The big boxing news this week is Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s unanimous decision over Zab Judah to win Judah's IBF welterweight title.
Actually, the big news is the melee that was set off when Judah hit Mayweather with a low blow in the 10th round, then Mayweather's uncle and head trainer, Roger Mayweather, jumped into the ring.
A brawl ensued that eventually involved Judah's father and trainer, Yoel, various ringsiders, police and security, and a cop standing on the ring apron, patting his holster and warning still more people not to step up.
Order was restored and the fight continued, but the boxers' purses were withheld pending a hearing of the Nevada State Athletic Commission Thursday. The commission could disqualify Mayweather and declare Judah the winner.
Boxing tradition calls for a disqualification whenever a second steps into the ring during a fight, but Nevada's rules say the referee, in this case Richard Steele, has discretion to disqualify but isn't required to do so.
Steele, who had called timeout to give Mayweather five minutes to recover from the low blow, which Steele ruled was not intentional, decided not to disqualify Mayweather. The challenger, considered by many the best fighter in the world at the moment, was easily ahead on points at the time.
The fact that he'd called timeout gave Steele some wiggle room, since Roger Mayweather didn't enter the ring during action, and Steele told reporters he did take into account that a DQ might have set off a real riot outside the ring.
What the commission decides to do will have little to do with what's right or fair and much to do with politics and finance. Disqualifying Mayweather would set up a lucrative rematch with Judah -- it's telling that Judah's promoter, a certain Don King, said, "DQ the fighter and let him whip his ass again" -- and I have no idea how the political winds in Nevada are blowing this week. I suspect the decision will stand, and commissioners have already said Roger Mayweather faces a long suspension.
There are a couple of funny things here. One is that the Nevada commission's longtime executive director, Marc Ratner, is leaving boxing next month to run the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
There's a nice feather in the cap for boxing, losing one of the top officials in the sport to a made-for-TV enterprise with, not to put too fine a point on it, not a whole lot of rules. Imagine if Paul Tagliabue were leaving the NFL to run the arena league. Or maybe Bud Selig quitting baseball to become the commissioner of whiffle ball.
Mmmmm, Bud Selig quitting baseball.
Anyway, another funny thing is that Don King is sounding like the most reasonable guy in the room. "I understand discretionary powers," King said after the fight, according to a report by Ron Borges in the Boston Globe, "but follow the rules."
"They can say whatever they want, but if they don't disqualify Mayweather, they'll be the laughingstock of the world," King went on. "This is why our sport is going downhill. They can do whatever they want, but if they try and whitewash this, they'll only hurt themselves."
This is only part of why boxing is going downhill. The ability of a crook like King to dominate the sport for 30 years is a bigger part, really, but they're both just symptoms.
Boxing is on the wrong side of various historical, technological and demographic trends that have robbed it of both participants and fans, but it hasn't helped itself by remaining a lawless frontier where the rules are pretty much made up as needed by whoever has the most economic power.
But it's the shrinkage of the sport that has really hurt it. For the most part, better opportunities, in and out of sports, for poor people, combined with the continuing corruption and seediness of boxing, discourage most of the kids who in earlier eras became fighters from even considering it.
The sport is left to the truly desperate, plus the odd kid who gets the bug -- less and less likely, since boxing's totally gone from free TV and it's a minor niche sport on cable -- and those for whom it's the family business, like Mayweather and Judah.
That shrinkage is what makes a talented but not superlative fighter such as Mayweather the best in the world pound for pound, and what makes an ordinary kid like Judah look like a legitimate champ.
When I first started writing about boxing 20 years ago, I wrote that every sport has crotchety old-timers who kvetch that these clowns today can't hold a candle to the real men of days gone by, and that those old dudes are wrong in every sport but boxing.
Now, I'm one of those old dudes. I try to avoid saying things like "Pernell Whitaker would have taken Floyd Mayweather Jr. apart without breaking a sweat" because I don't want to sound like one of those in-my-day poops. But, you know, now that I mention it ...
Judah was the IBF champion going into this fight, incidentally, even though his last fight had been a title defense that he lost.
Judah had been the "undisputed" champ -- that is, champ of the WBA, WBC and IBF, three of the biggest, but not the only three, associations of promoters that hand out titles -- in January when he lost a unanimous decision to a guy from Argentina named Carlos Baldomir. But Baldomir refused to pay the IBF and the WBA their sanctioning fees, saying he couldn't afford it, so he walked away with only the WBC title.
There's no way you're going to follow this, but: The WBA had two welterweight champs. Judah was a "super" champ, and there was also a "regular" champ, Luis Collado. I would explain what "super" and "regular" champs are, but why waste time? It's as confusing as it is pointless.
The IBF simply let Judah keep his belt, since he'd been the last guy to pay for it. That's the title Mayweather just won.
A great sport, reduced to rubble. Call me a crotchety old dude if you want, but boxing makes hockey look robust.
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Wisconsin wins Frozen Four [PERMALINK]
Wisconsin made it a sweep in the Frozen Four Saturday, winning a 2-1 thriller over Boston College in the Championship Game. The Badgers also won the women's hockey title.
Did you see it? A B.C. shot hit the post with 1.7 seconds left. Heart-pounding excitement.
One of these years, I'm going to forsake all the big sports and make a tour of all the sub-major events like the Frozen Four, events that are exciting and important, but not major league or big-time college basketball or football.
I'll go to the Frozen Four and the College World Series, baseball and softball. I'll finally make it to the NCAA wrestling finals. As many minor league All-Star Games and championship series as I can get to, baseball and hockey. The Arena Bowl and the NBADL, ABA and CBA playoffs. Division II and III championships in various sports. The soccer Final Four and the MLS Cup.
Is it my imagination that the heart-pounding excitement to disappointingly boring ratio of these events is better than in the World Series, Super Bowl, NBA Finals, etc.?
Yes, I think it is my imagination. But I also think that would be a hell of a way to spend a year.
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