Ali, Mayweathers and the Urango kids

By Michael Katz


Ali, Mayweathers and the Urango kids

Happy birthday, Muhammad Ali, and no other boxing note should take precedence over his qualifying for Medicare, Social Security and senior citizenship. Parkinson's Syndrome has proven to be a greater opponent than Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier, George Foreman and Age. Of course it was caused by boxing, though Ali would argue that there are people never punched by Earnie Shavers who suffer from the disease.

I do not feel sad for Ali. No one I've ever met is as content with his life as he is. He needs a walker to get around. He can barely talk, yet seems wrapped in serenity.

He tells us not to feel sad for him; I feel sad for us. He no longer walks and talks among us. We are the poorer for his silence. No, it's not like he was Bertrand Russell or W.C. Fields. But he had a naïve wisdom and was fun to watch and hear and you can't say that about too many jocks.

In a warm and wonderful birthday card from Tim Dahlberg of the Associated Press, Ali was described by his wife, Lonnie, and daughter Hana as spending much time looking, and listening, to old footage of himself, as if fascinated by his past.

The sadness I feel is that he could have contributed more. He had matured from the brash braggart to dignified humanitarian. His old buddy, Gene Kilroy, says maybe he'd do better if he traveled less. Maybe, though, he needs that constant contact with the outside world, another word for his fan club, to retain the old spark. All we can do is thank him for the wonderful ride.

Happy birthday, Muhammad. At 65, at least you're doing better than a sadder former heavyweight champion, Mike Tyson.

Several days ago, there was a rumor running round that Tyson was trying to commit suicide. No one has ever been the subject of more outlandish gibberish than poor Mike. The problem is, as in this case, there is nothing that he might do that would be considered a complete shock. The suicide report, happily, was like all the talk of his returning to Robin or killing Donald, just some more hogwash.

I can start rumors with the best (worst) of them. How's this? Floyd Mayweather Sr., having been rebuffed by Oscar de la Hoya in his quest for a $2 million payday, is thinking of joining his son, Floyd Jr., for the May 5 showdown.

Actually, he is thinking about it since I mentioned it to him at the Top Rank gym in Vegas where Ricky Hatton and opponent Juan (The Iron Twin) Urango were holding open workouts for the benefit of the press, mostly British, attending this Saturday's HBO commercial for a June 2 Hatton-Jose Luis Castillo fight.

As is my custom, I approached the self-proclaimed world's greatest trainer gingerly before getting to the good stuff. I asked him what he thought of Hatton, the popular English star who is dipping his toes into the American market.

"He's a bleepin' punching bag," said the world's greatest trainer. "They should put him on a swivel."

But I soon directed our conversation to the de la Hoya-Little Floyd showdown. As he told BoxingTalk's Ray Campbell, his request for $2 million was countered with an offer from Golden Boy Promotions - de la Hoya and Richard Shaffer of $500,000 now and another $500,000 if he beat Floyd Jr.

Big Floyd pointed out that to face his son - and thus suffer the slings and arrows of outraged sportswriters complaining of parental abuse - he wanted to be paid like a prince. I, for one, do not believe it would make him a bad guy if he trained de la Hoya in the nuances necessary to beat up Little Floyd; it's his job, he's a trainer of prizefighters. If Cal Ripken Jr. played against his father's team, no one would say boo. Same in football or basketball. Boxing, believe it or not, is still a sport, even though it is not chronicled regularly in most sports sections.

Big Floyd's argument for a much bigger share of the pie should not be based on any fatherly feelings he might have. He is worth a lot of money, more than the usual training fee, because he brings a lot more money to the pie than anyone else.

With boxing becoming such a niche sport, and the niche is diminishing daily, the May 5 showdown could bring the game to record heights (or lows, if you insist). Only Big Floyd training someone to knock out Little Floyd would get the kind of media exposure offered by Oprah, Dr. Phil and Jerry Springer.

The extra money Big Floyd is seeking might very well increase de la Hoya's take, based on pay-per-view sales, by enough to more than pay for itself. Besides, as Big Floyd told Ray Campbell, ?a million dollars ain't that much money, this is 2007.?

Big Floyd said he knew how Oscar could beat Little Floyd, even said it out loud for these furry ears, but didn't think de la Hoya could accomplish the predicted knockout with Freddie Roach, Jack Mosley or Nacho Beristain in the corner.

(Okay, it's very simple, Plan A: De la Hoya, behind his jab, and thanks to Big Floyd now possessing a second hand, keeps backing up Little Floyd, makes him throw punches back. Eventually, said Big Floyd, Little Floyd's hands would give in.)

I'm not sure who wins or who loses is the crux of this matchup - unless it's personal. Otherwise, it seems just another exercise in increasing the wealth of the very, very rich; it is hardly a ?defining? bout. De la Hoya has already been well defined; Mayweather beating a past-his-prime Oscar will still need to beat Mosley or Collazo, Cotto, Margarito, Pacquiao, Winky, Someone, to assure his self-anointed high place in the pantheon.

Big Floyd is an integral part of the match's intrigue. So if Golden Boy is not bright enough to see that, then the obvious solution, I suggested to Senior, was that he return to his son's side and conspire to knock out his penurious ex-employer.

That would sell.

He said anything is possible. Little Floyd is still his son. It would be a hell of a story if there was a reconciliation. Anything is possible, he said. Maybe his brother Roger could be in for a reconciliation, too.

Hell, it was a thought. If Little Floyd wants it, and if he thinks he can increase the number of pay-per-view customers by embracing the old man, maybe they could skip May 5 and hold the bout on Father's Day.

It's not much of a segue, but Juan Urango, the IBFelons' very own junior welterweight champion, is the father of six. He listed the ages - 8, 7, 5, 4, 3, 2. Hey, one of your kids is missing, I pointed out, what happened to 6? The question was duly translated and he duly laughed, but offered no explanation for the omission.

Hmm. This fit in with the report on at least one web site that Urango was forced to flee Colombia years ago because the posse was after him for child support. Nah, he said, that was when he reached the States two years ago and the mother of his first kids thought he had struck it rich, but that's all straightened out and while Hatton may be bringing in as many as 3,000 fans from England, Urango said there would be no sheriffs following him from the mountains of Colombia. Hell, he went home and saw the kids and their two mothers after winning his specious title, a questionable 12-round decision over Naoufel Ben Rabah. Yes, that Nafouel Ben Rabah. They let him out again, to his Miami home and camp, so he could get ready for a $480,000 payday, probably six or seven times as much as he's ever made since he turned pro in his native town of Monteria, Colombia, in 2002.

His nickname is the Iron Twin, the Iron from his like of Iron Mike Tyson, the twin because he has an identical twin brother, Pedro. Juan is the slightly younger. Pedro may be older, but he is only 1-0 as a pro back in Colombia. Juan is a muscular left-hander with reportedly a big punch and a 17-0-1 record with 13 knockouts. The scouting report says he switch-hits - as a baseball player, he switch-pitched, throwing left and right-handed - but stands squarely, a very inviting target especially with his wide punches. Yet there are those who give him a bigger chance than the 7-1 odds on Hatton would suggest.

Floyd Mayweather Sr. is not the only one who believes Hatton is rather easy to hit. My New York guru, Johnny Bos, says this could be a very tough fight for the real 140-pound ruler. He pointed out that Luis Collazo, whom Hatton barely beat in a welterweight title fight last May, hurt him in the 11th and 12th rounds.

"Collazo doesn't hit as hard as me," said the 26-year-old Colombian.

The question I have is whether Urango knows much about sand-bagging. He said he helped develop those muscular arms when, at the age of 12 to help support his large farming family, he got a job excavating sand from the local riverbed.

But watching him shadow at the Top Rank gym, and yes, I gave the round to the shadow, 10-9, one has to wonder whether he belongs in the ring with Hatton.

His feet seemed glued to the canvas. His hands moved as slowly as Don Elbaum's reaching for a check. Frankly, he looks muscle-bound.

Plus, of course, Hatton and his convoy of English will be the house - and HBO favorite. One of the British reporters asked him if he was concerned that the crowd would be with his opponent. He said, like they all do, that there would be only one opponent in the ring. But the Brit went on, Hatton derives much of his power from the people.

"My power comes from up above," said Urango.

He is close friends with Carlos Maussa, the Colombian who upset Vivian Harris for the WBAbboon 140-pound title and was subsequently knocked out in 2005 by Hatton.

"Carlos said he got sick traveling to England," said Urango.

Hatton has been ailing here a bit. He also suffered an arm injury in camp. Nothing seemed to bother him, though, when he worked lightly at the gym. He was wearing a ?Ricky Fatton? T-shirt and had entered wearing a Burger King crown.

He likes to eat and habitually has to take off 30 or so pounds to make junior welter. Urango said he had no problems at all with weight. He looks very large for a 140-pounder, but it seems concentrated on his upper body.

He seems quietly confident. He may be virtually unknown now, "but people will know me after this fight," he said. He said he had "done my homework" and thus knew that this match would definitely be fought "at close range."

If his chin is as good as his muscular neck suggests, maybe Hatton will have to work for the victory that would set up a bigger payday (he's getting $2 million here, plus the share of the British pay-per-view, which promoter Artie Pellulo says could be another few million, though probably it will be ?only? in six figures) with Jose Luis Castillo on June 2.

That depends, of course, on his beating Urango and Castillo not only beating Hermann Ngoudjo of the Cameroons and Canada in this Saturday's semifinal, but also in making weight. Castillo is an 11-1 favorite to beat the undefeated Montreal-based Ngoudjo. The odds of his making 140 pounds were not listed.

PENTHOUSE: The state of Texas for finally getting around to suspending the referee's license of Laurence Cole for disclosing to Juan Manuel Marquez that he was ahead on points when cut by an accidental butt from the head of Jimrex Jaca last November. Cole got set down for three months for seemingly suggesting an easy way out for Marquez, who wouldn't hear of it and stopped Jaca all by himself and now is rewarded for an assignment against Marco Antonio Barrera as part of the great Mexican celebration March 17?.Also, Time Warner and HBO for allowing Jim Lampley to work Saturday night though he has been accused of hitting a girl friend and defying a restraining order, charges he denies and of which the suits thankfully remembered he has not been convicted. Innocent until proven guilty is a wonderful concept.

OUTHOUSE: Muhammad Ali, without whom Don King and Bob Arum would not be in boxing.

REAL OUTHOUSE: For the first of many, I'm sure, in 2007, HBO for Saturday night's card. Please. What is the point of this exercise when all along the goal is a Hatton-Castillo fight? These infomercial fights could turn out to be spectacles, but I prefer matchups like Showtime's initial foray into the new year, Samuel Peter vs. James Toney. On paper, at least, it was supposed to be a fight. That it turned out to be a showcase for Peter - and someone please shut up Dan Goossen for trying to argue the fight was close for the opening half - is irrelevant. That happens sometimes.

HEAVY THOUGHTS: Nikolay Valuev defends his WBA heavyweight title Saturday in Basel, Switzerland - where one figures to find some neutral judges - against Jameel McCline, who's getting another chance to prove he doesn't belong. It must be pointed out that any attempt to say that Valuev going after Rocky Marciano's record (it's not a boxing record, it was just the Rock's personal 49-0) should be rather tempered by his confession that McCline is the toughest fight of his career. Frankly, I think 7-foot Russian should forget about the WBA and go after the NBA title. Wonder how fast he could make Carmelo Anthony run?


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