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Hauser: Some thoughts on boxing

13
Jul

Sergio Martinez is handsome, articulate and likable. But right now, he can’t get a date.

On HBO or Showtime.

And that’s a shame.

Martinez was born in Argentina and didn’t take up boxing until the age of 20. That’s late in life to begin learning the sweet science.

“But I started at the right time for me,” he says. “Too many fighters are pushed into boxing. When I began, I could make the decision to box as an adult.”

Martinez fought 24 of his first 25 fights in Buenos Aires. He moved to Spain in 2002 and now lives in Oxnard, Calif.

Forget the belts. Sergio, at age 35, is the legitimate middleweight champion of the world. He earned that distinction with a victory over Kelly Pavlik on April 17.

Martinez is also an engaging personality who offered the following thoughts in a recent one-on-one conversation:

ÔÇó “I’ve lost twice in my career – to Paul Williams [in December 2009] and Antonio Margarito [a seventh-round knockout in 2000]. The Paul Williams fight was very close and could have gone either way. The loss to Margarito doesn’t bother me as much as people think it might. I had very little experience at the time and ran out of gas. I was much more bothered when I beat Richard Williams [in 2003]. After that fight, I looked in the mirror and I couldn’t recognize my face. I thought then about giving up boxing. But I didn’t know whether it was something I had done wrong in the fight that I could correct or that I just wasn’t good enough. So I fought Williams again 10 months later and won much more easily. I knew then that I should stay in boxing.”

ÔÇó “The day of a fight is a holiday for me. I enjoy every moment of it. To wake up in the morning without knowing when I will fight next is very hard. That, for me, is the hardest thing about boxing.”

ÔÇó “I want to be remembered first as a good person and a man of integrity. After that, if people remember me as a good fighter, that would be nice.”

Martinez has his priorities. In his youth, he was a cyclist. That sport was his first love. So would he rather win the Tour de France or be the undisputed middleweight champion of the world?

“Middleweight champion,” Martinez answers.

OK, next question. Would you rather be the undisputed middleweight champion of the world or score the winning goal for Argentina in the next World Cup?

Martinez smiles and says, “Every Argentinean dreams to be Maradona.”

* * *

Is there anything more rare than a feel-good story about a lawyer?

How about a feel-good story about a lawyer in boxing?

John Duddy met with Gary Friedman in November 2008 to discuss his belief that he was being exploited by Eddie and Tony McLoughlin (his promoter and manager at the time). Duddy retained Friedman as his attorney. Friedman filed suit against the McLoughlins in federal court. By early 2009, Duddy was a free agent and Craig Hamilton was his manager.

Litigation is expensive, and Duddy had virtually no money in the bank when he consulted with Friedman. Thus, Friedman agreed to represent Duddy in the federal court case and other boxing-related matters for 5 percent of the fighter’s purses. The payments were to run for the life of Duddy’s contract with Hamilton.

As far as Duddy was concerned, that was a bargain.

Friedman called Hamilton this past Monday and said, “Tell John that I’ve been paid enough to cover the legal work I did for him. I’m here if needs me, but consider me paid in full. John and his wife are starting out in life. They need the money more than I do.”

“It’s hard to put into words how grateful I am,” Duddy says about Friedman’s generosity. “I’m very fortunate to be surrounded now by people of character, good people who I can trust.”

* * *

How silly is the WBC silver belt?

Oscar Ibarra will fight Carlos Melo for the vacant WBC silver flyweight belt on July 24 in Campeche, Mexico.

Ibarra’s record is 22-4. Two years ago, he was knocked out by Giovanni Caro and Jose Alberto Cuadros, who had a combined total of 17 wins in 34 career fights at the time Ibarra fought them.

Now we get to the really embarrassing part.

Melo, the other half of this “silver belt” travesty, has won only one of his last six fights. And the guy Melo beat, Alfonso De la Hoz, is winless in his last 16 outings.

WBC president Jose Sulaiman and his son, WBC executive secretary Mauricio Sulaiman, should change the name of their bauble to the “tarnished silver” belt.

* * *

Muhammad Ali is humble in many ways, but he also takes pleasure in being famous.

Years ago, when Mike Tyson was in his prime, Ali asked me, “If I walked down one side of the street and Mike Tyson walked down the other, which of us would have more people on his side?”

“You would,” I answered honestly.

“If I walked down one side of the street and Bill Cosby walked down the other, who would have more people; Bill Cosby or me?”

“You.”

“If I walked down one side of the street and Little Richard, Chubby Checker and Chuck Berry all walked down the other, which side would have more people?”

“Yours.”

“Now Muhammad was on a roll.”

“If I walked down one side of the street and Elvis Presley walked down the other, who would have more people?”

“Muhammad, I’ll be honest with you,” I answered. “Overseas, you might. But here in the United States, I think it would be Elvis.”

That brought silence followed by, “Well, that’s because Elvis has been dead for a long time and people would want to see if it was really him.”

Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at [email protected] His most recent book book (a novel entitled “Waiting for Carver Boyd”) has just been published by JR Books. Hauser says that “Waiting for Carver Boyd” is “the best pure boxing writing I’ve ever done.”

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