December 28, 2000
lite performers don't always turn in top performances. I'm sure you can
recall Michael Buffer's voice cracking in his "Let's get ready to rumble"
chant a couple of times. You've also seen Roy Jones execute a non-inspiring
lackluster performance every once in a great while. No one is perfect and
even the ones who add quality to their craft may on occasion give you a
gloomy outlook on their talents. In every profession, every top dog has his
bad day. For Teddy Atlas, it came this past Friday night on a live ESPN2
Friday Night Fights broadcast.
During Friday's main event, which pitted Ray Oliveira and Vince Phillips in
an intriguing battle for the NABF jr. welterweight title, Atlas and his
usually proficient partner, Bob Papa registered their first sub-par
performance on the airwaves. Throughout the fight, Atlas narrated a fight
that he wanted the viewers to see it, instead of what was really going on.
What actually transpired was Oliveira practically dominating the fight.
Atlas was too concerned with telling the viewers about Oliveira not sticking
to his original game plan. Perhaps it was his trainer mentality kicking in.
When Atlas worked Michael Moorer's corner when defeating Evander Holyfield
for the title, you got the sense that Atlas felt that Moorer lost in the end
because he didn't fight the way Atlas had pleaded him to. This scribe isn't
suggesting that Atlas doesn't know boxing or that he's not a good boxing
analyst. He offers a wealth of knowledge and usually enlightens the
audience with opinions with what is going on in the ring. But Friday night,
he showed a side of him that we the viewers hadn't noticed before - he
Oliviera and Phillips fought a hard battle that most at ringside felt
Oliveira won handily. Throughout the fight, Phillips would normally begin
the exchanges and land most of his punches on Oliveira's gloves. Oliveira
would then finish the exchanges while landing them and kept Phillips moving
backward. Though CompuBox had Phillips landing more of the vast punches he
threw, it appeared that Oliveira landed the more telling punches. They
weren't as devastating or thrown with the authority of Phillips, but they
were snapping Phillips' head backward and they were forcing Phillips to
retreat. Atlas' commentary however, did not give that impression.
In a fairly recent addition to the show, Atlas goes one on one with each
main event fighter in a taped segment to go over the fighters' strategies.
"Atlas' World" as it is called is an educational segment that gives fans
ideas on how each fighter can be successful. During the fight, Atlas
appeared offended when Oliveira decided to not utilize his original strategy
of using his jab. Oliveira was throwing his jab but not with the regularity
that Atlas deemed appropriate. Oliveira appeared content with being the
aggressor, finishing the exchanges and landing the punches that would
eventually wear down the resilient Phillips. Teddy Atlas looked at Oliveira
's deviated strategy as "fighting his opponent's fight" and therefore, felt
as though Phillips was winning the fight.
If you noticed, Atlas also seemed to corrupt Bob Papa into believing what
Atlas was saying, much in the way Showtime's Bobby Czyz has had influence
over Steve Albert's thoughts when calling fights. It was Czyz who
bamboozled Albert and the audience to believe that John Ruiz had defeated
Evander Holyfield overwhelmingly when in reality it was somewhat closer.
Perhaps the subject of criticism should have been directed towards Showtime'
s crew but I'll leave that to our dear Joe Bruno.
Oliveira's underrated talents have been well documented in this scribe's
notebook, but there was no favoritism in my score sheet as most everyone
else at ringside had it for Oliveira. Both myself and House of Boxing's Tom
Gerbasi had Oliveira winning 118-111 while the Boston Herald's George
Kimball had Oliveira ahead 117-111. Mike Nosky of Seconds Out had Oliveira
winning by a score of 118-110. The most sympathetic score at ringside for
Phillips was a 116-112 tally for Oliveira (8 rounds to 4) by Steve Tobey of
Boxing Digest. Atlas had it 115-114 while Papa had it even. You do the
Friday Night Fights has been a tremendous contribution to the sport of
boxing, but it's the best that deserve criticism when a poor performance is
presented. Though I hate to say it, if you were watching Oliveira and
Phillips on the tube Friday night, then you were better off watching it with
the volume down to get a more accurate account of what occurred. For now,
Oliveira-Phillips will be viewed as Atlas' first "Mulligan."
Vargas, the Ingrate
While I'm on a little rant here (sorry Dennis Miller, had to say it), I
must get something off my chest that's been buried inside like a cold you
can't kick. Just before the ring walks commenced in a fight that would
ultimately turn out to be one of the best fights this year, I was hoping
that Fernando Vargas, the American champion would prevail in his epic battle
with Felix Trinidad of Puerto Rico earlier this month. But when Vargas
decided to have the Mexican National Anthem played before he entered the
ring, I began pulling for Trinidad. I couldn't believe that a member of the
U.S. Olympic team would have a national anthem of another country played
before his ring entrance. Just imagine, Ramon "Yori Boy" Campas, the man
Vargas defeated for the IBF jr. middleweight title had to engage in 56
professional fights before he was granted his first title shot. Because
Campas is from poverty-stricken Mexico he had to turn pro before he was 16
to earn a living. Vargas on the other hand having the benefit of fighting
on the United States Olympic team needed only 14 pro fights against
opposition that didn't compare to Campas' resume before he stepped into the
ring with Campas.
Though Vargas had an unfortunate adolescence and suffered the adversity of
not knowing his father growing up, it was the Uncle Sam who afforded him the
opportunity of fighting for the U.S. Olympic team, which ultimately gave him
the chance to earn the accolades that would accompany the tag "Olympian."
Some have defended young Fernando citing that he is proud of his Mexican
heritage. There is certainly nothing wrong with showing off your heritage
but you don't see fighters such as Vinny Pazienza, a proud Italian-American
walking into the ring with the Italian National Anthem playing. Oscar De la
Hoya, another proud figure of Mexican heritage wields both the American and
Mexican flags in both fists when he walks into the ring and always has the
American National Anthem played when facing an opponent who hails from
outside our good soil.
Vargas' actions must have been a real turn off to Americans, especially to
war veterans or immigrants who are overjoyed with the fruits of this.
Facing an assault trial in the upcoming months, maybe Vargas has more
growing up to do than we think.