Classic tunes sweeten heavyweight lemons

Nov 9, 2004 12:46 AM

Listen: I’ve got Mstislav Rostropovich playing a Carl Phillip Emanuel Bach cello concerto on the CD. I mean, there has to be some class when we discuss the Nov. 13 Don King heavyweight "extravaganza" (his word, not mine) set for Madison Square Garden and $45 pay-per-view suckers.

Quantity will never replace quality, and it’s not King’s fault that his heavyweights can’t fight much. At least they offer some betting propositions. I mean, I haven’t hit the Breeders Cup Classic in years, but that doesn’t stop me from occasionally dropping a deuce on a claimer.

There’s no intrinsic value, for pugilism’s sake, in this heavyweight four-flusher (my word, not King’s) with two so-called "title" fights and two bouts involving former champions. Mark Taffet of HBO, distributing the telecast in its role as a reverse garbage collector, says at best the four bouts could produce a challenger to his network’s anointed champion, Vitali Klitschko.

I don’t think Chris Byrd has to fight Jameel McCline in order to give Vitali, whom he already has beaten, a rematch. But never mind: Billie Holiday, a very early version, is now playing and I do believe that’s Lester Young backing her.

Byrd, at 34, has been showing definite signs of slippage lately. He is lucky to still have his IBF title. There are those, me included, who thought he lost his last two defenses to Fres Oquendo and Andrew (Foul Pole) Golota. McCline is 50-60 pounds stronger than the light-hitting southpaw. It does not matter that they are good friends (as are their wives). It will be a fight. Byrd has to get back to moving. He has an advantage in that this time he is following a John Ruiz fight.

After Ruiz and Oquendo put on one of the worst heavyweight title fights in history, Byrd felt he owed it to the crowd to exchange with Golota. This time Ruiz and Golota have been deemed the main event by Mr. King, so Byrd should have no hesitation in moving away from his buddy. It should be boring, Byrd should win, but he was more than -200 when last I looked. At +180 or more, McCline is an interesting proposition. Still, that’s only if you have to stay awake.

Last time I looked, it was pick ”˜em between Evander Holyfield and Larry Donald, an inspiring matchup if I ever saw one. Holyfield is delusional in thinking he can be "undisputed" heavyweight champion again. But Donald is a perfect foil to perhaps get him one more title shot, against the one champion King is keeping idle, WBO ruler Lamon Brewster.

Donald, who had promise 100 years ago as an amateur, has never been able to win the big fight. He will be coming out of semi-retirement for this assignment. Somehow, the powers that be in the New York State Athletic Commission (well, the ones named Don King, I believe), will allow the old warrior to get in their hallowed ring. If he lives, Holyfield should beat Larry Legend.

Hassim Rahman, one of the worst heavyweight champions in history, and not much of an ex-champion either, should nonetheless be an "out" pick against Kalli Meehan. The "Down Under Blunder" was flattered into looking like a contender when he faced Brewster in another of King’s entries for the worst heavyweight championship fight in history sweepstakes.

Rahman can actually box some, move laterally a bit and he does have a nice punch. He should put away the slow-handed Meehan rather easily. He’s worth almost any odds.

Once again, I find myself lining up on the side of ugliness. Once again, I believe John Ruiz will win a fight against a more talented opponent. Ruiz can’t box much. He is as graceful as me on the way to a buffet line, but even more unstoppable.

Ruiz has a fair punch, maybe even better than the Foul Pole’s and, despite that 19-second knockout by David Tua years ago, his chin has proven rather reliable. Ruiz is gritty, to say the least, and this seems like a perfect spot for him to come through, even laying 7-5 or so.

Golota has better foot movement and better hand speed. But, if fights are won by hearts and brains, he is in deep doo-doo. His history of quitting in fights (before and during) precedes me on my way to the betting line. Ruiz looked lost against Roy Jones Jr., blaming the loss on the fact he was going through a divorce. Forget that Jones completely outclassed him. Other than that, he has at least shown championship determination.

I’m not sure I can bet Ruiz, though. If I do, I’ll have to buy the show. Worse, I’ll have to watch it. I think I’d rather listen to my Spike Jones CD.