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What A Difference A Month Makes
By Steve Coughlin
If you would have asked me in early April who I thought would win a Lennox Lewis vs. Hasim Rahman fight, I would have politely told you that anyone who gave The Rock any chance should be institutionalized. Had you asked me about the winner of a Barrera vs. Prince Naseem Hamed showdown, I would have told you, without question, it would be Naz. If you asked me who I thought would be the top fighter, pound for pound, in the game, I would have, without hesitation, told you Ricardo Lopez.
But now itís mid May, and Rahman is the new Heavyweight Champion, Barrera has beaten Naz soundly and for the first time since 1997 I have a new pound for pound champion.
Congratulations, Hasim Rahman !!! While Lennox Lewis, arguably the best Heavyweight Champion since Larry Holmes or Leg Iron MikeTyson (thanks ĎBucket), was busy with filming the ďOceanís ElevenĒ remake & not bothering to take you seriously, you were IN South Africa training for the fight of your life. When I heard that Lewis wasnít planning on arriving in South Africa until a week before the fight and wasnít training too hard, I called a friend in London to see if I could get some money on Rahman. One would have thought that Lewis learned the painful lesson that Oliver McCall had taught him in 1994 Ė NEVER EVER take someone lightly !!! Well, he didnít and actually got even more stupid in the sense that he never considered fighting at 6,000 feet above sea level might be something youíd want to adjust to. And when Lewis started to hurt Rahman, he also started to clown around with Hasim. Another brilliant decision Lennox. While Lewis was busy backing up and smiling at The Rock, Rahman launched a right hand that changed the landscape of professional boxing for years to come. Lewisí legacy will be tarnished forever as a result of his own overconfidence as much as the two knockouts he suffered at the hands of HUGE underdogs. When he lost to McCall, it took him years to get another crack at the belt. This time, he may never get another shot.
And speaking of overconfidence, Congratulations Marco Antonio Barrera !!! You fought a flawless fight against one of the heaviest hitters in the business. And you lived up to the potential that everyone knew you had when we first saw you against Kennedy McKinney on the first-ever Boxing After Dark broadcast. You overcame your own overconfidence after Junior Jones knock you off of your high horse and became an even better fighter. On the other hand, Naz was almost begging to be beaten. Before the fight, he was staying at a 5 star resort with all of his people, enjoying horseback riding, swimming, mini golf - but not sparring. Naz is EXTREMELY confident, but this time he was out of line. He thought, as I did, that all he had to do is land on Barrera. If Junior Jones could ice him, Naz may well kill him. Well, Marco had other plans that evening (leaving as the best Featherweight in the world) but Naz didnít. He was stuck with Plan A, stretching Barrera as Naz put it himself, and was SO overconfident that he didnít even bother to have a Plan B just in case. Prior to the fight, Naz could have gone down in Featherweight history as one of the divisionís top performers. Now his legacy is that of a one-trick pony that never really fought anyone anyway.
And while Iíll always feel that Ricardo Lopez was the best fighter of the 1990ís, he may only have one fight left in him. Heís at the end of what even the most cynical would call a hall of fame career. But nature erodes everyoneís skill over time and the clock is ticking on Finito. But Felix Trinidad has emerged from the rest of the pound for pound pack as its new top dog. William Joppy was a MUCH bigger man, a skilled fighter and a good champion when he stepped through the ropes on May 12 to take on Tito. He even looked relaxed until he got caught midway through round one. After he got hit, he was forced to rely on his instincts. And boy did his instincts do him a disservice!!! Walking into Felix Trinidad must be like walking into a threshing machine because all that attempt to do it walk away a battered mess of their former selves. Trinidad looked the best he ever has at Middleweight and if I were Bernard Hopkins I would start calling out Roy Jones Jr. NOW. Just walk away from what appears to be a certain beating. I donít count Bernard out, but I really donít like his chances against Tito. In fact, I donít like ANYONEís chances against Tito. Just as long as he himself doesnít get overconfident.
A few random thoughts from the cheap seats :
I thought that three division thing Henry Armstrong pulled of was great, but thereís a fighter that will make his feat seem meaningless. While Iíve never seen him fight, Not Rated has enough skill to be rated in EVERY divisionís top 2 with the exception of the Super Welter & Welterweight divisions. OK, not rated isnít a human, but it does show how meaningless fighter ratings are these days. Every organization should be ashamed of themselves for not having each spot in their top ten filled by a fighter.
Iíll bet that Roy Jones Jr. is working on his why ďI canít / I wonít / I refuse to fightĒ Felix Trinidad excuses now. And this time I donít blame him a bit. I wouldnít fight Tito with a shotgun.
Quick, name the last fight that was shown live on one of the three major networks. Tough question, wasnít it ?
Would it be too much to ask HBO to show some class & give Don King an iota of credit for setting up the Middleweight tourney ? You donít have to interview him, but give the man his props. Itís one of the best things to happen in boxing in a long time Ö since he held the ďWho Wants to Get Beaten Up by Mike TysonĒ heavyweight tournament back in the 1980ís.
Speaking of class, Prince Naseem Hamed couldnít have exhibited any more than he did in his post-fight interview after the Barrera fight. In this day of braggart nitwits blaming anyone & everyone but themselves for a setback, Naz gave all the credit to Barrera.
Hey Floyd Mayweather, have you been paying attention to all of these upsets lately ? Just checkiní, cause I donít think thereís a chance in hell youíll loose any time soon either. But donít believe your own hype & stay focused.
And a note to Acelino Freitas : whoever she is, she just ainít worth it. Get your ass back in the gym - NOW. And if youíre killing yourself to make 130, do yourself a favor and move up to lightweight. Trust me, with your power you will carry it up in weight with you.
From the Cheap Seats,