Till next time, Sloan!
On Friday night, I was at the luxurious and opulent WinnaVegas Hotel and Casino in the boxing hotbed of Sloan, Iowa as I was part of CBS Sports Network’s broadcast team alongside Ray Flores, Patrick Ortiz and young middleweight contender Rob Brant.
When you cover this traveling circus called boxing, it’s always a bit of an adventure (especially when you somehow lose your cell phone like I did after landing in Omaha, Nebraska on Wednesday afternoon).
Regardless, this still beats having a “real” job.
Here are some thoughts about what took place in and out of the ring in Sloan…
– OK, as I wrote about a few days ago, I had to hitch a ride with John Vera – the main event performer for this card – and his camp and I’m lucky they had to go to the nearest WalMart in Sioux City, which just happened to have a Sprint store where I could replace my phone. The salespeople there were incredibly nice and friendly (which didn’t surprise me. After all, this is the Midwest) but, geez, I never knew that getting a new phone (a Samsung Droid I-6) would be so doggone costly.
But hey, for me to function (and, just as importantly,to be able to flag down an Uber from LAX on Saturday), I would need a phone. What really stood out is, in this particular Sprint store, they actually had a popcorn machine, which I greatly appreciated and in which I partook. I think all of their outlets across the country should adopt this practice. This was customer service at it’s finest right here.
Vera would go on to stop veteran trialhorse Ayi Bruce in four rounds to improve to 13-0 (8) in a pretty impressive outing for the tall southpaw from Fort Worth, Texas. Vera has some upside; he’s got length and knows how to box from the outside, control distance and yet still be able to bend on his front knee to dig body shots. And in the end, this former beekeeper showed some sting. (Yeah, yeah, I know. I couldn’t resist. Sorry.)
– Can I just say something? The Island Buffet at the WinnaVegas had some really good shrimp and its glazed salmon was outstanding. Red Lobster has nothing on these guys. Don’t believe me? Ask Tim from Iowa (who tweets at @TimothyS_515), who joined me for lunch and dinner on Friday. He can vouch for me. Yeah, being the big spender I am, both meals were on me. Well, that and the fact I had extra buffet coupons. But who knew seafood could be of such high quality in the middle of Big10 country?
By the way, how remote is Sloan? Well, Tim explained to me that when he tried to get a few friends to join him on this trip, he was basically told over and over again, “No way, that place is out in the middle of nowhere.” That says something when even Iowans talk of Sloan being out in the boonies.
During lunch, we saw the camps of welterweights Malik Hawkins and Cody Peterson, who were just a few tables apart, get into a rather loud and animated discussion over their fight. Peterson’s camp was very bold in proclaiming that a mistake was made in picking them as the “opponent.” Next thing you know, money is being laid on the table; voices got louder and eventually a wager was made for both young boxers to put up half their night’s purses.
Yeah, now THIS is prizefighting!
Eventually cooler heads prevailed on the Peterson side (I was told his wife intervened) and the bet was called off. This was a fortunate turn of events as Hawkins, who looks to be a very promising young fighter from Maryland, improved to 6-0 (5) by knocking Peterson down three times before the end of the first round. Yeah, a kid who grew up in the gyms of Baltimore/DC is always going to be at an advantage against a guy from Missouri. Hawkins is now co-promoted by Greg Cohen Promotions and Roy Jones Jr. Boxing and they are sky high on this 20-year-old. Cohen says they will schedule him on every single show they have in 2016 moving forward.
Friday night was “Crab Leg Night” at the Island Buffet and it was a full house – and the natives were piling on their plates. During the course of seeing this, I mentioned how people were going ‘H.A.M.’ on the crab legs. But I admitted I had no clue what that acronym really meant. Seriously, all these years of hearing it, and seeing it on Twitter, I was ignorant to what it actually stood for. Tim – who, for the record, is white – said, “Well, for me, it probably means ‘honky-ass motherfucker.'” (Editor’s note: According to Urban Dictionary, that stands for “hard as a motherfucker.” I had to look that up.)
– On Friday night, while we were all the main bar, I had a chance to meet the CEO of Roy Jones Jr. Boxing, Keith Veltre. While Jones is fronting the company, Veltre is financing things and running it on a day-to-day basis. They recently entered into a partnership with Cohen and what impressed me about Veltre is his game plan isn’t just, “Hey, I’ve got a lot of money” or ”I have three platinum albums to my credit.” This seems to be an individual with a real plan based on solid business principles, has some solid boxing people around him and, most importantly, is more than willing to work with others.
I wish him luck. This is a tough racket in which a lot of millionaires have come into this with bold proclamations and promises, only to be humbled a short time later. I’ve said, for years, that this game/business will teach you a lot more than you will ever teach it. As Top Rank Promotions CEO Bob Arum once said about failed promoters who have tried to encroach on his turf, “The desert is strewn with bleached bones.”
– The biggest upset of the weekend had to be Jose Silveria – who came into Friday night with a mark of 16-19, including having lost 10 of his last 11 bouts – defeating the undefeated Kevin Lavallee, 14-1-1 (10) from Quebec, who was promoted by Roy Jones Jr. Boxing. But from the very beginning, Silveria, who had recently been stopped by Hanzel Martinez in four back in December, was able to reach Lavallee with overhand rights and Lavallee was never able to utilize his advantage in height and reach to keep the Mexican off him. Silveria scored a third round knockdown and buzzed Lavallee a couple of other instances en route to winning a hard-earned, six-round decision.
Yeah, this why you fight the fights. While Lavallee had the glossy record, Silveria was truly the seasoned boxer, having faced Rau’shee Warren, Gary Stark Jr., Guy Robb, Jessie Magdaleno, Cesar Seda and Shinsuke Yamanaka, among others. Honestly, I think it’s good for this series that we have a few upsets here and there.
– A special guest of the WinnaVegas for the fights was Neil Smith, the former Nebraska Cornhusker, All-American and two-time Super Bowl champion with the Denver Broncos. (And he was wearing both his championship rings.) After the fights, we had a chance to talk to Smith and we spoke about everything from his baseball swing celebration (which, by the way, I loved), his taped-up thumb and his nasal strip – his trademark – the state of Cornhusker football, if Bill Romonowski was a racist (For the record, Smith didn’t think so. His belief was his former teammate was crazy.) and if Terrell Davis should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. (We agreed he certainly does.)
But when I joked to him that we should set up a boxing match between him and his old nemesis, Kevin Gogan (who he actually fought with during a Pro Bowl), Smith got sorta serious and said, “I’ll whup his ass; set that up!” It turns out ol’ No. 90 boxed a bit as a kid back in New Orleans.
I can see it now: “A special edition of NFL Boxing on CBS Sports Network: Grudge Match, Smith-Gogan.” Make it happen, Cohen!
– Did you know that in the state of Iowa, last call is at 1:30 a.m. and they confiscate your drinks at two ? Even at a casino! Talk about a real buzzkill. But, on the bright side, a Grey Goose and club soda was just four bucks. Seriously, that’s a bargain. But, again, if you’re ever in Iowa, make sure you bring your own stash for the late hours.
– Now, believe it or not, I didn’t mind going to Iowa. The bottom line is, in this job, you have to travel and some places are more exotic than others. Regardless, wherever the assignment calls me to be, I go. And one of my bucket list goals is to call or cover boxing in as many states as possible and now, Iowa is crossed off.
So when are we going to Wyoming?
Glad to hear that a Francisco Vargas-Orlando Salido fight for the late spring is coming together. The StubHub Center is a perfect venue for that kind of fight…Yes, a match-up between Jesus Soto Karass and Yoshihiro Kamegai is being seriously discussed by Golden Boy Promotions for April…Seriously, were there more than a few hundred people at that “ShoBox” card on Friday night in Atlantic City?…Diego De La Hoya is progressing steadily…How ’bout Tony Luis – who won on Friday night – as a step-up for Felix Verdejo?…OK, my first experience taking Uber from LAX was a success…I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and I tweet (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.