Boxing came to Madison Square Garden this past Saturday evening, as it will again on June 1 and then again June 8.
All three shows — April 20 from Top Rank, June 1 from Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom, and then June 8’s from Golovkin Promotions, the last two propped by the DAZN brand — were booked into the big room.
There’s something of a renaissance in the sport in the NYC area from that perspective. Good news for tri-state area fight fans, yes? But of course, being discerning persons in an age where there is too ample the opportunity to critique and share those findings, we do assess events like the Saturday night massacre of Amir Khan’s rep, and the work-outing from Terence Crawford and other supporting staff.
Here are the main takeaways from the night of fights, which climaxed in a rarity of an ending that had ‘em buzzing, the hours and the days after the weirdness.
1) SOME THINK AMIR KHAN IS ‘A MERE CON’
Oh yes, that way that it ended, not optimal. PPV watchers had the edge on us keyboard tappers, who didn’t get the benefit of multiple replays and input from wise and seasoned minds. Me, I thought that the plug had been pulled by the referee on advice from the doctor, and thus, we’d go to the cards, because four or more rounds had elapsed. No way, Dr. Bombay. The recipent of an accidental foul, if they quit, is surrendering and they are to be deemed the loser of the contest. Bit weird, right, in that you were just hit in the family jewels, and you say you are in such severe pain it wouldn’t be prudent to continue, and for that, you are rewarded with the “L.”
Now, that low blow — great God, it’s been looked at more than the Zapruder footage. Looked like it landed more toward the leg than the privates.
Maybe Amir’s packaging was leaning that way and the Crawford toss hurt him as much as he indicated. We can’t know. It’s his groin, it’s his brain which was sending the signals on how to proceed. He proceeded to inform trainer Virgil Hunter that no, he’d not like to continue. That was on tape, so when Khan was asked about it after, his explanations seemed muddy at best. So his rep has taken a short- or maybe longer-term hit. Fighters basically one and all took to social media and said no, you shake it off, you take the five, you soldier on.
I remember having a conversation with Chico in camp, he was telling me how pissed he was that his dad stopped his fight against Floyd. I said he was just looking out for you, he said fuck that, only way you stop the fight is if I’m on my back. I can punch, I’m always in the fight— Ishé Oluwa Kamau Ali Smith (@IsheSugarShay) April 21, 2019
Me, on these matters I like to tread lightly, know that I’m not in there, and I should be reasonable, give room for all the angles. But yeah, after some time I have to say this wasn’t an ideal ending. Amir, Virgil, take the allotted five! Allow your recuperative powers to kick in! No, you aren’t getting that $5 million to react like us mortals, Mr. Khan. And Virgil, yeah, he was looking out for his guy; totally makes sense, to a point.
There are physical contracts and then there are unofficial ones. The unofficial one is the warrior creed, and it is supposed to be in effect in this case. You got paid a shit ton of money and part of the reason is because you are willing and able to act unlike us mere mortals. When you don’t, you disappoint the patrons. And the patrons keep your wife in mink. Gotta do it right, treat ‘em right, do the right thing. Not sure Khan did that in the home stretch of this fight, and he will have to live with that, and yes, he will be asked about this and that tag will be on him for awhile.
2) CRAWFORD MORE OF A BUD POST-FIGHT
Crawford’s surliness got a good deal of ink this week, as press and fans picked up on his game face, and how it seemed at times he was as joyous as a guy doing a POW video in dealing with media.
Then I saw him after the fight and I saw him smile, answer queries in a more relaxed manner, and once again, it kicked in, made more sense. He is an ultra competitor, and add to that he comes from a place where trust is hard-earned for him, and media — which so often likes to accentuate negativity — isn’t high on his list to give out a ration.
One thing that helped: the video that Top Rank put out, which was an open letter from him to his kids. That sort of vulnerability is admirable and touching. Yes, I think it would be wise to try to show more of that side to us, who are after all just trying to do our jobs, a job which in the short and long run by and large serves as free advertising, which only serves to enrich a fighter like Crawford. Hoping he gets some insight from an old hand, to let him know we are not so much the enemy. Just trying to do our job over here.
3) ARUM IS ONE OF A KIND
You saw and heard the stamp Bob Arum made on the show after the bizarro ending. He told fans to blow off Al Haymon’s PBC product because Haymon was cock-blocking a Terence Crawford vs Errol Spence Jr fight.
Yep, Bob was dispensing napalm from center ring. You can argue it was a wise move, as it moved the spotlight off the disappointing nature of the ending. Arum had promised we’d see one for the ages, a classic along the lines of Hagler-Hearns, one you’d tell the grandchildren about. I’m guessing I will not be doing that, unless in the 2030s I see a challenger quit after taking one to the groin periphery.
Bob pulled out most every stop in trying to boost the gate and lure those PPV buyers in, and he played a card that he saves for special occasions. Now, his rant to a batch of writers down front after the ending, that too was something. I’m still parsing it out.
“No, because you can hear what he’s gonna say,” Arum told a group of reporters, referring to Al Haymon. “He’s gonna say, ‘Spence, listen to me. Don’t listen to the white guys, because if you listen to the white guys they’re gonna steer you down the road. Listen to me, brother. We’re part of a brotherhood. And if I tell you not to fight Crawford, I’m telling you not to fight Crawford.’ That’s exactly what he will say.”
Scamster, that’s what he called Haymon. This, the same Haymon whom he said he’d be calling today or tomorrow, to try and get him on the same page so we can see Spence vs Crawford in timely fashion, with both in their athletic primes. Is this “The Art of the Deal” Trump-style messaging? One woudn’t think this is a wise approach if one is wanting to find common ground with a rival. Then again, those sorts of capitalists, they don’t function like you or me. They are often much attuned not to emotion or feelings, but to revenue-generation possiblities. So who knows, maybe that harangue wasn’t a pre-dealmaker deal-breaker.
4) POWER TO THE PEOPLE
You saw Arum trying to help a movement by the masses rise up, as he said that boxing writers and fans have to push to encourage powers that be to make the fight. Crawford trainer/manager Brian McIntyre did the same. He started a “we want Spence” chant at the post-fight presser and insisted there is no Plan B opponent they want next. Spence is the focus.
But over in Spence-Ville, I don’t get the sense that is at all the focus. They have people over there for him to battle, and they seem to have zero appetite to even consider the Arum/Team Crawford desires. And dependent on what team you root for, you either get that or don’t. (Not everyone roots for Team PBC or Team Top Rank, but choosing sides is much more of a thing now than it was 20 years ago, for fans and media.)
“I don’t care what publications you write for, what website, who’s supporting it, Al Haymon won’t make fights. Wilder won’t fight Joshua. Why? Because of Al Haymon,” Arum continued to the media.
“Spence won’t fight Crawford, not because of Spence, but because of Al Haymon. He’s running a scam and a company, and people have to realize that. He is ruining the sport of boxing. You know, not to agree to make a Spence fight with Crawford, which is a fight that all fight fans want — why? Why? Because he’s running a scam operation. I’m telling you. He will only have his fighters fight with his own camp, unless he gets opponents that he knows his fighter can beat. That’s a scam.”
How do you think this plays out? It feels like Arum is banging the drums, gathering tub-thumpers behind him, and trying to put the onus on Haymon to capitulate. The tactic could well work, because he’s in a titanic clash with a rival who is a recluse. Haymon works out of his home office and there is a vacuum that can be filled by a wily maneuverer like Bob. You have some pushback from delegates:
♂️ This is really insulting and embarrassing. https://t.co/gG5QEnKXJK— Leonard Ellerbe (@LEllerbe) April 22, 2019
But Arum’s voice is louder and his messaging is honed over 60 years of doing this. So, advantage Arum.
5) PEOPLE ARE SEMI SAVAGE
Not fully, but innately, they and we are. We, most of us, have that side. We can pretend we are all about knowing the order of the forks at the fancy dinner, but c’mon — skills paying the bills is cool, but knockouts are preferred by fight fans.
Even more important, maybe, being that we seem to be stuck at between 300-400,000 hardcore boxing fans in America, the KO artists can put themselves on more radar screens. Viral videos are such potent advertising.
And the guy best suited to give us that viral action was in action at MSG Saturday. This time, there was no face plant of the foe. Instead, clever boxing, via a freeze-up jab to the body, and a right to the side made the rival unable to continue. Teofimo Lopez was the first man to drop and stop Edis Tatli, and though body shot wince-makers are efficient, they are not as likely to go viral.
That’s OK, the Teofimo Takeover Train just pulled in for fuel. He will be back in July in New York, and we will see the train pick up speed. Now, something interesting: the kid was his usual calm and charming self with media after the fight. No young contender does it better with media than the 21-year-old, and yes, I give public props to his mom and pop, because obviously, their oversight has proved to be effective.
But Teofimo spoke of having a less than stellar camp, and no, it wasn’t an injury. We will keep an eye on that, whatever “that” is. Such a large element of elevating in this game is being able to maintain emotional equilibrium as the fame octopus starts pawing at you with more zest. It can drain the brain and make you lose focus and fights.
Certainly, other issues and outcomes and moments struck me.
— Also: Shakur Stevenson. He was a solid pro in handling Christopher Diaz, but his showing didn’t jazz the crowd. He did push buttons when he compared himself to Floyd Mayweather, this coming on the heels of his Miami Beach fracas, which leaked to media and drew scorn, because in it Stevenson is seen striking a woman. He had the opportunity to get people clear on his side if he looked to take out Diaz, and not just be smart and get that W in risk-averse fashion. Bottom line, as a pugilist and person, the Newark boxer is finding his way. Expect that to continue, with inevitable bumps in the road.
— You might want to book passage on the Edgar Berlanga hype train. I suspect passengers will be hopping on; the 10-0 hitter hopped off when Real Deal Boxing imploded and fought his first Top Rank bout Saturday. He took out Samir Santos de Barbosa, in round one, his tenth straight first round KO. Heavy hands, indeed. Now, do they stay as heavy as he steps up that ladder at middleweight/super middleweight? We can see for ourselves, as he fights May 25, in Florida, underneath the Masayuki Ito-Jamel Herring main event.
Now, what say you? What were your takeaways?
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