28.01.04 – By Carlos Kalinchuk: There are times in boxing when fighters fight and there are times in boxing when fighters say they want “the fight” but they do everything that it takes not to fight. Are you lost? There are just times when fighters avoid or attempt to avoid (for whatever reason) what fight fans want to see. Take for example Willie Jorin, Naseem Hamed, Hector Camacho Jr. and Riddick Bowe to name a few. They said wanted the “Big” fight but their actions seemed to indicate otherwise.
When Jorin was supposed to fight the big fight, injuries and the like would occur on a consistent basis. It seemed to many, that whenever he seemed to have to prove himself against stiffer competition, up came a serious injury to further delay his path to the next level of competition. He was even nearly stripped of his Alphabet title, until the sanctioning body forced him to fight tough Mexican Israel Vasquez. Israel Vasquez quickly disposed of Jorin in one round in front of a national audience on ESPN, and he has since summarily disappeared into sunset by all accounts.
During Naseem’s temporary reign as the “self declared” Greatest Featherweight of all time, he too said he was doing his damdest to make the big fights happen. What did we get? Just a fight with an aged and no longer in his prime, Kevin Kelley. Although the fight was exciting and thrilling, it proved little to most boxing observers as Naseem went down 3 times in their fight. It wasn’t long before his overconfidence and arrogance caught up with him when he finally stepped in with Marco Antonio Barrera on April 17, 2001. While many thought Barrera was damaged goods, a handful of people thought this was Naseems first legitimate test. Well guess what? He failed miserably. Naseem was embarrassed and shown to be the charlatan many thought he was all along. Perhaps David Dachovny and the gang at x-files will do a show on his whereabouts in the near future. On the other hand, perhaps Naseem went on safari or he’s been wrestling on Lucha Libre (Mexican Wrestling) as the famous (Mexican) masked wrestler Mil Mascaras. At least there he can find a full time use for his flips and tumbles. God knows he can write a book on the latter.
And now to Hector Camacho Jr.; Camacho Jr. said that he was going to prove his worth, only when he got in the ring and stepped on the scales, he was quickly shown what the life of a Professional Prize Fighter is all about. Perhaps Daddy didn’t cover that subject with him.
And finally, Riddick Bowe’s single act of cowardice showed what you do when you don’t care what anyone thinks about you. His dumping of the WBC Championship title belt in the trash on live TV showed every fan and boxing insider he wanted no part of Lennox Lewis. When out pricing yourself and injury don’t work, hey! Just go for the jugular I always say!
There were also those fighters who seemed to be running from tough guys only to butch up and eventually prove themselves the better man. Many come to mind; Oscar DelaHoya, Muhammed Ali, Lennox Lewis, Ricardo Lopez, Paulie Ayala and the list goes on and on.
So suffice it to say, but which one is Laila Ali? Is she trying to make the fight with Ann “Brown Sugar” Wolfe or is she dodging her? Eastside Boxing recently spoke at length with Team Wolfe and I was told that they had a temporary agreement to fight in February, but Laila Ali wanted to fight another opponent just weeks before their major showdown. This is (after all) “just” the biggest fight women’s boxing has had since its existence. Jeopardizing the biggest fight in women’s boxing by fighting another fighter just weeks before her showdown with Wolfe? Are you kidding me? Is she for real?
Laila should take some lessons from Fernando Vargas and many others like him. When Oscar cancelled the first date of their scheduled bout because of a hurt hand, Vargas had the chance to fight another opponent but with a fight of this caliber looming so large in the background, Team Vargas wisely declined any other fight until he and Oscar finally settled their differences in the ring in Vegas. The same happened between for Casamayor and Corrales II. With a fight everyone wants, no one wants to take a chance on something happening to destroy the fight from coming through. Injuries are what cancer is to Doctors. It’s awful and no one wants to be a part of if! Barrera and Morales went through the same thing in their second fight when Barrera strained his rib cage. So, if what team Wolfe is saying is true and accurate? What gives?
Why would Ali attempt to schedule a fight so close to the date of their big showdown after seemingly agreeing to it months before? Team Wolf wisely indicated that they didn’t want the risk the chance of an injury so close to their fight. That seems very reasonable and logical.
To add insult to injury, according to Ann’s new promotional outfit, Prize Fight Promotions, they have advised Ann Wolfe and RPM Boxing that Laila Ali was offered to fight Ann, but Ali said the purse for the fight would have to be $2 million dollars! I repeat, the purse would have to be $2 million dollars!
Herein lies lesson number two on how to avoid a big fight. Overprice yourself out of the fight while still trying to retain face in the media by saying you want this fight all along.
Even Arturo Gatti and Mickey Ward didn’t earn that much in their first fight! It wasn’t until the second and third fights that they made more than $1 million a piece and then it was just over a million! Let’s not forget about Barrera versus Morales II? Both earned right at a million for their second fight. James Toney and Vassily Jirov earned similar purses in their battle last year. So how could a fledgling sport (Women’s Boxing) that is trying to earn its credibility and identity in the public have its biggest mouthpiece ask for this type of purse is rediculous?
Perhaps Ali should be reminded of the sacrifices of the Great Jack “The Galveston Giant” Johnson or Joe Luis or (uh-hum) Muhammed Ali. When Women’s boxing is trying to be legitimized more and more everyday, she’s doing what she shouldn’t. Perhaps she’s not scared and it’s all about posturing but her timing couldn’t be worse. Everyone knows of the Pay-per-view debacle between Mia St. John and Christi Martin in Detroit. Or the small, albeit marginal numbers the Martin-Ali fight brought. Women’s boxing doesn’t need posturing; it needs a legitimate champion that the public can look to as the cornerstone of Women’s boxing.
The NBA had George Mikan and Wilt Chamberlain. The NFL had Bart Star, Joe Namath, and Roger Staubach. Baseball had Babe Ruth and Lou Gherig. The NHL had Gordie Howe and Wayne Gretsky and golf had Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. Of the five sports I mentioned, two have been inhabited by the opposite sex. They are basketball and Golf. Women’s Basketball has Cynthia Cooper, Sheryl Swoopes and Lisa Leslie. Women’s Golf has Annika Sorenstam, 14-year-old phenom Michelle Wie, and former legend (and retired Hall of Famer) Kathy Whitworth. What legend or legend in the making does women’s boxing have? Christi Martin was great in her prime but because of the little publicity women’s boxing received and lack of talent at the time, very few people even in the realm of boxing got to see her at her best against the best.
In closing, until Laila Ali and Ann Wolf step in the ring against each other, Women’s boxing has no legend to capture the publics’ imagination. It has no hat to hang itself on. For girls thinking about fighting as a career, without a cornerstone, that base of Women’s fighters will only grow marginally. Hence the effect of attracting a great base of female athletes to the sport will not conceivably grow as it could. I’m not saying that talented fighters won’t emerge but every great Champion had his hard fought foe that invigorated the public and as Oscar DelaHoya has said “Put asses in the seats!” It’s then logical to say that those foes will be fewer and farther in between because the lack of attraction to the sport. It’s just logical.
Babe Ruth made boys everywhere pick up a bat and dream. If there were no Jordan, there wouldn’t be the flood of European Players gracing the NBA hardwood with their shooting talents today. Annika Sorenstam and Michelle Wie are bringing women to the Golf in droves. Who does Women’s boxing have? Personally, I think it has two great fighters in Ali and Wolfe. But unless this garbage of scheduling fights just weeks before a major contest or overpricing yourself out of a fight stop, women’s boxing will struggle to stay interesting. The fans that want this fight, have been clamoring for it for a while and the fans that are apathetic about two women lacing up gloves to take each others heads off will draw only if a fight of this caliber is made. Both are in their prime and we know that Ali can box and Wolfe has power. Now we just have to find out who’s better. It’s plainly obvious that Ann Wolfe 16-1(11 KO’s) wants it, but does Ali want it? RPM Boxing said negotiations for a Wolfe/Ali fight are completely in the hands of their new promoter, Prize Fight Promotions. Now is not the time for posturing. This fight is Women’s boxings life preserver. The only question is, Ali going to let it sink or swim? Let’s hope she doesn’t know how to swim and grabs on to this preserver because it will preserve more than her career, but also Women’s boxing.
Carlos “Stiff-jab” Kalinchuk
Contributing Writer & Photographer