By Cliff Rold
After what has truly been a stellar run for ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights in 2011, boxing arrives at what annually is one of its worst times of year.
Are you ready for some football?
Beginning a few years ago, ESPN has drawn the curtain on the sweet science during the fall as America’s Game kicks into full swing.
Brief Aside: Note the use of the term America’s Game. There are some who argue the NFL has become the national pastime, surpassing baseball. It’s not the case. Basketball? Maybe. Average folks can still play in the park. Anybody can play tag football too, but it ain’t tackle. American Football, the real thing, is almost entirely voyeur because most cats just can’t roll that tough. Just two cents from this corner.
But, hey, I’m a Baseball guy first…I’m biased.
That means lots of Chris Berman, and not as much Brian Kelly (at least BK on boxing). There have been years in the past when it wouldn’t be as missed. This is not one of them.
To its credit, the season finale is, on paper, a fitting end and homage to the televised year. In one corner is one of the year’s best stories. 40-year old Grady Brewer (28-12, 16 KO) once looked like he would finish up as Charlie without the Chocolate Factory. The journeyman record masked a serious fighter. In 2006, he won the second season of the “Contender.”
He never cashed in.
Knee injuries played a part in a layoff lasting from 2006-2008, just shy of a full two years, and he has fought only seven times since the reality T.V. tournament. To his credit, six of those starts were wins including a split decision of future titlist Cornelius Bundrage and his last venture to the ring.
On Friday Night Fights in June, Brewer upset undefeated and highly regarded Fernando Guerrero in four exciting rounds. Guerrero was one of many undefeated fighters to taste defeat for the first time on ESPN air this year. Brewer has a chance to swell the ranks one more time.
As was the case against Guerrero, Brewer will enter with a story. He’s not the story.
2008 U.S. Olympian Demetrius Andrade (13-0, 9 KO) remains chaste in holding off defeat. Some of that reflects his quality of opposition.
To be fair, quality is probably a misleading word. It infers something positive. There really isn’t a ton of that to speak of. Andrade has been handled slow, with kid gloves, and while many a super prospect has been handled the same there are reasons to wonder a bit more here.
Andrade has sometimes appeared listless in fights, sometimes too amateur, sometimes too tentative. However, he has also shown off the speed, pop, and range that have some seeing star. His last outing, against the game Omar Bell, was one such night. There is a hint of the ebbs and flows of the mercurial Michael Nunn in Andrade.
Nunn, the former lineal Middleweight Super Middleweight champion, was like Andrade a southpaw with superior height, speed, and snaking power. Nunn was also, like Andrade so far, a bit of a split personality in the ring, sometimes looking the part of brilliant ring artist and still others playing the part of a runner too pretty to engage.
Given many out of the ring issues, it might be fair to say boxing never got a handle on who Michael Nunn really was in the ring, or what he could have been. Time is fully on the side of the talented Andrade in answering those questions.
The answers could well begin in earnest on Friday night. This is chance to measure Andrade against a known, and dangerous, commodity. Brewer is capable of an upset. If Andrade is the goods, he probably won’t allow that. As he crosses from where he has been, fighting cans and fringe pros to garner rounds, to where he probably should have been a year ago, fighting real pros and veterans who he can learn from, the real Andrade will emerge.
Many a talented Olympian has struggled to be a successful professional. Being a former Olympian, in and of itself, is a great honor and accomplishment but no more a guarantee of success in the paid ranks than a Heisman trophy is a signal of future greatness in the NFL.
Andrade has the physical talent to be a professional champion. Does he have the rest of what it takes in the roughest sport of all?
Grady Brewer can be expected to do his best to find out. If he asks the right way, Friday Night Fights will end its ‘season’ the way any entertainment vehicle wishes to at the end of a show…
…with the audience wanting more.
But wait, there’s more…
Mora, Mares Best Agbeko: https://www.boxingscene.com/russell-mora-mares-get-better-agbeko-sin-city--42634
And More on That: https://www.boxingscene.com/bring-on-an-ibf-rematch-order-post-report-card--42693
Picks of the Week: https://www.boxingscene.com/boxingscenecoms-television-picks-week--42661
Cliff’s Notes… As a title purist, it’s hard to ever credit the sanctioning bodies but this week they are a plus. In a ‘market rules’ world, the enforcement mechanism to provide Joseph Agbeko a just rematch might not be there. The IBF is making the rematch happen. That is a good thing…It doesn’t erase all the other inane things sanctioning bodies come up with…Toshiaki Nishioka-Rafael Marquez might secretly be the fight I’m most interested in for the fall…Or maybe not, now that Lucian Bute-Glen Johnson is signed. The whole ‘Bute hasn’t really faced a top dog’ yet thing starts to go to sleep on that signing…I know one fight I’m not overly interested in: Mikkel Kessler-Robert Steiglitz. It’s a decent enough match but should be a foregone conclusion. If Kessler still has it, these are dramatically different classes of fighter…The excitement is building to see how Grant Morrison will reimagine Superman…Same for Zach Snyder…UFC/Fox could be a game changer for combat sports. It could also be the test for how high the ceiling really can go for combat sports in the U.S. in 2011.
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]