Late Breaking

IN NEED OF A LIFE

Good grief! We haven’t had any premier boxing on Showtime or HBO in over a month and now with the postponements and cancellations it appears that our next shot is going to be the Jermain Taylor-Kelly Pavlik confrontation on September 29. I’ve looked at all of my options for a suitable substitute and I’ve come to the conclusion that aside from boxing, I don’t have a life. At this point I don’t know how I’m going to continue to make excuses as to why I’m negligent in my household duties.

(It’s already beginning to affect my performance. I submitted a partial version of my Tuesday column about the Holt-Torres debacle and didn’t discover it until Tuesday evening. That’s a true story. If you read the abbreviated version early Tuesday, you might want to find out how it ends elsewhere on this page.)

The time between now and September 29 will be the hardest part to endure. At least up until last week we had Friday Night Fights every week on ESPN 2 and a couple of ShoBox shows to keep the tremors in check. But FNF is in hiatus until after football season and ShoBox returns on October 5.

Last Friday ShoBox presented an entertaining show featuring lightweights Antonio DeMarco and Nick Casal. This was a true throwback fight with Casal, desperately in need of a win, letting it all hang out but coming up short after 10 rounds, 97-93 (twice) and 96-94. Still the battling Casal, 16-2-1 (12), showed more promise in defeat than in fights in which he had won easily. The sharpshooting DeMarco, 16-1-1 (12), wisely used a six inch reach advantage and greater accuracy to his advantage and aggressively boxed well. Both men earned future TV opportunities with their effort.

FNF ended their season in grand style, with Zab Judah in the main event and Lamont Peterson in the co-feature. They also had Miguel Cotto and Shane Mosley as studio guests and did ringside interviews with Roy Jones Jr. and Anthony Peterson. Now that’s going out with a bang.

Judah, 34-5 (25), went the distance against journeyman Edwin Vasquez, 22-10 (8), winning by scores of 97-93, 98-93, and 100-90. It amounted to a good workout for Zab following his loss to Miguel Cotto but he looked sharp and he certainly wouldn’t be ranked #5 in at any other weight than 147.

I’m not going to deny being a Lamont Peterson fan. Hopefully he’ll step up the level of competition in 2008 and put himself in title contention at jr. welterweight. Lamont, 22-0 (10), put a whuppin’ on Frankie Santos, 15-5 (7), on ESPN 2. Peterson has all the tools – sharp, fast punches thrown in volume, good balance, technically sound, and a good defense. Santo elected to stay on his stool after being treated as if he was a human punching bag for six rounds.

Things being the way they are now, The Contender is beginning to look mighty good. This year the super middleweights take the spotlight on the 10 episode season that started on September 4. The first two episodes indicate a vast improvement over the first two seasons already.

The use of the Sparq system testing – speed, power, agility, reaction, and quickness – to measure athleticism was a high tech look at the future of big time sports and was used to select the first group of applicants selected. Individual sparring and the observations of this year’s new trainers, Pepe Correa and Buddy McGirt, two aces who represent a step up from previous seasons, rounded out the top 10 contestants.

Sugar Ray Leonard does an exceptional job as host/mentor. Ray is a natural for this job. He’s telegenic, charismatic, and best of all believable, which you certainly couldn’t say about Sly Stallone in season one.

The tournament’s grand prize has been increased to $750,000, to be awarded in the live finale in Boston on November 6. In a move that should please the hard core fans, we’re told that more of the fights will be shown this year instead of editing the action with creative photography.

In the first fight, shown on episode two, Jaidon Codrington stopped Brian Vera in two, making it difficult to determine just how much more boxing will be shown. But there was still the irritating background marching band music, some stop action, and some audio effects, such as when Vera got wobbled by a Codrington left hook and the background sound resembled the tinkling of glass cascading to the floor. Unedited versions of the fights are promised to be forthcoming on ESPN 2.

In addition to Vera and Codrington, the remaining fighters selected were Wayne Johnson, Max Alexander, Sam Soliman, Sakio Bika, Henry Buchanan, Paul Smith, Donny McCrary, and David Banks.

I was saddened but not shocked to hear that Henry “Sugarpoo’ Buchanan, “had a personal matter that didn’t allow him to participate,” according to Leonard. What is shocking is how Buchanan managed to get through the interviews, background checks, and psychological tests without being unmasked. Buchanan was replaced by Miguel Hernandez.

The Contender has continued to fine tune the god awful product that first appeared on NBC in season one and has evolved into a bona fide boxing/reality show that hardcore fans can appreciate as well as the reality buffs. So far, so good, for season three and that is good for the sport.

But still, there’s a problem when The Contender is the highlight of your week. Next week I may be forced to write an article about Britney Spears, politics, pro football picks, start a ring card girl contest, or worse, maybe culture. If you have any suggestions, send them to me at mswann4@aol.com. I return all emails. (By the way, I cancelled the 15 Rounds address months ago.)

The three fights that were cancelled or postponed, when you think about it, weren’t all that and a bag of chips. Two of the three were PPV and really not worthy of the investment under normal conditions. But it was boxing and we’re hungry for it so they might have been a greater success than they normally would be. Fernando Vargas and Ricardo Mayorga should be fighting under the Michael Vick promotional banner. But the Don King – Main Events promotional campaign leading up to the fight had sparked interest in this PPV turkey.

And speaking of turkey, the fight has been rescheduled for November 23, the #1 shopping day of the year on the #1 travel week of the year when it’s hard enough just to compete with football and late afternoon naps. In addition to those obstacles, it remains as a PPV event during a period of more big fights than we have seen in years. Fans will be as stuffed on boxing on November 23 as they are turkey. On September 8, boxing hungry fans might have bought anything to get their fix.

I was never that high on the Juan Manuel Marquez -Rocky Juarez fight as a PPV attraction. In the first place, Juarez was plucked off the undercard to fill in when Jorge Barrios had retinal eye surgery after Barrios got the call when Marco Antonio Barrera decided that he would rather get revenge from Manny Pacquiao than revenge from Marquez. That just seemed to be a formula for failure to me.

So Marquez got an infected cut on his right hand and now Marquez-Juarez will be on Showtime on November 3. Now it seems all right. The fight makes sense without the PPV tag. Who wanted to fork up $44.95 for a fight with your third choice in the main event? Bravo Showtime!

Robert Guerrero, the IBF featherweight titlist will defend his crown against Martin Honorio in the co-feature on that Showtime card. They were on the original Marquez PPV card, along with Steve Forbes and Panchito Bojado, who will fight on the Barrera-Pacquiao card. And Dan Rafael is reporting that Sergio Mora and Kassim Ouma, also displaced by the Marquez injury, may wind up on the October 16 card at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California, on the Alfonso Gomez-Ben Tackie card. According to Rafael, Mora-Ouma would air on ESPN Classic just before Gomez-Tackie on ESPN. The one thing that the Marquez-Juarez PPV had going for it was the undercard and now it appears that all have been reset.

Just this week it was announced that the Vitali Klitschko-Jameel McCline fight scheduled for September 22 had been cancelled as Klitschko underwent emergency surgery for a herniated disc. This is now the fifth consecutive fight that the comebacking Klitschko has pulled out of due to injury. The 36 year old Vitali last fought in 2004. At this point you have to be skeptical about his ring future. It was reported that Klitschko could resume training after 4-6 weeks of rehabilitation, but given his career health record and the problems associated with the aftermath of a serious back injury, his future looks iffy at best from here.

Meanwhile, let’s all try to hang on for September 29. The Taylor-Pavlik fight is an event in itself and kicks off the fall schedule that includes Barrera-Pacquiao, Peter-Maskaev, Diaz-Diaz, Calzaghe-Kessler, Ibragimov-Holyfield, Cotto-Mosley, Guzman-Soto, and Mayweather- Hatton.

They can’t possibly cancel them all. Can they?