Quick Jabs/Round And Round: Andre Berto And Positive Drug Tests, Next For Canelo Alvarez, More

Like we sometimes offer around here, that’s the squirt of frosting down your throat before you take your medications: a funny video of a boxing trainer relentlessly ragging on his students. What’s with boxing trainers looking down on their subjects so hard? Mine did, too. (I did about four months worth of training this year and will resume in the fall; it turns out that much like I, as a child, enjoyed playing soccer more than watching it and watching baseball more than playing it, I enjoy playing basketball more than I enjoy boxing even though I like watching boxing more — and spring/summer weather is good for playing basketball a lot, while boxing can be done well in the winter.) Check the original video here, if that one gets taken down, or just click on the link anyway to give that site hits, since they were the ones who gave us this piece of boxing comedy and should be rewarded with traffic.

The medications are… they’re medications, literally. Andre Berto Friday became the second boxer to test positive for a banned substance in recent weeks, and the second to rob us of a much-anticipated rematch, as Berto’s welterweight do-over with Victor Ortiz is almost certainly dead now. Figuratively, we gotta talk about this stuff even though it’s no fun. Aren’t you glad you have that squirt of frosting in your throat? Besides Berto, we also need to talk about some remaining fallout for Manny Pacquiao’s gay marriage views — see what I did there? — along with some fights in the works for Juan Manuel Marquez and the others.

Quick Jabs

Berto’s positive drug test is the second time someone requested VADA testing for a fight only to prove positive himself, following Lamont Peterson. This is boxing tiptoeing into exposing the wide use of banned substances, and it’s been as fascinating as it has been depressing. Berto’s case has a couple elements of particular import: Berto himself accused Ortiz of using steroids, following his loss to Ortiz, and he’s the one who got busted; and Berto has been under the stewardship of Victor Conte, the convicted former steroid peddler. Conte promptly threw Berto under the bus, saying the positive test couldn’t have been his fault. Berto says he doesn’t know how this happened, but he probably won’t be able to use the excuse of “blame the test” since just the other day Berto’s trainer was talking very, very confidently about VADA in an interview that now has all sorts of echoes. Who knows? It might be reasonable, for instance, to think that the particular drug Berto tested positive for was too primitive for someone of Conte’s experience to use to cheat. It also would be reasonable to think these are two screw-ups in a row of some kind rather than deliberate cheating attempts, because why would Berto and Peterson request drug tests only to be the ones to fail them? But as much as people should feel free to give the benefit of the doubt to all of these gentlemen, they’d also be wise to keep a few things in mind about them all. 1. Conte is a convicted felon. There is a faction of the boxing media that has absolute faith in him and his desire to clean up boxing. But one of his guys just got busted using a banned substance. Rushing to explain how it couldn’t have been his fault — that’s premature, given his history. And absolute faith in him could lead to some pretty blind reporting. 2. Every athlete in the history of mankind who’s tested positive has explained that it was somebody else’s fault. Ultimately, it isn’t. It’s always the athletes’ faults because they alone controls what goes into his body. And because that “it wasn’t my fault” is such a common answer, I greet it skeptically. We’ll have more to say on this once we hear more from all involved parties, but for now I’m worried that boxers are going to tiptoe back away from more drug testing, now that a couple fights have fallen through over it…

I’ve enjoyed the attacks from boxing fans, writers and PR men on ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless over their remarks about Pacquiao and gay marriage, then their cowardly follow-up of “We’re so great for correcting ourselves, but everyone else is to blame and we won’t apologize.” But if you were expecting intelligence or class from those two, you expect too much. They are everything that’s wrong with sports commentary and/or journalism; Smith is notorious for incorrect “scoops” in the NBA, while the two of them have made a living out of shouting obnoxious, emptily provocative remarks highlighted by grating voices and facial histrionics. They seem to be what a significant number of people want to watch, sadly…

Alfredo Angulo hasn’t had a swell time of late: jail, kidnapping of a family member, you name it. Angulo seems perpetually troubled, really, by one thing or another. It would be great if the junior middleweight could get his act together and catch a few breaks, to boot…

I’d long known ex-Ring columnist Jim Bagg was a pseudonym, although I wasn’t sure who was behind it; turns out it was our old pal Eric Raskin, and before him someone else. Generally speaking, I’m no fan of or anonymously written pieces (I’ve had offers from people to write under pseudonyms here, and said “no” on principle), which are strangely common in boxing from what I’ve been told about a number of writers. I’m in favor of people being able to be held accountable for their remarks, even if the intent is satire and Raskin rightly notes that he said plenty of the things about guys under the name Bagg that he also said under his own name. But on the list of boxing writing offenses, this one’s very low, and not worth the stir it caused on Twitter last week. Certainly, it’s not worse than — or even close to it — taking gifts from the people you cover and bragging about it…

First it was Chris Brown. Now it’s Game. How is it that an Australian middleweight with no profile in our country outside of hardcore fans comes to hang out with American R&B/hip-hop stars, again? It can’t be because of him coming to the U.S. of A. to fight Bronco McKart.

Round And Round

Juan Manuel Marquez is still weighing an opponent for the summer, and he keeps talking about Mercito Gesta, because Gesta is a lefty and Marquez wants a Pac rematch and Pac is a lefty. More people, myself included, are rooting for a Marquez-Erik Morales meeting at 140 because it’s the fight we never got from that Marquez-Pacquiao-Marco Antonio Barrera-Morales foursome. Morales has shown he has something left but can’t get over the hump against any very good opponents lately, but maybe if he could bother to, like, train and get rid of his flab he’d have the extra oomph he needed to compete with Marquez — and maybe Marquez could get him “up” for such a training camp. If not Morales, I’m more interested in Zab Judah for Marquez than Gesta, and btw Judah’s a lefty and fast and stuff like Pac, but apparently Judah wants a big pile of money and there’s some balking. Oh, one more thing good about Marquez-Morales — it would involve Top Rank (Marquez) and Morales (Golden Boy) working together. Which would be nice, but Top Rank and Golden Boy have shown zero sign of being able to work together for any extended period of time, so let’s not get too excited about the prospects of a meaningful peace.

Junior middleweight Canelo Alvarez might fight James Kirkland in September if Kirkland can get healthy from shoulder surgery, but that’s not looking likely. Alvarez is talking about Paul Williams instead. I like both of those fights, and I think they’re dangerous, but winnable, for Alvarez. Kirkland is a force of nature, but extremely beatable with his bad defense and shaky chin. Williams isn’t what he once was, some might say he’s shot, but I think he’s still got something left, and he still is a style nightmare. Some think Kirkland or Williams might be TOO dangerous, but if he’s ever going to get to a Miguel Cotto and/or then a Floyd Mayweather, Jr., he will need to beat men a level up from who he’s faced so far, and that’s Kirkland and Williams. Sign me up, big time.

It’s not only surprising that upstart Sampson Boxing beat out Top Rank in a purse bid for Celestino Caballero-Mikey Garcia, it’s surprising that if it happens, it might be TeleFutura that airs it. Nothing against TeleFutura, which could stand a fight like that, and nothing against a fight like that happening outside pay cable, but HBO or Showtime absolutely should pick up that very very nice featherweight fight. If they don’t throw their money behind it, it might not happen.

The entire career of Kendall Holt is one step forward, one step back. He’s decided to back out of a June junior welterweight bout with Josesito Lopez because… wait for it… he doesn’t want to fight outside, and the fight was booked to be fought under a tent outdoors. Jesus Christ. If Holt’s head was on straight, we might be talking about him as one of boxing’s elite fighters right now. Instead, he’s just a maddening tease. Oh, and he just screwed us out of one of the highlights of the ESPN2 calendar this year.

Middleweight Dmitry Pirog still can’t make up his mind about whether he wants to fight for max-possible-money on HBO against Daniel Geale or keep the belt he currently has and defend it against mandatory opponent Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam. Pirog should wise up. Right now he’s looking like the poster boy for what’s wrong with boxers being overly fascinated with belts. Insofar as there’s an argument for them at all, it’s “earning potential.” I think they don’t help as much there as some others do. But holding on to some dumb belt when it inhibits your earning potential is double-dumb.

With Andre Ward off in neverneverland in terms of what network he’s on or who he’ll fight, and Anthony Dirrell injured long-term in a motorcycle accident — I get that athletes like motorcycles, but they account for so many of the injuries that cripple careers — there’s a belt to be fought for at super middleweight. Two of the candidates are Adonis Stevenson and Edwin Rodriguez. Put them together hat is as appetizing a mid-level semi-contender fight as their gets, what with Stevenson’s raw power and Rodriguez’ fan-friendly style mixed with some boxing skill.

Bantamweight Joseph Agbeko was going to fight Michael Domingo in a return from his two 2011 losses but apparently there are promotional and managerial feuds for Agbeko to tend to. Too bad. Hurry back, Agbeko. You have always put on a show.

Heavyweight Seth Mitchell has a whole rumor mill around who he’ll fight next but none of it comes from anything all that reliable from what I can tell. The names out there are Chauncy Welliver (hopefully would be turned down by HBO, as has been reported) and Ruslan Chagaev (some think he’s too much of a step up). Mitchell-Chagaev sounds right to me, roughly parallel to Alvarez-Williams. You can’t baby these guys permanently. Mitchell going from Chazz Witherspoon to Chagaev is a meaningful progression and one that he’s about as ready for as he’ll gever get. And if they fall down, they can get back up — see, Amir Khan, Victor Ortiz, etc. If they don’t get back up, they weren’t going to last long anyway. I’m not in favor of recklessly throwing someone to the wolves, but Mitchell-Chagaev ain’t that.

(Round and Round sources: 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.