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TSS Mid-Term Report: Boxing's Not Dying

BY Phil Woolever ON April 25, 2007
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 There’s gonna be a heat wave.

With summer just a few degrees away out west, another semi-quarterly report finds the duke-out game once again sitting prettier than haters predicted.  

Boxing bloomed during the first half of 2007 and in a scenario repeated for around a decade now, big fights on the horizon will be at the forefront of the sporting world, not just Boxingland.

On with another springtime blossom bang-up in so far, another good year at pay for punch. Calendar pages turn and familiar but inaccurate yelps about a dying sport are still heard. Old gyms may close, but new ones open.

In the US southwest, public relations have been rising like a bright desert moon.

At this point it looks like there’s room and cable time enough for formal fisticuffs and other fight show entities like UFC to see a profit. It will be interesting as the situation develops among major players  Showtime and HBO.

Fistianna remained a welcome distraction from grim planet realities with hopes of a strong upcoming season.

Baring some catastrophic meltdown, the De la Hoya - Mayweather gala will produce one of the sporting spectacles of the decade. If things go right, it could set a new millennium standard for premium boxing, from glove meets noggin to subscriber fee jackpot.

This weekend offers a great looking matchup when Acelino Freitas clashes with Juan Diaz. Diaz and Freitas are nowhere near Oscar and Floyd in star power, but style-wise the lightweights could make a much more two way action packed show. Recent form favors Diaz by workmanlike decision, but if Freitas decides to trade whaps, immediately he’s got a strong shot.

In the mean time, and these are mean times, boxing as entertainment has kept a decent foothold on the slopes of big buck marketing and TV time.

Showtime, HBO, Telefutura, ESPN, Fox, and Versus all feature well produced boxing series. Not every dream match gets made, but there are enough solid bouts at all skill levels to maintain a decent fan base in many club show locations from coast to coast.

Around here--I'm in Arizona--the Desert Diamond/Golden Boy series plays to a packed house of locos, with the next show outside Tucson scheduled for July.

On May 4th, Promoter Steve Ayala and the Parks and recreation will host a Cinco de Mayo fiesta for Phoenix’s first public park fight card. 

At many stages, men on the summit have won or lost in dramatic fashion.

Joshua Clottey and Chad Dawson took big steps with their respective wins against Diego Corrales and Tomasz Adamek.

Jorge Arce showed dignity in defeat against Cristian Mijares, now a gato out of the bag.

Corrales showed how to fight on in the face of an inevitable loss. Whatever it might be, pray Corrales reaches the right decision on retirement after head trauma like that.

Phoenix heavyweight George Garcia showed how to lose well with his never say die effort against tough Travis Walker.

Let’s just say Peter Manfredo didn’t show the best way to lose against Joe Calzaghe, who hasn’t shown the best way to build global momentum after bashing Jeff Lacy. But, if the name of the game is “most money, least risk”, Calzaghe is doing quite well.

Ruslan Chagaev’s apple cart tip-over of Nikolai Valuev figured to be just another 100-1 shot whistle-stop on Valuev’s carnival ride, supposedly to Rocky Marciano’s record. From the limited footage I’ve seen, each guy landed some jarring blasts. Chagaev looks like a decent guy to drink a beer with, but I wouldn’t pick him against any of the other major players.

Chagrev‘s surprise victory increased the potential for some excellent contests at the two hundred plus pounds spectrum.

It was nice to see nice guy Chris Byrd get back in the win column, and if he aggressively pursues mid-range contenders he could make some waves and some bucks. But judging from his less than huge performance against game Paul Marinaccio, Byrd faces a bloody déjà vu situation against any of the best big boys. Still, Byrd might have a chance against Chagaev, and he wisely made the first call out to the new belt holder.

Now that Bernard Hopkins against Winky Wright has been formally announced, we’ll set our odds at around an 80 percent chance that fight actually comes off at Mandalay Bay in July. If it does, it will be more exciting than cynics predict, though not without justification. Pride will count more than styles, and both well-experienced men will crank it.

Upcoming in June, Ricky Hatton and Jose Luis Castillo have the potential to for a Manny Pacquiao - Erik Morales type scene, one of the best in recent Vegas history. Castillo has at least one more great effort left in him. For Hatton to win it will take the kind of performance that makes an international star.

In these parts, an informal, unscripted sports bar poll offered boxing a positive omen.

After the first game of the Suns – Lakers playoff series, dozens of fans went across the street to the Alice Cooperstown bar and grill. Following the post game show, the main feed on dozens of TVs went to boxing, around 75% of the screens.

Under similar circumstances during the late 1990s, customers would have called for a switch to football or racing. In present day downtown Phoenix, the crowd, many female, was definitely into the fight. It resembled a bar scene during the prime Tyson days.

The broadcast was the much-maligned Contender series. Say what you will:  a paying crowd liked the action.

Unless De la Hoya –Mayweather is a scandalous bust, boxing should surf into summer on a consistent wave of Middle American support.

The sport has a decent soul, after all.

Focus on another more vital feather in boxing’s rainbow cap should be considered, looking at recent race relation sports headline confetti.

For me, decades of getting treated with class and consideration by the game’s participants and observers probably doesn’t lie. Most of those at the sweet science’s essence are very decent, color-blind folks.

Scandals and scum will always be with the sport. So will hope, glory, and underdog triumph. It is humanity after all.

Barring the worldwide fistic enterprise’s unlikely collapse, it looks like we’ll be repeating this same mid term progress report for at least a couple more years. On today’s crazed, pissed off planet, that’s stability enough.

The grassroots are always greener on the other side of the ropes.

The next big round is heating up.

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