When Sky Sports passed on broadcasting the Amir Khan-Joel Casamayor mismatch because it conflicted with the World Cup, The Cruelest Sport became an instant soccer fan, despite the fact that the reason for skipping this mismatch is as bogus as most of what Kim Jong-Il says on North Korean television. After all, boxing in the U.K. did not cease during the last World Cup in 2006.
So instead of Khan-Casamayor, we might be treated to a confounding bout between Robert Guerrero and Casamayor. This is another Golden Boy mix n’ match special, something to dump on a pay-per-view simply because they have no idea what to do with some of their fighters and because they, too, like to play the “in-house” game. It would be easier to find a pair of kawekaweau than to get more than two or three relevant bouts per year from Golden Boy, whose insult-to-injury ratio is the highest in the business.
Last week Thomas Hauser reported that HBO paid a staggering $750,000 license fee for the rights to air the Victor Ortiz-Nate Campbell bout. Hauser speculates as to the reasons HBO overpaid for such a stinker, but one fact that stuck out is that the actual purse money totaled only $250,000. Golden Boy had to pay out $150,000 to Don King (for the services of Campbell) and roughly $125,000 to Bob Arum (for tampering with Ortiz, once a Top Rank fighter, a few years ago). Hauser is curious as to where the remaining $225,000 went. But there are a few other questions that come to mind stemming from this situation.
First, what can you say about a promotional firm that gets $750,000 for a bout and gives its fighters a combined $250,000? Also, more importantly, what can you say about a network that not only subsidizes a particular promotional outfit and offers it an exclusive output deal, but also, apparently, underwrites its errors and shenanigans? In essence, it appears that HBO has helped GBP pay its debts to Top Rank, incurred through unethical practices, and Don King. Finally, how interesting is it that GBP is so obsessed with re-building Victor Ortiz, via smoke and mirrors, of course, that it will actually pay the opponent more than the “A” fighter just to get a victim with a name?
Poor Carl Froch continues to insist that his Super Six bout against Arthur Abraham take place in either his foyer in Nottingham or at “The Ten Bells” pub in Spitalfields. Froch, whose confidence and motormouth are at least the equal of his contemporary woofers Tyson Fury and David Haye, seems positively petrified at the thought of fighting on the road again after losing a decision to Mikkel Kessler in Denmark last March. After the usual blather about not making excuses for his performance against Kessler, who resembled a store window mannequin against Andre Ward, Froch went on to blame an injury, the volcanic ash cloud over Europe, and the judges.
It is also interesting to see that his idea of “Europe” does not seem to extend past the United Kingdom. Hungary, France, Germany, and Switzerland have all been nixed by Froch. Even Monaco was shot down, presumably because Kessler lives there. Apparently, Abraham, Berlin by way of Armenia, will have the homecourt advantage anywhere on the continent. So Froch has cut the boxing world down to Nottingham, the United States, and Canada.
Outside of California, where a sizeable Armenian population resides, Froch-Abraham would be a complete box office disaster in America. It would do better in Montreal, no doubt, especially supported by an undercard that would feature a local attraction or two, say, David Lemieux or even Phil Lo Greco. Still, Froch would be leaving an awful lot of quid on the table by refusing to be a professional. This is fine and dandy for him, but what about Abraham? Should he have to have his purse adversely affected because Froch is not nearly as tough as he pretends to be? Right now, he resembles the boxing equivalent of Bartelby the Scrivener, constantly repeating “I prefer not to” whenever he is asked to fight Abraham.
HBO decided to pad its ratings of Cotto-Foreman by adding in replay totals of the bout into their figures. Fudging numbers is nothing new in boxing–managers, writers, promoters, judges, and athletic commissions do it all the time–but rarely does a network get the creative urge to cook the books publicly.
Aired from Yankee Stadium and accompanied by enough hype to inflate two Good Year blimps, Cotto-Foreman drew roughly 1.6 million live viewers. A solid number, no doubt, but nothing near the ratings hit of only nine months ago. According to Dan Rafael at ESPN, the Vitali-Klitschko-Chris Arreola was the highest rated fight broadcast on HBO last year. It generated a 4.8 rating and drew 2.1 million viewers (not adding replay numbers), 500,000 more viewers than Cotto-Foreman. (It almost seems unfair to mention that 10 years ago the average rating of Boxing After Dark was nearly twice as much as Cotto-Foreman). The question here is simple: where were the headlines when Chad Dawson drew fewer than 800,000 viewers for his ballroom dance with Antonio Tarver a few months ago? And why does the fight press insist on pretending these are halcyon days for boxing? Unlike their earlier counterparts—newspapermen—who routinely took kickbacks and often double-crossed the spender, contemporary media members, with rare exceptions, are too dull and unimaginative to even ask for bribes for endorsements. They do it out of sheer cretinism.
Surely no one with any sense still gushes over “Fight Night Club” and “Solo Boxeo,” unimaginably poor fare that resembles boxing as often as an episode of “Toddlers and Tiaras” does. Still, the breathless headlines continue unabated. Nothing, it seems, makes some people happier than watching one-sided squash matches week in and week out. This, apparently, is part of being on the “Boxing Renaissance” bandwagon.
Nor does it make any sense to pretend that Miguel Cotto drawing perhaps 1,000 more fans to Yankee Stadium than he usually does in Madison Square Garden is some kind of accomplishment. But, hey, if it makes you feel better, by all means, use your illusions.
For some reason, despite the fact that he has no fights lined up, Andre Berto is everywhere these days. The subject of two recent profiles, Berto is the poster child for the contemporary boxer: overpaid, undermatched, and wildly hyped despite the fact that his minor celebrity status is not reflected in either box office receipts or television ratings. Someday he might actually win a fight worth talking about, but for now Berto continues to be a star without any sparkle. Outside the ring, Berto has made news for aiding victims of the Haitian earthquake, for his philanthropic nature, for a running feud with Chad Ochocinco, for challenging 50 Cent to a boxing match, and for poorly thought out Tweets. But what about inside the ring, where, presumably, it counts most? Other than Luis Collazo and a worn out Carlos Quintana, Berto remains as unaccomplished as he did the day he won his paper title by steamrolling a policeman nicknamed Miki.
As for the big names popping out of his mouth lately, real ones for a change, not those of football players or rappers, the truth is it will be all but impossible for those fights to happen. Berto, who was paid over a million dollars to fight Carlos Quintana on HBO (in a bout that drew fewer than 4,000 fans in his home state and fewer than 1 million viewers on HBO) is outpriced for any significant bout other than one against Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather Jr. There is no way he will accept $1.5 million, for example, to fight Paul Williams, Shane Mosley, or Miguel Cotto, simply because he has earned a similar amount to fight junior welterweights. Unless HBO comes up with the kind of money that will keep him in Movados for the next ten years, then Berto will continue sauntering up and down Easy Street, natty vest on and Kangol atilt at a rakish angle. When his promoter, Lou DiBella, recently kvetched to Dan Rafael about HBO programming it brought up an ironic twist. “What I find more annoying” DiBella said, “is that guys who are more judicious with the guys they’ll fight–they say, ‘I won’t fight him, it’s a bad matchup for me”–are on HBO.” No one fits that bill more these days than Andre Berto, and DiBella should realize that not all of his fighters are going to get free passes at Time Warner.
In some ways, Berto is the Paris Hilton of boxing, a pop star notable for everything but for what, ostensibly, he does. Fashionista, yes; charitable, yes; personable; yes. But when will Berto actually match his press clippings with a couple of decent wins?