The Curious Case of Tavoris Cloud
By Steve Kim, MaxBoxing (Oct 8, 2011) Doghouse Boxing (Photo © Coyote Duran)
Photo: Tavoris Cloud
On October 15th, Bernard Hopkins defends his WBC light heavyweight title against Chad Dawson at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Earlier that day in England, WBO beltholder Nathan Cleverly takes on Tony Bellew. Jean Pascal is tentatively scheduled to enter the ring again on December 10th. The only blue-chip 175-pounder who seems to have nothing on his itinerary is IBF titlist Tavoris Cloud.

Thus far in 2010, Cloud has fought just once (an eighth round stoppage of Yusaf Mack back on June 25th).
This continues a rather disturbing trend with Cloud who, while coming up as a young prospect under the 8 Count Productions banner in Chicago, was given steady work after turning professional in 2004. By 2008, he had earned the top ranking in the IBF and seemed poised for a breakout but since winning the vacant IBF title by soundly defeating Clinton Woods in August of 2009, he has fought just three more times, twice in 2010 and the aforementioned fight with Mack.
“I'm having trouble getting fights. I don't know what the problem is and it's been this way ever since I became number one contender back in 2008,” lamented Cloud.
The problem for Cloud is that like many other fighters at his level (those who have tasted six-figure paydays and exposure on the premium cable networks), he is stuck between two realms: fight when HBO or Showtime has a slot for you- or don't fight at all. Last December, after defeating Glen Johnson four months earlier, Cloud took an off-TV fight in Miami, Florida, on a card that was financed by Don King, which was a loss-leader for everyone involved. Shows of this nature usually don't end up turning a profit (especially if a casino is not involved) and in this case, Cloud agreed to perform for less than his contracted minimum as a world champion. Contracts in boxing have provisions that state a certain amount boxers get paid as they capture major world title belts or attain appearances on HBO or Showtime. Here, Cloud waived those stipulations in exchange for activity.
As slots ran out and the budget dried up for this calendar year (and an effort to make a fight with Pascal in Montreal ultimately failed), Cloud is in a position where he may have to- as they say in the business- take another “haircut.”
The still bombastic King who calls Cloud “the best fighter in the world” and says, “I love Tavoris Cloud” is now trying to talk him into going once again from “Boxing After Dark” to fighting in the dark. To King, not doing so is akin to cutting off his nose to spite his face. “He gets himself in a position where he don't think but he's a good guy and I'm going to work with this guy because this guy really comes to fight. He gives the people what they want,” said King.
Right now, Cloud is reticent to do what he did last December and he has ditched at least two scheduled meetings with King to discuss these matters in the past month.
“That would be correct. He hasn't come in and talk to me,” the promoter confirmed “but that would be the underlying cause there because he's not being talked to. He's got to be able to be explained to and every time you call him, he's out doing something but right now, he should've been training. A fighter must understand that his trade is practicing his trade. Not going out there trying to be a promoter, getting out there and talking to the press, this, that or the other. When you talk to the press, you want to talk about what you want to do, who you gonna be and how you gonna help people, so you gotta be able to educate them to that way of doing and then their physical attributes will be personified when they go out there and do what they're supposed to do and then come back and give back to the community.
“What they do is they get caught up in [Mike] Tyson purses and [Muhammad] Ali purses and all that- they're not Tyson and Ali.”
If you listen to Cloud on various radio shows or read his Twitter timeline (@TavorisCloud) you can just sense a smoldering frustration which may soon boil into outright anger but King insists that in order to do his job effectively, Cloud has to get back to his. “They don't let you do your job. What they should do is let you do your job and then the two ‘tweens’ will meet and then you have something going for you but you got to explain it to ‘em,” King stated. “You've got to understand the limitations you have to deal with but you've got to practice your trade. If we can keep Tavoris in the gym and in training, he would be phenomenal. But like you say, the mentality says, ‘I want to get this. I want to get that.’”
On November 5th, in staging a show in Hollywood, Florida, King was hoping to put Cloud on that card. Industry sources tell Maxboxing that after making around $150,000(before the usual deductions that boxers go through with their fight purses) he was offered just a fraction of that for this card. As of now, there is no television entity for this show, although it was rumored that Epix would be interested on the basis of Cloud's appearance.
Cloud hasn't completely ruled out the possibility of him boxing on this night at a discount rate. “Not necessarily,” he said, adding, “I came to the point where I just gotta give people what they want to see. That's why I'm saying I'm fighting 20 times next year. I have to take the money in the form of fans.” King says that the door is not closed on this date for him, explaining, “No, what [Cloud] did was, he didn't show up for training. He said he was going to come here and train, come in here and talk and then he didn't show up. So pretty soon, the time ran out. So it's all the same but he had to do something and it went so long and we still, from the time we offered him the fight, he still ain't got here to train.”
Once again, he expects Cloud to come in and see him.
“We hope,” King clarified.
So how did the promoter convince Cloud last year to face Fulgencio Zuniga? 
“Y’ know, I was looking him in the eye…a big difference, when you got interceders, you don't know what the interceder is saying. He goes with the message but it's all in the presentation. And so what it is, not only that, I did it with Roberto Duran. I did it with all of ‘em. Right now, he's be fighting, November the 5th and then when the time comes to meet Jean Pascal or a Zsolt Erdei, whoever he is that guy Lou DiBella has, he'll be ready for them. But to just take one fight...they stay busy; you stay dormant. You put yourself under much more duress, much more of a burden. I'm trying to teach him to be able to practice his trade, just like George Gershwin, like a Judy Garland- you gotta practice, man. You can't keep on doing this sh*t, man.”
But even when you're not facing Bob Foster or Archie Moore, every outing comes with a set of risks. Cloud says of his 12-rounder with Zuniga, “I fought this guy. He fought hard. He wasn't a number one contender and then I realized, ‘OK, everyone's coming to fight hard. Everybody's bringing their A-game. I mean, it could be a bum. They'll bring their A-game if they get an opportunity to be champion of the world when it's over with.”
The hard-hitting man from Tallahassee, Florida is in a tough spot. It's a classic damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't scenario. Cloud feels he's earned the right to be in a higher tax bracket and he's the type of guy that the networks should want to feature because he's a real rugged fighter, the kind that provides a good night of violence dressed up as entertainment. In an era of prizefighters who hide behind their supposed “skills” to continually take the path of least resistance, Cloud is in many ways a throwback. That said, at age 29, he might run the risk of dying on the vine.
Some will demonize King (which is par for the course); others will put the onus on Cloud (who is now on his third promoter as he is now facing litigation from Richie Boy Promotions) but this is not a black-and-white issue. They could both be victims of the current state of the boxing business and how it's now operated. Most elite fighters nowadays perform two, maybe three times a calendar year and it's really at the behest of the networks that really compensate them in the form of license fees. Promoters, like King, sign boxers to contracts which have terms that are essentially predicated on the hope (sometimes promise) that an HBO or Showtime will clear space for your fighter. Many times, the minimums in these contracts are only as good as the availability of dates on a network and to lure these fighters in, promoters have to put in these figures, often times not in line with the actual market value of the boxers (Cloud was developing a bit of a following in Chicago while with 8 Count but is now a fighter whose value is solely determined by what a network says). Put out numbers that are more realistic and risk getting outbid by another company that can secure dates much more easily. “That is the double-edged sword,” said King.
Cloud does not have a home base, say, like a Tomasz Adamek who was built into an attraction by Main Events in Newark, New Jersey and could make a nice living with or without HBO and therefore can't live off the live gate. King, for all his prowess in the past, has seen better days. He no longer has the influence he did with either network and the number of cards he puts on seems to dwindle every year. In the past, when he had cash cows like a Tyson, Julio Cesar Chavez and Felix Trinidad, he could leverage those entities into exclusive deals (as he did with Showtime when he represented Tyson) or worst-case scenario, stick his other fighters onto their pay-per-view cards to keep them active and provide them exposure.
Now, when King negotiates a fight, he finds himself as the B-side to promoters who are essentially given dates without fights. Such was the case with Yvon Michel, who handles Pascal. King explained, “They've made losing “winning.” They come to me with a loser and tell me that HBO will give them a date- and that's why Ross Greenburg is gone [Writers note: more on that later]. ‘I got this here; what we're going to do, we're gonna split the money from HBO. We gonna split the money here. I'm gonna keep the money in Canada.’ This is the stuff you're confronted with and his fighter just got done getting his ass whupped.”
What rankles King (and many others) is that while the desultory Dawson was invested into heavily by HBO, Cloud is still largely on the outside looking in. But again, it's HBO or any network’s prerogative to make bad decisions. Perhaps this is another example of the overreliance of everyone in the industry on the premium cable networks. Let's be honest; if Cloud were represented by one Al Haymon, this story wouldn't be written. Agendas became more important than the actual fights and fighters on the airwaves.
“Yes,” agreed King, “that is what the problem is. The TV took it over and they didn't know what they were doing.”
What's taking place here- and with many other boxers- is really a systemic breakdown where no one is completely to blame but nobody is blameless.
The disillusioned Cloud says, “The biggest disappointment is that I found out that the state of boxing is really political and it's more about who you know and these other champions who've been in the game for awhile, they're monopolizing all the money. Look at Chad Dawson and Bernard Hopkins and Pascal, they fight each other two, three times and they're all boring fights. There could be more exciting fights out there but I think the promoters, they have too much say in what goes on in boxing. They're trying to be safe, trying to protect their investments. We have to go out there and just fight, give the people what they want to see.”
And we'll see Cloud next year, right?
“No, no, that I will call you and let you know,” King said, not giving up hope on another Cloud performance in 2010. “As soon as he get in next week, what you just said is going to be the pertinent question of the day. I'm going to get it with an understanding and I think that maybe I can sell this kid because it's his life and he's got to be able to utilize it now because he is a hot commodity- but only in his mind, my mind and your mind.”
Cloud makes it clear, “No, I'm definitely going to fight more than once this year.”
Nobody can get off the track and make it so entertaining quite like King when asked certain questions.
Here are two of the gems he gave me, “And you're one of the visionaries before the pack. You saw what happened to Ross Greenburg. Ross wasn't a bad guy but Ross didn't perform like he should've performed because he was listening to people that we're misleading him and everything you wrote, it was almost like a prophecy because it all came true. You know what I mean?”
(Well, Don, I was just doing my job.)
He continued on, “And they got all these guys and they try to work with one guy and they don't deliver. None of these guys believe in going back to the public. That's why I beat ‘em. I don't care which way they go because I'd rather not make any money- or make a little money, over and above expenses- and give them a decent card. If they do a pay-per-view, they put one guy and if that's a bummer, the whole card is nothing. So then people get ripped off because now, you're going direct to the public and the people are not getting what they paid for- a good evening of entertainment.”
Later King added, “When Bob Arum challenged Ross openly, he prevailed because Arum didn't do nothing to get Ross fired. He did it to himself by continuing to do the same thing over and over and it fulfilled the prophecies that Arum was making and saying he was going to do and then he would act accordingly, A, B, C, D, right down the line. Then you had guys like you and [Thomas] Hauser who were really bringing the truth to the fore. Everybody thought y'all was crazy, thought you was loony, ‘[Ross has] been there 30 years. What are you talking about?’ Bop, bop, bop. But you found out what happened, yeah, he'd been- but he ain't there now.”
(You gotta hand it to King. When he's right, he's right. And if you can't trust this guy, who can you trust?)
The latest edition of “Top Rank Live” features the rematch between Raul Martinez and Rodrigo Guerrero for the vacant IBF 115-pound strap. Make sure you check your local listings for this one on Fox Deportes as there are some scheduling conflicts with MLB playoffs...Is “A-Rod” the most hated athlete ever in New York that's actually been very good?...Geez, TCU and the Big East lasted as long as a Britney Spears marriage...Nebraska-Ohio State is the ABC prime time game? Huh?...Stevie B fans, we need to raise money and help our guy out with his child support problems, whaddaya say?...


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