Eric Armit, who is a Director of the CBC and its former Chairman, is renowned worldwide as an authority on boxers records and also as a satirical and cynical observer.
Eric Armit writes in his capacity as a boxing journalist and not as a director of the CBC. His views and comments are his own and have not been the subject of prior discussion or consideration by his fellow directors, nor form official CBC policy.
I have always been against the proliferation of titles and over the past 18 months my stance has brought me all sorts of grief, which I won’t go into. However, there are many people whose opinion I respect; who say it has been good for the sport. The main argument is that it has given many fighters the chance to fight for a world title who would have been frozen out in the old days. They also argue that it has brought more money into the sport as TV, promoters and sponsors have been attracted to the idea of being associated with a world title fight. That is probably all true, although you could argue that many who are being given the opportunity to fight for a world title in these modern times would not have been good enough to even fight for a national title back in the 40’s and 50’s. Arguable but not relevant.
For me the real harm that the proliferation of titles brings is not the fights it gives us so much as the fights it denies us. The Mayweather-Pacquao situation is a classic example. Here we have two great fighters who are quite happy to not to fight each other. Money does not tempt them, as they are both already rich. They are both content to fall out over minute differences to suggested drug testing regimes and both quite happy to face lesser opponents or even go over old ground.
It is understandable when you have as much money as Mayweather and Pacquiao have earned that yet more money is not a huge incentive. However, if there was only one world champion, and for arguments sake let’s say it was Pacquiao, you can be sure that Mayweather would move heaven and earth no matter what the money, to get Pacquiao in the ring because the title world champion then would have real meaning and a true value unlike the IBF, WBA, WBC, WBO and myriad other titles do today. I may not be able to change the boxing world as it is today, but I don’t have to like it either.
So the wicked get their reward. As Pacquiao is not going to fight Mayweather, in steps disgraced cheat Antonio Margarito. The date appears to be set at November 13 and, although Monterrey in Mexico has been mentioned, no venue has been announced at this time. Compare that to athletics where after a long suspension for drug taking Dwayne Chambers is still not allowed to take his place on the lucrative racing circuit. Athletics still has some pride, sometimes all boxing seems to have is greed.
Another poor fight on the horizon is the proposed title defence for Wladimir Klitschko against Samuel Peter. Klitschko was to have faced a genuine challenge in the shape of Alex Povetkin. However, Povetkin appears to have failed to meet a deadline set by the Klitschko's promotional group for signing the contract, and the IBF are allowing Wladimir to face Peter. The Nigerian lost to Wlad on points in 2005, was destroyed in eight rounds by brother Vitali in 2008 and was then beaten by Eddie Chambers. For those that are interested in this heavyweight roundabout it is scheduled for September 11.
A much better match has been made for September 18 at the MGM in Las Vegas between Puerto Rican Juan Manuel Lopez and Rafael Martinez. Lopez will be putting up his WBO featherweight belt and Martinez his WBC Silver belt (boy I bet that really excites Juanma). There's no way I can see this going the distance as Juanma has won 26 of his 29 fights by KO/TKO and Martinez has won 35 of his 44 that way. The two factors that favour the Puerto Rican are age-Martinez is 35-and times to the well-Martinez may have been their too often after those three great fights against Israel Vazquez.
Boxers should only be rated on ability and achievements, well that's the theory. What also tends to get a boxer a rating is going for one of the many minor titles that the sanctioning bodies want to push. It is a shame, but the EBU, for my money easily one of the best sanctioning bodies, also falls into this trap because they want to increase the prestige of the European Union title. The result is that for winning a European Union title you can get a rating with the EBU which bears no resemblance to your real achievements. This situation has reared its head in the case of the vacant European heavyweight title. First of all Audley Harrison comes up with a sick note, then Denis Bakhtov does the same. Now the EBU have approved a match between Alex Dimitrenko and fellow-Ukrainian Yaroslav Zavorotny. Dimitrenko is fine, but Zavorotny qualifies because he is rated No 10, and he is only rated No 10 because he is EU champion. With his 14-4 record he is above Robert Helenius, who beat him in October, Ondrey Pala, Vlad Virchis, Oleg Platov etc. who all have better records. It's a pity to see their otherwise so high standards dragged down by this policy.
Nicknames are all over boxing like a disease and very few have any real relevance to the ability or style of the fighter concerned. I had great fun in years past with Mike “Dynamite” Dokes and Tony “TNT” Tubbs, who seemed to go out of their way to disown their nicknames. Usually the nickname is an attempt to boost the standing of a fighter and you feel that you could ask for a bit more honesty. Something along the lines of the supposed audition notes for a young Fred Astaire “can’t sing, can dance a little”. Just once it would be nice to hear the announcer say “Johnny “ will be lucky to last two rounds” Smith, or Fred “fat, unfit and falls over” McCool or Henry “Baby Face, who is he trying to kid” Jones.
However, sometimes it can seem to go the other way. Take the case of unbeaten Ran Nakash. Ran enjoys the nickname of “ Sweet Dreams”. This is a guy who in his real job teaches unarmed combat to the Israeli army. Just try saying “hello Sweetie” to him.
It is always as well to remember how dangerous boxing is and we received another nudge over this subject last week when 23-year-old South Korean Ki-Suk Bae died after his match with Jin-Ki Jung. Boxing in South Korea is existing on a slender thread as the popularity of the sport there is at an all-time low with very few shows and no really big names left. The only South Korean in the world ratings at this time is lightweight Ji-Hoon Kim, and he is based in America. Seeing Jung-Koo Chang inaugurated in the International Boxing Hall Of Fame this year just served as a reminder of how much of a force South Korea was in world boxing, and how dominant in the Far East, but now they are a bit player, and this tragedy is yet another blow.
Two former boxers have also passed away since I did my last column two weeks ago. They came from the opposite ends of the weight spectrum, but I enjoyed following their careers.
Big Mac Foster died at the age of 68 from congestive heart failure, although there is some mention that he suffered also from post-traumatic-stress from two tours in Vietnam. MacArthur, named after General Douglas MacArthur, at one time was a home town hero in Fresno. He started boxing in the Marines and won the All-Services and National AAU title at light heavyweight. Ken Norton was one of his team mates. He turned pro in November 1966 and won his first 24 fights by KO/TKO with guys such as Cleveland Williams, Thad Spencer and Roger Rischer in his list of victims. A world title shot was his for the taking if he could beat Jerry Quarry in their June 1970 bout. It looked likely as Quarry had been kayoed by George Chuvalo in 1969, and it looked likely for the first three rounds, but then Mac seemed to lose the plot and was kayoed by Quarry in the sixth. Mac was never the same boxer again. He stopped a washed-up Zora Foley and beat Italian Bepi Ros and earned his biggest pay day, reportedly $80,000, for fighting Muhammad Ali in Tokyo in 1972. It was a one-sides rout and Mac retired in 1976 after four straight losses, including one to Joe Bugner at the Empire Pool in 1973. His record was 30-6 and all of his wins came inside the distance. He donated some of his purses to local youth clubs, but quickly became yesterdays hero until his death brought him back into the news.
The other fighter was Lorenzo Gutierrez a Mexican flyweight who died recently of a heart attack. “Halimi” fought from 1966 to 1979 when there were some tough flyweights around. In over 80 bouts he faced guys such as Filipino Erbito Salavarria, Alberto Sandoval, Olympic gold medallist Ric Delgado, Alberto Morales, Tarcisio Gomez and many others. A good fighter in any era.
There is nothing unusual in brothers in boxing, and there are some instances of two brothers both winning world titles. However, there may be an interesting race on between the Morales clan and the Kameda clan to see which family can produce three world champions. Erik and Diego have dome it for the Morales family and Koki and Daiki for the Kamedas. The third of the bunch for the Morales clan is Ivan “Terrible II” (nicknames again!)Morales a flyweight who has won his six fights, and for the Kamedas there is Tomoki “El Mexicanito” a super bantamweight with 15 wins. I am not sure there has ever been a case of three brothers all winning world titles and my money is on the Kamedas to do it if anyone can.
Still on brothers a film is being produced in Mexico about the lives of Gabe and Rafael Ruelas, two brothers who rose from poverty in Mexico to both win world titles. Gabe was WBC super featherweight champion and Rafael IBF lightweight champion. It is titled “The Ghost In The Ring”. This refers to Gabe who when he was born was not breathing but suddenly came to life when his mother was rushing to get him baptised before burial. Quite a family story.
Former WBO middleweight champion Hector Velazco is reputedly making a comeback after two years out of the ring. He is reported to be going to Ghana fight unbeaten Brahim Kamoko this weekend. There has been some controversy over Kamoko's fitness to fight. A year or so ago a newspaper in Ghana carried a report from a Doctor in Ghana alleging that Kamoko had serious eye defects and should not be boxing. There were threats to sue both the newspaper and the Doctor, but I am not aware of any action being taken or of the situation being resolved.