A conservative news and views blog.

Location: St. Louis, Missouri, United States

Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Making of a Champion

America has triumphed over the Russkies, and I was there to cheer them on! It was a great night, a great fight, and a sweet (if nailbiting) victory for hometown boy Corey Spinks, who won the IBF Junior Middleweight title from Roman ``Made in Hell`` Karmazin in my hometown of St. Louis.

Professional boxing has been gone from St. Louis since the 1950`s, with the exception of small fight clubs where journeymen boxers pummel each-other into insensibility. Corey Spinks decided to change that when he became the undisputed Welterweight champion, and his insistence on defending his title here brought a world championship fight back to what had once been a major pugilistic city. The incomparable Light Heavyweight Archie Moore was from here, as was ``Perpetual Motion`` Henry Armstrong-the only man ever to hold the title belt on three different weightclasses simultaneously (Feather, Welter, and Light). Of course, Corey`s father is the former Heavyweight champion Leon Spinks, and his uncle is Light Heavyweight and Heavyweight champ Michael. Like all things about the Gateway City, St. Louis had once been a great boxing town but had faded into obscurity in recent decades. Corey, by virtue of his undisputed Welterweight title, was able to demand that Don King hold his title defense against Zab Judah downtown in ``The Lou``. That match-fought before a sold out crowd-shocked Don King, who had never before considered St. Louis to be a good prospect for major fights.

Spinks lost. He had some trouble making his weight (he often did) and he fought a listless and uninspired battle. In the end, Judah walked away with all three of Spinks` belts, and it looked to be the end for St. Louis as the host for a major championship match.

Somehow, Spinks was able to convince Jr. Middleweight champion Roman Karmazin to agree to fight in his hometown. Karmazin probably thought he was going to pound the daylights out of Spinks (every rise in weight class means a substantial rise in punching power, and Spinks was not known for his power) and the mad Russian probably thought he would be bringing hell with him when he came.

I took my brother to the fights as a birthday gift, and we came early to watch the undercard. Some of the fights were dreadfully dull (the crowd booed one match for three rounds) but there were a couple of good ones. Two former champions fought to get another shot at the title-one winning, the other losing. There were supposed to be two main events, but the Cruiserweight match between champ Steve Cunningham Guillermo Jones was cancelled due to Jones being ill. We did see former WBA Middleweight champ Maselino Masoe lose to up-and-coming Randy Griffin, and
former Cruiserweight champion Jean-Marc Mormet pummel an overmatched Damon Reed.

I was amazed that so few people showed up to watch the undercard; considering the mercurial price for tickets, I had expected the place to be packed and stay that way all night. I can`t imagine shelling out a hundred bucks for fight tickets, and only show up for the 48 minutes the title fight would last.

At any rate, the cancellation of the co-main event left a large time gap in the program, and tension mounted as we all awaited the main attraction. It started with a bang-literally-as explosions and fireworks announced the arrival of hometown hero Corey Spinks. Spinks came out like a rap star, with lights and a live rapper singing while he danced his way to the ring. I was appalled; he was wasting valuable energy he may need for later! Still, he did fire up the crowd and turned all of THAT energy against poor ``Made From Hell`` who entered, appropriately enough, to the AC/DC tune ``Highway to Hell``-it was to be his personal highway to hell, as he was going to walk away with his head held low.

Spinks looked good; he was quick as lightning, moving in with rapid combinations or quick jabs and jumping out of range before the ponderous Karmazin could counterpunch. After a couple of rounds I became concerned that Karmazin`s greater punching power had cowed Corey, but I was wrong and he kept the magic act going, with Karmazin fruitlessly trying to hit his ephemeral target. Karmazin had him in trouble in the second round, but Spinks weathered the storm. By the 7th round it became clear that Spinks would at least hold Karmazin to a draw.

But Karmazin showed he had the heart of a champion, and he came out firing late in the fight, winning virtually all of the last rounds. By the end of the match Karmazin`s face was swollen and badly cut, and Karmazin looked tired, but he may have done enough to win; I scored it 7 rounds for Spinks, 5 for Karmazin, and one even, but the champ usually gets the benefit of the doubt. What did the judges see?

One judge ruled 114-114 for a draw, while the other two called it 115-113 for the new Jr. Middleweight champion Corey Spinks! The ten point ``must`` system means that the winner of a round gets ten points, while the loser gets 9 or 8 if he is knocked down. Spinks won the fight by one round with two of the three judges. Had a second judge ruled it even, the match would have been a draw.

It was a wonderful experience to watch the anointing of a new King. I had never expected to see a title fight, and it was everything I had expected it to be. Hopefully we`ll have a few more come to town before everyone forgets our fair city.

All Hail the Conquering Hero!

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