Enrique O. (Bronx, NYC): In the past, you've spoken pretty highly of Juan Manuel Lopez. What are your thoughts about him after his close call at the Madison Square Garden?
Vivek W. (ESB): My overall opinion relative to JuanMa remains intact. Unfortunately, this is pretty much the only sport out there where guys are 'sent to the showers' rather early without discretion. In other words, rather than understanding the rigors relative to the developmental evolution of a young fighter, as soon as he is met with resistance by a hungry competitor, most fight fans revert to saying he's "not as good as advertised", or that famous "E" word (EXPOSED) falls from the sky like Miami rain in the summer.. All things remaining equal, you have to consider a few key elements about this fight. The first was the fact that JuanMa was headlining in a place (NYC) that can be as treacherous to a youngin' as the famed Apollo theater. (No coincidence they're in the same place). Madison Square Garden not only has rich boxing history, but as we all know, it's the biggest hub for Puerto Rican fighters pretty much anywhere on the globe, so the anxiety relative to headlining a show there for a young fighter can be pretty wicked!. Living up to the hype of legendary Puerto Rican phenoms of the past and present is an honor, but trust me, it doesn't come free of untamed nerves. Secondly, I've said for quite some time that JuanMa has the physical capacity to one day campaign at the jr. welterweight (or even welterweight) limit based on his body type, so the reports from Arum about him having issues making weight doesn't surprise me at all. The other element, which I think trumps all others is simply the fact that Mtagwa basically fought a helluva fight. This is a guy who is far better than many ever gave him credit for coming in and he knew full well that Lopez had a huge crowd to please and he forced Lopez to go out of his way to do that by pressing the action. In the end, I think we learned alot about both men, but where they go from here will be the question that truly captures my intrigue. Stay tuned.
Joseph L. (Covina, CA): I saw a question on here last week about your thoughts on a Trinidad/Margarito showdown in their prime. I would like to get your thoughts on a featherweight showdown between Manny Pacquiao and Prince Naseem Hamed, had they met in their prime. Who do you like and why?
Vivek W. (ESB): Wow! Two southpaws.....Two fighters that are very unorthodox....Pacquiao with his jumping style, Hamed with his extremely awkward rhythm in general. Honestly, I think these type of questions serve as great 'buzz' topics, but there's truly no way it can be narrowed down decisively because each side can spin arguments to support their man, (many with some very key and valid points), yet in the end, we'll never truly know. Being a guy that aligns himself by walking the 'middlegrounds', I can see both perspective arguments, totally. Pacquiao has great speed and power, but Naseem could take a punch and could damn sure land a helluva punch, too. Something else that I think would be intriguing is that Pacquiao would hold all key advantages, standing a bit taller at 5'6" to Hamed's 5'4", with a 3 inch reach advantage, as well. If I had to make a selection, I'd say Pacquiao on points. Hamed would shake him up, because his power was greater than some give credit for, but in the end, I think I'd have to say Pacquiao in a close decision.
Jorge A. (Miami Lakes, FL): Bob Arum has made a habit of putting his young fighters on PPV which prevents many from following them. Why does he do this?
Vivek W. (ESB): First and foremost, let it be known that I don't serve as Arum's official spokesman, so my thoughts are exactly that.....my thoughts. They don't in any way, shape, or form reflect the opinion or decisions of Mr. Arum. That being said, I can see why he would do this on many fronts, most being typical business savvy decisions from a very sharp businessman. I've always felt like this move by Arum takes away a very necessary visibility from some noteworthy studs on the rise. That notion makes plenty sense until you realize that when these young fighters don't perform as well as many would expect, you don't have that wide scale contingent ready to question those fighters or remove established credibility. At the end of the day, it's no secret that Arum (by his own admission) has taken interest in Latin fighters, and recently, Filipino's as well. This move has allowed him to exploit two huge markets and at the same time energize a core base of fans that practically have a 100% retention rate. If I were in his shoes, I'd probably employ the same philosophy, but it does come at a certain cost as well, as evidenced in Chavez Jr., who has around 40 fights, yet isn't widely celebrated the way he could be. If you remove the 95% Mexican contingent that tracks the every move of their native son, you'd be hard-pressed to find someone within that other 5% that would actually be willing to drop $40 ducketts in the bucket when it's time for him to fight because in their mind, he simply hasn't done enough to warrant it. I don't totally understand Arum's plan, but hey, he's sitting on more 'dead presidents' than me, so who am I to judge?
Junito F. (Pompano Beach, FL): Gamboa seems to be very talented and somewhat underrated. Do you see him turning out as well as some would suggest?
Vivek W. (ESB): Personally, I'm very high on Gamboa's talent. This is gonna sound crazy to some, but when I see his speed and reflexes, it reminds me of a young Roy Jones Jr. Not to say he is (or will ever be) able to perform at that high level, but watching him is purely reminiscent. Like any other young fighter, I think Gamboa has a learning curve to meet. Hopefully he is carried along in a way that allows him to mature and develop, and not too quickly. Some would say it's too late for that, as it appears that he's destined for big things real soon. I don't mind that, but as mentioned earlier, will anyone want to see him if he falls hard and fast? I don't know, but that's a chance you don't want to take with a young guy on the rise.
Marcus R. (Dallas, TX): I don't think the Showtime Super-6 Tournament is as good as it could be because the network failed to attract certain fighters that would have made it better. Would you agree?
Vivek W. (ESB): I'll start by saying that I totally agree - in regards to the network not including other fighters - but that being said, I think I would also say that current cast included will make one helluva group, and it wasn't as much Showtime failing to "attract" certain fighters as much as it was Showtime choosing not to include certain fighters. Many remember Pavlik's comments about "nobody wanting to fight on Showtime". Well, lets just say those thoughts were born from a man who (for whatever reason) never got an invite. I don't know for certain why some fighters were not included, but I can say that there are several fighters that I would have included. Two fighters that immediately come to mind are both Lucian Bute and Kelly Pavlik. Librado Andrade is another one that I would have loved to see get the nod. In an ideal world, this concept would have been amazing about two years ago when we could have summoned the services of Hopkins and Calzaghe as well, but hey, wishful thinking right? Bottom line, I think we all need to put the 'wish list' and other negative thoughts in our pockets for later, and simply relish in the fact that we have 6 men who are all very capable of doing what several of their critics think they can't. Kessler and Ward are two personal faves of mine who could earn the highest honor in this tournament; Taylor enters the equation with a chip on his shoulders knowing what's at stake; Abraham has the ability to deliver, and while Dirrell and Froch aren't viewed as the consensus men to beat, the thing that makes this so highly anticipated is the fact that this is the very stage which propels good fighters to become great fighters overnight right before our eyes. So, I just plan to watch an awesome tournament, and regardless of who wins, it's the journey itself that will be the spectacle for me. Hey, may the best man win!
(Vivek Wallace can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 954-292-7346, Youtube (VIVEK1251), Twitter (VIVEK747), Facebook and Myspace).
Article posted on 12.10.2009