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GATTI-MALIGNAGGI? DON'T BE SILLY

My understanding is that HBO is very interested in making a fight between Arturo Gatti and Paul Malignaggi for July 14. Personally, this surprises me. On the surface, it looks good: you've got Italian-American vs. Italian-Canadian, New Jersey vs. New York, boxer vs. puncher. That's the "paper" matchup. But it is truly hard to believe that they would want to put something like this before the public after Malignaggi's non-performance against Edner Cherry this past weekend.

Sure, Gatti is likely to be more willing to mix it up than Cherry. But he may be a little shot at this point, and so what we have, prospectively, is ten rounds of agony between a safety-first powder-puff puncher and a one-time stakes horse who has now been reduced to allowance class, and who could find himself sleepwalking around the ring for 30 minutes, to no avail. Does the fact that HBO is even considering that fight show any concern for the audience? Or is it strictly about getting Diabolical L.O.U. (aka Lou DiBella, Malignaggi's promoter) a payday, at the public's expense? Is Time-Warner in the business of corporate welfare?

Add to this the fact that, to this day, Malignaggi is a virtual non-commodity. He has no major wins to hang his hat on, even after his latest HBO appearance. He has FIVE knockouts in 23 fights, taking any explosiveness out of the equation. His primary disposition is to avoid getting close to being hit, which guarantees that effective offense will be at a premium. He has better than average boxing ability, but it's nothing other-wordly. He seems to have a decent personality, but it really doesn't mean anything without any of those other components in place.

He is not a "star" in the making, which is why it's ridiculous to hear that he wants a million bucks for this fight, or for ANY fight, for that matter.

And once again, he'd make a lousy match with Gatti.

Thankfully, Gatti's "people," including Main Events (the promoter) understand exactly what I'm telling you. And so we have a darkhorse in this race - Lovemore N'Dou (not to be confused with his cousin, Phillip No Can Do, who indeed could not when he fought Floyd Mayweather a few years ago).

Unlike Malignaggi, N'Dou has an important professional credential to his credit, as he is the current IBF 140-pound world champion, having beaten Naoufel Ben Rabah to win it. Unlike Malignaggi, he comes forward with the intention of fighting. And if you're going to bring up his relative lack of drawing power, well, that would put him in about the same category as Malignaggi. Besides, Gatti is the fighter who brings the audience with him anyway, both live and on the tube.

N'Dou brings sort of an "old school" element to the proceedings as well, in that it's always refreshing to see a standing world champion reaching above his weight division, where it doesn't have to be for purposes of accumulating another world title. Of course, it wouldn't hurt N'Dou to make a big purse either.

I guess I'm willing to give HBO a Mulligan on the Malignaggi-Cherry fight. But if, after having witnessed that, they want to persist in pushing for a fight with Gatti, they've got no excuses.

Let's get back to the "Magic Man" for a moment.

"I made it boring sometimes, but I felt that was the way to go tonight."

That was Malignaggi's explanation as to why he was reluctant to engage in any real action against Cherry. He went on to admit that he wasn't impressive enough to merit a lot of immediate opportunities (apparently HBO disagrees), but after all, this was a fight to get his "confidence" back.

Let me suggest that dull fights designed to enable a non-commodity to get his "confidence' back belong on the YES Network or the local Comcast carrier or on HD Net or wherever it is that Diabolical L.O.U. distributes those clubfights he promotes at the Hammerstein Ballroom. THEY DO NOT BELONG ON HBO.

I don't substantially blame DiBella for this, although I would blame him a little more than I might otherwise because of the fact that whenever there's a lousy card on HBO served up by another promoter, The Diabolical One is usually heard crying the loudest. Of course, HBO has the ultimate responsibility for what they put on their own "air."

This shows you what's wrong with boxing, though. You've got a fighter of less than star quality who rationalizes that low-risk tune-up fights are something of HBO caliber. You have a promoter and a network who seem to both feel the same way. You have an opponent (Cherry) who had the opportunity of a lifetime and didn't even make an earnest attempt to capitalize on it. Yet this is all considered a stepping stone to a "marquee" fight? Is it any wonder that boxing is getting smaller and smaller on the radar screen, being overtaken by the likes of mixed martial arts?

There's a guy named Kery Davis and another one named Ross Greenberg making the buying decisions at HBO. DiBella used to work there, in the place Davis currently holds, and now he feeds them fights. From what I'm told, there is a certain boxing writer who has an unusual amount of "influence" over the kind of fights HBO buys.

What sticks out like a sore thumb is that there isn't a matchmaker in the bunch.

So maybe one doesn't have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure the whole thing out.

WHAT DOES TOP RANK NEED THIS FOR?

I can't possibly begrudge Joe Mesi the right to compete as a professional fighter; there has been too much I've said on the record already to shift gears on that just for the purposes of fashioning an argument. If the guy wants to put himself at risk; if he's won his right in court, and if there is a jurisdiction that is willing to accept some responsibility for it through their own process of regulation, than so be it.

The same goes, to a certain extent, for Tommy Morrison, although I would say that there is quite a bit more at stake for Morrison's opponent than Mesi's from the perspective of contracting a communicable disease. Without going into so much detail about it, an incident like this happened with a fight in the District of Columbia, where a fighter was not made aware of the severity of a Hepatitis condition involving his opponent, though the commission should have had an obligation to alert that fighter of those risks, as I pointed out in my book "Operation Cleanup 2."

I don't want to get too far afield with any of that. If a state (in this case, West Virginia) wants to clear these guys medically, and a venue (Mountaineer Park, the home of many boxing events) has no problem with letting all of it happen, that's up to them.

My point is this - "reclamation" projects like Mesi and Morrison, who have clouds hanging over them, would usually fall under the interest of opportunistic, upstart promoters looking to make a name for themselves.

But what does Top Rank really need any of this for? There are people who have - past or present - been with Top Rank who know full well they dodged a bullet when no indictments were brought down in the well-known FBI investigation of the organization that took place over a period of a couple of years - if you don't recall, that was the one featuring the undercover officer known as "Big Frankie" from the NYPD and a stoolpigeon fighter/convicted murderer named Joey Torres.

But that's not the dodged bullet I want to focus on. No - I'm talking about the way Top Rank, or at some of its employees, managed to escape responsibility in the legal proceedings pursuant to the death of Bradley Rone, a Cincinnati heavyweight based in Nevada who had been managed by Sean Gibbons (at the time a Top Rank employee), trained at a Top Rank gym, and brought to a fight in Cedar City, Utah by Cornelius Boza-Edwards, who was also a Top Rank employee, after having lost 26 fights in a row, with a record of 7-42-3, for a July 2003 fight with Billy Zumbrun, who he had fought in a ho-hum affair just a few weeks earlier.

Rone, who had been identified as someone with high blood pressure, was grieving over the death of his mother, which had taken place just two days before. Emotionally despondent, he took supplements of a mysterious nature on the way over to the fight, arrived late, and was never given a physical examination as per the Utah commission's stipulated rules. At the conclusion of an uneventful first round, he collapsed and died of what was later determined to be an "idiopathic cardiac arrhythmia."

Once again, there are too many details to go into here (you may want to refer to this link for the entire story: http://www.totalaction.com/Utah_AllThatJazz2.doc).

I won't say that Top Rank or any of its people were liable, but that was some bizarre terrain for them to traverse. And now they're ready to put on a card with fighters who have demonstrated hematoma (Mesi) and tested positive in the past for HIV (Morrison), and they're dealing with a weak commission headed by a guy named Steve Allred who evidently has graduated from the Greg Sirb School of Non-Responsiveness to the Media.

If something goes horribly wrong, on this or any subsequent shows featuring these guys, does Top Rank need the headache?

I figured Bob Arum, one of the great promoters of all time, would be too smart for that.
 
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