Back to the Future, With or Without Rocky

By Michael Katz


Back to the Future, With or Without Rocky

Another year of mediocrity will be sent packing momentarily, but let's not get too excited about prospects in 2007. Boxing has become less and less relative to American life, but we'll try to keep it in the family when we look at the old crystal ball.

Appearing on Oprah, Floyd Mayweather Jr. will say that his father couldn't hold a candle to Uncle Roger as a trainer.

Before it hits DVD, Rocky Balboa's ending will be revealed by HBO announcers.

Don King goes into the first big fight of the year holding interest in both Samuel Peter and James Toney. Who, he is asked, will he be rooting for? "Me, myself and I," he says.

On Dr. Phil, Floyd Mayweather Sr. says his son is a little brat and he'll be glad to show Oscar de la Hoya how to shut his mouth.

Mike Tyson enters rehab.

In a bloodless coup, Jose Sulaiman will take over the presidencies of the WBA, IBF and WBO. But just when someone suspects there might be a rash of title unifications, the hall of famer will announce he intends to keep each alphabet as separate entities - he just wants to unify the sanction fees. His son, Mauricio, will be president of the WBA, and will marry Marian Muhammad, the IBF president. "It's very bigamy," said the younger Sulaiman of his great sacrifice. Just when it appears the WBO will become an orphan, the Sulaimans adopt it.

Fred Sternburg advises that Mike Nifong, the embattled prosecuter of the Duke lacrosse players, will head up Golden Boy Promotions' Durham branch, just as soon as he gets disbarred. "He's perfect for boxing, the way he puts up his dukes," said Fast Freddie.

Of course, the PR whiz peddles so many snow jobs that he sometimes can't dig himself out. It doesn't help that he lives in Denver.

Tae Bo doesn't know and Samuel Peter, remaining at long arm's length, outpoints James Toney, who of course fires Blanks. Fat men worldwise go on a hunger strike in sympathy.

Bob Arum tries to break up a de la Hoya-Mayweather press tour, saying he still has paper on both fighters. The paper turns out to be the only thing Manny Pacquiao hasn't signed in the last two years.

Dickie Cole gives his son, Laurence, a raise in pay and promotes him to referee-for-life-of-all-big-fights-in-Texas.

"Why didn't I think of that?" says Larry Hazzard, who gives his son a lifetime judgeship and permission to talk any fighter he wants into signing with Butch Lewis.

Shannon Briggs resists that temptation.

On Letterman, Oscar says of course Floyd Sr. will be in his corner, why would anyone doubt it?

On Leno, Oscar says of course Floyd Sr. won't be in his corner, why would anyone ask?

Sylvester Stallone gets passed over for an Oscar for "Rocky Balboa."

Marco Antonio Barrera agrees to never call Eric Morales a racist name.

"That's because he's a fag," says Morales.

Nikolay Valuev says he's not sure how to spell his first name, either. Jameel McCline says he will spell disaster, but as usual freezes after asking for a definition of the word and hearing "Murad Muhammad."

De la Hoya, about to become a father again, uses that as an excuse to postpone his Cinco de Mayo fight. He wants to wait until the Mexican Independence Day weekend in September, but Mayweather insists that they meet on June 16, the day before Father's Day. De la Hoya concurs, figuring his bad hand only needs an extra month's rest.

Joel Casamayor decides Acelino Freitas doesn't deserve a rematch and instead beats up Morales.

Wladimir Klitschko scores tenth-round stoppage of badly cut Ray Austin and Emanuel Steward says his guy is better than Joe Louis.

Marco Antonio Barrera says he got along without him all his life, why the hell would he need Juan Manuel Marquez now.

Nevertheless, after Pacquiao signs with Scott Boras, Barrera agrees to face Marquez.

He is shocked when little brother Rafael shows up. Says Nacho Beristain, "Why waste Juan Manuel on a washedup fighter?"

Barrera finally catches Rafael in 11th round and stops him. "No way I'm going to fight big brother," he says.

Pacquiao signs with Murad Muhammad again.

With Floyd Sr. now inbedded in Oscar's camp, de la Hoya's father signs on with Floyd Jr. Pay-per-view sales go off the board.

Shannon Briggs forgets he has a title belt and forfeits his defense against a Russian whose name he can't remember, either.

Don King says no matter. He's got the Russian, plus he just signed Manny Pacquiao.

Dr. Joyce Brothers, analyzing the de la Hoya-Mayweather showdown for HBO, says she understands the boxing aspects more than the psychological ones. "We're talking two very dysfunctional families here," she says.

Gene Kilroy finally gets his buddy Muhammad Ali to retire from traveling and, over Thomas (Ha) User's very dead body, is honored by the Boxing Writers Association of America. After (Ha) User drops dead when learning Kilroy got the "Good Guy" award, Gino was then given the Walker Award for "meritorious service" to boxing.

Someone named Diaz loses a lightweight title.

Jose Luis Castillo makes weight and says he will soon challenge for the cruiserweight title.

Mike Tyson leaves rehab, says he doesn't like himself and joins a monastery in Tibet, from where he learns to play the blues on clarinet.

Greg Leon gets an exclusive interview with Joe Louis, who wants to know who is this guy Emanuel Steward.

Bob Arum tells the truth. "That was yesteryear," he says.

Winky Wright, speeding away from a hit-and-run accident in which Jermain Taylor is cut in half, is heard to murmur, "When I ask for 50 percent, I get 50 percent."

At the induction ceremonies for the Hall of Fame, someone notices a little round bandito in a wheelchair making off with artifacts.

The Yankees outbid the Red Sox to sign Manny Pacquiao. George Steinbrenner says not only will his team clean up on the Filipino trade, "but we've got the designated hitter I've always wanted."

At the MGM Grand Arena, Mayweather Jr. is slapping around de la Hoya when suddenly Oscar's father, Joel, rushes into the ring and grabs his boy's tormentor. At this point, Floyd's father exits Oscar's corner and tackles Joel de la Hoya. Before long, Yoel Judah and his son Zab, who have been yelling at both boxers throughout the night, climb upon the apron and start yelling for the Nevada State Athletic Commission to castrate everyone.

Referee Jay Nady immediately puts a headlock on Zab Judah to prevent him from getting hit and disqualifies both contestants - de la Hoya and Mayweather.

Sylvester Stallone says maybe this script with the double DQ will get him an Oscar. "I always suspected the father would betray the son of the other father," he said. Mel Gibson says he can use that in his next movie, "The Zions of Elder."

Bernard Hopkins, representing Golden Boy Promotions, shows that 42 is just a number as he outslicks Joe Calzaghe.

"Wait til he's my age," says George Foreman.

Marco Antonio Barrera, despite setting off alarms at the airport, scores a seventh-round stoppage of Juan Manuel Marquez, who blames a head-butt with a metallic core.

Russell Peltz whines about something.

Don King complains that Shelly Finkel is acting like a monopoly.

The WBC, under the guidance now of Mauricio Sulaiman, buys a controlling interest in the Pittsburgh Penguins. "It's the next best thing to an undertaking business," said the young man who is winning a reputation as a genius in presiding over dying affairs.

Samuel Peter knocks Oleg Maskaev into Dennis Rappaport's lap.

Jermain Taylor, having been glued together by the spirit of Arkansas by the Clintons, finally steps up to the plate and is beaten in the ring by Winky Wright. Of course, the decision is over-ruled by the Bush Administration's Supreme Court, which says no one from Florida can help Democrats.

Antonio Margarito, passing up a chance to beat Paul Williams, tries to unify against Miguel Cotto. The Tijuana Tornado never reaches gale strength.

Antonio Tarver announces his retirement to give acting his fulltime attention. Roy Jones Jr. said Tarver was never a real fighter, anyway, just a pretend one.

Wladimir Klitschko and Peter sign to have the first unification fight in a series promoted by Don King. The second half will be shown only on the Russian Internet.

The de la Hoya-Mayweather rematch is set for the Mexican Independence Day weekend in September. As part of the agreement, de la Hoya gets 70 percent of the money and all of the relatives.

Diego Corrales and Sugar Shane Mosley leave their wives and go camping, no, not on Brokenback Mountain. They buy the Deer Lake, Pa., enclave where Muhammad Ali used to train. Corrales doesn't make weight, anyway.

Larry Holmes is elected to the hall of fame, but refuses the award. "I'm not going to retire until George fights me," he says.

Manny Pacquiao is traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Randy Johnson.

Don King becomes ambassador to Iraq for his continuing support of his war lord, George W. His boxing business is taken over by Haliburton.

On his first evening in Bagdhad, King announces he will have the heavyweight unification fight in the Green Zone. Both Klitschko and Peter refuse to go and King signs two Arabs off the Street to meet for the vacant title, with the blessings of all boxing alphabets beginning with W. Only the IBF withholds recognition, instead bequeathing its belt on Jermain Taylor.

Israel Vazquez has to duck some Iranian bombs intended for his namesake the country.

Edwin Valero retires from boxing to answer mail for "I coulda been a contender," he says.

"No you couldn't," says Jeff Wald. "You were too good to be a 'Contender.'"

"But now I'm a bum and that's all I'll ever be," Valero laments. Fischer soothes him, "It's not your night."

Steve Wynn's hotel in Macao is buried by a tsunami, but Bob Arum says he'll hold a big fight under water as a benefit. "It's easy finding fighters who've gone in the water," says a source close to Arum.

Some one remembers Main Events, although he's not sure why.

Joe Mesi defeats Jermain Taylor for the IBF heavyweight title.

Julio Cesar Chavez embarks on a comeback and will face the Washington Generals in a world tour.

In the long-awaited rematch, Floyd Mayweather Jr. breaks both hands on Oscar de la Hoya's backbone and the fight is declared a no-contest. Both men are forced into retirement, welcomed by Felix Trinidad Jr., Kostya Tszyu and Max Kellerman.

Samuel Peter, now trained by Emanuel Steward, knocks out Wladimir Klitschko in the second round to win the Peoples Heavyweight Championship, which is quickly recognized by Peoples Republics in China and North Korea.

"This opens up whole new worlds for me," says Jose Sulaiman, who names Dandy Dan Rafael prefecture of his new districts.

Steward says Peter is the greatest heavyweight who ever lived.

Golden Boy Promotions buys a 50 percent share in Top Rank and immediately fires its half of Todd duBoef.

Pacquiao signs with Sulaiman. "What an ink-stained wretch am I," says Manny.

Shooting begins on "Rocky VII," a prequel about Balboa's relationship with his father, played by Dennis Hopper.

There's lots more, but let's not spoil all the surprises.

PENTHOUSE: George Kimball, who should know better, recently wrote a review of "Rocky Balboa" in which he opined that  if Muhammad Ali was the "most recognizable boxing figure of the 20th Century, Rocky Balboa probably ranks a close second." Obviously, Kimball never heard of Jack Dempsey or Joe Louis and maybe a few others, but at the end of the (hopefully) final Rocky film, I did look up on the big scene and think, "We'll never see his kind again." Balboa was good for the game. The original "Rocky" was undoubtedly one of the big catalysts in a ring revival when it made its debut in 1976 - five golden United States Olympic boxers, of course, helped.

Balboa was, and 30 years later, still is, all clichés wrapped into one. Leaving aside the preposterous fight scenes, here repeated with the help of Antonio Tarver who never looked better, Stallone has captured the essence of boxing's hold on our heartstrings. In truth, we've heard it all before, probably never better expressed than by Evander Holyfield: "It don't matter who hits harder, it's whether you can take mine or I can take yours."

In Balboa's fantasy world, this is what makes Rocky such a towering figure. He is the underdog who gets knocked down but never quits trying. One would doubt that Stallone will ever show the effects of all that punishment in a later film, though he nods slyly in that direction when a mutt he adopts is named "Punchy."

In Holyfield's world of reality, we can admire his fortitude, but shudder at what all those punches must be doing to his brain cells.

"Rocky Balboa" is an intelligent film that captures the human spirit inherent in boxing. It also captures the underside. In a brilliant bit of casting, he has Lou DiBella play Lou DiBella and you know it's real-life because in the film too you can't believe anything a fight promoter says.

OUTHOUSE: Been saving this one until after I saw "Rocky Balboa." On Monday Night Football, plugging the movie, Stallone was asked by Tony Kornheiser where he got the idea for Rocky punching the sides of beef. Now we all know Tony doesn't know much about football, but his dearth of knowledge about boxing is vast. So let's not blame him for not knowing about Joe Frazier also pounding meat - and I always meant to ask Joe where he got that from - but I think Stallone should have given a tip of the porkpie to the greatest Philly fighter of them all.

CX: Thanks, readers, for pointing out that (a) it's Jose Antonio Rivera, not Juan Antonio as I wrote in my previous effort and (b) Martin Castillo's stoppage by Nobuo Nashiro was not a knockout, but a technical knockout caused by cuts


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