Klitschko-Ibragimov Diary, Friday: Conan O’Brien’s Love; Big Brother; Roving Canadians

NEW YORK CITY — As promised, I’ll be filing tidbits from the scene in and around Madison Square Garden in advance of, and during, the big heavyweight fight between Vladimir Klitschko and Sultan Ibragimov for a couple of title belts. Off we go: Conan O’Brien Loves Vladimir Klitschko, Who Has, Um, Tent Issues Before I went to sleep last night, I caught Klitschko’s appearance on Conan O’Brien last night. That he was on at all suggests that this fight is worthy of some mainstream attention, or else O’Brien wouldn’t have even bothered with him. Klitshcko was eloquent in places (nervousness is like snake venom, good in small doses as a medicine but bad in big doses), humble throughout (constantly praising O’Brien like some kind of foot-shuffling aww-shucks fan) and just plain strange in one case (asked about sex and training). Before I even had a chance, quick on the draw commenter Eugene found the YouTube link and put it in yesterday’s preview story. But I’ve included it below, too. O’Brien seemed genuinely charmed by Klitschko — affirming once again the point that Klitschko, as unified heavyweight champ, is good for the sport, Russian or no. But I really could do without the image of Klitschko “waking up in a tent.” See for yourself, because this is a family blog, and I just don’t think I should comment.
Roving Canadians And Big Brother A group of Canadian boxing figures are in town to support their man, middleweight (160 lbs.) Walid Smichet, who’s fighting John Duddy on the undercard in his non-Canada debut. I chatted them up a little. In the crew were talented Jean Pascal, the super middleweight (168 lbs.) contender who’s nearing a deal to fight big-punching Edison Miranda on Showtime, according to ESPN; retired former middleweight champ Otis Grant, one of Canada’s more celebrated fighters, who once took on Roy Jones, Jr. and now is working the promotional side of things; underrated Canadian trainer Howard Grant, Smichet’s trainer and the man who put Herman Ngoudjo on the verge of upsetting junior welterweight (140 lbs.) star Paulie Malignaggi just a few weeks back; and, while he’s not a Canadian, they were joined by Librado Andrade, the tough-as-nails super middleweight contender who beat Otis Grant in Grant’s last fight in 2006. They were all jovial and friendly, as Canadians are. Otis Grant didn’t even seem bothered that I’d confused him for someone else, even though I’d checked with a fellow boxing scribe about why he looked familiar and misunderstood the answer. (Rookie mistake #2 and counting). And Howard Grant wasn’t terribly irritated when I told him I thought Malignaggi pulled out the win against Ngoudjo, even though Grant said he’d gone back and looked at the tape and felt they’d won seven out of the first 10 rounds and swept the final two. There’s talk, he said, of a Ngoudjo title eliminator against Juan Urango. He was bullish on Smichet, too: He said he cares too much about his fighters, and invests too much into them, for them to just “go in there and lay down.” Smichet’s got the power and tools to win, he said. Pascal wasn’t sure if the Miranda fight was a go, but when I advised him to watch out for Miranda’s big power, he countered, “if he can get to me.” He ‘fessed up to looking bad in his last outing, and when I confessed in return to having not caught the fight, he said, smiling, “Good.” But he explained that he’d fought too many fights in the second half of 2007, and that’s why he wasn’t up to snuff. Incidentally, I was complimentary to all of them, but I didn’t say anything I didn’t believe was true. Things like: Pascal is fast, and might be fast enough to keep Miranda from loading up on him. Ngoudjo proved more to me than I thought he had against Malignaggi. Grant and Ngoudjo came in with a great gameplan. That Canadian boxing is on the rise, a subject I’ve written about before. And Smichet may just have a few tools to upset Duddy. Vitali Klitschko, Vladimir’s big brother, was around, too, but he was getting mobbed and I opted not to bug him. He was gracious, but after a while, I could tell that he just kinda wanted to talk to the person he was talking to. Logistical Unpleasantries As I think I’ve indicated plenty, I’ve been bumbling around a little bit trying to get the hang of covering a big fight. It is not entirely my fault. The schedule said the weigh-in for the undercard would be at 2:30 Friday, but it actually started at 1. Good thing I came earlier in anticipation of such things. Then, trying to get photos of the fighters at the weigh-in was not exactly easy. I’d always watched photographers grumpily yelling at people during their scrums to take pictures, and now I understand why. Just when you get into position, someone gets in the way of your shot. And what do I get from the effort? Photos of lot of men standing around in their underwear, sometimes blocked by a stray head, sometimes not. And I can barely figure out how to get them in my posts. It’s not clear if I’ll be able to live-blog tomorrow’s fights, but I still intend to if the logistics let me.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board (http://www.tbrb.org). He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.