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Editorial: Rinsing Off the Mouthpiece
R.I.P. Jose Medel
I imagine that 98.9% of the people reading this have never heard of a great Mexican bantamweight warrior named, Jose "Huitlacoche" Medel. The bare facts are that he was a top bantam contender from the mid 50ís to the late 60ís.
The truth is that Medel was the type of fighter who is the very foundation of boxing. A pure example of warrior heart & soul. A man who fought a literal whoís who of the bantam division for 16 years & more than held his own against some of the toughest & greatest bantamís of the 20th Century.
Medel was a hero in Mexico second only to the the great bantam king, the Julio Caesar Chavez of his day, Jose Becerra. So esteemed was Medel that he won National Fighter Of The Year, three times running. In Mexico thatís the equivalent of being named MVP in the NFL, NBA or MLB.
Medel was an excellent boxer with a good enough punch to travel to Japan & do what the immortal Eder Jofre couldnít do in two tries; beat Fighting Harada. Medel not only beat him, he knocked him cold in six rounds. For those who might not know, Harada was a Hall Of Fame, two division world champion, who was in his prime at the time.
Unfortunately for Medel, like the rest of his born under a bad sign career; it was a non-title fight - he lost the rematch by close decision for the title.
Medelís long career was unlucky because despite fighting through three eraís of the bantamweight division. Among the plenitude of world champions he faced, were bantamweight nonpareils like Jose Becerra, Eder Jofre, Fighting Harada & Ruben Olivares. Talkiní a true Murdererís Row!
In many ways Medelís career was similar to former unlucky greats who had opposites who always seemed to have their number like, Luis Rodriguez (Emile Griffith), Esteban De Jesus (Roberto Duran), Rodrigo Valdez (Carlos Monzon), Joe Frazier (George Foreman) & the more modern, Marlon Starling (Donald Curry). The difference for Medel is those fighters had that one great opponent they couldnít overcome, poor Jose had four such Everestís too climb.
So dear readers, youíre probably wondering why The Olí Spit Bucket is rambling on about some Mexican bantamweight whose prime was about 40 years ago ... Yeah, well. Itís personal.
As some of you long time readers may know my father, a former pro fighter, was in the CIA & stationed in Mexico from 1956 until 1962. As a sideline he started training & managing Mexican fighters. Naturally he recruited me to work in the corners with him & thus Lilí Bucket began his long, twisted, boxing journey at the age of seven in 1957.
I first met Medel in 1958 in a gym in Mexico City. He trained at the same gym that my father trained his fighters. I guess he found me amusing as a little kid because I was a blue eyed gringo who could speak Spanish fluently in the Mexican idiom & we struck up a casual friendship. I can remember mock sparring with him & also his many, earnest attempts to teach a clumsy but enthusiastic eight year old how to skip rope like a real boxer ...
By Ď58 Medel was already a contender. That year he fought & lost a close decision to Becerra & knocked out the storied & very tough, Dwight Hawkins, in seven. The next year he won the Mexican bantamweight championship. One has to realize that in Mexico & all of Latin America, boxing & soccer are the equivalent of the NFL & major league baseball here at home. So to eight year old Lilí Bucket, Medel was a hero that I did my best to emulate as I struggled to learn how to skip rope like my idol.
Over the next few years I ran into Medel numerous times as I worked the corner for my fatherís fighters, many who fought on Medelís undercards. None of our fighters ever fought Medel who by then was a top ten contender & a Mexican idol. But I can remember sitting ringside for a lot of his bouts & then hanging in his dressing room after some of his victories. He always greeted me effusively which always gave Lilí Bucket a thrill.
I lost touch with him after we moved back to the States in Ď62, but he was a man who made an indelible impression on me as a kid. When I learned of his death from cancer early this year I was truly saddened & decided to write a eulogy for this true, fine, warrior who once was a friend of mine ...
Arturo Gatti has made a career out of this sort of bullshit. But he is by no means the only transgressor. Why have weight limits if nobody is adhering to them? I know the theory that weighing ins 24 hours before the fight gives the fighters a chance to rehydrate & is supposedly much safer.
But The Olí Spit Bucket questions that theory on two fronts :
1- Instead of sweating down to an unnatural weight, why not fight in a division thatís more suited to your body? Having fighters pack on pounds of water weight in the interim before the fight is just as dangerous as being dehydrated.
It may give a fighter an advantage in bulk but if the fight goes past 4-5 rounds in turns into a distinct disadvantage in having to go the distance. A perfect example was the Roy Jones - James Toney fight. Toney gained 18 pounds between the weigh in & the fight & was so bloated & water logged that he had nothing left after the 4th round.
2- Sometimes the alternative is a bout like Gatti & Joey Gamacheís. Gatti weighed in at 141 (very controversially), & came in at 160 for a jr. welterweight fight & damn near killed poor Joey. For the record, Gamache weighed in at 140 & came in at 146.
Which brings up another point that the always astute, Katherine Dunn, pointed out to me: The cutoff point between fighters having to wear 8 oz. or 10 oz. gloves is the middleweight division. Any fight over 154 lbís. required the larger glove. If two opponents are fighting for a welterweight title & one enters the ring at say, 153 & the other at 158, the 2nd fighter has a distinct & unfair advantage over the lighter one.
At the lower weights the difference of 4-5 pounds can be crucial. If two bantams go at it & one weighs 122 & the other 130 itís a huge advantage. The difference in just a few pounds can be calamitous for the lighter fighter.
Granted, these are extreme examples but this happens all the time. I favor going back to the original weigh in schedule & have the commissions enforce having fighters fight in their natural weight classes. Yeah, right. Like thatís gonna happen ... But I venture that the number of incidents of ring fatalities & serious injuries have not changed one iota since the rules were changed.
Bagging the rights to Rahman right out from underneath Showtime & HBO was a stroke of pure genius & hubris. Forget P.T. Barnum, Flo Ziegfield, Tex Rickard, Sol Hurok & Bill Graham. The greatest promoter of the 20th Century - & apparently the 21st - is Don King. Hands down. Hair up.
DK unlike our politicians, knows how to get it done. He donít mess around, he goes for the kill & invariably through out his almost 30 year run at the top, heís gotten what he wanted, when he wanted it.
& most importantly, on his own terms.
Unfortunately, we ainít talking Mother Theresa here. For all his many seemingly positive attributes DK is as down & dirty as a cornered pit bull in his dealings. The litany of fighters who have claimed to be screwed by King is literally endless, beginning with The Greatest himself, Muhammad Ali. From their the list truly spirals down the seamy side streets & back alleys of Bash Boulevard.
Now I donít wanna impugn DK without pointing out that his competitors are also a greedy little gaggle of swine. Itís just that King is far more blatant, uses the race card like a bludgeon & due to his audacious chutzpah, gets far more publicity; because in many ways his shit eating grin is the face of boxing to the sporting public.
Iím sure DK was laying temporarily low in his lair chortling to himself as he puffed on his stogie watching Showtime, HBO Cedric Kushner & the WBC assuring themselves that they had all proffered deals to Rahman that they were sure he couldnít refuse.
The WBC angle to this affair is especially intriguing. In decades past, Jose Sulamein, the Borgia like Boss Hog potentate of boxing's most influential alphabet soup organization; has traditionally had his snout buried so far up DKís bunghole that they mouth breathed together ... But itís a new century & past alliances mean squat when it comes to carving out a larger portion of the heavyweight pie chart.
What has screwed the pooch in Kingís & Pasha Sulameinís relationship in none other than Olí Leg-Iron Mike. As long as DK held the keys to the cash cow that is Tyson, the relationship between King & the WBC was tighter than two ticks in Tucson.
But Tyson dumped King & DK now has control of the WBA titlist, John Ruiz & that other, more than slightly tarnished, golden goose, Evander Holyfield. When it looked like Rahman was going to sign with HBO & give Lennox Lewis an immediate rematch, the bull funky really hit the fan.
First, Shelley Finkel, Leg-Ironís latest consigliere, sued the WBC on Tysonís behest. They claimed it was against their (ever flexible) rules for Rahman to fight anybody before granting Bad Mikey a title shot since he was their #1 contender. As soon as the suit was announced, Sulamein promptly withdrew sanctioning for the proposed rematch & voila, suddenly Tyson is set to regain the WBC title in an eliminator.
Now that King has both Rahman & Ruiz heís in the opposite camp from the WBC greed pig. But why should Sulamein give a damn about any hard feelings between he & King? Hell, heís got Olí Leg-Ironís enormous sanctioning fees to console himself with ...
The competing offers for Rahmanís services came in fast & furious; 17 gazillion here, 30 over there but it obviously was all just paper in fire to Rahman. King instinctively understood how to manipulate the new champ. He knew what he would intrinsically understand: Show Me The Money!
Half a million dead presidents & a post dated check for another 4 1/2 large in a suffel bag did it. By 2:30 a.m. when he finally succumbed to Kingís snake oil, Rahman must have been salivating like a Pavlov dog at the sight. These millions of dead presidents was something he could righteously wrap his mind around & haul off to Baltimore & bank.
The old axiom, ďMoney talks & bullshit walksĒ, was never truer than in this instance. Don King flim-flammed the competition & again controls the heavyweight division.
& once again, boxing is Don Kingís bitch ...
On to the issue at hand, which is the May edition of WAIL!. Returning are many of the stalwart writers you have all grown familiar with over the years. However this issue we have three new contributors, James Merolla, a boxing historian, is a former writer for Ring Magazine & The Providence Journal-Bulletin which was the former home of the great boxing writer, A.J. Liebling. He is currently a feature/entertainment writer for Attleboro Sun - Chronicle.
Also joining us is Chris Strait, a former correspondent for the now sadly defunct Boxing Wise web site. Lastly, we have James McDonnell who is our newest correspondent from the British Isles.
In closing Iíd like to welcome back Eric Jorgensen. Eric is the CBZís interviewer emeritus, but heís been on hiatus for over six months due to the demands of his law practice. He returns with a bang with a terrific interview with the inimitable, Bert Randolph Sugar.
& speaking of Mr. Sugar, The Olí Spit Bucket has had the pleasure of getting to know him over the last 9 months or so. Let me tell ya, everything you ever heard about the guy is true! Bert Randolph Sugar is a real piece of work ... & heís my kinda guy. He shoots from the hip & letís fly & to hell with the consequences ...
Ya gots tí respect that.
The CBZ has also had the opportunity to do the research for Bertís upcoming Total Action Boxing. He felt the diligent historians & researchers that toil for the CBZ where the source of the best boxing research extant.
I ainít used to being humble, but The Cyber Boxing Zone feels honored.
ĎTil Next month.
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