“Shave my head like Michael Jordan”
By Thomas Hauser
Earlier this year, I posted a column entitled “Twenty Things You’ll Never Read on a Boxing Website”. By popular demand, here are ten more:
(1) Separated at birth: Harold Lederman and Michael Buffer.
(2) And the #1 best-selling book this week: “Where the Bones are Buried” by Bob Arum.
(3) Even though it was grossly unfair and resulted in the loss of two television dates, Lou DiBella reacted calmly to the development.
(4) Bernard Hopkins Mellows Out
(5) “Shave my head like Michael Jordan,” Don King told the barber.
(6) It’s another Cedric Kushner success story.
(7) Eliot Spitzer leaned over to Bill Richardson and whispered, “The roundcard girl with the tattoo beneath her naval is kind of cute.”
(8) Wow! Vinny Maddalone slipped that punch nicely.
(9) I never knew his name was Dave Itskowitch. I thought it was Dave Fromloudibellasoffice.
(10) Who cares? No one in boxing would be interested in photos of Gary Shaw in fishnets.
* * *
On the literary front –
Four Kings by George Kimball recounts the epic nine battles contested among Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, Thomas Hearns, and Roberto Duran between 1980 and 1989.
It was a special time for boxing fans and more special for those who, like Kimball, experienced the drama firsthand from the inside.
These nine fights defined their participants’ greatness.
Leonard-Hearns I and Hagler-Hearns are on the short list of “greatest fights of all time” with Leonard-Duran I close behind.
Leonard-Duran II was remarkable because of its “no mas” ending, while Hagler-Leonard, Hagler-Duran, and Duran-Hearns each had their own drama.
Leonard-Hearns II and Leonard-Duran III were anticlimactic. By then, the combatants were well past their prime.
Kimball writes with insight and humor. The bigger the fight, the better he tells it. He also offers a thought that’s essential to anyone who wants to understand the sweet science.
“In the boxing ring,” Kimball observes, “pain is not merely a possibility, but a certainty. The courage to persevere in the face of that pain distinguishes the boxer from the ordinary man.”
* * *
Charles Barkley once opined, “You know the world is going crazy when the best rapper is a white guy and the best golfer is a black guy.” One can only begin to imagine where Sir Charles would put Barak Obama in that equation.
Now boxing has something to add to the dialogue. At present, according to virtually all consensus rankings, the best heavyweight (Wladimir Klitschko), light-heavyweight (Joe Calzaghe), and middleweight (Kelly Pavlik) are white. The last time something similar to that happened was in 1935, when those three divisions were ruled by James Braddock (heavyweight), Bob Olin (light-heavyweight), and Marcel Thil (middleweight).
Charles Barkley might also note that the first three players chosen in this year’s NFL draft (Jake Long, Chris Long, and Matt Ryan) were white. The last time that happened was 1975.
* * *
Last year, Mikkel Kessler lost his WBA and WBC super-middleweight titles in a unification bout against Joe Calzaghe. Now Kessler has his WBA belt back, courtesy of some questionable maneuvering outside the ring and a twelfth-round stoppage of Dimitri Sartison in it.
Mikkel has admirable boxing skills. But he’s better known in some circles for his tattoos. Much of his body looks like Mike Tyson’s cheek.
“The first tattoo was when I was fourteen,” Kessler explains. “It was small on my arm; just my name, Kessler. I could not show it to my daddy because I thought he would kill me. Then he saw a tape of an amateur fight that I won, and the tattoo was there. He didn’t kill me, but he said it was ugly.”
“When I became eighteen and could decide for myself,” Kessler says, “I had many more tattoos. I like them, and my daddy still thinks they’re ugly.”
* * *
How old is Don Elbaum? He won’t say. But as a reference point, the man once known as boxing’s “boy promoter” was in Korea before it became a tourist destination.
“I’m dating this dynamite woman,” Elbaum confided recently. “The only problem is, she keeps asking me how old I am.”
And the answer?
“I told her, ‘I’m forty, but I look like crap.’”
Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org