Boxing
Throwing in the Towel on Ringside Strangeness
Lyle Fitzsimmons


By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor


Bits and pieces from another week on the road...

First off, I'm starting to think it's me.

I fly out to Los Angeles a few weeks back, settle in for a competitive main event and instead see one of the combatants stumble to the canvas as the other's momentum carries him into, and ultimately through, the ropes while bringing the fight to a premature end.

A 3,000-mile trip for a 10-minute match.

Not exactly the cross-country payoff I'd had in mind.

But as I re-gathered my gear and hopped a plane for New York last week, I steadfastly assumed the "jeez, I've never seen that before" card had been definitively played for calendar 2010.

It's Yankee Stadium... the bastion of corporate sport sanity, I reasoned.

Surely nothing strange could happen there.

Certainly not a guy slipping on a canvas logo, screwing up his knee and having a trainer's humane surrender blithely ignored by a referee seemingly more concerned with entertainment than a medically-warranted white flag.

What, he shudders upon returning to his comfy couch... could happen next?

Toward that end, it's not been the best week for the officiating sort.

Just days after Jim Joyce's miscue cost Armando Galarraga perfection -- though let's be honest, the kid's going to get more mileage out of 28 straight outs than he ever would have for 27 -- the offspring of the best referee in history botches one in a Saturday night spotlight.

Now that it's been a few days, I'm not sure what was more offensive -- Arthur Mercante Jr.'s stance that the fans' right to a "good fight" trumped Yuri Foreman's right to compete on two healthy legs, or Bob Arum's bullheaded post-fight insistence that people who saw Foreman's lead trainer throw in the towel simply don't know boxing like he does.

Truth told... they're both still pretty unpalatable.

Whether he agreed or not, Mercante saw an unmistakable sign -- in the traditional form of tossed linen -- that Foreman's people no longer wanted their disabled charge to be a stationary target for volleys from a stronger and more powerful foe.

Unlike when one man has a momentum edge and one corner gives up too quickly, leaving the official to more accurately assess his chances at recovery, this was a spot where a fighter's lone advantage -- effective movement -- was as good as gone for the night, leaving him in far more than a competitive shortfall.


Yori Foreman's lead trainer threw in the towel on Saturday.
And while Mercante's desire to please paying customers is admirable to some -- and legislatively allowable in New York black and white -- his duty to ensure Foreman's safety is more sacred than satisfying anyone not an arm's length from a man being paid to hit them in the mouth.

Missing a play at first base is one thing. Letting a fight go too long is quite another.

With a man's long-term livelihood at stake rather than meaningless record-book perfection, Mercante putting his own judgment ahead of Foreman's corner was ill-advised at best... and dangerous at worst.

Speaking of worst, there's Arum's press conference harangue as an add-on.

Apparently too rushed to watch a definitive video replay, Arum began the post-midnight media aftermath with an angry rant explaining that a surrender towel would have come into the ring from a neutral corner, rather than Jim Grier's perch a few paces from Foreman's stool.

It could well have been forgiven if not for its tone, which veered far beyond understandable late-night frustration and strayed too much into a condescending "listen, I know boxing more than you" lecture that looks even more foolish played alongside HBO's broadcast feed.

From one old, crotchety guy to another, Bob... you've got to know better.

Batting third, and now that I've been to more than half of 50 states and covered fights in nearly 10 of them, I can be sure of one more thing in life...there is not a stretch of highway in existence that I loathe more than the 40-or-so Garden State Parkway miles between Exit 131 and the New York state line.

If the guy doing 90 while clicking his Blackberry doesn't sideswipe you to the nearest emergency room or beyond, the woman fixing her makeup while climbing your tailpipe just might. And if you're somehow lucky enough to elude their combined theatrics, you'll quickly go broke from shelling out currency at what seems to be a booth every 500 yards.

Here's a tip... if President Obama and Co. really want to revive commuter trains as a means of shoring up both economy and environment, simply have the undecideds spend a mandatory week navigating the distracted drivers, tightly-bunched toll barriers and other roving landmines between Woodbridge and Montvale.

If that doesn't prompt a permanent shift from roads to rails... nothing ever will.

Last but not least, it just got a little harder not to dislike the New York Yankees.

As much as I laud the on-field tradition defined by 27 world championships and consistent excellence all other franchises envy, the "Evil Empire" side of things is slowly becoming the most tangible identifier of baseball's gold standard organization.

Excited as I was to make my first trip to the new stadium in the Bronx, the reality I discovered upon arrival was every bit the character-bereft, overdone colossus described by nearly every acquaintance who'd seen it -- whether lifelong Yankee fan or long-time pinstripe enemy.

Don't get me wrong; it's a beautiful building. The aisles are wide and the grounds pristine, but lost amidst the sanitary perfection were any traces of the vibe I'd ever gotten in previous trips to the since-gutted "House that Ruth Built" across the street.

It smelled like an operating room. It felt like a corporate office.

And any inkling for a snack or beverage warranted consideration of a second mortgage.

Having visited the recently minted grass and dirt cathedrals in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, I'm not sure exactly what I expected from the new place with the old name... but I'm pretty sure I didn't get it. And I'd like my $23 parking bill back.

This week's title-fight schedule:

SATURDAY

WBO junior flyweight title -- New York, NY

Ivan Calderon (champion) vs. Jesus Iribe (No. 7 contender)

Calderon (33-0-1, 6 KO): Sixth title defense; Held WBO title at 105 from 2003-07

Iribe (16-6-5, 10 KO): Third title fight (0-2, 0 KO); Lost IBF and WBC shots in 2008, 2009

Fitzbitz says: "I'm not as wild about Calderon as a lot of people, but he wins here." Calderon by decision.

Vacant WBO flyweight title -- Puebla, Mexico

Richie Mepranum (No. 1 contender) vs. Julio Cesar Miranda (No. 3 contender)

Mepranum (22-1-1, 5 KO): First title fight; Eight-fight win streak (8-0, 1 KO)

Miranda (31-5-1, 24 KO): Second title fight (0-1, 0 KO); Last 12 victories by stoppage

Fitzbitz says: "I'm feeling an upset here. Miranda's a banger with a decent resume." Miranda in 10.

Last week's picks: 2-0

Overall picks record: 202-70 (74.2 percent)

Lyle Fitzsimmons is an award-winning 21-year sports journalist, a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and a frequent contributor to sports radio talk shows throughout the U.S. E-mail him at fitzbitz@msn.com, follow him at twitter.com/fitzbitz and read more at fitzbitzonfights.wordpress.com..

Jabs, hooks or knockouts, Lyle Fitzsimmons can be reached at fitzbitz@msn.com.