Monday, April 8, 2019

Ace Hudkins: Boxing With The Nebraska Wildcat

They say the world needs certain people for certain times. People that come along at the right time and in the right place. Boxer Ace Hudkins was one of those people in one of those times. Born and reared in Nebraska, Hudkins would eventually heed the call of “Go West, young man!” to make his fame and fortune inside the dusty boxing rings of 1920s Los Angeles, California.

Author and publisher Kristine Sader tells this brash and adventurous tale of her great uncle within Ace Hudkins: Boxing With The Nebraska Wildcat, 290 pages.

The 1920s was a time in American history when it seemed anything and everything was possible. A time of great promise and upward mobility for those willing to take risks in order to make a better life for themselves and their families. Ace Hudkins was one of those pioneering risk takers.

Athletically gifted as a youth in Nebraska, Hudkins excelled at any sport he attempted - from swimming to running, to baseball to wrestling and eventually boxing. It seemed Ace’s fate was cast early in life to make it as a prizefighter. Alongside his brothers, who served in various capacities throughout what would become a storied boxing career, Hudkins fearlessly set out for parts unknown to conquer the boxing world. What becomes clear in the pages of this book is that Hudkins willed himself to succeed in a sport and a business at that time which summarily chewed up and spat out the faint-hearted. 

Sader’s familiarity with the subject and her in-depth research takes the reader on Hudkins’ swashbuckling adventures from New York City to Chicago to Los Angeles with stops always back home to Nebraska where he was welcomed into the warm arms of his family and feted by adulating crowds. It’s the story of a one-time newsboy from less than humble beginnings who would go on to rub shoulders, befriend and be fawned over by Hollywood actors and actresses and other superstars of the times.

Hudkins made the turn to the paid ranks in 1922 at age 16 and was powered by a youthful, bounding confidence, a never quit constitution and an all-action, aggressive fighting style. He barnstormed through the midwest and within three years he became a must see attraction at the Legion Stadium in Hollywood and the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles. His drawing power would later extend nationwide as he engaged in epic battles against the best competition the world had to offer in the most well known stadiums, ballparks and arenas in the United States.

Ace and a furry friend.
One of the central themes is that Ace did not accomplish all he did on his own. His family and his brothers were always watching out for him and guiding him through the shark infested waters of the boxing business. The actual opponent was often a secondary concern as penny-pinching promoters, devious opposing managers and even corrupt boxing officials would invent any angle to protect the champions Hudkins faced. Sader illustrates well that Hudkins’ boxing style was so crowd-pleasing and his personality so endearing that he was a superstar in his own right in a world and a sport at that time which seemed full of superstars.

Sader does an impeccable job of researching her subject with a virtual treasure trove of family pictures, newspaper articles and quirky cartoons unavailable elsewhere. To some extent, the book is written from the standpoint of an extended family member. While Hudkins was certainly an excellent pugilist, he and his brothers were never able to crack the code needed to garner a world championship. It is obviously a subject for debate as to whether Hudkins won fights he was deemed the loser and Sader does manage to present compelling evidence and first-hand accounts to support arguments that Hudkins was indeed robbed of victory on numerous occasions.

A recurring theme throughout the book is family. The Hudkins family relied upon and supported one another all of their lives. Pictures throughout the book show the Hudkins brothers, family and extended family members. Some scenes show a very proud Ace and his family in front of the home he built in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles. Ace’s monetary and business success was their success and he was happy to share it with them. During his boxing peak, life was good, money was plentiful and the sun was shining. There were luxurious cars, tailored suits, manicured lawns and landscaped yards. 

For America, for boxing and for his family, Ace Hudkins, the one-time Nebraska newsboy - came along at just the right time.

April 2019

Monday, April 20, 2015

Just Another Prizefight

Some say that in the grand scheme of things, it’s just another prizefight that’s going to take place on the night of on May 2nd. Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Manny Pacquiao will both make the long walk from their dressing rooms at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Both men will skip up the steps to the ring, slink their way through the ropes and get ready to do the only thing they have ever done – strip to the waist and do everything in their power to cause bodily harm with their fists. It’s a crude, yet highly lucrative way to make a living.  Few can do it and even fewer can remain at the top for as long as these two men have.

So why has this fight become so big? Why will the world be watching? Why will these two men walk away from the squared circle when the dust eventually settles on that night with an unbelievable monetary fortune?

I’ve thought about this fight for long time. I have seen thousands of prizefights. I’ve broken bread with everyone from Jake LaMotta to Arturo Gatti to Muhammad Ali and yes even Mayweather and Pacquiao. I’ve sat feet away from the ring and watched Mayweather pummel Diego Corrales. I’ve seen him take the punches and make the adjustments that he needed to make in order to pull an ace from the stocked deck dealt to him by the Golden Boy. Same goes for Pacquiao. I’ve watched him train at Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Gym in Hollywood. I’ve seen him beat Miguel Cotto and many others while seated only feet away.

Both men are exquisite talents. When they are gone they will be missed. At bar stools and barber shops we will speak their names with reverence and admiration. We will fawn when recalling Mayweather’s defense. We will speak excitedly and with animation when remembering Pacquiao’s explosive punching power. They say that every fighter in boxing is replaceable. Marciano eventually replaced Louis. It took a welterweight “Sugar” Ray Leonard to replace a larger than life heavyweight named Muhammad Ali. Maybe Mayweather and Pacquiao have replaced the names Leonard, Duran, Hearns and Hagler. And so it goes.        

But I think the reason why this fight is attracting the attention that it has is simple. It’s the age old battle of good versus evil. Now, I am not saying Mayweather is an evil person. In fact, I believe he is far from it. He is often misunderstood and he can be abrasive and he can be rude. His choices in behavior are questionable and he does flaunt his wealth in a time when many go without. A gluttonous gambler of enormous dollar amounts who has been convicted and jailed for domestic abuse, he enjoys the company of exotic dancers. For whatever reason - he often appears angry.  The public’s perception – right or wrong - is that Mayweather wears a dark hat.

In the other corner is Pacquiao. A God-fearing family man devoted to the Lord and the people of the Philippines. A public servant there as a Congressman, they say he might one day become President. He came from the dirt and the dusty squalor of the Philippines.  As he said, “I want the people to know that God can raise people from nothing into something.  And that’s me. I came from nothing into something. I owe everything to God. He gave me this blessing. It’s all due to the Lord.”

What I have come to understand about big fights such as this, fights that turn into something bigger than a fight – is that all the match-ups from the past that transcended the fight itself have this element of good versus evil.  Jack Dempsey vs. Georges Carpentier in 1921 was labeled the “Battle of the Century” and of course Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier in 1971 was the “Fight of the Century” and on and on. Even Duran vs. Leonard in 1980 had the sneering, bearded Panamanian against Leonard, an endearing American hero. In order for fights to “grow big” the public has to identify with one side or the other – there can be no middle ground. There has to be passion about either man and there has to be the other piece that is so important – uncertainty surrounding the outcome.

Mayweather versus Pacquiao has all of these things.

And while we will all wake up the morning of May 3rd and log on to our various devices to read about the fight - the world will move on. Just as it did when Dempsey sent the war hero pilot Carpentier crashing to the ground in flames.  Just as it did when Frazier “got the job done” against Ali and both men went to the hospital. Just as it did when Duran mugged Sugar Ray in the Montreal rain.

But this one is different. It feels like it means more. Manny fights for every single soul of his entire nation. If you ask him what he wants to achieve through boxing he speaks first of his homeland and helping the countless souls there that cling to a meager life.  Each day he prays to a higher power to help him help his people. He gives away his money and provides for countless people in his bloated  entourage. How could you not wish a man well who gives so much of himself?

And if Mayweather wins? Does that mean that evil trumps good? Does that mean that Mayweather continues on to forever claim that he is the best fighter that has ever lived? Undefeated. Unquestionable. For some that very thought is unnerving. What will this man do with over $100 million made in one night? Will he buy more jets? Make bigger bets? More cars? More jewelry? More women? Will he do the good that Pacquiao will?

There are times when things are more than they seem. It’s sometimes not until afterwards that we realize it. Events. Simple things. Games. Marriages and divorces.

But Mayweather versus Pacquiao is just another prizefight.  Right?

April 2015

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Mike Tyson is Still Fighting the Fight

Mike Tyson will tell you that he never believed he would live long 
enough to put his words into a book about his life. It is that life which he lays bare in his memoir "Undisputed Truth," written with Larry Sloman.

It is a fascinating look at the life of the former heavyweight champion of the world - “warts and all” as the saying goes. Tyson is a subject that is easily hated and then easily loved a few pages later. His incredible journey is a swinging pendulum of dichotomy and contradictions.

From his troubled upbringing on the streets of Brownsville, Brooklyn to his ascension to the throne of the heavyweight boxing championship to his incarceration for the rape of Desiree Washington to his eventual rebirth as a prizefighter and eventually to a drug addled vagabond - it is all here.

I found it stunning that I thought I knew all there was to know about Mike Tyson. He and I are close in age and I have been a boxing writer, author and fan since I was a child. I followed his heavyweight championship reign and all the news that was all things Tyson very closely for 30 years. But in the book Tyson details his story in his words and tells of his ill-fated marriage to Robin Givens, his troubled relationship with promoter Don King and the three years he spent incarcerated during the early 90s.

Tyson’s insecurities and inferiority complex virtually consumed him even as he proclaimed himself to be “the baddest man on the planet” during the heyday of his boxing career. An admitted alcoholic whose favorite drink was Hennessy cognac coupled with cocaine, pot and sometimes a morphine drip, Tyson traveled the world spending up to $300,000 at a time on Versace clothing. His sexual conquests read like a Who’s Who of the celebrity world even as he spares many names to protect the innocent.  

At times, Tyson comes off as a vile monster. Other times, he is a helpless soul meandering through life in an  identity which he created and that has taken on a life of its own. This is a central theme of the book and it helps one to see how this troubled man was at times taken advantage of, but also how he took advantage of others. His mentor, father-figure and savant Cus D’Amato helped to shape and mold him as a youth, but when he passed away prematurely Tyson was left to navigate the shark-infested waters of his boxing career - and ultimately his life - all alone.

Tyson pictured with Cus D'Amato in Catskill, New York.
An obvious student of history, war and human dynamics, Tyson is analytical and very introspective about his actions and his place in the world. The accidental death of his daughter had a profound effect on him and it still threatens to destroy him to this day. The grief he feels is such that he will likely never overcome it. His continuing battle with alcohol and drugs also threaten to derail his very existence.

While every man ultimately reaches a tipping point in life which they believe will lead to a better future, it is not clear whether after all that he been through if  Mike Tyson has reached his. Being the student of history that he is, perhaps Tyson is destined to repeat the mistakes of his boxing heroes such as Harry Greb, Sonny Liston and Joe Louis, Their lives ended tragically and Tyson identifies strongly with their plight.

While this book is voluminous, it is a quick and fascinating read. The title “Undisputed Truth” is the truth only as Tyson perceives it and it has been said it’s not a lie as long as you believe it. Certainly others would dispute much of Tyson’s recollections. He has undeniably made many enemies throughout his life and points the finger of blame mainly at others. He has apologized for many of his past misdeeds (including biting a chunk out of Evander Holyfield’s ear) and he has made many efforts to reconcile his past. He credits his current and third wife, Kiki, for providing him with a moral compass and guiding him through the dense forest of his life. 

However, one can’t help but think this is only the first volume of the free fall flight which is a life that has only recently emerged from decades of turbulence. In the end, Tyson is clear with his readers that he is still a work in progress and that each dawn presents new doubts and new questions. The same old demons frequently rear their ugly head and because of that his fight is far from hearing the gong of final bell.  

December 2014

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Crashing the Gennady Golovkin Party

WBA middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin.
This past weekend at Madison Square Garden in New York City, WBA middleweight titlist Gennady Gennadyevich Golovkin (aka Triple G or simply GGG) knocked out Australian challenger and former belt-holder Daniel Geale in three rounds. The bout was televised by HBO.

Golovkin, born in Kazakhstan, is undefeated with a record of 30-0, 27 KOs. He is amiable, engaging and possesses a demeanor that endears him to fans. He is a very good puncher and is exciting to watch. Quite simply, he is a breath of fresh air for the fight scene. He also seems to have somehow hypnotized those that cover the sport into believing he is the second coming of Ray Robinson, Muhammad Ali and Henry Armstrong all rolled into one package.

It is a perplexing celebration for a fighter that in reality is untested to some degree. Yet within hours of   dispatching Geale, boxing websites and blogs lit up with headlines such as these: “GGG: Great, Great, Great” and “GGG = WOW” and “Is this the hardest hitting fighter on the planet?” and “Gennady Golovkin’s Legend Grows as KO Streak Continues vs. Daniel Geale.” One writer floated the fallacy that Golovkin could be one of the hardest middleweight punchers that has ever lived. And finally another headline: “Are there still doubters of Gennady Golovkin?”  

My answer? Yes there are still doubters. And I am one of them.

Those that profess to cover the sport, particularly in America, were tripping over themselves with what seemed a mix of infatuation, glee, mania and downright lust after Geale hit the floor and decided he could not continue. While I agree with the fact that Golovkin is a very good fighter - my thought is we need to tone down the praise for him, his efforts and his accomplishments.

Some have even dared say that he is better than former middleweight champion Marvelous Marvin Hagler which would lead me to think they also are of the notion he is a better middleweight than Bernard Hopkins.

Based on what Golovkin has achieved so far in a professional career that dates back to 2006, the bottom line is that he is nowhere near either of those two who are generally regarded as the two best middleweights of the past 30 years. Hagler was undefeated for 11 years, unified the middleweight crowns which he held for six-and-a-half years and defeated Tommy Hearns in one of the greatest fights in all of boxing history. Then there is Hopkins, who also unified the middleweight championships, defended the titles a record 20 times and was champion in some shape, form or fashion for 11 years.

In comparison, Golovkin has held one major title belt (WBA) for three-and-a-half years. He is an active fighter and he has defended that title 10 times. The most notable name on his record is Geale or perhaps Matthew Macklin whom he defeated last year. Aside from those two names, the opponents Golovkin has met and defeated are an unremarkable collection.

So why the seeming puppy love with him from the boxing media?

I think it has to do with several factors. Golovkin is an extremely nice person. Very accomodating, gentlemanly and he is always smiling. He has also surrounded himself with like associates in the form of promoter Tom Loeffler and trainer Abel Sanchez. Both of those men are true gentlemen, astute, intelligent and always willing to talk about the prowess of their man Gennady. Another factor that makes Golovkin a media favorite is that he likes to remain active. In an age when the top boxers fight on average twice a year, Golovkin has fought ten times in the past three or so years. He is also new on the scene for the most part. The media seems to have found a new star whom to hitch their wagon as fighters like Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez prepare to ride off into the twilight of their long careers. Lastly, Golovkin is perceived as the “good guy” hero. There is no doubt that Golovkin wears the white cape in any boxing promotion he is involved with while the opponent will be the one wearing the dark hat. So, while not an underdog, he is seen as a likeable alternative to the abrasive Floyd Mayweather, Jr. or the petulant Andre Ward.

HBO has gone “all in” on the Golovkin love affair. They recently signed him to a contract extension to appear on their airwaves and commentators Jim Lampley and Max Kellerman were effusive in their praise while watching from ringside. HBO unofficial judge Harold Lederman recently proclaimed that, “I love Gennady Golovkin.”

It seems the one true voice of reason is not going to be found in those that cover boxing or the “boxing media” as it is of 2014. The one true voice of clarity seems to come from that of Tom Loeffler, Gennady’s promoter, who was the one toning down all the rhetoric during the media love festival.

“Abel did compare Gennady to Marvin Hagler,” said Loeffler this past Saturday. “There wasn’t any disrespect at all to Marvin Hagler. All of us on the team have a ton of respect for what Hagler has accomplished in his career. He just thinks that Gennady is on that level and the way he took out Geale, who is one of the top guys, I mean, I don’t think there is anyone at 160 pounds that can stand for twelve rounds with Gennady Golovkin.”

That is about as close to the truth as you will hear in this day and age. Everyone needs to take a deep breath and relax. If Golovkin is as good as everyone is writing that he is then he will have his chance to prove it. He has yet to unify his championship. He has yet to meet a top pound-for-pound opponent. He has yet to headline a pay-per-view or pull in big television ratings in America. He has yet to face adversity or an opponent that has been able to push him. He has yet to do anything that would warrant a comparison to Marvin Hagler, Bernard Hopkins or as one of the most powerful middleweights who’s ever lived.

But for whatever reason, most wish to ignore those facts.

July 2014    

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Bouts of Mania: Ali, Frazier, Foreman and an America on the Ropes

Review – Bouts of Mania: Ali, Frazier, Foreman and an America on the Ropes.

Former Sports Illustrated senior writer Richard Hoffer (Something in the Air: American Passion and Defiance in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, 2009, etc.) puts forth a new addition on the last “golden age” of boxing that was the United States of the 1970s and the battles among three boxers that would eventually be considered among the great heavyweight champions.

Hoffer offers us a unique and in depth insight into the personalities of Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and George Foreman who all won Olympic Gold medals for their country and later became famous in the decade of the 1970s when America was deep into the Vietnam War and Watergate with President Richard Nixon at the helm. It would be a mistake to believe that there is nothing new or unique in this book. While the stories of all three men have been told countless times in several documentaries and  numerous books Hoffer does well to recreate the events and times that led to all three men facing one another.

There is the wonderful story of how Don King was introduced into boxing by the “impish” Don Elbaum. The fact that the Kingston, Jamaica fight between Frazier and Foreman known as the “Sunshine Showdown” was promoted by a bookie named Lucien Chen.  And of course there is the “Thrilla in Manila” bout  between Ali and Frazier that Hoffer describes as “a kind of self-immolation” in which they attempted to destroy one another.

The behind-the-scenes lead up to the “Fight of the Century” in 1971 between Frazier and Ali, the “Rumble in the Jungle” between Foreman and Ali and of course the “Thrilla in Manila” are all exquisitely detailed. Hoffer tells us about the cast of characters that made these fights happen and the associates that surrounded the fighters in such a manner that it makes these events from four decades ago come to life again.

There is fine prose to be found in the pages. Here is one shining example: 

“There are few events, in life and even in sports, that have the same capacity for surprise as a boxing match. A heavyweight bout, even one for a title, can be dull, inconclusive, a plodding affair as two tacticians struggle for the smallest advantages, each mindful of terrible consequences that are natural to the game. Sometimes there will be flurries of abandon, as the combatants briefly reach beyond their comfort zones. Or, on the rarest of occasions, it can detonate in a sudden explosion of surprise. It can happen in less than a second:  long-held values vacated, a bias corrected, the surety of opinion canceled, a whole foundation of belief instantly subsumed, swallowed up in an instant. What was once a strictly choreographed dance becomes a blast sector. All in the time it takes a man to swing his arm.”

Ali receives top-billing in the book and that is justifiably so. But much is also there for the taking when it comes to the psyches and lives of both Joe Frazier and George Foreman. Both men were often times unsure of themselves and their place in life, boxing and the country. Frazier was a wannabe singer who traveled the globe with his band. The young Foreman was nothing like the champion and eventual pitch-man he would eventually become and he suffered from confidence problems before Archie Moore came to his rescue and transformed him into a sullen beast.

Hoffer wonderully describes an era when these boxing legends were paraded and chided by great newspapermen such as Red Smith, Dick Young and Jimmy Cannon. The smoky and carnival-like atmospheres were beamed into theatres and homes while each punch was described by Don Dunphy or Burt Lancaster or Howard Cosell. Then of course literary heavyweights such as Norman Mailer and George Plimpton occupied ringside seats in order to put into words what all of these fights really meant to the fighters and the world.  Hoffer has carried on that wonderful tradition and brilliantly illuminated the last “golden age” of boxing. “Bouts of Mania” takes us back to a time and place when the country was as complicated and dark as it is today, but when viewed through Hoffer’s colorful kaleidoscope it is wonderful to see.

July 2014

Friday, February 28, 2014

Stewart publishes The Fight Racket

The cover picture of T.K. Stewart's newly released book The Fight Racket.  

Longtime boxing writer T.K. Stewart has published his first book The Fight Racket: Inside the World of Professional Boxing. It was released on February 20, 2014 and published by CreateSpace an Amazon company.

Stewart has chronicled the fight game for nearly two decades for websites such as BoxingSceneMax Boxing, FOX Sports and The Ring magazine. T.K. has been ringside for some of the most legendary bouts in boxing history and always likes to tell people that he saw all three of the epic fights between Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward.

"It was a great thirteen months of fights," says Stewart of the Gatti-Ward battles. "I was lucky enough to see all of them and they were like something out of a Hollywood movie. I proposed to my wife on the beach in Atlantic City the night before the second fight and we spent the night celebrating with some boxing guys at The Irish Pub just off the Boardwalk, so that's always memorable, too!"

The book is a compilation of what T.K. refers to as "stories" and it's a big book of 575 pages. "There are stories in there that go back ten or eleven years," says Stewart. "I included as the prologue the column I wrote in 2010 that won first place in the boxing column category in the annual Boxing Writers Association of America writing awards. There's a neat story at the end in Chapter 25 which I entitled 'The Greatest Fight I Ever Saw' and I think people will be surprised by that one."

Stewart has had the idea rolling around in his head to publish his work since about 2010 and says he has plans for another. "You know, this process was an awful lot of work, but it was also an awful lot of fun at the same time," he says. "The creative process is something I really enjoy going through. I have a good idea for another book on boxing, not a compilation of my work, but I have a certain subject and a certain fight in mind that nobody else has done. It's a secret for now, but I'd like to get to work on it right away."

Stewart says the book is geared toward boxing fans and there are chapters in the book on certain fighters such as Floyd Mayweather, Jr., Oscar De La Hoya and Manny Pacquiao. There are also chapters on Don King, Bob Arum and Freddie Roach.

"I think people will enjoy the stories and going to the places I have been lucky enough to go," says Stewart. "I've been to Vegas for several fights, Madison Square Garden, hung out at the Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood and have been to the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods casinos so many times that the security guys used to joke I needed my own parking space! I 've even been to the Copacabana that Barry Manilow sang about for a boxing related affair!"

More than anything, Stewart says he just wants the folks that read the book to enjoy losing themselves in the stories about the fights and the fighters.

"It's all about the fighters and their stories," says T.K. "They have the most interesting stories and backstories of anyone. You really couldn't make some of the stuff up and you couldn't write a screenplay that would be any funnier, outrageous or sad than some of the stories these guys have - so I want people to have fun with it when they read it."

February 2014

Sunday, February 9, 2014

When Every Fight Was Not a Super Fight

In 1982,  welterweight champion Ray Leonard (right) met the unknown Bruce Finch in Reno before a crowd of  6,700 for a purse of $1.5 million.
There was a time in this game they call boxing that a champ was allowed to take some easy fights. It wasn’t  long ago that Roberto Duran, when he was king of the lightweights, engaged in 23 non-title bouts. Joe Louis had his “Bum of the Month Club” where he starched a succession of foes that could best be described as less than dangerous. Larry Holmes, Sugar Ray Leonard and even Marvelous Marvin Hagler had easy fights against sub-par opponents in small towns.

Back then, not every fight had to be a super fight.   

It used to be that you could see Joe Louis in Buffalo, Larry Holmes in Bloomington, Sugar Ray in Syracuse and Marvelous Marvin in Providence.  It was a nice way for the champs to take breathers in between tough title defenses and it was also a way for the common folk to see the best fighters in the world in small venues in small towns. The top fighters on the planet could connect with the everyday fans and local media alongside ticket prices that weren’t in the stratosphere.

But in this day and age, when the top stars only display their wares a couple times in any given year, the pressure is on them to face the best available competition every time out. These days, boxing fans shell out upwards of fifty dollars for each pay-per-view bout. The fighters themselves, especially at the highest levels, expect paydays that routinely exceed eight figures. The last time Floyd Mayweather, Jr., the reigning PPV king, appeared in a bout on regular television was in 2006.  Because the public will not pay for bouts of little significance and because Mayweather will not step into the ring for a purse under $20 million he must always appear on PPV against someone the public considers a top contender.

For his most recent bout, Floyd Mayweather, Jr. received this check.

So it is that Mayweather has found himself in somewhat of a conundrum in regards to his next opponent.  Because the talent pool in the sport has dried up and because he has already beaten many of the big names (Alvarez, Cotto, Marquez)  Mayweather is faced with a dearth of capable and bankable opposition. He signed a contract with Showtime for six bouts (and has fought two of those) but at this particular point in time there are not four fighters kicking about that he can face and make all the money he feels he deserves or that will satisfy the particulars of the contract. For a variety of reasons, he refuses to fight Pacquiao so that has left Mayweather with leaving it up to the fans to choose his next opponent.

It is a novel approach and one, quite frankly, that I applaud. In fact, I’d like to see more fighters do it. The message boards are replete with cranky know-it-alls that believe there is no other bout on the planet except Mayweather versus Pacquiao. My feeling is that the sun has set on that match-up and Pacquiao has lost twice. It made a lot of sense in 2009, but both fighters have aged and it if they ever do meet it will be a watered down affair much like Hagler versus Leonard was when it came five years too late.

Mayweather hears the critics and he reads their blog posts. The way the game is these days with Golden Boy  and Top Rank controlling the promotional end of things and with HBO and Showtime the television kingpins Mayweather lives on the Golden Boy/Showtime side of the fence. It has left him with limited options in terms of opponent selection. Other factors also come into play, but Mayweather will meet either Amir Khan or Marcos Maidana next. Neither match is necessarily a bad one, but any knowledgeable person realizes Mayweather will be the winner two hundred times if he faces both of those guys one hundred times each.  Mayweather knows this and he hears the fans who expect him to fight only the best of the best next.

Photoshop can work wonders, but it can't get Mayweather (left) and Pacquiao into the ring against one another.
Since that doesn’t seem possible, he’s doing the next best thing and inviting the arm chair matchmakers to select his next opponent by casting their vote on his website. This approach is an interesting way to select an opponent because it allows Mayweather to avoid the catcalls from those that often criticize him – the paying public. Floyd can simply say that he fought the person the fans chose – even though they were given only two choices.

It’s a sad commentary on the game when you realize it’s not possible to see the top champions perform in person anymore unless you can travel to Las Vegas or even Macau and spend hundreds of dollars for even the least expensive ticket. There is zero chance that you will see Mayweather fighting in Michigan or Pacquiao in a ten-rounder in Toledo. Those days are clearly over and as a result the stakes are high every time the top fighters skip up the steps and slink through the ropes. Some folks would say that’s the way it should be and that fighters shouldn’t be allowed easy fights in backwater towns.

But it was a lot more fun when boxing took its traveling circus on the road. Ron Stander against Joe Frazier in Omaha, Ali versus Liston in Lewiston or Holmes against Snipes in Pittsburgh were all sights to behold. But those types of fights that once involved boxing’s biggest names in those types of places just wouldn’t happen today. 

February 2014