For the 91st time the Boxing Writers Association of America gathered to bestow awards, listen to the honored give speecahes, and ponder the state of the sport we cover and the warriors who do their thing so we can do ours.
This event, held at the Copacabana club in Times Square, represented the first time I had to shut down a Periscope of Floyd Mayweather accepting his Fighter of the Year award, because at the 30 minute mark, he was draining too much of my data!
What “Money” lacked in brevity, Lou Dibella, getting the Taub Honesty and Integrity award, made up in candor. He ended his time at the mic with a call for all promoters, himself included, to offer better product and for them to tell the fighters how much money is in the pot before the fight, which is what the spirit of the Ali Act represents.
The biggest emotional kick was supplied by photog Tom Casino, who was named “Miracle Man” by hospital personnel as he battled myriad health issues which makes his presence shooting ringside at Barclays tonight a stunning and sweet story. Casino talked about being on the ropes, and being blown away by the response from his peeps at Showtime, and the wider boxing community.
Here is the story I wrote for the event program on the 2015 Fight of the Year:
The mega events, those are the ones that are the winning lotto tickets, these are the clashes that breed revenue generation which can be at plush feather-nesting level.
But the sport doesn't solely eat, sleep, live and breathe those mega events. Sure, they can snag an excess of press attention and oxygen in the (press)room, but other matchups, to support the super fights, to fill the time slots, to keep the conveyor belt of prospects and contenders and future stars pumping, those have to get made.
It was one of “those” fights which gains the most coveted honor of being tabbed the BWAA 2015 Fight of the Year.
In no way or shape or form were the masses demanding the Takashi Miura versus Francisco Vargas scrap which detonated at Mandalay Bay Nov. 21, 2015; nossir, butts were planted in seats and eyeballs fixated on TV screens on every continent because they were salivating over the main event.
Canelo Alvarez, a pro at age 15, had blossomed into the most potent draw in the realm after Floyd Mayweather. Mexico rallied to the 25 year old with savage intensity, as he represented the best elements of a nation in transition. Miguel Cotto, a fistic rock to his nation, the fighting pride of Puerto Rico, seeking to show the redhead that experience could trump youth, that age–he was 34–was just a matter of mind control, not a metric of inevitable decline.
Canelo's crew had cause for euphoria after that matter got settled. But it was the final fight before the main event which will stick more stubbornly in the minds of so many who watched live and on a screen.
Miura (29-2-2) entered the ring as the WBC super featherweight champion. He'd grabbed the strap off Gamaliel Diaz in April 2013, and the hardcore knew the 31 year old Tokyo resident maybe wasn't the more skilled technical guy, but his pop and guts made him no slouch. Vargas hit Vegas with a 22-0-1 mark; the Mexican had a great scalp on his resume, Juan Manuel Lopez, and astute backers at Golden Boy.
Matchmakers Eric Gomez, a VP there, and Robert Diaz, had seen Miura beat Sergio Thompson in September 2013, had a good idea that his weaknesses could match up well to Vargas' strengths.
“This fight started coming together two years ago,” Gomez told me. “We look at who's champion, who out guy can maybe beat. We knew Miura was very stationary. Me and Robert knew it would likely be a great fight.”
To the point they convinced others that no, Guillermo Rigondeaux shouldn't snag the semifinal spotlight…
Paper is paper but it played out perfectly. “This could be a barn burner,” blow by blow man Jim Lanpley told watchers, sagely.
Vargas had an early lead, but his right eye puffed. Down he went, first time ever amateur or pro, in the fourth, off a straight left after a blinder jab. By round six, the Vargas eye threatened to enter Gatti territory. The tussle looked even, to the eighth. Miura had Vargas in quicksand to end the frame. The ninth…a right by the Mexican sent the champ down. He held, hugged, groggy, on auto pilot, seeking nothing more than survival. The referee looked hard, saw Miura's defenses too compromised, and halted it.
We can look back on this classic and take away several “knows,” but maybe the most useful is this, for we as boxing fans, and as citizens of the universe: this bout got 1/1,000th the pre fight publicity as the main event, but demolished it from a drama perspective. Yes, sometimes the less heralded offering will be the one which offers you the best return on your investment. When I think back to this night, I will most recall the savage artistry and immensity of willpower displayed by Francisco Vargas and Takashi Miura. This one was to me, the main event.