Kenny asked Roach what the penalty should be if Margarito and his trainer used casting material for hand wraps. “They should be banned from boxing for life,” he said. “Just like Luis Resto and Panama Lewis. And maybe do some time because it’s a serious charge.” Roach also said that a boxer from his gym suffered a broken orbital bone during sparring with Margarito, and was told that Margarito uses tainted wraps in training also, “to protect his hands.”
Serious charges from Roach, whose reputation in the game is darn near flawless. Margarito will state his case on the matter, with his trainer, to the Ca. commission on Feb. 10. One would expect that lawyers, representing any number of fighters, will be following this hearing and further developments closely. Because if Margarito did use casting material, and this wasn’t an isolated incident, boxers who has beaten, and knocked out, could possibly lodge a civil complaint against him, arguing that their livelihood was compromised by his illegal behavior. That is speculation at this point, of course.
The show featured bouts taking place at the Wicomico Civic Center in Salisbury, Maryland. Yusuf Mack (27-2) of Philly took a split decision win over Chris Henry (23-2), by scores of 116-112, 115-112, 113-115 in the headline beef. The light heavyweight scrap showcased two hitters who have just enough holes to keep them from the 175 pound penthouse. Mack had the quicker hands while Henry had the heavier ones, early on. Mack’s D is pretty sharp, and he stayed clear of Henry’s bombs through four. Mack often fired first, and his tosses were more accurate. His jab kept Henry off him, and when Henry got close, he slipped well. Teddy Atlas had it a Mack shutout through the fourth. Henry has a tendency to load up, and foes can see that coming.
Mack’s right hurt Henry in the sixth, and a KO was threatened. But he hung around. In the ninth, Mack, who has more energy at 175 than he did at a depleted 168, heard it from ref Kenny Chevalier. “You’re getting lazy,” he yelled at the two fighters. Atlas smartly pointed out that both men are hampered by a reliance on right hands. Neither follows up with a hook to close out a combo often enough. Henry had more bounce and pep in the 7th, 8th, and 9th. In the 12th, Mack landed a fierce right, and Henry buckled. But Henry collected himself, and had Mack holding on. We’d go to the cards. Mack edged Henry 115-113 on Teddy’s card.
Gabriel Rosado got out to a solid start, with his straight-punching style paying dividends against Fernando Guerrero, the hometown fave, in a middleweight tussle. Guerrero was sent to the mat in the third, but the lefty got his wits, and got down to business. He assaulted Rosado’s right eye with his straight left, and his hand speed was at another level than the New Yorkers’. After some early moments of worry, Guerrero left with his undefeated record intact. He is 13-0, while Rosado drops to 10-3. The crowd was beyond amped for this one, by the way. Guerrero’s promoter is doing a superb job spreading the word on the kid, who was born in the DR.
SPEEDBAG Not sure why this is happening, but FNF’s lineup this year is shaping up to be, far and away, the best ever. To my knowledge, the network didn’t sweeten the pot, and still pays a fairly modest per show stipend to promoters. But it looks like Samuel Peter is going to meet Eddie Chambers March 27 on ESPN, and that, my friends, would not have been a match we would’ve seen on FNF in the past. A theory—this sort of match is a result of the economy. There is less money and fewer gigs to go round now. So, in order to make a statement, guys are taking fights they would have blown off, or held out for more money. Basically, the economy is spurring necessity, the mother of invention. It is necessary for guys to make money, even if the payday is somewhat weak, because after all, any payday beats no payday at all. This economy will actually be a stimulus in some regards, because it forces people to work harder, and come up with innovations, because the pressure to stay afloat is on, big time.
---Riddick Bowe was in the house. He sat behind Atlas and Tess. He was not interviewed. Would have liked to see how Teddy handled that.
---New BWAA president Jack Hirsch got a shoutout from Atlas. Teddy said the BWAA is important, as a watchdog entity, because the sport lacks a central governing body to oversee and maintain standards.
---Atlas admitted that he is up to date technologically, in that he now can receive text messages. He says he relies on his kids to answer them, though. WARD TAKES OUT SUGAR POO Andre Ward is hot on the case for a title shot by the end of 2009. On ShoBox, Ward got some rounds in against overmatched Henry Buchanan, who was in sparring partner mode, at the Tachi Casino in Lemoore, CA. , and earned a UD 12 (120-108 x 3). Ward (age 24; 166.2; 18-0; from California; 2004 Olympic gold medalist; owner of NABO super middle crown) had knee surgery last August after hurting himself playing hoops, but he looks to be 100%. Buchanan (age 30; 167.6 pounds; 17-2; from Maryland) has the strangest nickname in the game, “Sugar Poo.”
Ward came out aggressive from minute one. Poo backed up, and looked out of his depth, and he ate some snappy jabs in the first. Same thing in the second. Ward went lefty some, and used it to his benefit, rather than just doing it in gimmicky fashion. It was clear from the second round on that Poo wasn’t in it to really win it. His jab was timid, and he just covered up, hoping to stick around and last the duration. This was his second ShoBox appearance and I’m guessing, his last. Ward wasn’t cut, his knee held up, and he got the nod, bottom line. As a viewer, this wasn’t one for the ages. Mostly, that’s Poo’s fault.
Californian John Molina went to 15-0, as he sent Josh Allatey down with a left hook to the body in the third. Allatey (16-7) said it was a low blow. It wasn’t. The Ghanian Allatey, who was trying to pull a con, took a couple minutes to gather himself, and promptly got dropped and stopped at 1:28 of the third. Older fight fans know John’s dad, John John, who was a super feather standout, and battled professionally from 1986-2001.
SPEEDBAG 2 ---Friend Tommy Gorman points out that heavyweight Kirk Johnson is having another go at it. He fights 11-36 Danny Sheehan in Virginia tonight. People gotta do what people gotta do, I guess. I don’t know the Massachusetts resident Sheehan but I hope he has regular brain scans and his speech pattern hasn’t been affected by the years of abuse he’s taken as a game opponent imported as a record builder. Anyone out there reading know Sheehan, and can hopefully inform us that his faculties have not been diminished in his 12 years as a pro?
Thursday afternoon the reigning light heavyweight champion of the world, and truly still the best super middleweight in the world as well, formally announced what many in Britain had feared - that he has fought his last. In Britain this became not merely sporting news but among the lead stories on the BBC’s 6 p.m. national news cast. It is unimaginable that a similar fistic retirement in the United States would warrant even a mention on a national newscast let alone the kind of headlines his retirement wrought but such is the respect Calzaghe commands in the UK, where many will argue he is the greatest boxer in that island’s long fistic history dating back to the days of bare-knuckle brawlers.
When such a debate begins the names of Lennox Lewis, Jimmy Wilde, Ted “Kid’’ Lewis and Ken Buchanan are always immediately mentioned. Some add the likes of John Conteh, Barry McGuighan and Freddie Mills into the argument. A few of the younger generation lobby for Naseem Hamed or Nigel Benn as well while the grey beards mention Randy Turpin or the featherweight Howard Winstone, who lost three epic battles with Mexican legend Vincente Saldivar before finally winning the WBC title in 1968 from Mitsunori Seki, in the debate.
But now that Calzaghe is officially retired the name of the undefeated former super middleweight and light heavyweight champion immediately joins the short list for Britain’s all-time best and certainly is at or near the top in any debate of their finest post-war fighters, joining Buchanan, Lewis and McGuighan.
After outpointing and savagely beating an aged Roy Jones, Jr., last Nov. 8 in Madison Square Garden, Calzaghe hinted that he felt there were no mountains to climb. Recently he began playing golf again, a sport he’d given up nine years ago because his persistent elbow problems were traced to his golf swing and so he abandoned it for the spartan life of a prize fighter. The fact that he had begun to pick up his driver and wedge again was a hint of the announcement to come.
These days, boxing is made up primarily of molehills masquerading as mountains but it is difficult to argue with Calzaghe’s resume. He retires with an unblemished 46-0 record, 32 knockouts and clear domination of the 168-pound division for 11 years. During that time he defended the title he first won from Chris Eubank on Oct. 11, 1997, 21 times before moving up to light heavyweight to outpoint and wear out Bernard Hopkins last April in his first appearance in the United States before slicing Jones up in what now seems to have been his final appearance in the ring.
“It was a difficult decision but I have achieved everything I wanted to achieve in boxing,’’ Calzaghe told the BBC. “I’ve been world champion for 11 years. I’ve got no other goals to go for. That’s why I’m calling it a day.
“I had a long think with my family. My children wanted me to give it up, plus my Mum. My decision is to retire. I’ve been boxing for 25 years and, like I said, I’ve achieved everything I want to achieve.
“You can never say never in this game, but I can't see myself boxing again. There are loads of things I want to do. I'm proud to be one of only a few fighters in history to retire undefeated.’’
Calzaghe, who will turn 37 on March 23, suffered with numerous hand injuries and through much criticism over the years from those who wanted to see him come to the U.S. and match wits and fists with Jones, Hopkins and others. Instead he did his work mostly not far from his home in Wales, building a massive British following that culminated on the night he unified the super middleweight title by defeating Denmark’s Mikkel Kessler in front of 50,150 fans at Millenium Stadium in Cardiff a year and a half ago. That came after first totally destroying then undefeated IBF super middleweight champion Jeff Lacy, the former American Olympian, in a stunningly lopsided beating few outside his tight circle anticipated.
That circle included his father and lifelong trainer, Enzo, who was named trainer of the year by the Boxing Writers Association of America because of what he had accomplished with his son. Calzaghe told the BBC that the night he defeated Kessler after trailing early in the match was “a dream come true’’ because he was the underdog in his native land. Although no one realized it at the time he would never again fight in Great Britain, finishing his career with two victories by wide margins over Hopkins in Las Vegas and then Jones in New York last year.
Calzaghe now plans to launch a career as a boxing promoter but also has lined up television opportunities in the UK and frankly will very likely be able to make a lucrative living simply working the boxing celebrity circuit in England and Europe. His biography, co-written with the Sunday Times of London’s Brian Doogan, was a best seller and finalist for sports book of the year in the UK last year, selling over 125,000 copies.
Calzaghe began his 16-year professional career after going 110-10 as an amateur. Four years after turning professional, he stepped in to face Eubank, himself a British legend, after then WBO super middleweight champion Steve Collins chose to retire rather than defend the title against Calzaghe.
Although Eubank was past his prime he was still a respected and feared figure but Calzaghe dropped him in the first round of the fight only to see him rise like the Phoenix from the ashes of the only knockdown of his career and battle Calzaghe toe-to-toe to the final bell in what Calzaghe still considers the hardest 12 rounds of his career.
After that, as things turned out, Joe Calzaghe simply could not, or would not, be stopped. His fellow Welshman Nicky Cook, the one-time Commonwealth light heavyweight champion said of Calzaghe yesterday, “If you judge him on paper and achievements, you have to put him at the very top of the course. He has certainly put Welsh boxing on the map.’’
It is a map on which he will no longer be found, having noticed over the past year that his taste for the hard training demanded of the sport was no longer to his liking. Although he continued to prepare himself for battle, Joe Calzaghe more and more came to realize it was finally time for him to become what he had never been before.
Time, at last, to be just another ordinary Joe…even if now a legendary one as well.
“There is only one way for an Israeli soldier,” Nakash said. “You need to live, the terrorist needs to die. That is it. There is no in-between.”
Welcome to a different sort of fighting man, the kind for whom a matchup with a gloved opponent with bad, but not necessarily lethal, intentions is a relative walk in the park. In boxing, it’s perfectly normal for two guys to try to beat hell out of one another, then at the final bell to embrace and wish each other well. That’s sportsmanship.
But for Nakash and another Israeli soldier-boxer, Elad Shmouel, the very real possibility of someday finding themselves in a desperate clinch with an enemy dedicated to the eradication of the Jewish state hardly qualifies as sport. In war, there is no referee, no time limit, no decisions rendered by judges with scorecards and pencils. Survival is the only acceptable outcome.
“Hamas is a terrorist organization. Hezbollah is a terrorist organization,” said Shmouel, who recently concluded his mandatory three-year military service with the IDF as a first sergeant, but is leaving open the possibility of re-upping for another hitch. “There’s really nobody to talk to like regular people. They are terrorists, and we do not negotiate with terrorists.”
Friday night at Philadelphia’s Blue Horizon, Nakash and Shmouel attempt to take another step toward what they hope will someday be fame, fortune and bejeweled championship belts. They’re not exactly fighting for fun, but there understandably is a lesser sense of urgency than when rockets are falling and the possibility of instant death is tugging at your elbow.
Nakash (16-0, 12 KOs), a cruiserweight from Haifa, takes on Ryan Carroll (7-1, 4 KOs), from Delaware, Ohio, in the eight-round main event while Shmouel (18-2, 9 KOs), a junior welterweight from Tel Aviv, swaps punches with Khristian Garaci (4-5-1, 3 KOs) in a six-round undercard bout.
Promoter Vernoca Michael is billing the eight-fight event as the “Valentine Special Show,” but love, brotherly or otherwise, often is in short supply in the Middle East, where tensions always are high and fear is a part of everyday life.
For many American teenagers, going to the mall is all about hanging out with friends or maybe just alleviating boredom. Not so in Israel, where even the most mundane of activities is fraught with peril.
“I was 15 and I was walking to the mall with some people I know,” said Shmouel, now 22. “All of a sudden we hear this big boom and we started running. We saw bodies and blood all over the place. A suicide bomber.
“It’s terrifying for a 15-year-old to see maybe 50 dead people, and I don’t know how many more wounded screaming. It’s hard to describe in words. But that is what our lives are. Danger is constant.”
Even courtship and romance in Israel can be more hazardous than Americans might imagine.
“I was at my girlfriend’s house in Ashod and a rocket landed right near her house,” Shmouel said. “You don’t pause, but that is the reality.”
Nakash, 30, said it might be better to look into the face of your enemy, to meet his stare with one of your own, and to just go at it in a struggle in which the loser goes down and forever stays down. What is frustrating is when someone is pushing a button and raining death and destruction on you from some distant place. Rockets and missiles fired from long range are indiscriminate killers.
“In the southern part of Israel there have been rocket attacks every day for the past eight years,” Nakash said. “Children who go to school are afraid because at any minute there can be an alarm and you have only 15 or 20 seconds to take shelter. That’s it. Now, imagine that alarm sounding eight to 10 times a day. That is what our people live with. It is a nightmare.”
Nakash often feels like lashing out, retaliating, but the enemy is seldom right in front of him, as is an opponent in boxing. Fights, real fights, at least are honest when you know exactly who you are fighting.
“I don’t think there can be peace in this generation,” he allowed. “The real enemy is not the guy in Gaza firing the missiles. The real enemy is in Iran, paying money to the guy in Gaza who fires the missiles. So we don’t fight the real enemy. This is the big problem. People in America don’t understand that.”
Well, some Americans do. Friday marks Nakash’s eighth appearance at the Blue Horizon, his U.S. home-away-from-home. Shmouel is fighting there for the seventh time. They have become popular figures in the local Jewish community, representatives of a shared faith and ethnicity. And they are fighters, in and out of the ring, which strikes a chord in all national permutations of a people who have endured thousands of years of armed conflict.
“They take me to synagogues, to schools,” Nakash said of the warm welcome he always receives from fellow Jews whenever he comes to Philly. “It is great to have that sort of support.”
That Nakash and Shmouel have become almost cultural icons in Philadelphia is in and of itself a curious story. Their manager, Raanan Gal, was in New York searching for an American venue to regularly showcase his fighters when someone suggested he contact matchmaker Don Elbaum, who works with Michael and lives in the Philly suburb of Phoenixville.
Elbaum has turned the venerable Blue Horizon into an international destination, previously importing several Swedish fighters who for a time gave the old arena a distinct Scandanavian tinge. He was aware that once upon a time Jewish fighters were numerous and popular in the country, the best of whom were Benny Leonard, Barney Ross, Jackie “Kid” Berg, Lew Tendler, Abe Atell, Battling Levinsky, Maxie Rosenbloom, Jackie Fields and Benny Bass. And if it once was that way, why not again? You know the old saying: What goes around, comes around.
“Israel is becoming what Russia was 10 years ago when the Klitschkos began to gain widespread recognition,” Elbaum said. “In the next couple of years, I think you’ll see an exodus of incredible boxing talent coming out of Israel.”
So, just maybe, Nakash and Shmouel are the forerunners of the next Jewish boxing revolution. As it is, Elbaum thinks both can make a larger mark of their own, with Nakash closer to the sort of breakthrough that would graduate him from the Blue Horizon to possible gigs at Madison Square Garden or the big casino-resorts in Las Vegas.
Nakash and Shmouel came to Philadelphia earlier than usual on this trip, one of the reasons being that Nakash had an opportunity to do some serious sparring with former IBF cruiser champ Steve “USS” Cunningham, a fellow serviceman (he served in the United States Navy) who could provide the Israeli with a benchmark for how high he needed to rise to become a legitimate contender.
If Elbaum is to be believed, Cunningham and Nakash engaged in a sparring session every bit as spirited as was the recent title bout in which Cunningham yielded his title to Poland’s Tomasz Adamek on a split decision.
“I think Ran is two to three fights away from beating Adamek,” Elbaum opined. “Adamek is tough, but nobody is tougher than Ran Nakash."
“Ran is going to stun the boxing world before this year is out, mark my word. There is nobody – nobody – tougher than Ran Nakash.”
Eight years younger and perhaps not as far along in his boxing development, Shmouel likely will have to wait a bit longer before he breaks through to the proverbial next level. But if and when he does, he said he, like Nakash, will carry with him a motivation and purpose that supersedes that of such Jewish-American boxers as Dmitriy Salita and Yuri Foreman.
“What we are doing, no one has done,” he said of the untrod path he and Nakash are following to what they hope will be a glorious destiny. “You can’t compare it to Salita and Foreman. They are Jewish, but not real Israelis like we are. It is a whole different thing. We are the pure Jewish warriors.”
But Lou DiBella isn’t spending too much time moping about the possibility of breadlines—he has clients to attend to, and fights to make. Because especially in times such as these, as all of us chew our nails to the quick as our friends, neighbors and loved ones come home day in, day out clutching pink slips, people need entertainment. They need to take their mind off the numbing hailstorm of dire economic news, and Dick Cheney’s pronouncements of an imminent terrorist attack. What better way, we slaves to the art and savage science of pugilism say, than taking in a couple hours of prizefighting?
DiBella was working the phones on Thursday afternoon in his Manhattan office, as one of the jewels of his stable, 25-year-old WBC welterweight champ Andre Berto, was a few fight away, being interviewed for a Ring magazine feature. DiBella clued in TSS what might be next on the slate for Berto, who narrowly escaped with his title in hand after shooting down a spirited bid by New Yorker Luis Collazo on Jan. 17 in Mississippi.
“We have a May date on HBO for Andre,” the promoter said. “A Collazo rematch is possibility, but we’d give the date up for a fight with Miguel Cotto in June at Madison Square Garden.” With the long-term suspension of Antonio Margarito for hand-wrap hijinks being a definite possibility, Team Cotto has been investigating Plans B, C and D. Cotto figures to steamroll Michael Jennings, like Rush Limbaugh plows thru a twelve pack of Krispy Kremes, on Feb. 21 at MSG. He was going to try and erase the stain of his lone loss, incurred to Margarito last July (TKO11) in Vegas. But if Margarito is found to have inserted a foreign object or objects into his fists before gloving up against Shane Mosley on Jan. 24, Cotto will need a new dance partner. DiBella says Berto is clamoring for the waltz.
“Andre is ready, willing and able to fight Cotto in June at MSG,” DiBella said.
Also on the short list for Berto, if the stars don’t align as desired: Zab Judah, and Carlos Quintana. DiBella would like to see his client Quintana get that gig, and thinks a Judah/Quintana eliminator, with the winner to meet Berto, is a no-brainer. He doesn’t think a welterweight consolidation event, pitting Berto against Shane Mosley, could come off. “Mosley doesn’t want Berto, he wants megafights at this point,” DiBella said.
Dibella’s phonework isn’t limited to Berto. Middleweight Jermain Taylor’s stock upticked with a UD12 win over Jeff Lacy in November. What’s next for Bad Intentions?
“We’re close to a deal to fight Carl Froch (24-0 Brit, WBC super middle champ; age 31),” he said. That bout, if terms get ironed out with Froch’s promoter, Mick Hennesey, would take place in the US in mid to late April.
With that, DiBella went back to the phone, Limbaugh to his donuts and Cheney to his sinister plotting. And they say boxing is a rough game...
This being boxing, we tend to think of a fighter as fully retired when he is ensconced in a coffin, and even then have to make sure that the hole is deep and the top is firmly attached.
On Thursday afternoon, the Welsh light heavyweight champion, age 36, called it quits.
"It was a difficult decision but I have achieved everything I wanted to achieve in boxing,” Calzaghe told the BBC. “I've been world champion for 11 years. I've got no other goals to go for. That's why I am calling it a day. I had a long think with my family. My children wanted me to give up, plus my mum. That's why I called it a day and will go on to do something else. My decision is to retire. I've been boxing for 25 years and, like I said, I've achieved everything I want to achieve."
If nothing changes, and he doesn’t get sick of all that quality time with family and friends, Calzaghe’s record stands at 46-0 with 32 knockouts. He is a lock for the Hall of Fame, of course. But there will be plenty of detractors, mostly fightfans outside the UK, who look at Calzaghe and shake their head at the opportunities and challenges he didn’t grab back in the day. Why didn’t he fight a 30something Bernard Hopkins? Or a 30something Roy Jones? Or even a late 30something Glen Johnson?
Calzaghe really owned the super middleweight division, after snagging the vacant WBO crown on Oct. 11, 1997 with a UD 12 over Chris Eubank. He made 21 title defenses during his 11-year reign, a neat feat, even if those defenses sometimes came against local heroes and faded vets. His star shined brightest in the last three years. Taking down the Balco-sized hitter Jeff Lacy in 2006 opened the eyes of xenophobic fight fans and keyboard tappers, and back to back takedowns of Hall of Fame locks Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones in 2008 at light heavyweight, right here in the US, shut up, to a great extent, anti Calzaghe cranks who whined that he dined on a diet of homecooking served up by promoter Frank Warren.
A lengthier treatise on Calzaghe’s career and legacy will be forthcoming from Ron Borges. I am hesitant to hammer out even another paragraph, because the Welshman is only 36, and has shown that he is at or near the peak of his skills right now. He calls himself “retired,” while I respectfully think of Calzaghe as “on hiatus.”
Quality time, athletes used to obscene paydays and showers of adoration from arenas full of admirers find, can get old, fast.
Bernardo Osuna and Marco Antonio Barrera have been around the prizefighting world since the early 1990s yet are still in their mid-30s.
Osuna, 36, was last seen on a weekly boxing show on the Spanish language network Telefutura. He had amassed a large following in North America with his incredible knowledge of the machinations of the sport. The demise of that show, however, did not sink Osuna.
ESPN Deportes’s new show Golpe a Golpe and ESPN’s English language boxing show will share Osuna’s expertise in the prizefighting world.
For more than 15 years only the Spanish-speaking world was reaping Osuna’s knowledge and entertainment value; now the more dominant English-speaking world in North America will see what it was missing.
“His bilingual skills will be put to good use,” said Lino Garcia, general manager of ESPN Deportes.
Last week Osuna was featured on ESPN’s Friday Night Fights show. He will be rotating on the show with writer Dan Rafael and others.
Though still a young journalist, Osuna has been swimming in the prizefighting world since 1993 when he was an intern from Loyola Marymount University. He worked for Univision and covered boxing cards at the Inglewood Forum.
“I was always a boxing fan,” said Osuna, who grew up in the San Fernando Valley.
When an opening came for a Spanish speaking boxing analyst, he was ready.
“It really helped to be in the right place at the right time,” Osuna says.
While covering boxing cards at Inglewood he witnessed some of the greatest fights in Los Angeles and met numerous boxing stars that began their careers there.
“The Chiquita Gonzalez and Saman Sorjaturong fight was a tremendous fight,” said Osuna who reported on that world title fight that saw the Thai boxer take the world title from Mexico’s little giant in July 1995. “The other was the Marco Antonio Barrera fight with Kennedy McKinney. That was the other great fight I saw.”
That fight on Feb. 1996, launched the little-known Barrera into another stratosphere, as the Mexico City native has become one of the master boxers in the world. Now he will be sitting in as an analyst for the ESPN Deportes.
“Marco Antonio Barrera is very articulate,” said Osuna who has interviewed the three-weight division world champion many times in the past.
Barrera sees it as another opportunity to sell his sport.
“It’s very important for me to be able to talk about this beautiful sport,” said Barrera, 35, who just recently fought in Guadalajara last weekend. “I’ll be able to explain the different aspects of the sport from my perspective.”
Barrera has made it clear that he will continue fighting at least for the next year. No longer with Golden Boy Promotions, the former Mexico City native has also moved to another residence. Guadalajara is now his home base.
Currently he is healing from a severe cut on the forehead. A proposed match with Great Britain’s Amir Khan is in jeopardy, but not his seat in the television booth.
Both Barrera and Osuna are swimming toward other destinations at full speed.
“To be part of this sport on some scale puts me in a very nice place in the boxing community,” said Osuna.
Actually it’s the boxing audience that will benefit from two of the brightest boxing analysts on television in Barrera and Osuna.
“For once, for all the BS that goes on in boxing, this is the start of one man’s career in boxing and end of the other’s,’’ England’s leading promoter said. “Is Amir Khan what we think he is? Is Barrera finished?’’
Warren, of course, left out the worst of the possibilities which is that Khan is not but Barrera is, which would make for an ugly evening at the M.E.N. Arena. Such a possibility is not beyond the realm of possibility but it is of course of no interest to Warren, who promotes Khan, or Don King, who now handles the affairs of Barrera. They were both speaking of their respective fighters to flog the promotion, which has already sold over 15,000 tickets in Manchester, proving once again that while boxing may be struggling in the U.S. it’s alive and well in the U.K.
Khan’s career is not, however. The former silver medalist in Athens had been the latest in a line of hot commodities to come out of England recently when he first turned professional but his chin his grown ever more suspect, finally proving a dangerous liability against a little known opponent named Breidis Prescott, who knocked him cold in 54 seconds last September in the very same building in which he will try to rebuild himself at the expense of the 35-year-old Barrera.
Barrera has been hired by Warren and offered by King as a sacrifice to the altar of the New Generation after having appeared to slip badly 18 months ago when Manny Pacquiao won a lop-sided decision over him in the opinion of two of the three judges at ringside. It was his second straight defeat, having already been beaten just as handily by Pacquiao’s great Mexican rival, Juan Manuel Marquez, six months earlier, a defeat that cost Barrera the WBC super featherweight title.
It was 13 months before Barrera returned to boxing, having indicated he would retire after the Pacquiao loss. By the time he came back he was without his promoter, Oscar De La Hoya, with whom he was also supposed to be a business partner. Apparently that only lasted until it appeared Barrera could no longer do any big business in boxing, which is how he ended up with King. King is to boxers what Jesus was to Lazarus – a good friend when you’re in need of a resurrection.
He has resuscitated fighters in all weight classes for most of his career so doing it again with Barrera is nothing new nor all that remarkable if he pulls it off. He got him a win in China, where few people outside the Middle Kingdom got to see what Barrera had left against Sammy Ventura but it reportedly wasn’t much. That is what got the wheels turning inside Warren’s head.
This has led to getting him in the ring with Khan on March 14 despite Barrera having suffered what many claim was a severe cut on Jan. 31 in a tuneup fight against Freudis Rojas in Jalisco, Mexico, not far from Barrera’s hometown.
Rojas was disqualified but the more serious issue was the gash over Barrera’s left eye. It briefly put the Khan fight in jeopardy but only for as long as it took to get Barrera in front of a doctor in Florida selected by King.
After examining him his diagnosis was “No problem.’’ No surprise, although people familiar with Barrera claim his brother was adamantly and vocally opposed to fighting next month.
“I don’t want to get into my cut,’’ Barrera (65-6, 43 KO) said. “Amir Khan should not be worried about that. He should be worried about the fact I’m coming for him. I’m coming to win the fight. I’m not coming to be a step (stepping stone). I’m coming to win.’’
King has promised the winner a shot at 36-year-old lightweight champion Nate Campbell, who he also promotes and who may be the right age for Khan to benefit from such a pairing despite Campbell’s skills. For Barrera, if he survives Khan, this would give him an opportunity to become the first Mexican fighter to win world titles in four different weight classes (122, 126 and 130 already), a bit of history he claims to be fixated on.
Of course, if Golden Boy Promotions thought there was a chance in hell of that happening he’d still be under contract to them. But he is not and so you wonder.
You wonder also because Warren is a man who takes few chances with his meal tickets. If it was up to him, Joe Calzaghe would not yet have fought Bernard Hopkins or maybe even Mikkel Kessler. After all, why fight those guys if you can get paid to wrestle around with local heroes like Carl Froch and Clinton Woods?
So would he take a risk with Khan if he felt for a minute Marco Antonio Barrera still had a pulse? Perhaps young Khan has the answer to that question. “Why would I take a fight if I didn’t think I can win?’’ Khan (19-1, 15 KO) said. “I’m confident. My team is confident. Even if he didn’t have the cut I know I can beat him. He’s made for my style.’’
At that point Warren jumped in to remind anyone who might have forgotten that this is the same Barrera who replaced Chavez in the hearts of Mexican fight fans and is considered a legend regardless of what else happens in his career. That doesn’t mean he’s the same Barrera who won those nights against Erik Morales and Naseem Hamed and both Khan and Warren are praying he isn’t because if that’s the case we can stop right now and tell you whose career is set to end at the M.E.N. Arena next month.
“We’re not looking for excuses,’’ King said. “We’re looking for results. I wouldn’t put Marco in if he wasn’t (physically) ready (surely not). He’s in it to win it! He can’t give up and he won’t give in! Barrera is READY. The more handicapped they think he is the more ready we will be.’’ Time will tell on that but truth be told this fight has been made because Barrera is desperate for one last shot at a championship and can only get it by facing down some young gun like Khan so he and King have found a guy who at least clearly has a serious flaw Barrera might exploit – a fragile chin.
That may not make a difference if the Barrera who arrives in the UK is physically flawed himself, both because of the cut and the high cost of 72 professional prize fights, many of them wars. That is what young Khan is counting on. Or at least what Frank Warren is counting on.
This match is a repeat of a similar calculated gamble Warren took a three years ago when he matched rising Ricky Hatton against fading IBF junior welterweight legend Kostya Tszyu in the same building. Tszyu was better preserved than Barrera but Hatton was probably a tougher fighter than Khan so the risk evens out.
What happened that night was that Tszyu gave Hatton problems early but eventually faded and was forced to quit on his stool after the 11th round. That gave Hatton an inflated victory off of which he’s made millions while becoming a national celebrity. Now Warren is hoping to pull off the same feat at the expense of Barrera, who laughed off that possibility Wednesday saying, “I have a lot of respect for Freddie Roach (who trains Khan) but don’t make yourself bigger than you are. At the end of the day, I’ll be alone with Amir. He better get his kid ready.
“I know who I am. If they don’t know who I am I will show them on March 14.’’
Frank Warren is counting on knowing precisely who, and more importantly what, Marco Antonio Barrera is these days. He is betting he’s a shadow with nothing left to advertise himself but a resume. If he’s right, 22-year-old Amir Khan will have fulfilled a ritual of boxing. He will have advanced his career at the expense of a great champion tottering on his last legs.
But if he’s wrong, it won’t be Barrera’s career that will end in Manchester. It will be young Khan’s. That’s a bet an old gambler like Warren wouldn’t take lightly. The fact he chose to make it leaves you thinking Marco Antonio Barrera is all done. Or at least soon will be.
In what will be a slugfest from start to finish, Vic Darchinyan will defend his International Boxing Federation (IBF), World Boxing Council (WBC) and World Boxing Association (WBA) super flyweight belts against Jorge Arce in Saturday’s main event live on SHOWTIME (9 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the west coast).
The once-beaten, hard-hitting Darchinyan (31-1-1, 25 KOs), of Sydney, Australia, by way of Armenia, will be making his first defense since unifying the 115-pound division with a one-sided ninth-round knockout over Mexico’s Cristian Mijares Nov. 1, 2008, on SHOWTIME.
A winner of five in a row and 31 out of his last 32, the popular, crowd-pleasing Arce (51-4-1, 39 KOs), of Los Mochis, Sinaloa, Mexico, is the current WBA interim super flyweight champion and is a former WBC 115-pound and World Boxing Organization (WBO) 108-pound titleholder.
The co-feature on SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING will pit WBC No. 5-ranked contender Antonio DeMarco (19-1-1, 13 KOs) against “Kid Diamond” Almazbek Raiymkulov (27-1-1, 15 KOs) in a 12-rounder for the North American Boxing Organization (NABO) lightweight title.
The event, co-promoted by Gary Shaw Productions, LLC, and Bob Arum’s Top Rank, Inc., will take place from the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.
Remaining tickets, priced at $250, $125, $90, $60, $45 and $35 on sale, can be purchased through Ticketmaster (all Ticketmaster outlets), by phone, 714-740-2000, online at www.ticketmaster.com and at the Honda Center box office. (note: additional tickets at $35, $45 and $60 have been made available)
What the fighters had to say Wednesday:
“I am anxious, focused and confident. My weight is great. I am ready to go.
“I expect this is going to be a good fight. I’m not looking to knock him out in the first round. He is a tough fighter and I know he is here to give me a tough fight. So this might go a couple rounds.
“But once I hit him – and before he realizes what hit him – the fight will be over.
“I got a lot of attention when I was undefeated, but the recognition is more now that I beat Mijares like a baby. Being undisputed champion means more.
“I know I have a target on my back and that everyone will be gunning for me. That’s why I am not overlooking any opponent, including Arce.
“Arce has done a lot of talking, but I like it when they talk and think they are going to beat me. That way, when it is over, I can remind them of what they said while I am holding the belts.
“I’ve been chasing, following this guy around Mexico for three years. I can’t wait for Saturday.’’
“Darchinyan’s greatest strength is his mouth. I am not intimidated by the devil; why would I be intimidated by him? His biggest weakness is his chin. When he gets hit flush, he doesn’t get up.
“I am ready for anything he has to offer and looking forward to testing him and finding out about his will to win. I know what my will to win is. But we’ll find Saturday about his.
“He hasn’t been fighting really elite Mexican fighters and I have trained for this fight like I never have before. I’ve had a great camp. I’ve been chopping trees and swimming to improve my strength. I’ve sparred with southpaws for the first time. Lefties have never given me a problem.
“People think because I lost to Mijares and Darchinyan beat Mijares that Darchinyan will automatically win our fight. But that’s not how it works. It is just talk. It is neither here nor there. Styles make fights. You’ll see after I nail him what I am saying.
“I am very happy and excited to be here and I am looking forward to fighting in Anaheim again and showing SHOWTIME that I deserve to be on their network. I appreciate this opportunity.
“I am not leaving that ring without the three belts. I am smarter than him.’’
“The only thing I can say is that this is going to be an exciting fight. I have a lot of respect for my opponent in and out of the ring.
“I have prepared for this like it will be the toughest fight of my career. It is especially important to win because what happens Saturday will go a long ways to what will happen to me in the future.
“I am confident of victory for several reasons, but the top two are that I am going to win for my wife, Tanya, and my three-and-one-half-month-old daughter, Camila.’’
Vivian Harris isn't there yet. The 30-year-old junior welterweight was born in Guyana. These days, he's living in New Jersey, working under Tommy Brooks and biding his time until he gets that title crack that will give him that payoff payday which will make the years of toil in the red light district of the sports world worth it.
His Sept. 2007 fight against Junior Witter could have been a breakthrough event, a fight to announce that a player in the division is here, and must be dealt with. Instead, Witter knocked Harris off, via KO7. And frustration with the political side to the sport very nearly dealt an even more conclusive blow to Harris. The boxer spoke to TSS as he awaited word whether he'd get a chance to take down flavor of the month prospect Victor Ortiz, the 23-1 hitter who is being groomed as a potential heir to the Oscar De La Hoya throne. That vet vs. phenom scrap will go down, on March 7, as part of a tasty HBO double feature, along with James Kirkland vs. Joel Julio. Harris tried to hold it together, see things from a philosophical stance, but by the end of the interview, his frustration with the business side of the savage science was glaring.
He pointed out that his trip to England to fight Witter was handled poorly, and perhaps contributed to his showing.
"The promoter (Mick Hennessy) there wanted me to be there three days before the fight," he said. "I wanted to be there longer. I got there five days before. When I fought, I was still on New York time. I had no money for food, even."
Then, Harris pivots, and realizes that it sounds like he's talking sour grapes. "But, nobody put a gun to my head," he says. "It's nobody's fault."
After the Witter loss, Harris was off for more than a year. He was still in the gym, staying trim, waiting for that call that didn't come. He has a new manager, Mike Indri, who he says is a good dude, who seems like he truly cares for Harris' well being. Harris took a rust shedder fight against Octavio Narvaez in October and came away with a TKO6 win, but had to survive an early knockdown to do it. He almost snagged a fight with Timothy Bradley, who grabbed the WBC 140 pound title from Witter last May, but the WBC said they wanted Harris to take another fight first. Harris seemed to be accepting of this move, which seems arbitrary on the surface. Haven't a b-load of other solid vets been given title shots after taking plentiful time off?
Harris, who is working hard on looking on the bright side, isn't irked that he would be the designated steppingstone against Ortiz. "It's do or die for me," he said.
Harris thinks the pairing with Brooks, who he says is mellow, not as prone to getting excited as former trainer Lennox Blackmoore, will pay dividends. Also, Harris said, Brooks will do some of the heavy lifting in prep work that he says hasn't been done before. Harris says most of the fights he's won, prior to now, came from a strategy he devised himself, after studying tapes.
When asked if revolving trainers (he was with Blackmoore, then Manny Steward, and then Blackmoore again) and promotional difficulties (he's felt that Main Events didn't push him like they could've/should've) have sapped his spirit, Harris said no. But the more he talked, the more it seemed to indicate that the out-of-the-ring BS has impacted Harris.
"It doesn't affect me at all," he says. "God knows who's right and who's wrong. People can talk bad about me, but I'm not a bad person. But people know the boxing business is garbage. They know I have to be a certain way because the boxing industry is the way it is."
By "a certain way," Harris means "difficult." He's been branded "difficult," and that probably has kept him from getting some opportunities that 'go along to get along' guys receive.
When he talks about the raw deal that fighters get, frankly, he contributes to his rep. But the man speaks truth. Can you refute him?
"In other sports everyone is wealthy," he says. "In this decade, fighters have to make it to 30 or 40 to make big money. Guys like Bernard Hopkins, and Winky Wright and Glen Johnson. They go through the BS and then they make money. That's the real talk."
Harris is prepared, he says, to fight another 4 or 5 years, so he can make that late breaking moolah. "I'll stay focused til it happens," he says. "That outside the ring stuff is BS, but you got to accept it. Now, I'm at a better place, accepting it for what it is."
Harris talks that serene talk and then simply cannot help himself. He again launches into a lashout. "I'd rather be broke and make sure nobody makes money off me," he says. "I'm not pointing fingers at anyone, I'm just talking about the boxing business."
To Harris' way of thinking, if promises were nickels, he could've already cashed out and retired. If he beat Diosbelys Hurtado in 2002, he said, he was supposed to get a fight with Kostya Tszyu. He kayoed Hurtado, but didn't get the Tszyu gig. Jesse James Leija had the next crack at Tszyu instead. Still, that Hurtado win netted Harris the WBA junior welter crown. He knocked off unbeaten Souleymane M'baye in 2003 in his first defense, but was then dumped off to fight Oktay Urkal twice in Germany. Out of sight, out of mind to American audiences. "What is that?" he says.
Then, Harris reverts back to his 'It Is What It Is' mindset. "I learned from Floyd Mayweather. He kept his mouth shut and made money." Easier said than done, though…"I got to talk. I let a person know, you screw with me, I got to let you know that, straight up."
Harris has been a professional since 1997, and he sounds at the end of his rope with all he's seen and been through. "Too many people who are supposed to be for you, they don't care about you. I'm going to do the best for me and my family."
Harris' frustration shone through in the final stages of negotiation for the Ortiz fight. It looked like he'd get it. Money was specified by Golden Boy and communicated to Vivian's promoter, Gary Shaw. Now, those two haven't always seen eye to eye. In fact, at times they have communicated more by intermediary, and Harris' attorney, than in regular form. Indri thought the number was fair. Vivian, though, didn't care for the way the pie was to be sliced up. He nixed the terms as they were offered. So instead, Mike Arnaoutis will be the name "steppingstone" as Ortiz takes two bounds up the ladder from prospect to contender.
Harris didn't want to delve into specifics on what went down and why and affix blame if it is there to be affixed. His contract with Shaw is up, he says, and he needs a letter from Shaw to attest to that, before he can look for a new promoter to propel his career.
"I don't want to put out any negative energy," he told us. "It could make things worse. It wasn't anyone's fault. I wanted that fight. I hope it happens in the future."
TSS tried twice to talk to Shaw to get his side of it, but calls weren't returned.
Indri, when reached by TSS, sounded bummed that the deal didn't get done. He recognizes, he told us, that the opportunities for an HBO fight aren't infinite, and that a win over Ortiz would pay humongous dividends for Harris. He understands Harris' fierce pride, and his desire to try and get a solid deal for himself, but now there is no deal, and Indri is worried that Harris might have to wait another spell before another solid opp his thrown his way. "There are always a lot more fighters than fights. I thought we were going to get it," Indri said. "I guess I wish Vivian had said what he had to say in the ring. I'm hoping this doesn't stagnate him."
So, where is the truth in this matter? Is Vivian Harris a problem child? Does he ask for too much? Does he speak up when it might be smarter to swallow his pride, and go with the flow? Have promoters done right by him, or has he been punished for his outspokenness, in this case and in others before like it? A lot of Americans, not only boxers, are struggling with this issue. They see bigwigs getting big chunks of the pie, and they look at their own plate, and the portion seems comparatively meager. The President just slammed Wall Street honchos who made off with sacks full of cash, billions, while they ran their corporations into the ground. He called that behavior "shameful." Harris has consistently spoken up for himself, and sadly he hasn't found many allies among his own brethren. In boxing, and seemingly everywhere these days, it is every man for himself. Harris didn't want the gig, but Mike Arnaoutis was OK with taking less for the shot. There is no boxer's union so the fighters could bargain en masse.
As I spoke to Harris on Tuesday in the late afternoon, he was leaning towards swallowing his pride. He is hopeful that he and Shaw can part ways, and he can get a fresh start with another promoter. He seems to be impressed with the cut of the Golden Boy jib. Maybe he'll land there, if Shaw agrees that Harris has met the terms of his contract, and lets him loose.
Once there, would Harris be able to change his ways, and swallow that fierce pride? Is he in the wrong business? Can he ever be comfortable with the concept of putting his life on the line, and then seeing the wages for his toil be disbursed in five different directions?
One question that will get answered sooner rather than later is, Is Victor Ortiz all that? And it will be Mike Arnaoutis who will be in the position to help us get an answer. It could have been Vivian Harris.
I fear that looking back in a few years, Harris may kick himself for the roads not taken. He will be able to look in the mirror, and know that he stood up for himself, but pride, and the fulfillment you receive when you give it back to The Man, does not pay the bills, and the rent, and the kids’ education. But I am just a fightwriter. Better to let Mark Twain remind us that:
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do... Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Over the next few months I look forward to sharing the stories of these two fighters with the readers of the Sweet Science, and I look forward to hearing from any and all of you. –KS
The afternoon of the Mike Simms fight was the warmest of the year. It was Thursday, the 15th of May, and I had spent the preceding six days south of Los Angeles in Seal Beach on assignment for another magazine, where, although it had been windy, it had been cool. But stepping off the plane in Sacramento I felt as if I were suddenly tending a brush fire. I was in a foul mood, also, because the day before I'd been forced to purchase a ticket to the fight that evening. The week previous, Nasser Niavaroni, who manages Mike Simms and who was promoting the fight at the Red Lion, told me two things that required follow-up calls. Firstly, the fight might be cancelled because of Simms' truant blood-test results. Secondly, if the card weren't discarded, he would be sure to get me a ticket, since the management at the hotel had declined my request for press credentials on the grounds that I wrote for an internet publication. So, I'd called Niavaroni on his cell-phone the Monday before the fight. He did not answer. Undaunted, I called the gym. Eric Regan answered.
"This is Kaelan Smith from the Boxing Herald," I said.
"Hey, Kevin," he said.
When I asked to speak with Niavaroni, he told me to "hang on a minute, Kevin," and ineffectively holding his hand over the receiver, explained to Niavaroni that it was "the guy who was hanging out in the gym last week." I heard Niavaroni say, "Tell him I'll call him back."
"He's not in right now," said Regan, "but I can have him call you when he gets in this afternoon."
"Is the fight still on?" I asked.
"It's still on," said Regan.
Suffice it to say, Niavaroni never called. But having made a foolish emotional investment in the greatly devalued Mike Simms Corporation, I was not about to miss the fight. By the time I got around to purchasing a ticket online, though, the $50 seats were sold out. I got one for $75, but with the service charges, it was $86. When I completed the transaction I sat in front of my computer, knowing I wouldn't get reimbursed, and feeling like the gambler at the blackjack table who puts his last chips on the felt and then gets dealt a seven and a five.
The fight was scheduled to commence at seven in the evening. I arrived at six in order to get my ticket from will-call and talk with whomever might be milling around the lobby. I parked and walked through the lot to the entrance. The Red Lion is in an inauspicious location, between the Arden Fair Mall and the Capital City Freeway. It is a two-story building, and guests enter their rooms from exterior walkways, much as patrons of a motel would. But I believe the management offers room service, and that at least separates the Red Lion from its architecturally synonymous inferiors.
In the foyer there were a number of men already gathered. There was a sign before the gift shop indicating that pre-purchased tickets could be acquired therein, and I stood in line behind three young men, one of whom, according to the conversation I overheard, used his father's credit card to purchase tickets for he and his friends. I got my ticket, eventually, and went back into the lobby and took a seat in an armchair. To my right was an older gentleman speaking Spanish with two younger men. Near the entrance I saw two women, escorted by a man in a striped, collared shirt, and hoped that they were the ring girls, although, from the way they were dressed, it was simply illogical to assume otherwise. The shorter and thicker wore a red dress with an elastic hem that cinched the skirt to her thighs and made the waist balloon around her hips. The other girl was effectively wearing a men's blue dress shirt, well tailored, and gathered at the waist with a belt. She had no pants on. They walked past me and up to a heavy man who, it appeared, had difficulty tucking in his shirt.
"No," said the heavy man, "You won't be wearing the swimsuits tonight."
"Oh," said the girl in blue. She seemed disappointed. I was, too.
The older gentleman on the couch saw that I was taking notes on my pad. "You are a writer?" he asked. He spoke very quietly.
"I'm doing a story on Mike Simms," I said.
"Oh," he said. He seemed as disappointed as the girl in blue had about not getting to wear the swimsuit. "He is a boring fighter. It's over. He's over."
"He has lost five in a row," I said. "He needs to win."
I moved over to the couch beside him and he introduced himself as Sergio Sanchez. "I've been training boxers for forty-two years," Sanchez said. "I have a gym in Vacaville. I train the kids there." He added immediately, as if to establish his credentials, that he'd been in Salvador Sanchez's corner the night he knocked out Wilfredo Gomez in Las Vegas in 1981. "That was the fight of the century," he said.
We talked for a while, and I mentioned to him that I'd spent three days the week before at Niavaroni's gym, watching Mike Simms and Otis Griffin, and that Niavaroni had reneged on his promise to furnish me with a ticket. Sergio was deeply offended by this. "I have had some problems with that man," he said.
I looked up then and saw, leaning against the information desk counter, Niavaroni himself, talking with the heavyset man, who had been speaking with the ring girls a few minutes earlier, and whose shirt had crawled out of his pants again. Niavaroni saw me, and though he is not a timid man, he gave me a rather timid wave, as if he were out to dinner with his wife and he'd seen across the room an old girlfriend with whom things had ended indecorously.
"I don't think he wants to talk to me," I said to Sanchez.
"That guy," said Sanchez. "I can't beleed that guy. You cun in to help him. I can't beleed that. I understand if you try to bring in four or five guys. Bud it's just you."
I continued looking over at Niavaroni, who refused to look me in the eyes, and I felt content that I was making him uncomfortable. Sanchez offered to buy me a soda, and I walked with him back to the gift shop. While we were standing in line, a man came up behind us and started talking with Sanchez. Sanchez handed him a $20 bill, and then explained to me that the man was the father of one of the fighters he trained in Vacaville. "You'll have to learn Spanish if you're going to write about boxing," the father said. I agreed. Then Sanchez explained to the man that Niavaroni had failed to get me a ticket for the fight. The other man seemed as disappointed as Sanchez had been.
I got my soda and thanked Sanchez and we went back to the couch. The girl who had been wearing the blue shirt emerged from the southern wing of the hotel wearing a short, black dress. Sanchez and I both looked at her, and then Sanchez asked if I would like him to introduce me to her.
"You know her?" I asked.
"No," he said.
It was nearing seven o'clock, so I thanked Sanchez again for his hospitality, and went to find my seat. I exchanged my ticket for a wristband at the table where the security guards were searching bags, and then went into the ballroom. It is a modest room, with dark red, short-fiber carpeting, and a bar in the southeastern corner. The only decorative flourishes are the four chandeliers (likely not crystal), arranged in a square at the center of the room above what must usually be a dance floor. On it now was the boxing ring. I walked around the perimeter of the gallery and found my chair. It was in the center of a row, almost the last before the wall, and sandwiched between two parties who, because of their collective waist girth, had exhausted their allotted space and overflowed into mine. Deciding that I would not like to watch the fight sitting in a strange man's lap, I went over to the bar and ordered a soda. I asked the bartender if he would mind my using the bar as a desk so that I could take notes, and he said that that was fine as long as I didn't get in the way of the cocktail girls. I promised that I wouldn't.
"Are you a journalist?" the bartender asked.
This was, I remembered, a small venue and an even smaller fight, and though one of the local Hispanic television stations was broadcasting the fight, there was not even a press section. I imagine at larger venues the media presence is more pronounced, but at the Red Lion the people covering the fight were, it seemed, as few in number as the boxers fighting, and even though I wasn't credentialed, I was being treated like a semi-precious commodity. I told him that I wrote for the Sweet Science and was doing a feature on Mike Simms.
"I saw Mike fight at Arco," the bartender said. "I think he'd just gotten out of jail. Looked like he was fighting somebody's dad. Big out-of-shape white guy. Funny thing was, though, guy gave him a good fight. And Mike's from Sacramento, but the crowd turned and started rooting for the other guy. It was awful." He put down my drink and I paid him.
On the fight card in the lobby, Mike Simms' name had been near the bottom. The boxers at the top were Brandon Gonzales and Stan Martyniouk, both of whom were scheduled to fight TBA. According to all promotional materials, they were expected to be the most exciting. Gonzalez had had three fights and three first round knockouts. Martyniouk had had two fights, both ripping rows, to borrow from Nabakov, which he'd won by decision. Otis Griffin, on the other hand, had been knocked out in his last two fights, and my man, Mike Simms, hadn't knocked anyone out in almost four years. I expected, therefore, that Simms would be in the first bout. And when you are amongst the preliminaries, and especially if you fight the opener, your observers are as likely to have their backs to you as their faces. It occurred to me how humiliating it would be to box perhaps your final rounds while being actively ignored. I hoped, therefore, that the size of the venue and the exorbitant cost of the tickets would inspire the patrons to get their money's worth by actually facing the ring.