Saturday, January 28, 2006

Boo, Boo, Boo to Sports Illustrated 

The news released this week by HBO that the Pacquiao-Morales 2 pay-per-view on Jan. 21 drew 350,000 buys was further proof, as if any were needed, that good people will pay good money for great fights. This was 10,000 more buys than their first encounter last March 19, won by Morales, even despite Morales's defeat on Sept. 10 by Zahir Raheem.

Since each buy represents one household, and usually a few people in that household watch a pay-per-view, especially one going for $44.95, it is safe to say that perhaps a million or more people in the U.S. shelled out some cash last Saturday night to view it, rather than just watch whatever else was showing on TV for free.

No major alphabet soup title was at stake in this fight. The only draw was that two evenly-matched grand warriors with a history of giving it their all in the ring would once again face each other. You shouldn't need a degree in history to understand how deep that appeal has been throughout the ages.

Nonetheless, the magazine which claims to be the leading light of sports journalism, Time Warner's Sports Illustrated, totally ignored what turned out to be an early fight of the year candidate. In its print edition dated Jan. 30, they had nothing, zilch on Pacquiao-Morales 2.

Fight of the year? Who cares? This same issue had an interview with noted athlete Jimmy Kimmel, a photo and piece on Anna Benson, and something about the International Festival of Balloons. For a moment I thought someone had inserted a copy of something like Maxim or Us into my issue. But no, with all this glorious journalism and brilliant sportswriting, there just wasn't any room left in this highly civilized magazine for such ruffians.

Even in the "Week Ahead" section, where they hype Saturday's Gatti-Damgaard fight on HBO, no mention was made that Pacquiao-Morales 2 will be rebroadcast right before that live fight. A potential fight of the year is invisible to the suits who run this thing.

Of course, a bang-up job was done by Rich O'Brien, who actually has the title of SI's boxing editor, on their web site both of previewing this fight and analyzing it. But being their boxing editor is kind of like being the country music editor at The Source, or, if you must, the hip-hop editor at Country Weekly: no matter what you do, and no matter how popular your subject is, your editors won't get it and your publishers won't want the readers who do.

I know a lot of people both in boxing and who are just fans of it who used to subscribe to Sports Illustrated. Somewhere along the way SI virtually dropped any regular coverage of boxing, and gradually many of these readers, who often also like many other sports, drifted away and let their subs expire.

But let the corporate print world rot in their seas of narrowness, prejudice, elitism, snobbery, stupidity, mediocrity, and, more and more, red ink. Right now you are reading the medium which represents both the present and future of journalism. Theirs will soon exist only in morgues and museums.

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A Very Subversive Message 

We are posting a message of revolution which has inspired insurgents both to topple tyrannies in the past and to threaten those which exist today.

It says you don't have to believe in organized religion, or any religion for that matter (gasp!), but if you do, your rights to religious liberty and against any type of persecution or discrimination will be protected. It says you can say and write whatever the hell you want, and that the politicians can't stop you. It says you can even publicly get together with like-minded people to demand that the politicians listen to what you want.

Pretty subversive, eh? Remember that if you are reading this at work, your boss may not appreciate its spirit, or if you are in school the authorities may be even less understanding. So be careful where you read this and to whom you send it:

Amendment I
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

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Friday, January 27, 2006

Arturo Gatti, Buddy McGirt, Chuck Zito, and Mikkel Kessler Audio Interviews 

At his past several pre-fight press conferences, the normally personable Arturo Gatti (39-7, 30 KOs) was noticeably irritable, short with the media, and quick to head for the exit. This unusual behavior occurred both at press events before fights in which he was heavily favored to win and did by knockout, involving Leonard Dorin and James Leija, as well as his most recent fight in which he was favored to lose and did by knockout, against Floyd Mayweather Jr. this past June.

So when a chipper and smiling Gatti stood around Wednesday at yet another pre-fight press conference, this time at Mickey Mantle’s restaurant on Central Park South in Manhattan, and answered every question of every reporter from every type of media outlet, posed for photographs before cameras from all around the world, and signed autographs on everything from boxing gloves to notebooks, it was a welcome change for all.

The reason was not hard to uncover, although we did let both Gatti and his sagacious trainer Buddy McGirt explain why in their own words: When Gatti fights next, this Sat., Jan. 28, against undefeated Thomas Damgaard (37-0, 27 KOs) of Denmark at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, this fight will be contested at the welterweight limit of 147 pounds, the first time in five years Gatti has fought at that high a weight. His constant battle to cut weight was becoming more and more difficult for him, and now he was freed of that obstacle.

Another reason is that Damgaard, while undefeated, is best known in the U.S. for pulling out of two fights with then-WBA welterweight champ Jose Antonio Rivera because of reported injuries. All of Damgaard’s 37 fights have been in his native Denmark, and the list of his opponents will not bring many looks of recognition to many boxing fans.

We thus got a chance to speak with Arturo Gatti and Buddy McGirt about what to expect this Saturday night. And we also asked Arturo about his many female fans, including our blog friend Blonde.

We also spoke with Gatti’s friend and esteemed member of his entourage, actor Chuck Zito, perhaps best known for his work on HBO’s “Oz.”

While the press conference was going on, Damgaard was reportedly still in New Jersey, completing his pre-fight medical tests, so he was unavailable for interviews.

But we did get a chance to speak with another fellow Danish fighter who was on hand, undefeated WBA super middleweight champion Mikkel Kessler (37-0, 28 KOs), along with his rep, the loquacious Mike Marley. Kessler was in town to meet with the suits at both HBO and Showtime in hopes of landing a deal for him to fight the winner of the partial title unification fight between WBO champ Joe Calzaghe and IBF champ Jeff Lacy, which takes place March 4 in Manchester, England.

While on paper Kessler’s record appears similar to Damgaard’s, four of Kessler’s last five fights and, of course, victories, have been against one-time world champions and highly ranked fighters: Julio Cesar Green, Manny Siaca, Anthony Mundine, and Eric Lucas. Hopefully the American networks will provide an opportunity for this deserving boxer as well as take a step to start to unify the belts in this division.

You can listen to all these interviews for free. You only need to be able to play MP3 audio files, so please wait a moment for them to download.

To listen to the Arturo Gatti interview, click here or here or here.

To listen to the Buddy McGirt interview, click here or here or here.

To listen to the Chuck Zito interview, click here or here or here.

To listen to the Mikkel Kessler interview, click here or here or here.

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Thursday, January 26, 2006

Remembering Dave Schultz 

Today, Jan. 26, 2006, is the tenth anniversary of the slaying of one of America's greatest wrestlers, Dave Schultz, by crazed multi-millionaire John du Pont.

I remember being in the studios of WBAI radio in New York when the news came over the wire that a wrestler had been killed. A staffer knew that I covered wrestling and told me the news, but I couldn't believe what sounded like an incredible story.

Later we interviewed Bobby Douglas, and when we started talking about Dave, he broke down in tears. We had to stop the interview and re-tape it.

USA Wrestling has posted numerous articles honoring his memory. Gary Abbott has written a touching remembrance.

There is a section on TheMat.com forums devoted to writing about Dave.

There are also many other articles, including reposts of what was originally written when he was killed in 1996, also on TheMat.com.

Also, the Baltimore Sun has an article called 10 years later, mystery clings to Schultz slaying.

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Arturo Gatti and Buddy McGirt Interviews On Deck 

We will be posting audio interviews from Wednesday's press conference at Mickey Mantle's restaurant in New York featuring Arturo Gatti and trainer Buddy McGirt, plus some surprises. It will be up in a day or so; we're just waiting for the possibility of getting it up on a site even larger than this, the baddest of blogs.

Thomas Damgaard, Gatti's opponent this Saturday in Atlantic City, was not there, by the way. At the time of the presser, he was still in New Jersey finishing up his pre-fight medical tests.

Another web site, Fightbeat, has posted a free video of the speeches given by Gatti and McGirt at the press conference.

It's too bad our blog friend and devout Gatti fan Blonde couldn't make it to the press conference, but we did try to ask Arturo about her. You'll just have to wait a little longer to hear it all.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Scientific Wrestling 

Some friends today pointed me to the site of a relatively new group called Scientific Wrestling.

Basically this organization wants to reestablish a legitimate form of catch-as-catch-can wrestling, like existed in the early 1900's in the days of Frank Gotch. Under their rules, you can win by pin or submission, meaning, of course, no jumping to the guard as in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and most other forms of submission wrestling.

They are having a seminar in Santa Monica, CA, Feb. 25 and 26. Featured will be veteran submission wrestler Yoshiaki Fujiwara, a protege of Karl Gotch, and former UFC champ and current King of Pancrase Josh Barnett. While Fujiwara is also known for staged wrestling, he is well-known in real wrestling circles as being a master of submissions.

This group also counts among its circle Wade Schalles, a legendary former NCAA champion wrestler and national sombo champion, as well as Mark Schultz, Olympic gold medalist wrestler, UFC fighter, and more recently submission grappling instructor.

I do not know a lot about this group, but the attempt to restore this kind of wrestling has always been of great interest to me. Let's see where this one goes.

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Country Soul New York Media Music Mashed-Up Notes 

Now to bust some more myths.

What sophomore jinx? The second albums for both Gretchen Wilson, “All Jacked Up,” and Big & Rich, “Comin’ To Your City,” have both been certified platinum. That's music industry jargon meaning that they have sold more than 1,000,000 copies. So can a million Redneck Women and members of the Freak Parade be wrong?

What is also not wrong is the long overdue revival of soul music. Another sign of this is the relaunching of the television channel VH1 Soul. Originally started in 1997, it is being relaunched February 1 at the start of Black History Month.

A press release says VH1Soul will be available in nearly 20 million homes. The focus will be "the hottest, soul, neo-soul and R&B hits from the 90s and today featuring core artists such as Alicia Keys, Jill Scott, Outkast, Mary J. Blige and Usher." There will also be a show on Valentine's Day, Tuesday, February 14, hosted by present-day soul singer Anthony Hamilton, called "Soulphrodisiac," billed as a "romantic music video show."

More info can be found on their web site as well as here. You can also check their web site both for a complete lineup of shows as well as to check if VH1 Soul is available on your system.

So far, with only about 20 million homes having it available, it is not even being offered on Time Warner Cable in Manhattan. Thus many communities including Harlem and many others where there are so many aficionados of soul music will not be able to see VH1 Soul unless and until it is added by the cable monopoly.

But the revival of VH1 Soul does indicate that there is a rising interest in soul music, and this trend may result in the network getting wider carriage.

Not only does New York not yet have VH1 Soul available, but the Big Apple does not have any radio station in the city proper picking up the weekly syndicated radio show "American Country Countdown." Kix Brooks of Brooks & Dunn is the new host of "American Country Countdown," whose new season debuts this weekend. It is syndicated by ABC Radio. You can check the ABC Radio site to see if a station in your area is running "American Country Countdown."

But this show is only available in the New York City suburbs on WLIR 107.1FM from Garden City, NY, WNNJ 1360AM from Franklin, NJ, and WXPK 107.1FM from Beacon, NY. It also is not clear if the web sites of these stations will stream the syndicated "American Country Countdown." And at the same time, Disney, which owns ABC Radio, is reportedly close to a deal to sell it off.

New York as well still has no country music radio station. The closest thing is an HD radio station called New York Country, WKTU 103.5-HD2. This is a commercial-free digital radio station run as part of the new multicast by WKTU-FM. You either need a very pricey HD radio to hear this, or else you can listen online for free on their site at http://www.ktu.com/cc-common/hdradio/ .

Now I know someone is going to notice or ask that I have lumped together commentary on country and soul music along with their media and what is available in New York. So you want to know whether I'm on the side of the rednecks or the homeboys, do you?

Here's the answer: both these forms of music have the same roots.

In fact, it has been observed that "gospel, country, blues, rhythm & blues, jazz and rock ‘n’ roll are really all just one thing. Those are the American music and that is the American culture.”

And that quote comes from someone who knows: Etta James.

While the American form of apartheid known as Jim Crow segregation may have unmixed these musical forms, the breakdown of the myths of that era is starting to have more people realize that all this good, American music can be appreciated by all the artificially separated groups in the society. And that's the no-holds-barred truth!

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Real Pro Wrestling Offers New Video Content -- Press Release 

For Immediate Release:

RPW Offers New Video Content

Real Pro Wrestling, Inc. (RPW) announces new video content for the web. In addition to individual wrestler background stories and introductions, RPW is now featuring a match of the week from Season 1. While not DVD or broadcast quality, it will be available at no charge. Also available will be video highlights of all matches on the "Events" page of the website.

In addition to new video content on the RPW website, select Season One matches will also be available via Apple iTunes Music Store. To access the Official RealProWrestling Video Podcast you can search for "real wrestling" inside your iTunes Music Store (or click on this link).

If you do not have iTunes you can download it for Windows and Mac here.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Online Gambling Takes Another Loss 

You likely have seen ads for Internet gambling on many sports web sites, in magazines, and even on some athletes' backs. That is very likely to come to an end, at least in the U.S.

The laws on Internet gambling vary from country to country. In the UK, for example, almost all gambling is regulated by the recently-formed national Gambling Commission. By 2007, this body will start also to regulate what is called "remote gambling", including online operations.

In the U.S., however, all Internet gambling is considered illegal. The basis for this is a 1961 law known as the Wire Wager Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1084, which was set up to outlaw telephone bookies. While this law was passed long before there was an Internet, it still is interpreted as including communications technologies developed after its adoption. In 2000, an American named Jay Cohen, who ran an outfit known as World Sports Exchange which was based in Antigua, was convicted under it.

While there are differing legal opinions as to whether or not this law actually covers Internet gambling, and to what degree if any the American government can forbid those on its soil from gambling with online services outside its borders, the prevailing opinion and the actual practice of the U.S. government has been to continue to enforce this law as far as Internet gambling is concerned.

Now that enforcement has been taken to a new level.

The Sporting News, which first started publishing in 1886 mainly as a baseball newspaper and now covers most mainstream sports, has just agreed to a $7.2 million settlement with the U.S. government over its running numerous ads for both Internet and telephone gambling in its magazine, on its web site, and on its radio stations.

Even though some of these Internet gambling sites may be perfectly legal in their home countries or in other countries, the loss of access to the lucrative American gambling market will hurt them financially.

Some people in the combat sports world are a little slow to get the news about many things, so now they have no excuse since this has been reported here.

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"The Fifty-Dollar Devil" on TheSweetScience.com 

My latest weekly column for TheSweetScience.com is entitled The Fifty-Dollar Devil and has just been posted. It discusses the off-and-on Mayweather-Judah pay-per-view and related issues, all, as usual and as you can glean from the title, from a highly skeptical stance. Check it out, y'all.

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New Big & Rich Single: "Never Mind Me" 

Warner Bros.Records Nashville has announced that the next single to be released from Big & Rich's "Comin' to Your City" album will be the mellow and haunting "Never Mind Me".

They also informed us that there is a video of a live performance of this song at AOLMusic.com as well as one on Real.com's RollingStone Original.

Both are free to view.

The singing on the AOL version is a bit better (John sounds a little hoarse on the Real.com version), although Big Kenny does soar on the Real.com one. So watch 'em both!

And remember: Love everybody!

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Mainstream Media Gets Kinky 

Whether you agree with all, some, or even none of what he stands for, you have to acknowledge that Kinky Friedman is shaking up the political establishment with his independent campaign for governor of Texas. Now he has also begun to get some very major mainstream media coverage.

Kinky was on CBS's "60 Minutes" this past Sunday. If you missed it (as I did), you can read the text of his segment plus see a video clip of it on the CBS News site, and for free.

Also, Kinky is scheduled to be a guest on NBC's "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" this Wednesday, January 25. Check your local listings.

So where are ABC and Fox?

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Monday, January 23, 2006

Morales vs. Pacquiao 2 Rebroadcasts on HBO Start Sat., Jan. 28 

HBO will rebroadcast Morales vs. Pacquiao 2, already being mentioned as a Fight of the Year candidate, Sat., Jan. 28, at 9:45 PM ET/ 6:45 PM PT, followed by the live fight between Arturo Gatti and Thomas Damgaard from Atlantic City. The replay of Morales vs. Pacquiao 2 and the Gatti-Damgaard fight will also be shown on HBO2 Sunday, Jan. 29, at 10:00 AM and 5:30 PM and Tuesday, Jan. 31, at 11:45 PM. Those times are ET/PT.

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Yes, We Have No Pants 

In response to a humorous inquiry I received from a friend at my MySpace.com account, the answer is no, I was not one of those no-pants subway riders who got busted for baring their briefs and boxers Sunday.

We are, however, awaiting a commentary from that noted cultural critic and bon vivant, Frank McManus of the Limited Thinker blog, which will certainly place this phenomenon in its proper historical, social, and ideological context.

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SI's Rich O'Brien on Morales-Pacquiao 2 

Boxing's man at Sports Illustrated, Rich O'Brien, has written an important piece about Morales-Pacquiao 2, called "A winner in Vegas - Morales vs. Pacquiao is what boxing is all about."

As usual, Rich discusses a plethora of broad issues in his analysis of this particular fight, so make sure to check it out.

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Sunday, January 22, 2006

Pacquiao Stops Morales in 10 

This time, the Pac-Man ate him up.

Avenging a unanimous decision loss from last March, a slicker and tougher Manny Pacquiao (41-3-2, 32 KOs) scored with left-hand leads and right hooks all Saturday night long and dropped Erik Morales (48-4, 34 KOs) twice in the 10th round in their rematch in Las Vegas, with referee Kenny Bayless very correctly halting the bout after the second knockdown at 2:33. Morales grew wearier as the fight proceeded, almost being dropped by Pacquiao two times earlier and only being held up by grabbing the ropes and the referee.

There were numerous all-out exchanges between these two throughout this fight, making it an early Fight of the Year candidate, although the momentum clearly shifted in Pacquiao's favor after the first few rounds. For the most part, Pacquiao abandoned his lunging tactics which left him more vulnerable to counterpunches in the last fight, and was more accurate this time around with the jab and body shots as the fight went on. Pacquiao also in part credited his increased power to his Cleto Reyes gloves, known as punchers' gloves, which he wore in this fight.

While there is a rematch clause, Morales said after the fight he is not sure if he can make the super featherweight limit of 130 once again, and needs a rest. Pacquiao did say that he would grant Morales a rematch. The HBO announcers, however, were already cheerleading for a rematch between Pacquiao and Marco Antonio Barrera.

In the pay-per-view co-feature, WBA 115-pound champion Martin Castillo survived a first-round knockdown to retain his title with a 12-round split decision in a rematch with former champion Alexander Munoz. This was a more competitive fight than their first, but Munoz faded down the stretch. With this win, Castillo solidified his spot as the top fighter in the world at this weight.

I am glad that I ordered the pay-per-view, although Time Warner Cable almost couldn't process the order, most likely, according to their phone rep, because there were "too many people" ordering it at once, meaning that they had too little infrastructure and support to do their jobs properly.

Expect HBO to rebroadcast Pacquiao-Morales 2 before next Saturday night's live Gatti-Damgaard fight.

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