May 27, 2015

PBC on NBC TV — Behind the Scenes in Boston for The Sweet Science

Grand Slam on the Grandstand
Covering the PBC on NBC show in Boston last week was hard work but it was very rewarding. I'd like to tell you some more about what that was like for me to be there and to do that. For the first time since creating the KO Digest in 2010, I (Jeffrey Freeman) was credentialed under a different media outlet (The Sweet Science) and I was working for somebody else (Michael Woods). As my friends and loyal readers in the boxing community know, I set the bar very high for all things boxing media related but this live coverage assignment needed to be taken to the next level. That much I was very stressfully aware of.

Unaware of exactly how I'd go about achieving this end, I took the advice of my editor to "be the artist" and trust my instincts. It all worked out splendidly. 

That creative effort began for me at Fenway Park on Thursday for the final press conference before the Saturday afternoon card on nearby Comm Ave May 23.

Dirrell, the Greatest, Micky Ward, and DeGale
Like a Red Sox player on the base paths, I ran around the ball park talking to everybody, making impressions, and obtaining quotes and pictures. I took full advantage of the opportunities for one-on-one interactions with main event participants James DeGale and Andre Dirrell. It was during these exchanges that I worked side-by-side with USA Today's Mike Coppinger and others.

I also enjoyed a great conversation with "Magic Man" Paulie Malignaggi and even got a close-up look at that fatefully sliced left eyelid of his. As a cut, I've seen much worse but I could now see with my own eyes why his Brooklyn Brawl at the Barclays Center against Danny O'Connor had to be scrapped.

I met international media members from across the pond and close to home. On a media sign-in sheet that was left out by the entrance of Gate E on Lansdowne Street, I somehow managed to beat the UK's "Sky Sports" but not Cary Shuman from the Independent Newspaper Group. Imagine that. Having covered my fair share of boxing press conferences for KO Digest, I can say without question that this one at Fenway Park for The Sweet Science was the best and most fun. The free food was pretty good too by the way in the form of a full buffet of Fenway Franks with all the fixings.

On a belly full of Beantown bites, I covered the final presser like it was my job, because frankly, it was. 

Baytown in Beantown
The weigh-in on Friday at Faneuil Hall was more of the same. For any boxing reporter or photographer worth his or her salt, this was a target rich environment. After taking some more great photographs, I spent my time there conducting on the spot interviews with some of the undercard fighters such as Spike O'Sullivan, Ryan Kielczweski, Danny O'Connor, Chris Gilbert, Logan McGuiness, and Baytown, Texan Craig "El Gato Negro" Baker. Sporting a "Flip The Bird" Larry Bird T-shirt, Baker gets my vote for "most fun fighter to talk to" a day before a big boxing match. Baker, who was stopped in three rounds by Edwin "La Bomba" Rodriguez, sat right next to me in front of the weigh-in stage while he waited for his time to go up there and hit the scale. After I took a shot of him in his cool shirt, Baker posted it on social media and we watched as the likes and comments poured in.

As a native Texan, I felt a responsibility to make Baker feel welcomed in my city.

When I arrived at the venue on Saturday around noon, I parked in a special media lot that was only $5 for the day. As I gathered my things and got ready to make the short walk over to the Agganis Arena, an arriving vehicle honked its horn. It was good friend and fight photographer Pattee Mak. We chatted it up on the short walk to pick up our press passes. As we made our way from the credentialing desk to the ring, we passed through the "backstage" area of the entire PBC production team. There was a spot to stop and take photos with the PBC and NBC logos as a staged backdrop. From there, it was into the arena which was still being set up. Before taking my seat in pressrow, I took a few minutes to converse with fellow early-bird Lee Groves. The Ring Magazine's Travelin' Man was there to count punches for COMPUBOX and he gave me an impromptu verbal preview of the article he was working on for RingTV about his time spent working in Boston.

I'm eager to get down to work - Photo by Pattee Mak
Before you knew it, the Agganis Arena was filling up and the fights were officially underway at 1:38 PM. One undercard bout quickly turned into another and then another. There were four first-round knockouts and two that went the distance. Before you knew it, it was 4:30 PM and the show was going live on NBC television. With tunnel vision, I blocked out all the distractions and wrote about DeGale vs. Dirrell while simultaneously scoring it round by round. In the end, I had it 116-110 for DeGale. It was only afterwards that I came to realize some people on social media had it a draw or a Dirrell win.

I'm still not sure what fight they were looking at. 

When there were no more boxing matches left to cover and no more quality content available to gather, I packed up my media bag and said my goodbyes to friends and colleagues. Fellow boxing writer Steve Tobey tried to convince me that he was retiring from fight writing after many years of service but I didn't want to believe him. With good friend and boxing publicist Bob Trieger by my side, we made our way from the ringside press section towards the area where I first came in. What better place to depart the premises I thought. It was a good thing I did that.

As we walked towards the service exit, I suddenly saw James DeGale and his British posse as they emerged from the dressing room to leave the venue. I knew I had to approach DeGale and talk to him about the fight, that my job as a journalist was not complete. As I did, somebody from his team made a halfhearted attempt to stop me but DeGale immediately recognized me from our fight week interactions and "Chunky" gave a subtle nod that it was OK I talk to him. And so that's just exactly what happened.

Boxer & belt, KO behind the scenes in Boston
After covering a televised world championship bout in Boston, I walked and talked with the new super middleweight champion of the world, interviewing him for my Sweet Science article, all the while curious to see that IBF championship title belt that seemed to be banned from the PBC promotion and from the NBC telecast.

"Where is your new title belt?" I asked DeGale.

It was in a small locked case that his Dad was carrying for him. With British boxing promoter Eddie Hearn looking on, DeGale then stopped and removed the beautiful red belt before posing with it for me just outside the building nearby an ambulance parked on standby.

An hour or so later, I was home filing my ringside report for TSS. 

Thanks for reading. See you at the fights my friends!

Images & Words by Jeffrey Freeman

May 7, 2015

Willie Monroe Jr. has boxing genetics on his side against Gennady Golovkin

The Mongoose says he's the one to upset Triple G
By Jeffrey Freeman — Willie Monroe Jr., 19-1, 6 KO's, is a very confident middleweight contender going into his May 16 challenge of WBA champion Gennady Golovkin, 32-0, 29 KO's, at the Forum in Inglewood, California. "This is the fight I asked for. Golovkin is the best." At just 28 years of age, Monroe Jr. cites Sugar Ray Leonard, Pernell Whitaker, and Roy Jones Jr. as his primary boxing influences. "The guys I look up to are fast and elusive and can do special things that other fighters can't pull off, and in such a pretty fashion." 

Born to a fighting family, Monroe's great uncle Willie "The Worm" Monroe was the first, and some say only fighter to ever conclusively defeat the great Marvin Hagler, doing so by unanimous decision in 1976 in Philadelphia. As you can imagine, there's persistent confusion about who's who and how they're related.

Monroe's father, also named Willie Monroe, was, as described by his son, "a good middleweight" in the 1990's.

Great Uncle Willie handled Hagler in 76
Monroe Jr. says that boxing is in his blood and that after he wins the Golovkin fight on May 16, he'll give the sporting world a deeper look into his personal life, about which he says, "I've been the underdog since I was conceived in my mother's womb. I mean that literally. I'm one of those people who's always looking to prove people wrong. I relish being the underdog."

Does Monroe Jr. know he's an off the board underdog, expected by nobody to be able to defeat the marauding Golovkin, a winner of 19 straight by knockout, with 13 of those KO's in defense of the WBA title Monroe Jr. will soon fight for?

Of course he does. It just doesn't seem to bother him one bit.

"I'm the one who can take Golovkin's cloak of invincibility."

Big Drama Show or another KO for GGG?

May 6, 2015

KO's Ringside Notes & Quotes VIII — The #MayPac "Money Grab" wrap-up

The Farce of the Century
By Jeffrey Freeman, KO Digest 

Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao turned out to be so much worse as a fight, and as an event, than any of us could've imagined. It's still hard to believe something so big could suck so bad. The undercard was terrible. The promotion was next to nonexistent. Any relationship between the two boxers was long ago reduced to contempt and then chronic disinterest. This was not a rivalry. This was not the biggest fight in boxing history. This was a money grab, a fleecing, a shameful shake-down and boxing got shook up. 

The "fight" itself was so terrible they actually killed the allure of a rematch. They couldn't even get that right. Can you believe it? The three hundred million dollar men delivered a final product not worthy of the novice class Golden Glove semi-finals in Lowell. It was all so bad that not only don't we want a sequel, we'd all like to go back and undemand this debacle, a waste of space on my DVR so foul I deleted it to make room for the movie Grudge Match.

Duran and Leonard put on a better show in 1989
DKSAB — Scour the world wide web long enough and you will read and see things that defy belief. Two girls, one cup. Creation science websites. Mass beheading videos. The list goes on and on. And now, the latest in online insanity. Brace yourselves. I'm going to say this very slowly so it doesn't knock you down where you stand. Get ready. Here it comes. There are actually people out there on planet Earth who scored the Mayweather-Pacquiao whitewash for Pacquiao. Let that sink in. Try not to scream. I know it hurts. My head aches too.

Obviously, Floyd won at least 9, but maybe even 10 or 11 rounds and yet despite this, Al Gore's internet will show you misguided scores of 115-113 for Pacquiao like this was Marvin Hagler-Sugar Ray Leonard and not the Leonard-Duran III redux it obviously was. KO scored it 117-111 for Mayweather in a waltz.

A picture worth a thousand words and 300 million dollars
Class Dismissed — The ultimate lesson of ‪#‎MayPac‬ was heard (and learned) loud and clear by every single prizefighter in the world of professional boxing who dreams of low risks and big rewards. That lesson was that when boxing fans actually want to see you and some other guy fight it out in your primes, no matter what you do and no matter what people say; don't fight that fight, at least not right away. Instead, what you do is wait, delay, duck, dodge, put it off, and build it up. Then when sports fans worldwide are finally ready to fork over the really big bucks, you grab that cash with both hands and give them a pay-per-view sparring session.

The Last Words KO wrote one very wrongheaded prediction on RingTV's "Fight Picks" by Anson Wainwright but also lots of foreboding pre-fight analysis for ‪#‎MayCrap, the greatest fleece in boxing history. What follows was my best and most accurate:

Mayweather left boxing fans wanting less

"It's no secret that Floyd Mayweather is a defensive counterpuncher who looks to minimize contact and do just enough punching to win boxing matches. Mayweather will not expose himself to a firefight if it's not absolutely necessary and the onus is on Manny Pacquiao to make it absolutely necessary."

"Mayweather, 38, against Pacquiao, 36, on May 2 is an overdue money grab and the fight itself comes with a high probability of being boring to the eyes. The least they could do is make the build-up exciting for fight fans and enticing to mainstream sports fans who long ago abandoned boxing."