The Sly Stallone Boxing Hall of Fame Debate Verdict

December 16, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Babe Ruthless.

Rocky Balboa has triumphed against seemingly insurmountable odds many times. But I don’t think anyone saw this coming.

Sylvester Stallone, creator of boxing’s most recognizable figure of the past 30 years (despite being fictional), has been honored as one of the newest inductees into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

There are many people out there like Loyal Homer who feel that this honor is not deserved. They do not deny the cultural impact that the series of Rocky films has, but there have been many great movies about sports. From The Natural to The Mighty Ducks, sports films make for one of the great film genres. That does not necessarily mean that Robert Redford and Emilio Esteves should receive similar inductions.

In many senses, I agree with that sentiment. The idea that Matt LeBlanc could receive Cooperstown honors for his role as sidekick to a baseball playing monkey in the film Ed is ludicrous. But I am awarding this verdict to Babe Ruthless for pointing out a very critical piece of information – it is Sylvester Stallone, not Rocky, that is receiving induction. Stallone’s contributions to the sport of boxing greatly supersede simply producing a movie.

In many ways, Stallone has been as influential in promoting the sport of boxing as Don King, Bob Arum, Lou DiBella, and many other promoters over the years. As Babe Ruthless mentions, Stallone’s creation of Rocky helped attract maintain fan interest during a transition period when legends like Muhammad Ali were making their exit from the sport.

If we were talking about the MLB or NFL, that contribution may not have meant much. Those organizations have been able to maintain consistent growth without any outside help. But boxing is not in the same successful boat as professional baseball or football. Boxing has been struggling desperately for many years, and is starved for real, sustainable publicity.

Sure, guys like Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis, and Roy Jones, Jr. did their part to keep boxing relevant, but who has stepped up to carry the torch since their exit from the game? Names like Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao, and Joe Calzaghe have simply not been enough to sustain the viability of the sport the way that Ali and his counterparts did during boxing’s golden age.

Boxing NEEDED Rocky. You can’t say that about Rudy.

It should also be noted that Stallone’s contributions to the sport of boxing go beyond the Rocky series. He has stayed very close to the sport, including working as producer for The Contender television series, a real-life boxing competition that offers working-class prospects an opportunity to make the leap into boxing stardom. That program has helped to launch the careers of several world-class fighters, including Sergio “The Latin Snake” Mora, who went on to claim the WBC Super Welterweight World Championship.

Movie characters do not belong in sports’ halls of fame, but Stallone is not a movie character. His professional career as a Hollywood star should not be considered a black mark against him when you are considering the invaluable contributions he has made to the sport of boxing.

Congratulations, Sly, on receiving the honor of being named to the International Boxing Hall of Fame. It is well-deserved!

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The Sly Stallone Boxing Hall of Fame Debate

December 15, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Babe Ruthless.

The International Boxing Hall of Fame has announced its inductee class for 2011.

“Iron” Mike Tyson, Julio Cesar Chavez, Kostya Tszyu, Referee Joe Cortez, and Ignacio “Nacho” Beristain were (and still are) legends during their time in the ring. Each will be entering the hall to join the greatest in boxing history. But they were not the only people named this year.

Joining the newest batch of legends in boxing’s hall will be Sylvester Stallone.

In reality, Sylvester Stallone has the exact same professional boxing record that I do. But on the silver screen, his creation – Rocky Balboa – is among the most recognizable figures in all of boxing. Who amongst us hasn’t imagined ourselves running up the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, or screamed ”Yo, Adriaaaaaaaaan!” at the top of our lungs AT LEAST once in our lives?

But are Hollywood catch-phrases and musical montages enough to warrant induction into the same fraternity as Muhammad Ali, Rocky Marciano, Sugar Ray Leonard, and Sugar Ray Robinson?

Does Sylvester Stallone deserve induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame?

There are plenty of reasons why Loyal Homer feels that Stallone should NOT be receiving this honor, while Babe Ruthless feels that the honor is absolutely deserved.

No matter what the verdict, though, John Goodman should not get his hopes up for a similar honor in Cooperstown!

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The Most Disgraced Athlete of All Time Debate… Panama Lewis

October 7, 2010

Read the opposing argument from Sports Geek.

There is a litany of names of people who have disgraced themselves in sports. From Almonte to Zaun, sports history books are littered with people who have tarnished the game and sullied their own legacy by being involved in activities that cheated their games.

But to decide who among those is the most disgraced really is more challenging than one might think.

Some, like Tonya Harding, have become more of a punch line than a disgrace. Others, like Pete Rose, have actually managed to work their way back into being supported by much of the public, rather than being vilified. And as for steroid users, they are a dime a dozen.

But there is one person in sports with so little regard for others that his selfishness literally endangered (and arguably cost) the life of another athlete. That person is boxing trainer Carlos ‘Panama’ Lewis.

Here is a picture of what Panama Lewis was willing to do to win a game:

Brutal, isn’t it?

On June 16th, 1983, one of Panama’s fighters, a journeyman opponent named Luis Resto, was scheduled to take on a very exciting, undefeated prospect named Billy Collins, Jr.

By the time Resto was scheduled to fight Collins, Lewis had already developed a reputation as being a cheater after allegations were made that he would give his fighters tainted beverages with banned stimulants (rumors ranged from a breathing pill to cocaine), all for the intention of providing an artificial energy boost to his fighters during a fight.

Nothing was ever proven, but people were already calling Panama’s integrity into question.

Still, no one on that summer night in 1983 expected to become witness to professional sports’ most unforgiveable act of cheating in all of sports.

Collins entered the fight at 14-0, and Resto, at 20-8-2, was expected to be little more than a notch on Collins’ belt as he climbed the ranks from prospect to contender, and hopefully champion.

But ten rounds later, it was Resto whose hands were raised in victory after having bludgeoned Collins over the course of the bout.

At the conclusion of the fight, though, as Resto was receiving congratulations for his win, Collins’ father and trainer, Billy, Sr., uncovered the most heinous act of cheating possible – Resto’s gloves were loaded.

When Billy, Sr. took Resto’s hand as part of the customary congratulation that is passed around post fight, he felt that Resto’s gloves were far too thinly padded to be regulation. Acting both as a trainer and a father, Billy, Sr. sought to protect his son by demanding that Resto’s gloves be inspected for tampering.

It didn’t take the New York Boxing Commission long to discover that much of the padding in Resto’s gloves had been removed by Panama prior to the fight, and later it was also revealed that Panama had soaked Resto’s wraps in plaster of Paris.

You see, steroids may help an athlete recover from injury faster, or hit more homeruns, and betting on the game may help a person profit financially. But when a fighter loads his gloves, he is literally turning his hands into weapons. Boxers wear gloves for a reason, to cushion their hands so that the risk of permanent damage is minimized. Lewis, however, used Resto’s gloves to increase, rather than decrease, the damage done with each blow.

Panama Lewis had basically turned Resto’s hands into cinderblocks, and encouraged Resto to use those cinderblocks as a weapon to assault Billy, Jr.

The direct impact that Panama’s (and Resto’s) actions created was a criminal conviction and prison sentence for both men. And as a result of the physical punishment he endured, Collins was never able to fight again. His vision was permanently damaged, and he was forced into retirement.

Indirectly, Panama ruined the life of Collins, both figuratively and literally.

After the fight, upon learning that he could never fight again, Collins became severely depressed, and became an alcoholic. Then, just months after the fight, Collins wrecked his car, dying in the accident (which many believe was intentional suicide).

There have been many crimes committed against the notion of fair play and sportsmanship. For as long as there has been competition, there have been people trying to circumvent the rules to gain an unfair advantage. But none in the modern era of sports have endangered the lives of competition in the way that Panama Lewis has.

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The Most Marketable Athlete of All Time Debate… Ali’s Still the Greatest

August 20, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Sports Geek.

No athlete in history was more marketable than Muhammad Ali.

He was the most visible, electrifying, and captivating superstar not only of his time, but of all time. Unlike any other athlete before or since, he possessed the “total package.” His combination of athletic dominance and larger-than-life persona made him the preeminent celebrity athlete.

Athletic Credentials

Before you can become a marketable athlete you must be a SUCCESSFUL athlete (personal stats will only get you so far, LeBron). And in the ring, Muhammad Ali stood alone.

He was the greatest boxer during a time when boxing was among the premier sports in America. His fights became events rivaling the Super Bowl and the World Series. Many have gone down in history as being among the greatest events in ANY sport.

The Fight of the Century

The Rumble in the Jungle

The Thrilla in Manilla

These were not just boxing matches, they were spectacles that captivated the world.

And when Ali retired from boxing in 1981, he did so as a U.S. Gold Medalist, and a three-time Heavyweight Boxing Champion (the first ever to accomplish that remarkable task).

An International Boxing Hall of Famer, his accomplishments earned him 38 Sports Illustrated covers, a number surpassed only by Michael Jordan.

Sports Illustrated would go on to recognize Ali as The Sportsman of the Century (ahead of Michael Jordan, Jack Nicklaus, Jim Brown, Wayne Gretzky, Babe Ruth, Lou Gherig, and every other athlete that competed in any sport, any year, between 1900 and 1999).

He is one of the most decorated fighters of all time, and he earned his decorations during the Golden Era of heavyweight boxing. He faced down some of the greatest heavyweights in history, and he bested them all.

A Boxer and a Salesman

There was one thing that Muhammad Ali understood more than any other athlete in history – when the cameras are on, you have to sell yourself at all times. Whether in the ring, at a press conference, or on the streets, Ali took advantage of every single opportunity he could to steal a headline. Over the course of his illustrious career he became the most quotable athlete ever.

Early in his career, he earned the nickname “The Louisville Lip” because he could trash talk like no other. As Cassius Clay, he became famous for inventing rhymes as taunts for his opponents, and those he sought to badger into becoming his opponents. He threatened and heckled, he taunted and he teased.

“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, your hands can’t hit what your eyes can’t see”

“Archie Moore fell in four, Liston wanted me more. Since he’s so great, I’m a make him fall in eight.”

“I’ll beat him so bad he’ll need a shoehorn to put his hat on.”

And my personal favorite, “If you even dream of beating me, you’d better wake up and apologize.”

He figured out how to get into an opponent’s head before getting into the ring. Most important is the fact that Ali (or Clay) always backed up his words.

And it is important to note that he did not just do that for his own amusement. In a 1964 interview with Sports Illustrated he explained that the only difference between himself and many other fighters out there was that people knew who he was.

“I’m not saying they’re not good boxers… I’m just saying you never heard of them.”

He became his own promoter, and fights like the “Rumble in the Jungle” or the “Thrilla in Manilla” became so popular largely BECAUSE of Ali’s ability to promote himself.

More than Just Words

The other aspect of Ali’s persona that made him so marketable was that he was completely genuine.

He may have been boisterous and flamboyant, but nothing he ever did was simply a PR stunt. He believed wholeheartedly in every one of his actions.

Most of the big talkers today have no substance to back their jawing up. Guys like Terrell Owens, Chad Ochocinco, and LeBron James may have been All Star performers, but their publicity stunts always come across as shallow and self-serving.

When Cassius Clay changed his name to Muhammad Ali, it wasn’t part of a gimmick. He wasn’t trying to be cute, clever, or popular (like Mr. Ochocinco). He did it because he embraced his new religion, and committed to it fully.

His social and political activism wasn’t motivated by a contractual obligation to portray “good citizenship.” He wasn’t trying to smooth over a scandal, and he wasn’t trying to win a popularity vote. He didn’t partner with local organizations and charities because it was good PR, he advocated peace and stood up against the Vietnam War because he believed it was wrong.

Whether you agreed with his political opinions or not, you could not argue his motives. He was bold and brash, but he was always authentic.

“My way of joking is to tell the truth. That’s the funniest thing in the world.”

It was his unabashed honesty and his devotion to his own principles that made him such a lightning rod in the public eye.

The Marketer’s Dream

Muhammad Ali had everything that a marketing agency craves.

He was THE elite athlete. He was entertaining, charismatic, and most importantly, he was believable. He became the most recognizable face of his era (and of all time). He was a man of principle, and he was a civic leader.

He knew how to get in the headlines, and he knew how MAKE headlines.

He was – and is – “The Greatest.”

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The Blood Testing in Non-Unioned Sports Debate – Should Blood Testing Be Mandatory?

January 7, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Bleacher Fan and Babe Ruthless.

Many years ago, blood testing was a non-issue in athletics of any kind. Steroid use was not even a blip on the radar yet, and performance-enhancing drugs were not in the spotlight. Those were the days of good sportsmanship and the “honor system.” That was another time. This is a brand new era.

Somewhat hidden by the other events taking place in the sports world is the circus surrounding the proposed fight between accomplished boxers Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. The bizarre circumstances surrounding the proposed fight provide an excellent backdrop and example for today’s debate.

Mayweather and Pacquiao have been negotiating for a heavyweight fight at the MGM Grand for some time now. After some tense negotiations, it was agreed that the fight would take place in March. Most of the terms had been agreed upon, including the amount of money to be received by both Mayweather and Pacquiao. The fight was all set to be a monster Pay-Per-View event. The only thing that had not been settled on is the drug testing protocol leading up to the fight.

However, it is the drug testing protocol that is apparently going to indefinitely postpone this fight, as several news outlets reported late yesterday that the highly-anticipated fight is not going to happen mainly because the two camps are unable to agree on the time frame of blood testing. Mayweather wanted random testing all the way up to the fight on March 13, while Pacquiao, who originally balked at any type of testing, relented some, but refused to subject himself to random testing for fear that getting blood drawn too close to the fight may weaken him.

For today’s debate, The Sports Debates will not focus SOLELY on the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight and the sport of boxing. It is a good example of the contentious nature of blood testing, however. The question posed also excludes any sport that currently has a players’ union, as the presence of a player’s union complicates blood testing.

Should non-union sports, such as boxing, make it mandatory for its participants to subject themselves to blood testing at any time?

Bleacher Fan, who is probably the biggest boxing fan out of the four writers here at TSD, will argue that non-union sports should mandate blood testing. Babe Ruthless will argue that non-union sports should NOT mandate blood testing.

LLLLLLET’S get ready to ruuuuuuummmmmmmmmmbbbbblllllleeeee! The verdict will be declared by TKO… but will be subject to testing afterward!!!

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The Blood Testing in Non-Unioned Sports Debate – Blood Rivalry

January 7, 2010

Read the debate intro and the opposing argument from Bleacher Fan.

Around the year 490 B.C., an Athenian named Pheidippides ran from Marathon Greece to Athens to announce that the Persians had been defeated. As legend has it, Pheidippides collapsed dead on the spot from exhaustion. He supposedly ran over 150 miles in two days before taking off on his final jaunt of 25 miles to announce the victory. He was celebrated as a hero in ancient Greece. I say, if Pheidippides was around today we probably would have tested his corpse for performance enhancing drugs before the body was cold.

Modern society has a growing preoccupation with performance enhancing drugs. Fear and accusation of alleged use of steroids and human growth hormones (HGH) in sports has become the Red Scare of the modern sports era. In response, public cries for drug testing have gained momentum and even elicited government intervention in some instances (i.e. the government’s probe into steroid use in baseball). Blood-testing in sports has come to the forefront of public attention as of late thanks in no small part to the refusal of boxer Manny Pacquiao to submit to testing preceding his marquee fight with Floyd Mayweather. This dream fight is in jeopardy of never coming to fruition because Pacquiao refuses to surrender blood samples during the month preceding the fight. His reasoning? Superstition. Pacquiao cannot be forced to submit to testing because boxing is not a unionized sport. To me an important question is raised: Should sports even be able to mandate blood testing? I say Oh negative! (Get it, like the blood type? Tough crowd…)

While I personally do not condone drug use in any manner whatsoever, I think society is greatly exaggerating the steroid issue. The solution is simple. If an athlete refuses to submit to blood testing, then do not let them compete. Manny Pacquiao does not have to fight Floyd Mayweather. If Pacquiao is willing to turn down the money, exposure, and fame that could come from the fight because he does not want to submit to a blood-test, then let him.

Aye, but there’s the rub! Boxing is, in my opinion, a sport on the wane. Boxing needs this fight. The sport is being forced to compete with mixed martial arts – like UFC, Strikeforce, and Pride – that are seeking to corner the market on TV and Pay-Per-View events. The Pacquiao-Mayweather fight could be the great hope that renews America’s interest in boxing and passes the love for the sweet science on to a new generation of fans. So it is not that Pacquiao cannot turn down the fight over the issue of blood testing. Rather, it is that boxing does not want that to happen.

If blood-testing really meant that much to society, we would demand testing and take a zero tolerance stance against those that test positive for performance enhancing drugs. Instead we offer second, third, and even fourth chances to those that test positive. If Americans do not wish to be hypocritical about testing, then there are only two choices. One, mandate testing in every sport and institute a lifetime ban for first time offenders. Or two, indulge in the spectacle that steroid users create in separate “anything goes” leagues.

I have always wanted to see how far a human being can hit a homerun. With “anything goes” leagues I would finally find out. Imagine the possibilities. We would have to add a super-mega-heavy weight division in boxing and ultimate fighting. We would finally see what happens when the unstoppable force (a two ton defensive line) collides with the immovable object (a three ton offensive line). And even the least intimidating of Olympic sports – like figure skating, curling, and the ribbon twirling of a gymnastic floor routine – would take on a whole new extreme feel what with all the ‘roid-rage and whatnot.

As a child of the 1980s I learned a lot from (allegedly) ‘roided up monsters. Sylvester Stallone taught me that no amount of communist rhetoric and illegal doping can protect you from the hammering lefts of a guy in red, white, and blue trunks. Hulk Hogan taught me to train, say my prayers, eat my vitamins, be true to myself, and be true to my country (do yourself a favor and click on the sweetest montage of Hogan-Americana I’ve ever seen). The point is, while I firmly stand behind the fact that performance enhancing drugs are deplorable, Americans still find entertainment value in those who use them. Until these mixed messages are cleared up, we cannot try to assume some moral high ground in mandating blood-tests of athletes. It’s hypocritical and un-American… Brother!

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The Best Game of THIS Weekend Debate – Football Schmootball… I’ll take the Sweet Science!

November 20, 2009

Read Sports Geek’s argument and Loyal Homer’s argument about the which game this weekend is the one that you CANNOT miss.

I read an interesting article a few days ago by Ivan Maisel of Within the article, Maisel discussed his frustration and disappointment with the lack of any exciting college football at what is supposed to be a crucial point in the season for many teams. As those top-level teams SHOULD be jockeying for BCS position in very intense matchups (usually between conference rivals), the excitement and drama of college football usually begins building towards the climax of championship week at this time. As Maisel points out, though, that magic seems to be missing this year.

He is absolutely right!

Consider the teams currently ranked as the top-10 in BCS standings right now, and look at their matchups…

#1 Florida hosts Florida International
#2 Alabama hosts Chattanooga
#3 Texas hosts Kansas (1-5 in the Big XII)
#4 TCU visits Wyoming
#5 Cincinnati is off
#6 Boise State travels to Utah State
#7 Georgia Tech is off
#8 LSU travels to Ole Miss (unfortunately, LSU has virtually NO shot at playing in a BCS game)
#9 Pitt is off
#10 Ohio State heads to Michigan (which WOULD have been exciting, except for the fact that Michigan has lost six of its last seven games, and Ohio State has already clinched the Big Ten BCS berth).

Unless you are a fan or alum from one of those schools, none present any real intrigue or excitement.

The NFL matchups this weekend are not much better, either. In fact, I am actually giving up my football Sunday because I would RATHER watch my alma mater, the University of Akron Zips, as their top-ranked soccer team (which earned the #1 seed in the national tournament) plays host to South Florida in the second round of the NCAA College Cup tournament. That’s right, I would rather watch a college soccer game between Akron and South Florida than watch the NFL (Go Zips!).

Does that mean that I have sworn off football? No. What it does mean is that there are more entertaining and intriguing matchups slated to take place this weekend than those on the gridiron. One such matchup actually takes place inside of the ring, rather than on the field.

Saturday night in Oakland, Mikkel Kessler is putting his Super-Middleweight Title on the line against former U.S. Gold Medalist Andre Dirrell in the scheduled final fight from the first round of the Super-Six boxing tournament.

The Super-Six World Boxing Classic

The Super-Six World Boxing Classic is an organized boxing tournament featuring the six top fighters in the world at the 168 pound Super-Middleweight division – Mikkel Kessler, Arthur Abraham, Carl Froch, Jermain Taylor, Andre Ward, and Andre Dirrell. These six world-beaters have combined over their very impressive careers for 165 wins (120 by KO) to only six losses and one draw. Of those six losses, three came at the hands of a fellow Super-Six fighter, with the remaining three coming during title bouts against current Middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik and the former pound-for-pound champion, Joe Calzaghe. With those impressive stats comes equally impressive hardware – four of the six fighters are world champions, and the other two (Ward and Dirrell) are Olympic medalists.

Good for the Sport

The Super-Six is an event that the sport of boxing has needed for a long time. The sport, which has not enjoyed the fan support in recent years that it once did, has struggled to create a new identity for itself. The Heavyweight division (normally considered the marquis weight class) has been so dominated by the Klitschko brothers that the lack of competition has cost the sport its notoriety in the United States. With that lack of American publicity, the sport seems constantly wrapped up in scandal and controversy, either over the political dealings of the various sanctioning bodies or the controversial behavior of the fighters.

Even among the championship ranks, fighters are more often motivated by paychecks than prestige. Far too often a reigning champ will publicly state this, often turning down fights that may be more entertaining (I am talking to YOU, Floyd Mayweather, Jr.). So, when it was announced that the top six fighters in this weight class were all willing to put their reputations (and titles) on the line in a multi-year tournament that was designed to find out who was truly the best of the best, fans were very impressed! Each of the 12 fights scheduled to play out over the course of this tournament will be a world championship caliber fight, and every time a current champion steps into the ring his belt is up for grabs!

The first bouts of the tournament took place last month, and were both very entertaining. Carl Froch went on to defeat Andre Dirrell in a 12-round split-decision victory, and Arthur Abraham stopped Jermain Taylor by KO in the 12th round (Taylor ended up having to be hospitalized after the bout). The stage is now set for Mikkel Kessler to take on Andre Ward as the first round of the tournament draws to a close. Following this bout, the six fighters will be re-paired for another round of world-class fighting.

If you are looking for some REAL excitement and action on Saturday night, trust me, football is not going to be the answer. Instead of watching Nevada travel to New Mexico State, take my advice and check out the Super-Six World Boxing Classic to watch as two of the world’s best fighters square off on the biggest stage in boxing… you’ll thank me for it!

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The Boxing Schedule Debate – The Verdict

June 24, 2009

Read Loyal Homer and Sports Geek’s opinions.

After one round of exciting boxing debate action, we go to the judge’s scorecard… Judge Bleacher Fan from Ohio has scored the bout 10-9 in favor of the winner, by unanimous decision…

-pause for dramatic effect-

From the state of GEORGIA, LOYAL HOMER!!!!!

Sports Geek raised a very interesting point about boxing, in the sense that the scheduling of fights is different than many other professional sports. Unlike professional football, baseball, basketball, golf, etc., a fighter in boxing has the opportunity to pick and choose who they face. Ironically, it was that point that he raised which ultimately convinced me to award the debate to his opponent.

There can be varying reasons for why a fighter will choose to accept (or decline) a fight.

Money, however, is the primary reason. I can remember an interview with Jermain Taylor, following a fight against Cory Spinks, Jr., where Taylor (who was at the time a much maligned middleweight champion for having taken the “wrong” fights) was asked if he would accept a fight against Kelly Pavlik. Pavlik at the time had just upset the favored Edison Miranda in a very exciting bout on the Taylor/Spinks undercard, and had made a case that he was the most deserving for a title opportunity against Taylor. Taylor’s response was that he would fight anyone as long as the money was right. The implication behind that comment was that he didn’t care about fighting the best competition; he just wanted to make sure he got paid. It didn’t matter that Pavlik was ‘deserving’ of a title shot, either. Taylor was the King of the Hill, and all of his fights would be set by HIS terms and no one else’s.

Floyd Mayweather, Jr. has echoed that sentiment in his comments, stating that a fight with Manny Pacquiao (the current pound-for-pound champion) will probably never happen, because he “doesn’t have to chase fighters.” Basically, Mayweather is saying that he doesn’t want to concede “the lion’s share” to another fighter because he feels he should be the top earner in the fight.

Ultimately, this compensation format of contract fighting has resulted in a sport where the best fighters don’t always fight each other. If the athletes are more interested in a paycheck than they are interested in having beaten the “best,” they don’t have to fight the “best.” Today, boxers are much more self-serving in their decisions because the system allows them to be. They are not interested in what’s best for boxing because they do not have to be. Instead, they are interested primarily in what’s best for THEM.

While the boxing world would have liked to see Klitschko fight Haye (or for that matter, his own brother) he doesn’t HAVE to if he doesn’t WANT to. I don’t like the system, but that’s what we have. Wladimir Klitschko, despite the apparent fact that a fight against David Haye would have probably been better for the sport, was allowed the opportunity to replace Haye following his back injury.

To Loyal Homer’s point (which helped him solidify the victory), the Klitschko-Haye fight may still take place, but Klitschko had been training to fight on June 20, in front of an anticipated capacity crowd. If he felt the risk was too great that something (either an injury or a drop in attendance) would be compromised by pushing the fight date back 3 weeks, then he was completely justified in his decision. While it may have resulted in a less entertaining fight, he got what he wanted out of it.

At the end of the day, the question of whether or not Klitschko made the right decision to replace Haye with Chagaev, Klitschko can provide the best answer. If he is satisfied with the outcome, then he made the right decision.

The Boxing Schedule Debate – What Did Klitschko Gain? Zip!

June 23, 2009

Read the debate intro and Loyal Homer’s opinion.

For anyone reading who doesn’t follow boxing, the scheduling is very similar to college football. (No, it’s not a boxer taking on a college football team. But, that would be interesting.) Some boxers schedule weak fighters, some boxers schedule tough fighters. Like the elite college football teams who refuse to schedule the Sisters of the Poor, some boxers refuse an opponent that doesn’t match their capabilities for a variety of reasons. One, it’s beneath them. Two, it’s not challenging and does not showcase their ability. Three, to be considered the best, they must beat the best. Then… there’s Wladimir Klitschko. He’d rather play the Sisters of the Poor.

It’s obvious that Klitschko refuses to fight the best fighters. If he was welcoming of that type of fight he would agree to fight his brother, Vitali, a current heavyweight title-holder and the closest thing Wladimir has to a legitimate opponent since their strength and technical attention to detail is similar. In other words, THAT would be a fair fight.

Instead, Wladimir patently rebuffed any attempt to preserve the respectability of himself and his sport when he refused to postpone his planned fight with potentially interesting opponent David Haye and take on a much less exciting, undertrained and therefore weakened, Ruslan Chagaev. What did Klitschko gain by forcing Chagaev to train in two weeks time, when it was only an additional 3 weeks to face Haye? Zip! Rather than continue training to reach the peak of performance readiness (though Loyal Homer would have you believe extra training is a BAD thing), Klitschko chose to have a lesser fight. That’s a bad approach to sports, no matter what sport an athlete is in. The objective is always to beat the best to prove you’re the best. Not take on a weakened opponent just to preserve some ridiculous notion that “it’d be cool to fight in front of a lot of people.” Those same people would have shown up for Haye (in fact, that’s who they originally paid to see) – and, they probably would have stayed for an entire fight, unlike the snooze fest Klitschko apparently preferred.

It’s not just athletic logic to “be the best you must beat the best” – it’s also good business. Who are the most famous athletes in sports? Across the board, they are all champions. Tiger Woods, Roger Federer, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Albert Pujols, Derek Jeter… the list is lengthy. But, as long as that list is, it does not include Wladimir Klitschko. He blew his chance to beat the best fighter that was willing to fight him, and continually refuses to box the only other fighter who could legitimize him as a true boxing great. To prove he is the best he must agree to meet the best whenever he can. He proves nothing by fighting a weaker opponent. If anything, he just wastes everyone’s time.

It boils down to ego. Klitschko wanted to fight in front of a large crowd, and nothing was going to prevent that – even if the fans were to be unwittingly subjected to a one-sided, borderline unfair fight due to Chagaev’s insufficient training. If Klitschko was truly interested in proving himself in a fair fight while angling to fight a challenging opponent, he would have accepted the postponed date. Instead, he decided to go with a big crowd he would lull to sleep before they finally awoke in the ninth round, saw that Klitschko was jabbing the ever-loving crap out of Chagaev, and would make their way to the exits. How is this a good decision? He’s managed to alienate fans trying to get into boxing, and bore the ones who are intensely loyal to the sport. Perhaps one of the 1,534,634,345,234 governing bodies should have stepped in and diplomatically forced Klitschko to wait for the better fight. Perhaps it is this situation that proves, yet again, why boxing needs to have a unified system capable of exerting the leverage necessary to preserve the sanctity of the sport. With a divided ruling class, boxing will never have the accountability and marketing horsepower necessary to return it to worldwide glory. But, maybe that’s a debate for another day.

The Boxing Schedule Debate – To Be the Best, You’ve Gotta BEAT the Best… So if You ARE the Best, Does it Matter Who You Fight?

June 23, 2009

Read Loyal Homer and Sports Geek’s opinions.

In boxing’s heavyweight division, Wladimir Klitschko (53-3-0, 47KO) is the best. He’s ranked at the top by Ring Magazine, the IBF and the WBO.

Until recently, Klitschko was scheduled to fight David Haye (22-1-0, 21KO), a very exciting contender out of Great Britain who had no problems in letting the public know his lack of respect for both Wladimir and his brother, Vitali (37-2-0, 36KO) who is also a heavyweight title holder.

This fight could have rejuvenated the sport of boxing. Considered by most fans to be the premier weight class, the heavyweight division has lacked an exciting, fan pleasing champion since the retirement of Lennox Lewis in 2004. Since Lewis’ retirement, the Klitschko’s emerged as the division’s elite fighters, but neither excites crowds the way previous champions like Evander Holyfield, Mike Tyson, or Lewis were able to. Despite possessing devastating knockout power, the Klitschko’s have established their dominance more through technical superiority than brutality. Unfortunately, boxing fans crave the latter. As a result, the popularity of heavyweight boxing – and subsequently the sport in general – has suffered.

Another drawback in the heavyweight division is that the Klitschko brothers have categorically stated they will never fight each other. That decision leaves no chance of seeing the best fighters within the division step into the ring together until a new and legitimate contender can challenge their dominance. Many fight fans hoped Haye would be the man equal to the Klitschkos’ challenge.

Haye brings a level of excitement (and explosive brutality) to the heavyweight division that has re-energized boxing fans. After completely dominating the Cruiserweight division, the undisputed champion (holding the WBO, WBC, WBA AND Ring Magazine Championship Belts) vacated his titles to step up to heavyweight. Last November, he completely dismantled American Monte Barrett in his heavyweight debut, sending Barrett to the canvas a total of five times. The fight mercifully ended in a fifth round TKO for Haye. Following that fight, Haye got his opportunity when Wladimir Klitschko agreed to a fight.

How excited were the fans when this fight was announced? So excited that the 61,000 seat Veltins Arena in Gelsenkirchen, Germany sold out, making it the largest crowd for a fight in Germany since Max Schmeling fought back in 1939. It did not matter if Haye was capable of beating Klitschko, fans expected a very exciting bout.

As fate would have it, the fight was not meant to be. On June 3, just two weeks before the fight, Haye withdrew with a back injury sustained during training. Hoping to still fight Klitschko, Haye requested a three week postponement to allow his back to heal. Much to the chagrin of boxing fans, Klitschko declined to postpone the fight, signing Ruslan Chagaev as Haye’s replacement.

Klitschko’s stated reason for postponing the fight was because he had never fought in front of a crowd so large and he wanted to see that dream realized. Whatever the reason, it was clear to fans that the newly scheduled Klitschko-Chagaev fight was going to be a very boring exhibition, likely playing out as previous Klitschko fights had. With only two weeks to train, there was little hope that Chagaev would pull off the upset. Expectations were so low that HBO Boxing cancelled their broadcast of the fight.

Did Klitschko make the right decision to deny Haye’s request to reschedule the fight, or should he have postponed the fight date in order to keep his scheduled bout with Haye?

Yes, Klitschko got to fight in front of a capacity crowd, but he arguably lost his global draw for the fight. The fight with Chagaev once again disappointed the many fans who had hoped to see an instant classic, but instead watched a one-sided, technical exhibition of fundamental boxing superiority by Klitschko. Chagaev was overmatched from the first bell. Are the long-term risks of Klitschko’s refusal to fight Haye mitigated by his seemingly guaranteed victory over Chagaev, or would the risk of fighting an apparently legitimate contender have paid off for Klitschko’s future prospects?

Loyal Homer will argue that Klitschko made the better choice by keeping his fight date and signing a replacement opponent in Ruslan Chagaev.

Sports Geek will argue that Klitschko should have instead accepted the postponed date, because he had more to gain from the commercial appeal of a fight with David Haye.

Once the debaters have completed their argument, we will go to the judge’s scorecard (me) for the final decision…