By Lyle Fitzsimmons
I’ve got to admit, this one even got to me.
Though I’ve heard it each time for years when my beloved boxing has had one of those nights, not one time have I ever thought, “You know, maybe all these people are on to something.”
Not when Fan Man crashed Bowe-Holyfield.
Not when Tyson gobbled Evander’s earlobes.
Not when Kermit Cintron tumbled to a ridiculous scorecard loss.
And not when Floyd Mayweather knocked Victor Ortiz loopy.
The death knell was sounded – in some places louder than others – after each of those events and several more, but I’ve never been one to give it much thought.
In good times or bad, some folks hate boxing. It’s a fact of life. And those of us who love the sport have learned to ignore the persistent din.
I get it. The prospect of two guys getting into a ring with shoes, trunks, gloves and a goal of inflicting damage on each other isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.
Some prefer more tepid pursuits like golf or tennis.
Others would lose the shoes and put the whole thing in a cage. And there’s always the contrarian bunch who’ll revel in up, left and white when the inarguable stands are down, right and black.
Perhaps it’s a lesson learned from gridlocked genius in Washington.
But regardless of origin, it’s nothing I take too seriously.
Or at least I didn’t until Saturday.
This time, after another several weeks of anticipatory build-up, another anticlimactic five minutes in the ring and another predictable “I’m the real champ/No, you’re not” press conference, I’m feeling a little less like being tied to the whipping post – thank you, Gregg Allman – once again.
And somehow, when a non-boxing fan uses the word “pathetic” to describe what went on around the main event at Staples Center, it’s sort of hard not to just nod in agreement.
Because this time, regardless of the big picture side you choose… it really was.
Whether you believe the aborted two rounds proved Chad Dawson was clearly superior or showed he had no chance to win, it’s impossible to contend the decisive sequence of right hand-takedown-ambulance was in any way a boon for the sport’s greater good.
And while Pat Russell’s “no foul” assessment can be excused in the heat of the moment, the idea that the night could ultimately end without cooler, smarter heads coming to a discernable conclusion shows just how close to correct the “pathetic” assessment might be.
An instant of thought from a moron like me yields a small handful of options superior to what George Dodd and the California State Athletic Commission – a pay grade or two above mine, to be sure – came up with when called upon, which was nothing.
Oh, I don’t know, let’s see… might I suggest looking at a replay or two?
Perhaps giving Hopkins five legitimate minutes to recuperate and choose his course?
Or allowing more than a few chaotic seconds of suit-and-tie consult before ringing the bell?
Though I’ve spent years chronicling the dramas, characters and heart-warming redemptions that dwarf any others, the boxing shortcomings revealed on nights like Saturday are unfortunately just as pedestal-worthy when compared to other sports.
After all the football and baseball games I’ve seen, I can’t imagine an officials’ huddle at the Super Bowl or an umpires’ meeting at the World Series ending with, “We really can’t tell if that last field goal/home run was legit or not, so we’re just going to end the game here and decide later.
“As of right now, at least, the Packers/Cardinals win.”
But in boxing, it’s not just imaginable. It’s routine.
Let’s face it, even if no real remedy was possible Saturday, perhaps something short of whisking Russell from the building would have left something better than a “Wow, these guys are idiots” taste in the mouths of casual fans who’ll think twice before again taking it seriously with a $55 price tag.
And the more I think about it… maybe they have it right.
As long as broadcasts end and stadiums empty in the wake of lingering nonsense like Dawson-Hopkins, then breathtaking finishes like DeMarco-Linares and resurrections like Dewey Bozella won’t be enough to claim space come Monday when those same casual fans gather to discuss the weekend.
And ultimately, big-stage flops won’t get the same big-stage chance to disappoint, because no one will care enough about them to begin with.
Sorry, George… but you sure didn’t make things any easier on an already ugly stepchild.
Anyone for tennis?
* * * * * * * * * *
This week’s title-fight schedule:
WBC flyweight title – Bangkok, Thailand
Pongsaklek Wonjongkam (champion) vs. Edgar Sosa (No. 1 contender)
Wonjongkam (82-3-1, 45 KO): Third title defense; Held WBC title from 2001-07 (17 defenses)
Sosa (43-6, 26 KO): Thirteenth title fight (11-1, 7 KO); Held 108-pound title from 2007-09 (10 defenses)
Fitzbitz says: “Veteran flyweight king fends off smaller man’s challenge.” Wonjongkam by decision
WBC/WBO bantamweight title – New York, N.Y.
Nonito Donaire (WBC/WBO champion) vs. Omar Narvaez (unranked)
Donaire (26-1, 18 KO): First title defenses; Held IBF/IBO flyweight titles from 2007-09 (three defenses)
Narvaez (35-0-2, 19 KO): Twenty-second title fight (20-0-1, 8 KO); Reigning WBO champ at 115 pounds
Fitzbitz says: “Little champ not enough to topple rising Filipino star.” Donaire in 10
WBO junior heavyweight title – Ludwigsburg, Germany
Marco Huck (champion) vs. Rogelio Rossi (No. 15 contender)
Huck (33-1, 24 KO): Eighth title defense; Unbeaten since 2007 (14-0, 10 KO)
Rossi (17-2-1, 11 KO): First title fight; First fight outside Argentina
Fitzbitz says: “He may not be the world’s best cruiser, but he’s the best in this fight.” Huck in 9
WBA minimum title – Tokyo, Japan
Pornsawan Porpramook (champion) vs. Akira Yaegashi (No. 4 contender)
Porpramook (23-3-1, 16 KO): First title defense; First fight in Japan
Yaegashi (14-2, 7 KO): Second title fight (0-1, 0 KO); Tenth fight at venue (8-1, 3 KO)
Fitzbitz says: “Now that he’s got a title, he won’t give it up this quickly.” Porpramook by decision
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: 2-1
Overall picks record: 251-85 (74.7 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.