Now I'm not the one to go
all Dan Rafael or “Harry Hardcore” every time a sanctioning organization makes
what amounts to a business deal for its own self-interest. For all the faults
of these alphabet groups (and there are many), there are bigger, more pressing
issues that plague this business. The reason why some keep battering them is
because they are easy targets and it's become cliché. Want to look like a real
muckraker? Rip Jose Sulaiman. Yeah, that'll make you look like a regular Red
Smith but if you've read me in the past, I happen to believe in the current
marketplace- where the elite top-shelf fighters only perform about two or three
times a year- having just one “true” champion wouldn't be realistic and having
multiple titles is beneficial to the fighters who sacrifice so much to try and
make a living in this sport. Folks, I trust that you can make up your own mind
as to who is the best in each division. You shouldn't need Nat Fleischer to
tell you that.
Eventually, if a particular
fight is big enough or has enough public demand- those unification bouts will
Say what you want; while some
insist the belts are either “meaningless” or “worthless,” they are anything
but. The bottom line is that boxers strive for them. They make more money once
they have them and networks - no matter what HBO, Max Kellerman and the like
try to claim- absolutely want them on their airwaves. There's a reason why an
overwhelming majority (almost all of them except those who can lean on network
deals) never, ever vacate them. While these belts may come from corrupt
federations, they certainly hold value within the business. You may not like it
but as RUN-DMC once famously said, it's like that and that's the way it is.
Then again, I was taken
aback when it was announced that the WBC had named Tim Bradley a
“champion-in-recess” and was going to sanction a bout between their old
stalwart Erik Morales and Jorge Barrios for the vacant title on September 17th in Las Vegas, as part of the Victor Ortiz-Floyd Mayweather pay-per-view bill.
Here's where this doesn't pass the smell test: Bradley, who was last seen
winning this belt against Devon Alexander back in late January (to unify the
WBC and WBO titles), had recently turned down an opportunity to further
consolidate the division by passing on an opportunity to face WBA titlist Amir
Khan on July 23rd. Khan eventually took down IBF beltholder Zab
Judah. While some were in hysterics that Bradley could turn down the most
lucrative package of his career, he did not break any WBC regulations and he
was not in a position where a mandatory was due. In fact, the WBC has a
eliminator scheduled between number two-ranked Ajose Olusegun and number six
Ali Chebah (and the 40 thieves) for September 30th.
Perhaps you can make an argument
that Bradley is indeed “in-recess” or at least a hiatus, as he battles his TV
packager Gary Shaw and Ken Thompson but what is head-scratching is the decision
to sanction Morales-Barrios. It seems that this is nothing more than a
tried-and-true ploy from Golden Boy to help push their “Star Power”
pay-per-view card, which takes place on the weekend of the Mexican
Independence, to basically gift Morales a title in a fourth weight class. This
distinction has been so elusive for all the past Mexican greats and seemingly, this
hook is being used to push sales of this particular show. So you can just hear
the pitch now: “Not only do we have the pound-for-pound best (Mayweather)
facing a young and hungry fighter (Ortiz), we have Mexican matinee idol (Saul
Alvarez) facing a former “Contender” (Alfonso Gomez) and now, to top it off,
history will be made with “El Terrible.”
Everybody in the sport does
this- and will continue to foist this on a gullible public who just might not know
any better. Yes, it's shameful that the WBC has done this to Bradley and
perhaps whatever shaky tradition and honor the sport has but they are only
co-conspirators here. Golden Boy Promotions is also in on this subterfuge and
is benefiting in every way. Do you remember when this was a nascent, young
company and how Oscar De La Hoya would state to anyone who would listen that
they would do things differently- unlike Don King’s and Bob Arum’s evil
empires- and that they wouldn’t play these games with the sanctioning bodies
and resort to such machinations?
Well, that's exactly what
Golden Boy is doing now. They aren't just pandering to the WBC; they are
participating with them. Guess what? I get it; it's all part of the price of
doing business in the boxing industry but it's time they come clean.
In talking to Golden Boy
Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer about this on Friday afternoon, he stated,
"Well, y' know, when you have fighters whose dream is to fight for a
title and we are living in a sport, our sport doesn't fight for Lombardi
Trophies or a World Series trophy or for whatever trophies that are out there.
This is a sport of belts. We're in a sport where these young fighters are
fighting; their dream is to win these belts and I think it is not fair if a
fighter gets an opportunity to fight for a belt, the belt is the recognized
symbol of a champion. That we say, 'Well, y' know what? We feel because of this
or that, you shouldn't fight for it.' How is the fighter going to look at it, 'What
is wrong with you?!' I mean, we are working for the fighters and we always said
that. We are a company that was formed by fighters for the fighters and if
you work for the fighters, how can you go and tell the fighters, 'Y' know
what? You really don't deserve- Erik Morales- to fight for a world title.'
Honestly, to tell you the truth, I really do think he deserves to fight for a
world title after the performance he had against Marcos Maidana, after
everything he has accomplished in his career. I have to tell you something else;
Morales versus Barrios, from an action point of view, it might actually steal
Y' know what, Richard? I
couldn't agree more about “El Terrible.” Based on his last outing and the
overall scope of his Hall-of-Fame credentials, I have no problems with his
getting another crack at the green belt (even though he earned it in a
less-than-savory manner). Morales-Barrios, with or without a title attached to
it, is a fun fight between two hardnosed bastards who are extremely prideful
and won’t give an inch. But while Morales has perhaps earned an “emeritus”
status with the WBC, Barrios is so unqualified for this shot, it's galling. Not
only has he only fought once in about two years (last October, he decisioned
the 26-12-3 Wilson Alcorro in ten), he's not even rated in the WBC top 15. There's
a good reason for that- he's never boxed as a bona fide 140-pounder (By the
way, the reason why Barrios probably “earned” this opportunity is because, like
Morales, he is a Golden Boy boxer). Should Morales win this belt, it almost
seems like a fait accompli that he will then take on another “Golden” client in
Khan before the latter moves up to welterweight.
If Morales should win this
title, it'll be about as big a sham as Milli Vanilli's Grammy that they lip-synced
their way to in 1990. Again, it doesn't take away from this warrior's greatness
but in that particular context, how else can you describe it?
"We are in a sport
where we are in the entertainment business- boxing is an entertainment
business," continued Schaefer, "and I think all of us are going to
have to sit back and recognize and realize that because, I tell you what,
somebody sure did- and that somebody is UFC. I mean, think about that; if the
UFC would do something like that, nobody would say a word because they control
the belts. They say, 'Now, you're going to fight this guy and now you're going
to fight that guy' and guess what? They're growing and they're growing. So we
are getting all worked up, all worked up because we don't agree with certain
decisions of a sanctioning organization. Y' know what; would the media and the
public or the fight fans feel much better if there would be none of these
titles and just say, 'Well, now we're fighting for the Top Rank world title' or
'We're fighting for the Golden Boy world title'? That's what UFC's doing. That's
exactly what UFC's doing!"
Uh, yeah, OK, not sure why
Schaefer brought up Dana White's ultimate fighting fiefdom but in terms of
fighting for a “Top Rank” or “Golden Boy” title, well, as boxing's “cold war”
was waged the last few years, that in effect was exactly what was taking
place. However, Schaefer is just doing what others have done in the past.
Years ago, it was King who had a cozy- to put it delicately- relationship with
Sulaiman. Arum's sordid history with the IBF is well-documented but no longer
can Golden Boy state that it's above the fray. What's ironic is that when
Golden Boy purchased The Ring magazine
a few years ago, it was speculated that one of the reasons they did so was to
use their championship and their ratings as an unofficial sanctioning body. Of
course, the usual screams and yells were made that somehow Golden Boy would use
its undue influence to somehow manipulate the ratings for their own good. Well,
I don't think those concerns should exist anymore because in the end, it turns
out that like every other major promoter, they don't care about The Ring championship but the ones owned
by the WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO.
And for a simple reason:
those are the ones that matter.
Like many others who came
into this sport, bright-eyed and with the best of intentions, perhaps Golden
Boy was naive in their pursuits. To survive- and ultimately thrive- in this
industry, you have to be in the real world, not a utopian fantasy of linear titles
and undisputed champions that simply no longer exists.
"What we realized is
that the belts are going to be here. They have been here and they're going to
be here," stated Schaefer, "and you can look at The Ring archives from 100 years ago going back and you see guys
with belts and I tell you what; 100 years from now, you can look and there’s still
gonna be guys with belts."
(DESERT) STORM'N MAD
So do Bradley and
representatives feel as though they've been mugged in broad daylight?
said his manager, Cameron Dunkin, chuckling at the thought. "To try and do
this to somebody, they had no cause and no rules. Nothing. Just decided they
wanted him to [drop his belt]." He believes this was a conspiracy of some
sort. "I do," he said. “I think there's a promoter involved. Yeah, I
definitely do." He wouldn't specify which promoter he was referring to.
As for their response to the
WBC, Dunkin said, "We are answering, giving them their rules and asking
them to send us something, asking why he would be stripped. What had he done
that was outside their rules in order to be stripped like that?"
Could this be another
Graciano Rocchigiani situation for the WBC? Who knows? But there could be
"There could be a
lawsuit, absolutely. I've got a lot of people on Tim Bradley's side and people
in the legal profession who are just itching to go and I've been telling 'em
that we should give them a chance to respond and relax," said Dunkin.
When the bout between Bernard
Hopkins and Chad Dawson was first consummated, the idea was to stage it in
Quebec or Montreal alongside Jean Pascal, who is a legitimate draw up there.
Then this October 15th card was thought to be headed to Newark, New
Jersey, till Kathy Duva basically “Mutombo'd” them with the Prudential Center.
Finally, it has landed at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. So a guy from
Philly (Hopkins) and a guy from…well, like it matters with Dawson, are facing
each other 3,000 miles west of where this fight seems to fit best.
@sledskillz commented on
Twitter, "Ugh, it went from drawing 10K in Canada to drawing 6K in Newark
to flies in LA."
Schaefer, perhaps in full
spin-mode, said that Los Angeles is an ideal venue for this pay-per-view show
to take place. "It's actually better," he stated with confidence.
"I tell you why; when we did Hopkins against Howard Eastman, that was
actually the first fight we ever did for Hopkins. Everybody said we were nuts
and we did very well at Staples Center. I think we had 12 or 13,000 people and
the atmosphere was great. I think- in fact, I know- Bernard is bigger today
than he was then and I think his whole historic aspect and all these stories
coming out after his tremendous victory against Jean Pascal, becoming the
oldest champion, I think that made him a much, more recognized athlete- not
just a boxer- but an athlete and celebrity, period. And the kind of offers he
got show that. I mean, the guy gets an endorsement deal from Prada, OK? Prada,
the Italian luxury manufacturer and today, Bernard Hopkins has become a
household name and I think Los Angeles is perfect for that because Los Angeles
likes to see stars."
I can't argue that there is
a bigger appeal to Hopkins than there was in 2005 and just by sticking around,
he has created a niche for himself. But I'm not sure that scoring an
endorsement deal with Prada will really translate to pay-per-view purchases or
success at the box office. Also, I think Golden Boy had better stack this
undercard with as many Mexican/Latin fighters as possible because this market
is predominantly Mexican and Mexican-American. I’m not sure how well two
African-Americans as the headliners will do out here in the “City of Angels.”
Part of the reason the
Staples was available is the NBA lockout. Also on that weekend, the USC Trojans
and UCLA Bruins football teams do not have home games but there is the threat
of a Dodger playoff game (OK, that was a joke).
"I think we're going to
do just fine," said Schaefer. "It's going to be at a time when it
looks like the NBA is going to be on strike (actually, a lockout) and we are
going to be the only game in town."
GIMME A BREAK
Darren “Come on Down” Barker
is listed as about a 26-1 underdog against middleweight king Sergio Martinez.
And yes, a 26-1 fight is a main event on HBO (Just let that sink in for a
second). But could you imagine the outcry from the hardcore Martinez brigade (which,
judging by the looks of things, fills up about two-thirds of a Foxwoods casino
ballroom) if a Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather even fought a guy who was
just a 15-1 'dog?
And please, spare me the "Well
after this run, he needs a break." OK, I didn't realize he had gone
through a gauntlet of Harry Greb, Carlos Monzon and Marvin Hagler. And so now
he needs a “break”? Well, after his March romp over Sergiy Dzinziruk in March,
what in the hell were April, May, June, July, August and September? Hey, when
you fight twice a year and can't draw all that well, your break is, well, those
long, interminable months between your fights. This reminds me of that kid that
states that in the first week or two back to school that they need a bit of a
respite. Hey, you got one; it was called the summer vacation you just had.
Like Nell Carter once sang,
Another unfortunate casualty of Morales-Barrios is that Anthony Crolla,
originally slated to face Morales on this show, not only is unsure of his
future plans but a rather large throng of his fans from the UK had booked
flights and hotels for Las Vegas in hopes of seeing him against the legend.
According to his trainer, Joe Gallagher (@gallaghersgym) on Twitter, more than
a few folks made quite the investment that may be for naught...Mike Alvarado
drew just under 4,000 this past weekend in Denver. Seriously, that market is
ripe for boxing. They actually had some huge turnouts back in the heyday of
Stevie Johnston at the Pepsi Center...Leo Santa Cruz is turning into a really
good young fighter and is becoming a legitimate contender at bantamweight. He is
a fun, all-action grinder...Some may find this incredibly ironic but Andre
Berto is now working with Victor Conte for his upcoming fight on September 3rd against IBF welterweight beltholder Jan Zaveck...Not saying that the Bengals are
holding Carson Palmer hostage but I believe “Nightline” will be doing regular
reports from Cincy till this is resolved...Are the Eagles now the team to beat?
I still say it's the Packers...Speaking of Dunkin, he is now representing Pawel
Wolak...I stated this on Twitter last week; my four favorite all-time HBO
characters are: Al Swearengen (“Deadwood”), Ari Gold (“Entourage”), “Nucky” Thompson
(“Boardwalk Empire”) and Daenerys Targaryen (“Game of Thrones”)...