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.
The recent death of Scott LeDoux from Lou Gherig’s disease brought back many memories of the days when America ruled the heavyweight division, not all of the memories are good, but more of that later. Scott LeDoux, known as the Fighting Frenchman, a contender for the heavyweight title in the mid-1970s and early ’80s fought just about every good heavyweight around in those days, and was probably the most popular boxer to come out of Minnesota. In his 10-year professional career, LeDoux had 33 wins, 22 inside the distance; 13 losses; and 4 draws. He fought eight fighters who were either past champions, current champions, or would go on to win the heavyweight title. Scott had limited technique, but limitless heart. He had his first pro fight in 1974. He fought Duane Bobick (his first fight with Bobick set new gate records for any fight in Minnesota), John Deano Dennis, George Foreman, Pedro Soto, Leon Spinks (with whom he drew) Bill Sharkey, James J Beattie, drew with Ken Norton in a very controversial decision after having Norton on the floor twice in the last round, Mike Weaver, Marty Monroe, lost in seven rounds to Larry Holmes for the WBC title ( the loss to Holmes was due to an eye injury and he protested the stoppage it was pointed out that that the ring doctor had said he could have lost his vision, he replied, “What’s an eye when you’ve given your heart?”), Greg Page and Gerrie Coetzee. In his last fight he lost to Frank Bruno at Wembley Arena in 1983. The post Holmes fight quote typified Scott. A fighter of limited talent who achieved a great deal more than seemed possible due to his toughness and fighting spirit. After retirement he went on to work as an analyst for ESPN and was elected local Commissioner. RIP.
Scott had two other claims to fame, one of which was amusing, and the other exposed the sordid underbelly of boxing at the time. Scott fought in a tournament being promoted by Don King and being carried on ABC TV entitled the United States Boxing Championships. The tournament was set up to try to establish an American champion in every division. King staged the bouts in very American locations, with the first on the flight deck of the US Navy carrier Lexington. To qualify for a place in the tournament a fighter had to be rated in US rankings being compiled by Ring Magazine. In February 1972 Scott was matched in the tournament over eight rounds with prospect Johnny Boudreaux at the USA Navy Academy in Annapolis. Scott lost the bout but felt he had been robbed. ABC’s boxing front man in those days was Howard Cosell, a controversial character with a style that aggravated and angered many fans, and an ego of gargantuan proportions. As Cosell was giving his post fight summary, an enraged Scott kicked out at Cosell and displaced Cosell’s toupee, immediately becoming vastly popular in the eyes of a few million viewers. However, there was a serious side to this, as Scott went on to alleged that the whole tournament was a farce, with fighters of managers Paddy Flood and Al Braverman, associates of King, getting preferential treatment. A federal grand jury was set up to investigate the charges, but meanwhile the tournament continued with ABC showing four more cards. In those days an eccentric character, Flash Gordon was a one man “Wikipedia Leaks” of his day, and in his weekly magazine he began to publish information which exposed the details of a deep and dirty scandal. The spotlight shifted to Ring Magazine as there were allegations that some members of the Ring staff were asking for payment to put fighters into their ratings. It then also emerged that false fights were being put into the Ring Record Book. Texan Ike Fluellen, a policeman and boxer, who had not fought for a year, found himself credited with two fights in Mexico, and he alleged that he had been advised to change managers to one of King’s associates in exchange for a place in the Ring US rankings and in the tournament. It emerged that the records of eleven fighters had been falsified and the then Ring Editor Nat Loubet’s defence that they relied on unverified information supplied by managers when compiling the records fell on deaf ears. The outcome was that ABC promptly dropped the tournament and carried out their own investigation. At the same time CBS had also had a bad experience with a series of mismatches for their boxing programme. As a result, for a while boxing became a sport which none of the major TV companies would touch, and that had serious implications for the sport. It took a long time for the sport to recover from the scandal. Luckily for the sport under managers and staff such as Bert Sugar, Herb Goldman, Randy Gordon and particularly Steve Farhood and current Nigel Collins the Ring, the “Bible of Boxing” is back and beyond the high standing it once had, and now HBO and Showtime see the sport as a very important part of their scheduling. However, the vital part that Scott played in exposing the scandal has largely been forgotten.
The best laid plans…as the great Scot Robbie Burns would say. Golden Boy signed the WBA bantam champion Anselmo Moreno to a deal that would first see him defend against Eric Morel and then have three other fights with guaranteed purses of $250,000 for each. Just a short while after signing the deal Anselmo ended up in hospital having his appendix removed. The plans are on hold at the moment, but there are good fights out there for the talented Panamanian, so they will happen-just a little later than planned.
The WBA ordered a rematch between the holder of their secondary featherweight title Jonathan Barros and Celestino Caballero. Despite being floored twice Barros won a very controversial split decision over the former undefeated WBA and IBF super bantam champion in Argentina in July. The purse offers for the return fight saw Argentinian Osvaldo Rivera win with a bid of $401,666 against $305,000 from Caballero’s backers. No site nominated yet, but the controversy from the last fight should help Caballero get a fair shake. The Panamanian will be training under Jeff Mayweather for the fight. Still on Rivera, he also handles the affairs of WBO super fly champion Omar Narvaez. There has been talk of a fight between Narvaez and WBO/WBC bantam champion Nonito Donaire on October 22 in Carson. However, the last I saw Rivera was saying that there were still some ends to be tied up. Let’s hope it happens as, although unbeaten in 37 fights, including 21 title fights, Narvaez needs a career defining fights as his record lacks any really big names. There was talk of the WBC refusing to recognise the middleweight title bout between Julio Cesar Chavez vs Ronnie Hearns (no not because Hearns had done nothing to deserve the title shot) because the proposed date for the fight was September 17, the same night as the light middle title bout between Saul Alvarez and Alfonso Gomez. The WBC was concerned that it would deprive fans of the possibility of seeing both fights. I am not sure there is anything in the WBC rules banningf simultaneous title fights, but what I am sure is that it is the availability of a TV date that dictates the date, and the WBC has no place interfering in a commercial matter between a promoter and TV. They are getting two sanctioning fees, normally that is all that concerns them.
Two former champions Juan Manuel Lopez and Ramon Martinez will be in action in Puerto Rico on October 1. Lopez is being eased back against Mike Oliver. The Hartford southpaw has a good looking 25-2,1ND record, but two bad stoppage losses to Rey Lopez and Antonio Escalante are a guide to his chances. He has won his last four, but two victims were third rate and the other two were 38-year-old Mauricio Pastrana and 41-year-old Kermin Guardia-so a predictable end for this one. Martinez, who lost his WBO super feather title to Ricky Burns in September last year, is provisionally matched with Mexican Ramon Maas. The Mexican has a 25-1 record, but is rebuilding after being floored before losing on disqualification to Enrique Bernache in April. Questions to be asked off both fighters which makes it a result that matters.
There is some question over the next defence Burns will make of his title. The mandatory challenger is American Adrien Broner, but there is talk of Burns defending against former undefeated IBF champion Mzonke Fana. There are two problems with this. Firstly Burns has made three voluntary defences, which is normally the maximum, and it would be very unusual for the WBO to allow a fourth voluntary. The other problems are around Fana who has not fought since 1st September 2010 and is not in the latest WBO ratings. A Fana fight would be a good match, Fana fought in Britain once before, losing to Dean Pithie in 1999, but it is difficult to see how the WBO could approve it without turning somersaults, which is off course quite possible.
As I write there has been no announcement of a site for Lucien Bute’s defence of his IBF super middle title against Glen Johnson. Of Bute’s nine IBF title fights eight have taken place in Canada, seven in Montreal and one in Quebec City. This time Quebec is really going after the fight with the Office of Tourism offering $100,000 to have the fight take place there. This will be the eighth title fight for the 42-year-old Jamaican “Road Warrior” at weights ranging from middle to light heavy and the count stands at 2w, 5 l, and 1 draw (this excludes Interim, WBU, IBO and IBA title fights, which would take the count to 14). These fights have spread over the space of 14 years, which is a long time for any fighter to remain in world class.
The old bug bear of options is still around in boxing. When a fighter gets a shot at the title as a voluntary challenger the champions promoter inevitably insists that, in the event of his winning the title, the challenger is committed to giving the champion’s promoter/ management options on his future fights . A typical case is the WBC super fly title fight at the weekend where Thai Suriyan beat Mexican Tomas Rojas. To get the fight the Thai had to give the management of Rojas three options on his future title fights. If he wants to put on a defence for Suriyan then the Thai promoter has to buy back some, or all of those options. If he only buys back one of the options, then he is obliged to ensure that whoever Suriyan fights will then be committed to honouring the remaining two options held by the management of Rojas . The only benefit that Rojas gets out of this is that his team may use one of those options to get him a return fight, but if they do not, then whilst his management will go earning from the title long after Rojas has lost it-Rojas gets nothing. Seems to me that the fighter should get a percentage of future earnings for the title that he won, but that’s not the way it works.
Another Rojas has been in the news with Dominican Elio Rojas, the WBC Champion in Recess at featherweight having overcome his injury problems and being ready to return to the ring. Rojas is scheduled to fight Arturo Gomez on September 9. After that he has said he wants to fight Jhonny Gonzalez for his old title. Gonzalez has told him to get in line. That begs the question of the value of a stupid title such as “Champion in Recess”, which appears to be meaningless as you are champion of nothing.
The challenger for the September defence for Gonzalez has changed three times. Initially it was to be Panamanian Roinet Caballero, rated No 9 by the WBC, but he had visa problems. Then it was No 14 Filipino Jonel Albino, but no one knew anything about him. Now it is Tanzanian Rogers Mtagwa who qualifies for the shot by losing consecutive fights to Juan Manuel Lopez on points and Yuriorkis Gamboa in two rounds. After 19 months of inactivity he returned on August 13 with a stoppage win over Mexican journeyman Pedro Navarette. Not much of an achievement, but you can be sure that, although he is not in the current WBC ratings-he will be in the next!
Another ratings disgrace by the WBC sees Devon Alexander jump from No 1 light welter weight to No 2 welterweight, without fighting in that division for three years. He earned this high welterweight rating by losing to Tim Bradley at light welterweight, and just scraping by with a split verdict over Lucas Matthysse-again at light welter. Suddenly he jumps over Mike Jones and Selcuk Aydin (holder of the WBC Silver title-which shows how much that is worth). Perhaps it was an 80th birthday present for Don King.
The deaths of Arturo Gatti and Vern Forrest came back into the news over the past week. Gatti, a former IBF super feather and WBC light welter champion died in Brazil in 2009, reportedly by committing suicide. Pat Lynch, the manager of Gatti could not believe he would end his life this way and hired a private investigator to look into the death. Although the report is not due out until the end of the month it has already been stated that the report will disprove the verdict of suicide. Once the report is out it then remains to be seen what the Brazilian authorities do about it. Forrest, the former IBF and WBC welterweight and reigning WBC light middle champ at the time, also died in July 2009, but he most certainly did not commit suicide, but was murdered. Forrest was robbed at gunpoint at a petrol station. After his attacker ran away Forrest armed himself with his own gun and gave chase. He was unable to find his assailant, but as he was returning to his car, an associate of the assailant shot Forrest ten times. The end of the trial of the first of the assailants concluded last week with the man being sentenced to life without parole. The next up for trial will be the man who allegedly fired the shots.
If it is true then WBA middleweight champion Felix Sturm made Brit Matthew Macklin an offer he could refuse. Immediately after their June fight, which Sturm won on a controversial decision, the German said he was going to give Macklin a return. It appears that if Macklin won the return then all Sturm wanted in the agreement was for Macklin to pay him 40% of his ring earnings over the next two years. Even Don Corleone would have had trouble making that into an offer that could not be refused.
There was another of those “what if something had gone wrong” fights at the weekend. When Bert Cooper fell out of his bout with heavyweight prospect Travis Kauffman then Sean Williams came in as a replacement. You had the 26-year-old Kauffman with a 21-1 record and 16 wins by KO/TKO, fighting a 43-year-old who had not fought since 2005 and had, in any case, lost his last eleven fights in a row. Disgrace does not even begin to describe it, and there would have been nowhere for the promoter or the local Commission to hide if Williams had been seriously injured.
Some shorts: Tick up another unusual site for a boxing show. The fight between Fernando Montiel and Alvaro Perez was held on a ring set up in a vineyard, so no need for a bar. Another new Sanctioning body popped up last week in the form of the World Boxing Forum, which sounds more like a debating society. With his fight against Roberto Guerrero off due to an injury to Guerrero, Argentinian light welter Marcos Maidana will stay active with a fight in Buenos Aires on September 16. The Mechanics Hall in Worcester, Massachusetts this month staged it’s 400th boxing show. Quite a landmark. WBO champion Dmitry Pirog will defend his title in Krasnodar, Russia on September 25 against No 1 contender Gennady Martirosyan (how did he ever become No 1, a gift for Pirog). A very good EBU title fight sees former IBF middle champion Sebastian Sylvester (34-4-1) facing British-based Polish southpaw Grzegorz Proksa (25-0), a big step up for Proksa. Dane Rudy Markussen continues his comeback with a mark time match against modest French opponent Michael Recloux in Herning on September 3. Heavy Timur Ibragimov will face Ghanaian Prince George Akrong in Tashkent on a show to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the independence of Uzbekistan. Two top Polish heavyweights are set to clash in October when Albert Sosnowski faces unbeaten Mariusz Wach. A real crossroads fight for both of them. The Bernard Hopkins vs Chad Dawson undercard is bubbling up nicely. Jorge Linares will fight Antonio Demarco for the vacant WBC light title, at light welter unbeaten Danny Garcia takes another upwards step as he fights former WBO champion Kendall Holt and Paul Malignaggi faces Orlando Lara. Gone are the bad old days when the supports to major cards were littered with rubbish. Nice to see Filipino light welterweight Jack Asis as champion of Australia, and on a four fight winning streak. Asis has been thrown in over his head on the road throughout his career and had lost four in a row to some of the top names in Australia before starting his current streak. He deserves some success. He has a 25-18-4 record, but 15 of those loses were on the road and often against world class fighters such as Mzonke Fana and Billy Dib. Good triple header coming up in Tokyo on November 11. WBC super feather champ Takahiro Aoh will defend against Italian Devis Boschiero, WBC No 2 bantam Christian Esquivel faces No 3 Shinsuke Yamanaka and Olympian Toshiyuki Igarashi WBC No 3 flyweight faces No 2 Wilbert Uicab. The only fly in the ointment may revolve around Boschiero. The unbeaten Italian was given a 20 month suspended sentence for his involvement in drugs, so it remains to be seen how the immigration officials in Japan will view this.