However, gather them into the MGM Grand Garden for a rare boxing spectacle and you might be confronted with a completely different character, or lack thereof.
Such was the case in jeering the USA, after bringing down a for-then British house singing along with a jovial Tom Jones. After serenading the casino for days before the fight with “There’s only one Ricky Hatton” the visitors showered Tyrese Gibson with derisive whistles and boos as he proudly belted out the US Anthem.
I hear Gibson is also a model. He sure as hell looked great, like the African American lady who stood and screamed, waving the only US flag to be seen besides the arena banner.
Some said they were booing Bush but that’s still no excuse.
But one bad pitch, even steroid enhanced, shouldn’t make a strikeout.
Most Hatton fanatics maintained full party mode with respectable behavior all week. Scanning the arena you saw a sea of white faces, but no racial overtones that spoil such events. It was all about the flag, friend, but that’s exactly why many local citizens were upset.
Still, we have a rule around here that often transcends sport. No harm, no foul.
Often, some tiny betting scrap turns an observer into a potentially harmful goon. The lads took defeat very well. I saw one plastic cup of beer thrown from an upper section, and one crumpled, British flag bowler hat get tossed from the first floor VIP seats. After a Tijuana bullring crowd’s rioting reaction to Michael Carbajal’s intense comeback stoppage of Jorge Arce, I’ve gotten pretty good at quick audience scans. There were very few, if any, arena altercations besides a couple fellows escorted from their seats.
If all the celebrities noted as attending were actually there they did a great job blending in with the screaming masses. Angelena Jolie or Posh Spice would tend to stand out even in a packed area 40 yards away, especially with devoted scrutiny.
In terms of championship belts and scraps, one of the more politically incorrect moments came amidst the usual immediate post fight chaos as entourages pour into the ring and security plays serious. WBC President Jose Sulaiman knocked “The Ring” belt off Mayweather’s startled shoulder, and as Sulaiman tried to replace it with his own, a steaming Nigel Collins warned him to back off. The enraged Sulaiman charged Collins and had to be restrained, ending up huffing on a corner stool.
Some titles mean a lot more than others. Mayweather has just about every one from anthill to pinnacle peak, many on display in his Vegas digs. Most important is that just about everyone, from seasoned insider, to Hatton fan on the ceiling, to conquered competitor recognizes Mayweather as one of the finest boxers in many a season.
Both fighters handled ambassador roles with class. In the end, prefight bygones were bygones. Hatton proved he’s one of the best sports in boxing, and definitely one of the funniest.
“I was doing all right until I (freakin) slipped,” said Hatton with opening deadpan delivery that cracked up the entire postfight ballroom.
Mayweather entered the press conference singing “There’s only one Mayweather” as many an Englishman tried to hide the wince.
“I heard y’all all night,” said a grinning Mayweather to the makeshift band that kept up their end of the noise as if on the Titanic. They responded with a quick tune in his honor that drew applause from the media.
“I even heard Oscar (de la Hoya) screaming ‘Get him’ but I knew he wasn’t getting me tonight.”
After Mayweather led assembled friends and family through a chorus of the “Winter Wonderland” tune with his name instead of Hatton’s, Floyd conducted a new musical direction.
“I’ve got to tell you how to finish it now, though. We got a new finish now:
There’s only one Mayweather
There’s only one Mayweather
He talks the talk
And he walks the walk
Walking to the Moneyland”
As I later departed from a Yellow Submarine in the MGM west wing, I intersected carpeted corridor space with a tall Tyra type and a woman who looked like she’d be more interested in the nearby rodeo that added to another epic Vegas weekend.
“Floyd kicked ass for the USA tonight!” announced the cowgirl as she came down the hall with casino echo effect.
“He did?” burst Tyra, “He did?”
“Stuffed the National Anthem up that Hatton’s ass and they deserved it,” said the cowgirl. “Those arrogant, bad sport British bastards!”
Tyra nodded a beautiful nod.
At 3 am in the MGM main lobby, the ring for “grand entrances” and promotional events was still working. Various couples or groups of departing tourists trickled up for photos while brightly garbed security patrolled a polished moat of surrounding, red faux velvet ropes.
Was it just the British, or do careless, wrecked characters always seek craziness inside the ring during an event like this?
“All the time,” repeated the sturdy guard, shaking his head as huge multi-screen fight scenes continued to flash above and beyond near empty front desks between Beyonce and Carrot Top.
The legend expanded after each fight ended in a first round knockout.
Now Valero defends his WBC junior lightweight title against Zaid Zavaleta (16-2-2, 11 KOs) on Saturday Dec. 15, at Plaza del Toros in Cancun, Mexico. The fight card will be televised on pay-per-view.
For once most of the world gets an opportunity to see with its own eyes the power and speed of Valero.
But let’s not jump ahead too quickly.
It was four years ago that Valero arrived in New York to take part in a Golden Boy Promotions fight card. Eager to display his heavy hands the Venezuelan fighter and his promoter were quicksand by the New York Athletic Commission that deemed the left-handed fighter medically unfit to fight. An early injury to the head was found and he was suspended forever in the entire country.
Golden Boy tried to fight it but despite sending Valero to top specialists in California the New York Commission refused to accept any new findings.
“No doctor has ever confirmed I have any kind of injury that prohibits me from fighting in the United States,” said Valero, 26.
Forbidden to fight in this country the part Inca Indian was forced to fight in other countries and looked destined to quit. But he did not waver.
It could have been the end for Valero.
“He has this kind of defiance,” says Fischer. “Anybody else would have quit.”
Though visibly upset by his inability to get back in the ring, Valero dropped his trainer, manager and promoters and roamed the outer portions of Los Angeles looking for gyms to keep fit and sharp. It became kind of a joke to hear that Valero was training here or there.
He was a virtual boxing gypsy.
“There were Valero sightings everywhere,” said Fischer.
In one instance Valero walked into a Montebello boxing gym and began working out on various bags with a speed and intensity never seen. At the time Sergio “The Latin Snake” Mora frequented that gym but nobody knew the guy in the black garb firing punches as if shooting a pump-action shotgun.
“I’ve never seen anybody do those things,” said Dean Campos then a boxing trainer at that gym called Solid Rock. “After I found out it was Edwin Valero I realized why people talked so good about him.”
Eventually a Japanese boxing promotion company Teiken signed him and moved him to the middle of Tokyo, Japan. He’s been there for two years dropping opponents like a mean-spirited bouncer.
“He’s an exceptional puncher and a very exciting fighter,” said Nobu Ikushima, coordinator for Teiken, a Japanese boxing promotion company.
With Teiken the Venezuelan bomber - who looks like soccer player not a feared knockout puncher - captured the WBA title 16 months ago with a 10th round stoppage of former champion Vicente Mosquera’s home country Panama. It was notable not because Valero won the world title, but it was the first time any opponent had lasted more than three-minutes.
“After I finally went into the second round it was kind of a relief after knocking out all of those guys in the first round,” said Valero who stopped 18 consecutive opponents in the initial round of boxing matches. “I swear for the first 30 seconds whatever strategy those guys have are out the window. The moment I feel a guy’s hurt I’m going to take him out.”
Since banned from fighting in the U.S. the southpaw bomber has knocked out 10 successive opponents.
Despite the eye-popping knockouts and animalistic fury Valero still can’t get back into an American arena.
But it was in the American arenas in Maywood and Irvine where most boxing fans first witnessed his kill-or-be-killed style.
It was through word of mouth that Valero was discovered early by Internet boxing reporters.
Joe Hernandez, who manages world champion Daniel Ponce De Leon, had signed Valero and invited several journalists to see his newest prospect.
“I had come to watch Ponce (De Leon) and I thought he was a pretty good hitter, but Hernandez said he’s just heavy-handed but I got another guy,” said Doug Fischer, managing editor of Maxboxing.com. “I expected to see power but when I went to watch Valero it was his balance, a certain fluidity and synchronicity that was almost machine-like.”
On the three rare occasions Valero boxed in front of Southern California crowds and he did not fail to impress in winning twice at the Irvine Marriott and once at the Maywood Activities Center with first round knockouts.
But that was only part of his growing legend.
“I heard they put him in with Mighty Mike Anchondo and they said he got the better of him,” said Fischer. “Every time I saw him sparring, nobody go the better of him, whether it was Armando Santa Cruz, Urbano Antillon, Jesus Soto Karass, it didn’t matter of their weight or experience. He always got the better of them.”
Now Valero returns to the North American continent eager to show his fans on live television that the legend is still fighting. For several years only the Internet provided boxing fans with information of his whereabouts.
“Without guys writing about me on the Internet nobody would know about me,” said Valero who will be fighting Mexico’s Zaid Zavaleta at Plaza del Toros in the tropical resort of Cancun. He expects the Mexican fighter to come right to him because of his record.
“Zavaleta has 11 knockouts in 16 wins,” says Valero who fights left-handed. “I have 22 knockouts in 22 wins. I always go for the knockout.”
Though the Venezuelan fighter has speed, agility and other intangible skills, he prefers to “Chloroform” his opponents.
“The crowd loves knockouts. It’s like in baseball when a guy hits a homerun or in soccer when a guy scores a goal. The knockout is like that,” explains Valero. “I just hope he’s not the little stone I trip over.”
Valero is eager to impress all those fans that have kept a vigil on his career.
“I will one day return to the United States,” he said. “My dream is to fight a big name in a Las Vegas arena.”
It does not appear that the film will be based on the terrific book called “Irish Thunder: The Hard Life & Times of Micky Ward,” which was written by former ESPN anchor Bob Halloran and recently released by The Lyons Press.
It is hard to imagine that the screenwriters could depict Ward’s topsy-turvy life and career any better than Halloran did.
Growing up in Lowell, Massachusetts, a once lively and robust town that had fallen on extremely hard times by the 1970s, Ward saw many of his friends and family fall prey to the lurid temptations of the streets.
One of the town’s most prominent victims of the drug scourge was Eklund, a sensational amateur boxer who, in 1978, took a legend-in-the-making named Sugar Ray Leonard the 10 round distance in a pro bout in nearby Boston.
Ward, who was 12 at the time, worshipped his brother and would eventually be trained by him when he turned professional in 1985.
Unfortunately, Eklund’s immense natural talent was wasted when he became addicted to crack. Not only was he in and out of trouble with the law, he was one of the “stars” of a 1995 HBO documentary called “High on Crack Street.”
The hard-hitting but extremely sordid film chronicled the daily lives of several Lowell crack addicts. Eklund immodestly lit up a crack pipe on camera, with the smoke swirling around his head like an ominous halo.
He smirked at the camera and twitched his eyebrow purposefully, as if gloating about his “good fortune.”
Although Eklund always had his kid brother’s interest at heart, and was a damn good trainer when he showed up at the gym, he would prove to be a very distractive influence in Ward’s life.
One night Ward was arrested for interfering with the arrest of Eklund for a relatively minor offense. During the fracas, a policeman cracked Ward on the hand with a nightstick. That injury incurred by Ward would plague him throughout his career.
In the summer of 1996 I met with Ward on the day before he fought a rematch with Louis Veader of Providence at the Foxwoods Resort in Connecticut. The interview had been set up in advance, and Ward was aware that on the same weekend I would also be visiting Eklund at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Plymouth, where he was serving at least eight years for robbery.
I had a good relationship with Joe Lake, an advisor to Ward, as well as with Ward himself. For some inexplicable reason, however, the gruff and crass Al Valenti, who was Ward’s promoter at the time, didn’t want me speaking to the fighter. He wouldn’t tell me why and responded to all of my inquiries by muttering obscenities.
The Internet was not yet in existence and the Ward/Eklund article was for “The RING” magazine, which was the most widely read boxing publication around. With Ward on yet another comeback trail, Valenti’s downright nastiness and uncooperativeness was hard to fathom.
When Ward failed to make weight on his first try, I followed him into the steam room where he obligingly gave me a good interview.
Over the years Ward had a lot of people around him who seemed to hinder his career more than they helped him. Besides Lake, another stable influence was Mickey O’Keefe, who was then a Lowell police sergeant and the owner of the Lowell Boxing Club.
He and Ward seemed to be joined at the hip, but their relationship hit rocky waters years later when Sal LoNano took over as Ward’s manager of record.
Ward finally managed to attain a measure of ring immortality on the basis of his three-fight series against Arturo Gatti. He finally retired in 2003 with a record of 38-13 (27 KOS).
He is the type of fighter whose legend will only grow larger as more time goes by. He was always a stand-up guy, whether it was in the ring as a boxer, in the streets where, if provoked, he could be a tremendous street fighter, or when dealing with his very large and dysfunctional family.
During his nearly two-decade boxing career, Ward was betrayed by many people and Halloran’s book is quick to name names and back up those assertions with cold, hard facts.
In a sport that is virtually devoid of happy endings, Ward has somehow managed to come out on top. Despite his breathless battles against Gatti, he seems to have his faculties intact. He bought a house on the good side of town and is living a simple but seemingly happy life.
Although the social dynamics in Lowell have changed somewhat, he is a local icon for all of the right reasons. He has always been, and continues to be, a guy that you want to root for.
Not only was he a gladiator in the ring, his loyalty to others, especially Eklund and many people who did not deserve such devotion, is well known in boxing circles.
If Ward’s story was nothing more than a boxing saga, this book wouldn’t have been written and a movie wouldn’t be in the works.
But “Irish Thunder” is as much about boxing as it is about family, loyalty, devotion and betrayal set against a backdrop of the world’s two dirtiest businesses: boxing and drugs.
While the book reads like fiction, it is all true. It is hard not to like Ward, but the book will only make you like him more. The book is as compellingly powerful as one of Ward’s vaunted left hooks to the liver.
Ward was a fighter who was hard to keep down. “Irish Thunder” is a book that is hard to put down.
It is available at all bookstores and on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.
After more than a decade of full retirement Arguello remains one of the icons of Latino boxers. A man who not only represented his native Nicaragua, but every poor barrio in South America, Central America and North America.
Arguello epitomizes class.
His fights with Aaron Pryor are two of the greatest ever held and gripped the boxing world with not only their fistic prowess, but their near-death experiences that followed.
People care about Pryor and Arguello even to this day.
So can anyone truly fill Arguello’s shoes?
“I think Jorge Linares is the next Arguello,” said Tony Rivera, a boxing expert of the highest order.
Rivera has worked the corners of Marco Antonio Barrera, Robert “Manos de Piedra” Duran and also the great Nicaraguan himself Arguello. He’s participated in the corners of some of the greatest fights ever held and knows what constitutes greatness.
“I’m being honest when I say I think he has the tools to be as great as Arguello,” says Rivera who continues to work the corners of some of the world’s best fighters including Linares and Edwin Valero.
WBA featherweight titleholder Linares (24-0, 15 KOs) meets Mexico’s street-tough and ring experienced Gamaliel Diaz (22-6-2, 9 KOs) on Saturday Dec. 15, at the Plaza del Toros in Cancun, Mexico. The fight card will be available on pay-per-view television.
Linares carries himself with a quiet dignity and shows above average patience when others interrupt him or tap him from behind. And when he enters a boxing ring he looks and moves gracefully like a flamenco dancer.
The Venezuelan boxer does not look or act like the prizefighter who walloped former world champion Oscar Larios in front of thousands in Las Vegas earlier in the year.
“When he beat Larios he beat a real warrior,” said Rivera who was present at the fight. “Linares hits what he aims at. If you can land a four-punch combination that’s a beautiful thing.”
Rivera and others also like the accuracy of his punches, the speed of his feet and combinations and the power behind those fists.
“He’s very quick,” said Rudy Hernandez who has trained numerous fighters and world champions.
Though already owner of a world title, Linares seems more like a hungry young fighter eager to rise to the top.
“I’m even more prepared for this fight than I was against Oscar Larios,” Linares, 22 said while at a Japanese restaurant in Little Tokyo in downtown Los Angeles. “I think I have some more things to show in this next fight.”
It could be an easy test or it could be one of those clashes that serve as a gut check. When you fight a Mexican fighter on his home turf he’s not in there to exchange flowers.
IBF featherweight titleholder Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero needed two fights to decipher Diaz’s roughhouse style. The gaunt-looking Diaz fights with elbows and shoulders and doesn’t seem to follow rules in the ring. He just fights.
Linares is ever the gentleman.
“I don’t know much about who I’m going to fight I just prepare to fight against anybody,” said Linares who has lived in Japan the last five years and speaks Japanese. “It’s a good experience for me living in Japan. It’s difficult to have my family living so far from me, but it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to do.”
Teiken, who are co-promoting the fight, have flown him into Los Angeles in the past to spar with veterans and world champions such as Manny Pacquiao, Marco Antonio Barrera and Israel Vazquez.
It was these sparring sessions that convinced Teiken that it was time for the young Venezuelan to test his skills against the best in the world. He passed.
“Believe me he’s got all the tools,” said Tony Rivera, who remains one of the more requested corner men in the business. “He’s a five tool fighter he’s got speed, power, height, stamina and most importantly he hits what he’s aiming at.”
With all of the problems going on in his native country, Linares has that cool air about him in discussing Venezuela.
“Things are very complicated in Venezuela right now,” Linares said. “It’s nice being in Japan. I’ve learned many things and the culture is very enlightening.”
On Saturday the Venezuelan hopes to enlighten the world with his boxing talent.
“There’s not a guy out there that has the tools to beat this kid,” said Rivera. “At least not at featherweight.”
Maybe somewhere Arguello is smiling.
Japan’s Naoki Matsuda plans to repeat his performance of last March when he survived a first round knockdown from former featherweight world titleholder Rudy Lopez (20-4-1, 14 KOs) and fired a single right hand to knock out the Mexican fighter.
“He has a picture perfect right hand,” said Nobu Ikushima, coordinator for the promotion company Teiken. “It’s not a surprise he won. He’s undefeated in his last 14 fights.”
Matsuda says he’s preparing in the same manner to repeat the same results.
“Everything is the same in my training,” said Matsuda (28-7-3, 11 KOs) who lives and trains in Tokyo. “I hope I can defeat Rudy Lopez again. Then I want to fight for a world title.”
On two other bouts the sons of former boxing greats will be featured including Pipino Cuevas Jr. (12-1, 10 KOs) in a lightweight bout and Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. (8-0, 7 KOs) in a featherweight bout.
Fights on television
Fri. Telefutura, 8 p.m., Miguel Angel Huerta (25-8-1) vs. Daniel Alicea (30-6-2).
Sat. pay-per-view, 6 p.m., Edwin Valero (22-0) vs. Zaid Zavaleta (15-2-3); Jorge Linares (24-0) vs. Gamaliel Diaz (22-6-2); Rudy Lopez (19-4-1) vs. Naoki Matsuda (28-7-3);
Hopkins had recently come off a severely contentious beef with his former advisor, Lou Dibella, in which he had accused Dibella, then heading up HBO's boxing department, of demanding a bribe to place Hopkins on an HBO card.
Dibella fought that slur, and won a judgment in court, in November 2002. The court ruled that Hopkins should pay Dibella $610,000 in damages for making the accusation.
How long, people wondered, before a Hopkins/De La Hoya marriage would hit the rocks.
Well, the union has lasted longer than most would have guessed, and Hopkins has been a solid addition to the GBP family. He's a fascinating persona, a skilled orator, and is a more effective spokesman for the company than Oscar, who detractors say can come off as inauthentic, and Richard Schaefer, who can come off as too CEO-ish for the blue-collar sport.
That is, until Hopkins played the race card, in a shocking fashion for the year 2007.
Last Friday, while jawing with Joe Calzaghe in the Mayweather/Hatton media war room at the MGM, Hopkins went there, and played the race card as he tried to fan the flames of interest for a Calzaghe/Hopkins scrap in 2008.
"You're not even in my league!" Hopkins shouted at Calzaghe. "I would never let a white boy beat me. I would never lose to a white boy. I couldn't go back to the projects if I let a white boy beat me."
I'm pretty certain most of you guys heard about this, but there wasn't quite the resultant furor that I would've figured there would be.
Some columnists took BH to the carpet, but part of me wonders what the hoopla would've been like if the roles were reversed. Imagine if Calzaghe had said, "I would never let a black guy beat me."
Woo-ee, that would be a John Rocker-type reaction, wouldn't it?
Nope, the playing field isn't level when it comes to playing the race card, and I'm not going to say it should be. Sure, on one level it's easy to say racist, or race-related comments like Hopkins tossed out there are wrong. Coming from anyone, in this day and age, with the strides we've made, it's wrong. But my ancestors from England, and Ireland, and Germany weren't chained up, kidnapped and sold off to work as slave laborers. How would I act if that were the case? Impossible for me to walk a mile in those shoes...
However, I admit I would've liked to see Bernard disavow that race card proclamation, say that he made those comments in the heat of trash-talking battle, and offer an apology to Joe C.
I actually contacted Hopkins' publicist, and asked if he'd like to chat about the comments, and clarify the remarks. The publicist said Bernard is on vacation at this time, and would not be available for an interview.
The comments beg the question: is Bernard Hopkins racist? The last more pale- skinned person he fought was Oscar and before that Hakkar, and before that, it was probably back in the early 90s. When facing a non-black fighter, does he truly gear himself up to a different extent, because he can't bear the thought of losing to a "white boy." Does he see himself as a better breed of fighter, better than a white fighter, because he's black? Hopefully, we'll hear from him, and he can make clear his views on this subject soon.
So we're left to theorize, and I suspect, because that's all I can do until Hopkins revisits the issue, that Hopkins wants us to theorize. He's as effective in the ring as any almost 43-year-old has any right to be, but his effectiveness as a fighter has diminished in the last few years.
So to make up for that, and keep people talking about him, I believe he's more inclined to pull off a publicity stunt, as when he provoked Winky Wright into a physical beef before they tangled in July. I think perhaps the race-related comments to Calzaghe are cut from the same cloth, meant to get people buzzing. It succeeded, to a point.
Many pundits are hesitant to go there when it comes to discussing race, because it remains a hot button issue that can hit the nuclear level in the blink of an eye. So the race rant did get a bit lost in the megafight shuffle over the weekend.
I received an email last week after I raked PBF thru the coals for his profane Youtube rant. The writer said I wasn't comfortable with Floyd's behavior because I'm white, and whites were responsible for forcing blacks into slavery, so Floyd can say and do whatever he wants. I had conceded in the Youtube piece that as a Caucasian, I am in no position to be able to comprehend what it's like to be black today.
But there are those that can argue, with some persuasiveness, that Bernard should get more of a free pass for making race-based comments, because he's black. It wouldn't be a stretch to ponder that maybe Hopkins does ponder issues of race, and racial inequalities, more than a white man of means does. Do you believe that a white man, with a more ample fund for defense, would necessarily receive the same sentence as Hopkins did for a strong-arm robbery, even if the raps on his sheet were piling up?
Does that excuse his comments? Nope.
But could his life's arc, and a stint in a penitentiary where he had to feign insanity to prevent being raped, contribute to a mindset where its us vs. them, black vs. white? It could.
But excusing this group from a standard, and not that group, that's a slippery slope. We are all in this mad muddle we call life together, and there must be common standards that are applied equally. Because that's all any of us can hope for: to be judged on our merits, on how we act and treat others, not on an arbitrary trait like the color of the skin we happen to be born with.
Bottom line here...so many columnists are quick to judge. I can go there myself. I hammered PBF pretty good last week for his profane and flamboyantly braggadocious behavior.
But there are very few angels walking this earth. We screw up. We harbor prejudices. We say things we wish we could take back.
I do hope that Hopkins gets back from vacation, and explains why he used that loaded terminology as he scrapped verbally with Calzaghe in Vegas.
I do hope that he apologizes, and admits that the word choice was poor.
Because I want to believe that Hopkins, who is a genuine role model for wrong-doers who crave the ability and strength to spurn old habits and stay on a straight and narrow path, is better than that, and that boxing, in the year 2007, is better than that.
As soon as we walked into the lobby area of the hotel where a boxing ring is erected, there were Brits everywhere just mulling around. Toward the bar area by the elevators were even more Englishmen drinking away and looking at anyone who headed into the darker liquor buying area. Right near the entrance were a few boxing people like Joe Chavez the cut man and several British fighters on their way to the weigh in I guess.
This is boxing at it’s best with thousands willing to travel over 6,000 miles to see their guy in Las Vegas fight the Pound for Pound best.
The media room was located in the same place as usual near the entrance of the MGM Garden Arena where the Floyd Mayweather-Ricky Hatton fight is going to take place in about two days. We obtain our media credentials and head toward the pressroom. The place was packed with media especially the British press.
About 16 radio stations line the west and north side of the giant media room where elite boxers like Bernard Hopkins, Shane Mosley, Ricky Hatton and Oscar De La Hoya are talking about the upcoming fight.
I picked up the bout sheets for Friday and Saturday’s fight I noticed that both nights had more than eight fights on each day. That means an early start time especially for Friday’s fights with the man fight involving a rematch between Enrique Ornelas and Bronco McKart in a middleweight showdown. The fight is televised by Telefutura so that means a 4:30 p.m. start.
Golden Boy Promotions invited me to a dinner later that night. I’ve been to a few of these types of dinners and I’m not the type who talks a lot so I leave early. But on this occasion I invited a friend who lives in Las Vegas a female fighter named Elena “Baby Doll” Reid, who is the undisputed flyweight champion of the world. She has always wanted to meet Oscar De La Hoya and Shane Mosley.
The dinner is held in one of the studios below the MGM Garden Arena with most of the newspaper boxing writers on hand like Chuck Johnson of USA Today, Steve Spring and Lance Pugmire of the L.A. Times, Tim Smith of New York Daily News, George Willis of New York Post and a few low-rungs like me. One by one the Golden Boy fighters begin arriving into the host area where drinks are passed out. Holding court is PR extraordinaire Bill Caplan, his daughter Debbie Caplan. Monica Sears and Nicole Becerra of Golden Boy are also there greeting the writers to the affair.
Elena Reid and myself stand in a corner and watch the people arrive. As De La Hoya arrives a group of writers descend on him like flies to a bright light. After about 20 minutes the writers begin to filter out. Next comes Shane Mosley who arrives with his wife Jin.
Elena Reid finally meets Oscar and Shane and they talk about boxing. Both male champions comment on how she doesn’t look like a fighter let alone a world champion. She adds that she’s now going to enter MMA and they’re both amazed. She’s very spunky.
During the dinner Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer discusses the reasons they made the dinner and asked that all the professional fighters in the room stand up. Up goes De La Hoya, Mosley, Bernard Hopkins, Juan Manuel Marquez and Elena Reid.
I tell you she’s spunky.
After the dinner more than a few people approach Elena to ask about her pro career. It’s kind of a tragic truth that though many people like women’s boxing, few promoters are willing to put the money to stage a show. Reid has been fighting for eight years and hasn’t made more than $70,000 total despite 27 pro bouts. Plus she’s a world champion.
Bernard Hopkins drops by to say hello and shares a few stories of his life. He talks about getting in a fistfight about two weeks before his big bout with Oscar De La Hoya. The Philadelphia boxer said he contracted this guy who stands about 6-7 and weighs 400 pounds to do some work on his home. The guy tries to jack him and Hopkins and the giant come to blows. Hopkins smacks him with one of his patented right hands and the big galoot falls forward right on Hopkins. He can’t get up. He’s fretting because the guy is so big that he feels he might be in trouble when the guy regains consciousness. After struggling Hopkins finally gets the lug off him. But it was a close call he says.
Caplan laughs because he can’t believe this all happened just before the biggest moneymaking fight of Hopkins’s career.
“I’m from the streets,” said Hopkins.
We arrive around noon so we can get some free grub. The place is packed with journalists. Just walking from the parking lot to the media center takes about 20 minutes. Inside the media room there are boxing people flooding every crevice but outside the room there are literally thousands of people.
As we sat munching on a few desserts a regular-looking guy dressed in a grayish blue pullover shirt, jeans and tennis shoes and not wearing socks is being guided by p.r. specialist Debbie Caplan. We take a closer look at the almost anonymous guy and he sure looks like Joe Calzaghe. He’s led to one of the radio booths for an interview. No one notices but myself and two others in this room filled with more than 100 journalists. Then after his interview he turns to face the giant room and all bedlam breaks loose.
“It’s Joe Calzaghe,” shouts one British writer.
About 50 people gather around him asking questions and then Bernard Hopkins lopes over to get a look. While he’s there he mugs Calzaghe and begins telling him about his future. Both fighters stand toe-to-toe and don’t move an
We continue eating and looking at the British journalists jumping on each other’s back to talk to Calzaghe.
Around 2:30 p.m. we head to the weigh-in. Once we walk into the arena we hear and see thousands of mostly British fans singing songs about their hero Rick Hatton. It’s a pretty amazing scene. This is what boxing is all about.
During introductions the crowd cheers loudly for Shane Mosley who bows graciously to the fans. Then Juan Manuel Marquez is introduced and the crowd applauds politely. Oscar De La Hoya is introduced and the crowd cheers loudly once again. Marco Antonio Barrera is announced and the crowd cheers loud for Hatton’s buddy. Then Hopkins is announced and boos cascade from the deepest regions of the arena. He eggs on the boos. Then Joe Calzaghe is announced and the crowd roars its loudest and begins singing a “Joe Calzaghe song” in unison. It’s pretty awe-inspiring. Hopkins motions with a throat cutting gesture and Calzaghe responds back. The crowd is delirious.
After the weigh-ins we walk to the convention center area where a large fight card called “The U.K. vs. the world” is going to take place. About 1,000 maybe 1,500 people show up in a spacious place. I’m sitting about 10 rows back so that I can get some electricity for my laptop. It never comes.
The fights are entertaining and feature mostly British fighters against so-so American or Mexican fighters.
A group of Brits walk into my row, I’m the only guy sitting in it, and ask if they can join me. I say of course and make room for them. We casually talk about the fights going on. Later one of the p.r. people comes by and says to the guy sitting next to me “are you OK Mr. Hatton.”
I do a double take. Sure enough it’s Ricky Hatton’s pop.
We’re watching Karl Dargan one of the American boxers but it looks like he’s trying too hard. He wins but it easy a smooth drive for the former amateur standout making his pro debut.
Mr. Hatton knows boxing and comments here and there. He especially looks at Scotland’s Craig McEwan and says the young middleweight doesn’t sit on his punches. “He would have taken the guy out with that one,” Hatton says. “Or maybe not. The other fellow looks durable.”
Hatton and his friends comment on Freddie Roach’s great training ability. The British from Manchester or very congenial fellows with a lot of class. Just like Ricky Hatton.
After the fight cards we met some old boxing friends Steve and Michele Harpst and joined some other of our boxing crew Big Joe Miranda of Fightnews and famous cornerman Tony Rivera. We go to eat but Tony has to go somewhere else. While eating we see the circus pass by as people from everywhere walk pass our table.
It was a long, long day.
We arrive back at the MGM for a press conference with Miguel Cotto and Top Rank’s Bob Arum. It’s Arum’s birthday. Everybody cheers the promoter who is now 76.
Cotto is in a cheerful mood and everybody gets a chance to talk with him. In private I ask him if he had any tricks up his sleeve when he fought Shane Mosley. He said he only resorted back to his earlier days when he boxed more and slugged less. Plus he had two other back up plans. He added that he needed the back up plans.
The great Puerto Rican world champion would love a match with Oscar De La Hoya and so would Arum, but both know it’s Oscar’s last hurrah and he deserves a much easier match if that’s possible.
Cotto also says that “Floyd Mayweather would never fight me. He knows who the real world champion is.”
Arum says that if Mayweather won’t fight Cotto why not Shane Mosley?
“I would love to see Mayweather fight Shane Mosley and he’s not even my fighter,” Arum said.
The fights began at 3:15 and several young fighters make their mark including Danny Garcia and Daniel Jacobs. Matthew Hatton wins a tough one too in his welterweight title. I met the younger Hatton days earlier and he’s a good guy. He’s also pretty hilarious.
During the singing of the U.S. National anthem the crowd boos loudly throughout as Tyrese sings. But through the boos I can hear many in the audience begin to sing. I’ve seldom heard the audience sing the National Anthem before a fight. It goes to show that boxing brings Americans together.
Floyd Mayweather then proceeds to beat up Hatton with the help of referee Joe Cortez. Not that he needed any help, but Cortez was giving it to him anyway in my estimation. Mayweather was elbowing and roughhousing like Hatton was expected to do. Cortez put the shackles on the wrong guy.
After filing a story for the Riverside Press-Enterprise and another to www.TheSweetScience.com on deadline, I’m ready to head home. It’s around midnight but I still have to pick up my sister. By the time I’m headed toward California it’s 1 a.m.. We reach our destination around 4 a.m.
Super middleweight world champion Joe Calzaghe has agreed to meet light heavyweight world champion Bernard Hopkins and was present at the fight in Las Vegas last Saturday. While there both Calzaghe and Hopkins pressed noses while attempting to intimidate each other. “No way he beats me” said Hopkins loudly inside the media center at the MGM Grand. Calzaghe merely laughed. “I never knew I had so many supporters among Ricky Hatton fans,” said Calzaghe who was cheered in song by the many British fans in Las Vegas. The fight between Calzaghe and Hopkins is scheduled for Las Vegas or New York City.
Former 2000 U.S. Olympian Jose Navarro of Los Angeles will meet WBO junior bantamweight titleholder Fernando Montiel on Feb. 16 in Las Vegas. The fight will be the semi-main event under the Kelly Pavlik and Jermain Taylor middleweight championship fight. Navarro has been out-pointed in three previous world title bids and hopes this will be the lucky fight. Montiel fights out of Los Mochis, Mexico.
Ulises Solis (25-1-2, 19 KOs) defends his IBF junior flyweight title against Filipino Bert “Ninja” Batawang (50-6, 34 KOs) at Guadalajara, Mexico on Saturday Dec. 15. The fight will not be televised. Solis is a marked man. It’s the second consecutive time he defends his title against a Filipino. In his last fight he barely escaped with a win against Filipino Rodel Mayol by eighth round knockout.
Doesn’t that diminish the event, I asked Taylor’s promoter, Lou Dibella.
No, Dibella said, the fight stands on its own merits. There doesn’t need to be any belt on the line.
I’m firmly behind that line of thinking now, as it becomes more and more clear to me that the titles are largely irrelevant, that the fans know the matches that need to be made.
At BB King’s club in NYC on Tuesday, Pavlik and his team, and Team Taylor (minus Taylor himself, who welcomed his third child with the wife into the world on Monday afternoon), convened to hype the Feb. 16 sequel. Laila Jayden hit the scale at 8 pounds, 9 ounces, and the fighter stayed with the momma because she had a slight fever.
The first fight, a stunner in Atlantic City, featured a battle of undefeateds. Only Pavlik (32-0, 29 KOs) has a blemish free record now, as he shook off a second round knockdown and Taylor’s furious finishing attempt to roar back with a TKO 7 victory.
The rematch will take place in Las Vegas, and be offered on PPV at $49.95.
Perhaps the most noticeable storyline shift from the first fight is the status of Taylor’s trainer. The Emanuel Steward experiment, not a smashing success by any means, is kaput, and instead Taylor’s father figure/co-trainer Ozell Nelson will take the reins as primary guide.
Nelson, a likeable, humble sort, told TSS that his guy was “very disappointed” and “angry” about the Sept. 29 loss, and is reinvigorated about the fight game. “He wants this fight, and we’ll learn from the loss and we’re going to correct things,” Nelson said.
Steward’s hefty client list factored into the move, Nelson said, but it went beyond that.
“Things were going good in the gym, but the night of the fight, there was a communication gap in the corner,” he said.
So, Nelson was asked, how what will JT being doing differently, without Manny, as he looks to get back on the winning track, at 166 pounds, which could theoretically help him more than Pavlik.
“The goal is to keep his hands up,” he said, “and not be backing straight up, and be in better shape. (During that second round knockdown and assault) he pooped out. Now he’s got to sit back and take the guy apart instead of going wild.”
Taylor (27-1-1, 17 KOs) did a phone-in, and said he’s pumped to get back on the horse. (Nelson told me Taylor has no chin worries, that it was mostly because he was gassed that he got caught, and that he doesn’t need a confidence-builder in the interim.) “I look at boxing differently, and have a whole new love for the sport of boxing,” the new pop said.
That’s good to hear, from the fan perspective, because to hear Taylor talking about the benjamins in recent years was sort of sad to hear. Glad to hear he’s juiced about the competitive aspect once again.
Pavlik seems pumped to prove the first win wasn’t a fluke. “I’m going back to the drawing board, and we’re going to work on the mistakes that were made,” he said. “Taylor’s going to be back with a lot to prove, and he’ll be back with something to prove.”
I talked earlier about the irrelevance of the belts, and that has to include the Ring belt that editor Nigel Collins was trumpeting at BB Kings. Not that we should necessarily look down more at the Ring’s move toward being a sanctioning body, just because the sport’s most visible presence, Oscar De La Hoya owns the publication, and there is an inherent conflict of interest at work. After all, their ratings make tons more sense than the alphabet gangs’ do. But um…no middleweight title is on the line during this rematch so what exactly is the point in Collins’ getting on the stump at this press conference again?
Taylor, it turns out, will train in Vegas, away from familial distractions, so Nelson says that should help his chances. The extra weight should aid him too, as he’s struggled to make 160 for several years now, though I’m certain the 6-2 ½ Pavlik will welcome the opportunity to chow an extra couple hundred calories a day as well.
SPEEDBAG Got to love Arum. I do, I admit. He’s of that age that he doesn’t give a rat’s behind about insulting people. He tossed a thinly veiled slap at Oscar and Golden Boy for snapping up too many Mayweather/Hatton tix, rather than letting them go to fight fans on a first-come, first-served basis. “I didn’t take 5,000 tickets and Lou didn’t, so they aren’t available to the public,” Arum said.
---Another storyline I love about this fight—the dueling “no name” trainers. Jack Loew has been by Pavlik’s side for his whole career, and Nelson, who’s been with Taylor since JT he was 13 years old, aren’t in the Steward-McGirt-Mayweather sphere of reputation. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t the absolute best options to work those fighters’ corners. It may be that no other trainer, no matter how superb in Xs and Os, can get more out of these men than Loew and Nelson can. Loew, by the way, told me he was out sealing driveways one day after he came back to Ohio from Jersey after the big win. Any worry that the win and the prospect of financial security leads to an inflation of ego? “My wife wouldn’t let me get bigheaded,” Loew told me. When JT had Pavlik on tequila legs in the second, Loew saw a future that looked a lot like his past. “All I saw was black driveways,” he said. So, there was no extravagant purchases after the AC triumph? “No. I had bought a new Lincoln after the Miranda win on May 19. Hey, I hadn’t had a new car in 47 years!” Dude, you earned it.
At the end of Floyd Mayweather’s post fight interview with Larry Merchant, he hinted at taking a long break from boxing. PBF said that he was ready to take two years off to spend with his family. This has got me thinking about the essence of Floyd Mayweather. He is not only a great fighter and a smart business man; he is seemingly also a boxing historian.
If Floyd Mayweather takes a break from boxing he will follow the footsteps of another legendary fighter, Jack Dempsey.
During the boxing golden era of the 1920’s, Jack Dempsey was the world's most recognized athlete. His fights seemed to always generate record attendance figures and cause riots in the streets. But the genius of Jack Dempsey was not his knockout ratio, it was his celebrity. Most people overlook the fact that Jack Dempsey only defended his heavyweight title seven times in six years.
Before Dempsey’s title reign, boxing was at a down point in popularity. The great Jack Johnson lost to Jess Willard in 1915, but Willard was not a popular champion. Willard defended his title only three times in four years. The country was looking for a boxing hero, and found the “Great White Hope” in Jack Dempsey. In 1919, Dempsey crushed Willard in a Mayweather/Gatti like beat-down and began his venture into legendary status.
Much like Floyd Mayweather, Dempsey fought during an information renaissance. In the 1920s, sports fans were addicted to newspaper headlines and radio events the way we are obsessed with the internet and instant information news wires today.
In 1921, Dempsey’s bout against Georges Carpentier was a Mayweather/De la Hoya type event. Dempsey vs. Carpentier generated the first million dollar gate in boxing history and was the first boxing fight broadcasted live over the radio. The fight was dubbed “The Battle of the Century” and ended in a fourth round knockout. The media attention for Dempsey’s victory enhanced his star power.
In 1923, Dempsey fought Lou Firpo in front of 85,000 raucous fans at the Polo Grounds. Many boxing experts consider Dempsey vs. Firpo the greatest fight in boxing history (Firpo was coincidentally an aggressively exciting, overmatched, foreign fighter with a huge following like Ricky Hatton.)
In the first round of Dempsey vs. Firpo, Dempsey was knocked down twice and once fell through the ropes. But he later recovered to knockout Firpo in the second round of a Hagler/Hearns type slugfest.
Now, Floyd Mayweather has followed a similar trajectory in his last two fights. Mayweather vs. De la Hoya was an earth rattling event and Mayweather’s knock out victory against Ricky Hatton was arguably his greatest performance.
After the Firpo fight, Dempsey did not defend his title for another three years. He refused to fight a black contender named Henry Wills because of racial motives, and instead became a global icon. Dempsey used his celebrity to star in movies and become a spokesman in charitable events.
As a champion, Jack Dempsey fought an average of once a year. But his career is legendary. The irony is that sports history forces us to forget the faults of famous athletes. A legend will stay a legend as long as the media continues to create that image. Despite his long layoff in between fights, Jack Dempsey was still considered a sports idol.
Star power is the greatest leverage an athlete can have. And the United States protects our sports heroes unless they becoming threatening. Men like Michael Vick and Barry Bonds are seen as the enemy because they challenge normalcy. Whereas, Lebron James and Tiger Woods are icons that seem like they can’t do wrong.
Floyd Mayweather has the opportunity to turn his career myth into legend. He can continue to fight regularly, possibly lose focus, and follow the path of Roy Jones Jr. Or he could pull a Jack Dempsey, take some time off, rekindle his love for the sport, and return to glory.
When Dempsey returned from his three year layoff his record was 1-2. Mayweather, the historian, may perhaps be aware of this. His next possible/probable opponent is Miguel Cotto, and that seems like a fight that is too big to happen so soon. If it happened in May of 2008, there would be little time for build up. Less promotion means less money and less anticipation.
Unfortunately for fight fans there might be a long wait for another Mayweather fight. I think it is at least a year away. So I say let Floyd Mayweather pull a Jack Dempsey and take some time off from the game. Boxing needs Floyd’s star power but the build up to mega fight is nearly as fun. Perhaps Floyd Mayweather will not capture the hearts of sports fans the way Jack Dempsey did. But at least he has our attention.
But then his stamina lagged slightly, and PBF went into another gear, a gear that nobody else in the game possesses. He had sized up his foe, saw what he brought to the table, and dug into the task of putting another '0' in his row.
And then he did something that his detractors, and there are legions of them, and I have been a most vocal one at times, have faulted him for. He looked to close the show, in decisive fashion, with the exclamation point that removes the possibility of buffooning judges. He dropped a sweeping left hook to the Brit's chin, sending him to the anti-Wonderland, and hopped on Hatton with a climactic flurry that had referee Joe Cortez (who earned his purse, separating the clingy twosome every 20 seconds) halting the one-sided assault.
Then, PBF did his best work of the night, in my opinion. He acted not like Youtube Floyd, Rapper Wannabee Floyd, Money Mania Floyd.
He acted like a gentleman, like a class act, like a role model for a kid from a broken home situation like he muddled through.
He went over to Hatton consoled him, told him he was still a champ in his eyes. He was similarly humble talking to old foe Larry Merchant post-fight, and made certain to laud Hatton for being a consummate pro. He could've talked smack, say I told you so, dissed the naysayers whose hopefulness, whose distaste for the Money Mayweather persona, triumphed over stats and facts, when they gave Hatton a chance at dethroning P4P PBF.
He didn't, and he behaved in a manner that fight fans, all fight fans, not just Floyd Fanatics, can embrace.
Bottom line, this superfight was far more satisfying for me than the May 5 PBF/Oscar tangle. It was $55 fairly well spent, and as long as this model exists, that's basically all I can ask for, as a fan.
REWATCHING, WITH TIVO With the benefit of the trusty TiVO, I saw that Floyd's backward stumble in the first possible came as a result of a foot-tangle, most likely, not from the force of Hatton's short right/leaping left hook combo platter. Thus, while I thought that juncture may have tipped the round to Ricky, in retrospect, PBF probably grabbed it with an edge in telling blows.
In the second, to me another close round, during my re-watch, I saw that Floyd was slipping some shots that I thought had landed more cleanly on first watch. It is possible that on first watch, I was overly impressed with Hatton's hand speed, and aggressiveness, and was overly inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.
In the third, the first time around I was inclined to call it a draw, as both men were engaged in too many armbars for my liking. But it turns out PBF landed several clean straight rights, enough to take the round, IMO. On first watch, I had it 2-1 Hatton, like Lederman... now, with TiVo, I had PBF up, 3-0. Sorry, Hatton-ites.
I first noticed a slight deterioration in Hatton late in the fourth, during my re-watch. He was eating too many hard rights, and he began to plunge and lunge forward, and PBF landed a vicious right-left-right trio that had Hatton backtracking. If you study Floyd's fights, I do believe the fourth round is when he typically has finished up his scouting work, and gets down to nitty-gritty bidness. Same thing here.
The fifth was mostly mucho mauling, you could've given it to Hatton without much of a fuss. I say yes, because this was when Floyd's forearm foolishness picked up pace. 4-1, PBF, on my card now.
Now, the sixth, the point deduction round. TiVo shows Ricky hitting PBF behind the head, shoving PBF toward the ropes and then clubbing him as his head was in between the top two rungs, with his back to Hatton. Cortez yanked Hatton away as Freddie Blassie whacked PBF with his cane...I mean, as Floyd extricated himself, and then the ref took a point away from Hatton. This looked like the point where Hatton became frustrated with his inability to land clean on one of the fight games' all-time best defenders, and he let it overwhelm him.
He indicated to Cortez that PBF had turned his back, and then a bit later complained about the forearm situation. Instead of attending to what he could control, he began to fixate on, and blame, an outside source. There weren't too many clean blows evidenced, but those that were, were mainly Floyd's. 10-8, PBF. But it was tight, could've gone to Hatton, as Merchant had it. Lederman had it 3-2-1 Hatton now, and gave the sixth to the Brit, for a 57-56 Hatton card.
The Brits were still rockin' to start the seventh, doing the Wonderland chant. Their buzzes never wear off, it seems. The round was just about all chin to chin infighting, and almost no power punches thrown...until the 10 second mark, when Floyd landed a snappy left hook-right hand hand follow that gave the judges the nod to give him the round. THAT'S a lesson in stealing a round, y'all. 6-1 PBF to my eyes.
PBF landed his most telling, jarring blow to this point a minute in to the eighth. It was a lead right, thrown a second after he jabbed to the gut to get Hitman to drop his hands, and the crowd roared as Hatton's head snapped back violently. PBF landed almost the same left hook that spelled the end for Hatton in the tenth with 42 seconds to go in the eighth and came REALLY close to ending it at this point. PBF is a master at knowing when a foe is ready to go, when he's in that mental mode, and his hands aren't hurting him and he can comfortably set down on his shots. When I run boxing, and fix the points system, I'd score that round 10-8 1/2 PBF, because the margin was wider than 10-9, but there was no knockdown. The end is near, it is clear, for Hatton. Cortez saw that, coming to his corner, telling the team that he wouldn't let Hitman eat an excess of wallops.
PBF fought the ninth with a strategy that I think could've worked well if he committed to it the whole way through--he moved, and jabbed, moved and jabbed and Hatton was two steps behind him continually. 8-1 PBF with an extra point for the foul. And, those Hatton-ites were still game, doing the Wonderland chant after the ninth. Their stamina was a step up from Ricky's, even.
The safe fell on Hatton's head at the 1:58 mark of the tenth, with that "Check Left Hook" (or is it spelled Czech?) that Floyd unleashed as he slid to his left, as Hatton readied a left hook that never left the holster. Ricky banged his noggin into the corner post, and was up at eight on Guinness legs.
Floyd rocked another left hook, solid, then another, even more solid, a right to the nose, and Hatton tried to slide right, to safety. Cortez was already smothering Mayweather, as Ricky slid to the mat, dazed and downed, for the first time, by the best in the business. The end, as the ref waved his hands to signify that he wouldn't let Hatton even try to rise again.
And still, the Brits chanted Wonderland.
"I love all the fans that came from the UK, I love all the American fans," PBF then told Merchant, with his right arm draped around Larry. "Ricky Hatton is one tough fighter, he's still a champion in my eyes and I'd love to see him fight again."
"Ricky Hatton is probably one of the toughest competitors I ever faced, he kept coming, I hit him with some big shots, some big body shots, but he kept coming, I see why they call him the Hitman. He's one helluva fighter."
Then, Floyd told Merchant that he came in to this one wanting to step it up, as "a few fights ago, I gave the fans a couple of dull fights, but I wanted to come back with spark and a lot of energy, so that's what we did tonight."
Class act, bravo PBF.
SPEEDBAG I was surprised at some of the venom aimed at Joe Cortez. Lord, he had an unenviable task. Both men were grabbing each other greedily. The ref called time and convened the ruffians at 1:50 of the second, and at :31 of the same round, what else was he to do, I figured. But then I saw PBF whack Ricky on the back of the head, when Hatton's back was turned. And then he broke the two while Hatton's hands were free, which is one of the beefs the pro-Hatton, ant-Cortez crew had. Also, Cortez never did get a handle on Floyd's illegal usage of his forearms, did he? That said, hard task, imperfectly handled, c'est la vie.
---And regarding chopsbusting towards Preacher Graham, I can't say either way. HBO needed a translator to interpret for the non-Brits.
--PBF says he wants to promote now. Cotto and Mosley, he pointed out, are both great champions, but he will take a vacation in the near future. Then he said he's fought the best in the world, has nothing left to prove, and again mentioned the promotional sphere. I say the public is craving a fight with Cotto, and come springtime, PBF will get the itch again. He's amassed 50 mill in these last two fights, but you don't hear the same cheers when win in the gambling arena as you do in front of 20,000 in Vegas. We'll see PBF in the ring, in 2008, is my guess.
--I was very disappointed to hear that Golden Boy yanked a credential from Mike Marley's writer, saying that they didn't like some of the coverage they've gotten on Marley's site. The press is allowed to furnish their opinion, and Oscar is free to disagree with those opinions. But once a promoter starts yanking credentials because they don't like the coverage, we start moving in to dangerous territory, towards censorship. I've not had great like communicating with Golden Boy (phone calls and emails going unreturned) in the past, so I hope they reassess how they want to do business with the press, and improve on that front. Marley is correct, the websites are pulling their weight and then some in promoting the sport. For instance, the NY Times didn't send a writer to this event, and instead used AP copy.
Are there as many trained journalists now covering boxing as before? No. Could some of the writers use some basic training in the principles of solid journalism? Yes. I can see how some people would get irked that so many rumors get reported without being checked, and people without journalism training have the ablility to be heard far and wide. It is incumbent on us to report truthfully. But Oscar De La Hoya should publicly take a stand against the credential issue, now. That sort of behavior is beneath him, and his company.
Boxing fans should know that we are moving towards a crucial fork in the road of coverage. Many of the websites, to stay in business, must accept advertising from the promoters. Oscar even owns Ring magazine, the oldest and most respected boxing print publication, and that creates the potential for a severe conflict of interest. These arrangements can affect the ability of reporters to report freely, without fear of retribution, or loss of one's job.
Marley is from the old school; he's a real reporter, whose primary interest is the truth. If you guys want that, and I believe you do, let Golden Boy know.
In an arena that seemed to be located in the middle of England, not Las Vegas, the WBC welterweight champion Mayweather (39-0, 25 KOs) used his calm demeanor, speed and accurate punching to stifle the pressure of the valiant Hatton in front more than 16,500 packed fans at the MGM Grand.
Hatton gave it his all but it wasn’t nearly enough.
“He was the better man tonight,” said Hatton (43-1, 31 KOs) who suffered the first loss of his career. “He’s better than I thought he was.”
A lively first round saw Hatton land a left hook that caught Mayweather off stride and forced him to stumble. Both had their moments with Hatton the aggressor. Hatton’s speed seemed to surprise Mayweather especially the jabs and left hooks.
A big right hand in the second round landed flush on the Englishman’s nose but his pressure and quick feet afforded him time to land inside against Mayweather.
“I took my time fighting on the inside and the outside,” said Mayweather, 30, who was the favorite. “I knew he was trying to rough me up.”
Mayweather caught Hatton in the third round with some slicing punches that opened up a cut over the Brit’s right eye, but he rallied with aggressive punches to the head.
“I was not hurt by the body shots until he cut me in the third round,” said Hatton, 29, whose junior welterweight title was not at stake. “He was better than I thought on the inside with his elbows, shoulders and forearms.”
Both fighters were warned repeatedly for roughhouse tactics by the referee. The British fans were outraged that Hatton was not allowed to fight his normal mugging style as referee Cortez repeatedly separated them.
The fourth round began with Hatton trying to keep Mayweather in the corner but a four-punch combination forced Hatton backward.
Hatton cornered Mayweather in the fifth round and pounded on his back, head and ribs. The Las Vegas fighter tried to rally with 30 seconds left but his attack was smothered.
A punch on the back of Mayweather in the seventh round resulted in referee Joe Cortez taking a point away from Hatton to the displeasure of the boisterous British crowd.
From the eighth round on it was all Mayweather snapping right hands and hard jabs that throttled Hatton continuously. Little by little the grit of the Manchester fighter was being whittled more and more.
A perfect left hook by Mayweather in the 10th round caught Hatton flush and down he went against the corner pad and to the mat. He rose before the count of nine but was met by two more left hooks that snapped his head back. Cortez jumped in between the fighters and Hatton slumped to the floor once again. The fight was over.
“He walked right into the shot,” said Mayweather. “I wanted to show the fans I could punch with power.”
Up until the 10th round the judges had Mayweather far ahead on all three cards 89-81 twice and 88-82.
“I didn’t quite stick to my game plan,” said a smiling Hatton. “He was more clever than I thought.”
Mayweather credited Hatton’s effort and does not plan to fight any more.
“He was my greatest competitor,” Mayweather said of Hatton. “I’m not thinking of fighting anybody else.”
WBO junior featherweight titleholder Daniel Ponce De Leon (34-1, 30 KOs) pounded out a 12-round victory with a relentless attack over fellow Mexican Eduardo Escobedo (20-3, 14 KOs). Most experts felt Ponce De Leoln would knock out Escobedo but it never panned out.
“I tried to knock out Escobedo but he was too strong and he has great boxing skills,” said Ponce De Leon, 27, who defended his title for the sixth time. “He hit me with some great shots but I thought I won the fight easily.”
Escobedo, whose last loss was by technical knockout three years ago, was felt to be too weak to withstand powerful punches to every legal and illegal part of the boy.
“I stood tough and withstood his shots,” said Escobedo, 23, who trained in Maywood, California for this fight. “He knows I’m a tough guy.”
Jeff “Left Hook” Lacy used the right hand to knockdown Peter Manfredo who was slightly off-balance in the fourth round to distance himself from the former Contender reality TV star. The super middleweight fight went the full 10 rounds and Manfredo had his moments but Lacy’s strength helped him withstand various counter attacks. The judges scored it 95-94, 96-93, 97-92 for Lacy.
Edner “Cherry Bomb” Cherry (23-5-2, 11 KOs) proved his first win over Wes Ferguson (17-3-1, 5 KOs) was no fluke when he dropped Mayweather’s fighter with a left hook early on the sixth round. Though he recovered from the first knockdown with one second left in the round Cherry beat Ferguson to the punch with a crackling left hook that knocked out Ferguson for good at 2:59 of the round in a lightweight match up. Ironically,
Cherry was introduced first to the crowd though Ferguson had lost the first fight by decision last June in Florida. No matter, Cherry bombed out Ferguson.
Matthew Hatton, the younger brother of the Manchester duo, simply out-boxed the determined Frankie Santos of Puerto Rico in an eight-round welterweight affair. With sharp combination punching and the ability to keep the fight at his preferred distance,
Hatton easily beat Santos who had his moments. But not enough to win more than one round. The judges scored the fight 80-72 twice and 79-73 for Hatton who drew a loud cheer for his win by the pro-British audience.
Brooklyn’s Daniel “The Golden Child” Jacobs blasted out California’s Jose Hurtado (1-2) in 29 seconds with left hook exchange. His hook beat Hurtado’s and down he went for the count that could have reached 50. Hurtado, who fought three days earlier in San Diego, was not getting up in this middleweight meeting. It was Jacob’s pro debut.
Philadelphia junior welter sensation Danny Garcia battered with Jesus Villareal with a six-punch combination that sent the Texan reeling across the ring for a knockdown.
Referee Drakulich stopped the fight at 2:48 of the second round.
Puerto Rico’s Jonathan Oquendo (14-1, 9 KOs) banged Miami’s Andres Ledesma (14-7, 9 KOs) with a crisp four-punch combination at 1:29 of the first round of a featherweight bout. Referee Jay Nady counted to eight with Ledesma unable to rise on shaky legs.
New York’s undefeated Jose Rodriguez (12-0-1, 2 KOs) and Maryland’s once-beaten Ishmail Arvin (14-1-1, 6 KOs) fought on even terms for six junior middleweight rounds. The judges ruled it a majority draw 58-56 for Rodriguez and two judges scoring it 57-57 for a draw. Arvin put on the pressure while Rodriguez had the quicker hands.