Alexander got the W. Maybe next time it will be in a more enjoyable manner. (Tom Casino)
On Saturday night, “world championship” boxing returned to Brooklyn for the first time in 81 years. What better way to celebrate the occasion than with the running diary returning to TheSweetScience.com for the first time in 53 weeks? Much has changed since the last time I busted out this column device. Entering the previous running diary, Bernard Hopkins was light heavyweight champion of the world and had never once been bodyslammed by Chad Dawson. Showtime wasn’t yet airing quadrupleheaders with regularity or showing undercard bouts on Showtime Extreme, so running diaries were pretty much limited to pay-per-view cards. Bill Dettloff’s dog, Duva, the scene-stealing star of the Hopkins-Dawson I PPV Diary, was still alive. (Pour one out.) And boxing didn’t have a PED problem. At least as far as we knew.
This running diary will be different than past installments in that I was not part of a gathering of boxing writers, so there will be no sidebar breakdowns of our sidebar conversations. However, the Showtime Extreme portion of the broadcast began at 7 p.m. ET, which meant that I was joined for a few minutes by my daughter and son before they headed up to bed. I also had my dog, Rodney, and my brother-in-law’s dog, Gertie, to keep me company. But as far as observations for the running diary go, it’s just me and anyone who wrote something diary-worthy on Twitter.
Disclaimer: I’m one year older than Erik Morales, so no promises that I’m not completely shot as a running-diary writer. But here goes nuthin’ with the first installment of a two-part look back at Saturday night’s festivities from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn:
7:02 p.m. ET: What a joy to have Brian Kenny back in my life. I’m aware that he could theoretically be in my life regularly if I watched MLB Network, but since the 2012 baseball season never happened (I’m a Phillies fan; as far as I’m concerned this was just a really long exhibition season in preparation for 2013), the addition of Kenny to the Showtime crew as the host/director of traffic is an automatic highlight of the night. For his first order of business, BK notes that the main Showtime broadcast starts at 8 p.m., which makes me thankful I didn’t go out for the evening and trust my DVR, since my cable guide thought the show started at 9. It also means I have a shot, theoretically, at getting to bed before midnight, provided we see some knockouts.
7:03: Kenny sends it down to the Showtime Extreme team of Barry Tompkins and Steve Farhood, whose cheerful camaraderie and soothing, non-idiotic voices make watching boxing as relaxing as a bath in warm buttermilk. (Am I showing my running-diary rust with that analogy? Let’s move along.)
7:05: The lone live fight on Showtime Extreme will be the return of Danny Jacobs following his battle with cancer, and we start with a video vignette on him. Here’s a not-at-all-loaded question for everyone to discuss: Who’s gotten more press the last two weeks, Jacobs or Orlando Cruz?
7:06: When a guy is coming back from cancer, it’s wholly inappropriate to make trivial jokes in a running-diary column about his godmother borrowing her hairstyle from Carrot Top. So I won’t.
7:10: Farhood tells us that Jacobs’ opponent, Josh Luteran, goes by the nickname “The Existential Outlaw” and is also an actor in Hollywood. His IMDB page suggests he’s probably doing better as a boxer. Luteran’s nose is definitely more “boxer” than “actor”; that thing has more unwanted twists and turns than a season of The Killing.
7:15: A sizzling left-right combination from Jacobs renders Luteran non-existent(ial) at 1:13 of the first round. Suddenly, regardless of his sparsely populated IMDB page, it’s looking like Luteran’s future lies in acting. Meanwhile, nice win for Jacobs. Luteran wasn’t much, but Jacobs destroyed him following an 19-month layoff and showed, as best he could in 73 seconds, the talent that once made him one of boxing’s hottest prospects.
7:22: As I enjoy some Eddie Gomez-Saul Benitez highlights from earlier on the undercard, my wife, who is getting the kids ready for bed, reports that my son sat on the potty for five minutes, produced nothing, and promptly got off the toilet and peed on the rug in his room. I’d love to help clean up, but I have boxing to watch.
7:28: We get our first USADA mention of the night from BK, as he welcomes Al Bernstein and Austin Trout to the broadcast desk to help him stall for time and discuss the upcoming main event. Not included among the topics of discussion: how apparently it’s okay for a boxer to fight on Showtime after failing a PED test, but it’s not okay for a boxer to provide color commentary on Showtime after failing a PED test. Remember Antonio Tarver? Tonight, he’ll be watching from home while Erik Morales is permitted to try to punch a man after two positive drug tests leading up to the fight. Hmmm.
7:32: With no more undercard bouts to broadcast, Showtime Extreme signs off early. Now I have no excuse not to help put the kids to bed.
7:50: My daughter convinces me to put on the adult-size red flannel footie pajamas that my wife got me as a semi-joke gift several years ago, so this will be my attire for the remainder of the running diary. There’s something I wouldn’t be able to do on press row. Take that, all you suckers who are ringside in Brooklyn tonight.
7:59: As I settle back onto the couch for the main event, Showtime airs an ad for Jim Rome’s new show. We can only hope the show will be half as clever as the “balls” joke in the commercial. (Get it? He said the show would have balls, and then all manner of baseballs, footballs, basketballs, and soccer balls fell from the ceiling! Ingenious!)
8:02: Speaking of Showtime programming, before the fights begin we’re treated to ads for Dexter and Homeland. My quick (pretty much spoiler-free) thoughts on each show: I’m not convinced yet that Dexter has recaptured its mojo following an overdue shakeup to the Dexter-Deb dynamic at the conclusion of last season. Season Seven is certainly better thus far than Season Six was, but I have my doubts about whether it can ever become a first-rate show again. Meanwhile, I’m thoroughly enjoying the second season of Homeland, even if “realistic” is a word that’s apparently been banned from the writers’ room. Did it deserve to beat out Breaking Bad and Mad Men for the Emmy? Of course not. But it’s definitely the cream of the Sunday night drama crop this fall.
8:06: Okay, back to boxing! Kenny is sharing the desk with Bernstein, Trout, and Tompkins—turns out Barry is working the whole card because play-by-play man Mauro Ranallo is out sick. Nothing against Mauro, but I love me some Barry Tompkins and he’s always had good chemistry with Bernstein, so this is a fine development.
8:10: Bernstein asks the million-dollar question (literally) about Danny Garcia’s decision to go through with the fight. I’ve sat in slack-jawed amazement all day at the tweets and articles buying into the notion that, as of Friday night, Garcia was planning to pull out of the fight because of Morales’ failed USADA tests. I don’t believe for one second that Garcia considered cancelling the fight. He’d gone through a two-month training camp and was going to collect $1-million to fight an aging opponent he’d already beaten handily seven months earlier, and you expect me to trust some “unnamed sources” who said he was this close to pulling out? Sorry, but that’s some flimsy logic. Maybe the New York commission considered putting the kibosh on this fight. But no way did Garcia consider it.
8:16: Randall Bailey is in the ring, wearing a blue mask that makes him look like one of the Spy vs. Spy guys with shark teeth. Also in the ring: Arthur Mercante Jr. Much as I love having big-time boxing in New York, there is always that one unfortunate little string attached.
8:20: I know Philly sports fans own the reputation as the most negative fans around, but the Brooklyn crowd didn’t make it halfway through the first round of Bailey vs. Devon Alexander before the boos began! Really? They’re not allowed to feel each other out and take a tactical approach for 90 seconds?
8:24: In the second round, Bailey lands a head-clash-right-hand combination that knocks Alexander off balance, and with Alexander generally standing in range for Bailey’s punches, we have some (false) hope for drama in this bout.
8:27: Alexander lands a nice right hand of his own in the third round, and Mercante promptly steps in to make certain there’s no discernable flow to the fight and no sustained action. Moments later, Trout makes a good observation that Alexander’s wide stance makes it hard for him to turn fluidly in the ring.
8:33: Bernstein calls Bailey “the Dave Kingman of boxing,” and the 27-year-old Trout admits he doesn’t know who Dave Kingman is, which gives everyone a good chuckle. Call me crazy, but there’s some decent chemistry developing here. It’s around this point that I remember: Isn’t Joe Cortez supposed to be a part of this broadcast team? We haven’t heard from him yet, and if it turns out he’s not there and Kenny, Tompkins, Bernstein, and Trout are all going to do a good job behind their respective microphones, then who the hell am I going to mock in this running diary? Speaking of Cortez, he’s the subject of one of the “over/under” questions for the latest episode of Ring Theory: How many indecipherable words will he utter on the broadcast? I set the line at 11, Dettloff took the under. Also, Bill has under 37 rounds for the four main fights combined, and under 8,500 in paid attendance.
8:39: Another useful observation by Trout, who notes that Alexander is now keeping his left hand tight to his chin in round six after eating a couple of big right hands in round five.
8:40: Alexander accidentally hits Mercante with a left hand. I have a new favorite fighter.
8:41: Mercante takes a point from both fighters for holding in the sixth. Allow me to quote myself via Twitter: “Mercante: ‘These fighters think they’re the show! I’ll show them who’s the show!’”
8:42: Hey, Joe Cortez is here after all! He weighs in on Mercante’s dual point deductions. I think I just hit the over on 11 slurred words.
8:49: After Mercante tells Alexander to stop spinning his opponent, Trout notes, “I didn’t think that was illegal, that’s good footwork in my opinion.” I’m liking this Trout character so far.
9:00: As the boos rain down in Brooklyn and an ugly fight shows no signs of getting less ugly, we get these three enjoyable tweets in the span of a few seconds. First, from @therealFOL: “I would rather watch Joe Cortez make a sandwich.” Second, from @HansLanda0351: “I can never tell if Alexander is feinting or epileptic.” And third, from my podcast partner @WilliamDettloff: “In about six hours Bailey’s going to land the right he’s been waiting to land all night and his poor wife will be KTFO.”
9:04: There are just two minutes left in the fight. Which means Bailey, hopelessly behind on points, has two minutes to make Mike Jones feel less awful about himself. (Yes, I stole my own Twitter joke. And you know what? I might do that a few more times before this running diary is through. Deal with it.)
9:06: The fight ends, and Trout says Alexander fought a “great” fight. Bernstein objects and says it was “effective,” not “great,” and Trout more or less concedes. The crowd, meanwhile, can’t stop booing. Three more fights like that one, and we’re watching the last boxing card ever at the Barclays Center.
9:07: Nice addition to the negativity surrounding the fight from good ol’ @HansLanda0351: “The next basement dweller who claims alphabet titles are a good thing should be forced to watch this fight on a loop until they die.”
9:09: Jimmy Lennon Jr. announces the unanimous decision in Alexander’s favor, by scores of 115-111, 116-110, and 117-109. I’m now pouring myself a bowl of cereal—another reason my living room beats press row.
9:16: Jim Gray is in the dressing room conducting prefight interviews, and he asks Garcia, “When you woke up this morning, was there a question in your mind as to whether or not there would be a fight?” Garcia responds, “I mean, it was up to the New York Athletic Commission, they said it was cool, so it’s cool with me.” Anyone still trust the sources who said Garcia was planning to give up his million-dollar payday and pull out?
9:28: Peter Quillin vs. Hassan N’Dam is underway, and we’re seeing better action in the opening round than we saw at any point during Alexander-Bailey. N’Dam lands a left, and Quillin comes right back with a superior right hand to the chin. Maybe we aren’t watching the last fight card at Barclays after all.
9:30: Between rounds one and two, Mike Tyson is shown on the big screen in Brooklyn, pulling off the rarely seen facial-tattoo/white-turtleneck combination, and he gets a massive standing ovation from the crowd. It’s hard to believe Mike Tyson has survived long enough to reach this point in his life, that he’s matured gracefully into “beloved icon” status, but here he is. What a wonderful moment.
9:38: With N’Dam generally having gotten the better of the entertaining first three rounds, local favorite Quillin fights back with a left uppercut that staggers the Cameroonian at the start of round four. Quillin follows up, and a leaping left hook drops N’Dam! He seems okay as he gets up, but Quillin has two minutes left in the round to finish him.
9:39: Another hook almost floors N’Dam, then a perfect one drops him with 40 seconds left in the round. Two slips, however, help N’Dam run out the clock. Tyson is shown standing, applauding, and smiling wide at ringside.
9:47: As much as I enjoyed Trout’s analysis throughout the Alexander-Bailey fight, he’s starting to make me feel sleepy now. Can Showtime find a boxer/broadcaster whose energy level lands somewhere between the excessive exuberance of Paulie Malignaggi and the check-his-pulse monotone of Trout? Oh, right. They did. His name was Antonio Tarver.
9:48: Just as N’Dam seems to be righting the ship, Quillin decks with him another hook with about a minute to go in round six. N’Dam stumbles down again following a combination, meaning he’s now been knocked down four times in total.
9:52: N’Dam, still plenty game, lands a serious counter left hook in the seventh and gets me thinking Quillin just might regret not finishing him off in either the fourth or sixth rounds.
10:00: We’re treating to some tremendous action in the ninth, as Quillin absorbs several hard shots along the ropes and fires back.
10:10: Entering the final round, N’Dam seems to have pulled just about even. I’m pretty sure there’s no precedent for a fighter winning a decision in the other guy’s hometown despite a 4-0 deficit in knockdowns.
10:13: Quillin guarantees that N’Dam won’t be winning that decision (actually, it was already guaranteed; more on that in a moment) by flooring him for the fifth and sixth times in the contest in the final 25 seconds of round 12. It’s a delightfully dramatic finish to a fight that has fully erased the stink of the bout that preceded it.
10:17: All three judges score it 115-107 for Quillin, which seems a bit wide, but oh well, he is a New Yorker and it’s not like it was impossible to find seven rounds to give to “Kid Chocolate.” Not worth kicking up a fuss over. But it would have been if N’Dam had dominated round 12 and still lost unanimously.
10:25: BK interviews Danny Jacobs, and Jacobs commits one of my sports-interview pet peeves, declaring himself to be at “150 percent.” Then again, he’s probably at about 15,000 percent of what he was in 2011. So I’m going to let a recent cancer survivor slide on this one.
10:28: TSS editor Mike Woods tweets “[Richard] Schaefer says he is looking at January date and then feb back here, something ‘historic’. Hmmm.” Hey, Woodsy, how can you be certain he was spelling it “historic” and not “hystoric”?
And with that harmless little swipe at my dear friends at Golden Boy Promotions, I’ll wrap up Part I of the running diary. Come back tomorrow for Part II, covering the Malignaggi-Cano and Garcia-Morales fights. And don’t forget your red flannel adult footies.
Who wins the WBO Middleweight title fight Dec. 19th?