The knives were out, the blades were being sharpened, and I was prepared to eviscerate.
Speaking for every fan who'd plunked down $30 to watch the Evander Holyfield/Lou Savarese-headlined card that took place on Saturday evening from El Paso, Texas, I was ready to plunge 500-words-worth of lacerating critique into the bellies of the powers that be which presented this woeful undercard to the masses. And, also, save a couple hundred words for the announcers, Bob Sheridan and Dave Bontempo, who had me wishing for a duo of Carl King and Lennox Lewis to take their place.
After the headline bout proved to be more enjoyable than any pundit had predicted, my ire had diminished somewhat.
Still, even if the fortysomething sluggers turned back the clock and gave the sad addicts some bang for the buck, that doesn't excuse the sad excuse for a “co-feature” that Main Events installed and okayed for the viewers.
I chose not to take up space in more Saturday night account of the card, deciding that by and large, the undercard wouldn't prove interesting but to a tiny fraction of our readership.
So I waited until the next day, and got Main Events boss Kathy Duva on the phone to see if I could shed some light on the show, the underwhelming undercard and the somewhat grim economic realities of the sport today.
She did indeed clue me in to the hows and whys of the undercard debacle, and thankfully, seems to share our collective pain that our wallets feel at having to give so much of our discretionary income to the cable companies each month if we wish to see marquee fights.
For the record, for those who didn't tune in, Mexican prospect Mickey Mouse Roman (22-0, 16 KOs), a credible boxer who has fashioned his undefeated mark the old fashioned way, in dingy south of our border clubs, engaged in a pleasing battle with Jose Alonso (32-12-2) on Saturday night.
Nobody could cry foul that this prospect vs. gatekeeper match was found on a pay-per-view card, as Alonso, listed at 32-years-of age, gave a courageous account of himself, though the Sonoran found himself outgunned by the 21-year-old Ciudad Juarez native. Alonso took a heap of punishment, including a handful of grimace-inducing body blows, before the referee halted the one-sided scrap in the fifth round.
One could make the argument that viewers who have committed the time and money to hand over $30 to their cable company could expect a stiffer test than Alonso for Roman, who at least proved to be active, and entertaining. (He entered the ring to the Mickey Mouse Club theme as he strode to the squared circle, and a person in a Mickey Mouse outfit hammed it up enroute).
And while in forgiving mode, let me state that another bout on the card, a heavyweight tussle between 18-1 Adam “The Swamp Donkey” Richards and 8-10-1 Billy Willis was reasonably entertaining. Both men looked like they wanted to win, obviously had a respectable amount of training and technique under their belt. Richard finally turned over an explosive left hook that dropped his foe, now 2-9-1 in his last 12 outings, to the floor with awesome speed.
Now, back into less forgiving mode…
Maybe my standards are skewed. Maybe I expect too much. Maybe I'm naïve to the economic realities involved in pulling off a PPV show. But the “co-feature,” which pitted 26-0 Texan David Rodriguez against Rick Dyer, didn't belong within spitting distance of TV, let alone being foisted upon paying customers as a semi-featured attraction.
Rodriguez, age 29, is a reasonably talented, if hugely protected prospect, who has gobbled up the usual suspects of no-hopers like a platter of Nathan's at the Coney Island dog-eating contest. Rodriguez has rolled over down-on-their-luck vets like Jeff Pegues, Stacy Goodson and Marcus Rhode.
These are boxers whose names don't mean anything to an unsuspecting customer not familiar with the gold mine of truthtelling that is boxrec.com, but are well known to hardcore fans of the sport. These wink and a nod types earn their keep getting their butts kicked by up 'n comers; it's an ugly way to earn a buck, and I don't envy them, but viewing this arrangement in a larger context, the practice also drags down the sport.
Dyer, a 31-year-old from Oklahoma who has Stacy Goodson listed as his manager on boxrec, brought a 13-0 record to Texas with him.
All 13 of his wins were knockouts, but you don't need to be Seymour Hersh to discover that last stat is as meaningless as can be. Four of those knocks came against debuters, two came against me who hadn't notched their first win by their fourth and fifth pro outing, and only one of Dyer's opponents faced him owning a winning record (1-0 Dale Ortiz).
OK, so maybe Dyer was a rough diamond, who was ready to be polished and unveiled for the pay-per-view hardcore on June 30, right?
Nope, this was a cubic zirconia, being passed off as a Tiffany's bauble, if you listened to commentators/shills, Col. Bob Sheridan and Dave Bontempo.
Dyer, at 6-9, showed himself to be less technically adept than almost any Golden Glove novice heavyweight, and was immediately in deep water against Rodriguez.
Any novice analyst could tell you that Dyer's footwork is borderline abominable, his breathing was hurried and the look of fear on his face as punches hurtled toward him indicated that he was far from battle-tested.
But Sheridan didn't go there, and instead exclaimed, “Rodriguez is for real,” as the polished pro ripped shots on the crude power forward with the sham undefeated record, who toppled to the canvas at the end of the first.
“David Rodriguez is the real deal, my friend,” Sheridan bellowed after the first round closed. Bontempo didn't get quite as excited as Sheridan, but neither did he tell the viewer what the viewer could see with his own eyes: that Dyer was in over his head, in a big way.
The tall fraud turned his back as Rodriguez assaulted him early in the second and the referee waved the fight off at :45 seconds of the second.
“It's a second round TKO victory for the new sensation on the heavyweight scene,” Sheridan screamed. “You're going to hear a lot more about the name, listen to it, David Rodriguez.”
Bontempo, swept up in the irrational exuberance, showered Rodriguez with a bounty of praise.
“Sort of a juggernaut at this point, he keeps going through guys,” Bontempo said, forgoing the opportunity to appear as a rational, credible journalist. “Look at the balance!”
“I haven't seen a better up and coming heavyweight in a long, long time,” Sheridan offered. “(Rodriguez) might be in a class by himself. It's still too early to tell, he still hasn't fought a contender yet, Rick Dyer was a test tonight, a mountain of a man, a huge man, and an undefeated heavyweight. But now he's got to fight a real contender, a top 20 heavyweight, and see how he performs. He's going to be the future, perhaps, of the heavyweight division. That might be a bit premature, but we'll see how it unfolds.”
Sheridan must be bumped down to Private based on his overenthusiastic, QVC-host level shilling on Saturday. Proclaiming Rodriguez to be a reincarnated Marciano, practically, after he took out a man who would be bumped from a training camp as a sparring partner by a trainer of renown, had my jaw sitting on the floor.
Is this man getting a performance bonus based on the ludicrousness of his analysis, I had to wonder?
Private Sheridan, I barked at the screen, do not pee on my leg, and then swear that it's raining. My eyes see, and my nose sniffs, and I can discern the difference, Private, and for you to pretend otherwise degrades you and your legacy, and the
knowledgeable fans who tune in.
After the bout, Bontempo, who won the BWAA award for broadcast excellence in 1997, asked Rodriguez about the affair.
You said you wanted to be breath of fresh air in the division, did you feel you made that statement, he asked.
“Oh, definitely, what else can I do, I knocked out an undefeated guy in the second round, I dropped him in the first,” said Rodriguez, apparently sipping from the same tainted tea that Sheridan and Bontempo had slurped.
Bontempo then praised Rodriguez for tossing the gassed-out Dyer to the mat, for showing “tremendous strength.”
I'm not trying to be snide, or cutting, for the sake of being snide or cutting. But this type of shilling brings down the sport.
Maybe I'm idealistic, but with the sport constantly being compared and contrasted with MMA, boxing has to mind its 'Ps' and 'Q.' Boxing collectively must be on its best behavior to justify its existence on the pole of popularity and press coverage.
I'm mindful that Sheridan and Bontempo have livings to make, and I'm not naïve, in understanding that overlings need to be catered to occasionally, but c'mon.
I, and all of the other addicts who bought this PPV can see the yellow liquid staining our pantleg, and we know that ain't rain.
I know, I know, Sheridan has been in the game since 1966, and has called about 1,000 title fights. I do respect longevity, but not to the point of not calling it as I see it.
Both men are capable of better, and all the watchers deserved better from them, and from the matchmaking, and the event producers.
Duva, on Sunday evening, admitted that the Rodriguez/Dyer fight made her cringe too. But, she explained to TSS, that fight was not made to be a co-feature, and was only elevated to that spot when Jason Litzau injured a wrist in training, and had to be pulled from the card.
“I was disappointed in that fight too,” said Duva. “Litzau fell out two weeks ago. And because we marketed this PPV ourselves, apart from HBO or doing it with a network, something has to give. Until we get a track record of doing it on our own, it was a learning experience for us too. The one pay per view we did was Howard Stern in 1993!”
Duva breathed a sigh of relief at the end of the Holyfield fight that the headline bout was a solid scrap. She went on the explain some of the specifics in the dollar department that makes it hard to pull off a PPV show.
Holyfield's purse aside, Duva said, the cost of the production was about $500,000. The TV production alone costs about $150,000. Evander will make a cut from the PPV proceeds, which take several weeks to determine, and less up front guaranteed. Duva didn't wish to release the exact figures for his contract, or Savareses', but she did tell TSS the breakdown of where your $29.95 goes ultimately.
Main Events will get to keep $11 of every sale, while the cable and satellite companies, who spend time and money on advertising, and provide the infrastructure to deliver the product, get the lion's share. When HBO PPV does a show, they, because of their size, get a much more favorable split, 50-50, with the cable/satellite companies.
“So, in other words, we had huge expenses, and no guarantee about what will come in,” Duva said.
On the matter of Dyer, Duva admits that matchmakers Brian Young and Russell Peltz were likely mislead about Dyer's skill. Main Events didn't know how limited he was.
Duva said she understands how a manager would be hesitant to have their fighter take a more challenging test on short notice, so she isn't nursing a grudge at Team Rodriguez for taking a soft touch.
“Getting two top guys, rated guys, to fight on short notice, you'd be a bad manager to accept it,” she said.
Also, Duva said, she and her team recognized that the loss of Litzau, who'd been featured on ESPN and HBO, would leave a hole. So they worked to put 14-0 featherweight Jose Diaz in a youth title fight, but that aim, on such notice, didn't come off.
But in the end, Holyfield is the main attraction. Without him, there would be no event. So, he needs to be taken care of first and foremost. And Duva said, she really couldn't justify throwing money at the undercard as she would've liked, when it would be coming out of Evander's pocket.
Duva was sympathetic to the plight of fan, the average guy who spends far more than he cares to on a yearly basis to tune in to fights, simply because the sport doesn't attract top level advertising.
“We're working on it,” Duva told TSS. “We won't stop trying to secure bigger advertising. It's our biggest challenge as promoters. The cable companies, the inDemands, they have monopolies. Until we find a way to be sponsorship supported, until we can run the fights on the internet, with a website that can support that, this will happen. It's a shame, because a sponsor could own this sport…until then, we're stuck with this model.”