by Fox Doucette
Last year, I took a slow news week to examine the fighters who, even though my job requires me to be objective and stick to covering the facts of the matter in a fight, are the ones I enjoy watching the most (see “Of Course I’m Biased, I’m a Fan”, Southpaw #11). In the piece, I lavished fawning praise on Lucian Bute, said nice things about current Olympic competitor Jose Ramirez, and lambasted guys like Demetrius Andrade (although I should be nicer to a guy who’s given me so much fertile ground on which comedy can grow with his inflated opinion of himself completely unsupported by the facts of his career.)
Nearly a year on, and with events in the sport since this time last year having more or less completely re-drawn the map of my life as a fan, it’s time for the 2012 edition; some old friends return, and some new foes take their pride of place in the picture. Consider this your handy guide to your criticisms in the coming months when you insist that “oh, that guy’s totally in the tank for that fighter, don’t trust a word he says.” Never mind that I always tell it like it is; just because I’m a fan does not make me a religious devotee to anyone but my gods.
A little bird told me that Philadelphia’s finest lightweight “Hammerin’ Hank” Lundy read and got a kick out of my Southpaw column last week in which I had a little fun with John Molina’s refusal to fight him again. I gotta admit, I got a big kick out of that, since Lundy made a believer out of me in the David Diaz fight and has now been in two quality scraps on FNF this year. When Hank Lundy is on television, my job is more enjoyable. I found myself continually wondering when he was going to catch Raymundo Beltran and knock him out; when the answer turned out to be “not on this night”, the Recap took on a somber mood (or it would have, were it not for my having been very impressed by Beltran’s performance in that fight—some nights, one guy just gets the better of the other one, and if every FNF event was so well-matched, we’d all be better off.)
Speaking of guys who lost fights much to your columnist’s chagrin, Lucian Bute, who was the cover boy for last year’s bias column, remains one of my favorite guys to watch. Combine knockout power with an at-times suicidal level of aggression (Bute’s undoing against Carl Froch when he got caught cleanly), stir, bake in a boxing ring for twelve rounds or until done, and what you’ve got is a recipe for must-watch boxing. Bute takes on Denis Grachev, another guy who has a chance of breaking into that fan circle if he does to Bute what he did to Ismayl Sillakh, on November 3. I’ll be cheering on Lucian Bute and hoping I don’t have to score the fight for this or any other publication since I run the risk of looking like an idiot if the fight goes the distance and I’ve overrated the Romanian.
Of course, not all losing makes me sad. Over the past year, I’ve finally taken sides in the Great Mayweather-Pacquiao debate, mostly because Floyd Mayweather’s fans don’t descend on my column en masse with illiterate gibberish whenever I don’t anoint their guy as the greatest thing since the invention of televised boxing. Pactards piss me off, and as a direct result, I was delighted when Pacquiao, who in recent years has benefited from Bob Arum shamelessly rigging fights in his favor (Juan Manuel Marquez. Full stop.), died by the sword against Timothy Bradley. I have no idea what Vince McMahon-like WWE kabuki theater Top Rank has planned for the welterweight division, and I’m right with everyone else in the media and among boxing fans in being outraged at the shameless exploitation for profit of a great sport by Arum and his idiot stooges at the Nevada State Athletic Commission (what, Keith Kizer, you got jealous seeing how Texas was doing it and wanted a piece of the action back?) But as a guy who wants Pacquiao to lose every time he steps into the ring? Oh, the schadenfreude was delicious.
Meanwhile, I continue to be disgusted and disappointed by the rash of prospects building records against tomato cans when they’ve had a solid amateur pedigree. Deontay Wilder was an Olympic medalist. Demetrius Andrade was a US national amateur champion. Both guys have made their pro life auditioning for a Contadina commercial (“Deontay Wilder, Tomato Pitchman”, Southpaw #53). Poor Rudy Cisneros got his lunch money taken in an absolutely shameful display at the hands of Andrade, the kind of thing that, when similar disparity in skill occurs in a fight on a school playground, leads to school counselors being called in and one kid facing the words “zero tolerance” for bullying the other one. As Teddy Atlas so often says, “why even have a commission?” As long as Wilder and Andrade make a mockery of the sport, I’ll have an infinitely sustainable wellspring of criticism for them.
Finally, there is one more case of fighters that will always have me in their corner for as long as they do that thing they do; the four-round swing fighters who fill air on FNF whenever the co-feature or main event end early due to knockouts. Lunchpail guys fighting for a hundred bucks a round and maybe a free HIV test to convince their girlfriends to put out, the guys who never expect to be on TV but make the most of the opportunity, the guys who may very well end up as featured players somewhere down the line (Hank Lundy made his FNF debut in a four-rounder in 2008, drawing with Darnell Jiles)…keep doin’ work, guys. I’ll keep giving you the same pride of place in the Recap that the featured players get.
As journalists, we’re supposed to be objective, but sometimes, when the right guy’s in the ring putting on a show, at least a little part of me takes a look at that and says “to hell with professional objectivity.” As long as I get the score right and the details right, I don’t see what’s wrong with cheering a little; if I couldn’t be a fan of the sports I covered, then what would be the point? A little joy makes the product on the screen better, both in the ring and on the page. Enjoy the show.
Fox Doucette covers Friday Night Fights for The Boxing Tribune. His weekly column, The Southpaw, appears on Thursdays. Fan mail, hate mail, and Burger King gift certificates (unlike Dan Rafael, I don’t get my Whoppers comped) can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.