“So Daniel, tell us about your nickname. How did you come up with The Prophet? Pretty catchy. You see things the rest of us don’t see? You know how to peek into the future, read a few palms, predict the weather? You got a Biblical thing going on here?’’
Maybe The Prophet looked into the future and decided to skip the conference because he didn’t like what he saw.
Maybe the truth won’t set him free as much as it will set him on his butt Saturday night at the Dodge Theatre in Phoenix, Arizona.
That’s when Attah (20-0-1, 8 KOs) takes on super-featherweight champion Acelino “Popo” Freitas (31-0, 29 KOs) on Showtime for Freitas’ WBA and WBO titles.
Popo - who is so popular in Brazil they televised his wedding - has put up some pretty good numbers. He won his first 29 fights by knockout, though most of the names of the guys he beat wouldn’t raise any eyebrows.
When Freitas finally did get into the ring with one of the better fighters in the world, he didn’t knock him out, but he still won, defeating former WBO champ Alfred Kotey in a 10-round decision in September 2001.
Then, on Jan. 12, he beat Joel Casamayor for Casamayor’s WBA title, again going the distance.
He’s human after all.
Asked how he thought he would do against Attah, Freitas took the high road, which was also the easy road. He wouldn’t promise a knockout, but predicted a win, either by knockout or decision.
"Going into this fight, I don't believe I can lose,'' he said.
Oscar Suarez, Freitas’ trainer and translator, didn’t climb much farther out on the limb of controversy, saying simply that if The Prophet made the wrong move - didn’t see clearly into the future - it would be over inside 12 rounds.
Asked what concerned them most about Attah, who is a southpaw, Suarez said the Nigerian is an awkward, tricky fighter with a good hook.
“But I feel in my heart that his most dangerous thing is his head,’’ Suarez said.
“Popo has to be cautious. I hope we have the right referee.’’
If there’s a super-featherweight food chain, Freitas is sitting comfortably at the top, picking his teeth. He’s wondering if that dream fight with Floyd Mayweather will ever really happen, Mayweather wisely eating his way up to the 135-pound class.
Then again, if Mayweather loses to Jose Luis Castillo in their rematch on Oct. 5, Freitas said he wants Castillo. You’ve got to go where the money is. Besides, like most of us, Freitas said he thought Castillo beat Mayweather that first fight, but that’s a whole different column.
Let’s just say Freitas first wants to “clean up’’ the 130-pound division starting with Attah.
Kushner meant that in the sense that Mercer has a tendency to finish everything he starts. The only time he leaves a fight early is when there’s no one left standing he can take a swing at.
The tough cookie is expected to have a tough fight Saturday night in Atlantic City.
“This is going to be a very, very good fight,’’ Kushner said Wednesday on a conference call promoting the fight between Mercer (30-4-1, 22 KO’s) and Wladimir Klitschko (38-1, 35 KO’s) for Klitschko’s WBO heavyweight title.
“This fight could make Wladimir a better fighter and bring him more respect around the world.’’
That shouldn’t be tough. The only respect Klitschko has been getting so far has come from the guys he’s knocked silly. But that’s because he’s not from here and that makes him different. He’s from the Ukraine and lives in Germany and if you speak with a strange accent and you have to catch a boat or a plane to get here, we don’t pay too much attention to you. That’s why - until he beat Mike Tyson - half the country didn’t know who Lennox Lewis was and the other half didn’t care.
But you might want to pay attention to Klitschko.
“Everything is going well,’’ he said of his training. “It was very tough preparation for eight weeks. The preparation is the proper thing. The fight will be much lighter. But about my opponent Ray Mercer, he is a famous guy and everybody knows he is very tough with a strong chin. He was in very good shape for his last fight. I saw him (Wednesday) at the press conference and he was very quiet. He must be concentrated on the fight because he lost weight and he’s in real good shape and good form now. I think you’ll see a really good and very interesting fight.’’ That’s it? No trash talk? No jive? No family threats? Wladimir, this is America. You can bad-mouth anyone you want. It’s expected, almost mandatory. “I’m very happy it’s the last week before the fight,’’ he went on. “It’s so boring preparing for a fight for eight weeks and it’s very difficult. I’m glad my preparation is behind me and I’m getting a chance to fight.’’
C’mon, Wladimir, let ‘em have it. Don’t hold it in. It’s not healthy. This is the fight game. Spit it out. Tell Ray how you hate the way he walks and talks, how you can’t stand the name Ray, how the only thing that will be “Merciless’’ in the ring Saturday night is your right hand hammering out a swan song on his ugly, 41-year-old face. C’mon, Wladimir. We’re waiting.
“It will be difficult to stop this guy because he says it is his last chance and he will give it everything. It has nothing to do with him being older because he is in really good shape for his age.’’ His age? Yeah, that’s it, Wlad. Attack Mercer’s age. That’s got to tick him off. “I have to be 100 percent concentrated on Ray Mercer. I don’t want to give him a chance to beat me.’’ Well, there it is. Straight from the shoulder. That’s about all the bad-mouthing you’re going to hear from one of the more well-mannered, intelligent fighters ever to stroll the Boardwalk. Trainer Tommy Brooks, who is working with both Wladimir and his older brother Vitali, put it in perspective. “By far, these guys are the brightest stars I’ve ever had the opportunity to work with,’’ said Brooks, who has trained some of the best fighters in the world, including Tyson. “It’s like a breath of fresh air. Tyson is the kind of guy who does what he wants to, when he wants to do it. These guys beat me to the gym. Sometimes with Tyson, you didn’t know if he was going to show up or not. But these guys want to learn.’’ Finally, some trash talk.
“I know what happened (in that first fight),’’ Mosley said Tuesday on a conference call with boxing writers from around the country.
“He hit me with a head butt in the second round and he did it on purpose.
I know it was deliberately done and I know how he does it. I’m prepared for it now.’’
On July 20 in Indianapolis, Mosley gets his second chance at the only fighter who has ever beaten him as a pro. And Mosley (38-1, 35 KOs) is still angry about how he lost, how Forrest (34-0, 26 KOs) learned to throw that crazy head of his as well as he throws a jab.
In an hour-long call, Mosley mentioned the head butt more than a dozen times, but it wasn’t all his fault. Most of the questions required him to explain what happened at Madison Square Garden, how the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world became just another notch on Vernon Forrest’s six-gun.
Mosley said he learned how Forrest butts heads from an old sparring partner of the WBC welterweight champ. He explained how you throw your left jab and then throw your right and how you can lead with the hard part of your head. Technical stuff. It was like he was telling you how to perform CPR.
“He throws his head first and then throws his right hand,’’ Mosley said, trying to clarify a few things for all the listeners. “Without the head butt, I think I would have knocked him out.’’
Without wheels, we walk. Without money, we’re broke. Without excuses, we have nothing left to say.
“I went back to my corner after the first round and knew I would knock him out in three or four rounds,’’ he said.
Then they clash heads in round two and Mosley spends the rest of the fight thinking he’s riding the roller coaster at Disney World. “I was surprised when I got hit with his head,’’ Mosley said. “How could he butt me when he was so far away from me?’’
Crazy things happen in the fight game.
So how does Mosley slip the hard head of Vernon Forrest this time? “He’s a very smart and very tricky fighter,’’ Mosley said. “But he won’t trick me any more. I’m ready for him. I’m ready to go to war.’’
It’s easy to believe Mosley. He’s a great fighter and a classy guy. He hasn’t assaulted a reporter, taken a swing at a doorman or failed a drug test. He hasn’t slapped a woman or bit an ear or tipped over a table.
How nice is this guy? When asked why he wanted an immediate rematch with Forrest instead of taking a few warm-up fights, he implied it was for the benefit of all the other welterweights out there in the world. “I can’t see myself knocking out another poor soul just because I’m mad at Vernon Forrest,’’ he said. “That’s not right for the other guy.’’ It’s funny, but I think he really means it.
When the teleconference was finally over, everyone said their sincere good-byes.
“David, you take care now. I’ll see you in Atlantic City.’’ “You do the same, Michael. Drive careful.’’ “Kevin and Lou, see you guys on the 17th.’’ “Bye Cedric, bye Carl, bye David. See you later Michael.’’ “Same here. Bye David, bye Michael, See ya Lou. Have a good trip back, Kevin.’’ “Good night, grandpa. Good night, grandma.’’ “Good night, John Boy.’’
So much for the Mike Tyson-style of raising heavyweight hell before a fight.
If you were looking for predictions on who was gonna knock who out in what round, it didn’t happen.
A big no-show. Name calling? You got to be kidding. Accusations? C’mon. There was no tweaking of the lion’s tail on the conference call, no verbal slaps across the face, no nasty threats directed at someone’s offspring. If Tua (40-3-0, 35 KOs) and Moorer (43-2-1, 34 KOs) had been in the same room, they would have grown tired of slapping each other on the back. They weren’t promoting a fight, they were pushing for world peace. I’ve heard harsher language at a Sunday morning worship service.
“First, I want to thank Cedric, Lou, Michael, Frank, Carl and the Trump Taj Mahal,’’ Tua said at the beginning of the teleconference, throwing down the gauntlet. “Everything is going well and I’m looking forward to the fight. I’m grateful for the opportunity to fight Michael Moorer. We’ve been friends a long time.’’ Then it was Moorer’s turn to bad-mouth Tua. “First, I want to thank everyone,’’ he said. “As David said, we’ve been friends a long time. He’s a gentleman and he doesn’t run his mouth off. I’m sure we’ll put on a great show.’’
He sounded like Timmy from the Mickey Mouse Club.
“Hey boys and girls, we’re going to have some reeeeaal fun today.’’
There was one moment of suspense early on when Moorer, a two-time heavyweight champ, disagreed with Lou DiBella, who said the fight was between a boxer (Moorer) and a puncher (Tua).
“I don’t think it’s between a boxer and a puncher,’’ Moorer said, perhaps raising a few eyebrows. “I think it’s between a puncher and a puncher.’’ Whoa, Michael. Are you sure? Ah, controversy.
Then there was the insinuation that because the two heavyweights are good friends, the fight might be, well, you know, boring. Nothing more than a glorified sparring session. Both fighters scoffed at the idea.
“We’re friends and we’ll always be friends regardless of what happens,’’ Moorer said. “But this is a business. I’ll be coming out blazing.’’
Tua agreed to come out blazing himself. That was about it for the fireworks, and as teleconferences go, this one was nice and refreshing for a change. There was no blowing smoke, no yelling, no threats, no strutting and no disrespect. This was an honest teleconference between two buddies who aren’t pretending to be anything else, and who are still going to try to knock each other’s block off on a warm night at the Taj Mahal in mid-August.
Friends? Sometimes, that’s the best fight in the world.
He doesn’t have a lot of flash or a demoralizing punch or a chin you could light a match on. He doesn’t call anyone names or make bold predictions or hog center stage.
He’s known as “The Quiet Man,” which in the fight game means you don’t get your name in big letters on the marquee very often. Most of the time, you don’t get your name on the marquee at all.
But the thing about Ruiz is, he’s fought Evander Holyfield three times and the two have finished dead even at 1-1-1.
Those are pretty good credentials, not that he’s bragging.
On Saturday, July 27 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Ruiz (37-4-1, 27 KOs) defends his WBA title against undefeated heavyweight contender Kirk “Bubba” Johnson (32-0-1, 23 KOs) of Nova Scotia.
It’s one of those championship fights you probably won’t read about Sunday morning unless you scan the agate page of the sports section.
Despite holding the title of heavyweight champ of the world, Ruiz still remembers the night David Tua put his mark on his career, stopping him in the first round of their fight in March 1996. It’s one of those nightmares a fighter never forgets.
Asked on a teleconference call earlier this week if the gorilla - the devastating loss to Tua - was still on his back, Ruiz said it’s never gone away.
“People still ask me about it,’’ he said.
“But going forward is the main thing. I sat down by myself that night and decided what I wanted to do with my life. And I never looked back.’’
The first Hispanic to hold a heavyweight crown, Ruiz still moves unnoticed in most crowds. He’s a stranger outside of Boston, and though he’s the defending champion, he’s the underdog going into his fight against Johnson. That’s because Johnson is undefeated and Ruiz, remember, was stopped by Tua. For Johnson, this fight is a lifelong dream. “It’s going to be a glorious night,’’ he said. “I have great respect for John. We’re both young and in our prime. I think this is going to be a much better fight than (Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis). I’m finally living my dream. It’s time for me to put up or shut up.’’
Still, it’s hard to imagine a guy named Bubba winning the heavyweight championship of the world. In a call dominated by both fighters’ handlers and managers, Johnson and Ruiz remained quiet until spoken to.
“These guys are class,’’ said Lou Duva, who promotes Johnson. “They’re very respectful guys and they’ll remain gentlemen after the fight. They’ll go into the ring to fight, not put on a circus.’’
Polite, yet confident, both fighters are looking for some of the respect they believe they’ve earned, but never received.
“The day I become a favorite is the day I’ll probably retire,’’Ruiz said. “But it does motivate me. I love proving people wrong.’’
This fight is for connoisseurs, for diehards, for those fans who follow the fight game with a passion, who know a left hook from a left jab, who understand there’s more of an art to slipping a punch then throwing one.
This is for anyone who would rather see a fight go 12 hard rounds than two quick ones.
When Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales finally touch gloves at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, most of the world’s serious boxing fans will be tuned in somehow. They’ll either be watching it or at least trying to get updates.
The guys who like car wrecks and haymakers will probably be out to dinner somewhere.
Available on pay-per-view for less money than what they charged earlier this month for the Lennox Lewis - Mike Tyson heavyweight fight, they’re expecting about 500,000 buys. That’s great for a featherweight title fight, but not even close to the 1.8 million buys for Tyson-Lewis.
But that’s just the way it is.
The Tyson-Lewis fight sold big because most of us didn’t know who Mike Tyson was anymore. We didn‘t know if he still had that rage and that rare ability to slip inside a bigger man and drop him to his knees with a six-inch punch. We didn’t know if we were going to see the old Mike Tyson of the 1980s or the sad Mike Tyson of today, whether he was going to win, quit or pull a gun.
When he fought Lewis on June 8, he was still a fascinating mystery to us, a savage element we wanted to watch and learn about.
And he was a heavyweight, which always sells.
While we didn’t know what Tyson might do, there is very little mystery surrounding the Barrera - Morales fight. Barring something unexpected like a cut or a lucky punch, this fight is expected to be long and brutal. The first one sure was.
Morales won that fight on a split decision more than two years ago, though you can still get in a back-alley fight of your own if you go into the wrong bar and say the right guy won.
They put on a show the heavyweights can only wish for.
The difference between this rematch and the Lewis-Tyson fight is simple, but it says a lot about the fight game and those who watch it.
The reason most people bought Tyson - Lewis is because they didn't know what they were going to see.
The reason most people are buying Morales-Barrera is because they do know what they're going to see.
Toney (64-4-2, 41 KO’s) took a couple years off from the fight game about four years ago, but that just means he doesn’t have the wear and tear that might have come with fighting four or five wars during that time. He’s like a good set of tires on a car that was up on blocks for 20 months. There are still a lot of miles left. Toney signed with Goossen Tutor Promotions last week in the hopes that he can kick-start a career that goes back to 1988 and includes IBF super-middleweight and middleweight titles. He’s already fought twice this year, but he doesn’t think his future lies in beating the Michael Rushes and the Sione Asipelis of the world.
He lost a 12-round decision to Roy Jones Jr., back in 1994 and just like everyone else who lost to Jones, he says he’d like another shot at the light-heavyweight champ. The difference with Toney is, when he says he wants a rematch, you actually believe him. He thinks he’s the best cruiserweight in the world and there are not a lot of people lining up to argue with him.
“I’m going to stay at cruiserweight,’’ he says. “Until I unify the title.’’
As for signing with Goossen Tutor, it didn’t take long for something to happen. Toney is scheduled to fight Jason Robinson - ranked No. 10 by the IBF - on Aug. 18 in Temecula, Calif.
It’s part of a double-header that will also feature “Diamond” David Santos in an IBF super-featherweight title fight against champion Steve Forbes. “I found (Dan) Goossen,” Toney says of his new alliance, making it sound almost like a religious experience. Of course, he’s known Goossen since 1989.
“He’s the type of fighter you look to sign,’’ Goossen said. “He’s been there, done that. He knows what it takes.’’
The thing about Toney is, he doesn’t want to come to the dance unless he can spike the punch. His name sells because of his talent, but also because he brings a few extras along with him when he signs and later shows up. He’s flashy in winning and his opinions come quick and easy.
“He’s outspoken and he has a recognizable name and that’s half the battle,’’ Goossen said. “The other half is getting your hand raised.’’
He’s won his last six fights by knockout in a total of 13 rounds. So at 41, it’s not like Merciless Ray is back from the retirement home, and that’s something Wladimir Klitschko needs to keep in mind when he stares across the ring at the old man Saturday night at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. Wladimir is big (6-foot-7), young (26), impressive (38-1, 35 KO’s) and from the Ukraine, which to most of us is like being from the planet Pluto. He’s also the biggest secret in the heavyweight division, a guy from a place we couldn’t find on a map, now living in Germany with a name we can't spell. He might as well be in the witness protection program.
Ignoring the comical rankings of the three major sanctioning bodies - WBA, WBC and IBF - Wladimir is among the top two or three heavyweights in the world, though the guy working the sports desk at the Podunk Tribune has never heard of him. But that’s all right. Apparently, no one at the WBA, the WBC or the IBF have heard of him either. Wladimir won’t be ranked - much less even mentioned - by the other world boxing rankings because he’s the WBO champion, and you know how that works.They don’t recognize someone else’s champion, even though he may be the best fighter in the world. Scary, isn’t it. So Wladimir holding the WBO belt only adds to the mystery. The WBO doesn’t play big in Vegas. Want to disappear for awhile? Become a WBO champ. But it is a title and that demands a certain amount of respect. . That brings us back to Mercer, who also held the WBO title, though that was 11 Super Bowls and three presidents ago. Mercer proved that if you hang around long enough - if you don’t make too big a fool of yourself and you knock out a few young prospects along the way - good things will happen. Wake up one morning and you just might find yourself in line to fight for a world title. For Klitschko, Saturday night means just about everything. He’s fought here before, but never under this kind of spotlight. He gets to fight on HBO in front of a national TV audience, he goes up against a heavyweight we all know, and he gets the chance to prove to the world that he belongs in the same room with the best heavyweights in the world. Mercer? He’s just happy someone finally opened the door and let him in.
In a fight they’ve been threatening us with for two years, Eric “Butterbean’’ Esch will face Larry “This is my last fight, honest’’ Holmes in a 10-round sideshow on July 27 in Norfolk, Va.
It should be billed as “Grandpa versus the Fat Guy.”
Maybe you remember Holmes. He was heavyweight champion of the world during the Reagan Administration. He made his pro debut when Nixon was still president, the same year Secretariat won the Triple Crown. He’s 52, or the age when most of us start eating soft food.
“Some things are worth coming out of retirement for,’’ Holmes was quoted as saying. “This is to get rid of some of the gaudiness and honky-tonk from the sport.’’
And you thought Mike Tyson was crazy.
“Many people said this fight would never take place,’’ said promoter Daryl DeCroix, obviously referring to those people who broke out in hysterical laughter when they heard who was fighting. “We’ve worked hard to bring these fighters together.’’
If you look hard enough, I guess there is a place for this fight. It’s called Celebrity Boxing. Esch and Holmes should be able to squeeze in somewhere between the Pee Wee Herman - Ronald McDonald extravaganza and the long-anticipated match between RuPaul and Gary Coleman.
“We realize this isn’t Tyson-Lewis,’’ DeCroix said at a recent press conference. “What we’re trying to bring is a great night of boxing and a great night of entertainment.’’
C’mon, Daryl. It might be entertaining in a Hulkamania, pony and dog sort of way, but it won’t be a great night of boxing. That requires legitimate fighters. According to Esch - fabled king of the four-rounders - the fight will be a brawl and will be over early.
He better hope so. He’s never gone more than six rounds in his career, and at 360 pounds, he’s not going to be bouncing on his toes if it goes ten.
As for Holmes, he’s closer to 70 then 30. At his age, you don’t train to go ten, you train to walk up the ring steps without losing your breath. And that might be the most intriguing thing about this fight. What happens if no one gets knocked out? What happens if they’re forced to huff and puff their way through ten long, three-minute rounds? Now that could be entertaining.
My prediction? A lot of shoving highlighted by increased holding, interspersed with an occasional wheezing. Eventual winner? DeCroix. Crazy stuff like this always sells.
The best thing about this fight is that it’s on pay-per-view, which means you won’t have to worry about scaring the kids by accidentally turning it on while looking for the Discovery Channel.
The worst thing about this fight is facing the guys at work on Monday morning.