Punch Drunk Ramblings – The Green Beer Edition

Top o’ the morning to you and yours.  If any of you out there share my habits then you too are probably just now shaking off the ill effects of some St. Patty Day shenanigans involving the odd concoction of green tinted ale.  And while I can’t think of one other holiday that strangely plays off a not so flattering stereotype quite like St. Patrick’s Day the fact remains I am part Irish and engaged in such festivities so can I really harbor any mixed feelings at the thought? 
My cries for a intervention aside, lets delve into some boxing related ramblings!

Erin Go “Brawl”!
This Friday night on ESPN Irish middleweight prospect Andy Lee will take on Contender Season 3 participant Brian Vera is what is all but expected to be an all action affair.  Personally I think that Lee is far too technically sound compared to the capable yet mildly crude Vera.  Don’t expect this one to go to the scorecards.  Lee has the shown some pop in his mitts and while Vera posses a mighty sturdy chin, it has proven to fail him on occasion. 
I’m really high on Lee and while he does not evoke the same rabid following that his counterpart John Duddy enjoys, Lee is the far superior boxer and posses a much higher ceiling.
Ranking the Fighting Irish
Irish influence in boxing’s long and storied history goes back centuries when men were men and a bare-knuckle fight did not end until the police raided the scene of a combatant was unfit to continue.  Below is a rundown of the top 10 Irish and Irish-American pugs as this scribe sees it:
Mickey “The Toy Bulldog” Walker (93-19-4, 60 KOs, 1 NC, 46 ND) – Tough-as-nails middleweight who partied like he fought, reckless and aggressive.  At 149 lbs. was the lightest man ever to fight for the light heavyweight title.  Was fabled to have laced his water bottle with gin in a middleweight title fight.
Jimmy “Babyface” McLarnin (62-11-3, 20 KOs) – One of the sports true defensive geniuses.  Engaged in one of the the sports greatest trilogies with the legendary Barny Ross.  Defeated such notables as Benny Leonard, Pancho Villa, and Lou Ambers.
Billy “The Pittsburgh Kid” Conn (63-12-1, 14 KOs) – While most known for his near victory over Joe Louis, the fact is that Conn was one of the greatest light heavyweights boxing has ever seen.  In his prime his defense was a thing of beauty.  Imagine the defensive acumen of a Winky Wright mixed with a little prime James Toney and you had Conn. 
John L. Sullivan (38-1-3, 33 KOs) – Arguably America’s first ever sports superstar, Sullivan ruled supreme in the tail end era of bare-knuckle boxing.  Concussive power coupled with an I-can-beat-any-SOB-in-the-house arrogance it is of little wonder why so many idolized the great John L. 
Barry “The Clones Cyclone” McGuigan – Considered by many to be a national hero in both his native country of Northern Ireland as well as Ireland. McGuigan embodied a whirling dervish of flying leather.  Such was McGuigan’s popularity in the Emerald Isle that the violence between Protestants and Catholics would subside when he stepped into the ring. 
“The Nonpareil” Jack Dempsey (50-3-8, 3 NC) – The “first” Jack Demspey was so good that the media bestowed the nonpareil, without equal, moniker upon the man born John Kelly.  History often forgets him but Dempsey was one of the finest middleweight title holders to lace up a pair of gloves. 
“Terrible” Terry McGovern (60-4-4, 42 KOs, 10 ND) – One of the hardest hitting featherweights of all time McGovern was your prototypical brawler.  There is little reason as to why McGovern was nicknamed “Terrible” as his concussive punches left many a great fighter staring up at the rafters. 
Packey McFarland (64-1-5, 47 KOs, 34 ND) – The former street urchin turned boxer unfortunately never won a title though it was no fault of his own.  The recognized lightweight champion at the time Battling Nelson avoided McFarland like the plague.  You almost could not blame him given that McFarland’s pinpoint accuracy and slashing combinations made any outing with the Chicago native a, uphill battle. 
Wayne “The Pocket Rocket” McCullough (27-6, 18 KOs) – McCullough posses arguably the sports greatest chin.  Having never been dropped as an amateur of a professional McCullough’s toughness is his most cherished possession.  One of Ireland’s most decorated pugs McCullough is probably best known for his losses to Naseem Hamed and Erik Morales respectively.  Both fights were 12 hard fought wars that despite being out classed McCullough never stopped fighting. 
“Sailor” Tom Sharkey (40-6, 37 KOs, 3 ND) – Earning the “sailor” moniker for his work as a cabin boy and later a naval officer Sharkey was a hell of a heavyweight.  Though never actually winning a title many observers at the time thought the bested the likes of James J. Corbett and James J. Jefferies.  Sharkey also held wins over Bob Fitzsimmons and Kid McCoy. 

Casamayor – Katsidis
Ok, let us not forget that there is fight on HBO this weekend to enjoy.  My colleague Tim touched on the fight in his recent post but I wanted to take a moment to interject my thoughts as well.
I cannot stand Joel Casamayor.  There I said it and it feels good.  His whining and posturing are about as played out as Members Only jackets.  For all of his remarkable skill and ring savvy the fact remains some of his tactics are dirtier than a $2 prostitute.  The fact that he is still considered the “real” lightweight champ holds about as much merit as my plan for universal healthcare.  I personally had him losing his last bout to Jose Armando Santa Cruz and while the WBC should have actually stepped in for once and mandated a rematch we now get to see Casamayor do battle with the exciting Michael Katsidis. 
I have to say that while I enjoy watching Katsidis fight I feel that his skill sets make him the fourth best lightweight right now.  The fact that he could gain recognition as the “lightweight champion of the world” by beating an aging Casamayor does not sit well with me as I consider Nate Champbell the man to beat at 135.  What I do like is the fact that Katsidis seems eager to take on all comers so should he win I cannot see a reason for him not to fight Campbell or the afore mentioned Santa Cruz to truly determine the king of the lightweights.
With all that being said I am going with the pick of Casamayor by split decision.  My confidence in the pick is hovering right around 50% but I think that Casamayor’s style is all wrong for Katsidis.  This fight could either be extremely entertaining or a complete snooze feast.  There is no middle ground with this one.
Steve Luevano
Count me among the observers who would love to never have to witness another Steve Luevano fight.  I completely disagree with Maxboxing’s Steve Kim’s recent story praising Luevano as an exciting fighter.  I just didn’t see it when I saw his fight past Saturday.  Just my opinion.
One More Thing
I wanted to touch on Tim’s excellent post about boxers – and all athletes for that matter – who try to end an argument with the whole. “you never boxed so you have no right to criticize” mantra.  Tim pointed out the flaws in this logic so I will spare you all the recap but it is a truly excellent post and I ask all to take a gander.  As a fellow self described boxing writer I too have heard such statements and always thought it funny that they never actually addressed the basis of my critique.  I pay it no mind but I know that it eats at come journalist (see Larry Mecrhant’s post fight interview with Floyd Mayweather for an example of an argument ad hominem). 

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.