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Azad Championship Report: The Soapbox- Sept. 6, 2012

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OK, it’s time for another edition of “The Soapbox” and it comes from Bakari Lee, who wanted to weigh in on this weekend’s upcoming fight between Andre Ward and Chad Dawson. Bakari is the guy who was nice enough to let me crash at his place in New Jersey when went I went to the Tomasz Adamek-Eddie Chambers fight back in June. Mr. Lee is a guy who spends a pretty good amount of coin attending fights throughout the country and will be making the flight out west this weekend. Again, as I’ve said before, it’s fans like this - one who puts his hard-earned money where his mouth is and not just posts ramblings on boxing forums - who need to be heard.
 
Brother Bakari, the stage (or soapbox, in this instance) is yours...
 
Steve,
 
I wanted to send you a few words on Ward-Dawson. Just wanted to say that when it comes to criticism of Ward-Dawson, while I can understand the concerns, I think the “glass half-empty” view is the wrong way to go on this one; the view should definitely be “glass half-full.”

Yes, I get that it’s important for each fighter to be matched correctly because, otherwise, we’ll tend to get less than scintillating (read: boring) fights. Point conceded. And I also get that Chad’s personality can be a little dry and that perhaps Ward hasn’t been as forthcoming as some would like him to be in terms of who he has chosen to try out in his camp. Plus, his grinder style might be an acquired taste. That said, this is a fight of (yes, I’m gonna say it) highly-skilled American fighters (notice I said “fighters” and not “boxers”), both in their primes, both titleholders and legitimate, lineal world champions. The fight is not at some rogue catchweight and, in an interesting turn of events, the bigger man is coming down in weight to fight the smaller man. Not only that but the fight is not happening at some boring casino but at the Oakland Oracle. And finally, Ward is probably one of the top five regional ticket sellers in the country. Plus, it’s on regular HBO and not some greedy PPV grab. There was no drama or weeks of B.S. in the making of it either. Dawson called for it; Ward liked it. There were one or two reports of it being close to being finalized and, the next thing you knew, tickets were on sale. Plus, these two are good, generally wholesome family guys, loving, doting father/husbands with beautiful families. For all the crap writers and fans give a-hole athletes, these two are refreshing.

I mean, listen, I love barroom brawls contested at a high level as well. My bloodlust runs deep too, bro (I’m flying out for a day from the East Coast for a day trip to L.A. just to catch Brandon Rios-Mike Alvarado), but there should also be room for skill fights when the time is right and when properly executed. Ward-Dawson is not Tim Bradley-Devon Alexander. I think when you put all that together, you have to acknowledge that this is a fight at least worthy of our interest; I’m genuinely excited about it.  Plus, it’s paired with an excellent co-main in Antonio DeMarco-John Molina.

I really think Ward-Dawson is a good fight with all the right ingredients and because of that, I’ll be there in person taking it all in. I can’t wait to get to “Oaktown.”

Bakari
 
Y’ know, I was at the disaster at the decrepit barn that was the Silverdome when Bradley faced Alexander on a cold and snowy night in Pontiac, Michigan. And while I agree with much of what you say, this here is where I disagree the most. I think this is a bigger version of that “important” fight that was, in general, a monumental bust for HBO and there are a lot of similarities coming in. First of all, it’s a fight made largely in part because the management of HBO deemed it a “big” fight with the hearty approval of certain writers who can’t contain their giddiness over a fight involving two guys ranked highly by The Ring magazine. Some folks still don’t understand that just because you put a pair of highly regarded fighters together in the ring at the same time, it’s anything but a guarantee of a good fight. And I’m from the school that believes this is the entertainment business. At the conclusion of an event, most fans care if they have been entertained - not if an event was “important” beforehand or if it got the seal of approval from Dan Rafael or some blogger.
 
There really was no public outcry for this fight to take place. And if you look at the lead-up to this event, you see that not only did the network put up a hefty license fee for the main event ($2.5 million), it produced both a “Face Off with Max Kellerman” and a “24/7” for it. HBO also moved another boxing broadcast from August 25th to September 1st to help preview this card. They also added Vitali Klitschko’s fight versus Manuel Charr in hopes of getting a bigger audience (say what you will about the Klitschkos; they have always done solid ratings).
 
In many ways, they are treating this like a pay-per-view event, which is fine. More exposure for boxers and their fights are a good thing. No argument here. But the problem I have with these fights that are labeled “important” is that oftentimes they are deemed as such by broadcast executives (in this case, Ken Hershman) and media members (who are often mesmerized when two fighters on pound-for-pound lists face each other). But what about the actual public?  It’ll be interesting to see just how well this fight draws in “Oaktown” (and I agree; this fight belonged at the Oracle. It’s the only place this fight should’ve been held. Ward shouldn’t be penalized for Dawson’s lack of drawing fans) and how well this fight does ratings-wise.
 
As for Ward and Dawson being decent family men who take care of their kids. Well, that’s all fine and dandy but as Chris Rock once stated, you really shouldn’t get credit for things you should be doing, regardless. When I watch boxing - or any sport for that matter - I really don’t care about the ethics or morals of those involved. Admittedly, they make for interesting storylines and such but at the end of the day, if two axe murderers were putting on their version of Arturo Gatti vs. Micky Ward, I’m not changing the channel. Yeah, I’m a bit of a savage in that sense. The personal lives of Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather and Miguel Cotto have all had their well-documented ups and downs but guess what? The numbers indicate we really don’t care about their transgressions outside the ring. For one reason or another, the general public was drawn to them. They are truly “important.”
 
Let’s hope this fight exceeds all expectations and we have a compelling bout. One with memorable action and drama that will springboard both fighters forward. But if it isn’t, well, let’s just call it for what it is and hold the boxers accountable. We can’t have it both ways. We can’t say that certain fights are “important,” sink all sorts of resources into them and say it’s a big opportunity for boxing to shine and then if it’s a dud, say, “Uh, well, it was still a good thing because...well, it was important.” Sorry, but that’s a cop-out.
 
To how much is given, at least something should be expected, right?
 
Just remember; while some say what helps the game of boxing is match-ups like this, I counter with this: nothing hurts boxing more than when it comes up short in these spots.
 
But “B,” enjoy yourself this weekend. Say hello to “Too Short” for me, should you see him. And at the very least, hey, you get to see Antonio DeMarco- Johnny Molina live!
 
SOAPBOX FLURRIES
 
Injured ribs have scratched light heavyweight Zsolt Erdei from his Sept. 29th “Boxing After Dark” date versus Isaac Chilemba...And it looks like a bad back will keep Gabriel Campillo from boxing on the NBC Sports Network on Sept. 21st...J’Leon Love against Ramon Valenzuela has been added as the opener for Showtime this weekend before Lucas “The Machine” Matthysse faces Ajose Olusegun at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas...HBO has a full night of boxing on Saturday night. First, they have the “Klitschko” documentary at 5:30 p.m., ET/PT and then boxing begins at 9:45 ET/PT, beginning with the Klitschko-Manuel Charr fight from Moscow and then the two fights in Oakland...HBO also has “24/7” on the Julio Cesar Chavez-Sergio Martinez fight at 12:30 a.m. ET/PT that evening/morning...My main event on Saturday is Miami-Kansas State on FX...I can be reached at k9kim@yahoo.com and I tweet at www.twitter.com/stevemaxboxing. We also have a Facebook fan page at www.facebook.com/MaxBoxing, where you can discuss our content with Maxboxing readers as well as chime in via our fully interactive article comments sections.


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