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Behind the Scenes At Pacquiao-Bradley 2: Part One

Thomas Hauser

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Shortly after one o’clock on the afternoon of Thursday, April 10, Manny Pacquiao concluded a series of satellite interviews that originated in Section 118 of the MGM Grand Garden Arena. The interviews were designed to promote his April 12 fight against Tim Bradley and everything had gone according to plan.

“My advantage is that I’m quicker than him and punch harder than him,” Pacquiao told one interviewer.

When asked about being knocked out by Juan Manuel Marquez, Manny responded, “Sometimes these things happen. That is boxing.”

An interviewer for Sky-TV posed the all-but-obligatory question of whether or not Pacquiao would fight Floyd Mayweather.

“I’m happy for that fight,” Manny said. “If not in boxing, maybe we can play one-on-one in basketball.”

As for his musical talents, Pacquiao acknowledged, “I can sing, but my voice is really not that good. The fans like my singing because of what I’ve done in boxing.”

At one point, Manny noted, “Sportsmanship is very important to me because it is my way of displaying respect to the sport of boxing, to my opponent, and to the fans.”

After the interviews ended, Pacquiao was leaving Section 118 when a voice from across the arena shouted out loud and clear: “Manny, we love you. Manny, we love you. Manny! Manny!”

Pacquiao turned to acknowledge the fan, one of many who follow him wherever he goes. Then his face broke into a broad smile. The man shouting was Tim Bradley.

Manny waved, Tim waved back. In two days, they would try to beat each other senseless in a boxing ring. But for now there was fondness between them.

Welcome to Pacquiao-Bradley 2, featuring two elite fighters who carried themselves with dignity and grace throughout the promotion with no lapse of decorum by either man.

Pacquiao’s saga is well known. In an era of phony championship belts and unremitting hype, he has been a legitimate champion and also a true peoples’ champion. The eleven-month period between December 6, 2008, and November 14, 2009, when he demolished Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, and Miguel Cotto were his peak years in terms of ring performance and adulation.

That was a while ago.

Tim Bradley believes in himself and epitomizes Cus D’Amato’s maxim: “When two fighters meet in the ring, the fighter with the greater will prevails every time unless the opponent’s skills are so superior that the opponent’s will is never tested.”

Most elite athletes are overachievers. Bradley comes as close to getting one hundred percent out of his potential as anyone in boxing. He’s a more sophisticated fighter than many people give him credit for. He’s not just about coming forward, applying pressure, and throwing punches. He has a good boxing brain and knows how to use it. But he isn’t particularly fast, nor does he hit particularly hard. The keys to his success are his physical strength and iron will.

“I’m not the most talented fighter in the division,” Tim acknowledges. “Not at all. There are guys with better skills and better physical gifts than I have. Where I separate myself from other fighters is my determination. I wear the other guy down. That’s what it is; hard work and determination. I work my butt off. I come ready every time. People keep saying that I don’t hit that hard, that I don’t box that well. But I keep winning, don’t I?”

Before each fight, Bradley promises himself that his opponent will remember him for the rest of his life. Marvin Hagler is his favorite fighter. Blue-collar work ethic, shaved head, overshadowed by boxing’s glamour boys.

Pacquiao and Bradley met in the ring for the first time on June 9, 2012. During that bout, Tim suffered strained ligaments in his left foot and a badly swollen right ankle. He was rolled into the post-fight press conference in a wheelchair.

“Both of my feel were hurt in that fight,” he recalls. “And I had a lion in front of me. All I could do was take it round by round. And it wasn’t enough to survive each round. I had to win them.”

Bradley, as the world knows, prevailed on a split-decision. A firestorm of protest followed.

In the aftermath of the bout, Pacquiao was an exemplary sportsman. “I’m a fighter,” Manny said. “My job is to fight in the ring. I don’t judge the fights. This is sport. You’re on the winner’s side sometimes. Sometimes you’re on the loser’s side. If you don’t want to lose, don’t fight.”

But others were less gracious. The beating Bradley took outside the ring was worse than the punishment he took in it.

“After the fight,” Tim remembers, “they announced that I was the winner. I was on top of the world, and then the world caved in on me. It should have been the happiest time of my life, and I wound up in the darkest place I’ve ever been in. I thought the fight was close. I thought the decision could have gone either way. You prepare your entire life to get to a certain point; you get there; and then it all gets taken away. I was attacked in the media. People were stopping me on the street, saying things like, ‘You didn’t win that fight; you should give the belt back; you should be ashamed of yourself; you’re not a real champion.’ I got death threats. I turned off my phone. All I did was do my job the best way I could, and It was like I stole something from the world.”

“It was bad,” says Joel Diaz, who has trained Bradley for the fighter’s entire career. “Tim was all right with people criticizing the decision, but the personal attacks really hurt. Tim is a proud man, and it was hard for him to walk tall anywhere.”

In Pacquiao’s next fight, he suffered a one-punch knockout loss at the hands of Juan Manuel Marquez. Eleven months later, he rebounded to decision Brandon Rios. Meanwhile, Bradley edged Ruslan Provodnikov in a thriller and outboxed Marquez en route to another split-decision triumph.

That set the stage for an April 12 rematch at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Bradley was the reigning champion, but Pacquiao was the engine driving the economics of the fight. The event was labeled “Pacquiao-Bradley 2”, and Manny was guaranteed a $20 million purse ($6 million less than for their initial encounter). Tim was promised $6 million (one million more than the first time around).

Each fighter felt that there was unfinished business between them.

“There is a big question mark on our first fight,” Pacquiao said at a February 6 press conference in New York. “This time, we will answer that question.”

“The whole Pacquiao situation still bothers me,” Bradley added. “So on April 12, I’m going to clean that up.”

Fight week had a strange feel to it. The Pacquiao-Bradley rematch hadn’t taken place earlier because neither HBO nor Top Rank (which promoted both fighters) thought it would sell well. But after Marquez starched Pacquiao and Bradley beat Marquez, the possibility of beating Tim loomed as a more impressive credential for Manny. Also, as part of a deal to secure the fight, Bradley agreed to a two-year extension of his promotional contract, which was due to expire in December 2014.

That said, the promotion was struggling a bit.

Elite fighters have a glow, an aura around them. Pacquiao in his prime was electrifying. But in recent years, the Pacquiao super nova has dimmed.

In the days leading up to Pacquiao-Bradley 2, the narrative was no longer about Manny’s Magical Adventure. The media no longer waited in heightened anticipation for his arrival at publicity events. The fighter himself seemed to have a bit of “Pacquiao fatigue.” Certainly, he was aware of the talk that his career was nearing an end.

Again and again during fight week, Manny told interviewers, “My time in boxing is not yet done. I want to prove that my journey in boxing will continue.”

There was the mandatory appearance by Pacquiao on Jimmy Kimmel Live and all of the ritual hype. But pay-per-view sales were tracking poorly, an estimated 650,000-to-700,000 buys (down from 875,000 for the first Pacquiao-Bradley fight). Ticket sales were respectable, but there wouldn’t be a sell-out.

It was Bradley who generated much of the energy in the media center. Tim is inherently likable with an exuberance for life and a smile that lights up a room when he enters. Insofar as his status as a role model is concerned, he and his wife, Monica, appear to have a loving stable marriage. When Bradley takes his children to school in the morning, it’s not a designed photo op for television cameras. There’s no bimbo girlfriend, no charge of domestic violence, no conspicuous spending. The thought of Tim blowing twenty thousand dollars in a strip club is ludicrous.

Bradley loves challenges. “I’m looking forward to the fight,” he told the media. “It will be fun.”

Reflecting on his football-playing days, Tim opined, “Boxing is more fun than playing quarterback. I like it better where, if someone hits me, I can hit him back.”

Defending the judges’ decision in Pacquiao-Bradley I, Tim told an interviewer, “Everybody has an opinion. That means I have an opinion too. Manny Pacquiao is one of the best fighters ever to lace on a pair of gloves. I’m a big fan of Manny Pacquiao. But I beat him.”

Then the interviewer stated proudly that he was rooting for Pacquiao, and Bradley responded, “If you’re a Pacquiao fan; hey, Manny is a good dude. I respect the person he is and I respect what he has done for the sport. I have no problem with anyone who roots for him.”

That left the trashtalking to Bob Arum, who spent much of the week denouncing the host site and the MGM Grand’s president of entertainment, Richard Sturm.

Arum was appropriately angry that the hotel-casino was festooned with advertising for the May 3 fight between Floyd Mayweather and Marcos Maidana to the detriment of his own promotion. Introducing Sturm at the final pre-fight press conference on Wednesday, he referenced the executive as “the president of hanging posters and decorations for the wrong fight.”

Then, at the end of the press conference, Arum went further, declaring, “I know the Venetian [which had hosted Pacquiao’s previous fight in Macau] would never make a mistake like this, They would know what fight was scheduled in three or four days, and they wouldn’t have a 12-to-1 fight all over the building that’s going to take place three weeks from Saturday. That’s why one company makes a billion dollars a quarter and the other hustles to pay it’s debt.”

The following day, Arum elaborated on that theme, telling reporters, “There are two companies which are the leadingAmerican companies in gaming, and it’s for a reason. It’s because they’re smarter than these guys and they know what they’re doing. First is the Venetian-Sands company and then there is the Wynn. Pick up a paper and look at where the stock of each company is going. Then tell me who has smarter people. Is it luck? I don’t think so. If one company is making so much more than the other company and doesn’t have financial problems because they borrowed too much money, it’s not luck. It’s because they’re smarter and conduct themselves better. This company really has a serious management problem.”

Thereafter, in various interviews, Arum called Sturm “a horse’s ass . . . totally clueless . . . a moron . . . a brain-dead moron,” and added, “He doesn’t have a fucking clue what the f— he’s doing.”

On Friday, the promoter proclaimed, “They [the MGM Grand] did something that I believe is an absolutely horrendous thing to do. It shows tremendous disrespect for the Filipino people, who are suchnice people. If I were Flipino, I would never patronize an MGM Hotel again.”

Then, as a helpful guide to Filipino high-rollers who might have been offended by the slight, Arum listed all of the MGM Grand properties that they might want to avoid in the future.

Meanwhile, the odds had settled on Pacquiao as a 9-to-5 favorite, down from 4-to-1 in the first Pacquiao-Bradley encounter.

Bradley has never been thought of as a big puncher. His ledger shows a meager twelve knockouts, with only one in the past seven years. Pacquiao, by contrast, has 38 career KOs. But Manny’s record is devoid of stoppages since his 2009 demolition of Miguel Cotto.

That led Bradley to declare, “Manny is still sensational physically, but I don’t think the fire is there anymore. He’s not the same fighter he used to be. He’s still a tremendous fighter. But the killer instinct, the hunger, is gone and it won’t come back again. Manny fights for the money. I have the hunger to win. I just feel that his heart isn’t in it anymore.”

Were Bradley’s comments about Pacquiao no longer having “killer instinct” designed to undermine Manny’s confidence? Or perhaps to goad him into fighting recklessly?

“Neither,” Tim answered. “I’m simpy stating a fact.”

Team Pacquiao didn’t entirely disagree with Bradley’s thought. Trainer Freddie Roach acknowledged, “Recently, Manny has felt it was enough to just win his fights. He didn’t want to hurt his opponent more than he had to. I’ve had a lot of talks with him about that and I’m sure it’s not going to happen again. When Bradley told Manny that he’d lost the killer instinct, frankly, Manny got pissed off. He thought it was disrespectful.”

“Sometimes I’m too nice to my opponent,” Pacquiao added. “I have been happy winning on points because it is winning. But the fans want to see that hunger from me, and I’m always concerned about the fans and their satisfaction. So I’m going to fight this fight to show that I still have that hunger and that killer instinct.”

But there were questions as to whether, intent aside, Pacquiao still had the strength and physical stamina to close the show against an elite opponent.

“To me, it’s not about killer instinct,” Joel Diaz noted. “I don’t think Pacquiao is being compassionate. I don’t think he can finish anymore. Look at what happened when he fought Marquez in their third fight. The judges scored it for Pacquiao, but a lot of people thought Marquez should have won. Everyone knew it was close. And Pacquiao couldn’t come on strong late. Pacquiao is getting older. He’s not the fighter he used to be in the second half of his fights.”

Bradley understands that there are no sure things in boxing. “I may lose this fight,” he said in a teleconference call. “You never know.Things happen in the ring when you least expect it.It only takes one punch to end the night.”

But as Pacquiao-Bradley 2 approached, Tim was confident, saying, “I’m a more mature fighter now than I was two years ago. I’m better at getting in and out on guys and controlling the distance between us, which I showed in the Marquez fight. I’m a better fighter now than I was the first time Pacquiao and I fought. And Manny can’t say that.”

“This is the first time I’ve fought the same guy twice,” Bradley continued. “And I think it’s an advantage for me. The first time we fought, I didn’t know how much intensity Manny brought to the ring. Omigod! He throws so many feints and closes the distance so fast and punches from all angles. He always keeps you guessing when he’s going to come in and out. Now I know what to expect. I was able to make adjustments in the first fight, and Manny had problems with me when I was moving. I’m excited; I’m happy. On Saturday night, I’ll get to show what I can do on the biggest stage possible. I know there are people who say I can’t hurt him. If Manny feels that way, let him come in reckless and see what happens.”

And there was another factor to consider. In his first fight against Pacquiao, Bradley had done something stupid. For the only time in his career, he’d entered the ring without socks because he’d once heard Mike Tyson say that going sockless helped him grip the canvas and increase the leverage on his punches. Bradley had trained sockless in the gym for that fight. But the canvas in the ring on fight night was different from the gym canvas. And the demands on fight night are different from the demands of sparring. In the early going against Pacquiao, Tim had suffered ligament damage in his left foot and sprained his right ankle.

“With two good feet, I’ll be able to move quicker this time and set down harder on my punches,” Bradley promised. “With two good feet, I can adjust my footwork to deal with whatever Pacquiao brings to the table. Pain-free is another dimension, and I’ll be pain-free this time.”

Indeed, the main concern in Bradley’s camp was that the judges might overcompensate for the perceived injustice of the scoring in Pacquiao-Bradley I and, fearing ridicule, have a default setting on close rounds in favor of Manny.

“We know the judges will have a lot of weight on their backs,” Joel Diaz noted. “The stage was set for Tim to lose the first fight, and it didn’t happen. Now the stage is set for Tim to lose again. If the fight goes the distance and it’s close, the judges will give it to Pacquiao. All I ask is for the judges to be fair. If Tim wins, give him the win. If Pacquiao wins, give him the win.”

Meanwhile, as the clock to fight night ticked down, it seemed as though Bradley had more enthusiasm for the battle than Pacquiao did.

“I got something to prove,” Tim declared. “I got something to prove to the media; I got something to prove to the fans; I got something to prove to everyone who says I didn’t win the first fight. This fight is redemption for me. I feel deep in my heart that I won the first fight and I didn’t get any credit. I’m going to beat Manny Pacquiao again. And this time, I want the credit for it.”

Team Pacquiao, of course, had a different view.

“Bradley is a very good fighter,” trainer Freddie Roach said. “He’s tough and resilient. He takes good shots.He has a good chin. He has determination and a lot of heart. When you hit him, he fights back.”

“But I don’t think Bradley has all the abilities that Manny has,” Roach continued. “He’s not as fast. He doesn’t punch as hard. When Manny is on his toes and uses his footspeed, he closes the distance better than any fighter in the world. Once you put Bradley on the ropes, his chin goes up in the air, he opens up, and he punches wild. When that happens, Manny can beat him down the middle. Once the scores have been announced and you’ve lost a fight, there’s nothing you can do about it except say, ‘We’ll get him next time.’ I think Manny beat this guy once, and I think he’ll beat him again.”

Pacquiao agreed with his mentor.

“I am impressed with what Bradley has done since our fight,” Manny acknowledged. “His style is hard to explain. He is not easy to beat. But I am still faster than Bradley and I still punch harder than Bradley. He says that he wants to see my killer instinct, so he will see it.”

Part Two of “Behind the Scenes at Pacquiao-Bradley 2” takes readers into Tim Bradley’s dressing room in the dramatic hours before and after the fight. It will be posted on The Sweet Science tomorrow.

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Weekend Boxing Recap: The Mikey Garcia Stunner and More

Arne K. Lang

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Weekend Boxing Recap: The Mikey Garcia Stunner and More

Boxing was all over the map on the third Saturday of October with many of the shows pulled together on short notice as promoters took advantage of relaxed COVID constraints to return to business as usual. When the smoke cleared, a monster upset in Fresno overshadowed the other events.

Mikey Garcia, a shoo-in to make the Hall of Fame, was on the wrong side of it. Spain’s Sandor Martin, in his USA debut, won a well-deserved decision over Garcia at a Triple-A baseball park in Fresno.

Garcia, a former four-division belt-holder, was 40-1 coming in with his only loss coming at the hands of Errol Spence. Martin, a 28-year-old southpaw, brought a nice record with him from Europe (38-2) but with only 13 wins coming by way of stoppage it was plain that he wasn’t a heavy hitter. His only chance was to out-box Garcia and that seemed far-fetched.

But Martin did exactly that, counter-punching effectively to win a 10-round majority decision. Two judges had it 97-93 with the third turning in a 95-95 tally.

Neither Garcia nor Martin were natural welterweights. The bout was fought at a catch-weight of 145 pounds. After the bout, the Spaniard indicated a preference for dropping back to 140 where enticing opportunities await.

There was another upset, albeit a much milder one, in the co-feature where Puerto Rico’s Jonathan Gonzalez improved to 25-3-1 (14) while shearing the WBO world flyweight title from the shoulders of Mexicali’s Elwin Soto (19-2).

Soto was making his fourth defense of the title and rode into the match with a 17-fight winning streak. Gonzalez, a southpaw, had formerly fought for the WBO world flyweight title, getting stopped in seven rounds by Kosei Tanaka in Nagoya, Japan.

One of the judges favored Soto 116-112, but he was properly out-voted by his colleagues who had it 116-112 the other way.

Riga, Latvia

The first major fight on Saturday took place in Riga, Latvia, where hometown hero Mairis Briedis successfully defended his IBF cruiserweight title with a third-round stoppage of Germany’s Artur Mann who was on the deck three times before the match was halted at the 1:54 mark.

Briedis (28-1, 20 KOs) was making his first start since dismantling KO artist Yuniel Dorticos in the finals of season two of the World Boxing Super Series cruiserweight tournament. He scored the first of his three knockdowns in the waning seconds of round two when he deposited Mann (17-2) on the canvas with a straight right hand.

Although boosters of fast-rising WBO champ Lawrence Okolie would disagree, the Latvian is widely regarded as the best cruiserweight in the world. His only setback came when he lost a narrow decision to current WBA/IBF/WBO heavyweight champ Oleksandr Usyk in this ring in January of 2018. Now 36 years old, Briedis has yet to appear in a main event outside Europe. That’s undoubtedly about to change and a rematch with Usyk is well within the realm of possibility.

Newcastle, England

Chris Eubank Jr, whose fight two weeks ago in London with late sub Anati Muratov was cancelled at the 11th hour when Muratov failed his medical exam, was added to this Matchroom card and his bout with Wanik Awdijan became the de facto main event. A 26-year-old German, born in Armenia, Awdijan was 28-1 and had won 21 straight (against very limited opposition), but he was no match for Eubank Jr who broke him down with body shots, likely breaking his ribs and forcing him to quit on his stool after five frames.

Eubank Jr, 32, improved to 31-2 (23) His only defeats came at the hands of former world title-holder George Groves and BJ Saunders. He dedicated this fight to his late brother Sebastian Eubank who died in July while swimming in the Persian Gulf.

In other bouts, Hughie Fury, the cousin of Tyson Fury, stayed relevant in the heavyweight division with a stoppage of well-traveled German Christian Hammer and Savannah Marshall successfully defended her WBO world middleweight title with a second-round TKO of Lolita Muzeya.

Akin to Eubank-Awdijan, the Fury-Hammer fight also ended with the loser bowing out after five frames. A biceps injury allegedly caused Hammer to say “no mas,” but Fury, in what was arguably his career-best performance, was well ahead on the cards.

The Marshall-Muzeya fight was a battle of unbeatens, but Muzeya’s 16-0 record was suspicious as the Zambian had never fought outside the continent of Africa. She came out blazing, but Marshall, who improved to 11-0 (9) had her number and retained her title.

Brooklyn

In the featured bout of a TrillerVerz show at Barclays Center, Long Island’s Cletus Seldin, the Hebrew Hammer, knocked out William Silva in the seventh round. It was the fifth-straight win for the 35-year-old Seldin, a junior welterweight who was making his first start in 20 months.

Silva, a 34-year-old Brazilian who fights out of Florida, brought a 28-3 record. His previous losses had come at the hands of Felix Verdejo, Teofimo Lopez, and Arnold Barboza Jr. Seldin improved to 26-1 (22 KOs).

In other bouts, junior welterweight Petros Ananyan, a Brooklyn-based Armenian, improved to 16-2-2 (7) with a 10-round majority decision over local fighter Daniel Gonzalez (20-3-1) and Will Madera of Albany, NY, scored a mild upset when he stopped Jamshidbek Najmitdinov who was pulled out after five rounds with an apparent shoulder injury.

Najmitdinov, from Uzbekistan, was making his U.S. debut but he brought a 17-1 record blemished only by former world title-holder Viktor Postol. Madera improved to 17-1-3.

Photo credit: Ed Mulholand / Matchroom

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Emanuel Navarrete Retains WBO Featherweight Title in a San Diego Firefight

David A. Avila

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SAN DIEGO-WBO featherweight titlist Emanuel Navarrete won by unanimous decision over Joet Gonzalez in a slugfest that had fans cheering nonstop on Friday night. Fans were mesmerized by the savagery.

More than 2,000 fans saw Mexico City’s Navarrete (35-1, 29 KOs) and Southern California’s Gonzalez (24-2, 14 KOs) bounce brutal shots off each other for 12 successive rounds at Pechanga Sports Arena.

Both Navarrete and Gonzalez were about equal in height with the champion maybe a slight taller, but not by much. As soon as the first bell rang the two featherweights opened up in furious fashion.

Gonzalez was making his second attempt to grab a world title. His first attempt fell short a year ago. He was eager to atone for the defeat by clobbering Navarrete. Body shots were the weapon of choice.

The Mexican fighter Navarrete was accustomed to battling shorter fighters, this time the two were equal in size and in fury. Blows were flying in bunches and by the third round Gonzalez suffered a cut on his right cheek.

At several points Navarrete would connect with a solid blow and eagerly seek to finish the fight. Each time it happened Gonzalez would fight back even more furiously and beat back the champions attacks.

Gonzalez also connected with big shots and moved in for the kill only find Navarrete take a stand and fire back. Neither was able to truly gain a significant edge. After 12 rounds of nonstop action the decision was given to the judges. One scored it 118-110, two others saw it 116-112 all for Navarrete.

Fans were pleased by the decision and even more pleased by the breath-taking action they had witnessed.

Welterweights

Local fighter Giovani Santillan (28-0, 15 KOs) remained undefeated by unanimous decision after 10 rounds versus Tijuana’s Angel Ruiz (17-2, 12 KOs). The two southpaws were evenly matched.

San Diego’s Santillan was able to outwork Ruiz in almost every round. Though Ruiz has heavy hands he was not able to hurt Santillan even with uppercuts. It was clear very early in the fight that Santillan was the more technical and busier of the two. No knockdowns were scored.

After 10 rounds two judges scored it 100-90 for Santillan and a third saw it 99-91.

Other Results

Lindolfo Delgado (14-0, 12 KOs) battered and knocked down fellow Mexican Juan Garcia Mendez (21-5-2) in the last round of an 8-round super lightweight bout, but could not score the knockout win.

Delgado, a Mexican Olympian, was the quicker and stronger fighter yet discovered Garcia Mendez has a solid chin. All three judges scored it 80-71 for Delgado.

Puerto Rico’s Henry Lebron (14-0, 9 KOs) defeated Manuel Rey Rojas (21-6) by decision after eight rounds in a lightweight match.

Javier Martinez (5-0, 2 KOs) soundly defeated Darryl Jones (4-3-1) by decision after six rounds in a middleweight clash. Jones was tough.

Las Vegas bantamweight Floyd Diaz (3-0) knocked down Tucson’s Jose Ramirez (1-1) in the first round but was unable to end the fight early. Diaz won by decision.

Heavyweight Antonio Mireles (1-0) knocked out Demonte Randle (2-2) at 2:07 of the first round.

Photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank for Getty Images

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Book Review

Russell Peltz’s “Thirty Dollars and a Cut Eye”: Book Review by Thomas Hauser

Thomas Hauser

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Russell Peltz’s “Thirty Dollars and a Cut Eye”: Book Review by Thomas Hauser

Russell Peltz has been promoting fights for fifty years and is as much a part of the fabric of Philadelphia boxing as Philly gym wars and Philly fighters. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2004 and deservedly so. Now Peltz has written a memoir entitled Thirty Dollars and a Cut Eye that chronicles his many years in the sweet science.

Peltz started in boxing before it was, in his words, “bastardized by the alphabet groups” and at a time when “world titles still meant something.”

“I fell in love with boxing when I was twelve,” he writes, “saw my first live fight at fourteen, decided to make it my life, and never looked back.” He promoted his first fight card in 1969 at age 22.

Peltz came of age in boxing at a time when promoters – particularly small promoters – survived or died based on the live gate. Peltz Boxing Promotions had long runs at the Blue Horizon in Philadelphia and both Harrah’s Marina and the Sands  in Atlantic City. His journey through the sweet science included a seven-year stint as director of boxing for The Spectrum in Philadelphia. At the turn of the century, he was a matchmaker for ESPN.

Along the way, Peltz’s office in Philadelphia was fire-bombed. He was robbed at gunpoint while selling tickets in his office for a fight card at the Blue Horizon and threatened in creative ways more times than one might imagine. He once had a fight fall out when one of the fighters was arrested on the day of the weigh-in. No wonder he quotes promoter Marty Kramer, who declared, “The only thing I wish on my worst enemy is that he becomes a small-club boxing promoter.”

Now Peltz has put pen to paper – or finger to keyboard. “The internet is often a misinformation highway,” he writes. “I want to set the record straight as to what actually went on in boxing in the Philadelphia area since the late-1960s. I’m tired of reading tweets or Facebook posts or Instagram accounts from people who were not around and have no idea what went on but write like they do.”

Thirty Dollars and a Cut Eye is filled with characters (inside and outside the ring) who give boxing its texture. As Peltz acknowledges, his own judgment was sometimes faulty. Russell once turned down the opportunity to promote Marvin Hagler on a long-term basis. There are countless anecdotes about shady referees, bad judging, and other injustices. Middleweight Bennie Briscoe figures prominently in the story, as do other Philadelphia fighters like Willie “The Worm” Monroe, Bobby “Boogaloo” Watts, Eugene “Cyclone” Hart, Stanley “Kitten” Hayward, and Matthew Franklin (later Matthew Saad Muhammad). Perhaps the best fight Peltz ever promoted  was the 1977 classic when Franklin knocked out Marvin Johnson in the twelfth round.

There’s humor. After Larry Holmes pitched a shutout against Randall “Tex” Cobb in 1982, Cobb proclaimed, “Larry never beat me. He just won the first fifteen rounds.”

And there are poignant notes. Writing about Tanzanian-born Rogers Mtagwa (who boxed out of Philadelphia), Peltz recalls, “He couldn’t pass an eye exam because he didn’t understand the alphabet.”

Remembering the Blue Horizon, Peltz fondly recounts, “”The Blue Horizon was a fight fan’s nirvana. The ring was 15-feet-9-inches squared inside the ropes. No fighter came to the Blue Horizon to pad his record. Fans wanted good fights, not slaughters of second-raters.”

That ethos was personified by future bantamweight champion Jeff Chandler who, after knocking out an obviously inept opponent, told Peltz, “Don’t ever embarrass me like that again in front of my fans.”

Thereafter, whenever a manager asked Peltz to put his fighter in soft to “get me six wins in a row,” Russell thought of Chandler. “I enjoyed promoting fights more than promoting fighters,” he writes. “If I was interested in promoting fighters, I would have been a manager.”

That brings us to Peltz the writer.

The first thing to be said here is that this is a book for boxing junkies, not the casual fan. Peltz is detail-oriented. But do readers really need to know what tickets prices were for the April 6, 1976, fight between Bennie Briscoe and Eugene Hart? The book tends to get bogged down in details. And after a while, the fights and fighters blur together in the telling.

It brings to mind the relationship between Gene Tunney and George Bernard Shaw. The noted playwright and heavyweight great developed a genuine friendship. But Shaw’s fondness for Tunney stopped short of uncritical admiration. In 1932, the former champion authored his autobiography (A Man Must Fight) and proudly presented a copy to his intellectual mentor. Shaw read the book and responded with a letter that read in part, “Just as one prayer meeting is very like another, one fight is very like another. At a certain point, I wanted to skip to Dempsey.”

Reading Thirty Dollars and a Cut Eye, at a certain point I wanted to skip to Hagler.

There’s also one jarring note. Peltz recounts how, when Mike Jones fought Randall Bailey for the vacant IBF welterweight title in Las Vegas in 2012, Peltz bet five hundred dollars against Jones (his own fighter) at the MGM Sports Book and collected two thousand dollars when Bailey (trailing badly on the judges’ scorecards) knocked Jones out in the eleventh round.

“It was a tradition from my days with Bennie Briscoe,” Russell explains. “I’d bet against my fighter, hoping to lose the bet and win the fight.”

I think Russell Peltz is honest. I mean that sincerely. And I think he was rooting for Mike Jones to beat Randall Bailey. But I don’t think that promoters should bet on fights involving their own fighters. And it’s worse if they bet against their own fighters. Regardless of the motivation, it looks bad. Or phrased differently: Suppose Don King had bet on Buster Douglas to beat Mike Tyson in Tokyo?

Philadelphia was once a great fight town. in 1926, the first fight between Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney drew 120,000 fans to Sesquicentennial Stadium. Twenty-six years later, Rocky Marciano knocked out Jersey Joe Walcott at same site (renamed Municipal Stadium) to claim the heavyweight throne.

Peltz takes pride in saying, “I was part of Philadelphia’s last golden age of boxing.”

An important part.

Thomas Hauser’s email address is thomashauserwriter@gmail.com. His most recent book – Broken Dreams: Another Year Inside Boxing – was published by the University of Arkansas Press this autumn. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism. In 2019, he was selected for boxing’s highest honor – induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

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