The Modern Day Ray Robinson And Cassius Clay

Before the second weekend of May 2012, there was no one on Earth that could claim s/he’d seen Ray Robinson and Cassius Clay on the same fight card. The “Show Down in Newtown (PA)” changed that, as a couple hundred honest folks can show off their programs and say “I was there” to their grandkids, not that the kids will care about a Dead Sport.

Newtown Borough proper is a classic Bucks County enclave: brick crosswalks pass under deciduous arches that shade a Cosi and other assorted monied, high-rise one-story storefronts containing general retail and chain restaurants. After some curving and dipping to get out of town, the Newtown Athletic Center is found on one of those once 40-acre farm developments, sitting up against one of those four-lanes that exist for a while around there before boiling down again into the pleasant congestion of horse farm country. A SUV provided by Lawrenceville Lexus sits shining before the “NAC’s” three-story glass entryway: No postindustrial town casino, or revamped warehouse, this—strolling into the NAC, a snack counter advertises the “King Kong Muscle Builder Shake” (40+ grams of protein! 710 cal! $7.50), and downstairs one of the fighters warms up in a spit-shine gym that looks out on 12,000 square feet of grass turf and elliptical machines; a 20-foot wall of TVs faces the toned-in-tights legs and sweaty golf shirts. Next year comes a “resort-style” pool.

Cassius Clay’s dreads flapped as he got smacked around the ring by Philly’s Hassan Young, a fighter making his pro debut. A gentleman in front of me leans over the folding chair-back to tell me Hassan hooked up with this promoter through the Philly Golden Gloves. “He’s a good fighter,” he says, and the guy’s right: Young throws combos high; he goes to the body; he even throws a little smack on the break just as the referee steps between the two fighters, just enough to sting and not enough to lose a point.

The Greatest’s namesake goes down in the third round on a nasty body shot. Clay skips around enough to draw a “Dance more, Lil Wayne!” jeer; he’s laughed at when he tries to fight out of the corner with a slapfrenzy; he’s never in this fight.

Four little boys standing on the three rows of bleachers that prop up behind the rolled-up lacrosse turf scream “Let’s GO HASS” throughout the bout. When the scores are announced, the boys celebrate by screaming and sprinting around the gym.

The next fight, a six-round lightweight co-feature, is distracted from by two natural forces: gravity and volume.  Gravity was represented by the  swaying, hanging, compact-car sized fluorescent light getting tugged about by a high school AV kid on the end of a rope, so that a half-opened cherry picker could roll through and aim a spotlight that never ended up illuminating much.

Once no disaster struck, attention turned to the voluminous force, a female partisan of fighter Tevin Farmer.  She might have swung the bout to her man through pure insistence, for though Kareem Cooley was bigger and perhaps a bit stronger, this sister(?)/girlfriend(?)/wife(?) brought authoritative noise to the ring. A couple of fight fans pointed her out in her hot pink shirt and leopard pants across the gym from the bleachers where we enjoyed a ring-level view (if you attend a fight, always opt for a bit of elevation if possible), and a dutiful notation of the two fighters’ similar styles (from outside, wide-stanced, with low front hands) shifted to her exclamations . “That’s her, I think,” said one. “She was shadowboxing at that Armory show,” said another. “She’s just yelling now. She ain’t throwing punches.”

Pink Shirt did keep a-yelling the whole fight, enough so that a nicely dressed woman in her 40s stood and moved–“I seriously can’t take it,” she said—and moved fifteen feet to the right, where she covered her left ear and fixed the rest of the fight with that blank waiting-it-out stare of the not-so-excited-to-be-there.

Yet some of her advice and exhortations might be useful for the novice fight goer, who needs to tap into an authentic phraseology, and so:

“Farmer Farmer Farmer Farmer Farmer Farmer Let’s GO Tev.”

“What’s wrong with you?”

“Box, baby, BOX.”

“You’re hungry, Tev. Let’s go get something to eat. It’s time to EAT.”

“All right. Get smart. Upper cut all day. Give him that upper cut. You make me proud with that uppercut.”

“Get with the program.” (said in the best derisive Eighties movie high school principal manner).

“Nick ’em and pick ’em. NICK him and PICK him.”

Her last round advice got both more technical and aesthetically demanding:

“Two overhands and two hooks, and you got him. Two overhands, two hooks.”

“Make him look pretty. Show me something. Show me something pretty”–she held up her smartphone for documentation in that last moment, looking for the pretty.

A unanimous decision win had her happy, and then the ring ladies from the Pennsylvania Pole Academy stepped up to show off the pretty state WBA welterweight strap to be won by the winner of the evening’s main event, which turned out to be dirty and quick.

“The New” Ray Robinson won a clean first-round, before things got messy in the second. First, the veteran Terrance Cauthen caught Robinson and put him down on the canvas. Then something happened that caused referee Gary Rosato to step in between the two fighters, and it evidently irked Robinson enough that he fired a shot into Cauthen’s head over the ref’s shoulder.

This was clear grounds for a point deduction, despite the “protect yourself at all times” defense offered by a loud Robinson backer. Now down 10-7 for the round, Robinson’ s angst carried over to one flurry that put Cauthen stumbling against the ropes for one standing-count, and then a flush knockout right that had Rosato waving off the fight before Cauthen hit the canvas.

The last of the boys had had their picture taken with the ring girl-dancers before Cauthen was allowed to get off his stool and take a stretcher ride out the gym doors into the Pennsylvania night.

 

2012 NBA Playoff Preview: Eastern Conference Semis: Indiana Pacers Vs. Miami Heat

You’re getting no objectivity in this preview, if such a thing even exists. Your correspondent is regionally biased towards the small-town, hardhat, no-stars, blue collar, made by local workers for local people team in this second-round series, between the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat, and anyways, it’s not like you know anything about the East’s 3-seed. Indiana was on national TV once in this shortened 2012 season. The Heat, I figure you’ve seen them.

Expect some stock farmland footage:

If the Pacers play well, this series has the potential to be one of those talked about by NBA junkies for years: This could be the series that vaults Miami’s SuperTeam into the first of a gazillion championships, this could very possibly maybe be the series that sets up Indiana for another run as the Spoiler Sans Stars that maybe will break through someday soon, like they were for so much of the Nineties and early Aughts.

Effective bigs, big wings, a bunch of shooters, youth, experience–that’s what the Pacers got going for them this year, and if they don’t fall apart (which I don’t expect), we’re getting a classic.

Some notes on what makes the Pacers the best bet in the East to beat the Heat:

No Man An Island

No one who’ll be playing significant minutes for Indiana can be left alone. No, Roy Hibbert, despite all of his improvements, cannot yet hit threes, but he’s not going out into the Promised Land. LeBron is at his defensive beastly best when he gets to play free safety, and though Danny Granger isn’t nearly as good a pure scorer as Carmelo, Batman can’t be left alone. Miami was really bad at 3-point percentage defense for an elite team–the Pacers aren’t reliant on the three, but they can hit them, especially when they’re in rhythm and open, which brings me to point two…

David West Is A Swinger

If you’re at work, just read Zach Lowe on this series and come back to me in five, but if you’re pressed for time I’ll sum it up: David West has been really, really effective on offense late in this season, and getting the ball in his hands in high pick-and-roll situations has been really, really important to the Pacers scoring buckets. Indiana is 16-4, including the Magic series, since April began, and a lot of that has been George Hill dumping the ball to West, who then makes a decision. He was slinging crosscourt passes during the Orlando series and Indiana was rotating the ball around quite well, excepting that horrid Game One collapse.  As Lowe points out, lots of side-to-side action involving a bunch of shooters is the Heat-beating blueprint-reference Dallas Mavericks, 2011.

Whip Out The Measuring Stick

It’ll doubtless be pointed out ad infinitum over the next week or so, but the Pacers are a pretty big squad. Roy Hibbert is very tall, and pretty good at basketball. He wasn’t so effective on offense against the best Big Baby we’ve ever seen, but if Indiana is following their recent pattern, that’s not so important. If Hibbert can protect the rim and rebound without fouling-Frank Vogel has already begun inveighing against the refereeing-and drop in just a few awkward hooks over Joel Anthony, the Pacers will keep the Heat from running them off the floor, which brings me to even more cribbing from other peoples…

Destroying The Big-Small Dichotomy

The Pacers are big, and LeBron is a freight train, and so Indiana should slow the game down. You’ll hear this from someone, probably on the ESPN side of the broadcast divide. And truly, it’s not a good idea to let LeBron and D-Wade get loose in transition. The Pacers can run too, though, and they showed a desire to push the ball in the Orlando series after Game One got all mucked up. One Indiana blogger called this the Power of And-power through the post, and points from running. Kareem and Magic, Bird and Parrish and McHale–those teams could do everything. Jordan and Pippen ran the floor, and then Rodman and whatever center du jour slaughtered you on the boards. Without a superstar, until Paul George gets some more seasons in, Indiana has to play every way they can to win a series like this one.

An Independent Variable Of Lesser Discussion

Darren Collison played pretty OK in the Orlando series (23/1 assist-turnover ratio), and Leandro Barbosa had his moments, too. Everyone knows Paul George is the X-Factor; Collison and Barbosa could be the Y. It’s a bad defensive backcourt, but they brought a lot of energy against the Magic, and Miami’s defense against guards-anchored by Derek Fisher-wannabe Mario Chalmers-isn’t so hot either.  If those two guards coming off the bench along with the sometimes effective and always irritating Tyler Hansbrough and Lou Amundson can be effective at all, at least holding serve for a few minutes, that might be enough to tip the series to the Pacers. The Heat were going eight-deep against the Knicks, and that includes 20 minutes a game for Anthony and Udonis Haslem.

I’m going Heat in 7, because I don’t think the Pacers are quite ready. Barkley’s hedging his bets and saying that Indiana can win in 6 or Miami in 7. Chuck really likes this series by the way; I could’ve just said that and been done. It’s gonna be a doozy.

Photo Credit: Michael Hickey / US Presswire.

The Promoter: Mayweather And Cotto Excite, Apocalypse Near

The funny thing about boxing scoring you might not understand, if you’re like a lot of general sporting types and get most of your boxing news from the Bottom Line, is that a wide score doesn’t necessarily indicate the competitiveness of a fight (Duh, says the fight fan: There are travesties in judging and refereeing all the damn time) and so even if a fighter is knocked down five times in say, two rounds, as long as he stays on his feet he can squeak out the other ten rounds of a championship fight and claim the victory.  It’s like awarding a baseball team the win for hitting three solo home runs in three separate innings, while the opponent hung a nine in the first.

Yet this year’s Mayweather Fight on May’s First Saturday portrayed this little scoring quirk of the Science sans controversy, and the result was just: Floyd Mayweather took all three judges’ scorecards, with one putting down a 118-110 mark and two scoring it 117-111—that is, ten rounds to two, and nine rounds to three—and very, very few cried nay.  By trying real hard, a Puerto Rican partisan might have been able to give Miguel Cotto five rounds.  Yet Cotto, a man who has had the Possibly Shot tag applied since his 2008 loss to Antonio Margarito, made the toughest fight Floyd’s fought in years.

So the gist of this column is: Watch This Fight. Yes, it’s over, the decision is made, but that’s not the point.  With this one, I can guarantee you good action. Find a local with HBO; they’ll play it all week, starting Saturday.  Or be good at the Internet.

Floyd got his nose bloodied, people.  You want to see that, because he can still box, and whether his cheesy heel antics turn you on or off, he’s one of the best we’ve got.  Watching a modestly sized screen through a barroom window, it was evident even from afar that over 12 rounds, Mayweather was getting his hardest test since I started watching him live in 2006, and lots of people far more knowledgeable than I considered it his toughest fight since a controversial decision win over Jose Luis Castillo in 2002.

A quick-paced, clean, hotly contested fight without controversy at the end—that’s all your average boxing fans prays for before every bout.  The unjust thing about the Hype Machine is that neither Floyd Mayweather nor Miguel Cotto will receive nearly the sort of buzz that Floyd got for slapping down Victor Ortiz last September.  This was a far better fight, the sort of fight that makes you wish Mayweather fought more often.

I gave up dragging people into buying or finding Mayweather fights a couple years ago—they were always boring for my novice friends, and I’d hear about it. I love watching him work, even against lackluster competition, because he demonstrates the level of technique that crosses naturally into swagger that is only manifested by the very best practitioners of a craft.  Now, Floyd could be entering that evening of his career where there’s more knowhow than ever, but the legs aren’t there to completely dance around opponents, confuzzling them into lopsided decisions.  Melee Mayweather could be our next Floyd.

 

2012 NBA Playoffs: Your Brain, During Timeouts

There’s one terrible thing about obsessive consumption of playoff basketball, and that is the commercials. The games are live, and you must watch them as such to be an objectively good fan(atic), and so those commercials keep on coming; the ad buys are already made and whatever awful, no-good, obnoxious (and therefore, in the twisted world of Commerce, good) idea some executive had months ago beats itself into your brain with alacrity. With so many games coming over so many weeks, there will be new ads popping up from time to time, but the worst offenders are already here to stay.

In the Mayday spirit, let’s register our displeasure with late capitalism as expressed through the spectacle that is TNT with that most subversive of activities, a Power (To Drive You Insane) Rankings.

Merely Dull

We already discussed Jimmy Johnson’s private parts, but the Pompadour Cowboy doesn’t appear to be in heavy rotation this May, unlike the new up-and-comer in the credit score game: Credit Karma. I suppose that sites like this make money off traffic or something, or from the poor saps who need higher-test credit reports for which they must pay (who knows-I only take payment in maple syrup pegged currencies); however it works, they badly want you to know they exist. Credit Karma doesn’t have a band of scruffy 20somethings screaming a ditty at me from a pirate ship yet, so they (so far) get a pass as being only annoying through stick-to-itiveness.

Time To Drink

It’s true: Our macrobrewers are the cultural avant-garde. Corona deduced far before the rest of us that people liked beaches, and so they continue to bathe us in the divine knowledge that, with Corona and a lime, anywhere you go will be as a beach, but now, they figure, you don’t even have go more than a mile away to get un-ordinary these days, such is the transformative power of their Mexican brew.

Eat Work Gym Shower CORONA LIGHT.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=viXhp0v1gGY

And Heineken and Bacardi continue spreading the gospel that when we consume alcohol in a well-branded way, we become attractive as Don Draper, except with less work and emotional ambiguity and more women and dancing in an amalgam of Twenties Weimar Germany and Fifties Havana. Stale pale lager and $12 rum is a mystical cocktail, too subtle for the unattractive whiskey and Bud drinkers that live somewhere far away from your 400 square foot whitewalled coastal city apartment.

Yet the runaway winner for innovation in alcohol consumption this spring is Miller Lite. The world was asking what they’d do to follow up on the groundbreaking VORTEX system-because you couldn’t get that beer out of the bottle before-and SABMillerCoors has delivered, with the Punch Top Can.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-dAZ-qhwTw

There were the Dark Ages, when only stadium vendors and fat frat boys who had cracked the 5,000 Gallon Mark knew how to stab a disposable aluminum can for a quick pour, and then 2012 came, and we were all freed from tasting Miller Lite.

Run Your Car Off A Ledge

By now we all know Flo the insurance lady, who is aiming for that demographic that finds the dotty aunt on British sitcoms sexy and/or hilarious, and that lizard, but now Geico’s stepped it up just in time for a sea change in human consciousness. Warren Buffett spent most of 2010 in Australia, exhorting Owsley Stanley to cross him some diamond with pearl, and the result is a Hawaiian Punch-looking likker that blows Kesey’s Orange Sunshine out of the cosmic waters.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v2tXkR8Usp8

wooWOOHOOhoodeyhOOOOOOO

36 hours later, you’ve insured your home, car, motorcycle, all the vinyl and East Indian spices in your niece’s apartment, every Dairy Queen in Iowa, and a goat painted Day-Glo orange, which won’t stop following you across this endless mini-golf green, which would be a fine place to play if the Sphinx there would just spit out your ball.

A Comment On Network Self-Promotion

The nice thing about TNT/TBS having reliably terrible original programming is that if you do have a friend who adores one of their shows (for we all have our guilty pleasures), after watching the NBA/MLB playoffs you’ll know every joke/plot-point the series has on offer, and then will be able to humor your friend with a knowing chuckle/nod when s/he brings up that show in conversation. This also applies to the new Adam Sandler/Andy Samburglar movie that’s getting pushed by Shaq & Chuck.

Weep And Gnash, For Wasted Time

AT&T’s “OMG I KNEW THAT BEFORE YOU” series of commercials informing us just how not crappier than Verizon Mama Bell’s heir-in-name-only wireless service is need little further explication as a piece of Instant Internet Culture criticism. Please don’t rush me in my own rethinking of the possible AT&T, please; it’s a daily process that doesn’t need the added information that Bob woke up late and was then anxious he’d miss the American Airlines presentation, and then he ate some chocolate cake.

Yet the AT&T/Nokia commercial pushing whatever new phone du jour achieves a blatancy in This=Sex marketing that even our preceding booze purveyors can’t match.

Yes, Winnie Cooper lookalike, I have so many friends. Look how strong my thumbs be!

Lock The Gun Cabinet And Throw Away The Key

I hate you so much Dorito Taco, already, and only one series is through Game Three. It’s not only because you don’t come in Cool Ranch. Nor is my fury attributable to the memories  you stir of a time when, perhaps, you could have appealed to my grossest senses-in the darkest hours of the soul’s night-and how  since then my digestive system has grown old in a way that would not allow you safe passage.  Nor did I resent until right now that PepsiCo isn’t just running this far superior commercial:

SPICY.

No, I merely resent your sources, culled from people’s online mutterings, attached to attractive faces, poorly worded, with no disclaimer that the reviewer might be working in an ironic vein, which is always possible among the kiddos who can’t velcro their L.A. Gears without distancing themselves from the action.

http://youtu.be/kf3S66nY95E

There’s my vote, if I had one, for the playoff ad that needs freakin’ so bombed out of its delicious French unicorn existence, hells to the yeah.

Live! Boxing! On Two Pennsylvania Fridays

There are few events in the sporting world nowadays where it is easy for the fan to arrive at the set time and place without any preconceptions about the contest in question. Context, analysis, opinions: all are spewed at the media consumer, from the AP updates on college radio to the 11 o’clock news all the way through the iPhone implanted in your 15-year-old cousin’s right eye.

It’s somewhat refreshing, then, to attend an event with little prior knowledge, hoping only for good action. The average local boxing card, in my limited experience, is a good place to find athletic competition without any sort of preceding hype or spin, at least until you step through the doors of the club or gym. Once you get there, there are guys who’ll talk your ear off about the history and merits of a 35-year-old guy with a 10-12-2 record, but before, good luck finding much more than an online record and maybe a short interview or write-up on one of the many near-unsearchable boxing sites online. Even Golden Boy, one of America’s two superpromoters, can barely keep its website updated. The promoter(s) of a local event, who also often double as the hometown trainer, don’t have time for running a slick PR operation, what with hours in the gym and usually another job on the side.

The downside to the enforced information fast are nights like the recent Friday when I headed over to the Philadelphia Armory, expecting that arriving an hour after first bell would leave me with seven or eight fights still to come. After parking a long couple blocks away, between the Plumbers’ Union and some factory, then walking in through the mostly empty lobby past a kid hustling signed and framed posters of local sports luminaries (Rocky Balboa!) there’s a four-round fight beginning.

Afterward, the ring announcer starts calling out names: “There’s Isaiah Seldon (yes, son of Bruce), and there, where’d he go, there’s Tim Witherspoon—they were were scheduled to fight tonight…and where’d he go? Where’s he hiding? Oh, if you have not seen it, you have to look up this man’s first fight with Arturo Gatti, there’s Ivan Robinson hiding in the back. And we have Harold Lederman with us tonight!”

Nice as it was to have Harold there—his face peeking over the ring looks just as intent from fifty feet away as it does on TV—a couple fighters sitting with their girls in the fold-down high school gym-style wooden bleachers didn’t seem a good omen for the card’s durability.  Sure enough, after the eight-round main event that followed, the crowd started walking out; two fights was all I was getting this evening.

The action that did occur made the trip worthwhile. The main event was a lightweight rematch of a supposedly heated January draw between Camden’s Jason Sosa and Philly’s Angel Luis Ocasio; the extant footage online is about five seconds in a flame-heavy promo preview, and so forming incoming opinion on the fight’s quality or Sosa’s claim that he was robbed because he “crossed the river” was impossible. This particular night, the fights were being streamed somewhere online—there was even a boom camera on one end of the floor, heavily wrapped in electrical tape, along with two cameramen in the ring.

What’s nice about your neighborhood fight card is that the fighters bring along some friends.  Sosa had several dozen supporters in T-shirts printed in a Cooper Black font rarely seen in these Internet design days, and though no one printed up shirts for Ocasio, he had a competing amount of vocal support. In a venue that is, essentially, a high school gym stripped of all banners and climbing ropes and basketball hoops, with all hard tile floors and concrete block walls, all these people who care can make the proceedings quite loud. There were a few stout white guys in ringside seats wielding a swing-around wooden noisemaker, its echoes clicked throughout the hall: one of them got so excited that he hit himself in the face with the thing.

Loudness is not the same as good acoustics, so the bald-domed rapper serenading Sosa during the ring walk could have been dropping rhymes of great brilliance or muttering in Elvish—I couldn’t tell you.  Dozens of smartphones shining their recording lights on the ringwalk, the boxers walking in through the riot gates set up to partition off the reserved and ringside seating from the bleachers, behind the ring girls in their tight red T-shirts and black compression shorts,  stumbling a bit on absurdly high heels.

The bell rings: Immediately someone screams “Hit him! Thank you!”

The two did a decent amount of hitting through eight rounds. I scored it six rounds to two for Ocasio. Sosa was the coming-forward fighter, but his jab didn’t seem to connect often and he rarely released his right. Most of the fight, Ocasio kept Sosa off balance and hit him with some decent body shots; he was quicker, but never really set up Sosa—he made a few vague feints in the second and third rounds, but never laid a trap. Sosa showed his style in the fifth,  going to the body aggressively and then tying up when his attack was spent, keeping Ocasio from dancing at all, and then in the eighth, Sosa looped a right that knocked an off-balance Ocasio into the ropes.

When the decision was announced—a majority draw, one judge giving the decision to Sosa—bull-shit became a common refrain, there were some boos, that sister-kissing deflation took over both sides of the gym.  In the men’s room,  the argument continued:

“They robbed the shit out of him, out of Jason ‘El Carnito’  Sosa” says one man who I didn’t look at because we were next to each other at the urinal.

“No, they robbed my nephew, man, Ocasio,” says a man washing up.

“Sosa knocked him down, man,” says the first.

“That wasn’t no knockdown,” says the second.

“Time for the trilogy,” says another.  He’s likely to be proved right. Try it again, and maybe one of them will crack.

The one four-rounder I did see at the so-called “Philly Barnburner III” featured the bantamweight prospect Miguel Cartagena, who won the award for best-dressed contingent, with a score or so in hand-made shirts emblazoned with the slogan NO FEAR, including one adolescent girl whose Elmo handbag and Elmo hat were accompanied by a spray-painted Elmo shirt, the puppet’s goggling eyes right above the textual declaration that she lacks any anxiety whatsoever.

Cartagena fought with some trepidation, never appearing to throw very hard, but he continually popped late replacement Luis Ortiz with left hooks and a twisting jab, even as he let his opponent back him into stanchions several times. His people finally yelled “GET OFF THE ROPES” in the fourth and final round.

After his fight, Cartagena walked up to talk to a friend who was leaning next to me on one of the gates.

I heard him say “He hit me in the back of the head; I started to get a headache, man.”

A few minutes later, the prospect off to work the crowd, his friend notices my notebook and asks me “What you going to say about Cartagena, man? For 19 that wasn’t bad, you know. That was his fifth fight.”

I told him I was impressed, but thought he needed to sit down on some punches.

“He didn’t want to sit down,” said the friend, with a laugh. “That guy was strong. He hit him on the back of the head. That never happened before.”

My initial thought was that the truly elite prospects throw their heaviest leather against a fighter with a 2-10 record, but what do I know? At 19, there were plenty of nights I couldn’t sit down on a couch.

The next Friday, I didn’t make the mistake of showing up late for a card put on by King’s Boxing at Reading’s Reverb Club. The Reverb is a warehouse club: there are high ceilings and concrete floors; big screens strung up between rafters; a bar in the middle, with the ring off to one side. Ringside seating is about three rows of folding chairs; standing at the bar seemed the way to go for elbow room.

One guy in a Roger Waters “The Wall” tour T-shirt is talking in my general direction as the show is getting underway: “Forty bucks for this many fights, man. What a deal? Why aren’t there more people here?”

There were a couple hundred people in the club, but with everyone crowded around the ring and then a big old dance floor covered with a handful of bar tables, it looked emptier than it was.

My Floyd-loving friend proceeded to have a long discussion with another guy about street racing,  then he played some video poker, all with his back to the ring.  He should have watched the early smokers; the four-rounders were the best fights of the night.

The opener was a professional debut for a fighter named Jeremy Miller, of Baltimore, taking on the 30something local Cesar Gonzalez, winless in four pro fights. The fight was sloppy and pushy, but enthusiastic. Miller moved forward more, his torso always a little ahead of his legs, and so he got the decision. It could have gone either way—I had it for Gonzalez—but it didn’t matter which way it went, honestly, except to those involved.

The second fight was at 140, between Lancaster’s Rolando Chinea, twice a winner by KO, and a southpaw from Rochester, NY named Jamell Tyson, who had a losing record in nine pro fights. Tyson took the first round: from the bell it was obvious Chinea had more skills, but he was facing his first lefty and first fighter with more than one bout’s experience: the first time Tyson’s left snuck through Chinea’s face took on a “whaawhaaa” Urkel look for about three seconds. Chinea’s trunks said “Ironman,” an interesting claim for a guy coming in with four rounds of pro experience, but he did fight through a freeflowing headbutt-induced gash over his right eye for a deserved majority decision.

Then it was to the featherweights for another four-rounder between Philly’s Derrick Bivens and Harrisburg’s Josh Bowles. Bivens hadn’t fought since March of ’09, and Bowles made sure he looked it while sweeping the cards; Bivens was near a head taller, and the 5-foot-5 Bowles stayed in a crouch that made him a small target. The 25-year-old Harrisburg product might not have the power to become an elite fighter, but he has some excellent, subtle footwork, and he focused on the body well for a guy who was in the amateurs 14 months ago.

Two women from King’s go on next to put on a charity exhibition bout, unfortunately titled “for breast cancer” with no foundational qualifier.  One of the ring girls did support them, though, wearing shorts that say “GO GURLZ” bedazzled on the behind. Marie Robson must be very popular in the area, because, besides being  pictured in the program, there were a couple guys asking me “You know when the girl fight is up?” and then indicating their girlfriends to say that “her” friend’s fighting. Once the bell rings, I hear one of those guys screaming: “Stop screwing around Marie, go AFTER her!”

In the moments of relative silence that prevailed between some intermission singing, I overheard at least one pharmaceutical idea that I pass onto you at no cost:

“I’m at the age now where I don’t need Viagra but I can’t multitask. I’m going to invent something that does Viagara and FloMax. I’ll call it Niagara.”

There was then another decent four-rounder between two lightweight southpaws, Reading’s Frank DeAlba and Jersey City’s Andrew Bentley that went to the hometown guy as a split decision, then the six-round 154-pound co-feature, featuring 22-year-old Glen Tapia (12-0, 6 KO) of Passaic, NJ against Lancaster’ s Manuel Guzman, who, according to the gentleman standing over me at the bar, was a late replacement and usually fights at 140, and, I learn later, had lost his last six. Tapia’s punches from the get-go thud in a way no one else has on the night; he looks like a boxer, very cut, and he throws a straight punch. Guzman takes a forced knee after a wicked body shot early in the third and doesn’t get up; he’s well within his rights. A few locals yell “Come on!” at Guzman, but he earned all the paycheck he signed up to get.

Our main event of the evening was a fight at super welter between local Keenan Collins, a sparring partner for Kermit Cintron back in ’05 and ’06, and Charlottesville’s George Rivera. Not a great fight, not bad; each guy took a wide decision on one judge’s card and the third scored it a draw. Neither guy took over and threw enough punches, and both knew it afterward.

My attention through part of the final bout was focused on the photographer incessantly snapping at ringside; he had been there all night. The gentleman at my elbow informed me his name was Jeff Julian, and he’s been shooting since the Ali days. I’ll leave you with a link to his work from one night in Reading, rather than writing another 60,000 words or so.