Rearview mirror: A decade’s worth of random “celebrity” encounters

Even me, Skip? Even you, Dorn.

My friends over at Trumbull Island are putting together a pretty extensive and highly entertaining collection of Top Ten lists for the decade, and for the year. As I helped them save Christmas this year, they asked me if I had any contributions, and then suggested “Top random people I met in the ‘00’s.” In truth, I’m sort of like Forrest Gump: I run a lot, I’m decent at ping-pong and I often find myself meeting a lot of random “famous” people.

I think this is supposed to be a Top 10 list, but it looks like that’s not a hard and fast rule for Trumbull, as someone had a Top 71 list. So, I’m offering a Top 16 list. This is in no particular order. Most of them are athletes, but not all of them. Also, I have pictures with most of these people, but I don’t like anyone to know what I look like, so you won’t see any here.

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Do the right thing: Pacquiao-Mayweather a needed spike for fight game

Face to face 
With boxing, as the Rolling Stones said, you can’t always get what you want. In fact, you virtually never get what you want.

But just this once, as a fight that every boxing fan desires actually may become reality, you might just find you get what you need.

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Ringside keeps the flame for a dead champion and a troubled sport

Front of the building, facing 1&9

My continuing quest to understand the death of my favorite boxer recently led me to Jersey City, the adopted hometown of Arturo Gatti, and a bar stool in Ringside pub. 

I’ve wanted to go to Ringside for years after hearing vague stories about how Gatti used to train there. I’d also heard that the bar attracts a rather tough crowd, and it’s in a relatively out of the way location, right next to the highway on Route 1&9. But I was driving a friend back to Jersey City on Sunday night a few weeks ago, and being that we’re both boxing fans, we decided to stop for a beer in Gatti’s honor.

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Houston, we have a problem: Paulie’s plight illustrates boxing’s ills

We’ve been advocates of Paulie Malignaggi for over five years here, even interviewing him for the previous iteration of He’s a likable kid, very funny and cocky, but prideful and devoted to his craft, with jabs as fast as his quips. 

Who knew he’d be such a strong voice in calling out what’s wrong with boxing?

Malignaggi fought Houston native Juan Diaz in Diaz’s own city last Saturday night, and essentially Paulie voices his concerns about the sport following his loss on Saturdayacknowledged before the fight that he was going to get a raw deal. Contractually forced to make a catch weight lower than he was used to and fight in a smaller ring that limited his greatest advantage, his speed and elusiveness, Malignaggi made no secret about the fact that he didn’t expect the opportunity to actually win the fight by decision. Essentially, the deck was stacked against him.

His one saving grace was a promise that the fight would be officiated fairly and that the judges would be a varied panel and not just hometown stooges. But as Malignaggi found when he got to Houston, the referee was the son of Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation official Dickie Cole, and the judges included biased Texan Gale Van Hoy, Oklahoman David Sutherland, and Raul Caiz Sr., who Malignaggi called “a gofer for Golden Boy and a guy who’s biased in favor of Mexican-American fighters.”

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Words to live by: Why we love Pretty Boy Floyd

Floyd Mayweather apparently invented HBO 24/7... just ask him We’ve been strong advocates of Floyd Mayweather here for quite some time – we went to his demolition of DeMarcus Corley way back in 2004 – which isn’t really in our nature. We like fighters like Gatti, guys who are more substance than style.

But Pretty Boy Floyd has both. The man is a tremendous boxer who pays incredible attention to his craft. And you know what? Boxing needs, craves even, his attitude, his willingness to stir things up. As the sport is lapped by Ultimate Fighting and its ilk, Mayweather’s ability to make people tune in to either root for him or root for him to get his head knocked off is invaluable.

Floyd follows the money. And taking a year off was a smart marketing move. During that year,

24/7 premieres Saturday at 10:15 p.m. ET

he had several memorable feuds – of sorts – with WWE wrestler The Big Show, keeping him in the mainstream and the public eye. After a disappointing summer for boxing on many levels, featuring few memorable fights and several notable deaths, people are more than ready for Mayweather’s return, regardless of the fact that he’s facing Juan Manuel Marquez, a very talented fighter who people know virtually nothing about.

As usual, Mayweather has taken up the promotion of the fight himself. HBO’s fantastic 24/7

series – which Floyd actually claims he invented somehow, though I think the word he’s looking for is pioneered – is set to premiere on Saturday, and the preview HBO showed during Boxing After Dark this week featured Floyd at his finest (and funniest):


I personally don’t think fighters say anything [about their opponents] because if they lose, people won’t be so harsh on them.

Me? I’m like, ‘F*ck it.’ It is what it is. You coming to get me, come and get me. It ain’t gonna be easy, baby, but you know it. It ain’t gonna be easy.

You have to admire his confidence, even if you bristle at his cockiness. The thing is, until someone actually beats Mayweather – and make no mistake, attempting to hit him is like trying to catch a firefly in your hand – he has carte blanche to say whatever he wants, and even his detractors have to admit that he’s backed it up every single time.

Mayweather destroyed Hatton and clearly outclassed the great De La Hoya. I don’t think Marquez has what it takes to beat him, and it’s a good thing. Boxing desperately needs Pretty Boy Floyd to have something to talk about.

Gatti’s death a suicide? Not bloody likely

Arturo Gatti where he was most comfortable, Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic CitySo the Brazilian authorities, who had been virtually certain that Arturo Gatti’s wife was responsible for his murder, have now surmised that his death at the age of 38 was a suicide, which adds up perfectly, right?

Sure… until you find out that the Brazilian authorities apparently ran an incomplete investigation.

And until you find out that a second autopsy commissioned by Gatti’s family has not ruled out homicide.

And until you hear that the Gatti family brought a computer to the cops, saying it had pertinent information regarding his death.

And until you realize that three weeks ago, a new will was created that gave Gatti’s entire fortune to his wife, Amanda Rodrigues. That leaves nothing for Gatti’s family, including his mother and kids. In the CSI world, I believe they call that a motive.

And until you think about the logistics. Generally, a suicide attempt would not consist of both a stab wound in the back of the head, and a hanging (with his wife’s purse strap). It would seem that those events are mutually exclusive.

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Tough month for boxing gets darker with loss of classy Forrest

Vernon Forrest (left) trades blows with Shane Mosley

Unlike Arturo Gatti, I don’t know a lot about Vernon Forrest, who was murdered in cold blood in an apparent attempted robbery recently. I’ve seen a bunch of his fights, but he didn’t make the impact on me that Gatti did.

The fact that Forrest was not the star that Gatti was does not make it any less sad what happened to him. In fact, in certain ways it’s sadder, because from all accounts, Forrest was one of the truly good guys in the sport. 

In a sport where often the louder you talk, the more opportunities you get, he rarely talked excessively before fights and was still able to win three world titles, despite the media treating him with disdain for not being a great quote. He represented our country proudly at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona – to think, all anyone ever mentions from those Games is Oscar De La Hoya. He overcame several injuries that would have ended most careers, persevering after, for example, a rotator cuff tear.

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Live fast, die young: A champion falls

I always just sort of had this feeling that Arturo Gatti would die young, but it doesn’t make it any less stunning when it actually happens.
Iconic Gatti
Hearing about his death on Saturday was one of those times where you simply don’t know what to do next. He’s been my favorite fighter since high school, when about 15 years ago, I saw him beat Tracy Harris Patterson for his first title.

Gatti was never the most talented boxer, not the most successful. But he was by far the most entertaining. Even after he got with trainer Buddy McGirt and stepped up his fundamentals, Gatti’s defense always took a back seat to his offense; he’d take three punches to connect with one. But his determination and threshhold for pain made his fights must-see wars, so much so that I went to three of his fights in Atlantic City, including the final two of his near-legendary wars with Micky Ward.

It’s no wonder people loved him. Gatti was the everyman, with the name and look of a young mafia don, the swagger of a bullfighter and the courage of a firefighter. He was known just as much for his propensity to party as his prowess in the ring. Gatti liked fast cars, fast women, fast punches and fast times. He’d go out to party still bleeding after one of his epic ring wars.
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Programming note: Watch the Gatti-Ward trilogy

A week after Arturo Gatti’s untimely death, whether you were a fan or are just learning of him now, it’s in your best interests to check out his trilogy against Micky Ward. All of Gatti’s fights were great, but the three-fight series from May ’02 to June ’03 was the epitome of sportsmanship and athletic competition.

Luckily, HBO Sports is airing the trilogy back-to-back-to-back this weekend. Set your DVR: It’s on Friday night starting at 9 p.m. ET on HBO2, and then Saturday morning at 10:15 a.m. on HBO. It’ll also be on demand until Aug. 16.

Make sure you take advantage of this rare opportunity to see two great champions, one of whom we recently lost.