Picture a world, please, with no TiVo.
Horrific, I know. I'm severely hooked on “God's machine” myself.
On June 10, in this mental imaging scenario, you will not be able to tape one boxing card while you watch another.
You will have to choose to watch either the Bernard Hopkins/Antonio Tarver or the Miguel Cotto/Paulie Malignaggi card.
A battle between a certain Hall of Famer in his last fight against a Top 10 pound-for-pounder.
Or a battle between a potential next generation superstar against a brash Brooklyner with Gatti-boy hair, fast feet and a faster mouth.
Do you plunk down the money to see the wily vets ply their trade or plunk down the money to see an intriguing style matchup featuring two Gen Y pugilists?
Either way, you gotta plunk.
Sorry fight fans, this is an exercise in imagery, not a utopian fantasy.
Come June 10, either way, you gotta plunk.
Me, I was leaning towards the Gen Y card, put on by Top Rank and Bob Arum, if for no other reason than I've seen Malignaggi from his debut until now, and am sincerely curious if perhaps the Cotto crew made a mistake in matching their bombs-away battler against a cutie who can make him miss.
So at the Tuesday press conference to hype the Hopkins/Tarver scrap at Tavern On The Green in New York City, I put the question to several of the principal's involved in the promotion.
First, Tarver's promoter, Joe DeGuardia. I know Joe from 1999 or so. The Bronx-born and bred dealmaker has been hacking away dutifully for a decade and so this top-tier fighter and lucrative deal with the Borgata are a long time coming.
“You're not a fan if you have to ask why someone should choose the Cotto card over Tarver/Hopkins,” DeGuardia said, neck hair bristling a tad. “It's like if you have the opportunity to watch the Yankees/Red Sox in the World Series, or a Triple A game. Cotto isn't Triple A at this time, but it's no comparison.”
HBO PPV maven Mark Taffet didn't stiffen like the promoter when asked the same question.
“I won't address the question in the context of a fighter (Cotto) HBO has a relationship with, but you have a middleweight legend in his final fight, trying to make history against the light heavyweight king,” he said. “Hopkins is trying to have a legendary ending to his career. The storyline has tremendous appeal to the fans. It will be well worth the fans' time and money.”
After Taffet's pitch, the press conference took place.
We learned that Hopkins will be employing Mackie Shillstone to add 15 pounds the right way, and John David Jackson to shed light on the mystery that is the southpaw stance.
We learned that Hopkins is holding Tarver to a side bet that will pay Hopkins $250,000 (which will go to his charitable foundation) if Tarver doesn't get him out of there within five rounds in Atlantic City on June 10.
We learned that Hopkins thinks Tarver will use his acting stint, for Rocky 6, as an excuse if he performs poorly.
We learned that Hopkins is getting some grays on his head.
We learned that Hopkins wants to be busy in the fight, that he doesn't want to “stick my fans up and leave.”
We learned that Hopkins dressed so sharp that he made me feel like I was dressed in Costanza-wear, sweats and a pit-stained wifebeater. And Tarver looked sharp too. And that DeGuardia thinks both fighters could rule boardrooms in a decade.
We learned that Tarver is not simply money motivated; that he wants the respect of the purists, pundits, rank and file, everyone.
We learned that Tarver has chosen to call himself The Legend Killer, because he foresees himself wrecking Hopkins' farewell bash.
We learned that Tarver believes he should be listed in the Top 3 on P4P lists.
We learned that Tarver might target Calzaghe next, that he knew Lacy was going to get worked and that he wishes he exposed Lacy first. Also, that if one heavyweight unifies the belts, that he would like a crack at the uniter.
And then we learned that Tarver thought even less of my question, why should a fight fan pick your card over Cotto/Malignaggi, on June 10?
“Look around you,” he said, his words dripping with the same venom I hear from the cable company phone rep when I ask if the repair guy can tell me when he'll be coming, instead of giving me a five-hour window. “Turn to the left. Turn to the right. Enough said.”
It was left to Hopkins to elucidate, from the fighters' perspective, why a fan should plunk down the cashish on his fight.
“It's either ego or stupidity, no disrespect to Cotto or Malignaggi, they're gonna be champions soon, to go up against this fight of legendary status,” he said. “Anybody that wants to come versus this promotion, unless you got millions like Arum, it's financial suicide.”
Not being Fox News or Bill O'Reilly, I like to get the other side of the story whenever I can, so on Thursday, I called Top Rank to get Arum's take on the “Why Choose My Card/No TiVo” question. I've not had any luck getting the big boss to return my calls in the past, so the week before I walked up to him at the Rahman/Toney New York PC, shook his hand, told him who I wrote for and asked if he'd be so kind to return my calls. No problem, he said, and gave me the name of his private secretary. Call her and tell her I said to put you through.
I did as Arum suggested on Thursday, and left several messages. On my second call, the secretary Arum recommended I contact was at lunch. I heard nothing for several hours, so I called back. Then Arum was in a meeting, I was informed. (Politely I will say. The woman answering the phone was quite pleasant on every occasion I've talked to her) I left my number again, politely.
And never heard back.
Mind you, last week, before the Rahman/Toney presser I had left two messages on the machine of Mr. Arum's recommended secretary and never heard back then.
Maybe they aren't fans of the ace golfer over there at Top Rank, and don't like reporters with Tiger's last name.
Maybe they don't read the Internets and don't recognize my byline. I can dig it; most people don't digest bylines. All the copy usually blends together.
But you can Google my name and you'll see stuff I've written for several non-boxing outlets as well as a buttload of fight stuff.
And then, if you don't think my stuff is up to scratch, or whatever you're reasoning is, perhaps you could be so kind to at least show me minimal respect as a professional, and take 20 seconds to call me, tell me that Mr. Arum is too busy to talk, and thank you for trying.
Long story short, people, I tried to get Arum's side on this subject, but no dice.
Bottom line, as usual, the loser here in this You Choose, You Lose June 10 scenario is, you guessed it, the fan. They will have to choose and thus lose come June 10 and I'm not clear on why.
Supposedly Arum sent in the 'save the date card' for June 10 and Madison Square Garden way back in 2005. So why Hopkins and Tarver are so hell-bent on that date isn't really clear to me. Taffet did say he tried to get Arum to move the date with a nice offer but his attempt was rejected.
People are saying that no one will blink here.
If I were Arum, besides returning Mike Woods' phone calls, I'd move my compelling show to Friday night. Put it on free HBO. Let more people see Cotto in action. As it is now, probably 250,000 people will tune in to the Hopkins farewell fight. And maybe 175,000 will see the Cotto/ Malignaggi (with Irish John Duddy and other matchups TBA) in a red-hot Garden on PPV.
If no one blinks, as it stands, the fight fans' attentions get divided, and their wallets get conquered. As usual. The wallet gets hit hardest…
Do the right thing, Bob, and blink. Move to Friday. Let Hopkins have Saturday for his farewell bash. Give us schmucks a Friday Freebie, will ya? And give me a call. You guys know the number.