Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Defeat of the Undefeated Record

Yes, it was only a four-round club fight in Scranton, PA, but we, the members of the Royal Order of Cynical Boxing Writers, all knew that 9-0 John Mackey would take out 6-3 Josh Snyder on this week’s ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights”, didn’t we? That’s what this series is for, showcasing undefeated house fighters in mismatches, right?

If you went to take a shower, re-heat that old Chinese food in your fridge before it required burial in a lead case, or check Craigslist to find true love tonight, you missed yet another in a string of upsets on this and the ESPN2 “Wednesday Night Fight’ series in recent weeks.

While the 34-year-old Mackey took the opening round, the 28-year-old Snyder decked him and hurt him in the second. Mackey had his best round in the third, and was still in the fight. But Snyder came out aggressively in the fourth, and knocked Mackey down again. Mackey rallied towards the end of that round, but with two rounds that should have been 10-8 for Snyder, Mackey had lost.

The Pennsylvania judges almost managed to get it wrong, giving Snyder only a majority decision with scores of 39-37, 38-37, and, incredibly, 38-38. Still, Mackey became the latest fighter to fall from the supposedly hallowed ranks of the undefeated, and on national television as well.

Just two days earlier, on June 11, IBF top 154-pound contender Sechew Powell of Brooklyn, fighting in Manhattan’s Hard Rock Café and also on ESPN2, was stopped in the seventh round by unheralded 22-year-old Deandre Latimore of Las Vegas and St. Louis. Powell, now 23-2, is promoted by Seminole Warriors Boxing, the lead promoter of this card and whose Seminole Tribe also owns the Hard Rock. All of the prior fights of Latimore, now 19-1 with 16 KOs, had been in the great boxing state of Missouri against little-known opposition, with his one loss coming by KO against Ian Gardner last year.

Add these to the following upsets of the undefeated on ESPN2 in recent months:

Junior middleweight James Moore, then 15-0, originally from Ireland and now fighting out of New York, lost an eight-round unanimous decision June 4 in Brooklyn to Gabe Rosado, then 9-2, and was dropped in the fifth round.

Cruiserweight Aaron Williams, then 17-0, was stopped May 23 in the fifth round by Jose Luis Herrera, 15-4, in Lincoln, Rhode Island, on a card run by Williams’s promoter, CES.

Super bantamweight Mike Oliver, then 17-0, of Hartford, Conn., was stopped May 7 in the third round by journeyman Reynaldo Lopez, 28-5, in Boston.

Middleweight Andy Lee, then 15-0, touted so highly by manager-trainer Emanuel Steward that he openly said he wanted Lee to face champion Kelly Pavlik later this year, was stopped in the seventh round March 21 by Brian Vera of “The Contender”.

What is happening with all these uppity opponents? Part of it is that these prospects have padded records which are not indicative of their true ability or potential. Part of it is that the matchmaking is either becoming better in that they are being paired up tightly, or worse, in that the planned mismatches are going awry.

The fans, of course, benefit by seeing fights with less predictable outcomes. But the real loser should be the widespread belief by network suits, promoters, and their media shills that an undefeated record usually signifies much more than that the fighter having one has yet to face serious opposition.

Boxing is destroying itself as those in charge of it continue to try to treat the fans like idiots by booking these mismatches. One of the reasons mixed martial arts is attracting more younger fans than boxing is that a loss or even a few losses is not a career killer in that sport. The fans in boxing have long ago figured out what these set-ups are all about, and have decided to stay home or watch something else other than boxing’s might-as-well-be-fixed fights. The younger mma fans do not mainly come from boxing, but are the types of people who years ago would have been attracted to it.

So what will the boxing promoters do, learn from this interesting string of upsets, or just keep on riding their horses and buggies straight to hell?

Shit, why do I even waste my time asking, especially when there’s still time for me to get to the barroom?

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Friday, June 13, 2008

In Good Hands

Over the last few years, my colleagues and me at "The Boxing Standard," have had numerous debates and discussions regarding who were/are some of the greatest fighters, punchers and boxers of all-time. And on occasion, trainers, promoters and broadcasters have been part of the conversation as well.

Here's one I saw a few weeks ago on another boxing forum; what was the best corner ever?

The one that immediately comes to my mind is, Eddie Futch and Ray Arcel, when they worked the corner of Larry Holmes during his fight with Gerry Cooney. How over matched were Victor Valle, Mike Jones and Dennis Rappaport, who worked Cooney's corner?

Seven years prior to Holmes-Cooney, Futch was part of another terrific tandem when he and George Benton were paired to work the corner of Joe Frazier, when he fought Muhammad Ali for their third and final time in "The Thrilla in Manila." In fact, Joe had another terrific brain trust working his corner when his trainer Yancy Durham, brought in Eddie Futch and Gil Clancy to work the corner for Joe's first fight versus Ali in 1971.

Roberto Duran, one of the greatest pound-for-pound fighters ever, was led to the ring by Ray Arcel and Freddie Brown until after his rematch with Sugar Ray Leonard. It doesn't get much better than that. Joe Louis was the benefactor of a first tier tandem, having Jack Blackburn and Mannie Seamon in his ear when he fought. Sadly, for Louis's opponent, Joe followed his battle plan to the letter.

Charlie Goldman, who trained Rocky Marciano, was HOF caliber, but I can't remember him being paired with another HOF caliber second, for a particular fight. The same applies to, Jimmy DeForest, who trained and tutored Jack Dempsey. And like Goldman, I can't remember reading where DeForest ever teamed up with anyone other than, Doc Kearns, whose role was manager, until after Dempsey fought Luis Firpo.

So I ask my colleagues, has there ever been a greater corner than Eddie Futch and Ray Arcel when they joined forces and helped Larry Holmes win the signature fight of his career?

Monday, June 09, 2008

30 years today: Holmes won the WBC title from Norton (6/9/78)

We're getting old!

Damn, I remember the night of Norton-Holmes like it was yesterday. I was working the door with a guy named Buck Estelle, (who I'm still very good friends with today) at a place called the "Back Street" cafe. I remember telling, Buck, who was a big boxing fan, "Holmes is really good. He looked great in his last fight versus Earnie Shavers. He'll decision Norton tonight, and that'll pretty much be the end of Norton as a title threat." Then we watched the fight on the TV over the bar. It was a Friday night and I had already been going to Philly to train. I remember the next day at Frazier's, everybody was talking about what a great fight it was, and debating the outcome. Which to me was ridiculous. Holmes won it 9-6, and it's closer to 10-5 than it is 8-7. I can still recall the picture in the Philadelphia Daily News the next day of Holmes later that night in the pool at Cesars Palace, holding the WBC belt over his head. It was exceptionally hot for June then, as it is now.

On June 7th 2008, Larry Holmes was rightly inducted into The International Boxing Hall of Fame. And without a doubt, Larry Holmes is among the five greatest heavyweight champions of all-time.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Last Night's Fights

Each of last night’s fights seemed instructive, and each either furthered or effectively ended the prime-time careers of most of the guys involved.

Juan Manual Lopez, by knocking out dangerous champion Daniel Ponce De Leon in the first round, showed that he’s someone we’ll be talking about as a pound for pound guy in the near future. Boxing politics being what it is, it’s unlikely that a Lopez-Steve Molitor matchup will take place, but, aside from Israel Vazquez-Jorge Linares, it’s the fight I’d most want to see these days.

Paul Williams, by destroying Carlos Quintana, who’d taken his welterweight title a months ago, showed that he wants to be taken seriously. He avenged his defeat by an emphatic first round knockout. Williams had Quintana down twice, placing his punches well and showing the rare ability among big, long-armed guys to fight effectively on the inside. Significant fights are out there of him.

Vernon Forrest quietly left the near top echelon of the sport by coming into his fight with veteran actor Sergio Mora in dreadful condition, and giving away his 154 pound title. That’s it for him. Mora isn’t going anywhere either. His win said more about Forrest than it did about Mora’s skills.

Kelly Pavlik was impressive in doing what he was supposed to do: he knocked out Gary Lockett with a solid arsenal of consistently hard punches. Pavlik is just coming into his own, I think. He’s an awfully big middleweight who’s a genuine banger. He’ll be tough to beat. Lockett, meanwhile, showed that he knows how to count to eight.