|Nick Charles Interview on SHOWTIME Super Six, Manny Pacquiao, Miguel Cotto, Floyd Mayweather Jr and much More!
By David Tyler, Doghouse Boxing (Oct 14, 2009)
Let’s welcome into the doghouse, one of boxing’s premier broadcaster’s. Nick Charles needs no introduction to boxing fans. His most recent work for Showtime boxing speaks for itself. During this interview, Nick pulls no punches. I appreciated his honest and candid insight into boxing. Hope you enjoy.
David Tyler Nick lately I have been interviewing your fellow Showtime colleagues about the upcoming Super Middleweight Tournament.
Nick Charles I think this tournament is fabulous, I just want to make sure that I don’t come across like I’m a pitchman for the network but I think it is a daunting proposition in the fact that this tournament is going to play out over a lot of time and to keep everybody healthy is absolutely key to the success of the tournament. I just love the components, Arthur Abraham is moving up in weight, Jermaine Taylor is not a ringer but he is the veteran, like the warhorse who belongs at that weight, then we have the great unknown, Mikkel Kessler who could be the very best at that weight, then of course Carl Froch and we have seen how he pulls fights out of the fire, we have followed Andre Ward up through the ranks and watched him pass his first major league test with an impressive win over Edison Miranda, then the great unknown is Andre Dirrell he is a guy who has so much talent, speed, quickness, power, but who knows how he will react when one of these world class 168 pounders hits him flush with a shot, is he going to go down and we never seen him again or will he win the tournament? I just wish that Lucian Bute was included but I guess you had to draw the line somewhere. I just think the concept is fabulous.
DT I really like the fact that you could lose a fight and still end up winning the tournament.
NC- Exactly, that’s my feeling too. It gives the tournament intrigue you can have somebody come back. A guy like Kessler could lose his first fight in Oakland and then come back and winning the whole thing and show why many still feel he is the class of all of them. So absolutely, that rule gives it even more bite to me.
DT - Judging by the e-mails I receive, most of our readers believe that the tournament will be dominated by the Europeans.
NC I’m not sure. Let’s look at Carl Froch, I don’t know how good he will be, his mental toughness is good, then Jermaine Taylor’s mental toughness is not good. Taylor had Kelly Pavlik out or should have had him out; he gave away a fight to Froch by not focusing properly. So I give Froch mental toughness. Kessler, it’s no disgrace losing to Joe Calzaghe, he looked fabulous against a tune-up opponent, but he looks to be the complete package. In terms of world class experience I don’t know that Carl Froch has any more experience than Andre Ward who we were very critical of being moved along slowly until his impressive victory over Miranda. That’s as legitimate as beating Jermaine Taylor but beyond that I don’t know who Froch has beaten. Dirrell is the wildcard after his victories over Anthony Hanshaw and Victor Oganov he is very much in this tournament. Certainly with Froch, Kessler, and Abraham being champions, I can see why people would give the edge to the Europeans. I don’t mean to wave the flag and be a patriot but I have always liked Arthur Abraham, I had him in my top ten after that first fight with Edison Miranda where he suffered a broken jaw and went on to win the fight. I think the world of him, maybe he is a little short at 168 lbs. but I think we all knew he was moving up to 168 lbs; his lack of height will be made up by his punching power. I would give the slightest of edge to the Europeans, because there is such a dark horse with Dirrell, and Ward with only one win over a legitimate opponent but he did it in impressive fashion. Many believe Taylor is on his way down, so for those reasons maybe you could give a slight edge to the Europeans.
DT In your career have you ever seen a tournament like this?
NC I seem to remember something by HBO with the middleweights, but nothing like this tournament. Not over this duration and certainly not with this quality of fighters. I still wish Bute was in the tournament because I have done two or three of his fights but it just didn’t work out for whatever reason. I know he had to defend against Librado Andrade again and chose not to give up his belt. That may have been part of it, I don’t claim to know all the machinations of it and why he was the odd man out. In terms of depth and quality, a guy moving up who has dominated the middleweights, a guy moving up who has also been a middleweight champion, a guy who was the last Olympian Gold Medalist from the United States, and then a kid with so much ability, Dirrell. I think the opponents and the depth are unmatched in terms of previous tournaments. Give all the credit to Ken Hershman for putting this thing together.
DT Nick what is the best case scenario for boxing that could come out of this tournament?
NC Now what I would like to see is a lot of sports fans excited about this event. I am very happy that we are going to draw a lot of boxing fans but I would love the football fanatic from New England that could name the third string tight end to be able to name these fighters during the tournament and see what quality is all about.
DT Nick I believe that we all would like to see the sport elevate above the niche market that currently follows boxing. The two fights on October 17, Abraham/ Taylor and Dirrell/ Froch would cost over $100 on HBO.
NC That’s really true. I agree I believe it’s a wonderful opportunity to see real quality fighters over a couple of years. Hopefully as a continuing saga it will pick up fans that realize that they are getting a quality product for the regular subscription price of Showtime. Another interesting fact is that the Latin population has been so wonderful for the sport, thank goodness for the support that we have received from the Latino community over the years. I will be very interested to see a demographic of the fans that follow this event. I say this because there isn’t a Latin fighter in the tournament but I believe that the Latino community will support this event. They say boxing is an ageing demographic but that’s not true at all in the Latino community.
DT - Nick, how do you see the overall all health of boxing today?
NC- David, I think it is a niche sport as you just described. The reason is historic, very little is broadcast on over the air networks. If you look at news right now, I believe that 30 million people are watching the nightly news right now and these numbers are way down from the historic ratings. ABC, CBS, NBC all are suffering because it has been stratified, people get their news elsewhere CNN, FOX, are competing and of course people can DVR the news and watch it later. Add the internet into the equation and you can see how the numbers would be down. In terms of boxing, I just want good boxing everywhere, I’ve never disparaged another network, the announcers, I’m happy when HBO does good stuff. I think it’s good for the sport and I hope people wouldn’t say Showtime’s gain is HBO’s loss. Look at ESPN’s Friday night fights, very limited budget which makes it difficult to attract fans. Look at ESPN’s Sportscenter, which I don’t watch much anymore but they don’t even show highlights of their own Friday night fights. These are the things that are wrong with boxing, an hour worth of highlights and its one hour of basketball, division II football and I’m saying they didn’t even show that spectacular knock out on their own network last night. They could tease it right, and I worked for CNN sports tonight for 20 years. You just say that we will be right back with the highlights of the day and show a 30 second highlight from a boxing match and you would attract more fans to the sports just by the exposure. Of course we go way back walking through a shopping mall on a Saturday afternoon and watching Ray Mancini or Sugar Ray Leonard and you are watching 40 television sets in Sears on the way to the main mall and 10 of them are on the fight because ABC was carrying it that afternoon. Just that subliminal sense for people, you see something happening and you watch guys gathering to watch the fight. That just doesn’t make sense anymore, it’s just evaporated and that’s where I go back to the young guy who can name the third string tight end can’t name six boxers. You wouldn’t believe how many times I hear from people, who want to know what I do now, and they say I don’t get Showtime; hopefully this tournament will make these people subscribe to Showtime. I think we need a combination of those things; cable, subscription television, and the over the air broadcast. Then you’ve got the Pay Per View events and I’m in the boxing business and I’m don’t get every PPV event and if I don’t get it, I can’t imagine that normal fight fans can lay out $55 for every event. I think the internet has really helped. But I tell boxing fans that if you really like it, let me give you these four or five websites that are really great, and they have never heard of them. It’s such an esoteric niche sport and that’s our dilemma or our challenge to make it more than that or it will always be a niche sport.
DT Showtime is into MMA, has that taken fans away from boxing?
NC I know the MMA has had a profound effect; does that take away from us? I am not an economist for the network but I know if Showtime has a fight schedule then they have a fight budget, and that means less money for boxing. So does MMA help boxing? No, in my opinion, because they are counterintuitive, I really feel that the average MMA fan will never be a boxing fan. They don’t have the patience to see a boxer set-up and opponent for six or seven rounds. The MMA fans are younger people that into video games and they want instant gratification and that’s not what you always get with boxing. Not every fight is Mike Tyson knocking someone out in one round. On the other hand, MMA does put on some great events for their fans and that’s a good thing.
DT Any other improvements needed in boxing?
NC - Boxing has too many divisions, too many organizations, for the average fan to understand. Sure the belts mean a lot to the fighters no matter what the organization but the average fan doesn’t care because there are so many belts out there. The weight divisions are confusing especially now that they are having Manny Pacquiao move up and beat everybody in his path. I think in some ways it’s very good to have a superstar but is he a lightweight, junior welterweight, or even a welterweight champion. I think in many ways the fans can’t even distinguish anymore because of all these so called catch weight fights.
DT Nick, let’s go outside Showtime for a bit. We just watched Mayweather overwhelm Juan Manuel Marquez.
NC I didn’t even order that fight, it’s exactly the way I thought the fight would go so there was no suspense or drama for that one.
DT How about Pacquiao/ Cotto fight?
NC I have talked about that fight in length and I might even do the international feed for the fight. I have always liked Cotto for a lot of reasons. I watched him against Margarito and I don’t care if he had a sledge hammer in his trunks, he took something out of Cotto. I watched him against Clottey and I believe that Clottey gave that fight away. He had Cotto cut and hurt and did not take advantage of this. I really give it to Bob Arum; he has two guys signed and has them fight each other. Yes they are going to make a lot of money but he could have had Cotto fight someone else, he could have had Pacquiao fight someone else. He would have made money for both and avoided a major loss for one of his fighters. I like Pacquiao in this fight, I picked Hatton to beat Pacquiao and boy was I wrong, I thought it had to end sometime for Pacquiao even though they were both the same height and build. I was so wrong on that I’m thinking that maybe he will beat Cotto. I believe that Cotto will be really dangerous early; he is a great body puncher and will try to work the body in the early rounds. Freddie Roach’s challenge will be to try and not take away Pacquiao’s aggressiveness but make him box and fight fast. Get in and get out, and hit Cotto from different angles. I think Freddie sees some weaknesses in Cotto and the big one is that he can be hit and how he gets hit. He stands in the pocket and can get hit easily. But Roach is amazing in the fact that he can spot these weak points in other fighters and take advantage of them. He certainly had a great plan for Hatton. So, I feel Freddie will not take away Pacquiao’s aggressiveness but box more in the early rounds and wait for Cotto to fade down the stretch. I pick Pacquiao by split decision.
DT Can we look down the road and speculate on how Pacquiao would do against Mayweather?
NC I have to see how Pacquiao does against Cotto, it’s just too premature. I think Mayweather is the best fighter in the world, he just neutralizes a guy better than any other fighter and he puts you in a position to lose, even though you have always put yourself in a position to succeed. You face him and it will end up different. If there is any question about Mayweather it would be his chin. We just don’t know but maybe if you nailed him cleanly he may go down. Then you have the question does Pacquiao have the power to make this happen? Mayweather is good at 147, in fact he is excellent. I don’t think it’s hard for him to make that weight. Maybe 147 is too much for Pacquiao who started at something like 106? I could be wrong but right now I would lean toward Mayweather. Of course my opinion could change depending on how Pacquiao looks against Cotto, a true 147 pound fighter.
DT I agree and HBO does a good job promoting the PPV events.
NC I think the 24/7’s leading into the event help the sport. I see them all the time where I go to work out and because it is on regular HBO it attracts fans from other sports. They are not going to get much information from the newspapers so the only other source of information would be the internet. I read the New York Times and I was very surprised that nothing was mentioned about the Vitaly Klitschko/ Chris Areolla fight. That deserved some attention in a national newspaper because the dynamics of the event. A heavyweight championship fight with ethnic background of Areolla as a Mexican American heavyweight, Klitschko’s age, it would have been great to see more pre-fight coverage. People don’t realize how good and how hard the older Klitschko hits. I was talking to Michael Buffer a couple of weeks ago and he said you could feel the impact of those blows at ringside. Those kinds of things deserve to be talked about more than they are and it really frustrates me as someone who loves boxing.
DT Let’s talk a little about boxing broadcasts. It started with Howard Cosell, doing the bouts by himself, next the two man approach. Now HBO has at least four men working each fight. Even though I pay $55 for a PPV event, I have to hit the mute button because nothing meaningful comes from their talking heads. I can’t enjoy the fight and listen to their private conversations. Your opinion?
NC I think it’s really wonderful if you could get a trainer or former boxer to articulate and tell me something that I don’t know. I have worked the three man approach before and as an anchor you are simply a traffic cop. I don’t think there is anything wrong with having a conversation if it’s you and the color person. A good anchor will set up the color man by saying; this guy seems to be fading, he has lost some sting in his punch, and have the color man pick up on that, you set him up. I would also like to see the networks be able to bring in a judge on a close decision and explain his scoring or have the referee explain why he took away points, these views would be important for the fans. I think the two man booth is adequate, especially if you have two good people where the chemistry works. That’s not meant to be a slam on HBO, I like Emanuel Steward a lot, and I wouldn’t say he is the best color man but he fulfills a great function because of his insight as a trainer. I don’t think one person is the best, I think sports has evolved into a two man broadcasting team. Three is just too much and I also have to turn down the volume sometimes.
DT Nick, we all know you’re in the battle of your life against cancer our thoughts and prayers are all with you.
NC Thank you, I need those prayers and thoughts. Yeah, I got a tough one but I’m not going to let this thing beat me. I’ve been working out and eating well. I got such a wonderful family and friends and I look forward to getting back ringside. I’m feeling a lot of love, I’ve received thousands of calls and e-mails from spit bucket guys to big trainers to promoters, to people at other networks, and it’s really been a life affirming thing for me in a strange way.
Readers: If you have any extra prayers, Nick Charles can use them. A great guy and we all look forward to many more years of him at ringside.
***David Tyler replies to all his e-mails and loves to hear from the readers. Comments, Questions, Suggestions, E-mail David now at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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