He has seen it all. Therefore we feel privileged to soak up his wisdom. Dundee is a vending machine of boxing information. We give him a token and he gives us a story.
In this session the wise one depicts the Golden Boy experience, lectures us about boxing tough guys, and tells all about an unknown friendship.
Raymond Markarian: How are you Angelo?
Angelo Dundee: Ray, everything is beautiful, what can I tell you? Just fire away, like I’ve told you before, anytime you want, I am ready.
RM: Ok great, well you know that it is always my pleasure to speak with you. Let me start by asking you about De la Hoya. It has been two weeks since the big fight. What can you tell me about the experience of working with the Golden Boy?
AD: I had such a great time at that De la Hoya thing. I had a ball. He is such a nice guy. And, the Golden Boy people, top to bottom, they are class.
AD: Yeah, I really, really, had a great time I swear to God. They were training up there at Big Bear Mountain. We drove to the mountain at night. Thank God we went at night because if I had to go up there during the day I would have probably hesitated, because it is a big, big, mountain.
RM: Well, what was the training atmosphere like? How did De la Hoya look going into the fight, from your point of view?
AD: Well, I got up there, and the first thing I noticed was that this kid was so happy training there. You see, he had not trained there in a few years. My God, did the guy train.
RM: So what happened?
AD: Well, what happened was: shoulda, woulda, coulda, you can’t look back. The kid was in great shape. So he wasn’t the winner that night. That is the way I put it. There are no excuses, nothing. The better fighter that night won, Manny Pacquiao.
RM: But do you think that De la Hoya over-trained?
AD: Ah, no, no, he trained the way he wanted to train. See, De la Hoya is a happy guy in the gym. I was impressed. Let me tell you, I was impressed about the way this kid handles people. The kid was handling everything at the gym, speaking kindly with people, and then working out again. He is a remarkable kid. I could see why he has been so popular. I had never been on the scene before with De la Hoya. In fact, I had never been on the scene with Pacquiao or De la Hoya. I was impressed.
RM: So overall, the experience was good, but it was not exactly the result you were hoping for.
AD: Oh God no, I thought Oscar had the style to win, I said that before. I just felt like he was big enough, and tough enough. Oscar fought tough guys throughout his career. I watched this kid fight many, many times in L.A. when I would go there with my fighters. Everyone would go watch him because he would be fighting the toughest guys. Going into to the fight, I knew that Pacquiao was a tough guy. But I felt, if De la Hoya was fighting tough guys his entire career, then he would know how to handle this tough guy. But Pacquiao is more than that. He is slick, smart, and quick, with hands and feet.
RM: Of course.
AD: I just felt like De la Hoya was going to win. I tried, you know, with the little input I could give, I felt good about it. But it did not turn out that way. The best laid plans of mice and men, that’s life.
RM: Yeah, can you breakdown the fight for me?
AD: I felt bad…. I felt bad that he couldn’t pull the trigger. He was ready to do everything. His right hand counter in the gym was magnificent. He would have hit that guy with it. But he didn’t fire it, you know. Why didn’t he fire it? Who the hell knows? I mean, his jab started out good, then, it disappeared. In the end, you got to give credit where credit is due. Pacquiao is a great fighter.
RM: I have to ask you one more question about this De la Hoya thing; did you see anything happen in the corner that you could have done any better?
AD: Look, Nacho is a good trainer. He and De la Hoya hit it off fine. Oscar’s brother Joel is a boxing guy. Even Joe, the cut man, he is a good boxing guy as well. You see, you can’t look for kinks or faults, what happened, happened. Yeah, you never second guess, I do not go that route.
RM: Do you think De la Hoya should retire for good?
AD: That is hard to say. I think when it comes around to those kinds of things, it has to come from the source. Let me tell you, he is a real intelligent kid, he is a family man, I met his wife, and I met his kids. He is just a good guy. I was pleased with the acquaintance. The people at Golden Boy were so nice to me. I would do that trip anytime. Hey, you know, things are going great with my book. It is about to go paperback.
RM: You are talking about the book you wrote with Bert Sugar right?
AD: Yeah, “My View From The Corner”
RM: Man, I love that book.
AD: You like it alright, Ray?
RM: I would not lie to you Angie, that book is something special. There are so many great stories to read about.
AD: Thank you, I enjoyed doing it. I have seen a lot of boxing. The book basically takes place from 1948 till now, so there is a lot of history there.
RM: What do you think when you hear people say that boxing is dead?
AD: It bothers me when people talk about how boxing is in bad shape. There are guys coming along. And there are a lot of great trainers out there. We just have to get the right fighters with the best trainers and we will put America back where it belongs, on top.
RM: How do you feel about David Haye challenging the Vitali Klitschko?
AD: Interesting. I just think Klitschko is too big. I will tell you one thing, Klitschko is going to have to worry himself for three or four rounds because this kid Haye throws pineapples, and he is fast. Haye is a gun-ho guy so we are going to have an exciting first three or four rounds, anything can happen.
RM: I think it is the type of fight that can bring the attention back to the heavyweight division.
AD: Oh yeah, the little guy versus the big guy.
AD: You know Vitali is slow enough to get hit. And this kid Haye throws pineapples. He is exciting as hell. I think he is going to juice up the heavyweight division. Haye is the Bob Satterfield type, a bombardier.
RM: He has a swagger as well, I think that could help him.
AD: Yeah, well, the guy is fearless. Haye is a ‘you or me guy.’ He trained in South Beach, with the South Florida Boxing Gym, and Trevor Seeder told me about him. Seeder told me he is exciting as hell. And he is a nice kid.
RM: You see, I think it is the heavyweight division that makes the common sports fan want to follow boxing. When the big guys are popular, people will naturally be interested.
AD: We got some gems out there. It takes time. All we need is fights Ray, I am telling you. All we need is a local kid from each area. How about this heavyweight with the Goossens, Chris Arreola, he is a big strong guy. You see, there is light out there, we just have to put them all together. It just takes time.
RM: You have a point there. What do you think about Mosley vs. Margarito? Do you think Mosley can beat Margarito?
AD: Mosley has to be in the best shape of his life to beat Margarito. He has to offset Margarito’s strength. But you see Mosley is another guy that grew up fighting tough guys. Mosley fought all the best Mexican fighters in L.A. So, you know that he has been tested. I met Mosley at the De la Hoya fight. They are all warm people there at Golden Boy.
RM: How do you feel about the Manny Pacquiao and Henry Armstrong comparison that people are throwing out there?
AD: I would not compare Pacquiao to anybody. Henry Armstrong would not like that. Henry Armstrong is Henry Armstrong. Pacquiao is a special kid and you should give Freddie Roach all accolades necessary, after the job he has done. You have to look at the bright side of everything.
RM: So is it safe to say that Freddie Roach is one of the greatest trainers in history?
AD: Well, after what he is doing, I think you can safely call Freddie one of the top trainers, certainly. Hell, Freddie was trained by the greatest trainer of them all, Eddie Futch.
RM: That’s right.
AD: I used to speak to Eddie Futch like once a week. It is not a lie, we liked each other, Eddie and I, no one really knew that. Anything that happened on his coast I would check with him and anything that would happen in my area, he would check with me. We always had a great rapport together. He was my friend for a long, long, time.
RM: I did not know that you and Futch were that close. That must have been pretty crazy with the entire Ali/Frazier thing going on.
AD: You know what’s funny? All of those guys in Frazier’s corner were from Philly, the whole corner. (Dundee laughs) We trainers all communicate with each other. Whenever any kid came from a different area, I used to call the trainer from that area. One time, Razor Ruddock came down here and he said “Oh, I want you to get me out of my contract.” Then I said ‘Wait a minute, who were you working with?’ Then Razor said, “George Chavalo.” Then I said, “How could you get better than George?” So, I called George to let him know, and he was not too happy with Razor. I told George, “Don’t worry, I ain’t going nowhere with the kid.” But I asked Ruddock, “How much would you give me for my contract?” (Dundee laughs) I did not mess with him because I respect the other trainers.
RM: So, it is like a trainer’s fraternity. Basically, you do not step on anybody’s toes, something like that?
AD: Yes, there is a special camaraderie in the profession, people don’t know how close we are.
RM: Did you ever meet a trainer that you did not get along with?
AD: No, I get along with everybody. I do not hate anybody. I try to outsmart them, try to get the win and everything, but that’s about it. I have a great respect for trainers.
RM: Sounds great, thank you for your time Angelo, I truly appreciate it.
AD: Ray, anytime you want to buzz me, feel free. Thank you.
Pugilism for pay is a global enterprise, much more so than the NFL at this point, and the same goes for baseball here. And believe me, very few of the millions of fanatic followers in numerous nations are basing soccer allegiances or budgets on how well that game does in the States.
While those who complain about poor quality in the pay-per-view attraction of Valuev versus Holyfield being the final nail in boxing's coffin may have a point regarding the USA, once again their perspective is, to put it kindly, limited.
The fight, like every big fight here, was broadcast on "free tv" throughout many regions, this one on German network "Das Erste / 1". From what I could gather the last couple days in Switzerland and Germany, just about everybody with a television was tuned in and excited by what transpired, despite the lackluster action.
Like most patrons inside the Hallenstadion, it seemed the general population felt Holyfield deserved the decision. There was more detailed fight talk on the streets than I've seen since Vegas in the days of Mike Tyson or Sugar Ray Leonard.
I wore a Holyfield - Moorer II sweatshirt and got stopped so many dozen times on the street or at airports or train stations with positive comments I quit counting. Officers at all four of the passport check stations I went through talked about the fight.
If you witnessed the live scene, you'd know it wasn't a special slugfest but still a spectacular event. The assembled swarm disapproved of the result and booed Valuev heartily, but no one acted like they'd been ripped off in entertainment value, and I checked with plenty of people.
I remember talking to Christian Meyer, one of the brains behind the Sauerland promotional outfit, after the Arthur Abraham- Raul Marquez card about whether the rumored Valuev-Holyfield affair was a hard sell. At that time, initial media response was a mixed bag of negatives. Don't try and tell Sauerland Events the sport is dying. I've seen them put on fine cards in front of packed houses throughout Germany, and I think Holyfield and the promoters proved a lot of naysayers wrong.
Before and after, the fight got major news coverage in many postal zones. I saw plenty of front page stories when I checked the international news stands. When was the last time boxing was on page one in North America?
Until Amy Winehouse did her topless oceanside flashdance, Holyfield had by far the most publicized pecs of the week in this hemisphere.
Which brings us back to the pertinent points of boxing in the USA.
There's plenty of evidence that the general theory of pay-per-view hurting the sport is indeed valid.
There's also a smoking gun that says if boxing is dying, some of the folks who claim to love it are helping to speed the demise.
That includes those I see in the boxing media who can't seem to find anything good to say. Candid honesty is one thing, but being unable to list optimistic observations about almost any situation amongst all sorts of admirable athletes is either a lack of fair focus or reporting capability.
Maybe the powers at be should have canceled spring training because the World Series ratings went down, or cut back on the number of NFL games during the years of weak Super Bowls.
The Holyfield - Valuev bout definitely wasn't a classic brawl but in terms of duke out drama, there was plenty.
There wasn't the same fistic finesse, but for me the aesthetic result was like the Marco Antonio Barrera - Johnny Tapia or Winky Wright -Shane Mosley fights. Few great punches, but a lot of fine character.
The resulting howls of outrage and disgust about Valuev and Holfield's skills seem hollow to me, but maybe something changed on TV across the ocean.
Holyfield's entrance was electrifying. In some ways the night was a mutated version of the Tyson - Trevor Berbick fight I saw in Vegas, where the man everyone came to see was performing against a limited champion, though Holyfield came through in a very different way. Could the late Berbick have taken Valuev? We'll never know. Berbick is no Hall of Famer but on good nights he was very solid. Valuev is no Lennox Lewis, but he's no complete slouch either.
Valuev was satisfied using his jab to score points, Holyfield was satisfied darting in and out to score points. Both looked prepared to trade inside if they had to, but by reflection they never really had to.
Styles make fights, and so do game plans. This wasn't an explosive mix, but that doesn't shame either man. Nobody should have considered this the real heavyweight championship in the first place.
The officials could only agree on three rounds. It was exactly that kind of fight.
For the record, I had it 115-113 Valuev. My informal postfight media poll of around thirty observers favored a draw by around 75%, with the other quarter split, but at the postfight press conference there were outbursts favoring Holyfield and protesting the verdict.
"I thought I won more rounds and felt I won," said an unfazed Holyfield. "I kept him off balance. Usually I'll go toe to toe with anybody but that wasn't our plan so I had to concentrate on not doing that. I thought I did everything necessary. I was surprised, his hand speed is pretty good and he has a good defense. It was hard when he stepped up close, the way he positioned his body. His hips are so high I didn't want to hit him low, and it was hard to get past his arms."
'To those who say Holyfield is old, I can only advise them to be careful to guard your head and your stomach," said an equally unfazed Valuev. "I'll say what I said before the fight. I'm very honored to have fought him. It was a lot of pressure."
"Valuev had to adjust to Holyfield's experience," said Valuev trainer Alexander Zimin. "Holyfield kept moving and using the whole ring, we didn't expect that so we had to find a different style for five rounds then we could use the pressure tactics we planned more."
"Our thing was not to get hit," said Holyfield trainer Tommy Brooks, sounding more disappointed than anyone. "We didn't fail. I have respect for Valuev now but I think we pulled it off and anyone who saw the fight knows we won."
It seems certain either of tonight's principals would have big trouble lasting the distance with either Klitschko, though from my recent observations Alexander Dimetrenko holds the keys to the future of the division after 2009.
An encore was mentioned but Team Valuev said they'd do anything possible to force a match with Ruslan Chagaev first. Holyfield mused about tomorrow in vague terms.
"My future plans, I don't know," said Holyfield. "It's Christmas time, I'll go home and think about it. If a title fight comes along I may do it because I still want all the titles, but I'm not going to keep fighting just to fight. So I don't know what I'll do next."
Whatever Holyfield decides, anyone in this part of Switzerland Saturday night knows the old boy did pretty well for himself. They showed a career retrospective feature prior to his entrance. It included Olympic moments from the DQ loss to carrying the torch later as multiple champion, with vastly varied highs and lows, bitten ears and fan men featuring professional engagements against the very best heavyweights of three decades.
The ovation Holyfield received before and after the Valuev bout wouldn't be out of place as a postscript to that highlight reel.
Evander looked bone-weary at the press conference, aging and tired like the critics say he's looked for a long time. Most of them have never been anywhere near the heights he reached again around the Alps.
Holyfield didn't fly back home with the belt he wanted, but he kept hope alive.
I’m hearing, from someone who heard it from someone, that a Roy Jones-Evander Holyfield fight is in the discussion stage.
Evander of course is in Atlanta pondering that loss in Switzerland, and no doubt racking his brain determining which gifts and which cards go out to which addresses, so he might not be making up his mind what direction he’s going in for a little while. But Jones is thinking that he’s got something left to give, or maybe get, in the sport, and a fight at around 210 pounds against a 215 pound Holyfield, seems like a moneymaker to him. Would it be a compelling matchup for the fans? That’s sort of secondary, no?
While I’m on the subject, I’m thinking next year I’m gonna get an X-Mas card from one Pierluigi Poppi, that judge who saw Valuev a 116-112 winner on Saturday. Because I forced myself, with great effort, to spend 50 minutes watching the whole exercise in ultra-tedium, and I saw the fight the same way. Don’t get me wrong—I have to give forceful props to the Real Deal, who at age 46 showed he should’ve won Dancing With the Stars Season 1. He went left, he went right, he went all night. Unfortunately, all that movement, and throwing three combos a round, doesn’t do it for me. That isn’t effective aggression. That “Circle And Stare” strategy was the right idea, but he needed to add another twenty punches per round, if possible, to take the title. A draw was fine for me, as neither man truly sent a consistent message that they wanted, needed, demanded to win. But Valuev was willing to trade, even if his immobility hurt him in much the same way as it did against his “win” against Larry Donald in 2005.
SPEEDBAG I’m also hearing, on the grapevine, from a source who heard it from a source, that there are those that want to see Oscar do it one more time. They think his drastic weight loss, and the fact that he was at 147 for too long, drained him. So, a fight at junior middleweight, against 38-0 Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, age 22, would be a fine farewell tussle. They say it makes sense for Chavez too. That’s the best payday he can grab, and if he loses, hey, he’s 22, and the 35-year-old Oscar doesn’t figure to have enough to damage him physically. Makes sense to me.
“I’m willing to box two rounds with Roy Jones Jr. and if there isn’t a winner, then we’ll take off the boxing gloves and put on the MMA gloves and fight two rounds in my style,” said Belfort. “We’d make a lot of money.”
Belfort is one of a couple dozen MMA fighters set to meet on the Affliction fight card on Jan. 24, 2009 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. The fight card is sponsored by Golden Boy Promotions.
You heard that right. The boxing company founded by Oscar De La Hoya is taking a dip into MMA. But that’s not the worst of it. They are hosting the MMA card on the exact same day boxing world champion Antonio Margarito fights Sugar Shane Mosley 50 miles away in Los Angeles.
It’s a strange brew.
Boxing and MMA don’t have the exact same type of fans. Not exactly. As a journalist covering both sports I’ve seen that fans of MMA usually don’t like boxing and vice versa. But there is a fan segment that follow both sports. Let’s say if there are 18,000 going to the MMA fight in Anaheim, about 4,000 of those follow boxing too.
When you ask representatives of Golden Boy why they are hosting both cards on the same day, they kindly defer to another topic.
Lately, Golden Boy has been making some bad decisions. We’ll see how this latest plan works out.
Early in 2008, the company garnered a contract with Morongo Casino to host fight cards there on Friday and show them on Telefutura. It was a seemingly good idea but it just never worked out. The biggest reason it did not work out was the lack of local talent placed on the fight cards.
The Morongo ballroom only sits about 800 people but the Golden Boy shows only sold out the place once. In that instance they had local female fighter Kaliesha West of Moreno Valley on the show. She was never invited on another fight card and Golden Boy never sold out another show. Instead they put dozens of fighters from Puerto Rico, Mexico and other parts of the country.
Another reason it didn’t do well was the fights began at 4:15 p.m. to accommodate Telefutura’s time frame. That hurt attendance. But in the one instance that the local fighter was on the card the place still sold out, early or not.
Meanwhile, about 40 minutes away, numerous fight cards featuring local talent in Ontario were selling out. On at least three occasions this happened. One executive at Morongo lost his job over the relationship and now Golden Boy is out of the contract.
Perhaps it was because of promotional agreements to meet the contractual requirements with the fighters that there were so many out of state fighters on the fight card. But GBP could have placed at least one local fighter on its cards to bring in fans. On most occasions the place was far from selling out.
Now, we have the boxing company hosting a boxing and MMA fight card simultaneously. It spells trouble with a capital T.
Why am I talking about this?
It’s simple. I like boxing and don’t want to see it damaged further. With MMA and boxing cards going on at the same time you can believe the MMA show will sell out because Anaheim is MMA country. They love MMA in Orange County. However, the boxing card is going to suffer unless Mexican fight fans cross the border to support their fighter Antonio Margarito.
Another weakness is the rest of the fight card at Staples Center. Who the heck is fighting on the card?
With one month left there should be at least three good fights advertised on the card to entice fans. Margarito and Mosley alone will not be enough. Trust me. These are bad times economically and people want to spend money on a good fight card, not a horrible card like that on Dec. 6, when aside from De La Hoya and Manny Pacquiao there was not much else. Last weekend, a fight card at Hollywood Park Casino had better fights than the Las Vegas under card of several weeks ago.
Now if Golden Boy Promotions truly wants to mix boxing with MMA then it should make the match between Vitor Belfort and Roy Jones Jr.
“It would be great,” said Belfort who has trained in boxing for more than eight years. “People would love it.”
On December 6, Pacquiao, moving up twelve pounds in weight, met superstar Oscar De La Hoya in a welterweight fight that brought boxing back into the mainstream spotlight. A fight fan couldn’t turn on the T.V. or pick up anything resembling a men’s magazine without seeing pre-bout coverage or advertising, and HBO’s acclaimed series 24/7, which documents fighters’ lives and training camps prior to HBO Pay-Per-View bouts, received more exposure than ever through YouTube, where the first episode received over 1.5-million views.
Over seven one-sided rounds, Pacquiao embarrassed De La Hoya with quicker, stronger hands and a skill set that made what should have been a competitive prizefight seem like a sparring session. Many expected De La Hoya, who has fought the past eleven years between welterweight and middleweight, to overpower Pacquiao, who began his career at a meek 106 pounds. But Pacquiao blew De La Hoya away, sending the nine-time champ into probable retirement.
For De La Hoya, the Pacquiao loss must have been a cruel déjà vu experience, as just 19 months earlier, he was also beaten on boxing’s biggest stage against the sport’s pound-for-pound best (at the time, Mayweather Jr.). What could have been a career-defining victory for “The Golden Boy” turned into another embarrassing defeat, and the 35 year old was again forced to tip his cap and admit that his rival was, at least for one night, a better fighter.
But for Mayweather Jr., De La Hoya’s loss to Pacquiao could be even more damaging.
When Mayweather outpointed De La Hoya via split decision, he got what many experts believed to be one of his career-best victories. He was, after all, fighting a much bigger man who had won belts in several divisions and was coming off of a dynamic sixth-round knockout over the dangerous Ricardo Mayorga.
But after Pacquiao’s emphatic thumping of Oscar, Mayweather’s narrow win over De La Hoya not only seems less impressive but almost embarrassing for Mayweather. Considering De La Hoya’s past-prime state, which Pacquiao exploited easily, Mayweather in hindsight should have disposed of his foe with ease in their 150-pound meeting. But he instead struggled to eke out a victory, which makes one wonder if Mayweather really was the dominant force he was perceived to be towards the end of his career.
We’ll get a better gauge of Mayweather’s supremacy when Pacquiao squares off against Ricky Hatton in May. Hatton was Mayweather’s final victim – he fell to Floyd via tenth-round TKO in a semi-competitive fight – and should Pacquiao blow away the rugged Brit, he will again one-up Mayweather, and diminish the latter’s legacy.
The only way Mayweather can thwart the damage Pacquiao is doing to his name is to come out of retirement and fight him. Let’s just hope he’s not too busy spending money to consider fighting the man who has taken his place within the sport.
It was a large fight card with an Eastern European taste featuring Russia’s Karmazin and Michigan’s McKart in a battle of two former world champions at Hollywood Park Casino. The 12-fight Art of Boxing Promotion was extra impressive.
Karmazin (37-3-1, 23 KOs) returned to California from frigid St. Petersburg and used his herky jerky style to jump to a lead against McKart (51-9-1, 31 KOs) in a 12-round fight.
McKart found it difficult to land any solid blows in the early going. Not until the fourth round did he begin scoring and especially after shooting a right jab that made Karmazin make adjustments.
The Russian boxer landed numerous three-punch combinations to the head and body that proved a good recipe against the cagey McKart. It was only when the American fighter forced the issue that he scored points and slowed the combinations coming his way.
No knockdowns occurred in the fight. The judges scored it 117-111, 119-109, 118-110 for Karmazin who picked up and regional WBC and IBF middleweight titles for his effort.
Perhaps the shock of the night came when Italy’s Orlando Brizzo and California’s Joe Schilling both entered the ring for their pro debut and set a California record knockout that took only five seconds.
“That broke the record set in the 90s,” said Dean Lohuis, the chief inspector for California State Athletic Commission, adding that it was set by heavyweight Jeremy Williams. “It broke it by four seconds.”
In the first round Brizzo sprinted across the ring at the sound of the bell and ran into Schilling’s tight right hand. Down went the Italian and was he ever tagged. Referee Ray Corona immediately waved the fight over. Brizzo tried to get up but it was a good 60 seconds before he could find his balance.
That record knockout set the tone for the rest of the night.
Next came junior welterweight Dean Byrne of Dublin, Ireland against Mexico’s Francisco Gil (6-9).
The former amateur star Byrne came out winging and landed a few punches at the opening bell. Then the Mexican fighter decided to stand and trade and it became a 50-50 fight as both tasted each other’s best punches.
Byrne’s trainer Freddie Roach shook his head at the Irish fighter’s decision and made him change tack.
“I was trying to knock him out and threw a lot of punches in the first round,” said Byrne (10-0, 4 KOs). “My corner told me to box and move. I just used my jab and knocked him out.”
A left hook to the body dropped Gil in the third round. In the fourth, Byrne caught Gil with a counter right hand to knock him down and second time. A couple more right hands forced referee Wayne Hedgepeth to stop the fight at 1:11 of the round for a technical knockout for the Irish fighter.
“Once I knocked him down it was just a matter of time,” said Byrne.
Armenia’s Vardan Gasparyan and Nicaragua’s Octavio Narvaez (7-6-1) didn’t waste time in their welterweight bout. Both let the punches fly from the opening bell.
“I tried to knock him out in the first round,” said Gasparyan (11-1-4). “He was a Hispanic fighter. He was tough. So I went to plan B and C.”
Gasparyan used his superior jab and pivots to keep Narvaez from setting down on his punches. After six rounds the judges scored it 60-54, 59-55, 59-55 for Gasparyan.
“I would be lying if I said it was an easy fight,” Gasparyan said.
Hollywood’s Khabir Suleymanov (6-0) grabbed a majority decision over Ghana’s Lante Addy (6-3) in a fast-paced bantamweight bout. The judges scored it 38-38, 39-37, 40-36 for Suleymanov.
Ismayl Sillakh scored a second round knockout of Jose Coral in light heavyweight bout stopped 1:13 of the round. Referee Hedgepeth stopped the fight after Sillakh began unloading combinations.
In a junior lightweight bout, Gabe Tolmajyan (5-1) scored a knockout over Andre Kim (2-3) in 1:46 of the second round.
Heavyweight Lateef Kayode dropped Long Beach’s Ethan Cox twice in winning by knockout at 1:02 of the second round.
A battle between undefeated welterweights ended in a draw. Oakland’s Antonio Johnson (7-0-1) jumped ahead quickly with pot shots in the first two rounds. Then Cleveland’s ultra tall Willie Nelson (10-0-1) slipped into another gear and began using his jab and combinations. After six rounds Lou Filippo scored 58-56 for Nelson. Fritz Werner 59-55 for Johnson. Judge Jack Reiss had it 57-57 for a draw.
California’s Vitaliy Demyanenco (9-1, 5 KOs) scored a technical knockout over Marteze Logan (26-35-2) when the Louisiana boxer retired in his corner at the end of the third round in a welterweight bout.
Former Yankees and Indians second baseman Joe Gordon, who was 73 when he died in 1978, played his last major league game in 1950, but he will enter the Hall of Fame Class on July 26, 2009, by the approval of the reconstituted veterans committee. Which begs a question (OK, two of them): Have Gordon’s credentials for immortality somehow improved since he’s passed on, or did the nine-time All-Star’s long-delayed certification by Cooperstown owe to the fact that, as good as he was, his career really wasn’t Hall of Fame-worthy?
You tend to ponder such hypotheticals when there is an announcement that a deceased athlete not only is going to be honored with a bronze plaque, but with an entire statue. Such was the case with former middleweight champion Joey Giardello, who was 78 when he died of congestive heart failure and complications from diabetes on Sept. 5 in his adopted hometown of Cherry Hill, N.J.
On Dec. 7, the 45th anniversary of his title-winning performance against Dick Tiger in Atlantic City, friends and family members of the late Carmine Tilelli (Giardello’s real name) gathered at the triangle of East Passyunk Avenue, South 13th Street and Mifflin Street in South Philadelphia for the announcement that on that site would rise a statue of the man who perhaps is best known now for the harsh and slanted depiction of him in a 1999 movie.
Renowned sculptor Carl LeVotch has been commissioned to create the statue, which will be funded by the joint efforts of Ring One of the Veterans Boxers Association, the Harrowgate Boxing Club and the Web site Phillyboxinghistory.com. Philadelphia Councilman Frank DiCicco cleared the way for the group to use the location.
When it is completed, the statue of Giardello will be the first of a real, flesh-and-blood Philly fighter in a city that always has prided itself as being the foremost breeding ground of champion boxers. Oh, sure, there is a statue of Rocky Balboa at the foot of the Art Museum steps, but that tribute to the fictional heavyweight champion popularized by actor Sylvester Stallone was a movie prop for 1982’s “Rocky III.”
Should Giardello have gotten a statue before, say, former heavyweight champ Joe Frazier? Or the late, great light heavyweight titlist Tommy Loughran, who last month finally was inducted into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame? Hey, it’s the sort of thing that sparks debate, and isn’t that what halls of fame and statues are designed to do, anyway? In Philadelphia, there are statues of baseball’s Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton and Rich Ashburn, of basketball’s Julius Erving and Wilt Chamberlain, of hockey’s Gary Doernhoefer. There’s even one of the late Kate Smith, who was regarded as something of a good-luck charm for hockey’s Flyers when she sang “God Bless America” before important games. But there isn’t a bronze monument commemorating Bobby Clarke, the greatest hockey player ever to play on home ice at the soon-to-be-demolished Spectrum, or of any Eagle. Go figure.
Longtime Philly promoter J Russell Peltz is firm in his belief that Giardello is as deserving of a statue as any local boxer, and he considers the Brooklyn-born Giardello to be a native son despite his birth city a hundred miles or so to the north.
“He was the greatest middleweight ever to come out of this city,” Peltz said of Giardello, and, yes, he includes Bernard Hopkins among the runners-up. “Joey didn’t duck anybody. He was one of the few white fighters who fought all the tough black fighters.”
For my part, I’ll miss hearing Giardello just talking about his past, which would be colorful enough to merit a statue even if he wasn’t enshrined in the International Boxing Hall of Fame, Class of 1993.
Joey – he was Mr. Tilelli to his neighbors in Cherry Hill – was an avid sports fan whose love of the old Brooklyn Dodgers was almost limitless. Some years ago, he was an invited guest for a reunion of some of the great Yankees teams from the 1950s when someone introduced him to Billy Martin.
“He knew who I was,” Giardello said of the encounter with the fiery (and frequently fired) manager of the Yankees during the George Steinbrenner era. “I was, you know, just making conversation. I said something like, `Billy, I didn’t like you much when you were beating my Dodger teams in the World Series. You really used to kill the Dodgers.’ I said it as a compliment.
“Billy had been drinking and, I don’t know, I guess he took it the wrong way or something. He said, `I’ll kick your ass.’ I didn’t take him serious, but I was watching for a sucker punch, just in case. You never know, he might have tried it. It wouldn’t have been the first time. Finally someone came over and got between us and that was that.”
Might Giardello have accommodated Martin had he stepped over the line?
“Nah, I would have hurt him bad,” Giardello said. “I mean, I’m not some marshmallow salesman.”
No one could ever confuse Giardello with marshmallows. He was rawhide-tough, a natural counterpuncher who compiled a 101-25-7 record, with 33 knockouts, against the finest competition of his era. And if that competition wasn’t as tough as it could have been, Giardello couldn’t be faulted. Sugar Ray Robinson and Bobo Olson were only two of the champions who, he claimed, ducked him at every opportunity.
“None of those guys wanted to fight me,” Giardello said. “Maybe it was my style. I waited almost 12 years to get my first title shot and, when I got screwed on the decision (Gene Fullmer retained the championship on a controversial 15-round draw on April 20, 1960, in Bozeman, Montana), I never thought I’d get another chance. So I had to fight all the guys that nobody else wanted to fight.”
So how did Carmine Tilelli become Joey Giardello, and wind up in Philadelphia?
It turns out that Carmine Tilelli was too young to enlist in the Army at age 16, so he borrowed the birth certificate of a friend’s older cousin in order to serve his country. This was 1946, just after World War II.
Having served a two-year hitch under the name Joey Giardello, the erstwhile Carmine Tilelli was mustered out in 1948 and wound up in South Philadelphia to visit an Army pal.
“I was short on cash and I’d fallen in love with a South Philly girl, Rosalie Monzo,” Giardello said. “She kept me here. She kidnapped me.
“Anyway, I had to do something, right? So I went to this gym and took up boxing. I had never fought before, at least in the ring, but I was in a lot of fights, if you know what I mean. I got me a manager and started fighting.”
After the draw with Fullmer – “It was a disgrace; I won the fight, Fullmer knows I won the fight, everybody knows I won the fight,” Giardello insisted – the next big chance evaded Giardello until Pearl Harbor Day, 1963, when he squared off against Tiger in Boardwalk Hall.
“I knew Tiger wouldn’t run from me,” Giardello recalled. “Tiger never ran from anybody.”
And so it was that Giardello, then 33 and a 4-1 underdog, outboxed Tiger over 15 rounds to achieve his dream of becoming a world champion.
“That night, nobody could have beaten me,” Giardello said.
He retained the title once, outpointing Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, and relinquished it in his next defense, on a unanimous decision to Tiger. But as fate and Hollywood screenwriters would have it, the fight that everyone remembers – which is to say, those who weren’t around 40-plus years ago – is the one with Carter.
You’d think that someone as accomplished and decent as Giardello, a man who put his family and his ring legacy above all else, would have gotten a fairer shake from movie moguls who used the still-living Philly legend as a means to tell a story that wasn’t entirely on the up-and-up.
My wife and I took Joey and Rosalie to a local theater when “The Hurricane” came out because I wanted to assess his reaction to the scenes depicting his fight with Carter, which I’d heard pretty much fudged the truth.
I’ll never forget the outrage and amazement on Joey’s face as the actor portraying him took a terrible pounding from Denzel Washington, who played Carter, but was awarded a racially motivated decision as the crowd booed.
Dramatic stuff, except that it didn’t happen that way. The fight took place in Philly’s Convention Hall, where Giardello was more popular than cheesesteaks and soft pretzels. And that TV announcer, who yelped into his microphone about the injustice that had been done to Carter? Doing the actual commentary that night was Les Keiter, retired and living in Hawaii, who I was able to track down in seven minutes of calling around. Keiter said the movie version of the fight was as far from reality as it possibly could be.
I wrote a series of stories about Giardello and the way he had been smeared by a director and screenwriter who figured their version was more dramatic and advanced the idea that Carter was a great fighter locked away in his prime because he was too radical and threatening to the white establishment. And it very well may be that Carter was unjustly imprisoned for a triple murder he might not have committed. In any case, he eventually was released when a judge ruled that procedural errors had been made by the prosecution.
Fact: Denzel Washington was terrific as Carter, so terrific that he was nominated for an Academy Award as best actor. Fact: Carter wasn’t tossed into jail shortly after losing to Giardello; he went 7-7-1 after that fight before he was incarcerated. And wouldn’t Carter’s story have been nearly as gripping if the fight scenes had been played straight?
I won an award in the Associated Press Sports Editors writing competition for my series on Giardello, which was nice. Joey sued the moviemakers and got a fairly sizable financial settlement and an admission from director Norman Jewison in the “bonus material” DVD that, yes, he was a great fighter who beat Carter without the aid of biased officials. That was even nicer.
A pricey attorney with a Washington, D.C., firm retained by the movie company called my executive sports editor demanding that I be fired for, I don’t know, detracting from their bottom line. His reply: We don’t fire our reporters for writing the truth. Mr. Hotshot Lawyer backed off. Kevin Spacey won the Academy Award as Best Actor for his performance in “American Beauty,” amid speculation that Denzel Washington’s chances for the Oscar were hurt by the controversy over factual distortions in the script that were continually brought up by media snoops like yours truly.
To this day, I’m still waiting for a fruit basket, or something, from Kevin Spacey. Denzel won his Academy Award the following year for “Training Day,” which was about a corrupt cop and had nothing to do with sparring, skipping rope and hitting the heavy bag.
Said Giardello when the settlement was announced: “For 19 years I fought the greatest fighters around and I beat Carter fair and square. I just wanted to set the record straight, and I think it has been.”
I didn’t have the heart to tell him that most of the people who saw “The Hurricane” probably were unaware of the misrepresentations or the settlement and quasi-apologies the Hollywood types were obliged to issue him.
Aside from the fact that I am now leery of any film “based on a true story” – remember, in “Ali,” the confrontation between Belinda Ali and hubby Muhammad Ali over his mistress and future wife, Veronica Porsche, took place in Zaire, not the Philippines, the better to coincide with the movie’s adjusted time frame – I’m just glad that Joey will be immortalized in bronze in his old neighborhood.
Even if it is somebody’s idea of a makeup call, so what? Late or not, it’s the right thing to do.
It was supposed to be a routine amateur contest against a visiting boxer from a Russian ‘B’ team, but boxing isn’t a habitual sport. It transpired that the Russian’s thumb sunk into Sutherland’s left eye, violently pushing back the eyeball and breaking the bone behind the optic.
The Irishman was immediately rushed to the nearest hospital in Dublin, deep in the throes of agony.
Darren Sutherland was never one for routines. Born in Dublin, he spent the first seven years of his life in London and the next four in his father’s native homeland of St. Vincent in the Caribbean, before moving back to Ireland. But soon after, Darren was setting off on a new voyage.
Sutherland grew up watching the middleweight wars between Chris Eubank, Nigel Benn and Michael Watson, and at 15 began training at his local club in Blanchardstown, Dublin.
Having ventured to the set of a minor movie featuring Brendan Ingle, Sutherland approached the Sheffield-based trainer and was ultimately talked into moving to England to pursue boxing.
Sutherland’s charismatic personality and observable confidence convinced Ingle that the teenager had the necessary attitude to become a prizefighter.
“I just wanted to tell Brendan about how much I liked Naseem Hamed [who Ingle was training at the time]. But even before he saw my skills, he saw the potential in me,” recalls Sutherland. “He loved the whole idea of me being a black Irishman.”
After spending a week at the gym, Sutherland was certain that he could do the sport full-time and made the permanent move to Sheffield, where he was immersed in boxing, training twice a day, six days a week. Ingle continually told Sutherland that he could win a world championship with ease and wanted Darren to forego an extensive amateur career in favor of a swift transition to the paid ranks.
But the more time Sutherland spent around the sport, the more he realized the seriousness of the endeavour. Ingle’s gym was buzzing when Sutherland first joined, but three years later Hamed had departed and his heralded replacement, Ryan Rhodes, was brutally knocked out by an obscure journeyman.
Sutherland has no qualms admitting that the beating he saw inflicted on his gym-mate dulled his own desire for the sport.
“I ended up hating boxing,” he reveals with frankness. “I remember seeing Ryan Rhodes get knocked out and thinking: ‘What makes me any different?’”
While Ingle was working on Sutherland’s pro debut, the teenager grew homesick and returned to Ireland, disillusioned with the sport and questioning his self-confidence that once seemed so resolute.
“I was due to turn pro and I got cold feet,” he says. “I would have come back earlier, but I didn’t want to come back a failure. I was embarrassed.”
On arriving back in Dublin, Sutherland tried to enrol in his former high school, but the principal refused to admit the 20-year-old, claiming the school’s reputation would be damaged if it welcomed back a failed boxer.
Left with a broken dream and without a diploma, Sutherland was forced to probe his character and eventually summoned remnants of his old self-assurance. He returned to amateur boxing and managed to convince the principal of a faraway school to accept him as a student.
“Me and my mother went over to the school and the principal was very hesitant at first,” recounts Sutherland. “But when he saw that I wanted to go, he was open to the idea. He said if I wanted to go back to school I wasn’t going to be treated any different.”
Even though some of Sutherland’s classmates were 15, the Dubliner brushed off the detractors and got on with his studies. To pay for a car, Sutherland got a job as a doorman at a bar, but an aversion to fighting outside the ring soon saw him adopt less intense employment: working as a dancer in a nightclub.
After completing high school, Sutherland then secured a place on a sports science course at Dublin City University. While his studies were progressing, Sutherland’s exploits inside the ring became more enjoyable; his attitude to the sport devoid of the pressure that dominated his teenage years.
But the smooth nature of his new life was drastically derailed in the summer of 2006 when the glancing punch from a Russian boxer severed through the muscles in his left eye. Not only were his boxing ambitions seemingly in jeopardy, but also his vision.
“I was taken straight to hospital where they saw that the muscle that moves the eye upwards was damaged so I couldn't move the eye. The hospital put like a plate in it and it's still there - it's not made of metal, but another substance to keep the eye strong,” he reveals. “It was an awful time for me. And never mind boxing, the doctors weren’t sure if the injury would ever clear up.
“I couldn’t leave the house because of the double vision and I was embarrassed as it looked as if I was now cross-eyed.”
As his sight gradually recovered over a six-month period, a highly-skilled boxer called Darren O’Neill took Sutherland’s place on the Irish team and enjoyed considerable success at international tournaments. A disheartened Sutherland deemed himself unable to reclaim his former status and contemplated abandoning the sport for good.
“The turning point came when I went for a run on Christmas Eve, with all these demons in my head. I just thought: ‘Screw this, let's have it! I owe nobody anything. I do this for myself.’ From that point on, I had no doubts. I knew I'd beat him and I knew I'd get to [the 2008 Olympics in] Beijing.”
Ultimately Sutherland made it to China and captured a bronze medal in the middleweight division. His aggressive, power-punching style wasn’t always conducive with the amateur computerized system, but winning gold at the Olympics was never his major ambition.
Before jetting off for Beijing, Sutherland admitted: “To be honest the Olympics wasn't part of my dream. I was attracted to boxing for the professional game. And my dream still is to be the first black Irishman to become world champion.”
That aspiration came a small step closer last Thursday when he made his pro debut, demolishing Georgi Iliev in less than a round in the familiar surroundings of the sports arena at Dublin City University.
Now under the guidance of Frank Maloney, Sutherland will be fighting in the UK and Ireland on the Sky Sports network, and the British promoter claims he hasn’t been this excited about a fighter since a young Lennox Lewis came knocking on his door.
“I know I have invested wisely in Darren,” says Maloney of his middleweight charge. “I have managed four world champions including Lennox Lewis and this guy has a jab like Lewis.”
On Thursday, the muscular Sutherland demonstrated unusual composure for a debutant, weathering an initial onslaught from Iliev before finding the range with his heavy jab. A series of hard lefts opened a nasty cut below Iliev’s left eye and busted his nose, while methodical combinations of hard hooks to body and head sapped the will from the Bulgarian.
After 2:44 of the opening frame the referee wisely called a halt to the one-sided beating.
As always, Sutherland spoke with sincerity in his post-fight interviews, secure in the knowledge that diligence and determination outweigh excessive verbal trumpeting.
“It was strange boxing with no vest or headguard, but this is the pro game,” he said. “I took some silly jabs which I shouldn't have but my trainer Brian Lawrence will sort that out in time. Next time I'll do better.”
But do not get your blood pressure elevated because the rest of the boxing world was right too when it insisted almost to a person that Holyfield no longer belonged inside a boxing ring. Holyfield proved that by plodding through 12 embarrassing rounds, most of them spent bouncing up and down while staying several arms lengths away from Valuev. It figures this fight was staged in Switzerland. Didn’t they sit out World War II? Valuev and Holyfield did the same thing Saturday night.
War this was not, as Holyfield spent the evening circling and moving and slipping and sliding away from the clutches of a Russian giant who has no more idea how to fight than Sequatchie does but otherwise has quite a bit in common with him.
When it was mercifully over Saturday night, Holyfield had won back the WBA version of the heavyweight title without having to for one moment engage in a fight, which was a good thing because the few times one threatened to break out he did not look good in the exchanges.
Boxing being boxing however, two of the three judges inside sold out Hallenstadion in Zurich, Switzerland (not much must be happening there on a Saturday night) thought Nikolay Valuev had done enough to retain the WBA title and so awarded it to him, one by a ridiculous score of 116-110 in a fight Holyfield won by no less a margin than 117-111. That margin existed, just to keep the record straight, only because Valuev fought like a man on Quaaludes.
The Swiss judge scored it 115-114 for Valuev as well, meaning while his Italian counterpart committed a felony his scorecard was only petty theft by comparison.
The one card that made some sense was that of Panamanian judge Guillermo Perez, who scored it a draw, 114-114. Although I had Holyfield winning 117-111 it is easy to see how one could come up with a draw because since neither guy wanted to fight why give either of them a round?
The 46-year-old Holyfield was trying to become the oldest man to ever win any portion of the fractured heavyweight title. Although he will never be credited with it he did enough to win. Since Valuev did nothing that was a pretty low standard.
“I thought I hit him more times than he hit me,’’ Holyfield said a smirk of resignation on his tired face. “I felt I did what was necessary to win.’’
He did. He got to Zurich safely.
That’s really all it took because Valuev was so much worse than atrocious words fail me. Valuev has twice won the WBA title, a fact that proves miracles do come true. He spent his entire night in Zurich following Holyfield around the ring like that guy in those old comic skits whose hat was tied to a string and every time he bent down to pick it up off the ground it moved away from him.
Later Valuev (51-1) would say with a straight face, “He made me work very hard to win. Holyfield was unbelievable with his speed.’’
There are many words one can associate with Holyfield these days. Insane would be one. Shot would be another. Speed would not come into the equation unless he was driving one of his 20 sports cars around Atlanta.
Speed? What does the word mean in Russina? Slow of hand and slower of foot?
Holyfield lumbered around so badly it gave the word lumbering a bad name. Then again, compared to Valuev, he looked like Willie Pep, even though he fought like Willie Pepless.
If ever one wanted to make a case for the death of boxing all they’d have to do is sit people in a room for an hour and condemn them to watch a tape of what went on in Zurich Saturday night. By the time that tape was done running, MMA would have a new legion of fans because it was an advertisement for any form of entertainment not called boxing.
This was a fight that, as predicted, did nothing for anyone involved. It did not elevate Holyfield (42-10-1) even though he deserved to get the decision and it didn’t do anything for the long-suspect Valuev but confirm everyone’s worst fears – which is that he is a sad, freakish circus act who cannot spell fight let alone engage in one.
As for the heavyweight division, it was just another in what now seems an endless string of reasons to ignore the weight class that once ruled the sport. If Nikolay Valuev is a heavyweight champion of anything the title is meaningless. If there is a place inside a boxing ring these days for Holyfield, who was once one of the sport’s shining stars, it is in a tuxedo being introduced as a celebrity in attendance and nothing more.
In the end there is only one thing that can be said about the engagement that was Nikolay Valuev vs. Evander Holyfield – thank God it’s over.