Boxing Hall of Fame ripoff at $24.95

Feb 17, 2009 5:04 PM
Pulling No Punches by Michael Katz |

Okay, it’s only $24.95, which by current standards might seem cheap for a pay-per-view boxing card. But when the promoter calls it a "two-city/two-title pay-per-view extravaganza," the only "extravagant" portion in this economy is the $24.95.

Two mismatches for $24.95 is a bit much.

And that’s what we have next Saturday – two scenes of crimes against competitiveness, courtesy of that Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum.

Call it double jeopardy.

At Madison Square Garden in New York, Arum is desecrating the grand old house by putting Miguel Cotto in with a nondescript Englishman, Michael Jennings, for a vacant WBOgus welterweight title. I’ve seen offshore odds of 20-1 or 25-1. In England, where some people might know Jennings, it’s 1-66 and on for Cotto.

Jennings’ own trainer, Brian Hughes, likened the Brit’s task to "climbing Everest blindfolded," and he wasn’t referring to Cotto’s hometown advantage because of New York’s large Puerto Rican population.

Later that night, in Youngstown, Kelly Pavlik will have a huge hometown advantage when he defends his middleweight title against the so-called "mandatory" challenger, Marco Antonio Rubio of Mexico.

Yes, Pavlik is still the middleweight champion. That one-sided thumping he took last October from 43-year-old Bernard Hopkins was an above-the-limit contest, so Pavlik kept his belts while losing his status as one of the best boxers pound for pound.

Pavlik said "it was just a bad, bad night" against Hopkins. He said "I’ve got a lot of proving to do." Trouble is, Rubio is not exactly the kind of opponent against whom he can prove much.

The Mexican is a face-first brawler who will be walking into Pavlik’s powerful shots so the 9-1 or so odds you’d have to lay on the Ohioan seems relatively safe. But for Pavlik to regain real respect in the game, he’d have to beat another 160-pound title claimant, Arthur Abraham of England.

Arum, of course, does not like this fight where he risks losing one of his meal tickets, so he has labeled it undoable financially. Not enough money in the pot to satisfy two champions, he says. Instead, he does what Arum likes to do – put his guy in with an alleged "name" who carries no danger, like John Duddy, the Irishman who will help Cotto sell out the Garden portion of the affair.

Duddy, like Anthony Peterson, is in easy on the card in nonbetting appearances designed to build up their use to Arum. It’s called promoting and Arum, of course, is a Hall of Famer.

Arum was the lead promoter in two of the most rotten fights in recent history:

• The 1983 battering of the late Billy Collins Jr. by Luis Resto wearing gloves with the padding removed (the equivalent of adding brass knuckles).

• Last month’s loaded-glove incident involving Antonio Margarito, where Sugar Shane Mosley’s trainer, Nazeem Richardson made California officials remove what appeared to be loaded pads from beneath Margarito’s wraps.

Margarito and his trainer both had their licenses revoked by California, which means in effect they are banned from fighting in the States for at least a year, when they would be eligible to apply again. But Arum (did I mention he was in the Hall of Fame?) of fame, immediately screamed it was unfair to Margarito and he would look into promoting his tarnished star in Mexico, maybe in his home town of Tijuana.

The opponent will not be Cotto, who was promised a Margarito rematch – win or lose, but not revocation. Cotto, like Pavlik, is also coming off a bad beating. Unlike Pavlik’s case, though, Cotto was dominating the welterweight unification fight early against Margarito last year.

In fact, for the first half of the bout, the Puerto Rican was never better. But the tough-chinned Margarito kept walking through punches to land his own and eventually Cotto looked like he had been run over by a truck.

Now, of course, there is widespread speculation that maybe Margarito’s gloves had some added power. Cotto doesn’t make any accusations. He says Margarito and his corner "are the only ones who can answer that question." He just says "Margarito had a great night and I’ll leave it at that."

But he won’t put himself in that danger again, not in Mexico, not anywhere, until or unless Margarito is re-licensed in California.

"If he can’t fight in the United States," said Cotto, "he shouldn’t be able to fight at all."

Maybe he should give lessons to Hall of Fame promoters.