Thursday, October 18, 2007

November is National Boxing Month

Okay, the headline is a little stretched. But October was, for me, the Sargasso Sea of boxing. I was out of the money and pissed off about paying too much for the PPV. Of course, there was the great accomplishment of Kelly Pavlik in knocking out champion middleweight Jermain Taylor. And there was Sam Peter’s deserved victory over Jamil McCline. Not to mention Pacman’s determined victory over the legendary Marco Antonio Barrera.

But November’s looking good for lots of reasons. Consider the November 3rd fight at Super Middleweight between Welsh boxer Joe Calzhage and Denmark’s Mikkel Kessler. Neither of these names is well known to the American boxing public but gained considerable name recognition in the U.S. since defeating Jeff “Left Hook” Lacy, a powerful puncher who was bedazzled by the Calzhage ring generalship. Calzhage is an active puncher who uses the ring to a great advantage. In the career changing fight with Lacy, it seemed that the American couldn’t find Calzhage anywhere except with his forehead which was cratered with jabs. That was another of my bad boxing picks. I should have listened to Teddy Atlas. The former fight trainer and boxing commentator touted Calzhage long before the Lacy fight took place.

Mikkel Kessler is a virtual unknown in the U.S. where there is the traditional tendency to view European fighters as somehow pale in comparison to American and Latin competition. Yet the onslaught of the Russians and the determined drive of dynamic fighters like Ricky Hatton has done much to dispel that notion. Add in a little Calzhage and sprinkle with a little Kessler and you have an interesting mix. Call it the globalization of boxing, if you will. Let me just say one thing about Kessler and about boxing in general. You never know who’s going to come out of the corner. I saw Kessler operating only once but he was devastatingly analytical against a tough and determined Mexican fighter Librado Andrade. You had to see that to appreciate it. For Kessler, it must have seemed like chopping down an oak tree with your bare fists.

You’ve got to hand it to Miguel Cotto. He fights any and all comers. It’s a good thing—for boxing fans. And it’s a good thing I’m not Cotto because Sugar Shane Mosely is the one guy I might like to duck if I were champion of that division. As things stand now, the two have a date for November 10th on PPV. It breaks my heart, kind of, because you have the serious, soft-spoken humble champion Cotto who marches forward with guns blazing into the maelstrom of Shane Mosely, one of the unrecognized geniuses of boxing history. Mosely’s career has been mind-boggling with losses to Vernon Forrest standing out and in the way of his Hall of Fame record. Sometimes I think that Sugar Shane should be standing right where Floyd Mayweather is right now, in front of English champion Ricky Hatton at Welterweight. I respect Hatton, personally, but I’m picking Floyd “Money” Mayweather. My hit on it is that Ricky won’t be able to get out of the way whereas Mayweather’s style is guaranteed to frustrate. I like the fight because somewhere, deep inside Mayweather, is a greater fighter than we have yet seen. And call me a chauvinist, alright. I always go for the ‘merkan. That’s “American” for those of you who don’t speak “cracker.”

There are some interesting happenings in the Jesse Harris Gym with RJ Sockwell preparing to turn professional. The young man from Stroudsburg by way of Queens New York has been getting in lots of sparring with professional fighters at King’s Gym in Reading and at Larry Holmes Gym in Easton, Pennsylvania, and just about anywhere he can find someone willing to stand in with him. While there are a number of up-and-coming fighters at the Jesse Harris gym, most are in the learning stages of their careers. Sockwell is in a league apart. It’s something that is hard to get across to prospective sparring partners until they step into the ring. At that point, it becomes difficult to get them back into the ring.

Aside from superb conditioning and fighting talent, Sockwell is cruelly analytical about the fight game. He seems to know what the opponent is going to do before he climbs the steps to the ring. Sockwell and trainer Jesse Harris work together in a pairing that is intimate and sometimes bristling, but the ringside communication is swift and virtually unspoken. Sockwell is eager, quick, intelligent and powerfully accurate with his punches when he’s on his game. Harris is a mercurial, energetic, adaptive, and unforgiving teacher.

As thing stand, no date has been set for Sockwell’s pro debut and inquiries are being made at the new Mount Airy Casino scheduled to open on Monday, Oct. 22.

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