Saturday, June 1, 2013


Here is a little-known fact about me. I love boxing. Love, love, love it. I think it is perhaps the purest of sports; you not only have to be physically at your best, you have to be able to out-think and psych out your opponent. You also have to study your opponent and take advantage of your opponent's weaknesses, and be able to study yourself and mitigate your own weaknesses. It's a whole lot like music, in fact.

Playing any instrument professionally is about showcasing your strengths and hiding your flaws or mitigating them. There's also a pattern to everything; scales, 2nds, 3rds, 4ths, 5ths, 6ths, 7ths, octaves. You drill yourself over and over until it's instinct. Boxing is just like this. Playing a piece of music, especially a solo, has a beginning, middle, and an end. There is a period of feeling it out, or introduction, a climactic section and then a coda. Boxing also resembles this.

Well, boxing doesn't look like THIS, but you get the idea.

One night, I went to a boxing match and ran into the conductor of one of the orchestras I was playing in at the time. I said, “What are you doing here?” He looked at me, and said “I could ask you the same thing.” Oops. We agreed that we were both rabid boxing fans.

My father's mother lived for boxing, or so she told us. This was back in the days of Howard Cosell and Muhammad Ali, and I was more captivated by their traveling sideshow: Cosell: “You are being bellicose, Muhammad, you know that right?” Muhammad: “Well, if I'm that, it must be good!” and on and on. Great stuff. Then, he stepped into the ring and I was transported. My father watched the fights on Saturday nights. “We used to listen to boxing on the radio.” I just thought that was stupid, then, but I can understand how he could imagine it now. I've listened to many a summer baseball game on the radio and enjoyed the hell out of it.

This pretty much sums up their relationship.

The thing is, boxers are a really different breed of cat. They are probably the most accessible of athletes, and will talk your ear off given half a chance. They are also very, very smart. I've talked to Antonio Tarver, shortly after he took the title from Roy Jones, Jr., who at the time was my boy. But once knocked out, Roy was extremely easy to knock out from then on. It is almost axiomatic, that once a fighter has been downed, they develop that “glass jaw” and it pretty much stalls their career.

Like anything I'm fascinated with, I studied it carefully, but won't bore the daylights out of you with all the various minutiae I discovered. There's tons of it; stats, history, schools of fighting, blah, blah. Favorite fighters and favorite coaches. I met Angelo Dundee, a former trainer of Ali, who was working a fight in Tampa and he very graciously talked to me for a few minutes. He signed my “Heroes” book, along with Antonio Tarver and Mark Biro and several others. These people are amazing.

In researching this, I found out they've had 3 bouts together. Jones lost every one of them. Stop, Roy. Just stop.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the ring walks by the combatants. Probably the most memorable was the ring walk of the bout between Marco Antonio Barrera v. Prince Naseem Hamed. MAB is a CPA in Mexico City, with all the flash and panaché of a CPA. But damn! The man could box and he could hit and brawl and there was no quit in him.

Marco Antonio Barrera, staring at his shoes apparently; looking rather amused.

The Prince Naseem was some jumped-up Arabian guy from the U.K. who traded on his Arabian ancestry; he was like something out of "Scheherazade" or "1001 Arabian Nights." Every fight of his was bizarre, tingle-tangle orientalism. Dancing harem girls, camels, guys with scimitars. But, he had one every fight up until this night, due to the fact that he had the most non-traditional boxing style I had ever seen. He punched people backing up. He switched to south-paw in the middle of combinations. There's no denying that he could punch like a mule, he was just and elusive boxer. He decided to try and start his head games on ol' Marco with this entrance: 

This was on HBO and Larry Merchant became even more catatonic than usual when he saw this. Marco started laughing and shook his head, which is not a good sign for the Prince. This has got to be the most hilarious ring walk I have ever witnessed. And oh yeah, Marco beat down the Prince in the 4th round, when Naseem quit on the mat. It was his 1st loss, and he wasn't heard from again.

The broadcasters are something else again. I always listen carefully, because I know I'm going to hear some kind of shit that is hilarious. One night on HBO, Roy Jones, Jr., as color analyst, said “How do I know why this guy isn't up to his game? Maybe his eyelashes are tangled.” Roy was quickly replaced with George Foreman, he of the 8 children all named George. He was barely understandable, but funny as hell. I'm surprised he didn't try to sell his George Foreman grill. He was also the oldest man to hold a Heavyweight Belt. He didn't fight so much, as just lean into his opponent and slug him in the liver a couple of times a round. It must have been like hitting a tank.

I still think he was a little better than Larry “Prozac” Merchant. This guy could put a crack addict to sleep in about 2 sentences. “I... think... we... … can... safely... say... … that... Lennox... Lewis... … is … … one … … of …. the … … sport … … kings ….... is... the.... finest... exemplar... ever. Okay, is Lennox a horse? Are we talking about Polo? Horse racing? My God, what in the hell are we talking about? He gave a eulogy on the death of Princess Di and I think he's still giving it.

Larry Merchant. The drugs have either worn off, or are just kicking in. Anyway, what has been seen cannot be unseen.

Over at SHOtime, they had the notorious name-botcher (Ring Magazine's description, not mine, but apt) Dr. Ferdy Pacheco. The late Dr. Ferdy lived in Tampa, as did the late Angelo Dundee. Dr. Ferdy painted and he painted quite well. Too bad he wasn't so good with boxer's names. He was Muhammad Ali's doctor at one time as well. A nice man, but boy, the fighter Betthavean Scottland became “Beethoven Scott” or something close to it. He was usually in the ballpark, so no one ever complained.

There's a new batch of folks over at SHOtime, sort of. Brian Kenny, Al Bernstein, who's a retread and 2 other guys I never heard of before. Tonight I heard something that I just live for. Once upon a time, several years ago, on the old USA Tuesday Night Fights, a guy, last name of Clancy and Sean O'Grady were calling the fights. I can't remember who was fighting, but one of the fighters had on these hideous plaid trunks and they were truly hideous. Clancy just busted out with “Boy, he looks like he jumped through a couch!” Mirth and hilarity ensued.

O'Grady supposedly went to Medical School and then boxed. He was a much better color commentator than a fighter. I don't know about the doctorin'.

Tonight, we were watching a championship fight between Canelo v. Lopez and Canelo was just hammering on Lopez. Lopez was taking it with aplomb, hardly backing up. Up pops Al Bernstein, with this pithy observation: “I really like how Lopez is showcasing his composure.” WTF? Well, Canelo displayed awesome ring generalship, cutting Lopez off and keeping him in the corner. Canelo also threw several brilliant combinations. The fight was stopped in I-forget-what-round by referee Joe Cortez. A good fight and Canelo retained his belt.

Canelo, on the left, is from Guadalajara, but he has the map of Ireland on his face and can't speak a word of English. His record stands 43-0-1 after  this fight, on May 5th, 2013. Lopez is managed by Oscar de la Hoya's organization, GoldenBoy.

Canelo is scheduled to fight Floyd Mayweather, Jr., who is pretty tough and is trained by his uncle Roger in September. I do love the sport. Were I any younger, I'd train and spar. I might still, who knows. I've been fighting as an amateur for years. Maybe I need to step up and go pro.
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