Whitaker-McGirt is matchup of two of best fighters in world

March 02, 1993|By Michael Katz | Michael Katz,New York Daily News

You don't like Pernell Whitaker, you don't deserve him. You don't like watching him duck and parry, you don't like boxing. I take no dissent on this. In the words of the late great sportwriter Barney Nagler, you are not entitled to an opinion if you are wrong.

I say the same about Buddy McGirt. You don't like watching a guy feint with his shoulders, never raising a hand, and move his opponent into range for a right hand, go watch Sparky Anderson change pitchers. You don't appreciate Buddy McGirt, you deserve the infield fly rule engraved on your tombstone.

Now here they are getting ready to fight each other, and it makes me sick that as of yesterday, a grand total of 6,205 seats have been sold for Madison Square Garden's Saturday night special, matching two of the absolute best fighters in the world. This is no Riddick Bowe-Michael Dokes blowout, where 16,329 suckers paid their way in. This is between two of boxing's four best practitoners, which is my opinion, and pound-for-pound that's the only one that counts in this column.

It doesn't happen that often. Two of the best -- pound-for-pound -- meeting in the ring.

I hate that expression, pound-for-pound. Sounds like my doctor admonishing me. What this mythical ratings game is all about is determining the best fighter, no matter what weight. It is an old game and there are no rules. Example: Does Julio Cesar Chavez still rate No. 1?

Not on my list. I mean, normally you would think a guy has to lose his title in the ring, but this is a mythical title and if I were to put Chavez and his 85-0 record No. 1, then I've got to confess my next three picks all would beat him:

In this order, Pernell Whitaker, Terry Norris, Buddy McGirt.

As a precaution, however, I independently solicited the opinions of two of boxing's most astute judges, one from each corner Saturday night. They have the same top five guys I have, though the orders are different.

Al Certo may sound like a lunatic, he may act like a lunatic, but McGirt's manager is still a hell of a good judge of horseflesh and pastrami (joint called Harold's Sandwich Shop in Rutherford has the best I've had west of the Hudson).

Out of respect, he put Chavez first, followed by his guy, James Toney ("youse guys don't realize how good he is"), Norris and Whitaker. He follows this with a couple of bantamweights, Orlando Canizales and Junior Jones, another up-and-coming Jones in Roy Jr., and then Bowe and Lennox Lewis.

Prof. George Benton, Whitaker's trainer, agrees on the top five. He, too, puts Chavez first "even though I think he's a quart low, but he's still there, and nobody's been able to beat him yet." He follows with Whitaker, Norris, McGirt and Toney.

He still gives a call to Mike McCallum, "a great fighter even if he ain't what he was," and then Lewis, whom he thinks is the best of the heavies, Bowe, Evander Holyfield, Azumah Nelson ("still a tough, tough, tough guy") and his own new heavyweight, Michael Moorer. That's 11, George. So what? My top 10 has 13 fighters. Not only that, I'm allowed to change my mind. It's not only my column, it's my habit.

So put Chavez first out of respect, though I think he can't touch Whitaker for at least 10 rounds and loses a one-sided decision. Norris knocks Julio out -- he's just too big and fast and especially lTC powerful, even at 147 pounds. I'd rank Norris first, but I want to see him against better opposition than washed-up Sugar Ray Leonards or frightened Maurice Blockers. McGirt, healthy, beats Chavez, too. It's style: Buddy loves guys who come at him the way Chavez does and he's too big and strong.

Toney is No. 5 because he is appreciated in some circles. I used to have Orlando Canizales higher than even this, but the IBF bantamweight champion has not fought any real opposition in a couple of years and it's hard to gauge exactly what he has left.

Roy Jones and Junior Jones have not accomplished enough to normally make the top 10, except their talents are so obvious, even to me. Bowe and Lewis, in that order because Bowe has beaten better so far, finish my 10. But I have to make room for Nelson, no matter what Certo thinks, and then McCallum, for old time's sake, and Holyfield.

Julian Jackson has faded, Prince Charles Williams has been sidelined with a bum hand and Oscar de la Hoya is a few months away. In the meantime, enjoy Saturday night.

"Is New York ready for this?" asked Whitaker, as excited as any fight fan.

I'm afraid the answer might be New York is too busy welcoming back George Steinbrenner.

* MAN IN MIDDLE: Larry Hazzard, head of the New Jersey boxing commission who has not refereed a fight in eight years, will be the third man in the ring for the McGirt-Whitaker showdown at the Garden.

Randy Gordon, chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission, said he chose his Jersey counterpart "because Larry Hazzard is the greatest referee of all time."

Hazzard was indeed regarded as one of the best referees but something of a showboat. With perhaps the two best pure boxers in the world, a referee trying to steal the show would get in the way.

Gordon said Hazzard, who will be taking a $1,500 payday from another ref, would donate his salary to charity. He denied the selection was based on the New York commissioner's desire to gain support for becoming head of a federal board of control.

* NO FIGHT LEFT: Mitch "Blood" Green, the reluctant warrior who had not fought since losing a 10-round decision to Mike Tyson almost seven years ago (the Harlem scuffle with Tyson later doesn't count since Green never threw a punch), was dragged back to the ring last weekend. He was dragged out, too, disqualified for not fighting Bruce Johnson in Virginia Beach, Va.

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