To Build a Heavyweight
By Martin Wade (December 13, 2005)
I’m laying in front of the tube in all of my bachelor glory taking in my morning slice of “Cold Pizza” when I see the words for the first time. “Vitali Klitschko retires”. I yawn, a stream of random thoughts enter my head (testament to my miniscule attention span) none of them concerning the “legacy” of the aforementioned Mr. Klitschko. Just to give you an idea of my “where were you when?” moment my thoughts went a little something like this.
Silence, that’s a cool ass name, I would name a daughter Silence, do I even want more kids?
Man I wonder if Miami deserves to be #2?
I need to catch Iverson, aint seen him yet this year.
Damnit I forgot to buy some beer, another tattoo? Naw too old for that shit…
That cashier at Walgreen’s got a big ole…
Better call mamma, I need to hit the church soon or she’ll kill me.
You get the picture? As a devout fan of the sweet science my response to the retirement of a heavyweight “champ” didn’t even broach upon curiosity! Hell, he’s a good guy, he’ll be “aiiiight” was my final statement when asked by friends. Maybe I was in trauma, yeah that’s it kinda like when people talk about not really feeling a knockout punch. I mean this was a big fight (against Rahman), a fight that would have provided degree of much needed clarity in the division. Right Bert Sugar? Right? Why is it that my budget was already set to shell out the ducks for Hopkins/Taylor yet Klitschko/Rahman was still a game time decision? Why is it that Don King becoming the heavyweight “Czar” didn’t provoke me to speculate on tournaments and unjust monopolies. Because I didn’t care, that’s why.
I’m not one of those people who theorize that we are in the middle of a “dead” era, that none of these heavyweights can fight. I just simply believe that based on much documented observation this crop doesn’t have a guy that we can find it easy to “care” about. Remember, we don’t require “perfection” from the big guys (the pound for pound is for the little fella’s) but we do want them to get our blood boiling. The issue we have here is a lineup of heavyweights who possess fragments of a respectable heavyweight champ. None of them do anything well enough to force the sporting public and the power brokers in network TV to make way for him. We can blame TV executives all we want but trust me; those characters have a shifting morality when it comes to bottom line numbers. When Vitali called it quits, I didn’t care; I didn’t care when Ring magazine told me he was the champ and I laughed like hell when “Dr. Ironfist” cited Lennox Lewis as the only fight he would “come back” for.
Face it; most of us call Lennox Lewis a great champion in hindsight, yet when he was around most of us didn’t care until he battered a bloated Tyson into the now infamous “Bolivian”. And now there are rumblings about “unification” in 2006 courtesy Don King. If this isn’t indication that DK is getting long in the tooth nothing is, we can only brace ourselves for certain overestimation of value this “product” will be to boxing fans. Unfortunately for Mr. King, he’s swimming upstream with this one; he’s simply attempting to galvanize our indifference. You know, narrow it down to one champion (vs. four) that we the public can simply ignore. Why else would he leave invites for Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and any other ex champion (pick up the phone Riddick!) we can remember by name to participate. Remember, there must be a star to sell a unification series regardless of the final outcome. The star must make it to the finals, ala Tito Trinidad in 2001 or Tiger Woods on the leader board by Sunday. You cant sell 4 Tito Jackson’s and tell us the winner will become Michael, it just doesn’t work that way. All we are left with Boxing fans is our imagination and the hopes that some kid somewhere is dodging the football coach on his way to the gym.
If I were “Dr. Martinstein” I would build a heavyweight right here from the bowels of this crusty old refurbished laptop. The kind of guy we would care about, the kind of guy that we could anticipate like a new pair of Air Jordan’s back in the day. Yeah, maybe reading about such a fighter would soothe our discontent until the real thing comes along. Hell, aint that the reason women read romance novels? For lack of the real thing. If I could just borrow the “fragments” of today’s crop to build my monster he would look something like this.
Age; Samuel Peter. 25. Man I’m so tired of the whole “40 is the new 30 crap”. Part of getting excited about a fighter is watching him develop and grow up. I respect older heavyweights for being able to recycle themselves (sometimes inexplicably) but ultimately I don’t care. We watched Ali grow up, Joe Louis become “the Brown Bomber”. Tyson grew into something weird but at least it lasted for more than 2 yrs.! When I look at the gray in Toney’s goatee and try to get excited with the idea of him being “the man” all I think is “ loved him back in the day, at middleweight”. Too many over the hill fighters try to convince us that they are the “new face of boxing”, well Antonio Tarver I Like my new stuff …new! The only thing I like old is me. With my champ youth will be served and we can sit back in the barbershop and lie like hell “ man, I knew it when I first saw him!”
Size: 6’2 ½ , 225lbs. That’s right I said it. Goliaths fight at a pace stuck on ugly and it’s more nerve-wracking when they “box”. Lennox Lewis drove me crazy with his “pugilist specialist” routine. One of the reasons we cant get over the 70’s crop is the fact that they were smaller and threw a lot of leather. When we see a guy around 240-250 we generally anticipate power, sometimes we get it but at a slower, awkward, sometimes plodding pace. My monster will be just a tad thicker than Holyfield in the legs and neck. He won’t have the stamina issues associated with someone carrying 250 pounds of mass.
Jab: The foundation of any attack, versatile in that it can materialize in Listons clubbing menace or Ali and Holmes’s demoralizing whip. Of Today’s warriors I think I’ll “jack” Hasim Rahman of his jab. The Baltimore native is usually at his best when he employs the stick consistently. If he insist on fighting Oleg Maskaev I won’t be paying much attention so it’s better that my imaginary fighter have his stick.
Cross: Vitali Klitschko. Hey consider it a parting gift Big Bro! The big fella could bang with the right hand when on the offensive. I may not care that he was considered “the man” for a short period of time but anybody hit with that sledgehammer right hand cared a lot. Should he get credit for his loss to Lewis? Well you have to consider what the book on him was at the time. I do credit his right-hand for further cementing Lewis as one of the most cerebral champs of all time. After that dust up Lennox said to himself “Shhhhhhhhhheeeeet, I don’t need this”.
Hook: Vladimir Klitschko. Fluid, short and crisp. Little Bro often amazes us with his athleticism, while it last. My monster will look awesome with Vlad’s short little hook on the end of his combinations. And: smile: with his average size and great stamina he can throw them for more than eight rounds.
Uppercut/ Body punching/ combination punching: James Toney. Pretty Boy Floyd likes to call it “hand game”. JT got more game than Parker Brothers, how far that “game” will get him in the face of a body that’s disintegrating before our eyes is anybody’s guess. My Heavyweight will have Toney’s ability to break down the body (when the bigger boys try to bum rush him) and baffle foes with combinations too varied to defend against.
Chin: David Tua. Ike Ibeabuchi, Lennox Lewis. Nuff Said. The likeable power punching Samoan was a fixture in the Heavyweight title picture of the late 90’s-early 00’s. If he can return to form against Calvin Brock we may see him fight for a title in late 06’. Until then he won’t be needing the granite beard.
Speed/Defense: Chris Byrd. Yeah he’s slipping, and in his prime we resented him for being greasy but speed is still intimidating. When something is coming at you in accelerated speed your field of vision is greatly reduced. That’s why athletes who rely heavily on speed fall further than most. That is also why when Antonio Tarver says he sees everything coming from Roy Jones I know he isn’t fighting “Roy Jones”. At his best Chris Byrd can leave opponents throwing punches in the dark hoping to hit something. The more Byrd plays “na na na na na” with Don King the greater the chances are that he’ll finally be tracked down by a lesser foe. My heavyweight will throw punches though, not slaps and when you miss you will certainly pay. In other words he’ll be “committed” to obliterating his primary target unlike Mr. Byrd.
Power: Samuel Peter. Not only is he heavy handed but also he’s a strong guy physically. That being said, my Heavyweight will be immune to the silent contracts that a lot of heavy’s make. He’ll just wrangle his arms loose and wack you with a three-punch combination. I can do without Peter’s looping arm punches (and I will) but I’ll take his ability to starch you with a glancing blow with either hand.
Disposition; Lamon Brewster. Boxings premier good guy may have several of the above-mentioned assets; Lamon is the kind of guy you “want” to root for. Dubbed “the Black Rocky” by Don King following his “upset” of Vlad Klitschko Brewster’s disposition can range from determined to highly emotional. I defy anyone to watch one of his press conferences for the buildup to Klitschko and not feel anything. My dream fighter would have this kind of appeal; able to earn your admiration or reduce you to the state you were in when Cochise was murdered in “Cooley High”. I Love You Man!!
Story: Calvin Brock. Olympic pedigree, Boxing Banker, tap dancer, you feel me right? . We live in a culture that demands everyone be “multifaceted” renaissance men. Is it a load of crap? Sure but nowadays over saturation disguised as “versatility” is the name of the game. With so many news outlets and channels the more “angles” a fighter has the greater his chances of getting attention between fights. My heavyweight would have so many angles ESPN would lease him a condo on the premises, just in case they need some filler.
Management: Al Haymon. It’s not just TV, it’s HBO.
Promotion: Golden Boy. As if my guy doesn’t have enough to run the tables already, now insert a smiling Oscar De La Hoya next to him at the press conference. And why not, my heavyweight will take the company to another level and in return end up with a piece of the action. Something Don King and Bob Arum would never grant any fighter no matter how many millions he made for them.
So there you have it, a Champion you can actually care about until a real force comes along. You can thank me or you can deride me, either way the invoice is in the mail. I didn’t include ethnicity: pretending that it don’t matter: because although I may be crazy, I aint that crazy.
Attention Floyd Mayweather
April 8th against Zab Judah better come off or you’ll have to face the scales of history. If Zab is a “thousandaire” and you are the millionaire then you are in the drivers seat, make it worth his while. Remember, whatever concession you make is for the price of immortality. A lot of fighters have become rich; hell guys sitting on the end of the bench in the NBA are rich. Rick James was rich! Very few athletes become legends, very few have runs that compare to Sugar Ray Leonard’s 1979-1981 so the choice is yours. Maybe your willingness to be a legend can pull Showtime’s foot out of HBO’s ass next year.
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