Monday, May 23, 2016

Why We Still Love Marvin Hagler

Happy Birthday to the Marvelous one, Mr. Marvin Hagler. It's hard to believe that this legendary fighter from my youth is now 62 years old. Thinking back over all the time that's passed, I'm a bit surprised - though pleasantly so - that the man is considered such an icon today.

For the longest time I stated he beat Ray Leonard in their famous 1987 bout, but I'm going to probably have to look at it again now that it's been a while to make a fair re-assessment. Still, the conclusion of that fight - where the insanely popular Leonard won a controversial split decision over the grizzled Hagler - should arguably have been enough to confine Hagler to permanent Sonny Liston status. You know, the man forever known as a tough guy who was out-slicked by an icon.

That hasn't been the case, though. Indeed, Hagler has earned icon status himself over the ensuing decades. I think this is at least partially due to the fact that he never fought Leonard a second time. For Hagler was convinced judges would never give him a fair shake, and - knowing boxing - whose to say he wasn't right?

What Hagler's decision not to fight Leonard twice ultimately meant, however, was that their first fight would always be clouded in controversy, that there would never be a universal belief that Leonard really won their fight. In a sense, Hagler gave himself the role of Jack Dempsey to Leonard's Gene Tunney. Sure, Leonard and Tunney won, but millions have remained unconvinced of the validity of their victories.

Even more importantly, though, Hagler - like Leonard - now represents the kind of fighter who is willing to challenge himself, who isn't afraid to take a loss or even get knocked out. That's impressive stuff in this age of safe bets and avoidance. Here's hoping the memory of Hagler and his sportsmanlike disposition continues to live on...marvelously, of course.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Like It Or Not, Personality Matters In Boxing

I have to admit I'm uncomfortable writing this piece. Those of us who are essentially unassuming types always feel like we're runners up in the great race of life - even when we win - because it's the bombastic or showy or glittery types who seem to get all the attention and love. Indeed, the shining personalities are the ones that draw in attention and interest. It just is what it is.

And it's all particularly true in boxing. In an era of the UFC, an age of strangleholding, headbashing love and adoration, Floyd Mayweather managed to rule supreme, even though he was a technical and highly defensive boxer. Why? Because Floyd's personality was stellar as far as marketing goes. He didn't promote his fighting style - he promoted himself - and it paid off handsomely.

The same rings true for heavyweight kingpin Tyson Fury. Let's face it, the man's upset win over Wladimir Klitscko early last winter was a snooze fest. Yet Fury himself is media dynamite. Call him a hater, a Neanderthal or just plain crazy, the man draws in the kind of attention his considerable fighting skills are just unable to.

All of which brings us to Mr. Canelo Alvarez. Oscar De La Hoya seems to feel that letting a fight between Canelo and GGG marinate indefinitely will torture fans enough to bring about a Mayweather-Pacquiao sized payday. After all, it worked out pretty good for Floyd and Manny, didn't it?

Sure it did - but Canelo's not Floyd. He's kind of unassuming, like the rest of us. Add in the fact that he's not as good a fighter as Floyd and Manny were and Oscar's move is clearly more risky than he himself may think. Like it or not, personality matters in boxing - and Canelo can't bring in eyeballs on personality alone.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Canelo's Reputation Takes A Major Hit

Look, I don't know what's in Canelo Alvarez' heart. I also have to come clean and admit I'm not a professional fighter. That pretty much means I'm in no position to charge someone who takes punches for a living of cowardice. In other words, I have no interest in being a keyboard warrior. I just want to be fair and call it like I see it.

And here's how I see it now that Canelo has given up his WBC title:

The man's reputation has taken a serious hit. It doesn't matter if he did the smart thing, the savvy thing or the strategic thing...he looks bad right now. Will the man's reputation be able to survive this? I don't know, but I can't imagine this sort of stain washing off too easy.

Canelo has given up his title freely, after all, so that a man who wants to fight him can have it without a fight. What's more, this comes after Canelo literally knocked a pumped up welterweight senseless less than two weeks ago. It doesn't look good, my friends, It just doesn't look good at all.

Again, I don't know what's in Canelo's heart. I'm not criticizing Canelo's decision here, nor am I criticizing his team. I'm simply analyzing the public fallout from that decision. Needless to say, that fallout is fairly harsh.

Perhaps Canelo will end up fighting GGG in September. That could end up being a reputation savior. Indeed, it would pretty much be the only way to wipe out the memory of what's just transpired.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Boxing Isn't Fighting - It's A Sport

I remember the scraps I got into as a young man. I won some. I lost some. I was a kid and neither I nor my opponents were or were to become tough guys. We were just children settling things the way children did back then. Here's the thing, though - we fought dirty. I remember hair pulling and ball kicking to be two of my favorite moves. Such things would never be allowed in a boxing ring. Why? Because boxing is a sport, not a fight.

Fighting is dirty. It consists of two people doing what they have to do to win. Boxing, on the other hand, requires rules and skills. Sure enough, the best boxers in the world are rarely tough guys. Floyd Mayweather is a master tactician, perhaps one of the best to ever lace up a pair of gloves. I doubt, though, that anyone would consider him a tough guy.

Here's the truth - boxing used to look a lot more like real fighting than it does now. Guys fought with bare knuckles and were allowed to throw each other around. Those days are over, though. John L Sullivan would have had a far better chance of beating the hell out of Jim Corbett in 1892 if he were allowed to throw the guy around. He couldn't, however, because theirs was the first modern heavyweight title fight. That means Sullivan and Corbett were engaged in a sporting event rather than a brawl. And Corbett knocked Sullivan's ass out.

Look at it this way - could Ali have bested Foreman if they had fought in a bar parking lot? Could Mayweather have bested Pacquiao under such circumstances? What about Leonard?Could he have beaten either Hagler or Duran had there been no rules? The truth is that boxing is first and foremost a sport rather than a tough guy contest.

And frankly that's the way it should be. As they say, it's skills that pay the bills.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Time To Face Facts - Povetkin Should Be Punished If He Broke The Rules

Look, I've got nothing against Alexander Povetkin. He's a talented guy and it's nice to see a fighter get a big chance like Povetkin has/had against Deontay Wilder. Still, VADA, which is led by the serious Dr. Margaret Goodman, claims that Povetkin tested positive for meldonium last month. For those who don't know, meldonium is a recently banned substance that reportedly allows users to  keep exerting themselves more than they normally would.

Clearly, this is a big deal when it comes to a dangerous physical contest like boxing. Still, there are those out there who claim meldonium is really no big deal, that it's "probably" not even going to make that much difference for an athlete. Funny word, "probably." It doesn't make one feel quite as confident as the word "definitely" does.

Here's the thing - it doesn't matter if meldonium is dangerous, possibly harmless or completely harmless. Why? Because it's a banned substance and athletes - professional fighters, in particular - shouldn't be using banned substances. Those that do need to pay the consequences.

Now, none of this is to say Povetkin is actually guilty in all of this. He's still able to get a "B" sample run to prove whether he's broken the rules or not. People need to be fair, even in boxing. If the man did break the rules, however, then there should be no tisking or eye rolling. Those who might have a problem with the rules should take it up with WADA - the international anti doping organization. They shouldn't gripe about the stupidity of a public that feels those rules shouldn't be broken

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Let's Face It: Canelo-Khan Should Have Never Happened

Canelo Alvarez looked terrific against Amir Khan. He walked down a fast and very skilled opponent who had been frustrating him and laid him out in a fashion that will be long remember and replayed on countless video clips. Impressive stuff. There's a problem afoot here, though, one that needs to be mentioned:

This fight should have never happened.

Nope. Canelo should have fought the fearsome Gennady Golovkin, not a naturally smaller man from two divisions south of middleweight. At the very least Canelo should have faced a solid middleweight. This wasn't about matchmaking, though, so much as it was about sharp marketing. The goal was to have Canelo bring in money without really facing someone scary. So a top level welterweight was brought in to legitimize the proceedings.

And everyone went along with it - myself included. Oh, we let it be known that our eyebrows were raised, that we knew what the whole thing was really all about - but we still watched it, we still talked about it and, yeah, guys like me got a lot of clicks writing about it. And then we all sat there for a moment on Saturday night wondering if Khan would be able to get up. Something to think about.

It's understandable that we all bought into this - but from here on in we need to know better.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Why I'm Looking Forward To Fury-Klitschko II

So, while some are worked up for Canelo-Khan this weekend, my interest is also piqued for the heavyweight title bout later this summer between Tyson Fury and Wladimir Klitschko. Sure, the first go round between these two was something of a bore, but Fury still managed to shock the world by taking Klitschko's crown.

And all the Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder talk in the world can't change all that.

Look, I like both Joshua and Wilder, but the truth is that Fury is the man at heavyweight by virtue of beating an aging Klitschko. And now we're going to find out if Fury is more than a novelty at the top of the heavyweight heap. He's gained a lot of weight since beating Klitschko, Fury has, and he often seems like something of a tortured soul. Like it or not, such things can impact the rematch.

As can Klitschko's mindset. Frankly, Fury got in his head he first time around. If Klitschko can enter the ring this time unfazed, things might well turn out different. Everyone talks as if this is the post-Klitschko era when the truth is, we really don't know.

Perhaps that's one of the reason's why this fight is of great interest to me - because it's relevant. And honestly, the same will never be said of Canelo-Khan unless Khan surprises a lot of people. As a fan of boxing, I like there to be meaning to the fights. Say what you will, but Fury-Klitschko II is about as meaningful as it gets.

Bring it on.