By Lyle Fitzsimmons
An Open Letter to My Readers:
Sometimes, as I tell my wife when I’m finishing up an article… it feels good off the hands.
The salient points come to mind quickly. The supporting phrases are easily built. And by the time the piece is done, it feels as if barely an effort has been made to reach a prescribed word count.
Those are the days when this job is just about the best thing in the world.
And then there are other days.
When the ideas don’t come. When the logistics aren’t right. And when every single word – let alone phrases, sentences or paragraphs – feels roughly akin to pushing the family car uphill in the rain.
Those are the days when I tell myself that factory work wouldn’t be so bad.
Not surprisingly, the readers on those days tend to endorse my alternate employment as well.
Upon review, I can’t argue that the intro to last week’s piece was representative of the latter scenario, not the former.
In my rush to punctuate an argument that Arturo Gatti is a flawed inductee to the hall of fame in Canastota – a viewpoint I feel no shame in having, by the way – my selection of words, phrases and sentences were beneath the standard I’d like to believe I’ve set for myself as both a writer and a person.
I was trying too hard to be a breezy smart ass, and while doing so I strayed too far past the lines of sensitivity and class. When irreverence is done well, it’s an enjoyable read. When it’s done poorly, the writer – in this case, me – comes off sounding like a jerk.
As I’ve said many times in past columns, I have no problem if people disagree with me and I’m happy to engage via email with ones who have questions – so long as the conversation doesn’t plummet to the nonsense too often representative of message boards across websites of all topics.
But in this case, I didn’t practice myself what I’ve long preached to others.
While I may contend his level of permanent honor should be something other than an IBHOF plaque alongside the Robinsons, Alis and Haglers of the world, I do believe Gatti was a gem among fighters and warrants every bit of the affection so many have so long had for him.
I, too, watched his fights and marveled at his capacities. I spoke to his contemporaries and heard them reflect that same sort of respect. Yet the means by which I communicated my contrarian opinion last week neither provided worth to my viewpoints nor value to my own legacy.
We can have diverging feelings on how he should be remembered – but the people who loved him deserved better, the people who knew him deserved better and the people who admired him from a distance deserved better than what I provided in this space last Tuesday.
I apologize to all of them for not realizing it the first time I had the chance.
Thanks… and Merry Christmas,
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In honor of the year’s final Tuesday go-round, here’s the Fitzbitz rundown of the best from 2012 – not to be confused with the staff-voted kudos to be found elsewhere on the site in the next few days.
FIGHTER OF THE YEAR: Danny Garcia
While it’s true Nonito Donaire fought and won more, it’s hard to argue anyone else enhanced their reputation more since last Dec. 31 than the 140-pound champ through three title-fight wins.
FIGHT OF THE YEAR: Rios-Alvarado
The fourth installment of Marquez-Pacquiao might have changed some minds earlier this month, but I still get winded just recalling the brutal to-and-fro between two unbeatens in October.
KNOCKOUT OF THE YEAR: Marquez-Pacquiao IV
I dare anyone to top the mix of big-stage drama and chilling violence forged by a single JMM right hand just an instant before the halfway mark of a compelling scrap in Las Vegas.
UPSET OF THE YEAR: Bradley-Pacquiao
Only a handful of media types thought the result was legit. But if we go solely by what appears in the record books, nothing in 2012 for me tops the surprise of seeing the Filipino’s win streak snapped.
ROUND OF THE YEAR: Martinez-Chavez Jr. (12)
My heart was thudding as I watched the last-round replay without knowing the outcome, and I’ve got to hand it to Sergio for somehow escaping being branded the Argentine Meldrick Taylor.
PROSPECT OF THE YEAR: Carl Frampton
Thanks to the magic of the Internet, I was able to see the Belfast “Jackal” make a steady climb with four 2012 victories. By the end of 2013, it says here that he’ll be a world champ.
ROBBERY OF THE YEAR: Rios-Abril
Adalaide Byrd’s 9-3 card in favor of the interim WBA champ was the only thing approaching sanity when it came to this scoring crime. So bad, in fact, that the Panamanians rightly let Abril keep his belt.
EVENT OF THE YEAR: Froch-Bute
The crowd and revenue were smaller than Nevada, but nothing I saw in 2012 approached the ambiance created by the intense super middle against a marquee foe in front of his adoring hometown.
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This week’s title-fight schedule:
Vacant WBA minimumweight title – Osaka, Japan
Ryo Miyazaki (No. 2 contender) vs. Pornsawan Porpramook (No. 4 contender)
Miyazaki (17-0-3, 10 KO): First title fight; Fifteenth fight in Osaka (11-0-3)
Porpramook (27-4-1, 17 KO): Seventh title fight; Held WBA title in 2011 (zero defenses)
Fitzbitz says: “Streaking local hero ready to take championship step against veteran Thai who’s long been a top-level gatekeeper.” Miyazaki by decision
WBA super featherweight title – Tokyo, Japan
Takashi Uchiyama (champion) vs. Bryan Vasquez (No. 1 contender)
Uchiyama (18-0-1, 15 KO): Sixth title defense; Sixteenth fight in Tokyo (15-0)
Vasquez (29-0, 15 KO): First title fight; Fourth fight outside Costa Rica (3-0)
Fitzbitz says: “Young Costa Rican has handled himself well since stepping up competition, but a trip to the Far East doesn’t bode well against equally successful title-holder.” Uchiyama in 10
WBA super flyweight title – Tokyo, Japan
Tepparith Kokietgym (champion) vs. Kohei Kono (No. 8 contender)
Kokietgym (21-2, 13 KO): Fourth title defense; Unbeaten since 2008 (18-0)
Kono (27-7, 10 KO): Third title fight; Two wins in last five fights
Fitzbitz says: “Aging challenger skidded off the relevance map with three straight defeats in 2010-11 and doesn’t figure to return against red-hot defending claimant.” Kokietgym by decision
WBC super flyweight title – Tokyo, Japan
Yota Sato (champion) vs. Ryo Akaho (No. 5 contender)
Sato (25-2-1, 12 KO): Second title defense; Unbeaten since 2005 (20-0-1)
Akaho (19-0-2, 12 KO): First title fight; Three stoppages in four 12-round fights
Fitzbitz says: “Akaho hasn’t been on the same plane in terms of opponents, but his recent run of quick finishes has me thinking an upset is in the offing.” Akaho 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: None
Overall picks record: 371-119 (75.7 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.