Sound & Fury: The Amir Khan Caravan, Donaire Disappointed, The Klitschko Conundrum, Alexander-Bradley Waste Spittle, Vengeful Promoters & Why Websites Kowtow to Them

Khan v Malignaggi Preview

Nice to see that the road to superstardom Amir Khan is traveling on will be paved with gold flagstones for the foreseeable future. According to Boxing Scene, Richard Schaefer would like to put Khan in with a lightweight, Michael Katsidis, or an ancient former junior lightweight, Joel Casamayor. This is as predictable as rain in Seattle. The Khan Caravan will make stops only where the following tourist attractions can be found: A)fighters moving up in weight; B) fighters approaching their dotage; C)fighters who punch as hard as the average nanny; or, D)all of the above. Khan is a legitimate talent, so why the easy path?

Right now it looks like even a lightweight, Katsidis is a little too dangerous for the next boxing superstar, and creaky Joel Casamayor, pushing 40, will play the ritual sacrifice. Golden Boy Promotions will scour the earth to sign aging fighters to feed to their house gladiators. These mismatches are rubber stamped and bankrolled by HBO. Then, GBP plans are often legitimized by a clueless press that thinks a win over Jose Miguel Cotto or Nate Campbell or Juan Manuel Marquez at welterweight is something to glorify. This is an unbeatable economic model for boxing.

Meanwhile, Khan can deluge cyberspace, via Twitter, with claims of recently having challenged, without success, Tim Bradley, Marcos Maidana, Devon Alexander, and the ghost of John L. Sullivan.

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Nothing is funnier than reading bubbly “fight” accounts of Shannon Briggs. Between Briggs and the fawning fan pages that occasionally dribble forth platitudes about “journalism,” it gets awfully dicey trying to decide who is playing the nastiest joke. The Cruelest Sport, by the way, can not wait to read all the breathless previews and pronouncements about the forthcoming Khan-Casamayor fight sure to deluge the public. Since it is a GBP fight, you can be sure certain websites will insist on its competitive merits.

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A big promotional outfit, one whose existence has been contingent on heavy HBO subsidies, has gone after a website for posting live round-by-round updates of a recent pay-per-view fight no one wanted to see in the first place. It looks like media credentials, the holy grail to most of the boxing press, have been denied to this website and the pettiness of this move is not surprising given some of the personalities involved. Many boxing media outlets are driven by a desire for press row seats and so they always try to play nice-nice with fickle promoters. Unfortunately, some websites fall afoul of the powers that be, usually by accident, and they get put over the proverbial barrel. So, if you ever wonder why so many websites have nothing critical to say about anything other than the sanctioning bodies, or why 4 ½ to 1 underdogs are always given the chance at an upset, or why every bout is a “Fight of the Year,” or why much of what is posted on these sites is written by “Mr. Press Release,” now you know the answer. (Me, I only get press credentials once in a while, so I can call a steaming pile of excrement by its name without worry, or, more importantly, without care.)

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Nonito Donaire is slated to face Hernan Marquez on the undercard of the Juan Manuel Lopez-Bernabe Concepcion fight in Hato Rey, Puerto Rico. On the one hand, Donaire will appear somewhere other than a small pay-per-view show for the first time in a while. On the other hand, even Donaire is disappointed with his opponent. “I want to fight a guy,“ he told Boxing Scene, “who has a good name.” Marquez certainly does not fit that bill, and Donaire, who appears to be the kind of fighter who wants to make a name for himself among more than just hardcore fans, remains stuck in an inexplicable holding pattern. Ever since he scored his biggest win, over Vic Darchinyan in 2007, Donaire has been under the radar, and Top Rank has done little to bring his skill to public attention. It would be a shame if Donaire just rusts away fighting non-descript competition. His unhappiness, however, is apparent, and–with so many fighters out there happy to have their careers run on autopilot—somewhat refreshing.

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Vitali Klitschko pasted Albert Sosnowski for nine rounds before lowering the boom and scoring a TKO in the 10th last Saturday. It was a typical performance against a woeful foe, and not much can be deduced from it. Sosnowski came into the ring with a gameplan, showed heart, and landed a few stiff blows, which puts him light years ahead of a joker like Kevin Johnson, but it was only a matter of time before Sosnowski would be separated from his senses.

Still, thousands upon thousands attended the fight in Germany, and the criticism of the Klitschkos might have to be rethought at this point. Sure, Vitali Klitschko should have tried to make a splash by sending Sosnowski into a swan dive as soon as possible, but, obviously his fan base—as well as that of his brother, Wladimir—is not that interested in excitement. Yes, the Klitschkos are unbearably boring, but they are also huge drawing cards in Europe and generate tremendous television ratings. In the U.S. you can find just as many boring fighters who are on “P-4-P” lists and cannot draw enough fans to fill a magazine kiosk and earn fewer television viewers than late night re-runs of M*A*S*H*. For some reason, they are paid millions of dollars anyway, and are feted by HBO, whose quality control system, such as it is, goes haywire whenever Al Haymon or Richard Schaefer are in the building. At least the Klitschkos cash paychecks commensurate with their drawing power. Unlike most “stars” in the United States, there is nothing abstract about their appeal or success.

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Devon Alexander and Timothy Bradley have been woofing it up via cyberspace recently, with Kevin Cunningham, who trains/manages Alexander, chiming in for good measure on various websites, going so far as calling Bradley a coward. All of this back and forth gibberish is a great opportunity for forum ranters to improve their spelling, but so far as boxing economics goes, it is completely meaningless.

Surely Cunningham knows, after many years in the business, that fights are primarily made in boxing for the benefit of promoters, television networks, and bagmen, nominal “managers” whose real role is to be the beard during negotiations between a promoter and a network so that the promoter does not look like a manager and a network does not look like a promoter. (Yes, all very Teamsters Unionish, but backroom shenanigans in boxing are so ignored by the collective media that the powerbrokers in the game might as well just get rid of the bagmen.)

In this case, a potential Bradley-Alexander bout rests in the hands of HBO, Don King, Gary Shaw, and Thompson Boxing. At this point, the pie seems a little too small to share among so many hungry gourmands. Any kind of back and forth nastiness between boxers is purely for show and even then the hype aspect of it seems senseless, since nothing the principals do will draw more general interest in the fight than it will receive in the first place. There are a limited number of fans–despite all the “boxing renaissance” sloganeers running around–who will be attracted by a Bradley-Alexander fight, and any “general interest” spillover will be minimal.

Chastising Bradley for playing by the economic rules of modern boxing is silly, and calling Bradley a coward for fighting Luis Carlos Abregu makes no sense either. After all, Bradley was supposed to fight dangerous Marcos Maidana, but that fight was cancelled due to a back injury suffered by Maidana, who was immediately called a coward by Gary Shaw. (Everyone in boxing, it seems, is a coward these days.) Meanwhile, Alexander will mix it up next with the immortal Andriy Kotelnik, which means Team Alexander knows very well the little games that are played in boxing. If Alexander is offered, for example, $300,000 to fight Bradley, then surely Cunningham will turn it down. So why should Bradley jump at the chance to fight Alexander for a similar amount?

This is the business point of view of boxing, of course; fans would love to see Bradley and Alexander go at it regardless of the size of their respective paychecks. Maybe they will one day. Until then, both sides should do away with all this silly posturing, since it has little, if any, basis in reality, or at least what qualifies for reality in the parallel universe of boxing.

Tags: Al Haymon Albert Sosnowski AMIR KHAN Devon Alexander Don King Gary Shaw HBO Joel Casamayor Kevin Cunningham MARCOS MAIDANA Nonito Donaire Richard Schaefer Shannon Briggs Timothy Bradley WLADIMIR KLITSCHKO

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