“Sit down, you're supposed to be media!” Jack Hirsch, ex-President of the BWAA, says with patriarchal enthusiasm; exhorting me and my Aaliyah/Notorious B.I.G/2Pac t-shirt wearing and teenage acting self to calm down and act professional.
So—aside from unknowledgeable stiffs of pretension at ringside, many of these fans up here– surrounding the skybox seats in the upper decks of Madison Square Garden, are from Jersey, and I've either shaken hands or posed for selfies with many of them.
They're going absolutely wild as 21 year-old Shakur Stevenson (11-0, 6KOs) comes out in fiery red and conquering gold to face Puerto Rico's tough guy and a Freddie Roach-trained Christopher Diaz (24-2, 16KOs).
Noticing a large Puerto Rican flag waving contingent below has greeted Diaz, age 24, I spurred on these blue collar fans with an arm flailing display of revelry, in a way that really can't happen (nor should) among ringside press and cameras of influence. It can here. For me, media and boxing are as entwined as love and a verb. A showing of genuine action with a smile. Y'know… Humanity.
“C'mon man, I'm just trying to be great,” dropped Shakur, after I asked him during his walkthrough last week at EverybodyFights about taking such a dangerous fight. It's draped all over the 2016 Rio Olympic silver medalist from Newark, NJ. And as a guy originally from neighboring Plainfield, I'm proud of him, and ain't shy about it.
Up here, where certain media square types with noses pointed beyond rafters have a problem with common folks and/or demand reassignment, I'm really enjoying my time with Hirsch, a man Bert Randolph Sugar held in great regard for a rare pugilistic IQ and Regular Joe swagger. He's awesome.
“To them, we're just down-to-earth media seated among real fans, Jack, who expect me to write like I'm supposed to– for them.”
Flanked by the no-nonsense and talented Sean Nam from Hannibal Boxing, I waste no time extolling the virtues of the highest rated prospect I've ever graded. “This isn't going to be his Floyd Mayweather moment against Genaro Hernandez– that'll come against Josh Warrington, and in less fights,” I'm telling Hirsch and Nam, as both vie to win an eye rolling contest.
Then I go:
“But he's way ahead of where Pernell Whitaker was prior to facing Roger Mayweather.”
This is when Nam loses it, and is ready to have me Baker Acted. Hirsch is ready to summon security. As Danny “Swift” Garcia pulls the pin and blows up Adrian Granados on the monitor in front of us on FOX, I'm gathering data to support my inner scientist suspected as having gone mad.
Roger Mayweather was a 26 year-old, 26-4 solid pro fighter, a real problem in front of a 23 year-old “Sweet Pea” many were unsure he'd solve. But Mayweather had been knocked out in three of those losses, pretty fucking badly too, and dropped a clear UD to a pretty good Tony Baltazar. He was bludgeoned by the great Julio Cesar Chavez, the late and underrated great Rocky Lockridge, and the pedestrian Freddie Pendleton. Would Christopher Diaz lose to any of those guys? Probably. Does he get stopped? I don't think so. We know it's apples and oranges, and that the argument is subjective, but does Mayweather's name make him better than a Diaz that Shakur is absolutely going Sugar Ray Robinson on?
“He looks magnificent,” Hirsch admits with ebullience, after six rounds. As the credits roll on a 10 round masterpiece, he still wants clarity on “Tapegate” and Shakurs' Miami brawl caught on camera. He's particularly concerned about the striking of a woman. “It's bad Jack. It is. But he's more misunderstood than mysogynist. The tape shows he didn't intend to hit her,” I'm pleading, like a defense attorney from the rafters.
“I mean, we're not looking at Tony Ayala Jr here. And wasn't there some other guy named Floyd who did time for really hitting a woman? He turned out okay, right? As in, ‘The Best Ever' ok. Yeah?”
Nam raises both eyebrows and nods in approval, just before Shakur takes the mic and declares himself the second coming right before Easter. Hirsch and Nam reprise eye rolling contests, complete with prodigious shaking of heads. I've already rested my case, even as Stevenson takes the stand again to undo justice. Is it any wonder that Top Rank kept him away from the post fight press conference? Not only was Warrington warned, everyone in and around featherweight was, including budding superstar Gervonta “Tank” Davis.
If youth is wasted on the young, then talent won't wait on the old. In a day that bolsters the bold and passes by the passive, it's the search for those in the middle who can hold us captive. He ain't Cassius, but he still might tell you impossible is nothing.