Return to Copenhagen
worth praise for HBO

Mar 20, 2007 6:25 AM

For a change, let us praise HBO.

The self-proclaimed "heart and soul of boxing" has been more heartburn and the pungent odor of rotting soles lately. But next weekend, something smells sweet in the state of Denmark.

Just two weeks after the suits from Sixth Avenue punished their "talent" (yes, definitely Jim Lampley, absolutely Larry Merchant and maybe Lennox Lewis) by sending the boys to Germany for Wladimir Klitschko’s stinker against Ray Austin, HBO is going back to Europe for what promises to be an explosive evening.

Boxing is alive and well overseas, even in unlikely places like wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen. Hans Christian Anderson may not have been a prize-winning boss scribe, but not even he could make a swan out of such an ugly ducking as the Klitschko-Austin "fight."

It was not Klitschko’s fault. He didn’t ask the IBFelons to mandate the undeserving Austin to be his challenger. Austin has never beaten a top heavyweight in his 36-year-old hapless life and never shall. He is a dog and we don’t mean a Great Dane. In fact, from what he showed against Wladimir, unquestionably the No. 1 heavyweight in the world, he should not be called any kind of pug.

He did not land a serious punch in the round and a half the travesty lasted. Klitschko didn’t bother to throw a right hand because a couple of soft-looking left hooks made Austin obey the law of gravity.

Don King screwed the public once again. There he was, in the ring before the "fight," waving his little American flags. The Klitschko camp paid him $2.1 million for Austin’s alleged services. He gave Austin $1 million, of which a third naturally went to the "fighter’s" manager. We can also use quotation marks around "manager," Carl King.

As soon as Austin was scraped up, he and King bolted. Neither had the decency to face the inquiring minds at the post-"fight" press conference. That HBO bought this piece of junk can never be excused, but at least the network is going overseas again for what could be a minor gem featuring a "mandatory" challenger who has more than a little chance against the hometown hero, Mikkel Kessler.

If you don’t look too closely at his 38-0 record with 29 knockouts and the championship belts of both the WBA and WBC, Kessler should be an overwhelming favorite — especially fighting in his native city. I have not seen much of Mr. Kessler, but I was greatly unimpressed watching highlights of his last bout — a third-round KO of then-WBC supermiddleweight champ, Markus Beyer of Germany.

Maybe his hands are incredibly heavy, but his punches were slow, robotic and stiff. Kessler looked very vulnerable and faces a really tough Mexican in Librado Andrade (24-0 with 18 KO). This figures to be an explosive fight. Thanks HBO for deciding to bring it to us. Hopefully the winner will next get to face Joe Calzaghe in an attempt to unify the 168-pound division.

Naturally Kessler would be favored here, but I believe Andrade can become the biggest, weight-wise, Mexican world champion in history. Kessler is fairly tall at 6-1, but he is giving away an inch of height and five inches of reach to the live underdog. The Dane will have to get inside against the Mexican, trained by former bantamweight champ Wayne McCullough, an Eddie Futch disciple.

Normally, long-armed 6-2 fighters might be at a disadvantage inside. Andrade is one of those rare tall fighters featuring tremendous uppercuts. I believe he will invite Kessler inside to have a taste of that devastating power punch. Kessler, billed as the "Viking Warrior," will survive only if he has a magnificent chin.

Despite his undefeated record, including the KOs of a title-holder like Beyer and another of Manny Siaca to gain the WBA belt, Kessler’s finest victory may have come against the Anthony Mundine. The former Australian rugby star managed to go the distance. On his way up, there were no great victories, just the usual diet of washed-up names like Julio Cesar Green (KO-1) and Craig Cummings (KO-3).

Andrade posted a first-round KO of Richard Grant in his last 2006 start and before that beat the useful Otis Grant to become the WBC mandatory. It should be fun while it lasts and, for HBO’s crew, the trip probably won’t be long enough.

Copenhagen is one of the great towns in this world, especially if you like herring.