This is the year we finally truly understood that the United States isn’t the be-all, end-all in boxing, especially in the heavyweight division. Sure, we conceded the lower weight classes to foreigners some years ago, but the supersized heavyweight division would always belong to us, we felt in our ample gut.
Nyet, not any more. Mr. Gorbachev listened to Reagan, the wall came down, and the reign American superiority in the heavyweight division tanked harder than John Kerry’s 2008 prospects.
The ex-Soviets stormed the division and with something less than Kruschev-ian fire, tossed the Americans off their thrones, and assumed the WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO crowns for themselves.
Fight fans figured out that Americans have been too fat and happy for too long. We’ve comprehended now that Americans don’t cut, and scratch, and yearn sufficiently to climb the razor-blade-studded ladder to prominence. We know now that someone from an impoverished nation, who grew up sleeping in a hut with a dirt floor with seven siblings clustered around you in your “bedroom,” and who is grateful for an extra helping of stale bread mom managed to commandeer for dinner, is more motivated to do what needs to be done to rise to the top tier of the fight game.
But even when we know these facts, a fighter with a rugged upbringing, like 25-year-old middleweight Edison Miranda (26-1, 23 KOs) from Colombia, still has the capacity to hammer home the theory that Americans are too cushy, too unwilling to sacrifice, to churn out top practitioners in a blood sport that demands the highest level of sacrifice and mental strength of any sport in existence.
Rugged, actually, is too tame a word. Perhaps horrifying is more fitting…You decide.
Edison Miranda, who’ll be fighting Willie Gibbs on HBO’s Boxing After Dark on Saturday, was tossed to the curb by his mother as a newborn. His mom was all of 14 years old, so one can almost understand that she wasn’t prepared to transition from teendom to mommy mode. A friend of the family took in little Edison, and he stayed with that family until he was 9. Then, he was again kicked out, as his adoptive family was overwhelmed with their own bloodoffspring. Miranda was left to his own devices on the mean streets of Colombia, which could make East New York look like Park Avenue. He slept in an empty park his first night on his own, he told me, but he wasn’t scared. He knew God would take care of him. Can you imagine an American nine year old, away from their Xbox and McDonald’s supply not peeing their pants in the same circumstance? Me neither…
Miranda then hunted down his mom, but she’d remade herself with a new family and wasn’t interested in accepting a ghost of her unpleasant past into the mix. She spurned her boy, again. Miranda hung out near a pier, and did some work for the fishermen, who paid him a bit and gave him food so he wouldn’t starve.
One day, when he was 11, there was no extra fish to be found and his stomach growled like a surly pitbull.
Miranda saw a dead rabbit, not too decayed, and grabbed it. He skinned it, built a little fire, and roasted the rabbit. Can you imagine an American child showing the resourcefulness? Me neither.
At 15, Miranda found his calling. He had a dream that he was a boxer, which was beyond strange, since he told me he’d never even seen a boxing match, or seen a pair of gloves up close. But, being the spiritually inclined person he was, Miranda took the dream as a sign from Above.
He found a gym, and the rest, as they say, is history. There were other speedbumps on the way, of course, including some unscrupulous handlers who took him to the Dominican Republic for fights and barely paid him.
Now the IBF’s No. 1 rated middleweight, Edison Miranda’s story is a success story, no matter what you might think of this sport at times when your conscience pricks you. Yup, he’s fighting on HBO from Miami on Saturday night, and he’s being paid a purse of $50,000 to fight the 20-1 Gibbs. Edison Miranda will never again need to roast roadkill to fill his belly.
SPEEDBAG I’m very curious to see what effect Tae Bo guru Billy Blanks has on James Toney for the Jan. 6 rematch with Sam Peter. Toney has been uncharacteristically lowkey in the leadup to the rematch. In a conference call on Wednesday afternoon, there was no swearing and no trashtalking. Well, maybe a little trashtalking…
“In the first fight, Peter was an ordinary fighter,” Toney said. “The only time he hurt me was when he hit me on the back of my head.”
Toney also said that working with Blanks, who lets him eat only lima beans, has added years to his career span.
“I was going to fight two or three more fights but since they judges stole the last one from me, I’ll fight two or three more years, and since Billy got me going, maybe I’ll fight five or six more years.”
Blanks’ motivation has truly affected Toney’s gut…several times, the boxer said, Blanks has pushed him so hard he’s puked.
The karate expert said Toney’s benching over 400 pounds now, and that his inner warrior will emerge on January 6.
“Tune in January sixth for the rebirth,” Toney said.