by David P. Greisman
“I want you to hit me as hard as you can.”
Those words, spoken by Tyler Durden in “Fight Club,” underscored the security of our modern world. Mankind is predisposed to war, but the majority of us have become accustomed to preferring peace. We are detached from pain, unfamiliar with the adrenaline that numbs it, blissfully ignorant of circumstances that require motivation out of desperation instead of the paralysis that comes with fear.
We have words for the qualities men exhibit in such a situation. They have a combination of heart, guts and balls. Sam Sheridan discovered a more appropriate term in his excellent book, “A Fighter’s Heart.” The author had trained with Muay Thai fighters in Thailand; mixed martial artists in Iowa; Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialists in Brazil; and a certain Olympic boxing gold medalist turned pro prospect named Andre Ward, and Ward’s trainer, Virgil Hunter, in Oakland.
And then he saw dogfighting in the Far East, where he learned that the most important quality in a pit bull isn’t necessarily the force of his bite, but rather its refusal to quit despite the promise of further violence. The term for this was “gameness.”
“Gameness could be described as courage, but that’s simplistic,” Sheridan wrote. “I’ve heard gameness described as ‘being willing to continue a fight in the face of death,’ and that’s closer; it’s the eagerness to get into the fight, the berserker rage, and then the absolute commitment to fight in the face of pain, and disfigurement, until death. It’s heart, as boxing writers sometimes describe it, with a dark edge, a self-destructive edge; because true gameness doesn’t play it smart, it just keeps coming and coming. No matter what.”
The oft-repeated premise behind boxing is to hit without getting hit. Our reverence is bestowed upon those who are on opposing ends of the spectrum. We admire boxers whose skills allow them to dodge deftly and deliver swiftly. Yet we canonize warriors who absorb punishment that leaves them on the verge of breaking before they somehow surge back and seize the fight with force.
Rocky Balboa’s fictional performances stirred audiences for six installments.
Arturo Gatti left jaws agape with his ability to save himself when he seemed mere seconds away from defeat before summoning the power to stop his opponent’s onslaught and the fight with one punch, knocking out Wilson Rodriguez and Gabe Ruelas.
Diego “Chico” Corrales secured his legend with a brutal battle in the trenches with Jose Luis Castillo, rising from two late and particularly devastating knockdowns and then rallying, Hail Mary and bombs away, stopping Castillo in one of the most dramatic and action-packed fights to ever grace a 20-by-20 patch of canvas.
John Molina’s win over Mickey Bey this past Saturday didn’t bring to mind the beatings and bruising suffered by Rocky, Corrales and Gatti, yet his victory was nonetheless stunning in how suddenly it came. He was not concussed, just outclassed. He lacked the speed and the technique that served Bey so well, but he also never accepted the premise that the fight had been decided.
The seconds ticked away, his window of opportunity closing as the final bell approached.
It was only a matter of time.
Boxing, like baseball, is a sport that belongs to both the five-tool player and the one-dimensional slugger. Molina is the latter, a man who never stops hitting for the fences, who never changes his swing no matter how many times he misses, who knows that he need only make contact on occasion for his power to be respected.
Molina showed this against Hank Lundy three years ago, on a night that saw him getting out-boxed and falling woefully behind on the scorecards. Molina finally floored Lundy in the eighth round and, emboldened, scored the stoppage three rounds later.
Bey also out-boxed Molina early; he was credited in the first round with dodging or blocking every single one of Molina’s paltry 15 punches. Molina swung his right hand overhead as if it were a sledgehammer at a carnival strongman game. Bey ducked most of these and sent jabs out in multiples, piercing Molina with darts.
Molina’s wild shots largely missed in the opening rounds. Those that did land, Bey took well. Molina adjusted, recognizing that Bey’s head was elusive and his feet were mobile, and so he turned his attention to Bey’s body.
Bey, meanwhile, understood that there are two approaches to defeating a plodding pressure fighter. You can turn toward defense, hope to box a nearly perfect bout, and gamble that your stamina will hold up, or you can try to dissuade him by beating the fight out of him.
Bey sat down on his shots, sending out uppercuts, hard hooks and crosses. This was a mentality forged through the tough sparring available in Floyd Mayweather’s gym. He stood in close, remaining in Molina’s range, yet smothered him by tightening the distance, ensuring that his shorter, faster punches would land before Molina’s slower, wider shots did.
It was working. Through five rounds, CompuBox had credited Bey with landing 109 of 233 punches, a 47 percent connect rate, including 65 of 159 jabs and 44 of 74 power shots. Molina was rendered much less effective, landing less than 1 of every 3 thrown, 60 of 192 total, a 31 percent connect rate, including just 7 of 70 jabs but 53 of 122 power shots.
He was keeping Molina at bay, but Molina kept at Bey.
Bey continued to dig into a willing target in the second half of the fight. Molina appeared at times to be tiring. He had loaded up on power punches earlier, and now he only had enough energy to heave haymakers
Eight years ago, Diego Corrales rose from his second knockdown at the hands of Jose Luis Castillo, spat out his mouthpiece and bought himself some time. The referee retrieved the mouthpiece and handed it to trainer Joe Goossen, who rinsed it with a squirt of water and gave it back to Corrales with sage advice.
“You gotta fucking get inside on him now.”
Goossen stood in Molina’s corner on Saturday with three rounds remaining and told his fighter exactly what needed to happen.
“You got to keep getting him into a fight like that. You got to start slugging,” Goossen said following the seventh round. “This is not brain surgery. He’s holding, moving, punching. He’s out-boxing you. You got to let your hands go more and get him into a fight.”
He told Molina that there would be no decision win waiting for him on the judges’ scorecards.
“That ain’t gonna happen,” he said. “You need a knockout.”
As with Corrales-Castillo, the end came in the 10th round.
Before this final scheduled stanza, Bey’s trainer, Floyd Mayweather Sr., had cautioned him “to do nothing careless,” and suggested that targeting Molina’s body might get his fading foe out of there.
Bey dominated the first half of the round, punishing Molina to the body and dishing out hard shots to the head. The statistics show Bey landing 24 of 36 punches, 2 out of every 3, including an astonishing 22 of 27 power punches, about 4 out of every 5, an 81 percent connect rate.
Molina, meanwhile, landed nearly 60 percent of what he threw in the final round, all but one of those a power punch. Many of those shots came after the one that changed the fight.
It was a left hook that Bey didn’t see but clearly felt. He leaned forward, reeling, and soon found himself with his back on the ropes and his gloves at his sides, defenseless as Molina swung away, a shark put into a frenzy by the smell of blood in the water.
The referee jumped in with about a minute left on the clock. The fight had otherwise nearly been over, the seconds ticking away, Molina’s window of opportunity closing as the final bell approached.
It was only a matter of time.
We have seen so many boxers come to the conclusion that they cannot win, that trying to do so is futile, and that it’s best just to survive.
“Gameness,” in the dogfighting in Sam Sheridan’s book, is best displayed in the moments when it is easier for the pit bull to give up — when it has been separated from the fight and must “make scratch” by being brought into its corner and then let go to attack again.
“Every time the dogs are ‘out of holds’ (when neither has a bite), they have to be separated, to scratch again, alternating,” Sheridan wrote. Eventually one of the dogs will not attack. It no longer has the desire to fight.
John Molina could have concluded that Bey was too much for him, that the fight was lost and that it would be better to try to survive rather than suffer until the bout was over.
Instead, he found motivation in desperation, landed his Hail Mary and then went bombs away. The end of the fight could only come with him fighting until the end.
The 10 Count
1. Lest this column be misconstrued, I don’t condone dogfighting — at all.
2. Just as a fighter’s warrior mentality can work to his advantage, it can be to his detriment. The former was the case with John Molina, the latter with Mickey Bey.
That point was made by “ShoBox” producer Rich Gaughan, who noted that Bey should have gone down to a knee and taken a count from the ref, getting some time to recover and allowing some time to pass on the clock. The bout was soon ending, and he could have survived to win the decision.
(Gaughan’s observation was passed along via a tweet from Showtime spokesman Chris DeBlasio).
3. I still shake my head that Mickey Bey was allowed to fight at all, given his positive test this past February for an extremely elevated level of testosterone. He came in at more than 30:1, the second-highest ratio the Nevada Athletic Commission had ever seen, five times higher than the commission maximum of 6:1, and more than seven times the World Anti-Doping Agency maximum of 4:1.
His case was already chronicled earlier this year in a column on this website: http://www.boxingscene.com/fighting-words-bey-ped-case-skepticism-shades-gray--63929
The gist of it is that Bey claimed that he had told a doctor at the Las Vegas Health Center — which is less a medical facility and more one of these anti-aging clinics that are popping up everywhere these days — that he could not have any performance-enhancing drugs.
His medical documents support that claim, but nevertheless he was prescribed testosterone injections. What matters is that Bey knew he had received testosterone, and it was his responsibility not to have any banned substances in his system.
Yet three of the five commissioners voted for a rather lenient punishment. Bey was suspended just three months and fined $1,000.
If we really want our fighters not to cheat — and also to be more vigilant about what their trainers and conditioning coaches are giving them — then more athletic commissions need to have better drug testing, and the potential punishment needs to serve as a better deterrent.
4. Mickey Bey trains out of Floyd Mayweather’s gym in Las Vegas and represented that on Friday with the letters “TMT” on his trunks, signifying “The Money Team.”
They might as well have stood for something else, according to boxing writer Martin Mulcahey:
“Too Much Testosterone.”
5. Mickey Bey complained louder about the stoppage in his fight than the one boxer this past weekend who had much more of a right to be upset — yet didn’t voice any outrage.
Malik Scott got screwed by the referee in his fight this past weekend against Dereck Chisora. There shouldn’t be any other way of analyzing what happened.
Scott, an American heavyweight, was in London for a bout with Chisora. Prior to the sixth round, his corner told him to keep the fight in the center of the ring. He didn’t, however, and he wound up paying for it.
Chisora backed Scott to the ropes and threw a chopping right hand that Scott tried to dodge. The shot caught him high on his head, though, and Scott went down to the canvas.
He seemed clear-headed, and watched as referee Phil Edwards issued a count. Scott rose at the count of nine, but Edwards waved his arms at the same time, ending the bout.
We’ve complimented fighters for wisely taking their time, regaining their bearings instead of rushing back to their feet. Yes, Scott could’ve risen earlier, perhaps at eight instead of nine.
He didn’t have to. And the referee didn’t need to pull the trigger so quickly.
6. I know there are differences between English in the United Kingdom and English in the United States, but there's still a word for "10" in Great Britain, and it sure isn't "9."
7. 2013 hasn’t been good to Malik Scott.
He started this year as an undefeated prospect who was still largely unknown except to those truly hardcore followers of the sport.
He fought on NBC Sports Network in February, putting on what appeared to be a winning performance against Vyacheslav Glazkov, only to have the bout end as a split draw.
And now he got jobbed against Chisora.
Coming soon: His truck will die, his dog will run away, and his girl will leave him.
8. One of John Molina’s aforementioned former opponents was also in action last week — Hank Lundy, who headlined on ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights” in a bout against Olusegun Ajose.
Lundy’s been good enough to be in the main event on “Friday Night Fights” on multiple occasions. He’s never had a brighter spotlight, though. He was to have fought Lucas Matthysse on Showtime in January, but that fight didn’t happen due to a dispute between Lundy and his promoter. Instead, Mike Dallas Jr. stepped in — and promptly got knocked out.
Lundy was coming off two consecutive defeats: a majority decision dropped to Ray Beltran in July 2012, and a unanimous decision loss to Viktor Postol in Ukraine this past March.
Lundy felt he got robbed against Postol. He clearly won against Ajose, out-boxing his opponent and landing the more eye-catching and head-snapping blows.
It remains to be seen where this win will land him. A majority of the top 140-pounders are either with Golden Boy Promotions or Top Rank. At the least, he keeps himself a viable opponent. He deserves another chance to show whether he could also be a difficult opponent.
9. After the fight, Lundy called out Matthysse. He’ll have to wait. Matthysse has bigger things on his plate.
That’s because the fight so many of us wanted to happen, will happen. Matthysse will meet Danny Garcia on Sept. 14, on the pay-per-view undercard to Canelo Alvarez vs. Floyd Mayweather.
That’s a big fight on a big night. It very easily could have headlined its own broadcast.
We shouldn’t be concerned about Garcia-Matthysse being overshadowed by Alvarez-Mayweather. Instead, we should be hopeful that — on a show that will be seen by more people in the United States than any other this year — enough people will be watching when the two best 140-pounders in the world step into the ring.
The winner could emerge a much bigger star, so long as he’s marketed correctly and aggressively afterward.
10. Congratulations to the 2013 ESPY award winner for “Fighter of the Year”:
That’s not a joke. Well, it is a joke, but not in the way we wish it were.
Mayweather bested four other nominees: boxers Canelo Alvarez and Danny Garcia, and mixed martial artists Jon Jones and Anderson Silva.
He did this despite having but one fight between last year’s award show and this year’s award show: his decision win this past May over Robert Guerrero.
Granted, ESPY voting is on a different timetable than that of the usual boxing awards, tilted toward the seasonal schedules of sports such as football and basketball. (The Boxing Writers Association of America chose Nonito Donaire as its best fighter of the 2012 calendar year, and Andre Ward as the best of 2011.)
Mayweather has won ESPYs for two straight years and for five of the past seven years (Manny Pacquiao won at the ceremonies held in 2009 and 2011).
With voting done by fans, the ESPYs are essentially a popularity contest, alas, and it’s likely that most of the voters only watch boxing when it involves Mayweather or another big name, if they watch boxing at all.
There’s no need to get riled up about this, though. These are the ESPYs, not the Oscars. It’s great that Mayweather has become so well-known among the mainstream. It’d be even better if other boxers had the opportunity to do the same.
“Fighting Words” appears every Monday on BoxingScene.com. David P. Greisman is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Follow David on Twitter @fightingwords2 or send questions/comments via email at [email protected]