As a custom, I write a thank you note to the sweet science and this year is no different. From the miles logged traveling, to the long hours punching out pieces, to rubbing elbows with superstars and superstar boxers, I would have to say that I really enjoy covering the sport of boxing.
Boxing is in my bloodline, with my grandfather fighting professionally in the 1940’s and 1950’s, and being of the same name, I take much pride in carrying his name into both the 20th and 21st centuries of the sport.
Although described as a niche’ sport by mainstream standards, at least a minor discussion is held with even the least interested person and the names ‘Pacquiao’ or ‘Mayweather’, or even the names ‘Tyson’ or ‘De La Hoya’ come out of their mouths. As I have written countless times in the past, boxing has its ups and downs, but the thick 100 year-plus history and survival through the bleakest of times ensures that the sport isn’t going anywhere for at least the next 100 years and will leap into the 22nd century throwing jabs and left hooks.
This was a special year in the sport that from the outset was supposed to be a bleak one beset by yet another 365 days where we see no Pac-May bout and just see them walkover opponents with names not of their own. Instead, both fighters produced interesting storylines this year and actually produced quality fights, win or lose.
With the exception of a few of the summer months, there was constant entertainment inside and outside of the squared circle in 2012.
Here are some of my memorable experiences:
In January of this year, Hall of Fame trainer Emmanuel Steward co-promoted a fight card in Temecula, California, which I traveled to with my father as a guest of mine. I causally struck up a conversation with Steward, who was standing in the back at the time. I thought of stuff just to keep him talking, not wanting to hear too much of my own voice, but rather his.
Steward was a gentleman to all who approached him that night while I stood by and soaked in as much of the experience as I could.
Later in the year, I attended the fight that Steward last cornered in, a title defense of Cornelius Bundrage versus Cork Spinks in Indio, California.
When the rumors swirled of his declining health, I had wished they were not true.
With the passing of Steward, boxing lost an iconic figure.
May/Cotto Press Conference
Heading into the Floyd Mayweather/Miguel Cotto Cinco De Mayo fight, I traded my car keys for a Metrolink pass, taking the train to Los Angeles and the star bearing streets while being guided by the mayor of Upland, California because frankly, I was lost!
Ray Musser (who won his 2012 campaign) was a kind man and showed me the way to go, and I ended up for the first time stepping into the Graumann’s Chinese Theatre, where a boxing star-studded presence was felt as along with May and Cotto were Canelo Alvarez, Sugar Shane Mosley and President of Golden Boy Promotions, Oscar De La Hoya.
I snacked on the free lunch in the movie theatres lobby and overall enjoyed the atmosphere in the famed theatre. Most of these events place the media in prominent positions, and this afternoon was no exception as the media were placed in the first twenty rows, leaving fans in the back rows and some even without a line of sight of the boxers.
I believe the fans, who dish out the bucks to attend and watch the fights, deserve to have a few more free events like this where they have access to their favorite fighters and opportunities for photos and signatures as well.
And oh yeah, line of sights should also be provided to the fans.
A Moment with Oscar De La Hoya
On June 2, 2012, I attended a Golden Boy Promoted fight card at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California, the absolute best venue for boxing in California.
Prior to the main events, I struck up a conversation with GBP Pres Oscar De La Hoya. I had recently read his book and wished to thank him for writing it, and sharing his experience. We both lost our mothers when we were at a young age, and although a decade his passed since my mothers passing and there has been a sort of coping going on within the last few years, it still stings to the core to think about.
I asked ODLH how old he was when his mother passed.
Without hesitation, he answered ‘16’.
I was 18 when my mother passed.
De La Hoya shook my hand and nodded his head in a knowing fashion, and for that moment I could tell that I was looking at a person who has shared the same tears and the same sadness by losing their mother while they were teenagers.
I then excused myself, (he is a star, so there were hands to shake, autographs to sign and pictures to smile in) and found myself filled with the empathy that De La Hoya showed me that day.
Only one month later in the same venue, pound for pound entrant Nonito Donaire made a bantamweight defense that was overshadowed by the night’s semi-main event between Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado, but still was a memorable contest and it was thoroughly enjoyable to watch one of the best athletes in his sport perform.
Donaire is simply wicked fast, skilled and well rounded inside the ring. It was almost as if he was practicing overhand rights and hooks while in the womb and was born with Everlasts on.
That’s how it looks to see what’s called a ‘natural’ in his sport. There have been many a times when you can see that a certain boxer, be it on a small club card somewhere or thrown in a sling bout slot on a fight card, that there are certain things lacking in a fighter, a category not yet mastered and is still to be developed.
You won’t find that at all in Donaire.
There is hype, and then there is living up to the hype.
Brandon ‘Bam Bam’ Rios and ‘Mile High’ Mike Alvarado succeeded in both areas, putting on a blazing back and forth affair from bell one and not letting up. It was as if gaining an inch would grant that fighter a million dollars, so neither fighter was willing to give up any real estate.
Both fighters were rocked multiple times in the fight, in which I picked the round it would end (7) pretty much purely on the fact that the rate in which the fist throwers were fighting surely had to let up one way or another. Referee Pat Russell saw enough and waved off 7 exciting, action packed rounds that received standing applauses from the crowd, not just at the end of the fight, put pretty much after EVERY ROUND.
Luckily, we will be seeing part II of this epic slugfest, perhaps spawning a trilogy-or more.
Look how far Pacquiao and Marquez have gone.
Canelo Weekend , Duran, P Will
Mexican Independence Day weekend was one of the most-lively Las Vegas crowds in quite sometime. With two major fight cards being held within one mile of each other, the vibe was flowing throughout the city.
Autograph sessions were held with ODLH, some Mexican legends of the past, and ‘Hands of Stone’, Roberto Duran himself was present all weekend.
It was my first time around one of, if not the greatest lightweight of all time, and in looking at photos of recent years, it seemed like Duran had packed some poundage on his frame, but that weekend in September, ‘Manos de Peidar’ looked trimmed and his massively sized hands looked like they would still test any chin competing in this year of 2012.
The tragic accident that left Paul Williams paralyzed failed to break his spirit, and the former champion was around that weekend for the festivities, with multitudes of fans and boxing types practically running up to him to say hello. I heard a fan saying that Williams inspired him, and heavyweight contender Cris Arreola ran up to the ‘Punisher’ immediately and gave him a hug.
I myself told P Will that I had covered all of his California-set fights, and that if the red haired one, Canelo, would have been facing him that night, it would have been a very long night for him, rather than stuffing Josesito Lopez inside four rounds.
Simply put, this was by far the greatest experience/weekend/fight/event that I have ever covered.
I had not previously attended a weigh-in prior to a mega bout, and I found myself within feet of Julio Cesar Chavez and Marco Antonio Barrera to my left, Mike Tyson in front of me and Sergio Martinez to my right. (Imagine how great a random fist-fight would have been if it happened to break out in the crowd!)
It was an honor to be around such legends (and oh yeah, Pacquiao and Marquez were just a few feet away stepping on the scales) and thanks to Tecate, (thanks again, Melissa) I was invited to their VIP pre-party, where Tyson and Martinez, as well as the legendary Sugar Ray Leonard, Brandon Rios and Israel Vasquez were in attendance in a small room located on the floor of the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Just prior to the night’s main event, I had to find a restroom.
I ended up walking towards a doorway that looked just like where the fighters walk from their dressing rooms to the arena, so instead of the bathroom, I stopped there and looked to find out if this was actually where the fighters were going to walk out.
Sure enough, it was!
I stood in awe as JMM and Pacquiao both made their ways with their corner-men to head into battle. I head nodded to a hat bearing Marquez, and the ever jovial Pacquiao was hopping up in preparation for the fight and threw out his world-renowned smile in the direction of myself and others that were standing there.
That was a moment that I will never forget. It became even more memorable as it became the moment before the boxing world was rocked by the stunning KO victory by Marquez, what most are labeling as the end of the ‘Pacquiao’ era in boxing.
I’ll say this: If that is true, then Pacquiao went out like he always does; with a jovial, pleasant ‘Black Sabbath’ blaring ring-walk, and out on his shield, furiously trading punches with one of the best fighters in the world.
Not a bad way to go out.
Once either the Rios/Alvarado or Pacquiao/Marquez IV bouts get the nod for fight of the year, I have luckily been able to cover four of the past six FOTY’s extending back to 2007.
Thank you, 2012!