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Articles of 2002

The Hall of Shame

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Ya' know, there's a reason why I hate going to fancy banquets and social gatherings where people are being honored. No, not only because I'd have to wear something other than my sweat-suit, but really because there's only so much I can take when it comes to induction and acceptance speeches that drag on longer than 'War and Peace'.

Invariably, those who are up at the mike promise to 'make this as short as possible' only to go on longer than the 'Root's' mini-series. But that's understandable I guess, after all, many of these folks are receiving a great honor that humbles them.

Fine, but what's really aggravating is when those who are not being honored- and aren't even scheduled to speak- get up there and drone on.

That was the case a couple of weeks ago at the World Boxing Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in Los Angeles. On that night, names like Lupe Pintor, Mike McCallum and George Foreman would be honored for their vast achievements inside the ring. Larry Merchant of HBO Sports was being inducted for his contributions to the game as a journalist and broadcaster.

Rich Marotta, a boxing analyst for many years, was in charge of introducing Merchant and had finished quickly; but just as he was about to present Merchant with his award, Emanuel Steward, the noted trainer and HBO analyst who works with Merchant on the 'Boxing After Dark' telecasts, cut-in unexpectedly and announced that he wanted to say a few words about his broadcast partner.

Well, he certainly had a lot to say – too bad it was basically about himself. Instead of applauding the accomplishments of the dignified Merchant, he went on to pat his own back for what he had accomplished in the game. He would point out everyone that was on the dais, such as a Ronnie Shields (whom he had trained a long time ago) and tell everyone what he had meant to Shields career or how he and McCallum had worked together at the world famous Kronk Gym. Never mind that McCallum left Kronk in a huff because he felt as though Steward always favored Thomas Hearns over himself.

On and on he went. How long? According to those in attendance it seemed like years, although it was about 20 minutes. Merchant, who was standing to receive his plaque and medal, sat down in the middle of Stewards preamble. Those in the audience were getting restless as they started to bang the tables and hit their glasses with their knives and forks and heckle Steward to get off the mike. Let's put it this way, if this was amateur night at the Apollo, 'Sand Man Simm's' would have shooed him out of their quick, fast and in a hurry.

But what's worse is that he kept going. Someone told me,” He must've thought it was applause or something, geez, he kept going on and on. It was disgusting.”

Finally, Steward gave up the spotlight for the guy who was actually honored- which was awfully thoughtful of him. So what was the deal with Steward? I mean, he's used to speaking in short time frames, think about it, he only gets 60 seconds to talk to his fighters between rounds, doesn't he? Was he drunk? You never know, this was a social gathering. Hopefully he was and before ripping me for saying that, let me explain. If he was drunk, at least he has an explanation for his actions. If he wasn't: well, his actions look that much worse.

Fortunately, Merchant was his usual classy self in accepting the award, although he was a bit baffled at Steward himself. But they do retain a strong relationship despite his actions. However, I get the feeling that Merchant won't be having him deliver his eulogy when the time comes. Think about it, if he did, by the time he was done, who knows how many others would still be alive?

But I'm not here to just rip Steward, who I have a great deal of respect for and maintain a good relationship with. I'm also here to offer a few solutions to rectify these types of quandaries. Hey, I'm here to solve problems, not just lampoon them.

Limit speeches to rounds- Yup, you heard that right.

If you're introducing somebody you get three minutes, tops. If you're the person receiving the award, depending on your legacy, you get between six and twelve minutes. Sounds harsh, but hey, a four round fighter doesn't get the same respect and prestige as a twelve round main eventer. That's life and that's boxing. All the fighters being hailed get the full allotted 12 minutes (basically four rounds) and guys like Merchant and publicist Bill Kaplan get between six and nine minutes depending on their stature.

And yes, an official timekeeper will be on hand to keep track of these things.

* 10 SECONDS!!!- Now, if you watch boxing, you've heard this a thousand times. As the round winds down, a person next to the timekeeper will pound the mat and give a 10 second warning to the referee and fighters to make sure that the fighting is stopped at the sound of the bell.

Well, if a guy like Kaplan, who's a six minute-man in my book, starts heading into the five-and-half minute mark, a timekeeper that was assigned by the local commission closest to whatever Hall-of-Fame is honoring him will start to look at his official time clock.

And when five minutes and fifty seconds comes, the timekeeper will yell as loudly as he can,” 10 SECONDS!!!” while banging on his dinner table. See, I'm fair about this; I like to give fair warning.

* Richard Steele- Ok, if whoever is being honored doesn't get the hint and refuses to follow our rules, we bring in Steele to step in. And he would be the perfect guy; after all, doesn't he stop everything early? He was sure needed a couple of weeks ago.

* Act like boxing fans- This is only a last step measure that should be used only in the most extreme of circumstances; but if all else fails, the crowd must get involved. And in our case, the gathered throng would be boxing fans.

And at this point we would need boxing fans to act, well, like boxing fans. Which means hissing, booing and screaming as loudly as they could at the acting offender. And they would be allowed to throw their napkins at the stage- but nothing more. We can't have plates and glasses being hurled on stage, somebody could get hurt and these things are supposed to be dignified affairs, not the Olympic Auditorium.

If this doesn't do the trick, I don't know what will.

DON'T COUNT OUT TAPIA

I know not many pundits are giving Johnny Tapia a shot against Marco Antonio Barrera this weekend in Las Vegas. They point out that Tapia is a natural jr. bantamweight moving up in weight, or how bad Tapia looked in getting a fortunate decision in his last outing against Manuel Medina, or that Tapia is no spring chicken.

Which is all true, but those are the tangibles. A guy like Tapia is all about the intangibles. There's a reason why his nickname is 'Mi Vida Loca'. He's lived exactly just that, a crazy life. His story has been told a million times but one story bears repeating.

The most amazing of Tapia's stories is the fact that he's been pronounced clinically dead- three times!!! Most guys are only good for one, maybe two. This guy pulled the hat trick. They've counted him out before and his still standing.

Marco Antonio Barrera won't be nearly the toughest fight of his life. I have a feeling this fight will be much more competitive than most think.

SLICK RICK

This Saturday night, 2000 silver medallist Ricardo Williams gets his first step-up fight as he takes on former IBF jr. welterweight titlist Terron Millett.

Millett is definitely on the downside, but he can still bang a bit and Williams only has seven pro bouts under his belt.

Seven pro bouts and Williams is already fighting ex-titlists on HBO. They sure don't develop prospects like they used to, huh? Back in the day, guys would have at least a dozen or so four-rounders before moving up to the six and eight round bouts, much less co-headline on the games biggest stages.

Yes, times have changed.

SUGAR SHANE

Shane Mosley will make his return and debut at 154 on either February 1st or 8th when he takes on Raul Marquez.

Originally, Yory Boy Campas was thought to be the cannon-fodder de jour for Shane, but HBO wasn't too keen on the idea of using Campas who has a well-earned rep as a front-runner prone to quitting when the going gets too tough.

Marquez may get cut up like paper mache, but he won't quit.

Articles of 2002

$*%@#!

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Walk the dog, stroll through the park, have a picnic at the lake.
There are safer things for IBF cruiserweight champ Vassily Jirov to do this month than defend his title against James “Lights Out” Toney.
Barbecue, play softball, fish, visit the zoo. Thank his lucky stars.
Jirov, who lives in California, won’t be fighting Toney on HBO on Jan. 25.
Something to do with his insides.
Ask Toney why Jirov pulled out of their fight and he’ll tell you it was Jirov’s heart that let him down, his backbone that went soft, not his banged-up ribs. Ask Toney and he’ll tell you about heartbreak and lies and revenge and fighting anybody in the universe if it means another title. Jirov claims he suffered the damage while sparring. Maybe. But it’s the fourth time Jirov has found a reason not to fight Toney. How many times you got to be told to go home before you realize the guy doesn’t want to come outside and play? How many times you got to be bit by the same dog before you realize it wants to be left alone? Jirov has more excuses than a politician caught with a hooker on his lap.
In his own eloquent way, Toney recently described how disappointed he was in the cancellation of their title fight on the undercard of the Vernon Forrest – Ricardo Mayorga welterweight title fight.
“The @#%$%*&#@,’’ Toney said after learning of the postponement on Christmas Eve. “Jirov can @&%$#% and then he can @%$#@#$. He’s nothing but a #$%#@#.’’ That said, it doesn’t brighten up the New Year in the Toney household.
“I’m done with it,’’ said Toney, sounding like a guy who finally gets tried of being stood up by the same girl.
As of Dec. 30, there was still no word of an opponent for Toney, though he’s still making regular trips to the gym.
Merry Christmas, James. Have a Happy New Year.
“Bah, humbug,’’ said Toney’s promoter Dan Goossen. “We didn’t have much of a Christmas. I got the news on Christmas Eve. But you just have to bounce back.’’ Funny thing about fighters. Some make excuses, some fight through them. You get the feeling Toney could have cracked five ribs and his right tibia and still climbed into the ring against Jirov.
It raises a lot of questions. What’s Jirov got against fighting? After a busy 2001, he hasn’t fought since last February. How do you hold a title after you’ve gone into retirement? Just who is this guy and why does he like to hide? Is there really a Vassily Jirov out there, or is he a creation of the IBF, a shadowy figure who won the title and decided it was too big a risk to keep defending it? The bottom line is, Toney may be left with a lot of unexpected free time on his hands if they don’t find him another fight, though he knew better than to mark the date on his calendar in ink. There are no promises in boxing. When dealing with a guy like Jirov, all bets are off. But Toney can still hope. The name O’Neil Bell – the WBC’s No. 1 challenger – has been knocked around, and Toney said he doesn’t care what contender or champion he knocks out on Jan. 25. “#@#$%$#,’’ Toney said.
You can say that again.

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Articles of 2002

New Year's Resolutions

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A new year is upon us, which means it's time for new years resolutions. Yeah, never mind that most resolutions are broken, oh, around the third week of January; everybody still makes them.

Here are my resolutions that I'd make for some of the luminaries in the sport of boxing.

* Floyd Mayweather: No more excuses. Anyone else sick of listening to 'the Pretty Boy' whine about what ailments he came into the fight with? Whether it's his fragile hands, a bum shoulder or his squabbles with his promoter Bob Arum, he always has an alibi. Hey Floyd, nobody cares, you get paid plenty to perform and those that buy tickets don't care that you might have a hangnail; they want nothing but the best effort out of you.

Mayweather reminds me of former Los Angeles Dodger slugger Mike Marshall, who's second home seemed to be the disabled list. The bottom line is this guy is lucky to be a boxer where he only has to perform once every 6 months- he simply couldn't handle the rigors of an NBA, NFL or baseball season. Ask any athlete if they are ever 100-percent healthy after the first day of training camp or spring training and they'll laugh at you.

Injuries and ailments are a part of the job, overcoming them is what makes a true professional. Mayweather still hasn't grasped that concept.

* Jim Gray: Respect. I guess this little weasel is whom Aretha Franklin was talking about in her song. Think about it, have you ever seen a guy be so disrespectful to fighters in post-fight interviews like this guy. Don't even mention HBO's Larry Merchant- he isn't afraid to ask the tough questions like a true journalist and he's consistent. Gray looks at boxing as a secondary gig and looks down on boxers in general.

Don't believe me? Just compare and contrast his softball interviews that he does for NBC and the hatchet jobs he does on Showtime.

* Max Kellerman: No more over-hyping New York boxers. Look, I get along and respect Max, but when you look up the term 'East Coast Bias' in Webster's, his picture may be used as the definition of it. From Zab Judah to James Butler and to Tokumbo Olajide, he'll have you enshrined in Canastota if you come out of the Big Apple.

What's worse are the excuses he'll come up with for his New Yorkers when they fall on their faces. Max is great for boxing but he's gotta realize New York hasn't been a player on the boxing scene for at least 20 years.

* Crocodile: A new catchphrase. You know Crocodile, right? He was Mike Tyson's hype-man for all these years…the guy with the menacing shades and the army fatigues who used to scream, “GUERILLA WARFARE” at the top of his lungs over and over again.

I've heard that enough and it's about as played out as 'Whoop, there it is' and it's time he came up with a new one. All the great ones can add to their repertoire.

* HBO: Admit they acknowledge the titles. Stop being the Hypocritical Boxing Organization and just stop saying that you don't recognize these organizations. The latest example of their double-talk? Well, for years they dogged John Ruiz and his WBA title, suddenly Roy Jones challenges Ruiz and HBO is hyping this up as some sort of historic challenge of a light heavyweight trying to capture a heavyweight title.
Yeah, the same title they had basically trashed for years.

* Joe Cortez: No more over-officiating. His line is that,' He's firm but he's fair'. I'd argue about that the last couple of years but my biggest gripe with him is that he seems to make himself waaaaay too visible during fights and gets too involved. Nobody is there to watch him and he should just let the fighters fight.
Too often I see these fights with Cortez lose their flow as Cortez continually interrupts the action with his admonishments and warnings. Joe, take a step back and let us watch what we came to see.

* Don Turner: Stop living off of Holyfield-Tyson I- If you ever talk to this guy, he'll talk as though he invented boxing. And his big coup was co-training Evander Holyfield against Mike Tyson. 'The Real Deal' upset Tyson and suddenly Turner was being hailed as the new Chappie Blackburn and he became a media darling.

My question is this, did he suddenly teach Holyfield how to fight 35 fights into his career? Also, I contend that my mother and I could work Holyfield's corner and he would whip Tyson everyday of the week and twice on Sunday. And ask yourself this, when was the last time he was in the winning corner for a big fight?

* Newspaper writers: Start crediting the Internet. Ok, this is a sore subject with me, but too many times I've seen stories from the major newspaper scribes who amazingly have stories that are eerily similar to stories that I've read on the internet (or that I've written myself) and use quotes that I got in one-on-one interviews and they don't attribute their sources- the internet.

When I take quotes or info from a story I make a point to give credit where it's due. Now, I just wish these guys would do the same.

* Roy Jones: no more hip-hop entrances. Roy, you're a magnificently gifted prizefighter, you can also play just a bit of hoops, but your rhyming skills are that of Shaquille O'Neal. In other words, you're doing street nursery rhymes not Nas.

Please, oh please, stop embarrassing yourself and the sport with your cheesy as nacho's attempt to become a hip-hop performer. His last entrance/performance reminded me of one of those really bad Sir-Mix-Alot videos of the early 90's.

* Panama Lewis: an exit out of the game. You remember Lewis right, the guy who gave Aaron Pryor the mysterious white bottle before the 14th round of his bout against Alexis Arguello, which seemed to give 'the Hawk' a sudden burst of energy that enabled Pryor to brutally KO Arguello. Afterwards, Pryor would skip out on his post-fight drug test.

Then there was the fight with Luis Resto, where he would tamper with his gloves between rounds, and bearing the brunt of this tomfoolery was Billy Collins who's faced was turned into a bloody mess. Collins, in the aftermath of this brutality committed suicide. For this, Lewis was banned permanently from working a corner. But that doesn't mean that he can't go into the gym and train fighters and even attend fights.

The bottom line is simple, this man has no place in the game of boxing and boxing shouldn't tolerate him in any way.

* Cedric Kushner: no more gimmicks. This guy has tried everything from the disastrous 'ThunderBox' to one-day $100,000 heavyweight tournaments- and all have failed miserably.

He can put on a boxing version of 'Survivor' or 'Real World' if he wants but the reality is, boxing fans want good fights and interesting fighters, nothing more, nothing less.

Stop with the shenanigans and stop with the junk.

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Articles of 2002

Dream Fights of 2003

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Hey, we can all dream, right? Isn't it our God-given right as boxing fans to think about fights that should happen – but often times don't?

And not just fights that have the highest profile or the biggest names – because sometimes those fights, like Lewis vs. Tyson – are nothing more than high-profile mismatches. I'm talking about fights that are evenly matched between the game's best and are the most intriguing inside the ring.

Here are some fights I'd pay to see in the upcoming year; full well knowing that most of these fights are pipe dreams as the business end of the sport would bog these fights down quickly. But hey, we can dream right?

* Juan Manuel Marquez vs. Erik Morales or Marco Antonio Barrera: Name me another fighter that has never won a world title belt that is better than Marquez? You can't and this guys been ducked and dodged long enough. On February 1st he takes on Manuel Medina for the vacant IBF featherweight title and it says here that he should face one of the game's best known 126-pounders, either Morales or Barrera. Marquez is a master boxer with great counter-punching skills and his hand-speed would give either one of his Mexican compatriots fits. There are some in the industry who have been saying for a while that Marquez is already the game's premiere featherweight; I'm not inclined to disagree that strongly.

CHANCES OF HAPPENING?: With Barrera, not good, as Ricardo Maldonado sees no real upside in this match-up and would most likely take an easier fight on HBO for about the same amount of money he could make facing Marquez.

With Morales, the logistics are much less complicated. Both of them are promoted by Bob Arum and there is some talk that they could face each other in May if a Morales-Barrera III isn't made.

* Bernard Hopkins vs. Roy Jones: Not only because it's a match-up of two of the very premiere fighters in the world, but Hopkins needs to resume his career with some meaningful fights and Jones should be fighting guys like 'the Executioner' instead of participating in novelty acts like his proposed bout with John Ruiz.

And don't think for one minute that this would be a blowout. Jones couldn't blowout a green Hopkins in 1993 and won't be able to do it now. Hopkins, unlike most of Jones' opponents, isn't in total awe of Pensacola's finest.

CHANCES OF HAPPENING?: Not good, Sharon and Arafat will find a common ground regarding the Middle East before these two proud and stubborn men find one in contract negotiations.

* Oscar De La Hoya vs. Vernon Forrest: For fans of pure boxing and strategy this is a fight that can't be missed. Both men have strong jabs and match-up well physically. 'The Golden Boy' has the better left hook and 'The Viper' has a more effective right hand. Between these two well-schooled boxers you can expect a tense and tight boxing match with subtle momentum swings round by round.

CHANCES OF HAPPENING?: For 2003, not very good because it looks like Oscar will be fighting once in the upcoming year – a September rematch against Shane Mosley – and Bob Arum has stated that Forrest simply brings nothing to the table promotionally. This can be interpreted as another way of saying that he's not Latin, too dangerous or just another black fighter who can't sell a ticket. The bottom line seems to be that unless Forrest raises his profile in the upcoming years, De La Hoya will be facing guys that make economic sense.

* Floyd Mayweather vs. Kostya Tszyu: This would be a face off of the sport's premier lightweight against the game's best jr. welterweight. 'The Pretty Boy' would bring speed, quickness and boxing ability to the dance. While Tszyu would bring a decided edge in strength, size and punching power. They say styles make fights and you have two contrasting ones here.

CHANCES OF HAPPENING?: Not likely. This is for a couple of reasons. First, Vlad Wharton who promotes Tszyu, is seemingly deathly afraid to take any risks with Tszyu, who's basically his cash cow. Secondly, Mayweather got a reality check from his two bouts with Jose Luis Castillo, who at 135 pounds was able to muscle him throughout their 24 rounds they fought in 2002. And Tszyu is faster, sharper and just as strong as Castillo. I'm not sure Mayweather is in any rush to make the move up to 140-pounds.

* Lennox Lewis vs. Wladimir Klitschko: The industry is always better off when there is action in the heavyweight division. So why even mess around by having Lewis take on 'the other' Klitschko or knock out Tyson again; getting right in there with the man most pundits are claiming is the heir to his throne in Wlad Klitschko?

The time is now, Lewis is getting up there in age and really doesn't have that much left in his gas tank anyway and it would be prudent for him to face Klitschko now before he gets any better. Remember, that's the tact they took in facing Michael Grant when they did – but it has to be noted that Klitschko is much better than Grant.

Lewis would have the advantages in experience and savvy, but for one of the few times in his career he would be facing a disadvantage in size and perhaps power. The two best big men on the planet squaring off, what else could you ask for?

CHANCES OF HAPPENING: Actually pretty good, since Lewis himself has stated his plans to take on both Klitschkos in between his rematch with Tyson. But with Don King now making a full court press to garner the services of Lewis, who knows what direction he goes to now.

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