By Ivan Goldman
If boxing is a dying sport, why were pro fights featured on three premium channels Saturday night? Clearly it would be premature to start shoveling dirt on it just yet.
Once again we had something like seven hours of controlled conflict spread across the night, and if you’re like me you once again got them mixed up in your head as HBO, Showtime, and Epix all boiled their ingredients in one televised cauldron of featherweights, heavyweights, bantamweights, and more. Did we just see Mikey Garcia kayo Erislandy Lara? Or do they live in different divisions?
Garcia, Wladimir Klitschko, Leo “Teremote” Santa Cruz, and Abner Mares all stood out for different reasons, and junior middleweight Alfredo Angulo showed us that after you hold him in a detention center for seven months on immigration issues he comes out the gate like a tyrannosaurus rex. There will be no second round.
Epix channel is the product of media giants and their subsidiaries that include Viacom, Paramount, MGM, Lionsgate, and MTV. That means it’s got plenty of capital, which is why it can afford to show fights on the Jumbotron in Times Square. Epix takes us to fights the other U.S. premium channels don’t want, and in these strange times those are heavyweight matches.
But it pretty much does these fights pretty on the cheap, with all commentary coming from a studio stateside. This time they gave us WNBC sports anchor Bruce Beck, who, after Wladimir had already landed, oh, seven or eight hundred unanswered bombs on Mariusz Wach’s super-tough dazed head, said of the clueless referee, “Eddie Cotton’s done a tremendous job.” Honest. Beck said that.
Meanwhile, over on Showtime, we were treated to fine work by welterweight Paulie Malignaggi. He was clear, witty, concise, intelligent, and wore a really nice suit. He was born for this. Paulie was particularly astute explaining that Anselmo “Chemito” Moreno was pulling Mares’ head down as a defense against Mares’ billy goat head. Malignaggi, you recall, was teamed with always-competent Al Bernstein, and Mauro Ranallo. Ranallo, an ultimate fighting announcer dweeb, sounds like one of those radio announcers telling you to come out to a truck rally this weekend. You know, “Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!” He’s all delivery, but with no meat in his wagon. When Ranallo is telling you about an upcoming “Dexter” episode he sounds like he’s announcing the start of World War III.
So for comic relief viewers got to see dueling dummies Beck and Ranallo.
Other random thoughts from a long night of pugilism:
* I can’t get over how foreign countries are so in love with Michael Buffer (and Jimmy Lennon) that they pay them to come over and make introductions in what is to them a foreign tongue. Can you imagine anyone here paying a European announcer to come over and do it all in German?
* In the 5th round a right hand from Wladimir in Hamburg shook my coffee table in L.A. How Wach withstood this I’ll never understand. How his corner let him withstand it is an even bigger mystery. His inept handlers were no doubt encouraged by the fact that Wladimir, unlike his brother Vitali, has in fact been knocked out. So they kept hoping for that lucky punch. But human beings weren’t built to take 36 minutes of this. After the eighth round it was no longer a fight, just a beating.
* “Use your legs,” cornerman Jonathan Banks said to Klitschko between rounds. What makes the Klitschkos remarkable is that they can use their legs. Other men their size lumber around the ring like bewildered hippos.
* I have never seen a fighter actually run around the ring chasing his opponent with quite the speed of Mares. He looked like a sprinter in there. Which tells you how fast Moreno was running away from him. With a style like that, Moreno is a fighter it’s difficult to root for. His own mother probably cheers for his opponents.
* One of Moreno’s cornermen told him between rounds that Mares was “throwing a lot of low blows.” Generally speaking, a fighter being struck by a lot of low blows doesn’t have to be informed of this by a third party. But maybe something was lost in translati0n.
* Mkey Garcia showed us what a hungry fighter with pop in his punches needs to do when he snares a national audience.
Ivan G. Goldman’s critically acclaimed novel The Barfighter is set in the world of boxing. Information HERE