1998 Boxing Review
Los Angeles, CA--
1998 was marked by two epic wars from Arturo Gatti and Ivan Robinson, the emergence of Floyd Mayweather and Fernando Vargas, the return of former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson to the gym, and a number of conquests, upsets, and bad decisions.
It was a year in boxing in which a prominent referee would shove the middleweight champion out of the ring, the two dominant heavyweight kings would appear lackluster before finally signing to the mega-fight of 1999, and Prince Naseem Hamed’s ring entrances would go from spectacular to predictable.
American Presents led by Dan Goosen would emerge as a new player amongst the power promoters of the sport and four former world champions would all suffer bad losses and retire from the game. Zab Judah and Vernon Forrest would continue their climb to stardom and we would lose Archie Moore.
After seventeen years of thrilling action, USA Tuesday night fights would vanish only to be replaced by a exciting new format from ESPN 2. 1998 was marked by triumph, tragedy, dreamers, schemers, and those that lead with their hearts.
Fighter of the Year
IBF light weight champion "Sugar" Shane Mosley was the clear-cut choice for top honors. Mosley would defend his 135-pound title five times during the course of the year and only work a grand total of 35 rounds. Excellent hand speed, brutal combinations, and one of the best body punchers in the game, were the keys to what trainer/father Jack Mosley called "Power Boxing."
In February, Mosley hammered away at Demetrio Ceballos until he stopped the challenger with a flurry of wicked shots to score an 8th round knockout. Mosley came back in May with a withering body attack punctuated by a jackhammer left hook to halt former world champion John Molina on a 8th round TKO. In June, a blazing combination of hooks, crosses, uppercuts from Mosley’s arsenal followed by a straight hand down the middle resulted in a 5th round KO of Wilfrido Ruiz. Less than three months later, he floored Eduardo Morales in the 3rd and then proceeded to pummel the challenger along the ropes in the 5th, until referee Arthur Mercante Jr. halted the slaughter. Mosley closed out a sensational year by scoring three knockdowns and recording a 9th round KO over former world champion "Jesse" James Leija.
Mosley has had some difficulty making 135, and chances are that he will have to move up the junior welterweight limit. However, at 27, he still would like an opportunity at unifying the lightweight titles and there remains an opportunity of fighting WBC 135-pound champion Cesar Bazan. With talent, skill, and enthusiasm for his work, Sugar Shane Mosley was the dominant fighter in boxing in 1998.
Floyd Mayweather had a sensational year in 1998. Blazing hand speed and supreme confidence propelled Mayweather to a 7-0 record, while recording 6 knockouts. Along the way he captured the WBC super featherweight title by scoring an 8th round TKO over champion Genaro Hernandez and then closed out ‘98, with a 2nd round TKO over Angel Manfredy.
WBC super bantamweight king Erik Morales continued to display his talents with two devastating performances this past year. In May, Morales scored a second-round knock over Jose Luis Bueno and then in September, recorded a 4th round TKO over hard-hitting Junior Jones. The powerful 122-pounder from Tijuana, Mexico, is yet another rising star in boxing.
The top fighter pound-for-pound in the sport, WBC/WBA light heavyweight champion Roy Jones Jr. went 3-0 in ‘98. In April, Jones recorded a 4th round knockout after dropping the hammer on former 175-pound legend Virgil Hill with a right hand to the body that broke two of the North Dakota native’s ribs. Jones came back in July to score a 12-round unanimous decision over WBA king Lou Del Valle, but not before tasting the canvas for the first time in his career. Jones closed out ‘98 with a 10th round TKO over blown up WBO middleweight champion Otis Grant.
Fight Of The Year
#1 Ivan Robinson and Arturo Gatti waged two heroic battles this past year but the fight that stands out was their first encounter in August . Momentum continued to swing back and forth as both fighters took turns blasting away at each other. Gatti as always ended up looking like a ripe tomato, but his exchanges with Robinson bordered on Tony Zale versus Rocky Graziano. Both men rocked each other a number times and Robinson eventually hit the deck in the 4th, from a sharp right hand. With his left eye closing, Gatti went after Robinson but nearly was dropped himself in the sixth. Both warriors kept hammering away at each other with viscous shots until the final bell. When the fireworks had come to a conclusion, Robinson had earned the split decision victory, 98-93, 96-94, and 93-94.
#2 Robinson versus Gatti number II, was almost as equally as thrilling with both combatants still pounding away at each other. Robinson’s hand speed along with Gatti’s lack of defense and cement chin only added to the excitement. The amount of punishment that Gatti took at times was difficult to watch. Again, both men were rocked and wounded but just like the first time when it was all over Ivan "Mighty" Robinson was the winner. However, Gatti’s popularity continued to increase even in defeat.
#3 WBA welterweight champion James Page locked into a brutal battle with Jose Luis Lopez but eventually claimed a unanimous decision victory over the tough Mexican challenger. Page looked like he was done in the third after being floored by Lopez, however, the Pittsburg, CA. champ rallied with sensational lead right hands. Almost out on his feet, Page came back to drill Lopez with fierce right hands and lethal left hooks over the second half of the fight to retain his crown in his first title defense. Both men scored with riveting shots that brought the crowd to their feet numerous times. The fight was marred when the boxers continuously slipped on the beer logo in the center of the ring, however, for true excitement and fireworks, Page-Lopez was a masterpiece in ‘98.
#4 Rarely do two ranked contenders square off to face one another anymore. However, #4th ranked welterweight Vernon Forrest met #10 rated Adrian Stone and the result was an eleven round war. Forrest was buzzed early in the bout but came back to drop Stone twice in the fifth round. The English 147-pounder rallied but Forrest finally closed the show with classic left hooks to stop Stone at 1:27 of the 11th. Stone was later taken to the hospital and treated for a broken jaw.
Round of the Year
Round One--Kostya Tszyu and Diobelys Hurtado staged a wild first round in their battle for the WBC interim super lightweight title. When Miguel Angel Gonzalez went down with bad ribs a little more than a week before the bout, Hurtado stepped in and went to war with Tszyu before finally fading in the fifth. In the opening seconds of the fight, Tszyu nailed the stationary Hurtado with a wicked right hand to the jaw, that buckled his knees. Tszyu followed up with a sweeping left hook to the chin that dropped Hurtado but he was up at the count of three. Tszyu sprinted across the ring to end the fight and ran into a perfect counter right to the chin. Tszyu went to one-knee but was up before the count of two. Tszyu came back firing but missed with a wild combination. Hurtado then drilled the Russian-born boxer with a clean right cross to the jaw. Tszyu lost his footing and dropped to the floor and was forced to use his gloves to keep from completely hitting the deck. Given a mandatory 8-count, Tszyu emerged from the fireworks with a purple egg under his left eye. Tszyu, however, went right back to work and rocked Hurtado with a laser-like left hook and a series of clubbing shots. Hurtado managed to escape but Tszyu flurried again with a punishing assortment of hooks and crosses. Shortly before the end of the 1st, Tszyu caught Hurtado in a half-Nelson and threw him to the deck. The bell finally rang and both fighters staggered back to their corners.
Knockouts of the Year
#1 In February former middleweight champ Reggie Johnson stepped up in weight and took on IBF light heavyweight king William Guthrie. The southpaw Johnson who had been out of action because of managerial problems, reminded everyone in boxing just how talented he is by scorching Guthrie with a devastated blast to the chin. The IBF champ crumbled to the canvas and would remain on the deck for a full five minutes. In his dressing room almost thirty minutes after the monumental knockout, Guthrie still wasn’t sure what planet he was on.
#2 James Page won the vacant WBA welterweight crown by crushing Andrei Pestriaev with a left hook for the ages in the second round. Not much was known about Page coming into the bout other than his reputation for a brutal hook. The lanky welterweight laid out the Russian in the second with a wicked detonation as Pestriaev executed a perfect pirouette before slamming into the canvas. That knockout sent shock waves throughout the division that are still being felt.
#3 The seats were hardly warm in Washington DC, when IBF flyweight champion Mark "Too Sharp" Johnson floored challenger Arthur Johnson three times en route to yet another victory. The most explosive little man in the sport, Johnson overwhelmed the challenger with a dazzling display of hooks, crosses, and uppercuts that sent the "other" Johnson back to the dressing room in under three minutes.
#4 Veteran featherweight Jesus Salud crushed David Vasquez with a wicked right hand in the second of their scheduled 10-round affair. The thirty-five year old Salud seemed to get all his power and leverage on one shot and that was the end of the evening for Mr. Vasquez. Months later, Vasquez still wasn’t sure what happened.
#5 IBA junior welterweight champion Antonio Diaz whacked out challenger Hector Quiroz with a laser-like left hook in the 12th and final round. Quiroz crumbled to the canvas looking like he caught an armor piercing AK-47 round.
#6 Trailing on all the scorecards, Robert "Preacherman" Daniels floored Don Diego Poeder twice in the 10th round. An explosive left hook leveled the Dutchman and Poeder remained on the deck for six minutes after Daniels turned out the lights.
Upsets of the Year
#1 German super middleweight Sven Ottke, with 13 victories and just one knockout on his record scored a highly controversial 12-round decision over hard-hitting Charles "The Hatchet" Brewer, to capture the IBF 168-pound crown.
#2 In front of his countrymen, lightly regarded Frenchman Hacine Cherifi recorded a 12-round victory over WBA middleweight king Keith Holmes. The balding Cherifi simply outhustled the southpaw Holmes, who floored the challenger but couldn’t put him away and ended up losing his belt.
#3 In May, challenger Jean Baptist Mendy stunned the huge favorite and world champion Gussie Navarov over 12 tactical rounds to score a decision and win the WBA lightweight title.
#4 Rangy Mexican challenger Cesar Bazan utilized his size and reach to record a 12-round split decision over Stevie Johnston, to capture the WBC lightweight championship.
If you don’t think that judges can be swayed by crowds, the top four upsets all occurred in or near the challenger’s hometowns. 1-Hamburg, Germany. 2-Lyon, France. 3-Paris, France. 4-El Paso, Texas, just across the Mexican border.
Worst Out Of Shape Fighter--Marlon Brando Award
He must have been training at Winchell’s donuts, because Booker T. Word, who use to look like "Mr. Clean" as a light heavyweight, faced heavyweight Ed Mahone, at an astounding 232 pounds. Word is only 5’8", and he was by all accounts 62-pounds over his best fighting weight. Fittingly, Word was stopped by a body punch in the fourth round.
Best performance by a cutman
There were a number of great efforts by excellent cutmen this past year; Chuck Bodak, Miguel Diaz, Percy Richardson, Ralph Citro, just to name a few. However, as long as Arturo Gatti continues to fight and cutman Joe Souza works his corner, he earns this dubious honor. Gatti starts bleeding at the weigh-in, he has a chronically damaged left eye, and Souza has worked overtime to make sure that "Thunder" went the distance twice against Ivan Robinson.
Most Bizarre performance by a referee turned TV judge
Last August in Las Vegas, Mills Lane, who just retired from the ring after 31-years of "Let’s get it on," and wearing bow ties, was working the IBF middleweight championship between Bernard Hopkins and Robert Allen. After a great deal of holding, hitting, and roughhouse tactics, Lane in his zeal to separate the fighters in the 4th, managed to shove Hopkins completely through the ropes. The champion fell four feet to a concrete floor. Hopkins’ badly injured his leg in the fall and was unable to continue, forcing the fight to be ruled a "no-contest." The bout was the only TKO scored by a referee in 1998.
Best Riot of the Year
Formerly a Save-On Drug store, the Country Club in Reseda, California, was transformed several years ago into first a music venue and then an occasional boxing arena. Lately it has been a showcase for punk-rock bands, and that vibe apparently still resonates off the walls. The Reseda Country Club earns the dubious distinction for best melee of ‘98. Following the bell to end the second, in a scheduled four-rounder between middleweights Richard Gonzalez of San Fernando and Thomas Hinde of Los Angeles, both fighters kept slugging out. Very quickly the fighting escalated and both corners became involved. Gonzalez was struck by one of Hinde’s seconds and anywhere from 12 to 15 people became entangled in the mayhem. Along with the usual pushing and shoving there was also a fair amount punching and kicking. At one point Gonzalez ended up on the canvas and one of Hinde’s seconds suffered a broken arm. In the boxing irony of the year, Los Angeles Police Chief Bernard Parks was sitting ringside during the fireworks. Needless to say the California Athletic Commission are not happy guys. No word if there was any action in the mosh pit.
Worst Performance by a judge
In the WBA bantamweight title fight between champion Nana Kondau and Johnny Tapia, the challenger clearly dominated the fight. Tapia was masterful and simply outboxed Konadu, who didn’t land a solid punch until the seventh round. While two judges gave the victory easily to Tapia, Italian judge Franco Primi scored the bout 114-114, a draw. It was almost as if Mr. Primi was watching a completely different fight. Along with the worst performance by a judge it might have also been simply the best piece of pure boxing in ‘98. For the record the BT had Tapia winning 119-109.
Worst performance by a referee
Luis Carlos Guzman of Argentina was the third man in the ring during Kostya Tszyu’s ninth-round TKO over Rafael Ruelas. Guzman made numerous mistakes during the WBC 140-pound elimination bout. First he was overweight and out of shape to work a major fight. Several times during the course of the bout he failed to wipe off both fighters gloves when they hit the canvas after slips, falls, and knockdowns. At one point during the bout, Ruelas was almost driven through the ropes yet Guzman failed to call it a knockdown. Lastly, after nearly nine one-sided rounds and with Tszyu clearly winning, Guzman was out of position when Ruelas was trapped on the ropes and took unnecessary punishment before the referee finally halted the slaughter. His performance was so bad it was almost criminal.
Bizarre Fight I ‘98
January 11th, Studio City, CA.--Following his discharge from rehab, Peter McNeeley (yeah, that’s right) squared off with a doughy heavyweight from Oklahoma named Larry Menefee. Veteran referee Chuck Hasset repeatedly warned Menefee for: holding & hitting, making weird faces, and best of all--"goofing around." Hasset finally DQ’d Menefee for repeated fouling and running McNeeley’s head into the corner post.
Good Guy of the Year
WBC/WBA light heavyweight champion Roy Jones Jr.’s star shined even brighter outside the ring. Jones along with HBO was instrumental in helping to raise funds for the family of injured former middleweight champion Gerald McClellan.
Too Heavy--Easy on the fries
#1 August 28, 1998--Mauricio Pastrana records a 9th round TKO over Carlos Murrillo in Las Vegas. However, Pastrana losses his IBF junior flyweight title when he failed in his attempt to make the 108-pound limit.
#2 September, 22, 1998--Freddy Norwood scores a 10th round TKO over challenger Koji Matsumato in Tokyo, Japan. However, Norwood was stripped of his WBA featherweight title when he failed to make the 126-pound limit at the weigh-in.
#3 November 13, 1998--Ricardo Lopez wins a 12-round split decision victory over Rosendo Alvarez to retain his WBC strawweight belt and win the WBA minimumweight title. Prior to the fight, Alvarez was stripped of his WBA belt for you guessed it, being overweight.
Co-trainers of the Year
This award usually goes to a high profile guy like Emanuel Steward, Angelo Dundee, or Lou Duva. However, we are picking two men who were key to the development of three world champions. First, Jack Mosley, who cultivated his son Shane’s talent while growing up in Pomona, California, and turned him into the IBF lightweight champion. By stressing the fundamentals such as speed and balance to go along with great body work, Jack Mosley has nurtured an excellent world champion.
Second, Eduardo Garcia, has seen two of his star pupils achieve world titles this year. In March, Robert Garcia scored a 12-round win over Harold Warren to win the vacant IBF junior lightweight title. Then in December, Fernando Vargas scored a 8th round TKO over Yori Boy Campas to win the IBF junior middleweight titles. Garcia has worked with both Robert, his son, and Vargas, since they were little boys growing up in Oxnard, California. His dedications to keeping these two athletes on the straight and narrow has resulted in two world champions. A remarkable achievement in this day and age.
Best performance by a trainer for just one fight
With his black horn rimmed glasses and quiet demeanor in the corner, Freddy Roach hardly seems to be the guy to handle emotionally charged Johnny Tapia. However, Roach’s cool approach was just what Tapia needed to give WBA bantamweight champion Nana Konadu a boxing haircut. Tapia has gone through a number of trainers but Roach’s personality seems to perfectly counter the volatile New Mexico boxer. Tapia came into the fight in excellent condition, was razor sharp, executed what Roach asked and boxed with authority in winning his newest title. After training with Roach in Big Bear, California, Tapia was ready to go 24 rounds.
Guys to watch out for in 1999
Slick-punching junior welterweight Zab Judah, who has blazing hands and talent. Heavyweight Lamon Brewster, out of Indianapolis, continues to improve and show power. Current NABO welterweight king Edgar Ruiz (14-1-1, 10 KO’s), is a tough guy who plants opponents. Vernon Forrest, an exceptionally gifted welter out of Augusta, Georgia, with his sites set on a world title shot this coming year. Puerto Rican welterweight Daniel Santos is 19-0-1, and continues to look impressive.
Bizarre Fight II ‘98
Antwun Echols captured the USBA/NABF middleweight belts when he knocked Brian Barbosa out of the ring. Part of the problem was a ring apron that was just 6-inches wide. Echols caught Barbosa on the ropes, hammered away with a flurry of shots, and then watched as his opponent exited stage left approximately four feet to a concrete floor. After smashing into several TV monitors and the timekeeper’s table, Barbosa finally came to and struggled at the count of sixteen to climb back into the ring. However, before referee Elmo Adolph reached the magic number 20 (that’s right, they give you 20 if you do a Jack Dempsey), he waved the fight off and Echols was declared the winner. Mr. Barbosa is still trying to recover from the "Laws of Gravity."
Unbeaten but Beatable
#1. St. Louis heavyweight Ed Mahone. #2. Puerto Rican welterweight Hector Camacho Jr.
#1. IBF junior featherweight champ Vuyani Bungu. #2. WBC super bantamweight king Erik Morales. #3. WBA middleweight champion William Joppy.
#1. WBA cruiserweight champ Fabrice Tiozzo. #2. Middleweight contender Antwun Echols. #3. Top rated WBC heavyweight contender Zelkjo Mavrovic.
Still chasing ghosts and haunting the ring
#1. Tyrell Biggs #2. Greg Page #3. Tony Tucker (all heavyweights).
Needs a Rest
Arturo Gatti, Kevin Kelley, and Julio Cesar Chavez.
Sonny Liston Award
Junior middleweight Anthony Stephens, dislocated his shoulder after catching shots from IBF 154-pound champ Yori Boy Campas’ for three rounds and was forced to quit.
Taking Care of Business
Light heavyweight champ Roy Jones Jr.,135-pound king Sugar Shane Mosley, flyweight champ Mark Johnson.
Think your good at your job
WBC/WBA 105-pound title holder Ricardo Lopez now has been a world champion for over 8 years.
Best heavyweight right hand of 1998
WBC champ Lennox Lewis’ dropping the hammer on Shannon Briggs in round five.
Best Roman heavyweight fight of ‘98
July 22, Atlantic City, NJ.--Andrew Golata won a 10-round brawl over Corey Sanders in a fight that looked like it was held in a slaughterhouse. Golata cut Sanders over the left eye early in the 2nd round and soon the underdog’s face was a crimson mask and Polish heavyweight’s entire left side of his body was splattered in blood. Referee Tony Orlando let the carnage continue and both men opened up with heavy artillery. With the fans standing and screaming both combatants were rocked and late in the contest Golata suffered two cuts over his left eye. When it was over there were pools of blood on the canvas and the ring apron. The crowd stood and cheered both warriors for a solid minute after the final bell.
Prelim Upset of the Year
Sheffield, England--Taking the fight on 48 hour notice Tony Booth (29-44-7, 7 KO’s) scored a 8-round decision over previously undefeated super middleweight prospect Omar Sheika (14-1, 9 KO’s), by the sole arbitrator card of referee Tony Green.
Shocker of the Year
Welterweight "Sugar" Ray Collins (19-9-1, 5 KO’s) whacked out previously undefeated Lavell Finger (21-1, 13 KO’s) in two one-sided rounds.
Mexico City, Mexico--Fueled by Tecate beer, 50,000 fight fans in the Plaza De Torros disagreed with the decision that ruled Miguel Angel Gonzalez and Julio Cesar Chavez had fought to a 12-round draw. Everyone seemed to be aiming their seat cushions and water bottles at Steve Albert’s toupee. Bobby Czyz, Dr. Ferdie Pacheco, and Albert all displayed grace under fire, while taking incoming rounds. A special award goes out to ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr., whose Spanish was flawless while rendering the verdict and dodging missiles.
Two Gentlemen who will be Missed
Two former world champions decided to hang up their gloves in 1998 and they were two of the classiest guys in the sport. Both men were gracious in victory and defeat while displaying extreme courage and valor during their careers Both Julian Jackson and Azumah Nelson were champions inside and out of the ring..
Worst Decision-Most Boring Fight of 1998
November 13--Miami, Florida. A painful evening for all who witnessed this tedious encounter at the Miccousukee Gaming Pavilion. In a unusual combination of sleepwalking and incompetent judging, Eric Harding scored a 12-round split decision win over former world champion Montell Griffin. It was like going through root canal work and then being handed the bill in the middle of the operation. It was painful, time consuming, and then when the decision was announced everyone felt like they needed a vaccination for diphtheria. Two judges had Harding winning, 116-112, and 115-113. While one official gave the nod to Griffin, 115-113. The BT had Griffin winning, 116-112. It was brutally monotonous and then capped off by a ludicrous decision.
On October 10th, veteran contender Sharmba Mitchell sparkled as he scored a convincing 12-round win over Khalid Rahilou to capture the WBA junior welterweight title. Mitchell fired wicked combinations and tattooed Rahilou with blazing speed for the entire bout. Several weeks later on Oct. 30th, Arthur Williams completed his quest for a world title by recording a 9th round TKO over Imamu Mayfield to win the IBF cruiserweight belt. Earlier in his career, Williams lost a controversial decision to Orlin Norris and then was TKO’d in three during the rematch, however, on this night he was not to be denied.
Worst Ring Entrances
In September, John Brown entered the ring to face Angel Manfredy, wearing a cheap rubber dog mask and hairy arms that gave the impression of a beagle on steroids. Not to be outdone, in December, Manfredy climbed through the ropes to fight Floyd Mayweather wearing silver sequin trunks, a white leotard, and little wings that were sewed on to the back of his robe. The bravest guy in boxing was the guy who told Manfredy he looked great.
Best handling of a fighter
Lou Duva and especially Roger Bloodworth prepared Fernando Vargas with exceptional savvy through the entire year. Matching him with tough guys but fighters that he could also beat was truly remarkable. Vargas continued to improve and learn with each victory. When he finally stepped in with just 15 pro fights to face Yory Boy Campas, he fought a tremendously smart fight against a devastating puncher. Vargas picked his spots and blasted Campas apart to win the IBF 154-pound title.
Fights we would like to see in ‘99
Heavyweights--Mike Tyson vs. David Tua. Middleweights--Bernard Hopkins vs. William Joppy. Welterweights--Oscar De La Hoya vs. Felix Trinidad. Lightweights--Shane Mosley vs. Floyd Mayweather Jr. Bantamweights--Tim Austin vs. Johnny Tapia.
Four former world champions, Gabe Ruelas, Rafael Ruelas, Terry Norris, and Genaro Hernandez all decided to hang it up in 1998 after suffering tough losses. Each man distinguished himself throughout his career in and out of the ring. We wish them the very best in any endeavors they might pursue. Veteran middleweight and supper middleweight Herol Graham, also called it quits after suffering a detached retina. Graham twice challenged for world titles but came up short on both occasions.
Gone but not forgotten
Archie Moore, Don Dunphy, Sam Soloman, "Big" John Tate, Chester Comeux, Johnny Bizzarro, Bob "Bobcat" Montgomery, Ruben Bell, Cody Koch, Malik Muhammad, Billy Soose, Paddy DeMarco, Jose "Buffalo" Martin, Rudy Zavala, Ken Katagiri, Hipolito Saucedo, Harry Markson, and Jim Murray.
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