The Boxing Scene

The Boxing Scene

Thomas Hauser
Series: Sporting
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    The Boxing Scene
    Book Description:

    Thomas Hauser has been called "one of boxing's greatest writers.The Boxing Scene, Hauser's provocative new anthology, contains all of his trademark insights and candor as he peels away layers of hypocrisy to reveal the men who make up the contemporary boxing landscape.

    Hauser exposes the inner workings of HBO Sports; examines the phenomenon of mixed martial arts as it relates to boxing; and records the amusing encounter between his 81-year-old mother and larger-than-life boxing impresario Don King.The Boxing Scenealso updates Hauser's personal and professional thoughts on superstars like Oscar De La Hoya, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Ricky Hatton, Miguel Cotto, and Bernard Hopkins as well as fight promoter Bob Arum, announcer Bob Sheridan and a host of others.

    The Boxing Scenerecreates another year in professional boxing and adds to Hauser's definitive record of the sport.

    eISBN: 978-1-59213-978-1
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-xii)
  3. I. Fights and Fighters
    • Evander Holyfield and the Impossible Dream
      (pp. 3-8)

      Boxing isn’t like other sports. When aging players in other professional athletic endeavors can’t perform anymore, the system forces them out. In boxing, there’s always money to be made off an aging fighter; either as an opponent to pad a young prospect’s record or as a “name” that sells tickets and engenders pay-per-view buys.

      Evander Holyfield is an aging fighter. He’s forty-four years old and has amassed a professional record of forty wins against eight losses and two draws over twenty-two years. “I’ve had a lot of good things happen to me in my career,” he says. “Making the United...

    • John and Grainne: A Love Story
      (pp. 9-15)

      Fans watch fighters in the ring and see the blows. That’s very different from getting hit. And while fans often identify with fighters, they rarely consider what watching a fight is like for someone who has close personal ties to one of the combatants and loves him.

      Grainne Coll loves John Duddy, the Irish middleweight with piercing blue eyes who is unbeaten in nineteen fights and is causing a sensation in America. Like Duddy, she’s a native of County Derry, Ireland. Her mother works at The Harbour Museum in Derry. Her father is a retired bus driver. Grainne is twenty-six...

    • Boxing Awaits De La Hoya–Mayweather
      (pp. 16-21)

      The tagline for the fight (“The World Awaits”) is a bit pretentious. The world hasn’t paid much attention to boxing lately. The days of Louis–Schmeling II and Ali–Frazier I (when the world really awaited a prize fight) are gone. But boxing is waiting for Oscar De La Hoya versus Floyd Mayweather Jr. like a drowning man who sees a log floating in his direction. The log won’t solve all of his problems but it will keep him afloat for a while.

      Oscar De La Hoya is the last of boxing’s crossover stars. He won a gold medal at...

    • Floydʹs World
      (pp. 22-23)

      The May 5 fight between Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather Jr. might turn out to be the largest-grossing fight in the history of boxing. Over the next few months, thousands of articles will be written about the combatants. Their respective psyches will be thoroughly explored. I don’t claim intimate knowledge of either man, but one experience with Mayweather stands out in my mind.

      On Tuesday, March 30, 2004, I was at the ESPN Zone in New York to attend the kick-off press conference for the fight between Mayweather and DeMarcus Corley. Marilyn Cole Lownes and I were writing...

    • De La Hoya–Mayweather in Perspective
      (pp. 24-31)

      At 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, May 2 Floyd Mayweather Jr. was holding court at the Mayweather Boxing Club, the storefront gym in Las Vegas where he trains. In three days, “Pretty Boy” would enter the ring to face Oscar De La Hoya. The final pre-fight press conference at the MGM Grand had ended several hours earlier.

      “Oscar’s lip was twitching at the staredown,” Mayweather said gleefully. “We did eleven cities [on the pre-fight publicity tour], eleven staredowns, and Oscar was never like he was today. Oscar is worried; Oscar can’t sleep nights; Oscar knows he’s got a problem. And to...

    • First Bout at 3:05 p.m.
      (pp. 32-36)

      Boxing’s historical record, like most forms of history, centers on the exploits of kings, not foot soldiers. But the sweet science is about more than great champions. Journeymen, faceless opponents, and young fighters with optimism are an integral part of the game.

      On Saturday, May 5, 2007, Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather Jr. met in the ring after the most extensive marketing campaign in the history of boxing. Five hours earlier, on the same square of illuminated canvas, two unknown fighters faced off against one another in an eight-round lightweight contest. This is the story of those preliminary-bout...

    • The Enigmatic Shannon Briggs
      (pp. 37-43)

      Perpendicular to the boardwalk in Atlantic City, a four-story shopping mall called The Pier Shops at Caesars extends across a narrow beach and juts out over the Atlantic Ocean. Standing at the eastern end of the mall, one can gaze at the ocean and see Herman Melville’s “great shroud of the sea” as it rolled on thousands of years ago.

      But turn away from the ocean and a vastly different scene beckons. Large gaps of urban decay are visible between the hotel casinos that mark the skyline. Tourists walking along the boardwalk are solicited by panhandlers. The Miss America Pageant...

    • Bob Arum Mans the Ramparts with Cotto–Judah
      (pp. 44-49)

      The first fight that Bob Arum promoted was Muhammad Ali versus George Chuvalo in 1966. Arum is seventy-five years old now. He and Don King are self-described “dinosaurs of the sport.” But while King has seen his influence fade in recent years, Arum’s remains constant. His current roster of fighters includes Manny Pacquiao, Antonio Margarito, Kelly Pavlik, Erik Morales, José Luis Castillo, Humberto Soto, Kid Diamond, Jorge Arce, Julio César Chávez Jr., Hasim Rahman, and Miguel Cotto.

      Arum constructs his arguments and states his positions with precise logic. To hear him tell it, morality and the good of boxing are...

    • Bernard Hopkins: Heʹs Baaack!
      (pp. 50-55)

      Glory came late for Bernard Hopkins.

      Bernard’s first pro fight was at age twenty-three for a purse of $400. He lost, sat out for sixteen months, returned to the ring in 1990, and was defeated only once over the next fifteen years. In 1995, he captured the IBF middleweight crown with a seventh-round knockout of Segundo Mercado. Ultimately, he made twenty consecutive title defenses. But it wasn’t until he beat Félix Trinidad in a 2001 title-unification bout at Madison Square Garden that he achieved superstar status.

      Most fighters fade badly after age thirty-five. Looking at some of boxing’s greatest middleweight...

    • Bernard Hopkins: History in the Making
      (pp. 56-65)

      Egos are big in boxing and few people in the sweet science have a bigger ego than Bernard Hopkins. The fighter himself says, “I admit that your ears can get tired listening to Bernard Hopkins.”

      Hopkins is a writer’s fighter. He’s quotable and charismatic with marvelous ring skills to match his persona. He’s also an exceedingly complex man with personal potential that has yet to be fully tapped. He doesn’t like being wrong, and rarely admits it when he is. He can be smart and foolish, diplomatic and brusque, funny and mean, charming and cruel. At times, he’s wise.


    • Taylor–Pavlik: ʺAnd the NEW Middleweight Champion of the World…ʺ
      (pp. 66-79)

      For most of the world, a prize fight is a sporting event, entertainment, a show. For a fighter, each bout carries the potential to be a crucial turning point in his life.

      Kelly Pavlik is a fighter, a self-described “skinny white kid from Ohio.” He has a thin muscular body and knows one way to fight: going forward, punching. In high school, he worked odd jobs to get the money to go to amateur tournaments. More often than he cares to remember, he was busing tables in a Youngstown restaurant when his high school classmates came in for something to...

    • Forget the Belts: Madison Square Garden—October 6, 2007
      (pp. 80-82)

      The thrill of heavyweights is in the way they punch. The blows come in slow-motion in comparison to those of smaller fighters. Fans in the nosebleed seats can follow their arc. And they land hard.

      On October 6, Don King promoted a night of boxing at Madison Square Garden. When it was over, the crowd had seen three pretty good heavyweight fights.

      King initially built his card around a match-up between WBC heavy-weight champion Oleg Maskaev and Samuel Peter. Maskaev won his belt with a victory over Hasim Rahman in August 2006 and has ducked all credible challengers since then....

    • Cotto–Mosley: Youth Will Be Served
      (pp. 83-87)

      Some of boxing’s most memorable battles have been contested in the courtroom, not in the ring. In June 2007, a Swiss banker, a lawyer, and a media-savvy superstar were locked in legal combat. Then mediator Daniel Weinstein intervened.

      “Once the mediator broke our logjam,” Bob Arum later proclaimed, “the animosity just melted away. It had a cathartic effect, where you rid yourself of any bad feelings you’ve harbored for years.” Richard Schaefer (now an American banker, having been granted U.S. citizenship) and Oscar De La Hoya (the most golden of fighters) seemed equally pleased with the discontinuance of litigation.


    • Vinny Maddalone: ʺWhen the Candle Burns Out, Iʹll Walk Awayʺ
      (pp. 88-93)

      Vinny Maddalone is a club fighter with the heart of a champion. lists him as the 217th-ranked heavyweight in the world. His records stands at twenty-eight wins and four losses with nineteen knockouts. There was a fifth loss, but the verdict was changed to “no contest” after his opponent tested positive for marijuana.

      Maddalone’s fights have the look of a slugfest from a 1940s movie. There’s nothing subtle about the way he fights. He comes straight forward. He throws punches. He gets hit. Then he throws more punches. “Vinny could be dead,” says matchmaker Ron Katz, “and he’d still...

    • The American Perception of British Fighters
      (pp. 94-98)

      There will be a lot at stake when Ricky Hatton fights Floyd Mayweather Jr. in Las Vegas on December 8. Mayweather’s “pound-for-pound” crown and various sanctioning-body belts will be on the line. But more significantly, an entire historical era could be laid to rest.

      England is the cradle of modern boxing. But for most of the past century, the American public has looked down its collective nose at British fighters. If Hatton beats Mayweather, it will be among the biggest wins ever for a British boxer.

      In the first two decades of the twentieth century, British fighters campaigned successfully in...

    • Ricky Hatton in Las Vegas: Dreams versus Reality
      (pp. 99-111)

      “Every so often,” essayist Arthur Krystal writes, “two men arise with differently cast minds representing different constituencies, who capture the attention of people not normally disposed to view a fight. Perhaps each battler embodies the interested spectator’s own hopes of how the world works.”

      On December 8, Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Ricky Hatton met in the last big fight of 2007. The differences between them and their constituencies were self-evident.

      Mayweather looks like a sleek high-powered precision fighting machine unscathed by the ravages of his trade. Undefeated in thirty-nine fights, he’s boxing’s reigning pound-for-pound king and brings to mind the...

    • Jack Dempsey Revisited
      (pp. 112-128)

      September 22 will mark the eightieth anniversary of the famous “long count” fight between Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney. The two men are remembered as adjoining links in history’s chain of heavyweight champions. But Dempsey was more than just another champion. He was one of the most charismatic fighters in ring history and the bridge between boxing’s old and modern eras.

      Boxing’s most popular heavyweight champions have reflected the age in which they reigned. Joe Louis was perfectly juxtaposed with the trials of the Great Depression and World War II. Rocky Marciano mirrored the simple optimism of the 1950s. Muhammad...

  4. II. Curiosities, Issues, and Answers
    • HBO Boxing: The Challenge
      (pp. 131-136)

      Boxing is struggling, and 2007 will bring new challenges for the sport. Showtime has publicly announced its intention to televise mixed martial arts. Meanwhile, HBO recently committed to televising three Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) shows during the coming year with an option for three more. HBO’s current plan is to air the shows at midnight on dates still to be determined. No matter how these telecasts are packaged, ultimately they will compete with boxing.

      Sources at HBO say that Ross Greenburg (president of HBO Sports) opposed the UFC deal as vigorously as possible. But in the end, he had no...

    • Some Thoughts from the Hammerstein Ballroom
      (pp. 137-139)

      On February 17, 2007, boxing returned to New York City in the form of an HBOBoxing After Darktriple-header at the Hammerstein Ballroom.

      The main event featured Paulie Malignaggi (who was in action for the first time since his June 10 loss to Miguel Cotto) against Edner Cherry.

      Malignaggi came into the bout with blue hair to match his blue-and-silver trunks, blue gloves, and blue shoes (with tassels, of course). More significantly, he’s a good fighter who knows what he’s doing in a boxing ring. “I can’t imagine how it would feel to be in the ring with a...

    • HBO Notes
      (pp. 140-145)

      Earlier this year, I noted in a column entitledHBO Boxing: The Challengethat HBO televised forty-two fights in 2006 and the underdog won only five of those. That trend is continuing in 2007. Through the first ten weeks of this year, HBO has televised twelve fights. The favorite has won all twelve.

      Last week, I received an e-mail from a reader who asked, “Why is it that, every time I watch a fight on HBO, everyone except maybe Max Kellerman and Fran Charles knows in advance who’s going to win?”

      That’s a good question. The periodic promises by the...

    • The Void
      (pp. 146-147)

      “The sweet science,” A. J. Liebling observed, “is joined onto the past like a man’s arm to his shoulder.”

      When Liebling penned those words, he was referring to the lineage of boxing’s heavyweight champions. It was a glorious line of succession revered by fight fans with the same emotion that British royalists embrace the monarchy.

      John L. Sullivan… James J. Corbett… Bob Fitzsimmons… James Jeffries… Marvin Hart… Tommy Burns… Jack Johnson… Jess Willard… Jack Dempsey… Gene Tunney… Max Schmeling… Jack Sharkey… Primo Carnera… Max Baer… James Braddock… Joe Louis… Ezzard Charles… Jersey Joe Walcott… Rocky Marciano… Floyd Patterson… Ingemar Johansson...

    • More on the Heavyweights
      (pp. 148-150)

      Over the years, IBF heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko and his brother, former WBC heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko, and have become known as good people with a social conscience.

      Wladimir devotes considerable time and effort to raising public awareness and funds on behalf of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). “My understanding of life changes as I see things with my own eyes,” he said recently. “The world is getting smaller. We have to act differently and change our relationships to each other.”

      Vitali went even further, actively campaigning as a reform candidate for election as mayor of...

    • A Boxing Fan Looks at Mixed Martial Arts
      (pp. 151-160)

      Today’s video-game culture and increasingly violent movies have spawned a demand for entertainment that offers clearly visible mayhem.

      Meanwhile, boxing is in trouble. Not many sports have a reigning superstar who has won only twice in the past four-and-a-half years and lost three of his last five outings. But that’s Oscar De La Hoya’s recent record.

      Put the aforementioned realities together and one has an ideal environment for the rise of mixed martial arts (MMA) as a sports entertainment phenomenon.

      “It’s easier for the average person to identify with MMA than with professional boxing,” Donald Zuckerman (an early MMA entrepreneur)...

    • No One Is Enforcing the Federal Boxing Laws
      (pp. 161-164)

      Boxing is allowed to exist as an exception to state laws against violence on the premise that it will be regulated in a manner that protects the combatants physically and financially. In 1996, when it became clear that the individual states were not properly protecting boxers, congress enacted the Professional Boxing Safety Act. Four years later, that law was augmented by the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act. These two pieces of legislation, taken together, are commonly referred to as the “Ali Act.”

      As well-intentioned as it might be, the Ali Act suffers from glaring flaws. First, it accepts the present...

    • Agenda for the New York State Athletic Commission
      (pp. 165-167)

      The New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC) has made enormous progress with Ron Scott Stevens as chairman. It might now be the best commission in the country.

      With leadership comes responsibility. If the NYSAC is to remain in the forefront of boxing regulation and reform, here are a dozen things that will be required of it in the future:

      1.Conduct a serious study regarding the advisability of same-day weigh-ins and act upon it. Early weigh-ins began as a way of getting extra television coverage to hype fights. Now they’re the vehicle by which a fighter who can no longer make...

    • Bob Sheridan: The Voice of Boxing
      (pp. 168-171)

      Bob Sheridan was first behind the microphone for a fight in 1966. Since then, he has called more than 800 championship bouts and become an integral part of boxing’s historical soundtrack. From radio to broadcast television to closed-circuit to pay-per-view; been there, done that.

      Sheridan is the international voice of boxing. He’s the commentator for the foreign-rights feed on most major bouts held in the United States and also for many fights overseas that are transmitted by satellite to the U.S. He was at ringside when Muhammad Ali battled George Foreman in Zaire and Joe Frazier in Manila. He has...

    • Are There Fewer Good Trainers Than Before?
      (pp. 172-179)

      As sports and technology have evolved over the years, training and coaching have evolved with them. From videotape to computer analysis to sports medicine, the sources of improvement are endless. By way of example, some of the men who won gold medals in swimming at the 1960 Rome Olympics (where Cassius Clay won his gold medal) wouldn’t have qualified for the women’s finals at the 2004 Athens games.

      It’s now possible for a trainer to watch tapes of every major fighter and virtually every major fight of the past eighty years. A boxer’s movement can be broken down and freeze-framed...

    • A Note on Jim Lampley
      (pp. 180-182)

      Last summer, Jim Lampley began dating a woman named Candice Marie Sanders. Lampley is fifty-seven years old. Sanders (who reigned as Miss California in the 2003 Miss USA Pageant) was twenty-nine when they met.

      Sanders became omnipresent in Lampley’s life. A lot of Jim’s friends and co-workers had doubts about her, but he was in love. It was a tempestuous relationship. Shortly before Christmas, they got engaged. Then, on January 1, 2007, Sanders applied for and received a temporary restraining order, claiming that Lampley had assaulted her in a domestic dispute on New Year’s Eve.

      The order prohibited Lampley from...

    • If Boxing Ruled Baseball
      (pp. 183-184)

      For the past two years, in addition to his involvement with boxing, Lou DiBella has been president and managing partner of the Connecticut Defenders (a Double-A minor league baseball team). His goal is to someday be managing partner of the New York Mets.

      So, what would happen if the people who run boxing took over Major League Baseball? Here’s a sampling of what we could expect:

      Each state (plus Toronto and Washington, DC) would have its own commissioner, which would leave baseball with thirty teams and nineteen commissioners.

      Some state commissions would mandate the use of aluminum bats, while others...

    • My Eighty-One-Year-Old Mother Meets Don King
      (pp. 185-187)

      I have a great mother. She got married at nineteen, and I was a wedding-night baby. She isn’t young anymore, but she’s still young at heart.

      My mother is a loyal Democrat and a cut-throat bridge player. At eighty-one, she takes a weekly class in global politics at NYU. She’s inquisitive and likes life-broadening experiences. She thought it would be fun to meet Don King.

      “She’ll have a great time,” Lou DiBella told me. “Everyone I know who wants to meet Don King walks away loving him. He charmed my mother completely.”

      “Tell your mother to be careful,” Jay Larkin...

    • Hauserʹs Fourteen
      (pp. 188-189)

      In April 2001, I was in Las Vegas for the fight between Naseem Hamed and Marco Antonio Barrera. In the days before their encounter, the arena at the MGM Grand was taken over by Julia Roberts, George Clooney, and company, who were filming a remake ofOcean’s Eleven.

      The originalOcean’s Elevenstarred Frank Sinatra and involved a plot to rob a Las Vegas casino by causing a power blackout on New Year’s Eve. The 2001 remake contemplated a similar robbery during a heavyweight championship fight. On the last day of filming, Lennox Lewis and Wladimir Klitschko stood in ring...

    • Fistic Nuggets
      (pp. 190-194)

      Three years ago, I reported on Don Elbaum’s efforts to promote a series of fight cards in Nevada to be known as “Bordello Boxing.” Prostitution is legal in Nevada, and the plan was to promote monthly shows at an upscale brothel called Sherry’s Ranch.

      Things didn’t work out. Advertising was considered essential to the venture, and it’s illegal under Nevada law to advertise to induce people to come to a brothel.

      “It’s a shame, really,” Elbaum said afterward, acknowledging defeat. “Boxing and prostitution is a marriage made in heaven, or wherever. The greatest thing anyone ever said about boxing is...

    • Fistic Notes
      (pp. 195-207)

      In 1973, Elton John advised the world, “Saturday night’s alright for fighting; get a little action in.” Now Saturday is the only night on which mega-fights are held.

      It wasn’t always that way. For the first half of boxing’s history under the Marquis of Queensberry Rules, the live gate was the economic force that drove the sport. Big fights were held in major cities. Men (the crowds were overwhelmingly male) would leave work and go to the fight before going home. Thus, the biggest fights were virtually always on a weekday night. By way of example, John L. Sullivan versus...

    • More Important Than Boxing: 2007
      (pp. 208-212)

      We don’t stop being citizens when we enter the world of sports. With that in mind, once a year I use this space to address issues that are more important than boxing.

      Democracy should be practiced, not just celebrated. One of the most troubling aspects of George Bush’s tenure in office has been his assault on the judicial underpinnings of American democracy. Despite his rhetoric, Mr. Bush has dishonored the fundamental traditions of American justice. Anyone who isn’t outraged at what he has done isn’t paying attention.

      U.S. Attorneys who refuse to conduct criminal investigations in accord with political commands...

    • The Heavyweights Rate the Writers
      (pp. 213-214)

      It has become accepted sport in the boxing industry for writers to trash today’s heavyweights. With that in mind (and on the theory that turnabout is fair play), I asked some of the more-criticized heavyweights of recent years to evaluate today’s boxing writers. Their thoughts follow:

      Shannon Briggs: “Oh, man. I’m so glad you asked me that question. The writers are always writing that boxing is a dying sport, and they’re one of the reasons it’s dying. They’re always ragging the fighters and ragging the sport. A lot of them, especially on the Internet, don’t know two cents about boxing....

    • Tempest Storm
      (pp. 215-221)

      She’s seventy-nine years old now and lives in a one-bedroom apartment in East Las Vegas, the industrial part of town. Defying age, she has managed to remain both shapely and slender. She’s charming and disarming with an air of refinement and still has long fiery-red hair.

      It’s May 1, 2007, four days before Oscar De La Hoya versus Floyd Mayweather Jr. In another part of the city, high rollers are descending upon the casinos in anticipation of The Big Event. Power brokers are spreading their wings. There’s glitz everywhere.

      Trust me, the lady understands power and glitz. She was intimate...

    • If Thereʹs Free Food, Grab It
      (pp. 222-227)

      There’s a centuries-old proverb, “Whose bread I eat, his song I sing.”

      Howard Cosell used to declaim, “You can buy the writers for a ham sandwich.”

      “With some writers, it’s in their DNA,” says former Boxing Writers Association of America president Bernard Fernandez. “If it’s free, they have to eat it.”

      Put those thoughts together and you have what some think is Rule One for being a boxing writer: “If there’s free food, grab it.”

      “It’s not new,” says Bobby Goodman of Don King Productions (DKP). “The writers could always eat. In the old days, you used to hear, ‘Feed...

    • Ticket Scalping and Boxing
      (pp. 228-231)

      There’s a time-honored promotional tactic in the entertainment industry. Create a buzz that an event is where everyone wants to be; and suddenly, because of the buzz, everyone wants to be there.

      When Floyd Mayweather Jr. fought Ricky Hatton in Las Vegas on December 8, tickets for the fight had a face value of $1,000, $750, $600, $300, and $150. Golden Boy (which promoted the fight) announced prior to the public sale that there would be a limit of two tickets per customer. On September 17, it proudly proclaimed that tickets had sold out within thirty minutes of their being...

    • Larry Merchant and HBO
      (pp. 232-242)

      The recent contract negotiations between Larry Merchant and HBO offer insight into several facets of the relationship between boxing and the media.

      As virtually every boxing fan knows, Merchant’s previous contract with HBO expired on June 1, 2007. It was widely anticipated that, thereafter, his employment would be terminated by the network. But after much drama, he was offered and signed a new agreement that calls for him to remain with the cable giant until May 31, 2009. HBO has an option to extend his services through May 31, 2011.

      HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg declined a request to be...

  5. Back Matter
    (pp. 243-244)