Even though ‘I’ll Have Another’ dropped out of the Belmont, which meant that there would be no Triple Crown winner for the 35th consecutive year, the race was a great one with ‘Union Rags’ coming from behind to defeat ‘Paynter’ in a photo finish. LSU hit home runs in the bottom of three consecutive innings and survived an overnight rain delay to defeat Stony Brook in the first of their three game series. Stony Brook, a school that, frankly, I had never heard of (believe me I know them now) came back and won the second game setting up a winner take all matchup Sunday night to see who will advance to the College World Series. Love him or hate him, LeBron James put the Miami Heat on his back and played lights out ball to help the Heat advance to the NBA Finals and possibly helping James win his first NBA title,that has eluded him throughout his career. Many say that although James is an exceptional talent, his name will not be placed alongside the greats in basketball history (Magic, Jordan, Bird, etc.) until he gets that ring.
Well, those events were the best (so far anyway, I’m still awaiting LSU’s deciding game’s result tonight) of the weekend they weren’t quite ‘historic’ as I mentioned in the first sentence of my column. What made it ‘historic’ – at least in my eyes – is that this was the weekend that professional boxing officially ceased to be a significant sport.
It doesn’t seem that long ago that big-time boxing matches were among the most highly anticipated events in all of sports. Though younger people may find this hard to believe, but matches such as Leonard – Hearns, Holmes – Cooney (boy was he overrated) and Hagler – Hearns were as big as the Super Bowl. Possibly even bigger. Sports fans older than me, who recall bouts such as ‘Ali-Frazier I’, would surely agree.
When I was younger, my (and I’ve said this before) favorite athlete was Sugar Ray Leonard. I was nine-years-old when I watched him win the gold medal in the 1976 Olympics and he had a certain style, charisma and ‘nice-guy’ appearance that made him one of the most marketable athletes on Earth. Back in the late 70s-early 80s you could watch your favorite boxers on television without having to pay $59.99. I watched every one of Leonard’s fights from his professional debut up until when he won his first title in a bout against then-champion Wildredo Benitez on network television. Benitez, by the way, had a great career himself and is now in the boxing Hall of Fame.
Think that fight would ever have been ‘free for all to see’ these days? Not on your life.
I think I actually cried when Leonard lost his first fight in a classic bout against Roberto Duran. However, he won the rematch in New Orleans in a fight that will forever be remembered in boxing lore as the ‘no mas’ bout due to Duran quitting in the middle of the fight. Leonard refused to let rematch become a slugfest like the first fight and outboxed him so badly that an embarrassed Duran simply quit.
Marvin Hagler, Thomas Hearns, Mike Tyson, Julio Ceasar Chavez, Oscar de la Hoya were all superstar athletes who’s names were as big as any other athletes on the planet during their reigns.
Well it’s amazing what greed can do to a sport.
With the advent of cable television and those boxes that enable people to order movies and other events without even having to stand up, the people who control boxing have made it to where the only time you get to see matches with the sport’s biggest stars is by spending the aforementioned amount to order their fights – even if they are fighting much lesser opponents. And when I say ‘the sports’ biggest stars’ I am referring to two boxers - Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquaio.
Sure there are other great fighters out there but, simply put, we just don’t know about them. When a cable box is required to see any boxing match, the ‘up and coming’ boxers are basically names you’ve never heard of unless they have charismatic personalities that draw attention. Pacquaio and Mayweather are the only two boxers on the planet with such personalities. The heavyweight champion of the world (a title that once commanded worldwide respect and was held by legends such as Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano Frazier and, of course, Ali) is now a Russian named Klitsko who’s boring boxing style is matched only by his boring personality. And the sad thing is that he is the best the heavyweights have to offer these days.
However, as much as the sport has disappeared into the depths of the triple digit channels these days, people still yearn for that superfight. While there have been some classic fights in recent years - Ward-Gatti (if you want a treat go to YouTube and type in ‘Ward Gatti, first fight, round 9’) , Barrera-Morales, Marquez-Vasquez to name a few – how many of you had ever heard of any of these fighters until AFTER they fought an epic battle? Young fighters are simply not publicized as much as they used to be.
Well Saturday night was supposed to be a treat for me.
Manny Pacquaio was fighting a strong up and comer named Tim Bradley in a fight that I personally thought was risky for him. Bradley was an undefeated light welterweight champion and looked really good in all of the highlights I saw during the hype before last night’s bout. A loss may cost Pacquaio a fight against Floyd Mayweather which is really the only fight that any boxing fan wants to see these days.
However, my worries were quickly dismissed. It was obvious from the opening bell that Bradley, albeit a very talented young fighter, was simply not in Pacquaio’s league at this point in his career. Though he fought valiantly, Pacquaio landed over 100 more punches than he did, landed nearly twice as many power punches and was never hurt during the entire bout.
As soon as the bout ended, Bradley told Promoter Bob Arum (more on him in a second) that he ‘tried as hard as he could but just couldn’t beat the guy.’ Bradley’s trainer even said that he scored the bout ‘Eight rounds,Pacquaio – four rounds Bradley.’ And the fight wasn’t nearly even that close.
Well it seems that from now on, fighters shouldn’t admit defeat until they hear the official judge’s scorecard.
When Michael Buffer announced that it was a split decision I was walking out of the room when I simply froze.
“Man, I thought I wonder what fight one of the judges was watching?,” I said to my buddies who had come over for the fight.
“115-113 Pacquaio, 115-113 Bradley and 116-113 for the winner and NEW,” my jaw hit the ground before he even said Bradley’s name.
Boos poured down from the crowd. Famed boxing trainer Emanuel Steward immediately said that it was the worst decision he had ever seen in his many years. And it seems that not one other person at ringside – save the three judges – had Bradley winning more than three rounds. Bradley even had a somewhat embarrassed look on his face when he was lifted by his trainer and told Max Kellerman that he would ‘have to look at the tape to see if I won the fight.’
When’s the last time you’ve heard a fighter say that?
Why such a difference between what the fans saw and what the judges saw? Well that one’s easy. Promoter Bob Arum.
While, of course, I have no proof of this. I learned today that Pacquaio’s contract with Arum is about to be up and I think that Arum wanted to keep Pacquaio, his meal ticket, under his thumb for another six months – the rematch will probably be November 10 – and possibly be involved in the discussions with Mayweather about the only potential superfight that is out there. Even he said Saturday night in a statement that is only half true that ‘I’m going to make a lot of money for this next fight but I’m still disgusted by the decision.’
Well he won’t be getting my money this time. The fight was so one-sided that I already know what the outcome will be. Except this time I’m sure Pacquaio won’t leave it in the hands of Arum’s female dogs.
Another thing that not many may have noticed last night was that they paid tribute to recently deceased boxer Johnny Tapia who, at one time in his life, represented everything good that boxing stood for. His father was murdered when his mother was pregnant with him and his mother was raped and murdered in front of his eyes when he was eight-years-old. He was a mixed up kid who was getting into a lot of trouble when a boxing trainer noticed him and suggested he channel his anger in other, legal ways. He eventually became a three-time world champion and retired with 55 wins during his career. Unfortunately, he died at the age of 45 last week after some of the past demons in his life came back for him. Much in the same way some old demons (admittedly it never has been a sport where people follow rules) returned to the sport of boxing. In short, it was a travesty to honor the life of a past champion and then follow it up with a joke of a decision that Jim Lampley ‘called the worst I’ve seen during my 36 years here.’
Hopefully there will be some investigation into the scoring of Saturday’s judges. However, even if there is nothing will come out of it. With people like Arum and Don King having control of the sport, corruption is rampant and there is no governing body to oversee them. Thankfully, they are both getting pretty old and it won’t be too long before they meet their maker.
I have a feeling that both of those meetings will be short.