Sound & Fury: Berto-Ortiz & Pacquiao, GBP Strikes Again, Bradley-Alexander & More

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(Welcome to another edition of Sound & Fury, the boxing column that blackens eyes and skips clichés. This week TCS takes a look at how Golden Boy Promotions has started the New Year with the usual shenanigans, marvels at all the fine writing Evander Holyfield continues to inspire, checks in on the proposed Andre Berto-Victor Ortiz matchup and how it reflects on Manny Pacquiao, continues to be weary and leery of prospect mongering, and wonders why promoters rarely live up to their names.)

Despite all its vaunted corporate backing, Golden Boy Promotions continues to serve up leftover gruel in silver ladles on Telefutura. Why? Perhaps the answer can be found by comparing the license fees Telefutura paid Top Rank a few years ago with those currently being paid to Golden Boy Promotions. Still, putting Delray Raines into a main event against Erislandy Lara last Friday night is beneath even the usual wretched GBP standards. Not surprisingly to anyone who actually follows boxing—clearly not GBP matchmakers—Raines, who earned his nickname, “The Rainmaker,” because he fights like Burt Lancaster, was flattened in one round.

All boxers deserve respect, but Raines is neither a journeyman nor a clubfighter; he is an example of that peculiar boxing species known as the circuit fighter. By fighting local detox escapees and halfway house parolees in weak commission states, a circuit fighter builds up a record that looks good on paper but he usually lacks the skill of the average Toughman contestant. Dan Goosen and Mike Acri were aces at finding these sawgrass hoaxes, but Golden Boy Promotions is incapable of even finding a decent circuit fighter. What a surprise.

On a personal note, I have seen Raines fight twice in person and both times he was knocked out within two minutes of the opening bell. First, Buddy McGirt Jr. dry-gulched him at the Hammerstein Ballroom in 2007, and Ronald Hearns duplicated the feat at Boardwalk Hall last spring. It is no great stretch to say that Buddy McGirt, Sr. and Thomas Hearns would pull off the same trick if they came out of retirement today and fought Raines next week. If you book Raines for a televised main event, you are a rip-off artist or a sadist or an unholy combination of the two. If you watch a Raines fight and think it means something other than a cheap con, you deserve your own Twitter hash tag.

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Momentum, like snow-making machines in Siberia, barely exists in boxing and Dimitry Pirog is living proof of that. Pirog was the toast of the boxing township after he waylaid another tin-plate superstar, Danny Jacobs, in Las Vegas last July. But he has not stepped into the ring since. Recently, there has been talk about a fight to take place in Russia against popular TBA in March, nearly eight months after Pirog first burst onto the scene and created significant excitement. This happens to many contemporary fighters and one reason for these buzz-killers is simple: Big Time boxing in America means roughly 20 HBO cards, 12 Showtime cards, and a handful of major pay-per-views. With some HBO dates mystifyingly turned over to pet promoters like blank checks, the number of open market slots diminishes. In effect, there are fewer than 40 cards a year for fighters to vie for, the sum total of boxing in America.

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Edwin Rodriguez showed heart and determination in outpointing Aaron Pryor Jr. on Friday Night Fights despite suffering a shoulder injury, but the truth is he looked no worse with a reported torn rotator cuff than he did a few months ago against Buddy McGirt, Jr. Another in a seemingly endless series of blue chippers promoted by the prospect mongering squads out there, Rodriguez draws back his blows, has little balance, takes lots of flush shots, and has some of the poorest footwork imaginable for a projected superstar. McGirt Jr., who should be retired by his father, cannot move his head, feet, or waist, and throws punches like a man trying to get out of a silly string cocoon, but still managed to crack Rodriguez as often as he wanted to. Why a fighter cannot just be a fighter and go about his business without being a “future great” or a “hot prospect” or “P-4-P”#6 in the world is beyond the scope of this website.

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Although Andre Berto is consistently linked to fights that never come close to happening–or that he rejects outright for reasons only The Great Carnacki can understand–a proposed bout with Victor Ortiz almost makes sense, or for what passes as sense in boxing these days. Boxing happenings, like poker, are often situational. If you remove the fact that Berto is the most overpaid fighter in the history of boxing, and the fact that he is facing another junior welterweight, and the fact that no one wants to see him fight in the first place, and the fact that he has yet to make a mandatory defense of the paper title he won by thrashing a policeman over two years ago, and the fact he has sidestepped several other bouts recently, then this is not a bad matchup at all.

Ever since Marcos Maidana brought out the Crackleware in him, Ortiz, who had the phrase “Discretion is the Better Part of Valor” tattooed on his bicep in the summer of 2009, has been flitting around rings with a spooked look in his eye. Even so, this promises to be an interesting bout. Both fighters have the kind of flabbergasting tics that make you wonder how they have gotten as far as they have in the professional ranks. Ortiz likes to play trampoline artist on the perimeter, bouncing to and fro for minutes on end with nary a purpose in sight; Berto loves to stick his left arm out and make little circles in the air with it like a man washing a window shield. Neither man can fight on the inside, but Ortiz is a southpaw with some crack at 140 pounds, and Berto was previously rocked by two other portsiders, Luis Collazo and faded Carlos Quintana. So perhaps this fight will be one of the few matchups in boxing with an element of surprise attached to it.

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One of the interesting side notes to a potential Berto-Ortiz fight is how it reflects on some of the current boxing trends, most notably the rising backlash against Manny Pacquiao. Pacquiao has been excoriated for catchweight bouts, but here is yet another artificial fight put together for no reason other than the fact that neither fighter means much to anyone but HBO.

It has also been said that Andre Berto has no one to fight at welterweight. What they mean to say is that Andre Berto has no one to fight who will guarantee a major paycheck and a significant PR splash. You know, the same reasons Pacquiao is fighting Shane Mosley. Similarly, according to the “all-knowing” crew out there, neither Antonio Margarito nor Shane Mosley “deserved” to fight Pacquiao. But here is Ortiz, who has done nothing but pick up welfare checks from HBO for nearly a year and a half now, possibly being vaulted into a major headline bout. Is anyone going to cry out, with hot tears streaming down cheeks, that Ortiz does not deserve a big money fight? Another likelier question is: Does ragging on Victor Ortiz get you any penny clicks?

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The Tim Bradley-Devon Alexander bout, scheduled for January 29th, is getting a little more push from HBO than the “Heart and Soul of Boxing” usually gives to fights. Years ago, it was common to see giant posters on the sides of buildings, phone booths, and bus shelters in New York City promoting HBO fights. Roy Jones Jr., Lennox Lewis, Felix Trinidad, and Naseem Hamed all received this kind of publicity treatment in the past, but now it is usually just HBO advertising to its own subscriber base or doing the old banner ad on boxing websites. Boxing fans are already going to watch the fight, so why not target general sports fans somehow?

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Incredibly, Evander Holyfield continues to be the subject of long feature articles by many in the boxing media. No surprise given the lack of imagination out there, but none of these articles mention the fact that Sherman Williams was once suspected of participating in a fixed fight. But, hey, as long as they note that Holyfield is rated 16th by the IBO, things are ducky all over.

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Holyfield-Williams, by the way, seems to be better publicized than most of the fights involving big name promoters these days, who are really little more than booking agents who cannot even be bothered to print and distribute a dozen measly flyers.

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Chad Dawson has hired Emanuel Steward as his new trainer after throwing Eddie Mustafa Muhammad under the bus. The rumor mill says Steward was brought in specifically to develop a strategy for fighters who are not 10-15 years older than Dawson.

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Tags: ANDRE BERTO Buddy McGirt Jr. Delray Raines Devon Alexander Dimitry Pirog Edwin Rodriguez Evander Holyfield GOLDEN BOY PROMOTIONS HBO Manny Pacquiao Telefutura Timothy Bradley VICTOR ORTIZ

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