The Square Jungle: On Mayweather, Taylor, Dawson, Golden Boy, etc. – Oct. 11, 2014
It was a Rod Serling moment. There was Jermain Taylor in the center of a jam-packed ring, once again holding a middleweight title and fit for a little jubilee. More than nine years after winning his first championship (via split decision against Bernard Hopkins), Taylor is now a noisemaker anew in the middleweight division. In as wretched a card as has been broadcast all year, Taylor outpointed 40-year-old, ex-kickboxing champion – and aspiring crump dancer, apparently – Sam Soliman after 36 stupefying minutes of armlocks, collar-and-elbow tie-ups and pratfalls on ESPN2.
Until Soliman completely blew out his knee (since he reportedly entered the ring impaired), Taylor was, to put it mildly, ineffective. But with a gimpy opponent in front of him after the sixth round, Taylor managed to connect with enough ragged one-twos to notch a unanimous decision. Along the way, he scored several knockdowns virtually indistinguishable from drunken sprawls in one of the worst fights of the year. Not even Todd Grisham, who drove “The Square Jungle” to ESPN Deportes more than once for relief from his slapstick, cheerleading shtick, could sell this trash (Grisham, who seems like a very nice man, is part of a trend of buffoonery in sports coverage that extends from “First Take” to NBA half-time shows to the MLB Network to FOX Sports Live. But really, is there anything to be cute about in a blood sport?).
Despite his medical history, despite his poor form, despite his age, Taylor can look forward to gambling his health for more money next time around. He is also, as Jimmy Breslin might have put it, a “loud target” for anyone looking to cash in against a man whose deterioration could not be hidden by the limitations of his opponent on Wednesday night.
* * * *
Although Lou DiBella disassociated himself from Taylor after Taylor suffered a subdural hematoma following his brutal KO loss to Arthur Abraham in 2009, The Righteous One has set aside his haywire, moral compass for the time being and is now riding first-class on the Bad Intentions Express. When opportunism knocks, count on DiBella to answer the door wearing a velour smoking jacket and a lopsided grin. When opportunism passes him by and the only people standing at his threshold are Jehovah’s Witnesses offering free copies of The Watchtower, count on DiBella going “volcanic” about the grimy business of which he so loathes dirtying his hands.
Having co-opted much of the credulous media since 2000 with his calculated diatribes and his goody-goody duplicity, DiBella avoids critical press the same way Vincent “The Chin” Gigante avoided jail time for so many years: with a loony act anyone ought to be able to see through.
Now, DiBella is willing to pimp out his promotional license to Al Haymon, whose practices often seem to skirt the edges of boxing legality – imagine that! – and, as such, would represent everything DiBella, as the Saint Francis of Assisi of boxing, supposedly abhors. Not long ago, Haymon was reported to have signed a block time deal with NBC but any such contract, on the surface, at least would violate the firewall between manager and promoter as outlined in the Muhammad Ali Act. Managers and advisors do not sign contracts with exhibitors. That means somewhere out there is a promoter willing to act as a go-between for Haymon on a much larger scale than just setting up the ring in empty arenas for Andre Berto.
* * * *
Circuit-fighters across North America must have popped celebratory champagne bottles in unison after Tommy Karpency outpointed disinterested Chad Dawson over 10 rounds on a “special” Showtime tripleheader last Saturday night. Karpency, who is not even a journeyman, scored his first career victory over a fighter capable of holding his hands up without the aid of marionette strings. His win even had Stephen Espinoza (remember, a man who got his job through sheer nepotism but is now a matchmaker extraordinaire) pretending he had no interest in seeing Dawson succeed.
After the dull waltz, Dawson, who claimed he had injured his shoulder in training camp, gave sullen post-fight interviews that served as a reminder of exactly why “Bad Chad” drew a combined total of 2,337 paid spectators for two fights against Antonio Tarver in 2008 and 2009: not many care for a dull and dour pug whose career was carefully rigged for years. Here is how The Cruelest Sport summed up Dawson back in 2009: “Take 1/3 “brilliant,” mix with 2/3 “ho-hum,” add plenty of crushed ice, and muddle; a dash of bravura is never included; garnish with an opponent at least 10 years older.”
At least we got to see Dawson extend his unique streak: in losing to Karpency, a wide longshot, Dawson failed to yet again beat a younger fighter. He has never beaten anyone younger than himself in a career that dates back to 2001. In fact, he has had a double-digit age advantage over 14 of his 38 opponents. But he still has time to beat someone not enrolled in AARP, however; he just has to make sure to not face someone as tough as Tommy Karpency.
* * * *
The Taylor-Soliman card, held at the Beau Rivage Resort and Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi, reportedly paid out over a million dollars in purses with Soliman as champion (another useless, worthless title!) getting the bulk of it. Accounting is not a strong point in boxing but the numbers here make no sense whatsoever. Over 30 years ago, Harold Rossfields Smith also threw money around like it was printed by Milton Bradley. Smith, however, got his cash from embezzling Wells Fargo. Where does a million dollars in purses come from for a third-rate ESPN show?
* * * *
Long before Eric Gomez was harangued for the infamous Rod Salka Affair in Brooklyn last summer (which he had little to do with), The Cruelest Sport had already coined a few nicknames for him: “The Ghoul,” “El Carnicero” and “makeagore” (after his inapt Twitter handle, “makeawar”). Gomez is a matchmaker in the same way Stalin saw himself as a lover of poets. Seeing ossified John Michael Johnson in the ring two weeks ago on FOX Sports 1 was a reminder of how often Golden Boy Promotions serves up trash for its secondary television dates.
GBP was at its ghoulish best when it had Pablo Sarmiento – without a fight in over six years! – headlining a card in Los Angeles against Jessie Vargas in 2010. They nearly topped that effort a year later when Dennis Sharpe was greenlighted as a ritual sacrifice for James Kirkland despite not having won a bout in seven years. These matches are set-ups – nothing more – and, in a way, function as consumer fraud. Just to be clear, a major boxing promoter decided that a fighter with a single four-round start to his name in nearly 12 years was worth airing on FOX Sports 1. Johnson, who made his pro debut when Marvelous Marvin Hagler was still undisputed middleweight champion and before the Iran-Contra Affair hearings took over headlines in America, is now 46 years old. Duping the paying audience is not enough for these shysters – who are always on Twitter waxing not-so-poetic about the fans – they also have to bamboozle smaller networks who buy product based on blind output deals.
With all the carny barkers involved to sell these slaughters (publicists, television announcers, bloggers, managers, network execs), there is enough blame to go around when the subject of fraudulence is broached but the fact remains that Golden Boy consistently undermines its own brand with outrageous, cynical mismatches.
* * * *
How many people were happy to hear that ESPN Deportes and ESPN3.com will be airing the “long-awaited” and “much-anticipated” Carlos Molina-Cornelius Bundrage clash on Saturday night? One of the simplest reasons boxing suffers from a dearth of good match-ups is the fact that networks actually pay to air Sam Soliman, Rod Salka, Brian Rose and John Michael Johnson.
* * * *
Not much has happened on the Floyd Mayweather front lately. Except for the usual penny-click headlines about “Money” facing Manny Pacquiao and some Instagrammed betting slips, the Master of Negative Appeal has been on the QT recently. But the silence surrounding Mayweather is vaguely sinister for the simple reason that nothing has transpired following his unusual appearance in front of the Nevada State Athletic Commission a few weeks ago. On September 23, Mayweather defended himself against charges of staging of dangerous “to the finish” sparring sessions by claiming Showtime’s reality show, “All Access” was, in fact, fake.
Because Mayweather represents an enormous economic boost to Las Vegas whenever he fights, the Nevada State Athletic Commission, which gave him a license to promote less than two years after he was released from the Clark County Detention Center, is in no hurry to mete out discipline to its human ATM machine. Nor did it bother to verify whether or not Mayweather was telling the truth. So it set up a benign show trial instead. But as Bob Raissman of the New York Daily News pointed out a few days ago, the fact that Showtime and CBS had no comment regarding what Mayweather claimed about “All Access” may shed some light on the strange scenario.
“For us, the lack of response from Showtime and executives of its parent company, CBS, including chairman Les Moonves, only verifies Floyd Mayweather’s assertions that some scenes from his “All Access” reality show were staged and fabricated,” Raissman wrote. “And going forward, all reality programming connected to Mayweather produced by Showtime and CBS should be categorized as manufactured, phony and fake…The boxing executives at Showtime may not want to take on Mayweather because of day-to-day dealings but what about Moonves? How can he allow the highest-paid talent in his TV empire to besmirch his production department and remain silent unless Mayweather spoke the truth?”
Carlos Acevedo is the editor of The Cruelest Sport and a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. His work has appeared in Boxing Digest Magazine, Maxboxing, Boxing World Magazine and Esquina Boxeo. He is also a contributor to Remezcla and a member of the International Boxing Research Organization.