- The Washington Times - Monday, April 21, 2008

Here’s all you need to know, in the wake of Saturday night’s light heavyweight fight in Las Vegas between Bernard Hopkins and Joe Calzaghe, about why boxing remains on life support and is doing all it can to sign a do-not-resuscitate order.

• This fight was not for a championship. The fighters were light heavyweights, but Hopkins, the loser, and Calzaghe, the winner, were not fighting for the title once held by Billy Conn, Bob Foster and Michael Spinks.

This is how devalued boxing titles have become. After the fight, ring announcer Michael Buffer declared Calzaghe the winner of the linoleum or linotype — no, I’m sorry, the “linear” — light heavyweight championship. By “linear,” they apparently mean that a very crookedly drawn line somehow would find its way back to Spinks, Foster and Conn.

The title on the line, it turns out, was the “Ring Magazine light heavyweight championship,” which may or may not be more impressive than “The Washington Times heavyweight championship” I hold.

• Max Kellerman was the boxing analyst. HBO used to have Larry Merchant, the brilliant former sports columnist and sports editor of the Philadelphia Daily News, in that role. (Merchant still is being used for certain fights, but the suits clearly are easing in Kellerman.)

Kellerman is a fan boy who had a cable access show and somehow parlayed that into a role as a boxing expert (which these days means anyone who knows anything about boxing, since no one among the general public has a clue what is happening in the sport).

Kellerman was exposed as a buffoon Saturday night when he asked Hopkins about a questionable low blow he took during the fight. Hopkins pretty much told Kellerman what to do if he wanted to check it out himself.

• The next logical fight — one that truly would be worth watching and might actually generate some attention — likely won’t happen because the powers that run boxing refuse to make it happen.

Middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik is boxing’s rising star, a kid from Youngstown, Ohio, whose style is to go toe-to-toe with his opponent. Calzaghe is a working-class fighter from Wales who knows only one way to fight — coming forward.

Pavlik could move up to fight Calzaghe, a super middleweight until this fight. That would be a great matchup, a fight with style and substance.

Instead, HBO is talking about a matchup between Calzaghe and the washed-up Harlem Globetrotters of boxing, Roy Jones, whose decision to fight so many Washington Generals for much of his career contributed to the demise of the sport.

Pavlik’s promoter, Bob Arum, already mapped out his next two fights, and Calzaghe is in neither.

This is a prime example of why mixed martial arts — and UFC, in particular — is helping boxing to its demise as a relevant sporting event in America.

If boxing were UFC, the next fight would be Pavlik vs. Calzaghe because that would be the best fight. There wouldn’t be any promoters worrying about keeping their meal tickets from losing.

• Speaking of meal tickets, Oscar De La Hoya will fight Steve Forbes on HBO in two weeks in another fight with no title at stake — a fight that, since it won’t be broadcast on pay-per-view, is being touted as a gift from De La Hoya to his fans.

Of course, it shouldn’t be a pay-per-view event since it is little more than a sparring session. Forbes was the loser in the final fight in the second season of the show “The Contender,” and he has little chance of challenging De La Hoya.

This fight is just part of the promotion for the September rematch between De La Hoya and dancer-wrestler-fighter Floyd Mayweather, a bout that will be a mega fight even though Mayweather easily handled De La Hoya in their May 2007 fight and De La Hoya has lost three of his last five fights.

The bout will be a mega fight because people outside of boxing circles have heard of De La Hoya — and now Mayweather, thanks to his performances on “Dancing With the Stars” and “Wrestlemania.”

But there are truly no mega fights anymore, fights with style and substance that can catch the attention of the world — particularly the American audience — and also be worthy of that attention.

There are only vultures circling the carcass, trying to pick off the last remaining pieces of meat.

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