A mystery is afoot, boxing lovers.
If you saw the first fight between WBO junior welterweight titleholder Ricardo Torres and challenger Kendall “Rated R” Holt it was probably on a somewhat grainy version shown on YouTube.com.
Torres won the fight but that’s simplifying the event. To be sure, what transpired that night remains a mystery of Raymond Chandler dimensions. We’re talking Lady in the Lake, Farewell My Lovely and the Long Goodbye.
If Chandler were still alive he might call this mystery the Case of the Errant Beer Can.
Holt (28-2, 12 KOs) claims some evildoer fired a beer can on his head from the nether regions of a country club where the fight was held. He had just pole-axed Torres with a left and a right in the sixth round when the deed was done. He later lost the fight.
Now Holt and Torres (32-1, 28 KOs) will replay the event live, but not in Colombia, this time at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. The second version, dubbed “No Excuses,” takes place Saturday July 5 and is televised by Showtime.
What better place to avenge a crime than Sin City, make-believe home of CSI?
Mystery writer Chandler would have rubbed his hands in glee trying to unfurl the truth of the first encounter.
The date was Sept. 1, 2007, and Holt was anxious as a juiced up June bug to get his hands on Torres' WBO title. He traveled several thousand miles and a couple of time zones to take a crack at Colombia’s boxing kingpin. He didn’t want to return home without the belt.
If master detective novelist Chandler had seen the fight on YouTube, he would have noticed immediately as any reputable gumshoe of the 1930s would, that nary an American was present except for Holt’s corner support. Even after a few cocktails the hard drinking pulp writer would have noted that.
Holt, a tall junior welterweight, made his bones by knocking out former U.S. Olympian David Diaz in a junior welterweight bout in 2005. It’s probably the reason the Chicago boxer dropped down in weight after being dropped for the count in Connecticut.
Holt mashed Diaz in Ct. and his photo was suddenly put on more walls than John Dillinger during the Depression.
The champion Torres had gained his own reputation too, not from a win, but a loss. It was three years ago that the Colombian battled Puerto Rico’s Miguel Cotto and hurt him several times during the course of their junior welterweight battle in New Jersey. But he blew his load trying to blow out Cotto. In the seventh round it was all over for Torres who was spent and was stopped.
So when Torres and Holt finally entered the ring against each other, a few diehard boxing fans took notice, especially with two knockout fighters. Boxing fans love a guy with pop.
The first fight
Five rounds breezed by with neither fighter showing anything special. It wasn’t until the sixth round that villainous characters may or may not have manipulated the ending.
During an exchange along the ropes Holt caught Torres with a left hook followed by a right cross. Down went Torres who left his chin exposed like a dancer from a cheap burlesque show.
According to Holt, a missile in the guise of a beer can plunked him on the head and left thoughts of future preemptive strikes from the nether regions of the darkened arena. It plays like one of the scenes in the Big Sleep when Philip Marlowe took yet another bop from the butt of a pistol while searching for a damsel. That Marlowe, he was always getting hit on the noggin with pistol butts.
“After I dropped Torres in the sixth round, I got hit with a beer can,” said Holt, still perplexed by the unusual event, if it happened. “From that point on, I was thinking, if I knock this guy out, will I make it back in one piece?”
Holt’s corner men claim there were dozens of beer cans thrown, but in the video, it’s hard to make any out.
Torres survived the round and managed to evade any more bombs from Paterson, New Jersey’s Holt who has a dirty dozen notches on his knockout resume. The Colombian slowly gained confidence and began stalking Holt.
At the conclusion of the sixth round, Holt said he advised the referee he had been the victim of a deadly tossed beer can. The referee shushed him and told him to fight.
“Everybody saw it, but nobody did nothing about it,” stammered Holt.
After chasing Holt for 11 rounds, Torres finally caught the American boxer with a razor sharp left hook and Holt slumped to the floor like he had been blackjacked. The referee began the count and saw Holt rise to his feet, a little unsteady, but sobered by the thought the Colombians could still hand out a few more of those nasty souvenirs.
“A lot of people look at me and think I am just a skinny kid,” said Torres, who has 28 knockouts in 33 pro fights. “But they change their mind after feeling my punch.”
Torres chased Holt around the ring and unloaded a barrage of punches as if attempting to punish him for the previous humiliating knockdown.
While Holt was lost in thoughts of another beer can blizzard, the referee decided to stop the fight though the American looked no worse than Torres when he hit the deck earlier in the fight. It was chaos as Colombians poured on to the ring apron en masse.
Holt was stunned, not from the blows by Torres, but the reversal of fortune that saw him unable to continue because of the referee’s decision.
In the aftermath Holt’s people felt there were South American shenanigans going on. The kind you often see in the mystery novel world where even the cops are not above suspicion.
Eyebrows were raised.
The World Boxing Organization, which sanctioned the fight, would not overturn the decision or order a rematch. Instead, it promised to keep Holt high in its rankings. In his last match, Holt beat Ben Tackie. Now he’s back to fight Torres once again.
“I am a man, and if he beats me he beats me,” says Holt. “I just don’t want to get cheated.”
Torres, who hasn’t been in the ring since that last bout against Holt, said that the mystery of the tossed beer can episode is merely fiction.
“Holt is a sore loser. He didn’t take advantage of the fight when he could have,” said Torres. “I know how Holt fights. I know what I need to do.”
Holt and Torres will find the answer in the middle of Las Vegas.
But unlike the Big Sleep, Las Vegas never does and boxing will get to the bottom of this mystery.
Maybe there’ll be a surprise ending like in the aforementioned novel when it turns out the younger sister of Marlowe’s love interest has a murderous heart underneath a veneer of coyness.
A mystery will be solved on Saturday and the real champion will emerge.