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A day in the Barclays Center life

Photo by Ed Diller / DiBella Entertainment
Fighters Network
06
Mar

Woke up, got out of bed, dragged a comb across my head.

It’s fight day. You need one cup less of coffee to start the morning on days such as this.

Boxing is back at Barclays Center, a hop and two skips from my apartment. WBC welterweight titlist Danny Garcia tops the show against WBA beltholder Keith Thurman. Top-of-the-heap 147-pounders both want to pitch their flags hard, separate from the pack.

I head to the kitchen, get some coffee brewing, mull what might occur. The wife and kids are bopping about. Bella has a soccer game at 11 a.m., so there are things to do before I head to the Barc.



We got word on Friday that we, the press, should arrive at 5 p.m. because Shawn Porter and Andre Berto will be on site, making their April 22 face-off at Barclays Center official. Love it…The arena has become the New York go-to spot for boxing. The man who runs the building, Brett Yormark, has embraced the sport since day one and the sport is lucky for that. He is starting up boxing at the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island too, so count us fight folks as doubly blessed.

Word is Long Islander Sean Monaghan will christen the building on opening night, April 29, stepping up a long step versus Adonis Stevenson, the WBC light heavy titleholder, who owns some of the best left hands in the biz. He can crack – hard.

(I see Seanie in the arena before the main event and he says the event is just about finalized. He looks me hard in the eyes and tells me, “I’m going to beat him.” Love it. Love his resolve and how this fight has come to him. He deserves it and now he’s back with promoter Lou DiBella, after a few years with Top Rank Promotions. Things are falling into place. Stevenson will be favored but I’d not bet against a man with the mental strength of the Irish-American.)

The afternoon passes. I watch some promo material that Showtime has sent out. “ALL ACCESS,” little bites. Smart. They are ahead of the curve, positioning their place in the digital world. The one I’m watching has grabbed over 100,000 hits. It’s well done; I didn’t think it wouldn’t be. Showtime throws talent and time resources into boxing in a big way. Their cameras are there at the media workouts, such as the one that ran at Gleason’s Gym on Wednesday, and the presser Thursday, and the weigh-in Friday. They capture hours upon hours of footage and the editors do their thing, sifting for the prime bits.

It’s nearing 4:30. I will get an Uber to the joint. I saw a video in which the Uber CEO beefed with an Uber driver – and none too politely. Maybe I should download Lyft, instead, out of solidarity…

I watched Paul Malignaggi fight, in what will likely be his last bout as a pro, losing to Sam Eggington, a stoppage in round eight. The “Magic Man” still has some skills; he had some moments but that S.O.B. Father Time. He gets all of us…The left hook to the body that felled him was quite smartly set up and placed and he gave due credit to the Brit winner afterward. Paulie will announce his future this week, he said. He has a feather bed to fall back on, as an ace analyst for Showtime.

Uber comes and it is five minutes to Barclays. My credentials are there and I take the elevator to the lower-level press area. Fight media is present. Dan Rafael of ESPN; there is Thomas Hauser, the esteemed biographer for Muhammad Ali. We await Porter and Berto; they are not that late. Yep, the fight is on. It will be an eliminator and the winner gets a crack at the WBC 147-pound title (now held by Keith Thurman). The interplay is professional, no beefing, even though Team Porter had jawed some with Berto on social media for supposedly dragging his feet at taking this fight. Berto is trained by Virgil Hunter and Shawn’s dad Kenny says he had been mentored by Virg. The stakes: Both men don’t need a win but, yes, could really use one. Porter lost to Thurman last time out and Berto got buzzed by Victor Ortiz, and his days of being near the front of the line for title shots could soon disappear. They are both vets, with a capital V, and there are fewer tomorrows to come in the game than yesterdays.

Berto poses for a pic with ex-promoter Lou DiBella and DiBella reminds people that Berto was built as a pro on N.Y. cards, lots of club shows of the sort DiBella used to run before the state made it a too heavy an insurance lift. By the way, the Porters both told me at the weigh-in Friday that they think Thurman beats Garcia. Too gifted, they say. We shall soon see…

Here’s my take in a prediction I furnished to the excellent Anson Wainwright for RingTV.

Michael Woods, NYFights.com, RingTV.com, Everlast podcast “TalkBOX”
Keith Thurman D 12 Danny Garcia: Ain’t this a tough one! And ain’t that a good thing! We need these, as fans, as folks who adore the sport, these pick ’em fights, to remain relevant and pick up some lost momentum (*cough #MayPac cough*). Garcia is right when he states that he is underrated, doesn’t get deserved respect. Part of that is on him; he could have said no to, say, the Rod Salka fight…but the kid wins. He doesn’t look at all flashy doing it but he could use that feet-planted style and connect with showy hooks and get the “W.” Or Thurman could show that the increasing elusiveness and mobility he’s shown, the last two years now, pay heavier dividends in this mini-super-fight. I predict a 1-1-1. One judge sees it for Thurman. One judge sees it for Garcia. One sees it tied: A draw.

I grab some grub. Barclays always has a nice spread and doesn’t demand a donation. I behave; lots of salad on my plate. I chat with Hauser, a rail-thin good example for me.

After that mini-presser and quick bite, I head into the arena. I’m texting my wife to hustle. She’s headed over to watch Heather Hardy, who is fighting in the curtain opener against Edina Kiss. This is a jumbo card and someone has to be first. One problem: They are still letting people in the bulding when the bell rings to start round one. The wife tells me she has missed some but is seated, good. Hardy is in total control, to my eyes, with constant activity. Kiss can’t keep up and doesn’t win a round on my card. The judges have it closer; get them new glasses. Post-fight, Hardy is a bit bummed because many fans missed some action. The stuff these athletes go through goes beyond the in-ring fighting…

The joint is pretty damn full. They’ve said it will be the largest boxing crowd at Barclays, since they started running shows in 2014, I believe.

Hardy wins and then Andrzej Fonfara elongates his career by stopping Chad Dawson, who might be near or at the finish line. A shot behind the head hurt Dawson in the ninth and then, in the 10th, a mean right on the kisser landed. Dawson stumbled back; the Pole advanced and flurried and the ref waved it off. The loser is 34, 3-4, since 2012, and will be contemplating the end line. Post-Magomed Abdusalamov fights often get stopped quicker than they would have. I agree, better safe than sorry…

CBS has a two-hour TV window, so things kicks off, TV-wise, at a little after 9 p.m. ET with an Erickson Lubin showcase. He’s in against Jorge Cota, who I’ve seen some people bust on. But Cota is a tricky mutt; he knows his angles. He’s beaten Yori Boy Campas (albeit a little over five years ago), lost to Marco Antonio Rubio (nearly five years ago) and eventually falls to banger Lubin. Lubin drops him and he gets up but his eyes don’t have it. Game over in round four. A long left, from point A to point B, right on the nose, arrives too fast.

Then some waiting before the main event. I say hi to Monaghan. The grind will bring on the payoff opportunity. He is 35, now is the time. He is 28-0 (with 17 knockouts), turned pro in 2010 and has advanced from being a rugged toughman type to a ticket seller to a guy respected for considerable improvement…to here. Monaghan can prove doubters to be fools if he can follow in the footsteps of another Long Island light heavy, Joe Smith Jr., who upset Andrzej Fonfara and then Bernard Hopkins last year. Hey, Adonis is 39; he could lose reflexes and snap overnight. And then Monaghan versus Smith at Nassau! But I get ahead of myself…

The main event is here. Decibels are rising. Folks are packed up to the roof. Now, someone’s “0” doesn’t have to go; it could be a draw but someone’s likely will. Most media I chat with like Garcia to get the “W.” Will Thurman make them look loopy? He damn well tries to do so in a scintillating round one. Thurman is a man possessed, a left hook lands hard, a right even harder. Danny is on his heels. The Philly guy is landing some hooks in close but Keith is dictating distance. His feet are better. His right hand is a constant weapon. I see both men miss a good deal. Are they loading up or is defense on point? I see Keith’s power shots being the showier ones in every round, basically. He’s being the better ring general; Danny can’t track him down, get a read or a bead on him. The cards. Uh-oh. Split decision? Judges are afraid to go all in, afraid of being an outlier, so they make cards closer than they should be. It’s human nature…

I didn’t see that; I had Thurman winning comfortably but this is a subjective sport. Until robots are hired to judge bouts, we will get controversial decisions. Keith looks more confident as he listens; Danny has a faraway look in his eyes. 115-113 Thurman, says Joe Pasquale. 115-113 for Garcia, in the mind of Kevin Morgan. The tiebreaker is John McKaie…116-112, Thurman. The right guy won, to me. Pressmen like Ron Borges, in town from Boston for the Herald, thought Danny took it. Angel Garcia, afterward, says Thurman ran too much to get the W. Maybe his kid should just retire, says a frustrated Angel. Danny is chill. I will be back, says the younger Garcia. He thinks he won but isn’t putting anyone on blast.

All told, the media are feeling the anticipation beat the reality. Thurman’s smart boxing featured more movement of feet than fists, some say. They didn’t throw a thousand punches between them and, in a division in which guys can average 80 punches a round, it feels like maybe too much respect was given by both men. Man, we got out of the blocks so hard and fast; that round one was stellar. Then Thurman got smart and stayed smart. He threw more, landed more and proved himself to be a quite talented boxer. Now, the nickname…”One Time.” Maybe time to find another one that describes how he does his thing a bit better. With a single stoppage in his last five outings, Thurman has power that is respectable but not fearsome. Eyes will shift and hopes will transfer to Errol Spence Jr., the Texan, as the guy who is in the search-and-destroy mode that attracts more casuals to the sport.

To the post-fight presser…I spy Sugar Ray Leonard and we chat quickly. We discuss where these two men stand, in comparison to him, and how he did his thing during his peak. Leonard grins and is a consummate politician. He knows it doesn’t play well to elevate his own legacy at the expense of current ballers.

Promoter Lou DiBella sips a brew, as he customarily does after events finish. He had Thurman winning, maybe 8-4; he tells me. Danny enters, comes off as classy, Angel as the proud-yet-defiant dad. Some Garcia folks hoot at Thurman for not staying in the pocket more but the Floridian doesn’t take the bait. He tells us he wants to keep on giving us entertaining fights. One or two people mumble that his analysis of his outing isn’t shared by all. Someone cracks that his nickname should be “Run Time.” I exit the joint with Borges, who I grew up reading in the Boston area. He and I too often have similar sorts of conversations out of buildings, after main events fizzle, and compare unfavorably to classics for which he was ringside. He was there for the Leonard-Roberto Duran matches, Leonard versus Marvelous Marvin Hagler. He can be forgiven if the present pales notably to past moments of majesty, in his mind. He thinks Garcia tried to press the action, won by a point or so. “When I was a young buck like you, I would have pointed out, at the post-fight, that there was booing in the stands in most every round,” Borges tells me. Good point; I remember when Manny Pacquiao was booed heavily during a listless outing against Shane Mosley. Hey, when action is promised and instead tactics and strategy are more in evidence, customers will state their displeasure. We exit the arena into a bitter night. He will walk to a local hotel, then head to Florida for some Red Sox spring training action. I’m beat; it’s after 1:30 a.m. Long day and then night. My Twitter finger is sore. All told, the card was good, the main event not great but not a dud. We have filed and our attention transfers to new sources of hope and anticipation. Not long to wait, IBF/WBA/WBC middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin versus Danny Jacobs will not be written with chapters focusing on strategy and ring generalship. Someone’s chin is getting checked. I need a snack. Hauser still influences me. I grab a slice at a pizza joint on Fifth Ave. and think veggie but my focus wavers. Weakness invades. Gimme a meatball slice, please. I need an extra protein lift, I lie to myself as I hail a cab. It’s crazy chilly and I will walk off the slice tomorrow, not tonight.

Home is silent, then the dog barks as I near the front door. She is making sure no one slips in to snag the good silver. I pet little Maggie, ask her if she enjoyed the night. She wags yes. Time to Tweet a couple more, no politics, I transferred that to Facebook and then to brush teeth. It’s off to bed. I will be able to fall asleep pretty quick. This wasn’t one of those nights that had my pulse racing hours later. Soon, snoring. Soon enough, out of bed, to drag a comb across my head…

Your M. Might Shyamalan twist ending: Michael Woods’ focus wavered and weakness invaded before he even started writing this article. He imagined he had hair at its beginning and end. Oh, Woodsy…

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