De La Hoya TKO Mayorga: Blow by Blow

By Karl E. H. Seigfried
May 7, 2006

Last Wednesday, Ricardo Mayorga threatened to pull out of his WBC Super Welterweight Championship fight with Oscar De La Hoya unless he received the eight million dollars he claims was promised to him by co-promoter Don King. By Friday, he had recanted, committed himself to the fight, and predicted he would knock out the Golden Boy in less than six rounds. Maybe he should have stuck to his guns. Instead, he went through with the fight, lost his belt, and had his six-round prediction sent back against him like the Evil Eye rebounded by voodoo.

Before the bout, and after a 594-day layoff since his last fight (the infamous bodyshot KO loss to then-middleweight champ Bernard Hopkins), De La Hoya sat in his dressing room and insisted, “I have what it takes to stay in the fight.” As he paced around the ring, he looked concerned, uncertain, tired, and almost sad. Mayorga stalked around his area of the canvas, looking angry, fierce, determined, and confident. The two fighters refused to touch gloves at referee Jay Nady’s prompt. As they began to turn away from each other, Mayorga leaned in to his challenger and said (in Spanish), “I’m 172 pounds. It’s on. Let’s go.”

Mayorga came out banging from the opening bell but quickly tasted the first of many De La Hoya left hooks. The Nicaraguan threw a right cross to the top of DLH’s head, quickly followed by two more. One minute into the round, Mayorga was down on his rear, courtesy of a perfect De La Hoya left hook to the chin. The wildly pro-Golden Boy crowd at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and the packed house at Chaser’s in Niles (where I was watching the PPV on the big screen) went completely gonzo. Mayorga quickly bounced up and recovered, subsequently missing a huge left hook of his own. Oscar stunned him with another left hook to the face, then immediately followed up with a lightning flurry. The East Los Angeleno landed multiple uppercuts followed by another flurry, then jumped in with a left hook followed by a combination. Mayorga threw a looping right which Oscar blocked with his glove, then threw another, which was again blocked. This was clearly a 10-8 round for De La Hoya.

In the second round, an opening small left hook landed by Mayorga was quickly answered by a big left hook by De La Hoya. Oscar, following the directions of trainer Floyd Mayweather, Sr., began to bring his jab into play. He then whiffed a left hook and took a right-hand body shot from Mayorga but proceeded to block the next attack. Mayorga missed yet again with an overhand right, then was hit by a right cross to the head. A flurry from De La Hoya put the Managuan in the corner, where Mayorga stumbled and turned himself around after missing big with a left hook. The action moved back to the middle of the ring, where Mayorga landed a left hook to the body. I called this 10-9 for Oscar.

The third round began with Mayorga missing another overhand right, then landing a left hook to the body, followed by a right to the body. De La Hoya landed a right to the face, then blocked a Mayorga right. Oscar came in with the jabs, was too short with a right, then scored with a nice uppercut. Mayorga missed with another big overhand right, then landed a strong right to the body (notice a pattern yet?). De La Hoya’s jab became even more of a factor as he used it to snap Mayorga’s head back. Mayorga’s own answering jab was a pawing motion, but he followed it up with a huge right uppercut that threw De La Hoya’s head back on his neck. Oscar jabbed in a final flurry right before the bell ending the round. For me, this was a 10-10 round with one great uppercut on each side.

In the fourth, De La Hoya used his jab to bounce Mayorga’s head back again, then followed up with a big right cross and a left hand. El Matador landed a right to the body and a light left hand to the head, but his combos were blocked by the challenger. A short stanza followed with both fighters blocking each other’s shots, Mayorga using his elbows to block the body shots coming in. Referee Nady jumped in at this point, warning both fighters to not hit behind the head. Strong body shots by Mayorga were answered by De La Hoya combinations both downstairs and up to end the round, which I scored 10-9 for the Golden Boy.

The fifth round started with Mayorga throwing a series of combinations to the head, all blocked. After De La Hoya jabbed his way in, Nady called a brief time out to warn both fighters about banging heads. Mayorga then landed a straight right to the head but missed with a right uppercut. De La Hoya came on strongly and momentarily flurried Mayorga on the ropes. Mayorga came back with a right to the body, but his following right-left combination was blocked. Oscar landed a series of body shots, then received the same before landing a beautiful shot to the solar plexus, a series of jabs, a left hook, a big right, and another left hook (whew!). Mayorga came back to get De La Hoya in a corner, then landed a series of clubbing rights to the back of his head (El Matador’s trademark) before being pulled off and warned by Nady as the bell rang. Again, this was a 10-9 round for Oscar.

The sixth started with some beautiful De La Hoya defense as he first blocked and then parried a series of shots with his gloves. After the fight, he credited Mayweather, Sr. with bringing up his defense as he prepared for this match. Oscar continued to back Mayorga up, as he had done for most of the fight so far, then was temporarily backed up himself by the onrushing Nicaraguan. De La Hoya landed a series of body shots, then big combinations to the head as Mayorga staggered back, visibly shaken. Oscar continued his onslaught, beating Mayorga down to the canvas for the second knockdown of the fight. After the count, De La Hoya again had Mayorga up against the ropes, where he proceeded to tee off with savage brutality as Mayorga meekly tried to land something, anything. As Mayorga went down on one knee, Nady jumped in and yanked Oscar off so violently that the victor himself was thrown to the ground even as he received the TKO victory and the WBC belt at 1:25 of the sixth round.

After the fight, De La Hoya and Mayorga embraced and spoke cordially, the new champion saying, “I forgive you for everything you said.” In his ring interview, De La Hoya [now 38-4-0 (30)] said, referring to the pre-fight insults and his own determination to dominate his rival, “He motivated me so much…The plan was that he was going to talk bad about me.” Speaking of the first-round knockdown, he said, “The message was that I’m going to stand up to the bully” and analyzed Mayorga’s game: “He tried to fight recklessly, lunging in with punches, but I stood my ground.” When asked about his plan for future fights, he gave the old tried-and-true, “We’ll have to wait and see.” Spoken almost as if he were his own promoter and manager….

Ricardo Mayorga [now 28-6-1 (23)] refused to be interviewed after the fight, hiding his face behind his gloves and leaning on his trainer as he made his way out of the ring. It was a very sad ending for someone with such chutzpah. Instead of ending De La Hoya’s career, he may have just cemented his own role as an opponent for the superstar class. With this and his loss to the comebacking Felix Trinidad in 2004, he may be sought out by more former pound-for-pounders looking to get back into the game. At least now he can go back to buying cigarettes by the pack instead of sticking with the singles he got during training (three or four a day) or the one lonely cig he was allowed by trainer Stacy McKinley in the limo ride to the fight.

Rahman vs. Toney: Does It Matter Who Wins?

By Karl E. H. Seigfried
March 15, 2006

On Saturday, March 18, James “Lights Out” Toney will challenge Hasim “The Rock” Rahman for the WBC World Heavyweight Championship in a fight that will have a completely insignificant impact on the heavyweight division. It has been a truism for quite a while now that the former glamour division is a weight class in search of a hero, and this fight between a wildly inconsistent 33-year-old and a 37-year-old former middleweight doesn’t solve any of the division’s problems.

Last August, Rahman came to Chicago to fight Monte Barrett for the so-called WBC Interim Heavyweight Championship. Promoter Don King had petitioned the sanctioning body to create the pseudo-title after Rahman’s real title shot at then-champ Vitali Klitschko was postponed a third time due to the Ukrainian’s various injuries. This stroke of business genius helped out all involved: the WBC received a sanctioning fee for a fictional title fight, Rahman changed from a mandatory challenger (with a 25% cut of the scheduled Klitschko bout) to an interim champion (with a 35% claim on the take), and the fight in Chicago could be promoted as a World Heavyweight Title Fight instead of a Keep Busy Tune-Up. In total defiance of logic, the match was also talked up as being a final eliminator for the honor of challenging Klitschko. Since Rahman had been scheduled to fight Klitschko for months, the only effect this fight could possibly have on the heavyweight scene would be if Barrett won and took Rahman’s place.

Rahman won the Interim Championship after twelve rounds of walking around the ring as the audience booed loudly and continuously. Neither Rahman nor Barrett, old friends who have been known to bring their families together for holidays, could find it within himself to put the hurt on his kids’ “uncle”. The fight was not the glorious showcase for Rahman that had obviously been planned to raise interest in the often-rescheduled challenge to Klitschko, but it all became quickly moot, anyway. In November, after a knee injury following a back injury following a thigh injury, Vitali Klitschko announced his retirement from boxing and vacated his WBC title and his position as the Ring Magazine World Heavyweight Champion. The very next day, the WBC powers gave the championship to Rahman. This whole process strangely echoes the Ken Norton story. In 1977, Norton won a split decision over Jimmy Young in a WBC Heavyweight Title Eliminator and became the number one contender and mandatory challenger to champion Leon Spinks. The champ, however, chose to fight (and beat) Muhammad Ali; before he could do so, the WBC stripped his belt and handed it to Norton. In Norton’s very next fight, Larry Holmes took the belt away with a split decision of his own, leaving Norton the only man in history to hold a heavyweight title without ever winning a title fight.

James Toney started his professional career in 1988 at 160; in his last fight, versus Dominic Guinn in October, he weighed 235. When not busy eating all the food that fueled that long-term and massive gain in weight, he has found time to win IBF titles at middleweight, super middleweight, and cruiserweight. He has only had four fights in the heavyweight division, but, in that time, managed to hold the WBA Heavyweight Title for eleven days, until the organization returned it to John Ruiz when Toney tested positive for the anabolic steroid nandrolone. Toney has recently pointed out that the fight with Rahman is a unification match of sorts, since he currently holds the IBA title which he won in a vacancy-filling match with Rydell Booker in 2004. Unfortunately for “Lights Out,” no one in the boxing press or boxing public seems to care about this particular alphabet strap, and many sources don’t even list it in Toney’s record. At least, thankfully, we don’t have to worry about another Rahman/Barrett-style love fest; Rahman insured mutual enmity by slapping and scratching Toney in a tussle at the WBC awards ceremony in Mexico last December. Toney hasn’t said anything particularly nasty at subsequent press events, but trainer Freddy Roach has insisted that Toney has been simmering and saving up his anger to unleash upon Rahman come fight-time.

Let’s say Rahman wins the fight. He gets to notch the first defense of the WBC title into his belt. He’s already ranked second by The Ring, and a win over Toney (currently ranked right behind him at number three) wouldn’t be enough to move him up into Chris Byrd’s number one spot. He could, however, move up from number three to take Toney’s two-spot in the British magazine Boxing Monthly—not exactly the most earth-shattering shake-up of a division’s contenders. There is very little talk right now of a unification match with one of the other heavyweight titleholders, and it makes little sense that a bout with Toney would make the situation much different. It would take a truly spectacular and convincing win by Rahman to whet the boxing world’s appetite for an immediate unification match, and even that might not be enough. Look at the case of Lamon Brewster. Last May, he completely blew out perennial challenger Andrew Golota in a fifty-three-second defense of his WBO title, and the only fight he’s had since then was against fringe contender Luan Krasniqi in Germany. It’s hard to imagine Rahman suddenly becoming either a big PPV draw or someone who the fans start clamoring be given a shot at the other titles.

Let’s say, conversely, that Toney wins the fight. He annexes the WBC belt and is one-fourth owner of a title split among the various sanctioning bodies but is no closer to being an undisputed champion than Byrd, Brewster, or Nicolay Valuev. Toney could move up one spot in the Ring rankings, but he’d still be number two to Byrd. He would find himself in exactly the same situation as a victorious Rahman. Even if he could somehow negotiate a match with one of the other titleholders, there are three of them out there. They all have their own list of sanctioned mandatories to contend with, and the likelihood of a truly unified Heavyweight Champion of the whole wide world arriving on the scene seems a long way off. At age 37, does Toney have enough gas left in his tank to wait around that long?

This could be a great fight. It might even be fun to watch. An analysis of fight styles, strengths, and weaknesses could make up an entire other discussion. In the end, however, the actual fight result won’t make any difference to a division begging for something, anything, to happen. HBO is marketing the match with the tagline, “The Big Boys Are Back.” That’s just wishful thinking. This is the same old business that’s been going on for years.

Total Control: Calzaghe Blows out Lacy for World Championship

By Karl E. H. Seigfried
March 4, 2006

Almost a year ago, southpaw boxer Winky Wright gave big puncher Felix Trinidad a boxing lesson in a middleweight fight that most witnesses saw as a complete shutout. Tonight, England played host to a repeat performance, but with Joe Calzaghe and Jeff Lacy playing the lead roles in a super middleweight update of the story.

This match was a long time coming. Lacy fought in Cardiff on the undercard of a Calzaghe defense back in 2002, and the idea of the two undefeated fighters facing each other was rolling around promoters' heads even then. Lacy began publicly challenging Calzaghe as far back as October 2004, when "Left Hook" was coming off of an eighth round KO of Syd Vanderpool to win the vacant IBF super middleweight belt. At the time, the Welshman was searching farther afield. Following his decision win over Kabary Salem the same month, he said, "I'm still looking to move up and land a big fight at light heavyweight in 2005." After his December 2005 decision win over Omar Sheika, Lacy baldly stated "I need Joe Calzaghe," and Gary Shaw, his promoter, said that he had already made an offer to Frank Warren, Calzaghe's promoter, but had been turned own. Almost a year ago today, after his seventh-round KO of Rubin Williams, Lacy said, "Of course, I want Joe Calzaghe by the end of this year."

By May 2005, after Calzaghe's sixth-round stoppage of Mario Veit, the British press had started talking up the unification fight. Warren had come around to the idea, and said, "We're looking to get Joe in the ring with Jeff Lacy next and I believe that fight will be done in the autumn." In July, in England for the Hatton-Tszyu fight, Lacy held a press conference to promote the Calzaghe match (completely insulting poor Robin Reid, who had already been lined up as Lacy's next opponent). In August, the date was announced as November 5 at the Excel Arena in London, Calzaghe began using words like "showdown" and "superfight," and Lacy did his bit of Hollywood drama by sticking his face right in the camera after his TKO of Robin Reid and saying, "I'm coming, Joe!" Everything seemed right on track to unify Lacy's IBF and IBO belts with Calzaghe's WBO belt and determine the first Ring magazine super middleweight world champion since the division's creation in 1984. Then everything went out the window.

Calzaghe decided to squeeze in a mandatory defense of his belt against Evans Ashira in September. By the fourth round, the "Italian Dragon" was a one-handed fighter, having broken the third finger of his left hand by landing one too many uppercuts on the crown of the challenger's head. Amazingly, left-handed Calzaghe went on to win a unanimous shutout with only his right hand to work with. However, the Lacy showdown had to be scrapped, and a battle of words began. Although Lacy himself had fought through to victory with a broken hand (winning a 10-round decision over Bobby Jones in 2002), he immediately accused Calzaghe of trying to duck out of the fight. Warren then offered to set up a February match, but Shaw turned up his nose at the rain date, calling Calzaghe "a disgrace" and insisting, "I don't believe the injury is legit!" Calzaghe sniffed back, "[Lacy] needs me more than I need him." Lacy ended up using the November date for a defense of his own against Scott Pemberton, knocking him out in the second round. There was talk for a time of Lacy moving up to light heavyweight and facing champ Antonio Tarver, but the March date was finally settled on by both camps by the end of the year. The hype began in earnest, with both sides (of course) predicting a decisive victory.

Even before he began training, Lacy was telling everyone, "I'm going over there to knock him out," and that was the line he stuck to right up until the opening bell. Shaw joined in the hyperbolic build-up and said, "He fights with Tyson's fury in the ring, and he's on Holyfield's skill level." Most observers swallowed the bait. The Lacy love-fest took hold of the press on both sides of the Atlantic, seeing the Floridian on the covers of both the US Ring and the UK Boxing Monthly. Showtime's Steve Farhood got it exactly backward in his pre-fight predictions, insisting that Lacy's aggressive attack "doesn't let you breathe in there," and that his two-handed power and his hunger would overwhelm Calzaghe. Boxing Monthly's Graham Houston used almost exactly the same words, writing that Lacy "doesn't give the opponent room to breathe" and that he sticks on the other fighter like glue. In fact, all these traits perfectly describe Calzaghe's performance and his domination of Lacy. Omar Sheika, a boxer who has fought and lost to both Lacy and Calzaghe, joined the pre-fight deprecators of Calzaghe's ring strengths, talking about the Welsh fighter's "pitty-pat" punches. In the end, it was Lacy's pawing, falling, pushing punches that would have no effect.

Long before fight night, Calzaghe accurately predicted how it would all work out. He insisted that his fast hands and ring experience would enable him to counter Lacy's big shots with quick combinations and to dodge out of harm's way before the American could respond. Enzo Calzaghe, his father and trainer (whose corner instructions tonight included the colorful "He's got f***-all!"), told Boxing Monthly that Lacy is "a one-hit wonder. Joe will take him to school and destroy him." This, it turned out, was exactly how every round of the fight would play out. Trainer and commentator Teddy Atlas said in late 2004 that Lacy "has moments where he struggles if a guy doesn't come his way, if the guy isn't in front of him," and said that he was particularly inconsistent on the inside. Robin Reid, another boxer who has lost to both Lacy and Calzaghe, insisted last August that the Welshman's hand speed and strength far surpassed the American's. Turns out the Calzaghe supporters and Lacy critics were right on the money.

As Lacy made his march down to the ring at the MEN Arena in Manchester, England, it was after 2 a.m. local time. Calzaghe said that trying to prepare for the late hour of the bout had thrown off his sleep patterns, but Lacy had managed to stay on a US schedule while training in England, planning his meals, training, and sleep so that fight-time still felt like 9 p.m. Florida time. Lacy was clearly booed as he entered the ring in a metallic USA flag robe and trunks, yet he was still a slight favorite in the betting. Calzaghe, in black and white, entered to a raucous standing ovation. Both fighters were almost in the middle of the ring as the opening bell rang out.

The American seemed to take the lead in the very opening moments. Fifteen seconds in, Calzaghe tied him up after the 2000 Olympian landed a solid right, and continued a pattern of holding to smother incoming attacks. The "Pride of Wales" then began tossing off quick jabs but was caught with a big right to the midsection. He started throwing bunches of punches, continually hitting and holding, and landed a powerful right hook in the last half-minute. With fifteen seconds to go, Lacy got in his own strong right, but was blasted by huge Calzaghe combinations of punch after punch in the last ten seconds.

Lacy came out for the second round with a bloody nose and missed with a wide right uppercut. Calzaghe swung him around into the ropes and proceeded to tag him with multiple combinations. Lacy managed to land some uppercuts to the body in the clinch and scored with a couple of nice left hooks right at the midpoint of the round. Calzaghe, fleet of foot, spun out of the way of another Lacy attack and tagged him with his southpaw jab. With thirty-eight seconds left, Calzaghe hit the American with an impressive flurry while wearing an enormous grin on his face. Lacy managed to get Calzaghe on the ropes in the last fifteen seconds, but ended up eating a series of strong uppercuts as the Welshman made all the shots.

In the third round, Calzaghe was quickly put in the corner, yet he was the one landing the combinations as Lacy missed everything he threw. Still quick on his feet, Calzaghe managed to maneuver Lacy into the corner, but referee Raul Caiz, Sr. soon separated them and moved the action back into the middle of the ring, where Calzaghe began landing one uppercut after another. With ninety seconds left, Calzaghe hit Lacy with a big right, then another, followed by a flurry of combinations. At the one-minute mark, Lacy managed only a weak shadow of his signature left hook, and soon had his head rocked by Calzaghe's combinations. Lacy then ate a jab before wildly missing another left hook. With ten seconds to go, and in the first instance of what was to be repeated showboating, Calzaghe stuck his left arm straight out to the side and then popped Lacy in the face with his right. In Lacy's corner between rounds, trainer Dan Birmingham urgently pleaded, "C'mon, Jeff! You're just trying to bomb everything! C'mon!"

Lacy managed a good left uppercut at the start of the fourth round, but Calzaghe immediately began throwing everything he had. In the clinches, the best Lacy could do was muster some pitty-pat uppercuts. By this point, blood could be seen around both of Lacy's eyes as Calzaghe landed every combination he attempted. The replay later showed a head butt, but the ref, standing on the other side of the fighters, ruled that the cuts were caused by punches. Lacy's left eye was also ripped open on the way to winning a 12-round decision over Richard Grant in 2003 and was blown up before he knocked out Donnell Wiggins in the eighth round of their fight the same year. Lacy continued to miss head shots and jabs, and now he was the one initiating the holds. Calzaghe rocked Lacy's head with a left uppercut and the American's only response was to lean into and miss a weak jab. The final ten seconds saw another flurry of combinations that bounced Lacy's head around before he headed to his stool, where his corner frantically worked to stop the blood coming from cuts over both eyes.

At the start of the fifth round, Lacy managed to get a couple of good ones in before Calzaghe started backing him up with combinations. Both fighters worked the body in the clinch, but Lacy's blows looked weak. He blew past Calzaghe as he missed a wild left hook and continued to eat multiple combinations to the head. The last half-minute saw more big misses by Lacy and more head-bouncing combinations by Calzaghe. The very end saw further Welsh showboating as the WBO champion finished out the round with both of his hands all the way down at his sides. During the pause, rivers of blood poured from Lacy's nose, and his eyes were bloody. Someone in the corner was yelling, "Don't panic! Don't panic!" and there was a frantic look in the fighter's eyes. The ring physician could be seen leaning over to check on the state of the cuts. Lacy had promised a war in his pre-fight interview, called this the biggest fight of his career, and insisted that he would get stronger with every round to win by KO. Instead, he was facing a slaughter, the biggest defeat of his career, and his strength was continually ebbing away.

Round six began with a wrestling match. Calzaghe punched, held, then spun around behind Lacy, who responded by throwing weak uppercuts on the inside. Calzaghe came back with flurries, and Lacy missed with a right, subsequently complaining to the referee during a clinch. Calzaghe was, by this point, landing combinations to the head at will, and Lacy looked trapped and frantic in the clinches and was subsequently warned by the referee for throwing a ridiculously huge and obvious overhand rabbit punch. In one of many amazing moments in the fight, Calzaghe threw a left-right combination to the sides of Lacy's head that sounded like two raw steaks being slapped on a marble countertop. Understandably, Lacy looked freaked-out between the rounds.

In the seventh round, Calzaghe repeatedly beat Lacy to the punch. Lacy's head seemed wide open to everything that was thrown at it, bouncing around with the impact of constant combinations, and his right-hand punch had deteriorated into a slap. He was openly wincing in pain at head clashes in the clinches. In another Kodak moment, the thirty-second mark saw Lacy trapped in a corner, with Calzaghe teeing off on him with powerful straight left hands. Lacy managed to get out, but Calzaghe went to work on him so intensely in the final seconds that the Florida native looked lost and confused, bumping into his opponent on the way to his corner after the bell.

The eighth round saw Calzaghe throwing totally unanswered combinations and multiple straight lefts, with Lacy resorting to a sort of pushing jab. Calzaghe was shuffling and bouncing, completely light on his feet, as Lacy plodded heavily after him around the ring. Calzaghe has always said he loves fighters who come straight in at him, and he sure got what he wanted tonight. Lacy missed with a hook and got tagged and spun around before having his head rocked by another final flurry. By this point in the fight, it was clear that Lacy had absolutely no defense happening at all.

After a brief time-out to fix some loose tape on Calzaghe's right glove, round nine began with Lacy getting his head knocked all the way back on his shoulders. He continued to fall into his punches and widely miss his uppercuts and wild rights. In the clinches, Lacy was wincing again, and his left and right body shots were totally ineffective at slowing down his opponent. After further combinations to the head, Calzaghe did some more showboating, winding his left hand around from the wrist like a cartoon boxer and socking Lacy with his right. Lacy's head could be seen popping up over the fighters' shoulders from uppercuts in the clinch. With thirty-five seconds left to go, Lacy was again trapped in the corner as Calzaghe teed off on him, managing to get out but missing a gigantic left hook and not being able to get any work done before the bell. Between rounds, he sadly sucked on a big pink sponge and looked lost on his stool.

Lacy started the tenth round by walking straight into Calzaghe's jabs with no defense at all. Calzaghe landed a sweet left uppercut as he walked in on Lacy, who visibly sighed as the referee separated them, like a coal miner wearily heading back to the mines. Halfway through the round, Lacy was warned for drifting low in his punches. He tried to avoid Calzaghe's relentless head shots by bobbing and weaving but was much too slow. The round ended in more disaster for Lacy, as he was warned again for low blows, ate a one-two combo and some popping jabs, then fell off-balance and face-first into the ropes as Calzaghe spun him around. He looked exhausted in his corner, saying, "Every time I start punching, he tells me to stop."

The eleventh round didn't start out any better for Lacy. After being pushed to the canvas, he fell into a big miss, then missed with a wild left hook. The corner seemed incapable of stopping the blood, which continued to pour down his face and fly into the air as his head was battered around. He finally managed to land a nice uppercut in a clinch, but it was just an isolated punch, and he seemed bizarrely open to the combinations that Calzaghe relentlessly threw at his head, like he had nothing left to give. The referee managed to make this Calzaghe's only nine-point round of the evening by taking away a point for a headlock.

The final round started with an "Oh, my god!" moment as Calzaghe simply wailed on Lacy's head, going all out. In his pre-fight interview, when asked what he had to watch out for, Calzaghe had said, "I can't afford to drop my hands and leave my chin in the air," but that's exactly what his opponent did throughout this and all the preceding rounds. Lacy was knocked to the canvas, bouncing up to shake his head and complain as Caiz gave him the count. His first career knockdown was shown in replay to be a combination of punching and pushing. Maybe this was just ring karma for another career-first knockdown miscall; in his fight with Robin Reid, Lacy had pounded the Brit to the floor with a right hand thrown well after the referee had shouted for them to stop fighting. In both fights, the one-point deduction didn't matter at all in the end, anyway. Lacy then held onto and pinned Calzaghe's right as the Welshman pounded away with his left. More loose-tape time was called, now on Lacy's left glove, and then it was back to Calzaghe bouncing his opponent's head around as Lacy pitty-patted some light body punches in the clinch before being flurried and turned around. At the bell, Calzaghe burst into a huge smile of pride and joy in his complete shutout and total domination.

I scored the fight 119-107 for Calzaghe, like everyone in the judging box and press row (except the Puerto Rican judge, who scored it 119-105). Calzaghe, without a doubt, won every single round. Lacy said afterwards that Calzaghe "fought his fight and he fought a perfect fight tonight... I came up short tonight," and he claimed his loss came from the fact that Calzaghe "threw me off my game on the inside." He admitted, "I need to work on my boxing skills more," but insisted, "I'll be back, baby, I'll be back." Calzaghe himself said, "I needed a fight like Jeff Lacy to show my skills... I always thought I was faster and better than Jeff Lacy... I showed everybody I'm an exciting fighter." He sure did. He went on to say that, although his problematic hand was a "bit sore after eight or nine rounds," that he felt in "total control" throughout the fight. "I'm over the moon," he concluded, "I'm ecstatic."

Before he went into training for the match, Lacy insisted, "I'm not gonna be exposed in this fight." As each round went into the books as a carbon copy of those before it, that is exactly what ended up happening. Lacy bet his whole game on landing that one magical, Marciano-like punch, but it never came together, and he was completely out-boxed. Fighting five times in thirteen months, this was the fifth defense of his IBF belt, the third of his IBO, and the last for both. Calzaghe now has all the marbles: the IBO, IBF, WBO, and Ring championship belts. This was his eighteenth defense in eight years, making him today's longest-reigning world champion in any weight class, and, after Ricky Hatton, England's second contemporary champ.

Denmark's undefeated Mikkel Kessler, owner of the WBA belt and ranked right behind Calzaghe and Lacy by most scribes, was at ringside tonight. He's the logical contender for Calzaghe's titles, but the paying American audience for a Welshman versus a Dane in a weight class heretofore dominated by Europeans and therefore ignored in the US is not exactly overwhelming. Calzaghe said after the fight that he wants to move up in weight and challenge Antonio Tarver to be a world champ in two weight classes, and that seems like the most logical course of action, especially given the "Italian Dragon's" recent struggles to make the 168-pound limit. Whether or not the "Magic Man" can be convinced to make the match is an open question.

A Night at the Bar with Vargas and Mosley

By Karl E. H. Seigfried
February 26, 2006

I arrived at Chaser’s out in Niles at exactly 8:00 pm for the beginning of the Vargas-Mosley pay-per-view broadcast. Back when I was looking for a place to see Hopkins-Taylor I, Chaser’s was the only place in Chicagoland I could find that still showed the big fights in the old-fashioned, pay-at-the-door, closed-circuit kind of way, so I head out there whenever there’s a fight on and I’m off the road for a minute. Donovan “Da Bomb” George carded me at the door.

I saw George knock out Kansas City’s Ed Humes in the first round of a middleweight fight at the Aragon Ballroom in February 2005, when George was still a free agent fighting on 8-Count Productions cards in Chicago, making his ring entrance to the Gap Band’s “You Dropped a Bomb on Me.” The owner of 8-Count used to make his own ring entrances to the same tune years ago, when he was fighting in the amateurs as Dominic “Da Bomb” Pesoli. George has now moved up to prospect status, signed to Cestus Management, and is fighting out of Las Vegas. He looks a lot stronger and more solidly built than he did a year ago. Last time I was at Chaser’s, for Castillo-Corrales II, he was at a table in the big room, watching the fights with his boys, but this time he was guarding the door, talking to customers and waitstaff, his eyes continually wandering up to the smaller screens high on the wall.

Like a minor event in the Olympics, the undercard bout between Joel Julio and Wilmer Mejia was shown by tape-delay between the first and second fights of the broadcast. Poor skinny Mejia was knocked down in both the first and second round and subsequently quit on his stool, complaining of hand pain, handing Julio a nice little TKO victory. Maybe not as dramatic as the recent quits of Tszyu, Tyson, Gatti, and the other superstars, or as heart-breaking as the hand of modern medical care forcing Wayne McCulloch to remain seated, but we can add it to the strange and growing list of fighters losing professional fights between rounds. At Don King’s last production in Chicago, three of the fights ended when one fighter refused to get off his stool at the start of the round. Officially, they’re called technical knockouts in the first second of the following round, but they sure aren’t going to end up on any knockout DVD collections.

The first live fight of the broadcast from the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas was a ten-round heavyweight bout between Calvin Brock, 27-0 (21) going into the fight, and Zuri Lawrence, 20-10-4 (0). This one was a little hard for the commentators to talk up: the undefeated “Boxing Banker” who tap-dances to stay in shape versus the former football player who has never, in thirty-four professional fights, knocked anyone out. Even worse, the fighters are old friends from back when they were both sparring partners for Kirk Johnson. I suddenly had a horrible flashback to the Rahman-Barrett heavyweight “fight” here in Chicago last year, when the two buddies walked around each other for twelve long rounds as the crowd called for someone, anyone, to do something that resembled throwing a punch. As the fight in Vegas began, any camera angle that showed more than the ringside seats in the background revealed a completely empty hall, which didn’t do much to up the mood. Neither did the fact that both fighters came out exhibiting very similar styles, as if they were members of the same boxing studio who learned from the same book.

In the first round, Brock, wearing light blue trunks and a goatee, moved more. Two minutes in, a left hook to the head seemed to put Lawrence, wearing camouflage, into a daze for a brief second. Brock continued connecting to the head in the second round, but, by this point, the fight had settled into a lot of close in-fighting, with the two fighters leaning heavily on each other. Referee Jay Nady briefly called time out when Lawrence lost his mouthpiece. Brock delivered a solid one-two directly on Lawrence’s chin, and the round finished with a pair of nice rights by Lawrence. Both fighters were busy in the third round in very close quarters, at times making it look more like a vertical wrestling match than a boxing one. Brock launched some wide misses, and I scored this as Lawrence’s only round of the fight, simply for more good connects. In the end, his connect percentages were well behind Brock’s: 19% versus 25% in punch connects, 22% versus 34% in power punch connects. Brock re-established control in the fourth round, connecting much more with short punches at close range. As he returned to his stool, Lawrence was bleeding from his nostrils. Nady continued to tell Brock to watch his elbows in the fifth round, but didn’t actually step in as Brock used them throughout the fight to keep Lawrence off at close quarters. Both fighters winged wide misses over each others’ heads during this round, and, with thirty-eight seconds left, Brock swung such a big miss that he lost his balance and fell back into the ropes. Not a dominant round for Brock, but I gave it to him for connecting more on the inside.

In round six, everything went wrong for Zuri Lawrence. Thirty seconds in, Nady called a time out when he noticed Lawrence was missing his mouthpiece. The boxer had forgotten to put it in when he left his corner at the bell. Not a good sign. The opening moments saw the fighters keeping more of a distance between them, but they soon returned to the telephone booth as the round alternated between bouts of wrestling and at-distance posing and feinting. With only five seconds left on the clock, Brock landed a beautiful left-hook to Lawrence’s head that replays showed knocked him completely out of time as soon as it connected. He was out on his feet even before he started to fall to the canvas, where he ended up spread-eagled flat on his back. Nady waved him out as he was falling and quickly had the medics up in the ring to strap an oxygen mask onto the face of the unconscious fighter. The official time of the knockout was 2:58 of the sixth round. After the fight, Brock looked fresh and mostly unmarked, except for a couple of light little mice under his eyes.

The co-featured bout was originally supposed to be a defense of Jhonny Gonzales’ WBO Bantamweight belt, but, when challenger Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson showed up a little dull and a little over the 118-pound limit, the fight was downgraded into a “Special Attraction,” and Johnson had to take a hit to his paycheck. While Gonzales, whose strange first name supposedly came from a dyslexic clerk at his birth registration, arrived at the weigh-in at 117 and was 128 on fight night, Johnson came in first at 119 ½ and then at 132, struggling to get down from a confessed 150 pounds. It was kind of like the weight drama of Corrales-Castillo II, but much smaller and with nobody really caring much about it.

The first round consisted mainly of the fighters feeling each other out, paying respect, feinting, and probing jabs at each other. One minute into the second round, Johnson (in red) knocked Gonzales (in black) a little off balance, but didn’t follow up. A minute later, Gonzales staggered Johnson with a straight right hand, and subsequently hit him with a good left counter to the head. By round three, the tactical nature of the fight and lack of action drew boos from the audience. Neither fighter threw much at all, but Johnson seemed a bit more aggressive. Gonzales started backing Johnson up in the fourth round and knocked him down with a series of left hooks to the head about a minute in. Both fighters started to become more active at this point. With less than a minute to go, Johnson struck a low blow, and the two actually began to get into some trading in the last thirty seconds.

Johnson went on the attack at the opening of the fifth round and landed a good right on Gonzales’ chin a minute into it. Johnson seemed to be waking up at this point, switching back and forth between his southpaw stance and traditional, bobbing and weaving, and generally fighting tricky. He continued his aggression immediately after the bell for the start of round six, a round which saw plenty of back-and-forth action. Gonzales tagged Johnson with a good uppercut two minutes in, but was now himself being walked down and backed up. Round seven began with trading from the get-go and saw some good body shots by Gonzales. As in the earlier rounds, Johnson was again fighting while pedaling backwards, and he returned to his corner with a bit of blood coming from his nose. Between rounds, resting on his stool, Johnson looked a full generation older than Gonzales, with gray hairs in his beard, like a miniature Marvin Hagler trying to make one last comeback against one of the kids.

The comeback didn’t happen. In round eight, a series of strong body and head punches by Gonzales drove Johnson to his knees, where he looked sadly at his corner as referee Kenny Bayless gave him the count, finally standing up at ten as the fight was waved over by KO at 1:08. The stats said it all. Gonzales landed a total of 101 punches, 74 of them power shots, while Johnson only landed 40, with 26 power shots. Gonzales said after the fight that he wants big fights now, including one with recognized Bantamweight World Champion Rafael Marquez. Johnson talked about one final farewell fight for his fans in Washington, D.C., and said, “I had a great career.”

In their pre-fight interviews, both Fernando Vargas and Shane Mosley seemed strangely calm and tranquil. Vargas was quiet and sullen, Mosley was quiet and smilingly peaceful. What drama there was happened at the pre-fight press conference, gleefully replayed by Telefutura during Friday’s Solo Boxeo broadcast. Vargas publicly pressured Mosley into a $100,000 side bet on who would knock out whom, talking tough about playground pride while Mosley just sat and smiled and agreed to whatever he said, looking like a guidance counselor humoring an angry teen. Vargas repeated his speech almost verbatim during the fight night interview, but didn’t seem to have enough energy to even appear indignant. The fight had been written up and promoted as a last chance at glory for two former champions, but neither seemed particularly on fire. Maybe they were just resigned. Mosley, 41-4-0 (35) going in to the fight, is a former champion at lightweight, welterweight, and junior middleweight. Vargas, “the Aztec Warrior,” with a record of 26-2-0 (22), was twice the junior middleweight champion.

Whatever their pre-fight demeanor, both boxers went determinedly at it right at the start of the first round and began trading immediately. Mosley (in blue) landed a big left to the head of Vargas (in brown) with 1:20 left in the round, and got off first throughout. Thankfully, both fighters exceeded pre-fight expectations. How many fans were worried about seeing a slow Mosley and a Vargas on the defensive? Right away, Mosley was fast, and Vargas was aggressive. Round two started with immediate big exchanges. Mosley threw repeated body shots as the crowd began chants of “Mosley! Mosley!” With 1:45 left, Vargas landed a good jab to Mosley’s face and started to rough him up inside on the clinches. Mosley landed some nice combinations to the face and began targeting the swelling that had appeared over Vargas’ left eye, a tactic he would keep up throughout the fight. Mosley said after the bout that Vargas hit him so hard in the right ear early on that it was ringing both during and after the fight.

By round three, the swelling over Vargas’ eye had grown into a big ol’ mouse, and promoter Oscar De La Hoya was looking very somber out in the audience at ringside. Mosley tagged Vargas with a big body shot one minute into the round and followed up by throwing combinations to the head. With 1:14 left in the round, referee Joe Cortez called time and warned a frustrated Vargas to keep his punches up. In the last minute, Mosley rattled Vargas with a head shot, and the last few seconds were filled with fierce trading. Vargas’ mouse continued to grow in the fourth round. “El Feroz” came out with a big swing and a miss in the first few seconds, and he continued to lean into his shots and miss big. Mosley landed more nice combinations to the head, but they didn’t seem to have much power behind them. Between rounds, both fighters looked tired and concerned.

Round five opened with energetic exchanges. Vargas continually strayed low with his body shots – or at least stayed right on the belt-line. Mosley’s pitty-pat jabs went straight through Vargas’ guard, but had no apparent effect. In the last minute, Vargas had Mosley on the ropes and leaned on him, pounding away. On his stool after the round, Mosley was now marked up for the first time (on his forehead and under his eyes), and he was breathing hard. He came out strong at the start of round six, however, until eating a big right counter by Vargas at the one-minute mark. A minute later, both missed big with rights. Vargas again backed Mosley up and got him on the ropes until Mosley released a furious flurry in the final seconds.

The seventh round began with Mosley pounding on Vargas. Vargas retaliated by leaning on Mosley, punching and pushing him back as he landed big head shots. Mosley tried to repeat his flurry off the ropes in the last ten seconds but was smothered by his swarming opponent. By round eight, Vargas’ mouse had become a huge goose egg. Mosley let go with a torrent of big body shots a minute into the round and followed up a minute later with some strong rights to the head. With one minute to go, he ended up back on the ropes but fought his way off to land more good rights to the head in the last thirty seconds. Although Vargas said after the bout that he had no idea the ref was thinking of stopping the fight, Cortez clearly warned him in his corner after this round that he might do so. The fighter’s left eye seemed, by this time, completely closed, but he claimed afterwards that he could still see out of it.

In the ninth round, Mosley’s jabs continued to go straight through Vargas’ defense as the crowd again started up the chant. Mosley landed repeated body shots and a series of jabs as Vargas’ eye-swell turned an unhealthy purple. With twenty seconds left, Vargas managed to land a good head shot, then a right and a left to the head with a body shot in between. Between rounds, the director of the boxing commission, the ring physician, and the referee quietly conferred about the state of Vargas’ face. They let it continue, but only until Mosley began pounding Vargas’s head a minute into the tenth round, causing Cortez to wave it off at 1:22 and award Mosley the TKO.

Aside from the blood blister covering a quarter of Vargas’ face (!), the fight was very close. I had it at 87-84 Mosley, and the three judges had it even closer. Mosley landed 147 total punches and 127 power shots, for percentages of 30 and 42, while Vargas was not far behind with 139 (32%) and 114 (33%). After the match, both fighters spoke of taking time off with their families. Mosley said that Mayweather is his first choice of opponent, and that the Pretty Boy is “the only guy out there to beat at welterweight.” Vargas was noncommittal after the fight about continuing his boxing career. Maybe, after all, it will play out like expected; the winner will get at least one more big payday, and the loser will go off into retirement.

When I was leaving after the broadcast was over, I talked again to Donovan George, who hipped me to some boxing websites, gave me some insights on fighters and gyms in Chicago, talked about where he’s fought and who he wants to fight, and shook my right hand with his left. I thought at first that this might be some cool new boxing insider handshake, then remembered the small scars on the back of his right from hand surgery. I hope he heals up right and can get back in the ring soon to drop some more bombs.