By Ivan G. Goldman
Dear Friday Night Fights,
Just when you were on a hot streak you put on another one of those C-plus performances. Which may be too generous.
In your main event, Cuban superfeatherweight Rances Barthelmy kayoed a Thai with credentials that looked spottier than a truckload of Dalmatians. And although opponent Fahsai Sakkreerin claimed to be 5 foot 3, when he’s walking down the sidewalk he could easily bump his nose into a fire hydrant if he’s not careful.
It was a match-up that smelled an awful lot like handlers trying to bolster the confidence of a fighter who’s been severely shaken by something that happened to him recently, such as Barthelmy’s gift decision over Arash Usmanee in his previous outing.
Barthelmy was so happy after stopping little Sakkreerin with a body shot in the second round that he got on his cell phone in the center of the ring to celebrate. Maybe from here on in everything will be coming up roses for Barthelmy, a former member of the Cuban National team, but I see reason to worry when a fighter with his advantages and connections is that pleased with himself for defeating a munchkin kick boxer.
Fans get tired of fighters being rewarded for questionable successes, but apparently one of the alphabet gangs was poised to give Barthelmy, who’s now officially 19-0 (12 KOs), a lofty ranking. If he doesn’t give Usmanee a rematch, there’s something rotten in the IBF. (big surprise, huh?)
In the co-feature, yes, middleweight home-stater Caleb Truax fighting in Minneapolis stopped Don George from Chicago in the sixth, but George is the kind of guy who never saw a punch he couldn’t catch with his chin. I find it offensive when a pro gets that far (Chicagoan George is 24-4-2 (21 KOs) and still shows all the defensive skills of somebody who took too many tranquilizers. What’s going on in those Chicago gyms? There used to be a lot of great champions from that town.
Teddy Atlas is still improving after all these years – not so repetitious and still skilled at explaining what he sees with his excellent trainer’s insight.
Nigel Collins gave us a nice summary of what it meant to the world when Joe Louis kayoed Nazi Germany’s Max Schmeling in the first round of their 1938 rematch in Yankee Stadium, and I really enjoyed seeing the fight again. Incidentally, Schmeling was not a Nazi by any stretch of the imagination. He was a good guy whose country got taken over by monsters.
Looking back, we’re often told this was a victory by equal opportunity America versus racist fiends of the Third Reich, but if the situation was that simple, how come the Brown Bomber served in a segregated Army in World War II?
Todd Grisham’s little schtick as a 1930s fight commentator was fun to watch — and polished enough to make the Daily Show. Back to Collins though – he always does excellent work, but how come everyone else on camera gets treated like a grown-up and he has to work from a dollar-ninety-nine Skype hookup from home that looks about as professional as road kill on a diner menu? Give the guy a break and let him into the studio, at least.
Anyway, ESPN2, your fights were mismatches with limited entertainment value, but your on-camera team made them bearable. Try to do better next time.
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.