by David P. Greisman
It was an ambitious tour to promote the rematch between Floyd Mayweather and Marcos Maidana. The itinerary listed events for the press and public in five cities over the span of 72 hours, including four cities within about 30 hours. They were to go from New York City on Monday afternoon to Washington, D.C., by Monday evening. Tuesday brought Chicago and San Antonio, with the concluding stop coming in Los Angeles on Thursday.
But the kickoff in Manhattan’s Times Square started late. And then Mother Nature pitched in with heavy rain, grounding three private jets an airport in northeast New Jersey. Mayweather, Maidana and others remained on the runway on Monday evening while fans stood outside DAR Constitution Hall in the Nation’s Capital, lining up for the dual entertainment of the Mayweather-Maidana promotional event and a Wale concert.
Even after the D.C.-born rapper finished his performance, hundreds remained in the concert hall, waiting for Mayweather to arrive, their numbers dwindling bit by bit as evening gave way to night. Those who stayed had waited for more than four hours beyond when the event was initially supposed to begin. And they waited even after they knew Mayweather was there, while the best boxer in the world sat in a back room speaking for 15 minutes to the four media members who were left.
Once the event was over, it was well past midnight when Maidana, trainer Robert Garcia and other team members made their way to a waiting van and headed west to Dulles International Airport. Mayweather followed later, extending an already late night and a particularly long day.
“The staff and everybody talked about, ‘We need to go to Chicago [and skip Washington],’ but I had to come to D.C.,” Mayweather said during the media interview. “D.C. is a place that’s supported me for so many years. … Loyal fans. That’s why I had to come to D.C. and show love. Unbelievable turnout in New York City. I’m pretty sure we’ll have a great turnout here also. Like I said before, I’m thankful for all the fans, because without the fans, Floyd Mayweather wouldn’t be where he’s at today.”
The key phrase there was “all the fans” — because while an overwhelming number of those who remained at Constitution Hall favored him, played into Mayweather’s call-and-response and exhorted him to beat Maidana, not all in the building were his supporters.
The ratio depended on the city, and Mayweather capably played to both crowds: those who pay because they want to see him win and those who pay because they hope to see him lose. He long ago mastered the ability to be an antihero to some — think the cool arrogance of Al Pacino’s “Scarface” — and a villain to the rest.
But the fight needs to be sold. And that means marketing Maidana as an opponent who took part in an entertaining bout with Mayweather this past May. It means playing up controversies involving fouling and Maidana’s choice of gloves. And it meant a whirlwind tour before the storm — before the fighters entered training camp and Showtime’s “All Access” documentary/commercial series took over the work of building toward Sept. 13 in Las Vegas and on pay-per-view.
“When you look at the Nielsen ratings as far as with the television, D.C. is up there extremely high, New York is up there extremely high, Chicago and a lot of other cities,” Mayweather told media members. “Whereas with a tour like Canelo, we done a lot more places, and we also went to another country. With the De La Hoya, we done more states. We basically went to all the main places in the United States. That was a great turnout. That was record breaking. The Canelo was record breaking. But I’m ready to get back home and start training, actually.”
Mayweather’s fights with Oscar De La Hoya in 2007 and Canelo Alvarez in 2013 would’ve been highly lucrative no matter what, given De La Hoya’s longtime stardom in the sport at the time, Mayweather’s crossover appeal in the years since then and Alvarez’s increasing popularity. The De La Hoya and Alvarez press tours had 11 cities scheduled in 9 days; the Alvarez tour dropped to 10 cities due to last year’s fatal wildfires outside of Phoenix, Arizona. The media tours meant visits to cities where the demographics and ratings were favorable. They were an investment to bolster the bottom line.
Last week’s tour set the tone we should expect for the remainder of the promotion.
Maidana again raised the subject of the specific type of Everlast gloves he prefers to wear. The day before their first fight, Mayweather objected to the padding in one pair of Maidana’s gloves, and the Nevada Athletic Commission agreed. But even when the commission ruled that another pair of the same type of gloves would be allowed, Mayweather and his team threatened to pull out of the fight.
In the end, Maidana wore a different kind of Everlast gloves. Some reports have said that Maidana accepted additional money for doing so. Maidana has denied this, and has said he gave in because otherwise the fight would’ve been canceled.
Maidana was the one with leverage at the time, though. It’s hard to imagine the fight actually being called off over a pair of gloves that the commission had accepted. He has less leverage now. It’s confounding to think that the rematch contract was signed without the gloves issue being resolved. In one breath, Maidana claimed that he signed the rematch contract anyway “because the gloves [are] not a big issue.” Yet he continues to speak about wanting to use the preferred type of his preferred brand.
Mayweather, meanwhile, has spoken again and again to the topic of Maidana fighting dirty in their first fight, given the variety of fouls and attempted fouls that came from his opponent. Maidana’s retorts note that Mayweather has long gotten away with using his forearms and elbows. That doesn’t make Mayweather’s point invalid.
It seems as if the story of Maidana’s fouling hasn’t gained much traction in coverage, perhaps because of the perception that Mayweather was getting a taste of his own medicine, in a way. The other ingredient may be a desire to see the underdog in Maidana give the cocky favorite a long-sought comeuppance.
Mayweather’s personality has played to those who wish to see him lose. There have also been the public and private incidents. Some of those led to criminal charges, which ranged from Justin Bieber-esque misdemeanors to Chris Brown-like felonies.
Much of the talking on the press tour didn’t come from Maidana himself, but from Garcia, who engaged in multiple verbal battles with Mayweather. All of this mirrored the purpose of Mayweather’s own words — Garcia was working to rouse Maidana’s fans and rile up Mayweather’s.
The fighters and trainer embraced the circus, a necessary whirlwind tour held less than two months before fight night and leaving less time than normal for a full training camp.
They did so because they are not merely selling the boxing match alone. The bout on Sept. 13 is the end product. The personalities involved and the controversies surrounding them are an increasingly large part of why fans shell out and tune in.
The 10 Count
1. I understand why Sergio Martinez has decided not to retire, but I’m still not certain it’s the best idea.
Martinez was blown out by Miguel Cotto in June, getting knocked down three times in the first round, having his corner stop the fight after the ninth round, and losing his middleweight championship in the process.
“Against Cotto, Sergio was badly hurt in the opening round from the first left hook that landed,” said his adviser, Sampson Lewkowicz, in a statement emailed to press. “After that, he remembers only pieces and had very little control of his body and especially his legs. He fought entirely on instinct. It was the worst night of his entire career, and he is coming back to prove he is a superstar fighter who just had a bad night.
“He got caught with an unexpected punch and it disconnected his body,” Lewcowicz added later. “It happens in boxing, especially against a puncher like Miguel Cotto. If you look at the tape of the fight, look how slow his hands were. A bad knee doesn't cause your hands to slow. It was clear it was not the real Sergio in the ring that night.”
I can follow the train of thought here. It’s wholly possible that Martinez’s poor performance against Cotto came because of the fantastic counter shot that discombobulated him early, not because of any lingering injuries to his hand or knee dating back to his wins over Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Martin Murray.
Nevertheless, it was a damaging performance, both in terms of the physical toll as well as how it dropped Martinez from prominence. He will actually need to hope that other titleholders and contenders see him as beatable — plus as a name that would be worth having on their record. And for his sake, he better be right about the Cotto fight, or else he’ll end up taking punishment from opponents who never would’ve hurt him before.
2. If you don’t like the fact that Manny Pacquiao is facing Chris Algieri on a pay-per-view in November, don’t order it.
And if you don’t like the fact that Danny Garcia will be headlining Showtime against Rod Salka on Aug. 9, don’t watch.
I know it’s hard, as boxing fans, to steer away from a sport we so enjoy. The best way to voice your displeasure isn’t with words, though, but with numbers — with buy rates and broadcast ratings.
3. The most notable fighter in action this past weekend was tucked away on a tape-delayed broadcast on a Spanish-language network.
Guillermo Rigondeaux, one of the best boxers in the world and the true champion at 122 pounds, traveled across the world to perform in Macau, China, on the undercard to Zou Shiming’s decision win over Luis De La Rosa.
Shiming-De La Rosa headlined an HBO2 rebroadcast early on Saturday evening, and it was supported by 154-pound prospect Gilberto Ramirez Sanchez making quick work of Junior Talipeau.
Rigondeaux’s first-round stoppage of Sod Kokietgym, meanwhile, ended up on UniMas instead. That’s no surprise, given HBO’s lack of enthusiasm for Rigondeaux, who out-boxed network favorite Nonito Donaire last year and then beat Joseph Agbeko in a snoozer to wrap up 2013. The lack of entertainment in Rigondeaux-Agbeko was largely the fault of the challenger, who shut down against the incredibly quick, highly skilled champion.
Still, the Rigondeaux-Agbeko broadcast lost viewers from the bout that preceded it during the HBO tripleheader. The co-feature, James Kirkland vs. Glen Tapia, averaged 718,000 viewers between 10:47 p.m. and 11:09 p.m. Eastern Time, according to Nielsen ratings. Rigondeaux-Agbeko averaged just 550,000 between 11:31 p.m. and 12:18 a.m.
It was going up against a Showtime card, with the main event of Paulie Malignaggi vs. Zab Judah averaging 640,000 viewers between 11:41 p.m. and 12:32 a.m. Apparently HBO, which hadn’t rushed to get Rigondeaux back on the air after the Donaire fight, felt that Rigondeaux wouldn’t have maintained much viewer interest even without the competing card. Rigondeaux’s team felt like they had been set up to fail and were being judged unfairly.
This was the final fight under Rigondeaux’s contract with Top Rank. It’ll be interesting to see where he goes and how he looks from here
4. The fact that Guillermo Rigondeaux was able to make quick work of Sod Kokietgym is no surprise. Rigondeaux winning was inevitable — but it didn’t need to happen in the manner it did.
We’ll come back to that momentarily.
Kokietgym’s record is misleading. He was 63-2-1 going into the bout, with the only two losses coming to Daniel Ponce De Leon by decision in 2005 and by one-punch, one-round knockout in 2006 (Kokietgym was known as Sod Looknongyantoy at the time). He’d been undefeated for eight years since, going 36-0-1, but the level of competition was awful. He was 37 years old and being sacrificed off to Rigondeaux.
Rigondeaux and Kokietgym clashed heads about 80 seconds into the first round, and Kokietgym went to the canvas in pain, his glove at his face. He went to a neutral corner, and the referee restarted the action about 24 seconds after the collision. Kokietgym was still pawing at his face and shaking his head as he began his walk toward the center of the ring.
Kokietgym held his right glove slightly out to touch gloves. Rigondeaux touched the glove with his own right hand, and then immediately turned it into a combination. His right hook looped around Kokietgym’s left as Kokietgym brought it up in an attempt to protect himself. The follow-up left cross similarly went around the outside of Kokietgym’s earmuffs. Kokietgym went down, looked unsteady as he rose and gave the referee cause to end it.
This being boxing, this led to debate:
“There are definitely unwritten rules in this sport. It’s foolish to suggest otherwise, wrote a user named acokiko on the Reddit Boxing forum. “Not sucker punching someone off of a fist bump is … an unwritten rule. That’s why we almost never see it happen.”
Responded a user named backdoor_carnivore: “What's the point of unwritten rules if no one enforces them? Don't sound like rules to me... If your opponent is going to abide by these unwritten rules and they're not going to be punished for breaking them I don't see why people would ever follow them. He broke rule number one: protect yourself at all times.”
And there was this from a user named McClain3000: “That was a cheap shot in my book. If you look at the replays, he threw it like the touching of gloves was part of a combo.”
There’s a difference between illegal and improper. Yes, the fight had officially restarted. And yes, Kokietgym should’ve extended his arm out much farther while offering to touch gloves.
But Rigondeaux’s glove-touch and subsequent combination didn’t have a gap. It was a tap-bang-bang moment. It was not what should happen in boxing — and I have a feeling that those defending Rigondeaux would be more up in arms had this happened in a fight that was expected to be competitive, or if the offense had involved someone less beloved among boxing’s cognoscenti.
5. May 3: Adrien Broner rankles some with his post-fight comments after his win over Carlos Molina.
“At the end of the day, I’m still Adrien ‘The Problem’ Broner, ‘The Can Man.’ Anybody can get it. Afri-cans. I just beat the f*** out of a Mexi-can,’ ” Broner said as part of his usual rehearsed, recycled shtick.
May 7: The World Boxing Council responds, saying it has suspended Broner from its ratings and from fighting for its title.
May 12: Broner apologizes via Instagram.
“Lately I've been portrayed in the news/media as racist for the comment I made after my fight. I am the furthest thing from that. I love all of my supporters and all people for that matter! And last time i checked ‘Mexican’ isn't a race, it's a nationality. If I said ‘Canadian’ would their [sic] have been this much of an uproar? My team is built of all races and nationalities, and I respect and appreciate them all. I sincerely, apologize if my comment offended anyone but it did not come from a place of hate. The Mexican fans are the people that keep boxing alive and well. Without them, there would be no AB.”
June 17: Broner appears before the Nevada Athletic Commission, which opted against fining or suspending the fighter.
July 16, the WBC responds to Broner, more than two months later, via news release:
“The WBC Board of Governors has voted in favor of accepting the public apology presented by Adrien Broner during his hearing at the Nevada State Athletic Commission. The suspension which was in place has been lifted, and the WBC Ratings Committee has ranked him at No. 3 in the super lightweight division. Mr. Broner, a former WBC lightweight champion, is expected to understand his role in society while being a public figure and as a former champion, represent the organization which believes in human equality, fair play, and has an ongoing campaign against bullying.”
6. For the past handful of years, it’s primarily been the WBC and the British Boxing Board of Control that for some reason have taken the most offense to fighters cursing (recall the WBC and Chris Arreola, for example). They apparently expect a high standard of behavior from people who train themselves, both physically and mentally, to cause physical harm to another man and to withstand potentially life-altering punishment.
Once again, the BBBofC is calling out Tyson Fury for offending people, this time with his comments during a press conference ahead of this weekend’s rematch against Dereck Chisora.
Fury must appear before the board in August or else have his license be suspended.
In other words, grovel before us — but only after you fight Chisora again and pull in revenue. Ditto for the WBC, which suspended Broner and then release Broner from the suspension before it had any impact on the fighter’s career.
Not that either fighter is guilty of the worst offenses perpetrated by boxers, be they criminal offenses or verbal ones. Heck, it’s amusing that Broner faced suspension for his post-fight comments and never for any of the numerous criminal charges levied against him.
And the double standard that, say, the WBC has with punishing some fighters and not others is annoying yet unsurprising.
7. As George Carlin once said: “Boxing is not a sport; boxing is a way to beat the sh*t out of somebody.”
8. Boxers Behaving Badly: Adrian Taihia — a super middleweight and light heavyweight from New Zealand who appeared on the Australian version of boxing reality competition “The Contender” — is being accused of being involved with a drug manufacturing and distribution ring, according to the APNZ News Service.
“He is charged with counts of manufacturing methamphetamine and single charges of conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine, supply of methamphetamine and participation in an organized criminal group,” the report said.
Taihia turned pro in early 2008. By 2009 he was on “The Contender,” losing via second-round knockout to eventual show runner-up Kariz Kariuki. The 31-year-old last fought in May, winning a 12-round decision over a 14-14-1 opponent Togasilimai Letoa, according to BoxRec. That victory brought Taihia’s record to 12-1-2 with 6 KOs.
9. It will be a packed weekend of televised boxing action. Friday’s boxing broadcasts include shows on ESPN2, Fox Sports 1, Showtime and Telemundo. And then Saturday brings the doubleheader on HBO, a card on Unimas, and AWE (formerly WealthTV) showing the rematch between British heavyweights Dereck Chisora and Tyson Fury.
But if all of that isn’t enough for you, then make sure you find a stream of the boxing card taking place in the Latvian capital of Riga…
…featuring Roy Jones Jr. and James Toney in separate bouts.
Jones is 45 years old now, and if you were a publicist seeking to write around the truth, you could get away with saying that he hasn’t lost in three years.
Of course, he’s only fought three times since getting knocked out by Denis Lebedev in May 2011. Those victories since came over Max Alexander (who was 14-5-2), Pawel Glazkewski (who was 17-0) and Zine Eddine Benmahlouf (who was 17-3-1).
Jones will be facing Courtney Fry, who is comparatively young at 39 years old and who is 18-5 with just 6 KOs.
Fry is coming off a four-round points loss to some dude with a 13-22 record named Nathan King. Before that, Fry suffered a seventh-round stoppage to Enzo Maccarinelli. And way back in 2009, Fry was stopped in eight by eventual light heavyweight titleholder Nathan Cleverly.
Toney is about a month away from turning 46. He was last seen in November taking part in one of those single-day “Prizefighter” tournaments, beating a 6-1 foe named Matt Legg and then dropping a three-round decision to Jason Gavern.
Jones and Toney have been fighting pro for nearly 50 years combined. Their fight against each other, which Jones won by decision, came almost 20 years ago.
10. I watched Ruslan Chagaev fight Fres Oquendo in a show broadcast from Chechnya the other week, yet I don’t plan on watching the Roy Jones/James Toney card airing out of Latvia.
I don’t know what this says about my taste, or lack thereof…
“Fighting Words” appears every Monday on BoxingScene.com. Pick up a copy of David’s book, “Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing,” at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsamazon or internationally at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsworldwide . Send questions/comments via email at [email protected]