Lost In Translation: How Casamayor Got His Groove Back

By Michael Gonzalez


Lost In Translation: How Casamayor Got His Groove Back

I couldn’t wait to get on the horn and gush to my boys about the fighter meetings and lunch with the HBO BAD crew. On the outside I appeared cool and collected, but on the inside my blood was pumping a mile a minute as I made my way out, as soon as I was alone in the elevator I joyously let off vicious combinations, then let my emotions fully take hold as I explained every detail in my room – a sanctuary where I could really let loose. The first conversation was five minutes and by the time I made the last call, I was clocked at over fifteen having pulled every detail together.

I had finally gotten the call for a shot as Spanish translator with HBO, something I had feverishly worked on for over a year.

I told them how laid back and humble Librado Andrade is. How he approaches fights without plans – because plans can go wrong. I explained his cerebral approach to the game. How he knows he’s not the most skilled or talented, but makes up for it with will in spades. How he felt he drew his mental strength from observing his mother raise seven children, all on her own. And that his trainer, Howard Grant, is as cool as they come.

I told them that Michael Katsidis could barely stay in his seat when talking about his fight with Joel Casamayor, as a child reacting to the prospect of his favorite candy. I told how he would blush over with ‘aw shucks’ when he was compared to Arturo Gatti.

Then I told of how as soon as Joel “El Cepillo” Casamayor and his team entered the meeting their first request was, “We don’t want your translator.” I was immediately deflated. Luckily, the producer and director explained that I was new and they agreed to give me a shot, while they would fill in the gaps, if any. It went well as Casamayor explained that he felt motivated again after sparring too many rounds while being trained by Dan Goosen and not being really ‘up’ for the Santa Cruz fight, who had an awkward style to begin with. Sometimes I would translate and his handlers would correct him, which made it seem as though I translated incorrectly. For example they asked how many boys he has, to which he answered five when in fact he has six. Oh man, I thought to myself, then pointed it out to the crew in hopes of clearing it up. When they left it was all smiles as Casamayor gave me hug and a tap on the face, and Luis De Cubas, Jr. gave me dap and told the director and producer, “He’s way better than the last guy you had.” I was inspired.

After staring at the wall in my room for an hour or so I decided to hit the pool. Casamayor and his team did the same as I greeted them on my way to the bar; they are a happy, lively bunch. I drank alone and pretended to be interested in the college basketball games being shown. Being 27 and single I thought I’d try to run some game. A couple times I thought I was in – after the I’m here to translate for HBO, suddenly I wasn’t as pale or dorky. Unfortunately, those conversations ended with this is my boyfriend. It seemed that the resort is a getaway for couples living in the L.A. area, at least that’s what I told myself.

I ate dinner then paraded the same bottle of beer around the casino for about an hour so. Running into Casamayor’s team several times, the last time one of the fellows warned me to not drink so much, or I wouldn’t be able to talk tomorrow. When I finally finished my now warm beer, I turned in to be fresh for the fight.

I couldn’t sleep thinking back on the meeting and how different it was from what I expected. The director and producer would present the talent with the show format, after which the talent would form their opinions as to what they would discuss. I was always skeptical as to how it must go down, if it was biased and such, but from what I saw they develop the content on their own. And if you think you can step to any of these fellows and submit them with your boxing IQ, come correct or you’ll get clowned. Whether you agree with their views or not, it’s no accident that they hold such prestigious positions.

It was good times talking boxing with Max Kellerman, who seems to know everything and is not shy about giving his opinion. He spoke highly of Jorge Linares, who he told me has everything but his speed could be better. Bob Papa has a sharp, witty humor and Lennox Lewis is quite the character. Lewis has a bit of Ali G about him, his speech pattern and movements are all in rhythm – very animated. There was a tray of mint candies in front of Lewis, which he slid to the end of the table, ‘accidentally’ dropping them into his pocket. “Whoops,” he playfully proclaimed with mischievous smile. I cringed as I imagined how silly I looked across the table from them - big, goofy grin and all.

The next morning I cleaned up, ate and went to check on the outdoor arena set-up. It was a very intimate venue, not a bad seat in the house. The first thing that caught my eye was the size of the ring – it was tiny. Michael Katsidis backer, Sampson Lewkowicz, was in the ring asking to have the ropes tightened. I asked him how big the ring was, “Eighteen feet, so he (Casamayor) can’t run,” he slyly answered.

I went back up to get dressed and came down just in time to see that Billy “The Kid” Dib will be no match for Jorge Linares, though he is fun watch, whether you root for or against him. In the next match Librado Andrade went at Robert Stieglitz as if he had just seen him slap his momma. It was a good competitive match until Andrade finally broke, then overwhelmed Stieglitz, who I would watch fight again. Andrade is looking better overall under trainer Howard Grant, who says he just shakes his head and laughs when he sees Andrade go through drills.

As soon as Michael Katsidis stepped into the ring Casamayor went at him, looking to rattle the rather green warrior. While they waited for the first bell Casamayor paced back and forth while glaring over at his opponent. Casamayor, being the wily vet that he is, saw that Katsidis was positioning his right hand to stop the straight left and looped it in, around the glove and out of Katsidis’ sight. It was the first knockdown of the fight. The second knockdown also in the first round he shot straight as Katsidis was now defending against the looping left. The rest of the fight Katsidis adjusted by guarding against the looping left and trying to avoid the straight, which was easier to see.

The bodywork started visibly bothering Casamayor around the fourth and he started getting tagged much cleaner as Katsidis varied his offense. In the sixth a vicious body shot paralyzed Casamayor and forced him to turn his back while Katsidis pounced and forced him out of the ring. Casamayor got to his feet slowly and finished the round. Whether he forgot or Casamayor made an adjustment, Katsidis stopped going to the body, what seemed like the best strategy. At the beginning of the tenth he carelessly charged Casamayor, swinging violently, to which Casamayor pivoted and landed a nasty left on the point of Katsidis’ chin, who was caught with his right hand low. Katsidis stood up on wobbly legs and convinced the ref to give him a chance. Casamayor let loose and the ref jumped in.

Oh baby! I thought to myself. I could barely hear the corner in between rounds and my monitor went blank in the previous bout, but now it was business time. They instructed me to stand in the ring and wait while they set up the shot. A raucous shouting match ensued as to who would interpret. He speaks in a Cuban dialect Casamayor’s camp argued, which was bullshit, it’s Spanish. For a second I thought this was my way out, I could live to see another day and not try to translate, better yet, understand what Casamayor was mumbling.

This was a low blow, an accidental cut before the fourth or Laurence Cole asking Juan Manuel Marquez if he wanted to continue after an accidental head butt cut him, being that he was ‘up’ on the scorecards. I decided not to take the easy way out and grabbed Casamayor around the waist as tightly as I could. Max Kellerman asked the first question and I nailed it. Alright, Michael! I thought. Then Casamayor wouldn’t even turn to look at me, just said he didn’t understand. After the hug at the meeting and even after I interpreted congratulations champ for Kellerman and he responded thank you moments ago. I won’t put what went through my mind here, if you see me, ask me and I’ll tell you.

Then it hit me and I couldn’t help but smile. Casamayor and his team do whatever it takes to take advantage of every opportunity, a champions approach. In this case, it was a case of managerial mouthpiece, and even he couldn’t translate Casamayor correctly, often going off on his own rants. After the interview Luis De Cubas senior and junior apologized and said it was nothing personal, I understand I responded and congratulated them. That’s the business.

I exited the ring and miserably draped myself onto a ringside chair. It was an awful ending to what I had envisioned would be the start of something special in my life. I must have looked pretty pathetic as a couple minutes later Max Kellerman offered me a handshake and an apology for what had happened. I told him no worries, it’s not your fault. The kind gesture lifted my spirits. I then took a seat behind the announcing crew and managers, who all offered words of encouragement. I bought it.

I took a look at my phone and noticed a record high of missed calls, text messages and voicemails, all offering support. It was great to hear from everyone, but it was my immediate family that put everything in perspective. I don’t remember what they said, but rather the sentiment in their voices, I was truly touched. It was a great experience.

As I laid in bed that night three things danced in my mind; I love my family, I can’t wait for my next HBO assignment and Joel Casamayor is a badass…


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