THE HANNIBAL BOXING PODCAST LAUNCHES
Patrick Connor, host of The Hannibal Boxing Podcast (@PatrickMConnor)
We have officially kicked off our new podcast series, The Hannibal Boxing Podcast. Here are the first two episodes:
- Donald McRae offered a glimpse into his love for boxing and writing about it, how Dark Trade came to be published in the U.K. and again in the U.S., and much more.
- Who is Hannibal Boxing? How does Hamilcar Publications fit into Hannibal? What books are coming? How Marvin Hagler helped inspire the founding of our company.
You can find all of our podcasts here: hannibalboxing.com/podcasts
THE HIT PARADE
On the Loss of Fighting Spirit
by Carlos Acevedo, Author of Sporting Blood: Tales From The Dark Side Of Boxing
Imagine if some mysterious power had manifested itself over the centuries—think of an “Ancient Aliens” conceit—and stripped such gifted artists as Michelangelo, John Coltrane, Orson Welles, and Herman Melville of their abilities at the peak of their powers. Now imagine if this scenario played out before each figure had produced his masterpiece, before Michelangelo had painted the Sistine Chapel, before John Coltrane recorded Blue Train, before Orson Welles directed Citizen Kane, before Melville had written Moby-Dick. When Terence Crawford faces weatherworn Amir Khan at Madison Square Garden on April 20, it will just be another in a series of ho-hum fights for the man many dub the best fighter in the world. Of course, this is standard boilerplate for a media corps overrun by fanboys and apparatchiks. But not only is Crawford a portrait of wasted artistry, he is also a symbol of the fractured PBC/ESPN/DAZN landscape and the slow diminution of fighting spirit.
Like many fighters, Crawford is rich, feted, and mostly unproven. Solid wins over Ricky Burns and Viktor Postol hardly merit the standing he has achieved. But that can be said of most of his headline peers, including, strangely enough, the few who do answer the bell in risky fights. Except for Miguel Cotto, undersized and overripe at the time, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez has never definitively beaten a world-class fighter. That he managed to avoid the dreaded “L” in two clashes with Gennady Golovkin (bookending a PED-triggered vacation), says more about his value as an economic generator than it does about his standing as an elite fighter. (It should be noted that going heads-up with GGG twice, regardless of the scorecards, is in itself an accomplishment.) Keith Thurman has two notable victories in his career—over Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia—without particularly distinguishing himself. Even now, more than eleven years after he turned professional, Thurman remains a potential underdog in fantasy matchups against his welterweight peers: Errol Spence and Crawford. Deontay and Tyson Fury landed a pitiful 154 total punches combined, which did not stop media types from proclaiming it a modern classic. (If your main interests are adult coloring books or Cosplay, maybe so.)
Not long ago, marquee fighters were known quantities, which is what made them headliners in the first place. No one had to guess about Sugar Ray Leonard, whose first title shot came against Wilfred Benitez, “El Radar,” a walking conundrum in Everlast gloves. Ditto Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns, Alexis Arguello, Evander Holyfield, Oscar De Hoya, Felix Trinidad, Lennox Lewis, Erik Morales, Manny Pacquiao, and so on. (Even prematurely-lauded fighters such as Donald Curry—considered something of a flash-in-the-pan after being stopped by Mike McCallum in 1987 but recently inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame—racked up genuine accomplishments. Curry beat the best welterweights available from 1984–1986, including Marlon Starling and Milton McCrory, and was the undisputed champion of the world by the time he was twenty-four years old.) That list of exceptions grows smaller with every passing year. Thankfully, today we have P-4-P fetishists, the Punched in the Bozack podcast, homemade ratings boards, and dexterous Twitter nitwits to tell us not only who the best fighters are but to remind us every nanosecond of the historical implications of, say, Mikey Garcia–Errol Spence. Somehow, Garcia was chasing history by challenging the least-accomplished welterweight titleholder among the quartet (or quintet, if you heed the bizarro sanctioning body super/regular system) currently claiming world champion status.
Mikey Garcia had brief and undistinguished pit stops at both lightweight and junior welterweight. (His kayo of Dejan Zlaticanin was GIF material, yes, but so was what Danny Garcia did to a shot Brandon Rios). To say otherwise is to pretend that Dejan Zlaticanin, Sergey Lipinets, Adrien Broner, and Robert Easter, Jr. were the boxing equivalent of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (which is like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle infamously believing in fairies based on a hoax perpetrated by a pair of naughty Yorkshire girls). Ironically, Garcia had a chance to solidify his absurd P-4-P standing by squaring off against some standout lightweights: Jorge Linares and Vasil Lomachenko. To do that, however, meant crossing political/factional red lines, and Garcia was prepared to be pummeled by a rising welterweight before he would exercise his self-proclaimed “free agency.” Indeed, in 2017, Garcia openly turned down a lucrative matchup against Linares, despite receiving several concessions from Golden Boy Promotions. At least Garcia was willing to take an extraordinary (if delusional) leap of faith by fight Spence. Against “The Truth,” he was a no-hoper from the moment the tale of the tape was released.
As the pettifogging machine expands—shoulder programming, dedicated websites, corporate podcasts, entities recruiting house writers—critical analysis, already a weak spot for most of the boxing media, has been hijacked by publicists, managers, network executives, press-credentialed hacks, self-regarding bloggers, announcers, promoters, and stuttering vloggers. That means that the average accomplishments of fighters are routinely inflated, despite the corporate parallel universe that prevents one supposedly world-class fighter from facing another.
Not that most contemporary pros care. Given a choice between issuing mock threats on Twitter and demanding certain matchups from their promoters (who are, theoretically, at least, working for them), fighters will invariably whip out their iPhones.
There are precedents for fighters who have put pride before posturing, however. When Michael Spinks started gaining public momentum as the real, that is, lineal, heavyweight champion of the world, Mike Tyson ordered his management team to cease stonewalling and make the fight. In 2000, Fernando Vargas insisted on facing Felix Trinidad, who, at the time, was the most dangerous junior-middleweight in the world. Twice in his career, Shane Mosley exercised immediate rematch clauses after losses (against Vernon Forrest and Winky Wright). More recently, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez disregarded his brain trust and signed to face tricky Erislandy Lara, and Danny Jacobs made a series of behind-the-scenes moves to ensure that he would meet middleweight wrecking ball Gennady Golovkin.
A fighter such as Crawford, no matter how much money he makes, is, in a sense, cheating himself. Which is a shame because Crawford—the switch-hitting stylist with a mean streak and a killer instinct—resembles, in nearly every aspect, the ideal fighter, except where it counts most: in the record books.
In a recent interview with Sean Nam for Hannibal Boxing, Amir Khan, whose April 20 forecast looks decidedly grim, addressed the issue of gun-shy fighters dominating a blood sport. “If the fighters have enough balls and say ‘Yeah, we want to fight,’ then the fight will happen, trust me,” Khan said. “At the end of the day there are a lot of fighters out there who are hiding behind their promoters and saying that they want to fight this guy, but they don’t actually want to fight him. There are not a lot of fighters like me who would take that big challenge and take that big step.”
Over the years, Khan has been a magnet for ridicule (he once threatened to sue Facebook because of an “Amir Khan Sucks” group), but the fact remains that this is a man who would have fought Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather had he been given the chance. Those fights, which never materialized despite his desperate pursuit of them, would have been added to a record that includes Lamont Peterson, Marcos Maidana, Zab Judah, Devon Alexander, Paulie Malignaggi, and his catastrophic challenge of Saul Alvarez. Now, for a reported multimillion-dollar purse, Khan adds Crawford to the list. We could use a few more Amir Khans in boxing, no matter how many daft headlines he generates for The Daily Mail.
A Few Pearls of Wisdom from My Interview with the Great Archie Moore, by Mike Silver, Boxing Over Broadway
In 1983, Mike Silver spoke to Archie Moore, one of the all-time great fighters and a legendary chatterbox. This interview, from Boxing Over Broadway, reveals his keen intelligence and sheds light on some of the best fighters of his era.
HEMINGWAY VS. CALLAGHAN: THE GREATEST LITERARY BOXING FEUD OF ALL TIME, By Sarah Kurchak, Vice
Ernest Hemingway was a bullfighting fanatic years before Tyrone Power suited up for Hollywood in Blood and Sand. He was also obsessed with boxing, attending fights whenever he could and sparring (planned and impromptu) with a variety of pros, amateurs, and writers. Not much of a fighter but sparked by delusions of grandeur, Hemingway met his match in Morley Callaghan, author of That Summer in Paris. Sarah Kurchakt tells the story of a friendship gone awry over boxing, for Vice’s Fightland channel.
The Boxing Ring With A Mezuzah On The Door, by Leah Feiger, ForwardMore than 75 years have passed since the heyday of the Jewish fighter, but The Underground Gym in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, is a hot spot for Jewish amateurs and doubles as a community center. Leah Feiger from Forward visited the gym a few months ago.
IN THIS CORNER
“Whenever I went into the ring then, I felt like the toughest guy in the world. The scowl? I never felt I had it. I didn’t feel anything. Too keyed up. I just wanted to get that guy in front of me: Belt the hell out of him, before he’d belt the hell out of me. No, I didn’t think much then. That’s why I had coordination of mind and body. It was a natural instinct. A fighter shouldn’t think. Just fight. I was good, then. But how many saw those fights? The real fights, the ones where I got a few lousy bucks, the hardest and best fights.”―Jack Dempsey