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Monday, April 5, 2010

What Happened in Vegas Shouldn't Have Happened at All

Mayweather vs Mosley
By Steve Kim

In a fight that lived down to every expectation, Bernard Hopkins, after 17 years, exacted revenge on Roy Jones Jr., out-pointing him inside a Mandalay Bay Events Center that was more papered than a piƱata. In what was a boring and awkward foul-fest, Hopkins won by the tallies of 117-110 (twice) and 118-109. Neither was able to make it to the post-fight press conference, which is just as well, because after what was put on display, Saturday night, I’m not sure anyone wants to see them ever again in the same room.

Simply put, this “rivalry” was a battle of two faded all-time greats looking to make one last score on a public that knew better. In baseball, they have “old-timers’” games. In boxing, they put it on pay-per-view, and tell you why it’s a big deal.

This was like a rap battle between Nas and Jay Z, if both guys had suddenly forgotten how to drop rhymes. Or your high school’s 20th reunion where the two hottest chicks, from back in the day, had put on about 25 pounds in all the wrong places throughout the years. At one time, they were stunning dime pieces. Now, you’re not even sure if they’re MILFs (Yeah, I went there, I said it).

Sure, this series is now deadlocked at one apiece, but those involved in the promotion, like Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer (who was basically forced by his “partner” Hopkins to stage this event) quickly downplayed any talk of a rubbermatch. The only thing that was really proven, after 17 years in between the first and second hook-ups, is that they probably should’ve waited another 17. Some will say this was like a glorified sparring session, but in sparring sessions, there is consistent contact between the two combatants. This was more like choreographed shadow-boxing, which is appropriate, since both Hopkins and Jones are now shadows of what they once were.

About the only sustained action that came in this 12-round snoozer came after Hopkins was hit with a rabbit-punch in round six, which had him on his knees for a spell. After that incident, Hopkins, beholden for retaliation, would charge at Jones to finish off the round and beyond. Inciting a bit of a melee that saw a member of Jones’ camp (believed to be one of his sons) come into the ring- promising all sorts of mayhem- who was then quickly subdued and sent back to Pensacola (or, at least, back to the locker room). Perhaps if rabbit-punching were legal, it would’ve been a helluva fight between the two, because those instances where Hopkins got hit in the back of the head provided the only real memorable moments of the night.

But alas, these guys aren’t Ali and Frazier and we weren’t bound to get the “Thrilla in Manila.” Sorry, they can call themselves “rivals” all they want, but rivalries are built on differing factions who actually face each other when the time is right. Not 17 years after the fact or when someone gets KO’ed in about two minutes in his previous fight. And the problem with this match-up is not necessarily that neither man was what they once were in their physical primes, they weren’t even what they were for a few years after that.

Hopkins, at age 45, is about as good as you can be at this age. He still has the guile and cunning to survive in the ring and will find ways to win rounds. But it’s been a long time (perhaps since his career-defining victory over Felix Trinidad in 2001) since he has truly been “The Executioner.” The man who, in many respects, represented the hard streets of the inner-city had gone corporate long ago- at least when it came to his mentality inside the ring. As for Jones, well, I’d compare him to that once great R&B act, who can no longer hit the high notes consistently, but every once in awhile executes the “Roger Rabbit” or the “Running Man” dance during his routines. But now, he’s just a novelty act, who has to lip-sync or struggle though his performances nowadays (Think Bobby Brown).

The once legendary “RJ” is now 5-6 in his last 11 fights. Like other notable boxers of the past, he simply could not bob-and-weave and avoid Father Time. As you hear the delusional rhetoric come from his lips and his last remaining sycophants (I guess the last members of “Jonestown”/Square Ring who are still sipping the grape Kool-Aid) who continually enable him, you get the strong sense that Jones- who has lost a pretty penny on his music venture- will become just another sad story that is too often heard in this sport.

As for Hopkins, I’ll give him this: he is still audacious. He wants to challenge WBA heavyweight champion David Haye, who stopped John Ruiz over the weekend. But even Schaefer questioned those ambitions. “The Hayemaker” isn’t just a naturally bigger man, but he’s also got legitimate heavyweight power and beyond that, has good quickness and is fleet of foot. This isn’t a slow, lethargic big man that Hopkins could merely circle around like a glacier.

But his walk-in song said it all; he’ll do it his way. As for Jones? Well, he can always go back to headlining at the Pensacola Civic Center. They could use a good local, lounge act.


Immediately after the end of the 12th round, there was a small chant of “REFUND! REFUND! REFUND!” started by a group of fans on the side of the arena that was sparsely attended (sparse as in, think about a New Jersey Nets game) that didn’t really last too long. Honestly, I don’t think their hearts were really into it and, besides, I think they just wanted to get the hell outta there as soon as they could.

But what popped into my mind was "These fools actually paid full price for these tickets?!" They may have been the only ones. The scuttlebutt throughout the industry was that, by the middle of last week, less than a 1,000 tickets were bought by the general public. The word on the weekend was that anyone who checked into the Mandalay Bay was being offered a pair of tickets to the fight (After what everyone witnessed on Saturday night, I think an extra mint on the pillow may have been a better deal).

The announced crowd was over 6,700 and the arena did fill in a bit by the time the main event started after the Final Four (which was a promise made by the promotion). But on the side of the arena where that chant started, you could’ve thrown hand-grenades into the stands and not had any casualties. Perhaps the only way you could’ve given away more tickets is to have attached vouchers for free iPads.

But what was really telling was that in walking around the Mandalay Bay on Friday night, it was probably the most tepid I had ever seen it since the Fernando Vargas-Shibata Flores fight, which was the first notable boxing event, post-9/11, in 2001. Honestly, it looked and felt like a Tuesday night, not the night before a supposedly big pay-per-view event. My question is this, outside of Golden Boy’s relationship with the MGM Mirage (which owns the MGM Grand and “The Bay”) was there any consideration of putting this fight in Atlantic City or somewhere on the East Coast, where both Hopkins and Jones live? Isn’t that where this promotion belonged, if anywhere?

Also, on fight night, I observed that not only were many notable writers absent, including Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports (who just happens to live in the city) but that this was the smallest looking press section I had ever seen for a pay-per-view in Las Vegas that didn’t have the words “Latin Fury” on it. In fact, I had notified the Golden Boy publicists just last week that I would be in town for this event (well, past the deadline set to send in your applications) and yet, I was still seated in Row B. To put that into perspective, usually I’m seated in row E or G.

But it turns out, I had a much better seat than that.


There will be two everlasting memories of my most recent trip to “Sin City.” First, will be going to the Rio Hotel’s highly-regarded “World Carnival Buffet.” Not only is the food good, but this thing is so expansive, it seems to stretch into different time zones. Well, anyway, I’m with Tuan Tran of TKO Boxing Promotions, and we’re making our first run. After I pile up my salad, I see Tuan, talking to some guy who had the look of a professional boxer, but his wide back was to me, so I couldn’t tell who it was.

As I walked over, Tuan sees me and says, "Hey, Steve, look, it’s Juan Guzman"- yeah, the same guy who, just days earlier, came in nine pounds over the lightweight limit prior to his fight with Ali Funeka for the IBF title. All I could do is wave at him; I was too stunned and flabbergasted to do anything else. Seriously, of all the places for us to see him, a buffet? You couldn’t make this stuff up.

Tuan pointed out that Guzman wasn’t staying here (his fight was at the Hard Rock Hotel); it was days after the fight, and he must have specifically wanted to come and check out the Rio buffet. I joked to Tuan that maybe he was going to challenge the winner of Hopkins-Jones later that weekend, but Tuan said he was told by Guzman he was leaving today back to go back home.

Love him or hate him, I’ll give Guzman this; he is who he is.

On Saturday night at the fights, I thought it would be funny to sit in one of the empty sections and tweet about it. So I chose section 122, which was occupied by just Tuan, “Fast” Freddie Vega (another guy from TKO) and me. “So this is what it’s like at a WNBA game,” I thought to myself. Pretty soon, we buy drinks at the behest of someone who had to leave abruptly, meaning we would be stuck with the tab. To make things worse, I kick over the two drinks that were for those people who had left. So our waitress comes over, nice Russian lady, and asks if he wanted anything else. And we said no, we’ll just pay for this. As we take out our wallets, she says in her accent, "No charge." To which we replied that we were going to pay in cash. Her response was, "No charge." I replied, "No, no, we’re not doing it with a credit card; what’s our total?"

"No, no charge."

This was quickly becoming our version of “Who’s on first? What’s on second?” But she told us that since we were in an empty section, we were comped. Suddenly, Section 122, which is in the far corner of the Mandalay Bay Events Center, had the best seats in the house. We had the Moscow Happy Hour going and enjoyed free drinks, which we toasted for much of the night. We tipped our waitress well throughout the evening; she earned it.

It was from Russia with love.


Nobody seems to monitor my tweets closer than Monica Sears of Golden Boy Promotions, who wasn’t always thrilled with my updates from the fights on Saturday night. As we were enjoying our liquid libations (and I just want to point out, I wasn’t on deadline) Monica would come over and say to me, "Well, of course you’re in an empty area, you’re in the worst section." I answered, "Oh, really? Did you know that our drinks are free? I think were in the best possible seats, if you ask me."

"Well, then why don’t you tweet about that?" she inquired.

"And what, have everyone stream over here and ruin it for us?"

Hey, when it’s this kind of well, you can never go to it too often. And you should certainly keep it as your own little secret.


Two thoughts on the seventh round technical decision earned by Jason Litzau against Rocky Juarez: first, since when are fights stopped on cuts and blood that is below the eye? Seriously, that was a puzzling call made by the Nevada State Athletic Commission on Saturday night. Just as it seemed that Juarez was coming on, the plug was pulled on this contest.

But judging from this video sent to me by J. Husky, that cut looked like it was actually caused by a legal punch, not an accidental clash of heads, as ruled by referee Jay Nady.

I know that the NSAC does not utilize instant replay, but can we at least get a rematch?

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