Late Breaking

FALLING SHORT

You’ve been a highly acclaimed champion and you want yet another title. You spend weeks in training, honing your skills so that you can prove to the judges and the fans that you can do it. The nay sayers count you out, saying you can’t do it, motivating you to take it up a notch and work even harder. You want to accomplish what no other boxer has ever achieved. And then, on your big night you take center stage and come up just oh so short.

That’s right. Floyd Mayweather Jr. was eliminated from “Dancing with the Stars” on Tuesday night. His ballroom dancing career is over, his dreams of capturing the prized crystal trophy smashed.

Floyd and his partner, Karina Smirnoff, danced the Paso Doble, a ballroom dance patterned after a Spanish bull fight. Not being a connoisseur of any dancing personally, his performance seemed fine to me, although I confess that I cringed slightly at the big finish when Floyd took Karina’s leg and spun her around the floor somewhat awkwardly.

The Mayweather publicity machine sent out a series of press releases encouraging the folks at home to vote for the welterweight champion to keep him in the competition. The last time we saw this type of hype for votes was for Sanjaya on American Idol, for whatever reason that might have been. The only thing missing this time was a tear soaked 13 year old girl in the audience.

Floyd and Karina visited the Matt Kelly Elementary School that was shown in a clip in an effort to win the coveted under 10 vote. The children presented the pair with a banner of support, very well orchestrated, I might say.

But in the end Floyd as a dancer is a fine boxer. If his hands were coordinated with his feet, he would be the proud owner of two left hooks. Unlike Laila Ali, who finished third last year, this appeared to be a bit out of Floyd’s comfort zone. Ali was graceful and elegant, not to mention beautiful, and thanks to genetics had a built in popularity base.

On the other hand, Floyd deserves kudos for taking on such an ambitious project while preparing for his December 8 fight with Ricky Hatton, finding himself over his head, and being a good sport about it. He’s used to being a winner and defeat must be difficult to swallow. Although he was eliminated he was still a winner in the sense that the show couldn’t help but improve his public image.

When people think of Floyd, they envision the family feud, throwing an obscene amount of money in the air for strippers to dive for, and some outrageous remarks made at press conferences to hype fights. His portrayal on 24/7 only served to solidify that image. (Let’s hope that he doesn’t fall victim to that again for the Hatton fight.) But the perception of a champion boxer struggling to be competitive with the likes of Wayne Newton and Mark Cuban humanized him, and that’s a good thing. (By the way, at this stage of his life, I think that Wayne Newton, bad as he was, is a better dancer than singer.)

Bottom line, I’m not sure who made the suggestion that Floyd appear on the show, but it was a stroke of genius that may pay dividends. After being eliminated, dance partner Smirnoff said that she was happy to get a chance to know the real Floyd.

Not only that, but Floyd took every opportunity available to promote the Hatton fight on the highly rated network show, free advertising that may draw in some extra pay per view customers.

SPARE US THE LAST DANCE

Speaking of champions trying to gain new found glory, I must confess that despite my better judgment, I found myself drawn into the Holyfield sales job. His belief, or should I say delusion, in himself, the surgically repaired shoulder, and the beatable opponents cast some type of Satanic spell on me, and so, using my heart instead of my head, I picked Evander to upset WBO heavyweight belt holder Sultan Ibragimov.

If I had been more focused on simply the facts rather than the Evander spin, I might have realized that his performance alone should have been sufficient evidence. After returning from his mandated medical/administrative suspension for poor performance, Holyfield stopped two tomato cans, Jeremy Bates and Vinnie Maddalone, received a close decision nod against Fres Oquendo, 116-111 and 114-113 (twice), in a fight in which he was gassed at the end, and won a decision over Lou Savarese who, two weeks short of his 42nd birthday was dropped twice, but never put away.

Against Ibragimov in Moscow last Saturday, Holyfield, who will be 45 on Friday, was the text book example of an old fighter. He just didn’t get his punches off, and missed some that were there for him. Consequently he was defeated by scores of 118-110 and 117-111 (twice). His drive and dedication were a distant second best to Sultan’s hand speed and boxing skills.

Sultan was boring but effective. His trainer, Jeff Mayweather, told him in the late stages of the fight that, “he’s slow, but he’s still got some power to him,” an indicator of the respect that was being given to Holyfield.

It was a strange strategy in many respects. Ibragimov easily kept putting rounds in the bank without suffering any damage, yet he took no chances. You would think that he would have taken a shot at landing the big artillery on the older, slower Holyfield just to juice up the crowd that so clearly favored him. Yet Sultan fought on in his disciplined, methodical style that he used to take the title from Shannon Briggs.

It works like a charm but it’s like watching paint dry.

As for Holyfield, he says he’s coming back to try again, even though he has to “get back in line.” There’s no telling how long that will take because the public isn’t going to buy into this con as easily in the future. At 45, he’s not going to be able to take on three or four fights a year to build his resume, and at some point he’s going to be required to fight a true contender. And that may be dangerous for Evander and boxing.

In his second boxing life, the aging George Foreman gave a prime Evander Holyfield a better battle than Holyfield did against Ibragimov.
But George still had that big punch that was always a threat to end it early, and he had a remarkably good defense. The fighter that gave him the most trouble was Tommy Morrison, who was content to change his style to box and run.

Maybe Holyfield is waiting for that fool who will stand in front of him and take his Sunday best, as Michael Moorer did so conveniently for Foreman. But actually, the sad fact there is that Moorer used Foreman as a punching bag for nine rounds. Big George’s face looked like a bag of oranges. But he persevered and he took chances, and finally with Michael’s help, it paid off. Evander didn’t fight like that against Ibragimov. As determined and as hungry as he was for that title, Evander couldn’t seem to dig as deep as Foreman did against him at age 28, or in the Moorer fight.

It’s over. Move on, Evander, please. You’ll never get a better chance than you had in Moscow.

FINALLY

Maybe it was only my pay per view provider, but for $34.95, I take exception with the overall production. First of all, it was not telecast in HDTV. Secondly, watching the bouts on the supporting card was like mainlining tryptophan. But what really irked me was when Nick Charles, who broadcast the fight with Al Bernstein, was doing the post fight interviews, he managed to get Holyfield’s interview in, then it was a quick good-bye and it was time for “Springer: Naughty Nightmares.”

We missed the interview with the winner, Ibragimov, and post fight commentary. I’ve never seen a PPV showing end so abruptly. Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy. If they knew that there was a cut off time, they could have speeded up some of the earlier part of the telecast, rather than just cut it off at the end. Someone fell short there too.

And speaking of coming up short, Sergio Mora could be an expert. He turned down $1.4 million to fight then middleweight champion Jermain Taylor because, he claimed, the venue of Memphis was too close to Taylor’s home town. So, after a 14 month layoff, he finally got back into the ring in his home town against Elvin Ayala.

Mora received a split draw at home. The scores were 99-91 Mora, 96-94 Ayala, and 95-95.

Mora, now 19-0-1 (4), was rumored to be a candidate to challenge new middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik, and I suspect that he will now take his place in the back of that line with Holyfield.