image: critica

10 & Counting: Linares, Pavlik, Kirkland-Molina Afterthoughts, Harry Crews & The Knockout Artist, Bell-Ringing Blues

****

Unheralded Sergio Thompson threw a rubber chicken into a bowl of Golden Boy Wagyu soup on Saturday night when he stopped Jorge Linares via TKO in two at the Oasis Hotel Complex in Cancun. Linares was floored after a barrage of spastic blows in the second, but it was a ragged cut above his left eye that halted the bout. After administering the mandatory eight, referee Bill Clancy escorted a bloody Linares, 31-3, to the ringside physician. When Dr. Manuel Jesús Paredes Zugy showed Clancy his nifty red card, the referee seemed flummoxed. Seeing his gesture lost in translation, Dr. Paredes dramatically waved off the fight himself and immediately descended the ring steps without bothering to tend to the wound that so concerned him.

Thompson, who built his 22-2 record mostly as a featherweight and a junior lightweight, is primitive, but Linares did not look like he expected much resistance in Cancun. Who does? Linares, who has now been stopped three times in his career, is just too brittle to be a topnotch fighter. Incredibly, after years of hype and media mooning, his only solid win remains a lopsided decision over faded Oscar Larios in 2007. This is what budding legends are made of these days.

****

Backwoods Gothicist Harry Crews, author of seventeen bizarre novels, is dead. Crews, who was 76, tried his hand at just about anything from the late 1950s to the 1960s—including boxing. In fact, he once wrote an outrageous novel about the sickly science. Published in 1987, The Knockout Artist is outlandish, offbeat, perverse–and as close as you can possibly get to the grotesque bottom dogs world of prizefighting. When Eugene Talmadge Biggs realizes his only gift is knocking himself out—a metaphor for the self-destructive nature of man—he performs his pathetic novelty act on the underground circuit of the Big Easy, which Dante might have included as an extra circle of hell for his Inferno. Along the way, Biggs gets caught up in a sleazy underworld of drugs, sex, and madness. The Knockout Artist almost never makes it onto one of those ubiquitous boxing book lists compiled by folks whose limited reading—of any kind, apparently—manifests itself repeatedly in sidewalk chalk prose and Repetitive Cliché Syndrome (RCS). That should be enough of a recommendation for The Knockout Artist.

****

Kelly Pavlik gets to bask in the glow of “REDEMPTION” headlines—at least for a little while—after annihilating hapless Aaron Jaco in San Antonio on Saturday night in two farcical rounds. With only one start in five years going into this fight, Jaco was well-unprepared for his role as a crash test dummy. In fact, “Jedi” looked like he was ready to break open a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon before the first bell. Not even a lightsaber was going to help him against Pavlik. A knockdown in the first, a knockdown in the second—both produced by left hooks—and a shambolic demeanor in general forced referee Jon Schorle to stop the fight before something tragic happened. No matter what anyone says, bowling over an inactive circuit fighter proves nothing about Pavlik (and his slew of new tattoos), Oxnard, or Robert Garcia. Pavlik improves to 38-2. Jaco, with 18 fights in a decade, is now 15-3.

****

Now that the entire James Kirkland-Carlos Molina brouhaha has settled down—we will all just have to wait until the next episode of mass indignation comes around—it may pay to look back on it from a bit of a distance. One of the most interesting aspects of the “Houston Horrorshow” was how confused people were about the whole situation and how confusing some of the outraged reports about it were. You have to wonder if the people who “write” fight reports actually watch what they hunt-and-peck about. Boxing.com stated that the bell rang at the count of six. Kevin Iole said the count started after Molina hit the canvas. Others consulted the ABC regulations without knowing what they were watching on television. Some conflated the Texas rules with those of the ABC despite the fact that the fight took place under the auspices of the ABC, as WBC supervisor Craig Hubble told Steve Kim last week. One blogger even wrote that the timekeeper rang the bell prematurely. Then a press release from Team Molina—remember, a crew not smart enough to stay out of the ring while the referee was administering a count—got some traction, the way grainy videos of Sasquatch sometimes do. You may as well have consulted a grimoire to make sense of the whole mess—it would have been more accurate than what was reported in the immediate aftermath of the fight.

As is evident to anyone who actually watched the bout, the bell ending the 10th round rang a split-second before Molina hit the canvas. Now, a timekeeper is not going to wait to see what happens after an exchange between two fighters, and if the round is as close to an end as it was in Kirkland-Molina, then the timekeeper will be looking at the clock, not the fight. But why get in the way of excoriating Texas and heaping scorn on a referee?

Until March 24, Jon Schorle was a middle-of-the road official, not Kenny Bayless, of course, but not Joe Cortez or Randy Phillips either. He did a poor job throughout officiating Kirkland-Molina, but usually his biggest flaws are a tendency to let fights go on too long and a permissive attitude. His only mistake during the entire “Houston Horrorshow” sequence was sending Kirkland to the wrong corner. His hesitancy in making the disqualification call might be construed as wishy-washiness or it might have been the action of an official who was deliberating over a tough choice. Schorle did not have to disqualify Molina—although you would be hard pressed to find a referee other than (retired) Richard Steele willing to overlook cornermen entering the ring during the action—but he did. Joe Cooper was derided for enforcing the rules when Amir Khan tried to shove his way past Lamont Peterson last December; Schorle, by contrast, was castigated for not enforcing the rules until, well, until he decided to do so–and then he was castigated all over again.

In the end, Texas had nothing to do with what happened during the final seconds of the fight. After all, Lou Askenette precipitated the entire mess by entering the ring while the referee way laying a count on a fighter. But nothing, it seems, can stop a valuable meme from perpetuating. No doubt the irony of bungling writers pointing out the incompetence of referees, judges, commissions, fighters, promoters, managers, and trainers is lost on watchdogs all over cyberspace. Now that is a travesty.

****

As for the fight itself, it was a fairly dull affair, with Molina getting the best of Kirkland any and every way possible. Portrayed as some poor boxing pariah by the blognoscenti, Molina proved that he had earned his anonymity with a nettlesome style calculated to put all but the most “knowing” to sleep. Even Schorle seemed mesmerized by the array of armbars, headlocks, and bear hugs Molina produced, like some mad contortionist on amphetamines.

At times, Molina would actually duck his head and charge just to wrap his arms around Kirkland. Watching Molina fight is like paying for an opera and seeing the curtains open on a bunch of Swiss Yodelers. Head butts, elbows, and shoulder butts were also part of the show. Give him credit for getting away with whatever he could get away with—the First Commandment of boxing—but Molina is the latest in a line of seemingly endless junk artists taking up plumb spots on HBO and Showtime. If Molina had any power at all—and he cannot generate much oomph when all of his limbs are moving in opposite directions simultaneously—Kirkland would have been stopped. But Molina not only has the style of a spoiler, he has the temperament of one as well. Several times he halted his own momentum just to do something, err, crafty, or savvy, or creative. When Molina felt like opening up, however, he landed flush shots repeatedly. A rematch is unlikely considering how bad Kirkland looked and how dreary the fight was until the final moments. What Golden Boy Promotions needs to do is get Kirkland the biggest fight possible as soon as possible, before he gets knocked off by another B opponent.

****

Over the years, there have been several notable incidents involving the bell in boxing. 1930s heavyweight contender Nathan Mann, for example, was once saved by the bell when his manager, Dutch Schultz associate Marty Krompier, rushed the ringside table and rang it himself to save Mann from being knocked out.

Less than two weeks ago, Enzo Maccarinelli—dropped and in trouble during the opening round against Shane McPhilbin—found his deus ex machina in the form of a bell that rang 47 seconds early. Maccarinelli went on to recover and win a decision. The British Boxing Board of Control subsequently suspended timekeeper Martin Fallon and ordered a rematch.

In 1984, Gerrie Coetzee was knocked out well after the three-minute mark in a title defense against Greg Page when a confused timekeeper (maybe a future media member?) simply forgot to attend to his business. Nearly four minutes elapsed in the 8th before a weary Coetzee was finally pole-axed by a left hook.

One of the strangest stories, however, has to be the time “Caveman” Bob Moha faced off against Billy Papke in 1911 in a dreadful bout. “After about two minutes of the final round elapsed,” wrote Pete Ehrmann in The Ring, “members of the audience climbed on their chairs and perversely started chanting, “Don’t ring the bell! Don’t ring the bell!” Siding with them, timekeeper Billy LeClair deserted his ringside post, and over seven minutes passed before somebody gonged the sorry mess to a close.” Maybe Schorle had the right idea after all.

****

A few days ago The New York Times had an interesting article concerning grunting in tennis and how the WTA plans to combat it in the future. And with Monica Seles long retired! From The Times: “The effort “stemmed from an increase in negative fan reaction to excessive grunting and an increase in media coverage, and we made a determination that the landscape had changed, and we owed it to the fans to take a look at it,” said Andrew Walker, a spokesman for the tour.” With Antoine Smith, Anthony Peterson, and Devon Alexander shrieking, grunting, and barking their way through fights, maybe the WTA can forward their recommendations to the Association of Boxing Commissions. Certainly an anti-yelping statute would be a welcome improvement for boxing. Of course, it would have to be enforced just as rigorously as other rules in boxing are–like excessive holding and shoving, for example.

****

Consider donating to The Cruelest Sport. For less than the price of a Frappuccino, you can help TCS remain a counterbalance to the bogus, banal, sub-literate Bow-tie School of boxing bloggers.

****

Follow The Cruelest Sport on Twitter & Facebook and follow the only boxing website with its own Theme Song!

Tags: Carlos Molina Dutch Schultz Enzo Maccarenelli JAMES KIRKLAND Jon Schorle Jorge Linares KELLY PAVLIK Nathan Mann Sergio Thompson

comments powered by Disqus