By Tony Mangia
COTTO DEFEATS FOREMAN TWICE ON SATURDAY
Saturday night's first fight at the new Yankee Stadium will be remembered for one of the strangest episodes in modern boxing. The WBA junior middleweight championship fight, between Yuri Foreman and challenger Miguel Cotto, was marred by Foreman's corner throwing in the towel only to have referee, Arthur Mercante Jr., throw the towel back and continue the fight.
The shenanigans began in the seventh round after Foreman (28-1, 8 KOs), the Brooklyn rabbinical student, slipped and re-injured an already bandaged right knee. Foreman continued to box, courageously on one leg--earning the respect of the fans. Foreman valiantly came out in the eighth with as much mobility as a peg-legged stork. Foreman's wife, Leyla Leidecker, began to scream at the fighter's trainer, Joe Grier, and his corner to stop the fight while Cotto began to punish the slow-moving Foreman. The single-legged fighter didn't have much of a chance when Grier threw the white surrender towel.
Cotto (35-2, 28 KOs) raised his hands in victory and his corner people, photographers and promoters crammed into the ring. In a bizzare scene, Mercante pushed everyone from the canvas and asked Foreman if he wanted to continue. He even told the lame fighter, "You're fighting hard and I don't want to see you lose like that." This is where things get sticky. What fighter, worth his weight, is going to back out? A trainer is there to make sound decisions that a boxer's heart won't. The fight resumed and Mercante defended himself later by saying it was a good fight and " I did the right thing to let it continue."
Mercante was hired for the inaugural fight in tribute to his late father, who refereed the last fight (Ali-Norton) at the old stadium 34 years ago. Junior, is no stranger to controversy. In 2001, he was the referee at the Khalid Jones-Beethavean Scottland fight on the USS Intrepid when Scottland collapsed in the ring, then lapsed into a coma. He died a week later. Mercante later blamed the fighter's death on "being banged around in a elevator" as they took Scottland to an ambulance.
Rules (no matter how stupid) Are Rules
New York State Athletic Commission rules state: only the referee can stop a fight. Throwing in the towel is illegal in New York and only an athletic commission inspector can enter the ring and plead with the referee to end a bout. In this case, Mercante ignored the inspector and let Foreman continue to fight. Mercante put Foreman's health and life in jeopardy after he saw the inspector and tossed him from the ring. The NYSAC supports Mercante and claims he followed rules and didn't cross any lines.
Mercifully, Mercante stopped the match at :42 seconds in the ninth after Cotto landed a vicious shot to the right side of Foreman's body. The Jewish fighter crumbled. At this point, Cotto was picking up steam and it would only be a matter of time before the courageous Foreman would be beaten like a boiled potato. Foreman lost his title by TKO, but said he knew the fight was over.
There was more blame--thankfully--than blood to spread around. First, of course, is the referee. He can't override the trainer's decision to halt a fight---even if towel throwing is illegal in the New York ring. He knows what a white towel means. Second, is the inspector who didn't get the attention of Mercante. He saw Grier toss the towel and made too little an effort to stop the fight. Thirdly, some of the blame goes to Foreman's trainer, Grier, who---first of all---know that the white towel is illegal and should have made sure the inspector saved his fighter. Even Foreman's wife knew better and almost got into the mix. She threatened to punch out Mercante.
Two things were apparent on Saturday night---Miguel Cotto still has it and Yankee Stadium never lost it. After his last two fights, where Cotto was unrecognizably pulverized by Antonio Margarito and Manny Pacquiao---who was in attendance---the Puerto Rican fighter, and local favorite, looked strong. He has the option of staying at 154 pounds or go down to 147 for his next fight. Yuri Foreman was valiant, in a losing cause, but his guts and heart will never be questioned by people who saw this fight.
The stadium never looked better and is sure to host more fights. Only 20,000 people attended---way under the 30K anticipated---but Cotto and Foreman aren't exactly the biggest names out there. In order to lure big-time fights, Yankee Stadium would have to contend with expansive Cowboys Stadium and Las Vegas, which draw either the big crowds or high rollers. There is even talk with WBA promoter Bob Arum for a return boxing event at the stadium. How about October, Manny and Floyd?
436, If You Include the Mets Players
At Citifield, 427 Mets fans set a Guiness World Record for most people crocheting simultaneously. I guess Oliver Perez was on the mound.
The Spelling Bee is I-N-I-Q-U-I-T-O-U-S
On Saturday afternoon, I had a choice of watching Nascar on Fox, Rugby on ABC or The Scripps Spelling Bee on ESPN. I'm one of those guys who doesn't consider chess, cup-stacking or putting letters together a sport but I can't understand the Nascar announcers' grits and biscuits lingo and I'll be damned if I can figure out anything about rugby. I think most of these kids are good spellers because they had to learn to spell their own names. Some kids have every letter of the alphabet in their first name alone and one didn't even have a single vowel in his whole surname. I don't think it's fair when one kid has to spell nephrocytary or genethliac while another kid gets jehu.
Boston Celtics fan, Mayor Bloomberg, Woos LeBron to New York
New York's trans-fat-free mayor continues to campaign for LeBron James as a Knick. Bloomberg contends that by bringing James to our city, he would generate $57.8 million for the city. In a website video, the mayor said: " Willis on one leg, Clyde with the steal, Dr. J soaring from the line---Come on, Le Bron, write the next chapter in New York City basketball history." Hey Bloomie, Dr. J never played for a NYC team. He was a Net and 76er.