A Recent Night at the Fights
Maybe because I haven’t been around it for a while, it was enjoyable to take in a grassroots boxing promotion, to sit within earshot of the assortment of managers, trainers, cornermen, and ex-fighters who all had a stake, be it financial or emotional, in how things played out.
It was also strangely comforting to not have a personal investment in who won and who lost. I was once again reminded how, at this level in boxing, your agenda is more likely to go awry than in the big leagues.
Cappiello Promotions, who put together last Wednesday night’s televised ESPN card, has a roster of fighters who will, at worst, stay on the undercards of their local shows and, at best, contend for titles they’ll never have a chance of winning.
The house guys were by in large well matched, but nobody was given a setup. Guessing wrong (which is what happened in the main event when outsider Reynaldo Lopez scuttled Hartford's Mike Oliver) is part of the price paid for not fixing fights and for attempting to figure out exactly where your headliner stands on the world stage.
Aside from the guys in the main event, these kids are fighting for no more than local pride—for those folks around ringside and in the audience who they can recognize from the ring. Winning is a big thing to them, but it's not part of a larger financial picture.
The neighborhood (and by neighborhoods, I no longer mean civilian ones—these are boxing gym neighborhoods extended slightly outward to include tangentially connected audience members) rivalries are the same as I remember them. Brockton versus Hartford or Lowell versus Worcester. No genuine bad blood passes between factions; these guys have crossed paths, generation after generation, for decades now.
It was striking that in the tradition role call of ex-fighters brought into the ring, the unifying theme was one of gallant loss. None of these guys had quite made it to the top.
“Introducing a two time title contender.”
“He fought the great Roberto Duran.”
“You know him from his exciting attempts at world championships in three different weight divisions.”
By far the biggest response was given to Micky Ward, loser of two out of three Armageddons with Arturo Gatti.
The point here is that there was almost no gap between the best of the kids fighting on this night’s card and the “stars” who were brought into the ring.
And there wasn’t much of a gap between the Roxy fighters and their entourages in the audience either. And the entourages weren’t so much different than the bulk of the rest of the audience.
If the crowd couldn’t dream of being Floyd Mayweather or Miguel Angel Cotto or Manny Pacquiao, they could squint a little bit and almost be Sean Fitzgerald or Joey DeGrandis. Or Sean Eklund, Ward’s nephew, scheduled for a four rounder later that night.
There’s a place for all this identification on a card played out at this level of boxing. It’s a good thing. It requires a hard working promoter who’ll bring in someone for everyone. Cappiello, who has now been around the fight game for a considerable period of time (his brother Mike was a solid local lightweight), makes sure that no one gets bored. That's always worth the price of admission.