With the sport largely on cruise control through to the end of 2007, most of this week’s action has been outside the ring. This weekend’s fights are hardly worth noting, so I’ll hardly note them and focus on the other stuff.
- Three separate boxing flicks took steps forward this week. Sure to gain the most interest is the Rocky Marciano biopic, which his family gave the green light to after being disappointed by two other smaller films. Besides confusing people with one more boxing movie about a guy named Rocky, the main dilemma posed by a Marciano flick is what kind of special effects wizards they’ll have to hire to replicate the famous photo of Joe Walcott’s face turning to G-force goo courtesy of a Rocky right. The other two will hit the pay networks. Reports are that Showtime will pick up the documentary on modern day fighter Paulie Malignaggi, which follows him right up to his junior welterweight (140 lbs.) title fight with Miguel Cotto, although it’ll have a new ending compared to the version on the film festival circuit. It’s called “The Magic Man,” after Malignaggi’s nickname. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Malignaggi is the most exciting fighter you’ll ever see who punches with the power of a little girl. Outside the ring, he’s an engaging, if not cocky, personality, sharp of mind and tongue. It’s good that the film covers the time up to the Cotto fight, because Malignaggi’s bravery in fighting on with a broken face — literally — won him the respect of many boxing fans, including yours truly. Both his personality and the doc’s look at that fight make for potentially enjoyable viewing. Conveniently, Malignaggi’s next fight is on Showtime. The third boxing flick, just announced, will be on HBO, a documentary on how the U.S. government screwed national hero Joe Louis. Called “Joe Louis.. America’s Hero Betrayed,” it depicts how the feds hassled the all-time great heavyweight for back taxes owed on his attempts to help… the World War II effort. It’s a well-known story, but it outrages me enough that I guarantee I’ll watch. Another pic on the way but that wasn’t in the news this week is “The Fighter,” starring Brad Pitt and Mark Wahlberg, about cult favorite junior welterweight Mickey Ward. I like the sound of it, but it’s bizarre to me that they don’t cover the period in his life where he most captured the boxing public’s imagination, the years where he was waging all-time great brawls with Arturo Gatti. At any rate, Hollywood’s addiction to boxing clearly continues unabated, and I’m looking forward to all the offerings on the plate.
- Larry Holmes is finally getting into the Hall of Fame. I don’t know why, but I’ve always had a soft spot for unfairly maligned heavyweight champs. To me, that’s what Holmes was. It’s not like he wasn’t a dynamic fighter — he had 44 knockouts, for chrissakes, and entertained while beating Gerry Cooney and others. I think he had the misfortune of fighting, to quote some of the coverage of his induction, “in the shadow” of Muhammad Ali. Instead of siphoning some of Ali’s stardom when Holmes smashed “The Greatest,” he was less liked. And he had the misfortune of having one of his biggest fights against Cooney in a deliberately race-polarizing fight promoted by Don King, sure to make him a villain to some white fans. Nonetheless, it’s good to see him in the hall. He’s unquestionably deserving, although I haven’t seen a good explanation about why it took so long. (My other soft spot is for Lennox Lewis, unfairly maligned as somehow not an entertaining fighter despite his own record of 32 KOs in 41 fights. He, too, had the misfortune of fighting in the shadow of a favorite, Mike Tyson, and maybe two favorites if you count Evander Holyfield.)
- Speaking of racially polarizing, I just want to get on board with all the condemnations of light heavyweight (175 lbs.) champ Bernard Hopkins making some ill-considered remarks about how he would never be defeated by “a white boy” during some trash talk with potential fight rival and “white boy” Joe Calzaghe, the super middleweight (168 lbs.) champ. Now, I don’t want to get carried away. There’s a segment from the old “Chris Rock Show” on HBO where he interviews black fighters about white fighters, and I laughed endlessly when Rock asked one of them what white fighters do well, and the black fighter answered, “They take a h*ll of an a**-whuppin’.” But if Calzaghe had said he would never be defeated by a black fighter, everyone would’ve jumped all over him. It’s encouraging that Hopkins is catching heat for this. (ESPN’s Dan Rafael reports in his pound-for-pound rankings this month that Calzaghe’s squad reached out to Winky Wright about a possible fight, but Wright asked for an absurd $6 million. How many dumb contract demands is Wright going to make while he sits around with hardly anyone having much of a reason to fight him?)
- Oh, yeah, the fights this weekend. The two most significant are on a pay-per-view card that, in a universe that makes any sense at all, wouldn’t even be on TV. In their favor, the two fights do feature two dynamic, ultra-watchable fighters, just not against each other. Edwin Valero, the junior lightweight (130 lbs.) YouTube KO fave, is in against nobody, and Jorge Linares, a featherweight (126 lbs.) with his well of impressive natural talent and finely-honed skill, is in against a nobody, too. This has to make business sense for someone, or else it wouldn’t be happening, but it’s confounding to me who would buy this card. Both are Venezuelan — fill me in, somebody, is that a big market?