‘Pullout artists’ like Mayorga should be punished
Joan Guzman (right, against Jorge Rodrigo Barrios) has taken it on the chin for pulling out of his fight against Nate Campbell on the day it was scheduled to take place. Photo / hoganphotos.com
In the final stage of a Spanish bullfight, known as the tercio de muerte, the matador begins by luring the bull in close, then sidestepping at the last possible moment. To be a successful matador, one must master the art of “now you see me, now you don’t.”
For most of his career, aggressive slugger Ricardo “El Matador” Mayorga’s nickname rang ironic. But in light of recent events, it suddenly rings true.
Mayorga was signed to fight Alfredo Angulo in the main event of an HBO Boxing After Dark card this Saturday, but on Wednesday of last week word got out that he had withdrawn from the fight. On Thursday, espn.com reported that his pullout had nothing to do with an injury and everything to do with Mayorga demanding more money from his promoter, Don King, in order to go through with the fight.
It must be noted that we haven’t yet heard Mayorga’s side of the story, and that it’s not impossible that he never agreed to the fight. It wouldn’t be the first time in history that a manager or promoter signed off on a fight without the final approval of the boxer.
But that seems to be a stretch, especially since Mayorga has pulled this stunt before. Three days before he was scheduled to earn $2-million against Oscar De La Hoya in 2006, he demanded a 300-percent pay increase, to $8-million. His outrageous demands were not met and he ultimately went through with the fight, but that incident certainly makes King’s version of last week’s pullout sound like the truth.
“This is typical of Mayorga,” the promoter told espn.com. “He did the same thing with Oscar. He thinks he’s playing a game. This is the way he operates. I just take it like it is. If he fights, he fights. If he don’t, it ain’t the end of the world. I know the beast I am dealing with.”
The question is, who will deal with this beast now? Mayorga has a name, he’s a former undisputed welterweight champion, he plays the villain effectively but he’s not such an attraction that he can call the shots. With four losses in his last seven fights, he’s clearly just a “B”-side at this stage of his career. And “B”-sides don’t get the same leeway that ticket-selling, ratings-drawing “A”-sides do.
By withdrawing from a fight on 10 days notice without a justifiable reason, Mayorga bit the proverbial hand that feeds him. And that hand just happens to reach into the sport’s deepest pockets.
THE RING spoke with HBO Sports Senior Vice President of Programming Kery Davis last week, but until all the facts were in on exactly what Mayorga had done, Davis was not willing to go on the record with a statement about Mayorga’s future with the network.
So I’ll go on record for him: If the story is what we think it is, that Mayorga agreed to the fight and then extorted his promoter and/or the network for more money, leaving Angulo barely a week to find a new opponent, then Mayorga should never be offered another HBO fight again.
Of course, there are worse crimes in boxing than pulling out of a fight. (Loading your gloves to gain an unfair advantage in an already dangerous sport comes to mind.) But the non-injury pullout is the ultimate in unprofessionalism, and we need look no farther than what Joan Guzman did to Nate Campbell last September to see how damaging it can be.
Guzman, who made 130 pounds for his previous fight, didn’t prepare properly for his 135-pound fight with Campbell, missed weight by 3¾ pounds and then withdrew on the day of the fight, leaving Showtime without a main event and Campbell short a $300,000-plus payday that he was counting on to close several business deals. Three weeks later, Campbell filed for bankruptcy.
“Guzman knew he didn’t want to fight me from the start,” Campbell alleged in an interview last week with THE RING. “It had nothing to do with his weight. That hurts me more than anything. I’ve had trouble making weight and still went to the ring and fought and lost like a man. If you say you’ll fight anybody, stop saying it if you don’t mean it.
“I’m still a man, I got a family to take care of. And by him pulling out and not being penalized in any way, that hurt my family. If it was just me, I’d be OK. But I have kids to feed. I have three daughters and three stepsons and a granddaughter that I look after. I have too much going on in my life to lose out on a payday like that. That was a lot of money. With bonuses, it would have been almost $400,000. That’s life-altering money. And I lost that money – by no fault of my own.”
Campbell is fighting Ali Funeka on the same HBO card that Mayorga-Angulo was to have headlined, and ironically, as a result of the Nicaraguan’s withdrawal, Campbell-Funeka is now the main event. But it’s still a smaller payday than “The Galaxxy Warrior” was to have received against Guzman.
Campbell feels that the boxing media, including THE RING, should have been more critical of Guzman than they were, he feels the sanctioning bodies should have penalized Guzman (he’s somehow ranked as Campbell’s No. 2 contender in the WBA ratings despite having no noteworthy victories at lightweight) and he feels networks like HBO and Showtime shouldn’t give a “pullout artist,” as he labeled Guzman, any more chances.
“I don’t hate Guzman. But I hate what he did,” Campbell said. “It’s not just the fact that I didn’t get paid. It’s the fact that I put my time in and didn’t get to perform and be appreciated.”
Sadly, behavior like this is seen frequently in boxing. We see it in other sports too, but if a Vince Carter decides he’s not in a mood to play hoops and would rather wear street clothes, the game goes on without him. Individual sports don’t work that way.
There was the classic story of Jeff Lacy’s pro debut, when his scheduled opponent, Kevin Butts, showed up for the weigh-in but was allegedly intimidated by the Olympian’s physique and headed for the nearest bus station on the morning of the fight.
Just over a week ago, Johnny Nolasco was a no-show for the weigh-in prior to his scheduled fight against Marco Antonio Barrera, and with less than 24 hours to find an opponent, future Hall of Famer Barrera ended up in an embarrassing mismatch against Freudis Rojas, a fighter with a 1-8-1 record coming in.
And boxing periodically has its pullouts that are shrouded in mystery. There was a storm of controversy within the hardcore boxing community last year when super middleweight contender Allan Green withdrew from an ESPN2 fight without giving his promoter a reason. A decade ago, De La Hoya postponed his fight with Ike Quartey because of a cut suffered in sparring, though the cut was so tiny you couldn’t even see it in photographs; rumors circulated that De La Hoya heard Quartey was looking spectacular in training camp and De La Hoya wanted to delay the fight and disrupt his opponent’s rhythm.
And on the other side of the spectrum you have guys like Angulo, the screw-ee in the Mayorga situation, who reportedly went into his previous fight, against Andrey Tsurkan, with a back injury and a busted eardrum and never considered pulling out.
Fortunately, Angulo isn’t getting victimized as badly as Campbell did. He had time to find a new opponent and remains on the HBO broadcast, albeit in a less marketable fight against veteran Danny Perez.
But it doesn’t make what Mayorga did any more forgivable, if indeed he agreed to a certain purse then decided later the purse wasn’t good enough. That kind of behavior can not be tolerated.
If fighters like Mayorga and Guzman want to disappear when it’s time to fight, that’s their prerogative. But the networks who cut the serious paychecks should do their part to make sure these fighters don’t reappear.
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