Friday, July 12th 2024

McClellan Brings Crowd To Its Feet

Boxing Notes/by George Kimball
Sunday, April 28, 2002

NEW YORK - Boxing's glitterati assembled at The Supper Club in New York for Friday night's annual Boxing Writers of America Awards dinner, but the guy who stole the show never saw a minute of it. One hundred percent blind, 80 percent deaf, suffering from memory loss and confined to a wheelchair for the past half-dozen years, former World Boxing Council middleweight champion Gerald McClellan received a standing ovation when he was wheeled to the dais.

McClellan has been incapacitated since his fateful 1995 fight against Nigel Benn in London. Boxing photographer Teddy Blackburn, who has made McClellan's upkeep his personal crusade, was honored with the Marvin Kohn Good Guy Award for his tireless efforts, and insisted that McClellan be present. New York impresario Lou DiBella happily paid for McClellan's trip.

It was a strange head table since undisputed middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins was being honored as the 2001 Fighter of the Year and his since-estranged handler Bouie Fisher was named Trainer of the Year. Both men accepted their honors with grace. The 74-year-old Fisher barely mentioned Hopkins, and while Hopkins exuded his usual defensive suspicion, he acknowledged Fisher as ``a great teacher,'' at the same time modestly acknowledging he had been ``a great pupil.''

The hottest rumor sweeping the room had a Hopkins-Roy Jones megafight - a matter that had seemed all but dead for the past month or so - heating up again.

Of course, this is cause for consternation for International Boxing Federation cruiserweight champion Vassily Jirov. He just hired former Mike Tyson trainer Tommy Brooks to prep him for an anticipated July 13 date against Jones, but it now appears Jones may be heading down instead of up in weight. Jones, who dumped longtime promoter Murad Muhammad, appears prepared to renew their relationship, and a fight against Hopkins now appears more likely. . . .

Lennox Lewis-Mike Tyson tickets, the most expensive in boxing history, went on sale to the general public Thursday, and sales topped $2.4 million in the first 24 hours the windows were open. Although the fight was immediately proclaimed a "sellout,'' a bit of explanation is in order. First, fewer than 2,000 tickets were even offered for public sale. The remainder are the province of the fighters, the promoters, as well as HBO and Showtime, which are sharing the PPV telecast.

And even though the public allotment vanished Thursday, the Pyramid box office had tickets for sale on Friday. These had been purchased by eager first-day buyers whose checks had bounced. They were returned to the pool. As expected, both boxers will be based in Mississippi for their June 8 showdown at the Pyramid in Memphis.

Warding off competition
Lowell's Micky Ward doesn't fight Arturo Gatti for another three weeks, but the junior welterweight's preparations are having a trickle-down effect on the rest of New England boxing.

Haverhill's Jeff Fraza joined Peter Manfredo Jr. on the roster of Ward sparring partners, and in his very first day of sparring got nailed in the ribs by one of Ward's patented hooks. The injury has KO'd Fraza's scheduled New England 140-pound title fight against Southie's Kevin Watts (16-1) on Rich Cappiello's May 24 fight card at Revere's Wonderland Ballroom. . . .

New England's two busiest promoters, Easton's Cappiello and Jimmy Burchfield of Providence, inaugurated televised series this year, with Cappiello's being shown on tape-delay on Fox Sports New England and Burchfield's on NESN. Until now, they avoided head-to-head conflicts. That era of good feeling will end later this month when Cappiello has his live show in Revere and Burchfield promotes the same night at Rhodes-on-the-Pawtuxet in Cranston, R.I.

The Wonderland card will feature a pair of Irish boxers, cruiserweight Colm Keane (vs. Roy Payne) and heavyweight Kevin McBride (25-4-1) against an undetermined opponent, while William Gibbs, the unbeaten Philadelphia middleweight now fighting out of Brockton, is slated for an appearance. The Rhode Island card will be topped by Fairhaven super middleweight Scott Pemberton, who successfully returned from an extended vacation with a win at Foxwoods this month, while Manfredo, the 13-0 middleweight from Pawtucket, will box in the co-feature, assuming he survives the next few weeks with Ward.

You be the judge
The telecast of Cappiello's card at the Roseland Ballroom last weekend will air from 3:30-5:30 today. Be warned that you're in for an exhibition of some of the most bizarre judging ever seen in these parts. In one undercard bout, Hudson's Manny Teo thoroughly outboxed Hanson super-middleweight Dave Hamilton, but came up on the wrong end of a majority decision. (Our scorecard gave Teo every round, and Massachusetts
Boxing Commission chairman Nick Manzello had Teo winning 5-of-6 rounds.)

Almost as outrageous was the split decision awarded Randolph heavyweight Billy Mofford. The judges were so predisposed against Lawrence opponent Danny Sheehan that at least one refused to score a two-point round when Sheehan dropped Mofford in the first. The main event was saved from travesty because the other two judges correctly scored Jermell Barnes' win over hometown cruiserweight Hector Sanjurjo, offsetting judge Nick Preveti, who had Sanjurjo winning 8-of-10 rounds. . . .

Promoter Doug Pendarvis apparently pulled the plug on his proposed card in Illinois last Saturday night literally at the last minute. Local publicist Bob Trieger's cell phone was burning with calls from irate Chicago newspapers, which assigned reporters, only to find locked doors when they got there.

Happy birthday, Kevin Rooney.

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