European fights kill my desire to bet

Jun 26, 2007 5:51 AM

I am wary of Europe.

Sure, the food, and especially the beer, are better, but there is that nasty propensity for starting world wars and, despite its current crop of world title-holders, I’m not sure its boxing can be trusted.

In 1970, while traipsing around Madrid, I discovered that all a European promoter had to do to fatten a prospect’s record was to call "The Booker" in New York and say, "Middleweight, Amsterdam, two," and some 160-pound truck driver looking to make some extra bread would arrive at Schipol Airport ready to go down in the second round as a Dutch treat.

More recently, of course, there have been some peculiar decisions rendered that generally favored the home team. Usually, the verdicts were reached without the aid of New Jersey officials. Thus it is with great trepidation that I offer opinions on this coming weekend’s boxing action.

It’s all in Europe, except for one borderline match in El Paso.

Evander Holyfield at -650 goes against good old Lou Savarese, who’s every promoter’s safe bet to assure victory. I will not dignify this match by discussing it. I’d rather be in Stuttgart.

Noe way in Stuttgart

That’s where Felix (If He Could Only Punch He’d Still Be Far From Perfect) Sturm, the German middleweight not getting the nod against Oscar de la Hoya in the most European of hometown ballparks — Las Vegas. Sturm faces someone from the boxing "hot spot" of Uruguay. The someone’s name, Noe Tulio Gonzalez Alcoba, is longer than his completely bland 14-0 record with seven knockouts. I’m not sure what that is short for, but the offshore odds on him are something like 17/1. That’s the buyback rate against laying the 35/1 on Far From Perfect, making his first defense of that spurious WBAssinine middleweight title won back from Javier Castillejo.

This is because "Noe etc," will be making only his second start at more than six rounds. He won a 10-rounder a couple of bouts ago, then went back to fighting a 6. Three back, he was still fighting 4-rounders. I don’t remember anyone from Uruguay since Alfredo Evangelista, and he moved to Madrid as a kid.

This is why I am wary of European fights. In all the world, this was the best opponent they could find for Sturm, who is not a bad little boxer? It sounds like "Middleweight, Stuttgart, as long as you can stand."

From Russia with glove

The real action next weekend is in that other boxing mecca, Moscow. There are a couple of heavyweight bouts on the board. In the main, 2004 Olympic superheavyweight gold-medal winner Alexander Povetkin is -800 in a big stepup in class against Larry Donald. Yes, that Larry Donald.

You see, Donald is a late sub for Monte Barrett. Donald’s first loss was back in 1994 to Riddick Bowe (that same year he stopped Bert Cooper) and will forever be known as the "Muhammad Ali soundalike," as he was dubbed by fight lawyer John Hornewer. He’s 41, older than Hornewer, and turned pro in 1993. He last surfaced 21 months ago when he losing a majority decision to future belt-holder Nicolai Valuev.

I advise against taking the $5 on Donald, though I’ve never seen Povetkin. Donald can box behind a decent jab and his right hand is useful. Two fights back, he drew with Ray Austin. Prior to Austin, he toyed with Evander Holyfield. But he’s fighting in Europe, remember, in Povetkin’s home, and the Russian’s German handlers are so confident they’re talking about one of the Klitschkos being next.

Magic ”˜wande’
points to Henry

The final fight under discussion involves one of my all-time favorite guys, Henry Akinwande. I have long forgiven Henry, one of nature’s truly noble men, for his fifth-round disqualification (excess holding) against Lennox Lewis 10 years ago.

Akinwande, now 41, is the son of a wealthy Nigerian merchant, who lived on the streets of London to pursue his dream of becoming a fighter. He’s got a spectacular 49-3-1 record with 30 KO’s and will be trying to avenge one of his losses, to the Ukrainian-born Oleg Platov.

At 24, with a 25-1 record including 21 KO’s, Platov won a split decision against Henry last November. He joining only Lewis in 1997 and Oliver McCall in 2001 as being able to say they’ve beaten Akinwande. And, McCall was losing every round until he knocked out Henry at 2:13 of the tenth and final round.

Platov is -325 on the board, while Henry is +250. If one has to bet, Akinwande might be this week’s best flyer. The 6-foot-7-inch boxer with the 86-inch reach (his wingspan is only slightly less than a 747’s) has beaten such as Tony Tucker, Orlin Norris, Johnny Nelson and Axel Schulz. It would seem to me not impossible for him to have enough left to tame a boxer based in Belgium — and not only on Tuesdays.