According to Dan Rafael at ESPN.com, Hopkins, who is described as â€œworld light heavyweight champion,â€? despite a propensity to retiring and un-retiring with the frequency of a diva, told Dandy Dan that he is â€œin negotiations to face rival Roy Jones Jr. in a July 21 HBO PPV rematch.â€?
Great, just what boxing, the quintessential young manâ€™s sport, needs: a 42-year-old getting it on with a 38-year-old, on pay-per-view no less, to avenge a loss that occurred 13 long years ago (1993), and that by now most of us have forgotten.
Rafael writes that Hopkins â€œnamed Jones as one of the fighters he most wanted to faceâ€¦ One reason a rematch might be made this time around: Jones, who turns 38 next week, doesn't have any other options for a significant fight.â€?
I guess thatâ€™s as good a reason as any for the match to get made.
"We're talking to Roy,â€? said Hopkins. â€œWe'd both like the fight. I'm about 185 or 190 right now, but I will be back at 175 and be in great shape." But Hopkins said he isn't coming back for just one fight. "Three more," he said.
Hopkins has always made blowing minds one of his sub-specialties, but his proposed fight with Jones seems less about blowing minds than about blowing hard-earned cash on what increasingly looks like boxingâ€™s seniors' tour.
But if Bernard really wants everyone to sit up and take notice of his skills and willingness to keep fighting, he and Mackie Shilstone should get to work ASAP to get Ex back down to middleweight, so he can fight someone worthy of his talents and ambition, someone, say, like Edison Miranda.
That bout would be guaranteed to give fight fans the maximum bang for their maximum buck.
But the Hopkins vs. Jones rematch? What about it, Blog Squad? Is it worth fifty smackers to you to see Bernard Hopkins/Roy Jones II? Read more at the BLOG
What did Bob Arum know that the rest of us did not? Already in the midst of an age in which it had already become obligatory to sell every big fight – and many smaller ones – with a catchy slogan, the promoter who had already staged (with Don King) the Thrilla in Manila, as well as served as the impresario for Evel Knievel’s ill-fated attempt to jump the Snake River Canyon, christened the 1985 matchup between Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns simply “The Fight.”
Events proved Arum prescient. It was, indeed, The Fight.
Although its official buildup consumed several months beginning in late 1984, The Fight had been at least three years in the making. In 1982, with Ray Leonard vacillating toward retirement and Roberto Duran still tainted by the disgrace of his ‘No Mas’ performance in New Orleans, Hagler and Hearns were the two premier boxers in the game, and a showdown seemed inevitable.
In early 1982 Arum, Hagler’s lawyer Steve Wainwright, and Emanuel Steward had entered into a unique three-fight contract pitting Hagler against a trio of middleweights from Detroit’s Kronk Gymnasium.
Under the terms of the arrangement, the middleweight champion would fight, in order, Mickey Goodwin, William (Caveman) Lee, and, in the grand finale of the trilogy, Thomas Hearns. Round one, the Goodwin bout was to take place that March in Italy, with Rodolfo Sabbatini, Arum’s silent partner in the middleweight sweepstakes, serving as the co-promoter.
Preparations had been made when Goodwin broke his hand in training. Lee, considered a less worthy challenger, was rushed into the breech, and the fight was moved from San Remo to Atlantic City, where Hagler required barely a minute to send Lee back to his cave.
With Goodwin still indisposed, the decision was taken to go straight to the Hearns fight, which was scheduled for May 24, 1982, in Windsor, Ontario, just across the river from Detroit. The posters were printed, as were the tickets, but the fight didn’t happen.
The unraveling of the Windsor fight remains shrouded in mystery. The only way to make the fighters’ promised nut was to sell the fight on closed-circuit, but HBO, which had a multi-fight contract with Hagler through Top Rank, believed it had the right of first refusal and threatened to sue. (In what seemed a transparent attempt to stage an end-run around HBO, the Windsor card was to be promoted not by Top Rank, but by a new company called “Bob Arum Enterprises.”)
The lawyers were poised to have a field day, but the billable hours were somewhat curtailed after it was reported, conveniently, that Hearns had broken the pinky finger on his right hand.
“A day after the injury to Hearns, a federal judge ruled in Los Angeles ruled in HBO’s favor,” recalled Arum. “We would have appealed if Tommy hadn’t been hurt, but it would have dragged on for some time and the fight would have been in jeopardy.”
Hagler-Hearns was off, in any case,, and would not be revived for nearly three years. Hagler went to Italy later that year and disposed of both Arum’s obligation to Sabbatini and the unfortunate Fulgencio Obelmejias in the same evening.
Over the next three years Hagler would defend his undisputed middleweight championship against Tony Sibson, Wilford Scypion, Roberto Duran, Juan Domingo Roldan, and Mustafa Hamsho, while Hearns would fight Murray Sutherland (in a non-title fight) before defending his junior middle title against Luigi Minchillo, Duran, and Fred Hutchings.
Leonard, who had teased Hagler before announcing his retirement in 1982, re-emerged in 1984 and pointedly scheduled his comeback fight against a left-hander in New England. In Worcester, journeyman Kevin Howard knocked Leonard down before he himself was stopped in nine. Leonard immediately re-retired, once again putting Hagler and Hearns on a collision course with one another.
But by the time they were scheduled to meet again, the price of poker had gone up. A guaranteed $10.5 million minimum now sat in the pot.
Bob Arum was once again the sole promoter. Although Top Rank had staged Hagler’s last 17 fights, Hearns had slipped away with the expiration of the earlier three-fight agreement. Shelly Saltman, Arum’s old cohort from the Snake River Canyon jump, had moved in on the Hit Man for Hearns-Duran a year earlier.
(Although Saltman had the paper on Hearns, the Duran fight was bankrolled by Los Angeles entrepreneur Steve Taub. Taub, who years later would enter Imperialism in the 2004 Triple Crown races, recalled Hearns-Duran as “the most expensive six minutes of my life.”)
The Hearns-Saltman arrangement had ended unhappily, but not as unhappily as Saltman and Knievel parted ways. Incensed by what Saltman wrote about him in a subsequent book, the motorcyclist vented his displeasure with an aluminum baseball bat and broke Shelly’s left arm and wrist in several places.
Saltman won a $13 million judgment after the attack, but was unable to collect because Knievel declared bankruptcy. Associated Press scribe Fast Eddie Schuyler thought Evel Knievel should have been presented with the Silver Slugger Award.
The Fight was announced in December of 1984 at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria. Hagler and Hearns were all smiles, looking more like co-conspirators than adversaries, probably because they shared the knowledge that each would earn in excess of $5 million from their joint enterprise.
In January and February Hagler, Hearns, and Arum embarked on what its participants would recall as the ‘Magical Mystery Tour.’ Designed to beat the drums for the closed-circuit sale, the itinerary called for the boxers to visit 22 cities in the space of just two weeks. The prospective combatants traveled in separate corporate jets, only to reconvene at the next stop.
Caesars owned one jet, a state-of-the-art Gulfstream G-II with its own Pac-Man machine. Arum leased a second jet, a Falcon, which was slightly less luxurious and a bit slower. The plan called for Hagler to fly on the Gulfstream when the parties were flying west. Once they reached Las Vegas they would switch planes.
“But when we got to Vegas, (Hagler co-handlers) Pat and Goody Petronelli called to tell me we had a problem,” recalled Arum. “Hagler said he was going home if he didn’t get to stay on the G-II. He refused to continue the tour if he had to fly on the Falcon.
“I tried to explain this to Emanuel Steward, but then Tommy had a shit-fit,” said Arum. “He said he was going home if he didn’t get to fly in the Caesars plane.”
In the end, Arum had to turn the second plane in and lease another G-II, identical to the first, so that the boxers could have separate-but-equal modes of transportation for the remainder of the tour.
Neither man was exactly a polished public speaker, but Hearns, along with the rest of the Kronk boxing team, had been the beneficiary of locution lessons administered by Steward’s resident schoolmarm Jackie Kallen. He would thoughtfully digest questions and then invariably begin his answer with “Well, basically…”
“I think,” supposed Boston Globe scribe Leigh Montville, “Jackie Kallen must have told him ‘Tommy, every time you want to say ‘motherf-----,’ stop yourself. Then instead say ‘well, basically…’
Hearns did best to sell The Fight on this whistle-stop tour, but seemingly every time he opened his mouth he managed to rankle Hagler with what Marvin perceived to be evidence of disrespect. Hagler always deliberately tried to psych himself up for fights by convincing himself that he disliked his opponents, and the Hit Man played right into his hands. Every turn of phrase meant to boost the closed-circuit sale seemed to further antagonize Hagler.
Steward confirms that Hearns did an inordinate amount of trash-talking, “but it was strictly business.
“People don’t realize how out of character it was for Tommy to do that,” said the Hall of Fame trainer.
All it did was make Marvin Hagler mad.
“That tour did me good,” said Hagler once it was over. “I might have had some respect for Tommy Hearns before I spent all that time with him, but by the time we got done I came away hating his ass. I respect him as a boxer but I don’t respect him as a person. I’m going to remind him what it’s like to be on the bottom and have to work back up again.”
”He’s on an ego trip, especially after knocking out Duran the way he did after watching me (go the distance) with Duran,” groused Marvelous Marvin. “Well, he should have fought the winner of that fight, not the loser, ‘cause he didn’t prove anything. This is the best time for me to get him now, while he’s still walking around on that cloud. I’m going to do to him what I did to Alan Minter. He had that same kind of attitude, remember?”
In retrospect, that was eerily prophetic, at least when it came to the duration of The Fight. When Hagler won the title from Minter in London five years earlier, the slugfest had ended at 1:45 of the third round. The Hearns fight would last but a few seconds longer.
Hagler and Hearns were supposed to have one more face-to-face encounter after the tour ended. On the last day of February, the boxers were summoned to New York, where Sports Illustrated would shoot the cover picture for its fight-week issue. Hagler and Hearns had also agreed to participate in the filming of the video for Van Zant’s upcoming release “The Fighter.”
Hagler was still battling the lingering effects of a cold he had caught on the tour, and telephoned his regrets on the morning of the photo shoot. Hearns was in Los Angeles, where he had attended the Grammy Awards ceremonies and received a “Fighter of the Year” award at a WBC dinner.
Unaware of Hagler’s withdrawal, Hearns boarded a flight for New York, but the United 767 developed mechanical problems and had to return to the gate, where it remained for the next two hours. When it finally did take off, one of the plane’s two engines caught fire, forcing an emergency landing in Salt Lake City.
“It could have been,” said Arum, “the ultimate Sports Illustrated jinx.”
The magazine could wait, but in New York, Van Zant had leased Gleason’s Gym for the day. The band went ahead with the video, subbing with a pair of New York fighters, Kevin Moley and Alberto Ramos. (Footage shot of Hagler in Provincetown earlier was later spliced in.)
Hearns had intended to fly from New York to Europe to work with his Kronk teammate Milton McCrory, who was defending his WBC welterweight title against Pedro Vilella in Paris, but, said SI boxing editor Ted Beitchman, “Tommy is so shook up right now he may never get on a plane again. They may have to move The Fight to Salt Lake City.”
The initial plan had called for Marvin to begin training in Provincetown on Cape Cod, as he had for each of his previous 25 fights, before moving on to Palm Springs in mid-March, but the champion was nursing such a bad a cold that Goody Petronelli convinced him to proceed straight to the California desert, where the Americana Hotel had already offered the champion carte blanche and the run of the premises.
In Palm Springs Hagler sparred with Boogaloo Watts and Jerry Holly, both tall and rangy like Hearns.
The Petronellis had also lined up Marcos Geraldo, who had fought both Hearns and Hagler, but when Marcos failed to show up he was replaced by Larry Davis, who didn’t last long. Larry fell by the wayside after Marvin busted his eardrum with a left to the head one day in Palm Springs.
Watts, once ranked the No. 2 middleweight in the world, had been the first man to defeat Hagler when he captured a hometown majority decision in Philadelphia nine years earlier. The controversial loss had been subsequently avenged, and Watts eventually emerged as a loyal and respected member of the Hagler camp. Two years earlier he, along with fellow Philadelphian Buster Drayton, had traveled to Italy to spar with Hagler before Obelmejias II in San Remo.
“Bobby might have been a champion himself if I hadn’t been there,” said Hagler of Watts. “He’s smart. He knows who I’m fighting. He’ll lay against the ropes, throw overhand rights and hooks to the body, fight in spurts, do all the things Hearns is likely to do.
“And the other kid (Holly), watch him. He’s a younger, taller, bigger version of Thomas Hearns, plus he’s got something Tommy don’t have. He’s got guts.”
I didn’t think for a moment Marvin actually believed that assessment of Hearns’ mettle, but the events of April 15 would surely prove him wrong.
The challenge to Hagler had forced a radical departure in Hearns’ traditional training modus operandus. Steward’s Kronk fighters normally sparred against one another, without regard to weight class, and there was such an abundance of talent in the Detroit gym that they usually got all they wanted and more.
“You can’t get any better boxing than we give them in our own gym, but except for Milton (McCrory), who can switch up, we just don’t have any southpaws,” explained Kronk assistant trainer Prentiss Byrd.
Steward imported a trio of lefthanders – middleweights Cecil Pettigrew of Tulsa and Brian Muller (Guyana), along with Kansas City light-heavyweight Charles (Hollywood) Henderson – to prep Hearns for The Fight.
Although he’d faced a few lefties in his amateur days, only one of Hearns’ 41 professional appearances had been a southpaw, the immortal Saensak Muangsurin of Thailand.
Muangsurin, said Byrd, “was a former world champion and all, but he still wasn’t no Marvin Hagler.”
Hearns’ crash-course in lefthandedness also had to take into account the fact that Hager, the best switch-hitter since Mickey Mantle, could, and almost certainly would, switch over to orthodox at moments not even the champion could predict.
“It just kind of takes over, depending on how the fight is going,” Hagler explained. “I don’t even think about it. It just happens.”
One afternoon in Palm Springs, the Brothers Petronelli had accompanied Hagler on a brisk walk around the adjacent golf course when they came upon a small grove of citrus trees. A child of the city streets, Marvin couldn’t resist.
“I mean, I guess if I’d ever thought about it, I knew oranges grew on trees, but here was all this fresh fruit that nobody had ever touched before,” recalled Hagler. “Pat was saying ‘Naw, come on, Stuff, you’re not gonna do it,’ but I said ‘Just watch!’”
The middleweight champion of the world was in short order up the tree and filling a sack with purloined fruit. At that moment a golf cart came puttering along and emerged from the bushes. One of the occupants was Palm Springs’ most famous resident.
“I’d met Bob Hope once before, but he couldn’t believe this,” said Hagler. “Bob says ‘Marvin, what you doin’ up there?’ and I said ‘Hey, I’m picking me some oranges, Bob. That all right?’
“Next thing you know he invited me and Pat and Goody over to his house.”
With the fight still a month away, Kirk Douglas also became a frequent visitor to the tent outside the Americana Canyon that served as Hagler’s training camp.
Although it was widely assumed that Douglas was, like Hope, himself a reformed boxer, Old Spartacus revealed that while he had been a college wrestler at St. Lawrence, prior to his 1949 role in Champion, “I didn’t know the first thing about boxing.”
Douglas told me had been tutored for that role by the old welterweight Mushy Callahan. Mushy must have done a great job, because Douglas was not only nominated for an Academy Award, he was convincing enough that for the rest of his life people sought his opinion on pugilistic matters.
He spent a lot of time watching Hagler, but when it came to picking the fight, Douglas was, like a lot of other people, squarely on the fence.
“They’re both such marvelous boxers that it’s difficult to pick a winner,” said the actor. “If there’s an edge it’s that one guy is moving up in weight class, and you don’t know about that. But one thing’s for certain: There’s going to be an awful lot of talent in the ring on April 15.”
Despite the seemingly constant presence of celebrities, Hagler was all business in the training ring.
“I’m not here to sign no autographs or make appearances,” he said. “In fact, I’ve heard people comment that I’m the hardest worker of any of the champions who’ve ever trained at this place.”
Still, the surroundings in California were absolutely opulent compared to the Spartan nature of his familiar digs in Provincetown. Better still, from Hagler’s standpoint, it was free.
“This didn’t just happen overnight, you know,” he told me one day. “It took me a long time to gain this kind of prestige. I think back to years ago, with me and Pat and Goody sharing one $15 hotel room. This is the way it should be for a champion. It’s finally happening to me, but, yeah, I feel like it’s something I’ve earned.
“I’m still me,” he added, “but I’m not ready to let all of this go.”
Hagler shared the training ring with Donald Curry, who would defend his WBA welterweight title against James (Hard Rock) Green in Dallas two weeks before Hagler-Hearns. Mark Gastineau, the New York Jets’ sack specialist, had set up something called “Mark Gastineau’s Intensive Training Camp,” at which he pumped iron for the edification of the hotel guests in another part of the tent.
With the fight still nearly a month away, Hagler spent much of his time in seclusion, thinking about Hearns.
“Tommy is a dangerous opponent, and he’s going to test me, but I know deep down in my soul that this man cannot whip me,” said Marvin.
Hagler attributed Hearns’ self-assured demeanor to “false courage.”
“The thing is, see, I’ve been shook up but I’ve never been hurt. Tony Sibson shook me up with a left hook that I still remember. Even Juan Roldan hit me with a couple of good shots, but that’s where the conditioning pays off. I’ve been able to absorb those kind of shots,” reflected Hagler. “But Hearns has been stopped and I ain’t been stopped. I know he can go, but he don’t know if I can go. That’s what’s going to be worrying him.”
Hearns was attempting to become just the second 154-pound champion to win a 160-pound title (Nino Benvenuti had been the first), and going into The Fight, the Hit Man’s credentials as a full-blown middleweight were regarded as questionable.
Hearns had fought five times as a middleweight. Three of the opponents – Mike Colbert, Ernie Singletary, and Murray Sutherland – had gone the distance, and Jeff McCracken had still been on his feet when his fight against Hearns was stopped in the eighth. Hearns had dispatched Marcos Geraldo, but it was so obvious the Mexican was in the tank (the ‘knockout’ punch hit him in the shoulder) that even Emanuel Steward termed the fight “an embarrassment.”
“We were actually looking to get Tommy some work in that fight, but this guy (Geraldo) had obviously decided that he didn’t want no part of it coming in. All it did was make the TV people mad at us.”
Hearns had packed a killer knockout punch as a welterweight, but the jury was still out at the heavier weight.
“Usually a guy moving up in weight loses some of his punching power,” said Goody Petronelli. “I don’t think I’m giving away any secrets by saying Hearns has had that trouble, too.”
Although the WBC had cut its championship distance from 15 to 12 rounds two years earlier, Hagler strongly disagreed with the new regulation. His insistence on 15 rounds for his 1983 bout against Wilford Scypion had directly led to the establishment of the International Boxing Federation when Bob Lee’s new organization agreed to sanction that fight at the traditional distance. (Faced with the loss of their sanctioning fees, both the WBC and WBA had belatedly come along for the ride, making Hagler-Scypion the first championship bout ever in which all three titles were at stake.)
But Los Bandidos had grown more insistent with each fight. When Hagler’s 1984 Madison Square Garden defense against Mustafa Hamsho was slated for 15, the WBC stripped him of his middleweight title, even though Marvelous Marvin made the issue somewhat moot by dispatching the Syrian in three. Hagler took the issue to court, where a federal judge ordered Jose Suliaman to restore his championship.
Going into this fight, Suliaman opted for a new tactic: He turned the thumbscrews on Hearns, threatening to strip him of the 154-pound title he had held since 1982, when he captured a majority decision over Wilfred Benitez in New Orleans.
Officially, the WBC position was that Hearns couldn’t fight Hagler without first facing its top-rated challenger, John (The Beast) Mugabi. Unofficially, Los Bandidos let it be known that Hearns would be granted dispensation on the matter, provided Hagler-Hearns was scheduled for 12 rounds and not 15.
While publicly expressing his respect for the traditional 15-round distance, in this instance Emanuel Steward actually preferred the shorter limit, which he figured would be to his man’s advantage. (Had the Leonard-Hearns fight four years earlier ended after 12, the Hit Man would have won on the scorecards.)
The WBC’s decision to lean on Hearns, in any case, produced its desired effect. Rather than face yet another delay, which a Hearns-Mugabi fight would have entailed, the champion’s camp reluctantly acceded on the issue, and the Hearns fight became just the second of Marvin Hagler’s middleweight championship reign to be scheduled for 12 rounds.
The original panel of judges agreed upon by the WBC and the Nevada Commission had consisted of Reno’s Herb Santos, Englishman Harry Gibbs, and Rudy Ortega of Los Angeles. Pasquale Petronelli vociferously objected to Ortega, who, claimed Hagler’s co-handler, might be disposed toward favoring Hearns.
For the record, the objection rested on the grounds that Ortega’s big-fight experience had been primarily as a referee, not a judge. Privately, Ortega’s cozy relationship with the WBC and its president worried the Hagler camp, as well as his promoter.
“I don’t want to see them try to steal it from Marvin,” said Arum.
“It’s no secret that Jose Suliaman and Emanuel Steward are like cousins,” added Petronelli. “We’ve been at odds with Suliaman for years (mostly on the 15-round issue), so I’m not surprised that they’d try to pull something like this. We’re not going to sit by and let them try to railroad The Fight.”
The dispute was aired at a closed-door meeting on Thursday, and Nevada commission chairman Sig Rogich agreed to replace Ortega. (The replacement, according to Arum, was supposed to be Texan Dickie Cole, but by fight time Californian Dick Young was sitting in the third judge’s chair.)
Not for the last time, the Petronellis apparently outsmarted themselves. On the night of the fight Young, the replacement judge, scored both completed rounds for Hearns. Santos and Gibbs scored both for Hagler.
Richard Steele, nominated to be the referee, had been at the center of some controversy for his handling of the Michael Dokes-Randy Cobb fiasco a few weeks earlier. Steele was a casino executive at the Riviera up the strip (where Arum’s archrival Don King also maintained offices), but neither side objected to his presence as the third man in the ring.
“It’s not only my biggest fight, it’s the biggest fight there’s ever been,” said Steele. “Of course I’m excited, but I’m going to try to approach it no differently than if it were another ESPN undercard fight.
“What I have to keep in mind at all times is that these are two human beings I have to protect,” the referee added prophetically. “I want to make sure they can both walk out of the ring when it’s over.”
When it had been announced in December, The Fight had been posted at 13-10, with Hagler the favorite, but the punters had quickly bet it down to a 6-5 pick, and as the date approached the odds vacillated between one man and the other. Five days before the bout, a big influx of Motown money had temporarily made Hearns the favorite.
Convinced in his own mind that gambling interest had been behind his disputed 1979 draw with Vito Antuofermo, Marvin was almost phobic about betting odds, but one day he overheard me telling someone that Hearns had gotten a nose in front at the sports book that morning and was now narrowly favored.
“See,” exclaimed Marvin. “The pressure is on Thomas Hearns, not me. A lot of people are probably looking at our fights against Duran and figuring he can beat me, and I’m just hoping he’s fool enough to believe them, because he’s going to find his ass on the deck.
“I’m glad you told me that,” Marvin said with a grin. “I hope Las Vegas makes him ten to one.”
Art Manteris, the sports book director at Caesars, predicted that Hagler-Hearns would be the most-bet fight in Las Vegas history, and could approach the record set by the Super Bowl a few months earlier.
On the Thursday night before the big fight, ESPN celebrated the fifth anniversary of its Top Rank Boxing series with a card at the Showboat. Terrence Alli, who was to have fought Choo-Choo Brown, pulled out on the evening of the fight, citing illness, thus promoting the Brett Summers-Chris Calvin co-feature to main event status.
Summers, a young lightweight trained by Stewart, was unbeaten at 22-0, while Calvin, 15-3-2, was a well-traveled Nashville fireman who had battled Hagler stablemate Eddie Curet to a draw at the Boston Garden two years earlier.
Calvin, the self-proclaimed “Southern Rebel,” jumped right on Summers, pummeling him all over the ring in the first. He appeared to have won the fight in the third, when he knocked Summers down three times for what should have been an automatic stoppage, but Joey Curtis bewilderingly ruled one of the knockdowns a slip.
“Joey may be a lousy referee, but he saved the show,” Al Bernstein would say later. (Just a couple of years earlier, Curtis had suspiciously stopped Michael Dokes’ fight against Mike Weaver after just 63 seconds).
Summers was down nine times in all before Curtis stopped the fight in the tenth. The Kronk Boxing Team, which by then included at least thirty professionals, had been out in force for the Calvin-Summers fight, and they filed out of the arena disappointed in the result.
The rest of us left shuddering at the thought of what might have happened had Joey Curtis, and not Richard Steele, been assigned to work Hagler-Hearns a few nights later.
Once the principals had arrived in Vegas, Hearns had halted his sparring on Tuesday, six days before the fight, while Hagler engaged in a few closed-door workouts with Watts and Holly across town at Johnny Tocco’s Ringside Gym.
“After Palm Springs,” said Hagler, “I need to get used to the smell of a gym again.”
Hagler said that the decision to work out privately was not a cloak-and-dagger operation.
“It’s not that we’ve got any secrets,” said the middleweight champion. “It’s just that we’re trying to be serious about business. Over at Caesars, every time you fart it winds up on television, and when the corner’s trying to tell you something there’s always a microphone stuck in your face.”
Emanuel Steward defended his own decision to cut Hearns’ sparring a week before The Fight.
“We’ve learned some of the mistakes we made with the Leonard fight,” said Steward. “We trained a little too hard for Leonard, but we’ve learned to adjust.”
In fact, Steward expressed surprised that Hagler was still sparring a few days before The Fight.
“Every trainer knows his own fighter best, and I’d certainly never criticize Goody, but I really think Marvin’s working himself too hard,” said Steward. “I think he’s so hyper for this fight that around the sixth round he’s going to be exhausted.”
Although Hagler been a middleweight throughout his career and Hearns was moving up from the lighter weight classes, the Hit Man, at 6-1, towered over the champion, whom he tauntingly called “a midget,” by at least four inches.
Hagler responded by describing Hearns as “a freak.”
“He ought to be playing basketball instead of trying to fight me,” said Marvelous Marvin.
Apart from obligatory press appearances, Hagler remained sequestered in his room at Caesars. Hearns, on the other hand, strolled around the premises accompanied by his sizeable entourage from Detroit. One evening we were walking through the casino and encountered what we described at the time as “one of the great mismatches of the week: Thomas Hearns against a craps table.”
Anticipation over The Fight made Hagler-Hearns the casino’s hottest affair in years, and “with an event this big, the whole pecking order changes,” explained a Caesars spokesman. A customer with a five-figure credit line might have been accustomed to a two-bedroom suite was going to have to make do with a single room, because the million-dollar bettors had first crack at the suites.
The champion’s own quarters at Caesars consisted of a two-bedroom suite whose décor was best described as Early American Whorehouse. The walls were purple, with mirrors installed on the ceilings above the beds. A brass plaque, presumably temporary, on the door identified it as the “Marvelous Marvin Hagler Suite.”
“I guess I’m getting a little seniority around here by now,” Hagler remarked with a laugh when he saw his digs.
By the weekend the Glitterati flocking to Caesars, the local press solicited opinions from seemingly all of them. Tom Selleck, Tip O’Neill, and Julius Erving were all picking Hagler, while Eddie Murphy, Steve Jobs, and Buddy Hackett liked Hearns. Siegfried and Roy were divided in their opinions, while the members of the Fifth Dimension split 3-2 in Hagler’s favor.
Even Lee Liberace got into the act.
“Marvelous Marvin Hagler once asked me if I knew how to fight,” Liberace told a Las Vegas magazine. “I told him that when you dress the way I do, you’d better know how to fight.”
Eighty-nine year-old George Burns joined Kirk Douglas in ducking the issue.
“Hagler and Hearns are both tough,” said the man who once played God. “I could pick a winner, but I wouldn’t want the other one to get mad at me. I may be old, but I want to get older.”
The Detroit News even managed to track down Caveman Lee in the sneezer. Three years earlier Hearns’ onetime stablemate had been knocked out by Hagler in 67 seconds. Now he was doing hard time in the state pen in Jackson, Michigan after an unsuccessful bank robbery.
“Tell Tommy I love him and I’m pulling for him all the way,” Caveman told the News’ Mike O’Hara. “I got twenty bucks riding on him – and in here I only make sixty a month.”
Two days before The Fight, Jake LaMotta was married for the sixth time, around the corner from Caesars at the Maxim’s wedding chapel. Sugar Ray Robinson, who had in his heyday engaged the Raging Bull in six brutal fights (and won five of them), was the best man.
Midway through the ceremony a telephone rang. Hearing the bell, LaMotta asked “What round is it?”
“Sixth,” somebody replied.
ABC’s “Good Morning, America” was in town, with plans to originate its programming from a remote location set up in the outdoor ring at Caesars both Monday and Tuesday morning, airing profiles of Hagler and Hearns, with David Hartman interviewing Goody Petronelli and Emanuel Steward the morning of The Fight. (On Tuesday, Hartman promised to interview the winner, along with special guest Ray Leonard – who was at the time, interestingly, a CBS employee.)
The weigh-in took place the morning of the fight, and given the verbal sparring that had preceded the bout, the final pre-fight encounter proceeded with dignity. Hagler weighed 159¼, Hearns half a pound more.
The two exchanged glances, but no words, and afterward quickly repaired to their respective rooms.
The celebrity-studded audience at the outdoor arena numbered 15,200 on Monday night, but the closed-circuit numbers would, in Arum’s estimate, fall short of his expectations. Although an estimated 1.2 million viewers bought Hagler-Hearns, it fell short of the 1971 record set by the Joe Frazier-Muhammad Ali “Fight of the Century.”
While an undistinguished undercard played out in the stadium a hundred yards away, Hagler sat sequestered in his dressing room. He could hear the whoops and hollers from Hearns’ quarters down the hall, where seemingly the entire Kronk team had gathered.
“That’s all right,” Marvin told Tony Petronelli. “He can’t take them all into the ring with him. It’s just going to be me and him.”
With over $10 million committed to the main event, there evidently wasn’t much left for the preliminary fighters. For an event of its magnitude, The Fight was accompanied by a disappointing undercard.
The Kronk Gym split its two fights among the supporting acts. Light-heavyweight Ricky Womack outpointed David Vedder, while the up-and-coming Luis Santana scored an upset when he stopped Steward welterweight Daryl Chambers in three. Angelo Dundee-trained cruiserweight Alex Williamson fought to a draw with Canadian Willie DeWitt. In what was supposed to be the co-feature, Eddie Futch-trained Cuban junior welter Irleis (Cubanito) Perez was awarded a decision over Pat Jefferson. The crowd voiced its disapproval by lustily booing the decision.
Hearns and his substantial entourage marched in to the strains of “Hail to the Victors,” the Michigan University fight song. Hagler chose John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” for his entrance music.
Before the fighters were introduced, Doc Severinson did a solo rendition of the National Anthem. Even as Severinson’s trumpet notes were echoing through the outdoor stadium, Tommy’s younger brother Billy Hearns was taunting Hagler from across the ring. Seemingly oblivious, Marvin continued to shadowbox.
“I saw him,” recalled Hagler later. “I was thinking right then ‘All you’re gonna do is get your brother’s ass kicked!’”
The opening bell finally rang, setting the stage for eight minutes of mesmerizing action. Hagler and Hearns tore out of their respective corners and were immediately consumed in a war in which no quarter was given, and none expected.
Less than ten seconds into The Fight it had already become apparent that whichever way this one ended, the judges’ opinions weren’t going to matter. Hagler and Hearns engaged with an unsurpassed ferocity, Tommy firing rights at Hagler, who, head down, resolutely marched straight at his taller foe, winging right-hand jabs and hooks from his southpaw stance.
The conventional wisdom had been that at some point it would come down to a test of Hearns’ right hand and Hagler’s head, and with Marvin charging right at Tommy, that anticipated encounter wasn’t long in coming. Midway through the wild first round, Hearns rocked Hagler with a right uppercut that momentarily appeared to have stunned the champion, but Marvin kept charging forward.
“I wanted him to know who was the boss from the opening bell,” Hagler said later. “I knew I could take everything he had.”
With a minute left in the first Hagler was pursuing Hearns toward the challenger’s corner when Hearns landed a right that opened a deep cut to Marvin’s forehead. Blood spewed forth as if from a geyser, but by the end of the round Hagler had trapped Hearns in his own corner and was landing almost at will. Just inside the ten-second mark Hagler landed a right-left combination that appeared to shake Hearns to his boots.
“At first I was wondering when this guy was gonna stop punching, but I was sorry to see that round end,” Hagler reflected later. “I hated to give Tommy a chance to go back to his corner and recover.”
The furious first round had delighted the crowd, and drew comparisons to some of the great opening stanzas in the annals of pugilism – Graziano-Zale, Torres-Tiger, Frazier-Quarry, and Dempsey-Firpo – but in the corner between rounds, Goody Petronelli had other matters on his mind.
“Don’t worry about the cut,” he told Hagler as he swabbed away at the wound.
“Close your eyes,” he warned the champion as he poured adrenaline solution into the cut.
Hagler’s cut was nearly in the center of his forehead, and while his bald pate accentuated the appearance of the gore as it spread across his glistening head and ran down into his face, it could have been much worse had the wound been to one side or the other. As it was, the blood flowed almost straight down between his eyes, and not into one or the other.
In the second, Hagler briefly switched to an orthodox attack. This interlude consumed no more than half a minute, but there were other times in the fight when he charged forward with such a two-fisted attack that it would have been difficult to tell which hand he was leading with.
Hearns, who had fought the first as if he expected it to be a one-round fight, was much more cautious in the second. Attempting to maintain his range, he did his best to jab away at Hagler from a safer distance.
Late in the second Hearns appeared to be in full retreat, doing his best to counterpunch against Hagler’s charge, but his own rights were increasingly wild. Hagler’s jab seemed to be finding its mark as the champion repeatedly cut off the ring to take away Hearns’ avenues of escape. A Hagler left caught Hearns off-balance and appeared to momentarily stagger him. The challenger’s spindly legs were beginning to look suspect.
“Box, Tommy! Box!” shouted Emanuel Steward.
“It’s pretty tough to box,” said Ralph Citro, the boxing record-keeper working as the cutman in Hearns’ corner, “when you’re being attacked by a swarm of bees.”
Toward the end of the round Hagler trapped Hearns on the ropes, as he had in the first. Just before the bell Marvin landed a right-left combination followed by another right hook. All three punches appeared to find their mark.
Hearns wobbled back to his corner, and Petronelli went back to work on the cut between rounds.
“I was a little worried that they might stop it because of the cut,” Hagler confessed later.
As the third began, Hagler again switched to an orthodox stance, only to further confound Hearns by landing three straight right-hand leads.
Steele had allowed the third to begin, but half a minute into the round the blood was pouring so copiously from Hagler’s cut that he halted the action and brought the ringside physician, Dr. Donald Romeo, into the champion’s corner.
“He asked me if I could see all right and I said ‘Sure, I can see fine,’” recalled Hagler. (The champion would later claim that he told Romeo “I ain’t missing him, am I?”, which would have been a funny line, but tapes of the episode do not confirm that exchange.)
Allowed to resume, Hager and Hearns went right back at it.
“I’ve been refereeing for fifteen years, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen that much intensity in a fight,” Steele would say afterward.
Just beyond the midpoint of the third, Hagler, in pursuit of Hearns, caught the Hit Man off-balance with a lunging straight right to the head. Hearns, dazed, went reeling across the ring in stutter-steps, finally coming to a halt when he believed himself to be out of harm’s way.
As Hearns began to turn his head the traces of one of those brief “Hey-I’m-not-hurt!” smirks had just begun to form on his lips when he realized that Hagler had chased him across the ring and was right on top of him.
Hagler landed two crushing rights, punctuated by a left that missed mainly because Tommy had already begun to fall. The first of the right hands started Hearns on his trip to the canvas. The second ensured that he would have great difficulty getting back up.
Hearns hit the deck flat on his back, staring up at the starry desert sky. It initially appeared that he might not get up at all, but he struggled to his feet and barely made the count. One glance at the blank expression on Hearns’ face was all Steele needed to see to stop the bout. As he cradled Hearns in his arms the beaten fighter sagged, and the referee, realizing he was all that was holding the Hit Man erect, gently lowered him back to the canvas, where he remained for another minute or two.
“It was really the only way to fight a guy like Tommy Hearns,” Hagler would later recall the denouement. “I had to go inside and work him. I told you I’d cut him down like a tree, and I did just that.”
As Hagler celebrated across the ring, a gentle Kronk giant named Quenton (QB) Hines bent over to pick up Hearns and carried him, like a baby, across the ring. The stretcher-bearer was incongruously clad in a white dinner jacket, a red boutonnière in his lapel, and the picture of the big man holding Tommy appeared in papers all around the world.
Rudimentary computerized statistics of the day revealed that Hagler and Hearns had unleashed a combined 339 punches in just eight minutes of boxing, and that each had landed well over half the punches that he threw. Hagler connected on 96 of 173, Hearns 94 of 166.
“I want to give Tommy all the credit in the world,” said Hagler afterward. “He put up an excellent fight. He came out the only way he could if he wanted to take something away from a champion.”
Emanuel Steward said later that Hearns fought the last five minutes of the eight-minute dance on raw courage alone.
“After the first round,” said Steward, “his hand was broke and his legs were gone.”
“It was a roll of the dice,” said Citro. “They both had to gamble. Hagler gambled and won, Hearns gambled and lost. I think he just punched himself out.”
In Citro’s medical opinion, Hagler’s wound would have forced a stoppage had Hearns been able to last another round or two.
“A cut like that just spurts blood all night long,” he said.
By the time Steele stopped it, Hagler was also sporting a cut across the bridge of his nose.
Once he revived, a weary Hearns, accompanied by Steward, made his way along the corridor in the Sports Pavilion and presented himself in Hagler’s dressing room to offer his congratulations.
The trash-talking of the past few months was quickly forgotten as the two adversaries embraced.
“You’ve got a lot of class coming in here like this,” Hagler told him before promising “If I had lost, I’d have done the same thing.”
The two gladiators hugged again.
“I want you to keep on winning, Marvin,” Hearns told the champion. “You were the better man tonight – but we both deserved that $5 million.”
Actually, Hagler’s end came closer to $10 million, despite the disappointing take in some areas of the country.
“We did very well in most places,” said Arum. “It fell off a little in the South, and didn’t do as well as we expected in Texas. The Northeast, especially New England, did very, very well. But Chicago sucked.”
In contrast to the approximately 200,000 buys The Fight engendered in the New York area, Chicago had only 20,000.
When she laid eyes on her father for the first time in weeks the next morning, three year-old Charelle Monique Hagler ran her finger over the bandage on his head.
“Daddy got a boo-boo,” she said.
As it turned out, Tommy had one, too. When he got back to Detroit, X-rays confirmed that Hearns had broken a bone in his right hand.
Even though by most estimates it had been one of the most exciting fights of all time, not even its promoter seemed interested in a rematch. The devastating manner in which Hagler had finished Hearns effectively squelched talk of a return bout.
“I couldn’t sell it,” said Arum. “Even though The Fight was a big success, in order to sell a rematch we would have to convince people that if they fought again the result would be any different. Who would pay to see it?”
The aftermath of Hagler’s devastating win produced an immediate guessing game of “Who’s Next?”
The most likely suspect immediately took himself out of the running.
“If I ever needed a reason to stay retired, that was it,” said Ray Charles Leonard.
At Hagler’s victory party at Caesars a few hours after the fight I was approached by Butch Lewis, who promoted light-heavyweight champion Michael Spinks. Lewis wanted to put together a fight between the two champions.
“Gee, I don’t know, Butch,” I told him. “Do you really think Michael can make 160?”
The idea of a Hagler-Spinks fight did appeal to Tommy Hearns, who urged Marvin to consider it.
“Sure,” snorted Hagler. “So you can move up and have the middleweights?”
The most obvious challenger was James Shuler, 20-0 and ranked No. 1 by both the WBC and WBA, but the public barely recognized his name. The hope was that his anonymity might be improved with more high-profile exposure before Hagler had to engage him in a mandatory defense.
As it turned out, Shuler would only have two more fights. (In the first of them, later that summer he won a decision over Hagler’s sparring partner Jerry Holly.)
A day after The Fight Arum had set his sights on the next foe – the undefeated Ugandan John (The Beast) Mugabi.
“Mugabi is a dangerous knockout specialist,” said the promoter. “People would want to see that fight.”
“Mugabi is the hot fighter right now, and he’s the one the TV people want,” agreed Pat Petronelli. “We can always make a deal with Shuler, put him on the undercard, and promise him the winner.”
It would be eleven months in coming, but Hagler did indeed fight Mugabi at Caesars the following March. The Beast lasted 11 rounds, and earned the distinction of being the last opponent Marvin Hagler would defeat in his 68-bout career.
James Shuler? He fought Hearns on the undercard of Hagler-Mugabi, and was ignominiously knocked out in the first round. Richard Steele was the referee. A week later Shuler was dead at 26, killed in a motorcycle accident.
With Shuler’s demise, there remained only one boxer on the face of the earth the public would pay big bucks to see Marvin Hagler fight: Sugar Ray Leonard.
Arum, obviously found himself in a quandary. If Hagler-Hearns had been ‘The Fight,’ what could he call the next one?
We found out when the posters were printed: ‘The Super Fight.’
It’s been 30 years since the fight game was introduced to Balboa. We asked a variety of people some questions about the series:
Your favorite 'Rocky' movie?
Steve Farhood, boxing analyst, Showtime: "As far as I’m concerned, there IS only one Rocky movie, and that’s the original. The original was different from the others in one significant way: It wasn’t directed by Stallone. John Avildsen did a brilliant job. Also, Rocky was fresh and brand new back then, and as such, was a totally believable character."
Mark LaMonica, sports and celebrity blogger, Newsday: "Rocky III is probably my favorite, which could be considered heresy in Philadelphia and Rome. But everyone always says I and II. But, in Rocky III, Balboa has a few gutcheck moments where he needs to find his heart and soul after getting embarrassed by Clubber Lang. To me, that's the essence of the character that we know as Rocky Balboa. He was all heart, and when he lost in III, we all felt a little uneasy . . . until he beat Apollo Creed in the beach race scene."
Bobby Cassidy, former No. 1 light heavyweight contender and cast member, Rocky I and II: "The first one. It had everything, even a love story. The anticipation of the fight was fantastic. And what made the movie great was the he didn't win. It wasn't your typical Hollywood ending. Burt Young's character, Paulie, was great. He had emotion, envy and a love-hate relationship with his sister."
Michael Bentt, former WBO heavyweight champ who played Sonny Liston in "Ali": "Looking back and appreciating it now, the first one was awfully compelling and raw. But there is something in the current one, 'Rocky Balboa' that strikes a chord in me on many different levels. Maybe I'm old enough to appreciate the 'process of other men.' The thing that resonated mostly is Rocky's yearning not to be defined by anyone but himself, and even then not being comfortable or complacent with what he has. The courtroom scene was poignant and transformative. Stallone's best work since Rocky I and Copland. But everyone's a critic."
Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini, former WBA lightweight champion and actor-director: "The first one, it's a classic."
Tommy Rainone, welterweight: "The original because it was done so well, the music, the dark grainy look that it had. The movie was written perfectly and the casting was even better."
John Cirillo, president, Cirillo World PR: "The original Rocky was a true movie classic, I remember standing and cheering in the movie theater as if it was yesterday."
Ron Ross, boxing author and columnist: "The original Rocky, because all the others are just like branches on a tree. Gotta go back to the root.”
Ed Brophy, Executive Director, International Boxing Hall of Fame: "The first Rocky was my favorite. It is one of the most inspirational films I have ever seen."
Which was the worst “Rocky” movie?
Farhood: "The worst of the worst was Rocky V. Even though I wasn’t big on Rocky II, III, or IV, at least Apollo Creed, Mr. T, and Ivan Drago were good characters. That was missing in V. And the we-can-save-the-world speech after the Rocky-Drago fight in IV was fairly pathetic. Talk about taking yourself way too seriously!"
LaMonica: "Sadly, it's gotta be Rocky V, although I contend that it wasn't as bad as everyone makes it out to be, kind of like Godfather III."
Cassidy: "Rocky V, who cares about a street fight?"
Mancini: "It's a toss up between 5 and 6. I understand what Sly was trying to do, he was trying to keep up with the times. But in 4 and 5, he got lost along the way. He became a caricature of what the modern fighter is."
Rainone: "I'd have to say 5 although the street fight was amazing and it wasn’t a bad flick but in comparison it wasn't as good as the others."
Cirillo: "Rocky III, I was just never a big Mr. T fan."
Earliest memory of the “Rocky” series?
Farhood: "I saw the original Rocky with my buddy John when the film first came out. There wasn’t much buzz yet, and we didn’t know what to expect. I distinctly remember people standing and cheering during the fight scene, something that just doesn’t happen in Manhattan movie theaters. And I remember running all the way home, even though we saw the movie on the West Side and I lived on the East Side. I think John and I could’ve run a full marathon."
LaMonica: "I was first introduced to Rocky Balboa in the den of the house I grew up in when I was about 5. I remember sitting on the floor watching Rocky on regular television with my parents."
Bentt: "I just turned eleven when the first Rocky premiered. I remember not really being all that excited about the film. I always maintained that fighters are compelled to fight out of the experiences in their lives. And those experiences include fighting as a response to the relationships in a boxer's immediate culture (family) and the greater culture (society). In Rocky, I didn't see anything remotely mirroring my experience. Or if I did I wasn't sensitive or secure enough to acknowledge it. But the parallels were there, even as an 11-year-old. A guy I nicknamed 'The Babe' made sure of that. Here's a bit of irony with The Babe. I'm in a dressing room waiting amongst a group of junior Olympians in the 1976 regionals. A heated discussion about Rocky erupts. I go into my best Muhammad Ali-esque Rocky is fake routine. The only kid not joining the debate was this kid in the corner. I'd soon find out this short Italian fireplug with thick arms and legs was my opponent. Think Babe Ruth meets Vern Troyer. We were eleven and he already had the beginnings of beard growth! During my harangue he never took his eyes off me. I was just a puppy selling wolf tickets and I wasn't bad enough to ask him 'What the f--- are you looking at, white boy?'. Anyway, we fought 45 minutes later and this cat proceeded to get in my face royally. Bang, bing, bang. I remember him swarming all over me and thinking 'I made a mistake by talking because this guy really isn't fighting like it was a sport'. I don't remember his name. All I know is that put a stop to my trash talking before a fight."
Mancini: "I was 15 when the first one came out, I was a freshman in high school. I don't think anyone who saw it wasn't inspired by it. America needed something to hold on to. Everything he did, I tried. I had my first amateur fight in April of that year. I did the one-arm pushups. I drank the raw eggs. I ran the steps. I did all of it."
Brophy: "My earliest memory of the Rocky series was seeing the first film when it debuted in 1976. It’s a year I will always remember because it was the year of Rocky, the 1976 Olympic team and also the year I graduated from Canastota High School."
Which character was the best Rocky opponent?
LaMonica: "Drago! He had everything. The height, the deadly punch, the hot wife, the Cold War stare, the great access to performance-enhancing drugs. Plus, he killed the man who gave Rocky his title shot. He was the quintessential antagonist for our hero Balboa."
Cassidy: "The Russian. He was tall, he was strong. He looked like a fighter. Plus, he was in my acting class."
Bentt: "For sheer charisma and as someone who had the 'external' look of a fighter, it had to be Apollo Creed. His technique left a lot be desired but to the masses back then it didn't matter how he threw his punches. He had the look of a champion, he talked the talk of a champion and he commanded attention when he entered a room."
Mancini: “Apollo Creed was fantastic. He was the quintessential opponent. But I did like the Clubber Lang character too."
Rainone: "By far, Clubber Lang, He is one of the greatest villains to ever be in a film and a lot of his lines were improv, at least that's what Stallone said. Amazing character from the opening scene when he's standing over a fallen opponent screaming, 'I want Balboa!'"
Cirillo: "Carl Weathers from the original Rocky, he looked like a fighter.
Ross: "When a character stays in your mind the way Apollo Creed does, I guess it's the 'Creed' rises to the surface."
Brophy: "Apollo Creed, to me, was the best Rocky opponent. The actor who portrayed him (Carl Weathers) did such a great job in making him larger than life."
Rocky Balboa reminds you of which real-life fighter and why?
Farhood: "Rocky doesn’t really remind me of any fighter. The easy answer is, of course, Chuck Wepner, but when Wepner got his shot at Ali, he was a legitimate top 10-top 15 heavyweight. Before fighting Apollo, Rocky was a total nonentity.”
LaMonica: "Vinny Pazienza. Crazy Italian guy in the ring who could throw punches and take punches until either the bell rung or his face fell off."
Cassidy: "That's a tough one. But I'm going to say me. We were both southpaws and we both beat the odds. I turned pro without a single amateur fight. Teddy Brenner said the odds of me becoming a contender, without any kind of amateur background, were 1,000-to-1."
Rainone: "Arturo Gatti."
Mancini: “As far as career trajectory, we can talk about James J. Braddock, a knock around guy, finally getting a title shot. I know the movie is based on Chuck Wepner. And what about Carlos Baldomir, he's the modern-day Rocky.”
Bentt: "For pure drama and an Italian-American tie-in, Rocky Balboa is the heavyweight rendition of Ray 'Boom Boom' Mancini. Boom Boom was never in an easy fight and neither was 'Rocko'. Both were bleeders. It was blood and guts when they fought. But how about a runner-up? Frank 'The Animal' Fletcher. Although the obvious difference is pigmentation, go back and take a look at Fletcher's fights. He probably most closely resembles Rocky in ring style and temperament."
Cirillo: "Paulie Malignaggi, Italian, tough, charming and never will give up. The Cotto-Malignaggi fight was like a real-life Rocky."
Ross: "I know he's supposed to be based on Chuck Wepner but whenever I see Arturo Gatti, I see a pocket Rocky."
Brophy: "Rocky doesn’t’ remind me of one particular real life boxer, but Stallone’s portrayal of a boxer who is trying to prove himself is exactly what most boxers are all about. They all have that Rocky spirit in them."
In real life, Rocky Balboa would be ... a champ, a contender, a club fighter, a tomato can.
Farhood: "In real life, Rocky would be ignored. Nobody wants to fight a left-handed heavyweight."
LaMonica: "Despite the 24 losses on his record, the Rock is a champion."
Cassidy: "A contender, especially today. But they'd stop all his fights in the first round."
Rainone: "A contender probably similar to Micky Ward."
Mancini: "First of all, real fighters, can fight. But let's look at the heavyweight division during the late '70s and early '80s. He'd be a contender. He would have gotten a title shot, Larry Holmes would have needed an opponent like him, a tough, good-looking white guy to beat up."
Bentt: "If I were being honest, Rocky Balboa 'should not' have been licensed to fight after more than a couple of years in the gym if the character existed. Fighting is a dangerous game. No matter how tough and durable a Rocky Balboa is, those characteristics eventually give way to fighters being reduced to perennial sparring partners and/or punching bags. Not very healthy at all. A guy like Rocky Balboa would not have survived very long in the gyms of New York, Philly, Detroit, or Jersey. But sadly, boxing is such that no one is really there to protect the Rocky Balboas from the themselves."
Cirillo: "Since he is also a lot like Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward, he certainly could be a champion, maybe not the greatest in history but a champion."
Ross: "In today's world of multi-championships, he would definitely be a champ. Why not? Everyone else would, too. A generation back, a club fighter."
Most inspiring Rocky moment? Farhood: “Anything that’s accompanied by Bill Conti’s music. Rocky accelerating during roadwork … climbing the steps … rallying against Apollo … If you didn’t find virtually everything in Rocky I inspiring, you watched with a blindfold and ear plugs."
LaMonica: "Just hearing those opening bells in the soundtrack during key moments in fights and other scenes. Instant Goosebumps."
Rainone: "It's probably when he says, ‘One more round,’ in Rocky 5 after getting knocked down and looking finished in the street fight. That whole scene is realistic and inspiring to me as the streets are somewhere Rocky seemed comfortable fighting. I relate to that."
Cassidy: "This might be a little offbeat, but to me it was when he took back Mickey as his trainer in the first movie. He came to Rocky's apartment, he was begging but not begging, and Rocky was ignoring him. Then Rocky ran downstairs and got Mickey. That was great. The love won out."
Mancini: "In the first one, when he was in the locker room saying his prayers before the fight, I could identify with that. I used to do that. You have that alone time before you head out to the ring. That was a great scene. One scene in the last one I really liked too was when he says, ‘What's a matter with a guy standing in the middle of the ring, going to-toe-to saying: I am.’ Every fighter can identify with it."
Bentt: "I connected with the courtroom scene in Rocky Balboa. The subtext of the whole debate to me was ‘I won't allow you to define me or pigeonhole me.’ What he has to say in 'Rocky Balboa' transcends race, faith, education and political affiliation."
Cirillo: "Actually, in a way, the latest Rocky film provided the most inspiring Rocky moments, he got up off the canvas of life!"
Ross: "The same in every movie. The last ten minutes of the picture when he climbs off the canvas and finds TRUE REDEMPTION!"
Brophy: "The most inspiring Rocky moment was during his training when he hit the sides of meat in the cooler."
Best Rocky line?
Farhood: "My favorite is extremely underrated: ‘These are my pet turtles, cuff and link.’ I spoke to Bill Shakespeare the other day and he told me he wishes he wrote that line."
LaMonica: "'Take her to the zoo, Rock' – Gazzo's friend from inside the car in Rocky I after telling Rocky that he thinks Adrian is retarded and that ‘I hear retards like the zoo.’”
Cassidy: "Yo, Adrian!"
Rainone: “’Cause ya cant win Rock! This guy will kill ya to death inside of 3 rounds."
Bentt: “Unsilent majority bigmouth, Paulie's line to the Russian diplomat. I thought I'd give props to ‘Bed Bug Eddie Grant.’”
Mancini: "The best exchange came after the first fight. Apollo: ‘There ain't gonna be no rematch.’ Rocky: ‘I don't want one.’”
Cirillo: "Yo, Adrian!"
Ross: "It's not so much what he says, but how Stallone puts it over. He speaks the mundane into the magnificent."
He, indeed, seems to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.
* * *
On Wednesday, Jan. 17, Muhammad Ali will become a senior citizen. That’s right, the Greatest will turn 65 years old, by the calendar that is. But by my reckoning, Ali will be forever young.
I am not in denial. I know his birth certificate and the calendar do not lie. I am aware Ali’s movements have been severely slowed and his voice has been reduced to a whisper by Parkinson’s disease. I believe, however, that Ali, who shuns pity, who is content in his religion and proud of his achievements, would be pleased that I choose to keep alive in my mind his younger self.
I see a picture or tape of Ali shakily lighting the Olympic flame at the 2000 Olympics at Atlanta. Moments later in my mind’s eye Ali is ranting and raving at the weigh-in for his challenge to heavyweight champion Sonny Liston in 1964. Some people believe Ali is frightened of the fighter he calls the Bear and suggest the match be called off.
The last time I saw Ali was after his daughter Laila fought on the eve of the first Shane Mosley-Oscar De La Hoya bout in 2000 at Los Angeles. We exchanged a handshake and smiles, and he whispered something I could not make out. Back in the quiet of my hotel room, I see Ali punching a small rubber gorilla and shouting about what he will do to “the gorilla in Manila.”
I see Ali on television, standing quietly and smiling. I also can see him standing unsmilingly and refusing to take the step forward that would signify his drafting into the military. It is an act for which he is willing to go to prison. It is an act that leads to a 3½ year banishment from boxing, an act that results in a victory over the establishment when the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the conviction in 1971.
I laugh when I remember him saying or hear him saying outrageous things.
“My name is known in Serbia, Pakistan, Morocco,” says the native of Louisville. “These are countries that don’t follow the Kentucky Derby.”
It is 1974 and Ali is receiving the Bronze Medal, New York City’s highest civilian award. “Mayor Daly (of Chicago) gave me a medal, too,” Ali says. “But his was gold.”
After Larry Holmes lost to Michael Spinks in 1985 and failed to equal Rocky Marciano’s 49-0 record, Holmes said after the fight that Marciano could not have carried his jock. Some people expressed outrage. I am convinced if Ali had said that there would have been laughter.
For Holmes, also a great fighter, Ali was an impossible act to follow. He always will be an impossible act to follow.
I sometimes cringe when I recall Ali taunting an opponent.
Sometimes I put on a tape of Ali fighting. Sometimes I can recall certain things that happened during one of his fights without the aid of a tape.
There is he making Sonny Liston look slow in winning the title. His arms are up in a victory gesture after knocking out Liston with a perfect, or a phantom, punch in the rematch. Cleveland Williams looks like a man caught in a whirlwind as Ali knocks him out in the third round. Fans are going crazy when Jerry Quarry cannot continue the third round in Ali’s return from his banishment in 1970 at Atlanta, the first Ali fight I covered. There he is getting up from a 15th round knockout in a decision loss to Joe Frazier in 1971, and there he is exhausted but triumphant after his grueling 14th round victory over Frazier in the Thrilla’ In Manila.
The fight in Manila was really the last hurrah for the two archrivals, who were young men, but who had become old fighters.
There really is not much more than needs to be written about Muhammad Ali. So as I close, my mind tells me to wish a happy 65th birthday to The Greatest, but my heart says, “Happy birthday, young man.”
In his previous incarnations, Peter had been a plodding, one-dimensional heavyweight with a thunderous right hand and not much else, but the Nigerian Nightmare took the wraps off his new, two-fisted attack at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino Saturday night and did the unthinkable: Which is to say that Samuel Peter gave James Toney a boxing lesson, establishing himself in the process as a force to be reckoned with on the heavyweight scene.
Peter not only knocked Toney down, he did it with a jab – in the second round, shortly after he had rocked him with a big right hand. And by the later rounds of their WBC-mandated rematch, it was Peter who was dancing on his toes while he stuck his jab in Toney’s puffy face.
Suffice it to say that what happened on a tribal reservation in Florida Saturday night isn’t going to do much for the future of Tae Bo or Billy Blanks.
“James was never able to get going,” admitted trainer Freddie Roach after the one-sided rout.
One judge, Peter Trematerra, had Peter winning all but one round at 119-108. The international judges, John Keane of England and Danny Van De Wiele, weren’t far behind at 118-1110. The Sweet Science scorecard was marginally more charitable and had Peter winning 117-108, but the issue was never in doubt.
Peter hurt Toney in the very first round, landing a right to the head, and as Toney cringed Peter came down with two rights to the top of the head – or behind it, in the judgment of referee Jorge Alonzo, who warned Peter for the tactic.
It was essentially the same sort of chopping right that had dropped Wladimir Klitscho three times in their 2005 fight, but having been spoken to by the referee, this time Peter was on his best behavior. (Later in the bout, as Toney ducked in front of him, Peter had the right hand raised and cocked, but, doubtless recalling the referee’s remonstration, thought better of it and never threw it.)
In the second, Peter followed his right-hand bomb by felling Toney with the stiff jab for the fight’s only knockdown. And while he threw and landed plenty of rights, it was his other hand that got Toney’s attention.
Toney rallied to win the third on two cards, and won the next on ours as well, but after that Peter pulled inexorably ahead, punishing Toney round after round.
Ever game, Toney continued to plod ahead and occasionally catch Peter with combinations, but more often than not he paid for it. From the midpoint on it seemed apparent that his only hope was that the big Nigerian would run out of gas, but instead it seemed to be Peter who got stronger.
In the later rounds, Peter was even up on his toes and dancing as he fired jabs at Toney’s chin.
“You saw what I did,” said Peter. “I was taunting him. I gave him the Ali Shuffle, with a little Floyd Mayweather thrown in.”
“Toney always goes this way,” Peter indicated a clockwise circle as he explained his strategy. “When I made him stop doing that I was able to take away his power.”
Peter gained the WBC’s No. 1 ranking, and ostensibly next crack at champion Oleg Maskaev, with the win, and seemed confident that that match would be made.
“I’m not the best – yet,” said Peter after what he termed his best fight. “The champions have the belts. But I will be the best.”
We don’t know about that, but he is head and shoulders better than the Samuel Peter who couldn’t beat Klitscko when they fought 15 months ago.
Peter raised his ring record to 28-1 with the win, while Toney dropped to 69-6-3.
Toney seemed to be in total denial after the bout, but at least he wasn’t claiming that he’d won this one.
“I came all the way from middleweight,” he reminded you. “I took his best shots, and I’m still standing.”
The main event was preceded by a performance from the Hard Rock stage by the band of the late James Brown, who had been invited to participate after King met them at the Godfather of Soul’s funeral a week earlier. The sellout crowd of 5,238 at the Hard Rock Arena included a gaggle South Florida A-List celebrities: Shaquille O’Neal, Miami Dolphin brothers-in-law Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas, Mickey Rourke, Anna Nicole Smith, Hulk Hogan, and Fat Joe.
In the evening’s only world title fight, Travis Simms, fighting for the first time in over two years, emerged from “recess” to demolish Jose Rivera and reassume the WBA junior middleweight title.
The pivotal moment of the fight came in the second round, when Simms unloaded a big right-left combination that split Rivera’s nose open. The champion came away with a two-inch gash on the bridge of his nose, and blood poured forth from both nostrils as well. It didn’t quite take all the fight out of him, but it was close enough.
After the nose-flattening combination Simms had crashed into Rivera, sending him to the floor, but referee Frank Santore correctly ruled no knockdown. Moments later, however, when Simms switched up from southpaw to orthodox and battered Rivera across the ring, Santore (who was working the bout because the original appointee, Tommy Kimmons, got stuck in Pensacola when weather grounded his flight) intervened to administer a standing 8-count.
Simms, 25-0, of Norwalk, dominated the bout, and Rivera (38-5-1) didn’t even seem to start trying to fight until the fight had reached its midpoint. Rivera boxed awkwardly, looking as if he’d forgotten everything he’d learned in the past ten years, and Simms, increasingly confident, forced Rivera to chase him around.
“I knew I needed a knockout to win, and that’s what I was trying to do,” Rivera would say later.
In the ninth, Simms caught Rivera with another solid right-left combination, and the latter punch sent the soon-to-be ex-champion staggering backward halfway across the ring, with Simms in hot pursuit. When Simms finally caught up with him long enough to land another left, Rivera toppled over backward.
Although Rivera got to his feet, when Simms landed a right hook and then another left that dislodged Rivera’s mouthpiece, Santore jumped in and waved the fight to a halt.
“I didn’t want him to stop it,” said Rivera, who protested.
“I’m back!” shouted the victorious Simms, who was fighting for the first time in over two years. “When I hit him with that big left in the second it felt great, and I knew it was a matter of time after that.”
Neither Trematerra nor Billy Ray gave Rivera a round, scoring it 80-71 after eight, while Rocky Young had it 79-71. The Sweet Science had Simms winning 78-72 going into the deciding round.
The other James Toney on the Hard Rock card didn’t fare any better than his namesake. James Obede Toney of Ghana was stopped in four by former IBF junior middleweight champ Roman Karmazin of Russia.
Fighting as a full-blown middleweight for the first time, Karmazin was making his first outing since losing his title to Corey Spinks in St. Louis last July, and appeared to handle the extra weight well. Jabbing away in the first round, landing hooks behind the jab in the second, and then going to the body in the third, Karmazin had won all three rounds on the scorecards of all three judges even before the fateful fourth.
Although he hadn’t appeared to be particularly stunned, Obede seemed to have trouble finding his own corner after the third, and midway through the fourth Karmazin put him on the seat of his pants, standing him up with a solid left hook and then putting him down with the solid right cross that came right behind it.
Obede struggled to his feet, looked quizzically at his corner, and, finding no help there, attempted to defend himself, but when Karmazin landed several hard shots with no resistance, referee Frank Gentile stopped it at 2:02 of the round.
Obede, who was fighting for just the third time in the United States, was 19-0 in Ghana, but is now 2-3-1 in the rest of the world. He had fought as cruiserweight when he beat Micky Stackhouse in South Carolina last February, and as super-middle in previous outing, a loss to Lucien Bute in Montreal in September.
Panamanian Guillermo Jones made an impressive heavyweight debut, stopping Kentucky journeyman Jeremy Bates at 1:44 of the first.
Early in the bout Jones rocked Bates with a right uppercut, moved in to land a left-right combination followed by another right that stunned Bates badly enough that Frank Santore Jr. intervened to administer a standing 8-count.
Bates never recovered, as Jones landed two more rights that left his opponent draped over the ropes when the referee stopped it.
The fight marked the first foray into the heavyweight ranks for Jones, who a decade earlier came within a whisker – a draw with then-champion Laurent Boudouani – of winning the WBA junior middleweight title. Jones was fighting for the first time since stopping Wayne Braithwaite in a cruiserweight eliminator in September of ’05. It was the fourth loss on the trot for Bates, who had most recently been stopped by Evander Holyfield in Dallas last August.
Las Vegas-based heavyweight Bermaine (B-Ware) Stevens scored his ninth knockout in as many pro bouts with a first-round TKO of an overmatched Otis Mills (5-3-1) of Cleveland. Stevens decked Mills with a hard right a minute into the fight, and while the opponent made it to his feet, he was absorbing enough punishment that Gentile rescued him at 1:48 of the round.
California heavyweight Javier (El Monstruo) Mora advanced to 21-3-1 with a unanimous decision over game North Carolinian Ear Ladson (12-13-1). Trematerra and Young scored it 59-55, while Ray had it 58-56.
In the women’s prelim, Florida super-middleweight Laura Ramsey (7-2) scored a mild upset, decking previously once-beaten Nigerian Ijeoma Egbunine three times in a minute and a half on the way to a first-round TKO. The third time Ramsey floored Egbunine (12-2) with a right hand, Santore stopped it at 1:44 of the first.
Ramsey hails from Winter Haven, which is also the hometown of unbeaten welterweight Andre Berto, who was at ringside to watch his old friend.
“We used to spar together,” said Berto of Ramsey. “When I was about 13 she used to beat me up in the gym.”
Devon Alexander of St. Louis, who goes by ‘Alexander the Great’ and owns the WBC ‘Youth’ title, went to 15-0 with a fourth-round TKO over Bronx veteran Maximino Cuevas, 9-5. Although there were no knockdowns, Alexander, a southpaw, peppered Cuevas with jabs and eventually opened a cut above his left eye, which by the fourth was bleeding in sufficient profusion that Santore halted the bout at 2:02 of the round.
The opening bout had seen Anges Adjaho, an unbeaten lightweight from the West African republic of Benin, post a unanimous decision over well-traveled Tampa journeyman Armando Cordoba. Ray scored it a shutout at 60-58, while Trematerra and Young gave Cordoba two rounds apiece (though, interestingly, not the same two) in returning 58-56 scorecards. Adjaho is now 15-0, Cordoba 23-32-2.
* * *
SEMINOLE HARD ROCK HOTEL & CASINO HOLLYWOOD, FLORIDA. January 6, 2007
“I wanted it to go 12 rounds to prove women can do it, but I have a cold and didn’t want to risk looking bad,” said McCarter.
GBU titleholder McCarter (22-12-5) won the WBA lightweight title with a blistering attack against Biggers, a knockout puncher from South Carolina, at the Orleans Hotel and Casino. The fight card was promoted by Crown Boxing Inc.
“She was really trying,” McCarter said of Biggers.
McCarter, who fights out of Las Vegas, proved too skillful for Biggers, who tried to move out of harm’s way but was caught with precise lefts and rights. Every time Biggers attempted a punch in the first round McCarter slipped and countered. A six-punch combination dropped the South Carolina fighter in her own corner at the end of the first round.
“I couldn’t land any punches. She was hard to hit,” said Biggers (18-4, 15 KOs). “She countered me a lot.”
Biggers didn’t quit. She fired combinations and moved side to side but McCarter was just too accurate with her left hook. A barrage of punches seemed to buckle Biggers but she continued. Another six-punch barrage forced referee Kenny Bayless to halt the fight at 2:28 of the second round.
“I was disappointed,” said a tearful Biggers. “I wanted to go 12 rounds.”
McCarter fights again on Feb. 14 in Las Vegas.
Former cruiserweight world titleholder Kelvin “Concrete” Davis scored three knockdowns in the first three rounds but veteran Willie Chapman endured the entire eight-round heavyweight clash.
A left hook dropped Chapman in the first round during an exchange. Another left hook floored Chapman in the third round but he beat the count. A vicious overhand right knocked down Chapman again but he survived. The judges scored the fight 78-72, 80-69 twice for Davis.
The most entertaining bout of the night pit Las Vegas lightweight Oscar Marin (3-0) and San Jacinto’s Ronald Harley (0-1). Both fighters eagerly exchanged in a four-round bout. The taller Harley seemed to land more punches but Marin’s shots were more powerful. The three judges scored it for the hometown fighter 39-37.
Norwalk native Rigo Aguiar captured his first pro win against Oakland’s Chris Lopez who was disqualified for excessive holding by referee Robert Byrd at 1:31 of the fourth and final round of a middleweight contest.
A lightweight bout between Terrance Jett of Las Vegas and Alex Cortez of Fresno ended in a majority decision for the local fighter. The judges scored it 38-38, 39-37, 40-36 for Jett.
Canada’s Danny “Boy” Orr (7-0), who fights out of Las Vegas remained undefeated with a knockout at 2:44 in the first round. A left hook dropped middleweight Mikhail Lyubarsky (3-7) of the Ukraine within a minute, then another left hook finished the job.
In this WBC-mandated rematch Toney attempts to prove that skill beats Peter’s raw power when they meet at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida. The fight is co-promoted by Goossen Tutor and Don King Productions and will be telecast live on Showtime.
Last time Peter won by split-decision but the boxing media skewered two of the judges who saw scored it a one-sided decision for the Nigerian. Out of more than 20 boxing writers polled, only one boxing writer agreed with the scoring.
“I still don’t have a loss,” said Toney (69-5-3, 43 KOs) during a telephone conference call. “That was just a mistake from the two blind judges.”
The WBC ordered that a rematch between Toney and Peter decide who meets the WBC heavyweight titleholder Oleg Maskaev.
In their first meeting, that took place on Sept. 2, in Los Angeles, Peter used his clubbing right hand repeatedly. Some say many of his blows landed illegally behind Toney’s head.
“I hit him clean,” said Peter (27-1, 22 KOs) by telephone.
Though stunned by the African’s sledgehammer punches in the fifth, Toney used his speed and guile to repeatedly batter Peter throughout the fight.
“He hit me a couple of times on the chin. I smiled at him and he did not like that,” Toney said. “The only time he hurt me was the shots to the back of the head. But I weathered the storm.”
Peter, 26, who rocketed through the heavyweight division with some impressive knockout victories, including a one-punch second round knockout over Jeremy Williams, was able to muscle his way through defensive mistakes against Toney.
In one instance Toney blasted him with three successive left hooks but was unable to hurt the Nigerian heavyweight who now makes the U.S. his home. Now Peter has experience from the first fight to develop a better plan of attack.
“I do not take anything away from him (Toney). He is a great boxer and a really great champion,” Peter said. “James Toney will not change at all.”
Toney, 38, attempts to show the boxing world that knockout power is good, but skill is better and cites some of the greats of the past who were able to capture world titles like his idols Ezzard Charles, Jersey Joe Walcott, Archie Moore and others. All were men who began at middleweight and eventually moved up to heavyweight with great success.
“I can make you miss and then I can make you pay,” Toney says. “This is boxing. This is not who can hit the hardest.”
Since Gentleman Jim Corbett first shocked the boxing world by beating the Great John L. Sullivan for the heavyweight world title in 1892, smaller boxers have used technique and skill to counter the bludgeoning power of bigger men.
Chris Byrd, a former middleweight, captured two heavyweight world titles by using slippery moves and quickness to beat much bigger opponents.
But not all slick fighters can muster enough trickery to offset pure mind-concussing power. Even master boxers like Charles, Walcott and Moore all met their Waterloos against knockout artist Rocky Marciano who retired undefeated in 1956.
Now based in Los Angeles, Toney has beaten a slew of talented heavyweights in recent years.
When Evander Holyfield accepted a match against Toney in October 2003, many felt the former heavyweight world champion would be too much. But the Michigan-born Toney survived a turbulent first two rounds to befuddle the great Holyfield with his defensive wizardry and eventually stopped Real Deal Holyfield with body shots in the ninth round for a technical knockout victory.
“If you would have told me James Toney was going to stand toe-to-toe with me and beat me I would not have believed it,” Holyfield said after the fight.
Toney was only the second fighter in Holyfield’s long career to ever knock him down. Riddick Bowe was the other fighter with that distinction.
Peter remains stoic over his first battle with Toney and intends to prove he’s added a few more weapons to his attack in the rematch.
“Whatever Toney brings I am going to bring him down. I am ready for this fight,” Peter said.
An anxious Toney hopes the fourth time is the charm. He beat John Ruiz for the WBA title in April 2005 but was stripped for testing positive for steroids. He met Hasim Rahman for the WBC title in March 2006 and fought to an inconclusive draw. Then he lost a controversial split-decision to Peter last September.
“I have not lost in 10 years and that loss didn’t even count,” Toney says. “Fighting Peter again gives me the opportunity to show the world that I am the best fighter out there…period.”
Freddie Roach, who has trained Toney for more than a decade, says the heavyweight knows more about boxing than anyone he’s known since his former tutor the late Eddie Futch.
“He’s an encyclopedia in the ring. James knows more about boxing than any other boxer I’ve known,” Roach said. “He’s a master of the ring.”
WBA junior middleweight title
Jose Antonio Rivera (38-4-1, 24 KOs), who captured the WBA junior middleweight title, has something in common with Travis Simms (24-0, 18 KOs) – they both beat Mexico’s Alex Garcia for the title. They face each other on Saturday on the Toney-Peter fight card in Florida.
Simms, 35, beat Garcia when the Mexican turned his head during a break and was sucker-punched. But almost all referees warn fighters before the match to “protect yourself at all times.” Garcia forgot this important mantra and subsequently was knocked goofy by Simms when they fought in December 2003. He only defended it once and was stripped for inactivity.
Then Rivera, 33, stepped in to face Garcia, who had roared back into contention with three successive wins including a knockout over Rhoshii Wells in May 2005. The Puerto Rican Rivera was moving up from welterweight and manhandled Garcia for a unanimous 12-round decision last May.
Rivera-Simms hasn’t been receiving the usual world title fight fanfare but it could be a real firefight.
Just for fun, we’ve taken his relative silence leading up his rematch with IBA heavyweight title holder Samuel Peter as having all the signs of exhaustion rather than reticence or respect. James Toney being James Toney doesn’t even acknowledge that he lost their September 2, 2006 WBC heavyweight title eliminator; not merely mocking the decision reached by the judges, but effectively denying the validity and reality that a loss to Peter exists on his record. Sure, that’s James being James, to the last; he decides what is true in his version of reality. Then again, who doesn’t? So dragging his tongue he may for the moment be, yet who has faith in James Toney’s new normal?
You might get the idea that despite his November post-fight mumbling, he and his team felt that major changes had to be made; something was definitely not working for Toney matched up against the Nigerian Nightmare II. The old Toney, tubby and petulant, had not achieved the expected result. Perhaps, just perhaps, he really did have to do more than slap around a few sparring partners over at Freddie’s place in Los Angeles a few weeks before being paid for a night’s work. Can you imagine Toney deigning to actually take someone at heavyweight seriously not named Holyfield necessitating an honest to goodness training camp? What else has Roach been preaching to the deaf choir for the last few years? As far as the defensively intuitive Toney has been concerned, if you talk about “Jersey” Joe Walcott or Ezzard Charles often enough osmosis will fill in the rest of the story on how you win big fights. Roach has been shaking his head and holding his frustration in with regards to Toney’s haphazard training scenarios for so long he got himself into a bit of a rut. Until now or so we are to hold our breath and believe, is that what boxing fans are supposed to believe? James Toney is going to be fit and ready to fight against Samuel Peter?
Still, you have to wonder how old does James Toney feel. Boxing forces a balancing of the demands of disciplined realism against the sustaining of a functioning relativism; you have to face the hard facts at the same time be able to deny all the formulations of danger and diminishment. Boxers, especially great ones, are masters of the real, the unreal and the spiritual. How and why and when they choose from those three categories is what makes and breaks them. For in the process of championship boxing, from the realizing of greatness through to demanding of oneself what appears to the neutral observer must be the miraculous, everything is revealed, lived, endured and imagined for re-imagining. So much gritty truth is mixed seamlessly with the most transparent falsification; lies become fortifying truths of the moment, the steel of what is needed to be believed now, for the sake of one last desperate push toward the light where redemption and glory and vindication await to sanitize and reconfigure the one deemed the winner.
Holyfield’s now decade long quest to be the very image of the man that gouged and broke the cultivated but erratic titian that was Riddick Bowe comes to mind. Think of Ali, years after the Manila classic with Joe Frazier using diuretics to have his body appear ready to fight Larry Holmes and Trevor Berbick. Consider that it took a car accident in Argentina for Panamanian legend Roberto Duran to finally give up boxing after over three decades in the ring, living out the role of prodigy, cultural hero, villain, phoenix, legend as icon. Fighters rationalize away the relevance of entropy signaled to them, sensations dimming into muscular incapacity and degrading capacity, all of those subtle shifts ignored like the flight of years, the rapturous fears, the beatings, the loss of memory and vision. Boxers seeking the ultimate, a championship pinnacle or the right to contest for a title, will say and do what is needed in order to make them self feel all is still possible, that they can do anything, that they can be great or great again.
When you have dealt out the kind of boxing exhibitions James Toney has to fighters such as Michael Nunn and Mike McCallum and Charles Williams and Vassiliy Jirov and, yes, Evander Holyfield, memory is reality, remaining actively addictive. Champions of the boxing ring are never static entities. The electric current, the voltage of their focused outputs are the very dynamics that make them who they are, what they intend to be, no matter what.
James Toney has been trying to reinvest in his health of late, trying to reinvent his approach to preparation and thus reconstitute his body for the challenge of facing what might be an improved Samuel Peter. Tae Bo guru Billy Blanks was summoned into the inner sanctum of Team Toney to remodel his body, trying to reverse the course of a career long disregard for the finer points of athletic stoicism and physical regimentation. Could fat James be cut down and remade into the kind of punching machine that he still brags about, that once beat the rock like cruiserweight goliath Jirov into a heap? And that’s where Toney understands himself to be; he’s at that place and age which demands he become something as close to his old self as can be realized in this New Year, this still blushing Millennium. For Toney is a veteran’s veteran, ring wise and worn trying to compete against Samuel Peter’s raw youthfulness and prodigious, though painfully roughhewn, power. Trying to be young again in more than spirit can be as dangerous as it is exhausting.
The sliding scales of inevitably – of absolute competence to the miraculous – tips eventually. So what measure do we take of James Toney on the scale that takes the fullest measure of a man, of a fighter? Perhaps one answer can be found by indulging in speculative calculation. Wouldn’t a 10% more effective James Toney win a unanimous decision against Peter, Peter the prodding powerhouse? Team Toney certainly believe that figure to be more than correct. Billy Blanks was brought in to put Toney through one of his famous ‘boot camps’ to facilitate just that kind of percentage, with Toney translating fitness into an upped work rate on the offensive side of the punch stats. A more concerted punching rate and Toney wins? Well, Roach certainly thinks that’s about as simple as it gets for his guy going into what amounts to his most important heavyweight fight. If Blanks can get Toney more able to work offensively, how can Peter compete, short of landing the big bomb? So enamored with fighting defensively inside the pocket had Toney become his style and actually degrade into one of deflecting and catching and being reactive and less and less able to initiate offensive surges on command.
Toney’s height to weight ratio has defied considered opinion and basic logic for so long it’s become a sort of moot point, an uncontested stigma that seemed to simply roll itself into Toney’s tidal wake of being, being the fat, small heavyweight on a mission to put it to all those bland, talent challenged heavyweights of currency in big time boxing. Plus, the fact remains that until the cards were read in September at Staples Center, in his hometown of Los Angeles, no heavyweight had been able to make Toney pay the price for his often slack professionalism. No one had made Toney pay for playing the heavy, the little big man, the former IBF – let it read world – middleweight champion menacing the heavyweight division, he of the snarling, acidic banter, sweet counter-hitting artfulness and a chip on his shoulder the size of Mount Rushmore.
The man who’s usually threatening to fight managers and trainers and even promoters right on the dais, with the waiting and amused media ready to referee… well, he’s turned serious and phlegmatic for at least another two days. Seems he’s serious about behaving like an athlete. Except that all the photos of the new and improved Toney have him with a shirt on, eating, a salad, but eating nevertheless, so the symbolism, the orifice of the mouth remains open for business, ready to consume and consternate. How long will it be, one has to wonder, before the locks are taken off, the beef reconstitutes, the rants become refrains again.
All depends on winning and losing and how he deals with this Samuel Peter guy.
William Carlos Williams was right, “so much depends/upon/a red wheel/barrow…” but that was poetry and seeing to know as living memory. James Toney and Samuel Peter, they are about the sweet science, and seeing to know who’s worth their weight in gold.
Lamps was released from Vista jail in San Diego after posting $35,000 bail.
Lampley is one of best sports broadcasters in the biz. Heâ€™s worked for the big threeâ€”ABC, CBS and NBCâ€”and his long-running stint at HBO has made him a familiar, distinguished and welcome voice among boxingâ€™s talking heads.
A pot bust many moons ago should have zero effect on the outcome of this latest brush with the law.
Tyson was busted after leaving a nightclub in Scottsdale, Ariz. He was allegedly driving erraticallyâ€”he ran a stop sign and almost struck a cop carâ€”when he was pulled over by the police, who said they saw him trying to wipe some lines off his dash.
A search of Tyson's car revealed three bags of blow.
Maricopa County prosecutor, Andrew Thomas, said at a recent press conference, "He (Tyson) has run out of second chances, at least in my book. I don't take any pleasure out of doing this. A week ago, my kids and I were watching Rocky Balboa in the movie theatre, and we saw Mike Tyson make a cameo appearance in the movie. Now here we are and he's looking at going back to prison."
At the time of his bust, the arresting officer wrote that Tyson "admitted to using today and stated he is an addict and has a problem."
By the sound of it, Mike Tyson, boxingâ€™s favorite repeat offender, wonâ€™t be receiving any special treatment from the State of Arizonaâ€¦ Read more at the BLOG