Monday, March 20, 2006

The Sweet (and Sleepy) Science

I'm a boxing lover.

I always liked combat-type sports as a child (though my first love was pro wrestling, back when I still believed it was real).

But my boxing love really started back in 1996 - when I was out on my own for the first time, and invested in something my parents never had: HBO.

Ah, the glory days of Arturo "Thunder" Gatti on "Boxing After Dark."

Watching the rise of "Sugar" Shane Mosley, capped by a) calling his first win over De La Hoya when no one else thought it was possible; and b) getting thoroughly drunk at a Hooters full of Latinos (all De La Hoya fans) and three black guys (the only other Mosley fans) while Mosley was awarded a decision he didn't deserve in the rematch. Yes, the Mosley fans fled while the DLH fans were still screaming at the big-screens.

But the one thing that has disappointed me in recent years is the heavyweight division - once the crown jewel of boxing, by reputation learned when I was a child, it's not the one I like to watch now.

Yeah, they hit hard. And I wouldn't want to meet most in a dark alley.

But it's the littler guys who have charisma, have excitement, have knockout power and dramatic fights.

Well, with Jim Lampley calling 'em, every fight's dramatic - he calls every BAD and World Championship bout like it's the Thrilla in Manilla III.

But that aside, let's face it, HBO puts out a quality product, and in HD (even the PPVs, these days). Lampley's a top-notch announcer, spastic tendencies aside, and crazy Larry Merchant is even more entertaining now that he's senile. I miss Big George Foreman on color, since Manny Steward won't diss any fighter, for fear he might train him someday, and I can't understand a word Roy Jones Jr. says.

The less said about unofficial ringside scorer Harold Lederman - another old, crazy coot like Larry, but less entertaining - the better. By the way, Harold's daughter, Julie, is also a boxing judge, and proves bad scoring is genetic.

(No, I don't get Showtime, so I don't see "Shobox," but I hear it's inferior. Egah. And while I love the HD networks' picture, their fights are usually so inferior in level of competition, they're barely worth watching.)

I don't buy many PPVs, but for a while I used to watch them with my buddy Buff (the son of the ring announcer Michael Buffer, and a reporter in Easton), and it was at his house where I saw Tyson bite Holyfield's ear off live on TV.

For a while, I had a string where the only PPVs I got were either memorable or controversial, but that hasn't been the case lately.

In fact, since the end of Gatti/Ward, many of the best fights have been on regular old HBO - which, it might be said, shows many PPVs a week later, if you don't mind knowing who won.

All of this is basically a round-about way of getting to my point, which is complaining about the sheer boredom of Saturday night's fight between Hasim "the Rock" Rahman and James "I ate my chief second" Toney.

Rahman, who once decked Lennox Lewis, is still built like a brick house, but Toney came into the ring looking, um, fat.



Freakin' huge.

I mean, seriously, he looked like he ate some little Mexican fighter off the undercard. This guy was a middleweight champion once, and he walked into the ring at 5'9" and 238(-plus) pounds. I mean, I'm smaller than that. And I'm not getting much exercise. Presumably, he trained for this fight by lifting something heavier than a fork. You'd rather see me shirtless. Seriously.

This guy failed a STEROIDS test his last fight. I can't imagine how. Aren't steroids supposed to give you muscle? Maybe he has a lot of muscle, he just hid it under a nice layer of blubber for the winter.

And yeah, I know he could kick my ass. But he'd have to catch me. And I'm pretty sure I could outrun him. And I'm overweight and out of shape, and slow even when I'm not either of the two.

The problem is, Toney could take a punch.

The fight (SPOILER!) was a draw. And I couldn't tell you if the judges scored it badly because, well, I slept through Round 5.

And Round 6.

And Round 7.

And most of Round 8.

I woke up during one of those silent moments you get in sporting events when one guy's drinking, the other's in the men's room and the third can't think of anything to say. And I thought for a moment, they'd fallen asleep, too.

It reminded me of a fight I saw as a kid. I don't remember who was in it, or who called it, but the play-by-play man asked the color guy who he thought would win, and he remarked disgustedly, "Can they both lose?"

HBO Boxing
BoxRec, a good site for records and bios (there are others, too)
Arturo Gatti
Sugar Shane Mosley, still my favorite
Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions
Michael "Let's Get Ready to Ruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuumble!" Buffer
Hasim Rahman
James Toney

Some of you may recall my "Contender" posts from last year - Season 2 coming in July on ESPN! Allegedly. I saw one of their specials hyping it, and Lord, did Freddie Roach teach Peter Manfredo Jr. how to punch! He knocked out a knockout artist, and he was a hands-of-down kind of fighter on the show.