Let’s take a peek inside Oliver McCall’s cornerman’s bag.
Scissors, tape, gauze, cotton swabs and — oh yeah — a lot of tissues in case any tears should trickle into his heavyweight bout with Przemyslaw Saleta on the Hasim Rahman-Monte Barrett undercard at the United Center tonight in Chicago.
I should feel bad for taking a shot at McCall, whose record is respectable at 44-8. He’s even got 31 knockouts. That actually should make me shiver at the thought of taking any jabs at this man.
Unfortunately for McCall, he can easily intimidate a sports writer, but the sight of him crying in the ring against Lennox Lewis years ago doesn’t lend itself to a tough guy image.
Saleta didn’t flinch in the face of a psychological sparring session with Golota. He had already beaten Golota in last month’s press conference before Golota pulled out of the fight with a back injury.
The biggest Polish fight in history — well, that’s what Don King called it — may have been decided when Golota even refused to face Saleta’s Playboy Playmate girlfriend in a publicity photo opportunity. He avoided the Playmate, the press and any glances at Saleta behind a dark pair of sunglasses.
Of course, everyone probably had questions for Golota after going down three times in the first minute of his May bout with Lamon Brewster. I’ve spent the better part of the time since wondering how much of it was just a fighter getting caught. Nobody was afforded the opportunity to hear from Golota since the loss, as he’s adequately avoided the sound bites.
There was a certain tension between Golota and Saleta at the press conference, but nobody could get a straight answer out of either fighter as to why it existed beyond the typical pre-fight dislike. Saleta said earlier this week that Golota has said many “personal, nasty things about me.”
At least Golota is a talker in some capacity, albeit defamatory. Not that Saleta wasn’t above a parting shot this week.
“I was afraid Golota would pull out,” he said. “I don’t think he’s as injured as he says. I think he’s burnt out and I doubt I will every have the chance to fight him unless there’s a lot of money in it for him.”
Saleta’s words may be more than a shot at an enemy. He may have inadvertently stumbled onto a truth. Golota’s ability to stand at the podium and spew rhetoric to pump up his own fight has tapered off.
Then again, he doesn’t need to speak with Don King as his promoter, does he?
McCall’s embarrassing moment, which was brought on by psychological problems beyond facing Lennox Lewis, has been buried under 18 fights. McCall has claimed 16 of those 18, with one loss (a 10-round unanimous decision to DaVarryl Williamson last year) and a no contest (Samson Cohen was knocked out of the ring and injured his shoulder on a table).
Saleta (42-6) is staging his first fight in the United States since 1995, when he was still pulling down club shows before gaining a European championship the same year.
McCall isn’t impressed.
“Saleta does not have the experience,” McCall said. “He lacks the power and ability to do anything to me.”
All right, I’ll agree Saleta does have 10 fewer knockouts (21), and hasn’t faced the same caliber of fighters he might have met outside of Europe. But for a boxer who had a fight stopped because of tears, it’s slightly contrived for McCall to dismiss Saleta’s credentials.
And Saleta’s reaction?
“McCall is different. He goes forward and is unbreakable,” he said. “This may be a tougher fight than Golota … I expect to win a decision.”
Let’s hear it for European modesty and its contrast to the main event. Rahman, who kept his tear ducts under control when he knocked out Lewis in 2001, made his intentions clear.
“Monte has been my longtime friend, but he won’t be Saturday night when I knock him out,” he said.
Wow, that fight may have a pulse, and not just because it’s for the WBC interim heavyweight title, and a shot at Vitali Klitschko.
Ricardo Mayorga’s bout with former welterweight champ Michele Piccirillo could be a fireworks display. Mayorga, in between swigs and puffs, predicted a 16-second knockout of Piccirillo. The Italian did not follow in the same reserved Euro-brand outlook as Saleta.
“If I wasn’t sure that I could beat Mayorga, I wouldn’t have come to the U.S. to fight,” Piccirillo said. “I do not think Mayorga respects me. I expect Mayorga to spend the first three rounds trying to knock me out. I’ve prepared to go 12 rounds.”
Piccirillo has cause to think he can outlast Mayorga after Felix Trinidad proved “El Matador” is anything but invincible in their bout in October.
No matter what the Italian finds feasible, Mayorga exuded nothing but confidence this week. So much confidence, in fact, that he’s looking past Piccirillo toward a rematch with Fernando Vargas, who will fight Aug. 20 at the All-State Arena just up Interstate 295 in Rosemont, Ill.
“I want Vargas to win against (Javier) Castillejo and then we can fight each other,” Mayorga said. “Trust me, I will hold together my side Saturday night and I need him (Vargas) to carry out his end. Then we can make the fight happen.”
While Mayorga might get a shot at Vargas, Saleta’s lament of never getting a shot at Golota is likely a painful truth. The excitement for that 12-rounder is gone for the Pole.
The only tears anyone will see won’t belong to McCall.
The Polish crowd that had hoped for a historic clash of their countrymen will own those tears.
They won’t be tears of the heartbroken, though. No, these Poles will be bored to tears.