HBO Is Right!

15.11.06 - By Bernie McCoy: It's time that all fans of the sport of Women's boxing concede a most obvious point: HBO is right! There is no "depth" in the sport. Laila Ali has conclusively made that point again and again and again, on seven nights in seven different venues (make that six, Atlanta did a "twofer," which speaks volumes about Atlanta!) ranging from Baysox Stadium in Bowie, MD, in July 2004, against Nikki Eplion to Madison Square Garden last Saturday night, against Shelley Burton, with Berlin, Germany thrown in for international seasoning. Seven fights, seven wins, not one of the bouts in doubt much past the pre-fight instructions. HBO got it! There's no depth in the sport of Women's boxing..

There is no depth in the sport of Women's boxing, if Women's boxing continues, as HBO seems content to do, to be defined by Laila Ali and her matchmakers, whose ability to sell mismatches as viable fights is diminishing faster than our politician's ability to sell a war in Iraq. Each opponent, in these seven "contests," were presented as the "logical fighter" for Laila Ali, at the time. In reality, Monica Nunez, Gwendolyn O'Neil, Cassandra Giger, Erin Toughill and Aasa Sandell, in addition to Eplion and Burton, were little more than sparring partners in boxing exhibitions. Look back at the reports of these bouts and try to find the adjective "competitive" anywhere, in any report. Here's a hint: it's not there, because not one of these bouts have been, remotely, competitive.

Last Saturday night was different only in the fact that the Ali/Burton bout was on HBO cable, an outlet already on record as having an inviolable policy of not televising females in a boxing ring. This was Laila Ali's first bout with HBO and she, rightly, expressed high dudgeon over the fact that her bout, with the current "logical fighter," in this case, Shelley Burton, was not to be included in the HBO telecast. Instead, a tape of the previous week's Floyd Mayweather Jr./ Carlos Baldomir bout, an HBO PPV event that was being hailed, in some quarters, as the latest cure for insomnia, would be shown, instead. This issue got considerable "play" in the New York media and HBO conceded that, they "might" show highlights of Ali's fight, as a "news event," tied to the appearance, at ringside, of her father, the former heavyweight champion, Muhammad Ali.

Here's all you need to know about how HBO handled the "news event": During the segment, following the Mayweather/Baldomir tape, viewers (at least those who were still awake) were treated to more footage of the Muhammad Ali/Joe Frazier bout, held in the Garden thirty-five years previously, than the Laila Ali/Shelley Burton bout, held in the Garden a half hour earlier. Jim Lampley, who did the voice-over for the segment on the Ali/Burton bout, established a new bar for cluelessness as he discussed the sport of Women's boxing. He began by stating that Laila Ali was the number one attraction in the sport, a point that can be the subject of lively debate among the fans of the sport. He continued, with what I assume was a straight face, calling Ali the "linchpin of the sport," which certainly should have occasioned a veritable Greek chorus of fans of Women's boxing to murmur, that if Laila Ali is what is holding together the sport, Women's boxing is in much bigger trouble than anyone has thus far imagined. Lampley, then, topped off his performance by referring to Shelley Burton as "Shannon," but it can be assumed that, by this time, most viewers has gone slack-jawed with disinterest. The "news event" had been covered and with the "coverage" of the Ali/Burton bout out of the way, HBO must have been, once again, blithely comfortable in their ignorance not only of the sport of Women's boxing, but in their contention that female boxing does not deserve a place in the HBO cathedral of boxing. They couldn't be more wrong!

The sport of Women's boxing does not begin and end with the middleweight division. The sport of Women's boxing, most assuredly, does not begin and end with Laila Ali and her decision, which, by the way, she, and her management, has every right to make, to fight the lesser talented fighters in that division. As proof positive, on November 4 in Edmonton Alberta, Canada, "A RIng of Their Own" presented the latest edition of their female boxing cards. The three fights, Ann Marie Saccurato winning over Jelena Mrdjenovich, Melissa Hernadez beating Lisa Brown and Jeanine Garside out-pointing Laura Serrano, is all the proof any objective observer conclusively needs that Women's boxing has depth of talent to spare. These three bouts, according to those who were in Edmonton, were all ten rounds of bell-to-bell action featuring female fighters who not only represent a depth of talent in the sport, but also the type of ring skill that even the "suits" at HBO would recognize (I may be shooting a bit high, here) if they took the time and trouble to investigate female fighters other than those with famous last names. The Saccuratos, Mrdjenovichs, Hernandezs, Garsides and Browns are out there for all to see and have been out there, lacking meaningful television exposure, for far too long. HBO and their television boxing compatriots continue to ignore these female fighters, continue to offer bogus excuses as to why Women's boxing is not a viable programming attraction, continue to look at female fighters with a tunnel vision that doesn't go beyond one or two weight divisions and one or two fighters. Depth of talent is not the problem, depth of knowledge of the sport of Women's boxing is the problem.

Article posted on 15.11.2006

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