As an evangelical boxing writer and fan, I’m often looking for gateway points wherein people might perk up their interest in their sport, and there’s at least a chance — based on the mainstream news coverage it’s been getting — that the boxing card being put on by Snooki (of “Jersey Shore” fame) this weekend is drawing eyes to the sport that might not otherwise be paying attention.
Within boxing circles, the response to “Team Snooki Boxing” has been largely as a jumping-off point for jokes, and it’s hard to blame anyone for that approach. Snooki is kinda silly.
BUT. I thought it was still worth writing a blog post about the quality of the card she’s putting on, for those who aren’t as familiar with the boxers involved. Consider this something of a preview, written for boxing outsiders.
The headliners are the Hyland brothers, from Ireland, which is cool and all. I thought Snooki was Italian, and that the Jersey Shore was very Italian, but maybe some Irish fighters can have some appeal in Atlantic City on Saturday. Irish fighters do have a tendency to trade blows more willingly than fighters of most countries. Billy Conn famously had heavyweight legend Joe Louis on the verge of a decision defeat, and he just as famously ignored his corner’s advice to run out the lead and avoid contact late in that fight. Naturally, Conn got knocked out. Asked why he did it afterward, he quipped, “What’s the use of being Irish if you can’t be thick?”
One of the Hyland brothers, Eddie, was once in a fight (in 2009) that BoxingScene dubbed a “classic,” against Oisin Fagan. So there’s at least a bit of a track record with these specific Irish fighters. I’ve checked out full fights or highlights of fights featuring all three lads, and all three are pretty aggressive boxers. So that’s good news, from a fan’s standpoint.
I wouldn’t say any of them project as major movers and shakers in boxing from the standpoint of sheer talent. Just to give you a sense: Paul is the Hyland with the most in-ring accomplishments. He lost a fight to Willie Casey, by 4th round knockout. Casey, in turn, got blown out in one round by a fighter named Guillermo Rigondeaux. Rigondeaux, today, is considered the second best fighter in his division, junior featherweight (see the chart at left for divisional weight limits). That’s not an insult. There’s more to being a boxer than accomplishments. A lot of it is about entertainment. It’s just a way of saying, this is the level of boxer we’re talking about.
Patrick, a featherweight, might be the brother of the trio with the most promise; you won’t see him on any boxing website’s list of really top prospects, but he’s still somewhat untested and we don’t really know how high he can go yet because of it. He’s taking on the toughest opponent of his career so far on Saturday. That opponent, Emmanuel Lucero, has been in the ring with some pretty big names in boxing, chief among them Manny Pacquiao, the current top star and/or best fighter (depending on which fan you ask) in the sport. He has lost to them all, really, and has lost seven of 12 fights since losing to Pacquiao, but by virtue of having been in against some big names he has picked up some experience that is beyond anything Hyland has faced as a pro.
Patrick clearly knows how to box — he’s good defensively, with long forearms that he holds up high and tight to his body to block punches, and with head movement to accompany that. He is smart about when he punches and accurate when he does it. He’s also very tall for his weight class; at 5’8″, he’ll be four inches taller than Lucero. He isn’t especially powerful or fast (the Hyland boys don’t have a high knockout ratio) and that means he could suffer the same fate of his brother Paul against Casey, which is that, he doesn’t hit hard enough to discourage his opponents from wading in recklessly. Time will tell on that front.
Paul’s opponent hasn’t been selected. That’s kind of uncommon at this hour, but not unheard of. Eddie, a junior middleweight, will face Franklin Gonzalez, who himself has been in against some good fighters but hasn’t performed as credibly as Lucero has.
The other most notable name on the rest of the card is Derric Rossy, identified as a “heavyweight sensation” by the PR team, although he really isn’t. That’s OK. It’s promoters’ jobs to hype a card, so that’s what they’re doing. Rossy is more like Lucero than a “sensation” — he’s been in against a lot of top names in his division, and has usually lost, but hasn’t embarrassed himself.
So the upshot of all this is, for their first card, Team Snooki isn’t doing half bad. There are some promoters who don’t put on shows of this meager quality even today. The Hyland boys are probably going to be fun, big knockout power or not, and maybe Patrick has some potential to be more than fun. It’ll be interesting to see how the show does financially, how many tickets it sells and so forth. Atlantic City has a rep as a boxing hotspot, but a lot of shows there over the last couple years haven’t done too well, which might have something to do with the economy, or the quality of the cards, or maybe AC isn’t really a boxing town right now.
I hope it works out for the Snookster. She’s doing this in part, she says, because it’s something she can do with her dad. Awww. But it also wouldn’t be a terrible thing if Snooki turned all boxing impresario, because it could make my proselytizing easier.
Details on how to watch the card on pay-per-view here.