Oscar De La Hoya, Floyd Mayweather, and Detroit boxing history

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Fred (not his real name) has been in the fight game for a long, long time. You name just about any major fighter that’s been in the ring during the past 30 or 40 years, and he can most likely tell you an amusing story about the guy. Like the story he told me about the way Mike Tyson showed up for a fight one time, way back in the day before he became so fond of chomping on peoples’ ears . Back when he was just Mike Tyson, a poor kid from Brooklyn who was pretty damned good at knocking folks out. 

So anyway, Fred remembers being at some not particularly noteworthy boxing event, hanging out in one of the back rooms. More than likely he was there with one of the Kronk boxers since that’s the outfit he worked so closely with for years. So there he is, doing whatever needs to be done, and apparently there is a bit of  a break between bouts and everyone is kind of wondering where one of the fighters is who’s scheduled to be making his appearance in the next fight. His opponent is there, but this particular guy hasn’t shown up yet. Folks are beginning to wonder if he’s gonna show, because the next bout is supposed to start in a little while.

But then in he comes. Some kid named Mike Tyson. No entourage, no coach, nobody but this Mike Tyson kid. Wearing a t-shirt and a pair of jeans. Asks where he’s supposed to go, is pointed in the right direction, and off he goes to some dingy little room around the corner where he promptly drops his pants, puts on his boxing shorts, and after shaking himself loose a little bit declares himself ready. Fred remembers the folks thought the boy was kinda strange, but whatever. He’s here now. Let the fight begin.

So into the ring goes Tyson, who proceeds to dismantle his opponent with a ruthless, business-like precision. It’s not even a match. Fight over. Tyson promptly goes back to his little dingy room, puts on his jeans, and walks out the door. The whole time he was there he never spoke a word to a soul.

“Tyson’s strange, man,” says Fred.

Last Saturday night, after going out to dinner at this cool little neighborhood spot on the east side called Capers, where they sell you steak by the ounce, we head back toward the west side to Fred’s place, which comes complete with big screen TV, to watch this De La Hoya -Mayweather fight. This was the first time I’d watched a boxing match in years, even though I love boxing. Sometimes life gets in the way.

It probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that boxing has just as much of an honored position in Detroit’s complicated working class history as does Motown. But these days you’d never know it. It’s not hard to find signs and symbols of the old Motown days, just as it’s not hard to see just how sacred the automobile industry is in this town, despite the fact that the Big Three have been out to sea and losing water steadily – and rapidly – for years now. But except for the can’t-miss-it replica of  Joe Louis’ mighty fist, which aims a knockout blow toward Canada from the heart of downtown, there is hardly a whisper of Detroit’s past boxing glories. Barely a peep about the legendary Kronk boxing gym, which trained legions of some of the world’s greatest boxers under the equally legendary tutelage of Emmanuel Steward.

But despite the lack of public acknowledgment (maybe we’re trying to distance ourselves from the violence…), boxing remains close to the hearts of so many folks that you meet out and about. When I was doing laps in the pool at the downtown YMCA during lunch, the two lifeguards were debating last weekend’s fight at poolside, and neither one of them could have been older than 21.

At Fred’s place, I think the youngest guy may have been around 40. But there we all were, and not surprisingly every brother in there was openly for Mayweather. To be honest, I’m not that crazy about the kid, although his remarkable skills are obvious. But I guess I’ve just had enough of the brash, trash-talking stuff. I watched footage of him calling De La Hoya a “pussy” and talking about how he was gonna “ice that motherfucker”, and on and on. It’s starting to get on my nerves. Then again, this is boxing, and what was Muhammad Ali if not brash and trash-talking?

Moving right along, stepping briskly past self-analysis, the fight was a kick to watch. I’ve always considered the sport to be something like a brutal ballet. Art and warfare combined. Guess that’s why it draws me in. The fact that it is a sport so close to this city’s heart makes it all the more appealing because boxing is not so much about delivering punishment to the other guy as it is the ability to absorb inhuman amounts of punishment without missing a beat. Punches that would stop the heart of an ordinary citizen don’t even make a trained boxer sneeze. They just take the hit and keep coming. Take another hit, then keep coming. Take another hit…

 Maybe now you’re starting to see why Detroit loves boxing…

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~ by Keith A. Owens on May 7, 2007.

5 Responses to “Oscar De La Hoya, Floyd Mayweather, and Detroit boxing history”

  1. Never thought about it before..they just take the hit and keep coming. If you step on my toe I am down for the count. I’ve not watched a lot of boxing since the two brothers.

    Can’t remember their names.

  2. Hey Credo!

    Could you be referring to the Spinks brothers? Leon and Michael?

  3. […] It probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that boxing has just as much of an honored position in Detroit’s complicated working class history as does Motown. But these days you’d never know it. It’s not hard to find signs and symbols of the old Motown days, just as it’s not hard to see just how sacred the automobile industry is in this town, despite the fact that the Big Three have been out to sea and losing water steadily – and rapidly – for years now. But except for the can’t-miss-it replica of  Joe Louis’ mighty fist, which aims a knockout blow toward Canada from the heart of downtown, there is hardly a whisper of Detroit’s past boxing glories. Barely a peep about the legendary Kronk boxing gym, which trained legions of some of the world’s greatest boxers under the equally legendary tutelage of Emmanuel Steward. Read more here… […]

  4. I recieve imformation that the pay cuts was 45 mill for Oscar and 20 mill for Mayweathers ,why the disparity?

  5. Hey Tootsie.

    From what I understand, De La Hoya got paid not only for the fight, but also because his company produced the fight. So I think he got $25 million for the fight and another $20 million for producing the fight. I think that’s how it broke down.

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