You think you have a tough time keeping up with current events? How would you like to be a boxing writer?
Quick, name three current heavyweight champions, any three. Muhammad Ali? Come on. Larry Holmes? That's just a little better. You can't do it, can you. Boxing writers can. It's their job.
Coming up with Holmes--let's pretend you did--is no big thing, OK. Everybody knows him, even if his domain has been reduced to that of the International Boxing Federation. He's been around forever. He won the World Boxing Council title in 1978 and now, 19 defenses and another organization later, is still popping. Now he wants to finish 50-0, which would top Rocky Marciano's record of 49-0. So here he is, signed to fight Carl (The Truth) Williams, May 20. Well, who can't name Holmes?
So how about champions Greg Page and Pinklon Thomas? You just forgot? The tip of your tongue? Give me a break. Only their close friends and boxing writers know these things. Who else would have the time to keep up with this stuff.
In fact, some boxing writers don't have the time. And it takes time, more and more.
Here's the problem: Some kid wins the heavyweight title, say either the World Boxing Council's or the World Boxing Assn.'s, and before a boxing writer can check out the correct spelling, the kid has lost it again. The only reason a boxing writer can keep up with this at all is that the heavyweights hardly ever fight.
Now we've got Page, the WBA champion after spoiling Gerrie Coetzee's first defense after Coetzee had spoiled Michael Dokes' second, making his first defense Monday night in Buffalo against Tony Tubbs. Can we afford any more turmoil here? Hardly.
Meanwhile, the WBC boys are distracting us with their own version of musical stools, with nobody able to defend more than once either. Let's somebody hang onto this thing.
Probably Page will, although predictability has not been his strength. Page, 26, is a talented boxer, with a thorough preparation, at least by today's standards. Meanwhile, Tubbs, who somehow got thrown into contention by beating James (Bonecrusher) Smith, has had just 24 fights, only four in the last two years.
Let Tubbs explain this strange tapering off. "Basically, I had problems with managers and promoters," he said by phone from Buffalo. That's a code meaning, basically, that he didn't have a promotional contract with Don King. "Once I got clear, and met with Don King, things moved along faster."
King, who controls virtually the entire division, deciding who will fight whom and when, offered a willing ear when Tubbs, a one-time amateur star and national AAU champion, came calling. King put Tubbs in three of his promotions, got him some exposure and ranking, not to mention experience, and steered him into Monday night's fight with Page.
Tubbs, who has lived in Santa Monica since coming west from Cincinnati to join the mysteriously funded Muhammad Ali Amateur Boxing Team, knows that he's stepping up in class real quickly, maybe too quickly. But the division is so strange that he can't depend on the logic of waiting until he's ready. He has to take the money, $75,000, and box and hope he can come away with the title.
Why not? Isn't that what all those other champions have done?
Even before the Marvelous Marvin Hagler-Thomas Hearns fight, promoter Bob Arum was downplaying the possibility of a rematch. "Rematches never do as good, financially," he said. "Look, Ali-Frazier I brought in $19 million. Ali-Frazier II brought in $12 million-$13 million, and Ali-Frazier III, the best of them, brought in just $9 million-$10 million. They just never do nearly as good.
"The magic is in seeing how two fighters match up that first time. After that, well, the fight may be different, but you've seen that matchup."
Arum also said that besides reduced income, a rematch usually represents increased outgo, which is bad business, according to most accountants. "What if this turns out to be a war?" Arum had said, before the two $6-million men launched all missiles in their three-round Armageddon. "Will they want to go back in there for the same money?"
Answer: No. Don't expect a rematch for a long time, if ever.