Weekend Afterthoughts: The Bravery Of Jermain Taylor; The Comedy Of Arthur Abraham’s Trunks; The Sanctity Of The Super Six Tournament; More
Good lawd y’all people have had a lot to say about this Super Six super middleweight tournament. I love it. Since I’m still getting comments today, I thought it might be worthwhile to circle back to the tournament’s debut Saturday for some afterthoughts, plus throw in some other weekend afterthoughts — mostly, some media notes and some brief ruminations on other fights.
Jermain Taylor’s bravery. Too often boxing fans are knuckleheads, but as it pertains to the devastating knockout of Jermain Taylor by Arthur Abraham this weekend, it very much looks like most boxing people have had their heads screwed on sans knuckles. Taylor was released from the hospital Sunday after suffering a severe concussion and short-term memory loss. His promoter, Lou DiBella, said in a news release the outpouring of support had been tremendous. Given that Taylor took so much criticism during his career, and given the aforementioned knuckleheadedness of boxing fandom, I was heartened by this. And I think the reason for the good attitude is like so: Even if you thought Taylor didn’t deserve his wins over Bernard Hopkins or his draw with Winky Wright (or even his win over Cory Spinks); even if you thought he never deserved the lofty status HBO gave him; even if you thought he never fulfilled his potential by slacking outside the ring — no matter what, you had to realize that Taylor has always been a true FIGHTER. His choice of opponents was always dangerous to the max, and even in fights he lost, he entertained. He was in good fights routinely — the draw with Wright, the first loss to Kelly Pavlik and the loss to Carl Froch were all Fight of the Year-type outings. That kind of bravery in the ring is exceptional, and fans rightly appreciate it. When you behave that way, people root for you, even if you aren’t their favorite fighter or anything like it. I don’t think, if Taylor’s career ends here, that he has anything to be ashamed of. Quite the opposite. He fought his ass off, he earned millions win or lose, and he beat some excellent fighters along the way. I just hope his bravery doesn’t — as bravery has so many other fighters — compel him to fight on when he shouldn’t. I know he didn’t stay in the hospital as long as expected, but three savage knockout losses in five fights, a concussion and short-term memory loss don’t add up to someone who ought to remain a professional boxer.
Taylor replacement. There’s been a lot of discussion over who might replace Taylor. All signs point to Showtime’s choice being Allan Green, also promoted by DiBella, so there’s some logic there. I’m no fan of Green to say the least, but I could live with that choice. It certainly isn’t my first choice. Dan Goossen, promoter of Edison Miranda, has made the argument that Green and Miranda should have a box off for the final slot, since Miranda owns a win over Green; I’m not convinced, since Miranda is himself in what looks like a career tailspin, maybe one worse than Taylor’s. If I ruled the world, the winner of Lucian Bute-Librado Andrade II next month would take the slot. We’d be talking about a top-5, maybe even top-2, super middleweight. Bute could carry the North America flag against the Europeans, since he’s from Canada, as could Andrade, since he’s from Mexico. After that, I’d favor Sakio Bika, whom I think is more accomplished at super middle than Green. And there have been some people throwing out the name Kelly Pavlik, but that doesn’t interest me at all. Pavlik has achieved practically nothing at super middle unless you count his catchweight win over Taylor in the rematch; in two fights above middleweight, he’s not looked like the same fighter; and hell, he may not even be middleweight champion anymore by the time he’d replace Taylor, since he has a dangerous Dec. 5 fight against Paul Williams.
Dirrell-Froch “robbery.” All right. So by my definition of “robbery,” where no significant percentage of reasonable people score the fight for the alleged robber, Andre Dirrell-Carl Froch moves out of that column. People overseas and people who saw the fight live as opposed to on television seem to constitute the bulk of those who thought Froch won or the fight was close, but a good number of people otherwise — not the majority, in my estimation — thought it at least close. But I still don’t see how anyone even kind of scored this fight for Froch, or even had more than a couple rounds for Froch. I honestly haven’t heard anyone defending the Froch decision say the following sentence: “Froch landed significant punches.” Plural. People point to the big shot he landed in the 8th, but that’s one punch, and it was enough to give him the 8th for me. But other than that, what was there? Shots to the back of the head? The occasional jab? And in the meantime, Dirrell was landing punches that were very flush, punches that at times hurt Froch or forced him to back off. You can certainly make the case that Dirrell was “negative” — I didn’t think it was so bad, what he was doing — and that he wasn’t the aggressor, but he was the only one landing effective punches. The only one. I think you can win a fight on aggression alone if the other person isn’t doing anything; take, for instance, the early rounds of Abraham-Taylor, where Taylor’s jab was primarily getting blocked, but Abraham wasn’t throwing or landing nothin’. Taylor rounds — I can see it, although I only gave two of those first four rounds to Taylor. That definitely wasn’t the case in Dirrell-Froch. There was only one person consistently scoring in this fight, and scoring with quality punches, and it wasn’t Froch. If I have time, I’m going to try to count the punches landed and thrown in this fight. I’m not CompuBox, but I’ll do my best. If Froch lands more shots than I remember him landing, I’ll definitely eat my words.
Tournament shine off? There is an vibe out there today that the tournament hurt itself some this weekend. It’s not wholly without merit. Most of us thought Taylor shouldn’t have been in the tournament. We were right. He’s probably going to need to be replaced, but if he isn’t, there will be some of us who will be sickened by him fighting on. If he is replaced, the lineup change is potentially problematic. And as revolutionary as the tournament is, as much not like boxing as we know it is, it ran into an old problem in the sport: controversial officiating. And neither fight was a thriller. As much as those criticisms are valid, though, I think the shine should not be off very much. First off, there’s never any guarantee in advance that any fight — not just in this tournament, but any fight ever — will be very good. I enjoyed both fights, and I realize I’m in the minority, but certainly neither fight left me saying “wow,” even in lower case. (OK, maybe that Abraham KO was “WOW.”) Likewise, questionable decisions and hometown refereeing can happen in any fight. I don’t think you can hold fights like this on neutral ground and expect them to bring in the kind of money to make it worth each fighters’ while, purse-wise. Maybe you hold the last fight or three on neutral turf? I don’t know, but I’m guessing Dirrell would have taken a fight with Froch in Nottingham even if it wasn’t a fight in this tournament, because that’s where he would’ve gotten paid, and Froch as the titlist would have been able to dictate terms. Making it so a fighter sometimes is on home turf and somtimes not makes sense from the standpoint of fairness, a la baseball playoffs, and that’s what will happen. And I’m not worried about how the replacement issue will play out. I don’t think whoever takes over for Taylor should he drop out — be it this round or after his fight with Andre Ward, if he stays put — comes in at such a massive disadvantage. According to Dan Rafael — contrary to what is commonly thought, which is that a replacement fighter inherits the point total of the fighter he replaces — the replacement fighter comes in with the point total of the lowest score in the tournament. Do some math there. A fighter with one loss or two losses isn’t necessarily out of the tournament coming into the third round. Worst case scenario, if a replacement fighter comes into the third round with zero points, he can make the final round with a knockout, so long as there are two other people coming into the third round with one win and one loss or no wins and they lose their third round fights. I don’t know how the tiebreaker system works, but conceivably the replacement fighter can come into the tournament and win one fight and make the semis. So who wouldn’t want that slot in the third round? Especially someone like Green, who’s been wanting a big name at super middleweight for forever and would, at worst, be getting the biggest paycheck of his career before bowing out of the tourney? Nope, friends, the tourney is alive and well after this weekend.
Assorted tournament tidbits. The Abraham-Taylor fight got a nearly 40 percent share in Germany. Boxing is so dead… Abraham is permanently in love with cheesy ring entrances. Used to be he’d come out as a Smurf. This past weekend he comes out with the Scorpions, who are from Germany, after all, but still, they are the Scorpions. And he comes out in the most horrible king costume I’ve ever seen, lined by what appeared to be low-grade camel fur. This German predilection for cheesiness, more than anything, is what is likely to hamper his stardom potential in America… I’d make some kind of “wardrobe malfunction” quip about the tear in Abraham’s trunks that nearly gave us a glimpse of his Armenian trouser snake, but his wardrobe was malfunctioning from the moment we saw it… No, Gus Johnson doesn’t know boxing all that well, but he can work on that. He’s got a great play-by-play man voice and such, so I’m willing to give him a while longer… It was funny when Antonio Tarver called Froch “crotch,” but I’m willing to give him a pass, too. I’m guessing the slip-up had nothing to do with our close encounter with Abraham’s bare crotch and more to do with Tarver having been given a pronunciation guide that made sure to remind him that Froch’s name was pronounced like “crotch.” Tarver is to be commended for wanting to know how to pronounce boxers’ names at all, if that’s the case, not something Lennox Lewis has ever shown much of an interest in behind the mic… The camera work was terrible, overall, and not just because it kept zooming in on Abraham’s ass because of his damaged trunks. At least four times, somebody got hit and the camera was in too tight, so the boxers disappeared from the screen. On replays, the camera was zoomed in far too close on the face of the person being punched, so you couldn’t see how the punch developed or how it got through his defense. Pan out just a little, you foreign camerafellas.
Media notes. 1. Thomas Hauser has an excellent piece up about the New York Times neglecting boxing coverage. I agree with it. Kudos to Hauser for actually cataloguing all the other obscure sports events that the Times covered more than boxing over the last year. According to the Times’ sports page editor, its readers just aren’t interested in boxing. Yet there was a longer article about lumberjacking than any single boxing article the Times ran. By the Times’ reasoning, its readers are therefore more interested in lumberjacking than boxing. Is that even remotely credible? What, really, does the Times have against boxing? At least the Times plans to write about Manny Pacquiao soon, only one of the most interesting sports stories in the world, not just boxing. One problem with the article, though. Did Hauser really need to mention John Duddy, given the kerfuffle between himself and George Kimball over whether Hauser was an adviser to Duddy? The good boxing stories in New York don’t “start with” Duddy, as Hauser says. Maybe it ends with them, if Duddy’s even in the mix at all. (My own conflict of interest note: I recently proposed a freelance boxing piece to the Times, and the idea was rejected.) 2. Ring magazine’s website found room for a “blog” entry mentioning that Victor Ortiz was going to be putting in an appearance at the opening of some playing field in Las Angeles. Likewise, they practically printed verbatim a news release from Golden Boy talking about how Bernard Hopkins-Enrique Ornelas tickets were selling like hotcakes. Would either item have gotten as much attention if it wasn’t Golden Boy? John Ruiz’ community-building activity from this weekend, for instance, was arguably more newsworthy, and it didn’t get a mention on Ring’s website. (Although if Hopkins-Ornelas tickets were in fact selling like hotcakes, that would be surprising, and therefore news, I guess.) Seriously, Golden Boy Promotions. Back up off this kind of thing. Or if Ring web editors are putting this stuff up to subconsciously kiss ass, please, stop. 3. I’ve periodically had not nice things to say about BoxingScene, but David P. Greisman — who’s been kind to me, like Ring magazine has, and like Hauser has — does have two good points about media manipulation I’d like to echo. BoxingScene TOTALLY broke the Super Six story before ESPN did, so Rafael getting credit for it in the Showtime documentary is a little uncool. And everybody making a big deal out of Gato Figueroa getting sent home from Miguel Cotto’s training camp for giving Cotto a bunch of trouble, well, don’t get too carried away with it, because Figueroa is the only one being quoted about all of this.
Other boxing notes. Not much to speak of. Cruiserweight Vassiliy Jirov made his ring return, getting knocked down in the 1st round by his handpicked opponent before knocking out said opponent in the 2nd. Not sure what to read into that — could be ring rust, could be something worse… Cruiserweight champion Tomasz Adamek dropped his IBF belt this weekend, which so far as I can tell is really only about delaying a mandatory rematch with Steve Cunningham, as after this weekend’s heavyweight fight against Andrew Golota he intends to return to the division and maybe even reclaim said IBF belt… Lightweight Antonio Pitalua, junior bantamweight Raul Martinez and others scored wins this past weekend, FYI.