Welcome to the second edition of the TQBR Roundtable, where TQBR’s staff writers get together to discuss some of boxing’s issues of the day. I’d say that we get aggro, shout, scream and come to Internet-style blows, but it doesn’t really happen like that. We’re a civilised bunch.
Instead, hopefully Gautham Nagesh, Tim Starks, Andrew Harrison, Scott Kraus, Mike Coppinger and I can hit you with some cold hard logic relating to the Klitschko’s choices of opponents and the slight disappointment of the debut episode of the Fight Camp 360 series focused on Manny Pacquiao and Shane Mosley.
I know Wladimir Klitschko’s call out video of David Haye was kind of (really) gay, but it did have a certain menacing, gay Ivan Drago quality to it. Put it together with this, Vitali’s post-Solis statement, and you can’t help but love the guys (out of the ring).
Topic 1: The brothers Klitshcko have decided once and for all that Wlad will fight David Haye in summer and Vitali Tomasz Adamek in September. Does either challenger have a better chance with on brother or the other, and are these the right choices? Might it have been smarter for the less chinny Vitali to take on Haye? Does Adamek have anything in the tool kit that could damage either Klit?
I like the matchups. Haye presents more risk for Wlad, which is why prefer him against the Englishman. The sooner one of them loses the better. Adamek is not a real threat to beat either, but he’s a game and skilled technical fighter that will put up a good fight for as long as he can last. Wouldn’t be shocked to see him go the distance if he can avoid that long jab.
I was like Gautham in that I personally liked Wladimir-Haye because I thought Wlad’s chin made him more vulnerable to Haye. I I’d always thought Vitali would make mincemeat of Haye and Adamek alike, and that because of his chin, he’d be more likely to stand up to Haye. Now I’m not so sure. I know there’s a school of thought out there that Vitali was dominating Odlanier Solis, but I’m in the camp that saw Solis winning that round narrowly, at least prior to the knockdown. He did it with quick counters against the slower of the brothers, and both Haye and Adamek have that ability. The difference is they both move a lot more, and Solis stands in the pocket — but it made Vitali look more vulnerable than I’d previously seen him look. If I was Wlad I’d rather have Adamek from a match-up standpoint, but Haye’s the one who has spent the better part of several years pissing him off, so I like the competitive fire. Man, I can’t pick against the Klitschkos yet in either of those fights, but they look a lot more competitive every day. Maybe Mike Coppinger’s constant harping to me about how Haye is going to beat Wladimir is having an impact, too. He’s like a communist propaganda organ. At some point you just submit.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Klitschkos swapping dance partners yet — it would make far more sense for a duo as calculating as the Ukrainians. It would also satisfy the control freak in both. Haye has every chance against Wlad, who’ll struggle with the Brit’s aggression, confidence and punching power, and Adamek might well be able to outwork Vitali. After a quick switcheroo, though, the former cruiserweights’ chances diminish — Haye would likely have to box and move from the outside of the ring against the tougher brother whilst Wlad could squash the Pole’s forward momentum with his turgid jab and hug routine. As it stands, the brood look to be in for difficult evenings. After being fed on a steady diet of fat, unskilled puddings devoid of ambition, it’ll be a culture shock to them both if nothing else.
While Haye has the better skill set to beat both brothers compared to Adamek (more power and speed), I think the matchups chosen were best for all parties involved. Haye has the knockout punch and ability to be the first man to test Wlad’s wobbly chin since Sam Peter dropped him three times in 2005 (three months after Kevin McBride stopped Mike Tyson, for some perspective on how long ago that was), yet Wlad has the more powerful single punches of the brothers (both his jab and right hand) to test the smaller Haye, who also has had his chin issues. Adamek needs to somehow win a decision and, while I think his ability to do so is slim, I think his odds are better against Vitali, who has been taken the distance twice in his last four fights. Ultimately, I think we’re going to get the best fights possible out of these matchups, with Wlad-Haye having a high potential for drama and Vitali-Adamek having the better potential for sustained action.
I don’t think Adamek has a chance against either one. He’s a fast, sharp puncher, but has NO power at heavy. I, of course, am picking Haye over Wlad, although I’m not sure Haye would beat Vitali.
Haye has extraordinary speed, athleticism and is perhaps the best finisher in the sport. If Haye can get to Wlad’s china chin, it’s lights out. But yes, it would have been better for Wlad to fight Adamek.
From a viewing perspective, I think these choices are the right ones. Wlad and Haye have the history and Haye is a legit threat to Wlad’s iffy chin. I like Andrew’s point that Adamek could potentially outwork Vitali; it’s easy to forget that the Klits don’t have very high work rates and rarely need to up them. But as the others have said, from a safety point of view, the other way round might have made more sense. We should be thankful that they opted to take the risk.
Topic 2: Is Fight Camp 360 for Pacquio-Mosley going to be the groundbreaker we thought it was? Was there anything wrong with the first episode, apart from the dodgy timeslot? If it doesn’t make a difference and the pay-per-view only does average ratings, should it stop the calls for boxing’s return to network TV?
Perhaps I’m suffering from Pacman overload, but I didn’t find this edition of Fight Camp 360 all that compelling apart from the brief portion dealing with Manny’s visit to Washington, which I was lucky enough to cover. There’s a significant gap in editorial quality between Showtime and HBO when it comes to the fight docs — the former feel like promotional material, the latter more journalistic. Liev Schreiber doesn’t hurt.
It’s strange to me that we haven’t heard anybody harping about how great the ratings were. It suggests to me that they don’t have anything to crow about. I go back to what I said: This has the potential to expose boxing to a different audience, but I’m not sure it’ll be a significantly bigger one. That’s a good thing, because new eyes help grow the sport. But if the networks shove boxing programming into a time slot usually reserved for Ginsu knife infomercials or something, this isn’t going to be groundbreaking; it’s going to be incremental gain. I probably got suckered in on the hope that this would be a game changer. I’ve always, always, always wanted boxing back on the networks, and I still think it’s a good thing, but perhaps it distorted my view of this deal at its outset. As for the episode, there was some good, some bad, as I covered here.
I agree with Gautham — the episode was a bit of a non-starter. These things are more interesting when we’re tailing fighters we aren’t altogether familiar with, plus the beauty of the Super Six version was the way in which the programme bounced between a huge cast of characters. In all honesty, what else is there to learn about Pacquiao? This looked like the last couple of 24/7s spliced together; flicking towels, perfect gameplans, the underdog’s overstated threat, gratuitous catawauling etc. It’s also unfortunate that Mosley — a shot fighter — is being peddled to casual fans as a resurgent legend. If the result is as one-sided as looks likely, those fairweather fans will simply walk away tutting in disgust. Regardless, boxing would thrive if it returned to network television as long as the masses were clear about what they were watching — Haye vs Wlad, for instance, would be perfect.
Frankly, I was highly skeptical that Fight Camp 360 on CBS (Saturday afternoon is not a timeslot network execs covet, or even really think about) would be anything resembling “groundbreaking,” and no, I don’t expect it to have a huge impact. I thought the first episode was just dull, uninteresting television, and from what I’ve read I’m not alone. The problem is that they’re doing a documentary series about two fighters whose personalities pale in comparison to their accomplishments. Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez are two baseball players who are fantastic to talk about, but pretty boring to talk to. That’s how I see Mosley and Pacquiao. CBS would have been smarter to do a more traditional countdown type show to introduce people to the exciting things about these guys — Mosley’s tremendous history, Pacquiao’s historic run and out-of-ring accomplishments — with guys like Teddy Atlas and Jim Lampley and Bert Sugar (who know how to talk to TV cameras) talking about their impact instead of just following them around so they could give dull interviews. Even if it doesn’t impact PPV buys much, however, I think it would be a mistake to stop the calls for boxing’s return to network TV. I just think they need to be much more innovative and thoughtful about how they pursue it and what will best draw eyeballs, and I’m not confident they know how to do that.
Like the rest of the crew, I was underwhelmed by Fight Camp 360. I can’t say much about the timeslot because I don’t really understand American TV, basketball or Americans, for that matter. As for the episode itself, I felt like nothing much happened. Maybe that’s the nature of an episode filmed so far out from the fight itself, or maybe FC360 don’t have their shit together like 24/7 do. Fight Camp works so well for the Super Six because there’s so much to cover and the promotional stuff is getting worked out on the run. Maybe there’s just not that much more left to say about Manny and Shane.