The Sun Rises Again*: Boxing Commentary: Gatti, Morales, Berto, Taylor, Pavlik and More!

kelly pavlik14.08.07 - By Christopher Roche, - With all the big fights this year, will Taylor vs. Pavlik be 2007's showcase event? 2007 will be remembered as the year of the non-heavyweight. Great match-ups have been made throughout the lower weight classes, and like in the 1980's, the welterweights and middleweights have come to the forefront. Next month Jermain Taylor and Kelly Pavlik will keep that trend going, when they square off in Atlantic City, NJ.

Taylor and Pavlik bring a lot to the table, as they are both highly accomplished fighters, and they are both in their prime. What many people do not consider, however, is their promotional teams, the men and women behind the scenes who help make the show possible. Taylor is handled by DiBella Entertainment, and Pavlik is aligned with Top Rank, two of the best companies in the business.

Top Rank, headed by Bob Arum, seems to have been around forever, and they are a first class organization that has staged some of the best fights in the history of boxing. DiBella Entertainment is a much newer company that is taking an interesting approach to the fight game. DiBella Entertainment's CEO, Lou DiBella, is building his stable from the ground up through grassroots efforts, and DiBella is leveraging his experience from working at HBO to lead his company to the top.

The main event will be stellar, but it will be interesting to see how this card rounds out beyond the top bill. I am hoping the two promoters have a trick or two up their sleeves, because Arum and DiBella certainly know this is a huge night for boxing. The card is being broadcast on HBO's "World Championship Boxing" rather than pay-per-view, so millions of eyes will be on Boardwalk Hall.

One fighter I am hoping to see on the undercard is undefeated Andre Berto, who just put a scare into his camp when he was knocked down by Cosme Rivera in his last bout. Berto is a strong, hard-charging welterweight who brings action, speed and power into the ring. Berto is certainly DiBella's best prospect, and I am hoping he will climb in against a tough opponent who will push him to the limit. I have seen published reports that Berto will be on the card against David Estrada, but I have not heard anything official.

If I could play matchmaker for a day, and promotional deals and rankings did not matter, I would put Berto in with Alfonso Gomez. Gomez just beat Boardwalk Hall legend Arturo Gatti, and it would be interesting to see if Gomez could pull off another stunner in Atlantic City. I doubt that he would beat Berto, but the fight would be exciting.

Another fighter I would not mind seeing on the undercard would be Julio Caesar Chavez, Jr., who is one of Arum's top prospects. Chavez, Jr. and DiBella's Paulie Malignaggi recently got into a war of words, but I think Chavez, Jr. needs at least one more win against a good opponent before he gets a shot at Malignaggi's world title. If Chavez, Jr. appeared on the card, Malignaggi would certainly be ringside, and a budding rivalry could be hatched right before the boxing public's eyes.

Judging from the 10:15 Eastern Time (USA) slot, HBO will probably only televise one undercard bout, but I hope they can squeeze in two undercard matches. DiBella and Arum are already setting up a showcase evening, and the boxing world would love to see their best prospects go at it on the undercard. Whether or not Berto and Chavez, Jr. appear on the card that night remains to be seen, however, I am sure that two promoters with the creativity and business acumen of Arum and DiBella will not squander this chance to impress the world. I am looking forward to a first class boxing show on September 29.

2) With the retirements of Erik Morales and Arturo Gatti, who will be the new gladiators of boxing?

Between Erik Morales' and Arturo Gatti's fights, boxing aficionados can create a list of the top ten bouts of all time. Both men rose to the top of the fight game, were knocked down and came back. Both men had ring alter egos who challenged them to trilogies. Both men generated major excitement and fought with amazing heart and pride.

One of the dangers of being blood and guts warriors, like Morales and Gatti were, is that critics will discount their overall boxing skills. I recently heard a commentator on ESPN say that Morales was not at the top when it comes to Mexican fighters. Critics of Gatti's often say that he was "matched well" and his best wins were against light punchers who were slow. Because both men were involved in hard brawls, critics like to use that against them when evaluating their overall boxing skills.

I personally believe that both Morales and Gatti were top-tier fighters who deserve all the accolades in the world. When Morales and Gatti are eligible for the two Halls of Fame, they should both be ushered in together on a Golden Chariot. When boxing was sputtering along in the 1990's, Morales and Gatti often saved the day, and both men are icons in their respective communities. Morales beat the best that the world put in front of him, and Gatti fought and won some of the most memorable wars in boxing, and it was not until he went way up in weight that he started to lose badly to the top fighters.

Morales left the ring in better fashion than Gatti did, but Morales was still at his fighting weight, while Gatti was three or four weight classes above where he did his best work. I know from experience that as the body gets a little older, weight sticks with you, and the reflexes are not as sharp and the joints are not as pliable as they once were, and the effects of age and extra weight caught up with Gatti.

While boxing fans last saw Morales and Gatti leave the ring in defeat, neither man is a loser. Boxing fans are the big winners because Morales and Gatti had the courage to step through the ropes and the heart and guts to come forward and engage their opponents.

Who will replace Morales and Gatti? Unfortunately for us, nobody, but it was great seeing them while they lasted, and their next stop is immortality in the Hall of Fame.

3) Will boxing ever formulate a plan to take care of retired boxers?

It is almost a cliché that fighters wind up down on their luck a few years after retiring from the boxing. Perhaps no other sport suffers from such a scourge. While some boxers are doing quite well in their retirement, many out there do not have jobs or money for the most basic essentials. Some boxers suffer from dementia, and others have injuries that prevent them from leading a full life.

The Retired Boxer's Foundation (RBF) is one of several organizations trying to make a difference. Last Friday night I was slated to attend one of their marquee events at a local comedy club here in New Jersey. I am happy to report that when I arrived, the house was already packed, and there were no two seats left together. I decided to forgo sitting in the club without my wife, so we left our donation and moved on to another venue. It pleases us beyond words that so many folks showed up to support the RBF, and East Coast coordinator Mike Indri did a fantastic job moving the tickets, and through Indri's efforts, the RBF was able to help boxers in immediate need of assistance.

The RBF was started by Alex Ramos, and their work is desperately needed throughout boxing, until the sport organizes an orderly pension system for the fighters. If you would like to learn more about the foundation, or if you are a retired fighter in need, please visit

Fight I Would like to See and Why

Matt "Too Smooth" Godfrey vs. Chris Byrd: Rumor has it that Byrd is thinking of moving down to cruiserweight. There are not a lot of exciting matches in that division, and Godfrey seemed to fight down to his competition last Friday. However, Godfrey is hungry and young, and a win over a former heavyweight champion would be a huge feather in his cap. If Godfrey lost, I do not think it would stunt his career, because Byrd has beaten some great fighters. This bout is a win-win for Godfrey, and if Byrd seriously wants to be a cruiserweight, where else should he start?

Quote of the Week

"He was training hard for the fight. It will be two weeks Thursday last time I spoke to him. I hope he's okay. I sent him emails, called him, his trainer is looking for him. He wasn't in the gym for a week. I don't have any idea why."-Leon Margules, promoter for O'Neil Bell. Bell apparently went MIA before a scheduled ESPN bout with Louis Azille two Fridays ago. (Quote appeared on

Quote of the Week II

"I am not a person who lives off of his name because right now I do not have a name."-Heavyweight Terry Smith on ESPN's "Friday Night Fights" preview of his bout with Rob Calloway.

Injustice of the Week

In the aforementioned Calloway vs. Smith bout on ESPN2, last Friday, the network cut away right at the bell as Calloway was knocking Smith down. ESPN2 took the viewers to a commercial, and we missed the knockdown. When ESPN2 returned to live action, the replays of the knockdown were shown from a bad angle, and I for one was very confused as to what just happened.

My question is, does ESPN have to go to a hard break at the end of every round?

Non-Boxing Thoughts

Barry Bonds recently broke Hank Aaron's homerun record…crickets.

Reader Submissions

I will be taking reader submissions and answering them in this space. Please e-mail me at with questions and commentary, and we will include as many as we can. Please include your first name and hometown for publication and type the word "Column" in the subject line.

*This column is inspired by the premier novel of the twentieth century, Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises. Hemingway spoke highly of the sport of boxing, and he participated as both a fighter and a referee. Every other week will humbly pay homage to the man who helped glorify the fight game back in its early stages. With a little hard work, the Sun Will Rise Again for Boxing, as together we can restore the sport to the top, one fan at a time. Thank You for reading the column.

The next edition will appear August 28.

Article posted on 14.08.2007

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