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My 85-Year-Old Mother Meets Don Elbaum…HAUSER

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Juan_Diaz_Don_King_Julio_Diaz_WATERS_1For the writer's mother, meeting King, and Elbaum, was infinitely more interesting than hearing about friends' manicures. (Hogan)

Four years ago, I brought my mother to a press conference and introduced her to Don King. Several days later, “My 81-Year-Old Mother Meets Don King” was posted on the Internet.

Thus, a tradition was born. Once a year, I bring my mother to Portobello’s (at 83 Murray Street in Manhattan), where Anthony Catanzaro hosts a pizza party for my mother and assorted boxing dignitaries.

Last year, the guest list included Paulie Malignaggi. Later, in an article I wrote about the gathering, I quoted my mother as saying, “Paulie is adorable; a little cocky, but as cute as can be.”

The next time I saw Paulie, he told me, “Tell your mother I think she’s cute but a little cocky.”

This year, the tradition continued on July 11th with Don Elbaum as the primary celebrity guest. Readers with a good memory might recall that Elbaum was to have been a guest last year but stood my mother up.

“Is this like a blind date?” he asked when I called to re-extend the invitation.

“Don, I love my mother. I’d never do anything like that to her.”

“So explain to me again what this lunch is about?”

“My mother likes meeting boxing people. She started with Muhammad Ali. Then she met Don King. Now it’s you, and we’re planning a special honor for you.”

“What’s the honor?”

“The honor is, if you stand my mother up again, I’ll send Paulie over to beat the crap out of you.”

“That doesn’t scare me. Paulie can’t punch.”

“I’ll give him a gun.”

“I’ll be there, I promise.”

The guest list included Elbaum, David Berlin (“I owe him a lunch,” Don explained); Frank Macchiarola (who oversees the Arthur Curry Scholarship Program at St. Francis College in Brooklyn); Steve Albert, Seth Abraham, and Lou DiBella.

As homework, my mother read “Bordello Boxing” (an article detailing Elbaum’s efforts to promote a fight card at a Nevada brothel called Sherry’s Ranch). (Article can be found here: http://www.secondsout.com/columns/thomas-hauser/bordello-boxing1)

When my mother and I arrived at Portobello’s, Seth Abraham was already there. As is his custom, he was wearing a boutonniere on his jacket lapel.

“I was fifteen years old when I went to college,” Seth explained to my mother. “Most of the girls were two years older than I was and I couldn’t get dates. I confessed my frustrations to a fraternity brother named Paul Hill; and Paul told me that another part of my problem was that I was a slob. He took me to a clothing store and helped me pick out some nice shirts and a few pairs of slacks. Eventually, I started getting dates and I’ve paid attention to my appearance ever since.”

Steve Albert was the next to arrive. “I wouldn’t pass up this opportunity,” he proclaimed.

“To meet my mother?’

“No. Free pizza.”

Then, to the accompaniment of trumpets with seraphim flying through the air (I’m making that part up), Don Elbaum entered and handed my mother a blue gift bag.

“I have a lot of respect for mothers,” Don told her. “The way I was brought up, you open doors for women and treat them right. Even if the woman I’m with is a hooker, I’ll open the door for her.”

Over the next half hour, Frank Macchiarola, David Berlin, and Lou DiBella rounded out the group. In keeping with the spirit of the day, Lou brought his mother.

For the record, Anna DiBella is an elegant woman with three published volumes of poetry to her credit.

Anthony Catanzaro is fond of saying, “I’m just a guy who makes pizza.” He’s a lot more than that. But what pizza ! ! !

As lunch progressed, Seth told old war stories about Don King and Mike Tyson. My mother is fascinated by both of them. “I know that Don King has done bad things,” she said. “But I liked him when I met him. I can’t explain why.”

“When Don is being nice,” Elbaum offered, “he’s absolutely incredible. You have to love him. The problems come when he’s being Don.”

As for Tyson, Steve Albert was behind the microphone when Iron Mike bit off part of Evander Holyfield’s ear.

“That must have been exciting,” my mother said.

“Actually, it was disgusting,” Steve recalled.

Lou DiBella spent most of the time talking on his cell phone and eating pizza off his mother’s plate. Anna DiBella offered the information that Lou could speak in full sentences when he was eleven-and-a-half months old.

“And I dropped by first F-bomb when I was two,” Lou added.

Later in the conversation, Lou told my mother, “Everyone in boxing who has a heart has a love-hate relationship with the business. I love what I do and I hate what I do. There’s more evil in boxing than in any other sport. If you stay in the business long enough, you get f—-d as many times as a porn star.”

“Lou is passionate and there’s a human quality about him,” my mother told me afterward.

Elbaum is co-promoting a July 30th fight card at John F. Kennedy High School  in Paterson, New Jersey. “I’ve got three guys from Peru fighting that night,” he advised my mother. “You can’t believe how good these guys are. Jonathan Maicello has the appeal of a rock star and his record is 15-and-0. He’s the next Manny Pacquiao. Juan Zegarra is undefeated. And Carlos Zambrano is 13-and-0, but I’ve got an even better story for you about Zambrano. His wife’s mother is fifty-seven years old. She has twenty-four children and all of them are girls. What are the odds of something like that?”

“Does this women really have twenty-four children who are all girls?” my mother asked me later.

“I doubt it. But with Don, anything is possible.”

“You ought to come as my guest to see the fights,” Elbaum offered. “These three guys will make Peru the boxing capital of the world.”

“It’s not for me,” my mother answered, declining the invitation. “I don’t understand, and never will, why all of you love this sport so much.”

“I saw Willie Pep fight when I was young,” Don explained. “It was like a beautiful ballet. I was totally mesmerized by the way he moved and slipped punches. Since then, all I’ve wanted out of life is to be in boxing. There have been good times and bad times, but I’ve loved every minute of it.”

Later, while I was talking with Steve Albert I heard bits and pieces of further conversation between my mother and Elbaum. Don was speaking with great animation: “You can’t believe how educated some of the women at Sherry’s Ranch are . . . The people that run the place fly helicopters back and forth from Los Angeles . . .”

“It was a lot more interesting than talking with my friends about their manicures,” my mother told me afterward.

Being a gentleman, Don drove my mother home when lunch was over. During the ride, he reminisced about meeting Frank Sinatra (“I forget the year, but it was before he died”) and the time in 1979 when he was staying in the Mayflower Hotel on Central Park West in Manhattan. Two cops appeared at his door, investigating the theft of a horse.

“I’ve done some things in my life that might not have been one-hundred-percent kosher,” Elbaum told the cops. “But I swear to you, I never stole a horse.”

By the way, the gift that Don gave my mother was a magic ball called “rattleshake.” If she wants to make a wish, she shakes it and it sounds like a baby’s rattle. On the outside, it says, “You thrill me.”

And a final thought . . .

“Your mother is fantastic, a real doll,” Don said when he called to thank me that night. “And tell Lou that I liked his mother too.”


Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at thauser@rcn.com. His next book (Winks and Daggers: An Inside Look at Another Year in Boxing) will be published by the University of Arkansas Press in August.

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2015 Fight of the Year – Francisco Vargas vs Takashi Miura

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The WBC World Super Featherweight title bout between Francisco Vargas and Takashi Miura came on one of the biggest boxing stages of 2015, as the bout served as the HBO pay-per-view’s co-main event on November 21st, in support of Miguel Cotto vs Saul Alvarez.

Miura entered the fight with a (29-2-2) record and he was making the fifth defense of his world title, while Vargas entered the fight with an undefeated mark of (22-0-1) in what was his first world title fight. Both men had a reputation for all-out fighting, with Miura especially earning high praise for his title defense in Mexico where he defeated Sergio Thompson in a fiercely contested battle.

The fight started out hotly contested, and the intensity never let up. Vargas seemed to win the first two rounds, but by the fourth round, Miura seemed to pull ahead, scoring a knock-down and fighting with a lot of confidence. After brawling the first four rounds, Miura appeared to settle into a more technical approach. Rounds 5 and 6 saw the pendulum swing back towards Vargas, as he withstood Miura’s rush to open the fifth round and the sixth round saw both men exchanging hard punches.

The big swinging continued, and though Vargas likely edged Miura in rounds 5 and 6, Vargas’ face was cut in at least two spots and Miura started to assert himself again in rounds 7 and 8. Miura was beginning to grow in confidence while it appeared that Vargas was beginning to slow down, and Miura appeared to hurt Vargas at the end of the 8th round.

Vargas turned the tide again at the start of the ninth round, scoring a knock down with an uppercut and a straight right hand that took Miura’s legs and sent him to the canvas. Purely on instinct, Miura got back up and continued to fight, but Vargas was landing frequently and with force. Referee Tony Weeks stepped in to stop the fight at the halfway point of round 9 as Miura was sustaining a barrage of punches.

Miura still had a minute and a half to survive if he was going to get out of the round, and it was clear that he was not going to stop fighting.

A back and forth battle of wills between two world championship level fighters, Takashi Miura versus “El Bandido” Vargas wins the 2015 Fight of the Year.

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Jan 9 in Germany – Feigenbutz and De Carolis To Settle Score

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This coming Saturday, January 9th, the stage is set at the Baden Arena in Offenburg, Germany for a re-match between Vincent Feigenbutz and Giovanni De Carolis. The highly anticipated re-match is set to air on SAT.1 in Germany, and Feigenbutz will once again be defending his GBU and interim WBA World titles at Super Middleweight.

The first meeting between the two was less than three months ago, on October 17th and that meeting saw Feigenbutz controversially edge De Carolis on the judge’s cards by scores of (115-113, 114-113 and 115-113). De Carolis scored a flash knock down in the opening round, and he appeared to outbox Feigenbutz in the early going, but the 20 year old German champion came on in the later rounds.

The first bout is described as one of the most crowd-pleasing bouts of the year in Germany, and De Carolis and many observers felt that the Italian had done enough to win.

De Carolis told German language website RAN.DE that he was more prepared for the re-match, and that due to the arrogance Feigenbutz displayed in the aftermath of the first fight, he was confident that he had won over some of the audience. Though De Carolis fell short of predicting victory, he promised a re-vamped strategy tailored to what he has learned about Feigenbutz, whom he termed immature and inexperienced.

The stage is set for Feigenbutz vs De Carolis 2, this Saturday January 9th in Offenburg, Germany. If you can get to the live event do it, if not you have SAT.1 in Germany airing the fights, and The Boxing Channel right back here for full results.

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2015 Knock Out of the Year – Saul Alvarez KO’s James Kirkland

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On May 9th of 2015, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez delivered a resonant knock-out of James Kirkland on HBO that wins the 2015 KO of the Year.

The knock-out itself came in the third round, after slightly more than two minutes of action. The end came when Alvarez delivered a single, big right hand that caught Kirkland on the jaw and left him flat on his back after spinning to the canvas.Alvarez was clearly the big star heading into the fight. The fight was telecast by HBO for free just one week after the controversial and disappointing Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao fight, and Alvarez was under pressure to deliver the type of finish that people were going to talk about. Kirkland was happy to oblige Alvarez, taking it right to Alvarez from the start. Kirkland’s aggression saw him appear to land blows that troubled the young Mexican in the early going. Alvarez played good defense, and he floored Kirkland in the first round, displaying his power and his technique in knocking down an aggressive opponent.

However, Kirkland kept coming at Alvarez and the fight entered the third round with both men working hard and the feeling that the fight would not go the distance. Kirkland continued to move forward, keeping “Canelo” against the ropes and scoring points with a barrage of punches while looking for an opening.

At around the two minute mark, Alvarez landed an uppercut that sent Kirkland to the canvas again. Kirkland got up, but it was clear that he did not have his legs under him. Kirkland was going to try to survive the round, but Alvarez had an opportunity to close out the fight. The question was would he take it?

Alvarez closed in on Kirkland, putting his opponent’s back to the ropes. Kirkland was hurt, but he was still dangerous, pawing with punches and loading up for one big shot.

But it was the big shot “Canelo” threw that ended the night. Kirkland never saw it coming, as he was loading up with a huge right hand of his own. The right Alvarez threw cracked Kirkland in the jaw, and his eyes went blank. His big right hand whizzed harmlessly over the head of a ducking Alvarez, providing the momentum for the spin that left Kirkland prone on the canvas.

Saul “Canelo” Alvarez went on to defeat Miguel Cotto in his second fight of 2015 and he is clearly one of boxing’s biggest stars heading into 2016. On May 9th Alvarez added another reel to his highlight film when he knocked out James Kirkland with the 2015 “Knock Out of the Year”.

Photo by naoki fukuda

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