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The Cyber Boxing Zone Newswire
Random Temper Tantrums By JD Vena

December 28, 2000
Boston, MA

E lite performers don't always turn in top performances. I'm sure you can recall Michael Buffer's voice cracking in his "Let's get ready to rumble" chant a couple of times. You've also seen Roy Jones execute a non-inspiring lackluster performance every once in a great while. No one is perfect and even the ones who add quality to their craft may on occasion give you a gloomy outlook on their talents. In every profession, every top dog has his bad day. For Teddy Atlas, it came this past Friday night on a live ESPN2 Friday Night Fights broadcast.

During Friday's main event, which pitted Ray Oliveira and Vince Phillips in an intriguing battle for the NABF jr. welterweight title, Atlas and his usually proficient partner, Bob Papa registered their first sub-par performance on the airwaves. Throughout the fight, Atlas narrated a fight that he wanted the viewers to see it, instead of what was really going on. What actually transpired was Oliveira practically dominating the fight. Atlas was too concerned with telling the viewers about Oliveira not sticking to his original game plan. Perhaps it was his trainer mentality kicking in. When Atlas worked Michael Moorer's corner when defeating Evander Holyfield for the title, you got the sense that Atlas felt that Moorer lost in the end because he didn't fight the way Atlas had pleaded him to. This scribe isn't suggesting that Atlas doesn't know boxing or that he's not a good boxing analyst. He offers a wealth of knowledge and usually enlightens the audience with opinions with what is going on in the ring. But Friday night, he showed a side of him that we the viewers hadn't noticed before - he showed bias.

Oliviera and Phillips fought a hard battle that most at ringside felt Oliveira won handily. Throughout the fight, Phillips would normally begin the exchanges and land most of his punches on Oliveira's gloves. Oliveira would then finish the exchanges while landing them and kept Phillips moving backward. Though CompuBox had Phillips landing more of the vast punches he threw, it appeared that Oliveira landed the more telling punches. They weren't as devastating or thrown with the authority of Phillips, but they were snapping Phillips' head backward and they were forcing Phillips to retreat. Atlas' commentary however, did not give that impression.

In a fairly recent addition to the show, Atlas goes one on one with each main event fighter in a taped segment to go over the fighters' strategies. "Atlas' World" as it is called is an educational segment that gives fans ideas on how each fighter can be successful. During the fight, Atlas appeared offended when Oliveira decided to not utilize his original strategy of using his jab. Oliveira was throwing his jab but not with the regularity that Atlas deemed appropriate. Oliveira appeared content with being the aggressor, finishing the exchanges and landing the punches that would eventually wear down the resilient Phillips. Teddy Atlas looked at Oliveira 's deviated strategy as "fighting his opponent's fight" and therefore, felt as though Phillips was winning the fight.

If you noticed, Atlas also seemed to corrupt Bob Papa into believing what Atlas was saying, much in the way Showtime's Bobby Czyz has had influence over Steve Albert's thoughts when calling fights. It was Czyz who bamboozled Albert and the audience to believe that John Ruiz had defeated Evander Holyfield overwhelmingly when in reality it was somewhat closer. Perhaps the subject of criticism should have been directed towards Showtime' s crew but I'll leave that to our dear Joe Bruno.

Oliveira's underrated talents have been well documented in this scribe's notebook, but there was no favoritism in my score sheet as most everyone else at ringside had it for Oliveira. Both myself and House of Boxing's Tom Gerbasi had Oliveira winning 118-111 while the Boston Herald's George Kimball had Oliveira ahead 117-111. Mike Nosky of Seconds Out had Oliveira winning by a score of 118-110. The most sympathetic score at ringside for Phillips was a 116-112 tally for Oliveira (8 rounds to 4) by Steve Tobey of Boxing Digest. Atlas had it 115-114 while Papa had it even. You do the math.

Friday Night Fights has been a tremendous contribution to the sport of boxing, but it's the best that deserve criticism when a poor performance is presented. Though I hate to say it, if you were watching Oliveira and Phillips on the tube Friday night, then you were better off watching it with the volume down to get a more accurate account of what occurred. For now, Oliveira-Phillips will be viewed as Atlas' first "Mulligan."

Vargas, the Ingrate

While I'm on a little rant here (sorry Dennis Miller, had to say it), I must get something off my chest that's been buried inside like a cold you can't kick. Just before the ring walks commenced in a fight that would ultimately turn out to be one of the best fights this year, I was hoping that Fernando Vargas, the American champion would prevail in his epic battle with Felix Trinidad of Puerto Rico earlier this month. But when Vargas decided to have the Mexican National Anthem played before he entered the ring, I began pulling for Trinidad. I couldn't believe that a member of the U.S. Olympic team would have a national anthem of another country played before his ring entrance. Just imagine, Ramon "Yori Boy" Campas, the man Vargas defeated for the IBF jr. middleweight title had to engage in 56 professional fights before he was granted his first title shot. Because Campas is from poverty-stricken Mexico he had to turn pro before he was 16 to earn a living. Vargas on the other hand having the benefit of fighting on the United States Olympic team needed only 14 pro fights against opposition that didn't compare to Campas' resume before he stepped into the ring with Campas.

Though Vargas had an unfortunate adolescence and suffered the adversity of not knowing his father growing up, it was the Uncle Sam who afforded him the opportunity of fighting for the U.S. Olympic team, which ultimately gave him the chance to earn the accolades that would accompany the tag "Olympian." Some have defended young Fernando citing that he is proud of his Mexican heritage. There is certainly nothing wrong with showing off your heritage but you don't see fighters such as Vinny Pazienza, a proud Italian-American walking into the ring with the Italian National Anthem playing. Oscar De la Hoya, another proud figure of Mexican heritage wields both the American and Mexican flags in both fists when he walks into the ring and always has the American National Anthem played when facing an opponent who hails from outside our good soil.

Vargas' actions must have been a real turn off to Americans, especially to war veterans or immigrants who are overjoyed with the fruits of this. Facing an assault trial in the upcoming months, maybe Vargas has more growing up to do than we think.

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