By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Here in Southwest Florida, I saw Santa ride by on a Harley the other day.
I know it was him because he had a red hat and a red jacket, and I gather that my 4-year-old son recognized him, too, because he was instantly compelled to react quicker and smile wider while handling items on his check-marked to-do list over the subsequent couple of hours.
Of course, as happy as I was for the impact it made on my perpetually industrious little man, I was a tad disappointed I didn't flag the old guy down for a couple seconds to give him my own laundry list of requests for this year's imminent holiday season.
Alongside the requisite Lyle wishes for world peace, financial stability and a championship for one of my long-suffering sports teams – though at this point I’d settle for just having a hockey season – I’d have also tossed out a few top-of-head requests that pertain to boxing.
Take a look… and let me know if any of mine match any of yours.
Another year with the legends. When Joe Frazier died last November and Angelo Dundee passed in February, it was a clear reminder that the generation of boxers and luminaries who were on top when I first came to the sport weren’t going to be around forever. It hit home again a couple weeks back when Emanuel Steward – whose first big-stage charge, Thomas Hearns, is my all-time favorite – was the latest to go. In fact, were it not for positive teacher feedback on a composition I wrote on the Hitman as a seventh-grader, I’d likely have not chosen writing as a professional vocation. My request to Mr. Claus now is that my other similarly-aged heroes – Muhammad Ali, for example – be given an extra few decades to make up for the others’ too-soon departures.
More affirmation, less consternation. It’s probably been around forever, but technology has got me noticing it more these days. Whether in real time on Twitter or in the immediate aftermaths of fights on message boards, in blogs and via emails, there seems to be a perpetual race to indignation about decisions where the winner is correct but one card is either awarded to the loser or has a wildly divergent margin from the decisive pair. I never understand the outrage as it happens. Perhaps decades of iffy judging has lowered my satisfaction bar to lower than reasonable levels, but I usually find myself quite content whether it’s one point, five or 12. To me, Santa, it doesn’t make sense to quibble over stained linen in a condemned house. Just make sure the ref gives the belt to the right guy.
Speaking of Twitter, please shut up. It’s probably another phenomenon that’s sprouted from complete Internet immersion on fight nights, but the number of keyboard-protected tough guys chastising fighters for exiting fights prior to being rendered unconscious seems to be on the rise as well. Because it takes more mettle just to step into a ring than most mom’s basement residents could ever muster, it’s particularly galling when those same wannabes continually harp on guys who consider either an injury (Victor Ortiz) or a competitive disadvantage (Jonathan Barros) as more than enough reason to abandon potentially getting beaten into a coma. If you can swing it, oh white-bearded one, deliver a giant lump of lip-zipping coal to those who otherwise never seem to shut up.
For God’s sake, give the man some respect. Not sure what it is about heavyweights who do nothing but deliver lock-down domination of the division amid double-digit title defenses, but Wladimir Klitschko seems to be suffering from the same respect deficit in the post-Lennox Lewis era that an ultimately Canastota-enshrined Larry Holmes was dogged by in the aftermath of a guy named Ali. Thing is, now that he’s been champion for six-and-a-half years and handled five ex-heavyweight belt-holders (and two former cruiserweight kingpins), it’s almost impossible to remember the chinny, stamina-challenged question mark who’d been KO’d by Puritty, Brewster and Sanders in three fights and dropped thrice by Samuel Peter in another. If you can, Santa, please let people appreciate him before he’s gone.
Promote the sport, not yourselves. As many good fights as there have been in 2012 and as many as there are sure to be again next year, just imagine how many more – or how much less drama amid them – there could be if the suits at Golden Boy and the suits at Top Rank would drop their silly “We used to be cool, but now I’ll do anything to trip you up” cold war. I understand that Oscar and Bob each have bottom lines to worry about and that it’s a competitive business both in and out of the ring, but there certainly seems to be enough pie to go around without one side or the other trying to hoard all the ingredients in their own kitchen. Please, Santa, teach them how to play nicer together and share their things before the only kids with toys are the ones who play in cages.
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This week’s title-fight schedule:
IBO light heavyweight title – Chicago, Ill.
Andrzej Fonfara (No. 16 contender) vs. Tommy Karpency (No. 48 contender)
Fonfara (22-2, 12 KO): First title fight; Unbeaten since 2008 (12-0, 1 NC)
Karpency (21-3-1, 14 KO): Second title fight (0-1); Zero wins over plus-.500 foe since 2009
Fitzbitz says: “Chicago-based Pole has been successful while climbing the light heavyweight ladder and should capture initial belt on adopted home turf against less-accomplished foe.” Fonfara by decision
IBF super middleweight title – Nottingham, United Kingdom
Carl Froch (champion) vs. Yusaf Mack (unranked)
Froch (29-2, 21 KO): First title defense; Two reigns as WBC champion (2008-10, ’10-11; three defenses)
Mack (31-4-2, 17 KO): Second title fight (0-1); Held regional belt at 168 (2004-05)
Fitzbitz says: “Resurgent Brit took quantum leap back to relevance with thudding defeat of Bute and should maintain status – if not highlight quality – against retread challenger.” Froch in 10
WBA/WBO flyweight titles – Los Angeles, Calif.
Hernan Marquez (WBA champion) vs. Brian Viloria (WBO champion)
Marquez (34-2, 25 KO): Third title defense; Unbeaten since 2010 (7-0)
Viloria (31-3, 18 KO): Third title defense; Held WBC and IBF titles at 108 pounds
Fitzbitz says: “Viloria has more time on world stage, has accomplished more in terms of belts and should win skill battle here, but he may have to climb off deck to do it.” Viloria by decision
WBA light flyweight title – Los Angeles, Calif.
Roman Gonzalez (champion) vs. Juan Francisco Estrada (No. 15 contender)
Gonzalez (33-0, 28 KO): Fifth title defense; Five straight wins by stoppage (17 total rounds)
Estrada (22-1, 18 KO): First title fight; First fight in United States
Fitzbitz says: “Powerful Nicaraguan is on a roll and has stopped several foes on a higher level than this barely-ranked challenger. No reason to believe it won’t continue.” Gonzalez in 8
WBC lightweight title – Atlantic City, N.J.
Antonio DeMarco (champion) vs. Adrien Broner (No. 4 contender)
DeMarco (28-2-1, 21 KO): Third title defense; All career title fights ended in stoppage (3-1)
Broner (24-0, 20 KO): Fourth title fight; Held WBO title at 130 pounds
Fitzbitz says: “Broner isn’t afraid to laud his own talent and should add more believers against a foe with a style ideally suited to make the rising former 130-pounder look good.” Broner by decision
Last week’s picks: 8-0
Overall picks record: 360-117 (75.4 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.