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FIBA Declares PR Basketball Team Player Ineligible; All-Star Lineup At "Little Giants" Fight Card; Winter League Sharpens Image

By Gabrielle Paese

August 23, 2002
Copyright © 2002 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

When is a Puerto Rican not a Puerto Rican? When his or her grandparents or parents were not born on the island. This is the verdict handed down earlier this week by the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) in the case of

Puerto Rico team player Jeff Aubry.

FIBA ruled Aubry ineligible to play in next week's World Basketball Championships in Indianapolis, Ind., because neither his parents nor his grandparents were born in Puerto Rico.

Aubry, who has played in the Superior Basketball League (SBL) locally for the past five seasons and won four championship rings with the Santurce Cangrejeros, was one of the teams' best options at power forward.

According to Puerto Rico Basketball Federation president Hetin Reyes, Aubry will continue to be Puerto Rican in the SBL's eyes, if only because he has met the three-year residency requirement.

"As far as the Puerto Rico Olympic Committee is concerned, Aubry needs only to have resided for three years in Puerto Rico," said Reyes. "However, FIBA's rules are more strict. And this year FIBA is being more diligent than ever."

Puerto Rico will also be playing without sharp-shooting guards Javier "Tonito" Colon and Eddie Casiano, who are reportedly injured.

Puerto Rico tips off Aug. 29 versus Turkey for a 1:30 p.m. game.

Boxing's stars to shine on Don King's "Little Giants" fight card

All systems go for Don King's Little Giants fight card on Saturday night at Carolina's Roberto Clemente Walker Stadium.

WBA featherweight champion Derrick Gainer (38-5, 24 KOs) faces Puerto Rican challenger, Daniel Seda (18-0, 15 KOs) while WBO flyweight champion Nelson Dieppa (19-2-1, 11 KOs) defends his belt versus Colombia's John A. Molina (17-3-2, 11 KOs).

Both former Olympian Seda, of Juana Diaz, and Gainer, of Pensacola, Fla., are fighting for the first time this year.

Seda won the FEDELATIN Featherweight title on Aug. 12, 2000, by scoring an eighth-round TKO over Oscar Leon on the undercard of the first Evander Holyfield-John Ruiz world championship fight card. Failing to a get a shot at the WBA title, Seda earned the North American Boxing Organization (NABO) title by stopping Daniel Jimenez in the ninth round on Nov. 11, 2000. In his initial FEDELATIN defense, Seda bounced back from a sixth-round knockdown to stop Nana Konadu in the ninth round. In his last bout, Seda registered a 10-round split decision over Roger Medal in a non-title fight on Sept. 29, 2001. After turning pro in December 1996, Seda produced a stretch of 15 knockouts in 16 fights.

Both Seda and Dieppa train under Felix Trinidad Sr.

Gainer, meanwhile, is making his second mandatory WBA title defense since earning the belt in a tough 11th-round TKO over Fred Norwood on Sept. 9, 2000. It is the champ's first fight since he knocked out Cedric Mingo in the second round of their May 17, 2001 non-title fight.

"They gave excuse after excuse. First they said Seda was injured and then they said I was," said Gainer, 30. "But things happen when there's time I guess."

In his initial title defense, Gainer came away with a split decision over Victor Polo on Feb. 24, 2001. He has won his last five fights since losing to Diego Corrales on March 18, 2000, in the IBF 130-pound championship.

Vieques' own Nelson Dieppa (19-2-1, 11 KOs), did not allow a second opportunity at the WBO Junior Flyweight belt to pass him by when he knocked out Andy Tabanas on April 14, 2001, in New York. Dieppa trailed on two of three judges' scorecards heading into the 11th round when he hit Tabanas with a crushing right cross to the chin that sent the Filipino champion to the canvas. Dieppa came back to defend his title on Sept. 29, 2001, by earning a 12-round decision over Fahlan Sakkririn. In his first WBO title shot, Dieppa lost a 12-round decision to Will Grigsby on July 22, 2000. Grigsby was stripped of his title after testing positive for marijuana, and the WBO granted Dieppa a second opportunity at the title.

Molina (19-3-2, 13 KOs), of Cartagena, Colombia, won 116 out of 120 fights as an amateur, and earned the Colombian National Championship twice. He captured the FECARBOX championship by stopping Victor Molino in the sixth round on March 30, 2001. Molina then boxed to a hard-fought draw against Juan Herrera for the WBO Latin 105-pound title in Colombia on May 18, 2001. Two months later, Molina successfully defended his FECARBOX crown with an eighth-round TKO over Jose Ospino in Cartagena on July 27, 2001. In two 2002 appearances, Molina has recorded early-round knockouts over Edgar Echeverria (second-round TKO on Jan. 4) and Edwin Barrios (first-round TKO on April 19). This is his first time fighting outside Colombia.

While there'll be plenty of boxing in the ring, there may be still more boxers ringside watching the fight.

That's because World Middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins has confirmed his attendance at the event as the invited guest of Don King. Hopkins KOd Felix "Tito" Trinidad last September in a fight that essentially sent the previously undefeated Trinidad into retirement.

King is reportedly trying to coax Trinidad out of his retirement and back into the ring by brokering a deal with Hopkins, who King also promotes. Local fight promoter Benjamin Rivera has set up a special ceremony to honor Trinidad, who is expected to attend.

Hopkins, meanwhile, has been trying for some time to get World Light Heavyweight camp Roy Jones Jr. to agree to a fight deal with him to no avail. The Philadelphia native will have plenty of time to discuss the possibilities with Jones Jr. on Saturday night because Jones Jr. is also expected to be ringside as he manages the career of Derrick Gainer.

Finally, Daniel Santos (26-2-1), fresh from his successful WBO super middleweight defense versus Irani Mehrdud "Takaloo" Takaloobighashi on Saturday night in Cardiff , Wales, will also be ringside as the local Boxing Commission will give him special recognition.

P.R. winter league hopes to woo fans back to ballparks

The Puerto Rico winter league unveiled its first signs of a new beginning after years of laissez-faire marketing and games played to empty seats.

This week, two of the league's six teams, the Carolina Gigantes and the Bayamon Cowboys announced a 30-game local TV deal with promoter Angel Medina's latest venture, Channel 13 Sports.

"Baseball is back," said Bayamon Vaqueros marketing director Roberto Rodriguez, who added that the TV deal complements Bayamon's marketing plan. "We have promotions planned within the stadium, plus the clinics and recognition ceremonies we ran last season."

The league is also banking on a banner season because the island will play host to the Caribbean Series Feb. 2-7 of 2003.

"Interest in baseball is cyclical," said Carolina Gigantes owner Benjamin Rivera of the Puerto Rican fans' attentiveness to winter ball. "Every four years when we host the Caribbean Series, baseball takes on even greater importance. All of the league teams are interested in playing in it so the quality improves."

League president Enrique "Quique" Cruz concurs.

"Everything is coming together," said Cruz. "We have to take advantage of this interest in baseball."

Owners this year finally agreed on one truth: Television broadcasts won't mean fewer fans at the ballparks. For years the league balked at televising games locally, fearing that fans would stay home and watch instead of showing up at the park.

"That's a very important step for our league," said Medina.

"Last year trying to put the games on television was a battle," said Cruz of the 10 games that were finally televised. "This year, thanks to Angelo, we'll have 90 games on TV."

While Medina said he'll take credit for just 30, Carolina's Rivera and Bayamon GM Candy Maldonado made it clear that they are as interested as marketing the league as new owners Julio Hazim (Santurce) and Daniel Aquino (Mayaguez) claim to be.

Carolina's Roberto Clemente Walker Stadium will host the Caribbean Series and Rivera bought the local broadcast rights.

Puerto Rico opens action versus Mexico on Feb. 2.

League chief Cruz said he and Joaquin Monserrate Matienzo have been traveling to major league ballgames to try to sell the Puerto Rican players on playing winter ball this season, even if only for the Caribbean Series.

Cruz may get his all-star batting order should the MLB players decide to go on strike. After the 1994 strike, Puerto Rico fielded a Dream Team of major leaguers for the February 1995 Caribbean Series that included the likes of Roberto Alomar, Juan Gonzalez, Ivan Rodriguez, Bernie Williams, Javier Lopez and Carlos Baerga.

Major League Baseball's winter agreement, which has long been a bane for the Caribbean countries' leagues, has undergone some slight modifications this year that Cruz hopes will pave the way for greater player participation in Puerto Rico.

"I think MLB now understands that we are partners in baseball," said Cruz. "As baseball in the Caribbean grows, so will MLB. I think that they understand our position."

The concessions include permission to play Puerto Rico winter league games in the ballparks of Arecibo and Cidra, permission to play interleague games and a clearance to hold an All-Star game between players in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

"We're working together and they [MLB] have been very cooperative," said Cruz.

Meanwhile, Cruz added that all six ballparks would undergo renovation in time for the Oct. 30 regular season start.

Hiram Bithorn Stadium, home to the Santurce Crabbers, will get a $26 million facelift, including new turf sometime in November.

Carolina's Rivera knows that a TV deal alone won't erase the decades of poor marketing that has eroded the league's fan base.

"You have to start somewhere," said Rivera. "Our idea is to offer a show that is exciting and contrasts the monotony we previously had. We're planning a lot of activities and promotional events so that the fans can feel comfortable and turn out at the ballparks."

Gabrielle Paese is the Assistant Sports Editor at the San Juan Star. She is the 2000 recipient of the Overseas Press Club's Rafael Pont Flores Award for excellence in sports reporting. Comments or suggestions? Contact Gabrielle at

Her Column, Puerto Rico Sports Beat, appears weekly in the Puerto Rico Herald.

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