Opening Bell: BWAA, Super Bowl Week Boxing In Brooklyn

by Gautham Nagesh

BROOKLYN—Golden Boy Promotions hosted a small press conference in the bowels of the Barclays Center on Saturday afternoon to announce a Super Bowl Week show on Fox Sports 1 headlined by Victor Ortiz vs. Luis Collazo. In any other setting, the event would have qualified as surreal. But this is boxing, so it was merely typical.

The event was awkward to begin with, as it appeared to be held in conjunction with the annual East Coast meeting of the Boxing Writers Association of America, which recently accepted me as an auxiliary member. Presumably I was denied full membership because my journalism credentials and knowledge of boxing are not quite on par with the selection of part-timers and press row hucksters that dot the organization’s roster, amidst the more respectable bylines.

In truth, membership is BWAA has fallen quite a bit short of expectations. As a board member for another journalism organization, I have some sense of how these things normally run. So holding our annual meeting at the venue of a fight where the expense is presumably borne Golden Boy Promotions feels awkward at best.

But that wasn’t the most troubling instance of BWAA’s coordination with Golden Boy. President Jack Hirsch told me that he had been coordinating with the promoter on the date the of the organization’s annual awards dinner so pound-for-pound kingpin Floyd Mayweather Jr. can make an appearance, if he wins the organization’s coveted Fighter of the Year award. Hirsch assured me such coordination is typical, and he has done the same in the past with Top Rank. Mayweather would be unlikely to appear if he doesn’t win, of course.

That may be, but it appears strange to me that the organization is already making plans to accommodate a specific fighter, before the nominations for the award have even been settled. I understand Mayweather might be a tougher get than light heavyweight champ Adonis “Superman” Stevenson, but observers can’t be faulted if a Mayweather win would now be viewed with some suspicion.

Even worse, Stevenson wasn’t even among the five finalists, losing out to less-accomplished light heavyweight contender Sergei Kovalev. The entire nomination process, which consists of people shouting out nominations then voting by raising their hands, appears badly flawed. A few select writers were willing to speak out, but mostly things just seemed to move by plodding consensus. It’s easy to understand why the organization’s awardees have been so consistently uninspiring in recent years.

When the meeting finally ended, we were ushered by Lisa Milner of Swanson Communications down to a press room, where a beaming Bernard Hopkins waited on stage with representatives from the Barclays Center and Fox Sports 1, eager to promote the latest in a string of shows at Barclays.

Hopkins’ main selling point for the January 30th show appears to be the availability of $25 tickets, a fact cited by most of the fighters as well. We’re not ones to complain about affordable boxing tickets, but that isn’t really a great way to convince the press a fight is meaningful.

"This is sort of like a crossroads fight for both guys," BHop offered, unconvincingly.

The With both the Jets and Giants looking like long shots to make the playoffs, New York is already looking ahead to hosting the first cold weather Super Bowl in recent memory. The fight card will be a welcome addition to the schedule, if for no other reason than it will distract from the endless pontification taking place on that other sports network. It is also an intriguing show on its own terms.

Ortiz appeared characteristically defensive and slightly on edge, resembling an oversized school boy in his grey shirt, grey vest and poorly-tied crimson bow tie. Boxing lifers will always dog Ortiz for choosing to end two fights where he was clearly hurt. The most recent came last June against Josesito Lopez; Ortiz walked away with a broken jaw and hasn’t fought since.

"I’m finally back in the ring. It’s been a bit," Ortiz said, before launching into a rambling monologue about how the boxing world has counted him out again. He credited Collazo as a tough opponent, then made several nods to his outside the ring projects and his stint on Dancing With the Stars.

DWTS was a theme of the press conference in fact, and clearly the most relevant fact about Ortiz in the eyes of those on the podium. Ortiz’s speech alternated between spacey surfer and aspiring media mogul, though the spreading stains below his arms betrayed obvious nerves. Ortiz insisted he is not worried about being viewed as a quitter, than relayed an anecdote about working out with his jaw wired shut until blood gushed from his mouth.

"We don’t give up. I know I haven’t. Being counted out, that’s prime for me. I love being counted out," Ortiz said.

With a few more losses on his record, things are probably more urgent for Collazo. Ortiz can rely on his big name and reputation for must-see fights to ensure future work; Collazo is almost a trial horse already. But the Brooklyn native has the home field advantage, and appears clear-eyed when it comes to the stakes.

"This fight right here, it will make me or break me," Collazo acknowledged.

Significance aside, it should be an entertaining scrap, especially for a Thursday night. The co-feature also has promise, as it matches Bronx welterweight prospect Eddie Gomez against the unbeaten Daquan Arnett, a member of Al Haymon’s stable. We’re high on Gomez, who beat Arnett when the pair met as amateurs many years ago. More on that fight when it approaches.

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