Thursday, December 01, 2022  |

News

‘Fighting Words’ — Another year without boxing’s best weekend

The International Boxing Hall of Fame, Canastota, New York. Photo: Alex Menendez/Getty Images
09
Mar

Our sport has its share of traditional weekends, the dates when we can expect big fights that coincide with certain holidays and events: St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, the Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City, Mexican Independence Day, and the annual extravaganza of matches that wrap up the year on New Year’s Eve in Japan.

But there is another beloved annual event — the International Boxing Hall of Fame’s annual induction weekend — held every June over the course of four days in the small village of Canastota, New York. It honors some of the greatest fighters ever to lace up the gloves, and many of the most notable contributors surrounding them: trainers and managers, promoters and matchmakers, judges and referees, broadcasters and journalists.

“The whole city came out,” Lennox Lewis told me a couple years ago, the heavyweight champ recalling his ceremony in 2009. “I remember getting that type of reception when I won the gold medal in the Olympics. It reminded me of that time and gave me the sense of pride of how I’ve accomplished something.”

It goes beyond the inductees. Induction Weekend is a celebration of boxing itself, a worthwhile pilgrimage to a small village that you might never have visited — Canastota is home to perhaps 5,000 people, situated about half an hour east of Syracuse in Upstate New York — if not for its connections to The Sweet Science. 



It is where Carmen Basilio and Billy Backus are from — Basilio the former welterweight and middleweight king who once bested Sugar Ray Robinson, and Backus his nephew, who briefly held the 147-pound crown for six months in the early 1970s, scoring an upset stoppage of Jose Napoles thanks to a bad cut.

That hometown history led a group to open up the International Boxing Hall of Fame, or IBHOF, in the village in 1989. The Induction Weekend eventually grew from a local tradition into an annual destination. The event is intimate, a chance to be even closer to legendary fighters than if you had ringside tickets, to spend time alongside your fellow boxing fans.

“You’re surrounded by a bunch of people who love the same thing you love,” said David Kushin, a 46-year-old boxing fan from New Jersey who’s attended and volunteered at the event several times over the years. “That’s really awesome.”

But this year, for the second straight year, there will be no ceremony. Boxing’s best weekend was postponed in 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic spread throughout the world. Organizers hoped it would be possible to return in 2021. 

The International Boxing Hall of Fame, Canastota, New York. Photo: Alex Menendez/Getty Images

The International Boxing Hall of Fame, Canastota, New York. Photo: Alex Menendez/Getty Images

A new class of inductees was announced this past December. The headliners for the class of 2021 include Laila Ali, Wladimir Klitschko, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Andre Ward and Ann Wolfe. If conditions changed, if it was safe and responsible to hold the event again, then they would also be joined by the class of 2020, featuring the likes of Bernard Hopkins, Juan Manuel Marquez, Christy Martin, Shane Mosley and Lucia Rijker, among others.

“As each day passed, we could see the time pretty much running out, that there would not be enough time for the vaccine to be out and for things to be under control by June,” said Ed Brophy, the IBHOF’s executive director. We spoke in mid-February, a couple weeks after the ceremony was officially postponed

When this latest class of inductees was called in December and informed that they had been voted into the Hall of Fame, they knew their celebrations, for now, would be limited to social media and in interviews, but that the in-person festivities were up in the air.

“They’re all so well-deserving,” Brophy said. “I feel for them that they’re waiting for their special day. But they, too, are in a position where they would much rather wait so they can have their families and themselves in Canastota to celebrate like the previous inductees did.”

The inductees have taken the news in stride — which is not at all surprising given how often things can go awry in boxing, and given that they’ve all been following the news as well.

“It was inevitable,” said promoter Kathy Duva of Main Events, a member of the class of 2020. “I wasn’t surprised. My induction into the Hall of Fame is way down on the list of important things going on in the world right now. It’ll happen when it happens. I’ve got family and friends who I want to attend. I wouldn’t want them not to be there, and I certainly wouldn’t want them to be there at-risk.”

“For me, it’s better to be safe than to be sorry,” Wolfe said in an interview with boxing writer Thomas Gerbasi. 

“I think the IBHOF did exactly what they needed to do for all concerned,” said Dr. Margaret Goodman, the former chief ringside physician for the Nevada State Athletic Commission, now the founder and president of the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association. Goodman is part of the class of 2021. “As disappointed as I was for myself, there was simply no other option. As a physician, I could see the time was not right — unless the event was going to be held much later in the year. Even then, there would have been considerable uncertainty.”

There was another option that the event organizers considered: going virtual. That idea didn’t gain much footing, however. Simply put, it just wasn’t the right choice. It wouldn’t feel anywhere near as special for everyone involved.

“To have your feet on the ground in Canastota, to enjoy the Induction Weekend, the inductees themselves, to feel the bells and whistles, is the proper way of doing it,” Brophy said.

Kushin, the boxing fan and volunteer, wholeheartedly concurred.

“The charm and the magic of it is being able to see these people who you’ve seen in the ring and see them two feet from you, shake their hand, talk to them, take a picture with them,” he said. “And absent of that, it’s just not the same. To do it virtually loses a lot of magic.”

Instead, the inductees and boxing fans can look forward to the summer of 2022. The hope is that the event can be held as normal that year. Until then, Brophy said the International Hall of Fame will continue to do social media posts and find other ways to highlight the two most recent classes of inductees.

They are incredibly stacked groups. Hall of Fame inductees, by definition, should already be the best of the best. The classes of 2020 and 2021 are particularly outstanding.

For 2020, in addition to Duva, Hopkins, Marquez, Martin, Mosley, and Rijker, the class includes:

  • Barbara Buttrick, a trailblazing female fighter from the 1940s and 1950s
  • Lou DiBella, who has promoted boxing for two decades and was an HBO executive for about 11 years before that
  • Frank Erne, who held the lightweight championship from 1899-1902
  • Bernard Fernandez, a journalist who has covered boxing for more than 30 years
  • Dan Goossen, a promoter for more than 30 years who passed away in 2014
  • Thomas Hauser, a journalist who has written about boxing for more than three decades, including authoring the official biography of Muhammad Ali
  • Paddy Ryan, a heavyweight from the 1800s who fought John L. Sullivan

For 2021, in addition to Laila Ali, Goodman, Klitschko, Mayweather, Ward and Wolfe, the class includes:

  • Freddie Brown, who spent six decades as a trainer and cutman for some of boxing’s best
  • George Kimball, a journalist who covered the sport for decades until his passing and wrote “Four Kings,” the beloved chronicle of Roberto Duran, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Thomas Hearns, and Sugar Ray Leonard 
  • Jay Larkin, a longtime executive at Showtime Boxing who passed away in 2010
  • Jackie McCoy, a fighter who went on to train boxers such as Mando Ramos and Carlos Palomino
  • Davey Moore, who held the featherweight championship from 1959-1963, dying tragically just days after a loss to Sugar Ramos
  • Jackie Tonawanda, a trailblazer whose battle to get a boxing license from the state of New York in the 1970s opened the doors for other women to fight
  • Marian Trimiar, a trailblazer for women’s boxing who fought in the 1970s and 1980s

“The one thing that I was excited about the most is that everybody that was inducted with me — Floyd, Laila, Klitschko, Andre — you could tell all of us had something in common,” Wolfe told Gerbasi. “We know what we sacrificed and we know what we had to do, and a lot of people will never feel that feeling of what you have to give to boxing in order to be in the Hall of Fame. It takes a piece of your soul. It takes a piece of your heart. I’m excited I’m in with that group of people, because I followed every last one of them and their careers.”

Kathy Duva has been to Canastota on multiple occasions. She recalls bringing Pernell Whitaker and Andrew Golota up for the weekend. “Both came back saying they never expected to have so much fun,” she said.

Duva was there when Whitaker was inducted in 2007, when Arturo Gatti was enshrined in 2013, and when her father-in-law, Lou Duva, the storied trainer, manager and promoter, was celebrated in 1998. Now Kathy will be honored as well. A self-described introvert, she’s happy to be part of what will be such a packed ceremony in 2022.

“I’m much more comfortable letting the fighters take all the spotlight,” Duva said. “How much time can anyone [like me] give a speech when that crew is up there? No one is going to want to listen to me. Floyd Mayweather, Bernard Hopkins, Wladimir Klitschko, and we don’t even have this next class picked yet. It’s going to be like a who’s who of boxing.”

What she’s looking forward to is being with her family, friends and colleagues. And the best part, Duva said, is that her Hall of Fame plaque will hang next to that of Dan Duva, her late husband, who passed away in 1996. Dan Duva was inducted into Canastota in 2003. Kathy was unable to make the trip that year; her daughter’s high school graduation was that same weekend.

“I just want to go there and kind of put an exclamation point on what we’ve been able to accomplish,” she said. “It’s been a long time. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect this would be happening. This is very cool, and I’m very lucky.”

That is still a ways away, though you can’t fault anyone for trying to find something to look forward to after a year in which so many have lost so much. In the United States alone, more than half a million people have died from the coronavirus. Others were hospitalized, and many are dealing with lingering effects from the illness. People have lost their jobs and homes and continue to struggle.

The International Boxing Hall of Fame and the village of Canastota haven’t been left reeling as hard as some other museums and communities, though they have still been impacted by the requirements that businesses shut down or limit their operations.

The IBHOF was closed from March 2020 until early July. They are now open under limited hours. Back in 2019, when I spoke to Brophy about the museum’s 30th anniversary, he said they typically receive about 10,000 visitors a year. Last month, he told me that traffic was down by 85-90 percent. There are far fewer people traveling in general. That means fewer travelers who might make the Hall of Fame their destination or a stop along their journeys, or who are even driving down Interstate 90 and see a sign for the hall, piquing their curiosity.

Trainer and former two-division titleholder Buddy McGirt. Photo courtesy of the International Boxing Hall of Fame

Trainer and former two-division titleholder Buddy McGirt being inducted into the IBHOF. Photo courtesy of the International Boxing Hall of Fame

There still were local visitors, perhaps not the biggest of boxing fans, but people who were looking for an enjoyable attraction. The IBHOF has been cushioned somewhat thanks to having a small staff supported by a group of volunteers. Yet without the usual volume of admission fees, and without event revenue and corporate sponsorships, the Hall of Fame has needed to hold fundraiser auctions and put out a call for donations. The hall’s website includes direct links for anyone who wishes to donate via credit card or PayPal.

“There is no easy way for a successful sports Hall of Fame museum,” Brophy said. “It’s always a challenge.”

The cancellation of Induction Weekend has also had ripple effects in the local economy. The village of Canastota and nearby towns and attractions get a huge boost each year from the estimated 10,000-15,000 who arrive for Induction Weekend. Past events have featured talks, an autograph and memorabilia show, a cocktail reception and banquet, a golf tournament, and a 5K race and fun run, all building up to the parade in Downtown Canastota and the induction ceremony. There’s also usually a notable boxing card held at the nearby Turning Stone Resort Casino in the town of Verona.

“It’s a huge weekend for the village,” said Canastota Mayor Rosanne Warner, who grew up in the community and has gone to the Hall of Fame parade since she was a teenager. “When I had this conversation with Ed that they were going to postpone [the 2021 ceremony], it made my heart sink. It really did. We thought maybe we could get it off this year. They had to do what they had to do. It wasn’t for a lack of trying. I can’t blame them for erring on the side of caution.”

“This is going to have a huge impact on the village,” she said. The downtown area had recently been revitalized before the pandemic with new sidewalks, and business owners redid or repainted their storefronts. “We depend on those tourism participants to come into the village. It kind of showcases our village a little bit and gets people to stay in the area.”

This past year has been a long year. There are 15 months between now and the anticipated dates for the Induction Weekend in 2022. Brophy is looking into whether he can host smaller events before then, in late summer or early fall of 2021.

“We hope we can do that in some fashion,” he said. “That’ll also help us with some fundraising and keep the momentum going on to 2022 — as we can all reunite, and have a big homecoming for the sport of boxing, and celebrate the 2020, 2021 and 2022 classes in one year.”

Fittingly, Brophy refers to the prospect of honoring three induction classes at once as the “Induction Trilogy.”

And like many of boxing’s great trilogies, the four days from June 9-12, 2022, will make for some memorable moments.

“It’s going to be huge — because there’s going to be three years of inductees and because of who those inductees are,” said Kushin, the boxing fan from New Jersey. “My head hurts thinking about it, in a good way. It’s really going to be incredible. It’s almost overwhelming to think about all the star power that’s going to be there in the same weekend.”

The 10 Count

1 – Sometimes you can’t fit everything from an interview into your story. Here are some other good quotes from my interview with Kathy Duva:

She marvelled at how her career began, and where it has since led. As she put it: “This is the same Hall of Fame that Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier are in.”

“When I started out, there were times I had to threaten to sue the state to [be allowed to] go to weigh-ins,” Duva said. “When you take that long view, over 40 years ago when I started out as a publicist, I put myself back into where I was then, and where I am now and who I am now, and I just never would’ve imagined it. I was always Dan [Duva]’s assistant. Whatever Dan wanted to do, I was there. I was like the lieutenant and never felt I was cut out for being in charge. I still am not sure I am. We have a great staff and make it work. To be in a position to be in the Hall of Fame, it’s hard to believe.”

Duva noted that she’s only the third woman non-combatant to be inducted into Canastota.

“There’s a line [from one to the next]. The first was Aileen Eaton, who got her job the way I did, when her husband died. And then the next one was Lorraine Chargin. She and Don [Chargin] were Aileen’s protégés, and my husband and I were to an extent protégés of Don and Lorraine. We worked together when we were young, and they taught us a lot and mentored us.”

Duva spoke glowingly of her colleagues at Main Events. She’d love to see Jolene Mizzone, the company’s matchmaker and vice president of operations, be inducted as well.

“If Jolene goes in — and I think, when her time comes, she is the most deserving woman in the sport right now who’s not a participant — she’s the next one in that line.”

2 – Here are some of the other highlights from my interview with Dr. Margaret Goodman about her induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame:

“Any time you are recognized for your efforts is an honor,” Goodman said. “But in this case, to me, the recognition was unimaginable. I’ve appreciated and loved boxing for decades, but it’s the fighters who are so deserving. As a physician, my greatest gifts were being a ringside physician. During that time, it became clear that the way I could repay the privilege of having been a ring physician was to do more to advance fighter safety.  

“It’s why I initially walked away as a ring physician and later started VADA,” she said. “So to be recognized in this way brings attention to what all ring physicians have done before and after me, but also brings attention to the work that needs to be done to advance fighter protection and fair fights.”

Goodman said that she had stopped attending boxing matches in-person, and had stopped watching most fights on television, after she left the Nevada State Athletic Commission, and even after starting up VADA.

“So I am looking forward to seeing many of the fighters I had the privilege to work with through the years, as well as so many other greats I’ve never met, and see the other inductees — several of whom I consider friends,” she said. 

This will be her first time attending Induction Weekend.

“The event itself sounds incredible, and I look forward to meeting people and fans of the sport,” Goodman said. “Both Dr. Flip Homansky — my partner and the one responsible for my involvement in boxing — and myself have offered to give a seminar on ringside medicine. I think that too few fans of the sport really understand the job, as well as the interaction that ring physicians have with fighters, the referee and cornermen.”

3 – I want women’s boxing to do well in the United States, to become as much of a draw here as it’s reached in other countries, to have the level of acceptance that women’s mixed martial arts and women’s pro wrestling currently do.

There were times that it seemed like we’d never see women compete in the UFC and that the women in the WWE would always be labeled as “WWE Divas” instead of “WWE Superstars” like their fellow men. Back then, their wrestling matches, unfortunately, were often seen by fans as an opportunity to take a bathroom break. Those times, thankfully, have changed.

There’s been more support for women’s boxing in America, between Claressa Shields appearing on Showtime, Mikaela Mayer regularly appearing on Top Rank shows on ESPN, and promoter Lou DiBella and the DAZN streaming service featuring other women in the ring. But Shields and her promoter still had to put forth their own pay-per-view last Friday, wanting to stay busy after not getting the dates or the pay they had been hoping for.

It was a small, independent show streamed online. I haven’t seen any buy rate reported yet, though a press release said the show “surpassed all projected sales expectations.” That phrasing doesn’t mean anything without the context of what those expectations were.

I loved the storyline going in, and the reporting that came out of it, of Shields wanting to bring more attention to women’s boxing, of her featuring all women on her card. I was also impressed by all the media rounds Shield did while preparing for the fight and making weight.

The show itself, sadly, wasn’t very good. As others have noted, the underdogs in all four televised fights didn’t win a single round. Shields was so, so, so much better than Marie-Eve Dicaire that Dicaire barely landed anything.

Two perspectives, which seem conflicting but can both be true at the same time, stood out to me on Twitter on Friday:

“As happy as I am to see women’s boxing get support tonight, I hope that support doesn’t go away overnight,” said boxing writer Carlos Toro. “Everyone should support women’s boxing, not just with the top three or four stars, but at all levels. Tonight is a step in the right direction, but let’s keep at it.”

“At the end of the day, boxing is an entertainment product,” said combat sports writer Jonathan Snowden. “No one ‘deserves’ a certain financial outcome.”

Change doesn’t happen overnight. Attitudes and paradigms shift over time. 

Women’s boxing will need more talent, more competitive fights, and more promoters and networks willing to show them. 

The rapid growth of mixed martial arts in general led to more women going to MMA and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu gyms, which has led to a deeper pool of talent around the world in that sport.

In women’s boxing, particularly in the heavier divisions, there just isn’t much depth at all. BoxRec lists a total of 38 active women in the junior middleweight division worldwide. The website’s No. 10 woman at No. 154 (the rankings are done using an algorithm) is 14-18-0. The No. 17 fighter is 0-9.

It gets better in the lighter weight classes. The talent in most of those divisions, however, is outside of the United States. In the upcoming issue of Ring Magazine, the women’s ratings — ranking the Top 5 in each division — list a total of 45 women from the 102-pound weight class through the 130-pound weight class. A total of seven hail from the United States and Puerto Rico: Seniesa Estrada, Ava Knight, Marlen Esparza, Amanda Serrano, Heather Hardy, Jennifer Han, and Mayer.

Shields’ next fight will be her MMA debut. She’s ambitious and outspoken, which has rubbed some on Twitter the wrong way. I don’t agree with everything she says, but I think the grander scheme is what matters. What Shields is aiming for — more opportunities — is a good thing. Someone needs to lead the charge. It’s possible that Shields’ talent (and Serrano’s, and Mayer’s, and so on) can bring more women into boxing gyms and can someday open the door for more women to appear on television.

This may be a long process, but this is a start. 

4 – There is one caveat to Claressa Shields’ recognition as the undisputed junior middleweight champion:

“How can someone be an undisputed champion at a weight when the WBA champion has held the title for over four years and hasn’t lost it?” asked the AsianBoxing.info account on Twitter last week.

It’s a fair question to ask.

Claressa Shields. Photo credit: Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

Claressa Shields. Photo credit: Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

Hanna Gabriels already had the World Boxing Organization title at 154 pounds in her possession when she added the World Boxing Association’s belt back in June 2016. She made two successful defenses in 2017, then was stripped of the WBO title in 2018 after she went up to middleweight and lost to Shields. Gabriels then returned to junior middleweight and made two more successful defenses in 2019. She hasn’t fought in more than a year and a half, though she also hasn’t been stripped of her WBA title, according to the sanctioning body’s website.

Shields, meanwhile, moved down to 154 at the start of last year and picked up two vacant titles (the WBC and the WBO) with a unanimous decision victory over Ivana Habazin.

Marie-Eve Dicaire had the International Boxing Federation belt, so three belts would’ve been on the line against Shields. And the WBA — because the WBA — decided to summon a “super” title out of thin air for the fight, making it four.

Gabriels was the “regular” titleholder, which is a secondary title only when there’s a “super” titleholder in the division. So, in essence, the WBA demoted Gabriels from her primary status and elevated Shields above her.

Yes, there’s the not-insignificant fact of Shields’ victory over Gabriels at 160. Though it must also be said that this isn’t the first time the WBA has done something like this.

One example that comes to mind is when the WBA demoted Alberto Machado.

The WBA had a “super” titleholder in the 130-pound division in 2017: Jezreel Corrales. But when Corrales came in overweight for his fight with Machado, he lost the title on the scales. “This means that the WBA Super Champion status is not on the line for tomorrow night,” said the sanctioning body at the time. “Should Machado win, he would become the regular WBA super featherweight champion.”

Machado defeated Corrales and became the “regular” titleholder. Nine months later, Corrales went from being the primary titleholder to the secondary one, by no fault of his own, when the WBA decided that a fight between Gervonta Davis and Jesus Cuellar would be for its vacant “super” title.

This is far from the worst thing the WBA has done. But this is quite the WBA thing for the WBA to do.

5 – You don’t have to fork over whatever exorbitant amount to order the upcoming pay-per-view featuring Andy Ruiz vs. Chris Arreola. Any amount will be too much. 

You need not have spent $30 to purchase the independent pay-per-view last Friday featuring Claressa Shields vs. Marie-Eve Dicaire, even if boxing’s female fighters need more support if they’re going to get more opportunities.

But if you don’t watch this coming Saturday’s rematch between junior bantamweight champ Juan Francisco Estrada and fellow 115-pound titleholder Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez, we’re gonna have to have words.

Yes, those are Fighting Words.

Estrada and Gonzalez first fought in 2012 down at junior flyweight. Gonzalez was an undefeated 108-pound titleholder at the time. Estrada was an up-and-coming contender. Gonzalez won the fight. But both men went on to greater acclaim afterward.

“Eight years, four months, and two weight classes ago is the last time Roman Gonzalez and Juan Francisco Estrada fought each other. For them to not only still be relevant, but the (arguably) top two guys at the weight is just nuts,” tweeted Mark Ortega, a former boxing reporter who now works in TV production for Ring City USA shows and PBC’s Fox broadcasts. “It doesn’t happen.”

Of course, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai will have something to say about belonging among the top of the 115-pound division. Perhaps not coincidentally, he fights the day before Estrada-Gonzalez 2.

Sor Rungvisai won a controversial majority decision over Gonzalez in early 2017 but scored a definitive knockout in their rematch six months later. Estrada and Sor Rungvisai fought twice. Sor Rungvisai won the first installment in 2018 with a close majority decision; Estrada earned the unanimous decision in their 2019 rematch.

The card will be shown on the DAZN streaming service, though apparently there will also be an option to purchase a standalone pay-per-view from your cable provider. An annual subscription to DAZN is $100, or $8.33 per month. But like Canelo Alvarez’s promotional situation, you don’t need to make a long-term commitment. You can get DAZN for one month for $19.99 and get plenty of value out of it.

Subscribe by this Friday, March 12 and you’ll get:

  • Sor Ringvisai vs. Kwanthai Sithmorseng
  • Estrada-Gonzalez 2 and an undercard that also features the rematch between Jessica McCaskill vs. Cecilia Braekhus, plus 108-pound champ Hiroto Kyoguchi vs. Axel Vega
  • Welterweight contender Vergil Ortiz vs. Maurice Hooker on March 20
  • Lawrence Okolie vs. Krzysztof Glowacki in a cruiserweight title fight on March 20
  • The rematch between heavyweights Alexander Povetkin vs. Dillian Whyte on March 27. Their first fight last year saw Whyte drop Povetkin twice before Povetkin came back to score one of the best one-punch knockouts of the year.
  • A couple of other, less notable shows

Why am I pushing this so hard? Because boxing’s smallest weight classes have rarely gotten the love and airtime that their heavier counterparts receive, even though there’s been tons of talent and entertainment in these divisions.

It felt great when HBO finally began to give the 112- and 115-pound divisions some love with their “Superfly” series of cards. DAZN seems like it could be playing to an even smaller audience at times, and that’s such a shame.

We boxing fans put up with a lot of bad cards. I hope I’m not jinxing anything, but this is a main event that should live up to our expectations.

6 – Here’s some more good news for fans of the best facing the best: The fight between Josh Taylor and Jose Ramirez for the undisputed junior welterweight championship is official. 

It was announced last week that Taylor vs. Ramirez will take place on May 22 in Las Vegas and will be broadcast on ESPN.

Taylor, 17-0 with 13 KOs, has two world titles by virtue of his run through the World Boxing Super Series 140-pound tournament. He defeated Ryan Martin by TKO, dethroned Ivan Baranchyk via unanimous decision, and unified with a majority decision over Regis Prograis. Taylor’s last fight was a quick KO of a mismatched mandatory challenger, Apinun Khongsong.

Ramirez, 26-0 with 17 KOs, didn’t enter the tournament and went his own way, picking up a vacant title when he outpointed Amir Imam, defending with a wide decision over Antonio Orozco and a close majority decision over Jose Zepeda, then unifying belts with a TKO of Maurice Hooker. Ramirez has since made another defense, getting the edge over former titleholder Viktor Postol via majority decision.

This is a big fight for 140. The last time this division had an undisputed champion — usually a rare accomplishment in this sport — actually wasn’t that long ago. It came when Terence Crawford knocked out Julius Indongo in 2017.

Crawford then left the division and moved up to welterweight. The winner of Taylor-Ramirez may want to stick around, though there’s always the temptation of the huge names up at 147.

Even though the winner will be the undisputed champ, there will still be plenty of contenders available for them to face at 140. The division hasn’t been cleaned out. There’s still work to be done, good fights to make.

But I’m getting ahead of things. First comes the big fight on May 22. All too often, the top fighters will talk about facing the other big names — or will talk about why they won’t face the other big names — but rarely will share the same ring with each other.

That, thankfully, is not the case with Taylor vs. Ramirez. 

7 – Contrast the price of Taylor vs. Ramirez — part of your cable subscription if you live in the United States, or on ESPN+ for just $5.99 for a month’s worth of programming — against the likely cost of Andy Ruiz vs. Chris Arreola.

That fight will be on April 24 on pay-per-view for some reason, according to Jake “Jazz Hands of Stone” Donovan of BoxingScene.com.

Ruiz, 33-2 with 22 KOs, went from being a Cinderella story to turning himself into a pumpkin. He upset Anthony Joshua in June 2019 to win three heavyweight titles, then showed up 15 pounds heavier, a massive 283.5 pounds, for their rematch six months later. Ruiz was slow of foot and unable to deal with Joshua’s cautious but wise strategy of boxing and keeping his distance.

Ruiz has since changed trainers and is now working with Eddy Reynoso, known best for his work with Canelo Alvarez but who also has Ryan Garcia and Oscar Valdez within his stable these days. Ruiz has posted multiple photos showing him in trimmer shape. That’s a good sign.

That doesn’t change the fact that his opponent is Arreola. And that their fight, however good it could potentially be, is a pay-per-view headliner.

Arreola is 40 years old, nine years Andy Ruiz’s senior. He is 38-6-1 with 33 KOs, a fun but limited fighter, and the tale of caution that other heavyweights like Ruiz should’ve heeded. Arreola’s struggles on the scales came back to bite him earlier in his career. He’s well past his best days now.

He can still make for fun fights. Arreola threw more than 1,100 punches in his last outing, a decision loss to Adam Kownacki in August 2019. Depending on what Arreola has left, he could once again trade punches with Ruiz in April.

Jake Donovan’s report said this of the undercard, which was still being fleshed out: “A strong emphasis will be placed on showcasing PBC boxers on the rise and poised to contend for a world title in 2021.”

For some, the main event and undercard will be enticing enough to justify the cost. And hopefully the action itself will make those customers feel like they got their money’s worth. 

For others, however, they will wonder why they can pay $6 for a month of ESPN+ but need to spend several times that amount to cover the cost of this show.

8 – Let’s make the pricing interesting for this unnecessary pay-per-view. I’ll pay one buck for every pound below 250 that Andy Ruiz and Chris Arreola drop…

9 – Let’s move on to another overweight fighter. How overweight?

How about 44 pounds?

Hayden Wright was supposed to have a cruiserweight fight last week in Melbourne, Australia, against a 5-0 prospect named Khalid Baker.

But Wright failed to make the 200-pound limit by a grand total of 20 kilograms, or 44 pounds, according to hardcore boxing follower @TimBoxeo, citing Australian boxing manager Mike Altamura.

Wright stepped on the scale with a big smile on his face, flexed his arms — probably the most toned part of his body, though that’s not saying much — and soon announced his retirement. The next day, the show’s promoter presented Wright with something that was referred to as a “journeyman’s award.” (Baker, from the looks of things, didn’t get to fight at all.)

Mind you, Wright had spent his entire career as a heavyweight. For his last two outings in 2019, Wright came in at 247¼ and 236 pounds. The closest he’d ever been to cruiserweight was at the start of his career, when he was 212 pounds in his second pro fight.

That, perhaps not coincidentally, was the last time Wright won a fight.

And perhaps that’s why Wright vs. Baker should’ve been allowed to go forth anyway. The dude is 2-13 with 2 KOs. His last loss came in 66 seconds against a 3-0, 207.5-pound dude.

But that wouldn’t have been a happy sendoff for Wright. 

Here’s to your retirement, Hayden Wright. At least until you come back and face the winner of Andy Ruiz vs. Chris Arreola, live on pay-per-view…

10 –  Hayden Wright’s nickname is “H-Bomb,” which makes sense given his first initial.

It’s just a good thing he wasn’t boxing when the Manhattan Project was around. Between “Fat Man” and “Little Boy,” I think we know which of the original two atomic bomb nicknames that Wright would’ve received…

Follow David Greisman on Twitter @FightingWords2. His book, “Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing,” is available on Amazon.

close

SIGN UP TO GET RING NEWS ALERTS