Last night on HBO, the new series The Fight Game with Jim Lampley debuted. I didn't get a chance to watch it "live," since I was doing the Viloria-Romero show, but I set the DVR to record a replay this morning. Then, to my great pleasure, it was already on HBO Go today, so I watched it there instead.
I'm reviewing this show in this manner because I think this show could be very important, and deserves a serious look. Also, because it's fun for me to do these things. Let's get to it. The full, quite lengthy review is after the jump, but here's a poll! LOOK! A SHINY POLL!
Well, Andre Ward's in the intro video package, so I guess that maybe answers a few questions.
Lampley calls "the fight game" -- boxing, he means, as this ain't the MMA -- "the most universally compelling athletic competition in the world, but by its own hand, in perpetual peril of imploding." The ambition of the show, Jim says, is to identify and analyze the sport's great strengths, and to ask the tough questions that "hold boxing accountable" for its own failures.
We start with Mayweather vs Cotto from last week. Lampley says Mayweather had to produce his best, grittiest performance ever.
"Jim, it's me, Jose Luis Castillo."
"Not now, Jose. You do not matter because it totally screws up the universally compelling narrative that Floyd's win over Cotto was his toughest win ever."
Richard Schaefer joins via satellite. Two and a half minutes in, I don't know if I'm going to like this show, but I can already say that I believe this show has great value, even if it sucks in my opinion, and it might. I don't know. It's just getting started. But this show, the studio setup, the credible journalist talking about boxing, with heavyweight guests discussing the sport, makes boxing seem like a sport that people actually talk about. I wish this were on ESPN and not HBO, since the viewing numbers on HBO will be limited to the boxing fans who have HBO, but ESPN doesn't want this. I'm glad HBO, with its loyalty to the sport, have stepped up. The show is welcome already.
Anyway, on to Schaefer, who of course hypes Mayweather as the best in the world pound-for-pound. Schaefer says the list is getting longer of opponents who want to fight Floyd, and names Canelo Alvarez, Robert Guerrero ("five-time world champion"), Devon Alexander, the Ortiz-Berto II winner.
"Assuming a Pacquiao win over Timothy Bradley next month, are we getting any closer to the dream matchup between Mayweather and Pacquiao?" asks Lampley.
"It seems to me that the promotional entity Manny Pacquiao is with does not really want to make the fight," Schaefer responds. Pick up the phone, says the banker. "They have my number. Top Rank and us have worked together in the past."
Lampley asks about Pacquiao's demand for a 50-50 deal. "I think (Floyd) should get the lion's share. I think fair is fair. I think what we should do is have one of the big three accounting firms account the last fights going back to, let's say, 2007, since we've been involved with Floyd Mayweather. Account the pay-per-view numbers, account the live gates. Accumulate all of these numbers, we can do the same with Pacquiao, and then we can see what kind of ratio it is. If in fact they're the same, they produce the same amount of pay-per-views, the same amount of live gate revenues, then you know what? Yes, it should be a 50-50 split. But if they don't, why should it?"
First of all, it's loaded to go back to 2007, which Schaefer knows, because you're including Mayweather's fight with Oscar De La Hoya, where he was the clear B-side, and the gain Mayweather received there for the Ricky Hatton fight in December 2007. At that time, Mayweather vs Pacquiao was not an issue, was not a question for anyone. That fight was not being demanded, because Mayweather was at 147 and Pacquiao at 130.
Nobody was arguing Manny Pacquiao as a mega-star at the time. A great fighter, yes. A pound-for-pound contender, yes. But at the time, Mayweather was the man, and that is a fact, and everyone will agree with that. Manny Pacquiao's incredible run, as pertains to a Mayweather fight, did not start until he beat Oscar in December 2008. That fight did about half the business that Floyd-Oscar did, but it was also an Oscar who was washed-up in the ring, and frankly, it was an Oscar on his last legs as Oscar De La Hoya: Boxing's Savior, too. The loss to Mayweather, his own inactivity, these were things that were affecting Oscar De La Hoya's brand name by December 2008. It was a very, very big fight for sure -- but, again, about half as big as Floyd and Oscar. Oscar-Floyd was the much bigger fight, for a number of reasons.
Since then, the numbers have not been terribly different. Though you can argue that a couple of Pacquiao's reported PPV numbers are questionable, so are was Mayweather-Ortiz, for instance. The Vegas gates are real, and you can certainly argue that Manny is superior there, but it's not by any type of notable margin, and when you put the two of them together, the gate will explode to heights that these two can't imagine for any other fight right now.
My point is only that going back to 2007 is bogus. My personal feeling right now is that it should be 60-40 Floyd, probably. It appears he is the stronger pay-per-view star, and all bullshit aside, that's where these guys are making money, not at the live gate. You don't need to handicap for Floyd going back to 2007 to most likely find that he deserves the extra 10% for this fight.
Now we move to Canelo Alvarez. "Huge new superstar from Mexico. Record ratings on the Televisa network," says Schaefer. "He's calling us almost every day: 'Get me Mayweather, get me Mayweather, get me Mayweather.'" Schaefer says that will happen eventually, but Canelo will be back on September 15 at the MGM Grand.
Canelo vs Cotto? "I do hope that we are going to continue that relationship (with Cotto). ... Definitely a possibility for Canelo and Miguel Cotto." Schaefer says Cotto wants to take time off, will come back later this year. Lampley asks if the fight could happen if Cotto goes back to Top Rank. "I don't have a problem with that," says Schaefer.
* * * * *
Oh son of a bean, it's Bob Arum. Lampley asks about Mayweather naming Arum as the No. 1 roadblock for a fight against Pacquiao. "It's the same mantra that we've been hearing. 'Take the test.' Of course, Pacquiao agreed two years ago to take full drug testing. And then the other mantra is to identify a scapegoat. And the scapegoat became me. Floyd Mayweather is (from) the school of propaganda that Joseph Goebbels came from."
Arum used this stupid ass line a few days ago in a radio interview, too, so apparently he really thinks it's a great line, like Adrien Broner and that "Can-Man" crap. Unfortunately, Lampley doesn't go, "Hey, Bobbo, isn't that a bit much, really? I mean, seriously, isn't that kind of stupid, Bob?"
Instead, he remarks, "Never without a colorful quote. How significant an obstacle is Timothy Bradley at this stage of Pacquiao's career?" What the hell? That's how Lampley, the hard-hitting journalist, handles Bob Arum comparing Mayweather to Hitler's minister of propaganda? For real?
Anyway, Arum has an answer for that, and it's nothing to do with the Nazis. "My problem is, what Pacquiao are we gonna see? You have to understand since the last fight, last November, he's become a wholly different person. He's super religious. He does Bible study every night. Sometimes, I get the impression that I'm promoting Rick Santorum and not Manny Pacquiao. But be that as it may, who knows what effect it will have on his ring ability on June 9th?"
Yeah, what a mystery. Bible study is the No. 1 promotional tool of this fight.
Lampley moves on to ask about Miguel Cotto, and possibly bringing Miguel back to Top Rank. "Miguel's always been a very good friend of the company. He was a loyal fighter. We made each other a lot of money. And incidentally, Jim, for the Mayweather fight, which I wasn't involved in, Miguel trained in this very gym when he was in Las Vegas. So if Miguel is gonna continue in boxing, we would love to continue as his promoter."
Would Arum work with Golden Boy for a Canelo-Cotto fight? "Jim, enough with this nonsense! If the fighters wanna fight each other, the fight will happen. The promoters are not the all-powerful people in the equation."
Yeah, enough with this nonsense like asking the questions that should be asked. Here Lampley nicely skirts over Arum's Goebbels comparison, and has the audacity to say, "Look, everyone with a brain realizes that promoters avoid certain fights if they don't want them, so what's the deal, Bob?" and Arum responds with anger, because it's a question he can't approach truthfully. The promoters are the most powerful people in the equation.
There are a lot of guys on those two rosters between Top Rank and Golden Boy that I'm sure would love to fight each other. But it doesn't happen. Is Arum trying to convince us that everyone on both sides is trying to avoid everyone else on both sides? The fighters get thrown under the bus with this quote. Or are we living in a world where, say, Mike Alvarado doesn't want to fight Danny Garcia? Or Brandon Rios and Marcos Maidana wouldn't like a chance to swing at each other? Over here in the real world, where not everyone is as gullible as boxing promoters want them to be (but enough people are that it works well enough to keep up this actual nonsense), we can see through this crap. Even Lampley isn't going to get us answers just yet.
Would Manny take less than 50-50 for Floyd? "Manny Pacquiao has now taken the position, which I endorse, if Floyd Mayweather thinks that he is the greatest fighter of all time, let's do it 45% to Mayweather, 45% to Pacquiao, and 10% to the winner. But we gotta have parity here. If Mayweather really believes he can beat Pacquiao -- which I don't think he believes -- he'll pick up more than 50% that way. But it's up to Floyd."
* * * * *
On we move to the Peterson vs Khan drug testing debacle. We've been over it all enough that I don't need to go on and on here, but quickly: Peterson failed a VADA drug test, and the fight was canceled.
Now we're joined by Khan and trainer Freddie Roach. This is one fast-moving television program. Lampley: "You've lost a lot here, and not just money. How deep is your disappointment?" Khan says, "I was disappointed with all the hard work I put in. I trained like a challenger. I trained so hard. Trained out of my skin."
In short, he trained. Roach says he didn't see this coming. "Lamont Peterson and his coach Barry Hunter are very nice people. Very clean, from what we thought, and just good guys, good competitors, we thought. It's a shame to find that this happened."
Roach says the fight from December is invalidated. "They should overturn that and give Amir his titles back. I can't see any reason why they won't do that. They're talking about making it a no-contest and making the titles vacant, but I think since it was in his system during the fight, the decision should be reversed."
Lampley asks about where Khan will fight next. "Maybe things happen for a reason. Maybe I needed a little bit more experience, and staying at 140 pounds is gonna get me a couple more fights. I wanted this rematch fight, and hopefully got past this one, then I was gonna move up to 147. I still want one more fight in the 140-pound division before I do move up, so that I can put on a little bit more body mass and work on muscle and stuff, and move up to 147 nice and strong."
Jim asks Freddie if Mayweather is still their ultimate target. "I think I have two fighters that can beat Floyd. One's sitting beside me, and Manny Pacquiao. He's definitely the fight we would want, of course. If we can get him in the ring, we'll be happy."
* * * * *
Now we take a look at the upcoming schedule on HBO. Suggestion for the producers of the show: Make this more like the WWF Event Center.
* * * * *
Max Kellerman joins Jim at this ultra-futuristic, lean, clean table, and addresses the ideas from Schaefer and Arum earlier. "I like in a prize fight the idea that the winner gets a little more money. I wouldn't mind seeing Price Waterhouse come in and do an analysis of who deserves more money. of course, if they come up with maybe Pacquiao deserves 52% and Mayweather 48%, I don't think Mayweather would agree to that."
Kellerman thinks that these suggestions mean that we're closer to seeing the fight than we have been before. Really? That's what he took from this? All I took was it was more jibber-jabber about something that isn't going to happen, but that's me. But he also used this to plug the show: "Maybe because they were here on The Fight Game in a public forum..." This assumes that the viewing audience hasn't been able to read or see these guys say the same stuff before. The auditing idea was new, I think, but Arum just repeated things he's said before. Like some kind of minister of propaganda!
Maybe this is like the WWF Event Center.
Lampley says Schaefer laid out a plan for Canelo in a conversation after last week's win over Shane Mosley: Kirkland in September, Cotto in December at MSG (Max: "Woof!!!"), and then Mayweather next May.
Kellerman: "For those who say he's not a great fighter, you know what? He's pretty damn good for a 21-year-old. You don't want to kill the goose that's laying the golden eggs, or may potentially in the future lay 'em, but let's not have paralysis by analysis here. These are all terrific fights, particularly in that order. ... If there are great fights to be made, let's make 'em."
Kellerman is surprised we're not hearing much about a Mayweather-Cotto rematch. "If Cotto lands a few more shots in a few more rounds, suddenly it's a draw kind of fight." Yeah but he didn't. I mean...y'know.
Now Max talks about the Peterson-Khan stuff. Kellerman really buys into that "he offered Timothy Bradley a 50-50 split and Bradley turned him down!" Let's not have analysis paralaysis here, Max. There was a lot more to it than "Bradley ran scared from Khan." But then I've been down that road and too many people still can't wrap their heads around the whole thing. "(Khan's) career is stalled out precisely because he's seeking out the biggest, toughest challenges." Buhh, I'm not so sure how true it is that his career is stalled out, but Max and I agree: Khan takes the tough fights. We're both big Amir Khan fans because of this. I feel you, Max. I hear you, bro.
Max suggests Khan move up to 147 if he can't find another good opponent at 140.
Here's the analysis on Peterson's drug test failure: "He's got some damage control to do right now." Alright. Yeah, turns out that "web bonus" was just as crap as I thought it was.
* * * * *
Roy Jones Jr joins for some expert in-ring analysis stuff. I like how Roy talks. He always sounds like he's laying down smooth game on some semi-hotty at the flea market, and he's drunk a little bit and it's 4 p.m., but he just fixed up his Camino and got it washed, so she should really check out the Camino -- astro-turfin' it in the flatbed, mamacita.
Beyond that, Roy talks headbutts from Brad (this is apparently his nickname for Tim Bradley), and says that it's not an accident if it happens all the time. I got into argument about Andre Ward that centered on this one time. "He's good at lowering the head, because he has a bigger head, and when those guys are coming straight on at him, he's not a big puncher, so he gives them the head instead."
I would be remiss if I did not mention that Roy said "look purposely" twice. Roy analyzes Bradley's headbutts of Devon Alexander in January 2010. In a moment that made me pause the video because I laughed so hard, Roy says, "This is an old trick that Bernard Hopkins uses also, so--" and Lampley cuts him off immediately to avoid Jones going on a five-minute spiel about Hopkins.
Now Lampley plays Saul and Roy plays Teddy, and we get some Fight Plan. Roy calls Bradley's head a "deadly weapon." Tell it, Roy. Good stuff.
* * * * *
Lampley discusses pound-for-pound lists and myths, and how the designation has now become a way for fighters to avoid taking risks, risk being, in his opinion, the bedrock of boxing. To illustrate the belief, here's the ninth round of the first fight between Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward, or clips of it, anyway. This never gets old.
Lampley: "Arturo Gatti wasn't really one-of-a-kind, just the most illustrative modern example of what it means to be a peoples' fighter. His will toward risk always exceeded his urge for safety. Not every fighter will or should fight that way, but those who do, are special."
The Fight Game's Gatti List: Jorge Arce, Abner Mares, Mike Alvarado, Orlando Salido, Chris Arreola ("He was exciting when he was fat, and now he's not" -- I died again, yo), Canelo Alvarez, Sergio Martinez, Miguel Cotto, Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather.
Jesus Christ. That started OK and became a disaster by the end. Manny Pacquiao has had one good fight in his last four (and the Margarito fight had its moments), and Mayweather's win over Cotto is being grossly oversold as a "great fight" by this show. It was good, lots of fun to watch, very entertaining, high-level. But "high-level" shouldn't be some kind of requirement for the "Gatti List." And Canelo Alvarez has yet to have a single "great fight." Come on. Come on, dog. Jim started by saying, "I can't believe I'm about to say this," or something like that, and then when he said it, I also couldn't believe he said that. It's asinine to call Floyd Mayweather the most exciting fighter in the sport. Jim, stop with this nonsense! This ain't the MMA!
The Bad Left Hook "Gatti List" (in no particular order and just off the top of my head)
- Juan Manuel Lopez - It's not just the Salido fights. He went life-and-death with Rogers Mtagwa, too, and his two rounds with Bernabe Concepcion were awesome. Lopez is a true action star. For real. Maybe he's failed to live up to the overwhelming hype, but I'd skip an open bar wedding to watch Lopez fight.
- Abner Mares - I agree with what Lampley said: He's never in a bad fight. It's true. Even the wipeout of Eric Morel was pretty entertaining.
- Brandon Rios - How on earth is he not there but Floyd Mayweather is? I don't care if he missed weight twice in a row and his last fight was a stinker and a robbery. He's never had a crap TV fight before then. He belongs in the top ten.
- John Murray - Another guy who never has a bad fight. He doesn't know how.
- Michael Katsidis - Yes, still. He's faded into near-irrelevance, but his fights are still great to watch. His loss to Albert Mensah was one of the damnedest performances you're going to see this year. He was a whirlwind of punches.
- Jorge Arce - He's still Jorge Arce.
- Chris Arreola - I'd agree with this pick, too. Also, he is still kind of fat. It just doesn't really matter and probably never did.
- Marco Huck - He got a good fight out of Alexander Povetkin and just had a damn good fight with Ola Afolabi. Huck is a never-say-die fighter, even if he fights in spurts. He's like the superhuman, world's best version of Arthur Abraham.
- Orlando Salido - Actually not as much fun without Lopez, but still a very entertaining fighter.
- Andre Berto - Every time he's had the chance to mix up with a good opponent (Ortiz, Zaveck, Collazo), the fight has been good. He's got a style and approach to boxing that makes for compelling fights. He's a fast-handed bomber with a hole-filled defense.
There are lots of other guys, too: Maidana, Khan, Roman Martinez, Viloria, Alvarado, Chisora, Paul Williams, Hank Lundy. Mayweather. Come on. Pacquiao. Martinez. Cotto. Of course. Ooooof coooourse.
* * * * *
I liked the show. I think it can get better, but I did like the show. The half-hour format limits it somewhat, as they have to jump from topic-to-topic very quickly, but it's up-to-date, Lampley is a good host, Kellerman and Jones were both solid in their roles, the interviews were meaningful, and it doesn't look cheap or like some afterthought program. This is a show with a purpose, and I expect will find its groove over time.
Eventually, I'm hoping Lampley really takes a guest to task on something, and we get that show-making interview moment that could put the idea over the top, and make it true must-see TV every time. It was a promising first episode. Grade: B+, with room for improvement.