Ground-Hog Day?

Posted in Uncategorized on November 9, 2014 by Rik Hine

The loquacious and long-in-the-tooth Bernard Hopkins has made a late-career habit of beating younger, heavier punching foes. Tonight, two months shy of the advanced boxing age of fifty, he looks to continue this trend against the orthodox, heavy-handed Sergey Kovalev. Indeed, in the eight years since Hopkins stepped-up to light heavyweight, his only two losses have been against fast-punching southpaws.

Nonetheless, at the risk of upsetting both my bank manager and my history teacher, I’m putting my money on youth. That could well be as much of a waste as the latter is on the young, still I feel like Henry V at Harfleur.

It’s not father time that will finally catch-up with Hopkins tonight, it will be Kovalev’s deceptive speed. Kovalev will knock “The Alien” out of this world. Human, all too human.

See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil

Posted in Commentary, Post-fight analysis on September 19, 2011 by Rik Hine

 

Great athletes astonish us by pushing boundaries but last night in Las Vegas Floyd Mayweather pushed too far. Falling foul of fair-play standards during the fight, and being foul-mouthed afterwards, the greatest fighter of his fistic generation confirmed he’s also one of its biggest embarrassments.

Mayweather stuck to his pre-fight promise of aggression and served his hapless foe with a masterclass in how to hit and not be hit in return. After more than three rounds of painful instruction, “Vicious” Victor Ortiz, remembered his own ring name. Unfortunately, the most he could muster in response was to headbut Mayweather during a clinch. The fact that his target was “Money’s” mouth offered us no consolation. Referee Joe Cortez, somehow still awake, penalised Ortiz with a one-point deduction. In apology, the latter clung to Mayweather like a long-lost brother. When Cortez called for the fight to resume, Ortiz apparently took this as an invitation for additional apology. Floyd pulled back from their embrace, looked to confirm that Cortez was asleep, and unleashed a left hook that effectively ended the fight. A dazed and confused Ortiz, abandoned all attempt at defence, and looked to the referee for support before Floyd finished proceedings with a straight right. Cortez emerged from his slumber, just as Ortiz was flirting with his own, and remembering how to count to ten, if not exactly where he was, he waved the farce over.

There’s no doubt that the final two punches Floyd threw were legal, the referee clearly called for the fight to resume, and it’s also the case that fighters should adhere to the precept to protect themselves at all times. Furthermore, Floyd was fully entitled to be mad at Ortiz for his flagrant foul. But it’s remarkable that a fighter so concerned with an abstract concept like ‘legacy’ should be so short-sighted about associated notions like ‘fair-play.’

If additional evidence were needed in support of this charge, then Mayweather offered it in spades during his post-fight interview. Angered that analyst Larry Merchant would dare to question his propriety, Mayweather ended events by shouting a stream of invective at his interviewer. Merchant managed to maintain his composure and turned to interview Ortiz, whose ‘just happy to be here’ demeanour told its own sad story. His refusal to complain about the manner in which the fight ended suggests he was either embarrassed at his own error or afraid to upset Mayweather anymore than he already had. Neither option is optimal for a defending champion.

As for Mayweather, what he appears to lack in sportsmanship or moral decency, he more than makes up for in promotional savvy. Although he has obviously undermined any claims that his bad boy image is merely a creation to sell tickets, sell them it does. That he hasn’t fought a foe in years with a legitimate chance to beat him doesn’t seem to slow sales. Remember, protect yourself at all times.

Haye-ters

Posted in Commentary, Post-fight analysis on July 5, 2011 by Rik Hine

Out of all those who constitute what we might call the ‘boxing world,’ it often seems as if the only ones with any insight are the professional promoters. If this runs counter to your intuitions, then you’re probably part of the proverbial problem. Consider this question: what explains the avalanche of awful analysis on the Klitschko-Haye cat-and-mouse marathon this weekend? If your immediate answer is that David Haye failed to deliver on his pre-fight promises, then you didn’t read the question correctly: the issue is not that the analyses were uniformly of a poor fight but that the analyses of the fight were uniformly poor. The former point is simply fact, and should have been expected; that it wasn’t probably explains the latter point and consequently merits more attention.

But let’s back up a bit; you may not think the post-fight reports were particularly poor. After all, didn’t David Haye deserve the derision he received for failing to deliver? After more than two years of vulgar trash talking, he spent the better part of twelve rounds either running from Klitschko or falling at his feet. To make matters worse, he excused his poor performance by complaining of a broken toe, supposedly sustained several weeks ago (presumably it was the little piggy that stayed home). Two points are worth noting here: first, when one considers the number of times that Haye has put his foot in his mouth, the injury should surely come as no surprise. Second, and more seriously, only a little insight into sports psychology should be necessary to see the importance, to a fighter, of protecting himself from the immediate acceptance that he lost to a superior foe. Haye may have sounded silly after all his pre-fight bluster but his broken-toe excuse was hardly breaking new ground.

So what’s with the anti-Haye hysteria? It seems that only a few options are available and none of them casts fans (or pundits) in a favourable light. Either:

1) Haye’s promotional posturing convinced observers that he presented a legitimate challenge to Klitschko, or

2) Haye’s promotional posturing, which appeared to upset Klitschko, led observers to think that the latter would actually fight aggressively.

It appears that excitement about this fight must have involved believing either (1) or (2) (or both of course). Those who failed to believe at least one of the two options and yet watched the fight anyway are either pundits, or the credulous (of course the former doesn’t automatically exclude the latter as we will see in a moment!)

If there are other options it’s hard to see what they could be. And if there are no other options, then it’s hard to see how fans can avoid the conclusion that they only have themselves to blame for paying for this weekend’s farce of a fight.  David Haye’s Heavyweight resume is hardly expansive and nothing about it suggested that he’d really fight by meeting Klitschko in the middle of the ring. Klitschko’s resume is much more impressive, until that is, you recall that he’s constructed that record without suggesting that he really wants to fight anywhere, angry or not. If the visual evidence doesn’t convince you, then listen in on Emmanuel Steward between rounds.

Boxing fans need to consider that it isn’t David Haye (or even Wladimir Klitschko) that they should be angry at: it’s themselves. Of course it’s not illegitimate to wish that we had a Heavyweight Champion whose victories were based on something more than mostly sheer size, or who boxed like he was the baddest man on the planet. And it wouldn’t hurt to have some genuine Heavyweight contenders either, but as long as fans pay for Fools Gold, the promoters will keep on digging. The notion that a boxer is only as good as his last fight has lost all merit in a sport where fans refuse to consult their memories and consequently allow themselves to be prey to the promoters.

On a final note, if watching the ‘fight’ made you feel somewhat sick, then listening to the HBO ‘commentary’ team likely added the finishing touches. Part of the point of professional commentary is to add something that fans might miss. It’s arguable that any passer-by, picked at random, could have performed as badly as Jim Lampley and Larry Merchant last Saturday night. Fans are apt to take the posturing of professional athletes personally; broadcasters are paid not to, at least on-air. It’s evident that Larry Merchant was aggrieved about Haye’s loutish behaviour leading up to the fight – indeed it’s often hard to hear a fighter question the manhood of his foe – but Merchant would be much easier to take seriously if he hadn’t spent the second half of the fight directing just such barbs at David Haye. The most that one can say of Roy Jones Junior, at HBO, is that as an ‘expert commentator’ he makes a good boxer (and you know you’ve paid to see his latest ‘fights’!). Apparently what the world really wants to see is an American Heavyweight contender. It seems then that it’s not Klitschko’s uninspiring style that has us despairing of the Heavyweight division, nor the dearth of legitimate threats to his robotic reign, but where they are born. God bless America!

Theatre of the Absurd

Posted in Commentary, Post-fight analysis on May 9, 2011 by Rik Hine

Although he may not have the Marquis name of a prime time Mike Tyson, much has been made of Manny Pacquiao’s transcendence of the somewhat restricted realm of professional pugilism. After all, reports about the death of boxing may have been greatly exaggerated but there’s no doubt that its status as a mainstream sport died decades ago. Perhaps the thought is that Pacqiao’s ability to fill stadia, even for sub-par match-ups, marks a new era for boxing. But one might wonder why boxing fans should care, and if the crowd reaction to his fight Saturday night with Shane Mosley is any indicator, then the answer is that they surely shouldn’t.

After a cautious start from both fighters, the third stanza saw “Sugar” Shane hit the canvas cross-eyed and cross-legged, courtesy of Pacquiao’s straight left. This had the unfortunate effect of reducing Mosley from being merely unable to fight to being unwilling as well. Thereafter, the crowd complained loudly and often and who could blame them?

Well, perhaps we should ask why they were there in the first place. The two obvious options are (a) the event or (b) the fight. If people paid purely for the former, then surely it was money well spent. After all, those in attendance got to breathe the rarified air of the most famous face in boxing (even if it was much thinner where they were seated): little room for complaint there then.

But what about the second option? Well, almost nobody knowledgeable about boxing expected this to be anything other than a Side Show masquerading as a Main Event, especially the promoters. Hence the snake oil salesmanship, premised as always on the notion that “a fool and his money are easily parted” and proving correct by producing a sell-out show. With results like this, why worry about burning bridges to the wider public? After all, repeat business is hardly a necessity when “there’s another sucker born every minute.” In reality, or course, that this is the sport’s preferred method of promotion probably goes a long way toward explaining its fringe status.

The point, then, is that we should be careful what we wish for. The days when boxers regularly made back page news is long gone and modern marketing means that the sport’s return to ‘former glory’ will mostly fail to give the fans the fights they really want to see. If you actually parted with money to see Pacquiao vs. Mosley, then it was your right to boo the lack of action. But the fact that you expected a fight in the first place probably means that you’re saving to see Ricky Hatton return against De la Hoya. May the best man win.

‘S Wonderful, ‘S Marvelous

Posted in Pre-fight analysis on March 11, 2011 by Rik Hine

Is Sergio Martinez too good for his own good? Tomorrow night in Mashantucket, Connecticut, Serhiy Dzinziruk will attempt to tell us. If you’re saying “Serhiy who?” then you may suspect that the opening question has already been answered. But perhaps that’s not fair. It’s arguable that Martinez’ break out fight was against Alex Bunema, but who had really heard of “Maravilla” until he outclassed and KO’d Kermit Cintron? Supposedly, lightning doesn’t strike twice but the fight officials that night seemed locked in a Dutch auction of ineptitude – the referee caved in to Cintron’s complaints and continued the fight, the judges then compounded the misery and declared it a draw.  Fortunately for Martinez, anyone who actually loves the sport remembered the fighter rather than the farce.

Ten months later, Martinez was involved in a fight of the year candidate, trading on equal terms with Paul Williams in a twelve round war. This time the draw would have been the right result but one of the ‘judges’ appeared to be playing ‘Pin the Tail on the Donkey’ with his scorecard and Martinez went home empty handed again.

That the fight took place at all was a consequence of a cancelled meeting between Williams and the consensus middleweight champ, Kelly “The Ghost” Pavlik. The latter seemed to be taking his ring name too seriously and a subsequent scheduled meeting with Williams was also cancelled. This was fortuitous for “The Marvel” who signed to fight Pavlik when he reappeared. This time Martinez did all he could to render the judges obsolete, cutting the champ badly in the ninth and taking advantage of a semi-blind foe for the remainder of the fight: this time he took home the trinkets.

Apparently, though, the pundits weren’t satisfied and when Martinez met Williams in a rematch many backed “The Punisher” to pull out the victory. Martinez made a mockery of the predictions putting Williams to sleep, quite literally, in two rounds.

So where does this potted history leave us? Seemingly back at the beginning – Martinez has left us in no doubt that he’s the real deal – unfortunately most managers agree and “Maravilla” now finds that the big fights, from one forty-seven to one sixty are eluding him. Enter Dzinziruk, if not “The Dragon,” unbeaten in thirty-seven fights against mostly moderate opposition. Is this a fight to get excited about?

Let’s look at the glass half-full: Dzinziruk has seen something in Martinez that makes him confident he can take the title back to Europe so he’s pushed his promoters into making the match-up. The middleweight “Diamond Belt” must seem like a tasty morsel indeed, compared to his career-long diet of light-middle minnows. This is the positive position so let’s skip past the part about the “title” at stake, and focus on the fighters. Does Dzinziruk have what it takes? After all, Martinez was unheralded heading into the defining fights of his career and now he’s the man to beat. Surely we should give Dzinziruk the benefit of the doubt.

Unfortunately, it’s hard not to see the glass as half-empty here. Dzinziruk is clearly no pushover, having held a light-middle title for five years, through six defences. But it is hard to see how he would have ever won a belt if we weren’t living in an era of alphabet titles. “The Razor” may be world-class but Martinez is undoubtedly a cut above.

Dzinziruk has so far shown a solid set of whiskers, and is quick to finish a foe once he has him hurt. But whilst styles makes fights, does anyone really think that he would win against Williams or Pavlik? No. Dzinziruk has never faced a fighter as fast as Martinez, and though they’re both southpaws, Martinez is even more unorthodox, often moving to his left instead of his right. When he changes direction it leaves his left hand hard to detect: just ask Paul Williams.

Dzinziruk may finish the fight on his feet but after twelve rounds he’ll wish he hadn’t tried to change his diet.

The “Great” and the good?

Posted in Pre-fight analysis on January 28, 2011 by Rik Hine

Devon Alexander “The Great” only leads an army of one, and he hasn’t had Aristotle as a teacher, but that shouldn’t diminish his ambitions for world domination. Whereas his namesake died before defeating the denizens of Arabia, Alexander goes head-to-head tomorrow night, with Timothy “Desert Storm” Bradley. To the victor goes the spoils, or so they say, and in this case it’s being argued that the booty is bragging rights in a ‘top-heavy’ light welterweight division. However, a more realistic assessment, given Amir “King” Khan’s recent resilient showing against Marcos Maidana, would have us withholding that honour until the belts are unified.

Nonetheless, that’s not to say that the match-up tomorrow night at the Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan, won’t go some way towards clearing the confusion. So who wins, and why? Well, whilst the combatants might be evenly matched, that’s not the same as saying that they have the same skill-sets. Bradley appears to be the much faster fighter but he has a habit of throwing wide, looping punches. Alexander on the other hand, may not be the ‘Hare’ but he’s hardly a ‘Tortoise’ either, and he delivers straight shots behind his southpaw jab. Neither fighter is noted for his punching power: Bradley tends to break fighters down with relentless pressure and it’s worth noting that Kotelnik’s constant come-forward tactics caused all kinds of problems for Alexander, in a fight that many observers thought he’d lost. Still, as Bradley’s fight with Kendall Holt showed, he’s apt to take too many chances on the way in, leaving him vulnerable to a calm counter-puncher, like Alexander. Indeed, it was the well-timed uppercuts of the latter that hacked down the usually durable Juan Urango, and this is the kind of punch that featured in both of Bradley’s visits to the canvas in his effort over Holt.

Does this mean, then, that Alexander “The Great” will win another campaign, or should Bradley be the betting favourite? First, we should say that both boxers will emerge with honour in the kind of evenly matched contest that fight fans crave. Abstract honours aside, however, Bradley will bring too much pressure to bear and unless he gets really sloppy he’ll hand Alexander the first official loss of his career. Long live the King?

Tilting at Windmills

Posted in Pre-fight analysis on January 22, 2011 by Rik Hine

Have you ever noticed the striking similarities between Don Quixote and Evander Holyfield? The protagonists in both tales are nearing fifty years of age and are engaged in clearly impossible quests. The problem is that Holyfield’s story, however hard to believe, isn’t fiction. Ultimately, Quixote renounces his chivalrous goals and regains his sanity, however, he still dies a broken man. A similar sad ending seems likely for Holyfield but after all the punches he’s taken in a long career, you might wonder if he’ll regain his sanity even in the unlikely event that he renounces his noble-pursuit. Unfortunately, if you’ve heard him talking any time in the last ten years, you won’t wonder for very long.

The sad point, of course, is that Holyfield’s quixotic campaign to recapture the Heavyweight Crown continues tonight, at the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia. In promoting this “event,” his opponent, Sherman Williams, has talked a good game but his ring-record suggests he’ll be playing Sancho Panza tonight: nothing he does will deter Holyfield from marching forward towards another shot at glory.

Holyfield will tell anyone who listens that he has managed to prolong his career by always remaining in shape: he doesn’t drink alcohol, or smoke cigarettes, and he walks around at fighting weight. Indeed, Tommy Brooks, his trainer, claims Holyfield only took three weeks to prepare for this outing. After all, he said, the “Real Deal” already knows how to fight. He could have said, instead, that Holyfield has already forgotten more about fighting that most people ever learn: a metaphor fit for double-duty if ever there was one. A more candid assessment might allow that Holyfield, at forty-eight, probably doesn’t have the capacity to train for any longer. Anyway, Holyfield, and his team, have ample first-hand knowledge that no matter how well one maintains one’s weapon, it’s of little use unless one can pull the trigger: at world-class level, Holyfield has been failing, on this score, for about a decade.

That won’t be a problem tonight. Williams wasn’t chosen for his ability to spoil the script and he’ll probably be basking in the warm glow of a payday that he couldn’t get for any other opponent. Still, don’t expect him to be too grateful. Historically, he hasn’t made a habit of hitting the canvas and he won’t do so tonight. Instead, he’ll hang around long enough to see Holyfield have his hand raised. And that’s more than you can say for discerning boxing fans.

 

 

 

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