Friday, August 17, 2007

Two More Things To Get Rid Of, Of The Smaller Variety

These may be glorious days for the health of the sport, starting with the biggest fight of all time, money-wise, having just transpired this summer between Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather, Jr. What's more, this fall and winter will spotlight incredible fights pitting the best against the best, the highest-profile against the highest-profile, the most evenly-matched against the most evenly-matched. So glorious is the lineup for the rest of the year that when combined with what's already happened in 2007, veteran boxing commentators are calling it the best year for the sport in perhaps a decade.

Some of boxing's self-inflicted wounds have healed themselves in order to make 2007 what it is and will be, foremost among them the civil war between the sport's top two promotional companies, Golden Boy and Top Rank. But now is the time to be ever-more vigilant. Boxing needs to seize the day and rid itself of its other problems -- the endless number of belts, for instance, and all that silly hugging. I've recently raged about excessive holding, and perhaps I'll someday soon address some of those other, larger topics. But for now I'm advocating something like the "broken windows" theory of crime-fighting be applied to boxing. That is, as the founders of the theory wrote: "Consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it's unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside." The theory -- disputed by many, I must admit -- holds that fixing those windows immediately is key to prevention of crime.

To return to my original metaphor, below are two of boxing's colds and hangnails, none of which can by themselves ruin the sport, but that must be eliminated for optimal health. Or maybe they're just pet peeves that I'm trying to elevate into something meaningful with some overheated rhetoric. Either way, they've got to go. I'll file these kind of things from now on under the label "cures":

Lennox Lewis as a commentator. I will defend his oft-lamented heavyweight title reign unto my death, but in the announcer's booth, he is nearly as grating as the NBA's Bill Walton. His praise of Andre Dirrell following what I saw as the single most detestable boxing performance I've ever viewed -- he nearly sprinted away from punches and landed only a few jabs a round en route to a horrid victory over Curtis Stevens -- is exhibit number one. Lennox actually said he wanted to see Dirrell again, and he has to be the only one. More recently, Lennox was completely flummoxed about how Daniel Ponce DeLeon knocked out Rey Bautista in one round, because Lennox somehow thought DeLeon was not a power puncher. In fact, a power puncher is all DeLeon really is, and he's very good at it. Had Lennox witnessed even a single DeLeon fight other than the highlights he'd seen of a very poor performance in his most recent prior bout, he would never have said any such thing. I don't belabor him too much his inability to pronounce anyone's name, because boxer-turned-commentator predecessors George Foreman and Roy Jones, Jr. were guilty of the same sin. But from the smallest mis-calls such as mispronunciations, to regular-sized mis-calls such as whether anything like what he's describing is happening in the ring, to the truly awful mis-calls like those of Dirrell and DeLeon, everything about Lennox as a ringside commentator works me into a frenzy.

Referee Laurence Cole. There is no worse referee alive who regularly gets high-profile assignments, but perhaps a zombie would do a better job. He is the beneficiary of flagrant nepotism, multiplied by conflicts of interest. And besides that, he sucks. Cole's father is one Dick Cole, who runs the Texas state department that regulates boxing, where his son regularly receives assignments. Dick also insures boxers; Laurence has more than once been accused of prematurely stopping fights when one combatant was losing, with the sub-allegation being that he did so so as to spare his father's company from having to pay out for any extra damage incurred. One of the strangest things I've seen a referee do was during the Juan Manuel Marquez-Jimrex Jaca bout. When Marquez suffered a nasty cut, Cole took him to a neutral corner and, with his hand over his microphone, uttered a bafflingly inappropriate series of messages. Cole informed Marquez that if the fight was stopped, rules-wise, it was in an advanced enough round that it would go to the scorecards. He told Marquez he was ahead on the scorecards and asked if he wanted to continue. In no way should Cole know whether Marquez was ahead on the scorecards; only the judges know that until the final results are announced. And if Cole didn't know, he was guessing, which is even worse, because he could have been wrong, and Marquez could have lost. And at any rate, Cole shouldn't be in the business of advising fighters -- he's a referee, supposedly impartial. He was fined and suspended in Texas, but only a few weeks later he'd received another nice assignment on TV, this time in Arkansas. Oh, and he blew a call during that fight, if I remember correctly. Type "Laurence Cole" and "controversy" into any search engine, and you'll find dozens of complaints about calls he's made during fights, the kind that have a tendency to influence the outcome. Perhaps aware of his reputation, he did next to nothing to put a halt to the foul-a-thon between Celistino Caballero and Jorge Lacierva that marred the undercard of the rematch between Israel Vasquez and Rafael Marquez. Someone, please, stop Laurence Cole. It wouldn't be premature.

If you see Lennox Lewis in a suit...

...or Laurence Cole refereeing a fight -- it's going to be a clumsy, embarrassing night for boxing.


dammrod said...

When Lennox first started commmentating, I thought, "He's new... he'll get better." But I haven't seen any improvement at all from him. He comes off as nervous and uninspired, and sometimes what he says doesn't match up with what's happening in the ring. He has given us some unintentional humorous tid-bits though like, "Two men can warm themselves up in the ring."

BOB said...

Cole could know who was winning as he collects the judges scores between rounds...but I agree he shouldn't know who is winning.

Tim -- said...

I stand corrected, Bob.

Tim -- said...

And an excellent catch, dammrod. I wish I'd heard him say that "Two men can warm themselves up in the ring" silliness, because I would certainly have included it.