Boxing to Return to the Garden

New York –   Now boxing fans have been granted a tournament to crown a super middleweight champion that was unveiled Monday at Madison Square Garden in New York City that will be televised exclusively on SHOWTIME.  Six of the supposed best super middleweights with a combined record of 161-4-1, three champions, four undefeated fighters and five promoters who came together to put this together.

In the end, if the tournament concludes as scheduled in 18-14 months, one of the fighters is going to be crowned the best in the super middleweight division.  And for the sport of boxing to have one champion, you are asking for an impossible task, especially when five promoters get in the mix,

The SHOWTIME network, desperate for good fights and ratings, is feeling the heat because rival HBO Sports has the better fights and the premiere fighters. There was even talk, recently, that the network, a subsidiary of CBS Networks was losing money and considering televising less fights or getting out of boxing.

Besides, the welterweight division, in particular, is the premiere one in the sport and HBO seems to be doing fine with offering the best fights to the public without a devised tournament format to determine who is indeed number one.

“It began as an intriguing concept, and through a tremendous amount of hard work on everyone’s part, we are going to pull off one of the most exciting events in boxing history,” said Ken Hershman, Senior Vice President and General Manager of SHOWTIME Sports.

Perhaps to Hershman this may be exciting. His network needs something like this to draw interest, Boxing fans don’t need added confusion, more so more than a year to determine who the best is in a division that can’t rival the welterweights and lightweights.  The sport\ has enough alphabet champions and sanctioning organizations and this concept makes it more confusing.

You don’t draw more fans to the mix with more confusion, and despite what they were saying Monday, when was the last time boxing had one unified world champion in any of the divisions?   The round-robin tournament is scheduled to commence in October with venues to be determined.

Now take a look at the field and the first round match ups all scheduled for 12-rounds:

Carl Frotch (WBC Super Middleweight champion, 25-0, 20KO’s) of England) opposing Andre Dirrell (18-0, 13KO’s) of Flint Michigan, this for the WBC title, and probably the interest here because Dirrell gets a title shot and is one of the promising and exciting fighters that deserves exposure. Dirrell, 26 years old is a 2004 Olympic bronze medalist.

Jermaine Taylor (28-3-1, 17KO’s) the former middleweight champion from Little Rock Arkansas who has seen his career dwindle with recent tough defeats. So for Taylor, perhaps this tournament can put him back on the map. He opposes Arthur Abraham (30-0, 24Ko’s) of Germany who recently vacated his IBF middleweight championship to move up in class at 168.

And the interest for Taylor, and perhaps if you are a fan of this concept comes if Taylor should get by Abraham, because if he wins a possible return bout with Frotch is on the horizon in the tournament.  Back in April, Taylor faded late in his fight he was winning against Frotch and lost by TKO in round 12 and lost his chance at dethroning the 168-pomnd champion.

Mikkel Kessler (41-1, 31KO’s of Denmark, WBA super middleweight champion) opposes Andre Ward (19-0, 12 KO’s) of Oakland California for the WBA title. The 25-year-old Ward is the Olympic gold medalist and number one contender

So there it is. This is a tournament that is supposed to make a boxing fan content, and for the promoters involved, perhaps, a quicker way towards getting their fighters closer to championship prominence.  Listen to Lou DiBella, of DiBella Entertainment the former HBO executive who was itching at the chance for his fighter, Taylor to get another shot at Frotch.

“Everyone in this tournament starts with a clean state,” he said. “And believe me Jermaine Taylor is going to take advantage of that clean slate.  A loss to a champion gets you to another champion,” he commented also referring to how quickly this was put together and it is not easy getting five promoters at the same table to sign an agreement.

The flaws are some fighters are not in the mix of this, boxing is known for circumstances beyond control such as injuries to a fighter and weight issues. And the time process to crown a champion may be too long.  Fans don’t need to wait a year or more to determine who is the best because a network, SHOWTIME, needs to draw more interest with their boxing production.

Why isn’t top rated super middleweight, or middleweight contender Giovanni Lorenzo, the Domincian Republic native involved?  He has been calling for an opportunity to fight Abraham before the champion vacated his title. And Abraham will no doubt have his first round fight in Germany where he is unstoppable. The Garden would be a great venue for Lorenzo to highlight a card down the line with his Latino heritage.

Main Events, promoter of Lorenzo wound not get involved in the tournament which put their fighter out of the picture. Golden Boy Promotions of Oscar De La Hoya, Bob Arum of Top Rank and Don King, the other prominent promoters in the sport don’t need to get involved with a rival network they hardly do business with.

But for promoter Gary Shaw, who works hand- in- hand with SHOWTIME and for his fighter Dirrell, this is a perfect opportunity. “It’s the best of the best,” said Dirrell “Champion vs, champion.  I will bring a new element to the division and people will see what I am about,” he said.

The WBC has committed to make this three-stage situation happen and will honor all the fights and grant championships. “The sport needs a shot of adrenaline,” said DiBella. “This kind of event is what’s going to save boxing,” he added.

Maybe for SHOWTIME this offers some hope. The sports of boxing, though does not need more confusion and five promoters to make us wonder more: Who is the real champion?

GATTI THE WARRIOR: Arturo Gatti may not have been the best champion on record winning world championships in two weight classes at 130 and 140 pounds, but he was a warrior and a delight to fans.  Sadly, the 37-year old was found dead in Brazil Saturday and so another tragic ending to a great fighter,

Last week the boxing world was stunned to hear that another great champion, Alexis Arguello took his own life with an alleged self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest at his home in Nicaragua.  It seems this has become a common occurrence, great champions who gave us thrills in the ring and suddenly a tragic ending.

Gatti was a warrior who sold out the Atlantic City Convention Center each time he fought there. He is best remembered for the three epic fights against Micky Ward, two years back in 2002 and 2003, the last two held at the Convention Center.  Gatti won two of the three fights all on 10-round decisions.

And despite his reported out of the ring wild behavior, sometimes that has to be bypassed because of the great things he did in the ring. Gatti liked to have a good time and was always receptive to his fans and of course to the media who watched him throw punches at ringside.

So the sport has lost another legend. Gatti (40-9, 31 knockouts) gave us thrills and loved the sport and retired two years ago, July 14, 2007 with a loss to Alfonso Gomez by TKO in the seventh round, also in Atlantic City. That fight wasn’t his best and he knew it was time to leave the game.

There are no words to describe why fighters such as Arguello, and now Gatti have left us so soon. Perhaps it is a reflection for the society we are in. Because fighters know how to survive in the ring and when they leave the game survival becomes their biggest fight.

Rest in peace to another great champion and like Arguello we will toll the 10-count at ringside at the next fight.

E-mail Rich Mancuso: [email protected]

About the Author

Rich Mancuso

Rich Mancuso is a regular contributor at NY Sports Day, covering countless New York Mets, Yankees, and MLB teams along with some of the greatest boxing matches over the years. He is an award winning sports journalist and previously worked for The Associated Press, New York Daily News, Gannett, and, in a career that spans almost 40 years.

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