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Hot August Nights? Lemons replace diamonds

Jul 29, 2003 6:00 AM

The dog days of summer refers not to the propensity of longshots scoring at Saratoga, but to the stifling lack of action in boxing.

In other words, August sucks.

Okay, there will be a rare sighting of Acelino Freitas, the Brazilian "Popo," so named for being weaned quite late from his mother’s breasts. But the exciting junior lightweight, who will be shown Aug. 9 on Showtime from Miami, is in against an unknown Argentine. Occasionally, Argentina produces a Carlos Monzon or Victor Galindez. Jorge Rodrigo Barrios may be in that class, but unseen nobody’s going to bet on him against one of the world’s best, even if the word out on him is that he could be another Ricardo Mayorga ”” a big-talking, strong, hard-punching competitor with a 39-1-1 record and 29 knockouts.

I didn’t realize how good Mayorga was until I saw him in that one round before a clash of heads against Six Heads Lewis caused a no contest. I haven’t seen Barrios fight even one round and though I’ve read that he has a good chin, I’d like a bit more information before taking a flier against one of boxing’s biggest bangers.

In other words, it’s a fight to watch, but not bet, even if you could find odds posted.

There’s a nice little featherweight fight Aug. 16 in Uncasville, Conn., on HBO. A couple of title-holders, Juan Manuel Marquez and Derrick (Smoke) Gainer, would be welcome in Las Vegas, but I wouldn’t go anywhere near the smoke-filled Mohegan Sun for Ali-Frazier I, II and III.

Watch the board on this one. If it does go up, expect Marquez to be a point or two too high. He has great talent, but remember how he failed to fire against Freddie Norwood, a tall left-hander who moved on him. Gainer is taller, even more left-handed and punches better than Norwood. However, Gainer’s chin prohibits any great confidence to stabbing on a dog, even on a dog day.

There is the pinnacle meeting Aug. 23 in Biloxi, Ms., the biggest women’s fight to date. It would suit my perverted sense of humor to bet on women’s boxing, but this looks on paper to be rather one-sided. Laila Ali is simply too big and too quick for Christy Martin, who at 35 has seen better days. And while the Coal-Miner’s Daughter deserves a nice payday, so does Ali, who has truly worked at the game and not just relied upon her father’s name.

Martin has a chance, mind you. She’s moving up from 140 pounds to fight the 168-pound champion, but the one thing we know Christy hasn’t lost is her guts (I almost used a portion of the male anatomy to describe her moxie).

Can she chase Ali out of the ring? Well, Ali does close her eyes, and you remember those kids in the playgrounds who got in fights who did that. They were afraid. But being afraid doesn’t mean Ali won’t stand her ground and fight. Plus, she has great skills.

Unless the odds are double figures, I’d say it probably makes more sense to wait until September.

Labor Day comes Sept. 1 and it couldn’t happen earlier for boxing fans. The big fight, of course, is Sept. 13. Promoter Bob Arum is currently on vacation ”” though his organization has been busy signing young talent ”” but come Monday he returns to Top Rank to begin the drumbeat for the rematch between Oscar de la Hoya and Sugar Shane Mosley.

De la Hoya is minus $2.20 last I looked, and I’m tempted to bet on Mosley again. Tempted, but not convinced that Mosley has been permanently damaged by the two losses to Vernon Forrest.

If he can regain his bravura, and his confidence, then he has an excellent chance of repeating his performance three years ago when he roared down the stretch to beat Oscar.

But the other day, a boxer whose opinion I respect highly, told me that Forrest "showed the world how to beat Mosley, and Oscar is nothing if not smart."

According to Winky Wright, who incidentally will be rooting for Mosley because he knows Oscar will never face him, Forrest showed that the keys to beating Mosley were simple: Keep him on the outside with the jab and when the quick-handed former lightweight champion gets inside, tie him up.

Oscar has a good jab. He can hold when he has to. But he doesn’t have the right hand that Forrest used to keep Mosley wary.

Yes, he uses it much more frequently under the training of Floyd Mayweather, but it’s still not a power punch likely to unhinge Mosley. On the other hand . . .

Ah, the dog days.

We can get through them dreaming about the good fights to come. Now if we can just get a match for Roy Jones Jr., in the next month or so, perhaps August won’t be so bad.