(Welcome to another edition of Sound & Fury, the boxing column that blackens eyes and skips cliches. This week marvel at tales of the mysterious Salvador Sanchez II and the equally mysterious Andre Berto. Also, looking at the near futures of Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and John Duddy, coming to grips with the frustration of the Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather Jr. dithering sessions, and one or two things about lies and liars in boxing.)
God bless Tomas Villa, but the man gives the term “lead with his chin” a whole new dimension. Heart, desire, toughness, Villa has all of that, but skill? Eh. There was an unmistakable air of slapstick hanging over his bout with Salvador Sanchez II on the Chavez Jr.-Duddy undercard. Sanchez II entered the ring wearing the same trunks and shoes his uncle wore in the early 1980s and rocked a bouffant that brought to mind Sassoon jeans, The Love Boat, Pony sneakers, Atari, Mello Yello, and The Beastmaster. According to the announcing crew covering the fight, Sanchez II also wears early 80s duds outside the ring. Whether this is some new form of dissociative disorder ready for inclusion in the next DSM-IV manual is unknown, but Sanchez II is a curious fellow, to say the least. As he bounced around the ring against Villa, his wild mane looked like a nest of writhing snakes ala Medusa, and his Institutional Green trunks looked like they might attract flies in the Alamodome. Villa chased Sanchez II around the ring the way a Keystone Cop hoofed after silent movie villains, cuffed him with derision, took flush shots throughout, and survived a shaky 10th round to earn a lopsided decision. He managed all this without balance, without a jab, and with his hands usually by his kneecaps. Not much of a prizefight, but lots of fun nonetheless. Unfortunately, by losing, Sanchez II deprived less imaginative press members something to write about in comparing II, ridiculously, to his uncle.
Marcos Maidana claims that the nasty cyber-trash spewed forth about him by Luis Carlos Abregu was actually invented by Gary Shaw. None of it is true, Maidana claims Abregu told him via phone. Everyone—check that, some—people know that quotes from boxers are usually scripted by publicists (this is why some fighters sound like William Jennings Bryan on the internet and Louie Spicolli crossed with Soulja Boy in person), but rarely do you see speeches concocted without the fighter knowing.
But why be surprised? After all, boxing is 85% fiction to begin with. Fourth-rate “journalists” lie, attendance figures are cooked, matchmakers fib, managers dissemble, promoters are nearly pathological about falsehoods, television announcers call any punch below the chin a shot to the solar plexus, and boxers lie during fights all the time. Even The Ring has a phony columnist, whose nom de plume, Jim Bagg, might have been thought up by a grade schooler.
When you see a 25-0 fighter go up against a 16-11-2 mountebank with drooping eyelids, two cauliflower ears, and a missing nostril on Fox Sports and the lights are flashing, and the music is loud, and the commentators are breathless, and the ring announcer bellows, and the TV graphics are so Matrix-like you get instant vertigo, and the match is billed for the “Sub-Saharan Light Heavyweight Title” even though one guy is from San Fernando and the other guy is from Dubuque—what the fuck do you call that?
Now that Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. earned a nice win over John Duddy in an exciting fight, there is the possibility of him being overrated by the same bozos who underrated him in the first place. Right now, Chavez Jr. is not top 10 material, but if he dedicates himself to learning and working hard, Chavez Jr. might make some noise and post a surprising win or two.
Freddie Roach will have to work hard on weaknesses that are guaranteed to get Chavez Jr. in trouble at a higher level. Among his flaws are a tendency to lean in on the inside, keeping his feet parallel in close, forgetting to use his jab, and a susceptibility to right hands. Chavez Jr. also tends to coast occasionally, and a fighter with more skill than Duddy is sure to take advantage of that.
Criticism of Chavez Jr. was farfetched in the first place. These critics are hypnotized by the HBO imprimatur and anything that falls out of that purview is not “boxing” to them. Had Chavez Jr. beaten a slew of Pro Bowlers Tour participants on HBO, like Andre Berto or Cris Arreola have, then, of course, an exclamation point would follow his name in print for the rest of his life.
Here is how The Cruelest Sport assessed Chavez Jr. last summer:
Because of his limitations, most Chavez Jr. fights are entertaining to watch, but he seems to have reached his peak as a boxer and is unlikely to reach elite status despite his gaudy 40-0-1 record. Unlike other make believe fighters, however, Chavez, 23, draws crowds, offers excitement, and, when he bothers to get into shape, fights regularly. Criticism should be reserved since his bouts are on an exclusively supply-and-demand basis, a concept apparently foreign to the bigwigs at HBO. His quality of opposition, despite internet cheerleading, is really no worse than those of plastic superstars Victor Ortiz and Alfredo Angulo and, more importantly, his paychecks are commensurate with his outings.
Here are some of the immortal names coming soon to HBO, “The Heart and Soul” of boxing: Luis Carlos Abregu, Andriy Kotelnik, and Joachime Alcine. Just saying….
As for Duddy, Bob Arum announced that he wanted the popular Irishman and Yuri Foreman to go at it in Madison Square Garden after Foreman recovers from knee surgery. This would be a good local attraction and a decent fight. After all, both fighters made names for themselves by showing uncommon bravery in losing efforts. In addition, Duddy is so easy to hit that Foreman might become emboldened and try working his fists into the equation along with his feet. In that case, the bout would turn into an old-fashioned boxer-slugger match with a crowd split by partisan considerations. Arum claimed that Foreman-Duddy would sell out the Garden, but 10,000 is a likelier figure. Not that it matters, since the crowd will be fattened with comp tickets and thousands of phantom spectators.
That attendance figures in boxing are often fudged is no secret, but that they are as badly fudged as pointed out two weeks ago by Bill King of the Sports Business Journal is nothing short of astonishing. Even the “Rah-Rah Boxing Renaissance Crew” cannot smugly brush aside the fact that Andre Berto and Vic Darchynian both drew fewer than 1,000 fans to recent title fights. The Berto case is worse than it appears since his fight took place in his home state and a portion of the ticket proceeds were to go to aid Haitian earthquake victims. Not even charitable causes will bring folks out to see Berto. In New York City more people gather around a street musician playing a didgeridoo than go see Andre Berto fight.
What do these phony attendance figures mean? First, obviously, that not many people are interested in seeing the fake stars of track and field capering; and, second, the paychecks for some of these fighters are outrageously skewed. Not only, for example, does Berto leave arenas emptier than Centralia, but he also drew fewer than a million viewers on HBO for his bout against Carlos Quintana. So where does the pay scale come from for fighters nobody wants to see? Next time anyone comes across Ross Greenburg, frisk him to see if he carries a Magic 8-Ball around with him at all times.
If ever anything fit the definition of FUBAR, it has to be the Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather “negotiations.” Quotes are used here because two weeks ago Leonard Ellerbe told David Mayo of the Grand Rapids Press that there were no negotiations. More tiresome than anything, however, is how everyone on earth seems to be “in the know” about what may or may not be transpiring. This non-story has become a sideshow act with all of motherless boxing weighing in on a tedious affair. (Thankfully, every now and then someone beats up Michael Koncz just to make things interesting.) Not since the Camp David peace talks has so much attention been paid to people dissembling around a conference table.
In this 15 minutes of fame era, when everyone has the self-esteem and self-importance of Napoleon or Paris Hilton, even bodyguards get to chime in about the negotiations. So who will be the next expert to be interviewed about the Pacquiao-Mayweather mess? 50 Cent? The official Manny Pacquiao car washer?
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Topics: ANDRE BERTO, Bill King, Bob Arum, Centralia, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Freddie Roach, HBO, John Duddy, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., Luis Carlos Abregu, Manny Pacquiao, MARCOS MAIDANA, Pony, Salvador Sanchez II, The Beast Master, TOMAS VILLA