Wednesday, February 20, 2008
The Big Show, but not Cotto?
By Dan Rafael
Your weekly random thoughts ...
• I haven't watched much pro wrestling since the mid-1980s -- yes, I actually attended Wrestlemania I at Madison Square Garden with my father -- but when I heard about the nonsense between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and 7-foot, 400-pound WWE star The Big Show at Sunday's pay-per-view event in Las Vegas, I tuned in to WWE's Monday Night RAW to catch the highlights as well as to see Mayweather again confront Show at a card in Anaheim. The Sunday footage of Mayweather hopping in the ring to help out wrestler Rey Mysterio and then opening up on Show's face with several punches and leaving him with a broken and bleeding nose was interesting, especially because Show was on his knees when it happened. Monday's follow-up confrontation was so obviously scripted it was sad. Mayweather might do a lot of things in his life, but winning an Academy Award won't be one of them. Anyway, the story line now heads to Wrestlemania 24 in Orlando, Fla., on March 30, when Mayweather is supposed to fight (I'm not sure under what kind of rules) Show. That's all well and good, but all I could think of as I watched the zaniness play out was this: If Mayweather is cool with fighting a mountain of a man like Show, why does he keep running from a man his own size, Miguel Cotto?
• I am excited for Saturday's Wladimir Klitschko-Sultan Ibragimov heavyweight unification fight, which is one of the most important fights of the year. It's not that I think the fight will be an enthralling slugfest or a fight of the year candidate. No, I am excited because it is the first concrete attempt at desperately needed heavyweight clarity since Lennox Lewis retired in early 2004 as the universally recognized heavyweight champion of the world. Since Double L walked away on top and left a gargantuan void in a sickly division, there have been, by my count, 33 heavyweight title bouts sanctioned by the four major organizations. Not one of them has been a unification match. Finally, Klitschko and Ibragimov, at a time when so few heavyweights are willing to take a risk, are doing just that. I greatly appreciate it and I hope all of you do as well.
• What a shame. Former junior featherweight champ Oscar Larios is coming out of retirement to fight in Mexico on Friday night in a bout that will be televised by Telemundo. For those who don't remember, Larios suffered a brain bleed during a one-sided 10th-round knockout loss to featherweight prodigy Jorge Linares seven months ago on the Bernard Hopkins-Winky Wright undercard in Las Vegas. Larios was placed on medical suspension by Nevada officials after the fight because of the serious injury. Brain bleeds are no joke and Nevada won't license anyone who has suffered a subdural hematoma, no matter how small. So Larios is moving on to fight in another country, where the rules are far more lax than in the U.S. It's an unfortunate situation similar to that of heavyweight Joe Mesi and junior lightweight titlist Edwin Valero, fighters who have suffered head injuries and continue to fight. I don't know what the right answer is, but I know that in Larios' case, he is far from the fighter he once was. The fact that he took enough punishment in his last fight to cause his brain to bleed sure doesn't help matters.
• Is there anyone in boxing busier than Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer these days? With all the deals he's working on, the man needs at least 48 hours in a day. He's been working on a number of high-profile fights all at the same time -- the April 19 Hopkins-Joe Calzaghe deal (which couldn't have been easy with Frank Warren involved), the May 3 fight between his boss, Oscar De La Hoya, and Steve Forbes and a May HBO PPV fight for Shane Mosley, who will likely face Zab Judah. And don't forget he's involved in the March 15 Juan Manuel Marquez-Manny Pacquiao rematch and he's looking for a comeback fight for Marco Antonio Barrera. That doesn't even include some of Golden Boy's smaller shows, such as a March 22 card on HBO.
• Who else is pumped for Andy Lee's ESPN2 debut against Brian Vera on March 21? Lee is about as close to a can't-miss prospect as there is in boxing.
• Now that Jermain Taylor is planning to move up to super middleweight in the wake of his second defeat to Kelly Pavlik, I'd like to see him fight either Mikkel Kessler or Jeff Lacy. I have a less interest in seeing him at 170 pounds against Roy Jones Jr., which is a fight that is being discussed.
• Maybe Pavlik just has Taylor's number? His second loss in a row to Pavlik reminded me a little of Mosley, who lost twice to Vernon Forrest and twice to Wright. But in both rematches, Mosley fought much better than in the first fight. Taylor did the same thing with Pavlik.
• When Jose Navarro lost his fourth shot at a junior bantamweight title to Cristian Mijares last week, my thoughts turned to Rocky Juarez. Navarro and Juarez were 2000 U.S. Olympic teammates and they have gone down similar paths as pros. Both are excellent fighters, but neither can get over the hump. Juarez is also 0-4 in title bouts, losing twice to Barrera and once to Marquez at junior lightweight and to Humberto Soto in an interim featherweight title bout. Will either ever win that elusive world title? It seems unlikely at this point but I hope they both get one eventually. They're both a credit to boxing and easy to root for.
• Anyone care to wager on the next time we'll see Las Vegas judge Doug Tucker scoring an important fight? I still can't get over how absolutely horrific his card was Saturday night on the Mijares-Navarro fight. While the two other judges had Mijares properly winning 117-111 and 115-113, Tucker scored it a 120-108 shutout for Navarro, who was bleeding badly and was busted up when it was over. To my recollection, it's the single worst scorecard turned in during my eight-plus years on the boxing beat. I don't know Tucker personally, but looking at the past fights he has scored, he's been a solid judge. Maybe this one was just an anomaly. Let's hope so. And let's hope he's more careful next time he holds a fighter's career in his hands.
• I was really impressed with what I saw from 20-year-old junior lightweight Mikey Garcia, who moved to 11-0 with a fifth-round TKO of Jorge Ruiz, on the Pavlik-Taylor II undercard. Ruiz had never been stopped in his nine previous fights and Garcia took him apart. I think Garcia, younger brother of former titleholder and current trainer Roberto Garcia, is a prospect who could move quickly.
• DVD pick of the week: It's not the most exciting fight ever, but in the spirit of the upcoming heavyweight unification match between Klitschko and Ibragimov it only made sense to dust off the last heavyweight unifier -- the Nov. 13, 1999 rematch between Lewis and Evander Holyfield. Eight months to the day after their first incredibly controversial fight, which was ruled a draw, robbing Lewis of becoming the undisputed champion, they met again in Las Vegas. This time, Lewis finally got official validation as the best heavyweight on the planet when he took a competitive but unanimous decision.