Flatly: When has anyone ever debuted a completely new technology — as Internet broadcasting of boxing basically is — and it’s worked out perfectly? Don King Productions’ sojourn into the format Thursday evening went remarkably nicely, all things considered, even though it strangely began streaming Bravo TV at one point. It didn’t start on time, and technical difficulties were fairly common early on. But once it got to the main two bouts of the evening, there were few interruptions to the action. All quite excusable. So, let’s examine said action, shall we? It featured a great big upset. March has been a good month for them.
Early in the featured fight, with play-by-play man Col. Bob Sheridan calling all the early rounds for 154-pound titlist Cory Spinks, I was scratching my head, because Sheridan’s been a credible guy in all the international broadcasts I’ve heard him call and I was scoring it for challenger Verno Phillips. By the fourth or fifth, many of the rounds were toss-ups, but I began to put my pen away when it looked like Spinks was racking up his share of them. Not by much, mind you, was he winning them, but I became so disinterested in the fight itself that I didn’t much care about the outcome, which I assumed was a foregone conclusion, given that Spinks was fighting in his backyard of St. Louis. There’s an old Weird Al Yankovic chestnut that’s just a series of painful metaphors. “I’d rather jump naked into a huge pile of thumbtacks/or stick my nostrils together with crazy glue… than spend one more minute with you.” I think of it when I watch Spinks.
In many ways, it was a relief that Spinks lost, even if it was a questionable loss. It was a split decision, with two judges giving it to Phillips by a score of 115-113 and 116-112, and the other judge giving it to Phillips by a score of 115-113. I don’t think it’s all that questionable a loss, however. Phillips was landing the harder shots in, well, every round, given that Spinks, in the words of Jay-Z, “wouldn’t bust a grape in a fruit fight.” And Spinks wasn’t landing that many more overall blows. If this is an injustice, there are some injustices I will shed fewer tears about. But it’s a shocking upset, given that more than a few people rank Spinks as a top-20 pound-for-pound talent. It’s up there with the other March upsets, lightweight (135 lbs.) Nate Campbell over Juan Diaz and middleweight (160 lbs.) Brian Vera over Andy Lee.
In the second most important bout of the evening, I liked what I saw from Devon Alexander, King’s top prospect. The 140-pounder may not have much pop in his fists, given that it took until the seventh round to ever hurt Miguel Callist, who’s been knocked out six times in his career, but man, is he sharp. And he’s no cutesy safety-first boxer who doesn’t want to engage, like Spinks. Nope, he chased Calist all over the ring. And he straight dominated him, too. Alexander unloaded a lot of artillery and showed the kind of good defense that isn’t at odds with entertainment. Callist was, plainly, running away from him by the ninth. Not that it got any worse results. When Callist tried to mount an offense early, it didn’t get him anywhere, because Alexander was so busy Callist couldn’t get started.
Put Alexander of the category of “guys who aren’t huge punchers but fight, at times, like big-hitting brawlers.” It’s a curious little subset, because it’s cognitive dissonance to see a lighter-hitting boxer stand and trade. The other two most notable inhabitants of the category are fellow 140-pounder Paulie Malignaggi and Diaz. Each fighter does it slightly differently. Alexander did it Thursday it with good offensive pressure, a nice strong jab, subtle defensive movement and a variety of punches. He got a 12th round knockdown out of it on a sweet combo finished by a left hand, and it added up to a unanimous decision where no judge even thought he lost a round. By my eyes, Alexander is worthy of a top-10 junior welterweight opponent — a real one, not a phony alphabet soup organization designee — and I’d definitely watch. (In that regard, this King experiment becomes a success. If it makes someone want to see more of his fighters, that’s money in the bank.)
Look, in the end, there are boxers like Spinks who just aren’t going to be great TV draws, especially if they lose. There are little fight cards all over the country that I wish I could see that don’t air on television, so assuming the technology isn’t too expensive, why not air them via the Internet? Promoters can generate a fan base for young fighters, turning them into attractions, and fighters with niches of support can get free pub. And if King or his ilk wanted, they could even sell a little advertising to broadcast between bouts and I wouldn’t object. I can’t believe I’m writing this, but: Other promoters, follow Don King’s lead on this one.