MASHANTUCKET, Conn. — It’s never a good thing when you go to a weigh-in and nearly end up with balls across the nose. I’ll explain what I mean in a minute. But it was still a very productive event that my crew David P. Greisman of BoxingScene and friend of the site nazarioz attended, the traditional pre-fight measurement of poundage, this time for Sergio Martinez and Serhiy Dzinziruk. I got a chance to talk to promoters Gary Shaw and Lou DiBella, HBO exec Kery Davis and trainer Buddy McGirt, among others, and all of them had something interesting or colorful to say, addressing some criticisms, breaking down the styles of the fighters and looking forward to other fights.
First, some pictures (courtesy Greisman’s camera) and weights (courtesy nazarioz, who took down the weights as I manned said camera).
Martinez and Dzinziruk both weighed 158.8, which kind of makes sense for guys who have mainly been junior middleweights for their careers. We’ll touch on the size question momentarily. First, you have to give the ladies what they want, and that’s another slice of Maravilla.
In a bout where the two men could weigh up to 163, Andy Lee came in at 162.6 and Craig McEwan came in at 161.4. (I’m encountering technical difficulties on the McEwan standalone picture. Sorry, lovers of Scottish beefcake.)
For the other best fight on the card, Derrick Wilson weighed in properly at 125 and Javier Fortuna came in at 126.2, or .2 pounds overweight. This is where I got more dong in my eye than I wanted. (The amount of dong I want in my eye, ever: zero. Zero dong. Unless I get cancer of the eyeball, and there’s some kind of cancer-curing medication on somebody’s dong.) Fortuna naturally stripped down from his underwear to total nakedness, but it did no good — he still weighed 126.2. That means he wears totally weightless underwear. It must’ve been designed by Michael Phelps’ team or something. As you can tell from the picture, his team shielded him from the cameras while he was in his birthday suit. But that team totally betrayed him by moving the jacket well before he was dressed again. The angle on this should indicate to you that I’m pretty close to the stage, taking snapshots from below. Not cool. Anyway, Fortuna made weight later.
Gary, who promotes Dzinziruk, sized up both his man and DiBella’s man when I asked why he thought the Ukrainian could win. (Greisman also asked a good many questions, all of them productive. Some of the quotes in this post come from Greisman questions.)
“I’ve got the most technical boxer in all of boxing. There’s no one in the world with a better jab,” he said. “He’s undefeated in 37 fights. He doesn’t know how to lose.” I’m with him so far. It might be a slight exaggeration, but as far as technicians and jabbers go, Dzinziruk is upper crust. Shaw also likes Dzinizuk’s mentality. He came to the United States because he’s hungry to prove himself here. He believes in himself; Shaw told us to look at his smiling fighter and see if we could detect any doubt or anxiety. I didn’t see any — he seemed placid, when he wasn’t smiling.
As for the other guy, Shaw said, “Sergio Martinez is a good fighter. I’m not sure he’s a great fighter. It’s going to take a great fighter to beat Serhiy.” I once was in that same camp about Martinez. I’m now very much of the mind that he’s great. So how does it go down? Martinez, Shaw said, “has a habit of running in and throwing punches,” then he’ll “throw a big counter left. When he retreats, we’ll go after him.” Shaw likes Dzinziruk’s footwork and thinks his southpaw stance could trouble Martinez.
Nor is Shaw worried about Martinez being the middleweight champ and his guy moving up from junior middleweight. Until recently, Martinez was a 154-pounder himself, he pointed out, and Dzinziruk is taller and has the longer reach. “I know I have the best junior middleweight in the world. I don’t know if I have the best middleweight in the world, but I’ll find out tomorrow,” Shaw said with a grin.
Businesswise, Shaw said the fight is doing well at the box office. Shaw doesn’t worry about Dzinziruk’s lack of name recognition — five fights ago, nobody knew Martinez either, he said. He got pretty animated when I asked about whether Dzinziruk got here as part of a deal to make Timothy Bradley vs. Devon Alexander, since Shaw promotes Bradley. Asked directly twice, he said the story as reported was false. “That’s all stupid internet bullshit,” he said. Shaw said he worked hard as a promoter to get Dzinziruk the fight. “We badgered HBO.”
When people challenge him on whether Dzinziruk deserved the bout, Shaw said he responds: “Tell me a better fight” for Martinez. I mentioned Dmitry Pirog. Shaw said DiBella doesn’t want Martinez in against Pirog since Pirog is a natural middleweight. But DiBella, he said, was forced into the Dzinziruk fight. That’s how Shaw knows it’s a good fight — because DiBella keeps calling him to tell him how much he didn’t want it, he said.
Oh, and per a previous report, Shaw said Dzinziruk isn’t getting punted to a cafeteria to eat on the cheap — Dzinziruk is eating there of his own volition because he has a chef preparing him special meals, and Shaw’s company is picking up the tab.
I asked Davis, the vp at HBO Sports, why the network wanted Martinez-Dzinziruk. The network was trying to come up with something for Martinez, he said. “We looked around at the best fights and there wasn’t a better fight available. This was the most competitive.” I brought up some of the criticisms people had — that style-wise, it might not produce an entertaining bout. “You put the best in versus the best, and you take that risk.” Davis said he knew there was a chance Bradley-Alexander would be boring, he said, and “it was. You still do the fight.” Sometimes you don’t necessarily make a highly competitive fight — in circumstances like when a fighter is very young — but overall, “the big factor is competitiveness.”
I agree with Davis to an extent here; his answer wasn’t a bad answer, but it wasn’t a totally good one, either. I’m mostly interested in best vs. best. But it wouldn’t hurt if the network also looked at secondary factors, such as style match-ups. And, at least, for another upcoming fight, Andre Berto-Victor Ortiz, Davis pointed out that style-wise that fight does match up well. Also true; I did note to him that some people were down on Ortiz over him quitting against Marcos Maidana, and that the network’s interest in Andre Berto has at times appeared excessive. I brought up the dreaded name of “Al Haymon,” suggesting that because other Haymon fighters are in tough on HBO that Berto’s schedule doesn’t appear related to his manager, but HBO’s interest in Berto was something of a mystery.
Davis said Ortiz, prior to the ending, was making a hell of a fight with Maidana, which is true. As for Berto, “He’s an exciting fighter. He’s got fast hands, he’s explosive, and he wants to engage. He doesn’t fight in some peek-a-boo style. He’s right in front of you and you hit him and he hits you.” Which I do agree with — although the Juan Urango showing was a real knock against Berto in that regard. “He’s got a charismatic personality. He’s like a lot of the young people today. He was one of the early Twitter guys.” (Berto can be charismatic, but he also can rub people the wrong way.) Berto-Ortiz, Davis said, would be a “sensational fight, at least for six or seven rounds.”
Then, asked by Greisman about recent criticisms of the network, Davis ticked off a list of recent bouts on HBO, punctuating each with “I don’t apologize for that.” Saul Alvarez, he said, made his regular debut on HBO recently, “and it looks like we have a new star.” Nonito Donaire-Fernando Montiel was “two of the best little guys out there.” Before Bradley-Alexander came Amir Khan-Maidana, “the fight of the year.” Before that, Juan Manuel Marquez-Michael Katsidis, another excellent fight. “You tell me when I should start apologizing and I will.”
Davis seemed eager to move on after all this and walked off — not angrily, just in a way that said, “OK, time for me to talk to some other people,” because I had taken a fair amount of his time. It was a good defense in some ways but it missed some of the objections people raise to HBO’s programming decisions, I think. Had I more time, I would have asked him about some more of those things.
I asked DiBella about what Shaw said, vis-a-vis him being nervous about this fight. DiBella said it wasn’t that he was worrying about his guy losing so much as other outcomes. Dzinziruk, he said, “is very difficult to look good against.” It’s a “no-win” situation for Martinez in some ways, DiBella said. Dzinziruk has no “passion.” “My guy thinks of himself as an entertainer,” DiBella said. If Martinez goes in to the bout looking for a knockout, he could take unnecessary chances and make the fight harder than it should be.
Indeed, this was whom HBO wanted for Martinez, rather than vice versa. “I can’t fault them for wanting the best available opponent.” And there is a way Martinez can come out of this ahead, DiBella said. “If he looks like King King (in other fights), people say, ‘This man’s a beast.’ If he looks like King Kong against this guy, he’s King Kong.”
The fight is selling tickets well, DiBella said. He expected the Foxwoods venue — “I love this venue” — to be 80 to 90 full, and “Dzinziruk didn’t sell one ticket,” because he’s got a name no one can “write, spell or pronounce.” Dzinziruk got paid “way too much” (a reported $850,000) but DiBella said he thinks he can build up Martinez as an attraction anywhere, not just the East Coast, though. He wants Martinez to fight three times this year. DiBella said it’s not Pirog’s size that bothers him — it’s that the WBO stripped Martinez of his title so that Pirog and Danny Jacobs can fight for it. Plus, “Fuck Pirog… Who gives a flying rat’s ass about Pirog?” (I don’t know why everyone was dissing Pirog; most boxing fans I talk to are eager to see the guy again.) Either way, DiBella doesn’t want Martinez in another fight like a Dzinziruk fight next, against a lesser-known foe — “that means nothing.” The public would respond to Martinez-Peter Manfredo better. Alas, DiBella suspects Top Rank’s Bob Arum was never serious about putting Miguel Cotto in against Martinez, so that’s probably not an option anymore.
Back to this week: DiBella also put some thought into the undercard. Fortuna-Wilson is a legit fight between two legit prospects. It’s too bad Lee-John Duddy didn’t happen for an all-Irish fight in advance of St. Patrick’s Day, he said, but McEwan at least offers a Irish-Scottish rivalry angle. He also brought in another Irish fighter, Seanie Monaghan, and a regional female heavyweight, Sonya Lamonakis.
Greisman asked him about Berto and when people will start liking him. It’s gotta be soon, right? DiBella asked, to paraphrase. He’s in a fight HBO wanted for him against Ortiz, DiBella said. Although Ortiz sells tickets in California, the fight will be in Connecticut because “I’m the promoter,” DiBella said. DiBella said he knows people think he’s crazy, but Berto would KO Manny Pacquiao. (I think that’s a crazy thought myself.) He also isn’t worried about Mike Jones, who “can’t punch” and “fights in retreat,” but with Arum hiding his guys from him, DiBella’s of the mind that when Arum’s angling for one of his guys the way he is Jones for Berto, Arum could be out of luck.
Did you know McGirt has been helping train Dzinziruk? He won’t be serving as the chief trainer Saturday — he’s just providing some help. Among his advice: “You can’t stand in front of Martinez.” Dzinziruk has to do his work then “get out of Dodge.”
They’ve been together five weeks, he said, and the idea isn’t to totally change Dziniziruk’s style. Dzinziruk is smart, he said, and picks something up well when you can show him why it works. “It’s not rocket science,” McGirt said.
Overall, “The jab will be the difference.” Martinez’ team surely will be looking to nullify Dzinziruk’s jab. But: “You can’t nullify his jab.” Interesting wrinkle having McGirt help out Dzinziruk; I wonder if it’ll make a difference with such a short time together and McGirt’s complementary role.
Any predictions, McGirt? “Bet on the black guy,” he quipped.
We talked to HBO’s unofficial scorer very briefly. He said we’ve got a fight between two good southpaws. JIM! (He didn’t say the last part.)
Shaw was really eager for us to talk to Dulorme, a Puerto Rican prospect fighting on the undercard, so, hey, why not. A couple translators helped us out. Dulorme’s trainer Jose Bonilla described him as a “boxer-puncher,” and Shaw said he’s got speed, a great jab and an affinity for body punches. Shaw also said he was a good-looking kid. I’m secure in my sexuality enough to say, yeah, he is. I hope Ricardo Mayorga doesn’t call me “half gay” like he did Cotto this week, the funniest quip I’ve heard in a while. I don’t even know what it means to be half gay. Is that bisexual? Don’t understand.
Dulorme himself said there’s “no pressure” on him to prove anything, and while he’ll be looking or the knockout, will mainly be looking to improve on whatever flaws he shows. In his last fight, he leaned forward too much while punching. He wants to be calm and look for openings.
So there you have it. I leave you with this picture of myself and Greisman posing like we always do when we go on these silly road trips.