Boxing has a rather unique ability to shoot itself in the foot.
Sometimes with a rocket launcher...
The freelance nature of the sport, the lack of a centralized base of power, is the reason that oftentimes, the participants in the dealmaking departments squabble like hungry rodents, and chew each others' faces off, while they vie for the biggest chunk of cheese. Of course, that is part of a certain level of charm, if you are in my seat, and enjoy the political elements inside the sport, as well as the in-the-ring drama and skills which can, on a good night, leave jaws dropped on the floor.
The sport is knee-deep in one of its periodic stretches when political squabbles threaten to overshadow the in-the-ring action, at least if one is judging by the chatter among the suits and media and portions of the fanbase who follow the inside-baseball politricks.
Need a quick recap? HBO dumped Golden Boy last year and Golden Boy fights hammer and tong with Top Rank. Top Rank squabbles with venue power-house MGM Grand while Golden Boy honchos jockey for the largest thrones of power inside their own offices. Fighters are lawyering up, and serving papers to promoters left and right, choosing to sit on the sidelines and try to break contracts rather than enter rings and try to break foes' noses and wills.
But it is easy to forget some inside the game do play nice, that not everyone is involved in a beef, and that many of these power players do, by and large, prefer to "play nice," and maintain an equilibrium of mood as they put together fight cards. I was reminded of these folks, who likely received high marks back in kindergarten on the "Plays Well With Others" section of their report card, at Barclays Center on Wednesday afternoon, when reps from the building, promoters Banner and Star Boxing, and TV platform provider HBO all spoke highly of each other, and the fighters topping a June 14 card which will unfold in Brooklyn.
Russian Ruslan Provodnikov, who holds the WBO 140 pound belt he wrested from Mike Alvarado six months ago, will take on Huntington, Long Island's Chris Algieri from Barclays Center and on HBO.
No, there was no backbiting or back-stabbing, or serving of papers, or even veiled mutterings with undercurrents of animus served up to media members. Provodnikov spoke graciously of Algieri, a former kickboxer with a 19-0 record, telling the press that it was not that long ago that he, too, was entering a bout as a considerable underdog, but left the ring having gained legions of new rooters. That fight he referenced was voted the BWAA Fight of the Year for 2013, and though Provodnikov got an L against Timothy Bradley, he was dislodged from the "ESPN Friday Night Fights" tag attached to him. The implication was that Algieri too could enjoy that leap in stature.
The Long Islander certainly gave off a vibe of positivity. He told the media that this bout is a classic clash of styles, but that he and the Russian share a similarity. Both men like to break their foe down, but go about it in different ways. Provodnikov, aka "The Siberian Rocky," looks to shrink the ring, be the predator in relentless style. Algieri is a mover, who will stick and move and pile up a volume edge. He wants to tire a foe out, sap their energy, and then their will. He expects, he said, to do that to Provodnikov (23-2).
Arthur Pelullo, of Banner Promotions, said he expects "Rocky" to grind down Algieri, but noted that Algieri hasn't learned to lose. He seems to respect the talent of the challenger and "rival" promoter Joe DeGuardia of Bronx-based Star Boxing. (In fact, those two co-promote Demetrius Andrade (20-0), the WBO's 154 pound champ, who meets Brian Rose (25-1-1) in the HBO opener. DeGuardia had no spiteful words for Pelullo, as he said he knows he's taking a risk signing Algieri to meet the Russian. The underdog is a fab ticket-seller who jams the Paramount in Huntington, so DeGuardia could continue to get the kid seasoning while filling the joint for a spell longer. But no, he said, he likes Algieri's chance to use a style difference to his advantage.
I was reminded that squabbles aren't the norm, that so much of the tussling is indeed done in the ring, not the back-rooms and court-rooms, when Provodnikov said that he'd be attending church this week, as per usual, and that he'd be saying a prayer for Algieri, that he makes it to fightnight unscathed. Of course, it went without saying, on fightnight Provodnikov will be doing his damndest to remove him from his senses -- but that is a given that all the fighters grasp with eyes fully open.
"June 14 is my coming out party," Algieri announced to the assembled.
We shall see. But it was nice to get that reminder that most of the time, the scraps do indeed get played out in the most logical setting, the ring.