Archive for October, 2012

Jones vs. Sonnen for the UFC’s light heavyweight belt is TUF to swallow

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Chael Sonnen

Chael Sonnen (right) was last seen getting dominated by Anderson Silva at the main event of UFC 148. (Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

Remember that fake UFC championship belt a mischievous Chael Sonnen used to sling over his shoulder for press conferences and television appearances in the contentious leadup to his July rematch with Anderson Silva? You know, the one that he impishly told an interviewer on ESPN was proof that he was the real middleweight champion?

Well, let’s pull it out of the closet and dust it off. That plastic-and-pleather strap is the one that rightfully ought to be put up for grabs next April 27 when Sonnen challenges once again for the UFC championship. This time at light heavyweight, though.

Seriously?

Yep, this is not another Chael media ploy. The UFC actually announced on Tuesday that Sonnen, who has competed in the fight promotion’s 205-pound weight class exactly one time — and that was seven years ago and he lost — will challenge Jon Jones after the two serve as coaches on the 17th season of The Ultimate Fighter.

Jones need not bother to bring along the shiny brass-and-leather belt that he’s been proudly wearing for the last 19 months, the one he acquired by knocking out a champion and in the time since has defended against four former titlists. That belt signifies something earned, something extraordinary, something real. So “Bones” should leave it home in the trophy case. When he steps into the octagon next spring to take on a middleweight fighter with a heavyweight mouth, the fake plastic belt will suffice for the fake title defense.

That is not to deny that the next several months will be a lot of laughs. Chael is at this very moment locked in a windowless room with a team of joke writers brainstorming a Top 10 list for Letterman and five minutes of couch chatter for Leno.

And there’s no doubt that Dana White and Co. will benefit from this arrangement, which first was reported by The Los Angeles Times and later was confirmed by the UFC. The Ultimate Fighter will get a much-needed boost in ratings, and that springtime pay-per-view, featuring two of the organization’s top draws, is sure to do big numbers.

Maybe that’s good enough for the UFC: a financial boon generated by a dud of a fight.

Yes, a dud.

Read More…


  • Published On Oct 17, 2012
  • Quick Jabs: Adamek-Cunningham II set, Froch changes his mind and more

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    Tomasz Adamek

    Tomasz Adamek will fight Steve Cunningham again after their epic bout in 2008, which Adamek won by split decision. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

    Some quick jabs…

    • Though it wasn’t announced, Main Events had planned to match heavyweight contender Tomasz Adamek against former title challenger Odlanier Solis on its NBC show — the main NBC network, not NBC Sports Network — on Dec. 22nd. However, last week Solis’ new advisor, Gabriel Penagaricano, went to Main Events and said the money Solis had agreed to wasn’t going to be enough.

    In an email to SI.com, Duva explained what happened:

    “Recently, Solis pulled out of a fight in Spain that had been made by [promoter] Ahmet Ohner. Shortly after that we were informed by Solis’ new representative that he would not fight on Dec. 22nd under the terms that had been agreed to by his previous management. We went back and forth for over a week trying to resolve the situation. He was given a deadline of Friday, Oct. 12th to sign the paperwork. When he did not, we informed his representative that we were prepared to move on with another opponent. We then gave him until Monday at noon to reconsider. When he did not come back to us with an agreement by noon on Monday, we offered the fight to another heavyweight, who jumped at the opportunity. The deal was literally finished in the space of a few hours. Late on Monday night, Solis’ representative informed us that he was now ready to live up to our original deal. At that point, however, it was too late to turn back, as we had committed to another bout.”

    That other fighter Duva alludes to is Steve Cunningham, a longtime cruiserweight titleholder who made the jump to heavyweight in September. In 2008, Cunningham waged an epic war with Adamek, losing a split decision. Though Solis-Adamek was a more meaningful fight — the winner would have been well positioned for a 2013 fight with Wladimir Klitschko — Adamek-Cunningham is a can’t miss action fight.

    “This is a fight my team and I have wanted since the first one,” Cunningham said. “Adamek and I have been on two different paths, but in December our paths will collide again. I have respect for Adamek; he has done great things in his career, but I’m confident I’ll get the victory. I’m looking forward to it. On December 22nd I’ll be the best Steve Cunningham anyone has seen yet.”

    • Meanwhile, Duva continues to look for an opponent for rising heavyweight prospect Bryant Jennings. One opponent who turned them down was Tor Hamer, a once-beaten heavyweight in Lou DiBella’s stable. According to DiBella, the offer — around $15,000, he said — simply wasn’t enough. Sound crazy? To me, too. Hamer’s career stalled after a 2010 loss to Kelvin Price and though he seemed to revive it after winning the U.K. Prizefighter tournament earlier this year, he is hardly a sought after fighter.

    Read More…


  • Published On Oct 17, 2012
  • Roundtable: How impressive was Brandon Rios’ win over Mike Alvarado?

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    Brandon Rios (right) outlasted Mike Alvarado (left) on Saturday in a slugfest that’s been hailed as the fight of the year to date. (Harry How/Getty Images)

    How impressive was Brandon Rios’ win over Mike Alvarado, Saturday’s junior welterweight bout that many pundits have preordained the fight of the year?

    CHRIS MANNIX: I’ve had my doubts about Rios; the brawler style, the trouble making weight and the size Rios balloons to when he is not training have made me question whether he could rise to an elite level. But against arguably his best opponent at a heavier weight, Rios did what he has always done, wearing Alvarado down with thudding body shots and closing masterfully in the seventh round when he had Alvarado hurt. Sure, I still wonder if Rios can box — the fight was even on two judges cards and Rios held a two-point lead on the third’s before the fight was stopped — but there is simply no keeping Rios from getting inside. He is relentless.

    I have little doubt that if Manny Pacquiao beats Juan Manuel Marquez in December that Top Rank will match Pacquiao with Rios. Financially, it makes sense: Rios is enough of a household name now and with the right promotion, Pacquiao-Rios could surpass 1 million pay-per-view buys. But if Pacquiao is unavailable, Rios has plenty of options. Oscar De La Hoya tweeted that he would make a Rios-Lucas Matthysse fight, which has the potential to be even more of a war than Rios-Alvarado. Rios could look for a 140-pound title (a shot at the IBF belt could be available) or simply seek out the biggest paydays. Whatever happens, Rios will be in a big fight, one worth a whole lot of money.

    RICHARD O’BRIEN: I know that Bob Arum said ahead of time that the winner of Rios-Alvarado could be in line to be Manny Pacquiao’s next opponent (assuming Pacquiao gets by his old dance partner Juan Manuel Marquez on Dec. 8), but that prospect pales compared to the promise of a rematch of last Saturday’s sensational set-to in Carson, Calif. Rios prevailed in what people are already calling, with justification, one of the best fights of the past several years. But really both boxers did themselves — and their trade — proud. And in the process, they provided fans with a rare show of skill, courage and real passion. From the explosive (a combined 190 punches) first round on there was no letup in the action, or in either fighter’s commitment, as both threw — and absorbed — hundreds of heavy, heavy shots. Two of the judges had the bout even after six rounds, while the third had Rios just ahead, yet the stoppage by referee Pat Russell was a good one. (Though had he survived the seventh, Alvarado might very well have come right back out in the eighth and thrown 147 punches — as he did in the fifth — and Rios no doubt would have been right there to meet him.) In the end, this was a great fight and one that elevated both men’s stature in the sport.

    Rios is the real deal: He has great strength and power, an obviously sturdy chin, and he fights with the kind of energy and enthusiasm that makes him enormously enjoyable to watch. I’d expect him to prevail in a rematch with Alvarado and will be very eager to see where he goes from there.

    BRYAN ARMEN GRAHAM: Classic fights happen, but far less often when they’re predetermined as such. The come-forward, crowd-pleasing styles of Rios and Alvarado had prompted most boxing people to earmark Saturday’s matchup as a potential fight of the year from the moment it was made. It ended up being the rare case of a hyped fight that exceeded its lofty expectations: two prime sluggers trading hell and laying the groundwork for a must-see rematch or, if we’re lucky, a trilogy.

    Rios’ well-documented struggles making the lightweight limit came to a head in December when he lost his title on the scale ahead of the big December show at Madison Square Garden. The young puncher had a sickly pallor when he visited the Sports Illustrated offices about 48 hours before the weigh-in and it was apparent he’d outgrown the division. But any concerns about whether he’d bring his punch up with him to junior welterweight were spectacularly dismissed during Saturday’s breakthrough performance — a spine-tingling 23-minute war that rendered moot the stench from Rios’ dubious point victory over Cuba’s Richard Abril last year. Now Rios is a star — he debuted today at No. 14 in SI.com’s pound-for-pound ratings – and a can’t-miss showdown with Pacquiao looms if the Filipino congressman can hold serve against Marquez. That, of course, is no sure thing. Far more certain is the fact that Rios’ biggest paydays are yet to come.

    HBO will air replays of the Rios-Alvarado fight on Oct. 15 (11:30 p.m. ET/PT) and Oct. 16 (11 p.m. ET/PT).


  • Published On Oct 15, 2012
  • Three thoughts from David Price’s swift knockout of Audley Harrison

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    David Price (right) made quick work of Audley Harrison (left) on Saturday in Liverpool, scoring a first-round knockout to retain his British heavyweight title. (AP)

    Three quick thoughts from David Price’s 82-second knockout of Audley Harrison on Saturday night in Liverpool …

    It didn’t prove much, but Price did exactly what he needed to do. The new hope in British heavyweight boxing proved coldly efficient against Harrison, the 2000 Olympic gold medalist whose professional career has failed to realize once-great expectations. A thudding straight right exploded on Harrison’s chin less than a minute into the fight, triggering a punishing flurry capped by a right hook that sent the 40-year-old crashing to the canvas with a broken nose and concussion. Thus Price (14-0, 12 KOs), who turned pro after winning Olympic bronze in 2008 and captured the vacant British heavyweight title last year, passed the first real challenge of his career — a devastating showing that required less time than his spine-tingling ringwalk to “You’ll Never Walk Alone” which electrified the sellout crowd of 8,000 at Liverpool’s Echo Arena. The general thinking is the 29-year-old Price is too raw and inexperienced to challenge Wladimir or Vitali Klitschko, the brothers who collectively rule the division. But given the dearth of fresh challengers at heavyweight and Price’s formidable size — at 6-foot-8, 245 pounds, he’s one of the few contenders who can look down at the champions — many within boxing are bullish on the Liverpudlian’s chances to one day inherit the title. “I think he’d beat the klitchkos now,” tweeted Ricky Hatton after the fight.

    It’s time for Harrison to retire. The faded veteran getting served up to the young lion is a tradition as old as boxing itself, and Saturday’s latest episode was no less cruel. Many had called for Harrison (28-6, 21 KOs) to quit the sport in 2010, after he capitulated so weakly in a third-round knockout loss to David Haye in which he threw just one punch. Those suggestions will only intensify after Harrison was booed from the ring Saturday night, a desultory farewell for a fighter who fell from national hero to figure of public ridicule during a 12-year career marked by mystifying underachievemnt. “If I lose to David Price, I’ve got no future,” Price had said this week. “It’s over for me as a professional fighter if I lose to David Price. This is my door. This is the door I have to walk through. This is the last-chance saloon for me and I would not want it any other way.” After a showing that couldn’t have been any less competitive, Harrison’s decision should be easy.

    Price should fight Tyson Fury. Though Price is tentatively slated to return on December 8 against Matt Skelton (who won on Saturday’s undercard), Frank Maloney, who promotes the Liverpudlian, wasted no time in calling out British compatriot Tyson Fury in the aftermath of Saturday’s laugher. Maloney offered £500,000 to Fury (19-0, 14 KOs), who last year vacated the British heavyweight title rather than face Price, who was the mandatory challenger. Since then, Fury has appeared to change his tune, prodding Price and campaigning for the bout via social media. (“He needs to get off the Twitter, stop Twittering and take this fight,” Maloney said.) Less than an hour later, Fury responded in a foul-mouthed TV interview with Channel 5 from ringside during the James DeGale-Hadillah Mohoumadi bout, expressing his willingness to make a fight the public wants to see, one that could potentially fill a stadium in the U.K. “I’ll fight David Price any day of the week,” Fury chirped. “It’s personal between me and you and I’m going to do you some serious harm, you big stiff idiot.”

    – Bryan Armen Graham


  • Published On Oct 13, 2012
  • Alvarez ends Bellator contract by downing Freire; Next up, UFC?

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    Who will successfully secure the services of Eddie Alvarez next? (Getty Images)

    Talk about heading for the exit.

    Eddie Alvarez had just finished the final fight on his Bellator contract with an exclamation-point knockout Friday night, and almost before Patricky “Pitbull” Freire had hit the canvas with a thud, Alvarez (24-3) was scaling the cage and embracing his wife in the front row. And then he was out of there.

    Up the arena stairs the former lightweight champion charged, and if the door at the top of those stairs had been open, Alvarez might have bolted out onto the streets of Windsor, Ontario, and run all the way to Las Vegas.

    You know, where the UFC is headquartered.

    Alvarez’s nasty kick to the noggin of Freire (10-4) was simultaneously an ending and a beginning. It ended the main event of Bellator 76 at 4:54 of the first round, and with that brought to a close Eddie’s deal with the fight promotion. The beginning? That would be of the negotiating process. Other promotions, most prominently the UFC, now can try to work out an arrangement for Alvarez’s services, and Bellator then will mull whether to match the offer.

    And there will be offers. Overseas promotions or the new World Series of Fighting could get into the bidding, but the most likely landing spot is the UFC. Parent company Zuffa could opt to make the Philadelphia fighter’s first stop the Strikeforce cage, for a showdown with champ Gilbert Melendez that both fighters and lots have fans have talked about for a long time. Or Eddie could immediately join the already-stacked 155-pound division of the Dana White Fight Club. He’d be a welcome addition.

    Shortly after the fight, the UFC president congratulated Alvarez via Twitter, writing, “Congrats, Bro!!! Let’s talk : )”

    The smiley face was White’s way of saying, “You’re my kind of guy.” Indeed, the UFC poobah likes nothing better than a fighter who’s exciting, and on Friday night he saw one. Actually, he saw two. “I have a ton of respect for Pitbull,” said Alvarez. “You had two of the most exciting lightweights in the world right here in this cage tonight.”

    Alvarez and Freire delivered a wild back-and-forth battle that lived up to buildup more than 18 months in the making. Last year, the Brazilian was cruising through the promotion’s Season 4 lightweight tournament, with the winner to get a shot at Alvarez’s belt, until he met Michael Chandler in the May final. He lost a decision, and six months later Chandler choked out Alvarez to win the title. Alvarez vs. Freire was not to be.

    Once Alvarez and Freire finally got to share a cage, they didn’t take long to make their matchup worth the wait. Not quite a minute in, Alvarez floored Freire with a lunging left hook, then leaped onto him to try to land a booming right hand. He missed. And before Eddie could reload, Freire was back on his feet and the fighters began a flurry of punches. A short left hook by Freire stunned Alvarez, and he went stumbling into retreat, with Patricky in pursuit. He connected with a right, but before he could do any more damage Alvarez tied him up along the cage.

    The fighters were wary of each other’s power from that point on, their exchanges short with constant footwork aimed at keeping the fighter attached to those feet out of trouble. But then Alvarez’s best footwork — the kick to the head — spelled the end.

    The end for Freire, the 14th knockout victim of the 28-year-old with thunder in his fists. And in the big picture, the end for Bellator … at least in terms of the Eddie Alvarez business.

    Although Alvarez has acknowledged that Bjorn Rebney’s promotion has the right of first refusal to retain his services, that’s an unlikely scenario if the UFC pulls out its big checkbook. The CEO acknowledged as much in a recent interview with MMA Fighting, referring to the Freire bout as “in all likelihood Eddie’s last fight in our organization.” Rebney then looked to the future, adding, “He’ll do incredibly well if he ends up going to the UFC. I know they have a huge amount of interest in him, and I think he’ll probably win their title.”

    Alvarez, for his part, wasn’t viewing the victory as an end, a beginning or anything special. “It’s just another win, man, that’s all it is,” he said in the cage after the fight. “The goal never changes: It’s always to beat the guy in front of you in the cage. No legacies. No anything. No money. It’s all bull—. It’s about beating the guy in front of you, and that’s what I’m here for.”

    Yeah, he’s Dana’s guy, all right. White can tell Alvarez that face to face when they talk.

    –Jeff Wagenheim


  • Published On Oct 13, 2012
  • Strike two against Strikeforce: Nov. 3 event is second straight to be canceled

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    Daniel Cormier maintained his optimism after Strikeforce’s second straight cancellation. (US PRESSWIRE)

    Two strikes and you’re . . .  still alive?

    Strikeforce canceled its scheduled Nov. 3 event on Friday afternoon, making the Oklahoma City card the fight promotion’s second in a row to implode.

    That part of the announcement, made in a terse press release issued by both Strikeforce and television partner Showtime, was not a surprise. The unexpected part was the accompanying announcement that Showtime will air a Strikeforce event in January.

    That Strikeforce will live to fight another day — or at least is still publicly expressing its intention to do so — might flabbergast some who follow mixed martial arts. The promotion’s Sept. 29 event in Sacramento was canceled after Gilbert Melendez, scheduled to defend his lightweight championship, was injured in training and Showtime declined to televise the evening of fights without its main event. Then, after Frank Mir pulled out of the Nov. 3 event with an injury, and Strikeforce dragged its feet on announcing a replacement opponent for Daniel Cormier in the Heavyweight Grand Prix winner’s final bout before moving to the UFC, it looked like the end might be near for a promotion that parent company Zuffa already had stripped of many of its best fighters — Nick Diaz, Dan Henderson, Alistair Overeem — and sent them over to its corporate cousin, the UFC.

    Earlier this week, the AXS TV show Inside MMA reported that “the Nov. 3 event is in serious jeopardy” and, citing multiple sources it did not name, that “the relationship between Strikeforce and Showtime may be coming to an end.” The report was vaguely worded — “strong possibility,” “could very possibly signify” and such — and no other media outlet was able to confirm the demise of the fight promotion. Still, both Strikeforce and Showtime officials were quick to tout the January event to quell the rumors.

    “Due to a series of injuries, we were forced to cancel the upcoming card on Nov. 3, but are already working to put together a stacked card in January,” CEO Scott Coker said in the Strikeforce statement, alluding to not just the Mir injury but also the event’s loss of a Luke Rockhold title defense after the middleweight champ was injured.

    About that “stacked card” Coker mentioned …

    “While we’re disappointed with the cancellation, we are looking forward to an even bigger Strikeforce event on Showtime early next year,” said Stephen Espinoza, executive vice president & general manager, Showtime Sports.

    The enthusiasm was lost on Tim Kennedy, who was scheduled to face Trevor Smith in one of the few announced bouts on the Oklahoma City card. The middleweight took to Twitter with his frustration, writing, “Thank you @Strikeforce for letting me read about my fight being canceled on the Internet. I was 9 weeks into my fight camp. Awesome!”

    The cancellation is an especially bitter pill to swallow for Cormier, who before becoming an Olympic wrestler was an NCAA Division I runner-up at Oklahoma State. Excited for a homecoming fight, he’d been patiently waiting for an opponent to be placed in front of him, even if it meant a shortened preparation time. “I’ll fight now, no matter what,” he told SI.com last month. “I’m not bowing out. I’m not doing that to my Okies.”

    After Friday’s announcement, Cormier remained surprisingly upbeat. “Very sad about not fighting,” he wrote on Twitter, “but at the end of the day something positive will come from it. More time to train. I am with a good company. Things will be OK. Very sad and upset, but it’ll work out. @UFC, @Strikeforce and @ShoSports are all top-fight organizations. Will be fine.”

    Considering his positive outlook amid a doom-and-gloom backdrop of two straight cancelled events, Strikeforce might want to enlist Cormier to run the show from now on. Either that or turn to Tony Gwynn for guidance. In his time, the Baseball Hall of Famer built as reputation as his sport’s greatest two-strike hitter.

    —Jeff Wagenheim


  • Published On Oct 12, 2012
  • Experts’ predictions for UFC 153

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    Anderson Silva (left) is a lopsided favorite to defeat Stephan Bonnar in the main event of Saturday’s UFC 153 in Rio de Janeiro. (Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)

    SI.com analysts Dave Doyle, Loretta Hunt, Jeff Wagenheim and Jon Wertheim provide their predictions for UFC 153 on Saturday in Rio de Janeiro.

    Anderson Silva vs. Stephan Bonnar

    DOYLE: I’m tempted to go with Bonnar simply because this would fit right into the UFC’s 2012 “whatever can go wrong, will” theme. But a Bonnar victory is a bridge too far. Silva by KO.

    HUNT: Knowing my colleagues will cover the bases, I’ll cut to the chase: it’s a mismatch. Silva by TKO.

    WAGENHEIM: Bonnar is going to shock the world … by surviving the first round. He’s rugged and resilient, having never been knocked out. And Silva will not be done putting on a show for his countrymen by the end of one act. But eventually … Silva by KO.

    WERTHEIM: We can debate whether Silva is the G.O.A.T., but Bonnar is not going to change the discussion. Just two completely different tiers of fighter. Admire Bonnar’s sensibilities, his heart, his role in growing the UFC brand by virtue of that TUF finale. But in no universe does he win this fight. Silva by TKO.

    Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Dave Herman

    DOYLE: The veteran Nogueira’s UFC fights have followed a familiar pattern: Losses to the elite and wins over the guys just a cut below. Herman falls into the latter camp. Nogueira by TKO.

    HUNT: Big Nog has this one in the bag as long as it goes to the canvas, which is likely. Nogueira by submission.

    WAGENHEIM: How’s the arm, Big Nog? We’ll find out if there are any lingering issues when the ref raises the rehabbed wing after Nogueira taps out Pee-Wee. Nogueira by submission.

    WERTHEIM: When we last saw Big Nog, Frank Mir was nearly divorcing his arm from the rest of his body, his third loss in five fights. The UFC threw him a bone, pitting him against Herman, a beatable fighter. On a two-fight losing streak. In Rio. Nogueira by submission.
    Read More…


  • Published On Oct 12, 2012
  • Review: ‘Here Comes the Boom’ makes some noise for MMA

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    Kevin James (center) stars with MMA veterans Mark Munoz (left) and Bas Rutten (right) in the comedy Here Comes The Boom. (Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

    “Oh, my GOD!”

    That was the gasping, horrified reaction of the woman sitting a row behind me during a screening of Here Comes the Boom the other night. The comic film, which stars Kevin James as a teacher who in an effort to save his school from financial ruin puts himself on a sure path to bodily ruin by turning to professional mixed martial arts as a fundraising endeavor, had barely begun and we were getting our very first glimpse of what goes on in the cage. It likely was this woman’s first glimpse ever at cage fighting, judging by her reaction. She was aghast.

    This got me to wondering what the reaction will be once Boom opens in theaters nationwide on Friday. Surely a lot of MMA fans will flock to their local megaplexes, but sitting right alongside them will be unsuspecting folks who’ve simply seen James on the marquee — and Salma Hayek and Henry Winkler, too — and bought a ticket. Are these moviegoers going to end up choking on their popcorn?

    This was the lens through which I was watching the movie until, nearly an hour in, James’ character — a former collegiate wrestler who was taking his lumps on the minor-league MMA circuit — suddenly changed his luck with a wild haymaker that floored a fighter he had no business being in the cage with. It was a totally unrealistic moment (unless you happened to have seen a woozy Cheick Kongo do much the same thing in a UFC fight last year as Pat Barry was moving in for the kill), but that didn’t stop the theater from erupting in cheers. This crowd was unabashedly invested in the moment, and that included Ms. Oh My God behind me. She no longer was aghast. She was into the fighting. Here Come the Boom had won.

    It had won me over, too, by then. Early on, I’d been as horrified as the woman behind me, though for a different reason. What reason? Well, let’s just say this film is no Citizen Kane. Its launching point is bogged down by all of the vacuous trappings of Hollywood drivel in plot and character development. Or should I say caricature development? From evil school administrators to bored students and even more blasé faculty, there’s so much broad-brush painting here that the movie could have been written and directed by Benjamin Moore.

    But Boom never stops fighting until it’s closed in on you and has you in tears. At times it’s from the poignancy of a film built around an uplifting commitment to what’s valuable in life. More than anything, though, the tears shed are from laughter. This is a funny movie, thanks in large part to James but also to Winkler, who’s not your father’s Arthur Fonzarelli here. Once this docile music teacher becomes a cornerman in the MMA scheme, he transforms into something approximating the Grand Wizard of Wrestling.

    The true revelation in the cast, however, is Bas Rutten. The former MMA star, a UFC heavyweight champion more than a decade ago, takes his portrayal of a fighter-turned-trainer to its comic extreme without going over the top. His disco street fighting class — “Knee to the face! Victory dance!” — is an aerobic classic. If Kevin James could shift from actor to fighter as convincingly as Bas Rutten goes the other way, the former King of Queens star would be wearing a UFC crown.

    MMA fans are treated to lots of fight scenes, which are exhilarating despite being no more plausible than Rocky. There also are cameos by UFC figures such as Jason “Mayhem” Miller, Mark Muñoz and Joe Rogan. Chael Sonnen meets an appropriate fate. Herb Dean would never referee again if he let a fight go on like he does in the climactic scene. But that scene had our theater riveted, including my 9-year-old son.

    Afterward, in fact, my boy called his mom during our drive home and reported that Here Comes the Boom was one of the greatest movies he’d ever seen. When he got off the phone, I was curious to know what had so captivated him, other than staying out late with Dad and a trip to his favorite burrito joint.

    Me: Did you like the movie because you’re a UFC fan?

    Aaron: Yeah, and they had lots of UFC fights and they looked real. Dad, do you think when they made the movie they just had the guys fight for real?

    Me: No, I don’t think they’d do that in making a movie, buddy, but it’s good that it looked real to you. Did anything not look realistic?

    Aaron: Bruce Buffer’s hair.

    Me: What?

    Aaron: It was pushed down more than usual. Usually it’s more puffy when he’s introducing the fighters.

    Me: Anything else?

    Aaron: And there was no Dana White. He’s always there when the UFC is on TV, but in the movie they had two guys with hair talking.

    Me: Yeah, but people who don’t know the UFC probably won’t notice. Do you think those people — non-MMA fans — will like the movie?

    Aaron: Well, if people want to go to the movie theater on a rainy day, they’re going to ask, “Hmm, what are the new movies?” And maybe they don’t want to see Hotel Transylvania or Frankenweenie or something like that. So they can watch Here Comes the Boom and get a lot of laughs.

    – Jeff Wagenheim

    Here Comes the Boom opens in theaters nationwide on Friday. Rated PG. Runs 1:45. Directed by Frank Coraci.


  • Published On Oct 11, 2012
  • Adrien Broner stands by remarks that black fans don’t support black fighters

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    Adrien Broner (above), a former 130-pound champion, is moving up to lightweight to try for a second title in two weight divisions on Nov. 17 against Antonio DeMarco. (AP)

    NEW YORK – Adrien Broner didn’t back down from his recent comments that African-American fighters don’t get enough credit Wednesday at HBO’s midtown headquarters.

    The former WBO junior lightweight champion said he was unaware of the backlash stemming from an interview with Ring Magazine, where he intimated that African-American boxers are held to a harsher standard than fighters of other racial backgrounds.

    “I was telling the truth,” the 23-year-old Broner said. “It’s something that I know. It’s something that I’ve seen. That’s why I work so hard. One mistake and I can fall so far.”

    Broner, who is moving up to fight WBC lightweight champion Antonio DeMarco on Nov. 17 in Atlantic City, said black fighters don’t enjoy the same brand of unconditional support as fighters from other races.

    “African-American [fans], we really don’t follow each other in boxing as much as the Hispanics, the Mexicans, the Puerto Ricans,” Broner said. “I’m just saying, they support their fighters. It’s so hard for us to support our own because coming up where we come from, they don’t want to see the next man doing better than them. That’s just how it is. I’m so used to it. I really don’t let it get to me.”

    Broner said he was disappointed with how the comments were packaged.

    “It’s like a lot of writers do, they mix it up,” Broner said. “The way he wrote it up, he was saying it like I was a racist or something.”

    Broner (24-0, 20 KOs), who became the youngest American world champion with a third-round knockout of Martin Rodriguez in 2011, has long been considered one of the sport’s most promising young stars. He drew a 3.4 rating and 1.4 million live viewers for a July 21 knockout of Vincente Escobedo, HBO’s top-rated Boxing After Dark telecast of 2012. When asked what he could do to improve the disconnect between African-American boxers and fight fans, Broner — no stranger to Mayweather-style showmanship — was quick to respond.

    “We just have to connect with them,” he said. “They want to see excitement. They want to laugh. They don’t want to just go in and see a bloodbath boxing match. They want to be entertained and that’s what I give them. I’m not just a professional boxer, I am a professional entertainer too. I love to entertain.”

    – Bryan Armen Graham


  • Published On Oct 10, 2012
  • Quick jabs: Rios-Alvarado creates buzz, Robert Helenius returns, more

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    Seanie Monaghan (right), a popular and rugged ticket-seller in the New York City area, could fight Notre Dame alum Mike Lee in the near future. (AP)

    Some quick jabs …

    • Promoter Lou DiBella is bringing popular light heavyweight Seanie Monaghan back to headline his next Broadway Boxing show in New York on Oct. 24 against Rayco Saunders. The 31-year old Monaghan (15-0) isn’t really a prospect–he’s slow and he gets hit a lot–but he’s a banger and sells a lot of tickets in the Irish community. I asked DiBella recently if he thought there was a big fight out there for Monaghan and he came back with an interesting name: Light heavyweight and Notre Dame grad Mike Lee. DiBella told me he thinks Monaghan-Lee could sell out the Theatre at Madison Square Garden.

    • Hey, B.J. Flores: Time for a bigger fight.

    • I’m looking forward to Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado this Saturday night as much as anyone, and Top Rank’s Bob Arum has told me he thinks the winner is a strong candidate to face Manny Pacquiao next year. But that would be a massacre. Rios and Alvarado are wildly entertaining but neither is close to Pacquiao’s level.

    • Good to see heavyweight prospect Robert Helenius will make his return to the ring next month after a nearly year-long hiatus due to a shoulder injury. Here’s hoping Helenius gets serious about his training. Helenius has the size and killer instinct to be a top heavyweight but his jab is pathetic and Dereck Chisora — who is not exactly a great boxer either — beat Helenius up on the inside in his last fight. That jab needs to become a sharp, stinging weapon for Helenius, a la Wladimir Klitschko, or he will never become an elite heavyweight.

    • Time for Ivan Calderon to retire.

    • Interesting note I gleaned during my reporting of an item I wrote in Sports Illustrated this week on featherweight Orlando Cruz, who recently announced he was gay. In the aftermath of the announcement, Top Rank attempted to get Cruz out of his Oct. 19 fight against Jorge Pazos so they could match him against top 130-pound prospect Mikey Garcia. If Cruz beats Pazos, he will be a candidate for a significant fight, possibly against Garcia, sometime next year.

    • On Monday, Top Rank announced the signing of 19-year old Puerto Rican prospect Felix Verdejo. Verdejo, a lightweight, was a member of Puerto Rico’s 2012 Olympic team. He won two fights in London before losing to eventual gold medalist Vasyl Lomachenko. Top Rank officials are targeting December for Verdejo’s pro debut.

    – Chris Mannix


  • Published On Oct 09, 2012


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