HBO and Jim Lampley presented their last "The Fight Game" of 2013 on Saturday night, and much ground was covered.
Lampley kicked right into high gear, and touched on an elephant in the room that many would think he wouldn't address, the so-called "Cold War" which erupted in March, when HBO determined they were parting ways with Golden Boy and fighters repped by Al Haymon, and would do business mainly with Top Rank.
Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated put the promoters, specifically, on blast, saying they are "absolutely sabotaging the sport" by not playing nice in the sandbox. Points to him for his candid comment, though I'm not sure if blame, if it is to be affixed, was being shared properly, as I do believe the two cablers who divvy out the majority of the dough to the promoters to deliver fights and fighters have drawn a pretty clear "do not cross line in the sand." Further, apart from the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight, which, as we've talked about before, is not being made because Mayweather doesn't want to give ex promoter Arum a taste of that pie, it isn't as though this cold war has made it so fight fans haven't been offered a fight that they've severely salivated for. OK, some ached for Donaire (Top Rank) vs. Mares (Golden Boy), but both those guys lost this year, before that wish list match-that-couldn't-be became an irritant for boxing fans. And what other ones did you lose out on because Richard Schaefer can't seem to stomach Bob Arum, and HBO got tired of Al Haymon's mini-monopoly on the best and brightest, and his apparently overwhelming acumen when it comes to negotiating on behalf of his boxers?
Me, I think this cold war made all those suits dig down, toughen up, get revitalized and boost their competitive juices. Shoot, you had the best year of fights in recent memory, and it occurred during this Cold War, and are stamping your feet and demanding the return to the way things where? Not sure that's the height of common sense there...
Next, Lampley called Floyd Mayweather The Fight Game Person of the Year. He said Mayweather could well fight Amir Khan next, and called that a bomb on Twitter already, perhaps cementing Stephen Espinoza's vote for TFG as Program He Most Wishes Should Be Cancelled.
Lampley looked ahead to Floyd at 50, to his 50th win and then pivoted to the Fight of the Year; he touched on Bradley-Provodnikov, and said that Bradley became a "sympathetic figure" with his effort in that see-saw battle. Scenes from the Alvarado-Rios scrap were shown, and Lamps said that the Broner-Maidana scrap lacked drama at the scorecard turn-in.
The host said the Bradley-Provodnikov is his FOY, because you will remember it longer than the Pacquiao-Rios tangle.
The Emanuel Steward Trainer of the Year honor was bestowed upon Freddie Roach, who tutored Manny Pacquiao and Ruslan Provodnikov and Miguel Cotto. We didn't see a clip of Freddie's scrap with Alex Ariza, alas...
Guillermo Rigondeaux' work against Nonito Donaire and Joseph Agbeko was shown. He was outside the Lamps Top 5, though Floyd Mayweather, Andre Ward, Manny Pacquiao, Timothy Bradley, Gennady ("the future threat to Andre Ward") Golovkin made the cut. Max Kellerman spoke up for Rigo, who he lumped in with Floyd, Sweetpea Whitaker and Roy Jones. Max said Bradley is his Fighter of the Year, calling his fight with Provodnikov "epic." Mikey Garcia? He had a "great year," Max said. The analyst said Adonis Stevenson had a stellar year, but Sergey Kovalev was a notch better, and the best light heavy in the world, in Max's view. Danny Garcia got love from Max, who called him a "tremendous fighter." Max said Golovkin is a "dominant fighter," and he "suspects" he's a top pound for pound fighter.
Gennady Golovkin was chosen as Lamps' Fighter of the Year. He had love for Golovkins' "tortured" English, and the kids' skills.
Lamps' Gatti list had Ruslan Provodnikov, followed by Evgeny Gradovich, Sergei Kovalev, Marcos Maidana, who scored the upset of the year, and James Kirkland.
PEDs got some exposure. It was quieter year for positives, he noted. But Brandon Rios got nicked, the host said, so there's work to be done. Guys like Andre Ward, Sergey Kovalev, Gennady Golovkin, Mikey Garcia and Adonis Stevenson, to name five, he said, should and could embrace full-time testing. Of those gents, I think it's fair to say hardcore fight fans are most curious about Ward's 2014 stance on PED testing, after he dismissed a call for stringent testing by his last foe, Edwin Rodriguez, as a mere publicity push.
Vitali Klitschko's entry to full-time politics was discussed, as was Nelson Mandela's exit from this realm. Lampley said that Mandela noted that in-the-ring combat was a theater, intended partly to underscore the notion that war, the ultimate combat, was and is intolerable, and then bid viewers holiday salutations.
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Who will win the Sergey Kovalev vs Andre Ward fight?