Hernan “Little Tyson” Marquez vs. Luis Concepcion. Robert Guerrero and Marcos Maidana going at in Guerrero’s first fight at 140. Floyd Mayweather Jr. coming out of retirement to take on Victor Ortiz- a rare case of an aging fighter giving a young lion a shot at the only title that matters. Prospects like Gary Russell Jr., Jose Benavidez and young guns like Abner Mares and Yuri Gamboa are what the sport’s future is all about. Stories of redemption like Chris Arreola’s and James Kirkland’s provide much needed hope that even the best of us can fail and be reborn through sheer will and hard work. At the horizon, we see the end of the “Super Six,” a showdown between the winner and Lucian Bute, and an eventual foe for the winner of Bernard Hopkins vs. Chad Dawson. So much in the future looks bright.
That’s an important thing to remember when taking apart and examining the rest of the sport, which is disarray and seems to like it that way. While it’s important to always question the sport and its broken down machinations, it must also be remembered that at the center of it all in a lighted ring, there is honor, pride, courage and everything else we love about boxing. We should do all we can to preserve and celebrate that.
“Canelo’s” Least Favorite Question
At the downtown Los Angeles Public Library in some restaurant I can’t afford, Golden Boy Promotions held a press conference to announce their split-site card featuring Saul “Canelo” Alvarez.
The venue was outside and it was hot enough to make me wear shorts. After speaking with Alfonso Gomez, Alvarez’s opponent, I made my way over to the tiny cabal that had gathered around “Canelo,” who turned 21 two weeks ago. Waiting patiently, recorder poised over the video camera-ready reporters that become the norm on the boxing beat, I listened halfheartedly to the questions being posed.
“Would you fight Sergio Martinez?” “What do you think of so-and-so?” “How do you feel about fighting in L.A.?” and of course, “When will you fight Julio Cesar Chavez Jr?” or some variation pertaining to Mexican boxing’s other favorite son.
Alvarez, in a black long-sleeved shirt and white fitted jeans, his red hair full of some product, tousled and rusty in the sun, resembled what Steve McQueen might have as a boxer. Quiet and short but thoughtful in his responses, you can see the reporters and camera “reporters” pushing to get more from the guy Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer calls “The James Dean of boxing.”
Amid this barrage of media stood this quiet guy who lights up when you get into the mechanics of fighting, much the way Miguel Cotto does. Not one to brag or make predictions, the job requirement of answering questions must have been one he missed on the application form.
“What’s your least favorite question,” I opened with, which drew a laugh from the group and a look of confusion from Alvarez.
Translator extraordinaire Ramiro Gonzalez explained and Alvarez smiled just enough for it to qualify as a smile, looked in the direction of a reporter briefly and said in English, “The Chavez one.”
“I figured,” I replied.
You’ll catch the rest of the interview later but for now, the scene has me wondering how much of the time a story really exists vs. writers creating it with their questions. In a 24-hour social media news cycle, we need material but do we ask questions just to get reactions thus generating hits? Or is there value in asking if a fighter will face fighter X, Y, and Manny?
Prohibition in Sports
If I am sick, I can go to the doctor and get a prescription for whatever it is I need. I’m in my 30s and as such, being a male, my testosterone levels are dropping. It’s just a fact but if I want to offset this, I can go to the doctor and get me some of that newfangled hormone replacement therapy and be right as rain. In short, I can improve my performance using a substance I ingest in some form.
But if I was an athlete, say a boxer, if I am in my 30s and my testosterone is dropping rapidly but I know I still have fights in me, I can’t do the same thing as my non-athlete self can.
Right now, we are in the midst of one of the biggest turning points in boxing history. We are inevitably headed toward the era of better testing. Like the NFL and the other major leagues, boxing will soon find a way to get more stringent testing for its athletes. Common sense says that since the dam has broken, more water will come cascading through until we get a current that is impossible to swim against.
I do wonder, before inevitable change takes place, is prohibition the way to go? It hasn’t worked in the past. Look at alcohol prohibition in the ‘20s. How’d that work out? If you don’t know, pour a whiskey neat and I’ll tell you.
The Drug War? Lady, please; sell that sham to someone else. And if you don’t know what I am talking about, here’s a card, go to the nearest marijuana dispensary, buy something, come back and I will tell you all about it. If not, go into your medicine cabinet and grab whatever prescription that does the same thing, pop it, and I will tell you all about it.
So why are PEDs in sports any different? We ask the impossible of the athletes. These guys take blows to the head and body for years, never mind rounds. They get knocked down or out and come back for more and yet, we say, “Don’t use this drug to enhance your performance because it’s unfair.”
Is it possible that it is unfair to use them right now because it’s not above board? What if it was not only legal but regulated by the commission? Each camp would submit a list of what they are on and, of course, test anyway to prove they are telling the truth. Then it’s on each team to decide what to do.
Barbaric? Crazy? OK, fine, but are we talking about degrees of barbarism? We’re still watching violence. We try and ignore when Shane Mosley, who we have all loved watching over the years, slurs his words after a fight but it’s there. We watched that condition develop and we ignored it because his fights are good, so that’s OK, an acceptable byproduct. But if he and the other guy were all hopped up on EPO, HGH and testosterone? No way. That is against the sanctity of the game.
Maybe we need to examine this in another light. Instead of carrying on that we need to find a better way to catch the cheaters, why not taking cheating out of the back room, regulate PED use and go from there?
The one thing any person in the world of PED testing will you is that they are always one step behind the cheaters and that state of being is unlikely to change.
So why not change the way we run that race?
I’ll have an interview with Dr. Margaret Goodman on the subjects of fighter safety and PEDs in boxing this week on Maxboxing.com.
You can email Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/gabriel_montoya and catch him on each Monday’s episode of “The Next Round” with Steve Kim. You can also tune in to hear him and co-host David Duenez live on the BlogTalk radio show Leave-It-In-The-Ring.com, Thursdays at 5-8 PM PST. Gabriel is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America.