The grind timeline
Here is how I spent a span of time leading up to, during and after the night of fights at Barclays Center on Saturday, April 16. This should give you readers a bit of a sense on how I do this job and some insights into the promotion, which I will remember as the night undefeated welterweight Errol Spence Jr. smashed his way onto radar screens everywhere.
SATURDAY, April 16, 4:03 p.m. ET: I have successfully ditched – I mean, regretfully – parted ways, with my crew after taking my older daughter out to eat a birthday lunch with some of her aunts and uncles. I hit a neighborhood (Park Slope, Brooklyn) clothing shop to buy a belt to help keep my pants up. This particular store features “GOING OUT OF BUSINESS” signs on it every three months; somehow, it manages to escape the ax time and again, though…Success: I won’t have an embarrassing pants-dropping episode at the arena!
5:21 p.m: They kick these things off early at the arena, so I hustled over, taking the bus to be frugal, and made the first fight. Barclays Center is about 15 minutes from my address, which, of course, I adore. I first check in to get my cred, hit the media room to grab a couple caffeinated products, steer away from the cookies and walk to the press area. I am stationed a row behind ESPN’s Dan Rafael, center line, solid view. I am in between Joanna Maj, a Polish reporter, and a guy working for a Staten Island paper. Lukasz Maciec beat Jeremy Ramos but, I confess, I chatted and got the lay of the land more than I watched this junior middleweight tangle.
5:54 p.m: Promoter Lou DiBella is in the building. He looks sharp, 45-year fight press veteran Jack Obermayer, two seats away, tells me. DiBella says “Hi” to Rafael, directly in front of me. There is banter, which includes ex-ESPN boxing boss Brian Kweder, now a Premier Boxing Champions consultant.
6:03 p.m: DiBella is excited. His kid, Radzhab Butaev, who had, like, 300 amateur wins, beat down 6-1 Tykeem Sadler (6-1, 4 knockouts), who goes back to South Carolina with a bruised noggin. DiBella has a nasty bit ‘o’ business, looks like.
6:15 p.m.: I tap out a story on Spence’s trainer, Derrick James, finally, after I chatted with him for 15 minutes on Wednesday. He told me his kid sparred seven or eight times with Floyd Mayweather Jr. back in 2013, doing five-minute rounds. I post it to the site I publish, NYFIGHTS.com. (Filthy plug alert!)
6:21 p.m.: I chat with ace fight writer Thomas Hauser. He is the Seymour Hersh of boxing journalism. That comes with a price; he is stationed in the last row of media. At least, he tells me, he wasn’t banished to the auxiliary section, “Siberia.” No offense, Mr. Ruslan Provodnikov.
6:58 p.m.: The wife and older daughter made it; Annabelle, 9, is being trained by Heather Hardy, who fights tonight. They meet Gerry Cooney, who hops over me like Don King stepping over George Foreman to greet Muhammad Ali. “How you put up with this guy? You ever need my input, I’m here for you,” he tells the wife. She thinks Gerry is cute. He is. Still love Gerry.
7:12 p.m.: So happy they made it. I am sitting with them; I showed Bella my seat and was shooed away by a publicist, who cited “insurance issues.” So I sit with them…These fights can get switched around, so I was texting Jess to make sure she hustled to the arena. The night is a success from that standpoint. Bella squealed seeing Heather walk to the ring. She enjoys the action but is bummed when foe Anna Hultin capitulates, indicates to the ref she’s all done mid-round. Hardy wins! Bella will be proudly texting and telling her friends from PS 295 she went to the fights Saturday.
7:44 p.m.: This guy I meet was in one of the most seen fights EVER; Gianni Russo, who played “Carlo Rizzi” in “The Godfather.” Sonny kicked his tail in a street fight in the 1972 classic. (See the gaffe when a Sonny hook clearly misses his foe?) He was at Barclays with ACE publicist Jules Feiler. Russo has lived in Manhattan all of his 73 years. Cool guy, chill, pleasure to meet Carlo, that snake (LOL).
7:54 p.m.: Irish Seanie Monaghan came to Brooklyn to watch the show. He hints he could get a light heavyweight title crack soon, “People don’t believe. Hell, Woodsy, you probably don’t believe me. But I have never, ever been scared. I will go to Russia and beat (IBF/WBA/WBO titlist) Sergey Kovalev. I will prove it there. I know; I know. Talk is cheap. But I will do it!”
7:57 p.m.: I see Liam McHugh, who hosts the NBC prime time event. I took his seat after he left Newsday, in 1999, and then was at ESPN The Magazine right after he jetted there. He’s a youthful face; good to see this new blood in the space. He tells me no Marv Albert or Sugar Ray Leonard working tonight, isn’t sure why. TV watchers will see and hear Kenny Rice on blow-by-blow with BJ Flores analyzing. Different vibe than a year ago when PBC came on the scene. But guess what? The fights are the thing. If they are stellar, then that is what is memorable.
8:44 p.m.: Steve Cunningham is now avoiding the lefts from WBO cruiserweight titlist Krysztof Glowacki after hitting the deck twice.
8:56 p.m.: God bless that Cunningham. I root for him, his decency, his daughter’s valiant battle with heart issues. Maj is clapping silently for Glowacki, of course. Her guy has his hands raised. Too many knockdowns on “USS”…
9:22 p.m.: Time enough to track down Rosie Perez, super-fan. Alex Raskin is shadowing her for a Wall Street Journal story. I intrude on a fan scrum and get a hug from the petite actress. I also invite her to guest on my soon-to-debut podcast. I think she said yes; fans were besieging her for selfies.
9:30 p.m.: The Advance guy perks up. 175-pounder Marcus Browne is from that neck of the woods. But I sit with my gang, as I can communicate what goes on here via Twitter, from anywhere. Hmmmm…down goes “Hot Rod” Radivoje Kalajdzic in the first. Off a punch? Or did feet get tangled? Rugged and chippy tangle…Browne wins; the crowd disputes.
9:37 p.m.: DiBella is lobbying Rafael and USA Today’s Mike Coppinger, vehemently. His kid, Hot Rod, deserved the win; the knockdown in the first credited to Browne was trash, he said. “What about an immediate rematch?” I call out. Damn right, says the promoter. Later, I see a media guy describing DiBella in meltdown mode: No way. He was more heated ranting about Uber hours earlier. That’s just Brooklyn/Italian passion, is all.
9:43 p.m: Long Islander Chris Algieri hustled right into the ring. There are almost 8,000 people in here. Decent crowd; solid fights are their reward. Expect a Barclays record for the June 25 card, topped by a 147-pound clash between WBA titlist Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter. DiBella did a TV hit on a local station’s half-hour show spotlighting the event, explaining his extra-sharp attire. I see Barclays boss Brett Yormark; his appreciation for the sport is real and appreciated.
9:57 p.m.: Algieri is backing up in round two. Foe Errol “The Truth” Spence from Texas has an animal side. He senses, in a predatory way, hesitance in a foe, ups his intensity, puts more English into his combos. In third, the Long Island boxer has stabilized. Destabilized in the fourth. A left caught Algieri backing out and down he went. Round five, it’s over. Algieri is down off a left, then up, then down again. They are mightily impressed in press row, in the stands, everywhere, really.
10:30 p.m.: TV signed off and they got all the undercard fights out of the way before the NBC bouts kicked off, so we are outta here early. Usually, I go backstage, where they do a presser, but I got family with me and, for insurance reasons, they probably wouldn’t be allowed backstage. So we will jet.
10:46 p.m.: We could walk home but won’t. We walk to a nearby restaurant, where Heather Hardy is celebrating her win. Bella blows us parents off and walks with Heather. We stroll with magazine writer Marc Jacobsen, who I remind owes me a story for NYFIGHTS.com. “You’re on the list,” he tells me. That’s cool; guy writes for New York magazine and Rolling Stone. I enjoy that company…We say hi to fight attorney Walter Kane and “Iron Mike” Borao, manager to former IBF heavyweight beltholder Charles Martin. All agree the card was solid.
11:15 p.m.: Annabelle is nodding off in a corner. Time to get her home? “Bella is asleep,” I tell the wife, as Hardy boogies to a DJ track nearby. “No I’m not,” Bella declares, popping out from a pile of throw pillows, grinning. But we bounce soon after, leaving Team Hardy to savor the win and the fighter to indulge in some guiltless chowing.
12:30-2:30 a.m.: I publish post-fight quotes onto my Twitter feed and insert some into stories for NYF. I get a great GIF from Jon Schwartz, which shows Spence in shark mode, and insert that. Kid invests in his punches; it reminds me that Algieri, who owns ferocious pride, has to be bummed. He wanted so dearly to win and prove that he should not be booked in steppingstone fights.
4:15 a.m.: I finally fall asleep. Caffeine at 10:15 p.m. to keep me surging is now impeding my ability to mellow.
SUNDAY, April 17, 12:28 p.m.: Text with Spence trainer. He reminds me of something I said days before; I alert him to stories I wrote, which touched on that element. We agree to do a phoner Monday. I gotta get in gear to drop Annabelle at a birthday party in Prospect Park. Senator Bernie Sanders will be holding a rally and speech in the park around the same time, so it might be a zoo.
5:11 p.m.: “Brooklyn Bernie” does his thing in the park. The girls enjoy it and I get a break from boxing, as my phone dies.
6:27 p.m.: Hardy sends me a quote from her win and I post it and retweet the updated story from last night. She wants a TV fight and a title fight next and lauds promoter DiBella for politicking to make sure her fight got places on Saturday.
MONDAY, April 18, 9:02 a.m.: NYF correspondent Eric Kelly texts me. He was present at the arena, tells me he is writing up some analysis for the site. “I thought Marcus Browne deserved his win,” he texts. The kid now trains at Gleason’s Gym; he’s a charismatic figure who has surprised me with his ability to communicate well as a writer, in addition to articulating well as an analyst.
10:16 a.m.: I press play on the NBC show, sitting on my DVR. You miss things sitting in arena, of course, seeing as how close cameras and replays allow in-tight access. There’s that left hand that sent USS down in round two, and another. Apparent on site and on TV, the ferocious pride of Cunningham.
11:09 a.m.: Kenny Rice wonders if Browne has been exposed. Flores answers nah; Kalajdzic is simply a solid foe. Browne has his hand raised, split decision, and I see again the reaction in the building. Lot of boos indicate many fans didn’t like the tally. I check Browne’s social, wondering how he’s dealt with the harsh test. “Wasn’t pretty but I definitely won!” he tweeted. Flores didn’t think so but notes he will have plenty of material to work with to improve.
11:42 a.m.: Ref Benji Esteves Jr. warns Algieri, “Not too much more,” after the first knockdown in the fifth. He didn’t count on the second one. The replay showing the left that ended it is simply vicious; it violently turns Algieri’s head.
11:54 a.m.: Bout wrapping up for a spell. Have to finish some business at the accountants’ office. I load some peanut butter into a chew toy for the dog, feed it to her and request that she not chew up the apartment. She gives me a Steve Willis face and I exit.
1:41 p.m.: Taxes, the price we pay for a civil society, I repeat to myself in a meditative manner. Then I Tweet out an alert on some #Khanelo programming and work to finish up this piece.
2:08 p.m.: I give it a re read, while I listen to Spence’s analysis of his win. His time is now; he has elevated himself mightily with the win. I could try and call his trainer and add that material to this offering but I have to cut off the piece at some point. Since, really, I work at least some seven days a week, this story could actually be nearly infinite. But that would torture copy editor Coyote Duran and that would be unwise. His obligatory end-story tagline could reflect his ire and so I am now getting to the end zone. Hey all, thanks much for reading!
Howdy, Howlers! Copy editor Coyote Duran here. Incidentally, Woodsy’s in the clear, for this piece was indeed a creative respite from an odd part of my day in which a fight fan (of some sort) stalked me via Facebook Instant Messenger with weird videos after hitting on me. This beat takes all kinds; I’ll tell you what.