Boxing: madison square garden

Pacquiao fight at MSG gaining steam?

March, 18, 2014
3/18/14
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Manny PacquiaoNicky Loh/Getty ImagesNew York fight fans would stand and cheer for a Pacquiao fight at MSG.
Manny at MSG.

Has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?

Can you picture it?

Can you conjure the earlobe-wobbling decibel level that would be achieved if Pacquiao did his thing in NYC -- if the Manny-iacs jammed the Garden to the rafters, and made the Knicks pennants flap with the force of the sound waves?

That notion has heretofore merely been a pipe dream for folks like myself with decidedly selfish interests, New York residents who believe there is nothing quite like an NYC arena packed to the gills with hyperactive boxing fans, screaming their lungs into their cups for their preferred pugilist.

Manny indicated he was enamored of the atmosphere at a big Garden fight, like when Cotto fought Antonio Margarito there. He would love to fight at the Garden if it could be worked out.

-- Top Rank's Carl Moretti
I've asked Pacman's promoter, Brooklyn-born Bob Arum of Las Vegas-based Top Rank, and his responses over the years have ranged from wistful to dismissive.

Mostly, the primary impediment of late has been the tax situation. Onerous rates imposed by the state, as compared to states which do not collect income tax, have made a Pacquiao fight in N.Y. a no-go concept.

But the boxer himself has warmed up to the idea, I am told.

Carl Moretti, a New Jersey resident who is a VP at Top Rank, told me he was talking a couple days ago to Pacman at the Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles, where Pacquiao is holding court with trainer Freddie Roach in anticipation of an April 12 scrap. That bout is a rematch, running on HBO pay-per-view, between Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley, the California-based boxer who is coming off a career-best win over Pacman rival Juan Manuel Marquez on Oct. 12, 2013.

"It came up at the gym about Miguel Cotto fighting at the Garden June 7 against Sergio Martinez, because Freddie Roach is training Cotto for the fight," Moretti told me. "And Manny indicated he was enamored of the atmosphere at a big Garden fight, like when Cotto fought Antonio Margarito there [on Dec. 3, 2011]. He would love to fight at the Garden if it could be worked out."

But what about that T-word, Carl?

"The tax thing, I think, could maybe be worked out if you went over it with a fine-tooth comb," he replied. "What you lose on taxes, you might pick up in value you cannot measure exactly, in exposure and marketing."

So chew on that, area fight fans. That would be a great get, Pacman at MSG. Sounds to me like it is more of a possibility than it ever has been.

Thoughts on the Abdusalamov tragedy

November, 22, 2013
11/22/13
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Mike Perez, Magomed AbdusalamovAl Bello/Getty ImagesMagomed Abdusalamov is lying in an induced coma from injuries suffered in his bout with Mike Perez.
If it bleeds, it leads.

That old adage holds true in the news biz today, just as it always has. Blood, carnage, horror -- these are ingredients for news, and stories featuring those elements are reliable eyeball magnets. Always have been, always will be. It is the way we are built.

We are fascinated, horrified and compelled to pay attention when the news is bad.

The reasons are both simple and complex. Bad news typically equals drama, as the principals involved usually have to answer difficult questions or tests bestowed upon them by fate. Because of that, our innate curiosity kicks in. How will they react, we wonder? And how would we react in the same situation? Soaking in bad or distressing news can also serve to buffer our ego -- better them than me, we may subconsciously mutter. My life isn’t so bad in comparison, we might infer.

The sport of boxing frequently finds itself inserted into the "if it bleeds, it leads" axiom. Over the past three weeks, the sport has experienced an uptick in prominent coverage from news outlets, and not because warm and fuzzy Hallmark moments came to the attention of news gatherers. No. One New York tabloid featured boxers on the cover of its Nov. 10 edition, because one of those featured in the front-page photo was lying in a coma in an NYC hospital after sustaining injuries during a Nov. 2 contest at MSG Theater.

The fallen fighter is Magomed Abdusalamov. The 32-year-old Russian-born boxer is in a bed at NYC's Roosevelt Hospital and on Thursday began breathing on his own, was taken off breathing support, was brought out of his induced coma, but not long after, was placed back into a coma by docs.

During such times, reporters cover the event and the aftermath and then opine. People involved in the event seek to comprehend the sad reality, process it and make some amends with it. That can be hard, depending on what sort of conscience you have.

To be involved in this sport -- and I don’t call it a game, I can’t, not when the ultimate price to be paid for participation can easily be death or severe disability -- one most engage in at least a certain amount of rationalization. The fighters know what they are getting into, we tell ourselves. Crossing the street can be a fatal act, we note. Life is short, and some choose risky endeavors because they want to maximize their existences during their span on this plane, we declare.

All these rationalizations pass the sniff test for authenticity, I believe, but that doesn’t mean we, the people who make a living off the sport, this oft savage science, shouldn’t continue to examine events like the Mago incident, labor mightily to process them and move on with increased knowledge and the expectation of preventing such a tragedy from occurring again.

Days and weeks following such an event, time and effort is spent by some involved to minimize their culpability, legally, morally, and this case is no different. But all in all, I feel like maybe the most fair reading of those campaigns is this: Magomed Abdusalamov was fighting Mike Perez at Madison Square Garden for every minute of all 10 rounds of his fight and in fact winged a hard left hand that just missed with three seconds remaining in the fight, and none of those involved had the benefit of a peek into the future. Knowing what we know now, different decisions would have been made. But that isn’t the way this deal works. People mostly do the best they can with the instruments and understanding they possess at that moment. By and large, I believe that all involved in the Mago situation did the best they could with the instruments and understanding they possessed at that time.

Mikey Garcia: Great fighter, impressive man

November, 12, 2013
11/12/13
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Mikey GarciaTom Pennington/Getty ImagesHow does Mikey Garcia celebrate a big win? It's probably not how you'd expect.
I'm a sucker for the humble warriors -- people who you know could care for your toddler in an emergency. Promoter Bob Arum has a couple of those types. One of them, Manny Pacquiao, fights Nov. 23 in Macau. Another one, Mikey Garcia, won in Texas on Saturday, stopping Rocky Martinez 56 seconds into the eighth round to take the WBO junior lightweight crown.

Arum said he's impressed with both Garcia the fighter, and Garcia the citizen, as a guy who never gets involved in drama, or stoops to toxic trash talk to sell his fights. The 33-0 (28 KOs) fighter is disciplined in the ring, calmly assessing the situation and rarely leaving himself open to being countered. That mindset fits his choice to attend and graduate from California's Ventura County Police and Sheriff's Reserve Officer Academy in January 2010.

"After his boxing days are over, Mikey will excel as a law enforcement officer as he has as a boxer," Arum said. "He will handle himself with the grace and decency he has always shown."

OK, he's a promoter, so maybe you think he's too predisposed to give a positive assessment. I'll give you insight into the sort of guy Garcia is.

After he downed Martinez, Garcia was thrown after-party offers. What did he do -- hit a club, snag some bottles and blow off steam? Nope. "I went to Whataburger, had a burger and went to sleep," he said in a Monday phoner.

Garcia has creeped up peoples' pound-for-pound lists. And in fact, one writer posted a column Monday afternoon in which he posited that Garcia has looked as good as Floyd Mayweather did at the same stage of Mayweather's career. I clued Garcia into that quote, and he reacted with humble gratitude. "That's really big, to be considered with a guy like Floyd," he said. "But I gotta keep proving myself."

Garcia showed his worth in New York on Jan. 19 when he beat Orlando Salido (TD8) at the Theater at MSG. Area fight fans would be more than pleased to get him back in the area for another look. Garcia said one name he's heard is Yuriorkis Gamboa. Garcia said he'd happily jump to 135 from 130 for that rumble. WBA junior lightweight champ Argenis Mendez is another possibility. "That's a very good, close fight," he said. "He is skilled, fast, doesn't give a lot of openings, while Gamboa does present more openings."

Having a varied array of personalities to cover in the sport is a fine thing, from a writer's perspective. The trash talkers, the Broners of the world, are always good for some sensational actions that stir the pot. But in the grand scheme of things, as a global citizen, as someone who, like all of us, looks for touchstones of sanity and decency in a too-frequently unstable and fearsome world, it's good to have Mikey Garcias to look up to and admire.

Abdusalamov still fighting in NYC hospital

November, 6, 2013
11/06/13
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Manager Boris Grinberg said he is seeing signs of improvement in Magomed Abdusalamov, the Russian boxer who is in an induced coma and on life support at Roosevelt Hospital in New York City following his Saturday bout against Mike Perez at the Theater at Madison Square Garden.

"I am proud of American medicine," Grinberg told me on the phone. "I know you have the Obamacare thing going on but I am proud."

He said that he was quite nervous as the 32-year-old Abdusalamov underwent brain surgery to remove a blood clot Sunday around 3 a.m. The surgery took 2 1/2 hours, Grinberg said, and he was told by doctors that the next 24-48 hours after that would be crucial for the fighter, for his survival prospects. By 9 p.m. Sunday, Grinberg said, doctors informed him that they saw some improvement in Abdusalamov.

The manager said his son rushed Abdusalamov to the hospital in a cab, and then convinced personnel that the 6-foot-3, 231 pound boxer needed to be seen immediately. He seemed cautiously optimistic that Abdusalamov, who entered the Perez fight unbeaten at 18-0, would mend. Grinberg noted that Abdusalamov's left eye, which was cut during the fight and received stitching after the bout in the dressing room, is healing.

"I am happy he survived," Grinberg told me. "There is improvement. His eye is almost healed, that tells me his body is working."

NOTE: Those wishing to donate, to help defray costs, can send a check to Abdusalamov's wife:

Bakanay Abdusalamov
PO BOX 90174
Brooklyn, NY 11209

Sergio vs. Cotto in April at MSG?

October, 30, 2013
10/30/13
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Could we see Sergio Martinez, the Argentina-born hitter who holds the WBC middleweight crown, fight his next scrap in Madison Square Garden against Puerto Rican superstar Miguel Cotto?

We will if the suits at MSG get their way.

On Wednesday, during a media presser to hype the Saturday card at MSG -- which is topped by a Gennady Golovkin WBA middleweight title defense against Curtis Stevens -- MSG executive Joel Fisher checked in and said hello to Martinez’s adviser, Sampson Lewkowicz. Lewkowicz handles a heavyweight, Magomed Abdusalamov (18-0 with 18 KOs), who tussles on the Saturday undercard, against Mike Perez (19-0 with 12 KOs).

It would be great to have the 51-2-2 Sergio fighting Cotto, 33, in a sold out Madison Square Garden, Fisher told Lewkowiz. Sampson nodded, yes, it would, but noted that Sergio is a wanted man. He drew 50,000 fans at a stadium in Argentina in his last outing, a 12-round unanimous decision win over Martin Murray on April 27. That’s great, Fischer answered, but there’s nothing like the vibe that is summoned when about 20,000 fight fans roar in MSG. Lewkowicz nodded in agreement.

Martinez, who turns 39 years old in February, beat Matthew Macklin in The Theater in March 2012. And Cotto (38-4), of course, sees MSG as a home base. He is 9-1 in MSG.

Lewkowicz told me in the best-case scenario, he’d like Martinez, getting back to full strength after suffering some injuries in the Murray bout, fighting in April, against Cotto. But Cotto has other suitors; promoter Golden Boy would like to snag him and pair him with Mexican heartthrob Canelo Alvarez, and that would mean Martinez would settle on a Plan B. Plan B would take place on June 7, when HBO has a date.

“There are two or three possibilities,” said Lewkowicz, who will be huddling and burning up the phone with Martinez' promoter, Lou DiBella, to nail down particulars, fairly soon.

Ring-card girl rumble (the winners)

October, 23, 2013
10/23/13
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The lady who might be the biggest boxing fan of the bunch, alas, missed the cut Tuesday at Mendez Boxing Gym in NYC. Model Jasmina Dzurlic tells me that she's a tremendous Canelo Alvarez fan, and has worked out at a boxing gym in the Bronx for six years. Like any credible competitor, the loss doesn't dampen her fire. "I'm a little bit disappointed, but there's always another chance," she says after learning that three other gals will be informing fans at the MSG Theater on Nov. 2 what round is forthcoming.

[+] EnlargeRing Girls
Angela Cranford/ MSG PhotosThere really were no losers at the Mendez Boxing Gym on East 26th Street.
Top three-er Alexis Lilly tells me that she digs boxing, and in fact, her mom boxed as an amateur in Kentucky. The fave fighter for the Kentucky transplant who lives in NYC? "Mike Tyson," she tells me. "My dad replays his fights."

Winner Vanessa Ratnavich also describes herself as a fight fan. Her main man is Manny Pacquiao, the Congressman from the Philippines who next gloves up on Nov. 23, in Macau, against Brandon Rios. "I'm half Filipino and half Thai," she informs me. Her experience -- she's been a ring card girl at MSG twice -- seemed to have paid off. I queried her on the presence of card girls during fights. Why did she think they have a role at events? "The majority of the fans have been men, and sex sells," she said. Give her an extra point for candor.

My favorite of the three prizewinners, if I may be candid, was Tarale Wulff. Not for her aesthetics, but for her world view. For one thing, she proudly parted with her age, 37, though she's in an industry which doesn't typically prize the presence of a longer CV. Wulf has done this before, she tells me; her first card gig came about 15 years ago, at Cipriani's. The Long Island native, who resides in Bed-Stuy, said it "would be cool if guys held up the cards too" but noted that usually two men are doing the fighting. She said she's proud that she and the other two won't be strutting in bikinis on Nov. 2, but will be clad in "tasteful, sexy dresses."

The experience allowed me the setting to answer a question that has long nagged me. Do the fighters ever get distracted during a fight by a sultry strutter? I asked fellow judge John Duddy. Did he ever get distracted during his in-the-ring career? "No, never," he answered, with the sort of certainty only an Irish accent can muster. "I never took boxing for granted. I only reacted to things, like the audience, after the fight."

Word is this might be an annual event. I liked Duddy's suggestion for a possible added judging component for next time. "The ladies can put a glove on, and punch me, and we can see who punches the hardest," Duddy said.

Better he than me!

Ring-card girl rumble (the competition)

October, 23, 2013
10/23/13
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The ladies vying for the three slots as ring card girls at the Nov. 2 Madison Square Garden Theater promotion topped by a Gennady Golovkin middleweight title defense against Curtis Stevens seem to be amped up, but contain any hints of nerves well. Nobody is trash-talking a rival. These ladies, all working under the Wilhelmina umbrella, seem to be on decent terms as they audition at the Mendez Boxing gym in Chelsea on Tuesday afternoon.

[+] EnlargeRing Girls
Angela Cranford/ MSG PhotosSo, do fighters ever get distracted by the ring-card girls?
I shoot the breeze with former middleweight contender John Duddy, a fellow judge along with Nicole Young of PIX 11, while preparations for the contest are underway. The MSG publicity aces are putting out ballots and explaining to the 10 models what the audition will entail.

John's wife of four years, Grainne Duddy, has tagged along to check out the proceedings. I ask her why she's here, seeking to delve, maybe, into an issue that sometimes pops up in my head: is the presence of these card "girls" during a boxing match necessary, or merely an anachronistic exercise in overt objectification? "I've never been to an event like this," she tells me. "I'm a big fan of "America's Top Model." Basically, I'm just curious."

Grainne points out her favorite to take top honors, based on a quick assessment. I hold off making mental picks, waiting to see the ladies on the stage, in the ring, and see how they handle wildcards like walking on high heels on a cushy surface.

Each gal gets a turn with a card, and she struts about the ring as a dozen photogs snap away. Some appear to have a better handle on the gig than others, though nobody drops the ball with a mistake like holding the round card upside down.

My heart is pounding a bit, with the pressure on, with the knowledge that my tallies, along with those of Duddy and Young, will result in three joyous reactions, and seven doses of disappointment.

The scores are tallied, and all breaths are bated as we await the announcement of the winners. Who are the lucky and talented three? Alexis Lilly, Taralee Wulf and Vanessa Ratnavich get the gig, and all the contestants whoop and holler for their good fortune.

Check back for reactions from the winners, please.

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Ring-card girl rumble (the setup)

October, 22, 2013
10/22/13
11:00
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Ring GirlsAngela Cranford/ MSG PhotosTen contestants were vying for three spots as ring card girls for a Nov. 2 event at the MSG Theater.
The 10 hopefuls milled about in the gym, eyeing each other, with different contestants acting in different ways as they awaited the competition. The thump-thump-thump of people pounding the heavy bags at the Mendez Boxing Gym on East 26th Street became white noise after a short spell, with the hopefuls ignoring the periodic rise in decibel levels as they pondered the prize that could soon be theirs.

One after another, they checked themselves in the mirrors, checked out limbs, assessed their game faces.

One of them peered into the mirror, lips pursed, brow furrowed. A tweak was needed and out came a tube ... of lipstick. Contestant No. 5 applied a coat, checked herself in the mirror, decided she was ready to rumble, and gave herself over to the process.

The prize being sought at the gym on Tuesday afternoon wasn't the typical sort yearned for by typical attendees at the facility. No gaudy belts or Golden Gloves berths were the bounty for the taking. No, on this Tuesday 10 women, all models at the famed Wilhelmina Models agency, were vying for three spots as ring card girls for a Nov. 2 event at the Madison Square Garden Theater. That promotion, put forth by K2, and Main Events, portions of which will run on HBO, will be topped by the Kazakh slugger with the baby face and the severely destructive fists, Gennady Golovkin (27-0 with 24 KOs). Power, loads of it, is what the 31-year-old WBO middleweight champ brings to the table, and to foes' faces. Curtis Stevens (25-3 with 18 KOs), of Brownsville, Brooklyn believes that his own power, not to be scoffed at, will carry the day at MSG. Other attributes, though, were what was to set three ladies apart from the seven also-rans in the contest.

Former middleweight contender John Duddy, a fan favorite at MSG, who took a 9-0 record at the fabled building with him into ring retirement in 2010, and PIX 11 fashion forecaster Nicole Young were the other eagle eyes, along with yours truly, taking pen to ballot and narrowing down the pack to the lucky three.

Duddy's advice -- "We should look for the 'whys,' not the 'why nots,'" -- I found appealingly optimistic from the Irishman, who told me he's happily transitioned from the ring to the stage, as an actor, rang in my head as the 10 hopefuls climbed into the ring and waited for the first bell to ring for their audition.

Check back tomorrow for part two, to learn the identities of the lucky three, and to get the answer to a question that has nagged me for ages: Do boxers ever get distracted by the ring card girls during their bouts?

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Miguel Cotto demolishes Delvin Rodriguez

October, 6, 2013
10/06/13
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Cynics -- and I dare say that is most of the folks who have been covering boxing for any length of time -- took it with two grains of salt when Miguel Cotto and new trainer Freddie Roach both said that they were working on bringing back the "old" Cotto, a left hook-happy hitter who sought and got KOs.

Darned if the trainer and boxer weren't on message, and Cotto, who turns 33 on Oct. 29, on Saturday night looked like a 10-years-younger version of himself who hadn't absorbed back-to-back losses to Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Austin Trout.

SportsNation

Who would you most want to see Miguel Cotto face in his next fight?

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    57%
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    14%
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    24%
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    5%

Discuss (Total votes: 14,095)

Granted, Cotto (38-4) took on just a solid journeyman in Delvin Rodriguez (28-7-3) at the Amway Center in Orlando, Fla. But he made Rodriguez look like a C-grade boxer as he imposed his will and skills, and a rib-battering left hook on the Connecticut-based brawler. In Round 3, two left hooks and a right sent Rodriguez to the mat, and the ref didn't even need to count, calling for a TKO.

The Puerto Rican boxer's stock jumped considerably, and social media buzz on whom he might face next percolated quickly. Maybe a jump to 160, from 154, to fight middleweight champion Sergio Martinez, in favorite old stomping ground Madison Square Garden next spring? Maybe a P.R.-versus-Mexico rumble against Canelo Alvarez, who looked worse against Mayweather on Sept. 14 than Cotto did when he met "Money" in May 2012?

So I'll throw the question to you, readers: Whom do you want to see Cotto fight next?

Golovkin: Stevens has a 'big mouth'

October, 3, 2013
10/03/13
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When informed of Curtis Stevens' brash talk about what the Brooklyn-hitter is aiming to do to him on Nov. 2 at Madison Square Garden's Theater, Gennady Golovkin reacted in the same manner in which he fights: with a measured but aggressive tone.

When told Stevens sought to "decapitate" him, the 31-year-old Golovkin, in a phone interview from California, where he's in camp with trainer Abel Sanchez, said, "Yeah, he has a big mouth, and every time he does a lot of talking. I think he's a little scared of me. He's scared."

You can see for yourself how this plays out, as the fight will run on HBO.

The 28-year-old Stevens (25-3 with 18 KOs) didn't diss Golovkin (27-0 with 24 KOs) wholesale during a Wednesday media chat, acknowledging some strengths in the Kazakh. But he did label him a "hype job." The WBA middleweight champion Golovkin didn't deride Steven's skills on Thursday, to me at least. He heard that Stevens has been working on his agility and mobility. That's well and good, Golovkin said, but he expects Nov. 2 to turn into the sort of fight he craves: "a street fight."

For Golovkin, a man who seems to maintain a resting pulse rate even when he's in finishing mode in the ring, this constitutes trash talk.

Bill de Blasio talks boxing, MMA

September, 9, 2013
9/09/13
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Tuesday is an election day in New York City, as voters can cast a ballot in the party primaries.

For the big seat, the Mayor's chair, Brooklyn resident Bill de Blasio is ahead in the polls. Voters consider different criteria, of course, but I thought some of you, like me, might like to know what the man who could well be the head of NYC's executive branch, the 109th mayor of the Big Apple, thinks about boxing.

So, I cornered the 52-year-old de Blasio on Saturday afternoon and queried the man as he attempted to entice voters near the entrance to J.J. Byrne Playground on Fifth Ave. in Park Slope.

Does he like boxing, I wondered?

"In truth, it's not my sport," de Blasio said. "I'm big into baseball, big into football. Boxing's not my thing, honestly." De Blasio, who grew up in Cambridge, Mass., is a Red Sox rooter, it turns out.

What about, say, Muhammad Ali? Watch him growing up?

"I appreciate Ali as a historical figure, a hundred percent, I appreciate what he achieved, and I respect it, but it's just not my sport," he said.

I informed de Blasio about the burgeoning fistic scene we have going on in New York, what with regular fight cards being held at Barclays Center and at Madison Square Garden. Could we see a Mayor de Blasio attending a card, maybe to see Manhattan's Peter Quillin, the WBO middleweight champion, if he were to headline at Barclays?

"It's just not my thing, I'm happy to see the Barclays Center doing well, in general, but it just isn't the thing I put my time into," he said.

What about mixed martial arts? Would de Blasio support the New York State Assembly voting to make professional MMA legal, paving the way for UFC to promote events in the city? Yea or nay on that?

"I'm nay on that, honestly, for a variety of reasons I don't think we need that in New York," he said.

I pressed for the primary reason.

"I think there's symbolism in terms of violence and certainly some allegations of other types of things, messages sent that I think is unhelpful, wouldn't be the thing that I want to see," he said, in closing, as an aide requested I wrap things up.

So there you go ... If being pro-pugilism and MMA is your litmus test for a mayor, you will not be pulling the lever for de Blasio. But you gotta give the man credit for not pandering.

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White, Rousey take aim at Speaker Silver

July, 31, 2013
7/31/13
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Ronda Rousey has proven herself to be more than a manufactured creation, put forth to exploit her pleasing aesthetic package, if one judges by the trail of mangled arms she's left in her wake over the course of seven professional mixed martial arts contests.

The UFC women's bantamweight champion was in New York on Wednesday afternoon at the Beacon Theater with some of the brightest talents in the organization, and she overshadowed the skilled practitioners there, such as Ithaca's Jon Jones and Canadian ace Georges St-Pierre, if one judges by the clamor of fan attention.

The event was open to the public and meant to hype the UFC's upcoming slate of cards, which includes UFC 165 (Sept. 21 in Toronto), pitting light heavyweight champ Jones against challenger Alexander Gustafsson.

UFC president Dana White and the fighters taking part answered queries from the media and then fans. The dais included: Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos, who clash at UFC 166 on Oct. 19 (in Houston); GSP and Johny Hendricks (who meet at UFC 167 Nov. 16 in Vegas; and Rousey and Miesha Tate, who tangle in a rematch at UFC 168 in Vegas on Dec. 28). Once the Q&A finished, a large portion of the several hundred fans surged toward Rousey and begged her to sign shirts, pictures and the like.

Rousey, a 26-year-old California resident with a 7-0 record, showed a level of directness and straightforward combativeness that has served her well in the Octagon, as she took the baton from White regarding the issue of the inability of professional mixed martial arts to be made lawful in New York State. The sport was banned in NY in 1997 following a spate of negative publicity, which attracted political opposition.

After White announced that "the most powerful politician" in the state was responsible for being the impediment to allowing the state's legislature to vote and allow professional mixed martial arts shows to run in NY, he was asked to clarify on who that politician is. After a slight pause, he answered that it is Sheldon Silver, the Democrat speaker of the NY State Assembly.

Rousey then talked to NYFightblog about the warm reception she received in NY, and her take on the legalization issue. "New York has awesome fans, they're awesome, they really deserve to have the sport here," she said. "Look at them! How does democracy work? This looks like a majority to me!"

She delivered some potent wording to any and all keeping her sport from being kept out of the state. "The message from Ronda Rousey to the people keeping MMA from being legalized in New York is you got elected for a purpose, you need to do your job and represent your people instead of your own interests." She said that MMA could provide a revenue boost to the state, but more than that, "It's what the people want. It's a f---ing democracy. ... It could be everybody, the majority of the state, wanted every convenience store to carry already chewed gum with feathers in it -- who f---ing cares, if they all want it? The political process should be, 'OK, you guys got f---ing feather gum.'"

She said she's visited Albany a few times to lobby for the sport and knows that if the issue is brought to vote, it would pass. No politician approached her and gave their reasoning for opposing MMA in New York, she said. "No one has the balls to tell it to my face, but everyone has balls on the Internet," she said. She exhaled deeply and expressed dismay at the logjam which keeps her from fighting in New York. "I'm not a politician, I'm too f---ing honest to be a politician," she said, when asked what she thought the motivation was to keep the 1997 ban on pro MMA in place.

White was asked if Rousey's candor could provoke some blowback. "I don't fear or love [her candor]," White said. "It is what it is. She is a smart woman, she speaks her mind, she has very little filter.

"History has shown people with little filters get in trouble sometimes, and I'm sure her day will come," he added, with a grin.

White believes Silver is so pro-union that he's holding up allowing an up-or-down MMA legalization vote in sympathy with the Las Vegas Culinary Union, which is locked in a longtime battle with UFC co-owners Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, who own Station Casinos with some partners in Nevada. Local 226 wants to unionize Station Casinos, and that effort has been rebuffed.

A call to a Silver spokesman for a response on the issue has not yet been returned.

Emile Griffith documentary on MSG

July, 30, 2013
7/30/13
3:41
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If you're a fan of boxing, or a student of societal shifts in attitude towards homosexual athletes, or a proponent of the abolition of fight sports due to their egregious brutality, may I suggest you tune in to MSG on Friday night, and watch the documentary, "Ring of Fire: The Emile Griffith Story," which begins at 10 PM on the cable channel.

I chatted with Dan Klores, the producer and co-director of that film, which came out in 2005, along with Ron Berger. I was curious to hear his takeaways from the July 23 death of the talented, mostly beloved and frequently controversial Hall of Famer Griffith, who won six titles, at welterweight and middleweight.

Klores chuckled and admitted that he hadn't watched the film since it came out, but watched some when it ran on ESPN2 following Griffith's death at age 75, in a Long Island nursing home. "I liked it," said the man with a stellar resume of work under his belt, which includes the 30 for 30 doc "Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. The NY Knicks," "Crazy Love," and "The Boys of 2nd St. Park."

"Emile's legacy was that as a world champion, he has always been underestimated," Klores said. "He was a six-time world champion in the days when there was only one champion in each class."

Klores helped adjust my thinking on Griffith, as I have fallen prey (like I dare say so many of us have) by focusing excessively on the fact that Griffith battered Benny Paret to submission in their third fight, in 1962. Paret died ten days later from brain injuries. Also, the conjecture about Griffith's sexual preferences have taken on perhaps more prominence than they should have considering that we don't watch sports because of the athletes' dating choices, but rather to marvel at their skills and the drama they manufacture with their on the field and in-ring exploits.

"Because of the Paret tragedy Emile's skills and career have not been given the credit they should have," said Klores of the boxer who fought at Madison Square Garden 28 times.

The filmmaker is happy, he said, that he was able to be part of a positive shift in Griffith's life. A few years after the film came out, he told me, Klores was talking to Emile and his adopted son, Luis. Emile and Luis had just marched in the Gay Pride parade in NYC and Luis told Klores, "'We felt so great being with people just like us.' Emile was a very sweet man, he had a lot of love in him."

Klores can't shake the continuing evidence of man's grievous inhumanity to man in the fight game realm. That fighters don't have a pension system set up to help structure their financial life post-ring, that promoters take a massive lion's share of revenue and don't let the wealth trickle down much, rankles him. The treatment of Paret's widow, Lucy, also irks him to no end. "Emile and Lucy, neither of them has had a penny, really, in the last twenty or thirty years," he said. "Lucy was ripped off the moment her husband died. That's the tragedy, these men of real courage, getting ripped off. That's the cruelty of the sport if you really think about it."

NOTE: Here is information on services for Griffith.

A celebration of the life of Emile Griffith, with a eulogy and bell ceremony, will take place this Saturday, August 3rd at 9:45 AM at the St. Thomas the Apostle Church located at 24 Westminster Road, West Hempstead, New York 11552. After the mass, the burial will take place at St. Michael’s Cemetery. 72-02 Astoria Boulevard " East Elmhurst, NY 11370

SERVICES AND FUNERAL SCHEDULE FOR EMILE GRIFFITH:

WAKE: FRIDAY, AUGUST 2, 2013
3-5 PM and 7-9 PM
MALVERNE FUNERAL PARLOR
330 HEMPSTEAD AVENUE
MALVERNE, NY 11565
516-593-7230

FUNERAL: Saturday, August 3, 2013
9:45 AM
ST. THOMAS THE APOSTLE CHURCH
24 WESTMINSTER RD
WEST HEMPSTEAD, NY 11552
Tel: 516-489-8585

FOLLOWED BY BURIAL AT
ST. MICHAEL’S CEMETERY
72-02 ASTORIA BLVD
E. ELMHURST, NY 11370
(718) 278-3240
Madison Square Garden can certainly boast about their pugilistic legacy.

Yes, it could be argued that they are in flux, as they might have to rebuild the building to comply with the New York City Planning Commission's order to improve Penn Station, but the Garden's supporters can always boast that MSG hosted the single most anticipated boxing event of all the ages, the first clash between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, on March 8, 1971.

Some would argue that the Garden of today could be compared to a late-era Ali, perhaps slightly distracted by a myriad of deals and balls in the air, but still, Ali was Ali, and could never be dismissed as a shoe-in to stumble on the big stage.

And when Floyd Mayweather was in town last week, in Times Square, on the first leg of his promo tour to tout his Sept. 14 scrap with Canelo Alvarez, he was asked about maybe fighting at MSG, and teased the crowd, asking if they'd like to see him fight at MSG. The reputation still stands.

MSG also could counter the Barclays-Ratner-Yormark bid of their non-exclusivity, having hosted cards put on by Top Rank -- the bitter rival to Barclays favorite Golden Boy -- as well as Golden Boy, and Main Events, in the last seven months.

Word is at the re-done Coliseum they'd do bigger boxing shows in a proposed 14,500 shed, and smaller boxing events in a 1,700 setup.

Yormark, though, during our chat, kept coming back to Barclays' grassroots efforts to nourish boxing, and he thinks that effort is a differentiator in the bidding.

"Having Zab Judah, 'Kid Chocolate' Peter Quillin, Danny Jacobs and Wladimir Klitschko, as well as Floyd Mayweather, for our most recent show means we're doing something here," he said. "We feel boxing out on Long Island can also be terrific."

As a pot sweetener, Yormark said the Ratner-Yormark team wants to build some "legacy moments," along the lines of Jay Z's eight-night sellout string to open Barclays last year, to excite the masses about the spiffed up Coliseum, should their bid be the victor. "We want to close the building dramatically with a once-in-a-lifetime concert to get things moving forward and help people anticipate wonderful things, and then re-open with another concert that truly embraces the community," he said. Asked who could headline to bring max buzz, he said, "We want someone highly connected to Long Island."

My take: I root for the overall health and well-being of the sport I cover and respect so much. Whoever is best positioned and committed to building the brand of boxing, I approve of their efforts and actions. We're in the championship rounds, the bids are being examined; we shall see who has their hand raised by July 15, and gets to activate their vision for the Coliseum.

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Yormark: Boxing would be key in Coliseum

July, 3, 2013
7/03/13
4:28
PM ET
Brooklyn is a busy borough, one that brings plenty of attributes to the table.

Long Island doesn't have that same cachet, and so I wonder if the Barclays Center crew could in fact replicate their success in Brooklyn on the island.

During a recent interview, Barclays Center and Nets CEO Brett Yormark had the same tone as he had in 2010, when I betrayed a slight degree of skepticism that a renovated building could in fact attract enough boxing fans regularly to make boxing a worthy building block.

"There's a play out there on Long Island for everything we do here, be it boxing, college basketball, [pro wrestling], concerts and so forth," he said.

Yormark said his group has received commitments for more than 200 events in the first year of the rehabbed coliseum, and they plan to host more than 300 events annually there. He said that their research shows eight percent of Nets fans come to Brooklyn from Long Island, and only 13 percent of people attending non-Nets events are from L.I., so that speaks to the room for expansion.

And what role would boxing have at the Barclays-run coliseum?

Yormark said his partner Golden Boy Promotions has committed to bringing some of their shows in the theater. Yormark also hopes to "accommodate some bigger fights there." In addition, he'd like to have Golden Boy put some non-televised cards in that theater, to give the local fighters more reps.

Long Island boxing isn't in a horrid place, with Coram, N.Y. native Jamel Herring's 4-0 record as a pro after making the 2012 USA Olympic squad, and Chris Algieri, a 16-0 junior welterweight, building a fan base on cards run by Joe DeGuardia. But neither man would fill the big, refurbished room. Still, former heavyweight contender Gerry Cooney, who was a certified attraction on Long Island and currently co-hosts a Sirius radio boxing program along with partner Randy Gordon, says it could sustain a regular boxing program.

"Hell yeah," said Coooney, a 56-year-old Huntington, N.Y. product who retired with a 28-3 mark in 1990. "You've got some good kids there. Boxing as a sport has corrected itself, put better fights on. MMA snuck in there and that forced boxing to put on more competitive fights."

He cited his 1980 Nassau Coliseum fight with Ron Lyle, a first-round KO win, as a career highlight. "It can be better than ever," he said.

No surprise, the Madison Square Garden group likes their chances to snag the coliseum and put their stamp on it. A Garden spokesman offered this statement to NYFightblog when asked about their bid: “Madison Square Garden has been the longtime Mecca of boxing. We have terrific relationships with all of the top boxing promoters and, as part of our plan to create a thriving sports and entertainment destination on Long Island, look forward to leveraging those strong relationships, along with our expertise, to deliver boxing excitement to the Nassau Coliseum.”

The Garden's bid is a $250 million package, and they are playing up an Islander-themed sports bar in a nod to acknowledging the Isles' import.
Check back for the final part of this package, which includes Yormark's desire to both close and re-open the "Barclays" Coliseum in grand fashion...


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