Making money in boxing means never having to say: “Sorry.”
Not for allowing Evander Holyfield to risk his life at the age of 58 just to make a few bucks. Certainly not for stealing money from gullible fans for a farce of a pay-per-view show that would have done terrible damage to the sport if only the sport was not so badly damaged already.
No one was apologizing — at least not loud enough to hear — among the crew at the Triller Fight Club, a fledging promotional outfit on the fringe of boxing.
They managed to get Holyfield licensed in Florida and moved the entire card there on short notice from California after planned headliner Oscar De La Hoya pulled out with what he said was COVID-19.
Holyfield was not apologizing either, after being credited with landing just one punch before being stopped in the first round by a former mixed martial arts fighter.
However, somewhere else in boxing, there was an apology — an apology from a judge who said that he had messed up. The best thing about it was that it came out of nowhere, like a perfect left hook.
Stephen Blea was one of three judges ringside on Friday night in Tucson, Arizona, as hometown hero Oscar Valdez took on Robson Conceicao in a junior lightweight title bout.
On this night, the sellout crowd was cheering — and cheering loudly — for Valdez. In his ringside seat, Blea also had to deal with photographers on one side of him and a camera crew in constant motion on the other.
“I honestly thought I would be able to do my job 100 percent — no excuses,” he said.
However, the noise of the crowd influenced Blea early. He scored some rounds for Valdez that could have been scored even, or for Conceicao.
In the end, Blea got the winner right, but his 117-110 margin stood out in a fight that was extremely close — the other two judges had it 115-112 Valdez.
The predictable online outrage about his scoring started Blea thinking that maybe he had gotten it wrong. He watched a replay of the fight and concluded that he should have scored the fight 115-112 or 114-113.
So, he issued an apology that was not only stunning, but also unprecedented.
“The 117-110 score is not accurate and does not represent the actions in the ring, and I feel I have let down my federation, the NABF [North American Boxing Federation]; my organization, the WBC [World Boxing Council]; and most importantly our sport and the fighters inside the ring,” Blea wrote.
Hopefully the people at Triller are paying attention, because they have some apologizing to do, too.
Throwing a man just four years from collecting his pension into the ring at the last moment was about the callousness of risking a man’s life — or scrambling his brain — just so the profit and loss ledger could be balanced.
It was difficult to even watch the clips of Holyfield for the short time that he was in the ring.
Even sadder was Holyfield, a boxer so desperate for cash that he was delusional enough to even enter the ring.
Contrast that with Blea, who was so upset about his judging that he plans to take time off and undergo a thorough retraining program before returning ringside.
“I am an honorable man with profound love, knowledge and respect to the sport,” he said. “I am sorry for having a bad night and having brought controversy to such a sensational fight.”
Imagine that: a real apology — in boxing of all places.
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