For Better Or Worse, The Spirit Of Ali-Inoki Lives

When Muhammad Ali and Antonio Inoki met on June 25, 1976 in Tokyo, Japan, to finally settle the wrestler vs. boxer debate they, well, didn’t settle anything. As everyone knows, that match turned out to be a total farce. Not surprisingly, it wasn’t the first time a promoter booked a wrestler vs. boxer match and it certainly won’t be the last. Naturally, every one of these bouts proved to be less exciting than a Great Khali vs. Kane match but, nevertheless, the New York State Wrestling Federation is hoping April 5th will turn out to be a little different.

That night in New Rochelle, NY, the NYSWF will present the latest boxer vs. wrestler matchup when they pit former light middleweight Larry Barnes (44-3-0) against Ring Of Honor star Larry Sweeney. Obviously, the JarryPark faithful have all heard of Sweeney but here is the skinny on Barnes: His biggest claim to fame was a fourth round TKO loss to Felix Trinidad in 1995 and his last fight was on the undercard of Oscar De La Hoya vs. Julio Cesar Chavez in 1998 when he lost to Luis Ramon Campas via TKO in the third round.

Ten years later, he steps back into the ring for the first time to face one of the true rising stars in professional wrestling. I am always intrigued when a promoter takes a gamble and signs a match like this one so I invited NYSWF’s John Miele to talk about how this match came about and what fans can expect come April 5th. An interesting listen.

John Miele – 01/29/08

For more information on this match check out the NYSWF’s official website

Will Yuri Foreman Make The Switch To MMA?

Yesterday was certainly a great day for MMA and boxing fans. Some get all emotional about which sport is better but not me. I just like it when one event airs in the afternoon and the other in the evening. And based on my expectations prior to each event, I thought both were well worth my time. We’ll discuss them more later in the week.

Speaking of boxing and MMA, pro boxer Yuri Foreman (24-0, 8 KOs) stopped by to discuss his budding career and his last win against Andrey Tsurkan. Last month’s victory of Tsurkan was tremendously important for the Belarusian because he needed a big win following a lackluster performance against Anthony Thompson on the undercard of Judah-Cotto. Whether a win over Tsurkan qualifies as a “big” win is another question but at least he looked dominant.

So what does this have to do with MMA, you ask? Well, take a listen as Foreman discusses a potential switch to mixed martial arts, his Sambo training with Paulie Malignaggi and his thoughts on Fedor. Could Foreman be the first big name boxer to make the leap? Only time will tell but his interest certainly seems piqued.

Yuri Foreman – 01/20/08

(photo courtesy of Robert Caplin of the New York Times)

Five Years Too Late?

Roy Jones Jr. (51-4, 38 KOs) faces Felix “Tito” Trinidad (42-2, 35 KOs) next Saturday at Madison Square Garden (true).

The boxing world is buzzing over this showdown between two legends of the ring (not really).

Fans are willing to pay $5,000 to seat ringside for this bout (I would love to meet those “fans”).

A win by Jones over Trinidad could get his name back in the mix (questionable).

This is an interesting one. There has been virtually no buzz surrounding this fight, yet, when you look at what these fighters have accomplished one would expect a little more excitement from boxing enthusiasts. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that after losing three in a row, Jones has only defeated a couple of tomato cans in Prince Badi Ajamu and Anthony Hanshaw.

Nevertheless, at least he’s been keeping active. Trinidad, on the other hand, hasn’t fought since his loss to Winky Wright in May 2005. In fact, he has only fought three times since September 2001.

In an effort to get the boxing world talking about this one, Jones and the incomparable Don King recently held a conference call to discuss the upcoming bout, why we should care about it and who Jones is looking to fight next. (By the way, it may have just been a poor phone connection, but am I the only one who thought Jones sounded a whole lot like Riddick Bowe?)

Roy Jones Jr. – 01/13/08

Oh, and I think David Banks is still knocked out.

Boxing Day At The Park

Another week, another visit by our Sweet Scientist, Large of No Mas Online AND now The Sporting News Blog (congrats on the new gig my man). Some of the topics we discuss include:

* The controversy (at least in my eyes) that was Ngoudjo-Malignaggi

* The untimely death of South Korean boxer Yo-Sam Choi

* The upcoming Roy Jones Jr. vs. Felix Trinidad bout

* Who should be the first big-name boxer to try his hand at MMA

* What we should expect from David Haye (above) vs. Enzo Maccarinelli

And so much more…take a listen.

Larz – 01/12/08

Dmitriy Salita Moves On To Bigger And Better

Prior to World War II, Jewish boxers were the norm. Believe it or not, some of the sport’s brightest stars were Jews. Fighters like Abe Attell, Reuven Goldstein and Maxie Rosenbloom were as good as any and while they did share the same religion, back then, they were known as great boxers who just so happened to be Jewish.

Nowadays, things are a little different. The Jewish boxer is more of anomaly. So, when I first heard about Dmitriy “Star Of David” Salita – a practicing Orthodox Jew who refuses to fight on the Jewish Sabbath (sundown on Friday evening to sundown on Saturday) as well as on all Jewish holidays – I was instantly intrigued. When I found out he learned to box after moving to Brooklyn from the Ukraine to fight off school bullies, I instantly respected him. And when I watched him dominate Shawn Gallegos to capture the NABA Light Welterweight title in August 2005, I instantly became a fan.

You see, where I come from one can not help but hear about every athlete who just so happens to be Jewish. Never mind if he rides the pine for a D-II basketball team or is a third string CFL right guard. If you’re a Jewish athlete in the public eye, I have probably heard of you. But Salita is the rare 21st Century Jewish athlete who is actually good. In fact, he is 27-0 with 15 knockouts kind of good!

However, the biggest question surrounding the 25-year-old Salita is when is he fighting next? His last fight (a unanimous decision win over Grover Wiley) was almost ten months ago. Prior to 2007, he fought at least three times a year and sometimes up to six. So, why did he just fight once last year? And why doesn’t he have any upcoming fights lined up?

Things started to make sense when news broke that Salita and promoter Lou DiBella were cutting ties effective immediately. That was my cue to reach out to Salita and find out why he hasn’t fought since last March and what the future holds for his budding career.

Dmitriy Salita – 01/10/08

(For more on Salita be sure to check out Jason Hutt’s tremendous documentary entitled “Orthodox Stance.”)

The Black Panther Stalks His Prey

I’m a sucker for trash-talking. I don’t care who the fighters involved are if they are able to throw around some good insults I will probably watch the fight. So you can imagine my excitement for tomorrow night’s IBF Light Welterweight title bout between champion Paulie Malignaggi and Herman Ngoudjo (Showtime, 9 p.m. ET/PT). Two great young fighters. Two great trash-talkers. One Montrealer (Ngoudjo). Can’t wait.

Their conference call last month should be shown to all aspiring fighters to teach them how to properly talk smack. Then, this past Wednesday in New York City, they slipped in a couple of more classic shots at the final pre-fight presser. Some of my favorites included:

“Don’t worry about remembering my opponent’s name, because come Sunday, no one will remember him anymore.” – Malignaggi

“I am going to punish Paulie. My fists will be singing in 12 different languages so I hope Paulie knows Italian since that will be one language of choice.” – Ngoudjo

“I plan on punishing Ngoudjo and I will break him down for talking so much crap. If I win by knockout, it will be in the later rounds.” – Malignaggi

“I knew I wanted to fight Paulie right after the Ndou fight. After I saw that fight, I said ‘I want this guy’ and I always get what I want. Now, I want to win, so I will win.” – Ngoudjo

My favorite of the bunch has to be this one from Ngoudjo:

“After I take his belt, we’re going to have a big party to celebrate.”

It certainly doesn’t get any better than that. For more great comments from Herman Ngoudjo take a listen my interview with “The Black Panther” himself. We talk about his upcoming bout, the controversial Castillo fight and his plans to fight Ricky Hatton once he defeats “The Magic Man.”

Herman Ngoudjo – 1/4/08

JarryPark’s 15 Moments Of ’07 – #2: Box Office Boxing

We’re not ready for 2008 just yet. We continue our countdown of the Top 15 Combat Sports Moments of 2007. The list can be found here.

#2: Box Office Boxing
What: Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather rewrite the pay-per-view record books
Where: MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas, NV
When: May 5, 2007

Let it be known that the reason De La Hoya vs. Mayweather is so high on our list is not for the fight itself. That one might make our most over-hyped list. Basically, we have a rule around these parts: If a fight breaks several records it deserves some kind of a spot at the top of our countdown lists (and if this were a normal year it probably would have been #1). We’ve already made it known that HBO’s 24/7 was largely responsible for its success but allow me to fully break down the numbers for everyone:

* Its 2.4 million pay-per-view buys shattered the 1.99 million buys for Holyfield vs. Tyson in 1997 and really shattered the non-heavyweight record of 1.4 million buys for De La Hoya vs. Trinidad in 1999.

* The total revenue of the bout was $165 million beating the previous record of $112 million by Lewis vs. Tyson in 2002.

* As a result of all the millions generated, Oscar De La Hoya passed Evander Holyfield as the all-time leader in pay-per-view sales with 12.8 million buys.

* The $134.4 million in PPV revenue helped further establish DLH as the PPV king as his fights have generated $626.4 million. Mike Tyson sits in second place with $545 million.

So, the next time you’re at a bar and some drunk sitting next to you waxes idiotic on how boxing is dead just pull out this cheat sheet and stuff it in his face. Then give him a shot right in the kidneys and tell him we sent you.

Further Enlightenment:
Cinco De Mayweather [HBO]
HBO Numbers Prove Superfight Was Super Big At Box Office [ESPN]
De La Hoya-Mayweather Was Richest Fight Ever [MSNBC]

JarryPark’s 15 Moments Of ’07 – #6: The Game Changes

As if you already didn’t know, we’re counting down the top 15 combat sports moments of 2007. The entire list can be found here.

#6: The Game Changes
What: HBO Sports introduces 24/7 – a new (and very much improved) way of promoting fights
Where: Home Box Office
When: April 2007

Prior to this year, there had pretty much been a standard way of hyping a big fight: Produce a 30-to-60 minute special highlighting the strengths, the trials and the tribulations of the participants involved and – voila – you’ve got yourself a cookie cutter “Countdown to (enter two fighters names here)” show. But HBO Sports (full disclosure: I used to work for them but left the network almost three years ago) officially blew that formula up and, boy, do they deserve a whole lot of credit for their efforts.

Simply put, HBO Sports’ introduction of De La Hoya-Mayweather 24/7 may have been the most revolutionary promotional tool to hit the combat sports world since the invention of pay-per-view. No one had EVER rolled out anything like this before. A four-part reality series following both fighters as they prepare for their bout? Tremendous television. And this wasn’t a show shot six months prior to the showdown. Oh no, the content of each episode (save for the main interviews involving the fighters and trainers) was shot in the week leading up to the airing of that particular episode. Revolutionary, indeed. And if anyone is wondering why or how DLH-PBF generated 2.4 million pay-per-view buys (a record), the main reason has to be the impact of 24/7.

HBO followed De La Hoya-Mayweather 24/7 with Mayweather-Hatton 24/7. While the sequel didn’t generate the same kind of PPV buys as the original (850,000 domestically) here’s hoping more 24/7‘s are green light next year and that the UFC and Spike decide to produce the same kind of shows. However, something tells me that the UFC will never be able to fully duplicate the magic of HBO Sports’ 24/7. There’s a reason why they’re the undisputed king of combat sports and just in case anyone began to doubt their top spot on the totem poll, 24/7 once again cemented it.

Further Enlightenment:
HBO Sports Presents An Exclusive Four-Episode Countdown Series [Pound4Pound]
The Best Damn Sports Show, Period [Slate]
Hatton Joins Mayweather For HBO Sports’ ’24/7′ Sequel [USA Today]

JarryPark’s 15 Moments Of ’07 – #9: Back From The Dead

For the next couple of weeks, will countdown the 15 most memorable combat sports moments of 2007. Some will be positive while others will be negative. Some will have happened in a ring or cage while others on the outside. Every day, we’ll feature a single moment as we bid adieu to ‘07. As we present each moment, feel free to agree or disagree with any of our selections in the comments section below.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering why we chose fifteen the answer is quite simple: You take the “7? from ‘07 and the “8? from ‘08, add them together and you get 15. Duh. To see the rest of the countdown click here.

#9: Back From The Dead
What: The sport of boxing enjoys one of its best years ever
Where: Squared circles across the world
When: The year 2007

One of the most hysterical subplots of ’07 was how every non-boxing sports writer under the sun had declared the sweet science officially dead. I suppose most of these folks don’t care to do research because if they did they would realize that the sport’s PPV numbers and HBO ratings were as strong as ever. I guess it just made for a good story or something. Consider this short list of tremendous fights 2007 gave us:

* Mayweather-De La Hoya
* Cotto-Judah
* Calzaghe-Kessler
* Pavlik-Taylor
* Vazquez-Marquez I and II
* Pavlik-Miranda
* Mayweather-Hatton
* Mosley-Cotto

And the best part? 2008 is shaping up to be potentially better. So keep talking about how boxing is dead. I’ll gladly take another dead year all over again.

Further Enlightenment:
Plenty Of Good Candidates For Fight Of The Year [Yahoo! Sports]
2007 Ends With Hope For The Future [HBO]
The Sports Guy Now Does Not Think Boxing Is Dead [No Mas]

JarryPark’s 15 Moments Of ’07 – #10: UFC Goes Mainstream (For A Week)

For the next couple of weeks, will countdown the 15 most memorable combat sports moments of 2007. Some will be positive while others will be negative. Some will have happened in a ring or cage while others on the outside. Every day, we’ll feature a single moment as we bid adieu to ‘07. As we present each moment, feel free to agree or disagree with any of our selections in the comments section below.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering why we chose fifteen the answer is quite simple: You take the “7″ from ‘07 and the “8″ from ‘08, add them together and you get 15. Duh. To see the rest of the countdown click here.

#10: UFC Goes Mainstream (For A Week)
What: UFC lands on the covers of ESPN The Magazine and Sports Illustrated on the same week. ESPN also covers UFC 71 as a major sporting event.
Where: ESPN and Sports Illustrated
When: May 2007

Am I the only one who feels that the week leading up to UFC 71 now was all just a dream? Did the UFC actually land on the cover of SI and ESPN The Magazine on the same week? Were they really the lead-in story on the 6 p.m. Sportscenter the Friday before Memorial Day? Was that really Joe Rogan debating Lou Dibella? And, if so, where has all that coverage gone?

I remember witnessing all this mainstream press and thinking “wow, MMA is going to start getting covered everywhere: Box scores, highlights, magazines etc.” Then I realized that my first mistake was thinking that MMA was the popular term of the day when it was actually UFC. Most casual sports I know have no idea what MMA is or means but can definitely tell you about the UFC. My next mistake was thinking the UFC was really going to receive a consistent stream of media coverage. It has certainly increased since this time last year but, sadly, that week in May has since proved to be the exception more so than the rule.

Further enlightenment:
Chuck Liddell Graces ESPN Magazine Cover [AOL Fanhouse]
The New Main Event [Sports Illustrated]
Sports Illustrated on MMA [Prophet Fighting]