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CHRIS ERSKINE / FAN OF THE HOUSE

It's a suite deal, this boxing theater-in-the-round

At Staples Center with his neighbor, he's treated to Julio Cesar Chavez vs. Sebastian Zbik, which has shades of 'Henry IV,' maybe even 'Macbeth.'

June 08, 2011|Chris Erskine
  • Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. celebrates his WBC world middleweight victory over Sebastian Zbik on Saturday.
Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. celebrates his WBC world middleweight victory over… (Danny Moloshok / Reuters )

So I'm sitting around wondering about what goes into a good curveball, when should I start throwing one, am I still too young to learn, when my neighbor Tony stops by and says he has tickets to the fights, do I want to go along. Yes, of course, I say, just let me check with the spousal unit in charge of Saturday nights.

"I'll check with her and get back," I say.

"Good, no rush," he says.

Don't know Tony all that well, but like him instantly, for he's got a suite at Staples Center for the Chavez fight, courtesy of the bank he helps run. And, if you're an L.A. guy, you put two and two together and come up with this: If his bank has a suite at Staples, that means that I may one day — if I stay on Tony's good list — get to attend the Christmas Day Lakers game against the Team of the Moment.

That's always a big game, in some ways the best part of Christmas. It's what we have here in lieu of angels and snow.

Anyway, that's a long way of saying I really like Tony, I may in fact love him. I don't know yet how to tell our respective wives this. Love is like that — fickle, untimely, brutal almost. It's sort of like when Demi Moore falls for Robert Redford in "Indecent Proposal" — all about the bling, baby.

So that's how I ended up at the Chavez fight Saturday night at Staples, one of seven people in attendance. The official headcount is something like 12,000, but I think they may have been including beer cups and chicken wings.

Boxing, you'll be surprised to hear, does occur in places outside Las Vegas. In fact, there's a fight coming up at the Home Depot Center in July, Brandon Rios vs. Urbano Antillon. I'll probably attend that one too, Tony willing.

On this night, this prehistoric sport — certainly the first mankind ever engaged in — is being held at center stage at Staples. Don't know about you, but whenever I see anything besides basketball at Staples it seems a little strange, like seeing a chimpanzee in a coconut bra. Even hockey, which I really like, seems a trespasser here. The Grammys too. This place is first and foremost a basketball arena. Everything else seems a sideshow.

What I like about boxing … well, I like a lot of things. I like that it's theater-in-the round, almost Shakespearean. This night in particular has shades of "Henry IV," maybe even "Macbeth." In walks Julio Cesar Chavez, in a headband and a tuxedo, and his silver-spoon son, who apparently is about 12. He's a handsome kid, but baby-faced in a way you don't see in fighters very much.

Think back to Spinks. Or Dempsey. Who gives birth to mugs like that? They looked like men who had never been babies, who appeared in the world already forged with lantern jaws and cauliflower ears.

So, Saturday night, father and son step into the ring, and the place goes completely bonkers, so much do the fans love the old man, who still looks tough as a trailer hitch. In one of the endearing moments, he wishes luck to the opponent, some German stiff, then goes to his son's corner, where he kisses the kid smack on the lips.

I kind of cringe, such an intimate moment in such a public place, but it's so sincere, so of-the-moment that I end up admiring the old man. It's like Chavez Sr. is saying hey, I love my son, anybody have a problem with that?

The fight itself is stirring too — good, not great. I think Bob Arum pretty much puppeteers these things. After all, he saw an opportunity for Junior to get a middleweight belt after it was handed to this Sebastian Zbik character, who looks like a fighter from the '40s, no spring in his step. Chavez moves better but he's sort of gangly and without his daddy's coiled-up power and keeps dropping that left. Up. Down. Up. Down. A human toll gate.

Must drive Freddie Roach nuts.

It's the best kind of fight though. It goes 12 rounds but it looks like one punch could end it at any moment. I think Zbik won the early rounds, but Chavez won the late ones, and a tie always goes to the local favorite.

Good night at the fights, all the same. No one would mistake it for a Mensa meeting, that's for sure. But there is drama just the same, a little bit of the old East vs. West atmosphere, the European against the North American.

There was also the past, the future, the legend, the heir apparent.…

Yep, boxing may be our most prehistoric sport — the first one man ever engaged in. And to be sure, hopefully many moons from now, also the very last.

chris.erskine@latimes.com

twitter.com/erskinetimes

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