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The Hauser Report: The Strange Odyssey of Lopez-Kambosos and Triller (Part Two)

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Initially, Triller scheduled the lightweight title-unification bout between Teofimo Lopez and George Kambosos for June 5, 2021. But on April 27, it was announced that Floyd Mayweather vs. Logan Paul would be contested on June 6. Wary of the competition for pay-per-view buys, Kavanaugh changed the date for Lopez-Kambosos to June 19. Performances by Meek Mill, Myke Towers, and Lunay were to be included in the show. A reliable source says that Triller’s projected budget for the event was $18 million.

Then, on June 15, 2021, it was announced that Lopez had tested positive for COVID-19 and the event would be rescheduled for August 14. On June 23, the fight was postponed yet again; this time to September 11.

There were more changes to come. On July 9, it was reported that Triller planned to move Lopez-Kambosos to a fifth date (October 17) and that the fight would be held in Australia. In response, David McWater (Teofimo’s manager) stated that Lopez didn’t want to fight in Australia (Kambosos’s homeland) for logistical reasons relating to the need for him to quarantine for fourteen days once he arrived there and that he also objected to the new date.

“If they want to move it that far back,” McWater said, “the IBF will rule. If we have to, we’ll give up the title and [Kambosos] can fight Isaac Cruz somewhere [for the vacant title] for $70,000.”

An August 9 IBF ruling split the baby. Lopez-Kambosos, the sanctioning body decreed, could be held as late as October 17. But Lopez could not be required to travel abroad to a location that subjected him to a 14-day quarantine period.

The projected date changed again – and again – thereafter.

On August 23, Triller announced that Lopez-Kambosos would take place on October 5 at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden. It then shifted the date to October 4. Lopez and Kambosos signed contracts for October 4. But on September 20, Kavanaugh told journalist Ariel Helwani that he planned to switch the fight to October 16 at Barclays Center because he didn’t want to compete for viewers against the October 4 Monday Night Football game between the Las Vegas Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers. Team Lopez objected, citing their already-signed contract and the fact that changing the date a mere two weeks before the fight could wreak havoc with Teofimo’s plans for making weight, sparring, and the like. Kambosos also demurred. Then, on September 23, Teofimo Lopez Sr. said that his son had agreed in writing to allow Triller to move the date to October 16, bypassing manager David McWater and attorney Pat English in the process.

On September 27, Triller reached a six-figure settlement with Madison Square Garden, and the issuing of refunds to fans who had purchased tickets for October 4 at MSG began. But Kambosos still hadn’t agreed to the October 16 date and was demanding that Triller place his share of the purse in escrow before he flew to the United States for the fight.

There was a school of thought that Kambosos didn’t want to come to New York because of the birth of his child and death of his grandfather (both of which occurred on September 24). More likely, he was worried about getting paid the full amount that he would be owed for the fight.

On September 28, Greg Smith (an attorney representing Kambosos) sent a letter to the IBF asking that Triller be declared in default of its purse bid and “barred from future purse bids for its egregious behavior.” More specifically, Smith alleged that Triller had violated IBF Rule 10.F.2 (“Failure of Promoter to Comply with Obligation”).

Triller suggested in its response that the problems it had endured with regard to Lopez-Kambosos were the result of a cabal among the powers that be in boxing to crush a new entity that was threatening the status quo.

On October 6, the IBF ruled that Triller was in default of its purse-bid obligations and that Matchrom Boxing was entitled to promotional rights to Lopez-Kambosos by virtue of its (second place) $3,506,000 purse bid. It further ruled that Triller, by its conduct, had forfeited its $1,203,600 deposit (20% of the winning purse bid), and that this amount would be added onto the purses that the fighters received from Matchroom.

On October 20, 2021, Matchroom announced that Lopez-Kambosos would take place on November 27 at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden and be streamed on DAZN.

During the buuld-up to the fight, Kambosos said the things that one often hears from a prohibitive underdog:

*         “No one has ever turned round to Teofimo and said, ‘I’m coming straight at ya. I don’t care what you’ve done.’ They’ve all been scared of him. I don’t know why. He’s a young little kid. I’m not scared of any man. I’m bigger, stronger, faster and more explosive and more violent.”

*         “I know this kid’s got a suspect chin. If I can crack him with one shot, the speed and power that I possess and the explosive shots that I pop off, don’t be surprised if he goes down in three.”

*         “I’ve got a big motor. Every round, I keep getting better and better and keep throwing more punches. My speed and the way I move and explosive power and shots that I land and throw and the punches in bunches and the combination punches that I have in my artillery and my stamina and my fitness is just too much for this kid.”

Lopez predicted a first-round knockout and got into the holiday spirit of things with the declaration, “I feel like, if I break his f****** eye socket, I’m sorry but I’m not sorry. I feel like, if I snap his vertebrae, I’m not sorry. I really want to show everybody what my power is capable of and what my mind is capable of. If I really want to hurt someone to that extreme, I will.”

There was a stupid cursing and shoving confrontation between Teofimo Lopez Sr and George Kambosos Sr during a fight-week media workout, the verbal highlights of which were:

Lopez Sr: “Kambosos, you’re gonna get your ass kicked. First round, baby. F*****’ chicken. F*** you, mother******.”

Kambosos Sr: “F*** off, mother****** Come on, you big mouth. Come over here. You wanna walk across this f*****’ line? I’m gonna f*** you up first.”

The final pre-fight press conference on Wednesday featured more inane trashtalking with the fighters taking the lead.

“After this fight, I don’t want to have no handshake, none of that,” Teofimo Jr told George Jr. “We’re gonna put your ass on a f****** stretcher.”

Beyond that, Lopez spoke for many when he said, “I’m ready to get this over with. It’s been nine months. Get this over with and focus on the bigger fights coming up.”

The promotion didn’t generate much interest beyond hardcore boxing fans. College football is entering crunch time. The NFL season is approaching its stretch run. DAZN has limited penetration of commercial markets in the United States. And the fight itself was perceived as being of limited merit.

A dreary six-bout undercard augured ill for the main event. But Lopez-Kambosos turned out to be a scintillating fight.

Lopez came out hard, almost contemptuously, at the opening bell, gunning for a quick knockout. Kambosos made him miss but wasn’t making him pay. Then Teofimo got careless and George dumped him on the seat of his pants with a sharp right hand as Lopez was loading up for an overhand right of his own. Teofimo was sufficiently dominant for the rest of the stanza that two of the three judges (and this writer) scored round one 10-9 for Kambosos instead of the traditional 10-8 that normally accompanies a knockdown.

Thereafter, Lopez was more controlled in his aggression. He kept pressing the action, stalking, throwing punches with bad intentions. But Kambosos is slick and quick with a good chin and sneaky right hand. He set traps again and again and wasn’t afraid to trade with Teofimo when the situation called for it. Also, too often, Lopez stood directly in front of Kambosos without moving his head and paid a price when George got off first.

By round eight, the area around both of Lopez’s eyes was bruised and swelling. Kambosos was cut above his own left eye and appeared to be tiring. In round nine, Teofimo landed his best punches to that point in the fight. In round ten, he dropped Kambosos with a chopping right hand behind the ear.

Now Kambosos was fighting to survive. And he did.

In round eleven, with Lopez bleeding badly from a gash on his own left eyelid, referee Harvey Dock called a temporary halt to the action while a ringside physician examined the cut. The fighting resumed. Lopez couldn’t close the show. It was high drama.

This writer scored the bout 114-113 for Kambosos. The judges favored the challenger by a 115-111, 115-112, 113-114 margin.

Lopez went into denial mode after the decision was announced, complaining in an in-the-ring interview, “I won tonight. I don’t care what anybody says. I don’t believe it was a close fight at all. At the end of it all, I scored it 10-2.”

The heavily pro-Lopez crowd (which knew what it had just seen) booed Teofimo for that proclamation.

Lopez lost because he was certain that there was no way he could lose. And from the day the fight was signed, he conducted himself accordingly.

So . . . Where does the odyssey of Lopez-Kambosos and Triller fit into the overall business of boxing? Let’s start with some basics.

Once upon a time, the money that flowed into boxing was generated directly by individual fights. In days of old, the primarily source of income was the live gate. Then revenue from television based on advertising sales and pay-per-view buys became the dominant factor. Smaller revenue streams such as income from sponsorships were also involved. But as of late, television networks and other entities have been putting up money that isn’t being recouped from income generated directly by fights.

HBO invested heavily in boxing to build its subscriber base and got good value in return. Boxing fans saw the fights they wanted to see. During the glory years of HBO Sports, being an A-side fighter on HBO didn’t just pay well. It gave a fighter credibility. Boxing fans trusted HBO to deliver good fighters in entertaining fights with honest well-informed commentary. The network flourished, in part because of its boxing program.

PBC was built in large measure on a financial model that relied on a huge influx of cash from investors (who were hoping for a profit but appear to have lost hundreds of millions of dollars).

Then a group of businessmen from the United Kingdom backed by a Ukrainian-born billionaire announced their intention to take over and revitalize boxing in the United States as part of a plan to generate subscription buys for a streaming network called DAZN. To date, DAZN has further marginalized boxing in America and lightened Len Blavatnik’s wallet.

In sum, money alone doesn’t lead to success. The people charged with spending that money have to spend it wisely.

One year has passed since Triller’s November 28, 2020, Tyson-Jones offering. As of this writing, Ryan Kavanaugh hasn’t come close to duplicating the success that he enjoyed with his initial foray into the sweet science. In early-2021, everyone’s eyes were focused on Triller. What would Triller do next? Now Triller is almost an afterthought in conversations about the business of boxing.

On April 17, Jake Paul knocked out former MMA fighter Ben Askren in one round on Triller. That event also featured live music and a more traditional boxing match between Regis Prograis and Ivan Redkach. Like other Triller spectacles, it was a showpiece for potential investors and aimed at building Triller’s user base. But like its successors, it appears to have been mired in red ink. And Paul left Triller soon afterward in favor of a multi-bout deal with Showtime.

An August 3 Triller fight card combined with a hip-hop “rap battle” sold out the Hulu Theater and was labeled the first of “twelve monthly shows” that Triller would present at Madison Square Garden. The second show has yet to occur. An August 4 Triller press release stated, “At its peak, the venue had just shy of 8,000 people inside with an additional 4,000 congregating outside.” Asked about these numbers, Madison Square Garden director of public relations Larry Torres responded, “It was a sold out show with a capacity of 4,961 and I’d say another 200 credentials. Not sure where the 8K number is from or the 4K outside number.”

The September 11 Triller event headlined by Evander Holyfield vs. Vitor Belfort was an ugly farce. On October 16, in lieu of Lopez-Kambosos, Triller (through DiBella Entertainment) promoted a club-fight card with four bouts on it at Barclays Center. Most recently, on November 27 (the same night as Lopez-Kambosos) Triller unveiled what it labeled a “revolutionary new combat team sport” called Triad Boxing. Next up, on December 2, DiBella Entertainment will promote an all-heavyweight club-fight card on Triller’s behalf at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York.

Most people in boxing no longer consider Triller to be a serious long-term player in the sport. It’s good when people put money into boxing. But their business plan has to be sustainable.

This is Part Two of a two-part series. Part One can be found here.

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. 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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 A Conversation With Acclaimed Journalist and Boxing Analyst Mark Kriegel

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If you’re a storyteller, and Mark Kriegel is certainly that, then boxing is the perfect passport.

A multi-skilled journalist who works for ESPN on several platforms, Kriegel’s video essays for Top Rank promotions, which are fewer than 200 words, are popular, and sets the New York City native apart from the crowd.

“I do think when those essays work, I’m able to boil down the theme of the fight into something that’s really small,” he said. “I’ve learned more about writing in the last two years because of those essays than I had in the previous decade.”

Kriegel added: “It’s because of those essays and because they really force you to make choices and they force you to cut out whatever is extraneous,” he said. “If it doesn’t matter in the story line, it goes. I’ve never been able to be that ruthless with my own words until I started writing these essays. Learning how to write for television has given me more discipline than I’ve ever had before in terms of the word and selecting the right word.”

Because boxers are willing to speak with the media, their stories are often worth telling.

“Boxing is the most organic form of storytelling, even more than the theater. Boxers are more honest than most other athletes, even when they’re lying. Boxers generally remain accessible,” said Kriegel, who earned a bachelor’s degree from Swarthmore College and a master’s degree from Columbia University. “Fighters need the storytellers because there is no league. The fighter’s story is more important than his or her record or even his or her belts. The story is really what we’re tuning in for.”

The sweet science can be a sideshow, but it’s still usually compelling.

“There’s a lot not to like about boxing, but that’s also why it makes for great storytelling,” said Kriegel, a two-time New York Times bestselling author. “Some days I think it’s a sport. Some days I’m convinced it’s not a sport. Boxing is better for the storytellers than it is for the fighters. That’s a guilty confession.”

By the nature of boxing, there are two combatants in the ring and because of this, there is conflict.

While fans watch and journalists cover the sport, everyone wants to see who prevails, but it’s often the back story that seems to bring out the fans’ rapture.

Who doesn’t want to see a young man or woman battle his or her way out of a hardscrabble life and reach heights reserved for a chosen few?

“What makes for a good story is conflict. Boxing is formalized, ritualized conflict. It’s a staged, managed conflict. It’s elemental. It’s two guys basically naked in the ring going at each other,” said Kriegel, who began his career as a general assignment reporter for the Miami Herald and the New York Daily News where he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in the Feature Writing category. “Because of the way it’s physically constructed, you’re going to see the nature of each character exposed. If you’re a storyteller, boxing does all the work for you.”

There is something pure and fundamental about boxing. “The other sports are metaphors for what boxing actually is and that’s combat. The difference between MMA and boxing, apart from the modes of combat, is that unlike MMA, boxing has a past,” Kriegel said. “It has a history. It’s a corrupt history, but it’s a very romantic one.”

It’s likely Kriegel came to be a writer because of his father, Leonard Kriegel, who is 88 and still lives in the same apartment on Eighth Avenue, two blocks from Madison Square Garden.

The elder Kriegel’s story is a remarkable one. Born in 1933, he was a polio victim at a young age, but this didn’t stop him from becoming an accomplished writer and teacher.

“My father is from the Bronx. He lost the use of his legs when he was 11 because of polio,” Kriegel said. “He’s a professor at City College. Most of his work and his teaching is American Literature. Which meant American male Literature. He was a very charismatic, crippled man writing about the nature of masculinity and it informed almost everything I’ve ever written.”

Kriegel is the author of four books including a novel, “Bless Me, Father,” which was based on a front-page column he wrote for the New York Post.

Esteemed writer Nick Tosches, who penned numerous books, had a hand in Kriegel’s development as an author.

“He wrote these fantastically stylized biographies,” Kriegel said of Tosches, who wrote about Jerry Lee Lewis, Dean Martin and Sonny Liston, to name but a few of his subjects.

Kriegel’s initial biography was published in 2004 and titled, “Namath: A Biography,” followed three years later by “Pistol: The Life Of Pete Maravich,” and five years later by “The Good Son: The Life Of Ray ‘Boom Boom’ Mancini.”

“I’d done a newspaper piece on Mancini in the [New York] Daily News. I owed the publisher a book on Michael Jordan, which I wasn’t too excited about doing, and this idea of Mancini kept coming back to me,” Kriegel said. “It wouldn’t leave me alone and I wouldn’t leave Ray alone.”

The book’s genesis took shape at an Italian restaurant in Santa Monica, California, with Kriegel, Mancini and the actor Ed O’Neill, eating and drinking until the small hours.

“Ray’s relationship with his father was more straightforward. He was out to redeem his father and that was beautiful,” Kriegel said. “There aren’t that many happy stories in boxing.”

Mancini promised his father, Lenny, a lightweight contender who was injured in World War II that he would win the championship he never did.

After scooping up the World Boxing Association lightweight belt in May 1982 from Arturo Frias, Mancini gave the belt to his father.

In a nationally televised title fight six months later at the outdoor ring at Caesars Palace, Mancini stopped Duk Koo Kim in the 14th round. The 27-year-old South Korean suffered a severe head injury and died five days later.

There are ups and downs in every person’s life, but it was extremely difficult for Mancini to accept what happened to Kim.

Though he retained his title and was pleased with that, Mancini said there was nothing good about that fight.

Three months after the November bout, Kim’s mother committed suicide because of what happened to her son and because family members were bickering over the money he earned.

Since time heals all wounds, Kim’s son, Kim Chi-Wan, eventually forgave Mancini, but it took nearly three decades.

It’s been said the 1980s was a Golden Era for boxing, and it was, but where does the current crop stand for Kriegel?

“There aren’t enough good fights. You can make an argument and it’s perfectly reasonable that the 1980s was [the Golden Era] because you had the Four Kings [Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, Roberto Duran and Marvin Hagler] and they fought each other,” he said. “[Muhammad] Ali and [Joe] Frazier fought their trilogy in far less time than it took [Manny] Pacquiao and [Floyd] Mayweather Jr. to get together for one. By the time they did, neither was in their prime.”

While there are outstanding boxers plying their trade right now, there are also problems.

“I really admire Mayweather a lot. One of the unfortunate byproducts of his era is the emphasis on the perfect record,” Kriegel noted. “To me a fighter’s career doesn’t become a truly dramatic proposition until he or she loses. The great plague on boxing right now is all these undefeated champions. I see a bunch of perfect records, but I don’t see many perfect fighters. The loss is what makes it dramatic.”

Kriegel said in an earlier time, Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr., both undefeated, would have fought each other multiple times and taken on all comers the way Oscar De La Hoya and the recently retired Shawn Porter did.

Pete Hamill, a national treasure, was Kriegel’s dear friend and mentor.

What does Kriegel take away from his time with Hamill, who passed away in August 2020?

“He made the idea of New York so romantic,” said Kriegel of Hamill, who was a journalist, writer, novelist and editor. “He made the idea of boxing romantic. He was a great and generous teacher. A really wonderful teacher. He was the kind of writer I wanted to become.”

Kriegel became a sportswriter by circumstance. “The [New York] Post turned me into a sports columnist out of desperation,” he said. “I never really took to becoming a sportswriter. I always felt ambivalent except when it was covering boxing. Boxing was the only sport I really loved covering and still do.”

It’s the elements in and around boxing that spark Kriegel’s imagination.

“The same stuff I loved about covering cops and criminals and courts, I found in boxing,” he pointed out. “I mean that you could actually find great moments of humanity. Boxing had all the stuff that I had been looking for. Thematically and in terms of content: fame and masculinity, good and evil. They’re all great dramas.”

Luckily, Kriegel found boxing and boxing found Kriegel. It’s a perfect match.

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Vonda Ward: Much More Than a Highlight Reel

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Anyone who can beat 235-pound Martha Salazar three times is someone who can flat out fight. An ex-basketball player named Vonda Ward defeated her three times (all by decision).

Salazar was an immensely popular and talented female fighter out of San Francisco, CA by way of Jalisco, Mexico. On November 8, 2014, she won the WBC world heavyweight title against Tanzee Daniel by unanimous decision. She lost the title in March 2016 to Alejandra Jimenez in Mexico and retired the following year.

Bottom line: Martha Salazar was a pioneer in legitimizing the heavyweight division in Female Boxing.

“Some girls like to play soccer. Some like to play tennis. Some play volleyball. But we don’t play – we box. So, it’s a very big difference between other sports knowing that someone else is going to hit you. So we want everybody to feel secure, safe, and know that this is what we do, this is what we are and no one can change us.”  — Martha Salazar

Vonda Ward

The 6’6” Ward played basketball at Trinity HS in Garfield Heights, Ohio, and was twice named Ohio’s “Ms. Basketball. She made the prestigious Parade All American team twice and was named an All American by USA Today. In 1991, she joined the University of Tennessee basketball team coached by the legendary Pat Summit.

During her four years at UT, Ward started 49 of 125 games, averaging 6.7 points and 5.6 rebounds while blocking 98 shots – still the 10th most by a Tennessee player. During her time there, the Lady Vols put together a 122-11 record and won three Southeastern Conference championships. Ward was a member of the 1995 squad that played in the NCAA championship game, losing to perennial powerhouse Connecticut. Ward then competed with USA Basketball as a member of the 1993 Jones Cup Team that won the Bronze in Taipei.

vonda

After college, Vonda played for a professional basketball club in Aschaffenburg, Germany and then the ABL’s bootstrap Colorado Xplosion. Injuries cut short her pro basketball career, so given her muscularity, size and athleticism, she was attracted to boxing.

In 2000, her first year of competition, Ward, nicknamed the “All American Girl,” was 10-0 including eight first-round knockouts. None of her opponents lasted beyond the second round. While her fluidity was not especially smooth, she compensated by leveraging her size and a deceptive mean streak (inside the ring) to beat down her opposition. She simply was physically superior to her competition. She was no female Ivan Drago but her defined-sculpted body made her very intimidating.

Ward was 18-0 when she fought the ever-dangerous 5’9” Ann Wolfe on May 8, 2004. In the opening round, Wolf scored the most astounding KO in female boxing history and one of the most spectacular of all time, male or female. Ward had jumped forward into the impact of Ann’s overhand punch, and the result left her unresponsive for several minutes. She was then immobilized and stretchered out of the ring.

Most would have retired at this point, but Vonda wasn’t “most.” Seven months later, she returned to the ring and knocked out Marsha Valley in four rounds in Cleveland.

She went on to win four more bouts, finishing her career with a record of 23-1 with 17 KOs. In her next-to-last fight, in February of 2007, Ward won the inaugural WBC female heavyweight title, defeating Salazar for the third and final time by unanimous decision.

This is the part that is always overlooked. Unfortunately, Vonda’s career continues to be defined by her spectacular and scary KO and not her 23-1 record with 17 KO’s. It’s always about the highlight reel.

Vonda Ward announced her retirement in 2010. She is now a personal trainer working out of King’s Gym in Bedford Heights, Ohio. Known for giving back to her community, she often reminisces about the late Pat Summit and what could have been at Tennessee. She was inducted into the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame in 2012.

For most, Vonda will be remembered for the Wolf knockout. For this writer, however, she will be noted as a rare female athlete who was able to compete at the top level of two different professional sports.

Ted Sares can be reached at tedsares@roadrunner.com and welcomes comments and posts.

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Don King Keeps On Truckin’ and That Portends More Junk

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There are two ways of looking at Don King. There was a day when the former Cleveland street hustler was the pre-eminent boxing promoter in the world. That he is still swinging away at the age of 90 is a wonderful thing, a tribute to his perspicacity. But it’s worth remembering that although King was the driving force behind some of the most storied fights in history, he also foisted a lot of junk on the boxing public. And nowadays, now that his bankroll has atrophied, pretty much all that’s left is the junk.

As a purveyor of junk, King appears to have outdone himself with his forthcoming show in Warren, Ohio. Granted, the main event of the Jan. 29 card, a rematch between cruiserweight title-holder Ilunga Makabu and his South African countryman Thabiso Mchunu, is a good match between fighters with seemingly comparable skill sets. And the supporting bouts might well be entertaining. But that’s entertaining in the way that a train wreck is entertaining.

The co-feature between Trevor Bryan (pictured) and Jonathan Guidry is a travesty, or at least a travesty from the standpoint of how it’s being packaged.

Bryan, who hails from Schenectady, New York, is undefeated (21-0, 15 KOs) and owns a share of the WBA world heavyweight title (the other piece is owned by Oleksandr Usyk). However, he has yet to fight a top-10 opponent and no one really knows how good he is. What we do know is that he is prone to slothfulness. He carried 267 ½ pounds for his last bout against ancient Bermane Stiverne which was 31 pounds more than he had carried in his previous engagement.

In defense of Bryan, this was his first fight in 29 months and many gyms were closed during the pandemic. Moreover, the suet around his waist was entirely in character with King-controlled heavyweights of yesteryear. During the mid-1980s when there was a revolving door of heavyweight title-holders and the term “alphabet soup” was born, love handles were standard. Jack Newfield postulated that King’s heavyweights became so demoralized by his chicanery that they lost all incentive to stay in shape.

That brings us to Jonathan Guidry whose 17-0-2 record was forged against opponents with a combined record of 108-118 at the time that he fought them. The 32-year-old Guidry, who has carried as much as 270 pounds on his 5’11” frame, hails from Dulac, Louisiana, deep in Cajun country, where his regular job is harvesting shellfish from the waterways of his parish.  He is trained by his 45-year-old brother, Martin Verdin, an active boxer with a 23-20-2 record, but for this fight he moved his tack to Houston to train under Bobby Benton who has also trained Regis Prograis.

Trevor Bryan’s original opponent was Mahmoud Charr, the perpetual WBA “Champion in Recess” who purportedly could not get a visa to travel from Germany. Jonathan Guidry was already on the card, penciled in to fight beefy, 42-year-old Alonzo Butler.

The WBA has a rule that a boxer must be ranked in the top-15 to compete for a world title. When Charr, who last fought in November of 2017, was lopped off the bill of fare, the incorrigibly shameless Panama-based sanctioning body boosted Guidry to #13 in its ratings. The folks at boxrec, where King has no influence, are not as sanguine. At boxrec, Guidry clocks in at 256.

The undercard, we are informed, will feature “boxers knocking on the door of stardom.” Presumably that includes the grizzled Butler whose new opponent is 13-1 Ahmed Hefny, an obscure 37-year-old fighter from Queens, New York, whose nickname is “Prince of Egypt.” Butler vs. Hefny is one of four scheduled 10-round NABA title fights. As currently constituted (there will inevitably be last-minute changes), these match-ups include only one competitor under the age of 30, that being 27-year-old welterweight Cody Wilson, a product of the West Virginia Toughman circuit.

A press release concocted by Don King is always full of goo. “The world’s greatest promoter, Don King, has come through with another spectacular championship night of boxing,” says the release for the Jan. 29 card. The receipts, we are informed, will benefit “homeless, poor, and downtrodden people.” Canelo Alvarez, it’s said, will be there to scout Ilunga Makubu who is on his short list of future opponents. (If Canelo turns up in Warren, Ohio, I will eat my hat.)

There are times that I think that a Don King press release is calculated to create a backlash on the theory that all publicity is good publicity. A movie universally panned as among the worst ever is almost certain to develop a cult following.

If King’s show is replete with memorable moments and you miss it, don’t blame me; I said the show was potentially entertaining. But if you enjoy boxing because of the artistry displayed by the top performers, then you would be better served by averting your eyes.

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