The Old Combo: Catchup on Leftovers

By Michael Katz


The Old Combo: Catchup on Leftovers

DISS AND THAT: Kirk Lang's loving farewell to Willie Pep on this site alleviates the need for me to wax poetic on the greatest boxer in history except perhaps to define the debate over who is No. 1, pound for pound, now. Partisans of both Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao should be able to share the tent. Pep was NOT the greatest fighter, pound for pound, certainly behind Sugar Ray Robinson and Henry Armstrong in this area code. Frankly, he may not have been the greatest featherweight (Sandy Saddler would have beaten him prior to the plane crash).

Though his boxing skills, like Mayweather's, were superior, he did not have enough offensive clout to be considered the best over all. But he was more than a defensive specialist. He was better at making a guy miss and THEN countering with combinations than Mayweather could ever dream. We are harping, though. Joe Montana and/or Johnny Unitas did not have stronger arms than John Elway or Terry Bradshaw, and all could give you a Super Bowl victory, so have a few pints, pass the pretzels and argue until dawn.

Pep, unlike Mayweather, was entertaining. He didn't wear earings or diamonds, he did his bling in the ring. Whitaker was the bridge between the two. Pernell was a clown, which is no mean attribute. I'd rather watch Red Skelton tapes than Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s. The Sweet Pea once leaped in the air, did a 360 and smacked an opponent, Alfred Layne, in the kisser. Another time he pulled down the trunks of his foe, Roger Mayweather, now the pent-up trainer of Pretty Boy.

Still, I have nothing but admiration for anyone who has steadfastedly kept young Mayweather atop the mythical pound-for-pound list. Me, I am thinking of changing my vote to Pacquiao and here's why. Mayweather, of course, is much better defensively, but under trainer Freddie Roach, the Filipino has improved this aspect of his game. However, Floyd's become a one-at-a-time puncher - afraid, I believe, to commit to combinations because of the fear of what might be coming back from the bigger opponents he is now facing, in addition to the lack of confidence he has in his hands. Both are flawed, but when it comes down to mano a mano, Pacquiao seems to have a bit more pizzazz. Let's put them both at 130 pounds, where Pacquiao is now at his peak and where Mayweather was at his best. I believe the Pac Man would be more than quick enough to force exchanges that he would win. On the other hand, I could be wrong.

Of this I am certain: Mayweather is still the best welterweight in the world. Don't believe the hype from Bob Arum that Antonio Margarito and Miguel Cotto are surely the best at 147 since Floyd is moving up to 154 to fight Oscar.

That's only for one fight, okay, and maybe a rematch. Mayweather doesn't walk around at 154. After de la Hoya, if he continues to fight, it'll be at 147 - unless somehow Winky Wright can cut off an arm or leg.

As for Margarito, he showed clearly in the early rounds against Joshua Clottey that he is what he is, a tough preliminary fighter. He's slower than Yadier Molina, throws wider than Eli Manning and has the quick reflexes of an ameba caught in molasses. Maybe now Margarito will shut up, or, as John Hornewer, Mayweather's attorney said, "Looks like the Tijuana Tornado is just a lot of hot air."

Cotto is another thing entirely. He showed clearly in the early rounds against Carlos Quintana that he can be hit by a fast-handed foe, but he also showed that at 147, his chin is a lot better than it was at 140. His hands are heavy with hurt. I think he'd dominate Margarito, who still might be tough enough to get through the novice Paul Williams.

But back to the Will o' the Wisp: Unlike many defensive specialists, he was fun to watch because he could slap opponents silly. Guys like Pep, Pernell Whitaker and, with his brittle hands, Mayweather, should get credit for going having the combination of guile and skill to overcome superior firepower.

HOG WASH: It's bad enough Kassim Ouma has to go into the lion's lair and face a bigger, stronger, better opponent. But the state of Arkansas - and what has it given this country lately? - is making sure the scales of justice are weighed heavily in favor of hometown hero Jermain Taylor.

Taylor, we are constantly being told, is one of the good guys in boxing. From my infrequent conversations with him, I have no reason to doubt this. But if the middleweight champion really wanted to bolster his credentials for angelhood, he might step up and smack down his state's worst behavior since Orville Faubus tried seceding again from the Union.

First, Arkansas allowed the WBCriminals to poison the hot springs by allowing the ludicrous "open scoring" system favored by Jose Sulaiman and his gang - announcing the official scores after the fourth and eighth rounds.

Imagine if Ouma and his nonstop activity catch the eyes of any of the judges and it is announced that the Ugandan was leading, or even close. Sulaiman might as well paint bullseye targets on anyone that doesn't vote for the hometown hero. You want better judging, Jose? Appoint better judges. And quit your lifetime post, you ridiculous little egotistic maniac. This is the guy who wants to make boxing fair: when he was picked up at the San Antonio airport in advance of attending Kevin Kelley's featherweight defense against Alejandro Gonzalez, the car passed by the Alamodome. "This is the place where they did that terrible thing to Julio," said Sulaiman, referring to the incredible draw given to Julio Cesar Chavez the night he was demolished by Pernell Whitaker.

Arkansas further tried to unbalance the scales against the visitor by allowing the weighin to take place at 1 P.M. on Friday, an outrageous 36 hours or so before the fight, giving Taylor - who is already looking to move up to 168 and 175 pounds - plenty of time to replenish the liquids he no doubt will have to lose in order to make the middleweight limit. However, after protests from the Ouma camp, the weighin was changed to 4 P.M., an acknowledgement of the injustice but not a complete fix since 4 P.M. is still more than 24 hours before the scheduled first bell.

Be a big boy, Jermain. You've fought Bernard Hopkins twice and Winky Wright in your last three fights. Now you're facing a comparative midget, a junior middleweight with no punch. You don't need to gang up on him and make him fight with both hands tied behind his back. Shame on you if you don't waive your state rights.

And shame on your promoter, Lou DaBully, who said he wanted to change boxing for the better. This is the same guy who complained when his fighter, Paulie Malignaggi, had to give an early weighin to the larger Miguel Cotto, remember. Now he is silent on the issue of premature evaluations. What a savior. Which, of course, leads to the.

OUTHOUSE: There's plenty of competition, from the state of Arkansas to Referee Laurence Cole, but once again the heart and soul of boxing goes to the head. Give Ross Greenburg and crew permanent seats on the throne after once again, though nothing but sheer malice aforethought, there was an attempt to screw rival Showtime. Both networks had TV shows last weekend. Obviously, Showtime's welterweight double-header featuring Margarito and Cotto was far superior to the HBOring offer of Winky Wright and his foregone conclusion with Ike Quartey. Still, the idea was not to choose but to watch both. It was possible out here in Pacific Time since Showtime's various networks were carrying its Atlantic City card at various times. HBO, however, had a one-shot slot, live from Tampa.

The Showtime card started at 6 P.M. my time. I got in nine rounds of Margarito struggling with Clottey before it was time to switch to Jeff Lacy's comeback against someone named Typo. I watched Lacy's struggle, scored the fight a draw, giving the other guy the last four rounds, and settled in to watch Wright go through round after round of proving his superiority to Quartey. In the fourth round, though, Larry Merchant broke in with the "news" that Margarito won and?.

I was able to hit the mute button before he gave away the Cotto score, but I surmised that the quickness of that report indicated a knockout which would seem to favor Cotto.

F**K YOU, HBO. Did they give the news about Javier Castillejo getting knocked out in an upset in Germany? Or Felix Sturm winning? It seems the only time you can be sure HBO will give news of other fights is if Showtime has taped them for showing later that night in some areas of the country.

I do not blame Merchant. This has been done before by Jim Lampley. I do not blame Lampley. He and Merchant are probably under orders from above, and that's Greenburg, who should be wearing a suit with a bullseye in the back so every boxing fan can identify him as the biggest spoilsport in the business.

I wish I could recommend a boycott HBO, but since it does show so many fights - and occasionally a decent one - that seems unfair to fight fans. However, it is possible to hurt its parent company, Time Warner, by canceling subscriptions to such magazines as Time and Sports Illustrated, which do not cover boxing anyway. When you do, let the suits know why.

I'm not finished with the HBOorishness. There should be a housecleaning of majestic proportions, starting with the announcers who continuously seem to find the televised mismatches exciting. Take, for example, Fran Charles on the Juan Manuel Marquez-Jimrex Jaca fight a couple of weeks ago. Charles and company, misled as usual by Harold Lederman, seemed to think Marquez was having problems with Jaca. Max Kellerman, who thought Marquez beat Manny Pacquiao in their famous draw (other way round, fellow), said Marquez had to come from behind. Charles in fact was surprised that all three official judges had the fight a shutout when it was over.

These are obvious and pathetic attempts to make a fight that should not be on premium cable sound as if it is competitive. Lampley is the master of this.

The Marquez fight was the one where Laurence Cole, noting the Mexican stalwart bleeding from an accidental clash of heads, notified him that he was ahead on points, suggesting that he could quit and get the technical decision. Marquez, happily, did not understand - or if he did, decided he wanted to win it the old-fashioned way - and continued the dominance. Cole's indiscretion, atop of his many other dubious moves in the past, should result in a long suspension, but of course, being the son of the man who runs the Texas commission, that won't happen. Nepotism in boxing?

Another worthy candidate for the toilet, as usual, is the WBAboons. Dandy Dan Rafael, the man who invented boxing, noted in his column that these corrupt and/or incompetent idiots now have THREE, count 'em, THREE cruiserweight champions - a "super" champion, a "regular" champion and an "interim regular" champion. But I must disagree with the erudite Dandy when he calls to attention this "new undisputed champion of horrific moves." Dandy, rest assured that it is only the "interim" new undisputed champion of horrific moves?.The same WBAboons, incidentally, have approved Nicolai Valuev making a voluntary defense next March against Jameel McCline, who qualifies by having lost last year to Zuri Lawrence, one of Oleg Maskaev's sparring partners?.No, we haven't forgotten Maskaev is defending his WBC heavyweight title next Sunday in Moscow against Peter Okhello - we'd like to forget, but we can't?.We also remember Pearl Harbor.

So in addition to Peter Manfredo challenging Joe Calzaghe next March in Wales, we now have another "Contender" loser, Steve Forbes, headed for a match against one of Frank Warren's paper champions and reports of a deal between the TV series and the British promoter. Just what Warren needed: a minor league to supply fodder for his fighters.

And leave us not forget the corner of the battered Carlos Quintana after Miguel Cotto chopped up his liver, pleading with the twice-fallen fighter to give them one more round. What part of, "I can't do it, I'm dead," didn't they understand?

PENTHOUSE: We've thrown out the final leftovers from this Thanksgiving, but we'll never forget the man who died that day, the great and wonderful Willie Pep. And let us add memoriums to two other beautiful human beings who recently passed -John Davenport, Lennox Lewis's first trainer as a pro but also the Jersey veteran who brought such as Harold Knight and Tracy Spann to prominence, will be buried Friday next to his fatheraca in Plainfield, N.J.; and Tony Triolo, the great photographer from Sports Illustrated, who was one of the real pros (never had to worry about seeing around him if he was in front of you at ringside since he knew how to shoot from below the bottom strand) and a joy at the bar, even when he wasn't drinking.


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