|Interview with Al Bernstein: On Super 6, Pacquiao vs Cotto, Mayweather Jr vs Marquez, De La Hoya, Tyson and Tons more!
By David Tyler, Doghouse Boxing (Sept 8, 2009)
According to Wikipedia, Al Bernstein is an American sportscaster, writer, stage performer, recording artist, and speaker. In 1980 he became the boxing analyst for ESPN. He left in 2003 to serve as the boxing analyst for Showtime boxing. Still working for Showtime, Al is considered the premier boxing analyst on Television.
David Tyler Al, thank you for your time. Let’s get started. You know I’m a website writer. Do you follow boxing on the internet?
Al Bernstein Yes, I do scan the boxing websites and find some very interesting articles. I wish I had more time but my work keeps me busy. I also have an internet boxing channel at IBNsports.com.
DT Al, the Super Middleweight Tournament that’s being sponsored by Showtime. Will you be the expert analyst for the tournament fights?
AB Yes, I will be in on all the bouts in the Super Middleweight tournament on Showtime. I’m looking forward to this very exciting tournament.
DT Showtime did a good job putting the tournament together.
AB Yeah, from what I have been reading just about everybody thinks it’s a really good idea. It was a monstrous undertaking for Showtime to assemble this kind of tournament. You’ve got five promoters, six fighters, you’re standing on two continents, it’s difficult, you’ve got these fighters for 3 fights, and it’s a very ambitious undertaking. The thing that makes this so special is that all people agree that these are all talented fighters and any two could be in the finals. This should be interesting for the fans.
DT Let’s review the first round, I just completed an interview with Andre Dirrell (**See Link to interview below) who will be fighting Carl Froch from Great Britain. Your thoughts?
AB That’s an interesting match-up right out of the box. In my opinion Andre Dirrell is the wild card in this because he will probably admit that he has fought the least stiff opposition in terms of overall talent and yet he is so athletically gifted, he has such speed and power. He has knocked people out and he is a really, really talented guy. Now in his first fight he has to not only go overseas and take on a guy who is terribly unhurtable. Trying to finish off Carl Froch is almost impossible but what Jermain Taylor did show in his bout with Froch is that if you box effectively you can look good against him. So the trick for Andre is to box effectively and try to do that throughout the fight and look for a decision win. He may be able to knockout Froch but it doesn’t look like that would happen. Now Froch, from his standpoint, I think that he needs to make sure he cuts off the ring and doesn’t look for just one shot, he must be looking to set up punches and throw combinations and he is very good when he does it. The other big issue with Froch is that his defense has always been suspect and with a guy like Dirrell, who throws so many punches, there is always the danger of getting cut. He needs to make sure that he is not waiting for the last 20 seconds of the fight to get Dirrell.
DT Next, Jermain Taylor versus King Arthur Abraham.
AB Well, this is also an intriguing match-up. On the surface of it, obviously Taylor is going to come in the underdog because he lost a couple of fights to fighters who could take him into the later rounds and have some power. And boy does this describe Arthur Abraham, that’s him to a tee. However, I did Abraham’s last fight with Mahir Oral and in that fight it became apparent again that you can box Arthur Abraham and box him very effectively. The trick of course is that you have to be committed to fighting this style and do it well because Abraham ultimately will land something with power against you. So the $64,000 dollar question for Dirrell is can he close the deal? Can he get all the way to those later rounds and be effective?
DT Al, why does King Arthur Abraham look unbeatable or is it just me?
AB Well it’s funny, he kind of looks that way. He could be beat by a cut or somebody with great skills that would box him for 12 rounds and avoid getting hit with anything. Here’s the problem, he has a ridiculously good defense, even though he doesn’t throw a lot of punches they are always landing. He comes out of that defensive shell very quickly and throws punches quickly where if you’re in a 12 round fight with Arthur Abraham you might win eight of those rounds if you’re really consistent and don’t make mistakes but you are still in serious danger and knocking him out just seems unthinkable because Edison Miranda broke his jaw very early in their first fight and couldn’t put him down, and Miranda landed several monstrous right hands on the broken jaw. I don’t know of any 168 pound fighter that could knock him out. So yes, he looks like a very difficult fighter to beat but if you box effectively over 12 rounds you can find a way to win. It’s won’t be an easy task.
DT Andre Ward versus Mikkel Kessler.
AB There is a couple of things about Andre Ward that are very fascinating. If you talk to boxing people, for the most part, a number of folks are telling me that Andre Ward is the sleeper in this tournament. He is one of those consistent boxers that does most everything pretty well, might not do any one thing that is so great that it jumps out at you, but still a very talented fighter. In some ways most experts think that it is to his advantage to get Kessler, who is probably the tournament favorite I would guess, early in the tournament, the first match and get him at home. The fight will be in Oakland or somewhere in that area. If he wins of course, it’s monstrous and a lot of people feel that he is the fighter to watch. Having said that, Mikkel Kessler is unquestionably the favorite in this tournament. It doesn’t mean he is going to win but clearly he is the man at 168 pounds. He fought very well against Joe Calzaghe but lost a decision but he did have great moments in that fight. He probably does every thing a little better than most of these fighters in this tournament but still, can he remain consistent at this level against these kind of fighters and still win the tournament? The thing about this tournament that makes it so unique is that very few fighters will face this level of competition, to win it you must win four in a row. Based on that kind of competition you just don’t know how they will respond. The perfect analogy is the seeding in the NCAA basketball tournament. You may be a great team but get a poor seed that represents four games of tough competition right in a row and there is always the chance you will lose.
DT- Your thoughts about the Mayweather/ Marquez fight?
AB I am a great admirer of Juan Manuel Marquez, I think he is a wonderful fighter; he is everything that’s good about boxing. Things didn’t always work out for him early in his career as far as big money fights, now that’s changed in the last few years and I just think that he is a wonderful fighter to watch perform. One of the best of our time and the proof of that is really simple; he fought Manny Pacquiao to a standstill. Jumping up in weight has caused him some trouble, Joel Casamayor, Juan Diaz; he had some issues with those fighters. I think he is a worthy and interesting opponent for Mayweather after he took a couple of years off.
DT Why Marquez after such a layoff for Mayweather?
AB - I think they took Marquez because they thought his size worked against him and he didn’t go up in weight as well as Pacquiao did and they believe that they will hurt him. And they believe that he is a marquee name that Mayweather can handle because he is physically a smaller man. The wild cards in this fight are the layoff for Mayweather clearly, what has it taken out of him and simply can he hurt Juan Manuel Marquez. If he can, it’s going to be difficult; other people have stunned him and hurt him. We will find out about the power of Mayweather and that’s important. I am not sure that even if Floyd Mayweather Jr. is a master in the ring and beats up this guy in a spectacular way given the two year layoff and the superb technician that Juan Manuel Marquez is, I think that winning a decision might be a little tricky for Floyd Mayweather Jr. If this fight goes the distance, I would lean toward Marquez. I believe that Mayweather’s camp believes that he has the power to stop Marquez.
DT Mayweather may have the power to Kayo Marquez?
AB I think he might. Hey, he knocked out Ricky Hatton and Hatton is physically bigger and stronger than Marquez. Marquez was hurt badly by Diaz in that one fight and I think we can all agree that Mayweather is a better puncher than Diaz. So, I am not saying it’s going to happen but the possibility is there and to be honest, I think that’s what the Mayweather people are hanging their hats on.
DT- Some experts are saying that Mayweather wins by decision and pitches a shutout.
AB I just don’t know how you could pitch a shutout against Juan Manuel Marquez. If he does do that, it will be a very impressive feat for Mayweather.
DT How about Miguel Cotto and Manny Pacquiao?
AB I think that is going to be a spectacular fight. I give Manny Pacquiao all the credit in the world for taking him on. He moved up in weight and the men he fought did not perform as well as even he would have liked because they ended up diminishing his victories a little bit. David Diaz fought as well as he could but Pacquiao was just way better than him. De La Hoya never got on track. He also came into the fight as a shell of himself. He got down in weight way too early, and he never had anything in that fight. Now Ricky Hatton was not able to sustain against Pacquiao’s power and of course we have to give Pacquiao credit in all these cases but in boxing we always do revisionist history and we say those weren’t creditable opponents. Where in reality before the De La Hoya fight, Pacquiao was a big underdog and before the Hatton fight, many people, including me, thought that Hatton would perform better. I’ve said all along that if Manny Pacquiao could beat a really, really, good Welterweight, like Shane Mosley or Miguel Cotto, that you would have to think of him as one of the all time greats in the lower weight classes. Literally one of the top two or three, there would be no ifs, ands, or buts. Now Cotto struggled against Joshua Clottey but there’s no clout in that because Joshua Clottey is a terrific fighter, I thought Clottey would win that fight. He came very close to winning and some would argue that he did win but I think that Miguel Cotto is still a very, very, very, good fighter. Obviously, the Margarito loss took some steam out of him and we can surmise that if Margarito and his people were cheating in that fight, we don’t know for sure but it seems likely based on the Mosley situation, we can understand why that beating was worse than it was. I’m not suggesting that Cotto was so mentally damaged from that fight, that he can’t fight a great fight. He overcame a bad cut against Clottey and beat a very good fighter in front of him to will his way to a win. He has more power than anybody that Pacquiao’s faced. De La Hoya had some power but he never got on track, but I think Cotto hits harder right now. I think this is going to be a great fight. It just can’t miss as far as great fights go. At some level it’s either going to be really good or absolutely fantastic.
DT Al, you read the Teddy Atlas interview, I’m going to ask you the same question. What are your thoughts about the overall state of boxing?
AB I think the quality of boxing has improved over the last four years, dramatically. I think that it’s quantitative, even though they are still not doing the job in America, the mainstream sports media has at least started to edge toward covering the sport, not nearly as much as it should, and I will be doing commentary on the subject on my channel in the next week, but boxing’s product is in it’s best decade and I don’t know how anyone can argue that point, 2009 is the best year…..the last several years have been fantastic, 2009 in terms of product put out to the public, I think 2009….go down the list of fights, shining upsets, like Shane Mosley beating Margarito, a great fight like Carl Froch beating Taylor with seconds left to go, wars of attrition like Diaz and Marquez, another war of attrition like Clottey versus Cotto. We’ve had a number of solid fights like Tim Bradley and Kendall Holt. All kinds of good fights like Brian Viloria versus Ulises Solis. We’ve seen future stars like Paul Williams and we have seen Manny Pacquiao now actually ascend to being THE superstar of the sport, being loved world wide and I don’t think that’s hyperbole, he is the face of boxing right now and it’s a face that people like. So I think the sport has done better the last three or four years and I still see the meter heading up instead of down.
DT I agree completely, I see the sport of boxing giving us a better product….
AB And let’s speak to the whole sport, not just the top of the sport, how the whole of the sport is functioning now. First of all, around the world there are many boxing matches being held, in arenas, in small clubs, everywhere. The sport internationally is honored, that much we know for sure. England is a perfect example, I’ve had conversations with English commentators and writers in which they talk about the fact that it doesn’t matter that they are down to one champion in Carl Froch, that Calzaghe retired and Ricky Hatton is probably retired. They have fights all over England that people appreciate, they go out to see, television for boxing is booming. In all of Europe, Germany and I was just there for the Abraham fight, they are doing a great job. In the United States here’s what’s positive about the United States, and this is where I don’t understand what Teddy was talking about, there are more opportunities for fighters to apply their craft. I go around the United States and I talk with lots of promoters and there is more regional boxing than there has been for years. Here’s part of the reason, for a long time the casinos on the riverboat league were part of the sport and these casinos are still part of the sport. But there are lower level events where there are no casinos, shows like the one we will be doing in San Jose. We see a lot of fights in the big places, like the Toyota Center, the Staples Center, the Home Depot Center, and the HP Pavilion and then they have the movement to put these semi-bigger fights in clubs like California, Philadelphia, Lou Dibella shows for smaller venues. I just don’t understand, I see more opportunities for fighters with moderate skills. This will always be a sport in which fighters on that level struggle, because the money isn’t monstrous and often times promoters will take advantage of that, and this is where I disagree with Teddy, it’s not Communism, its blatant Capitalism run amok. That’s what it is, there are no regulations, and this is not baseball, football or basketball. Sports which I think are run very much like Socialism and not Communism. They have a Socialistic feel to them if you will, I sound like somebody in one of those open town meetings, which I detest but the fact of the matter is boxing has very few regulations and the market place has provided some opportunities but it hasn’t provided for a lot of fighters the oversight, the regulations, to ensure that they have the opportunity to perform. So it’s just the opposite of Communism, it’s Capitalism and it’s worked to a degree but obviously not as we would like. Still, the opportunities are there. Teddy is allowed his opinion and I agree with some parts of it, but I don’t see it the same way. As far as the sport going off on its own when there is not a big fight, here in America it happens to some degree because they will not cover boxing and they are not doing their job. I’m not saying that the sport deserves the coverage that the NFL, Baseball, or Basketball deserves, but there are two sports in America that are not covered adequately. I’m not a giant Hockey fan but Hockey is lacking coverage, so is boxing, and they both got work to do because assignment editors, talk show host, they seem to be making blanket decisions and nothing that hockey or boxing can do will change their mind. I just don’t think the coverage is proportional to its fan base in hockey and boxing.
DT Any other issues with Teddy’s remarks?
AB The internet is another issue I have with Teddy’s statements. If it were not for all of these websites, boxing fans would be in the dark. If you don’t look at it, like Teddy admitted, then you don’t understand that the internet is where boxing fans go to get their information.
DT Al, I live in the Los Angeles area code, and virtually the only time that the newspapers cover our sport is when a mega fight is happening in Vegas.
AB The 1990’s were an abyss for boxing. It was a time when matches that were made were not always good. Important matches were not made, in most if not all cases, and Mike Tyson irreparably damaged the image of boxing by making the average and casual boxing fan think that all boxers were thugs. All of that combined to drive the media away. By 2000 Showtime and other networks realized the sport was in trouble and they understood that they could not get rid of all the champions all the sanctioning organizations so what do we do? The answer was giving the public good match-ups and that has been fantastic for boxing’s fan base and proven to be successful on all levels.
DT Los Angelinos are spoiled by listening to and watching the great Vin Scully work the broadcasting booth alone during Dodger games. Do you prefer the two man system, three man system or the HBO system where you simply can’t get enough analyst on air for a boxing event?
AB Without commenting on them or my colleagues, I do believe that two man booths are perfect for boxing. I also believe in a two man booth for almost all sports. There have only been a handful of three man booths that have worked. You can go back to Dick Enberg, McGwire, and Packard; for different reasons you could say Gifford, Cosell, and Meredith. It’s very tough to make a three man booth work. I am a believer in the two man system for boxing.
DT Al, we were speaking earlier about your sports channel on the internet, where do the readers find it?
AB It’s IBNSports.com, go there and you will see my icon where I have a whole boxing channel. I started this because of the lack of video coverage in this sport. Have you seen the site?
DT No, I’m like Teddy, I don’t go into that world because there are too many mentally deranged communists on the internet visiting these sites……..Only kidding. It is a fantastic site for boxing fans to visit.
DT Al, best of luck with the upcoming Super Middleweight Tournament and all future endeavors.
AB David, it’s been my pleasure. Keep giving the readers good interviews!
Readers: We referenced the Teddy Atlas interviews which can be found on this website (or click here for Part One and Part Two). The Al Bernstein and Teddy Atlas interviews make interesting bookends as they contain contrasting views about our favorite sport. Which side of the fence are you on? E-mail David now at: email@example.com
Also See: Interview with Andre Dirrell.
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