Boxing

 
         === Southbound and down: Paging through a moving notebook ===
 
 By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Contributing Boxing Editor
 
 (Sports Network) - For the second time in half a decade, I'm on the move.
 
 After  five years  and a  few  months in  and  around the  university town  of
 Gainesville,  Fla., the  nebulous Fitzbitz  base  of operations  will soon  be
 heading  to a  more permanent bliss along the Gulf-side coast of the state.
 
 And  with  the aromas  of packing  tape, cardboard  boxes and general upheaval
 permeating  soon-to-be  tropical nostrils, I got  the urge to look back to the
 things  I blathered  around the time the most recent move -- from Philadelphia
 to Florida -- was made in 2007.
 
 I've always been amazed at how, even in a relatively short period of time, the
 names and issues that seemed so pertinent back then can transform into today's
 ancient history.
 
 For example ...
 
 In  a  column penned for  posting on June  1, 2007, the  day's hot topic was a
 conference  call masquerade in which a never-boring Yoel Judah pretended to be
 his  son  and promised violent  mayhem in  Zab's challenge of WBA welterweight
 belt-holder Miguel Cotto at Madison Square Garden.
 
 "We  are  going in  to take the  title. You  are going to  see blood, guts and
 sweat,"  the  supposedly younger man said.  "You are going to see somebody hit
 the floor, I promise you."
 
 It  didn't  take long for  Top Rank publicity guru  Lee Samuels to unravel the
 deception  and apologize  for Judah's devious actions. And as karma would have
 it,  Cotto handled  the rest in the  form of a punishing 11th-round TKO of the
 recalcitrant former champion.
 
 Judah's  future prospects  seemed nonexistent  when  he was  beaten by  Joshua
 Clottey  in  a subsequent belt-grabbing  try at 147 pounds a  year later, but a
 slide back  down the  scale hastened a reinvention -- and another championship
 -- at junior welterweight in 2011.
 
 Topic  No. 2  of that year's pre-summer missive was the revisionist ranting of
 ex-heavyweight  king  George  Foreman,  who was  chattering  back  then  about
 supposedly  unfair play the night he was dethroned by Muhammad Ali in Zaire, a
 full 33 years earlier.
 
 Surmising  that  his stunning loss  had to do  with something other than Ali's
 masterful  game plan --  in this case, a tainted water bottle -- Foreman said,
 "I know there was medicine in that water. I'll never forget that. It was years
 before  I got my  health back together after that fight. It wasn't doctors who
 put  something in  my water.  They  didn't have  Ph.D.s. I'm  lucky I'm  still
 alive."
 
 As  both  a fan  of "The  Greatest" and someone  who loathes excuse-making, my
 response went a little something like this:
 
 "Big  man. Bigger  overcompensation.  The only  inalienable  truths about  the
 goings-on  in  Zaire that October night  are these: 1. Foreman was a certainly
 imposing,  but  obviously limited  behemoth; 2.  Ali was  superior not only in
 conditioning,  but in  in-ring intellect as well; and 3. Nothing in anyone's
 water -- short of Red Bull or crystal meth -- changes Nos. 1-2.
 
 "Give it up George. You're just embarrassing yourself."
 
 As irony would have it, the weekend fight schedule for that column featured an
 imminent title defense for the last man Foreman faced in the ring.
 
 Brooklyn-born  Shannon  Briggs, who  won  a  controversial majority  nod  over
 Foreman at the Taj Mahal Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City in 1997, was stepping
 a  few  doors down the  late spring boardwalk to  defend his WBO crown against
 Russian export Sultan Ibragimov at Boardwalk Hall.
 
 It  was the first and last outing as "champion" for Briggs, then 35, who'd won
 his  belt with a dramatic TKO of Serguei Lyakhovich in 2006 after entering the
 final round trailing 106-103, 106-103 and 105-104. Ibragimov won a decision to
 both  snatch  the title and send  Briggs back to  the back roads, where he won
 three  fights  by first-round KOs  before being fed  to Vitali Klitschko for a
 shutout loss in October 2010.
 
 According  to  Boxrec.com, he's  scheduled for  a March  2013 return in Dubai,
 though  the entry  gave  no indication  as  to why  anyone  would consider  it
 worthwhile.
 
 And, speaking of faded former heavyweight champions, also prepping for a fight
 that  week  five years  ago was  Roy Jones Jr.,  then on  the verge of meeting
 unbeaten super middle Anthony Hanshaw at the Coast Coliseum in Biloxi, Miss.
 
 Though  he's  fought nine  times  since,  back then  Jones  was  still in  the
 intermediate rebuilding stage after the three-fight losing skid -- Tarver (TKO
 2),  Johnson (KO 9)  and Tarver (UD 12) -- that precipitously lowered the buzz
 around him from "all-time great" to "he should retire."
 
 Jones ended up winning a close decision over Hanshaw that night on the Gulf --
 the  same night  Alfonso  Gomez  beat Arturo  Gatti  into  retirement --  that
 catapulted  him into big fights against Felix Trinidad (W 12) and Joe Calzaghe
 (L 12) in the next 16 months in New York.
 
 "For  being off a year, it wasn't too bad," said Jones, who took control after
 hurting Hanshaw with a left hook to the body in the ninth round, then landed a
 three-punch combination in the 11th to score the fight's lone knockdown.
 
 "He  was  trying to counter me  and he's a good  puncher, so I had to put them
 together."
 
 Meanwhile,  Hanshaw  fought just once  more 10 months  later and lost a fifth-
 round  TKO to  then-unbeaten super  middleweight Andre  Direll at  the Chumash
 Casino in Santa Ynez, Calif.
 
 This week's title-fight schedule:
 
 SATURDAY
 
 WBO super middleweight title -- Kreuzberg, Germany
 
 Robert Stieglitz (champion) vs. Arthur Abraham (No. 1 contender)
 
 Stieglitz (42-2, 23 KO): Seventh title defense; fought 10-plus rounds 18 times
 (18-0, 3 KO)
 
 Abraham  (34-3,  27 KO): Fourteenth title  fight (11-2); held IBF title at 160
 (2005-09, 10 defenses)
 
 Fitzbitz  says, "Abraham has lost his aura -- and his unbeaten record -- since
 moving  up to  fight the super middle  elites. But here, he may have enough to
 handle a guy on the next level." Abraham by decision
 
 NOTE:  Fights  previewed are  only those involving  a sanctioning body's full-
 fledged  title-holder -- no interim, diamond, silver, etc. For example, fights
 for  WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists
 in the weight class.
 
 Last week's picks: 1-0
 
 Overall picks record: 416-141 (74.6 percent)
 
 Lyle Fitzsimmons is a veteran sports columnist who's written professionally
 since 1988 and covered boxing since 1995. His work is published in print and
 posted online for clients in North America and Europe. Reach him at
 fitzbitz@msn.com or follow him on Twitter: @fitzbitz.
 
 
 08/22 16:04:34 ET

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