Don Jose and Other Lumps Discovered Down Santa Claus Lane

By Michael Katz


Don Jose and Other Lumps Discovered Down Santa Claus Lane

Twas the night before Oscar and all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even the Mouse.
Bruce has retired, or so it's been said,
But if you don't know Strauss, my face will be red.
The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak,
So hoist a glass and take a peek,
Because if it's good for a gander,
It won't stop Evander.

This took me about 45 seconds to pen, but being of good spirit, I am ceasing fire and taking some other tacks for my Noel cowardly play. That is the first present beneath the Chanukah bush and/or Xmas tree. My second would be to all boxing fans: Col. Bob Sheridan as the announcer on all future fights.

I believe most of you deserve such goodies. Others should get bupkes, as in lumps of coals. So I've made up some lists, but I didn't check twice. Hell, it's hard enough to do it once. Somewhere in here, will be my year-end rating for the best in show. Before we let the dogs out, though, let's get the juices started with some wholesome negativity.

Pound for pound and ha'penny for ha'penny, no two men are more responsible for boxing's steady decline than Don King and Jose Sulaiman. Others are of course responsible for the public's distrust, but King and Sulaiman have been joined at the hypocrisy for so long they might as well be one perverse person. Let's call him Don Jose.

Don Jose tried to cheat James (Buster) Douglas out of his knockout of Mike Tyson and did manage to swindle Pernell Whitaker of a convincing - except to Don Jose's judges - victory over Julio Cesar Chavez. Over the years, they have committed other heinous acts and here they are again, working to insure that one of boxing's most vexing problems does not have a quick solution.

Virtually everyone agrees that one of the things the game needs most is a single heavyweight champion. Don Jose may render lip service to the "good of the game," but never let it get in the way of the good of Don Jose. Thus, when the two heavyweight champions not controlled by King Promotions - the other two, Nikolay Valuev and Shannon Briggs, are not worth the scrap their titles are printed on - you can bet that Don Jose will play some serious defense.

Those who are trying to make a Wladimir Klitschko-Oleg Maskaev unifier are quick to point the blame on Sulaiman. The WBC has ruled that Maskaev must next defend against the winner of the mandated Jan. 6 rematch between Samuel Peter and James Toney, both of whom happen to be promoted in part by King. And Klitschko has an IBF mandatory against another King "fighter" - and I use that term loosely - in Ray Austin. King argues that it would be unfair to the Peter-Toney promotion for Maskaev not to fight the winner right away. He also says Austin must get his deserved title shot against Klitschko. He tells confidantes, "Who needs unification when I can get two bites out of the apple?"

For thus stepping in the way of progress, Don Jose will receive nothing but lumps of (Laurence) Cole in their stockings. And the International Boxing Hall of Fame will be given enough coal to start a cleansing by fire.

NO. 1 PFP: I was going to give Manny Pacquiao a pen with invisible ink, but it's not his Bar Mitzvah, so while he may not be the easiest guy to deal with in business, he has become more so inside the ring. Freddie Roach has made the Pac Man the most improved boxer in the world. Somehow, he convinced Pacquiao that it is perfectly legal to throw punches with the right hand. I bequeath a couple of coals - Laurence and his father, Dickie - for Manny to burn all his contracts and let him start anew. It would be better, I think, if he leans toward Oscar de la Hoya becoming his promoter; Bob Arum's first fight for him would be against Edwin Valero, who may be only a figment of Doug Fischer's imagination, or he may not. In any case, if I were Pac Man's manager, I would recommend either Marco Antonio Barrera or Juan Manuel Marquez - bigger names that he's already beaten and I don't care that the judges mistakenly called his three-knockdown contest with Marquez a draw - over Valero. It should be noted, of course, that Pacquiao's promotion is not meant as a demotion to the previous occupant. It is a sign that boxing is twice blessed. It matters not that early in his career, well before he met Roach, Pacquiao was knocked out as a flyweight. At 130, he is stronger, faster (than even his predecessor as No. 1 when he was at this weight) and hits harder. He is not the complete package. No one is. He gets hit a bit too much for my liking, but his chin is major league.

NO. 2 PFP: Give the man a hand, two hands - two healthy hands. That is all it would take for Floyd Mayweather Jr. to climb back on top, the ability to let his brittle hands fly in combinations. It could well be that Mayweather's recent talk of retirement has been spurred by the pain in the tools of his trade. When he first brought up the idea of fighting Oscar de la Hoya - he was either 130 or 135 pounds - while others laughed at him and said he was too small, I gave him more than a chance. In fact, it was only after his complaints about his hands after shutting out Carlos Baldomir that made me start believing de la Hoya has a chance in their Cinco de Mayo showdown. If he shows that his hands are behaving again, certainly de la Hoya will not be able to keep him from climbing back to No. 1 - and neither will such welterweights as Miguel Cotto, Luis Collazo and especially the slowest tornado I've ever seen, Antonio Margarito. Sugar Shane Mosley, he might have a chance.

FALLING OFF A BLOG: Call up Scranton and have them deliver a few carloads to all those "experts" out there, especially in cyberspace. Used to be that boxing writers were an elite lot. They were writers first, attracted to the melodrama and humanity - in all its aspects - of the game, Now most credentials go to people who are fans first and foremost, who gush about their heroes and, worse, start believing that they are major cogs in the wheel. I won't name names. Tis the season to be jolly.

NO. 3 PFP: For Christmas, let's give Winky Wright a "yiddeshe kupp," meaning don't turn down $5 million to fight a guy you already beat just because he'd be making more. In other words, you can't let principle stand in the way of principle and compounded interest. Business decisions aside, Wright at 35 remains boxing's leading technician. And please stop saying he gave away the last round against Jermain Taylor - Taylor did nothing in that round, either.

NO DOUBT ABOUT IT: Teddy Atlas is one of the good guys and not only for his work with the Dr. Theodore A. Atlas Foundation he created to honor his father. I wish he'd start training again and not Henry Maske. Anything to shut him up for a while on ESPN. I mean, a slightly sore throat is not exactly what Santa had in mind, but it might help Atlas to stop repeating himself. Say it once, Teddy, and then don't look for second and third ways to phrase it. The great Don Dunphy was a master of understatement.

SOUPY SALES: He kind of looks like him, but Fred Steinburg is funnier than the grand old clown and should have many bundles of joy to publicize through the coming years. Like Gary Shaw.

NO. 4 PFP: Yes, there are signs of slippage here, but Marco Antonio Barrera remains one of the game's elite. He doesn't need any free passes from Santa; he should have enough goodwill built up with all his exciting fights to throw in a cautious, sly one occasionally. Let's just fit him with a rocking chair in which to enjoy the twilight.

BURY THEM IN COAL DUST: All of them, but let's give a special lump or two to the IBFelons, who besides just naming Ricardo Mayorga their No. 14 welterweight - the Nicaraguan hothead hasn't been 147 in years - they are also doing their best to keep the heavyweight division split. It might come as a shock that this happens to be a boon to Don King. Ray Austin is ranked No. 2 by the Felons among heavyweights. No. 1 is left blank. It can not be assigned to Mr. Austin because he has never beaten a top ten fighter in his career. Yet this is the guy King tells Boxingtalk's George Willis who deserves a title shot. And the Felons abet.

NO. 5 PFP: Okay, he's gone back to fighting ESPN level guys, but for one night at least, Joe Calzaghe showed the world how good he is (and, showed me, how over-rated Jeff Lacy was). Calzaghe has been a title-holder through 19 successful defenses - Joe Louis, not Bernard Hopkins, has the record with 25 - against mostly mediocre opposition. The undefeated Welshman needs to find a Jermain Taylor or Hopkins or Wright beneath his tree.

NO. 6 PFP: The fall from the top is accelerating. Rafael Marquez, who did nothing in 2006 but beat Silence Mabuza for a second time, gets promoted just to keep Jermain Taylor down. With time beginning to run out, he too needs a big fight or two among his presents.

NO. 7 PFP: On the record, Taylor has two victories over Hopkins and a draw with Wright, but there are no great arguments from this corner if you had him 0-3 in those contests. In two starts with Emanuel Steward as his trainer, he seems to have retrogressed. Ranking him this high means I don't have to do any more shopping for him. Besides, he already has Sergio Mora gift-wrapped.

NO. 8 PFP: Look who's back, our old buddy Bernard Hopkins. He went out and bought himself the best present when he hired Mackie Shilstone to get him ready for the slapping around Antonio Tarver over and below the Mason-Dixon line. Wouldn't be surprised to see him repeat against Calzaghe in 2007.

LAFAYETTE, WE ARE HERE: Larry Merchant, who graduated from Lafayette High School in Brooklyn a few years before I did, hopefully will get his Hanukah gelt from HBO in the form of a contract renewal. He may be grumpy, he may be old, and I may disagree with him on occasion, but his intelligence and wit are two of the key ingredients that made the network the Heart and Soul of boxing. Of course, it has lost that heart and soul in recent years, but it's certainly not Merch's fault.

NO. 9 PFP: Glad to see the slow recognition by colleagues that Ricky Hatton would have been no match for young Mayweather at 140 and Luis Collazo pointed out that it would have been a rout at 147. Still, let's not deny the energetic Englishman a vaunted place. At least he's fun to watch and hear. He gets a trip next month to my home town to face Juan Urango for one of those 140-pound trinkets and hopefully he won't be allowed to bring along Mickey Vann as the referee. He probably won't need any judges and for his reward, he'll get Jose Luis Castillo.

NO. 10 PFP: Speaking of the devil, Castillo is also on the Jan. 20 card from the Paris Las Vegas against Herman Ngoudjo of the Cameroons (but based in Montreal). He's already gotten his present: Five extra pounds in which to make weight.

SOCIAL INSECURITY: I appreciate those suggestions I get now and then for me to take my computer and go find an old age home. But I'm the decider - for me. I don't decide for Evander Holyfield or Fernando Vargas or Erik Morales or Joe Mesi. Those are not the guys we should worry about, anyway. They have enough money, or prospects, to quit if they want but have chosen to continue in the dangerous game. For the ones who have trouble meeting the rent, let's give them terrific jobs, but no, not building a wall between us and Mexico.

COAL MINES: For Murad Muhammad.

NO. 11 PFP: It appears likely that Juan Manuel Marquez, who like his kid brother has had to suffer the too-cautious management of their great trainer, Nacho Beristain, will get a big fight in 2007, either Marco Antonio Barrera or a rematch with Manny Pacquiao.

NO. 12 PFP: Cuba si! After a long time in grade as one of boxing's best, Joel Casamayor showed there was still life in Ol' Bones with his victory over Diego Corrales and now has a chance to avenge his dubious decision loss to Acelino Freitas. Feliz Navidads.

NO. 13 PFP: Life begins again at 35. He got his father back to train him, his hand speed and confidence also returned against Fernando Vargas, and now he's going back to welterweight with a shot at one of those paper titles Feb. 10 in Las Vegas. And at welterweight, Mosley may be the only one around who could upset Floyd Mayweather Jr. If Oscar de la Hoya does it at 154, he might even get the best present of all - a third chance at beating the Golden Boy.

NO. 14 PFP: Nah, why would Oscar torture himself by trying to get past Mosley. De la Hoya has given boxing the best present of all, a big fight for 2007. But there's still a temptation to give him a couple of lumps of coal. He knows it's his ball so if guys want to play with him, they have to obey his rules. Example: Although he had announced he was going to go back to 147 pounds, he insisted that Mayweather meet him at 154 because of the size advantage. He chooses the gloves, the purse splits, the costumes of the ring card girls. Simply said, he's a bully. It should serve him well in his chosen profession of boxing promoter.

SUGAR PLUMS: There are too many names to mention, but Teddy Blackburn, Larry Holmes, George Foreman, all the caregivers from Brenda Page and Lisa McClellan to the ringside physicians, Harold Lederman (yeah, his voice could shatter eardrums and his scoring sometimes does, but he's one of the real good guys), Vernon Forrest, Buddy McGirt and Al Certo (still a tandem in my mind), Kelly Swanson, Ken Norton, Cedric Kushner (yes, there are promoters I like), Pat Rizzo of Bob Arum's office, Jose Torres, Alan Hopper of Don King's, Joe Cortez, Duane Ford, Eric Bottjer, Emanuel Steward and Freddie Roach, Michael Buffer and Jimmy Lennon Jr., Jimmy Glenn and Bob Jackson, Chris Byrd, Tom Kenville and Howie Albert, Gil Clancy, Bill and Debbie Caplan, Oleg Maskaev, the Klitschkos and Camachos, Aaron Pryor, I could go on and on for maybe 40 years worth of personal history. Candy canes in their stockings. Figure if they're in boxing, they're all suckers.

NO. 15 PFP: Losing isn't everything. You certainly won't be penalized by me if you can't lose weight, so Diego Corrales is still highly honored. Yes, he has taken a lot of punishment in his career - and that's not counting his prison term or extended association with Gary Shaw - but Chico's heart is one of the game's great assets. For Xmas, he gets a Valentine.

NO. 16 PFP: Sight unseen, Chris John gets in here, and not because of any affirmative action for Indonesians. Maybe he beat Juan Manuel Marquez, maybe he didn't. The fact that he came close should be enough to warrant inclusion on this list and the sound of jingle bells in Jakarta.

FOR SOOT: Yeah, sometimes it's tough to watch them, but no more lumps for guys like John Ruiz and Hassim Rahman. They've had enough during their careers. Of course, in the heavyweight division, all you have to do is pick yourself up, brush yourself off and start boring us all over again.

FAT IS BEAUTIFUL: Here's hoping James Toney doesn't lose too much beauty under Billy Blanks. The question is, Does Tae Bo know?

MORE FIGHTS FOR MORE FIGHTERS: It's discouraging when guys like O'Neil Bell, Juan Antonio Rivera and all those Diazes don't have enough meaningful work. And you, too, Cory Spinks - whose Christmas came early with the success of our favorite team, the St. Louis Cardinals. Now he deserves a Chanukah or Kwanzaa gift.

NO. 17 PFP: A boy called Joan has all the moves, but Senor Guzman needs a perfect foil to use them on. Manny Pacquiao would be nice, so would Edwin Valero. Or Juan Manuel Marquez or Marco Antonio Barrera. He fits with them all and is fun to watch. Let's hope his nose doesn't have to be pressed against the window too long before he gets to the goodies.

NO. 18 PFP: Israel Vazquez and Guzman could both be higher, and I won't argue with anyone who has one or both in their top 15 or even top 10. Vazquez's comeback against game Jhonny Gonzalez was one of the best fights of 2006. He'll probably be giving us more such presents in 2007. He and Rafael Marquez would be a terrific gift, for them and us.

PENTHOUSE: In a way, more credit should go to Jose Hernandez for his performance on one of the rare good BAD's. Edison Miranda indeed looked like a Panther when he knocked out Willie Gibbs in the opening round, but it's difficult not looking good while scoring a first-round KO. Hernandez had to endure a steady beating before rallying in the eighth round to stop Jazon Litzau. Nice job.

PEACE: More I cannot wish you, for Mike Tyson and all the gang from Brooklyn - the great and genteel (no, that doesn't mean goy) Mark Breland, Riddick Bowe, Zab Judah, Keith Mullings, Shannon Briggs, Shelly Finkel, Bob Arum, Paulie Malignaggi and Gleason's Gym. As they used to say in my old borough, wait till next year.

NO. 19 PFP: See what gaining weight can do for you? Miguel Cotto looked like a whole different fighter going from 140 to 147. He is now a major force at welterweight, one of the real smart bombers in boxing. He knows how to punch, where to punch and when to punch. He'll get some just desserts in 2007 without any help from Santa.

NO. 20 PFP: No, I haven't seen him, but if Nobuo Nashiro can knock out Martin Castillo in his eighth pro fight to win the WBAboons' super fly title, and then in his ninth bout defend successfully against Eduardo Garcia, this Japanese 115-pounder must be special. After nine rounds, he was even with Castillo before the knockout in the tenth. Let's wish he, and a lot of those other gems hiding overseas, can get some exposure besides the Internet.

NO. 21 PFP: Another little guy proves that, especially in boxing, the best presents come in small packages. Who would you rather watch, Nikolay Valuev, Shannon Briggs or Jorge Arce? We can only hope we get to see Arce in some big matches for little people. Vic Darchinyan, anyone?

WRITE ON: Another year's supply of adjectives for Fast Eddie, Tim Dahlberg, James Lawton, Kenny Jones, Royce Feour, George Kimball, Kevin Iole, Dandy Dan and especially Norm Frauenheim. And may they all be blessed by contact with Gene Kilroy.

NO. 22 PFP: There's an endless supply of superfly talent. Martin Castillo loses, but he is not forgotten. And let us go 23 through 25 with other mini-mights, in order, Jhonny Gonzalez, Pongsakelek Wonjongkam and Celestino Caballero.

OUTHOUSE: It's Christmas weekend. No use lumping together the usual suspects.

And to all, including Don Jose, a good night.


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