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Canizales’ call to the Hall was overdue

01
Jun

It’s About Time

Next week, one of the great modern wrongs among many in the boxing world will be righted when former IBF bantamweight champion Orlando Canizales is inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, N.Y.

Canizales, who retired in 1999 with a record of 50-5-1 (37 knockouts), was eligible for induction in 2004. Why it took another five years to get him on the ballot and into the Hall is anyone’s guess, but this is the fight game and you know how that goes.

Canizales got most of his good work done when boxing was still shown on network television, which might as well be the Neolithic age to most of you. He won the title by stopping Kelvin Seabrooks in the 15th round (you read right) in Atlantic City in 1988, and over the next six years made 16 title defenses. It remains a division record.



Jesse Reid, who discovered Canizales as an amateur in Texas and trained him for his entire pro career, called Canizales’ win over Seabrooks the highlight of their time together.

“Orlando’s brother (Gaby, one-time WBA bantamweight title holder) had a hard time with Seabrooks and Orlando didn’t think he could beat him,” Reid told RingTV.com. “But he beat the hell out of him. It was a mismatch. That’s when we knew Orlando was really special.”

Reid first saw Canizales in an amateur tournament when he, Bob Spagnola and Josephine Abercrombie were looking for fighters to sign onto their Houston Boxing Association outfit. Reid was the head trainer, Spagnola the manager and Abercrombie the promoter.

According to Reid, Spagnola wasn’t that impressed with Canizales and was more interested in signing bigger names. But Reid saw something in him and insisted they sign him on.

“He was a great athlete who just needed someone to recognize his talent,” Reid said. “He was so quiet. He never was a complainer or talker. If he were in a crowd, you wouldn’t even know he was there. Because he was so quiet he would fall through the cracks. But he turned out to be the best fighter we ever had.”

Spagnola warmed up to Canizales quickly.

“The first two times I saw him fight (as an amateur) he lost,” Spagnola said. “But Orlando had a fierce competitive nature about him. He’s an incredibly strong person.

“After his fight with Seabrooks, his hands were so swollen they had to cut off his gloves. And three weeks before his fight with Bones Adams he broke a rib. He could just remove himself from the pain and perform. He was just an unbelievable kid to work with.”

Canizales, who could not be reached by deadline, fought frequently in his home state of Texas but also defended the title in Great Britain, South Africa, Monte Carlo and Paris. Ten of his 16 title defenses were knockout wins.

“We fought all over the world at 118 pounds and not only did he never lose, he was never on the floor. That’s the sign of a real champion. At 118 it was an unbelievable ride,” Spagnola said.

At his peak, Canizales combined fast hands, good power to the head and body, and solid technique with an eye-popping ability to find the best angles from which to attack his opponent. There wasn’t a better fighter in his era at using his feet to put him in position to land, and there’s been no one close since. He was a marvel.

“He was a great, great fighter who had the ability to always be in the right place, like he just floated above the canvas,” Reid said. “Anyone who knows boxing knows he was doing special things in there. Roberto Duran got away from it when he was older, but he’s the only one I can think of who used angles like Orlando did.”

It wasn’t all roses. You could argue that as a whole Canizales’ title challengers were an average bunch. But even the very good fighters he faced — Bones Adams and Paul Gonzalez, for example — were overwhelmed.

Still, he was not without weaknesses, as was evident in his final title defense, a controversial decision win over Sergio Reyes in Canizales’ hometown of Laredo.

“He didn’t like it if you made him move to his right, and that was our strategy when Reyes fought him,” said longtime Texas-based manager Lester Bedford, who was with Reyes at the time. “That’s what we did, and we thought we beat him. So did (broadcaster) Gil Clancy. He had Reyes winning by four rounds.”

If that’s the worst thing you can say about a fighter, that he doesn’t like moving to his right, well, he’s a hell of a fighter.

“He was such a tough guy and a good, fundamentally sound fighter,” Bedford said. “He just didn’t have many holes in his game. His only problem was he was only comfortable moving to his left. But other than that he had everything. Jesse Reid should get a lot of credit for the job he did with him.”

Canizales moved to super bantamweight after the win over Reyes and lost a split decision to WBA titlist Wilfredo Vazquez. Five fights later he dropped a decision to Junior Jones and after a decision loss to Frankie Toledo in ’99, he retired at 34 years old. Now, at long last, the Hall has called him.

“I’ve been perplexed that he wasn’t in the Hall of Fame already,” said Bedford. “He was being ignored. On the numbers alone he should have been in the Hall of Fame already. I’m glad to see they’ve finally recognized him for the great fighter he was.”

Amen.

Some random observations from last week:

No, Andre Berto didn’t look great against Juan Urango, but crikey, Urango is a left-handed anvil in short pants. Who can look good against that? Berto gets a pass. ÔǪ

Good for Kermit Cintron for hanging on late to outpoint Alfredo Angulo. But shouldn’t he be expected to beat a guy with just 15 fights? ÔǪ

Here’s why Bob Papa is one of the best blow-by-blow guys in the business: Over the course of 24 rounds, maybe half a dozen times he offered his opinion. The rest of the time he was asking questions of his analysts, framing the fight and fighters, and letting the action speak for itself.

No fabricating drama. No whining. And the only time he repeated himself was when he quite reasonably asked Lennox Lewis what Urango could do to slow Berto down. Lewis never did answer him. Thanks for the insight, big guy. 

I don’t know exactly what Ruslan Chagaev’s problem is, but, then, I don’t care. So it all works out. ÔǪ

Lawyers for John Ruiz are demanding that the WBA hold a purse bid for Valuev-Ruiz III. I’ll start the bidding by kicking in the 12 bucks in my pocket, but it’s to get them NOT to fight. If you want to throw a couple virtual bucks in the pot, email me. If we get enough together, maybe we can get them each a scholarship to a technical school or clown college or something so we never have to watch them fight again. ÔǪ

Why the hell can’t Shane Mosley get a fight? Come on, Golden Boy. The man’s got child support to pay. ÔǪ

Don King after the cancellation of the Valuev-Chagaev fight: “The World Boxing Association should act swiftly and unequivocally to designate Nikolai Valuev as its undisputed heavyweight champion.” Is that what it’s come to? A sanctioning body has its own “undisputed” champion? My, what a pitiable mess this has become. ÔǪ

Congratulations to Israel Vazquez. Three days after I wrote that he might never fight again, he announced that doctors had cleared him to fight. Scoop Dettloff strikes again. 

Note to all PR guys: Stop having your fighters throw the ceremonial first pitch at ball games. Fighters throw like girls. It’s embarrassing. You want publicity? Get them to knock out a cow or a donkey or something, like in the old days. Use your imagination a little, for cripes’ sake. ÔǪ

If Mike Tyson stays sober through this, you cannot question his strength.

Bill Dettloff can be contacted at [email protected]

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