by Johnny Walker

A Response to Stephen Brunt’s “Requiem For Boxing: The Decline of the Sweet Science”

(article first published by Boxinginsider.com)

In Canada, the city of Toronto and its inhabitants are often the subject of snide humor among non-residents. “The center of the universe” it is mockingly called, because Torontonians often seem to think that nothing outside of the city’s borders exists, a sort of mass solipsism.

That attitude is typified by Toronto-based sportswriter and boxing scribe Stephen Brunt in his recent Globe and Mail column, “Requiem For Boxing: The Decline of the Sweet Science” (the essay can be accessed at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/requiem-for-boxing-the-decline-of-the-sweet-science/article2004683/ Subscription required).

To refute all of the specious arguments in Brunt’s lengthy, often nostalgia-soaked and maudlin column, would take more time and space than I want to spend on it. Much of it reads like the lament of a man entering his 50s who can’t deal with the fact that his childhood sports heroes have now been eclipsed by other athletes. But a couple of Brunt’s assertions are so illogical that they must be addressed.

Brunt writes, “On Saturday night, 55,000 paying customers will fill the Rogers Centre in Toronto to witness the first promotion by the Ultimate Fighting Championship in Ontario. Until this year, mixed martial arts (MMA) … was banned in the province. This show will be the single biggest sporting event of 2011 in Canada’s most populous city, barring an unlikely Toronto Blue Jays run to the World Series. In part, that is an expression of pent-up demand from the outlaw years. But mostly it is a true and legitimate measure of the popularity of the sport and its No. 1 marquee attraction, Montreal’s Georges St-Pierre.”

Brunt then goes on to lament boxing’s supposed comparative lack of popularity in 2011.

First of all, Brunt seems to think that because an initial MMA event in Toronto can draw 55,000 people, this has some wider implication for boxing. I suppose this is because Toronto is or was such a boxing hotbed, eh Stephen? Funny, I am huge boxing fan and I lived in Toronto for 10 years, and can’t recall a single major boxing card that I ever attended while I was there – because there wasn’t one! I saw more live boxing during my very brief tenure as a resident of Halifax, Nova Scotia, than I ever did in Toronto.

So the fact that the UFC can finally get licensed in Ontario and draw 50,000+ might simply mean that Dana White was smart enough to exploit a heretofore untapped market for combat sports in the Toronto area. Not to mention that the card, as Brunt points out, featured a Canadian UFC star, Georges St. Pierre, which also no doubt heightened interest in the event. But to make some sweeping judgment from this UFC event in Toronto and conclude that boxing as a sport is dying or dead is either very naïve or purposefully obtuse.

What really rankles is this line from Brunt: “As MMA has grown, boxing has evaporated except in a few isolated outposts (Quebec and Germany, most notably).” Here we get back to my original point about the solipsism of Torontonians. If it ain’t happening in English Canada, or in Brunt’s heavily mythologized version of America (such as only a Canadian can muster), it just ain’t happening!

Brunt’s sheer arrogance here is breathtaking. There is some rich irony, of course, in a Canadian calling Germany an “outpost.” The world heavyweight champion Klitschko brothers, Wladimir and Vitali, regularly draw crowds of close to 50,000 people to their fights in Germany, but Brunt ignores this troublesome fact because Germany is an “outpost,” so it doesn’t count. This is intellectual dishonesty, and shame on Brunt for trying to get away with it.

“There’s no arguing with the marketplace. Fifty-five thousand people can’t be wrong,” Brunt writes. Unless they are Germans attending a Klitschko fight, of course.

Even worse for a Canadian, Brunt labels an entire province in his own country, Quebec, an “outpost,” presumably because it isn’t Ontario. So when boxers Jean Pascal and Bernard Hopkins sell out the Bell Centre in Montreal (home of hockey’s immortal Canadiens) as they did a few weeks back, again, this is not proof for Brunt that boxing is alive and well, because those French-Canadians, like those Germans, well, what do they know?

The theme of Brunt’s column brings to mind the old Stranglers song whose refrain was “No more heroes anymore.” When his column starts into its flowery, nostalgia-drenched passages on Ali and Frazier, it becomes clear what Brunt’s real problem with today’s boxing is. He can’t stand the fact that boxing has changed, that its current stars are not the stars of his youth or even reasonable facsimiles thereof. For Brunt and those of his ilk, like Burt Sugar, nothing that happens now can be as great as it was in the mythic Golden Past when America ruled the boxing world, and more specifically, ruled the heavyweight division.

“Nothing that boxing could produce today,” Brunt writes, “could … mean much of anything. Even before MMA began its assault, the sport was edging toward irrelevance. There’s no boxing conversation to be had. Even heavyweight champion of the world – that great, all-encompassing title – has been rendered close to meaningless.”

Meaningless for whom, Stephen?

Brunt implies that because there is no-one similar to Cassius Clay / Muhammad Ali in boxing today, there is no-one left to admire or idolize. The Klitschkos, two educated, intelligent men whose own inspiring back-story includes their improbable rise from the ashes of the Soviet Union and their escape from the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl — are by implication discounted by Brunt as almost meaningless champions. Yet I’m very sure there are many, many young boxing fans in Ukraine, in Russia, in Germany, and indeed from all over the planet for whom Wladimir and Vitali mean every bit as much as Ali did to Brunt and his ilk. Some will no doubt will be inspired by the Klitschkos to take up the sport themselves in search of fame and fortune. But Brunt, trapped within his own narrow frame of reference and in mourning for his own lost youth, can’t or won’t acknowledge that fact.

What has really happened in boxing’s marquee division is that American fighters have declined at the same time as the fall of the Soviet Union has opened the floodgates for Eastern European talent that before had no chance to compete in professional boxing. The Klitschkos led the way, becoming superstars in Germany and then across Europe. Now many Europeans, Eastern and Western, are following them up the ladder, with names like Denis Boytsov, Robert Helenius, Alexander Dimitrenko and Tomasz Adamek being the top heavyweight contenders. This leads old-timers like Brunt, who is Americentric and who longs for another Ali, to make declarations like “Boxing Is Dead,” when that is not at all the case.

The truth is, boxing’s power base has shifted and it is alive and well across the globe.

Alive and well, except in the minds of those sad nostalgists who long for a past that is never going to be repeated.

In that sense, Stephen Brunt’s column about the death of boxing is accurate, in what might be termed a microcosmic, as opposed to a macrocosmic, sense.

Boxing is indeed dead…. for Stephen Brunt.   RIP.

 

The Tuaman has seen his fortune vanish

 

 

 

 

 

 
By Johnny Walker

 

You could call it life imitating art, or vice-versa.

In the new FX boxing drama Lights Out, the main character, Patrick “Lights” Leary (Holt McCallany), 40, is a retired heavyweight champion who has blown through millions of dollars, while living in a too-lavish manner with his family in a New Jersey mansion.

In a recent episode, Lights, having been forced to face the reality of his situation, is forced to tell his stricken wife, “It’s gone. It’s all gone.”

It’s a story that veteran heavyweight contender David “Tuaman” Tua, 38, can identify with all too well.

Tua, a native of Samoa who fights out of New Zealand, is in many ways the real-life embodiment of “Lights” Leary. In the Sunday News, Tua has revealed that he and his family (Wife Robina, and two sons, Klein, 15, and Kaynan, 12), have been living in rental accommodations, and even had to move in with co-manager Inga Tuigamala at their lowest point.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. The Tuaman earned approximately $12 million from his 2000 loss to heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis.

At one point, Tua owned a lavish penthouse apartment in Auckland, as well as other properties.

But problematic investments and a protracted legal battle with two ex-managers have left Tua in dire straits.

Tua’s legal bills ballooned to $4.2 million, and to add to his woes, he was also hit by a $2.2 million tax bill from the New Zealand government, which froze the purses from his last three fights.

“Everybody has this picture of David Tua, that he lives a life [of luxury]… but no,” Tua told the Sunday News.

Like “Lights” Leary, Tua has been forced to face up to the loss of his riches.

“I have sat down and really confirmed and put things into perspective. I have written things [goals] down and now want to make sure I stand by them.”

Uppermost on Tua’s mind is finding security and stability for his family. 

“The short-term goal is [hopefully] to put my family into a home,” Tua vowed. “That is the important goal for this year.”

Perhaps the most talented heavyweight on the current scene who has never won a world title belt, Tua is all too aware that time is not on his side.

“The reality is that I am not going to be a fighter forever,” Tua declares. “If I get another opportunity of fighting for the title, and hopefully winning it, it would be fantastic.”

“But if not, in five years that will be it.”

In the meantime, Tua insists that the loss of material possessions has its upside.

“Money doesn’t make you happy. So I don’t miss it… no,” the Tuaman says. “To be honest, I am a lot happier now than I was back in the days.”

Tua sees his struggles philosophically as part of the roadblocks we all face in getting where we want to go.

“Sometimes you go through certain journeys in life,” Tua reflects. 

“Sometimes they are simple, sometimes you get tested in ways where some people get through to the other side and others don’t.

By Johnny Walker

In the “say it ain’t so” boxing sweepstakes, Adam Booth, the manager/trainer of WBA heavyweight champion David Haye, is publicly musing about a rematch between his charge and former cruiserweight champ turned heavyweight contender Jean-Marc Mormeck.

In an interview with ffboxe.com, Booth seems surprised at the discovery of something that most fans of heavyweight boxing have known for some time: that Haye’s mandatory challenger for the WBA crown, Ruslan Chagaev, is infected with the hepatitis B antigen (he is not ill, but is a carrier of the virus).

“Logically, David would have faced [Ruslan] Chagaev but the news about his health is not very good,” Booth says in the interview.

“He reportedly suffers from hepatitis B, which makes their confrontation impossible. I then looked at the classification of the WBA … and I saw that Jean-Marc Mormeck is now ranked in the Top 10 at seven or eight, I think, and that makes a Mormeck-Haye fight possible,” Booth explains.

There are so many things wrong with this idea (as there was with the choice of Haye’s previous opponent, Audley Harrison), that to enumerate them all here would take up too much space. 

But let’s hit the most obvious problems:

First, Haye has already defeated Mormeck when they fought for the WBC cruiserweight title in 2007.  Mormeck did knock Haye down in round four, but is that knockdown really enough to warrant a rematch at heavyweight?

Second, Haye insists he is retiring in October of this year.  That leaves him with probably enough time for two fights, maximum.  Beating a man he’s already defeated at at lighter weight is surely going to do nothing for his legacy at heavyweight. 

But it appears that the question of legacy is no longer a concern for Haye and Booth, if indeed it ever was.

Most of us know by now the sad inability of Booth and Haye to negotiate a deal with either Wladimir or Vitali Klitschko, who currently hold all of the major belts aside from Haye’s WBA title.

But there are alternatives.  If not Chagaev (and it should be noted that Wladimir Klitschko fought Chagaev in 2009 without complaint, merely taking a vaccination before the fight as protection), how about Denis Boytsov, Alexander Povetkin, Samuel Peter, Robert Helenius, Cris Arreola, Tomasz Adamek: these are some fighters who could give Haye a decent (and hopefully entertaining) fight.

And all of them are better than Mormeck, who this writer had losing his last fight to Timur Ibragimov in Paris, only to be saved by a hometown decision.

Booth, however, not only dismisses the notion of a fight with Wladimir, but also with Vitali (too old and likely to lose to Odlanier Solis, according to Booth — a notion shared by almost no one outside of Solis’s inner circle), and also implies that there is public demand for a Haye-Mormeck rematch.

“In England there is no problem,” Booth says. “We’ve sold 20,000 tickets in two to three weeks for each bout of David’s bouts. Haye-Mormeck in England is possible.” 

“But if France wants to see this fight in Paris, David is quite ready to return. It will demonstrate that his first success against Jean-Marc is not a coincidence….”

But who was really insisting it was a coincidence in the first place, Adam?

Tomasz Adamek makes hay(e) while the sun shines

By Johnny Walker

It is being widely reported that top heavyweight challenger Tomasz Adamek of Poland has signed to face either Wladimir or Vitali Klitschko this September in Poland.

“I signed for the most important fight of my life and one of the most important in the history of Polish boxing,” Adamek told ringpolska.pl.

In contrast to the on-again, off-again negotiations between the champion Klitschkos and the UK’s David Haye over the past couple of years, this deal came together quickly.

“It took us less than three weeks to get this done,” Main Events CEO Kathy Duva, who represents Adamek, told ESPN.com.

“Everybody had the same objective — to make the biggest, best event we can and everybody make the most money we can. We’re very excited,” said Duva.

As for the supposed difficulty of negotiating with the Klitschkos’ promotional arm, K2, Duva said, in what seems a thinly-veiled reference to Adam Booth and David Haye, “I didn’t have any of the problems other people talk about … I didn’t have any problem with them at all. And I had a fighter who said, ‘This is what I want, please go out and get it.'”

Which Klitschko brother Adamek fights will depend on the results of their upcoming matches with Dereck Chisora (Wlad) and Odlanier Solis (Vitali).

If both brothers are victorious, K2 will decide who faces Adamek.  In the unlikely event that both lose, the Adamek fight would be off.

Adamek will take an interim April fight in Katowice, Poland as planned, but it won’t be against the still dangerous Samuel Peter, who had been in the running but who is no-one’s idea of a “tune-up” type opponent. 

As for US television coverage of Adamek-Klitschko, K2 rep Bernd Boente told ESPN.com that he prefers the bout to be on Showtime, due to the rocky relationship between the Klitschkos and HBO over the past couple of years.

By Johnny Walker

A recent Wikileaks cable that features material from the US Ambassador to Nicaragua has some surprising revelations for the boxing world. 

One section of the document entitled “NICARAGUA’S MOST WANTED PART I: THE CRIMES OF DANIEL ORTEGA AND HIS FAMILY,” contains the bombshell that super middleweight Ricardo Mayorga, who was accused of raping a woman in a hotel in Managua, Nicaragua in September 2004, made a secret deal with President Daniel Ortega, head of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FLSN) government, allowing him to beat the charge.

According to the document, the FLSN “agreed to protect the boxer in the courts if he would give the party a large portion of his international boxing winnings and “advertise” for Daniel in public.  Mayorga agreed, and an FSLN judge found him not guilty in December.”

Following the alleged fixing of the trial, the document states that, “much of Mayorga’s winnings now reportedly go to Ortega, and when Mayorga fought in Chicago in August 2005, he dedicated the fight to Daniel, wore the FSLN colors, and flashed the number of the FSLN slot on the Nicaraguan electoral ballot (“casilla”) to the international media.”

Mayorga, in other words, in return for his freedom, was allegedly to function as a source of funding and as a puppet who spreads propaganda for Ortega’s leftist regime.

Interestingly, after the Supreme Court in Nicaragua had initially cleared Mayorga in the rape case involving a 22-year-old woman, a lower court found “irregularities” in the trial and in 2005 ordered a retrial, only to be blocked by the Supreme Court, which quashed the lower court’s ruling, again effectively clearing Mayorga.

Mayorga, who recently scored a TKO victory over Michael Walker in Miami after more than 2 years away from the ring, declared the WikiLeaks cable where he is concerned to be “absolutely not true.”

Mayorga is next slated to fight Miguel Angel Cotto for the WBA “Super World light middleweight title” on March 12 in Las Vegas.

Baysangurov poses for a picture with Klitschko and Kadyrov after his victory over Gutierrez in their junior middleweight fight in Brovary

l-r: Kadyrov, Baysangurov, and Vitali Klitschko

 

By Johnny Walker

A recent article in Spiegel Online seeks to use the “guilt by association” line of thinking to discredit Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko for their associations with controversial Chechen ruler Ramzan Kadyrov.

The article, written by Stefan Berg, damns the Klitschkos with faint praise for their charitable efforts and promotion of democracy in Ukraine and beyond, setting them up as false saviors whose democratic ideals are a mere facade for a much darker strain of political thinking.

There is little doubt that Kadyrov himself is bad news. 

This is a man who initally fought for Chechen independence, and who later switched sides to fight for Mother Russia against his former comrades. 

Kadryov is what some might call “colorful”: he brandishes a gold-plated pistol and fancies himself an amateur boxer, having associated with not only the Klitschko Brothers but also with Mike Tyson in the past.

The brutish Chechen strongman, a Muslim who was appointed to his post by none other than Russian leader Vladimir Putin, also has some interesting views when it comes to marital infidelity:

“If a woman runs around and if a man runs around with her, both of them are killed,” he has said

“Women’s liberation” for Kadyrov means liberating women from their very lives: he is an enthusiastic supporter of so-called “honor killings.”

He is also suspected in a host of other nefarious activities too lengthy to list here, including political assassinations and torture.

The Klitschkos’ involvement with Kadyrov seems to revolve around their promotional company K-2’s signing of a Chechen fighter, light middleweight Zaurbek Baysangurov.

On Dec. 4, 2010, Baysangurov won by TKO over Richard Gutierrez on a card in Brovary, Ukraine, in which Vitali Klitschko and Kadyrov not only sat at ringside, but also posed with the Chechen fighter for photographers after his victory.

Wladimir Klitschko is also purported to have met with Kadryov in 2009 at a boxing event in Grozny, the Chechen capital, and supposedly promised more such boxing cards for Chechens in the future.

So what does all of this mean?  Does it mean, as Berg tries very hard to suggest, that the Klitschko brothers, whose world-wide image is that of squeaky-clean promoters of democracy and freedom, really harbor secret dark ambitions that run totally counter to their public image?

K-2 spokesman Bernd Böente insists that the relations between the brothers and Kadryov are unavoidable given their promotion of Baysangurov.  Boente told Spiegel Online that the Klitschkos have “no official position” on Kadyrov.

To this writer, it seems that at worst, the Klitschkos may be guilty of a lack of judgment here.  It certainly wouldn’t be the first time that business interests got someone into hot water, and collided with his professed values.

But certainly one thing that can’t be doubted or discounted is the commitment to helping the less fortunate on this planet that both Klitschko brothers have consistently shown. 

On December 8, in an article entitled “Wladimir Klitschko Does Good While Doing Well,” trainer Emanuel Steward says:

Of all of the fighters I have known, I have never known anyone other than [Wladimir] and his brother where their mission seems to be helping less fortunate people.  Wladimir never brags about it. He’s really serious about it. He and his brother have fully educated people from Kenya. I have seen checks he’s written. He’s done it in Brazil. He seems to feel like that is his calling on this planet — to help the less fortunate. That’s where a lot of his money goes.”

When measured against a couple of appearances with a questionable political type like Ramzan Kadyrov, it seems that the scales are still tilted heavily in favor of the Klitschkos.

However, in this world where appearances are so important, we might expect that the heavyweight champions have a little more to say about Kadyrov other than a vague and noncommittal comment issued through an advisor.

Wladimir and Vitali, we’re waiting.

 By Johnny Walker

It seems that 2010 is ending much like 2009 did as far as boxing’s heavyweight division is concerned: with escalating trash talk between the respective camps of the Klitschko Brothers and David Haye.

Haye versus Klitschko: Just a fantasy?

 After doing everything he could to avoid getting in the ring with one of the Ukrainian brothers for the last two years—this after demanding a showdown with Wladimir when he made the jump up from cruiserweight—WBA paper champion Haye is now doing his best to convince the world (with the help of his UK press cheerleaders like The Guardian’s obsequious Kevin Mitchell) that he is doing the The Ring magazine heavyweight champ a favor by accepting his 50-50 contract offer for a heavyweight showdown.

“Despite the fact we know we bring more UK television money to the table, David and I are happy to split the entire pot 50-50 and grant Wladimir the deal he has wanted since day one,” says Haye mouthpiece and trainer Adam Booth. “We have offered them 50-50 on everything and now see no reason why this tremendous fight can’t happen. The path is clear.”

So now we are to believe it is Haye, who holds one belt (the legitimacy of which is questionable) who is lowering his standards to offer Wladimir Klitschko—who holds the IBF, IBO and WBO belts as well as the The Ring magazine honor—the same 50-50 contract that Klitschko had already offered the Brit.

Sure, boys.

Haye, being his usual eloquent self, put it this way: “We agreed to 50-50 on everything, which they requested. We took away every possible excuse. There is no reason for this fight not to happen. I want to fight that big Russian prick next.”

Let’s hope a few months from now, Haye doesn’t tell us he was really talking about a rematch with Nicolay Valuev, who is very big—and actually Russian.

For their part, Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko recently issued a statement in the German newspaper Bild that promised a showdown with Haye in 2011.   

“We want this fight at all costs,” the statement read.  “[Haye] may choose which of us he wants to step into the ring to lose his world title.”

Now, Wladimir has gone further, claiming that a fight pitting either Klitschko brother against Haye is “an easy payday.”

“It doesn’t matter which one it is, both of us are far too big and strong for David Haye, who … is rated only in his own head – outside that nobody rates him,” said Wladimir.  “He will be nothing for us to beat. He will leave the arena embarrassed if he ever sets foot in the ring with us.”

“If” indeed.

Before anyone gets too excited, it should be remembered that we’ve heard all of this before. Haye has gone so far as to sign to fight Wladimir, only to pull out at the last moment with an “injury” that was never substantiated by any doctor’s report. 

And Haye has reiterated a number of times lately that he intends to retire next year before his 31st birthday whether he has fought a Klitschko or not.

So despite all of the talk and the promises, we are in reality no closer to the second biggest fight that can be made in boxing actually taking place. 

Talk, as they say, is cheap.

See you in 2011.

"Kap'n" Huck narrowly defeated Denis Lebedev

 

By Johnny Walker

WBO champion Marco “Kap’n” Huck of Germany today defended his WBO cruiserweight crown in a back-and-forth encounter with the previously unbeaten Denis Lebedev of Russia at the Max Schmeling Halle in Berlin, Germany.

The first half of the fight saw the challenger working the champion over with hard body shots, seen most vividly in round four, perhaps the Russian’s best round of the fight.  Huck was repeatedly hit with hard punches to the stomach and liver, and was slowing noticeably by the round’s end, despite the exhortations of his trainer, Ulli Wegner, to attack.

Huck was showing signs of desperation in round five, loading up and throwing haymakers that repeatedly missed their mark.  Lebedev’s southpaw stance was giving Huck fits, and the champion’s own style — usually squared up, with his guard held high a la Wegner’s other star pupil, Arthur Abraham — left the Russian an inviting open target to the midsection that he repeatedly went after with straight lefts.

Unfortunately for Lebedev, American referee Eddie Cotton Jr. decided to become perhaps overly involved, twice warning the Russian for low blows that appeared to be legal.  In such a tight fight, a point deduction could have been catastrophic, and Lebedev got away from his game plan after the second warning in the eighth round.

With Cotton’s help, Huck rallied in the last third of the fight, his best round perhaps being the 10th, where he scored with a hard right hand lead and a hard shot to Lebedev’s midsection.  Both fighters’ faces were marked up by this point, Lebedev perhaps getting the worst of it with a cut near his left eye.

Overall, this was a diffcult fight to score, as both fighters appeared wary of each other’s power and turned the proceedings into a chess match, with each fighter probing for ways to penetrate the other’s defences. 

Huck, however, seemed confident of a win by the 12th round, as he mostly danced away from Lebedev, who tried to press the action but was rapidly running out of steam.

Huck’s confidence in the judges was rewarded with a split decision victory, two judges seeing it 115-113, with one dissenter calling it for Lebedev, 112-116.

This writer had it 116-115 Lebedev, who can with some justification feel that he should still be undefeated.

An obese Solis (above) gassed early against a rubbery Ray Austin

By Johnny Walker

In a farcical WBC heavyweight eliminator Friday night, a tubby Odlanier “La Sombra” Solis prevailed in a surreal bout against an over-the-hill Ray “Rainman” Austin. 

Solis, 30, showed up for the bout in front of his Cuban fan base at Miami’s American Airlines Arena in woeful condition, weighing in at an obese 260 pounds on a 6’1″ frame.  Austin, 40, looked to be in better shape, being five inches taller and weighing 20 pounds less than his opponent, but it soon became clear that looks are often deceiving.

Incredibly, Austin looked to be on rubbery legs when the bell sounded for round one.  Nevertheless, as Solis waddled his ample girth around the ring, Austin was able to land enough pawing  jabs with the occasional straight right mixed in to take the round.

After the same pattern repeated itself in round two, Solis began to come alive in round three, landing some good left hooks to Austin’s face.  The Cuban gained momentum in round four, and by round five he had Austin in trouble.

After a series of hard shots from Solis in round five, the now Gumby-like Austin was sent tumbling to the canvas with a relatively mild left jab.  But Solis, in very poor condition, had shot his bolt for the evening, and was unable to close the show.

Austin remained rubbery-legged, but composed himself to win round six against the punched-out Solis.  The fight now resembled a couple of drunks fighting in an alley after closing time, as both men could barely stand up and were reduced to winging wild shots in the hope of quickly ending this heavyweight farce.

Ironically, as the announcers of this Don King-produced event took gratuitous and cheap shots at the Klitschko brothers, Austin and Solis were busy proving why, without a doubt, the Ukrainian siblings are heads and tails above the rest of the heavyweight division. 

One can imagine current WBC champ Vitali Klitschko laughing as he watched these two contenders for his crown lurching around the ring in exhaustion in rounds seven through nine.

The fight was closer than it should have been (this writer had it tied) going into round 10, when Solis managed to put a few punches together.  Austin was ready to go (he had been since the opening bell), but again Solis gassed, and the fighters staggered into the ropes in a punch-drunk embrace. 

Both men looked ready to fall over the ropes and out of the ring from sheer fatigue.  As they slowly recovered their balance (with help from referee Tommy Kimmons), the bell sounded to end the round, but Austin, apparently not knowing what was happening, turned and punched Solis in the face. 

This was deemed too much by Kimmons, who immediately disqualified Austin at 2:59 of round 10, handing the victory to Solis.

Solis, however, shouldn’t wolf down too many cheeseburgers in celebration of this Pyrrhic victory.  For a man 10 years younger than his opponent and heavily favored to win the fight, Solis now found that the three judges’ scores had the contest a stalemate at the time of the disqualification: 85-85, 88-82 for Solis and 86-84 for Austin.

It should never have been that close.

This was Solis’s night to shine, the biggest fight of his career, yet the Olympic gold medal winner chose to show up in pitiful condition, causing even his Cuban fans to start booing in round eight, as their lethargic fighter struggled to muster enough energy to throw a punch. 

In the build-up to this fight, Solis made much of the fact that he doesn’t care for boxing, that he isn’t even a fan of the sport.

Well, Odlanier, it showed. 

Boy, did it show.

Vitali Klitschko will sleep very soundly tonight.

Tomas Adamek had too much firepower for Vinny Maddalone

By Johnny Walker

Top heavyweight contender Tomasz “Goral” Adamek (43-1) of Poland destroyed Vinny Maddalone (33-6) Thursday night, outclassing the game journeyman from Queens, New York via a fifth round TKO.

Adamek, since entering the heavyweight division after a dominant career at cruiserweight, has had his ups and downs.  After destroying his semi-retired countryman Andrew Golota, Adamek had a not entirely convincing win over Jason Estrada, an impressive majority decision victory over the much bigger Cris Arreola, and a hanging-on-for-dear-life cliffhanger win over the even bigger Michael Grant.

Those waiting for Adamek to look totally dominant at heavyweight finally got their wish in his bout against Maddalone.

Looking less bulky in the upper body than he did last time out against Grant, Adamek used his superior speed to pepper the game but awkward Maddalone from the first round onward.  He doubled and tripled up on the jab, worked Maddalone’s midsection, and then went head-hunting with crisp combinations.

You name it, Adamek was throwing it at Maddalone, including the kitchen sink.

If Adamek showed any weakness in this fight, it was in his vulnerability to the left hook, which the less than speedy Maddalone nevertheless managed to land with some regularity.

But all the work Adamek was putting in, especially to the body, had Maddalone running on empty by round five, when a right-left combination following a wild miss by Maddalone saw the Queens native deposited to the mat.

From then on, it was a mere matter of time, as Adamek was determined to close the show and get his first stoppage as a heavyweight, peppering Maddalone with combinations to the body and head. 

Finally, and correctly, Maddalone’s corner had seen enough, and signalled to referee Steve Smoger to call an end to the fight at 2:17 of round five.

With this win, Adamek figures to be in the running for a title fight next year with one of the Klitschko brothers, possibly at Madison Square Garden in New York, which would benefit from the proximity of Adamek’s Polish fanbase in New Jersey, as well as that of the many Russian and Ukrainian fans of the Klitschkos residing in Brooklyn.

Perhaps the most tantalizing–and potentially winnable–heavyweight championship matchup for Adamek would be against Britain’s David Haye, in a battle of of ex-cruiserweight champions.

A fight between Adamek and Roy Jones Jr. has also been discussed, and some members of Team Adamek are apparently all for it, but if that were to take place, it would be a travesty and a waste of Adamek’s time — and at age 34, he hasn’t got all that much time to waste in what remains of his boxing career.

Let’s hope that cooler heads prevail in the Adamek camp: Adamek is too valuable a commodity in the current heavyweight scene to be taking part in credibility-destroying fights of the kind Haye just had with Audley Harrison.