Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Are You Watching the Fight Saturday Night?

As I was riding the local bus home Tuesday night, the fellow sitting directly behind me was loudly jabbering away on his cell phone. I really didn’t mind it that much, but couldn’t avoid overhearing him (as did most of the bus, no doubt).

After some forgettable discussion, he finally asked his friend on the other end if he was coming over to his place Saturday night to watch “the fight.” He never said which card, since both HBO and Showtime have live shows that night, but it was easy to figure out. He alternated speaking in English and Spanish, and from his accent, it was not hard to conclude that he was Latino, and thus most likely interested in Miguel Cotto-Alfonso Gomez and Kermit Cintron-Antonio Margarito 2, especially given the people who live in my area.

He never mentioned the name of any fighter, however. That didn’t seem to matter much to him, just so long as it involved someone like Cotto and was “the fight.” This was understood, although I obviously couldn’t hear both sides of his conversation.

He said he was ordering one of those giant sandwiches that you cut up for a large group, getting beer, and then doing “whatever,” the one thing which apparently he didn’t want the whole bus to hear. He wanted to get his friends to kick in a few bucks to share the beer and sandwich, and thus all have a good time as a group at this fight party.

I never got a good look at him and didn’t recognize his voice. I have overheard many similar discussions in my neighborhood before, and expect to again.

So, neighbors, are you watching the fight Saturday night?

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Monday, April 07, 2008

April 12: Good, But Not The Best

Baseball, for those who still believe in it, is back with yet another season set to culminate in a World Series, as happens every year (except 1994). American football is still buzzing about the upset victory in the Super Bowl by the Giants. Other professional sports, including NBA basketball and NHL hockey, are gearing up for their playoffs. Boxing, as we know, has no season and rarely has organized elimination tournaments.

The two televised boxing cards scheduled for this Saturday, April 12, on HBO and on Showtime, at times which deliberately overlap, each feature two fights in the same weight class on their respective shows. While several of the top fighters in these divisions will appear on these shows, none of these fights pits the best against the best at those weights.

HBO has a welterweight doubleheader from Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey. In their two title fights, WBA welterweight champion Miguel Cotto (31-0, 25 KOs) will defend his belt against the popular but limited Alfonso Gomez (18-3-2, 8 KOs) of “The Contender”, and IBF welterweight champion Kermit Cintron (29-1, 27 KOs) will try to avenge the only defeat of his professional career when he fights Antonio Margarito (35-5, 25 KOs).

The best in this division is Floyd Mayweather Jr. He is more or less taking a sabbatical, appearing on BET’s “Iron Ring” mixed martial arts series, acting on the disgraceful pro “wrestling” circuit, and then likely having a highly unanticipated rematch with Oscar De La Hoya in September which will be hyped as another chapter in “The Mayweather Family” soap opera, focusing on which Mayweather is training whom, and so on.

In Mayweather’s absence, Cotto, after KO’ing Zab Judah and decisioning Shane Mosley last year, is also trying to take a breather. After Gomez, he likely will face Ricardo Mayorga in the summer. Mayorga has fought just once in 2005, 2006, and 2007, getting stopped by De La Hoya in his 2006 cameo. Cotto-Mayorga may be an entertaining slugfest while it lasts, but it is certainly not the best against the best.

Cintron was taken apart three years ago by Margarito. Since then, he has stopped all five of his opponents and claims to be a more mature and improved fighter. But none of his victims has been top-tier welterweights. Margarito, destroying Golden Johnson in one round after dropping a close decision to Paul Williams last year, may have slowed a bit since first facing Cintron, so this fight has the potential to be more competitive than their first. In any case, while a good matchup, it still is not the best against the best. Even if the winner faces Cotto in a partial unification bout, we should not have to wait another year or even more for a welterweight World Series.

The light heavyweight fights on Showtime are being billed as featuring the best in that division. Almost, but not so. Their April 12 card, from the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, Florida, features former undisputed light heavyweight champion, 39-year-old Antonio Tarver (26-4, 19 KOs), against IBF light heavyweight champion, 35-year-old Clinton Woods (41-3-1, 24 KOs), and one of the rising stars in boxing, 25-year-old WBC light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson (25-0, 17 KOs), against former world champion, 39-year-old Glen Johnson (47-11-2, 32 KOs).

Clearly this is being staged as some sort of limited playoff, with the winners advancing to a partial unification. The Tarver-Woods winner has the IBF belt, and will likely next face the Dawson-Johnson winner, who will hold the WBC belt. Again, however, it is not the best against the best.

The linear light heavyweight champion is 43-year-old Bernard Hopkins, who faces super middleweight king Joe Calzaghe the following week, and on HBO. The undefeated Dawson is clearly the future of the division, but he needs a marquee opponent to gain recognition, both from the public and the slow-witted boxing media. If, as expected, Dawson wins Saturday’s fight, and impressively enough, he can next get a partial unification fight and then stand in line for whatever is left of the division after Hopkins-Calzaghe – and perhaps have to jump to HBO as well.

So Saturday’s cards overall should be good and interesting, and be viewed by all boxing people, despite the stubborn network war which has these being shown live at almost the same time. Both networks offer replays, or you can record one while watching the other live.

I will be in Atlantic City this weekend, first covering the YAMMA Pit Fighting mixed martial arts show Friday and then the boxing Saturday. I’ll tape the Showtime card and watch it when I return home. Hopefully some of you reading this will be at one of these shows.

If you are in Atlantic City, let me know when you are going to the Mountain Bar at Bally’s Wild Wild West. That bar also may not be the best, bit it is still plenty good.

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