Roc Nation Sports held a New York press conference yesterday for the PPV bout between Miguel Cotto and James Kirkland on Feb. 25. It was at the swanky midtown hotel Le Parker Meridien, and the black-pepper-crusted tuna steak was rare and excellent.
But for a bloodsport-hype show, it was an altogether too-placid affair (despite the feistiness with which Roc Nation exec Michael Yormark defended the fight's price after being questioned by my flannel-wearing, movie-loving pal at USA Today -- #NocturnalCoppinger).
(Etymology interruption : "feistiness" comes from the word "feist," which once meant a runty li'l dog -- and that comes from the noun "fist," which, 600 years ago, didn't mean a clenched hand primed to be thrown but, actually, a fart.)
Back to the presser: Miguel Cotto, who has said repeatedly he won't box past 2017, spoke often of retiring to Puerto Rico to spend time with his children. He said that while he cannot compensate for time lost with them during his career, he can from this point on try to be the very best father.
It was the mature musing of a man who has seen enough of the ring (he's 36), who understands its sacrifices and who is no longer willing to make them. Yet he was supposed to be selling us on his desire to stay in it.
The contrast between Cotto's tranquility and Yormark's energy was stark. Yormark said the winner of the fight would snag an even larger bout later in the year. Cotto wouldn't commit to any plan at all.
The hardscrabble Kirkland, a man of prominent lat muscles, which protrude visibly even when he wears a jacket, was equally mellow. A man who has only two career losses and 28 knockouts in 32 wins, Kirkland seemed to say he doesn't watch current boxing, prompting one reporter to ask him whether he even liked the sport.
The answer was that, of course, he did -- he's been fighting since he was little -- which really just told me he was thrust into the game so young, he can't separate it from his identity; it certainly didn't sound like an activity he wanted to undertake because of an immediately-present passion.
Fighters are invariably used up -- Bernard Hopkins' fall from the ring was only the most recent example of the quadrangle expelling from its midst a no-longer-useful pug. In 1951, 17 years after Joe Louis' debut, he was knocked out of the ring by a fresh, 28-year-old Rocky Marciano.
But that's just one kind of aging. The mind can take only so much intense prep, too. The dog in a man can be tamed by time, accomplishment and by the testosterone-diminishing treatment known as children.
As for Kirkland, his dog is brought out only by his trainer. Which is why this promotion needs rescuing at its imminent LA press conference and may yet get it: No one at the NY dais seemed hungry in the least -- but while Cotto's trainer, Freddie Roach, was present, Kirkland's was not -- but she's gonna be in LA.
You may already know about Ann Wolfe's militant tactics, the way she'll damn near run Kirkland over with her car if he's not keeping pace during a run. The way she beats him into submission and then, on the night of a fight, lets Kirkland know that no one he's facing can do half the bad to him she has (which is true).
But Ann's real value the next two months isn't what she can do for Kirkland but for the entire promotion. Ann Wolfe is a kind-hearted and technically-savvy former boxer -- don't think she's R. Lee Ermeying all the time -- but she's also the rawest presence in a sport fueled by a steady supply of the tough and desperate.
There's no romance in poverty, and in most cases, there's no narrative inflection either -- you're born broken and you die that way. We liked to highlight the cases in which sport or entertainment provides the escape. We shouldn't -- can't but one or two people come out of our society's backwaters and bare lots that way. Real change comes from education.
But Ann Wolfe was one of the exceptions -- the unimaginable circumstances of her life bred in her one of the greatest dogs of all time -- a pitbull of a soul.
She dropped out of school in sixth grade to work. When she was 18, her estranged father was murdered and her mother died of cancer. She hit the streets, dealt drugs, took up streetfighting. Was imprisoned for her crimes, impregnated subsequently and was homeless mother of two by her early 20s, desperately trying to find shelter in Austin, Texas, for her and her children, often spending nights inside an emergency room -- which was the only place she ever even saw television.
If you wanna ask her why she had kids if she couldn't support them, I dare you to because a) When did your parents pull you out of school for money and when did they subsequently die? And b) Ann Wolfe learned from that emergency room TV that women's boxing existed (she had no idea women could be paid to fight), subsequently entered the gym and went on to become the hardest-hitting female fighter of all time.
Mike Tyson likes to say today that he was a punk in the '80s -- he bought into the Don King-peddled lie that he really was the baddest man on the planet. No one ever suggested to Wolfe that she was the spiritually-strongest survivor in the game. It was merely borne out by her career.
She won titles in three divisions en route to a 24-1 record and scored the greatest knockout in the history of women's sport, MMA included, against undefeated Vonda Ward, one night in Biloxi, Mississppi:
Now, Ann Wolfe trains the young and wayward, a category that has long included (and still may) James Kirkland. She won't be a combatant Feb. 25 in Frisco, Texas, when this fight is held. But the more she lends her spirit to promotional proceedings, the better this fight will do.
It has been labeled "The Return" -- but Cotto and Kirkland seem to becoming back to the ring somewhat diminished in spirit. That will never be an issue for Ann Wolfe.
Her heart -- that dog -- requires no return because it never left. The more of it put on display, the better this PPV will do in buys -- and the more funds Yormark can recoup from his company's hefty investment in an already-retirement-minded Cotto.