The constancy of the calling of the horse race is something I haven't gotten used to. The average fan is, I think, much more savvy to much of what used to be internal matters in sports, and thus, guys like me spend more time talking politics than prizefighting than we used to.
Nah, I don't mean the Obamacare/fillibusters/etc. stuff, although you all know I often muddy my hands in that pigpen and cast my opinions about.
I'm talking about the goings on at HBO, at Showtime, in the offices and on the Twitter feeds of the promoters, etc. The Twittersphere has seen much chatter lately about what's going on at HBO, for instance. The so-smart-they-oughta-get-hired-if-only-those-chuckleheads-recognized-my-brilliance crew hasn't been shy about lobbing 140 characters or less screeds of dismissiveness at the gang of decision-makers at HBO, busting their collective chops for the perceived dropping of the ball in the Adonis Affair. Maybe you've taken a swing yourself, opining that Team HBO was derelict in duty at not signing Stevenson for a multi-year deal, and focusing your ire on Ken Hershman and company for leaving wriggle room for Stevenson to slide out from what seemed to be a done deal, a tasty faceoff for semi-supremacy in the light heavyweight division. Maybe you saw some of the industry's heavyweight keyboard tappers call HBO “cheap,” and hurl some other groin-strikes…..And maybe you missed the mea culpas when more facts came to light, and it ended up, seemingly, being a case of a fighter, Adonis Stevenson, throwing a curveball into the mix, adding a new advisor into the equation, and blowing up the equation.
Now, I'm by no means on board with everything the HBO crew has done, or will do, quite likely, moving forward. I'm of the mind that all involved should be pushing for only the best fighting the best sorts of bouts, that we the fans need to see fewer set up bouts, table-setting specials, and by and large should be rewarded with only premium fare when we tune in to that premium network, and the other one which counts pugilism as a vital building block of their offerings. And I deplore anything more than occasional PPVs, as I believe that construct asks too much of the fans, that they bear too much of the walletburden to be fight fans…But I do think the tizzy that erupted from the Adonis Affair was overblown, and perhaps more than a bit unfair to the showrunners at HBO.
I'm not here to attach blame to one person, to smear Stevenson, label him a ducker, and shout at the heavens that Al Haymon is a curse upon the sport, a bubonic plague of a presence whose fingerprints will be found on the corpse of pugilism in another couple years, after he chokes the life out of the sweet science.
Nah, I see nuance.
I see one fighter throwing a “curveball” which will possibly enrich him more than the deal that was being presented to him, and I try to see it from his perspective, or at least accept his decision-making from a place of humility. Because I will enjoy an Adonis Stevenson-Bernard Hopkins bout if the chips that Showtime and Golden Boy and Al Haymon are readying to be placed on the table come together as envisioned. And I also see beyond that one event, that one chapter of the theater of the unexpecteds' 2014 yearbook which featured eyebrow raising plot twists, and so much finger pointing and social media I told ya so-ing…
Peter Nelson is in charge of a lot of HBO's matchmaking, and I was struck by his attitude as we briefly chatted after a press luncheon for the Sergey Kovalev-Cedric Agnew card in AC. He wasn't panicked, wasn't in accusatory mode. His POV was basically this: we will put Plan B into effect, and while we haven't figured out what Plan B is, exactly, we can be sure it will be compelling…and entertaining…and who knows, maybe even be better than a Stevenson-Kovalev clash. I took note of that stance, at how he seemed to be seeing the events of the week from a “where others see mistakes, I see opportunities” lens.
The focus on the present is something followers of Zen worship talk up, and there is immense wisdom in that mindfullness. But sometimes we do all lose site of the forest, friends. Agreed, this first quarter for boxing has been something of a stinkbomb, though we all did enjoy the NBC Fight Night card on Friday night. But the optimist, the lobbyist in me, for seeing the bigger picture, for letting events play out a bit more before snapping into j'accuse mode, reminds that we are starting a solid run of programming on HBO. HBO is the platform for this Saturday's pick 'em collision between Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley. That's the first of four significant events. To be fair, some planning, some measure of intelligence and plotting and foresight had to go into this pairing, and the move-making which led to it. HBO and Top Rank and Bradley put together ingredients which have made Bradley a considerably more highly-regarded hitter since he and Pacman gloved up in 2012, no? We all have to remember, this sport is made up of a thousand and one freelancers, and there is no lord high commissioner setting a schedule, a year in advance, and etching it on a tablet of stone. Or not…usually it's more fun to get on Twitter, and throw barbs at the suits lol…
Next, on May 17, we should be rewarded with a compelling clash between two men who have career questions to answer, Juan Manuel Marquez and Mike Alvarado. That is a promising style matchup, is it not? And if not a pick 'em, most aren't saying Marquez is a lock, not after being outboxed by Tim Bradley in his last outing.
Then, HBO put together another pick 'em event, with Top Rank and Lou Dibella, the Miguel Cotto-Sergio Martinez clash at Madison Square Garden. Flip a coin-er, no? As anticipated as any bout this year, quite likely, right?
And then we should be seeing everyone's favorite wildcard, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. welcoming everyone's favorite baby-faced banger, Gennady Golovkin, to the 168 neighborhood, on July 19. Most of us like GGG to have his hand raised at the end of that night, but methinks the Chavez chin will help him do a bit better in this one than many anticipate.
All in all, let's hit the reset button, shall we, and re-convene in July, and then weigh in on how the HBO crew is doing. This should be a solid run till mid summer, and here's hoping it aids in putting the Adonis Affair in proper perspective.
Follow Woods on Twitter.