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.
It was in some way some way gratifying to see that the death of Sir Henry Cooper OBE featured on news and boxing sites world wide. “Our ‘Enry”, or should it be Sir Henry, held a special place in the hearts of British fight fans. Not just for his ability, but also for his overall demeanor, which made him such a great advert for the sport. This popularity was only partially due to his first fight with Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali, and that great left hook which put Ali on the floor. The split glove, and the question of whether Ali would have survived if the punch had landed earlier in the round, fuelled a great debate and all added to Henry’s image around the boxing world. However, it would be wrong to assume that the Ali fight was the main reason for his popularity (he won his two “BBC Sportsman of The Year Awards in 1967 and 1970). If that had been the case, then I would not have sat and heard him booed out of the ring in the Albert Hall and the Empire Pool when, between the two Ali fights, he subsequently lost in poor performances against Roger Rischer and Amos Johnson. To my mind it took more than the Clay/Ali fights to make him the icon he became, and that outcome owed a great deal to the man himself who was an excellent ambassador for our sport. Rather, for me, it was his post Ali domestic fights with Jack Bodell and Billy Walker, his victory over Karl Mildenberger, and a fight which, as I recall, had a big impact on the TV viewing public, when Henry overcame a whole series of low blows from Italian Piero Tomasoni to flatten the Italian And his TV adverts also took him into the nation’s homes. The disputed outcome of the Joe Bugner fight was such a sad way for a great career to end. Henry’s series of fights with Joe Erskine, Dick Richardson and Brian London, and his win over Johnny Prescott, established beyond a doubt that he was the best British heavyweight of his era, but kayo losses to Ingemar Johansson, Zora Folley (who he subsequently beat on points) and Floyd Patterson and the losses to Rischer and Johnson meant his international reputation was never as high as his domestic one. RIP a great boxing man.
On the subject of the Bugner fight, I had the pleasure of travelling out to Las Vegas with Harry Gibbs who refereed the Bugner fight. For me there was no more honest referee or judge than Harry. When I asked him about the Bugner fight he told me that he had them even at the end of the 14th round, and expected Cooper to put in a strong finish to get the decision. Instead it was Bugner who won the last round and the decision.
Harry was one of the judges at the first Leonard-Duran fight. He told me that as the score cards were collected at the end of each round he could only keep a running total of his scores in his head, and he thought he had scored it as a draw. He had his fingers crossed that none of the other judges had seen it the same way as a draw would settle nothing. In fact he had scored it 145-144 for Duran.
I also saw another side of Harry’s character during that trip. Friendly and avuncular as he may have been, he is still the only one to have hassled and distracted me deliberately- during a friendly game of crazy golf! A wonderful man.
Cooper was not the only boxer to pass away recently . Former pro Richie Duran tragically passed away at the end of April after a stroke at the age of just 44. After a good amateur record, Richie turned pro in 1988. He won his first 26 fights before losing to Kennedy McKinney for the IBF super bantamweight title in 1993. He also challenged Tracy Harris Patterson for the WBC title the following year, but retired in July 1994 after losing to Eddie Croft. Richie has some bad experiences after retiring; including a jail term for manslaughter following the death of a man in a bar fight. However, Richie got his life back on track and became a coach and mentor to young boxers in the Sacramento area.
Going back to heavyweights, former WBA champion John Ruiz is opening a gym in Boston and a sports consultancy and I wish him luck. It is always good to hear of a boxer both having held on to his money and to be reinvesting some of it in the sport. Another boxer looking to enjoy his retirement is the former WBA flyweight champion Takefumi Sakata. He followed the Manny Pacquiao model and entered politics and was recently elected as a councilor for Inagi in Japan. He has also enrolled at a University, so it looks as though he is one boxer they will not have to take up collections for in his old age.
Not all of the news about boxers is positive. The trial of former WBO super featherweight champion Jorge Barrios is imminent. Barrios faces charges arising from a fatal accident in January 2010 when it is alleged his vehicle collided with another vehicle and then ran down and killed a young pregnant mother. In addition charges are pending regarding the physical and sexual abuse of a young man, and of Barrios having beaten up his own son. If found guilty of the "homicide with eventual intent," charge he faces 5 to 25 years in jail.
Drugs and boxers were also in the news recently with world rated lightweight Kevin Mitchell being arrested for allegedly being in possession of cocaine and running a cannabis farm with his mother.
Down in South Africa Jared “The Storm” Lovett, a pro boxer with a 7-1 record, was arrested when police discovered a mini drug lab at his home. On the same day police arrested two sons of former WBA champion Brian Mitchell and they allegedly led the police to Lovett’s home. Lovett had been inactive since 2009 when he was given a two year suspension for testing positive for steroids following his fight for the IBO Youth light heavyweight title against Thomas Oosthuizen.
No one is guilty, but the publicity does not help the sport. Irony abounds. After all of the fuss over Floyd Mayweather Jr insisting that Manny Pacquiao undergo special drug testing, and Manny refusing, if recent quotes by Roger Mayweather are true, then for the Shane Mosley vs Pacquiao fight, Mosley will be tested for drugs, Pacquiao will not. It may just be Roger being controversial, as I have not seen it confirmed anywhere, but I cannot believe the Nevada Commission would go along with this. Roger also indicated that Floyd Junior may return to action late summer. Another storm in a tea cup recently saw Arthur Abraham delaying his flight to the USA for his May 14 Super Six fight in Oakland with Andre Ward. His team was holding out for a change in the officials for the fight, fearing that Ward would have both home advantage and an all-American set of scoring officials. The dispute has been settled, but it highlights again the preferential treatment that Ward has received as he will have had all three of his Super Six fights in his hometown whilst Abraham will have had all four of his away from Germany and, after the Glen Johnson fight, Carl Froch will have had home advantage in only one of his four fights. No matter how you look at it that is preferential treatment for Ward.
If any boxing fans looked carefully enough at the crowds watching the recent Royal wedding in London they might just have spotted a familiar face. Roberto Duran and his wife were over. Roberto to fulfill some engagements in Britain, and his wife to see the wedding. Now that would have been something. ”Hands of Stone” as guest at the Royal wedding. All the way from the barrios of Panama City to Westminster Abbey. Sometimes I feel that boxers go a bit too far with the theatrics and nicknames. Take the French welterweight Frank Haroche Horta. Frank wore a Hannibal Lector mask for his into the ring for his title challenge to Stanislas Salmon at the weekend. Bad enough, but his nickname is F2ZH Abdelmalik. It just rolls off the tongue.
Still on nicknames, I saw on the video of Ulises Solis’s win over Luis Lazarte that both Ulises and his corner spelt his nickname as “Archi” and not to usual “Archie” . You can tell when a “world” title is really not worth the cardboard it is made of. Veteran pro Bronco McKart, the 40-year-old UBO champion, announced that he was willing to put his title on the line against Irishman Anthony Fitzgerald, even if the fight is to be held in Fitzgerald’s back yard. As far as I know Fitzgerald is not looking for the UBO title so chasing the 12-2 record Fitzgerald seems just too desperate for a so called “world” champion.
The UBO do not set very high standards, in fact you could argue that they do not have any standards. Last weekend Tunisian Mohamed Dridi won their cruiserweight title. The 43-year-old Dridi went into the fight with an 8-4 record. This was his first fight since 2007, when he was stopped inside a round by Marcus Thomas, who was having his first professional fight. I would like to think that they could not get any worse than that, but optimism is hard to come by when talking about sanctioning bodies.
Rumour has it that Andre Berto is looking to bounce back from kissing his WBC title goodbye in his upset loss to Victor Ortiz by challenging Jan Zavcek for the IBF title. IBF super flyweight champion Cris Mijares is looking for another opponent after American Raul Martinez pulled out of their May 14 fight. Names in the frame to come in as short notice substitute are Ricardo Nunez, Roberto Sosa and Jose “Carita” Lopez, who are all in the IBF top ten, but don’t be surprised if it is none of them are in the other corner..
Argentinian Luis Lazarte was a very unhappy man this week. Not only did he lose his IBF light flyweight title to Ulises Solis, he also ended up with the thin end of the purse. The IBF had ordered this return bout after Lazarte’s controversial win over Solis in December. The Mexican’s made a big cash offer to try to get home advantage for Solis, but were outbid. The purse split should therefore have been 75/25 in favour of Lazarte. However, in a not unusual tactic, the promoters in Argentina had made an inflated purse offer of $300,000 to get Lazarte home advantage, and the fight was never worth the value of that bid. Solis had to be paid his 25% or $77,000, and as far as I know he was. Lazarte claims he received only $15,000 for the fight. However the promoters claim that Lazarte knew that an inflated figure had been bid to get him home advantage, and that he would not get anything like the $223,000 that the 75% would represent. It is not an uncommon tactic, but it helps if the fighter knows it is the deal.
I am not sure if the winner of the Jurgen Brahmer-Nate Cleverly knows it, but he is bound for Ghana in November to face the current WPBFederation champion Braimah Kamoko. At least that is what a Ghanaian promoter has told the local newspapers. The phrase “in your dreams” comes to mind, but I guess it might help sell tickets for Kamoko’s next fight against unbeaten Brazilian Pedro Otas on June 25. Otas is a typical Brazilian-great record, unbeaten in 23 fights, but never ventured outside Brazil, and with almost 50% of his opponents never having won a fight. Brazilian fighters should have a warning tattooed on their back “the contents are not necessarily what you see on the packet”.