Tag Archives: The Promoter

The Promoter: Everything Is So Right In Boxing Land

Yes, Manny Pacquiao won a clear decision over Tim Bradley last Saturday, whether you believe the experts or the vox populi. No, it’s never good when a sport’s Result Generation System is broke. That’s how I feel about the latest megafight, if you care.

 Yet blest be we, the unpaid sporting pundit class, for we have no obligation to inveigh against unpopular outcomes before the sun next rises, nor must we trod the same old ground on Friday that pattering feet turned to stone by Monday morn. Since the ostensible mandate here at The Promoter is a celebration of boxing and all its foibles, let us talk of who emerged from Saturday’s mess smelling of fresh baked goods and dandelion wine.

 Boxing did pretty well for itself on Saturday: Pacquiao-Bradley was no classic, but it was a well-contested fight of high quality. Everlasting arguments have been generated from more dramatic fights (Chavez-Taylor comes to mind), and again, judges are often bad at their jobs, and yet no one was booing when I left my watching spot before the scores were announced.

 That watching-spot was a suburban Philly Hooters, and the crowd was “mixed,” to use a demographic euphemism. The kids across the table shoveled down a 50-wing pile (no more than 20 they were, with that sort of digestion sans beer) and talked about how they’d not missed “any fights” except for the last Mayweather fight, and their banter made me think that they’d probably watch the next Mayweather and(ha-ha)/or Pacquiao fight from a similar spot, possessed of similar analytical background. These are the casual fans that diehards so often talk about gaining or alienating, and really, if the big fighters are there, they’re there. The storylines, the press: they don’t follow. Boxing just needs to turn up one or two new fighters to beat the two stars of the moment, and it can roll along at its current mainstream level in America of 2-4 Big Fights for another five years. Stasis isn’t great, but it’s not death; a new Mexican-American star (remember that dude De La Hoya?) could break some non-heavyweight PPV records easy.

 So the scores sucked; if you’re a dialectician with a Marxist bent this can only mean that the sport’s structural issues are that much closer to resolving themselves through collapse. The contradictions are brought before the public at-large; the clamor for change gets louder; the oldheads who somehow still maintain a grip on power (i.e. one Bob Arum) make behind-scenes strides towards real reform even as they continue to amuse us with talk out of all available 78 sides-of-mouth. Or so the long delusioned can hope.

 That Manny Pacquiao is not shot and Tim Bradley is a game fighter (how could he ever go down, with that head of marble?) speaks well for the both of them, and whatever happens in the unknown Future, they have not covered themselves in shame this time out. Whether Bradley is able to handle the irrational scorn heaped on a fighter who gets an undeserving victory remains to be seen. He’ll always have respect from the Serious fight crowd, though, for what that’s worth.

 So there you are: the two main event fighters and the sport won on Saturday. Why do we even have judges?

Photo credit AFP

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.

 

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.

The Promoter: The Boss Hogg Gang

The Promoter could tell you that the long layoff this column ends was due to prioritizing, distractions, the monetarily uncompensated nature of this gig, and maybe just a wee touch of sloth, or if you want to minimize the moral judgment inherent in that word, a case of the old postmodern malaise.

As a window into the boxing world, however, we feel obligated to offer an excuse worthy of the modern Sweet Science: Let’s call it a “strained left middle knuckle” on top of some “serious dehydration resulting from a long Tuesday night.”

Alas, it’s been a slow start to the 2012 boxing year, and inspiration to write my way through these  serious physical obstacles has been lacking. The premiere early-year matchup, February’s rematch of welterweights Andre Berto and certified crazy-talker Victor Ortiz, was postponed to June.  Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao still aren’t getting together, and there’s been what feels like a good deal more controversy over scores than heated fights.

Even in dirty dealings, though, we must find some charms.  A studied, screw-it, too-cool cynicism is useful as one waits for something good to happen, but use it every day and you become a graying Jon Stewart: flinging your hands in every direction in response to all stimuli, and maintaining a following because there continue to be people who don’t remember that the time when you were allowed to merely point out a headline for a laugh passed after the late Clinton administration.  And if you just get angry every time something bad happens, well, we need your indignation for Change to occur, but good luck keeping the fire going anywhere other than Facebook after baby number two comes along.

Your average sort of scandal was on display this past weekend, as Action Star Brandon Rios missed the lightweight limit and then did approximately zero to earn a win against the lesser-known and not very exciting Richard Abril. The favored fighter wins, the commission (Nevada, in this case) says “Oh, it wasn’t that bad,” the losing team protests, and presumably, nothing happens.

Appreciating boxing’s foibles as a higher and darker level of comedy requires cartoon villains and more surreal situations than a simple scoring screw-job, though.  (Also, it helps to have a willingness to put aside the fact that these men (and sometimes women) are putting their bodies and lives on the line and getting screwed).  One “Jackass” type example of such absurdity is last August’s fight in which Joseph Agbeko suffered about 700 balltaps–in that case incompetent referee Russell Mora did take a demotion to the 4-rounders for a while, but he was back on TV this winter.

Most of the Big Screw-Jobs lately have come from Texas.  Texas is a pretty great place to hold a fight for promoters, who like making money.  There’s plenty of big markets there, with lots of nice venues, and lots of rich folks, and it’s really close to Mexico, a country that still likes boxing enough to tune into big fights like they’re Super Bowl commercials.  Texas also boasts the best (worst) characters in the sport of late, and the most Pythonesque endings.

Take the James Kirkland-Carlos Molina fight from March 25.

Through most of 10 rounds, Molina negated Kirkland’s power with lots of wrestling, which was boring, but referee Jon Schorle did nothing about it.  Right before the bell sounded in round 10, Kirkland dropped Molina on a left to the chin.  Molina stood up; Schorle gave the count; the bell had rung.  Then Schorle decided he had to stop the fight, since according to the rules Molina’s cornerman coming through the ropes for a second when the count was still going, after the bell had rung, was grounds for disqualification.  Schorle was forced to stop the fight, or so said the announcement.

Here’s the from-the-rules doubletalk:

‘As special and unique circumstances arise in the sport of boxing, not all of which can be anticipated and addressed explicitly in these Rules and Regulations, the President of the WBC, in consultation with the WBC Board of Governors, has full power and authority to interpret these Rules and Regulations, and to issue and apply such rulings as he shall in his
sole discretion deem to be in the best interests of boxing.’

Q.E.D., indeed.

In a just universe, the fans would get to see that fight finish. Can Kirkland finish him?  Can Molina hang on?  Instead, there was a stoppage on a technicality that wasn’t even properly enforced.

So we can complain (and you should), but that’s not a coping mechanism.  My method for dealing with the clowns in the smoke-free backrooms is imagining them as something like Boss Hogg in “The Dukes of Hazzard:” hatching all sorts of plans to rob widows of their property and extending credit to carnies while mixing drinks out of beer mugs and smacking around Sheriff Rosco.

Someday (I do hope) boxing will find its Good Ole Boys who’ll do some serious harm to the way it works.

Not all was gloom in this first quarter of 2012.  Juan Manuel Lopez and Orlando Salido put on a great fight in early March, with Salido earning another win with a 10th round stoppage.

The 9th round is the current frontrunner for Round of the Year:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pm8KocyaAA0

And there’s good stuff a-coming!  Floyd Mayweather took about the best fight sans Pacquiao he could, taking on Miguel Cotto on May 5th, which will again be a crazy sporting day what with the debauched Kentucky Derby and all manner of NBA and NHL playoff action.  Some rich guy sometime needs to take the May First Saturday challenge and hit as much sporting action as he can, dropping out of helicopters to sit courtside and trackside and ringside like drivers who do the Indy 500-Coca Cola 600 double on Memorial Day weekend.

Until next week (maybe!), keep your dukes up.

Photo credit: CBS

The Promoter: A Brave New 2012

There’s nothing death-and-taxes about the boxing game. It doesn’t even afford us the courtesy of a simple, encapsulable season that scribes can break down with a list of winners and losers to be; there’s no divisions and conferences and championships, no best bargains or silliest signings.

There is no offseason; there’s always a fight to watch, no matter how obscure.

Yet January’s a slow month for the sweet science, we need something to talk about, and there’s nothing I can add to the Muhammad Ali birthday tributes.

So, by default, it’s time for some irresponsible prognostication. We’ll do a few near-certainties, and mostly talk about the best case scenarios, the coming Good-if man is still alive.

For those needing social media attention, retweet this column with an “@” aimed at one of the boxing rumor sites and it’ll probably get reported as a “deal in the works” item within a half hour. The Internet’s so much fun.

Beginning with the big fishies…

Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao will meet in November

The Twittersphere is alight these days with Mayweather calling out the Filipino. Floyd’s jail stint, originally scheduled to start this month, has been pushed back to accommodate his May 5th reservation at the MGM Grand. If only landlords let us commoners delay rent payments for dates with the Golden Corral Chocolate Fountain. Other possible opponents for both men come with far less intrigue. Yet the long-desired #1 vs. #2 fight won’t happen this spring.

The night before the contracts are to be signed, Evil Promoter Bob Arum will release an old video of Manny singing John Lennon in English, with Tagalog subtitles that say, in effect, Sarangani, my homeland, YOU SUCK I HATE YOU DIE, PLEASE.

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

The resulting need for political damage control scraps the spring encounter, and Pacquiao ends up beating Miguel Cotto in a close June bout, while Floyd uses nothing but open-handed slaps to beat Mexican wunderkind Canelo Alvarez on points, on Cinco de Mayo.

After the protests in always volatile Mindanao die down and Mayweather gets free, there will be no excuses: The fight will take place November 3. Ron Paul’s independent presidential campaign will outbid all Vegas casinos, and hold the fight equidistant between Las Vegas and Manila on the recently purchased U.S.S. End The Fed, a former naval aircraft carrier serving as the pirate radio headquarters and party boat for 20,000 of the Texas congressman’s most righteously bearded 20something antiwar weed-smoking dudes.

The “Mission Accomplished” banner unfurled at fight’s end, no matter who wins, will be delicious in its irony.

The Klitschko brothers will fight for all the Commie marbles

It’s been a long, long, (indeterminable without Wikipedia’s help) time since the two Ukrainian “brothers” didn’t knock around halfassed contenders to defend their variety of heavyweight belts. Not one, but two Dragos have been beating the hell out of American heavyweights for years. I hope that you’re appropriately ashamed (fellow U.S. citizen and probable Eighties child who thought the Cold War happened in Canada).

Like any good product of Marxist dialectics, though, the Klitschko contradiction will resolve itself this year.

After Mrs. Heroes & Wladimir split this spring, citing “continental issues” i.e. philosophical differences w/r/t Wladimir being a FREAK, the often underaggressive champion decided to get his DNA analyzed. Results resulted, and it was found that there are in actuality 307 Klitschko “brothers,” the last great gasp of the Soviet labs, and any memory the heavyweights have of a shared childhood is merely the product of hallucinatory imprinting that would’ve been just awesome, man, if Solidarity hadn’t got all up in the way, you know.

Vitali will beat his little “brother’s” ass.

Madness in the middling weights

The Klitschkos will be a big story, but the big talent and money in boxing is in the 140 through 160-pounders. There’s a slew of guys who can fight, because for some reason even the most heavily muscled or quickest of that approximate size don’t have a whole lot of other athletic options in sport.

New HBO Sports headman Ken Hershman will recognize this market opportunity and get together the biggest bracket ever to happen in the sweet science, seeding a slew of average-heighted action stars into a 32-fighter tournament, including pound-for-pounders Juan Manuel Marquez and Sergio Martinez; the brutal Brandon Rios, Marcos Maidana, and James Kirkland; Mexican stars Alvarez and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.; and some British guys. Or so a boy can dream.

The General Public will demand the winner faces the Mayweather-Pacquiao victor. It will never happen.

The Promoter: Hey, Do You Remember 2011?

I do.

There are few rules for writing on the Internet.  In my understanding, these include:

1) Write far more than you have to say.

2) Make lists of whatever, the more nonsensical the category the better.

2a) Lists should include attractive women in scarce clothing.

3) Make everything a joke, even if you’re serious about it and lack any sort of comedic talent.

At calendar-flipping time, it’s best to stick with the rules to get on the year-end lists of lists.  So here we go, with The Promoter’s first and last Summing-Up of Boxing Significance & Happenings in Our Last & Final Roundabout of the Sun.

Contests Of Mostest Violence

The fun thing about following boxing in these Internetting times is those blessed hardcore fans who dredge up obscure bouts held across stormy seas, which are often bloodier and more drama-filled  than the slickly produced big-name fights on our declining American shores.  Really, the Internet is one big VHS highlight tape, except you don’t have to subscribe to Sports Illustrated anymore and wait on your mailperson’s late afternoon arrival.

For all the fights available in the States, on HBO and Showtime and ESPN and the Mexican and British networks, since YouTube became an Institution there always seems to be a Little Man fight somewhere in Asia or France that produces more gore than anything we see over here.  The names are unpronounceable, but the action is real.  In 2006, Mahyar Monshipour and Somsak Sithsatchawal kicked off this trend with a fight that stoked enough Internet flames to win The Ring’s Fight of the Year.

This year’s contenders include Akira Yaegashi and PORNsawan PORPramook, from Tokyo. Watching this fight tired me out.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6uv6PgYTM_I

Throw 60 uppercuts into the air in 3 minutes, repeat 10 times, and see how you’re feeling in the morning.  I guarantee it wouldn’t feel better if someone was hitting you, even a guy who weighs the same as your eighth-grade girlfriend.

Porpramook must be a common Thai surname, because Kompayak also put on a Tiny Man barnburner with Adrian Hernandez.  I start watching this fight, but then the  Geocities-quality flames burn my eyeballs:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhvYdiGHnw0

2011’s Great White Hope

Sorry. There’s a few, maybe, but they’re all from Soviet nations.  They abhor capitalism, and thus do not count.

Best Terminator Impression

Brandon Rios walks men down:

Marcos Maidana is a close second, but he only had one fight of note in 2011:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Am3o0uxIH3E

The Crazy In Love Award, for In-Ring Romantic Turmoil

Victor Ortiz is a crazy sumuvasomething:

You want to get dirty, I got dirty…I let the best of me get away. For that, I started feeling bad. That’s why I was like, ‘Floyd, man, my bad, yo. I apologize, man.’ So I gave him a hug. That got me to feel human once again in the ring,..”And when I felt human, I paid for it.
Although, you know what? I take it as a learning lesson and a learning experience. And the next time, it ain’t going to be that. If I’m going to head butt you I’m going to break your nose the next head butt.

This is what happens when you headbutt and then kiss Floyd Mayweather:

Old Guys Getting Feisty

Crotchety old HBO commentator Larry Merchant getting nasty with Mayweather in the aftermath of the above shitshow only added to the hilarity:

Breakout Girlfriend of the Year

Carl Froch lost a wide decision to Andre Ward in the finals of Showtime’s Super Six super middleweight tournament on December 17, but his girlfriend Rachel Cordingley was the promotion’s breakout star:

She’s a real working-class charmer, too; a chav in the truest Burberry and Stella sense-check the lungs on this one:

And ladies, I don’t want to hear anything about sexism; there are shirtless men everywhere in this column.

Moving on…

Most Boring Backstory

We haven’t talked since Lamont Peterson beat Amir Khan in a close, action-packed fight on December 10th, but it was boxing’s upset of the year.  Peterson grew up on the DC streets (and we’re not talking Dupont Circle) with his brother Anthony, a fine fighter in his own right, and now is in the mix to face Manny Pacquiao.  You will never hear anything about this storyline ever again.

Hey, Some Knockouts!

Nonito Donaire is a Filipino DYNAMO in SLO-MO. Ever hear of anyone like that? Didn’t think so:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gBYD_q2g9C0

A worthy minute of distilled welterweight action from a damn good fight on the Marquez-Pacquiao III undercard; Mike Alvarado comes back to beat former Amir Khan knocker-outer Breidis Prescott:

Proof that even Soviets can knock guys out, albeit in empty German ballrooms (the End comes around 4 minutes in):

And 23 minutes of Finality from this year’s Friday Night Fights; there were a bunch of good ones on the WorldWideLeader this year:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EJzQaKEEY-0&feature=results_video&playnext=1&list=PLD4F7211AF6151071

Next week we’ll do some highly irresponsible prognostication for the Year in Which the World Will Be Knocked Out. Until then, keep your coupon clippings, folks.

The Promoter: The Hits Keep Coming, Man

The past weekend’s bouts delivered good action without much in the way of surprise.  Miguel Cotto abused Antonio Margarito’s robot eye and firmly placed himself back into the SuperFights conversation.  If Pacquiao and Mayweather don’t get together, Cotto is a guy who can sell out a building and do good pay-per-view numbers all on his lonesome; in short, don’t be surprised to see Pacquiao-Cotto II or Mayweather-Cotto coming your way this spring.

It was a shame that the largely Puerto Rican crowd filling the Garden last Saturday in support of Cotto wouldn’t get loud for the undercard.  In a high-paced fight, Delvin Rodriguez beat Pawel Wolak convincingly enough that the latter decided to retire, and Brandon Rios overcame weight issues to bloody (the) hell out of Brit John Murray until a merciful 11th round stoppage.  Some nights, you’ve got to settle for good fights, not All Time Greats.

Here at The Promoter we can dip into greatness anytime (thanks Internet!) and our excuse this week is boxing’s Hall of Fame inductions.   I am far from qualified to comment on all of the inductees into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, located in lovely Canastota, NY.   The fight game doesn’t afford the would-be critic the easily wavable numbers that make it so easy to stomp feet about the neuroses keeping out a Blyleven or Santo for oh-so-many years.   I’m sure there’s plenty of worthwhile fighters uninducted (although even boxing can’t compete with the Aging Rock And Rollers for HOF as Money Grab).

We’re going to ignore all of these worthy concerns, and focus on the undisputed headliner of this year’s IBHOF class: Thomas “The Motor City Cobra”/”The Hitman” Hearns.

Tommy Hearns’ career was not over until 2006-he waited five years for enshrinement-but his glory days were the 1980s.  He was one of “The Four Kings” who ruled the sport, coming up from Detroit’s Kronk gym with ridiculous power, height and length for a welterweight.

Here’s Hearns winning his first title from Mexican Pipino Cuevas at the Joe Louis Arena in 1980.  The cartoonish knockout comes around 5:30. Note the complete lack of advertising in the ring.

Hearns’ greatest achievement might be knocking out Roberto Duran.  The Panamanian great had only been down twice in his career until this fight, having already fought professionally 70some times at the age of 32.  Sugar Ray Leonard made Duran quit on his stool in the “No Mas” fight, but “Hands of Stone” had never been out cold.  Until 1984:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9DvPFKii9-A

There were lots more wins for Tommy Hearns, and a bunch of spectacular knockouts, but he’ll probably be remembered best for his three rounds in 1985 with “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler. Disgustingly good stuff.

What 2 Watch 4

This coming weekend’s premiere fight matches England’s Amir Khan with DC’s Lamont Peterson, in a title bout at 140 pounds.  Khan has fast hands and good power, but his chin can be tested; Peterson’s a solid inside fighter who will have home ring advantage at Washington’s Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

Keep it above the belt till we talk again.

 

 

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.

 

The Promoter: Won, Lost, Who Knows? You Do.

Juan Manuel Marquez won his fight with Manny Pacquiao last weekend, and it wasn’t close.

The fight itself was close. But the big winner was Marquez, and it might have been better for Manny if he had lost rather than won.

Do you follow?

The short of it, the Bottom Line style takeaway, was this: Manny Pacquiao defeated Juan Manuel Marquez on a majority decision, with scores of 116-112, 115-113, 114-114; CompuBox had Pacquiao landing 117 power punches to 100 for Marquez.

Those numbers don’t mean jack in the overall picture, which is a source of frustration for the casual fan and provides plenty of conversational fodder for the initiated.  They aren’t points scored or goals allowed.  The judges’ decision is legally binding and goes on a boxer’s record, but doesn’t determine the next fight he takes.  Despite the futuristic name, CompuBox “statistics” are nothing more than the judgment calls of a ringside punch tracker.

Someday electrodes implanted under fighters’ skin will register punches and declare winners on cell damage differential.  For now, boxing is one of the few sports left where your opinion counts.

It’s my humbleish opinion, after three viewings, that Marquez won a close decision. I scored it twice for him and once for Pacquiao, while admittedly trying to give Manny rounds.  This opinion puts me in a  majority among the fans who felt that the Mexican won a close decision, and that the judge giving Pacman eight rounds (116) to Marquez’s four (112) was way off base.

Why did I see it this way?  I’m looking for clean, hard punches.  Marquez landed a few more; a number of those scored by CompuBox for Pacquiao were from his sometimes slappy right hand.  I’m also looking for not getting hit (ie “defense”), and Marquez did plenty of that too.  Finally, if it’s close on those factors (and it was), I do consider what is broadly termed “ring generalship,” or who controlled the action.  Although Pacquiao moved forward a lot more, it wasn’t moving with purpose; Marquez kept stepping out and to his left just enough to keep Manny off-balance and uncertain about when he should attack.

Why are people screaming robbery?  Besides the fact that Marquez was guaranteed $10 million in a rematch clause should he have won, I think it’s mostly because Marquez made it his fight, scoring with counterpunches all night.  He never let Manny come forward in the rushing demonry that made the Filipino a star, making him look frustrated and confused.  In addition, Juan Manuel was such a massive underdog going in that he vastly exceeded expectations, so even a fight that could arguably be scored a draw seems like a big win.  All the talk leading up to the fight from the Pacquiao camp was “we’re going to put this guy out for good.”  He didn’t.

Also, it’s fun to yell.  We can argue over the merits of quarterbacks or point guards, but eventually someone will go to “Scoreboard!” or “Count the Rings!”  Percentages and counting stats are endlessly cited.  In an age of high-definition instant replay, the results of individual games in the team sports are open to little interpretation.  Outrage has been mostly eliminated at the rules and officiating; venom for poor outcomes must be turned on players and coaches.  Boxing fandom allows one to access that fount of scorn for misguided authority that otherwise must be directed into the political sphere, and who wants to talk about that.

If you only know these three fights from the record books Marquez has lost twice and drawn once, in a fight he was knocked down thrice in the first round. That these two might very well go at it a fourth time might seem strange, but it means that Juan Manuel Marquez has again shown himself to be one of the best in the world. At 38.  That’s winning.

Moving forward

Not only did Marquez win in the Court of Public Opinion, but promoter Bob Arum announced within 24 hours that he was planning on making Marquez-Pacquiao IV, rather than aiming for a Mayweather fight.  Not only did this confirm the bias of many after Saturday’s fight that Manny would get picked apart by Floyd Jr. (like Marquez, a counterpuncher, except bigger), it gave Juan Manuel all sorts of leverage in negotiations.   Not that he needed more: 37 million households tuned in from Mexico.  Percentage-wise, those are Super Bowl-type numbers.  Say boxing struggles in the States, even call it dead, but it has plenty of homelands worldwide where it’s doing just fine.

It might not be fair to Pacquiao, but his close win, perceived to be a bit of Vegas favoritism by many,  and the fact that he didn’t explicitly admit defeat in post-fight interviews turned him into something of a villain, in the course of an hour.  Redemption cycles happen quickly in the fight game, though, and a vintage performance in his next outing can put him right back in the public’s good graces.

Marquez put a cherry on his his good night early Sunday morning, when he left the ring immediately and only deigned to give the HBO interview in his locker room, naked, with a sombrero covering his nether regions.  Super cool.

This week’s celebrity sightings

Brad Pitt took a break from his adoptive menagerie to knock out Victor Oganov in Australia, in a cruiserweight bout.

I’ve never actually heard of Tony Conquest, but it’s a pretty great name for a boxer, as well as a Roman emperor or a porn star.  He needs a writer, though: his given nickname is “Conqueror.”

Quick Hit Destruct-o Fun

Featherweight Luis Zarazua fights as a pro for the second time on the undercard of this weekend’s Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.-Peter Manfredo fight.  Zarazua’s first pro fight didn’t last too long.  You don’t need to watch anything past a minute in this video.

Till next week-ish, keep those feet moving.

 

 

The Promoter: After the One-Two Comes Pacquiao-Marquez III

Let me introduce myself.  The name’s  Josh and/or Brokaw.  The  game?  Words, on a good day.  We’ll not discuss the bad.  My purpose in these pages is celebrating and promoting the Sweet Science; exhorting the beautiful, ignorant masses into a passing awareness of the sport that serves as metaphor for all others.

Like all promoters, I might fall into the trap of getting a bit too excited about my subject. If your municipality hasn’t already banned the deadly substance, keep your salt ready.

This coming weekend’s biggest and best fight boasts something most bouts cannot: One Manny Pacquiao, a guy you’ve probably heard about even if your news comes exclusively from ESPN and Time magazine, you poor, uncultured sap.  Manny is mainstream enough that he participated in an advertising campaign that also featured a girl from that Glee show.  He smiles big, he speaks adorable Tagalog-accented English, and he’s going to be the president of the Philippines someday. There are many people who believe this marketer’s dream will win on Saturday in impressive knockout fashion.  The books right now have a wager of $100 on Manny returning $10 in profit.  He’s favored.

Why watch? you say.  It’ll be a stomping or a runaway.

A fair point.  Most recent ‘megafights’ have fed Pacman or ‘Pretty Boy’ Floyd Mayweather a name opponent who no one thought going in had any real shot at a win.

Yet in the underdog’s corner this Saturday there is a future Hall of Famer, who has in two previous fights drawn and lost a close split decision with the Philippine hero.  If you haven’t seen Juan Manuel Marquez, at 38 he’s still arguably the second-best technical boxer in the world; he might not have the most pop, but he can counterpunch you to death.  In recent years he’s come out of the shadows of countrymen Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera to become a quintessential Mexican action star in his own right, knocking out Juan Diaz, Joel Casamayor and Michael Katsidis

Wait, what? you say.  Wasn’t that one of the dudes Mayweather stonewalled a while back? And didn’t you feel dumb for inviting friends over to watch a Money May fight, because you should have known better than to count on him for action?

Well, yes, but Marquez was outreached and outweighed in that fight…

And isn’t Pacquiao-Mayweather supposed to be THE fight that we all want to see? Fight of the (Young) Century level?  So isn’t Manny just going to run through this old guy?

Well, yes, Manny and Floyd going at it is the Ideal.  But no, I don’t think those $10 to win $1 odds on Pacquiao are quite right.

This rivalry wouldn’t exist if Nevada ever used the old three knockdown rule; Marquez came back from getting flattened thrice in their first round of ring acquaintance to win the fight on a whole slew of observers’ cards.  Listen to the intro talk from that 2004 fight, and you can hear storylines that’ll be coming at you on Saturday: Is Marquez too old?  Too slow?  Pacquiao too fast and strong?

Round One of Fight One starts around 7:00

The second fight was a similar story: Pacquiao scored one knockdown, and Marquez took more rounds.  How many more, I don’t know. It’s a back-and-forth every time you watch it sort of fight.

Fight Two

The bloxosphere’s communal wisdom, like the books, has Pacquiao winning this fight, but no one’s sure how it’s going to happen.  Some say in quick knockout fashion (like he did to Ricky Hatton), some say in the later rounds after beating Marquez down (see Miguel Cotto), some think he’ll take a tough decision, perhaps busting Marquez up in the process (reference the remnants of Antonio Margarito’s face).  No one thinks the fight will be boring, like Manny’s outings against the Shell of Shane Mosley and honorary Ninja Turtle Josh Clottey.  Like any honorable Mexican fighter, Marquez is coming to win or go home flat.

It is fair to say that Manny is bigger, quicker, better, and younger…

Those might not be the right words to spark your interest. Let’s break down those advantages, with a little in-my-head summary of the arguments for the inevitable Pacquiao victory, followed by my counterattack.

Manny has superior size: He has shown comfort fighting at welterweight (147 lbs.).  Marquez, in his only foray into the class, looked crappy against Mayweather and hasn’t proved he can hang at the weight.  He’s like, way stronger.

Yeah, But: Their weights at fight time in March 2008 were both about 145 lbs. Manny has gotten stronger, but Marquez has seen him at this weight before. More importantly, Mayweather outreached Marquez by five inches. Manny has him by an inch.  I doubt this difference has changed in the last three and a half years.

Manny is too quick:  Marquez is slowing down, and straight-ahead fighters like Diaz and Katsidis got to him in the past two years, whereas they wouldn’t have got close back in ’06 or ’07.

Yeah, But: Manny might be a tad slower too, these days.  Furthermore, he was quicker in both of their previous fights, and it didn’t earn him decisive wins.

Manny is way better : He has improved tremendously since their last fight, becoming a two-handed fighter with real boxing skills.

Yeah, But: Manny’s definitely got more of a right now and throws in a shoulder roll here and there.  How much improvement he’s made, though, is hard to tell. While Pacquiao’s skills certainly have had plenty to do with his wins, there’s an argument that since he last fought Marquez, he’s seen nothing but guys who were already well past their best days.  His ring intelligence has increased, but it still pales in comparison to Juan Manuel’s.

Manny will win because: He’s younger.

Yeah, But: Sometimes fighters get old.  Don’t blame me if it happens here. Could happen to Manny, too, but I doubt it.  At the very least, that Marquez drinks his own piss in training has to come with some sort of record-setting placebo effect, even if the beverage doesn’t have an actual salutary effect.

What 2 Watch 4

Please note that I’m not begging you to buy this fight; it’s expensive, and the undercard isn’t nearly as good as next month’s Miguel Cotto-Antonio Margarito rematch.  Google is your friend if your Saturday night plans go awry; YouTube is helpful in the first 24 hours afterward.  HBO will replay it a few times in the next week or two.

What I’m watching for in the early going is both fighters’ front hands. If Manny’s getting jabs through early, some combination of his improvement and Marquez’s slowing has happened, and it will be an easy night for the Filipino. Conversely, if Juan Manuel gets through his hook-uppercut hybrid left to the body early, he’s in it.

If Marquez gets through round 3 without his trunks touching canvas (and if he does go down, it will be on a short, sharp left while he’s throwing a too-wide right) and he’s not otherwise overwhelmed, it will be the Mexican’s fight to lose. The early knockdowns were the difference in the scoring outcome of the first two fights, and weathering the early storm got Marquez to middle rounds where he controlled the action and racked up points.  If you can find a prop bet after 4 or so on the winner, even odds on Juan Manuel is plenty fair in my view.

Promotional Whimsy
Manny and Juan Manuel show their singing chops on Mexico’s Big Brother/American Idol mash-up La Academica. Someone with better Spanish skills can tell me what Marquez’s song is, but Pacquiao does “Imagine.”

The Week That Was
James Kirkland obliterated Alfredo Angulo in 6 last weekend, in a light middleweight fight that was a long time in coming. Kirkland, one of boxing’s hottest properties before going away on a firearm charge in Texas in September ’09, was knocked down by the heavy-handed Angulo in the first and looked finished after one. HBO has destroyed all extant online versions of the video, but when it comes up again you gotta see it. If Manny and Juan Manuel beat that fight for excitement on their huge stage, they put themselves in the all-time trilogies discussion.

Required Reading
Former Heavyweight Champion of the World and inspiration for the Rocky series Joe Frazier passed away Monday night at 67.
SBNation’s Bad Left Hook has about all the boxing coverage you need, and it is all over the Frazier tributes, interviews and fights. If you really want to despair over the current state of sports letters, though, put on your polyester and read Mark Kram’s 1975 Sports Illustrated story on Ali-Frazier III, the Thrilla (in Manila).

Till next week, keep your hands up.