By Lyle Fitzsimmons
I’m in a lousy mood. And I blame Bob Arum.
No, it’s not a terribly unique state of mind for me.
And no, this isn’t the first time the Top Rank guru has been the source of my angst.
In fact, I can’t even claim the actual reason this week is all that different from past instances when Bob’s been “Fitzbitz Enemy No. 1.”
But that notwithstanding, in my mind it’s still all his fault.
The irritation needle began inching toward the gauge’s red side sometime near midday Saturday, when I received a press release from Top Rank – via ace publicist Fred Sternburg at [email protected] – that vainly tried to create urgency about an April PPV card involving Juan Manuel Marquez and Brandon Rios.
For full disclosure, the only press release involving those two that would actually interest me would be one telling me that they were fighting each other. And then only just barely.
So this one, which promised far less than a Marquez-Rios showdown at any weight, surely excited me far less than Mssrs. Arum and Sternburg probably would have intended.
More than the ultimately disappointing content, however, was the same old tired way in which a pair of essentially generic tune-up fights were hurled at me – using garish colors, capital letters and bold type – as if they were only a half-step down from the Ali-Frazier trilogy.
It’s not that Bob or his PR minion committed a crime or anything. After all, they’re in the promotional business. And what they were doing, whether poorly or well, was promoting.
And they get another allowance due to circumstance, which, after ex-Cuban amateur star Yuriokis Gamboa’s bizarre pre-fight power play, left them in the lurch to fill a spot on an April 14 dance card.
Even with all that, though, I guess I’m simply sick of the hard sell.
The idea that a Marquez fight with Sergey Fedchenko, ranked 25th at 140 pounds by BoxRec.com as of Monday afternoon, would be interesting is laughable enough. The idea that the WBO would consider it worthy of an already useless “interim” championship tag in the division is ridiculous to be sure.
And the idea that Arum would foist it onto fans as part of a flavorless $44.95 entrée is an insult.
I suppose the bargain from the Top Rank perspective comes in that the main dish also includes the aforementioned side of Rios, the entertaining lightweight from Oxnard, Calif. who lost a WBA trinket a few months back for failing to make weight for a title defense.
The guy talks a lot. He gets hit a lot. And ultimately he hits the other guy a lot, too.
Which would be all well and good here… if the other guy this time was Marquez.
But rather than quickly matching them in a winner-take-all for the love of the Mexican-American bloc, Rios is instead paired with Cuban stand-in Richard Abril, a tall, skinny export better known for who he’s lost to in 20 fights – Breidis Prescott (SD 10) and Henry Lundy (SD 10) – than for anyone he’s beaten.
His (nudge, nudge) “unplanned” appearance at a press conference a few weeks back got the venom going between he and his soon-to-be foe, apparently building just enough back story to serve as a somewhat credible semi-main event for the Marquez sleepwalk.
A verbal exchange ended with a well-aimed slap from challenger to would-be champion, with Abril dropping in the requisite “You aren’t a real champion” and the subtly menacing “Rios won’t need a GPS to find me on April 14. All he’ll have do to is look up and see the referee holding my hand up in victory.”
Oooh, somebody pinch me.
But amazing as it is to believe, there’s even more silly blather, courtesy of Rios.
“He may not have thought I was a real champion when he slapped me but he’s going to know I’m a real champion on April 14 when I knock him on his South Beach,” he said. “I do give Abril credit for one thing. I know he’s going to show up for this fight. That will be his second mistake with me.”
Fred and Bob make it all sound so compelling.
Problem is… I can already imagine the way it’ll all go down.
Rios will explode from the corner. Abril might have a moment or two of sharpshooting while utilizing a three-inch height advantage against a guy for whom airtight defense is an afterthought.
And in the end the Californian will chop the guy down, loudly claim dominance over all he surveys and reprise his role as the Chris Arreola of the skinnier set – with more achievement and less blubber.
Both he and Marquez will act triumphant when it’s over and Arum will beam approvingly at the post-fight presser, already plotting the next one in his head.
But when the indeed time comes for that next one, sir… please do me just one favor beforehand.
Just go ahead and delete me from the send list.
* * * * * * * * * *
This week’s title-fight schedule:
IBF junior featherweight title – Brakpan, South Africa
Takalani Ndlovu (champion) vs. Jeffrey Mathebula (No. 2 contender)
Ndlovu (33-6, 18 KO): Second title fight; Unbeaten in South Africa since 2004 (8-0, 4 KO)
Mathebula (25-3-2, 14 KO): Second title fight (0-1); Lost to Ndlovu in 2010 (SD 12)
Fitzbitz says: “Veteran champion handles ex-opponent again in rematch.” Ndlovu by decision
WBA flyweight title – Ciudad Obregon, Mexico
Hernan Marquez (champion) vs. Rodel Mayol (No. 12 contender)
Marquez (32-2, 25 KO): Third title defense; Last seven wins by stoppage (29 total rounds)
Mayol (30-5-2, 22 KO): Eighth title fight (1-4-2); Held WBC title at 108 (2009-10, one defense)
Fitzbitz says: “Young slugger continues title run against veteran ex-kingpin.” Marquez in 7
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA “world championships” are only included if no “super champion” exists in the weight class.
Last week's picks: 1-0
Overall picks record: 291-98 (74.8 percent)
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.