Friday, July 27, 2007

The Wild Man From Nicaragua And The Fine Art Of Hilariously Villainous Behavior

Boxing made a rare appearance on SportsCenter recently when Ricardo Mayorga and Fernando Vargas brawled at a press conference to hype their upcoming showdown, and the clucking of tongues predictably ensured from boxing types who believe this kind of behavior jeopardizes the dignity of the sport. It probably does. The difference between street fights and boxing is that the latter does have at least an air of propriety, rules and so forth. But my bias is toward trash-talking and hilarious antics, and so I have little but praise for the kind of circus Mayorga, appropriately oft-referred to as "the wild man from Nicaragua," brings to boxing. After reading of the brawl-free follow-up news conference this week to promote Vargas-Mayorga, it would be nice, I thought, for people to have one place to go to read about some of the more bizarrely villainous behavior of a limited but tough and strong fighter who has become the sport's premiere "opponent" -- dangerous enough to test most anyone, but safe enough for the best of the best and certainly loud enough to bolster pay-per-view buys.

Mayorga most famously drinks beer and smokes cigarettes after his victories, a thumb in the eye for a sport that demands more than any other that its athletes be in supreme shape if they have any hope of succeeding. The day before fights, he has on more than one occasion stepped onto the scale for the weigh-in while chomping on a slice of pizza, or helped himself to some fried chicken in a brazen show that he is in such exceptional combat shape that he does not fear coming in under the weight limit. He does some of his best work at news conferences, such as wearing a matador outfit, presenting a dress labeled "the Golden Girl" to Oscar De La Hoya prior to their fight to mock his "Golden Boy" nickname, attempting to backhand Vargas and thereby inciting their brawl or slapping the back of De La Hoya's head when he wasn't looking. He once attempted to start a fight with an opponent upon his entrance to the ring area. And when in the heat of battle, he is prone to jutting his chin out, daring his opponent to punch him, taking flush shots from murderous punchers like Tito Trinidad, then, after surviving the onslaught, flailing toward them like a windmill with swinging, looping, hard punches.

But he saves his finest material for his verbal assaults. By "fine," I do not mean anything remotely approaching "good." I mean "fine" by the standard of a villain, in which case the nastier equals the better. His news conference pronouncements range from profane to funny to some combination of both. Among the best, keeping in mind those definitional caveats:
  • He promised "to deliver" Cory Spinks to his mother, recently deceased.
  • "You better start injecting steroids again, cause you are going to need it against me," he told Vargas, referring to the most shameful incident of Vargas' career -- his positive steroid test after a loss to De La Hoya.
  • "I'm going to detach his retina or stop his heart," speaking of De La Hoya, one of his many repeated retina-detaching warnings toward "The Golden Boy."
  • He frequently threatens to have sex with the wives and other family members of his opponents, with his quip to Vargas that "I'm not going to lay down. You're going to lay your wife down to me" being his most recent.
  • Perhaps his funniest threat was to Vernon Forrest: "Not even Forrest's dog is going to recognize him when he goes home." Because after all, isn't a man's dog the creature on Earth most likely to recognize him? I can imagine Forrest's mutt, cocking his head sideways as he tries to discern Forrest behind this new stranger's misshapen face.
  • He often wants to make himself the "daddy" of his opponent or his opponent's family. As he said of Forrest, "I am upset because he did not call me for Father's Day. I am going to give him a whipping because I did not get my present." He volunteered to be the "step-dad" to Vargas' "kids" after their fight.
  • When in doubt, he just resorts to name-calling, with "faggot" being his favorite, employed against Vargas and Forrest (elaborated upon with a "Tell Forrest whether he runs, stops or bends over, whatever he does, I will knock him out in two rounds"). "Fatty" was a slightly more creative one, leveled at Vargas, who is notorious for blowing up to more than 200 lbs. before squeezing down into the 154 to 160-pound range. Playing on the notion that De La Hoya was over the hill, he remarked, "You remind me of an old lady that's past her prime that should be sitting home in a rocking chair doing nothing."
  • Two rounds seems to be about the most generous length of time he's willing to give his opponent to stay conscious, unless it's for exhibition. "I will knock out Forrest in two rounds whether I have a cigarette or not. I know a lot of people want to see me fight more rounds. So, if HBO wants, they can pick two sparring partners for me to fight after I knock out Forrest. That way, the audience can see me fight 12 rounds."
And so it goes, on and on, a non-stop parade of filth and hijinks. It is not clear, as many wondered with Mike Tyson for some time, whether Mayorga is just straight crazy or if he knows his flamboyance sells tickets. He seems to have an erratic side (practically begging De La Hoya just prior to the fight for more money, after slandering him and his family endlessly), a good side (his family adores him as a provider and he donates money back home to the needy) and an evil side (unless there's a word besides "evil" that prompts a man to mock another's dead mother). I'd prefer not to solve the puzzle, and just enjoy the show instead. Don King summed it up best when flustered by Mayorga's threat to pull out of the De La Hoya bout: "He doesn't change his mind. He ain't got no mind. What are you talking about? Change what mind? I don't know what goes through a man like that."

Mayorga, resplendid in matador gear, strikes a pose that the most cartoonish movie bad guys would envy. (from

UPDATE: Dan Rafael's Friday column at has a Mayorga gem from this week's news conference that other boxing writers apparently failed to translate or think of as quote-worthy. "I had a dream last night that I threw a rotten orange at Fernando Vargas and hit him in the chin and he went down, and he didn't get back up. He's ready to go. He's like a rotten piece of fruit," he said. The internal logic is lacking (does one throw rotten fruit AT rotten fruit, Ricardo?) but the comedy value is there.

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