Boxing


Sharkie's Machine: The Business of Boxing

06.09.04 - By Frank Gonzalez Jr.: Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, 26 year-old Welterweight Champion Cory Spinks (photo: TOM CASINO/Showtime) improved his record to 34-2, with 11 KO’s as he put on a boxing clinic against 33 year-old, former Lightweight Champion, Miguel Angel Gonzalez (49-4-1-39 KO’s). Cory is the current holder of the WBA, WBC and IBF Titles.

The first round went Gonzalez’ way as he was able to do some nice bodywork and press Spinks effectively. I thought they split round three and the rest of the rounds were all Spinks. The first few rounds were exciting. I was surprised at how well Gonzalez was doing against the slick boxing Spinks.

After the fourth round, Gonzalez was slowing down and losing every round as Spinks got into his groove and danced circles around his opponent and scored at will. Frustrated, Gonzalez resorted to some roughhouse tactics and was penalized a point in the eighth round by Referee Joe Cortez for a blatant low blow. Gonzalez was warned a few times about low punches before the point deduction. While Cortez gave Spinks time to recover, Spinks yelled out, “Lets roll!” and the action resumed.

It's curious how Miguel Angel Gonzalez was afforded the opportunity to fight for the three most accepted Titles in his division—but that is boxing; more a business then a sport in so many ways.

To his credit, Gonzalez showed heart and took his beating like a man for 12 rounds. What bothers this fan is how a guy who hasn’t done anything particularly impressive lately can get an opportunity to fight for the Championship, while more deserving top contenders do not. But this was a Don King production, where deserves got nothing to do with it.

Cory Spinks may look weird the way he enters the ring—dancing, almost as if in a trance…but his dancing inside the ring is what’s most impressive. I like Spinks; he’s a clean fighter with great reflexes and technique. He is a good ambassador of the what’s left of the sport side of Boxing, humble during interviews and always in excellent shape. He is a pure boxer in that for him, it’s about hitting without being hit. He does it well. The son of Leon Spinks, who beat Muhammad Ali at the end of his career, and nephew of Michael Spinks, another former great Champion, Boxing is in Cory’s blood. Instead of calling himself “The Next Generation” he might consider, Cory “The Dancing Jinx” Spinks, who dances inside and outside the ring.

Spinks has been on a roll lately. He redeemed himself after losing to Italian fighter Michele Piccirillo (by controversial decision) in Italy in 2002 by going BACK to Italy and winning a unanimous decision and the IBF Title in their rematch in 2003. He easily beat former WBA and WBC Champion, Ricardo Mayorga with great ring generalship and his effective combination punching. He beat highly regarded Zab Judah last April by UD. I confess that I’m disappointed about his promoter’s last choice of opponent. But three out of four ain’t so bad.

Cory Spinks has impressive boxing skills and though he lacks big power, he can accumulate enough shots that score and win fights convincingly. He says he wants to fight Kostya Tszyu if it can be arranged. Tszyu is another Champion of great esteem. But he is a Lightweight.

Spinks should be good enough to start calling out famous Jr. Middleweights or even other Welterweights instead of Lightweights.

I would hate to think he’s oblivious to WBO Welterweight Champ, Antonio Margarito. What about a fight against Vernon Forrest or rising star Kermit Cintron? With Don King promoting Cory, who knows what the future holds or how much of his earnings he’ll actually get to keep? For today’s Champions, the easy road is the one most traveled these days. While that may not be good for the spirit of competition, I’m sure its great for business.

* * *

The main event at the Mandalay Bay featured Heavyweight “Champion” Lamon Brewster (31-2-27 KO’s, photo: Tom Casino) defending his WBO Title for the first time since his knockout win over Vladimir Klitschko last April. His opponent, a former sparring partner named Kali Meehan (29-2-23 KO’s) of Australia was suddenly and mysteriously ranked 15th by the WBO and seemingly given an opportunity to become another “World Champion” if he could beat Brewster. Key
word—seemingly.

It was clear throughout the promotion of this fight that Meehan and Brewster really like each other and that their time sparring together in Brewster’s preparation for the Vladimir Klitschko fight led to good friendship. They were all smiles during the photo ops leading up to the fight. Brewster acted surprised that Meehan would be his next opponent. Was he really?

In the first round, the crowd booed the lack of action between them. I wondered if neither wanted to hurt the other out of friendship but that is ridiculous, after all, boxing is a business and this was business.

To the knowledgeable fight fan, this looked like a carefully orchestrated, soft fight for Brewster to successfully defend his Title. Unless my eyes deceived me, Kali DID beat Lamon, out-boxing him and being the more effective in what started out as a boring fight and turned into a sloppy slugfest with Meehan doing most of the slugging.

Brewster rarely threw punches and missed more often when he did. Meehan followed his corner’s advice and boxed from the outside. He did so effectively and scored better then Brewster in general. In the eighth round, Meehan was pummeling Brewster against the ropes and Brewster hardly answered. It was close enough at that point for Referee Jay Nady to wave the fight off but clearly, that was not part of the plan. Brewster wobbled backwards into the ropes when the bell rang. I scored that round 10-8 in favor of Meehan.

Late in the fight, Brewster had to know he was losing but showed little urgency. He fought in abbreviated spurts reserved for the last few seconds of rounds. He stole a couple of rounds but not enough to win the fight. Brewster’s performance can be described in one word—terrible.

Though neither fighter exhibited any exceptional talent, Meehan clearly did the most damage and won this fight.

The Judges scored as follows:
Adalaide Byrd…114-113 for Meehan
Dave Morretti…114-113 for Brewster
Nelson Vasquez…115-113 for Brewster

I wonder who signs their paychecks?

Brewster got a gift decision and retained his WBO Title. Meehan was robbed but he showed no signs of anger, disappointment, contempt or outrage when he was totally justified to do so. During the post fight interviews, Meehan was asked if he thought he won the fight. He was reluctant to even admit he did. He said it was the Judges job to make that determination and his job to fight. Sounded like a man who knew his place.

Don King was standing behind Brewster like a shadow in the ring when Jim Grey asked Brewster if he thought he won the fight, he said, “Yes.” Then he went on to give some account of how he ‘did this and did that’ displaying a creative short-term memory. I wondered if they had rehearsed all this?

When Grey asked Brewster if he’d give Meehan a rematch, he deferred to Don King. Grey then asked King who he wanted Brewster to fight next. His answer was Evander Holyfield.

Evander Holyfield?

Holyfield lost his last two fights and dropped four of his last seven. Anyone who cares about Holyfield thinks he should retire already. Evander was a great Champion in his day but that was a long time ago. Is it possible that DK had scheduled Brewster vs. Holyfield before the Meehan fight ever started? The only thing that could have erased that plan would have been for Meehan to have knocked Brewster out. Winning a points decision was out of the question. This was business…Don King style. I can’t see how anyone thought Brewster won that fight. But what do I know? I’m one of those dummies who still think Boxing is a sport. Sport is about the meritocracy system, where you win because you exhibited the superior skills in competition—but Boxing is really a business that just looks like a sport.

If Roger Federer scored 7-5, 6-2 and 6-4 over Andre Agassi at the US Open (Tennis), how would anyone say Agassi won? If the New York Yankees scored 9 runs and the Red Sox scored only 2, can anyone imagine the Red Sox being called the winners of the game? You can’t. That kind of thing doesn’t happen in legitimate sports.

I’m a die-hard boxing fan. I love the drama of a good fight. Growing up, I remember watching the fights with my family and most times, it was exciting. There was a time when fights used to be broadcasted on the radio simultaneous with television coverage…all you needed was a radio or a TV and it was free. Boxing was huge once upon a time and guys like Muhammad Ali graced the cover of Wheaties Cereal Boxes and sports magazines. There were great fights all the time and fighters fought several times a year. Now, big name Fighters only fight one or two times a year. The ranking system is a joke. It's not so much how good you are but how powerful your promoter is that decides who you fight.

Boxing can and should be better than what it has become. Until Boxing creates a Universal Commission to govern its operations, unify its rules and eliminate the stench of impropriety, this great sport will continue to lose its fan base, decline in quality and remain more about the politics of business instead of glory of competition and merit. Being a Champion means that you beat all the top players in your sport. Somehow, Lamon Brewster does not qualify to be called a Champion.

* * *

Agree or disagree? Comments can be sent to dshark87@hotmail.com

Article posted on 06.09.2004



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