Put me in the camp that saw lightweight Brandon Rios’ split decision victory over Richard Abril this past weekend as one of the more egregious robberies in recent years. When the controversial verdict was announced, it was easily the biggest travesty in a boxing ring since…well, at least forty minutes earlier when rapper Mr. Capone-E heralded Rios’ entrance with one of the worst personalized ring songs you’ll ever hear.
Al Capone didn’t do as much damage in a lifetime as this guy did in three minutes. Bam-Bam, he wanna knock you out. All he wanna do is straight knock you out. I said Bam-Bam, he wanna knock you out. All he wanna do — and repeat three-hundred times. Maybe we should have suspected Mr. Capone-E was up to no good when he emerged from the tunnel with a hype man who looked like a younger and taller version of himself, mirroring his signature shaved head and thin mustache. Capone-E said “Yiieeah!!!” His sidekick echoed with “Jyiieeaahhh!!!” Oh, did I mention the chubby Slash impersonator who appeared behind them with a goofy grin and a fake guitar? As the unlikely trio made their way to the ring, the expectations couldn’t have been lower (nor higher for unintentional comedy), and they certainly delivered. “Bam-Bam Straight Knock You Out” made “Y’All Musta Forgot” seem like “All Eyez on Me.” Don’t blame Bam-Bam’s tepid performance on weight issues or Abril’s tricky style. Blame it on the horrific ode that served as his final inspiration heading to battle.
Ring entrances have always fascinated me. One last bit of pomp and circumstance before the two combatants meet in the squared circle. These ceremonies range from the mind-blowingly epic to the comically terrible. Some fighters opt for simplicity, others extravagance. Some use it as a chance to pump themselves up, others to psyche out their opponents, and others seem to care less. Here’s my take on some of the spectacles that have captured my attention.
Is that the sinister Salieri under that mask, trying to spook Amadeus again? Nope, it’s just Hector Camacho making his ring-walk. With an array of outlandish outfits including, but not limited to, full Native American garb including showy headdress, an Egyptian Pharaoh outfit, military fatigues and helmet, Roman Centurion regalia, medieval knight’s armor and a Puerto-Rican flag-inspired Superhero costume embedded with the letter “M” for his nickname “Macho,” Camacho’s pre-fight rituals were often more entertaining than the final product in the ring.
Pernell Whitaker employed Naughty by Nature’s “Hip Hop Hooray” for his entrance against Julio Cesar Chavez in 1993, striding confidently towards his greatest moment perfectly in sync with the hip-hop beat. Four years later in another mega-fight with Oscar De La Hoya, Whitaker broke out Notorious B.I.G.’s “Mo Money Mo Problems”. Two all-time classic cuts for an all-time classic fighter.
The ring entrance of Puerto Rican icon Felix Trinidad was always an event, usually signaled by the drums of the island and the roar of the crowd. Trinidad oozed confidence as he basked in the adoration, singing along to the songs of his homeland without the slightest hint of false bravado. The entrance made clear: this was his show, his world, and his fight to lose.
Best Gospel Singing
Evander Holyfield, a man of deep faith, used religious music to amp himself up, believing that God controlled his destiny, in and out of the ring. Holyfield often crooned along, sometimes even dropping his head back and letting that soulful groove soar up to the heavens.
Quite a few fighters adopt a catch phrase, like Floyd Mayweather’s “well, the thing is this.” Not many have employed it as successfully as Aaron Pryor. During his ring-walks, one team member would yell “What time is it?!” and the rest would chime back, “Hawk time!” Now that’s having a man’s back.
Best Homage To A Future HBO Commentator
Wilson Rodriguez, prior to his classic bloodbath with Arturo Gatti in 1996, used a boxing-themed hip-hop song “Young Man Rumble” by a little known duo from New York known as Max and Sam. I don’t think HBO’s broadcast team of Jim Lampley and Larry Merchant could ever have imagined that the “Max” in question, Max Kellerman, would end up becoming their colleague a decade later.
Best Use Of Rocky Theme
The inspirational “Gonna Fly Now” by Bill Conti, the theme to “Rocky,” was best utilized by professional fighters when Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns both came out to the song prior to their classic 1981 fight. Hearns got the chorus, Leonard got the guitar solo, and fans got the goose bumps.
Mike Tyson, in his prime during the late 1980s, had one of the most simplistic yet terrifying ring entrances in the sport. He practically ran toward the ring, sometimes donning his white towel robe, other times already shirtless and dripping with sweat. No nonsense, no frills, just a vicious beast frothing at the mouth for his chance to knock someone into Bolivian.
Best Use Of A Phil Collins Song
Going into the biggest fight of his life against Evander Holyfield in 1992, Riddick Bowe found the perfect tune to kick off his night: “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins, a song full of anticipation and rising intensity with each verse. Made a lot more sense than “No Reply at All.”
Most Bromantic Tribute
Victor Ortiz took a page from his mentor/bro Oscar De La Hoya’s book with Queen’s “We Will Rock You” to jumpstart his march to the ring against Mayweather. It didn’t work for Oscar either.
Sugar Ray Leonard never had a signature song for his ring processions. Late in his career, he made an attempt with multiple uses of Michael Jackson’s “Leave Me Alone.” Those attempts were no more successful than he was in his fights against Terry Norris or Hector Camacho.
Naseem Hamed’s over-the-top, trash-talking persona struck a nerve with some people. His lavish productions before a match were even more polarizing. Leading up to his fight with Kevin Kelley in 1997, Hamed made Kelley wait in the ring for ten minutes while he danced behind a white screen, his silhouette gyrating to the strands of “Men in Black” as the crowd grew more and more restless. Commentator George Foreman loved it, Kelley was clearly un-amused and Larry Merchant was just plain confused.
When Fernando Vargas took on Felix Trinidad in 2000, the Mexico-Puerto Rico angle was played up heavily in the promotion. Vargas began his ring-walk out of sight as someone had the brilliant idea of entombing him in a make-shift Aztec pyramid. He kicked and punched his way out, cardboard bricks flying in his wake. He was greeted by men dressed as Aztec warriors and played into the ring by a Mariachi band, but the ill-conceived pyramid scheme kind of took away from everything that followed.
Best Use Of Fake Tuxedo
Roy Jones, Jr. wore boxing robes designed like tuxedoes. They were funny, cool, and man I wish Roy Jones, Jr. wasn’t still fighting.
Most Ominous Hood
Marvin Hagler seemed like he always sported the hood up on his way to the ring, casting the image of a solemn, fearsome executioner well before Bernard Hopkins took the nickname.
Best Signature Song
The opening guitar riff of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” served as an omen to boxing fans that Gatti was coming and a war was on the horizon. If you watched Gatti, you simply can’t hear the beginning of that song without thinking of him. And if you didn’t watch Gatti, please stop reading this crap and go to YouTube.
Best Homage To Your Uncle
Mayweather knew he was on the threshold of superstardom going into his fight with De La Hoya. In the 24/7 series on HBO, Mayweather took his charismatic villain persona to another level, perhaps believing that without an all-action style, his way to the top was becoming the man you love to hate. He sealed the deal with a nod to his trainer, Uncle Roger Mayweather. As a fighter, Roger called himself “The Mexican Assassin” and walked to the ring in a poncho and sombrero. Coming in against De La Hoya, Floyd did the same, wearing the colors of the Mexican flag and sparking the ire of the heavily pro-De La Hoya contingent. Mayweather gobbled it all up and went on to the victory that propelled him into the pay-per-view behemoth he is today.
When Ortiz took on then-undefeated Andre Berto, he entered the ring with a GIGANTIC sombrero, the Mexican flag stitched on one side of his shorts, USA flag on the other, and a Kansas Jayhawks emblem on his jacket. And for good measure, he had the Canadian flag on his right shoe, British on his left, a Chinese symbol painted on his back and Sanskrit inked on his chest.
One of the more creative, and possibly degrading, schticks in recent years comes from lightweight prospect Sharif Bogere, of Uganda. He enters the ring inside of a cage, wearing a Lion’s head and pelt, carried by muscular dudes dressed as African tribesmen. I hate to be a buzzkill, but shouldn’t he be moving around and stretching out and what not… no? Okay, fuck it. It’s pretty damn cool.
Best Recent Trend
I was fired up when Miguel Cotto walked out to The White Stripes “Seven Nation Army” for his rematch last year against Antonio Margarito. Then Juan Manuel Lopez chose the same song for his rematch with Orlando Salido. Maybe it’s a Puerto Rican thang. Great song choice for a ring-walk, fellas. Now that’s what I’m talking about!
Most Awkward Song
Last year against Hopkins, Jean Pascal chose V.V. Brown “Shark in the Water” for his entrance. Nothing says prize-fighting like women’s rock. Okay, that was a dick line. I’m just mad because I secretly liked it.
In summation, the ring entrance is one of boxing’s most intriguing rituals. It’s the last opportunity for a fighter to express themselves to the public and their opponent, before the hard truth of the ring sets in. And with the bad decisions and goofy controversies mounting this year, it may be the safest form of entertainment left in the sport. You get a solid jam and a crazy outfit and those damn referees and judges and all the evil forces can’t do a thing to stop you. Unless of course Bob Arum bribes the DJ.