Tonight in Ledyard, Connecticut, Bob Arum and the Foxwood Casino joined forces to present one of the worst boxing pay-per-view shows in recent memory. Top Rank collected $30 from each boxing fan wanting to see Tuesday Night Fights on Thursday. Make no mistake about it, Bob Arum is the greatest promoter on earth. Who else could sell DelaHoya-Charpentier to a paying crowd of 50,000 and successfully promote a Douglas-Savarese pay-per-view on a Thursday night all in one month? P.T. Barnum is green with envy.
Despite being carried under the banner of "TVKO", this was no HBO broadcast. The broadcast team of Lampley and Merchant were given the night off while Dave Bontempo and Gil Clancy stumbled through an awkward broadcast of mediocre matchups.
In the first bout, Dana Rosenblatt erased any speculation about being groomed as a future Oscar DelaHoya opponent by posting an ugly win over Arthur Allen. Rosenblatt, who is best known for being knocked out by Vinnie Pazienza, almost repeated that wasted performance this evening. Rosenblatt began the first several rounds pounding Allen with his patented winging punches. Showing no remaining damage from a hand injury that had sidelined him for 14 months, Rosenblatt swung his entire body with each punch that he laid into Allen. Allen's 8 inch reach advantage was inconsequential as his jab was virtually nonexistent during this bout.
By the fourth round, however, Rosenblatt was out of gas. His crowd pleasing brawling gave way to heavy breathing and a severely diminished pace. Rosenblatt seemed so arm weary that by mid-fight, the momentum risked shifting to his overmatched opponent. In the eighth, Rosenblatt finally put Allen down. Allen answered the count and absorbed a long flurry from Rosenblatt that could have stopped the bout at several points. Allen hung in, however, and by the end of the round, it was Dana that was holding onto Allen...too exhausted to continue hitting him.
Breathing hard and looking spent, Rosenblatt continued to press the now infrequent exchanges despite having thrown a virtual shutout on the scorecards. In the final round, Rosenblatt pressed for the knockout. Although his opponent had shown little power all night, Rosenblatt's fatigue left him open...and Allen shook him with a right-left-uppercut combination that brought the crowd to it's feet. Rosenblatt stumbled forward, looking like he might have gone down had he not stumbled into his foe. Hanging on for the remaining minute, Rosenblatt survived to hear the final bell and the unanimous decision....but the damage had been done. Against a no-name fighter, Rosenblatt had looked downright sloppy once his conditioning failed him. His face was bruised and swollen, and he was nearly kayoed in the end. If Rosenblatt was a suspect commodity before, he's certainly not to be taken too seriously now.
Lucia Rijker was up next. Her inexperienced opponent was able to avoid knockout for three rounds by bending over and crowding Rijker's attack. But in the fourth, Rijker finally let loose with a fluid combination and dropped her opponent. Referee Steve Smoger gave the hurt combatant extra time by reaching the count of nine, and then asking her repeatedly if she was able to continue. Finally, she was able to answer "yes", and Rijker pounced to close the deal. Another knockdown followed before the bout was mercifully called. Rijker didn't shine tonight, due to her opponent's awkward "style", but clearly she is still the best female boxer fighting today. Christy Martin may avoid Rijker, but who can blame her? Rijker's superior conditioning, quick footwork, and crisp combination punching spell a quick loss for the "Coal Miner's Daughter".
Aged warrior Julio Cesar Chavez was up next. Returning to Top Rank promotions, Chavez was given an easy tuneup tonight in the form of Ken Sigurani. Sporting a 22-1 record, Sigurani had recorded only 8 knockouts. Nonetheless, Chavez continued his tune-up m.o. of coming into the ring severely unprepared. Although he fought at 140 only a few months ago, Chavez was unable to even come close to making the contract weight of 149 tonight. Weighing in yesterday at 155, Chavez spent some time in the steam room, emerged weighing 151, and opted to pay his opponent an undisclosed bonus for allowing him to fight at the higher weight.
Although not looking as bloated as he did against Tony Martin last year, Chavez hardly looked to be in fighting shape. His body looked soft and flabby, his physique looking untrained for what proved to be a very mild test. Indeed, Chavez's mouth was hanging open as he sucked wind by the end of only one full round. Sigurani looked tense, but made the most of Chavez's wild swinging to display a quick, if powerless, jab.
In the second round, Bob Arum nearly soiled himself, as the two fighters butted heads and Chavez was cut above the right eye. Visibly furious that a cut might jeopardize his payday against Oscar DelaHoya, Chavez yelled at the referee, his opponent and to himself in frustration. The action resumed with an enraged Chavez pressing the attack against the novice Sigurani. Sigurani answered with some accurate counter punching of his own, and as the blood began to pour from Chavez's brow and clouded his vision, it looked for a minute as if Chavez might be hurt. Clearly distracted from the increasing blood flow, Chavez absorbed a number of punches, some of which looked to seriously stun the aging champion. At the end of the round, Chavez's eyes were red with rage. Referee Arthur Mercante Sr. had missed the butt and ruled that the cut was caused by a punch, jeopardizing Chavez immediate future in the bout.
Sigurani began the third in the same fashion as he had ended the second: by peppering Chavez with nagging combinations and even bloodying his nose. Chavez pressed forward and finally caught his now overconfident challenger with some of his own power. Sigurani wobbled back and was on weak legs and Chavez exacted a quick revenge on him. Chavez battered Sigurani against the ropes until finally dropping him hard. Chavez KO4. Bob Arum had promised Chavez a $250,000 bonus if he could knock out his tune-up opponent. It remains to be seen if the bigger bonus, a $4 million dollar purse plus percentage of pay-per-view receipts for rematching with DelaHoya, is still intact. Although his corner was able to stem the flow of blood immediately after the fight, the seriousness of the cut is in question. And if Chavez's forehead can heal quick enough to proceed with the September 18 mega-fight, then the question is whether or not Chavez can even compete. Tonight he looked slow, unmotivated, and shot. His reputation as a bleeder is growing, and he'll be hard pressed to land a single shot on the Golden Boy. Stay tuned for this fiasco, coming to a pay-per-view near you.
And finally, the "main event".
Fighting for the vacant and meaningless IBA Heavyweight Championship of the World, Lou Savarese needed only three minutes to knock former champion Buster Douglas down 3 times and effectively expose his comeback as a fraud. Douglas weighed only 7 pounds more than he did the night he defeated Tyson in Tokyo, but you wouldn't have known by looking at him. Flabby as ever, Douglas looked weak and awkward in the ring from the start. Speculation was that pressure to come in close to his Tyson-fight weight had caused him to lose extra pounds at the last minute. For contrast, Savarese looked to be in the best condition of his professional career. Much has been made of his new training regimen, designed by über-trainer Tim Hallmark, who also helps train Evander Holyfield.
The fight began with both men meeting at center ring. Douglas showed a couple a of jabs and one three punch combination before the end began. A minute into the bout, Savarese hit Douglas with a glancing right hand on the forehead that sent Douglas down on the seat of his pants. Buster rose easily, looking unhurt. As the action continued, his balance seemed off and Savarese got another knockdown from a single right hand. This one sent Douglas sprawling on his stomach, his head and legs raised off the canvas. For a moment, Douglas balanced solely on his gut. He rose at the count of eight, and he looked finished. Steve Smoger let the fight continue, and Savarese battered Douglas to the ropes. More than a half dozen unanswered punches sent Douglas down for the third time in the round. Steve Smoger, however, did not halt the contest, instead beginning his count. Douglas made it to one knee by 5, but when he tried to stand up completely, he fell over backwards (and almost out of the ring) in his own corner. Lou Savarese KO1.
Big Lou was overjoyed, jumping around in the ring, tears streaming down his face, as if he didn't realize that his victory means next to nothing. In beating Buster so easily, especially the manner in which Douglas folded under single punches, he exposed Douglas' comeback as the fraud many thought it was. Indeed, Buster's six fights back have been against some of the worst competition Bob Arum could find. Beaten so convincingly by a fighter who himself had lost 2 of his last 3 bouts, Douglas realized immediately that the ride was over. In a post-fight interview, Douglas summed up his career and the entire pay-per-view card in two words: Shit Happens.
Savarese, for his part, takes home one of the ugliest and cheapest championship belts to ever be velcroed around the waist of a prize fighter. His career "revived", he can look forward to a Tyson-comeback bout, or perhaps even a tuneup for a legitimate top-ten contender. So sparse is the heavyweight division that a winning streak of one fight is all it takes to be considered a player. As Savarese left the ring, the inept announcers stated that "as new IBA Heavyweight Champion, Lou Savarese can go home and wait for the lucrative offers to come rolling in."
Sadly, that might just be true.