Next month, junior lightweight champ Marco Antonio Barrera will meet Robbie Peden. On the same card, former three-time champ Shane Mosley will take on Jose Luis Cruz.
Promoter Oscar De La Hoya has dubbed it “Parade of Champions” – a generic title for a boxing card featuring two popular, well-known champions fighting nobodies.
Every fight promotion has a nickname – even if it’s not worthy of one. Two years ago, it was the Bob Arum’s “Night of Champions” when De La Hoya and Erik Morales were served up sacrificial lambs in the forms of Yory Boy Campas and Bobby Boy Velardez.
(Arum and De La Hoya will probably be suing each other soon for the naming rights of their next pay-per-view rip-off, “Enchanted Evening of Champions.”)
But when a fight is legitimate, such as the Oct. 1 rubber match between Antonio Tarver and Roy Jones Jr., the monikers that promoters bestow upon a show can add to its anticipation and appeal.
Jones-Tarver 1 in November 2003 was dubbed “Now It’s Personal” – a reference to the war of words between the two combatants.
Tarver-Jones 2 in May 2004? “More Than Personal.”
Now? The Tarver-Jones rubber match on Oct. 1 is “No Excuses” – alluding to Tarver’s in-the-ring taunt of Jones in the rematch (which the “Magic Man” won by second-round knockout) – “You got any excuses tonight, Roy?”
Some fight titles are appropriate – some not so appropriate. And then there are those that live in boxing lore.
Fight fans, and even most casual sports fans, automatically know that the “Thrilla in Manila” was the 1975 rubber match between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier in the Philippines, and that the ’74 “Rumble in the Jungle” was the historic confrontation between Ali and George Foreman in Zaire, Africa.
And, back in 1971, everyone knew “The Fight” was the battle between undefeated legends Ali and Frazier at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
That show’s moniker couldn’t have been more appropriate. It was the biggest sporting event of its time.
Since then, there have been two high-profile battles known as “The Fight” – one fitting and the other not so much.
No one knew that, on April 15, 1985, Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns would produce eight minutes of stunning fury – and the greatest first round in boxing history. Beforehand, it was simply “the fight” everyone wanted to see.
So, “The Fight” fit, both before and after.
The showdown between Pernell Whitaker and Julio Cesar Chavez never had a chance to turn into a Hagler-Hearns, or even an Ali-Frazier 1. Whitaker was too cute for that. Still, the promotion was called “The Fight” because, in 1993, Whitaker-Chavez was the biggest fight out there.
Some promoters go the cute route.
Sugar Ray Leonard-Roberto Duran 1 on June 20, 1980 was “The Brawl in Montreal” – which captured the public’s fancy – and the 1987 Michael Spinks-Gerry Cooney fight was “The War on the Shore,” since it was staged in Atlantic City.
Question? Isn’t every bout fought in A.C. a “War on the Shore?”
Since Spinks-Cooney, there have been several Wars on the Shore. And the fights are often as bad as that title.
Which brings us to lame names.
Everyone was talking about the 1982 Holmes-Cooney fight, and all Don King could come up with was “The Pride and the Glory.”
The Pride, presumably, was the long-reigning champion Holmes; The Glory was the popular challenger, Cooney.
King struck again in 1997, calling the rematch between Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson “The Sound and the Fury.”
Holyfield was the “sound” champion, Tyson the “furious” challenger. So furious, as it turned out, he chomped off a chunk of Holyfield’s ear.
Others that lacked serious originality: The 1988 Tyson-Spinks fight (“Once and For All,” which later was used for Marco Antonio Barrera-Erik Morales 3) and the 1990 Holyfield-Buster Douglas debacle (“The Moment of Truth”).
And the James Toney-Evander Holyfield fight on Oct. 4, 2003 was, “The War on Oct. 4.”
You gotta give the promoter points for trying.
The best fight nicknames remain those that are simple and descriptive. Leonard-Hearns 1 was “The Showdown,” and everyone referred to it as that; Leonard-Hearns 2 was “The War,” and that worked; Leonard-Hagler was “The Superfight,” and that certainly applied; “Thunder and Lightning” worked for both Chavez-Meldrick Taylor 1 and Floyd Mayweather-Arturo Gatti; and Leonard-Duran 2 was simply “The Rematch.”
There have been the clever (“The Battle of the Ages” – Holyfield-Foreman, 1991); the obvious (“Uno Mas” – Leonard-Duran 3, 1989); the overstated (“Ultimate Glory” – Oscar De La Hoya-Chavez 1, 1996; and “Fight of the Millennium” – De La Hoya-Felix Trinidad, 1999); the reaching (“Playing With Fire” – Naseem Hamed-Marco Antonio Barrera, 2001); the expected (“Never Surrender” – Morales-Paulie Ayala, 2002); the biased (“Redemption” – De La Hoya-Mosley 2, 2003); and the absurd (De La Hoya-Javier Castillejo was “The Quest”, 2001).
And what was the deal with ‘02’s Lennox Lewis-Tyson “Is On”?
Consider: Some advertising firm was paid millions to determine that, if you put the name Lewis on top and the name Tyson on the bottom, and box the last four letters like you were at the racetrack, the result is “Is On”.
Some themes have dual meanings. Back in 1992, the tag line for the first Holyfield-Riddick Bowe fight was, “Is Bowe the next heavyweight champion? Or just next?”
This past July 16, the Jermain Taylor-Bernard Hopkins middleweight to-do was called, “NeXt in Line,” which actually had three meanings: Would Taylor be Hopkins next championship victim? Or would Taylor be the next middleweight champ? And the ‘X’ in NeXt was a tip of the hat to Hopkins – “The Executioner.”
When it’s all said and done, however, boxing may be at its best when a fight simply speaks for itself. The Oct. 8 rematch between Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo could be “The Rematch” or “The Sequel” or “History, Part 2.”
But, it’s simply, “Corrales vs. Castillo 2.”
For most fight fans, that says enough.