Saturday night at the Fights
Big fight in Oakland Saturday night, light heavy challenger Andre Ward was facing Alex Brand in a tune-up for a November 19 title shot against current belt-holder Sergei Kovalev. This was expected to be a walk over for Ward, and indeed it was, as he won every round although unable to put Brand on the canvas even once.
Saturday came around and I had no plan at all of going to the fight, but then I got to looking at tickets on StubHub and found a floor seat for a not-awful price. Gail wanted to stay home, watch the Olympics and do jig saw puzzles, so a few clicks later I was printing my ticket, getting my camera and heading out.
Entering the Coliseum was the usual idiocy. They are very concerned about cameras, even the little Sony I was carrying. I know they won’t allow a big camera with an interchangeable lens, so I carry the pocket size one, and still the bozo wanted to know how far the lens extends (3″ is their utterly arbitrary and nonsensical limit) and if it takes videos. Every single person in the auditorium was carrying a cell phone that takes excellent video, but he was worried about my camera–which also takes video but if I admitted that he would make me take it back to my car. He also wanted to know if I had a selfie-stick in my bag, which was plainly impossible. Not all the bozos work for the TSA.
The seat was pretty decent, on the corner of the ring and close. I was right next to the media pit, so I could see as well as many of the elite press, except for TV lights, cameras and monitors placed at the corner and blocking the view.
I got there about 4:45. The main event was to begin at 7:30. There were pre-lims, but nobody was in any hurry; plenty of time in between fight to walk around and spectate.
The area where the fighters walk into the arena was on the far side of the ring; I went exploring to find a place to get some good photos. That didn’t work, the ushers chased me off. But I heard my name and found my friend Kunio Okui sitting in a great seat, dead center and about 7 rows up so he could see over the ring ropes. Kunio is a huge sports fan who makes all the Warriors home games sitting right behind the bench. He owns seats in row A2, but often sells them because, as he says, he “can’t afford to sit in them”. The Warriors sent him two tickets to the fights because he is a great customer, and he was sitting in the best seats in the house until somebody kicked him out. I decided to join him. Life is who you know.
It’s a funny thing about fights–regardless of where you sit, the best view is straight up, on the Jumbotron hanging over the ring. Here’s a shot of the first fight I saw, featuring two women. The one from San Francisco won all four rounds (it’s never a surprise when the home town girl/boy wins the fight)
With lots of time between bouts, there was socializing. Kunio and I got to know the women in front of us. People are friendly here.
The preliminary fights included two first round KO’s, one of which left the loser out cold for quite a while a team of doctors made sure he wasn’t more severely injured. The crowd cheered when he got up and walked out of the ring on his own power.
More people watching. This mother and daughter were in the front row of their section. They just caught my eye, and were quite amenable to having their picture taken.
Daughter won the prize for shoes, too.
Now the travelling road show that is big time boxing started to move into high gear. The media pit had filled up with the top writers from around the country. The HBO hosts were taping inserts. And the great Michael Buffer, the greatest boxing announcer of all time, was in the house in his white tuxedo.
The fight was on HBO, so the very loose timing became very tight. The honor guard brought in the flag, some local singer struggled through the Star Spangled Banner, or most of it because she skipped a few verses. The fighters made their entrance to a now very crowded ring.
The fight started. The crowd went wild with every punch from Andre. His nickname is S.O.G., son of God. Ward is a straight shooting, church going family man without a hint of the evil, excess and corruption that so often has accompanied boxers.
Three minutes of action, a minute of rest and a chance for the Corona ring girls to strut around, pose for the crowd and sell a few beers.
Plenty of action in the fight. Ward is measured and scientific, the epitome of a boxer rather than a puncher. Brand is wilder, reaching in with his punches trying to land a big one but never being able to seriously get past Ward’s defense.
The 12 rounds flew by, the scores were tallied and Andre Ward, as expected, pitched 12 round shutout and won by the unanimous score of 120-108.
There were still some things to see. HBO commentators Jim Lampley and Bernard Hopkins were wrapping it up:
Boxers want to watch the stars, too. The kid with the bright red hair in this photo is an up and coming 20 year old who is now 10-0 after issuing a devastating first round KO in the pre-lims.
I’m not very good at recognizing celebrities. There were any number of people I saw last night being besieged by the crowd to pose for pictures, and I have no idea who any of them are. Here’s an example:
The bad part of being in the good seats is getting out–you’re the furthest from the doors and behind the crowd. Being in no hurry I got to wander around, watch the happenings, find an elevator and head home at my own unhurried pace. I even found a place to take a shot of the rapidly emptying arena, collapsing like a leaky balloon with all the energy of the evening flowing away.
The November 19 title bout with Kovalev will likely be in Las Vegas. I wonder if Kunio can get great seats?