Boxing lost one of its greats this week, as everyone knows by now. Angelo Dundee, who died at age 90, was one of the best few trainers ever to grace the game, and he did it all on as big a stage as you can manage, namely training Muhammad Ali. Others have already written or spoken eloquently about what Dundee meant to boxing (Jeremy Schapp’s segment on ESPN was really something), but the one thing I keep going back to is this moment:
In the Sonny Liston fight, when Ali began having trouble seeing because of a foreign substance that got into his eyes, Ali tried to quit — he begged Dundee to cut his gloves off. Dundee refused to do it. He told Ali to get out there and run away for a while. Ali eventually won, of course. The Liston win is the one that made Ali Ali. One of the things that made the Ali-Dundee relationship interesting is that Dundee usually just let Ali be Ali; Ali “the boxer” made a ton of technical mistakes, but it worked for him, so Dundee went with it, and Dundee never interfered with Ali “the larger than life personality.” But that underestimates the role that Dundee played at crucial moments of Ali’s career, and what he did in the Liston fight was pivotal. Who knows what happens to Ali’s career if he quits in that fight? Do we ever get the fighter who eventually became the most important figure in the sport’s history, and arguably the greatest athlete of all time? Maybe we do, in a roundabout way, with Ali recovering from a loss to Liston somehow. But this we know: The Liston win is the one that made Ali as we know him, at least. And in that fight, Dundee was the difference. For as light as Dundee’s touch was with Ali, not-so-indirectly, Dundee made the win that made Ali. Because of that, without Dundee, boxing isn’t the same. And that’s just one moment he gave us.
R.I.P., Angelo Dundee.
Now, on to the rest of the news of the week, from some news tidbits in Quick Jabs to some fights in the works in Round And Round.
Tonight’s HBO card doesn’t enthuse me too much, at least from a match-up standpoint. The one thing that does excite me is that HBO will be working with a technology that measures the force and speed of punches in the ring. The possibilities of what this will teach us about boxers are almost unfathomable. Kudos to HBO — and to Top Rank, which is on board with the idea — for trying this…
Naturally, it turns out Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. had trouble getting down to the middleweight limit. For as great as this anecdote was about Chavez getting serious as a pro after being confronted by Top Rank’s Bruce Trampler while Chavez was watching cartoons, it’s clear there’s still some spoiled rich kid left in Chavez. I don’t think Marco Antonio Rubio beats Chavez tonight even under the circumstances, but this kind of thing sure helps his chances…
I’ve got a lot of good things to say about Top Rank today, obviously: Kudos as well to Top Rank’s Bob Arum for the ultra-classy way in which he handled junior middleweight Miguel Cotto signing — as a free agent from Top Rank — to fight Arum nemesis Floyd Mayweather, Jr. Arum is more known for his temper than for his grace, but as a Cotto fan, and as someone who finds the Cotto-Top Rank relationship endlessly fascinating, this was a most welcome development…
The likewise temperamental promoter Lou DiBella didn’t take too kindly to being called a phony by Golden Boy Promotions’ Richard Schaefer, and I understand where he’s coming from. But I think it’s time to retire the jabs at Schaefer for being a “Swiss banker,” the kind of thing someone rolls out at him every time they’re pissed at him. Schaefer isn’t perfect, just like everyone else involved in boxing promotion. But it’s pretty clear he understands the sport and has done some good things in it — maybe even because he’s a former Swiss banker. At this point it’s like criticizing Albert Einstein because he used to be a zygote…
HBO’s new sports prez, Ken Hershman, spoke out this week for the first time in the role. The big headline was that he isn’t worried about the inability to get Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao into the ring together for a welterweight megafight, but that it has a sell-by date. I think he should be worried, really, not because it’s the fight that would “save” boxing, but because it reflects poorly on the sport that the fight hasn’t happened yet. But he was probably being diplomatic because he wants to be in business with both men even if they never fight each other. I think he’s right about the sell-by date coming early next year — it might already be expired, really, with few now thinking it would be as competitive as it might’ve. It’s true that Mayweather-Pacquiao sells pretty big at any moment it ever happens. But I think the chance that it will be as big as it could’ve been is already gone.
Round And Round
OK, I’ll say some mildly critical things of Top Rank now: I have no idea why they’re trying to put Juan Manuel Marquez-Lamont Peterson (junior welterweight) in Cowboys Stadium. No way that fight does the 40,000 in sales Arum is predicting; shit, I’d be surprised if it sniffs half that, even if the ticket prices are low. It’s a good fight, but if Pacquiao couldn’t sell 40,000 tickets there, Marquez can’t. So the thing will look pretty empty even if they get 20,000, and some of the usual journo suspects who are up Top Rank’s ass but thought the “empty facility” thing for Timothy Bradley-Devon Alexander was a bad look are praising Arum for taking a chance on a fight that — they even admit it! — might not do a very good gate. Bizarre.
It sounded like a double-cross when middleweight Felix Sturm signed to fight Sebastian Zbik rather than Andy Lee, what with Lee pulling out of a fight just for the chance to fight Sturm. But Lee’s promoter, DiBella, says it ain’t no thing, and that Sturm’s promoter was upfront with him about how Lee was only one candidate. Sturm-Zbik probably makes more money anyhow as an all-German showdown, and Zbik probably isn’t as likely to beat Sturm as Lee would’ve been. Although Zbik has a shot. Sturm has been playing with fire in his recent fights, and maybe Zbik is the one who can finally nick him on the scorecards.
Abner Mares-Eric Morel at April 21 is probably the plan for Mares coming off his big win in the Showtime bantamweight tourney. Morel is a reasonable opponent under the circumstances, although he doesn’t thrill me in more ways than one.
Andre Berto doesn’t need surgery on his injured bicep, so that means his welterweight rematch with Victor Ortiz is likely to be rescheduled sooner rather than later. Good news.
(Round And Round sources: BoxingScene)