“Top Rank Live” has apparently decided to go into the same business—procuring anatomical specimens—as Solo Boxeo and Fight Night Club. Last week, Zanfer Promotions dug up Eddy Zuniga, 7-5, to face bruising junior flyweight titleholder Giovanni Segura and called the farce a main event. This pathetic mismatch was a headline bout in the same way www.theboxingtribulation.com calls what it does “writing.” The result was a predictable first-round KO. Tomorrow night we get to see Mike Jones pull the arms and legs off of Raul Munoz, a Topeka circuit fighter who has not beaten an opponent with a winning record since his pro debut in 1995. This is a fight no one with any kind of conscience or taste ought to be supporting, and no commission-least of all the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission—should allow it to take place. Unless Jones decides to carry Muniz, this is another first or second round blowout waiting to happen. Golden Boy Promotions, whose chief carnecero, Eric “MakeAGore” Gomez, seems almost congenitally incapable of making a competitive matchup on anything other than a premium network, joins the fun by airing powerpunching James Kirkland against hapless Dennis Sharpe tonight on Telefutura. Somebody bring a Catherine Wheel into the ring. Sharpe, 17-7-4 has been featured on TCS before: Wizards of Gore: TV Boxing That Drips Blood!
No matter what promises a promoter makes when a new television deal is signed, in the end, these shows always wind up being worthy of CSI treatment.
Bob Arum recently mentioned Jones as a possible future victim for Manny Pacquiao. This is a relatively cheap way to earn publicity for Jones, whose anonymity outside of Philadelphia is palpable. Arum knows that in a climate where even the most picayune occurrence gets as much attention as the Warren Commission Report did in 1964, linking Jones with Pacquiao is free internet PR, and Jones has probably added a few viewers to his cynical exhibition tomorrow night. But, no, Jones is unlikely to be facing Pacquiao any time soon.
According to some sources, over 30 million households in Mexico watched Saul Alvarez take apart veteran Ryan Rhodes on Saturday night. This is nothing short of astonishing and Alvarez is a cultural phenomenon whose moneymaking magic almost ensures selective matchmaking in the future. But this is how boxing works—bona fide attractions get some leeway in their choice of opponents.
Even so, Alvarez looked impressive in scoring a 12th-round TKO over Rhodes. Referee Hector “Snafu” Afu intervened when he saw the Rhodes corner preparing to lob the white towel of surrender into the ring. Alvarez, who led from wire to wire, completely shut Rhodes down, and the veteran Yorkshireman was simply at a loss as to how to deal with the nifty moves in front of him. Alvarez does a lot of things many fighters no longer bother doing: he feints regularly, tosses decoy shots, and creates openings by throwing almost exclusively in combination. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., to whom Alvarez is often compared, is light years behind Alvarez technically, and Bob Arum is simply talking out of the corner of his mouth when he says he would match Chavez with Alvarez right away, if possible. Thankfully for Chavez, “if possible” is boxing speak for “are you fucking kidding me?”
It looks like Sergio Martinez will be taking on Darren Barker in October, with promoter Lou DiBella swearing that the fight will happen with or without HBO. That sounds like Showtime talk. If not, then it would be the hollowest threat uttered since Saddam Hussein promised the “mother of all battles” after invading Kuwait. Like his new cohort Gary Shaw, DiBella is little more than a booking agent for HBO, and his resources are as limited as the vocabulary of boxingtribulation.com. Martinez is not going to fight on HD Net, Lou, and Epix is not going to be shelling out enough of a fee worth skimming off the top from in exchange for you making the sure the ring has four posts. Keep letting HBO yank hard on the leash. The latest news seems to be that HBO has approved Barker. DiBella no doubt heaved a sigh of relief when he realized he would not be called on his bluff—the threat of actually being a promoter.
Shaw and DiBella, who recently figured out that Puerto Ricans like boxing, teamed up a couple of weeks ago, like Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder, to showcase a slew of Puerto Rican “prospects” at the Roseland Ballroom in New York City, and hardly anyone, Puerto Rican or otherwise, gave a damn. If you removed industry types, entourages, janitors, security guards, and those blessed with press credentials, Roseland would have been practically empty two nights in a row. Even in the 1990s, when Madison Square Garden Boxing was scheduling one human sacrifice after another, the Felt Forum averaged around 2,000 fans per show on a monthly basis. DiBella and Shaw were lucky if they got half that combined for both of his Roseland shows.
But DiBella has never worried about crowds or the quality fights that might attract them. His “Broadway Boxing” series, which introduced The Cruelest Sport to the sight of pugs entering the ring draped by Spider Man beach towels, has never been more than a boxing Body Farm, and that same mentality follows DiBella, whose undercards rank with apartment wrestling for quality, no matter who he plays booking agent for—HBO, Showtime, ESPN, you name it. To make matters worse, DiBella is always ready to whine about the status quo in boxing, so long as he is not the beneficiary of it. In the meantime, this two-headed coin cannot be bothered to print a flyer for one of his shows, whose odd reputation has been built by cyber-shills looking for press passes and by writers who apparently attended their first live fight in 2008.
The HBO tripleheader airing tomorrow night is a grab bag of mediocrity. In the main event, Devon Alexander gets rewarded for playing pattycake and footsie (often simultaneously) with Tim Bradley last January in an Ambien unification bout. Naturally, he receives a $1 million purse and a headline slot against Lucas Matthysse in a “comeback” fight, one ripe for the usual “redemption” headlines. For his part, Matthysse seems to have impressed everyone with a punching style modeled, apparently, on that of a man playing table hockey.
Tavoris Cloud, who actually deserves exposure because of his bruising style, gets to abuse Yusaf Mack, last seen waltzing 12 dreary rounds with Otis Griffin. Before that, Mack played stuntman for Glen Johnson, getting bounced around the ring from one side to the other and once again blaming a KO loss on some sort of malaise. Mack has talent, but these days he is merely a retread, and a frail one at that.
Incredibly, the third bout features Ray Austin, exactly what consumers who pay monthly subscriptions want from a premium channel. The only way Ray Austin belongs on HBO is if he is handling the spit bucket for one of the fighters. Otherwise, his presence on any “Heart and Soul of Boxing” telecast is a cruel joke, no matter who his opponent is.
As a public service, TCS would like to remind everyone of some of the names that have appeared on HBO over the last six months and possibly in the future: Matthew Hatton, Sergei Dzinziruk, Paul McCloskey, Peter Manfredo, Akifumi Shimoda, Ryan Rhodes, Freddy Hernandez, Jesus Soto-Karass, Ray Austin, Lucas Matthysse, Bryan Vera, Yusaf Mack, Darren Barker, and Bermane Stiverne. On the one hand, it is no small thing for fighters to get paydays and exposure; few boxers make enough money to justify the hard work they put into even becoming journeymen. On the other hand, many of these boxers are simply not world-class, and many of them will never be more than one-shot steppingstones for HBO prodigal sons.
With a single, blistering right hand, Adrien Broner went from the media doghouse to the HBO penthouse. When Broner ambushed Jason Litzau in less than a round, he went a long way toward erasing the memory of his infernal tango against Daniel Ponce De Leon last March. His Gorgeous George routine will no doubt raise the hackles of many purists out there, but if Broner can keep scrambling neurons, he ought to be able to get away with it. Litzau, admittedly, is the easily scrambled type, but scoring vicious KOs against overmatched competition is a prerequisite to getting big fights and drawing a following. At least, theoretically.