At this time of year, we’re supposed to resolve to make changes that will better our lives, but most of us end up going down an alternative route for change: sitting back and hoping good things just randomly start happening to us.
As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s famous “ask not” speech, his words resonate as nothing more than a catchy little turn of phrase. In boxing, you can probably count on one hand the number of powerful people asking what they can do for the sport, whereas you need a stadium-full of fingers and toes to count the number of powerful people asking what boxing can do for them.
And, admittedly, I’m among that latter group. (Well, except for the “powerful” part.)
I’m as lazy as anybody else. At the end of December or the beginning of January, writers covering all manner of topics bust out their New Year’s “wish list” columns, and I’m no different. I know what I want the fight fairy to bring me in 2011.
But I’ll at least try to balance that laziness by packaging my list somewhat uniquely. You won’t get my wish list for 2011. Instead you’ll get my anti wish list. Here are the 10 things I really don’t want to see over the course of the coming year:
24/7 Pacquiao-Mosley: The Manny Pacquiao-Shane Mosley fight is happening, like it or not. So my wish is that we’re at least spared a 24/7 series hitting us over the head with hype for a fight that is essentially un-hype-able. HBO does a fantastic job producing the show, but how many times can you go to the well with the same fighters? If there were new blood involved – if this were Pacquiao vs. Andre Berto, for example – then maybe a 24/7 would be more compelling. But we’ve seen Mosley on 24/7 once and we’ve seen Pacquiao four times already. As of now, it’s not even a guarantee that HBO Pay-Per-View will be carrying this fight. But assuming they do, and assuming the fight goes forward without the training-camp injury we’re all praying for, at least let us get there without the BS buildup of 24/7.
Floyd Mayweather in jail: Mayweather is scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 24, which means we might have a better sense of how realistic this scenario is. And maybe society is better off without Floyd roaming free; that’s not really for me to say without knowing all the facts. What I do know is that, as a selfish boxing fan, I want “Money” to escape the long arm of the law one more time, because I want to cling to that shred of hope that we might see Pacquiao vs. Mayweather in the second half of 2011. Call me a sucker, but I’ll take the risk of being let down a third time over knowing from the start that all we’ll get from Pacquiao in 2011 is a continuation of his one-man show.
Evander Holyfield vs. Sherman Williams and/or Brian Nielsen: If he can pass the medical exams, then Holyfield has a right to fight. And I have a right to feel hopelessly depressed about it. It would be one thing if Holyfield were fighting at 48 because he could still command a multimillion-dollar paycheck. But he can’t. Instead, his former fans feel the sting of knowing each fight will end with Holyfield chasing down small-time promoters to collect purses that won’t cover more than a month or two of child support.
Twelve months without a heavyweight fight on HBO: If we don’t see any heavyweights on HBO in 2011, it means neither of the Klitschko brothers is fighting David Haye, and it means Haye is not fighting Tomasz Adamek. Basically, it means that the three most-important figures in the heavyweight division – the Klitschkos and Haye – are spending the year exactly how they spent 2010, settling for leftovers and crumbs. If there’s a heavyweight fight on HBO, it means the sport’s former glamour division has taken at least a small step forward. And given the way things have been going, we’ll take any forward step we can get.
Tomasz Adamek vs. Roy Jones: The continuing career of Holyfield may be sad, but at least he’s not setting himself up for horrifying beatings. Adamek-Jones, a fight that has been at least casually discussed among the fighters’ camps, would be a travesty of the highest order. Forget about a black eye for boxing; Adamek-Jones is a detached retina for the sport.
Juan Manuel Marquez vs. Erik Morales: It’s looking increasingly likely that this repugnant mismatch will happen in April. And while I’m in favor of Marquez getting an easy paycheck, I hate that it has to come at the expense of a legendary warrior like Morales. Marquez is one of the five best fighters alive. Morales is a fringe contender at best nowadays. He belongs in the ring with a pound-for-pounder like Miley Cyrus belongs on stage with the Beatles. Good rule of thumb: If you can’t beat David Diaz at age 30, you shouldn’t be fighting Juan Manuel Marquez at age 34.
Arthur Mercante Jr., Laurence Cole or Joe Cortez refereeing a major fight: As I’ve noted a time or two on Ring Theory, there is no more challenging, high-pressure officiating job in sports than being a boxing referee. In other sports, a bad ref ruins a game, maybe a season. In boxing, even a good ref can ruin careers and ruin lives. So right off the bat, I’ll acknowledge that what Mercante, Cole, Cortez and others do is not easy. That said, this trio consistently makes it look even harder than it has to be. From New York to Texas to Vegas, they’re the Bermuda Triangle of negative-impact refs. I don’t care who your dad is or was or how firm you think you are; if you’re not up to the challenge of refereeing a boxing match fairly and unobtrusively, then please get out of the way and let a more competent official have the assignment.
The bantamweight division separated into two sub-divisions: Few weight classes are better positioned for excitement and high-quality action than the 118-pounders. We have arguably the two most talented practitioners in the division, Nonito Donaire and Fernando Montiel, scheduled to meet on Feb. 19, while Abner Mares and Joseph Agbeko will determine the winner of Showtime’s four-fighter tournament soon thereafter. Unfortunately, there’s a realistic chance that the division will remain fractured along promotional lines, with Top Rank’s bantams in one column and everybody else’s bantams in the other. This is a division overflowing with talented fighters who duck no one. What a shame it would be if the two exceptional little warriors who emerge victorious from these early-2011 showdowns are kept apart based on who their promoters are.
Negativity from the media if Showtime tries another Super Six: It’s anybody’s guess whether Showtime actually will organize another Super Six tournament before 2011 is over, but if the network does, prepare for so much grumbling and groaning that you’d think Madison Square Garden bumped up the price of their press room buffet. Those who criticize and complain are missing the point: For all of the inaugural Super Six tournament’s struggles, it has given us one world-class matchup after another and elevated the profile of every fighter involved. And if Ken Hershman and company try it again, it rates to go more smoothly because (a) they’ll have learned a few lessons about what doesn’t work and (b) it’s nearly impossible for their luck to be this bad again.
Stadium fights with predetermined outcomes: As with the NHL’s Winter Classic, a stadium fight or two a year is a cool change of pace. But note that the NHL put two of the best teams with the biggest stars at Heinz Field last Saturday; there’s a reason the Penguins didn’t host, say, the Islanders. In 2010, the stadium fights we got in America were Pens-Isles-level matchups that drew respectably but not sensationally. And it’s only going to get harder to draw as the novelty continues to wear off. From now on, the fights that land in stadiums should be fights so compelling that indoor arenas lack the seating capacity to properly accommodate them. Pacquiao-Mayweather would certainly qualify. I’d also be cool with Miguel Cotto-Antonio Margarito II at the New Meadowlands. But when the venue itself is the main selling point, that’s a pretty strong sign that the fight isn’t worthy of being in such a venue.
• A little lightning round of the anti wish list: James Toney in any ring, cage or other combat zone; Gus Johnson seated immediately outside any ring, cage or other combat zone; a round of reports that Chris Arreola is training hard and getting his weight down; a round of reports that David Tua is doing anything boxing-related; and further exposure to the wit and wisdom of Leon Lawson Jr.
• While the RingTV.com year-end fan polls are interesting and informative in terms of revealing public opinion, the fact that Manny Pacquiao won – in a landslide, no less – over Sergio Martinez for 2010 Fighter of the Year has exposed the polls as little more than a popularity contest. But, hey, we know that fans love Pacquiao, so their misguided votes can be forgiven. I wish I could say the same for USA Today’s Bob Velin, who cost his newspaper’s boxing coverage some credibility by naming Pacquiao the FOTY as well.
• So, Emanuel Steward is training Chad Dawson, who has the right to a rematch with Jean Pascal as long as a pay-cable network is willing to pony up enough money for it. Sounds to me like Steward’s training expertise is only half the reason the HBO on-air analyst makes a fine fit for Dawson.
• Real live boxing returns to ESPN2 this Friday night! And the latest step in Demetrius Andrade’s progression will be televised also.