Monday, July 24, 2006

Beast from the East


Undefeated World Boxing Association Heavyweight Champion
Born in St. Petersburg, Russia on Aug. 21, 1973
Height: 7’ Weight: Heavyweight (320)
Record: 44-0, 32 KOs

If being the tallest and heaviest heavyweight champion in history at 7 feet and 320 pounds, respectively, were not enough to bring attention to undefeated Nikolai Valuev, one need only imagine the looks of disbelief from boxing experts and novices alike when the Russian giant enters the ring not by the customary process of stepping through the ropes; he steps over them. These and many other anomalies are par for the course for this native of St. Petersburg, who has charted an unlikely course to become World Boxing Association champion.

He was born during the depths of the Cold War on Aug. 21, 1973, to parents who both stood only 5 feet 5 inches tall. The explanation for his immense size comes from his grandmother. She spoke of an Asiatic tribe called the Tartars (derived from Tarturus, the Greek god of the underworld), who had once conquered Russia and spread terror throughout most of Europe. She said her grandfather was “a giant of a man called Vasily,” and a direct descendant of this warrior race. Nikolai was the product of this gene pool.

Valuev grew up in a typical working-class Soviet family. His father, Sergei, worked in a factory repairing radios. His mother, Nadezhda, helped to make ends meet.

“Nothing came easily for us,” Valuev said. “Life was very basic. It was like growing up in the ghetto in a large American city though the old Soviet system was different. Everyone worked. Everyone was equal. I had the same childhood as every other child. We all shared the same life experiences, the same toys.”

At age 12, he stood at 6 feet 4 inches. At age 13, he went to a boarding school in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) that specialized in sports.

“I realized my childhood was finished,” Valuev said. “People had paid more attention to me than to other children. I knew this. It was obvious. But I had always lived with my size. Then I realized I could actually do something with it and set my focus on achieving something in sport. I considered no other profession.”

Valuev joined the basketball team and won a national championship at the junior level. At age 16, he was 6 feet 6 inches in height.

By age 18, Valuev towered at 6 feet 9 inches. His interest in sports had now expanded to track and field where he displayed a proficiency in hammer throw and discus. He won the national junior title in discus at age 19.

His achievements earned him an invitation to the Institute of Sport in St. Petersburg. He planned to hone his skills in an attempt to win a spot on the Russian Olympic Team.

Valuev targeted sports schools as a means to get ahead in life, but he did not waste the expanded scholastic opportunities at these institutions. Always an avid reader, Valuev enjoyed Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, Tom Clancy, Jack London, Tolstoy and other Russian giants of literature. Valuev was also known to compose poetry.

Fate intervened when he came to the attention of boxing trainer Oleg Shalaev, who wanted to turn the behemoth athlete into a boxer. At the age of 20, Valuev fell in love with the sport of boxing almost immediately.

“It was difficult for me to develop in this kind of sport at that late age,” Valuev admitted. “Almost every boxer in the world first learns boxing as a boy. For me, everything was new: running, skipping, punching the big bag, working the speed bag, sparring, even shadow boxing. I had never thrown a punch in my life. This was a new world for me and I became addicted to it immediately.”

The Communists banned professional boxing preferring pugilists to ply their trade in the Soviet amateur system. Valuev was a boxer-in-training during the day and held a job as a bouncer at a restaurant in St. Petersburg at night. After less than 15 amateur bouts, Valuev turned professional.

“Because of my size and strength, I had already won a Russian national championship silver medal but I wanted to make money.”

Shalaev taught Valuev to throw technically sound shorter punches rather than longer punches.

“I decided not to teach him to throw straight punches at a big distance, the kind of show that most people want to see a big guy like that fighting,” Shalaev said. “Instead I started teaching him how to throw short little punches from the bottom up.

“Teaching speed takes a lot of time. And Nikolai needed a tactic that would force everybody to come to him. They came to him and he clobbered them.”

Valuev fought professionally for the first time in Berlin at age 21 on Oct. 15, 1993, scoring at second-round technical knockout over American John Morton.

Over the next 10 years, Valuev would fight in his native St. Petersburg, England, Australia, Japan, South Korea and twice in Atlantic City, N.J. While honing his craft, he never suffered a defeat and often scored knockouts in the early rounds. Regardless, few took him seriously. Worse for him was the fact that he was promoted as a sideshow attraction rather than a legitimate boxer.

While he had little to show for his efforts financially as evidenced by the fact he was still living in a small apartment in St. Petersburg, he went to a friend’s birthday party at a restaurant where he was introduced to his future wife, Galina, in 1999. The gentle giant reluctantly admits to winning his bride over with poetry, but prefers not to discuss it.

“The poems were written for Galina. They are personal and I don’t like to discuss them. I’m a boxer, not a poet.”

Valuev added with a smile, “All I will tell you is that Galina didn’t throw them back at me. She still has all of the poems still.” Valuev married his sweetheart in 2000, and their son, Grisha, was born in 2003.

Noted German promoter Wilfried Sauerland signed Valuev to a promotional agreement in 2003, and all of Valuev’s matches have taken place in Germany since then.

“I told Niko that I thought he had been promoted as a circus act but he could be much more than this,” Sauerland said. “He had spent his entire career never improving or progressing in the rankings because the people he was with did not believe he was a real fighter with ability.

“I was not thinking world titles at first but the ease with which he destroyed Paolo Vidoz for the WBA European title made me think again.”

Vidoz was an Italian Olympian, Italian heavyweight champion, and a legitimate heavyweight contender with a record of 17-1 when he faced Valuev on Oct. 9, 2004. Although Vidoz succumbed to Valuev via ninth-round technical knockout, he went on to win the European Boxing Union heavyweight championship.

Valuev then met American contender Gerald Nobles—at the time undefeated at 24-0 with wins over Bruce Seldon and Sedreck Fields. Nobles was so perplexed with the giant that he resorted to throwing low blows, which earned him point deductions in the second and third rounds and lead to his disqualification in the fourth.

Valuev faced another legitimate heavyweight contender in Attila “The Hun” Levin on Feb 12, 2005. Levin was 29-2 when he faced the Valuev, with victories over Ray “The Rainman” Austin and Ross Puritty. The giant made quick work of Levin with a third-round technical knockout.

The logical progression up the heavyweight ladder continued on May 14, 2005, when Valuev faced Clifford “The Black Rhino” Etienne. He was highly touted after wins over future heavyweight champion “Relentless” Lamon Brewster and Lawrence Clay Bey, both of whom were undefeated prior to facing The Black Rhino. In addition, Etienne’s three losses prior to fighting Valuev came at the hands of “Iron” Mike Tyson, Fres Oquendo and Calvin Brock. He had also battled Francois “The White Buffalo” Botha to a draw. Again, Valuev made quick work of his opponent, knocking him out in round three.

This earned the Russian a world title elimination bout to determine the No. 1 position in the WBA on Oct. 21, 2005, against Larry “The Legend” Donald. A crafty veteran, Donald was fresh from the finest performance of his career, winning a lopsided unanimous decision over Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield at Madison Square Garden and a draw after an inspired hometown appearance by Ray Austin in Cleveland on April 30, 2005.

More important, Donald was by far the slickest fighter Valuev had ever faced. Donald’s footwork, hand speed and boxing skills are unquestioned. The big knock against him was an inexplicable proclivity to not let his hands go in fights he was on the brink of winning, most notably against Obed Sullivan in 2000 and Kirk Johnson in 2001.

Donald gave the performance of his life against the Russian before a sold out crowd of 5,000 in the new EWE Arena in the German village of Oldenburg. He darted inside with combinations and then stood toe to toe for 12 rounds with a man he gave away advantages to in every physical category, including 80 pounds and 8 inches in height.

To Valuev’s and his trainer Manuel Gabrielian’s credit, the giant Russian’s abilities had progressed to the point where he held his own in a match of boxing skills; no small feat for a 325-pound man.

While the fight had been very close, Valuev was seen as the majority decision victor by scores of 117-112, 115-113 and 114-114.

It was one thing to have defeated Donald, but it would be quite another matter to defeat two-time and reigning WBA heavyweight king John “The Quietman” Ruiz in Valuev’s first world title appearance. While the Don King-promoted Ruiz gave away the given height, weight and reach advantages to Valuev when they met before a sold-out crowd in Max Schmeling Halle in Berlin on Dec. 17, 2005, Ruiz was still the betting favorite due to his experience and burrowing, relentless style. This was, after all, a man who was entering his 10th world championship match and had prevailed over the likes of Evander Holyfield, Hasim “The Rock” Rahman, Fres Oquendo, Kirk Johnson and Andrew Golota.

But Valuev’s skills were improving. The late-blooming bear of a man, who had literally been fighting to gain respect, had learned new techniques while competing against the likes of Vidoz, Nobles, Levin, Etienne and Donald.

Ruiz promised to bring the fight to Valuev, and that’s just what he did in the beginning of the match. He made his way inside and was effective with combinations, but Valuev remained patient and established his jab, which gave him the scorecard lead. Knowing Muhammad Ali was in attendance at the fight (his daughter, Laila, was on the card), Valuev delighted the audience with a Herculean-sized “Ali shuffle” midway through the bout.

Ruiz sensed that he needed to rally, and he did with strong combinations in one of the better rounds of the fight, the seventh. All three judges gave that round to Ruiz, and all three judges were in agreement that Valuev was ahead by one point going into the eighth.

Gabrielian screamed at Valuev to increase his intensity, and Ruiz remained right where he wanted him to be—on the outside—where Valuev again worked his jab and also landed a solid right, which was enough to win the round on all three cards and extended the Russian’s lead to two points across the board.

Ruiz moved inside again in the ninth where he boxed effectively and won the fight on two scorecards while the third judge, Derek Milham from Australia deviated by scoring it a 10-10 draw. (This wouldn’t be his last 10-10 scoring as he did the same thing in the final round, which had produced some of the most spirited action in the contest.)

The 10th appeared to be an even round until Ruiz unloaded a right hand and promptly followed with another that may have been his best punches of the fight. Valuev answered with a right of his own with both fighters still throwing bombs at the bell.

The scorers differed in this round as well: two gave it to Ruiz, probably swayed by those strong back-to-back rights, but Hector Hernandez from Mexico preferred Valuev.

The fight was still up for grabs entering the championship rounds where one judge had the fight even and the remaining two still favored Valuev by 96-95 and 96-94, respectively.

Ruiz slowed his punch output in the first half of the 11th round while both fighters had marks showing under their eyes. The judges were obviously confused in this round as two judges split the round and the other, Hernandez, scored it a draw.

Both fighters seemed to give what they had left in the final round of a hard-fought battle with two judges giving the round to Valuev. The remaining judge, Milham, inexplicably scored the final round of a heavyweight championship match a draw.

In the end, Francisco Martinez of New Zealand scored the fight a draw, while Hernandez and Milham both favored Valuev by respective scores of 116-113 and 116-114. Valuev had become the first Russian in history to win a heavyweight world championship.

“I worked 12 years for this moment,” Valuev said after the fight. “I excuse myself for not having the most beautiful performance but the most important thing is that I won the decision and the title. “

Now Valuev found himself co-promoted by the powerful duo of Sauerland and Don King.

In his last appearance and first title defense, Valuev met American contender Owen “What the Heck” Beck at the TUI Arena in Hannover on June 3. Beck attempted to make up for the 78 pounds and 10 inches he gave away in respective weight and height advantages by taking the fight directly to the champion on the inside during round one. Valuev responded by throwing brief, effective combinations that quickly paid dividends in the form of space to throw more combinations.

Beck briefly landed a few body shots at the beginning of round two before being caught with a one-two combination that consisted of a left jab followed by a picture-perfect right hand that landed flush on Beck’s jaw and sent him crumpling to the canvas.

It turned out to be the beginning of the end for Beck. With less than a minute to go in the round, it was all Beck could do to survive it, which he did—barely.

The impressive combinations from the Russian giant continued and expanded in round three. He added to his arsenal a clubbing left hand followed by a staggering right uppercut that lifted Beck off his feet before sending him back to the mat.

Beck beat the count on very unsteady legs, and referee Luis Pabon made a poor decision in letting the match continue. Fortunately, Pabon quickly recognized his mistake and waved off the action seconds later at 1:44 into the round.

“It was an important fight for me being my first title defense,” Valuev, who improved to 44-0 with 32 knockouts, said. “I change my training after each fight to prepare for my opponent’s skills. My trainer and I developed a good boxing plan tonight.

“Now I will go to conquer America.”

Valuev was congratulated after the fight by a man in an arena hallway who told him, “Your combinations looked good.” The 7-foot Russian smiled when he heard the English word and pointed to his trainer, Manuel Gabrielian, from Armenia.

“Combinations, combinations, combinations,” he said in reference to Gabrielian’s repeated training guidance to use this boxing skill to his benefit. His trainer returned the smile and added a knowing nod of approval.

“Nikolai Valuev is one of the most underestimated boxers in the world,” Don King said at the post-fight press conference. “He is throwing more and better combinations as well as a devastating uppercut. I believe this man has the ability to become undisputed world champion.”

Ron Lewis of the Sunday Times of London wrote after the bout, “King has found his Kong.”

When the soft-spoken Valuev is not in the ring, he likes to spend time with his family and is also an outdoorsman who likes to hunt and fish in the forests around St. Petersburg.

“We meet outside the city, a group of us and it’s a big deal for all these people to be able to finish their jobs and meet friends who share a common interest, a passion,” Valuev said. “Some of us are sportsmen, some are in the military, but the hunt brings us together. I think it’s important to meet up with your friends, do things together and share some kind of adventure.”

His mother still likes to cook for him. She likes to make him caviar-stuffed blini (pancakes) with borsch (a beetroot soup).

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Player profile - Zinedine Zidane

Zinedine Zidane was born June 23, 1972, in Marseille, France. Zidane got his start in football (known as soccer in North America) at an early age, when he joined the US Saint-Henri club. He moved to Septemes Sports Olympiques then left at the age of 14, Zidane participated in the first year junior selection for the league championship, the same year he was discovered.

The sport regional centre in Aix-en-Provence called him in for 3 days, where Jean Varraud, recruiter for Cannes', noticed the Frenchman. What was intended to be a six-week stay at Cannes' he remained there for much longer, playing with professionals at the age of 16.

At the age of 17 he played his first game in the First Division, and it was then that his ambition turned to passion. The Cannes midfielder scored his first goal on February 8th, 1991, and his firs season with the club ended with a qualification for the UEFA Cup.

Zidane's second season with Cannes wasn't as promising, after a lukewarm 91-92 season, Zidane felt it was time for a change and switched to Bordeaux after he was asked to sign a four-year contract.

His beginning at Bordeaux required the 24 Zidane to adapt his game and developed him. Not only did Bordeaux qualify every year that Zidane played with the team, but Bordeaux also qualified for the UEFA Cup through Intertoto and went to the final in 95-96, Zidane's last year with the team.

At the same time, Juventus sought out Zidane, and after his four crucial seasons with Bordeaux, he moved to Juventus. Again, Zidane was forced to adapt to the Italian way of playing as well as to the lifestyle, but after his first year, he was a bona fide star.

It was with Juventus that Zidane won titles, as Winner of the 1996 European Super Cup, the 1996 European/South American Cup, Winner of the 1997 League Super Cup, named 1997 and 1998 Italy Champion, and Finalist of the 1997 and 1998 Champions League.

His individual awards include the Golden Ball in 1998, and he was named Best Player of the Year by the FIFA in 1998 and 2000. In 2001, Zizou became the most expensive player in football history when Real Madrid acquired him for 46 million pounds (roughly $66 million US Dollars).
A crowd of 12,018 watched the St. Louis born Cory Spinks defeat Russian born Roman Karmazin for the International Boxing Federation Jr. Middleweight Championship at the Savvis Center. After the crushing TKO defeat at the hands of Brooklyn born Zab Judah 17 months ago in the same ring, to whom he lost all three of his welterweight championships, Spinks was ready for battle.

Spinks vowed to make amends to all those who had supported him and had lost beleif in him, guaranteeing a victory over Karmazin in his first title defense. "Redemption" in silver letters shone from the back of his and his entourages' T-shirts.

Spinks burst through those same arches wearing the same red trunks that he lost to Judah in. Dancing and punching Spinks showed a swagger that had never existed before, when Karmazin punched him in the face, he punched back harder.

"I did it, I did it," exclaimed an emotional Spinks in the ring following his majority 12-round decision win over Karmazin.

"He's ready for De La Hoya, Fernando Vargas, Shane Mosley and available," proclaimed Don King, emphatically.

After that spectacle in the Lou where he was greeted to a melody of chants of Cory-Cory, everybody is waiting to see what's next for the St. Louis Kid.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Chelsea Plays USA All-Star Game

Chelsea Football Club will play the All-Star team of the United States Major League Soccer in August 2006. The match is the most high profile fixture of the MLS season and will take place in Chicago on August 5. The match will also be a key part of Chelsea's pre-season preparation for the 2006/7 season.

Chelsea first team coach and manager José Mourinho said: "I am very happy to be coming back to the United States again. This will be our third year preparing for the new Premiership season in America and it is ideal preparation.

"This time we will have a very tough game against the best players in the MLS. Last year we played DC United and I was very impressed with the standard of American players then.

"We have several in England and, of course, the US national team has qualified for the World Cup again.

" It will also be great to come to Chicago for the first time. The American fans are very welcoming and knowledgeable about English and European soccer, and in Europe we all know about Chicago's famous sporting history, with the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan."

The match will take place in a brand new purpose-built soccer stadium at Bridgeview, Illinois in the suburbs of Chicago, home of the Chicago Fire, and several US-based stars known to the British soccer public could take part. These include former French international Youri Djorkaeff, now at Red Bull New York, American youngster Freddy Adu, who starred against Chelsea last year for DC United, and US internationals Landon Donovan and Cobi Jones.

Chelsea Business Affairs Director Paul Smith commented:

"It is an honour to be invited to play in the MLS All-Star Game, and in the new home of the Chicago Fire. Our participation confirms Chelsea's long-term commitment to soccer in the United States as no other global team is prepared to invest in US soccer from top to bottom.

"As well as playing in showcase matches like this against the best US players we will also seek, through MLS and other partners such as AEG to develop a programme of activity that will also cover the huge interest in soccer at youth level, as well as the professional game.

"By building the profile and interest in Chelsea in this way we are confident we can expand our business and build a platform for increasing our fan base, merchandising and sponsorship opportunities as well as help develop US soccer."

The match is part of Chelsea's overall strategy to develop itself in the US, one of the club's three key target markets.

Chelsea recently announced a major strategic alliance with AEG, one of the leading forces in US soccer and operator of four teams, including the Chicago Fire, and various stadiums such as the one in Bridgeview.

This long-term alliance will not only help promote Chelsea and the Premier League in the US but is also designed to encourage the development of grass roots and top-flight soccer in the US.

Special Feature - King of the Heavyweights

Don King coined the phrase, "Only in America." He lives it. He breathes it. He believes it. It's part of his soul.
"Only in America can a Don King happen," explains Don. "America is the greatest country in the world—I love America. What I've accomplished could not have been done anywhere else."

Indeed, the odds have always been long for King. A product of the hard-core Cleveland ghetto, he beat the system to become the world's greatest promoter. His shocking hairstyle, infectious smile, booming laugh and inimitable vocabulary have made Don King universally recognizable. He has been featured on the covers of Time, Sports Illustrated, Ebony, Jet, and countless other magazines. He has appeared in movies, television shows and on numerous television and radio talk shows. There was even an award-winning unauthorized movie loosely based on his life and numerous other attempts by Hollywood to depict his larger-than-life personality.

Don's promotions have entertained billions around the globe. His life has been devoted to staging the best in world-championship boxing as well as always giving something back to the people. Don King-promoted events have given the sports and entertainment world some of its most thrilling and memorable moments.

Inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame in 1997, King was the only boxing promoter named to Sports Illustrated's list of the "40 Most Influential Sports Figures of the Past 40 Years." The New York Times published a list that included Don King among 100 African Americans who have helped shape this country's history during the last century. When asked recently in a private meeting with Mandalay Bay hotel executives in Las Vegas about what he would like on his epitaph, King quickly responded, "He worked for the day when all people would be clothed in dignity."

This statement belies the belief that King is merely a boxing promoter. At heart, he is, foremost, a civil rights activist.

"Nothing makes me happier than to promote a fight card with boxers from 10 different countries: the fighters, the corner men, the media, the business people-all of them," King said. "The thrill comes when these people, who would never normally come into contact with one another, work together on an event. They learn that no matter what color, race, religion or whatever you are, underneath the skin we are all the same on the inside." King added, poignantly, "I must take the splinter out of my eye before I can ask you take the two-by-four out of yours."

King's career as a promoter spans three decades and includes more than 500 world-championship fights, but it began as a humble plea to help save a Cleveland hospital in 1972. Facing a severe shortage of funds, Forest City Hospital was prepared to shut down. King knew the hospital served a vital function to a poor, working-class community. He sought out heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali and asked him to come and support a fundraising benefit to help turn around the hospital. The two men hit it off, and a new era began in boxing.

King inked a fight between Ali and George Foreman in 1974 that promised both fighters more than $5 million each, which was unheard of at the time. When his financial backers lost faith and pulled out and everyone else turned their backs on Don, he held the fight together on his own and took it to Zaire. He proved the doubters and critics wrong by staging one of the greatest fights in history with The Rumble in the Jungle.

King has gone on to set new high-water marks in the boxing promotion business. Nearly 100 individual boxers have earned $1 million, or more, under Don King Productions-promoted events. The first Mike Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield fight shattered all previous viewing records for a boxing event, seen in more than 100 countries by more than two billion people.
Holyfield-Tyson II created even more attention, attracting 1.95 million domestic households in addition to a massive global audience. The live gate sold out in days as a crowd of 16,331 paid a record $14.2 million to see the fight in person. The fight became the most watched one-day event in sports history.

Don made a commitment to provide quality fight cards, and in 1993 he staged a fight in Mexico headlined by Julio Cesar Chavez that featured four world championship bouts on one night. The public responded as 136,274 fans flocked to Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, Mexico, and established a paid live-gate record of more than 132,000 that is still listed in the Guinness Book of World Records. Not just once, but twice, he has promoted fight cards with six world-title fights. In 1994 he staged a record 47 world-championship bouts. In 1981 King was the first promoter in history to guarantee $1 million paydays to non-heavyweights when featherweights Salvador Sanchez and Wilfredo Gomez clashed. That same year he became the first promoter to guarantee one fighter (Sugar Ray Leonard) a $10 million purse in the first Leonard vs. Roberto Duran fight.

But for every successful boxing event Don promotes, he makes it a personal rule to give back far more than he ever receives. King's tireless and continuous philanthropic efforts are rarely chronicled, but, as he says, "If you do something just to get noticed, then it is not a truly charitable gesture."

He established the Don King Foundation, which has donated millions of dollars to worthy causes and organizations. As a self-reminder of the economic hardship he endured growing up, King has gone into neighborhoods every holiday season and personally handed out turkeys to needy families. Don's "Turkey Tour" has given away hundreds of thousands of turkey dinners over the years in cities across the country during the holiday season.

King is a longtime supporter of the National Organization for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), the Martin Luther King Jr. Foundation, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, National Hispanic Scholarship Fund, National Coalition of Title 1/Chapter 1 Parents, Wheelchair Charities, Our Children's Foundation among other organizations, charities, colleges and hospitals that has made him one of the world's leading philanthropists.

When the Deerfield Beach Fire Department in Florida badly needed a new fire engine, Don stepped forward with the necessary funds. Don has been bestowed with many honors, including the Black Achievement Award and being named Man of the Year by the Black United Fund and Brotherhood Crusade. Among his proudest moments was when he received the Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference's women's membership in 1987. Cities including Newark, N.J., have declared "Don King Day" and presented him with official proclamations for "behind-the-scenes" contributions he's made towards community projects.

The NAACP recognized Don with its highest honor, the President's Award, and he received Lifetime Achievement accolades from Grambling State University. Shaw University, the oldest black college in the South, bestowed Don with an honorary doctorate degree and named him to its prestigious Board of Trustees. He also recently received the prestigious "Legacy Award" for Outstanding Community Service from Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, NY. All three major boxing organizations, the IBF, WBA and WBC, have proclaimed Don King the "Greatest Promoter in History."

He got together with Felix Trinidad, Sr. and Felix "Tito" Trinidad to donate a much needed Fire Truck to Ladder Company 30 in New York’s Harlem. Together with many celebrity friends such as Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover, Don helped raise enough money to pay off the $5,000,000.00 mortgage at Ms. Dorothy Height’s building in Washington, D.C.

Last December 13th he promoted a sold-out event in Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J. featuring a record-breaking eight (8) world championship fights. He broke his own record of six (6) world championship bouts on one card.

Don is always supportive of our Armed Forces both here and around the globe. He has visited various military bases and has pledged to help them with their projects. He most recently visited Fort Campbell in Kentucky, the home of the "Screaming Eagles" – 101st Airborne. Don was made an Honorary "Screaming Eagle" by Lt. General David Petraeus for all his contributions and support.

A true patriot, he spent much of last year helping to re-elect President George W. Bush. "I believe in him," King says. "He says what he means and means what he says. I like the way he stands up. He also put two blacks in very important posts in his cabinet, and that speaks volumes for the man."

At age 73, King has no plans to slow down. He gives full credit for his rise from the Cleveland projects to his mother, Hattie, who taught him the difference between right and wrong. Don and his lovely wife Henrietta spend time at their homes in Ohio and South Florida. Their family includes sons, Carl and Eric; a daughter, Debbie; and five grandchildren.

Williams targets Valuev after Skelton

Commonwealth Heavyweight Champion, Danny Williams says he isn't intimidated by Nikolay Valuev's crushing third-round win last time out - and reckons he'll beat the Beast from the East after he's dealt with Matt Skelton on Saturday, July 8 at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, in a rematch of their crowd-pleasing scrap at the ExCel Centre in February.

And he says once he repeats his win over Skelton, his sights will be firmly set on WBA king Valuev, who stopped Owen Beck in three rounds in Germany." I know Valuev looked good, better than he has done before, but that doesn’t bother me," said Williams." I wasn't impressed with him when he beat Larry Donald, but getting the heavyweight title boosts your confidence and brings you on, and that's obviously what's happened to him."

But he doesn’t intimidate me and once I knock out Skelton I'm going to get down to business against Valuev and bring the heavyweight title home to Britain." Winning a world title was never supposed to be easy, and I'm prepared to take Valuev's best shots to get that WBA belt. And I still believe that he is the weakest of the four champions."Like everyone heavyweight out there, Williams has never fought anyone of Valuev's size before, but is confident he can come up with a game-plan to beat the 7'0 Russian." You've got to get on the inside like Mike Tyson used to do and use your speed to get to him," said Williams. "I don't think he's very fast, and that would be too my advantage because I'd see his punches coming."

Williams has been in training camp at Sheffield with long-time cornerman Jim McDonnell, and added that he is looking forward to headlining the Cardiff show after Joe Calzaghe pulled out of a defence of his WBO/IBF super-middleweight titles." I was gutted when I heard that Joe was off, but now I've got a great opportunity to impress everyone in front of the ITV cameras," said Williams." Everyone who saw my first fight with Skelton loved it, and I can promise the second one will be just as good."Williams-Skelton tops a sensational night of boxing that features six other title fights plus Olympic silver-medallist Amir Khan's eight professional outing.

Fred Couples to compete in the Barclays Scottish Open

Fred Couples has confirmed that he is to play in the £2.4 million Barclays Scottish Open, which takes place at Loch Lomond Golf Club from July 13-16, 2006. The 1992 Masters Tournament winner will join fellow Major Winners Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Hale Irwin, Paul Lawrie, Tom Lehman, Sandy Lyle and José Maria Olazábal as they challenge defending champion, Tim Clark, for the coveted Barclays Scottish Open title.

Couples said: "I have heard so many great things about Loch Lomond and about the tournament, that I am really looking forward to coming over to Scotland next month to experience the magic for myself."

Couples, who has 15 US PGA Tour victories to his name, has enjoyed a good year so far having finished fourth in the Nissan Open in February and tied for third at The Masters Tournament in April. Tim Petrovic and John Rollins, who made their debuts at Loch Lomond in 2003, will be returning to Loch Lomond once again and conclude the American line-up at the event. News of Couples' decision to compete at Loch Lomond for the first time is expected to prompt bookings from golf fans who have not yet purchased tickets for the £2.4 million event. With the strongest international field playing in Scotland this year, golf fans are guaranteed to see some outstanding world class action.

Greg Norman and Tom Watson will spearhead group of 22 Major Champions at The 2006 Senior British Open Championship

Greg Norman will return to the scene of one of his greatest triumphs after confirming his participation in The 2006 Senior British Open Championship, presented by Aberdeen Asset Management, at The Westin Turnberry Resort, Scotland, from July 27-30.

The two-time Open Champion is one of 22 Major winners who have entered the £1m tournament with Tom Watson, another player whose career is woven into the rich history of Turnberry, intent on defending the title he won last year at Royal Aberdeen Golf Club.

Norman, third in 2005, and Watson spearhead an outstanding international field of Senior Tour professionals that includes eight more players to have won Major titles before turning 50 - Bob Charles, Hale Irwin, Tom Kite, Jerry Pate, Gary Player, Scott Simpson, Craig Stadler and Fuzzy Zoeller.

In addition to this, Christy O’Connor Jnr, Stewart Ginn, Jay Haas, John A Jacobs, Peter Jacobsen, Mark James, Gil Morgan, Pete Oakley, Don Pooley, Mike Reid, Loren Roberts and Noboru Sugai have all triumphed in Senior Major Championships.

A crowning achievement in Norman’s hugely successful career came on Turnberry’s famed Ailsa Course in 1986 when he captured the first of his two Open Championships, during which he posted a course record-equalling 63.

Watson is another golfer who is certain to receive strong support as he goes in search of what would be his third Senior British Open Championship title and his third Major Championship at Turnberry, which this year is celebrating its centenary.

The five-time Open winner entered Turnberry folklore when he triumphed over Jack Nicklaus to win the memorable ‘Duel in the Sun’ Open Championship of 1977, before writing another chapter in that success story by defeating England’s Carl Mason in a sudden-death play-off at The Senior British Open Championship in 2003, the last time the event was played at the Ayrshire venue.

The American collected his second Senior British Open title – and his 12th Major Championship in total – when he beat Ireland’s Des Smyth in a play-off at Royal Aberdeen Golf Club last year, with Norman finishing in third place.

Smyth, who is never more comfortable than when playing links golf, will aim to go one better this year and will head the European challenge along with Mark James and Carl Mason of England, Spaniard José Rivero and Scotland’s Sam Torrance.

Fighter Profile - Cory “The Next Generation” Spinks

Spinks comes from a heralded American boxing family. He is the son of Muhammad Ali nemesis Leon Spinks and nephew of Michael Spinks, who gave "The Easton Assasin" Larry Holmes his first loss to become heavyweight champion.

While "The Next Generation" Spinks has fought at a lower weight, he has earned his own fame. He lost a controversial decision in Italy against Michelle Picirillo in his first world title match in 2002, but avenged it by returning to Italy the following year and winning a clear-cut unanimous decision.In his next appearance, he took on unified world welterweight champion Ricardo "El Matador" Mayorga for the distinction of undisputed world welterweight champion. Mayorga was coming off back-to-back wins against 2002 Fighter of the Year Vernon "The Viper" Forrest, but Spinks boxed his way to a unanimous decision win at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., on Dec. 13, 2003.

Fighter Profile - Roman “Made In Hell” Karmazin

Karmazin hasn’t entered the ring since he shocked then champion Kassim Ouma, a fighter many felt was destined for greatness, in a punishing performance that resulted in a lopsided unanimous decision win for the IBF junior middleweight championship in Las Vegas on July 14.The win was made sweeter by the fact that Ouma is promoted by Oscar De La Hoya, who sat stunned at ringside while Karmazin dominated one of his top world champions. Karmazin was scheduled to face De La Hoya in 2001 before "The Golden Boy" suffered an injury a month before the match, scuttling the encounter.

While the win against Ouma was the high point of his career, Karmazin can be proud of his many wins on the European stage and his performance on April 2, 2005, against two-time World Boxing Council middleweight champion Keith Holmes in Worcester, Mass. Karmazin stalked Holmes for much of the fight and nearly knocked him out in the 11th and 12th rounds before winning a majority decision.Karmazin claims his "Made in Hell" moniker came from where he comes from—the gritty streets of Russia—where he was brought up poor on the streets of St. Petersburg.

Gateway to Glory

Roman "Made In Hell" Karmazin Vs. Cory "The Next Generation" Spinks

IBF Junior Middleweight Championship

Savvis Center – St. Louis – July 8, 2006

Cory Spinks Vies for 154-Pound Crown in St. Louis July 8Former Undisputed World Welterweight Champion Wants to Take Russian’s TitleST. LOUIS—Former undisputed world welterweight champion Cory "The Next Generation" Spinks will move up to 154 pounds to challenge International Boxing Federation junior middleweight champion Roman "Made in Hell" Karmazin at Savvis Center on July 8. The event, Gateway to Glory, is being promoted by Don King Productions and will be broadcast domestically on a special edition of SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING beginning at 10 p.m. ET/PT.

Spinks (34-3, 11 KOs) made boxing attendance history at Savvis Center during his last appearance when 22,370 fans witnessed his match against Zab "Super" Judah on Feb. 5, 2005—the second-largest attendance for a boxing match ever at an indoor arena. Spinks seeks to earn another world title after losing to Judah by ninth-round technical knockout, an opponent he defeated by unanimous decision when they first met in Las Vegas on April 10, 2004."I am so excited and feel blessed to have another world title shot," Spinks said. "I am determined to win a world title in front of my hometown fans in the Lou. I owe it to them for all their support."Spinks longtime trainer-manager Kevin Cunningham, also from St. Louis, agrees that this is a match of redemption for himself, Spinks and the city of St. Louis."We feel like we let our fans down last year," Cunningham said. "This is a chance to redeem ourselves in front of all of our fans in the great city of St. Louis. They deserve to be redeemed after the Judah fight."

The hard-punching Karmazin (34-1-1, 21 KOs), from St. Petersburg, Russia, who also lives in Hollywood, Calif., is undaunted to be fighting in front of what will surely be a large, pro-Spinks crowd."Look at my record," Karmazin responded defiantly. "I have fought boxers from all over the world, most in their home countries and I defeated all of them but one (a disputed decision against future world champion Javier Castillejo in his home country of Spain)."My message to Spinks and the people of St. Louis is simple. I am Roman ‘Made in Hell’ Karmazin, the IBF junior middleweight champion of the world. I will fight any time, any place, anywhere, and I will never back down. And when you’re done with me, you’re going to feel like you’ve been to hell and back."

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Look Back In History - Don Quixote

It was billed as Judgment Day but no verdict was found as Nigel Benn and Chris Eubank fought to a draw in Octobers' re-match at a packed Old Trafford. Amidst all the hype, Robert Halter spoke to Barry Hearn's co- promoter of the fight, the Legendary Don King.
When it comes to the art of selling, there is no one bigger or better in boxing than Don King. For almost two decades, he has dominated the American fight scene by staging almost three hundred championship fights, but he was nonetheless extremely excited to have been in England to team up with Barry Hearn in bringing the WBC Super-middleweight Championship to Manchester.
''It's been a thrill for me to be part of a great promotion over here, and my contribution has been to give it vibrancy and enthusiasm... know what I mean?" Said King.
In true American spirit, King found the most pleasurable part of his trip to be his love of the common people.
''The people here are simply wonderful. I love the British people - I think they are fantastic-and I have only wonderful things to say about Manchester.''
As King had anticipated, over 40,000 fight fans descended on Old Trafford stadium to see Benn and Eubank slug it out to a draw, but seeing the stadium filled to capacity meant everything to King.
"That sell-out meant more to me than anything, because that was the picture that was transmitted around the world. The Manchester fans were really gleeful, and the excitement was just bombarding with all the television cameras and the enthusiasm in the stands."

Having chosen so many marvelous venues over the years - The Mirage in Las Vegas, The Rumble In The Jungle in Zaire -why did Manchester excite him so much?
"It was just overwhelming," he enthused. "What you had was - as Chris Eubank says -Simply the Best. Manchester exemplified and personified simplicity and people power, you know? The common focus - the masses, not the classes. It had something that gave you a ride that was undeniably indescribable. I felt fantastic about being in Manchester to share that enthusiasm, that joy, that feeling of saying 'Yes, we have made it happen'! What a marvellous, major international world event."
Having worked with such an articulate spokesman as Mohammed Ali, how did he find Chris Eubank, a man of words and wisdom?
"A man of passion, a man that has wisdom, a man that is a good fighter and knows he's a good fighter. Everything about Eubank is the personification of class and greatness. He's growing, and I enjoy him. It really tickles my fancy to see him - his splendour, his presentation, his loquaciousness. He gives an excitement to the sport, and an all round different aspect to what prize fighters are."

On the other hand King found Nigel Benn to show the other side of fighters, with his animalistic passion that exudes in the way he enters the ring to take over, destroy, to fight and win. Taking all these points into consideration, did King not think the re-match was a big disappointment compared to the classic encounter that the boxers had at Birmingham in 1990?
"I tend to disagree. What we had in Manchester was a confrontation, and in this type of confrontation the fans were the beneficiaries, and I promote for the fans - the people are my most important asset! You have great events to entertain the people, but when you have mis-matches you are running a scam on the people - you are bilking them for their hard-earned money - and I, being one of them, don't want to be bilked for my money. I want to I see the best fight, which is what we had in the re-match between Benn and Eubank, and I guess that explains why the judges could not find a winner."
Another key area with King's boxing shows is their tremendous undercards; is that something he feels he should offer the fan - not just a main event, but an undercard to match?

"Absolutely. I think the fight fan deserves more than just the featured attraction - everything should be a featured attraction! I think that when you put on good shows for people, you give them the dollar value for the entertainment dollar - guaranteed customer satisfaction. This is what makes the remarkable business of the sport. You cannot run the scam of acting niggardly in trying to put on shows - the greater the risk, the greater the reward, and my reward is the gratification of the fans."
Perhaps that's what best explains why King has eclipsed every other promoter in the business, setting standards which his competitors are hard-pressed to maintain.

"All I hear around the world is 'When is your next show?', and I say to all my contemporaries, all my so-called competitors who are running the scam of arranging mis-matches, that I don't do that. I'm part of the public, and I think that with boxing, like any other thing, you should give the people what they want - a first class show from the beginning, through the middle, and right to the end. You cannot do a play on Broadway, you cannot go to a play at any theatre, which doesn't have a beginning, a middle and an end. What a lot of them do is give you a beginning and then just leave you hanging, but I don't like to do that. When I come I give people a great show.
"I want beautiful girls to be walking around at ring-side, I want people to be in their gowns, and the conviviality to be excelling. I want enthusiasm so thick that it could be cut with a knife. I want excitement, excitement, excitement, and then we can go to our pubs and bars and parties to rejoice a great coming, and talk about how great it was and when the next one will come, and in the excitement we meet and great people. The dialectics are wonderful!"

At sixty-two years of age, King has lost none of his charisma and the keen business sense that has helped him rise from the ghettos of Cleveland to world wide fame and fortune as a boxing promoter, but for the man that has fulfilled the American Dream, Britain now offers him new goals. ''This is just the beginning - we are moving towards an extravaganza second to none, which the British richly deserve as these are very good fans over here, and I want to be able to entertain them. I think this is part and parcel of a world review. The eyes and ears of the world will have focused on Manchester, and the word would have gone out to friend and foe alike that a great happening is occurring. "Manchester, Manchester - here I cry, 'Victory is ours!' And the excitement we had from this great show will be talked about for time immemorial."