March 6, 2000
I have been reflecting on this weekend’s Las Vegas boxing extravaganza (if that’s what you’d like to call it).
Friday Night, Don King Productions and America Presents put on a Show in front of a not quite full outdoor Arena at Caesar’s palace(not quite full by far). Saturday night, at the Mandalay Bay another night of boxing took place in a noticeably half empty Auditorium.
I have been asking myself, what’s the trouble with boxing? Even Oscar De la Hoya could not manage to pack Madison Square Garden in his February 26th bout against Derrell Coley.
As I walked through the Mandalay Bay Sunday night, I pondered what is different about boxing today. What made the great fights of the past great? I walked over to the Sports Memorabilia shop with these questions in mind, hoping that the walls covered with photo’s of great moments in boxing’s past would spark some insight. I was looking for some memorabilia from Super Fight Number 1, Joe Frazier vs. Muhammad Ali which took place at Madison Square Garden, March 8th 1971. I remember this as one of the greatest nights in boxing history, it also happened to be my 7th birthday, and my first exposure to a live boxing match. And what could have been more exciting than to see my hero, Joe Frazier emerge victorious, it was a wonderful birthday. I didn’t find anything from that fight but a framed letter written by Rocky Marciano (my other hero) caught my eye.
In June of 1968 Rocky writes to William Reinmuth Jr. regarding his then TV talk show he speaks of Rocky Graziano and Tony Zale - "Even men who have been to war haven’t gone through what they have. I told those guys they had some of the best battles ever" Thank you, Rocky. I believe Rocky has defined what is at the heart of the half empty arenas of today’s Boxing shows. Fighters today are not prepared to go to war. And why should they be? Who’d want to go to war when they could go to Disneyland?
Don King was right when he said that the "Trinidad v. Reid bout did a lot for the sport of boxing." He was speaking of the war between the two that took place Friday night. And particularly he refers to David Reid, a man with heart, the kind of heart that Rockies Marciano and Graziano took to the ring with them in their battles of yore. The kind of heart that true boxing fans yearn to see.
Felix Trinidad (37-0), 147 lb WBC Welterweight Champion, moved up in weight to 153lbs.to Challenge David Reid(14-1) Super Welterweight champion(154lbs.). Felix gained all of 6 lbs for the fight, and by way of unanimous decision, gained Reid’s title as well.
Reid, a former Golden Glove champion, started strong. Early in the match, Felix seemed to be having trouble. He was caught off guard by Reid’s super swift punches and found himself on the canvas in the third round. Up until the 6th round it appeared that Reid was in control of the bout. What Reid didn’t know was that Felix did not intend to lose. Felix stated in a post fight press conference "when I go down and I get up, I am very dangerous." In the 6th round Felix put his 23 bouts of fight experience advantage to work and permanently gained control of the match. Despite being cut over the right eye and being floored in the 7th round as well as going down 3 times in the 11th Reid came out for the 12th and remained standing (albeit, battered and torn) at the final bell. Reid’s manager and trainer, Al Mitchell sites Reid’s meager 14 fights as partial explanation for the loss. Speaking of Reid he said, “ He got away from the plan. He’s only had 14 fights, when he gets to 20 he’ll be an even better fighter" At
that time Don King jumped in and correctly stated "he’s already a great fighter. The man ain’t got no heart trouble. Felix Trinidad showed he was also a man with no heart trouble." Both fighters brought a warrior’s heart to the ring. Experience and talent was the deciding factor. This is good boxing!
Saturday night, Nestor Garza lost his WBA Super Batamweight title to Bones Adams, in a 12 round battle at the Mandalay Bay. Garza despite being injured early by an unintentional head butt pressed on as he was out boxed and brutalized for 12 straight rounds. Despite being knocked down in the 1st and the 5th rounds, Garza forged on with the heart of a champion. Garza continued to be aggressive, advancing forward and cutting off the ring on Adams as Adams methodically beat the daylights out of him. By the end of the fight Adams appeared more like he’d just finished a 12 mile run in the park as opposed to a 12 round boxing match. Adams won the bout by unanimous decision. The point is the fans applauded. They will remember the feeling of respect for Garza a true champion fighting like a warrior to retain his title but to no avail.
Boxing promoters, listen up. If you truly want to do something for the sport of boxing, there is a lot of work to be done. Promoters need to restore the faith of the fans by setting equitable matches, the Sanctioning bodies need to step up and ensure that there is safety, fairness and judges without agendas or cataracts. No body enjoyed seeing Joey Gamache very nearly murdered by Arturo Gatti in their February 26th miss-match. Tell Butterball (I mean Butterbean) to take his act to the WWF where he belongs, and unless boxing is going to allow hair pulling, save the women’s matches for the wrestling ring too. Bring on more bouts like Morales vs. Barrera, Bones Adams vs. Nestor Garza, Trinidad vs. Reid and watch the fans return to fill the arenas and watch the excitement of Boxing return to fill the hearts of the fans.