The re-energized “The Fight Game,” Jim Lampley’s boxing magazine show on HBO, debuted last night (Tuesday, Sept. 16) after I went to bed.
The show, which debuted in May 2012, is still a work in progress, not surprisingly, perhaps, since it ran so intermittently, once every couple months. Now, Lampley tells TSS, the show, a half hour program, will screen once a month, til the end of the year, at least, and that will likely result in a quicker solidification of what works, content-wise, and rhythmically.
The longtime HBO blow by blow caller—-oh, and by the way, might this be an opportune time to ask why this erudite and mindful broadcast lead-dog is not in the International Boxing Hall of Fame? Should that not be rectified, on the next ballot?—kicked things off with a look at the “Cold War.”
Lampley brought us up to speed on the Hatfield/McCoy dynamic which has kept no brainer fights from being made, and HBO and Showtime and Golden Boy and Top Rank squabbling and/or ignoring each other while uber advisor Al Haymon moves his chess pieces in masterful fashion, but in a manner which sometimes benefits a select few over the masses, the masses being us, the boxing fans.
Lampley chatted on the Russell Jr-Lomachenko scrap, and the Bernard Hopkins-Adonis Stevenson-Sergey Kovalev stew, and noted that it’s been a year and a half since a Golden Boy fighter (Hopkins) will appear on HBO. HBO, you’ll recall, quite publicly threw down the gauntlet in March 2013 and went all arctic when they tired of what they perceived was Haymon’s disloyalty, in ushering his guys, after being built up on HBO, over to Showtime for better pay. The host said a “diplomatic thaw” is under way, and he had Oscar and Arum on split screen.
Oscar said it’s up to the promoters to have the best fighting the best, which is what he did when he gloved up. “My philosophy has always been in order to satisfy the millions of fans who love boxing we must set our egos aside and make these big fights happen.” Arum chimed in, “I couldn’t agree more with Oscar.” He called the lack of promotional intermingling a “travesty for boxing.” He said it’s just “idiocy” when one promoter says they won’t deal with another. Arum said he’d like to make a Miguel Cotto vs. Canelo Alvarez fight.
Lampley said that the Haymon presence, lurking, looming, overshadowing, perhaps, is seen as an impediment to peace. He said there’s much evidence to prove Haymon’s hand is causing desirable fights from being made. Oscar said under his leadership “a lot has changed.” That is, without Richard Schaefer around, things have changed. He has talked to Haymon about doing things differently and “he has expressed a lot of interest,” the Hall of Fame fighter said. (Note: A rumor is spreading that Haymon might be doing a mega-deal with NBC for content, so it remains to be seen how his power base will shift, stall or grow in the near future.) Oscar noted that the history between him and Arum is complicated. That it is; they have sparred viciously in the past. http://lat.ms/1qYrtAq
But to his point—people don’t have to love, or even like each other to do business, and for the fans, which is what Oscar always comes back to, it would be helpful if the memories of these two are short, in this case.
“This will take time..but we will make this happen,” said Oscar on an up note. Arum announced he is looking forward to talking to Oscar later in the week. Solid segment, upbeat, informative, not lacking in gravity.
Next up, Lampley talked about Roc Nation’s entry into our fair sport. Peter Quillin’s career was referenced, and he called Roc’s bid on a Quillin-Korobov an “emphatic overbid.” He raised eyebrows that Quillin, having never been paid more than $500,000 for a fight, turned down the $1.4 million he would have made to fight Korobov. Lampley took aim at Haymon for self-serving steering, looking to match two of his clients, Quillin and Danny Jacobs, instead of doing that Quillin-Korobov bout, with Korobov being a Top Rank/Cameron Dunkin guy. Roc and their leader Jay Z have proven, Lampley said, “that they mean business.” Snappy, pointed, with journalistic chops, with an opinionated and populist edge, I enjoyed the segment. Would Haymon? Not sure, he doesn’t do media, so we can’t get into his head.
Next, Lampley went into Floyd Mayweather and his future. He said after two more fights, Floyd could be a free agent, and nearing 50-0, he might be an even bigger lure to bankrollers/broadcasters. Or maybe not…Lampley insinuated that Mayweather eschews risk to the point that fans really shouldn’t expect him to change that trait. Maybe he’ll fight Manny for win 50…or maybe that will never occur, the host said.
The Fight Game top 5, pound for pound, according to Lampley, who snuck in a Floyd/Fiddy/reading crack: 1) Mayweather; 2) Andre Ward, a choice which engineers message board debate, considering how infrequently Ward fights; 3) Manny Pacquiao; 4) Gennady Golovkin, another choice drawing dissective buzz and 5) Sergey Kovalev, which Lampley allowed might open him up for scorn, should Hopkins show the Russian to be more sizzle than steak on Nov. 8.
Lampley got in some love for HBO stalwarts Kovalev and Golovkin, and snuck in some Occupy type talk, telling us that it is up to US to push, to demand, to see the fights we want to see. He told us that he’d be wearing smart glasses for fights, which will allow us to see through his eyes. I appreciate anyone looking to employ current technology to bring our staid sport up to date, for the record.
Then, Lampley introduced regular Michelle Beadle, an ESPN personality. The un-shy Beadle, for whom my fondness grew when she went against ESPN orders and stirred the pot on Twitter against sometimes blowhard Stephen A. Smith when he stepped in it with statements on domestic abuse, couldn’t manage to caffeinate Terence Crawford. The 140 pound champ, on HBO’s short list of building blocks for the near future, spoke to the ESPNer from his home in Nebraska. I don’t know if Beadle is a boxing fan, but she was well prepared, and her professionalism was obvious. I expect her role to mature and to mesh better when she has a better foil than the soft-spoken Crawford, who is getting used to the glare and stare of us intrusive instigators. I was slightly distracted by Beadle’s face, a pleasant one which suggests Cameron Diaz. She sat with Lampley in the manner in which the reporter gets de-briefed by Bryant Gumble on his “Real Sports” show. This will give her an opportunity to showcase her relatively fearless voice, moving forward. The host took a crack at Mayweather, and his comments re: Ray Rice. Beadle said that she didn’t know how bad Floyd’s track record regarding domestic violence was, that he “beats (women) silly,” and that she doesn’t see him changing his ways.
This segment stood out for me as the most “commercial-ly” of all of them, in my mind. He faces Ray Beltran, on Nov. 29, in Nebraska, and on HBO. Then Beadle took off her gloves—Bang! Bang!—and finished by saying that she thinks Floyd will continue to add to his rap sheet. “Most likely,” said Lampley, in a strong and provocative capper.
The Gatti List came next. Omar Figueroa was the first mentioned who “gives you their moneys worth” win or lose, then Yuriorkis Gamboa, Marcos Maidana, and Evander Holyfield topped this edition.
Max Kellerman joined Lampley, on satellite. They touched on a Mayweather-Pacquiao fight. They now need each other, Max said, because their PPVs are dwindling. “They need each other now, it can happen,” Max said.
What about Andre Ward? Will the fans still care if he keeps staying on the sideline? There’s that risk…but Floyd too knew how to steer his ship. Max thinks Ward has that same confidence and has “star potential.”
And Gennady Golovkin? Max noted that Marvin Hagler had to keep on hammering away against lesser lights before he could lure the Hearns, Durans and Sugar Rays. “Brilliant,” summed up Lampley of Kellerman’s analysis.
In his closing comment, Lampley hammered Mayweather. “If the goal is to push the limits of public taste to the point where the overwhelming preponderance of consumers simply wash their hands and want nothing to do with him or his fights, his blithe comment to the effect that the NFL was over-reacting to a videotape by suspending Ray Rice is probably a pretty good start. And his garbled apology did little to remove the stench. This was the absolute height of heaving a rock out of a glass house, and if he honestly thinks he can offer that kind of love to Rice without offending significant numbers of fans and observers, he’s wrong. The fact is, unbeaten record or not, consummate skill notwithstanding, Floyd Mayweather is often an aggressively distasteful human being whose behaviors are a blight on the boxing landscape. He also said last week that he will retire from the ring at the completion of his six fight CBS/Showtime contract, and in responding to the result of his most recent win, earlier in the show, we ignored that, because it won’t happen. But if it did, no damage would accrue to boxing. Fact is, for the betterment of boxing’s image, Floyd Mayweathers’ retirement cannot come a moment too soon.”
Want to know what would be interesting? If the CBS deal ends, and HBO signs Floyd to a one fight deal, to fight Pacquiao, and that scathing commentary is still ringing in Floyd’s head.
Theater of the unexpected, the red light district of sport, the very best athletic avenue through which to examine the human animal, that complex and infuriating and evervating and catalyzing and tantalizing character, which I think Lampley is well suited to pore over, and then share his takeaways.
Check back for my debrief with Lampley, which took place on Wednesday late morning.
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