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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Everyone Wants Anthony Joshua, But Whom Will He Fight Next? 


by Eddie Goldman

Do not heed the stupefying and foolish tweets, Facebook and Instagram posts, and the scribbling on the bathroom walls. They mean, to quote the Fugs, nothing, nothing, less than nothing.

Boxing is a business first, second, and third. Yes, boxing is a sport, but in this business the sporting aspects are among the most neutered and trampled upon to serve the perceived interests and, of course, profits, of the promoters, including the TV networks, soon to be joined by more and more online and mobile services.

It's a business, and who fights whom next only has to do with what the fans want and plead for to the degree that they can be convinced and/or tricked into parting with their cash. Fights have to be "built up", we are told, by endless mismatches, showcase fights, obscure mandatory challenges, and plainly fixed encounters. That is why there is such organizational chaos and confusion in boxing, with a governance structure easier to manipulate than peeling a banana.

Of late, every day it seems there has been an unending piss stream of challenges, taunts, insults, accusations, and denials. The forcible removal of Wladimir Klitschko from atop the heavyweight division by Tyson Fury in 2015 reignited interest, along with disorder, in it. That order has only been partially restored with Anthony Joshua's dispatching of Klitschko in April of this year to add the WBA "super" title to his IBF strap, followed by the retirement of the 41-year-old former champion.

Yes, Joshua is generally regarded as the best heavyweight today and holds two major belts. But there are holes in his game, seen by his inability to put away Klitschko after a brutal fifth-round knockdown, only to be knocked down hard himself in the sixth almost to the point of losing the fight. Joshua's brilliant comeback and subsequent 11th-round TKO of Klitschko showed his vulnerabilities may not be fatal to his title reign, but they are there to be watched and exploited.

And despite dominating and winning by a tenth-round TKO victory over Carlos Takam in his next fight on October 28, many regarded the ending as being a fast stoppage, and virtually everyone noted that it was a less-than-stellar performance by Joshua.

Joshua, however, remains not only the top heavyweight, but by far its biggest attraction. 90,000 people saw him beat Klitschko in Wembley Stadium in London, and about 78,000 watched him against Takam in Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. Sky Sports in the U.K. shows all his fights on pay-per-view, while he is currently contracted to Showtime in the U.S., with HBO waiting to pursue him.

So fighting Joshua, who at 28 years old still has an unblemished record of 20-0 with 20 KOs, even if one loses, would be an enormous payday, perhaps the most in a challenger's professional boxing career.

The idea of heavyweight unification is also an appealing one, both to fans and some of the money guys. But it also involves numerous risks. For example, on two successive weekends Showtime aired the Joshua-Takam fight and the Deontay Wilder-Bermane Stiverne WBC title rematch, billing both as being for THE heavyweight championship of the world. Fewer title holders means fewer title fights, however inflated or bogus those titles may be.

And in the rare instances where unification is achieved, the demands by the rival sanctioning bodies that the champ immediately face their number one mandatory challenger leads to un-unification, as the champion relinquishes one or more belts, as Terence Crawford did after becoming undisputed 140-pound champion, or more belt-stripping than you'll see in a weekend in Las Vegas.

So yes, many of us would love to see Joshua's next series of fights be to unify his WBA "super" and IBF titles with those of WBC champ Deontay Wilder (39-0, 38 KOs) and WBO champ Joseph Parker (24-0, 18 KOs). But the end game here for Joshua is thus not unification, since it probably won't last long anyway, but raking in the most money for the longest possible period of time while still being able to remain on top.

And that means, despite all the rubbish, basura, and Scheiße being flung around between the top heavyweights and their flacks, it does not necessarily make business sense for Joshua and his team for those to be his next two fights, with Wilder and Parker.

While Joshua fulfilled his obligation for a mandatory defense of his IBF belt by beating Takam, a late replacement for the injured Kubrat Pulev, Pulev is still the highest ranked contender by the IBF, at number two, as they have no one at number one. At some point Joshua may need to face Pulev to retain the original title he first won in 2016.

Then there is the WBA, which has a "super" champion, meaning a belt holder who has or had more than one of these things, and a "regular" champion, whom they sometimes claim is next in line for the "super" champion. This past weekend Manuel Charr, now 31-4 with 17 KOs, captured the then-vacant WBA "regular" heavyweight title with a unanimous decision win over 40-year-old Russian and now-former WBA number one contender Alexander Ustinov (34-2, 25 KOs). The 33-year-old Charr scored what many felt was an upset win based on his record, which included knockout losses to Alexander Povetkin and Mairis Briedis, who usually fights at cruiserweight and is presently the unbeaten WBC cruiserweight champion.

Charr was next ordered by the WBA to negotiate a fight with Fres Oquendo, who has been inactive snce 2014 but who won a lawsuit against the WBA for failing to give him another title shot. Charr is based in Germany where he usually fights, so perhaps the network there, Sky Sports in Germany, which showed his fight with Ustinov, would televise such a rather farcical bout. Or perhaps Oquendo will find one more reason not to take this fight, opening the door for Charr to face Joshua sometime soon in 2018.

Joshua would be a massive favorite to knock out Charr, but such a fight would be good business, besides fulfilling his need to face a WBA mandatory. While Charr is based in Germany and has a following there, he was born in Lebanon but went to Germany as a refugee at age five. He reportedly vowed to give his belt to Turkish president Erdogan. His victory over Ustinov and winning this belt, although derided in boxing circles, was hailed by some in the Arab world.

An ironically cliched headline in the "Arab News", Saudi Arabia's first English-language newspaper, read: "Refugee 'Rocky' becomes first Arab heavyweight champ".

Note that Joshua has stated his desire to gain popularity and fight in many countries and regions, including in the Middle East, and often spends his holiday time in Dubai. A fight with Charr should not only be a decisive win in the ring, but also outside the ring in establishing his presence in Germany and the Arab world.

In several Arab countries there has been growing and serious interest in hosting boxing events as of late. The World Boxing Super Series cruiserweight finals are scheduled to take place next year in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The semifinals have four unbeaten champion fighters, with WBA champion Yunier Dorticos (22-0, 21 KOs) taking on IBF champion Murat Gassiev (25-0, 18 KOs) in one semi-final, and WBO champ Oleksandr Usyk (13-0, 11 KOs) facing the aforementioned WBC champ Mairis Briedis (23-0, 18 KOs) in the other. So whoever is matched up in the finals, it is bound to be a major world boxing event in Saudi Arabia.

And perhaps of lesser significance for now, the launch of KHK Boxing was just announced in Bahrain. This is being sponsored by the 28-year-old Shaikh Khalid Bin Hamad Al Khalifa, a leading sports organizer who already has an MMA promotion there, and is a member of the ruling family in this monarchy. So the time is right for Anthony Joshua to venture into the Arab world.

And what was the urgency of Joshua fighting Wilder and Parker right away again?

Many fans, particularly in America, may end up being disappointed by the opponents chosen by Joshua in 2018, especially if he does not take these two consecutive unification fights. There is no urgency for Joshua to face Wilder, who does not draw that well either in arenas or on TV in the U.S., or Parker, now based in the U.K., but whose last fight, against Hughie Fury, was a YouTube pay-per-view. Wilder and Parker need Joshua far, far more than he needs them, if he needs them at all.

Wilder may want to fight Joshua next year, a possibility which should not be entirely ruled out, but if it doesn't happen, expect him to remain protected and face someone eminently beatable like WBC number two Dominic Breazeale. The WBC number one contender is Dillian Whyte, but Wilder's handlers know too much to risk a mega-payday with Joshua, whenever it may come, by facing someone like Whyte, who himself may get a shot at some belt or another.

Parker also has his WBO duties to fulfill, and his next mandatory may become an interesting one. The current WBO number one challenger is Christian Hammer, but he has a stiff test when he faces Alexander Povetkin, back from his drug suspensions, December 15 in Russia for the WBO international title, and, more importantly, their number one ranking. If Povetkin wins and becomes the WBO mandatory for Parker, and if Parker fails to get that big payday versus Joshua, he may have to face Povetkin this year, in a fight where Povetkin will surely be heavily favored unless he keeps testing dirty. And if Povetkin wins, a Joshua-Povetkin unification fight would be far more lucrative that a Joshua-Parker fight, and could open up even more doors for Joshua around the world.

But Parker, who turns 26 in January and is the youngest of these heavyweight belt holders, has other perhaps more appealing options than facing Joshua or the Hammer-Povetkin winner. Parker is from New Zealand and is predominantly of Samoan descent. The 38-year-old Lucas Browne, still unbeaten at 25-0 with 22 KOs, is from Australia, and is back in action following his own drug test problems. A Parker-Browne fight would be a smash hit in their region of the world as well as one which is far less dangerous for Parker than a clash with Joshua. Browne has also reportedly been in talks to fight Dillian Whyte in February, so where the dominoes fall for next year's heavyweight lineup should be known soon.

For the U.K., a mega-fight for Joshua would be with Tyson Fury, who supposedly will finally have his long-delayed hearing with U.K. Anti-Doping in December. It is absurd that this body has taken so long to adjudicate Fury's failed drug tests from 2015 and 2016. Fury remains suspended and unlicensed, and has not fought for two years, although his own well-documented physical and mental problems have been key to his departure from the ring as well. And Fury also has been charged with throwing out the dope testers when they came to collect a sample from him last year.

There has been the threat of a lawsuit by Fury for these delays and his not being allowed to fight without even a hearing for so long, which potentially could bankrupt the hapless U.K. Anti-Doping if he wins it. But expect some sort of compromise, where everyone agrees that his suspension has been fulfilled by time served, or maybe with just a short extension, while he tries to get in shape to fight once more. If Fury can shed some of his 300-plus-pounds, and stay sober and clean long enough to climb into the ring, it would make far more business sense for Joshua to face him in 2018 than either Wilder or Parker. Such a fight could easily smash U.K. pay-per-view and attendance records, even if Joshua ends up smashing the obese and inactive Fury in the ring.

Plus, it was announced just a few days ago that Fury had signed an advisory deal with the fast-growing management company MTK Global, which already works with his pal, WBO middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders, and the popular Carl Frampton. This indeed is another sign that Tyson Fury is very likely coming back soon.

So don't be shocked if in 2018 Joshua faces Charr, Fury, and/or Pulev. Unification can always come later.

Also do not expect Joshua to take a risky fight with the unbeaten Luis Ortiz, assuming he even is going to fight at a high level again. But if one or more of these belts becomes available, Ortiz just might get a title shot somewhere, and just might win, before preparing to pass the torch to someone two decades younger than him.

While Jarrell "Big Baby" Miller has worked his way into the mix, being rated number 5 by the IBF, 3 by the WBO, and 7 by the WBA, he will still need to raise his profile to get a major title shot. His listless win over Mariusz Wach in his HBO debut November 11 did not help his cause, as this entire show, headlined by Daniel Jacobs, was also a dud both in the TV ratings and at the box office.

Of course, you can just toss the boxing rankings in the trash when the money is right for an important and highly profitable fight. But it usually does help with the hype, marketing, and trickeration to build up such a fight if some more-than-unknown belt is on the line.

So whom will Anthony Joshua face in 2018, between his choices of Manuel Charr, Kubrat Pulev, Deontay Wilder, Joseph Parker, Tyson Fury, and maybe someone else? Whomever brings in the most pounds, dollars, euros, and rubles, that's who.

(Photo credits: Anthony Joshua and Robert Joshua, Esther Lin/Showtime. Deontay Wilder-Bermane Stiverne 2, Tom Casino/Showtime. Tyson Fury, MTK. Joseph Parker, Hennessy Sports. Dillian Whyte and Anthony Joshua, Lawrence Lustig/Matchroom Boxing. Manuel Charr, WBA. Luis Ortiz, Eddie Goldman/No Holds Barred.)

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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

No Holds Barred: Jade Magnus Ogunnaike on Athletes and Activism Month 


On this edition of No Holds Barred, host Eddie Goldman spoke with Jade Magnus Ogunnaike, co-director of the organizing department at Color of Change.

Color of Change is the largest online racial justice organization in the U.S.

To support the growing number of athletes in the U.S. who are part of a movement calling for racial justice and an end to police violence, they have designated November as Athletes and Activism Month.

We spoke with Jade Magnus Ogunnaike by phone Monday.

Much of what is currently being done has been inspired by former San Francisco 49ers' quarterback Colin Kaepernick. In August 2016, he began protesting against police brutality and racist police killings of Black people during the pre-game playing of the American national anthem before NFL games by taking a knee instead of standing. While no NFL team has signed Kaepernick this season, leading to a lawsuit charging collusion of the NFL owners against him, his protest has spread, with numerous other NFL players, athletes from other sports, and non-athletes likewise either kneeling or sitting during the playing of that song.

"Last year, when Colin Kaepernick initially took a knee, that was the jumping off point for a new era of athletes and activism," she said.

"And since that happened, we've seen a groundswell of activism, both local, national, and all sports, from tennis to basketball to football, of athletes really taking a stand, and taking a stand against white supremacy.

"So this month, we decided to celebrate November as Athletes and Activism Month, especially because the NFL Players Coalition asked Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner, to designate November as a month of racial equity and criminal justice reform. Because Roger Goodell did not implement that, Color of Change took up the charge, and we have a lot of things going on this month in celebration of Athletes and Activism."

We discussed their activities both online and offline for Athletes and Activism Month; how these are protests "against systematic oppression of Black folks" and not against the American flag or military members; how many athletes are in a precarious position which prevents them from joining these protests; how the U.S. Department of Defense began paying millions of dollars to sports leagues like the NFL to play the national anthem with the athletes on the field and stage patriotic displays; the attacks on Black journalists such as Jemele Hill of ESPN and others in the media who have supported these protests; the role of athletes in combat sports such as boxing and MMA; what people can do to support these activities, and much more.

You can play or download No Holds Barred here and here. If one link does not work, please try another.

No Holds Barred is available at Google Play Music.

Also, No Holds Barred is available through iTunes.

You can also listen to No Holds Barred via Stitcher through iOS or Android devices or on the web here.

The PodOmatic Podcast Player app is available for free, both for Android at Google Play, and for iOS on the App Store.

The No Holds Barred theme song is called "The Heist", which is also available on iTunes by composer Ian Snow.

No Holds Barred is sponsored by:

The Catch Wrestling Alliance, resurrecting and promoting the sport of authentic catch-as-catch-can wrestling. The Catch Wrestling Alliance provides tournaments, seminars, and training as well as education about catch wrestling. Join the movement and keep real wrestling alive. For more information, go to CatchWrestlingAlliance.com.

Skullz Double-End Bags, the perfect bag for your combat sports training. Skullz Double-End Bags provide a realistic striking target, and help improve timing, distance, and hand and eye coordination. Hang it and hit it right out of the box! No pump required. For more information, go to SkullzDeBags.com.

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Thursday, November 16, 2017

No Holds Barred: Jens Sejer Andersen on Russian Doping Scandal, Credible Leadership for Sport, and Play the Game 2017 


On this edition of No Holds Barred, host Eddie Goldman once again spoke with Jens Sejer Andersen, the international director of Play the Game.

Play the Game is an international conference and communication initiative aiming to strengthen the ethical foundation of sport and promote democracy, transparency, and freedom of expression in sport.

Their biannual international conference, Play the Game 2017, will take place 26-30 November at the Van der Valk Hotel Eindhoven in Eindhoven, Netherlands. This is THE major world event advocating sport reform. The programme for the conference so far can be seen here.

Many sessions will be live-streamed and/or recorded for later viewing. Speakers and panelists will include academics, journalists, sports officials, athletes, and other sports stakeholders.

Featured among the many topics will be discussion of the ongoing Russian state-sponsored doping scandals. Among the speakers and panelists will be:

Professor Richard H. McLaren, who led the investigation and issued reports for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) which documented state-sponsored doping in Russia in sport; David Howman, chairman of the Athletics Integrity of the IAAF and former director-general of WADA; Craig Reedie, the current president of WADA; IOC member Richard Pound, who was the first president of WADA; Travis Tygart, CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA); journalist Hajo Seppelt, who has played a key role exposing these doping scandals; journalists Jens Weinreich and Declan Hill, who have played key roles in exposing corruption and match-fixing in international football and other sports; Brendan Schwab, executive director of the World Players Association, UNI Global Union; and numerous others.

Among the many panels and sessions will be one entitled "Martial Arts: The need for joint regulation". Organized by Sport&Society from the Netherlands and Sport&Society from Belgium, the panel seeks to examine issues related to the failure of self-regulation in the "Full Contact Martial Arts and Combat Sports (FCMACS)" and the issues of regulation by governments. Speakers will include Marloes Coenen, the former Strikeforce women's bantamweight champion who retired as an MMA fighter earlier this year, and Michal Buchel of the International Sambo Federation (FIAS), as well as academics and sports officials from Belgium and the Netherlands.

We spoke with Jens Sejer Andersen by Skype Wednesday.

"Personally, also, although I shouldn't be surprised after watching international sports politics for 20 years now, I can't help becoming surprised by the day about how all these things are developing," he said.

"And I think one of the reasons that they are developing is simply that sport does not have a credible leadership.

"As long as the people on top, at the top, the helmet of these organizations, remain, if not the same individuals then the same family of individuals, as they also like to call themselves, then we will not see a real honest, radical change, and chances are that the skeletons will keep on dropping out of the closet. And the closet holds more skeletons that you would believe when you just take a look at them."

We also discussed more on this conference; the growth of its influence parallel with the growth and exposure of the myriad scandals and negative shift in public opinion regarding world sport; the various possible scenarios of how the IOC will or will not deal with the continued non-compliance of Russia's anti-doping agency (RUSADA) with WADA, with the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, Korea, set to take place in February, and the 2018 FIFA World Cup scheduled to take place in Russia in June and July; issues that are more focused on U.S. sport such as the "Take A Knee" protests by athletes and supporters against racist police killing and brutality; and much more.

You can play or download No Holds Barred here and here. If one link does not work, please try another.

No Holds Barred is available at Google Play Music.

Also, No Holds Barred is available through iTunes.

You can also listen to No Holds Barred via Stitcher through iOS or Android devices or on the web here.

The PodOmatic Podcast Player app is available for free, both for Android at Google Play, and for iOS on the App Store.

The No Holds Barred theme song is called "The Heist", which is also available on iTunes by composer Ian Snow.

No Holds Barred is sponsored by:

The Catch Wrestling Alliance, resurrecting and promoting the sport of authentic catch-as-catch-can wrestling. The Catch Wrestling Alliance provides tournaments, seminars, and training as well as education about catch wrestling. Join the movement and keep real wrestling alive. For more information, go to CatchWrestlingAlliance.com.

Skullz Double-End Bags, the perfect bag for your combat sports training. Skullz Double-End Bags provide a realistic striking target, and help improve timing, distance, and hand and eye coordination. Hang it and hit it right out of the box! No pump required. For more information, go to SkullzDeBags.com.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Top Rank Boxing on ESPN Doubles HBO Boxing's Viewers Saturday Night 


by Eddie Goldman

They finally did it. Top Rank boxing on ESPN in the U.S. this past Saturday, November 11, got about twice as many viewers as the HBO card. ESPN's card featured Artur Beterbiev vs. Enrico Köelling for the IBF light heavyweight belt and Jose Ramirez vs. Mike Reed. HBO's card was headlined by Daniel Jacobs vs. Luis Arias.

According to the Nielsen ratings listed on ShowBuzzDaily, the ESPN show averaged 1,487,000 viewers. The HBO card had its highest segment during the Jacob-Arias fight, averaging 706,000 viewers.

Top Rank stopped working with HBO earlier this year and signed an exclusive four-year deal with ESPN. According to a report by Bill King on Sports Business Journal, this Top Rank-ESPN deal is "a four-year rights deal that a source familiar with the negotiations valued at eight figures annually."

The figure of 1,487,000 would make it the fifth-most watched boxing show on U.S. broadcast or cable this year, and the second-highest on cable, only behind the July 2 Manny Pacquiao vs. Jeff Horn fight on ESPN with 2,810,000 viewers.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2017

The Wilder-Stiverne-Joshua Charade 


by Eddie Goldman

When the alarm went off shortly before 9 PM Saturday night, I awoke from a short nap already in a crabby mood. It was time to get up and watch the fights on Showtime. I don't cover many of these things live anymore for all sorts of reasons, including it being far easier to watch them on TV than in the arena, and also that I may be getting too old to traipse all over the place on a regular basis to cover fights whose outcome even a moron or a dotard would know. I'd rather be outside playing, you know, at what remains of the affordable barrooms in New York, but like covering the fights live, I may be getting too old to keep doing that as well.

My cable company Spectrum, where more than 1700 techs in New York and New Jersey have had to be on strike for over seven months with no negotiations planned by this monopoly, cooperated in bolstering my crabbiness when I put on the TV to watch Showtime, to which I have duly subscribed for many a year. The picture on this channel, but not many others, was all pixelated and unwatchable. But since their service has been deteriorating even further of late into the depths of cable hell, and there is no other TV provider available to me, I had been experimenting using their service which lets you watch many channels online, all legally. Fortunately for me, they were showing the Showtime live feed of the fight, so to the computer it was. Legal streaming. Is there any other kind?

While the first two televised fights, Sergey Lipinets vs. Akihiro Kondo and Shawn Porter vs. Adrian Granados, were action-packed and entertaining, the main event was what was drawing most people in. WBC heavyweight champ Deontay Wilder was facing the only fighter whom he had not knocked out, Bermane Stiverne, in a rematch of their January 2015 fight, won by Wilder by a lopsided unanimous decision.

Originally it had been announced that Wilder was to face unbeaten heavyweight Luis "King Kong" Ortiz, but by now you probably know what happened to that match, although perhaps not why. Ortiz tested positive for banned substances on a prefight doping test conducted by VADA, the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association, but his camp claimed they were just from taking a prescription blood pressure medication. Of course, when Ortiz's team helped him fill out the paperwork for VADA, they conveniently omitted mentioning this prescription medication, failed to ask for a therapeutic use exemption for it, and didn't even list any blood pressure problem for him.

Then, also conveniently, the WBC withdrew sanctioning for this bout as a title fight and Ortiz was pulled from the bout. Stiverne, the mandatory challenger who had taken step-aside money to let the more marketable and powerful Ortiz take his place, now became Wilder's opponent. Showtime, which had balked at showing Wilder-Stiverne 2, was already locked into this date, as was the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Coincidences or trickeration that Wilder, perhaps facing a dangerous title unification fight next year with the undefeated star Anthony Joshua, now had a sure-fire win? You make the call, but at least some people believe they know the score, as unprovable as that may be. Even Stiverne had repeatedly said, including on this fight's media conference call, that he knew that Wilder would never face Ortiz.

But what was left of Stiverne anyway? For this fight, he came in at an almost career-high of 254 3/4 pounds, his heaviest since a mismatch he won in 2008 and 15 3/4 pounds heavier than when he first fought Wilder in 2015. Stiverne alluded to numerous injuries he had suffered before and after that fight, why this heavy weight signified nothing since he had eaten before the weigh-in, and so forth.

Yes, both fighters had promised a war in the prefight p.r. propaganda, but when Stiverne walked his soft body to the ring, he looked like he had a date with the hangman.

Then the bell rang, with, to his credit, Showtime announcer Mauro Ranallo joining the tiny ranks of those in the media who properly pronounced Stiverne's name. (It is BER-man Sti-VERNE.)

So this was what we had waited for. Wilder came out loose and fired a few jabs in the first minute. Stiverne fired nought. Wilder then stepped up his attack, and as you may have already seen one way or another, knocked down Stiverne three times, with the third one crumpling him on the ropes. At just 2:59 of the first round, referee Arthur Mercante wrestled his way between these two men and stopped the fight.

CompuBox stats showed that Stiverne had thrown four punches, two jabs and power punches each, and landed exactly none. Zero. Yup, he had really come to fight.

Even Wilder's stats in this one-sided affair were modest, landing 15 of 39 punches to score three knockdowns in the last two minutes of this round.

The fight had gone as planned, according to those who smelled trickeration. Stiverne was there to be a punching bag, collecting a reported half-million bucks to stand there and get put to sleep. Even Showtime announcer Al Bernstein had to say on the air, with interpretation up to the viewer, "Bermane Stiverne was a cooperator."

Now all the accolades poured in for Wilder, as if he had beaten a reincarnated Muhammad Ali or Joe Louis. Few noted that once more Wilder had been protected from a foe like Luis Ortiz who would have likely put him to sleep. But his perfect record was intact, now at 39-0 with 38 knockouts, and he could claim that he had finally knocked out every man he had faced, although there are more John Does on that list of his opponents than who register at the front desk of the short stay hotels.

Nowhere could I find in the media mentions of the astute comments made by Charles Farrell, mainly on Twitter (@cfarrell_boxing). Few had the guts, smarts, and/or integrity to repost them, so here are just two of them:

"Wilder can't fight, and he can't draw money, so the plan is to cash him out against Joshua. Anyone who knows boxing can see that."

"This was a beautifully executed hustle from the moment Ortiz was signed. It will end when Wilder is cashed out against Joshua. Great stuff."

Perhaps the only positive thing about Wilder that emerged from this fight was a comment that he made that also was barely mentioned in the media. In his televised postfight interview, he noted the death of Delrawn Small, an unarmed man murdered by a New York cop. Wilder has recently started speaking out more publicly about police brutality, joining a growing list of athletes.

But the main postfight focus and theatrics focused on a potential lucrative title unification fight with the IBF and WBA champ Anthony Joshua of the U.K., with Wilder having safely secured his WBC belt.

The WBC may try to intercede if Wilder can't get an immediate fight with Joshua. They first declared Dominic Breazeale, who stopped Eric Molina on the undercard, Wilder's new mandatory challenger, but had to pull back when reminded that there are still several fighters ranked ahead of the number six Breazeale, including Dillian Whyte and Andy Ruiz. Now they told whomever still listens that this was not the "final" eliminator, thus waiting to see where the most dollars and pesos in sanctioning fees would be for Wilder's next outing.

So after the fight, Wilder challenged Joshua again. But Joshua interestingly enough was not even at this fight, as some of us had thought he might be. Joshua's unspectacular tenth-round TKO of late replacement Carlos Takam the week earlier, also shown in the U.S. on Showtime, took place in front of about 78,000 fans in Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales, and was shown in the U.K. on pay-per-view. The reported attendance for the Wilder-Stiverne card was 10,924, with the entire mezzanine of the Barclays Center being reportedly covered up and reports of many free tickets being handed out.

While for the limited Wilder the only big money fight left is one with Joshua, there are numerous spectacular paydays awaiting Joshua in 2018 and beyond. He could have a unification fight with unbeaten WBO champ Joseph Parker, who now is based in the U.K. A fight with the colorful and outspoken David Haye, if he is healthy and gets by Tony Bellew in their Dec. 17 rematch in London, would do massive business. And, of course, there is the mercurial and unpredictable Tyson Fury, still suspended, unlicensed, and obese, and in questionable physical and mental shape. But if the unbeaten Fury manages to overcome all his demons and obstacles, a fight between the two men who last defeated Wladimir Klitschko could set any number of gate and TV records.

Wilder? Yeah, a fight with Joshua would do well, but it is just not as urgent for Joshua to unify with him. Wilder is neither a draw on TV nor in the arenas. He is not well-known outside of the U.S., or even beyond boxing's devotees in America.

Wilder and his team need Joshua, but not the reverse.

While Wilder was walking over Stiverne, not only was Joshua not in attendance, but neither was his loquacious promoter, Eddie Hearn. On that same day, Hearn was in Monte Carlo, Monaco, for a show he was promoting, and whose main event was a one-round, one-punch blowout by rising light heavyweight star Dmitry Bivol over Trent Broadhurst. And that fight, while Wilder-Stiverne was on Showtime, was aired live in the U.S. by Showtime's rival, HBO.

Hearn has recently set up Matchroom Boxing USA, with its debut show this Saturday, November 11, at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, Long Island, New York. Its main event will be a middleweight fight between Al Haymon-fighter Danny Jacobs and unbeaten but likely overmatched Luis Arias. The co-feature has yet another unbeaten heavyweight, Jarrell "Big Baby" Miller, against veteran former title challenger Mariusz Wach. And for a second week in a row, HBO will telecast a Hearn-promoted show.

While Wilder and Joshua both are signed to fight for Showtime in the U.S., Joshua's deals could be matched by HBO. Showtime was set to sign the fight between Joshua and his original opponent, Kubrat Pulev, but had the offer reportedly doubled by HBO. They obliged, but will no doubt face tough competition from HBO in keeping Joshua when their deal is finally up.

Hearn is already leveraging HBO and Showtime against each other. Does he plan to take Joshua with him to HBO when the contract allows? Who will blink in a bidding war between HBO and Showtime? HBO now has a freer budget than recently thanks to the retirements of Andre Ward and Wladimir Klitschko, and the departure to ESPN of Top Rank's fighters including Manny Pacquiao. Showtime only delivered a lukewarm number of views for the Joshua-Takam fight, shown in the U.S. in the afternoon, of 334,000 viewers.

This gamesmanship may explain why HBO sent three announcers and apparently paid a rights fee, for a one-round obvious mismatch in Monaco, the only fight they aired. Supposedly they have a tight boxing budget, right? HBO seems to be doing whatever Hearn asks of them to butter him up for when Joshua becomes free of his Showtime deal. This HBO show was like an investment, a loss leader, for HBO's bid for Joshua, who is the real prize in all of this.

If Joshua ends up at HBO, that might complicate or even scuttle a deal for a Wilder fight if he stays with Showtime. But with Joshua seemingly guaranteed to earn immense paydays for years to come by fighting on U.K. pay-per-view and in sold-out football stadiums there, and supplemented by ballooning rights fees from Showtime or HBO, what's the rush from his standpoint to fight Wilder?

Yeah, the belts. By now you should know what happens there. The more you unify, the more mandatories you have. And since you can't fight them all at once, and since some or even most of them aren't marketable or don't deserve to be mandatory challengers for a fight to be heavyweight champion of the world as much as Vince McMahon does, you don't fight them and end up getting stripped of one or more of the belts. And nobody will fucking care.

So who needs Wilder? Joshua certainly doesn't, at least now. Joshua also has a WBA mandatory he must face sometime, which he has indicated he intends to do. Wilder, thus, must take a number and stand in line.

With half the Barclays Center in Brooklyn empty, on the other side of the East River, UFC was having one of its brawls at Madison Square Garden. It drew a reported 18,201 fans and was on pay-per-view. The number of people who watched that on pay-per-view may be about the same or even more than saw Wilder-Stiverne on regular Showtime, although numbers aren't available yet.

The reviews of this UFC show were all positive from that milieu, with three title changes. Of course, UFC's present-day fan base is generally younger, whiter, richer, Trumpier, and far less knowledgeable about the art of striking than boxing's present-day fan base. While Stiverne standing like a statue raised questions in boxing, in MMA in general and particularly in UFC, that style of fighting is preferred, even though it has been ridiculed as being professional toughman or, to use the phrase of the late MMA fight manager Phyllis Lee, junior boxing. But the UFC fans lap this up, especially when one fighter is almost helplessly pounded repeatedly on the head while on the ground, in a sport which once purported to be safer than boxing. But even though it is a dumber sport than boxing, today's MMA has outsmarted boxing in terms of marketing and even matchmaking.

Now after assessing all this after the fight, it was too late to head to the barrooms, even with the extra hour due to the end of Daylight Savings Time. Yet I was even crabbier than before, and still wide awake. We had been shown a charade which should have infuriated people, or at least not have been taken seriously. So it was time to find an entertaining, light-hearted, and feel-good charade. Fortunately, someone had posted on YouTube for free a full, uncut version of the classic 1963 film "Charade" starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn (it turns out this film has always been in the public domain because of a copyright screwup when it first came out).

I'm far from being a film historian, but articles about this comedy-drama-mystery have glowingly called it the last sparkle of Hollywood's golden age. Even though it came out 54 years ago, I won't post spoilers, although Cary Grant's character is named Peter Joshua. But there's no Wilder in this story, either, as there may not be for the Joshua named Anthony.

Watching this late night dose of unreality, romance, and superb acting, dialogue, and writing was a fitting way to start to heal the intellectual wounds suffered from watching Saturday's boxing charade. Now would that some of these boxers in their upcoming in-ring charades inject a bit of ironic reality into them by using as walkout music Henry Mancini's theme from "Charade"!

(Photo of Deontay Wilder and Bermane Stiverne by Tom Casino/Showtime. Photo of Anthony Joshua by Esther Lin/Showtime.)



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Saturday, November 04, 2017

Wilder-Stiverne 2, November 4, 2017 



Another Saturday, another 'world heavyweight championship' fight. Will Deontay Wilder finally knock out Bermane Stiverne, the only fighter to take him the distance? Will Stiverne defy the bookies and experts to score a major upset? Will there be trickeration galore, with Don King in the house and the geniuses of the New York State Athletic Commission running the show? Will Anthony Joshua make a surprise run-in from the back and hit Wilder with a steel chair? Will this fight just make people sick and disgusted? Or will we see a clean and historic heavyweight classic? (Photo of Wilder and Stiverne from Amanda Westcott/Showtime.)

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