Now we have Roy Jones Jr. and Felix Trinidad to add to the list of matches that are made simply around the reputations of aging fighters.
Jones, 38, and Trinidad, 34, are scheduled to duke it out in early 2008, possibly January, at a catch weight of 170. Trinidad has been out of the ring for 27 months, and it will be 32 or 33 by the time he faces Jones, and at the highest weight of his career no less. There are no titles at stake, and little purpose except to enrich those involved.
It appears we have Bernard Hopkins and Winky Wright to thank for some of the details. Those guys just invented their own weight class of 170 and made it work. While the paid attendance of some 8,700 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas wasn't overwhelming, they and HBO had to be pleased to bring in over 300,000 pay-per-view buys.
Jones and Trinidad are both much more bankable at the box office than Hopkins and Wright, so it's reasonable to assume their fight will be a PPV blockbuster of several hundred thousand buyers.
Antonio Tarver is another matter. The 38-year-old former titlist turned down $2 million to fight WBC light heavyweight belt holder Chad Dawson, supposedly because he didn't want to fight in Dawson's home state of Connecticut at the Foxwoods Resort and Casino.
"Who is going to pay this guy $2 million?" Mike Criscio, Dawson's manager, asked this week.
"I told his promoter (Joe De Guardia) that he might as well tell his fighter to retire. No one is going to pay $2 million. He didn't want to fight in Connecticut, but Foxwoods was the only one to offer any money for him to fight. He's lucky if he gets $300,000 to fight now. No network is going to pay him that kind of money to fight (lesser competition).
"Florida (Tarver's home state) didn't want the fight. We would have fought him in Florida, but they didn't want the fight. We tried to get a casino in his home state and they didn't want him.
"It's a shame. It could have been a good fight for the fans. I was all excited. I heard that Tarver was in the ring getting ready for Chad, then he didn't sign the contract. He knows better -- he didn't want to be humiliated."
So now Dawson, 25, will be fighting Adrian Diaconu, who won a title eliminator over Rico Hoye in May to be the mandatory challenger. Diaconu is 24-0 (15), born in Romania and residing in Montreal. Most of his fights have been in Canada, so he is not a household name in America. Dawson would have had to fight him at some point anyway, but there is still disappointment over the missed Tarver opportunity, which would have given Dawson greater visibility while earning a handsome purse for himself.
Aside from perhaps Dawson, the Showtime network is probably the most disappointed at Tarver's change of heart. It's bad enough that they have to go up against the Jermain Taylor-Kelly Pavlik match head to head that night, but now they're stuck with Diaconu on their Free Preview Weekend. Criscio, while frustrated, does not begrudge Roy and Tito their opportunity to further secure their financial futures.
"I don't blame them for trying to make money," he explained. "It's a big payday, so why not? But Roy Jones says, 'I can beat Chad Dawson, I'll fight him. But I want $7 million' or something like that. If you're such a badass, fight the kid who wants to fight you. Unfortunately, Chad Dawson is the most feared boxer today."
Another Dawson/Criscio target is 42-year-old Bernard Hopkins.
"Hopkins is another one," Criscio said. "He thinks he's going to sell out Yankee Stadium (against Joe Calzaghe). He's delusional."
Yes, but not delusional enough to take on Dawson. It's a simple mathematical equation. 42 does not go into 25.
Criscio even said Dawson was considering a return to 168 in order to get some bigger fights.
"We're going to get better fights at 168 than 175, that's obvious," he said. "We can fight the winner of the Calzaghe-(Mikkel) Kessler fight or the winner of the Taylor-Pavlik fight."
Another light heavyweight senior, Glen Johnson, has been campaigning for a shot against virtually every major light heavyweight -- Tarver, Jones Jr., Hopkins, and IBF titlist Clinton Woods.
Johnson's promoter, Seminole Warriors Boxing, issued a press release this week on behalf of Johnson, entitled, "Glen Johnson: Are there any real fighters left?" In the release, Johnson too is referred to as "the most feared man in boxing."
Said Johnson in the press release: "They all have amnesia when it comes to my name, and it's a disgrace. Each of them could have accepted a fight with me but either refused or ignored me. They give their titles a bad name."
Johnson has also called out Dawson, the only name fighter to do that. The problem is the Dawson camp hasn't returned the interest, thinking about a lucrative fight with Tarver or others.
Criscio was asked why Dawson wouldn't just go ahead and fight Johnson if he is unable to get fights anyway.
"It might come down to that because he's the only one who's willing to fight Chad," he replied. "The problem is that the networks don't want to pay anything for it. They only want to give Chad $250,000 to fight him.
"Johnson is in the same situation as Chad, so maybe after this fight we will fight him. We'll talk to HBO and Showtime to pay some money. We may have no choice if we stay at 175. He's the only one with the balls to step up to the plate, but does it make sense money-wise?"
This has been a full week for Freddie Roach. He trained Team Philippines to a 5-1 victory over Team Mexico in the Golden Boy promoted World Cup last Saturday.
Yet that loss is the one that proved that even the best can be spread too thin. After Gerry Penalosa's surprise victory over Jhonny Gonzalez, Roach still had 21-year-old Rey Bautista in the dressing room awaiting his fight in the main event against Daniel Ponce De Leon.
As I wrote previously, Bautista seemed to freeze up when the bell rang. You have to wonder if it would have made a difference if Roach's calming voice had soothed the young contender in his first title shot and first time on HBO. Bautista probably needed extra attention for the biggest fight to date in his career, but in the aftermath of Penalosa's victory, he probably received less from the person most qualified to get him warmed up both mentally and physically.
Second, his bread-and-butter boxer, Manny Pacquiao, is busy these days denying the rumors of an adulterous romance with Filipino actress Ara Mina, as the actress is doing as well. No matter really -- a soap opera is a soap opera. Pacquiao, scheduled to be the captain for Team Philippines, abruptly flew back to Manila last week without notifying anyone, including Roach.
Pacquiao's business manager, Rex "Wakee" Salud, was quoted in the Philippine Daily Enquirer that, "I cannot confirm it but I heard that there is a minor family problem that Manny needs to attend to."
The Inquirer reported a source as saying that Salud was referring to Manny and his wife Jinkee and went on to say that, "Due to unknown reasons Manny and Jinkee were at loggerheads when the boxing champion flew to California. Manny wanted to settle their differences, and that's why he decided to immediately fly home."
The source said that the decision to fly home succeeded in settling the spat.
Maybe this explains why it was reported Pacquiao held up a PAL flight to L.A. by an hour last week while he decided whether he should leave or not, after postponing his departure five times.
So now poor Freddie Roach is off to the Philippines for Manny's training at Salud's new gym in Cebu, the original plan as I understand it. Plan B was to train in L.A. to limit time spent on travel. So for now, they're back to Plan A and will train for the next month in the Philippines before returning to America for the last two weeks.
Except ... Salud was quoted as saying that Manny would be training in the Philippines for two weeks and then complete his training at the Wild Card Gym in L.A.
How can anybody prepare for a fight this way, even a supremely talented specimen such as Pacquiao? Athlete, politician, movie star, husband and all-around gadabout, he poses a huge challenge to the brilliant Freddie Roach. I think that Marco Antonio Barrera has one more moment of greatness in him, and it could well come at Manny's expense. Stay tuned.
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