Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for a Floyd Mayweather Jr boxing match. And love it or hate it that means that boxing discussion over the next few months is going to be dominated by talk of him, his career, his opponents, his personal life, his place in history, his matchmaking and pretty much anything else both his “haters” and “fanboys” can think of to say about him. Opinion is certainly polarized; to some he’s the greatest of all time, a masterful boxer better than any to come before him who has never ducked or avoided anyone. To others he is a sham, a fraud, a boxer who cherry picks overmatched opponents, ducks anyone who may be a danger to him and who wins matches by running from his opposition. It’s easy to get lost in the chaos of a discussion about Mayweather Jr so below are a series of pointers on how to navigate a discussion about Mayweather without looking like a fanboy, hater or fool.
So by now, I’m sure everyone is aware of the controversy over Carl Froch stopping George Groves on Saturday night.
I’ve deliberately avoided writing anything too substantive on the subject for a day or two. All too often people immediately reach for their keyboards (a testament to the times we live in) whenever something like this happens and before you know it there’s a thousand voices screaming a thousand things. I wanted a chance to sit back, clear it from my mind (helped out by Pacquiao’s performance the same night) and then rewatch the entire bout a few times before putting my thoughts on paper.
But anyway, let’s focus on the big point straight away.
The stoppage was early. Not quite ridiculously early, but pretty close to it. Early even by Britain notoriously quick standards. It was early and it was wrong and it should never have happened. Let’s keep that in mind throughout.
I wasn’t intending to write this article.
I’m not sure entirely what I was intending to write instead. Anyone can see the lack of updates over the past few weeks and I assure you, I did want to write something. I just couldn’t find much that intrigued or excited me and I didn’t want to write about something “just because”. I was going to write about Mike Perez and his excellent bout on HBO… and then the adjective “excellent” turned into “tragic” and any article celebrating Perez while Magomed Abdusalamov lay in a coma seems like bad taste (at best) to me.
Then it was going to be about Andre Ward and his bout with Edwin Rodriguez but like so many bouts in recent times I simply couldn’t be excited by the bout itself, let alone enough to write in detail about it. Ward was always going to win (especially once Rodriguez’ weight issues became apparent). Just as Bernard Hopkins was always going to beat Karo Murat. Just as Kell Brook was always going to beat Vyacheslav Senchenko. Just as Peter Quillin was always going to beat Rosado. Just as Golovkin was always going to beat Stevens. Just as Afolabi was always going to beat Lukasz Janik. Just as Donaire was always going to beat Darchinyan (despite being made to work harder than most expected) and just as Perez was always going to beat Martinez. The only bout that ever really excited me was Segura vs Marquez… yet even as a boxing fan who tries to watch a lot of the lower weight classes it’s somewhat difficult to get too excited about a bout between two 112lbs boxers happening half a world away which I imagine only a few dozen people here in the UK watched live.
Then the article was going to be about David Haye and his recent injury which will likely force him into retirement. That melded with a story in the Guardian about a boxer who we all wish would retire and with some comments there about how Haye may have dodged a bullet by getting out of boxing before any apparent head trauma.
And then it sort of hit me.
Is there any sport that makes its fans hate it the way boxing does? And the more one is a fan, the more one pulls aside the curtain, the more one hates it?
I’m a little late to post this, but it is certainly still worth mentioning.
A little while back Paulie Malignaggi was doing the usual prefight hype for his upcoming “Battle of Brooklyn” match against Zab Judah. He starts off with a few anecdotes about his time in boxing (including mentioning how Al Haymon’s team called to sign him… one of the reasons he’s the manliest man in boxing) and his relationship with Zab, notably recalling a time when as an amateur Judah was actually helping to corner him during a tournament. It’s very friendly, very light, quite entertaining and fairly standard.
On a side note though, especially in the wake of the crude promotion for Malignaggi vs Broner, it is nice to see Malignaggi not have to go the lowest-common denominator route with his pre-fight hype. Trash talk is all well and good but the stuff prior to Malignaggi/Broner was crude, banal and painted neither of them in a positive light. Malignaggi’s a good enough speaker that he doesn’t need to descend to that level to get people interested in a bout.
But he then goes on to talk about the media reaction to his last bout and notably his post-fight comments about Al Haymon affiliated fighters (as Broner is) getting the nod in narrow contests. He especially objected to the way that some in the media tried to present the fact that one of the judges gave the bout to him in the same context as CJ Ross’s ridiculous card in the Mayweather/Saul Alvarez bout. Personally, I did have Broner winning, albeit somewhat narrowly but I can certainly understand why a judge would favour Paulie; it was very much a bout where Paulie’s higher workrate went against Broner’s more precise punches.
Paulie then used this to launch into a wider attack on the boxing media. He focuses on what he sees as the media’s obsession with the “nerdy” side of boxing writing; working out a pound for pound top ten, “analysing” fantasy fights and establishing who the lineal champions of a division are for example while seemingly refusing to really engage with some of the bigger issues confronting boxing. He uses himself as an example, pointing out how “rants and raves” about things when really, it should be the media driving the crusade on them. He finishes by mentioning that while the media will often criticise a boxer who is ahead in a bout “playing it safe” and coasting the last few rounds to minimise risk at the cost of excitement, the media won’t take the risk of really investigating major stories if the risk is they lose media credentials and press access.
It’s a powerful rant and one Paulie clearly feels strongly about.
And I agree with him.
On a separate forum a discussion once arose about who was the “manliest man in boxing”. You can guess the names that were involved… the hard hitting, chain smoking, beer drinking, wildly (but incredibly non-politically correct) entertaining Ricardo Mayorga. The hard hitting brawler Marcos Maidana. The tough, uncompromising former marine Ken Norton. The wonderfully moustached original heavyweight champion John L Sullivan. I even put forward my own suggestion, one of my favourite boxers of all time, Daniil Peretyatko (and after seeing this photo of sheer unbridled masculinity at it rawest I don’t see how many can disagree). And then someone joking put forward Paulie Malignaggi as a suggestion and got a couple of laughs.
I sat there and I thought about it. And then I thought about it some more.
And now I think Paulie Malignaggi may be the manliest man in boxing…
The two men who have done the most to derail the carrer of Manny Pacquiao… one controversially, one chillingly… meet this Saturday in a bout that will tell us a lot about both men.
It is some ways unfair to reduce both of these talented boxers to just their bouts with the Filipino superstar but there can be no doubt that it is their battles with Pac Man that to a large extent have defined their careers. Marquez’s four bouts with Pacquiao brought him from an underrated and little known Mexican boxer stuck in the shadow of Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales to one of the most well known names in boxing while Bradley’s win over Pacquiao should have turned him from an underappreciated star of 140lbs to a superstar only for the controversy over the scoring to sour the entire episode.
Both men turned down the chance to have another crack at Manny for this bout. So after this weekend, who will think that decision was somewhat foolish?
You know, sometimes I hate seeing that Thomas Hauser has published another article.
That’s not because I don’t enjoy them. It’s not because they’re poorly researched. It’s not because they’re badly written. None of the above apply; Hauser is a fantastic writer.
It’s because Thomas Hauser asks the questions that need to be asked which lead to the answers that we don’t necessarily want to hear.
One of his main… I guess investigations is the correct term to use… over recent years has been the use of performance enhancing drugs in boxing and he has written confidently, authoritatively and intelligently on the subject. His latest excellent article can be found here (credit thesweetscience.com), with an extract below. It’s a brilliant but somewhat unsettling read but it is something every boxing fan should read and take notice of.
Thus, it’s worth focusing on Edwin Rodriguez and the laudable commitment to 24-7-365 VADA testing that he recently made.
In August of this year, Rodriguez signed with manager Al Haymon. At least three of Haymon’s fghters (Andre Berto, Antonio Tarver, and J’Leon Love) have tested positive for PEDs in the past.
Another Haymon fighter (Peter Quillin) was enrolled in a USADA testing program prior to his June 2, 2012, fight against Winky Wright. Then, after blood and urine samples were taken from both fighters, Wright was told that the testing had been abandoned and the samples were destroyed.
Haymon also represents Adrien Broner.
Broner, Antonio DeMarco, Golden Boy (Broner’s promoter), and the United States Anti-Doping Agency signed a contract for USADA testing prior to the November 17, 2012, Broner-DeMarco fight. But according to DeMarco, he wasn’t tested by USADA for that bout, nor was Broner.
Then, on June 22, 2013, Broner fought Paulie Malignaggi.
“I wanted VADA testing,” Malignaggi recalls. “And I was told, ‘No, we won’t do VADA. If you insist on VADA, there won’t be a fight.’ Finally, I said, ‘F— it. I’m getting seven figures. I’ll go ahead and fight.’ Would I have been more confident that Broner was clean if there had been VADA testing? Absolutely.”
It’s one of those awful questions that comes up, especially after a close and controversial bout. Sometimes it’s unnecessary to really go into any detail… rounds are so obviously one-sided that it is absolutely clear who won or bouts are so clearly dominated by one boxer that it doesn’t matter whether a judge views it as a whitewash or gives the loser a sympathy round or two.
But sometimes it’s not so obvious.
So in a previous post I mentioned I would do a wider article on doping in boxing.
It hasn’t been a great few months for sports and integrity as a whole. Lance Armstrong’s admission to systematic doping following years of accusations and denials, the Australian report revealing the endemic use of performance enhancing drugs (P.E.Ds) and an Europol investigation into matchfixing have all left a rather bitter taste in the mouth of a sports fan. Even sports as seemingly genteel as golf and cricket have found their involved in drugs scandals. And as always boxing, the black sheep of the mainstream sport, lingers in the shadows, implicated.
There are two reasons an individual can fail a drugs test. The previously mentioned PEDs, a list of substances where the explicit purpose is to make the user a better sportsman and the authorities have banned their use. There are also recreational drug test failures; marijuana, cocaine and all the other litany of narcotics. I don’t intend to focus on these other than to say that they are illegal and listed as prohibited substances. Whatever your personal opinions on the use of those substances those are the rules; the rules that boxers signed up for when they agreed to be licensed. If one breaks the rules on has to expect to be held accountable.
I would also stress I am no expert on steroids, PEDs, blood doping or any of the other forms of cheating of that type. I do not intend… and am not qualified to… discuss the exact benefits and side effects of using such substances. I take the general… and I believe uncontroversial… view that boxers who use these substances do so because they give them an advantage compared to not using them. They (and I speak in general terms) allow the user to train harder, get better results and recover faster.
Reports are coming in that Sam Solimon failed a post-fight drugs test following his unexpected decision win over Felix Sturm in Germany.
A report from Eastside Boxing states:
Sam Soliman has failed his post-fight drug test after his controversial decision win against Felix Sturm in Germany last month. German newspaper sources reported today that the A sample of the 39-year old Australian was tested positive for a performance enhancing designer drug.