing fans and media. Now he is trying to ready himself for national exposure.

Stevens fights in the co-feature this Thursday night, Feb. 16, on the latest Broadway Boxing card, to be held at New York’s Manhattan Center near Madison Square Garden. His opponent will be the most experienced he has faced yet in his brief pro career, Jose Spearman (24-9-4, 10 KOs).

We got a chance to speak with Curtis Stevens at a press conference Monday in New York.

You can listen to that interview for free. Just wait a moment for the file to download since it is in MP3 format. All you have to do is click here or here or here or here.

You can also listen to our earlier interviews with heavyweight contender Fres Oquendo (24-3, 15 KOs), who fights in the main event on this show Thursday against Brazilian Daniel Bispo (16-2, 10 KOs), and promoter Lou DiBella,

To listen to the interview with Fres Oquendo, click here or here or here or here.To listen to the interview with Lou DiBella, click here or here or here or here.

For a listing of and link to my recent podcasts, you can check out my page on podOmatic.com here.

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Gold Medalist Speedskater Joey Cheek Donates $25K Winnings to Right to Play 

Amidst the usual sordid tales of top athletes getting caught as dope cheats, felons, and fiends of all types, at least one story has emerged from the 2006 Winter Olympics which should warm even the coldest hearts.

American speedskater Joey Cheek, who won the gold medal in the men’s 500-meter speedskating event Monday, has announced that he is donating his entire $25,000 gold medal bonus which he received from the U.S. Olympic Committee to the humanitarian organization Right to Play.

A story on this appeared in The New York Times.

Here also is the U.S. Olympic Committee’s press release:

Cheek to donate Operation Gold funds to charity
by Craig Bohnert - U.S. Olympic Committee

Joey Cheek (Greensboro, N.C.), gold medalist in the men’s 500m long track speedskating event at the Oval Lingotto on Monday evening, announced during his post-race press conference that he will donate the $25,000 he will receive from the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Operation Gold program to charity.

Cheek indicated that he would donate the sum to Right to Play, Inc., a charity founded by Olympic gold medal speedskater Johann Olaf Koss of Norway.

Quotes from the press conference:

“I know you guys all want to do sweet stories about Hallmark and chocolates and butterflies and all that, but I have a pretty unique experience and a pretty unique opportunity here. So I'm going to take advantage of it while I can.

“I have been blessed by competing in the Olympics in speedskating. I am grateful that my family has supported me through all of this, my coaches, my friends and my country has supported me wholeheartedly. The United States Olympic Committee has been amazing. Without their support, none of the athletes who train and compete would be able to train and compete at this level. And so, I've always felt that if I ever did something big like this I wanted to be prepared to give something back. So ... I'm going to be donating the entire (Operation Gold) sum the USOC gives to me, which is think is around $25,000, I'm not sure, to the organization that Johann Olaf Koss either started or gave to in 1994. And I'm going to be asking all of the Olympic sponsors that give hundreds of millions of dollars if they will also maybe match my donation to a specific project.

“For me, the Olympics have been the greatest blessing. If I retired yesterday I would have gotten everything in the world from speedskating and from competing in the Olympics. So for me to walk away today with a gold medal is amazing. And the best way to say thanks that I can think of is to help somebody else, so I'm going to be donating my money, I'm going to try and talk to the Olympic sponsors, and if there's anyone in particular in the U.S. or Europe who's going to be reading these articles, if you'd like to check out Right To Play, you can check out their web site, it's righttoplay.com.”

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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Introducing “Throwdown Magazine” 

The latest entrant into the combat sports magazine business has just released its debut issue. Called Throwdown Magazine, its editor-in-chief and publisher is our old pal and colleague, Todd Hester.

Besides coverage of sports like mixed martial arts, grappling, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Throwdown will also venture beyond just the combat sports and include coverage of activities like surfing, skateboarding, motocross, and even music. I am writing a regular column for Throwdown, as well as doing everything else I have already been doing plus planning much more.

As the new Throwdown web site states, the magazine will have “Columns by Kid Peligro, Todd Hester, Eddie Goldman, DC Maxwell, Sherdog, etc. Music column by Eugene Robinson. Motocross coverage by Mark ‘The Bear’ Smith. Hot car coverage by Overhaulin' TV show host Adrienne Janic. Skate coverage by skate park builder Mike McIntyre. Coverage of KOTC, Gladiator Challenge, Ironheart Crown, Mass Destruction, etc. Coverage of top BJJ events and stars.”

Right now Throwdown will be published six times per year.

For more information, including on how to order Throwdown online, go to their web site at http://www.throwdownmag.com/ .

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Monday, February 13, 2006

Fres Oquendo and Lou DiBella Interviews 

The last time we saw heavyweight contender Fres Oquendo (24-3, 15 KOs) in New York was not one he would like to remember.

Oquendo had earned a title shot against then-WBA heavyweight champ John Ruiz by going the distance on Sept. 20, 2003, with IBF champ Chris Byrd. While he lost a highly controversial decision to Byrd in that fight, many felt the verdict should have gone Oquendo’s way.

But when Oquendo faced Ruiz in Madison Square Garden April 17, 2004, he was stopped in the 11th round. On top of this, that fight was heartily booed by the Garden fans for its lack of action and repeated holding by both fighters.

Since then, for almost two years, the 32-year-old Oquendo has been inactive as a fighter. Now he is finally set to return to action and resume his campaign to win a world title in the unsettled heavyweight division.

Oquendo will fight in the main event of the latest Broadway Boxing show this coming Thursday night, February 16, at the Grand Ballroom at the Manhattan Center, about a block away from the Garden.

We got a chance to speak with Fres Oquendo a few weeks ago at a press conference in New York about why he has been inactive, the Ruiz fight, and his current plans. We were joined in our discussion with him by veteran sports reporter Rich Mancuso. We also spoke with promoter Lou DiBella about Oquendo, the state of Broadway Boxing, and his recently defeated fighter Jaidon Codrington.

To listen to the interview with Fres Oquendo, click here or here or here or here.

To listen to the interview with Lou DiBella, click here or here or here or here.

These are free to hear. Since they are in MP3 format, you may have to wait a few moments for them to download.

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Sunday, February 12, 2006

Shoot …. 

The headline: Cheney Accidentally Shoots a Fellow Hunter.

This guy is a heartbeat away from becoming Commander-in-Chief? And will he finally admit that he did something wrong?

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