We all love HBO's 'Boxing After Dark' which was created back in the mid-90's as a way of showcasing some of the lesser known fighters at the lower weight classes.
We all remember how they came out the box with a classic battle between Marco Antonio Barrera and Kennedy McKinney in February of 1996 at the Great Western Forum. It was a magnificent fight that captured the essence of the sport and made Barrera, then a relatively unknown Mexican before the fight, into a star. From there the 'Boxing After Dark' franchise came back with other memorable slugfests like Arturo Gatti's come-from-behind and off-the-canvas win over Wilson Rodriguez and Junior Jones resurrecting his career against the storied Orlando Canizales- on the same card.
There was a certain mystique regarding this show. Every time 'Boxing After Dark' was on, you'd get a war. The fighters knew that if they wanted to get to the real lucrative paydays of HBO's 'Championship Boxing' series, they'd have to go through the gauntlet of 'B.A.D.' There would be no soft touches on this series, you either proved you were ready for the big leagues and big money or a 'Not Ready for Prime-time Player'.
And even then, established fighters like Barrera would go through grueling slugfests against the likes of Erik Morales in 2000. There were no slouches 'after dark', no easy mandatories to hide behind or 'house' fights, here. Just real fights.
Well, it looks like things have changed on our favorite series. This past Saturday night, two world class Mexicans, WBO welterweight king Antonio Margarito and IBF bantamweight titlist Rafael Marquez would get soft touches on the latest edition of 'Boxing After Dark'. How soft? Well, neither fight made it out of the first minute of the second round. And trust me, these fights weren't exactly Hagler-Hearns. Margarito and Marquez couldn't have been in softer if they faced Mr. Whipple.( You remember him, right? He was the guy in the Charmin commercials back in the day).
Some in the industry had derisively dubbed this show, 'White Guys Can't Fight'- although Gatti and Micky Ward have disproven that stereotype. What they should have called this show was 'Assault and Battery' because that's exactly what took place in both fights.
First it was 'Sweet' Pete Frissina's turn on the guillotine and although he was game, he was painfully over-matched. He did actually land a few solid punches on Marquez, who in the past has had a soft, vulnerable chin, but as soon as the tall and angular Marquez started to get some extension on his powerful punches, Frissina would hit the deck hard. The end was inevitable and it would come quick as the talented Mexican- who's brother is IBF featherweight champion Juan Manuel- would put away Frissina in the second round.
HBO killed some time by interviewing Marquez and then unveiling a new segment featuring their 'unofficial, official' Harold Lederman in an email Q and A session. But HBO could only stall for so long, eventually, they would have to go to their second execution.
Kyvelos, a Canadian, who was well protected on his way up to a 21-0 record and a number ranking in the WBO would be facing Margarito, who is rapidly becoming one of the best welterweights in the world after some early losses as a teenager in the mid-90's. Now, Margarito is good, but he was made to look like a Mexican Tommy Hearns as he blasted Kyvelos out in two easy rounds. No, knocking out Kyvelos was no 'Herculean' task.
Afterwords as the HBO announcing crew wrapped things up, both Jim Lampley and Emanuel Steward would try to put a positive spin on things by stating that they had witnessed two of the world's best fighters ply their trade and build their reputation. Which is partly true, but this is HBO, the subscribers to this network pay for a certain level of prizefight- not these horrible mismatches. There is no doubt that Margarito and Marquez are talented fighters, but fights of that magnitude belong on ESPN2 or Telefutura- not HBO.
Larry Merchant was blunt when he labeled what his network put on the air as 'junk' and stated, correctly, that both Mexicans were capable of fighting anybody, but on this night had fought nobody. It couldn't have been said any better.
'Boxing After Dark' was not a vehicle for mismatches or 'house' fights- the house in this case was Bob Arum, who promotes both Mexicans- but fighters of Margarito's and Marquez's ability to showcase themselves in real tests so that they could eventually move on to bigger and better things. The philosophy that was once the hallmark of 'B.A.D' is being ignored and the product is suffering, and has been for awhile now.
The telecast which started at 9:45 p.m. on both coasts( tape delayed out in the west coast) was over and done with by 10:30. That's a 45 minute telecast, which saw less than four complete rounds of boxing. Take away the interviews and all the other fluff, you could have fit in an episode of 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' or 'Sex in the City' within that time frame.
And you know what? Right now, those shows are about the only things paying for on HBO.
Imagine how I felt when I saw this headline on Fightnews.com: ” Vanda Held, Not Charged” Well it turns out that Matt Vanda who was held by St. Paul, Minnesota authorities for 48 hours for possession of methamphetamine, hallucinogenic mushrooms and $12,000 in cash, was let go.
Silly me, I thought it was for the robbery that was perpetrated by him and his people against Sam Garr a few weeks back on national tv.