Foreign boxers finding comfort in USA

Aug 22, 2006 1:58 AM

The late cornerman Al Braverman was once admonished by a ring inspector for using a "foreign substance" while trying to mend a cut on one of his fighters.

"Whaddya mean foreign?" Braverman yelled. "It was made right here in the USA."

Boxing, though, has had to import more and more "foreigners" to gain some substance. For example, the heavyweight division, with four Soviet-born fighters holding titles, is now being called the "Borscht Belt."

I’ve covered boxing from Tijuana to Montreal in North America, from St. Martin to Tokyo, and actually began my fight writing career in Europe. I sometimes feel more at home abroad than I do in my new home town of Las Vegas. I’ve covered fights from Stockholm to Rome, from Monte Carlo to Berlin, from London to Glascow, and of course in my old stomping grounds in Paris.

While I intensely dislike the furor of nationalism that is always present at European fights especially in Britain, I must brag about my own country. Americans are much kinder to foreign fighters than the jingoists abroad.

Two of the most popular fighters during my career were foreigners who could not, or more correctly would not, speak English. First there was Roberto Duran and then Julio Cesar Chavez. Give Don King some credit for promoting both.

He did a remarkable job with Duran, as did his rival, Bob Arum, when Duran was rescued from King’s garbage heap. He did a lesser job with Chavez. At that time, King was interested only in heavyweights. — not because back then it was "only in America" indeed for champions.

Chavez was a discovery of two of King’s henchmen, Bobby Goodman and the late Duke Durden, who had to convince the promoter to sign the Mexican star. King did not realize how valuable Chavez was until his heavyweight cash cow, Mike Tyson, went to prison for more than three years. The promoter stayed on top of the game with the great assistance of Chavez who, following a pattern, later switched to Arum when King lost interest.

I bring this all up not because Oleg Maskaev, as American as any of our ancestors who went through Ellis Island, upset Hasim Rahman to give Soviet-born heavyweights a monopoly on the sanctioning body titles. It’s because the only action Aug. 26 that I could find on my appropriately off-shore website, Sportsbook.com, involves an Armenian facing a Colombian for a bogus world middleweight title. Jermain Taylor, of the good old USA, is the real 160-pound king, no matter what corrupt New Jersey sanctioning bodies might rule.

Since you and I are probably not going to see this bout, there is probably no good reason to get excited. It should be explosive because the champion, born Avetik Abrahamyan in Armenia (now known as Arthur Abraham in his adopted Germany) and challenger Edison Miranda are undefeated sluggers.

The fight will take place in Oldenburg, Germany, where Abraham (21-0, 17 KOs) has been successful before. He knocked out Kingsley Ikeke, the tall but legitimate contender for the IBFelonious title stripped from the real champion.

Miranda, 26-0 (23 KOs) is now based in Miami and can really punch. He is nicknamed Pantera, or Panther and has been pouncing on the usual suspects. Last fight, back in March, he stopped Howard Eastman, a long-in-the-tooth Englishman, who had gone the distance with Abraham last year. But just two fights before that, Pantera was picking on a guy with a 6-17-4 record.

If you really crave boxing action next weekend, I must advise you are mostly on your own. All things considered, that’s probably best. Abraham is -275 offshore, while Miranda is +215.

Put a gun to my head and I’ll call the cops. No, I’d have to pick Abraham, noting that Miranda has a real puncher’s chance. The German-based titlist was stunned by Eastman (who can bang). I happen to think, though, that Abraham is the more skilled fighter. He should eventually make a worthy challenger for Taylor, Winky Wright or any American 160-pounder.

And, Abraham speaks my language — at least in translation. Miranda said he was going to knock out the Armenian. "He is known above all for his big talk," Miranda noted.

Someone asked Abraham about Miranda’s strengths after watching tapes of his fights. Abraham replied, "Strengths? I have seen none."

If he can talk trash like that, he’s my kind of foreigner.