Iole, Cokin finally give Vegas talk shows some punch

August 21, 2001 6:00 AM
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Yes, there are a few exceptions. But for the most part, sports talk radio in Las Vegas is a vast wasteland.

Homers, hacks, screamers and scammers pollute the local airwaves.

So when the rare show with potential comes along, I get excited. Such a program is a weekly boxing show called “Las Vegas Punch Line,” which airs Thursdays from 3-4 p.m. on 920 AM.

Co-hosting the show aren’t two inexperienced, ego-driven, loud mouths, but Kevin Iole and Dave Cokin.

Iole, of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is one of the top boxing writers in the country, while Cokin is a sharp professional handicapper who has become outstanding on the radio.

Both have credibility, know sports well especially boxing and are low-key. In other words, qualities few radio people possess.

“In this market boxing is one of the major league sports unlike in a lot of places,” Iole said. “There’s been a lot of shows at different times, but they either have had difficulty getting the “A” list guests, or the people who have done the shows haven’t had the credibility.”

Because of their connections, Iole and Cokin can line up the big names. For their debut show last week, for instance, they had David Tua and Paulie Ayala in studio, and also did a phone interview with heavyweight champion Hasim Rahman.

But it’s not enough to line up top guests. You have to know how to ask the right question, and then be ready to follow it up if necessary.

“Listeners want to hear what the biggest people in the business have to say without being asked the same old tired questions,” Cokin said. “You know what they are because all you have to do is watch practically any interview with a fighter. It’s like a script.”

Both Iole and Cokin thought Ayala lost his recent junior featherweight bout to Bones Adams. They questioned him about winning the split decision, and Ayala gave his reasons why he thought he deserved the decision.

They also asked Tua why he fared so poorly against Lennox Lewis when he lost a unanimous decision last November. It was one of the most gutless performances of the year.

“We want to bring on the biggest names in boxing, and we want to ask them the questions that the people going to the fight want answers to,” Iole said.

“We’re not going to shy away from asking them the tough questions. We’re not going to let them get away with just giving some pat answer, or evading the question.”

The key here is in the subtleties. Iole is an experienced reporter who knows how to elicit an interesting response by how he frames the question.

Cokin is sharp enough to instinctively know when to jump in with the proper follow up question, or to intelligently debate the point.

“If I’m following a line of questioning and he wants to say something, I feel totally comfortable with letting him jump right in,” Iole said, “because I know he’s going to pick up and come in with a good question.”

One of the most frustrating things for a legitimate journalist is to be covering something on deadline ”” such as the main event at a boxing card ”” and have some media whore who doesn’t deserve a press credential in the first place, interrupt your interview with a stupid question.

That’s not going to happen on this show.

Both Iole and Cokin are classy enough, though, not to ambush their guest with below the belt questions.

These are two professionals who not only have great knowledge about boxing, but can also articulate their opinions. They have a good sense of humor, too.

“We also want to have fun,” Iole said.

That was evident when they were interviewing Rahman and Iole brought up a little known anecdote about Rahman not playing football in high school because his mom was worried about him getting hurt. She wouldn’t sign a waiver release allowing him to play.

So instead Rahman went out for the high school swim team.

For some strange reason “in your face” sports talk radio has seemed to grab a foothold where schtick out weights credibility and knowledge.

Maybe now with this show, the tide is starting to turn.