Big names, terrible fights: Not a good mix

At its best, boxing is second to none. At its worse, though, fans and viewers are turned off, writes Joe Tessitore.

Updated: May 22, 2007, 8:33 PM ET
By Joe Tessitore | Special to ESPN.com

Remember the Colts' game plan for their Super Bowl win over the Bears? It was brilliant. Peyton Manning spiked the ball on every first down. Then he fell forward for a 1-foot QB sneak on every second down. That was before he threw the ball out of bounds and deep over the head of his wide receiver on third down. All to set up a punt into the fans on fourth down. It was a tremendous display of sports entertainment and a winning mind-set.

Sound ridiculous? It is, and to me it sounds just like what I witnessed out of offensively challenged Zahir Raheem and Cory Spinks this past weekend. Just as bad were their respective opponents, Cristobal Cruz and Jermain Taylor, who allowed it.

Those main events on "Friday Night Fights" and HBO, respectively, this past weekend were dismal. The fact that two top-ranked world-class boxers were committed to making them that way, is wretched.

Could you imagine talking about other sports like this? Surely you recall how the NCAA Final Four played out. Florida Gators coach Billy Donovan was stellar in starting the title game against Ohio State with a four-corners offense. I especially liked how he had Joakim Noah and Al Horford never cross into the front court when they were on offense. Why take a chance?

Boxing, more so than any other sport, is the simplest form of supply and demand. And what it demands is that fans want to pay to see you fight. They can pay in different ways. They can buy tickets or they can buy pay-per-view. All it took for these two fights was time to tune in.

But what have Raheem or Spinks now done to convince fans that they can supply what is demanded? There is a reason Oscar De La Hoya made more money than Floyd Mayweather a few weeks ago, and it has nothing to do with tight shoulder roll defense or an undefeated record. There is a reason Micky Ward was making millions even with 12 career losses.

The late great Cus D'Amato was often asked what pro boxing was all about. He didn't say, "Hit and not get hit," or "It's the manly art of self-defense." He simply said, "It's about putting asses in the seats."

Jermain Taylor and Cory Spinks
Charles Rex Arbogast/AP PhotoJermain Taylor (right) and Cory Spinks landed as many boos as they did punches in Saturday's middleweight fight.
Anybody who knew anything about boxing knew the Taylor-Spinks fight wasn't worthy of the licensing fee or attention it had demanded. Yet after watching the fight, it was worse than that.

Raheem wasn't supposed to make such an ugly fight against a guy he completely outclassed. He hugged, held, clinched and fought in spots to a decision win against a right-in-front-of-you punching aggressor. If that is Raheem's idea of a good night, then why would we ever want to see him fight for a title? Heck, why would we ever want to see him fight again? I acknowledge Raheem and Spinks as talented, and I like them as people a lot, but I do not like watching them fight.

I'm so fed up with bad stylistic fights from big established names in this sport. I'd rather watch lesser-skilled guys give everything they have. And don't tell me I don't appreciate skill and defense. Pernell Whitaker and Willie Pep are two of my favorite all-time fighters to watch on tape. They at least understood how to turn it on and when to turn it on. Their skill created excitement instead of smothering any fire with a wet blanket.

The fighters are the last line of credibility the sport has always had. When all goes south with crooked organizations, or bad-intentioned promoters or suspect judging, at least you know there are two guys in the ring trying their hardest to beat the other. But if that isn't the case, what are we left with?

Thank goodness for Shaun George, Richard Hall, Kelly Pavlik and Edison Miranda. If the two co-features on this week's two nationally televised cards weren't form fights, then I'd be throwing this laptop through a window rather than typing in Windows.

Fortunately on "Friday Night Fights" this week, we have Anthony Peterson in the main event (ESPN2, 9 ET). The unbeaten, heavy-handed prospect doesn't just look to go through the motions; instead he is in constant offensive motion. Likewise for his brother Lamont, who will open up the telecast.

Teddy Atlas said it very well before the Oscar-Floyd fight: Both fighters have an obligation to make a great fight. They didn't. But forget the $120 million PPV for a moment. Doesn't every fighter, no matter how big the purse, have an obligation to make a great fight? Isn't that why they are professional prize fighters?

I don't go through a broadcast without placing inflection or excitement into my call. I don't go into a broadcast saying, "I won't use the biographical stories I've uncovered that would interest the viewer." I go into a broadcast ready to unload. Shouldn't the fighter, who is the subject of that call, be willing to do the same?

The fans in Tulsa booed Raheem out of the ring Friday night. That's good for the sport. I hope every fighter was able to see that. The fans in Memphis listened to the judge's scores, which were split.

I don't really know who won the middleweight title fight either, but I know who lost. The fans and viewers lost. The sport lost. It stunk.

When it is at its best, nothing touches boxing. You can't show me one single football, basketball or baseball game that has ever come close to what Corrales-Castillo produced. It's the other extreme that worries me. The ugly snoozers are the problem. I'm sick of them, especially from a ranked fighter. That's repulsive. Take some pride in what you do.

Joe Tessitore is the blow-by-blow announcer for ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights."

Joe Tessitore has been the blow-by-blow announcer for ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights" and "Wednesday Night Fights" since 2002 and contributes a weekly boxing column to ESPN.com.

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