Boxing

 
            === "Arturopoligists" make flawed case for Canastota ===
 
 By Lyle Fitzsimmons
 
 Cape Coral, FL - As a Cincinnati Reds fan, I've been saying it for 25 years.
 
 Though he's long been known for a loathsome personality, one Peter Edward Rose
 has more hits than anyone else who's ever played major league baseball. Which
 means, without his plaque on the wall in the bucolic enclave of Cooperstown,
 N.Y., the National Baseball Hall of Fame is a fraud.
 
 Meanwhile, just 69 miles northwest in the Syracuse suburb of Canastota,
 another such statement can be made about the home of stars in another sport.
 Though he had a career most would envy, if Arturo Gatti makes it onto the wall
 there next year, then the International Boxing Hall of Fame is an abject
 failure.
 
 And with apologies to election-season poll heads, "likeability factor" should
 have nothing to do it.
 
 While Rose is by consensus a lying egomaniac with a bloated sense of self, his
 performance on the field is measurably as good as anyone who's ever gripped a
 bat. It's a stark contrast to Gatti, who admittedly thrilled a generation of
 wide-eyed fans, but fell flat -- literally -- against the best of his peers.
 
 Rose -- a rookie of the year, an MVP, a three-time batting champion and a 17-
 time all-star -- has been barred from enshrinement for more than two decades
 by voting rules concocted to punish him for being defiant, rather than
 reverential, when it came to explaining off-field foibles.
 
 At the same time, Gatti's admirable accomplishments -- five defenses of
 alphabet titles in two weight classes -- are raised to legend by the Jersey
 Shore set because he tended to wobble and bleed a lot before rallying to beat
 fighters who'd never caught a whiff of a pound-for-pound list.
 
 Whether or not you can stomach baseball, the comparison is valid. And if my
 fellow boxing voters lean on car-crash nostalgia rather than cold, hard logic,
 the symbolic blood on their keyboards will be as red as that which has caked
 under holier-than-thou major-league fingernails for two decades.
 
 While the baseball case for Rose can be made with barely a glance at his body
 of work, the only way to justify "Thunder's" inclusion in 2013 is by waxing
 poetic about ambiance in Atlantic City and holding seances in the flickering
 DVR glow of train wrecks with Micky Ward, Ivan Robinson and Gabriel Ruelas.
 
 "But those were all named fights of the year," the enraptured masses wail,
 mentioning neither that the foes were light years from elite, nor that Gatti
 actually lost two of the brawls. "And he was part of three rounds of the
 year," they cry, though their hero, too, was a measly 1-for-3 in those fights.
 
 Devotion, to them, apparently trumps disclosure.
 
 No matter how it's inspired, the induction dossier for Gatti hardly goes
 beyond a revisionist history recap of a run that was really big on highlights,
 really small on greatness. And once past the claims that Gatti was both an
 action fighter and very popular on his adopted home turf -- neither of which
 is up for a vote, by the way -- the "Arturopoligists" have precious little
 else with which to buttress their cases.
 
 Hey, don't get me wrong. If all we're talkin' about here is a barroom nook to
 honor the greatest Italians to ever crack a few skulls in the Garden State, I
 concede my cohorts' lingering man-crushes are enough for me to say
 "fuggedaboutit" to dissent.
 
 But when it comes to halls of fame, there really ought to be something more,
 don't you think?
 
 Something more than never being undisputed? Something more than never being a
 pound-for-pounder? Something more than half of what Felix Sturm totaled in
 terms of title defenses?
 
 And something more than sycophants simply insisting he had more heart, courage
 and guts than contemporaries, simply because he got hit a lot more and fell
 down twice as much?
 
 It's the sort of popularity contest mentality that chips away at Canastota's
 remaining relevance.
 
 Whether he drew crowds of dozens or thousands and whether he played rooms in
 Jersey or Joliet, a fighter ought to be judged on his acumen, his
 accomplishments and the level of his adversaries. He needn't have won every
 fight or looked good in every triumph, but at the end of the day, it should be
 a no-brainer that he meets the litmus test of "Was he one of his generation?s
 best?"
 
 Take away dramatics against guys of his ilk, and the answer for Gatti is a
 resounding "Hell, no!"
 
 He was only one of the best at 130 in the days of Nelson and Hernandez, and
 got pounded far below that depth when he wandered from the Branco/Dorin/Leija
 wading pool to the Mayweather Jr. deep end at 140 a few years later. A
 contrived resurgence at welter was a flop as well -- save for a defeat of
 forgettable Dane Thomas Damgaard -- and it ultimately ended not in a
 unification coronation, but with consecutive "somebody ought to stop this"
 losses to guys barely graduated from reality TV.
 
 If you can find me a Hall-worthy stretch in any of that, I'd love to see it.
 
 But in truth, he was a lot closer to 20-lap feature night at the local
 fairgrounds than the Indianapolis 500, and a lot nearer to Spider Rico than he
 ever got to "Italian Stallion." And if he'd have ever actually tangled with
 the real-life likes of Apollo Creed, they'd have never needed a second movie.
 
 This week's title-fight schedule:
 
 SATURDAY
 IBF/WBO junior featherweight titles - Carson, Calif.
 Nonito Donaire (IBF/WBO champion) vs. Toshiaki Nishioka (No. 2 WBO contender)
 Donaire (29-1, 18 KO): Second WBO title defense; Fourth fight above 118 (3-0,
 1 KO)
 Nishioka (39-4-3, 24 KO): Twelfth title fight (7-2-2); Unbeaten above 118
 since 1995 (27-0-1, 16 KO)
 Fitzbitz says: "Donaire has battered a pair at 122 but couldn't finish either
 one. Faced with a slugger who's been near the division's top for years, expect
 another struggle -- but a win." Donaire by decision
 
 Last week's picks: 2-0
 Overall picks record: 431-147 (74.5 percent)
 
 Lyle Fitzsimmons is a veteran sports columnist who's written professionally
 since 1988 and covered boxing since 1995. His work is published in print and
 posted online for clients in North America and Europe. Reach him at
 fitzbitz@msn.com or follow him on Twitter: @fitzbitz.
 
 
 
 10/11 14:25:36 ET

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