by David P. Greisman
Nothing is so sacrosanct as to be set in stone. Laws are amended. Court decisions are overturned. Even the Bible has long been up for debate, starting with the Talmud and continuing for centuries through theological discussions.
Why, then, are we so steadfast about sports, so stuck on a sense of tradition that we have become averse to change?
Perhaps it is because we are so obsessed with comparison.
Are the 1972 Miami Dolphins the best team ever for going 14-0 in the regular season, 17-0 overall and winning the Super Bowl? Or are the 2007 New England Patriots better for going 16-0 in the regular season and winning 18 straight before losing the Super Bowl?
Was Roger Maris and his 61 home runs better than all the record breakers who followed in a time of interleague play, juiced balls and juiced players? What about Babe Ruth, who hit 60 in fewer games but did so in an era when black baseball players weren’t allowed in Major League Baseball?
Boxing isn’t so much about the number, though, granted, there is a difference between Joe Louis defending the heavyweight championship 25 times and Sven Ottke defending his super middleweight belt 21 times.
Changing the rules can better a sport or add new facets to competition. Baseball has instituted interleague play and wild cards in the playoffs. Football has moved the goalposts back and is attempting to make overtime more fair. Basketball adopted the shot clock and the three-pointer.
Boxing can change, too.
Others have suggested various major fixes, from changing the number of weight classes to tweaking the 10-point “must” system so as to differentiate between, say, the 10-9 scoring of a clearly won round and the 10-9 scoring of a narrowly won round.
Those are larger, more complex changes.
These, then, are easier changes that can be implemented by the various commissions and sanctioning bodies with far less trouble and far less debate:
Basketball has instant replay. Football has instant replay. Hockey has instant replay. Baseball is the only major sport without, which is no surprise from a sport that seems to take “human error” as a loveable, occasional personality flaw.
Boxing should have instant replay.
Set parameters on it, the same way that basketball, football and hockey only use it in certain situations and at certain times. More times than not, calls for instant replay in boxing have come because of mistakes made concerning whether a cut was caused by a punch or an accidental head butt.
Worried about stopping the action? Set limits on it. Make it so that reviews can only happen between rounds. Worried about that not being enough time? The HBO production crew always seems to have the source of a cut found by then.
A few states use instant replay. Nevada has instant replay available, but only when a fight has been stopped due to an injury from a cut or a butt. Other states use replay when a ruling has been protested. Let’s make replay more immediate, and let’s not just limit it to when a fight is already over.
KEEP THE CANVAS DRY
How often do we see fighters slipping on the canvas, especially from a combination of water or sweat and the painted advertisements on the mat?
The advertisements aren’t going anywhere. Sweat isn’t going to go away. But something can be done about the water.
Something already has been done about the water. For some reason it’s been ignored.
In the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, between rounds a tray was slid into the corner underneath the boxer’s feet. The water never made it to the mat.
It’s effective. It’s safe. It’s easy.
DQ = TKO
A win’s a win, right?
Tell that to Vic Darchinyan, who lobbied to have his technical decision win years ago over Glenn Donaire changed to a technical knockout.
The knockout matters to some fighters. And for that reason, certain disqualifications should go down in the books as technical knockouts.
Picture this: Marco Antonio Barrera’s corner enters the ring because their fighter is taking too much punishment from Junior Jones. Chazz Witherspoon’s corner steps onto the ring apron to stop his fight against Chris Arreola.
Jones and Arreola were awarded the victory – by disqualification.
Go by intent, not by infraction. The bout was stopped out of recognition of the corner wanting the fight to be over. The rule was merely broken in the process. Give the winner his TKO.
STANDARDIZE THE RING
The ring in Montreal on last week’s “Friday Night Fights” was said to be 15.5 feet by 15.5 feet – perfect for the hometown slugger, David Lemieux.
The ring in Houston for Juan Diaz’s first fight with Paulie Malignaggi was not that small, but it was also suited for Diaz’s pressuring style and against Malignaggi’s boxing style.
A hometown advantage is fair in boxing – the ability to sleep in your own bed, to fight in front of your supportive fans. A home field (or ring) advantage? This isn’t baseball.
Stadium quirks are largely meant to appeal to those in their seats and watching on TV. Was right field and McCovey Cove in San Francisco built with Barry Bonds’ southpaw power in mind? Perhaps. But Bonds was one of nine batters on his team, and there were also lefties on opposing teams as well.
Make the usual 20-by-20 ring standard. Let the victor win because of his physical ability inside the squared circle – not because of his negotiating ability outside of it.
The 10 Count
1. Let me disclaim: I have absolutely no doubt that Ivan Calderon, all 5 feet and 106 pounds of him, could knock me out with ease. But that doesn’t mean I can’t raise my eyebrows in disbelief when Calderon says he’s going to knock out one of his opponents.
Calderon, the undefeated former strawweight beltholder and current 108-pound titleholder, fought Jesus Iribe this past weekend. In the days beforehand, Calderon told Iribe: “You are going down and getting knocked out on Saturday night.”
Before Saturday, Calderon had six knockouts in his 33 wins. After Saturday, Calderon still had just six knockouts, but now he has 34 wins – he scored a clear decision over Iribe.
Still, I can’t doubt this kind of trash talk. The last time I did, I ate my words.
Before Carlos Baldomir fought Zab Judah in 2006, Baldomir said: “I think the weakness for Zab is he cannot take a good punch in the chin. I think I can definitely put him down.” I noted Baldomir had quite a lot of confidence for someone with 12 knockouts in 41 wins.
So what happened?
Baldomir didn’t knock Judah down, but he sure as heck made him do the Brooklyn Shuffle.
2. Antonio Margarito’s comeback fight against Roberto Garcia last month on an independent pay-per-view did all of 12,000 to 15,000 buys, according to ESPN scribe Dan Rafael.
No surprises there. It was an independent show on the same night HBO aired the replay of Shane Mosley-Floyd Mayweather Jr. and the live broadcast of Paul Williams-Kermit Cintron.
This says less about Margarito than it did about the night of the fight and the choice of opponent. The buy rate would be far different if Margarito faces Manny Pacquiao or if he has a rematch with Miguel Cotto.
My stance on Margarito remains where it has been since the hand wrap scandal came to light. There are tons of fights I would love to see Margarito in. But I do not believe Margarito should’ve been allowed to fight again.
3. Yuri Foreman fought Miguel Cotto from the seventh round on with a torn right ACL and meniscus.
Rich F ranklin knocked Chuck L iddell out with his right hand despite being a southpaw with a broken left arm.
I can’t even write this column when I’m hungry.
4. One leftover observation from watching Foreman-Cotto for the second time: Did you notice who cleaned Foreman’s mouthpiece after it came out in the third round?
Not Foreman’s corner.
The referee, Arthur Mercante Jr., had Cotto’s corner wash Foreman’s mouthpiece so that Foreman’s trainer wouldn’t have an opportunity to give him instructions.
It’s interesting. It’s understandable. But would you ever want the opposing corner to get its hands on your mouthpiece?
That said, I wouldn’t ever imagine Emanuel Steward or any other trainer would tamper with anything.
5. Congratulations to the newest inductees into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, who entered Canastota this past weekend:
Retired boxers: 108-pound titlist Jung-Koo Chang and featherweight champion Danny Lopez.
Non-combatants: Shelley Finkel, a manager; Larry Hazzard, a referee and commissioner; Wilfried Sauerland, a promoter; Ed Schuyler, a journalist; and Bruce Trampler, a matchmaker.
Honored posthumously: boxers Lloyd Marshall, Young Corbett II, Rocky Kansas and Billy Miske; broadcaster Howard Cosell; and pioneer Paddington Tom Jones, a Londoner who lived from 1766 to 1833.
6. Boxers Behaving Badly update, part one: James Kirkland will be released from prison Oct. 2 but will serve out the remainder of his sentence in a halfway house, according to Yahoo! Sports scribe Kevin Iole.
Kirkland, 26, had been sentenced in late September 2009 to two years in prison on a charge of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. He had been on probation for a 2003 armed robbery when, in April 2009, he was seen giving his girlfriend money to buy ammunition at a gun show. Police pulled him over later and discovered a loaded pistol in his vehicle.
Kirkland was credited for the nearly six months he’d spent behind bars between his arrest and his sentencing. Texas law allows for the final six months of a sentence to be served in a halfway house.
The undefeated junior-middleweight prospect, 25-0 with 22 knockouts, last fought in March 2009, stopping Joel Julio after six rounds.
7. Boxers Behaving Badly update roundup: “BBB” has been away for a few weeks. Let’s catch up real quick…
– Pernell Whitaker was found guilty of driving without a license, according to The Virginian-Pilot. The Hall of Fame former champion was fined $250.
– Vincent Boulware, a former world-title challenger in three division, was acquitted on charges of setting a home on fire in an attempt to kill the people inside, according to Pennsylvania newspaper The Patriot-News.
– Dawid Kostecki, a 28-year-old Polish light heavyweight, is facing charges of “forming and leading a criminal group and receiving money from prostitution and drug dealing,” according to the Polish press agency.
Kostecki was arrested as part of a larger sting. Police, according to the report, say he got money “from three brothels run by his mother and sister between 2003 and 2007, and trading amphetamine.” He is 34-1 (23 knockouts) in the ring.
– Grant Brown, a 32-year-old who retired undefeated after a brief career, was sentenced to at least 18 months in jail for scoring a knockout over a 70-year-old man, according to the Australian Associated Press.
8. The most surprising thing about the “Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather Official App” for the iPhone?
Automatically, that makes it a far better deal than the Winky Wright ringtones available for sale a few years back.
Still, nothing beats the Jim Lampley “BANG! BANG!” ringtone on my phone…
9. There’s much to rave about when it comes to Showtime’s “Fight Camp 360” documentary series about the network’s “Super Six” tournament. The behind-the-scenes negotiation sessions between the promoters satisfies us industry wonks. The footage of fighters before and after their fights adds context beyond what happens between the bells.
But the best part?
The fighters are humanized. We leave each episode feeling like we know more about who Arthur Abraham, Andre Dirrell, Carl Froch, Allan Green, Mikkel Kessler and Andre Ward really are. Nobody seems to be playing a role. Nothing seems forced in the way situations are on HBO’s “24/7” series or they way they were on “The Contender.”
This is how you build a fan base. Let viewers see more to their fighters than what they get those two or three times a year that they step into the ring.
10. Allan Green is a comic book nerd. Are you going to make fun of him for that?
I was a comic book nerd. I never had Green’s left hook.
David P. Greisman is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. His weekly column, “Fighting Words,” appears every Monday on BoxingScene.com. He may be reached for questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org
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