This past weekend I was in Las Vegas to cover the big fight between Bernard Hopkins and Oscar De La Hoya at the MGM Grand. It was quite a scene as usual in 'Sin City' for the big fight. The hotel was buzzing throughout the weekend with anticipation and activity. There was a menagerie of personalities and characters hanging around the cracks and crevices of the hotel. You could just tell that Hopkins-De La Hoya was a big one, the excitement was palpable throughout the city. You could just feel it.
Unfortunately, the event itself didn't match the hype. The first bout on the pay-per-view contest took all of 33 seconds when Kofi Jantuah starched Marco Antonio Rubio with a single left hook. While the punch was breathtaking—and scary, at the same time—the problem was that it caused the rest of the card to be put out of kilter.
After a short delay, a swing bout was quickly ushered into the arena. It was a rather dull affair that was followed by another protracted lull in the action. And really nothing is worse than covering a card where nothing is happening. Finally, Juan Manuel Marquez would come out to face Orlando Salido in defense of his featherweight titles.
Marquez is one of my favorite prizefighters, but he fought like a guy who was coming off a big fight and he had the expected letdown in winning a dull 12 round decision.
Then came the longest intermission of all before the main event. Part of the crescendo of a big fight is the calm before the storm. You get to catch your breath a bit and then brace yourself for the fight. But in this instance, with the long gaps in action, this had the feel of a World Series game that had been delayed by rain for a few hours. Yeah, you were excited to be there, but you just wanted the game to be played at that point.
The fight itself was a tactical affair. Which is another way of saying 'boring.' It certainly didn't have the drama of Sugar Ray Leonard- Marvin Hagler, to which this fight was compared ad nauseam. Hopkins after a relatively slow start would build momentum and stop De La Hoya with a well-placed left hook to the liver of De La Hoya in round nine.
The result of the fight didn't surprise most folks, but the sight of De La Hoya writhing in pain was memorable. It represented the first time that 'the Golden Boy' had been stopped. It was a quick and startling end to a mostly desultory night.
There are some nights that are memorable and live with you forever. This, unfortunately, was not one of them. It was more or less a day at the office. But it did give me plenty of time to think about a few things.
OSCAR IS NO QUITTER
Oscar is no quitter. I've heard that some are skeptical of just how much pain he was in after taking that punch from Hopkins in round nine. I gotta say, this is rather insulting to De La Hoya. Oscar, for all his faults, has always been a tough competitor who would never quit or lay down.
He has never remotely been close to being stopped and his own pride would never allow such an action. And if you've seen him try to act, trust me, he's no thespian.
He's always had a solid chin, but he got hit with a perfect body shot. Anyone that has ever laced on a pair of gloves will tell you just how helpless—and painful—an experience that is.
Oscar is tough, in fact, I think he has more toughness than natural talent. People for so many years always thought he was gifted as a boxer but questioned his fortitude. In my opinion, it should have been the other way around all this time.
BOUIE FISHER IS A GREAT TRAINER
Bouie Fisher is a great trainer. Hey, while other guys try to pimp themselves and work the corners of any fighter that comes around, all Fisher has done is develop and cultivate the talents of one of the best middleweights that has ever stepped into the ring.
Now, don't get me wrong, he's had a great thoroughbred to ride, but Fisher, has been a great jockey in his own right. If you've seen 'the Executioner' throughout the years, you've seen him transform himself from a raw puncher to a clinical technician. If you've ever seen Hopkins and Fisher work together in the gym—and I've been fortunate to have done so in the past—you can just see the chemistry between the two.
What I think has hurt Fisher in the pundits’ eyes is twofold. One, he has basically devoted all his time and efforts to one fighter. On numerous occasions Fisher has turned away other boxers to concentrate on Hopkins. And if a fighter only fights once or twice a year like Hopkins has in the past, it's hard for any trainer to get exposure.
Speaking of exposure, unlike many others trainers whose best attribute is self-promotion, Fisher is a quiet sort, who just goes to work each day, confidently and wisely.
His legacy may be hurt by not working with a whole squadron of champions like others have, but if it's tied to Hopkins, it's not a bad legacy at all.
THE CROWDS AT SMALLER FIGHTS
I like the crowds at smaller fights. Not that there was anything wrong with the folks on Saturday night, but I've noticed that the bigger the fight is, the less 'real' boxing fans you get. Once a fight becomes an event, the 'average Joe' becomes priced out of the event.
Which means the crowds come later and later towards the main event, there's less enthusiasm for the undercard fights and, in general, the crowds are less knowledgeable across the board.
Case in point was the show in late July that featured Erik Morales- Carlos Hernandez. Now, that was a 'boxing crowd' at the MGM Grand. Everyone was in their seats long before the main event and they were intently watching throughout the night. These people were here because they were boxing enthusiasts, not because it was the place to be.
It's the difference between going to a Clipper game as opposed to a Laker contest at the Staples Center.
THE SOUVENIR PROGRAMS
$30 is waaaaaaaay too much for a program. Usually, for a fight of this magnitude I sometimes pick up a souvenir like a program or a poster. As I was walking towards the arena I walked past one of the kiosks that was selling fight paraphernalia. As I walked towards the stand I saw a sign that read: 'Programs, $30'
I was absolutely stunned. Now, I know all about inflation and stuff like that. When I first started covering fights in the mid-90's, programs topped out at 10 bones. In recent years they run about 20 bucks. If you've ever flipped through one of these, there's not that much information inside them. There's a few puff pieces (of which I've written a few in the past) and a bunch of glossy photos.
Sorry, I'll pay up to $20 for a program, but at 30 bucks, that thing better come with a signed pair of gloves from both participants.
But y'know what, I can't say they were overpriced. All weekend those things, along with everything else associated with the promotion, were selling like hotcakes.
So what do I know?