Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Lee going in Wright direction
By Dan Rafael
Your weekly random thoughts ...
• You have to love the guts of Emanuel Steward, who trains and manages rising middleweight star Andy Lee (15-0, 12 KOs) of Ireland. He has as much faith in Lee as any young fighter he's ever been involved with. Steward has to be the only person ever to want one of his fighters to face Winky Wright, one of the best in the world, but a guy almost impossible to look good against and a guy whose only loss this decade was a competitive decision to light heavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins last summer. I was talking to Steward recently about upcoming fights involving two of his more accomplished boxers -- heavyweight titlist Wladimir Klitschko and welterweight beltholder Kermit Cintron -- when our discussion turned to Lee. We were talking about how good Lee looked during his fifth-round TKO of Alejandro Falliga a couple of weeks ago when Steward startled me by saying that after Lee faces Brian Vera on ESPN2 on March 21, he wants Wright. "I think he's the prefect fight for Andy. We have no fear," Steward said. OK, then. I doubt Wright would take that fight but it sure would be interesting if he did.
• As disappointing as a loss can be for the fighter, it can also drain a promoter. I actually feel bad for Dan Goossen, who has put a lot of time and effort into the career of Paul Williams. Goossen really believed he had something special in Williams and was extremely disappointed in his upset loss to Carlos Quintana on Saturday night. It was the second important fight that one of his boxers has lost in recent weeks. Heavyweight Eddie Chambers dropped a decision to Alexander Povetkin in Germany on Jan. 26 in a fight that earned the winner a title shot. When I spoke to Goossen on Monday morning, I felt a little like a bartender listening to a guy drowning his sorrows in a beer. "I feel like the Bills of the 1990s," Goossen told me. "Chambers and then Paul. You get so close. You're at the big dance and you just don't bring home the trophy. We had the powerhouse [Williams] going into the fight and instead of the six-loss Giants beating the Patriots, it was the 7-to-1 underdog Quintana beating Paul. It happens in sports. It was shocking."
• Williams' loss to Quintana was a major upset to be sure. But do you think maybe that awful Mohawk haircut Williams sported had anything to do with it? Seriously, I don't know why Williams and his people, namely Goossen and trainer/manager George Peterson, insist that Williams is staying at 147 pounds. Williams, who gained 17 pounds between the weigh-in and fight, was clearly sluggish and had very little snap on his punches. It's pretty obvious to most everyone but them that he needs to be at 154 pounds.
• Puerto Rico and welterweight champions seem to go together like Britney Spears and the psycho ward these days. Quintana's victory against Williams means that three of the four major welterweight belts are now worn by Puerto Rican fighters. He joins Miguel Cotto and Cintron (born in Puerto Rico but living in Pennsylvania) as a 147-pound titleholder. Not bad for an island with a population of just 3.95 million.
• Let me preface what I am about to write by saying I am an Andre Berto fan. I picked the exciting welterweight as ESPN.com's 2006 prospect of the year. I've been following him since he was an amateur. He's a personable and good guy with a great work ethic and tremendous potential. He's now 21-0 with 18 KOs. He's ranked No. 1 in the world in the WBC's rankings (ridiculous, but I'll save that rant for another day). He's been on HBO four times with more to come thanks to a contract with the network. But at this point, if HBO is going to put him on, he has to fight legitimate contenders. He's had his David Estrada and Michel Trabant learning fights. Fine. But after last week's destruction of Trabant, no more. No more showcases. It's time for promoter Lou DiBella, adviser Al Haymon and HBO to make fights that mean something.
• Boxing's latest family feud between junior welterweight contender Demetrius Hopkins and Bernard Hopkins, his uncle and light heavyweight champ, still has nothing on those crazy Mayweathers.
• As excited as I am for Saturday's Kelly Pavlik-Jermain Taylor rematch, I have to admit that it's just a hair less interesting because the fight is contracted at 166 pounds and not for Pavlik's middleweight world championship.
• Showtime's "ShoBox" series, which debuted in July 2001 and focuses on prospects, proved once again that it's a great place to see future world titleholders. Quintana's upset of Williams made him the 23rd fighter to box on the series before moving on to win a world title. Here's the list, in no particular order: Quintana, Williams, Ricky Hatton, Juan Diaz, Jeff Lacy, Cintron, Chad Dawson, Robert Guerrero, Diego Corrales (before he won his second title), Scott Harrison, Leonard Dorin, Ruslan Chagaev, Nonito Donaire, Luis Collazo, Joan Guzman, Pavlik, Paulie Malignaggi, Juan Urango, Joachim Alcine, Samuel Peter (interim title), Alex Arthur (interim title) and David Diaz and Eric Aiken, both of whom lost when they fought on "ShoBox." That's a great list. "ShoBox" has a clear mission statement and sticks to the program.
• When I heard last week that HBO had canceled "Inside the NFL" after 31 years, my first hope was that maybe some of the millions that the sports division spends each season on the show would be funneled toward the boxing budget.
• I thought cruiserweight titlist Steve Cunningham did a very good job in the studio last week on ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights." But you know what is sad? Cunningham's first national exposure came behind a desk in a (snazzy) suit instead of in a ring in a fight. But that's promoter Don King for you, who has never put Cunningham on one of his televised cards. Sure, I know it's hard to get HBO or Showtime to buy a cruiserweight fight (although Showtime now seems to be interested in the division, which is a good thing), but King has done plenty of pay-per-view cards where Cunningham would have fit in nicely.
• All hail the New York Giants! I'm still on cloud nine thanks to coach Tom Coughlin, MVP Eli Manning, Michael Strahan, Plaxico Burress, David Tyree (sick catch or what?) and the rest of the boys in blue. I'm a lifelong fan and still basking in the glory of their stunning upset of the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 42. So, speaking of gargantuan upsets ...
• DVD pick of the week: Sure, I've seen it a million times and, if you're reading this, it means you probably have too, but does it ever get old? Does it ever get old seeing James "Buster" Douglas author one of the greatest upsets in sports history when he did the unthinkable -- score a 10th-round knockout of the supposedly invincible Mike Tyson in Tokyo? It was Feb. 11, 1990, incredibly 18 years ago this week and appropriate to pop in after what the G-Men did to New England.