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Minute by Minute: ‘March Badness’
Minute by Minute: ‘March Badness’
This is how MMA has poisoned me: It’s been seven years since I willingly plunked down cash for a boxing pay-per-view. (I don’t think Foxy Boxing counts, but I’m open to arguments.)
Why bother? It’s an upturned file drawer of meaningless rankings, belts, corruption and -- most egregious of all -- boredom. Athletes paw and jab at each other expertly, but once you’ve seen a fight where all ranges of hurt are allowed, it’s tough to appreciate anything else. At 30 years old, I’m officially a UFC baby.
Roy Jones Jr., noted legend and mellowed trash talker, has addressed my disinterest by acting in collusion with MMA to present “March Badness,” a hybrid affair that beamed from Pensacola Saturday and reminded me why it’ll be another seven years before I make the same mistake three times.
Sure, mingling sports -- the combat sports equivalent of tofurkey -- cut my boredom level roughly in half. But that’s still a lot of boredom.
All aboard the train wreck.
9:00 p.m. ET We’re live from Pensacola, Fla., for a “historic night.” I think that’s how they described the Titanic’s maiden voyage.
9:01 p.m. For the boxing portion -- aka the ambient noise while I read a stray copy of O: The Oprah Magazine -- we’re informed that Jones will be taking on human speed bag Omar Sheika, while B.J. Flores will combat Jose Luis Herrera. I’ve heard of one of these guys.
9:02 p.m. The MMA main event: chiseled Jeff Monson and doughy Roy Nelson. Thematically, it’s a battle of Before vs. After in a supplement ad.
9:02 p.m. We’re told the action is set to take place in a ring. More interesting would’ve been for the boxing matches to be contested in a cage. Why am I never hired as a consultant? What, I’m going to somehow ruin it? These things come pre-broken, like cheap airplane models.
9:03 p.m. The broadcast team: Colonel Bob Sheridan, Seth Petruzelli and boxing’s Nate Campbell.
An unfortunate alumnus of the fairly maligned BodogFight, Sheridan was incensed the last time I mentioned his name and doubted his military credentials. I thought it was a nickname, but as it turns out, he’s an actual Colonel. This means he not only dwarfs Mike Goldberg in talent but out-ranks him, too.
9:03 p.m. On the subject of Jones’ stubborn presence in boxing despite some frightening losses, Campbell says, “If he [Jones] was a mechanic, you wouldn’t tell him to quit.” Well, you would, if he kept dropping concussive car parts on his head.
9:03 p.m. Petruzelli claims he’s getting “offers all over the place” since his knockout of Kimbo Slice in October. Mat Battle has made a very attractive offer, but the hours can be a pain in the butt.
9:04 p.m. A refreshingly honest Sheridan says the pioneering Ken Shamrock had to pull out of the card because of a “steroid issue.” He also apologizes to MMA fandom in advance for having to spell things out for the boxing contingent. I like him.
9:07 p.m. The evening opens with an MMA bout, Dennis Hallman taking on Danny Ruiz. Ruiz is taking forever to get to the ring. A cornerman yells at him to get in the passing lane.
9:10 p.m. Hallman enters in half the time.
9:12 p.m. Hallman is announced with a fighting style of “cowboy karate.” The audience boos the eccentricity.
9:13 p.m. Hallman nails a takedown, gets the back and cinches up a rear-naked choke. Academic trachea-crushing. Bert Sugar chokes on his novelty cigar.
9:18 p.m. Din Thomas and Gabe Lemley are up next. More MMA? Boxing fans worldwide knock over their cans of Ensure in disgust.
9:26 p.m. As Thomas and Lemley waltz in the clinch, Sheridan points out the differences in stances between sports. He’s so wonderfully un-annoying that I fear getting spoiled by his professionalism. I know I’ll have to come back to Goldberg one day, and the dichotomy is going to hurt.
9:29 p.m. Thomas and Lemley begin using their feet to strike! I say, sir! Most unsportsmanlike! “Fancy” Tom Paddock would’ve given these boys a solid what-for on such an attempt! Pepper their porridge, he would!
9:30 p.m. Thomas lands a big knee for the win; Lemley cancels his upcoming wisdom tooth extraction. It’d be redundant.
9:35 p.m. A jovial Thomas offers to kick Chris Brown’s ass on behalf of Rihanna. The crowd cheers the idea of vigilante justice.
9:38 p.m. Shamrock replacement Jason Guida brays about former WWE rodeo clown Bobby Lashley having “no experience.” Yeah, a national champion wrestler with 260 pounds of lean body mass is training at American Top Team. What’s to worry about?
9:43 p.m. Lashley enters the ring. His physique defies description. Guida’s only chance is if his mood changes and he turns back into Bill Bixby.
9:47 p.m. Surprisingly, Guida is able to stuff Lashley’s takedown attempts. Lashley’s “scary prospect” status begins to slowly circle the drain.
9:51 p.m. The end of an uneventful round one. Clay Guida jumps on his brother’s back. “We’re Master Blaster!” he yells. The commission talks him down.
9:53 p.m. Lashley finally nails the big takedown. Guida ties him up, but some strikes still come through.
10:00 p.m. Round three: Lashley scores a single leg. Guida has a tight guillotine, but Lashley pops out. Lashley smash.
10:06 p.m. Lashley wins a unanimous decision.
10:10 p.m. Sheridan announces the transition from MMA to boxing on the telecast; I announce my transition from interest to complete and total catatonia.
10:15 p.m. Flores and Herrera enter the ring. They appear to be wearing some kind of leather-encased pillow on their hands.
10:18 p.m. The bout is announced as being for the “NABO Cruiserweight Championship.” Oh, that makes all the difference, then.
10:19 p.m. The fighters engage and are restricted to punching each other in the head. Who sanctioned this barbarism?
10:38 p.m. Despite what is clearly a sanctioned homicide attempt, this is a joyless, unexciting affair. I switch over to Telemundo, give it 20 minutes, then switch back. Flores and Herrera are in round five, stolidly jabbing and sticking each other. The only punishment sustained thus far has been by the viewer.
11:02 p.m. Unanimous decision victory for Flores, now the proud owner of a worthless title. He immediately dials Cash4Gold.
11:27 p.m. The telecast wraps up a six-rounder from the undercard; I‘m able to squeeze in an episode of “Los Kakucomicos."
11:30 p.m. More downtime, so I Google Sheridan. Interesting story: The night before he was to call the Tyson/Holyfield rematch in ’97, he suffered a heart attack, had an angioplasty, went to the arena, announced the bout with his doctor ringside, then returned to the hospital for another angioplasty. That’s a man.
11:36 p.m. It’s MMA main event time, with Nelson taking on noted political loudspeaker Monson. Sheridan explains to boxing fans why the portly Nelson looks like a fat Kevin James.
11:40 p.m. Nelson lands in half-guard and punches Monson. “It’s anarchy in here!” Sheridan bellows. Actually, he doesn’t, but Goldberg certainly would have.
11:48 p.m. Round two: Monson lands some nice knees to Nelson’s bulbous stomach, which quivers like agitated Jell-O.
11:54 p.m. End of fight. Monson snags the surprise decision, likely from his two big right hands late in the bout. Nelson exits the ring. If he couldn’t finish off Monson, he will, by God, finish off a breakfast plate at Denny’s.
12:13 a.m. Pensacola native Jones Jr. enters to a hero’s welcome. Trivia: Jones once had to rebuff a challenge made by Ralph Gracie during a press conference in the 1990s. Ralph was missing, oh, six or seven zeroes on the check he forgot to bring.
12:22 a.m. Jones is faster than Sheika, landing more with enough left over to showboat a little bit. The crowd goes wild: Their star is doing well in an irrelevant fight against an overmatched opponent. What’s not to like?
12:30 a.m. Roy is hit twice. Sheika might be going down, but not without hurting his hands in the process.
12:36 a.m. Jones is out on target practice. The referee steps in, though Sheika didn’t absorb any particularly hard shots, just lots of them. It’s a humanitarian gesture. I guess boxing isn’t so brutal after all.
12:38 a.m. Sheika greets his family with, “Who are you people?” Disregard previous comment.
12:42 a.m. A jubilant Roy promises to stick around for a while and lose a few million more brain cells in the process. “I can still enunciate too clearly,” he tells the crowd. “I ain’t gonna quit ‘til ya’ll need a translator to understand me.”
All in all, “March Badness,” an event priced at $29.95, was overpriced by about $29.95. But at least there’s still some truth in advertising. Badness was promised, and badness is exactly what we got.