Boxing: barclays center

In your FaceLube: Victor Ortiz, Part 1

January, 29, 2014
Jan 29
The Boxing Writers Association of America counted the ballots for its year-end awards on Monday night, and the results were announced on Tuesday afternoon. Floyd Mayweather, "Money," hit the jackpot as Fighter of the Year, while Tim Bradley and Ruslan Provodnikov shared honors for Fight of the Year. There was no award for Fighter Who Gets Most Flak on Twitter, but I dare say one of the guys who headlines the Golden Boy card at the Barclays Center on Thursday night, Victor Ortiz, would be odds-on favorite to snag that "honor" if it were added to the awards roster.

Let me get it out of the way, right up front, that I really don't participate in the social media critiques of Ortiz, and can't support them, by and large, because he's a fighter who engages in fan-friendly battles, and he provides good entertainment value whenever he gloves up.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old California resident who meets Brooklyner Luis Collazo in a welterweight tussle in BK, has been absent from the ring since his June 2012 battle against Josesito Lopez. That bout resulted in a loss for Ortiz, and a lengthy layoff, as Lopez broke his jaw and that injury needed to heal up. The night of that bout, the nattering nabobs of negativism hammered Ortiz for being a "quitter," unfairly, as they played doctor from their sofa, and determined that the boxer spit the bit and waved a flag of surrender.

"Victor Ortiz quits on the stool," the lead announcer bellowed as Ortiz, ahead on the cards, chose not to continue for Round 10. Now, there was a history there; Ortiz back in June 2009 was being battered by Marcos Maidana, and offered a "no mas" when the referee asked him if he wanted to continue.

"We just saw a moment in a fight that could define a fighters' career," one of the TV analysts offered. The southpaw hitter draw scorn in some circles for not "going out on his shield," and his explanation during a postfight in-the-ring interview that he was too young to absorb such brutal punishment, which could compromise his faculties down the line, rubbed some purists the wrong way. So, in some circles, Ortiz had been branded.

Eyebrows were raised not so much when the Kansas-born athlete took the opportunity to participate in Season 16 of "Dancing With the Stars," but Ortiz-bashers did note that his foray into dancing in March 2013 -- and acting, as he took a role in "The Expendables 3" late last year -- does suggest that he's more about non-boxing moves than pugilism. And pro-am comics had a field day with his entry into the skin-care business. "Fit For A Champion, Built For A Man's Man," reads the ad copy for the line, which is called "FaceLube," for which he is a spokesman. That vaguely (vaguely?) provocative moniker drew snickers galore, and added to the material naysayers utilize to try and take Ortiz down a peg.

I talked to the 29-4-2 (22 KOs) fighter during a media session at Gleason's Gym on Monday afternoon, and told him to his face that I believe he doesn't deserve to be critiqued so gleefully, and told him that I think it sometimes comes with the territory for people who take risks, drive outside the lines, and engage in YOLO behavior. I was curious, and asked the boxer if the critiques bother him.

Check back for part two, and hear what Ortiz had to say about the Twitter nitwits, and if he'll have to deal with a coating of rust against Collazo on Thursday night.

Brooklyn boxer looks to knock out hunger

September, 30, 2013
Claude Staten Jr.Elsa/Golden Boy/Getty Images/Golden BoyClaude Staten Jr. plans to use part of his Barclays pay to help feed the homeless.
Sometime after he steps out of the ring at Barclays Center on Monday night, Claude Staten Jr. is going to take stock of the prize money from his second professional fight.

Staten Jr. might set aside some money to buy clothes, shoes and other accessories befitting a 25-year-old from Brooklyn.

But he also has bigger plans for his paycheck.

"I want to give back," he said.

For Staten Jr., giving back means spending his own money to help feed the homeless.

"No matter how many mistakes they've made or how many wrong things they've done, everyone deserves to eat a meal," Staten Jr. said.

[+] Enlargetbd by editor
Courtesy of Claude Staten Jr.Staten Jr. took up boxing after getting busted for drug possession as a 17-year-old.
The Brooklyn-born Staten Jr. was living in Los Angeles in 2012 when he funded a "Knockout Hunger Day" there, feeding hundreds of homeless people in L.A.'s Skid Row neighborhood. He and his friends dispensed sandwiches, bottles of water and shoes.

Staten Jr. plans to do the same in New York after this fight and, eventually, to expand his "Knockout Hunger" program to other cities.

"That day in L.A. really motivated me, it really drove me," Staten Jr. said. "I want to help these people."

Staten Jr. has come a long way in boxing in a short time. He had only a handful of amateur fights before his pro debut last March (a four-round unanimous decision over Mike Hill at Barclays Center). Most fighters gain experience by fighting dozens if not hundreds of amateur fights, but Staten Jr. is different.

"It seems to just come naturally to him," said his Atlanta-based trainer, Kennie Johnson. "He's still learning a lot, but there's so much that he knows without the experience. ... It's pretty rare to see."

There was a time not long ago when boxing wasn't on Staten Jr.'s radar. As a teen in Brooklyn, he was raised mostly by his grandmother. His grandfather died when he was 12 and his mother was just 14 when Claude was born. He fell in with the wrong crowd while attending Lafayette High School in his sophomore year.

"He got into some trouble," his uncle, Francisco Valdez said. "It was tough for a while."

Staten Jr. said he got caught selling drugs with his friends when he was 17. He was charged with drug possession and sentenced to six months probation after spending more than a month at the Riker's Island Correctional Facility.

"I grew up where there are a lot of negative things that you can do -- it's easy to do that," he said. "But that's when I realized, 'Look man, I don't want to be separated from my grandmother.'"

Upon his release, Staten Jr. knew he couldn't go back to selling drugs ("I wasn't Pablo Escobar. I was making $1,000 to $1,500 a week"), so he took up boxing.

"I started going to Gleason's [gym in Brooklyn] and I got obsessed with it," Staten Jr. said. "I was reading everything, watching everything. I just gravitated towards the sport."

After a handful of amateur fights, Staten Jr. turned pro. His trainers and the members of Golden Boy Promotions who handle his fights rave about Staten Jr.'s hand speed and power at super bantam weight.

"He's special," Johnson said. "I've seen a lot of fighters and he's the real deal."

One July afternoon, Staten was sitting in an office on the 86th floor of the Empire State Building, reflecting on his journey from Riker's Island inmate to up-and-coming fighter.

"It's just amazing," he said, growing emotional, "that I've come this far. I'm finally here."

For Staten Jr., though, the best might be yet to come.

Hopkins turns 'Executioner' at presser

March, 6, 2013
Bernard Hopkins Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty ImagesBernard Hopkins, 48, will attempt to break his own record as the oldest man to win a title in any sport.
Bernard Hopkins sat straight ahead for an hour-plus press conference at Barclays Center on Wednesday, without moving even the slightest bit. Was he trying to psych himself up, or psych his opponent Tavoris Cloud, out?

There was no opportunity to ask Hopkins that, or anything else, as the 48-year-old blew off a chance to speak at the podium and instead strode right out of the press conference for his Saturday-night fight in Brooklyn, still staring straight ahead.

Hopkins, who looks to break his own mark as the oldest man to win a title in any sport, usually can filibuster with the best of them. That includes the fight’s co-promoter, Don King, who handles the IBF light-heavyweight champion Cloud, and as usual charmed the media and attendees with his trademark bluster and hype.

But on this day, with his eyes covered by sunglasses, his head covered with a sweatshirt hood, and a balaclava-type mask covering his mouth, Hopkins’ silence spoke loudest.

After he left, co-promoter Richard Schaefer, of Golden Boy, which has an exclusive deal with Barclays to stage pro bouts, said he's never seen Hopkins like this.

"I've never seen him in this mode for a press conference," Schaefer said. "You could feel his intensity coming off of him. I've never seen that."

Trainer Nazim Richardson gave a hint of what was to come when, during his turn at the mike, he said, "Bernard Hopkins has already left the building, but ‘The Executioner’ is still here." Schaefer then invited Hopkins to share, but Hopkins gestured to Richardson to speak in his place.

Hopkins (52-6-2) has for many years labeled himself "The Executioner" and strolled to the ring wearing executioner-style headgear, but this time it appears he's slipped into that mindset earlier than usual. That mental prep might be necessary, as the 31-year-old Cloud, with a 24-0 record, is the favorite entering the bout. "I feel different this time," the Florida-born Cloud said, "like I can't be beat. I feel kinda invincible."

King drew chuckles when he gave a shout-out to Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan leader who died on Tuesday from cancer. "My brother passed away yesterday," said King, who backed Chavez’s mortal enemies, George W. Bush in 2004 and Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. He then asked for all in attendance to pray for Chavez.

The presser got a lift from actress/boxing fan Rosie Perez. The Brooklyn-born star was brought in to do a coin flip, with the winner getting to enter the ring last. The winner of the flip? Hopkins. But the order of the ringwalk didn't seem to matter to the ageless wonder: he had already left the building by the time Rosie did her thing.

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Morales tests positive for banned substance

October, 18, 2012
Erik Morales, due to face Danny Garcia in the main event in the debut of boxing at the Barclays Center on Saturday night, tested positive for a banned substance ahead of the bout, according to multiple reports.

ESPN's Dan Rafael reports that the Garcia-Morales fight will still take place. It is a rematch of their March scrap, won handily by Garcia, who holds two 140 pound titles.

Morales, age 36, was not able to make weight in the March tussle, and was two pounds over the limit at the weigh in. The weigh in for the Saturday fight unfolds Friday, Oct. 19, at the Barclays Center.
They call boxing the theater of the unexpected. They could also call the sport the circus of the expected, as in, fight fans expect the judges to screw things up a goodly portion of the time.

Fans of Brooklyn-bred Paulie Malignaggi had to have that in mind as they watched the slick pugilist put on a tutorial of how to get it done, against hometowner Vyacheslav Senchenko, when you are extremely limited by a severe lack of pop. But that all went out the window when the ex junior welter champ did something that he just about never does; Malignaggi (age 31; now 31-4; has just seven stoppages since turning pro in 2001; has hands held together with chewing gum and thumbtacks) became a two-division champion when he stopped Senchenko (age 35; now 32-1) in round nine, to win the WBA welterweight title.

The Twitter Hitter had Senechenko's left eye a mess, and ref Steve Smoger halted the tussle, which unfolded in Donetsk, and ran on pay-per-view.

"I did it" came the Tweet from the account of the Twitter King aka #TK right after the victory.

Senchenko's resume isn't a who's who, but this feat cannot be diminished. Many thought Malignaggi was all done when he was stopped by Amir Khan two years ago. He showed doubters that theory was nothing but hogwash in the Ukraine, and can now secure a fat payday against a big-name foe. Expect Paulie to return triumphant and headline at the Barclays Center in the fall...
Competition is almost always good for the consumer. Therefore, New York fight fans should benefit mightily with the presence of the Barclays Center, the arena being built in Brooklyn which will be complete this fall. Word dropped yesterday that the venerable franchise that is the NY Golden Gloves, the brain-child of NY Daily News sports editor Paul Gallico, which kicked off in 1926, will move their finale from Madison Square Garden, to the Barclays Center.

The first finale drew 21,594 patrons, and around 10,000 folks wanting to get in were turned away. Today, the tourney’s heat has dimmed; the Gloves finals, held Thursday and Friday, in which 24 champs were crowned, was held in The Theater, the sub 5,000 seat companion to the big room.

But unless MSG wants to hand over bigtime boxing events, and a storied franchise such as the Gloves, I suspect that they will look to match the moves of the Barclays people, who already snagged Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions to be the sole purveyor of pro cards at their new building.

“The Golden Gloves will be the linchpin of our grass-roots boxing program at Barclays Center,” Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark said. “While Golden Boy Promotions will bring the best of professional boxing back to Brooklyn, we are excited to host such a New York institution as the Daily News Golden Gloves. There’s a rich heritage of boxing in Brooklyn and we are thrilled to make the sport a major part of our new arena.”

Your move, MSG...

W. Klitschko unlikely to fight at Barclays

February, 29, 2012
He is the best-known heavyweight in the world.

Check that. Wladimir Klitschko and his brother Vitali are the best-known heavyweights in the world, because, to be honest, many casual sports fans can't differentiate between little brother Wladimir and big brother Vitali.

Wladimir, 35, defends the bulk of the belts out there on Saturday in Dusseldorf, Germany, against a no-hoper named Jean-Marc Mormeck, a Frenchman who most recently fought in December 2010 and has somehow wrangled his way into a payday and a certain beating. On a conference call today to hype that bout, which will run on Epix (4:30 p.m. ET), Wlad (56-3, unbeaten since 2004 and gunning for his 50th KO) said he won't look past the 36-4 Frenchman, whom he noted looked slow and cruddy at a public workout.

If, as expected, Wlad achieves a win Saturday, he said he would like to fight in America, which he hasn't done since 2008, when he beat Sultan Ibragimov at Madison Square Garden. That'd be nice for U.S. fight fans -- and Wlad's rep. His past six fights have taken place in Germany, and if he scrapped in the States, that many more sports fans would be able to tell you which Klitschko is which. There is an immense Russian population in Brooklyn (I live a few minutes from the still-being-built Barclays Center in Fort Greene), so it'd make oodles of sense for the Kazakhstan-born Wlad to glove up at Barclays.

But it sounds like that won't happen.

Team Klitschko member Tom Loeffler said on the call that the Barclays folks reached out to Wlad about a fight, but that's a non-starter because Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions has sole rights to promote boxing in the building. No, Loeffler said, Team Klitschko isn't looking for any promotional partners. So Madison Square Garden is looking like a prime Plan B. Californian Cris Arreola, who took a beating from big bro Vitali in 2009 but is thinner and wiser now, could get the gig. Wlad's trainer, Manny Steward, also on the call, said a fight between Wladimir and WBA titlist Alexander Povetkin, a Russian, would do bang-up business in the States.

I know this is heresy to a businessman, but wouldn't it be a sweet gesture if Golden Boy gave Team Klitschko a pass and gave the OK to put a Wlad fight on at Barclays? Hey, I sort of get the Golden Boy angle, when I put on my Warren Buffet mask. You don't want to flood the market with boxing, other people's product, and thus threaten some of your own future gate. But possibly, maybe, wouldn't it help the sport as a whole, the brand of boxing, to get a hot heavyweight fight in Brooklyn, with so many Russians so close to the building? And sometimes gestures in and of themselves can be profitable unto themselves, apart from monetary ones. Hey, you may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. ...