By Alexey Sukachev
There’s MGM Grand in Las Vegas, HBO and red-hot (or cool-blonde) ring card girls force you to salivate in awe and craving. Limelights, moneybags at ringside, reporters speaking with Bob Arum and global sold-out arenas, filled in with fans and witnesses – it’s what we think real “world-class” boxing is about.
Then, there’s another boxing. Scorched little venues, cheapest equipment, countdown instead of a real count of ten and no familiar faces whatsoever. It’s very different from the Big Game in Vegas or in the City of Angels or in the Big Apple – still, it’s pugilism in a sarcastic but, at the same time, one of its most natural and oldest forms. The place is Sanaa, a capital of the united Yemen. It’s where very raw and little skilled guys are fighting each other for the fans, which can be counted using fingers of only one arm (if using fingers at all). It is also a place where new world records are being set.
This past Sunday one of the most amazing achievements has been surpassed at the arena, known as the 22 May Sports Stadium. Ali Raymi, who turns 40 on Dec. 7, knocked out a fighter, named Akram Jawfi, with a listed record of 5-0, 1 KO, at 1:27 of the first round. Jawfi was the 20th straight opponent, which has been stopped by the Yemenite in the very first round. His record has no blemishes and absolutely perfect at this point. And it’s a new world record as well – the previous record holder Tyrone Brunson has one KO 1 win less than the veteran fighter from Sanaa.
Brunson set his record of the highest number of the first-round kayos from the beginning of a career in 2008 but the American boxer was not special. He was matched perfectly and was fed with trialhorses, tomato cans, bums and bottom line journeymen. He drew with 12-9-1 Antonio Soriano immediately after setting his record. He lost via to 23-7-1 Carson Jones, the first live dog against him, via TKO 3, showing a perfect ledger doesn’t make you a perfect fighter.
The opposite example was all-mighty Edwin Valero, whose 18 first-round kayos weren’t only against professional loser but at least one of them was scored in the WBA super featherweight eliminator. Valero went on to become a two-division world champion and its rock’n-roll tragic icon, who severed his (and his wife’s) ties with life while still posing a fascinating record of 27-0, 27 KOs.
But if you think Brunson was matched wisely… you are wrong. The art of Yemeni matchmaking surpasses all known examples. Raymi has never fought a fighter with a negative balance. Moreover, he has never fought a fighter with a single loss. Five of his KO 1’s were against debutants though. He hasn’t fought only his compatriots. He has fought them only in half of his bouts. Nine more victories came against Somalia exports with one win being against a fighter from a tiny state of Djibouti across the Gulf of Aden.
Little is known about Raymi. He started his pro career – and we didn’t even know about his fights in the unpaid ranks – in 2011. He was 4-0 before taking a two-year layoff for whatever reason. He is one of the most active fighters since coming out of “retirement” on May 4, getting 16 KOs within six months – amazing pace.
Interestingly, the Yemenite isn’t an enigma as one might think. A couple of his fights – like one against 1-0 Yaser Dalbant (fought on July 4) can be seen in YouTube. Funny trunks, gym-like atmosphere and ancient rumbling make it somewhat surrealistic, as surrealistic is the level of boxing.
Nothing can be surrealistic when studying the ranks of the sanctioning bodies. The guy, which fight with any of the current strawweight champs, is nothing short of organized criminal activity, is somehow listed #12 by the WBO and #15 by the WBC.
Don’t tell Ali though… He is a “105 lbs Undisputed Supreme Kingpin, The Almighty One, The Most Feared puncher in history, Biological Father of Andre Ward”, as it solidified in his Twitter. Ali doesn’t lack confidence, to say the least. Here is some of his memorable tweets @aliraymi (original samples are in use):
“I will KO them all WBC, WBA, IBF & WBO, its all jokes and games. Until they get in the ring and feel the punches.”
“Pick any undefeated fighter you think is good & I will fold him in half in less than a round. Actions speak LOUDER”.
“Undisputed champion = WBC+WBO+WBA+IBF I accept nothing less than complete submission of my adversaries. Polytheism will not be tolerated”.
Raymi also has titanic plans for the future: “Fact I am unstoppable, the faster you accept this, the easier your life becomes. I only used 10% of my arsenal, Violent 2014”.
Surely, as a True Champ he cannot wait as long. So that BoxRec lists him fighting no less than one of the most hidden former badasses (and that’s not a joke) in the sport, named Saengmuangnoi Lukchapormasak, on Dec. 20 at the very same place.
It’s to be repeated: the Thai with an unutterable name, also known as Samson Dutch Boy Gym, is no joke. From 1992 to 2002 the partial namesake of two bareknuckle legends of the sport had scored 43 wins with zero losses and draws, with 36 KOs, while defending his World Boxing Federation Title no less than 37 times. And, no his opponents weren’t only “tits and tats” or Yemenits. He has wins over former or future champs like Rolando Pascua, Hugo Rafael Soto and Cruz Carbajal – all by way of stoppage. Among his victims are such renowned contenders as Diosdado Gabi, Jess Maca, Rey Lagash and Alexander Makhmutov. Samson is 41 and hasn’t fought for well over ten years but a fight with such a fighter will be an enormous step up in class for Raymi.
He doesn’t have any doubts though: “If defeating me was a possibility I would have died long ago. Send them Your Lions I declaw, Your serpents I defang, Your Greats I belittle”. Indeed, boxing can be very different…