Hooking off the jab

It has been a few weeks but now I am back. Minor surgery trapped me in a neutral corner for a bit. And while some fans of this web site are wondering – did he finally have the lobotomy? Sorry to disappoint you. My mind is intact and I remain as confused as ever.

As the anesthesia slowly wore off in the recovery room, I drifted in and out of consciousness, kind of like Michael Spinks looking up at Mike Tyson. But I was having this wonderfully odd dream. You see, I was riding a train back from Louisville, Kentucky, where I had just covered the Kentucky Derby. I was seated in the dining car, sipping some scotch and reading the New York Times. I was wearing a fedora and puffing lightly on a Cuban cigar. My next destination was the Bronx, New York, where I’d be covering a heavyweight title fight outdoors at Yankee Stadium. The preview made page one of the Times.

I had come out of surgery and found myself in an era where baseball, boxing and horse racing were this country’s three major sports. Could this be heaven? I glanced down and saw that I was wearing loafers, but no socks. That’s when I realized I was actually trapped in Bert Sugar’s fantasy.

Weird stuff that anesthesia. My fantasies generally have nothing to do about boxing, except, of course, for that one with the round card girl and the double-end bag.

But I digress. It’s time to get back to business.

I hate to say I told you so, but I told you so. The fight between Floyd Mayweather and Zab Judah is still on and it should be. Despite Judah’s poor effort against Carlos Baldomir, it remains one of the best matchups out there. As I wrote here earlier, it hardly matters what Zab said about Don King after the fight, King knows a good deal.

Actually, I love to say, “I told you so.” Every writer does.

Just reward. It is time now for Baldomir to move on to Arturo Gatti, who remains the single most exciting attraction in boxing. It will make for a good fight and I will tell you right now, Gatti wins. And since he was already beaten decisively by Mayweather, the next big fight out there for Gatti will be against Judah.

First, my props. I once threw a punch in anger and broke my hand. It was during a game of basketball, not a boxing match. The target was a wall. (Yes, the idea of the lobotomy first occurred to some at this point.) The last two knuckles on my right hand disappeared and the excruciating pain shot all the way up to my elbow. Here’s how tough I am. I lasted two more trips up and down the court and I was done. Here’s how tough Arturo Gatti is. He broke his right hand against Thomas Damgaard and continued pounding him with that very same right hand until he finally TKO’d him with that very same right round in the 11th round. There are probably men in the history of boxing that are as tough as Gatti, but there is no one tougher. I marvel at this man’s guts.

Now the other shoe drops. Earlier in the year, I wrote that Gatti is a great attraction but not a hall of famer. I got plenty of angry emails for that column. But I also got enough email from people who agreed with me. I stand by that assessment. Which leads me to this – it was a poor comparison to mention Gatti alongside Jake LaMotta. I know HBO was talking about tough fighters, but LaMotta is a true hall of famer who also happened to be extremely tough. Want the proof? Twice Gatti has fought the best fighters of his era when he met Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather Jr. Those bouts lasted a combined total of 11 one-sided rounds. LaMotta fought the best fighter of his era – perhaps of any era – six times. He and Sugar Ray Robinson went 68 rounds. And it wasn’t because Sugar Ray couldn’t punch. LaMotta won just one of those meetings. But he also lost a split decision and another 10-rounder by scores of 6-4, 6-3-1 and 7-1-2.

Don’t miss it. When Sugar Shane Mosley meets Fernando Vargas it could be the last time we see a pairing of the best from the mid-90s. Soon enough, they will all be out of boxing and, yes, we will miss them. Mosley, Vargas, Winky Wright, Felix Trinidad and Oscar De La Hoya are this generation’s Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, Roberto Duran, Wilfred Benitez and Marvin Hagler. If you think I am being too generous, give it a few more years of reflection and get back to me. I will write more on this grouping of fighters the week of the Mosley-Vargas fight.

HBOgus. I love Jim Lampley as a punch-by-punch broadcaster. Over the years, he has also done a fine job acting as intermediary between a slew of analysts. He also has a knack of crystallizing the rants of George Foreman and Roy Jones Jr. and getting back into the fight. But he is such an over-the-top homer for the house (HBO) fighter that it’s enough to make me want to utilize the mute button. I’m not buying, either, that HBO force feeds him this stuff. Lamps has always been just a tad too Hollywood and Hyperbole.

Heavyweights. I cannot get excited for the upcoming Hasim Rahman-James Toney heavyweight title fight. Rahman has risen simply because of the lack of talent in his division. This is a man who legitimately lost to John Ruiz. And while we all marvel at Toney’s skill – his ability to dip, dodge and counter – let’s remember that he’s three divisions above his best weight and 10 years removed from his prime. Still, he’s a throwback fighter who makes us pay attention because the classic style he employs. Which leads to one thought. Just how good was Roy Jones Jr. to have dominated Toney?

When A beats B …   Pay attention because I will now attempt to prove that, on paper, a flyweight can actually beat a heavyweight. I base this on the premise that, if fighter A beats fighter B, and fighter B beats fighter C, then fighter A should also beat fighter C.

(Barrera, Morales and Pacquiao have blown that theory to bits). This is one of the wonderful and unique aspects of boxing history. The careers of fighters overlap and their weights fluctuate and thus, we can trace a thread from the biggest to the smallest. One of my mentors, Steve Farhood, proved this once. So, I will borrow his theory and prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt. I will convince you more thoroughly than Sugar Ray Leonard convinced the Las Vegas judges that he defeated Marvin Hagler. There will be fewer holes in this thesis than there are in Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s defense.

Now, pay attention. On paper, here is how a flyweight beats a heavyweight.

Evander Holyfield was beaten by James Toney, who was beaten by Drake Thadzi, who was beaten by Virgil Hill, who was beaten by Thomas Hearns, who was beaten by Iran Barkley, who was beaten by Roberto Duran, who was beaten by Esteban DeJesus, who was beaten by Antonio Gomez, who was beaten by Ernesto Marcel, who was beaten by Leonel Hernandez, who was beaten by Samuel Serrrano, who was beaten by Yasutsune Uehara, who was beaten by Ben Villaflor, who was beaten by Kuniaki Shibata, who was beaten by Dwight Hawkins, who was beaten by flyweight champion Fighting Harada.

Makes sense, right? Baseball geeks aren’t the only ones who can have fun with statistics.