Throughout America, there seems to be this belief that boxing is dead because the pugilists who could have been worth watching have chosen to forgo the sweet science in favor of dunking a basketball or strapping on a football helmet.
That cannot be true, because everything is relative. Were there truly no good fighters remaining, we'd never know the difference. The tin cans (aka Floyd Mayweather) would beat up other tin cans (aka Oscar De La Hoya), and the general public would have nary a clue.
No, the problem is characters.
Namely, boxing has none.
Back in its heyday, during the 1960s, 1970s and '80s, the sport oozed with brio. Muhammad Ali was reciting poetry and posing with The Beatles. Ray Leonard was throwing bolo punches and floating around the ring. Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini was the street-tough Italian hope. Mike Tyson was the terrifying monster.
Even in the '90s we had Bernard Hopkins entering the ring in an executioner's mask, "Prince" Naseem Hamed being carried on a palanquin, and Roy Jones Jr. playing pro basketball by morning and fighting by night.
AP Photo/Doug Kanter
Maybe giving "Blood" another fight would spice up the boxing world!
I am writing this column not to slam the final nail in boxing's coffin, but to delay the pallbearers. Because there is a man sitting in his Queens, N.Y. apartment, shadowboxing in an empty room, desperate for the telephone to ring. Though his official profession these days is listed as "nightclub bouncer," he identifies profoundly with a scene from the film "Rocky Balboa" -- when Little Marie turns to the ancient slugger and says, with all the earnestness a down-on-her-luck barkeep can muster, "Fighters fight."
Mitch "Blood" Green wants to fight.
And I want him to, too.
Now admittedly, Green isn't much of a boxer. He is 50 years old, and 50-year-old men have enough trouble tying their shoelaces without needing Bengay afterwards. Green last entered the ring in 2005, when he scored a fourth-round knockout of Billy Mitchem (whose record was ahem 5-12-1). Before that, in 2002, he won a decision over Danny Wofford, dropping The Big Woff to -- read this closely -- 17-94-2, and winning the -- read this closely, too -- World Boxing Syndicate super heavyweight title.
As my Uncle Marty used to say, that and a quarter will get you a quarter.
But I don't care. Green deserves a shot at the heavyweight title because he has a cool nickname, because he was once ranked No. 7 by the WBC, because he lasted 10 rounds with an in-his-prime Tyson, because he has a Web site that looks like it was designed in 1993, because he could use the money, and because -- most importantly -- he's sorta nuts.
Though Green was actually once a passable fighter with a 19-6-1 record, he is best remembered (really, only remembered) for an incident that took place on Aug. 23, 1988, when -- anxious for a rematch with Tyson -- he followed the heavyweight champion into a Harlem clothing store called Dapper Dans. In the ensuing scuffle, Tyson hammered a singular straight right punch into Green's nose, thus giving the "Blood" nickname new meaning.
Green later sued Tyson and won $45,000 in damages.
It was excellent theatre; the kind of thing you just don't see anymore. The New York Post plastered Green's battered mug on its front page. Green went on national TV and called Tyson every offensive name in the book, insisting "He's a sissy and a punk!" and demanding an immediate rematch. (It never happened. And when you're too unstable for Tyson's tastes, you know you're legit.)
When I tracked down Green a few days ago, he was sitting in front of the TV with his family, watching his new favorite show -- "Dancing With the Stars" ("I like the *NSYNC kid!" he raved) -- and blabbering incoherent, inexplicable inanities that screamed "Boxing needs this man!"
"I'll beat Wladimir Klitschko with one hand!" he exclaimed. (Green exclaims nearly everything.) "And I'd promote the fight real good! I speak Russian! Da! Da! Da! Ask me something in Russian! I know all the curses! Ask me!"
I asked Green how to say "crazy ex-boxer," which led to a pause. "Hell, I would tear Shannon Briggs apart! I'd bust him up! You know what I call Don King! I call him him 'Donkey!' Get it! DK -- Donkey! Ha!"
Green paused. "Remember this slogan!" he said. "Remember it! 'Book 'em and I'll whoop 'em!' You can't stop Blood! Wait! Wait! Joey's dancing!"
Green went on. And on. And on. Some would chalk it up to the ramblings of a guy not fit to enter the ring. I disagree. Mitch "Blood" Green is a savior.
"I can bring boxing back!" he says. "Da! Da! Da!"
Jeff Pearlman is a former Sports Illustrated senior writer and the author of "Love Me, Hate Me: Barry Bonds and the Making of an Antihero", now available in paperback. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.