Quick Jabs: The Peculiar State Of Black Boxers; In Praise Of TheSweetScience.com; Next For Klitschko, Hopkins, Williams, Lopez And Others; More

Not much of a weekend of boxing ahead, with but one televised card, on ESPN2, and that one (allegedly) is a controversial salvage job, which we’ll explore in a minute. Besides that and the subjects in the headline, we’ll also take a look at the status of Shane Mosley’s steroid-related lawsuit; the application of flying kicks in boxing; the application of judge intimidation in boxing; and what’s on the schedule (or not) for fighters like Israel Vazquez, Andre Ward, Andre Dirrell, Kermit Cintron and some other dudes.

This Weekend

So, that ESPN2 card. I’ll DVR it because there’s not much to it. What was a nice main event in Carlos Quintana-Danny Perez fell apart after Quintana once again pulled out with an injury. Then came the “controversy.” DiBella Entertainment offered junior middleweight Ishe Smith as a replacement, but ESPN2 picked Carlos Molina instead, so Lou DiBella alleged that Molina was picked because he was Hispanic and Smith was not picked because he was black — the second time ESPN2 turned down Smith as a replacement opponent. I’ll grant this: Smith is the more accomplished fighter of the two men. And he has, at times, been entertaining. But he’s also, at times, sucked out the joint. Do I think there’s a chance that ESPN2 thought it could draw more viewers with a Hispanic fighter than a black fighter? Yeah, I do. (I’ll explain why in the next section.) If so, that’s unfair. But I guarantee if Smith was 100 percent entertaining, it wouldn’t even be a question. He’d get the call. Over the next month, two of the next five announced cards feature black fighters in the main events, so it’s not like all black fighters are being — to use the phrase of an article or two about this — “blackballed.”

Yet BoxingScene pens a piece attacking the boxing program director at ESPN2, saying what he said but without sourcing it and never quoting him directly or mentioning that he failed to return calls, instead only quoting DiBella’s allegations. Then BoxingScene writes in a follow-up piece about the card getting a “sea of bad news — and press,” but the only bad press I can find with a Google News search is via BoxingScene (A deeper search turned up Maxboxing writing something with Smith complaining, and Boxingtalk did, too, although it must be noted that Boxingtalk’s Greg Leon has been involved in the management of Smith’s career. I’m not sure three articles, one penned by a site helmed by a member of Smith’s team, is a “sea.”) I hate this kind of junk journalism that’s so frequent in boxing publications, some more than others.

This is usually the part where I mention other noteworthy weekend fights, but there are none. Moving on.

As The Boxing Media Turns

Kudos to Maxboxing’s Steve Kim for taking on a major issue in the sport that is more than a little difficult to report on without raising hackles — the lack of popularity of a number of black fighters who in many cases deserve to be more popular than they are. I’m one of the first people to reject viewing things through a racial prism, but the evidence is pretty strong that a number of black fighters don’t make as much money as they should; Why in the world aren’t Shane Mosley and Paul Williams in huge demand, for instance? I don’t think the answer is racial bias against black fighters, because, as Kim points out, the most popular black fighters of the past often counted white fans among their biggest contingency of followers. But I do think boxing has lost a lot of black AND white fans, and I agree with some of the people in Kim’s story who say black fighters have been poorly promoted. I don’t think they’ve been poorly promoted because they’re black — I just think that some of them are fighters who lack a natural constituency because of the decline in traditional sources of a fan base, and one needs to be built for them. Hispanic fighters very much have that built-in fan base now. Williams may have had little choice but to face Winky Wright in Las Vegas, but if, as Dan Goossen says, he has a fan base in California, he should fight every fight there until he’s a national star. I could go on and on about the articles — I agree that some black fighters, like Floyd Mayweather, Jr., could be bigger stars if they made more efforts to please fans with their style rather than just win, etc. — but ultimately the article doesn’t fully explain why this phenomenon exists. Still, it’s a highly worthy exploration of the question. I’d proposed something similar as a freelance piece a long time ago, but I never got the time to work on it in part because it was such a massive question. Go read the articles…

Speaking of good publications, there is one unfortunate side effect of the battle this week between George Kimball and The Ring: An excellent boxing site has been hit with the shrapnel as a result. I was first to criticize Kimball’s piece about belt politics, and The Ring subsequently struck back, too. But the publication Kimball wrote it for, The Sweet Science, remains one one of the top boxing publications around. I say this not because its editor, Michael Woods, has been good to me personally; obviously, I was willing to criticize a piece that appeared on TSS despite my affinity for Woods and his gracious willingness to accept submissions from me for his site. I’m saying this because I believe it. The Sweet Science is a daily must-read for boxing fans. I’ve cited its work in a positive manner no fewer than 10 times in 2009. Kimball and TSS slipped up with that unfortunate piece, but Kimball is an excellent boxing writer, and so are all the other scribes in their stable. If you thought less of TSS as a result of any of this, you’d be making a mistake — ain’t nobody perfect, and I’ve had my share of errors here, too. I just wanted that on the record…

Clearing out the last bit of boxing writer insider-y business, you should know that next week’s Boxing Writer Association of America annual awards dinner will be broadcast on gofightlive.tv. As an advocate of more Internet broadcasts of boxing events, this is a great use of technology. A lot of big name fighters will be on-hand and, I expect, giving speeches. Check it out on June 12.

Quicker Jabs

Take a breath on this first sentence: Golden Boy Promotions this week heralded a judge’s rejection of Victor Conte’s attempt to have Shane Mosley’s defamation suit thrown out as a major victory. And it is a victory, that’s true. It’s just not a major one. It’s a defeat of a procedural motion. The defamation suit continues unabated, but is not in any way decided. Per the release: “Mosley has sued Conte for defamation based upon Conte’s outright lies concerning Mosley’s use of steroids. In an effort to avoid reaching the truth, Conte tried the procedural gambit of seeking to dismiss the case for no merit.  His efforts were met with a judicial slap in the face, as the Judge denied the motion orally without even feeling the need to write an opinion. As a general rule, only the most frivolous claims are dealt with in this manner. Judd Burstein, Mosley’s attorney, stated, ‘This is one step along the road of securing justice for Shane.  Conte can run, but he cannot hide from me.'” Conte said in a statement: “There was absolutely no victory today for Shane Mosley in his defamation case against me. Quite the contrary. The New York judge simply asked for depositions to be taken before he throws the knockout punch to the case. Specifically, the judge noted that he is not even sure if he has jurisdiction to rule in the case. The only thing running at this point is Mosley’s attorney Judd Burstein’s mouth”….

I’m by no means taking sides in this allegation of middleweight Anthony Mundine’s team intimidating judges in his defeat last of Daniel Geale. But it sounds like the kind of thing that ought to be investigated: “The incident on Wednesday night when one of his inner circle abused and tried to influence a judge was symptomatic of the way his followers demean sport… The person in question was quoted as saying he apologised to the judge ‘because we won, but if we hadn’t …’ Yeah, not good if true. There’s more in the article than that, too…

Bantamweight Ratanachai Sor Vorapin has been suspended six months for his own misdeeds in a recent fight — he threw a flying kick at his opponent. Wrong sport, pal…

So apparently things ARE relatively peachy-keen in the relationship between middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik and his promoter Bob Arum, despite recent complaints out of the Pavlik camp to the contrary. The two camps reportedly have an agreement on a new contract through 2011, although there are still some details to be finalized.

Round And Round

The big “fights in the works” news centers on Wladimir Klitschko’s next opponent. David Haye pulled out of their June 20 mega-heavyweight fight with an injury, and now Klitschko is leaning toward taking Ruslan Chagaev as his replacement opponent for that date rather than waiting for Haye to be ready again in late July, although that option hasn’t been ruled out entirely. As I said the other day, I’d prefer Klitschko to wait, but I can’t blame him if he wants to go forward with a replacement opponent — especially if he gets back around to Haye later this year. Klitschko’s team says it’s been assured Klitschko-Chagaev would be for the The Ring lineal heavyweight title belt. Ring’s website put up a story that quoted them saying that, so I guess that means it’s true, although I thought there had to be a vote when the #1 and #3 guys square off instead of the #1 and #2 guy (Klitschko’s brother Vitali is ranked #2). I guess it’s not the most egregious exception, but it doesn’t totally thrill me. Furthermore, I still can’t figure out why Klitschko would want to fight a man who recently tested positive for hepatitis, albeit in Finland but not Germany where the fight would be held. So, none of this is ideal. But Klitschko-Chagaev does have SOME things going for it. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that it’s Klitschko-Haye instead.

Sticking around the heavyweights, former middleweight and light heavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins’ team says they want to make a fight at heavyweight, perhaps with Nicolay Valuev or Haye. I’d pick Hopkins to beat Valuev easily. Haye, while sloppy, might be too fast for Hopkins, but I think that would be a competitive fight. As I find myself saying often, I’d pick other fights first, but I guess these aren’t bad. I’d rather see Hopkins fight Chad Dawson, or, failing that, moving to cruiserweight and going after champion Tomasz Adamek. But Hopkins schooling some heavyweight doesn’t turn me off, per se.
There was a report this week that HBO was interested in a junior middleweight doubleheader of Paul Williams-Kermit Cintron and Sergio Martinez-Joe Greene, with the winners squaring off. I’d rather Williams and Martinez just fight, because as resurgent as Cintron looked in his last fight and as promising a prospect as Greene is, I don’t give either man much of a chance of pulling the upset. But mainly I just want to see Williams in the ring as often as possible, and Williams-Cintron is better than, say, Williams-Sergei Dzindziruk. As for Cintron: Cory Spinks also wants a piece of him. I doubt anyone televises that, so money would be short, but given how shaky Spinks looked last time out, it’s an easier way to pick up an alphabet belt than a rematch with Martinez and an easier out than Williams, that’s for sure. (Spinks will, at some point, owe a mandatory title shot to the winner of Yuri Foreman-Cornelius Bundrage June 27, a series of ugly fights if there ever was one.)
Junior featherweight Celestino Caballero keeps calling out Juan Manuel Lopez, and I can’t say there are many fights I’d rather see. Two guys who can punch and box, interesting style match-up, two of the three best guys in their sweet division, etc. Best of luck on that, Caballero. Winner cracks my pound-for-pound top 10.
Junior bantamweight Nonito Donaire is still looking for an opponent for August. One option is Hugo Cazares. He’s credible — more credible, r
ankings-wise (Ring puts him at #9), than Jose Lopez, who was in the running before elsewhere.

For some reason, neither HBO nor Showtime are reportedly interested in Lucien Bute-Librado Andrade II, which boggles the mind. That is the definition of unfinished business, with the controversial ending to their last fight and all. But if Bute-Andrade II can’t find a home, the consolation prize is Bute-Carl Froch in September. That’s the more significant fight, and the more interesting style match-up, but the ending to the first Bute-Andrade fight just sticks in my craw, personally, so I prefer the rematch.

The WBC has told Israel Vazquez that he’ll get a shot at its featherweight titlist Takahiro Aoh as soon as he wants it. Set aside the weird belt politics reasoning — all I know is the match-up makes sense. Aoh isn’t the strongest titlist in the division, but he’s credible, and since nobody knows how rusty or past his prime or good at featherweight Vazquez would be, it sounds about right.
The WBC has also ordered a title eliminator between super middleweights Andre Ward and Andre Dirrell. I was surprised to see Gary Shaw, Dirrell’s promoter, saying that the two sides are in negotiations. Ward and Dirrell have made no secret of the fact that they don’t want to fight one another until the idea of the two talented friends doing battle makes too much business sense, and I can’t blame them. I’d say “screw that” and insist they fight if they were the two best guys in the division or something, but that’s not the situation. I wonder why the WBC ordered this eliminator. By their rankings, Dirrell are #2 and #3 to Jermain Taylor’s #1, and the titlist is Carl Froch. Since both have good rankings with the WBO, too, I wouldn’t be surprised if Ward and Froch did a little divide and conquer.
Junior lightweight Robert Guerrero won’t be fighting Johnnie Edwards June 12 on Friday Night Fights after Edwards pulled out with an injury, but the potential replacement opponent, Jackson Asiku, is probably an upgrade.
Prospect Mike Alvarado is injured now, too, so his fight with fellow junior welterweight Paulie Malignaggi June 27 is off. Malignaggi wanted to get Juan Diaz in there instead, but I have no idea why Diaz, a lightweight, would want to move up in weight to be on the undercard of a small pay-per-view when he has a headline date lined up in August with HBO. However, it looks very much like Malignaggi could be Diaz’ opponent for that August date, and it could be at some kind of catchweight. Also, that pay-per-view card totally sucks now, with at least three of its fights falling through.
(Round and Round sourcing: Maxboxing; Fightnews; The Ring; BoxingScene; ESPN)

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.