OK, maybe it didn't come out hard out of the gate, you wouldn't have thought so if you saw me fumbling through name cards, working on my alphabetizing skills, at the check-in desk, where people who purchased tix to the Boxing Writers Association of America awards ceremony/dinner on Thursday night received their ticket to entry to a sold out gala at the MGM.
But while fumbling occurred, eventually it got sorted out, and there were ample highlights to the evening, which saw Floyd Mayweather accept his 2013 Fighter of the Year award with all his kids and much of the TMT crew up there with him. Floyd brought a Starbucks cup up to the podium and thanked the usual suspects, including fightwriters who write nice, write mean, and generally keep his name in the news.
Showtime's Steve Farhood did a helluva job as emcee, cracking some stellar jokes, and having some gentle fun at the expense of good people, and others. "The framed and signed photo of Donald Sterling is going for much less than I would have thought," he cracked, when referencing the silent auction.
Ruslan Provodnikov and Tim Bradley (pictured above, sandwiching Mike Tyson, in Chris Farina photo) Bradley sporting a soft boot on his right foot, scored high when accepting the Fight of the Year award. Provodnikov, speaking Russian, said he looked up to Mike Tyson, and always wanted to shake his hand and thank Iron Mike for motivating. He got a handshake, and hug, from Tyson, who presented that award. Bradley choked up some, and thanked his dad, Big Ray, for pushing him, and getting him up for those 5 AM runs. Bradley got points from me for calling for warring parties to grow up, and get along enough to make the fights that need to be made.
Freddie Roach was happy to get another Trainer of the Year prize, and was pleased to have mom Barbara and bro Pepper, and a bunch of other family at his table.
The WBC did a good deed, with Mauricio Sulaiman giving Paul Williams a green belt, after he received the award for "Courage in Overcoming Adversity." (Sulaiman I thinked gained a couple fans when he admitted that his pop used to speak long, but he promised to keep it short, and he did.) Jimmy Lennon got the "Good Guy Award," and was charming when I admitted I had a brain burp, at the ticket table, when I said hi to Jim Gray, but called Gray "Jimmy Lennon." I blame lack of sleep, what with BWAA President Jack Hirsch, an unsung hero for sure, cracking the whip on me the last couple days, to help him, and other stalwarts like Keith Sullivan and Bob Duffy, and Hirsch's wife Audrey, and Gina Andriola, and Big Bob Mladinich get the dinner together.
Col. Bob Sheridan and Lee Samuels snagged the "Long and Meritorious Service" awards, and Samuels shared with the assembled, more than 310 persons, that he started out as a boxing writer, and then hooked on with Top Rank, and learned from Irving Rudd, who he called the top tier.
We didn't get an Al Haymon sighting, though he won the "Manager of the Year" award; old pal Sam Watson accepted on his behalf, and drew chuckles when he acknowledged that 85% of the boxing world thinks he's Al.
Dan Rafael got the Nat Fleischer award, and props from me for bringing his one-year-old to the event. We didn't hear a peep from the kid...
Paul Malignaggi continued to show his growth as a human being, thanking the Showtime gang for being patient with him, putting up with his occasional talk first-think later nuggets. He seemed touched to receive the "Excellence in Broadcast Journalism Award."
Philly guy Sandy Grady was bestowed the Liebling Award, for "Outstanding Boxing Writing," for the record.
Golden Boy, Mayweather Promotions and Showtime ponied up as sponsors, which helped make the event solid presentation.
The writers were happy to get awards, too, and liked Showtime boxing boss Stephen Espinoza, up to present to Malignaggi, asking them to give themselves a round of applause, for their efforts.
SPEEDBAG I was at a table with President Hirsch, but got booted to table 8, with the HBO crew, when Mike Tyson solidified his attendance. No biggie, I managed to get in a bit of politics talk with Jim Lampley and his missus, so I was fine.
---Mike McCallum was present. I asked the legend what one fight young uns should track down of his on YouTube. This one, he said.
Who's the best Mexican boxer today?