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Lampley’s Prefight Takeaways

Michael Woods



On Friday, Feb. 26, I was privileged to sit in the HBO fighter meeting the day before the cabler screened fights featuring headliners Terence Crawford and Felix Verdejo in Manhattan.

Those guys and their foes and important team members sat down, in a conference room at a hotel across from Madison Square Garden and were questioned by HBO fight callers Jim Lampley, Max Kellerman and Roy Jones.

It was illuminating and educational.

Lampley presides and is Hall of Fame savvy at extracting useful tidbits which are inserted into the show the next night.

I was there because I was to work on Saturday the blow by blow seat, next to analysts Monte Barrett and Crystina Poncher for promoter Top Rank, and left the room with amplified respect for the HBO gang. Lampley especially is a smooth and sagacious operator in that milieu and I was able to connect a dot or two regarding what I saw Friday and what I heard when I watched the broadcast.

It resonated with me. So I asked The Fight Game host to send me his takeaways from the Friday fighter meeting which featured Luis Ortiz, Tony Thompson, Sadam Ali and Jessie Vargas. Lampley kindly cooperated. You can watch fights involving those gents tonight, on HBO.

Here are his fighter meeting thoughts, exclusive to NYFIGHTS.

Lampley: It is always fun to sit with Jessie Vargas and find out that his relationship with his new trainer is the best yet and will facilitate the immediate fulfillment of all his potential. That was the case with Ismael Salas, it was the case with Roy Jones, it was the case with Erik Morales, and now it is the case with Dewey Cooper. I don’t remember whether it was ever the case with original trainer Robert Alcazar. Jesse is brimming with confidence, which prompted him at one point to say he will make Saddam Ali “quit” Saturday night.

—Saddam Ali is grateful to Jesse for saying that. If he was conjuring possible motivations here, and it seems he may have been, this one is convenient. Jessie won eight straight decisions prior to his loss to Tim Bradley. That means no one was quitting. Saddam had a stellar amateur career, and he says he had no knowledge of Jessie Vargas. But Max Kellerman points out Saddam should be cognizant that there is more talent, better sparring partners where Vargas trains in Las Vegas than in Brooklyn where Ali is.

—Tony Thompson is a trip. Took up boxing at 27, still boxing at 44, more big name assignments in the heavyweight division in the past ten years than anyone other than Wladimir Klitschko, who is the only man to knock Tony out (twice). Does he have enough left to compete with red hot southpaw Luis Ortiz? Doesn’t seem logical, but it’s a paycheck.

—Ortiz was a fifteen year old in Cuba when Michael Moorer beat Evander Holyfield to become the first southpaw heavyweight champion. He wasn’t aware. He also wasn’t in touch with George Foreman’s historic knockout of Moorer in the southpaw champion’s first defense. But now he tries to follow in Moorer’s path. He believes Wladimir will win the rematch with Fury, and that he will be Wladimir’s mandatory challenger, and that he will then knock Wladimir out. He also believes fighting Thompson is mere batting practice for him.

Editor/publisher Michael Woods became addicted to boxing in 1990, when Buster Douglas shocked the world with his demolition of the fearsome Mike Tyson. The Brooklyn-based journalist Woods has covered the sport since then, for ESPN The Magazine,, ESPN New York, RING, and he was editor of from 2007-2015. Woods is also an accomplished blow by blow and color man, having done work for Top Rank, DiBella Entertainment, EPIX, and numerous other organizations.