The Promoter: The Barn’s Already Burning

“This is a PHONEBOOTH war,” blow-by-blow announcer Jim Lampley will say at some point during HBO’s pay-per-view broadcast this Saturday, and while the kids watching on their iLives won’t know what a phonebooth is, he will be correct.

There’s a whole slew of fights this weekend that promise Serious Action. Breadbaskets will be invaded, fighters will visit each other’s kitchens, chins will be tested, and yes, two sweaty shirtless men will attempt to occupy the same phonebooth.  There’s nowhere in those trunks to keep their cell phones, you see, and even if they did, they have no use of their digits to text away.  Please suggest some some new cliches.

Whatever you call fighting-in-close-proximity, this isn’t speculation: A lot of these guys have gone at it before, and produced some spectacular fights.

The headlining fight on the HBO show is a rematch between Puerto Rican Miguel Cotto and Mexican Antonio Margarito, and their first bout was a thriller. Margarito fights like the Terminator-not all that agile, but he keeps coming and absorbs blows, and he took plenty of them from the skilled Cotto through 11 rounds in 2008 before his pressure and left uppercut stopped the pound-for-pound top 10 boxer.

In an alternate universe, this is a good rematch that happened too late; Cotto and Margarito were both whipped by Manny Pacquiao.  Either or both of them could be shot, done, and Margarito has the very real concern of a right eye destroyed by Manny that gave the New York State Athletic Commission a long pause before it gave the go-ahead.

But this is a grudge match, full of Bad Blood: Six months after he stopped Cotto, Margarito was found with a sticky plaster of Paris-like substance in his hand wraps before he fought, and looked very unTerminator-like, against Shane Mosley.

No one’s sure if one or the other of these guys is done, but someone is getting bloody.  A sampling of quotes in the lead-up include Cotto calling Margarito a “criminal” and saying he’ll play with his health, as Antonio plays Super-Heel, in sunglasses and track suits and calling Cotto “little girl” and “crybaby.” The two episodes of HBO’s promotional series, 24/7, are well worth watching.

The undercard features three more fights with guaranteed action.  Brandon Rios is a mini-Margarito; the two Mexicans train together, and Rios is a similar sort of come-forward action fighter who can be an asshole, although he’s more skilled. His last fight he dispatched the solid Urbano Antillion in three. His opponent is John Murray, and while it’s unclear why he’s getting the title shot over countryman Kevin Mitchell, who stopped him in 8 in a UK Fight of the Year candidate, he’ll be throwing punches until he can’t anymore.

Philly welterweight Mike Jones has a near 80% KO rate and and has put on two straight hearty fights with Jesus Soto Karass.  He faces Argentine Sebastian Lujan, a thick welter who’s never been knocked out cold and is coming off a KO victory on Friday Night Fights in July.

Yet the most anticipated fight on the card among hardcore fans might be the opener, a rematch between Pawel Wolak and Delvin Rodriguez.  These are two good but unspectacular fighters who put on an absurdly good fight in July on ESPN.  In one of those odd occurrences where what should happen happens, they’re getting paid good money to do it again on a big stage.

Wolak had a hematoma over his right eye that looked like a ripe apple by the end, but ref Steve Smoger let them go, since the ring doctor said “let them roll.”  Smoger is famous for his laissez-faire approach to stopping fights, and he’ll be in the ring for the main event.  As if it needed anymore guaranteed excitement.

As an added bonus for those with premium cable but not looking to shell out PPV money (or with the broadband capability to find it on Google, WHICH IS HIGHLY ILLEGAL), Showtime’s got a two-fight bantamweight show with its own punchers and backstory.  Ghanian Joseph Agbeko and Mexican-American Abner Mares headline in a rematch of their August fight, where Agbeko got crotchshotted all night long, with ref Russell Mara doing jack about it.   Besides the empathetic pain experienced watching, it was otherwise a good fight.  The left-hand slinging Armenian-Australian Vic Darchinyan is in action with his great power and slowing reflexes against rangy Panamanian Anselmo Moreno, making his U.S. debut.

Hope Springs

Since there is a school of wisdom that says all you care about is Pacquiao-Mayweather, it’s my duty to tell you that those talks are looking better than they have in a long time.   But don’t get your hopes up!  However, neither guy really has any better options.  Plus, they’ll each make like $50 million for the fight, and that would be cool for them, I guess.

Further Reading

Eric Raskin has a pretty good contribution at Grantland to the ever-present for boxing writers genre of  “reconciling brute violence with my secular humanism.”

Till next weekish, stay in that kitchen boys and girls.