Lee Groves

Travelin’ Man Goes to Carson – Part I

RingTV.com’s resident Travelin’ Man continued his summertime boxing odyssey, which took him to Carson, Calif., to work the CompuBox keys for the Nonito Donaire-Jeffrey Mathebula/Kelly Pavlik-Will Rosinsky doubleheader that aired on HBO.

In the first of two installments this week, the aftermath of the massive power outages and the run-up toward fight night will be covered.

Tuesday, July 3: When last we met, I was in the midst of a power outage caused by destructive storms that ravaged the eastern half of the U.S. the previous Friday night. With deadlines – and self-imposed pressures – bearing down, I e-mailed both of last week’s stories from the Sistersville Public Library located five miles from the house (thank God someone had Internet and air conditioning). After doing so, there still was the issue of when electricity would be restored to our area.

For 30 minutes Monday morning, then for an hour early Tuesday evening, we had reason to believe the crisis had ended. Both times the Power Gods played a cruel game with our emotions. Just as we finished the complex process of disconnecting our appliances from the generator and reuniting them with the proper plugs, the electricity – and any hopes of regaining normalcy – was snatched away.

The presence of our generator had been our saving grace throughout the crisis. Although small in size it hit far above its weight with nearly round-the clock service the past five days. It kept food from spoiling, helped retain some TV-viewing habits and partially neutralized the blazing temperatures that had blanketed the area by powering a trio of fans.

Just moments after the second re-plugging, a new crisis emerged with startling suddenness – one that threatened everything.

The motor’s steady rumble was replaced with a rhythmic stuttering, which prompted a quizzical glance outside the front door. What was seen next was nothing short of frightening – flames shooting out the side of the generator.

Blessing Number One: This happened during the early evening hours instead of the middle of the night. Blessing Number Two: Had the device been pointed in the other direction, those flames would have ignited the house. Blessing Number Three: The crisis ended the moment the engine was shut down.

Following a few minor adjustments, the engine was restarted and for several minutes all appeared well. When the flames returned shortly thereafter it became obvious this generator had cranked out its last watt.

For all the benevolence we received and the potential disasters we avoided, one overwhelming fact remained – the power was still out and now our perishables, including ourselves, were plunged into peril. We now were subject to relentless heat, food spoilage and various other negative outcomes and we had no idea when the electricians would arrive.

While there are advantages to living in a remote area, one major burden is that during widespread outages Friendly is among the last towns to be serviced. After several days of waiting, many small-town people felt as if they had been forgotten.

To help break the mounting tension, a mid-evening drive was suggested. The sight of Monongahela power trucks repairing lines a quarter-mile from the house offered great encouragement. By the time we returned home, so did the power – and this time it was for keeps. The sense of relief was overwhelming but it was mixed with a fervent desire that everyone else would soon feel the same emotions.

I spent the next several hours plowing through the beginnings of my “to do” list with the full knowledge that several days would be required to complete it. Still, the rush of being productive againoverrode all other concerns.

Friday, July 6: I didn’t finish my tasks – conducting pre-fight research for several CompuBox-associated fight cards for mid- and late-July; re-recording, editing and burning onto DVDs the contents of last weekend’s shows and preparing for this trip – until a few minutes before I headed for the driveway. Because I had a 7:30 p.m. flight, I had the luxury of working throughout the morning and early afternoon hours.

Another unusual benefit was present this week – a direct flight. A few weeks earlier HBO Travel booked a non-stop from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles, which covered 2,136 air miles and was scheduled to last a little more than five hours. Since I didn’t fly United often, I was one of the, ahem, lucky few to occupy a middle seat.

I left for the airport shortly after 2:30 and arrived, as anticipated, at 5. The weekly parking lot search yielded good results but the same couldn’t be said of the Big Mac I consumed after clearing security. I’m not sure who made it but it had to be one of the messiest burgers I’ve yet eaten. Nearly a dozen napkins were required to sop up the spillage and even though there was plenty of special sauce and lettuce remaining at the end, there was one less Big Mac in the world.

The flight was much smoother than any of last week’s offerings and the petite woman to my right greatly lessened the usual issues of middle-seat occupancy (bumping elbows, cramped movement, etc.). As we made our final approach into Los Angeles we spotted a fireworks show from a unique vantage point.

My infamous black magic with electronic items resurfaced, for our monitor was the only one whose picture pixelized into garbled nothingness. If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone standing in front of a device say to me “this has never happened before” or “this isn’t supposed to happen,” I’d actually be as wealthy as my cover photo on “Tales From the Vault” implies.

Once I landed in L.A., I went through a ritual I hadn’t experienced in quite a while – catching a rental car company shuttle.

Most airports have their rental car counters on the same property but for airports as large as LAX the sheer volume of passengers necessitates an off-site location. The process of finding the proper boarding area is often confusing and such was the case here. There were no signs denoting where one should stand to catch a certain company’s bus and twice my efforts to hail the proper bus netted gestures from the driver to walk further down the waiting area.

After walking approximately 500 feet leftward, I finally spotted another bus of the proper brand approach. I raised my hand to catch the driver’s attention, and when I saw the person in front of me do the same thing I knew I had reached the right location. Seven minutes later, we were at the rental car center.

The clerk who assigned my car – a red 2011 Nissan Sentra – was a female native of Detroit who, after telling her I was working the following night’s boxing show, expressed her deep disappointment at the Timothy Bradley-Manny Pacquiao decision.

“It almost makes me want to switch to MMA and forget about the whole thing,” she said.

Unfortunately for our great sport, that is a typical reaction – and one can’t blame her for holding that opinion. The mounting collection of outrageous decisions, especially in high-profile pay-per-view fights, is inflicting untold damage on boxing and probably is the main reason why the general public is pulling away in such large numbers. Only genuine seismic change can start to turn the tide boxing’s way. Although I’m not a big-government guy in general the creation of a national boxing commission run by credible, knowledgeable people of integrity would be an excellent first step. Similar demands have been made over the past half-century and it’s high time those pleas are met with swift, decisive yet thoughtful action.

Because of issues surrounding the power outage, I was unable to speak with the Tom Tom people about my ongoing problems. Therefore, I left that device at home and moved the Magellan back to the number-one spot. The move proved justified as it “found” me within five minutes and guided me to the hotel.

Being that it was nearly 10:30 p.m. I texted punch-counting partner Joe Carnicelli to let him know I had arrived safely. Minutes later I got a text back from him – “In the lobby” – so I delayed the unpacking process and trekked downstairs. There I also met HBO’s Matthew Maxson, to whom I frequently e-mail the results of my research for the network’s fights, as well as veteran photographer Will Hart. Maxson, a loquacious redhead (sound familiar), needed some additional research on Jeffrey Mathebula’s trainer Nick Durandt so I offered to return upstairs to help out. As I did so I ran into former IBF junior middleweight titlist and current commentator Raul Marquez in the hallway outside my third-floor room. We exchanged pleasantries, and after informing him I had all his 1992 Olympic fights on video, we exchanged e-mails.

After conducting the research on Durandt, I finished compiling data on the judges working the televised portion of the following night’s card – names, years of experience, notable recent fights they’ve worked, etc. – before finally turning in shortly before 3 a.m. A long day? Yes. But also one that was very productive and enjoyable.

Saturday, July 7: My slumber lasted only four hours because I chose to accept Carnicelli’s invitation to have breakfast at a nearby IHOP. The usually sunny skies were obscured by fog rolling in from the Pacific but it didn’t affect Joe’s ability to find good, relatively inexpensive food.

In a bow to the Original Travelin’ Man Jack Obermayer, Carnicelli and I ended up ordering the same thing: Belgian waffles, eggs (over hard) and two links of sausage. I wasn’t sure whether that would hold us until the 3:30 p.m. buffet at the Home Depot Center, but it had to do.

I don’t know if this phenomenon is unique to Los Angeles, but, at least during this stay, the parking lots were as cramped as the highways were spacious. Navigating the lots at both the hotel and the IHOP challenged one’s ability to function in tight spaces and limited escape routes. Thankfully my sage co-worker was up to the task.

He had to rise to that occasion again at the Home Depot Center, a facility that may as well have been Carnicelli’s second home. He knew every nook and cranny and that knowledge came in handy more than a few times. For example, we needed to find a cardboard box to shield our monitor from the blinding mid-afternoon sun, which otherwise would have rendered the contents of our screen invisible to us. A walk up the runway took us to a storage closet, where two employees offered us one of their spares. Not long after, the makeshift shading device was in place and we were set for our rehearsal fight an hour or two down the road.

With everything in working order, we were ready to settle in for an excellent night of boxing.


Photo / Chris Farina-Top Rank

Lee Groves is a boxing writer and historian based in Friendly, W.Va. He is a full member of the BWAA, from which he has won seven writing awards, including four in the last two years. He has been an elector for the International Boxing Hall of Fame since 2001 and is also a writer, researcher and punch-counter for CompuBox, Inc. He is the author of “Tales From the Vault: A Celebration of 100 Boxing Closet Classics. To order, please visit Amazon.com or e-mail the author at l.groves@frontier.comto arrange for autographed copies.




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