Powell anxious to begin his delayed second act
By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Boxing Contributing Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Coming this summer, errr, fall - "The Re- Emergence of Sechew Powell."
Highly regarded and riding a 20-fight win streak into a match with foundering ex-champion Kassim Ouma a year ago, the subsequent 12 months have been a little less kind to the Brooklyn southpaw.
Clearly beaten, though far from brutalized, in a one-sided 10-rounder against the Ugandan-turned-Floridian, Powell encountered another roadblock this week trying to recover seemingly long-lost momentum.
The 28-year-old was scheduled for an eight-round tune-up against 61-fight trialhorse James Crayton in Miami, but was instead side-tracked by a chest cold that scrubbed the meeting until next month.
"He's feeling better now and I'm sure he could still get in there and win the fight, but the goal is to win impressively," said Mark Vaz, Powell's long-time friend and co-manager, during a Wednesday afternoon phone interview.
"He missed 10 days of training just two weeks before the fight, so there's no sense taking the risk."
The past 12 months have been tough for Sechew Powell.
Vaz, who worked with Powell in the amateurs and recently re-assumed managerial duties after the fighter's amicable split with promoter Lou DiBella, said the days since the Ouma loss have been a study in both frustration and patience.
"Sechew took that fight on kind of short notice and I don't think he was as prepared as he could have been," Vaz said. "Based on what he'd done up to that time, I think he might still have been a half-dozen months away from challenging a guy like that."
Powell lost the verdict via scores of 100-90, 97-93 and 96-94, then was inactive for six months before returning to unanimously defeat first-season "Contender" alum Ishe Smith on DiBella's three-tiered card at the Hammerstein Ballroom in Manhattan.
He shared the bill with rising welterweight Andre Berto and charismatic 140-pounder Paulie Malignaggi that night, then parted ways with DiBella soon after to seek out a less-crowded promotional arrangement.
He's since signed with Seminole Warriors Boxing, which also promotes heavyweight belt-holder Sultan Ibragimov, ex-cruiserweight champion O'Neil Bell and recently-crowned 122-pound titlist Celestino Caballero.
"I have a good relationship with Lou and I've never once had the occasion to raise my voice to him in all the years I've known him, which is kind of rare with Lou," Vaz said.
"I think he was maybe a little more patient with Sechew because he was a New York guy, too, and plus he had (middleweight champion) Jermain (Taylor) and other priorities.
"Their deal expired and Sechew decided to look elsewhere, maybe to a place where he could be closer to No. 1 in a stable. We have a contract in place and we're really excited about it."
Powell stands in at No. 5 in the IBF's latest 154-pound rankings, which are vacant at Nos. 1 and 2 behind champion Cory Spinks, who was most recently active with a challenge of Taylor at middleweight.
Verno Phillips and Roman Karmazin take spots No. 3 and 4, respectively, making them the top items on Powell's - and Vaz's - agendas.
"Ideally what we'd like is a chance at a title eliminator," Vaz said. "The guys at 4 and 5 ought to fight and work it down to two guys fighting for a vacant title if Cory decides to stay at 160 - or to the highest available contender if he defends the title at 154.
"I expect a lot out of Sechew. He's definitely ready. And I think he's on the verge of taking over the junior middleweight division."
Upon further review, it just got a little bit harder to like Roy Jones Jr.
Long among my favorites for years of dominance from middleweight to heavyweight, and even more so because of his performance as lead morale-booster for a still-depressed post-Katrina crowd in Biloxi, Miss. last month, the 38-year-old took a giant step back this week by showing his bark was more disgraceful than his bite.
Commenting on the legal snarls involving plea-copping Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick - who's facing the possibility of prison in connection with a dog-fighting/gambling ring in Virginia - Jones, who's openly raised fighting roosters for several years, said "Fighting animals don't necessarily get mistreated. They get treated just the way I get treated."
Uhhh no, Roy. not by a long shot.
While I don't argue for a second that Jones and his brethren put their health on the line every time they step in a ring, and I also concur that many of the sport's middle and lesser lights do so at the whim of uncaring and unscrupulous promoters, to liken those realities to the heinous allegations against Vick is offensive to anyone with even the remotest affection for animals.
Dogs involved in the Virginia group's activities were killed by particularly vicious means, including drowning, hanging and electrocuting, after being deemed no longer fight-worthy. Meanwhile, no matter how disloyal and deceptive those dealing with Jones through the years may have been, it's clear the treatment hasn't quite sunk to the same painful level.
In fact, as his professional run nears its 20-year mark, the former Olympic bronze medalist is enjoying something of a career revival when most of his age group is relegated to ESPN Classic highlight status. He's 2-0 since a three-bout losing streak in 2004-05 and will meet Felix Trinidad in a Don King-promoted show in January, possibly at Madison Square Garden.
Compared to most, it seems he's got it pretty good.
But now, while I still believe he's capable of ending the match with a limited and rusty Trinidad however he chooses - via wide decision, late stoppage or whatever - the part of me that would have mourned a loss for him is a good bit smaller today than it was even yesterday. And win, lose or draw, it's not likely to grow back anytime soon.
After all these years, it's still good to be "The Greatest."
Laila Ali, the 29-year-old daughter of history's preeminent heavyweight, was given premier status of her own when she was named "champion emeritus of the world" in the super middleweight division by the Women's International Boxing Association.
A native of Miami Beach and now living in Los Angeles, Ali recently announced a voluntary sabbatical from the sport and her intention to start a family following her marriage to former NFL wide receiver Curtis Conway.
Conway, a first-round draft pick of the Chicago Bears in 1993, played 12 years as a pro before calling it quits following a 38-catch season with the San Francisco 49ers in 2004. He also played three seasons with the San Diego Chargers and one with the New York Jets.
The two were married on July 22.
Ali, who debuted with a one-round KO of April Fowler in October 1999 at the Turning Stone Casino in Verona, N.Y., was last active on Feb. 3 when she stopped Gwendolyn O'Neil in one round on a card at the Emperors Palace Casino in Gauteng, South Africa.
She won her first world title - the IBA's super middleweight belt - in August 2002, and had defended various and sundry sanctioning body crowns since, while running her career record to a pristine 24-0 with 21 knockouts.
According to WIBA president Ryan Wissow, the champion emeritus tag reflects Ali's status as "retired, but retaining an honorary title corresponding to that held immediately before retirement," and is awarded to "not only guarantee Laila an immediate title shot upon her return to the sport, but to honor the WIBA's greatest champion ever, who defended the title with courage, pride, honor and dignity from 2002 to 2007."
Russian contender Natasha Ragosina will fight an opponent to be determined for the vacant belt on Sept. 8 in Berlin.
Two of the WBO's most successful little men will clash in the weekend's "biggest" title fight on Saturday night in Puerto Rico.
Incumbent 108-pound champion Hugo Fidel Cazares will risk his title for the sixth time when he meets hometown hero Ivan Calderon in a scheduled 12-rounder to highlight a five-bout card at the Coliseo Ruben Rodriguez in Bayamon.
Cazares, a 29-year-old Mexican, improved his career slate to 25-3-1 with a second-round stoppage of Wilfrido Valdez on a pre-Cinqo de Mayo pay-per-view event at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
He won the belt in April 2005 via 10th-round technical decision over Nelson Dieppa and has scored inside-the-distance wins in each of his five successful defenses - including a September 2006 rematch with Dieppa.
Calderon, who'll be 33 in January, successfully defended his own WBO strap - the 105-pound minimum weight title - 11 times after winning it from Eduardo Ray Marquez with a ninth-round technical decision in May 2003.
He earned a split-decision victory - taking two cards by 115-113 counts and losing on the third by the same score - over Ronald Barrera in his most recent outing, headlining a nine-bout show in Barrera's hometown of Barranquilla, Colombia.
The win upped Calderon's career mark to 28-0.
Meanwhile, on Friday, a couple of novelty acts will compete some 5,083 miles apart.
In Santa Fe, Argentina, recent welterweight title challenger Sebastian Andres Lujan meets an as-yet-unnamed opponent in a scheduled 10-rounder at the Club Sportivo America.
Lujan, a 27-year-old brawler, is probably best known for a 10th-round TKO loss to then-WBO champ Antonio Margarito at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, during which the Argentine's left ear was left bloodily dangling and prompted an immediate post-fight hospital trip.
He's just 4-3-1 in eight fights since, including a 12-round points loss in April to rising British contender Jamie Moore before a partisan crowd in Cheshire, England.
Meanwhile, at the Paradise Theater in the Bronx, a southpaw light welterweight with a ring-friendly name will see action for the fourth time as a pro.
Ray Robinson, a rangy 21-year-old from Philadelphia, faces an also as-yet-unnamed opponent in a preliminary bout on a seven-bout card featuring middleweights Delvin Rodriguez and Keenan Collins in the main event.
Standing a gargantuan 5-foot-10 among his much shorter 140-pound peers, Robinson has scored a pair of shutout decision wins and another triumph by disqualification in his three career outings thus far, fighting once each at the Paradise Theater, Foxwoods Resort in Connecticut and the Bally's Events Center in Atlantic City.
His last action came April 20, when his previously unbeaten opponent, Roberto Acevedo, was DQ'd in the fourth round for excessive fouling.
Lyle Fitzsimmons can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He is a periodic contributor to the Dave Smith Show, broadcast weekdays from 6 to 9 a.m. on Sporting News Radio (radio.sportingnews.com).