- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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Your weekly random thoughts ...
• As has been the case for the past few Olympics, boxing in Beijing won't be featured on NBC other than televising some of the gold medal matches on the final weekend. However, my TV will be tuned for the next three weeks to CNBC, which will carry about three hours of boxing coverage per day throughout the tournament. There is more boxing scheduled to air during this Olympics than ever before. If you want it, it's there for you. CNBC will air every bout involving an American and many hours of live action. Boy, are both of my DVRs going to get a workout.
Having seen most of our Olympic team members fight on TV at either the Olympic trials, USA Boxing Olympic Invitational, the world championships or Pan-American Games, I think we have a talented team. In 2004, only two boxers brought home medals from Athens: Andre Ward won gold, and Andre Dirrell received a bronze. I think the U.S. will have a better tournament in Beijing even though the U.S. failed to qualify boxers in the light heavyweight and super heavyweight divisions, leaving Team USA with just nine fighters.
Here are my best guesses as to who may bring home the hardware: Luis Yanez (106 pounds), despite his well-documented personal problems that almost cost him his Olympic berth; Rau'shee Warren (112), a reigning world amateur champion who also competed in Athens and is the first American fighter to qualify for consecutive Olympics in 30 years; Gary Russell Jr. (119 pounds); Demetrius Andrade (152), also a reigning world amateur champion and the fighter who perhaps is Team USA's best pro prospect; and Deontay Wilder (201).
• Don't you just love the junior bantamweight division? It's not the highest-profile weight class, and because the fighters are only 115 pounds, it never will be. But we are in a junior bantamweight golden age. Now that the exciting Vic Darchinyan grabbed a title with a dominant, knockout performance against Dimitri Kirilov last week, his presence near the top of the division adds another significant fighter to the mix. With just a little effort on behalf of the promoters and some support from HBO or Showtime, we could see a series of tremendous fights. Here's my dream scenario: Unified titleholder Cristian Mijares should face beltholder Fernando Montiel, in a fight that has been discussed. Flyweight titleholder Nonito Donaire, who is considering a move up in weight and who already owns a huge knockout win against Darchinyan, should face exciting and charismatic Jorge Arce. Top Rank already has that fight on the drawing board. The Donaire-Arce winner should face Darchinyan. Both possible matches are very interesting. A Donaire-Darchinyan rematch is an intriguing fight with a built-in story line. Darchinyan-Arce is a fight people were clamoring for last year before Arce was outpointed by Mijares and Darchinyan was starched by Donaire. But now that both guys are back on track, it's still a fight I want to see. The guy who emerges from the Donaire-Arce-Darchinyan trio should fight the winner of Mijares-Montiel. The fighter who ultimately emerged from that series of fights would not only be THE MAN at junior bantamweight, he would also be in the conversation about the best 115-pounders of all time.
• Aside from showing poor judgment by having a slew of extramarital affairs, new New York Gov. David Patterson also showed poor judgment by recently ousting Ron Scott Stevens as chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission. Nothing against Melvina Lathan, the commission member and longtime boxing judge appointed to replace Stevens, but Stevens showed tremendous leadership in overseeing boxing in New York, one of the nation's most important boxing states, for the past five years. He did a great job of restoring order to New York boxing after some tough times. Stevens is a real boxing guy, not like some of the political hacks who preceded him. He understands every element of the sport. He has been a promoter, a matchmaker, a ring announcer, a broadcaster, you name it. Speaking from personal experience, Stevens has a wonderful temperament to deal with the varying personalities of the people in the industry. I thought he did an outstanding job of being open and honest with the media when he was called upon for answers, unlike so many other public servants. Stevens got the boot for no apparent reason, unless you count the fact that he would not openly support the sanctioning of mixed martial arts in New York, where it is outlawed but faces serious lobbying pressure from UFC officials. Stevens, who is still on the commission with a term that expires Dec. 31, was eminently qualified to lead the New York commission and had proven his worth. There hadn't been a hint of scandal or impropriety under his watch and there were more shows in the state than there had been in years. Patterson should be ashamed of himself, and not just for sleeping around.
• You know how we were all counting the days until the Antonio Margarito-Miguel Cotto fight last month? That was because we were all stoked for the fight. Here's the anti-Margarito-Cotto countdown: Only 24 days until the long-awaited (not) rematch between Nikolai Valuev and John Ruiz. Don't shoot the messenger.
• As much as it drives me crazy when HBO and Showtime boxing telecasts compete against each other, I've pretty much accepted it. I realize that each network wants to damage its rival as much as possible and will do what it thinks is best for itself regardless of the fans. That said, I was pleased last week when Showtime's card featuring Dirrell's bloody TKO of Mike Paschall followed by Darchinyan's dominant knockout of Kirilov ended before the start of HBO's live fight featuring Joshua Clottey beating Zab Judah. Showtime's bouts only overlapped HBO's rerun of Margarito's TKO of Cotto. Since I was ringside at that fight and then watched it a half-dozen times on my DVR when I got home, I had no problem missing the replay. The timing of the two broadcasts couldn't have worked out better, even if I wish they would stop going against each other.
• LeBron James has convinced me: I, too, would strongly consider writing overseas if I was offered a salary of around $50 million a year.
• Missing: Winky Wright.
• DVD pick of the week: It is one of the nearly forgotten, classic action fights of the past decade, but I still remember it well. On Aug. 4, 2001, HBO showed the tremendous first battle between Paulie Ayala and Bones Adams. Ayala was a bantamweight titleholder and Adams a junior featherweight titlist when they opted to face each other in a junior featherweight showdown instead of taking pointless mandatories. Both were ultimately stripped of their titles for fighting each other, but who cared? They waged a fantastic slugfest, one Ayala won via controversial split decision. How good was the fight? So good that six months later they had an excellent rematch, which Ayala again won on points, but this time without controversy.