Mike Lee was in a Super Bowl commercial this weekend, and Muhammad Ali became the latest boxing personality not to die. At least this time the rumor of impending death was coming from someone who might've maybe known — Ali's brother — but it does get kind of old, reading about people allegedly being on their death bed, wondering if they are dead or will die, finding out they aren't dying, then a few weeks to months later discovering that they did in fact die. It's especially annoying when it's living icon Muhammad Ali.
As for Mike Lee and the Subway Super Bowl commercial: Our friend Hamilton Nolan thinks it's lame, but I "get it." The Great White Hope has often been the Great White Hype; we wrote here recently about the last Great White Hope, Kelly Pavlik, and how rare his type is becoming. If it's cool for other nationalities and ethnicities to root for their respective ethnicities or nationalities, why ain't it cool for honky? Yep, Lee is "created," so far, but let's face it, honky is desperate. White people can and do totally root for fighters of other ethnicities (go to any live boxing show and see how much of the audience is white), but any promoter who can find a white guy who can box worth a damn is going to try to exploit that. I don't see the problem with it. There are more white people in America than other people, so it's a demographic ripe for exploitation once anyone with a whiff of potential comes along. Which is why Pavlik was, however briefly, HUGE.
Maybe you're wondering about that video above, though. So let's stop talking about boxing's pop culture issues and move on to the fights from the past weekend.
- Friday Night Fights fallout. Cory Spinks retired, as he should've following his loss to Carlos Molina, although very few boxing retirements last. One of the things noteworthy about it is that his wife took a shot at junior middleweight Cornelius Bundrage on the way out, noting that if you get beaten by Bundrage, you probably really ought to retire. Bundrage is crude, but he's the kind of crude boxer who gets some things done; he has beaten more than Spinks, and it's not all luck. Bundrage's wife came back with some classy-style remarks, with a heavy helping of Jesus.
- Artur Szpilka vs. Mike Mollo. The ESPN3 post-fight special was far better than the rest of the ESPN2 card on Friday, although maybe people have gotten carried away about quite how good it was. It was a very nice-not-great, very bloody brawl between two low-skilled heavyweights, the second half better than the first. It's definitely worth checking out, even if the referee got carried away in all the wrong ways and ruined some of the proceedings.
- Sam Soliman vs. Felix Sturm. You can argue that Sturm, one of the top middleweights in the world for a long time, has lost four of his last five fights, but only Aussies Sam Soliman and Daniel Geale got the decision. Good for Soliman, a perpetual "almost"er and pleasant Aussie with a funky, volume-punching style who used that to confuse the ultra-linear, low-volume German. As with all Sturm fights, just about any damn score would've worked, because there's nobody whose fights are harder to judge, owing to his tendency to land the more telling shots in the round but to throw an average of three power punches. I scored the 1st, 2nd, 10th and 12th for him, with an extra point docked from Soliman for the 2nd round knockdown, for a score of 115-112 for Soliman, although you could give the 3rd and 4th to Sturm too if you felt like it.
- Juan Manuel Lopez returns. JuanMa looked like the 2012 vintage in his ring return rather than the 2008 vintage, which is to say all macho offense and macho no-defense rather than a more pure boxer-puncher. In other words, the layoff owing to his bogus-ly long suspension for ill-considered, post-concussion remarks about the referee who stopped his fight didn't make a lick of positive difference in his career arc. The man he beat in a 128 pound bout, Aldimar Silvo Santos, had been stopped two fights prior by 10-fight prospect Jesse Magdaleno, and in less time (two rounds vs. nine) than JuanMa did it. I really don't like writing fighters off, but I think JuanMa is done not only as an elite fighter, but as a guy who can beat top 10 fighters.
- The Rest. Dan Rafael gotchu for most of the rest, including a solid win for the once highly-regarded prospect Frankie Gomez and Juergen Braehmer actually fighting a fight rather than pulling out of one, setting up a bout with Nathan Cleverly, one of the men he pulled out against previously. Our Joseph R. Holzer will have some extra coverage of a weekend fight up next.