It was the spring of 1981 and Leon Spinks was training in a deserted, off-season green-covered ski lodge when, one morning after breakfast, he witnessed an old Lab having porcupine quills pulled from her body.
Naturally, Leon was concerned. He was told that the Lab was forever attacking porcupines with the painful result. Leon shook his head. "That’s why they call them dogs," he said.
The son of one of my favorite fighters is no dog. In fact, Cory Spinks is a heavy favorite to successfully defend his unified welterweight title against an old dog who has chewed on too many porcupines, Miguel Angel Gonzalez. Art Manteris lists Spinks a 5-1 favorite, which seems rather generous to the chances of the former lightweight champion who, nearing the age of 33, is a bloated shell of his former self.
Heck, Gonzalez was left for dead five years ago by Kostya Tszyu at 140 pounds. Yes, he had been a pretty good fighter (maybe Jose Sulaiman’s judges helped him along here and there, especially in a 135-pound defense vs. Lamar Murphy in 1995). Gonzales did earn a draw with Julio Cesar Chavez and went the distance with Oscar de la Hoya.
But old dogs aren’t going to learn new tricks when boxing ends its brief hiatus with a rather tame Don King show Sept. 4 at the Mandalay Bay in Vegas. This card could have fans crying for more rhythmic gymnastics.
The other half of the Showtime double-header has an even bigger underdog in Kali Meehan, yes, "that" Kali Meehan, who is the "gimme" for Lamon Brewster, the King heavyweight who won the WBOgus title against Wladimir Quitchko, er, Klitschko. Brewster’s reward from the promoter is a date with one of the sparring partners who helped him prepare for Wladimir.
Manteris lists Brewster as a 10-1 favorite, but I think the odds should be reversed in the two TV fights. I give Gonzalez only the proverbial Spinks-sprains-his-knee-in-the-first-round chance. Meehan is a heavyweight and hitting Brewster is not exactly a 1.4 degree of difficulty. Besides, I’ve seen Brewster lose to Charles Shufford.
Sight unseen, Meehan has to have a better shot than Gonzo. That’s because I have seen Gonzalez very recently. I may have been 50 percent of the pay-per-view buys when King presented the absolutely, final, last Julio Cesar Chavez farewell in May from Mexico City. In the semifinal, if you want to call it that, Gonzalez was fighting some journeyman with punches longer than a Wagnerian opera. Yet, he couldn’t miss Gonzalez, who couldn’t miss the journeyman (happily, I forget the name). It was a bloody mess.
Spinks comes off victories over Ricardo Mayorga (who many give a shot against Felix Trinidad Jr. at 165 pounds) and Zab Judah. Leon’s kid, and Michael’s nephew, is a southpaw (like Lamar Murphy) but a lot more skilled. He is, simply, one of the best boxers around, especially defensively. He’ll have a distinct size advantage, too. Gonzalez, on a teleconference call with the media this week, said he already weighed 146 pounds, down from only 153. He is no welterweight.
Spinks says he is taking Gonzalez seriously. He even called him a "great" fighter. Heck, the kid is doing publicity. But I truly believe one of the great things about the New Generation of Jinx is that he has a good head on his shoulders.
Before giving Mayorga a boxing lesson, he had to withstand more than the usual Mayorga mouthing. Mayorga, showing his real colors as a boorish lout, said since Spinks missed his deceased mother so much, he’d be sending him to join her. Yet, once inside the ring, Spinks calmly and coldly took care of business. His blood lines, of course, attest to his fighting heart.
So King is throwing bones to his underdog, Gonzalez, in the form of an undeserved payday, and a bigger one to Spinks in the form of Gonzalez.
Meehan, however, may be worth a 10-1 flyer. People say the big knock on him came in his only loss, when he was stopped in 32 seconds by Danny Williams. Well after Williams bravely stood up to Mike Tyson’s initital onslaught and proceeded to knock out the former champion, maybe that wasn’t as bad a loss as it appeared. Williams caught Meehan early, knocked him down twice and the bout was stopped. But Meehan got up twice.
The real knock on Meehan is that he has never beaten anyone remotely considered a contender. So what else is new with the alphabets, sanctioning another Don King fight.
It looks like a mismatch on paper. I hope it is. I like Brewster, one of the more engaging fighters I have met in a long time. I hope this is just a step toward a bigger payday against a real guy.
I also love Brewster as a dog, though I was too late to get him at 10-1 against Wladimir. King and Brewster’s connections bet the odds all the way down that night. But that was a nice night. I had both Brewster and Cory Spinks against Judah.
See, you can’t lose them all. Every dog, or Katz, has his day.