Who’s the Man? The Fall Report
By Martin Wade (October 6, 2004)
A little while ago actually May 12th I was a little frisky puppy in the Doghouse romping around and trying to see what I could get into. On this particular occasion I spawned a little “joint” (that’s Spike Lee speak) entitled 'Who’s the Man' and the response it generated suggested that this little puppy had pissed on a few carpets. My e-mail box was inundated with reactions from figures throughout the boxing industry, from public relations people to the actual fighters themselves (Rico Hoye! Holla at yo' boy!). One of the things that I cherish about the sweet science is that although society and athletes have changed, a welterweight as in 1940 is still a welterweight. When I wrote, 'Who’s the Man' I knew it would generate response, but that isn’t that what we love about boxing? It’s the most subjective and passion provoking of all competitions. I could go into perpetuity discussing the beauty of boxing debate but I’ll choose to refresh your memory on my definition of 'the Man'.
In the first article I utilized a composite (that’s movie talk ya’ll) of Muhammad Ali and Jack Dempsey to crystallize the aura and impact of a fighter deemed the Man. This fighter soaks up a majority of proposed bout rumors, all roads lead to him whether he has a title or not. I chose this time to write another report on the subject because we are in a time of great upheaval in boxing. The other day, a close friend of mine (a mainstream sports fan) even asked me whom he should be paying attention to. Tito Trinidad’s return to the main stage was like a breath of relief to our industry because it saved our sweet science from an undetermined period of extreme obscurity in the sports pages. Remember, being the Man isn’t about what’s fair or title belts; I’ll leave the quandary of determining who’s the best to the qualified folks at Ring Magazine. Being the Man transcends all of that stuff anyway; observe how Oscar De La Hoya was able to hold us captive despite having lost his last two fights. It’s only human nature to turn your attention to the Man and forget about poor Felix Sturm.
So, without further pontification and aimless yada yada, I bring you, my fellow boxing junkies, the second edition for the fighters who for some reason or another wear the mythical title of 'the Man'.
Bantamweight: Back in May I declared it vacant but I did a retrospective on how Johnny Tapia was able to rise to prominence while fighters like Tim Austin and Mark Johnson were denied paydays. I remember watching a bantamweight fight with my teenage daughter back in July. When I explained to her the disparity in pay and exposure between these warriors and their bigger counterparts she immediately became sad. “That’s not fair daddy, they’re in that ring getting hit just like the other guys," she said. Her response humbled me. Sometimes children in all of their innocence can be wiser than we will ever be.
Featherweight: Back then I said Marco Antonio Barrera and I’ve decided to stick to my guns. Since his lackluster win against career bantamweight Paulie Ayala, Marco Superstar signed on for the third installment of his blood war with Eric Morales. Despite a one-sided beating at the hands of Manny Pacquiao, Marco still commands our attention, especially when Morales is involved. As the Man, Marco knows (as his promoter knows) that he can move up in weight and have a rival waiting to resume battle for the highest stakes. Poor Paqman has to sit back and watch Juan Manuel Marquez stink up the joint (and thus his stock) on the De La Hoya/Hopkins undercard and wonder what he has to do to break through. I also mentioned Naseem Hamed in my first installment, but scratch that, he’s too socially elusive to loom over the division. Even when inactive, 'the Man' finds it in his schedule to show up to a fight every now and then. You know when you're watching a fight on TV and you see everyone in the first several rows turn around to look at something? Most of the time it’s because one of the guys on this list just entered the building.
Junior Lightweight: The last time I said Bob Arum but now his most lucrative cash cow Oscar De La Hoya might be infringing on the master’s status. An upset of Morales by Barrera would put him in the driver's seat to dictate to Pacquiao because the rematch would be held at 130lbs. Golden Boy also promotes the talented Mike Anaconda while Top Rank holds the rights to Juan Manual Marquez and Carlos Hernandez. The fighter I wouldn’t want to be in this situation is Joel Casamayor.
Lightweight: I do believe I touted Diego Corrales as the man in my first report; now look at what he’s done. Chico made a valiant Popo Frietas subscribe to logic back in May. And now his options are endless. As far as I’m concerned Corrales is the fighter of the year by merit of his two wins against Casamayor and Frietas. With high action bouts ahead against the likes of Jose Louis Castillo and Juan Diaz, boxing's new 'Explosive Thin Man' is in control of his destiny. Wouldn’t it be poetic if by this time next year Floyd Mayweather actually 'needs' Chico to make a big fight at junior welterweight?
Junior Welterweight: Miguel Cotto. That’s right, I said it and I’d bet there are few who will disagree. Tsyzu/Mitchell is a great fight because both fighters are in the same place in their careers, and that is past it. Arturo Gatti bless his heart is on a victory lap so doesn’t expect him to try and expand on his legend with the Pretty Boy any time soon. So who does that leave? The boricua blockbuster (hey, that’s a good nickname) poised to inherit the mantle as boxing's next crossover star. Although Top Rank is making it clear that a bout with Mayweather is marinating, I believe the kid should make his splash at welterweight against a fellow Puerto Rican Kermit Cintron. A belt at 140 is pretty much academic for Cotto, he can take it from Vivian Harris or be the young lion to show the winner of Tszyu/Mitchell the door. Ricky Hatton is fresh off of a demolition against Michael Stewart, another Sharmba Mitchell retread. Back in May I dismissed his unwillingness to step up, but no longer. Even Hatton’s accountant is telling him “hey, why don’t you bloody fight someone for Christ sakes!”
Welterweight: Vacant; but Corey Spinks is the best the division has to offer. The soft-spoken St. Louis native is just too damn good a boxer for the likes of Antonio Margirito and Zab Judah. There's no 'shine' in this traditional glamour division despite Zab Judah’s dental work. In the best case scenario Winky Wright beats Shane Mosley again, thus gifting the welterweight division with the return of its last great 'name'. Mosley/Spinks anyone?
Junior Middleweight: Ricardo Mayorga, barring conviction for rape or some future criminal outburst. After Saturday night boxing's reigning crazy man made it clear that he intends on being around. Simply put, there’s not a junior middleweight (and few middleweights) around who can withstand the onslaught he unleashed on Tito Trinidad. Mayorga in the junior middleweight division is like a pit bull in a phone booth; none of the top guys have the movement of a Corey Spinks. Ricardo, along with Mosley, are the only two fighters in the division with the 'name' recognition to make Big Fights happen. A Mosley upset in November will ignite a storm of scenarios that will undoubtedly include the Nicaraguan. The division is still an option for the fighter who for the last decade reigned as boxing's version of the Man, Oscar De La Hoya. Newsflash! Ricardo Mayorga just retired. Now pay attention boys and girls, 'the Man' can retire up to four times (the Sugar Ray clause section B) and still be rumored in big fights while inactive.
Middleweight: There will never be another ambassador like De La Hoya and the consolation of watching Hopkins further enhance his legacy was great, but neither is 'the Man'. The Man is Tito Trinidad; any questions? On Saturday night Tito saved 'Big Time Boxing', a derivative of boxing that is fueled by big dollars, big names and excitement. The living legend has his choice of revenge (Hopkins) and money (De La Hoya) and his ability to bring excitement to the table makes him the shot caller in future proceedings. Earlier in the year I predicted De La Hoya/Hopkins would be the 'event' but Tito/Mayorga would be the fight, and from the looks of my party guests most people love a fight. Tito’s charisma transcends language and his style translates to mainstream fans. Even if you like football you don’t have to be a boxing aficionado to understand what the Puerto Rican with the great smile is doing inside the ring. The love affair between Tito and his boxing fans is infectious; dating as far back as his bout with David Reid his ascent to boxing lore has been worth every penny. You don’t have to debate with 'experts' about what Tito is doing (as in Hopkins case) because Stevie Wonder can see the guy is always bringing 'heat'.
Super Middleweight: Jeff Lacy pulled off a mild upset of Sid Vanderpool to win a world title but we don’t know him do we? Remember when major league baseball proposed contraction? Joe Calzaghe continues to view himself as a commodity in the States and I can’t seem to spell his name right.
Light Heavyweight: Sorry but this division is vacant. Hopefully Glen Johnson and Antonio Tarver will unify the division in January with a good hard captivating scrap. I know I’m going to get a ton of e-mails labeling me a Tarver hater but I’m willing to stick to my definition of what being 'the Man' entails. The Man can get a fight, everybody is looking to fight him and for top dollar. Promoters don’t laugh at the Man, they open their books (that’s jail talk don’t ask) for him. Glen Johnson’s brutal KO of Roy Jones cost Tarver millions and also left boxing observers with more questions about boxing's enigmatic genius than options for the reigning champ! I guess even in defeat Jones is 'the Man”. Why? Because for two weeks now his merits and downfall have been debated analyzed and scrutinized to mind numbing proportions. When you’re the Man people are talking about you and what you’re doing, not what the guy you beat may have done.
Cruiserweight: Don King if he wants to be. With the new limit of 200 pounds the division should shed the dreadful obscurity of it’s past and be renamed “Classicweight”. A lot of the heavyweights that truly mattered are closer to 200 than 250, and the next 'great one' will be smallish by today’s standards. With guys like Kelvin Davis and Wayne Braithwaite hurling obscenities at one another on a website yet to be named, Don may have the makings of a blue collar pay-per-view card.
Heavyweight: James Toney you bitches! With all of the charm of a pre-Zoloft Mike Tyson, 'Lights Out' is on the verge of becoming a mainstream star in this late phase of his career. The ratings generated by Toney’s best damn beat down of Rydell Booker are without question the subject of many meetings over at Fox Sports Net. Toney is now in line for a David vs. Goliath showdown with Ring Magazine champ Vitali Klitchko that I wouldn’t count him out of. James would be favored to beat down all of 'King's Men' and a victory over 'Dr. K' would put him in a position to avoid any attempts by Don King to bum rush the show. And here’s a little something sure to ruffle a few feathers, Mike Tyson isn’t done and neither is Roy Jones if he chooses to come back at heavyweight. A pile of bills and a particularly devastating first three rounds against Danny Williams fuels Mike Tyson. His last two defeats and a DVD of his devastating display against John Ruiz will fuel Roy Jones. When you’re 'the Man' you may be down, but you’re never truly out even when we say you are.
For those of you who want to compare my backtracking, flip-flopping and double talk, here’s the first installment of this article:
Until the Next 'Jones'
The 'Boxing Junkie'.
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