By Ivan G. Goldman
When Showtime’s Jim Gray can’t find a controversy he has an ugly habit of inventing one. Saturday night, after watching Marcos Maidana knock Josesito Lopez senseless in the sixth round of their exciting welterweight match, Gray naturally saw pay dirt in the excellent call by referee Lou Moret. After all, Lopez wasn’t dead yet.
And of course Lopez agreed. Sure, he explained to Gray, he was buzzed, but he’s a warrior, etc., etc. Trouble is, a guy who’s just been knocked senseless is a poor judge of such decisions. If Gray ran the sport there wouldn’t be any boxing, not legally anyway. All the deaths and disfigurements would kill it, except for scattered matches in secret basements. Stoppages often distress Gray. If a fighter’s eyeball is hanging out of the socket by a bloody string, hey, it’s still attached, isn’t it?
Before the bout Gray told Lopez on camera, “You don’t know anything about defense.” Lopez took the boorish comment well, but it certainly didn’t sound much like a question. Insults, you see, make for great TV if you can find the right audience. The confrontational Gray, the network’s first-string fight interviewer, is only one element of the massive depletion of taste and sense in the media. He’s like the Paris Hilton of professional boxing except as far as I know he hasn’t released any sex tapes. That’s just my opinion, but I could be wrong.
Gray seemed to tone down his ugly act after the classy Kostya Tszyu asked him on camera to stop being rude, but with Tszyu safely retired, Gray’s Attila the Hun performances grow crueler and more senseless.
Stopping the fight when Moret did was the only good call a good referee could have made. Lopez wasn’t defending himself, probably didn’t even know where he was, and he had a murderous puncher raining shots on him. Which is when Gray apparently thought the fight just got started.
After everybody has just seen two great contests they don’t need manufactured drama from a guy sticking a microphone in the fighters’ faces. Before Maidana overcame adversity to provide his stunning finish, Arislandy Lara overcame even more adversity — being decked twice but pulling out a 10th round stoppage against Alfredo Angulo during terrific back and forth junior middleweight action.
I’m not sure what the dreadfully dull Demetrius Hopkins versus Jermell Charlo was doing on this broadcast. When Demetrius finds himself opposite a guy who can fight you can pretty much count on him trying to make it into a pitchers’ duel. These days Showtime TV, at least when it comes to fight decisions, is actually Golden Boy Promotions using someone else’s money, so it wouldn’t make any sense to ask network executives about their boxing programming. It’s basically outsourced to another corporation.
At the same time, pulling in a record 8,629 fans to a non-title fight at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California was a fantastic Golden Boy achievement. The firm run by Oscar De La Hoya and Richard Schaefer is really kicking butt. Top Rank’s Bob Arum has promoted many cards at the Home Depot Center, and he never drew close to 8,000 fans. Arum, more closely linked to HBO than ever, no longer speaks to anyone at Showtime, so at least he doesn’t have to put up with Jim Gray anymore.
Sick Justice: Inside the American Gulag, by New York Times best-selling author Ivan G. Goldman, is due out this month. It can be pre-purchased here.