Sunday, March 04, 2007

The Vibesman Cometh

Hello there, blog-readers. This is The Vibesman.

I'd like to thank Prez for inviting me aboard, and for the kind words in his introduction. It's taken me a little while to jump in here, as I haven't really known what I wanted to write about. Matter of fact, I still don't. But I thought I would just jump in; hopefully I don't bore the heck out of everybody. I do have a tendency to ramble. Being from the Boston area, my sports rooting interests lie with the Boston teams; I'm not much into basketball and football, however, so most of my sports posts will center on the Bruins, the Red Sox, or more generalized areas.

I'm also a big fan of boxing, or I used to be when the sport was still relevant. The fight game has seen a lot of deterioration in the last 20 years or so, mainly due to the collapse of the heavyweight division. Of all the weight classes, the heavyweight class is the most dramatic. To paraphrase the last great heavyweight champ, Lennox Lewis, when you're in the heavyweight business, one punch can change your whole career.

But the heavyweight business has seen much better days. One big reason for this? Football. In the fifties and sixties, big young athletic men from the inner cities and areas of poverty didn't have much in the way of outlets to success; often boxing was the clearest path to becoming a successful athlete. But nowadays, pro scouts are everywhere, as are scouts from the big college combines, going to every high school game. The young men that would have turned to boxing long ago turn to football now, and why not? You can get a scholarship out of it. If you do manage to go pro, you have a lot of options; there are over 1500 players on pro football rosters, and most of them make a decent wage. You get to be a part of a team, and most of us enjoy some form of community. All told, a much more attractive option than getting punched repeatedly in the head in a sport which, in all honesty, gains little recognition nowadays.

To me, the perfect illustration of this is actually Ken Norton Sr, heavyweight boxer, and Ken Norton Jr, his son who went on to become a pro football player. I don't know why Jr never went into boxing, but maybe he saw some tapes of his dad taking punches from Ali, Frazier and Foreman and said, "Yeah, I'm all set with that."

Other than the dilution of talent, the other problem with boxing is that there is no clear governing body or league, and therefore, hardly ever a clear champion. During Lennox Lewis' tenure, there were three major belts; the WBC, the WBA and the IBF. Lewis was the last man to unify the belts, to hold all three titles at once, making him the last "Undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World." He announced he was going to fight the mandatory challenger for the WBC belt, and was immediately sued by the mandatory challenger for the WBA belt. Of course, if he had fought that mandatory first, there would have been a lawsuit from the WBC. Lewis couldn't win. He was stripped of the WBA title without ever having had a chance to defend it. Elimination fights were held, and another "champion" was annointed. This is a frustratingly bad, crooked system, whose purpose is not to determine the best heavyweight fighter in the world, but to make as much money for as many promoters as possible.

Why the rumination about boxing, if it's so irrelevant? I came across this story in the Herald this morning in their boxing notes, about steroid accusations following Evander Holyfield.

Evander was the fighter Lewis defeated for the undisputed championship; at the time Lewis was the WBC champ and Holyfield held the other two titles. Holyfield was much more popular here in the states than Lewis despite being the inferior fighter; Lewis actually had to beat him twice, as in their first fight ended in a highly controversial "draw" that most observers, despite being Holyfield fans, had to admit that Lewis appeared to win handily. In an ironic twist, the second fight was far more even than the first, and Lewis won the decision.

Since then, Lewis has retired (he went 6-1 in his last seven fights following the Holyfield fight, lost to Rahman and won his belts back in a rematch, had the IBF belt stripped in court and retired with the WBC belt intact.) But Evander Holyfield has pressed on, despite being diagnosed with a heart malady which some doctors say could be consistent with HGH use (Holyfield claims he has cured the heart malady through prayer) and being suspended from fighting in New York State due to "diminished skills. (Another example of how messed up boxing is; you can be found to be medically unable to fight in one state but free to fight in another.) He still presses on, his stated goal being to become the undisputed champ, despite the fact that he is 44 years old and has gone 4-4-1 since the Lewis fight, with one of those victories being against a journeyman fighter with 11 losses going into the fight.

I've been worried about the man for years. He still seems like his mind is all there, but boxing is not kind to those who press on beyond their years; one need only look at the Parkinson's ravaged body of living legend Muhammad Ali to see the cruel effects of fighting past their prime. I've hoped he would see the light and stop, but still he presses on. Now here is evidence, pretty conclusive evidence from what I read in the Herald piece, that he's been using HGH and other performance enhancing drugs for a while now. My fervent hope is that these accusations will somehow prevent Holyfield from ever fighting again. While never a big fan of Holyfield, I hate to see him sabotage his mental and physical health going forward into his old age, which is not as far away as Evander would like to think. Especially when that sabotage is in a probably futile battle for a group of titles that, in this day and age, prove nothing and mean very little to anyone.

Well, anyone except Evander Holyfield.

Wow, that's a lot for a guy who didn't know what he was going to write when he logged in. Told you I could ramble. I sincerely figured I'd talk about the Bruins. I guess I'll save that for next time. I do want to say in response to Prez' comment about the Bruins not having a shot at the playoffs but if Toronto doesn't make it he'd blame us, well honestly Prez, we'd rather prevent Montreal from making it more than anyone else, but if we can spoil it for Toronto, that's one small victory this year.

Thanks for listening, folks. The Vibesman rests.


Blogger merjoem32 said...

I think that it'svery possible that he took steroids. Since Holyfield was on the come back trail, steroids would help him win his matches. How he was able to get past the test that are conducted before boxing matches was a puzzle to me though.l I thought strict test are administered before every boxing bout. Maybe the test are not as stringent as I thought.

3:49 PM  

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