Stretch Drive: Travelin’ Man in Atlantic City – Part I

The initial of a final dual legs of “Travelin’ Man” Lee Groves’ five-week “Stretch Drive” to finish 2013 saw him work a CompuBox keys on an HBO-televised tripleheader involving Guillermo Rigondeaux in Atlantic City, where he schooled of a flitting of Nelson Mandela and a genocide of a South African icon’s favorite boxer, Jacob “Baby Jake” Matlala.

Thursday, Dec. 5: Four days after returning home from Quebec City, a Travelin’ Man is pulsation a cement again – or during slightest pulling over it.

The final dual legs of my five-week Stretch Drive to finish 2013 will see me transport to Atlantic City, initial to work a CompuBox keys on an HBO-televised tripleheader involving Guillermo Rigondeaux-Joseph Agbeko, James Kirkland-Glen Tapia and Matthew Macklin-Lamar Russ, afterwards an NBC Sports Network label that pits Amir Mansour-Kelvin Price and Lionell Thompson-Ryan Coyne.

Every so often, CompuBox’s resources are given a strong widen and such is a box this weekend. On Friday, veterans Joe Carnicelli and Saul Avelar will be in Shelton, Washington to cover a ShoBox quadrupleheader pairing J’Leon Love-Lajuan Simon, Badou Jack-Rogelio Medina, Mickey Bey-Carlos Cardenas and Christopher Pearson-Acacio Ferreira. Meanwhile, while co-worker Andy Kasprzak and we work a Atlantic City card, CompuBox boss Bob Canobbio and his son Nic will do their sorcery during Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, where they will count a Showtime Championship Boxing quadrupleheader.

That is a ton of boxing. Good thing we have 6 pairs of hands to count them all. we remember really good a days when a strange two-man organisation of Bob Canobbio and Logan Hobson was adequate to hoop a given week’s workload, so this conditions serve illustrates customarily how many CompuBox has grown over a years.

My effort these past 4 days was utterly a plea and to be honest we wasn’t means to finish all on my to-do list. While we finished many of a pre-fight investigate we frequency overwhelmed a fights we accessible on my hard-drive recorder and managed customarily to send a broadcasts we saved on my DVR. we figured that work will wait until subsequent week, when we will have 5 days between trips instead of a three-and-a-half we had here. Although we hatred to leave tasks undone, we am certain all will get finished eventually, generally given after subsequent week I’ll be home until mid-January.

Following a autarchic chill of Quebec City where single-digit temperatures reigned, we pulled out of a expostulate amid extremely warmer conditions. Although it rained steadily, a thermometer stood during a palliate 62 degrees – and it was still 8:30 a.m. Now that’s my kind of Dec weather!

Aside from a trade jam reduction than 20 mins outward Pittsburgh International Airport, a expostulate was differently serene. A shop-worn 18-wheeler was a law-breaker nonetheless as we rolled past a conditions seemed underneath control and a disadvantage looked limited.

The primary parking spots we snagged in prior weeks weren’t available, nonetheless we found an easy-to-find symbol 5 stalls divided from a 13D pointer in a extended parking lot, that compulsory about a five-minute transport from automobile to terminal. By a time we put a automobile into park, a sleet had slowed to a drizzle so we avoided removing drenched.

Once inside a depot we was agreeably astounded to see customarily one other chairman in a “preferred access” line and customarily half a dozen passengers snaking by a ubiquitous entrance queue. we finished a certainty screening in contented fashion, nonetheless as we neared an deserted quarrel of seats during my embankment we saw dual birds fly away. Guess they didn’t get a memo about drifting south.

Today’s channel is roughly a same as it was when we final visited Atlantic City in October: Catch a approach moody to Philadelphia, stop during Hertz to collect adult my let automobile and expostulate to a hotel. Given my success negotiating around Philly final time, we entered today’s outing with nothing of a excitability or terror we felt then.

Having pronounced that, we also satisfied that “pride comes before a fall” and we didn’t feel like falling. Before we left a residence we checked my GPS to make certain a hotel’s residence was one we could enter. It wasn’t. So we called a hotel to see if an swap residence was available. She pronounced there wasn’t. Finally, we asked a clerk to give me pulling directions on entering Atlantic City, that we wrote down and pressed inside my laptop carrying case. we cunning have been a member of a Boy Scouts for one assembly (I was told a section pennyless adult due to miss of interest), nonetheless we was there prolonged adequate to learn a tenet “Be Prepared.”

The craft entrance in from Philly arrived after than anticipated, that pushed behind a depart by about a same amount. But given there were no connectors to make, there weren’t any worries.

A few mins before boarding we stopped opposite a corridor to a tiny McDonald’s outlet, meditative we had several mins to spare. It was a distributed risk, nonetheless a risk nonetheless. That risk scarcely came behind to punch me hard, for reduction than dual mins after we placed my sequence a initial organisation of passengers – of that we should have been one – were asked to board.

Oh boy.

I alerted a two-person staff that my moody had been called progressing than coming and they did their best to accommodate me. The middle Diet Coke was served immediately nonetheless a routine was slowed given a new collection of fries had to be prepared. At one indicate a change administrator walked opposite a gymnasium to see how many time remained before a doors would be closed.

While we spasmodic looked over my shoulder to keep an eye on what was going on, we remained palliate given given my well-documented transport troubles over a years we had a feeling all was going to work out OK – that it did. we was among a final people to board, nonetheless in a finish we boarded.

Talk about quick food, huh?

I brought a book to review – “Faithful: Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle The Historic 2004 Season” by Stewart O’Nan and Stephen King (yes, that Stephen King) – nonetheless we spent a whole moody chatting with my seatmate Frank, a mechanism program association worker who had followed fighting during a Muhammad Ali epoch nonetheless who subsequently became a over fan. Sadly, that’s an all-too-common phenomenon, for in this epoch of heavily segmented TV choices fighting unsuccessful to contend a lofty place it used to occupy. The reasons given we consider this is a box can be found in a story we wrote final year joining what happened to fighting contra what is function now in a NFL, a unfolding that is apropos some-more genuine with each flitting week.

Frank and we also discussed his teen-age son’s aspirations to spin a sports broadcaster. While a track to my benefaction hire was frequency standard – changing careers during age 42 – a beliefs we practical were standard: Initiative, drive, opportunism, stability and validating a faith of those who easily open doors for me.

Speaking of open doors, we was undetermined by a Prius that assigned a space created on my let automobile agreement. we had never seen one, many reduction attempted to expostulate one, nonetheless we was peaceful to try if this was what we was given. My initial efforts – even after scanning a operator’s primer – unsuccessful miserably given a final time we attempted to work a stick-shift was when we mowed a grass as a teen-ager.

I didn’t wish to risk pulling an overly difficult vehicle, during slightest for me, so we returned to a opposite and requested another model. At initial a clerk didn’t trust me.

“Nah, that can’t be possible,” he said. “Are we certain we were during a right space?”

“Yes, we am.” we replied. What we was too respectful to contend was “I’ve finished my vital regulating numbers for a past 7 years. we consider we am good versed to commend a series ‘451’ when we see it and what we saw there was a Prius we can’t operate.”

Within a few mins we was given a deputy vehicle, a gray Kia Soul with an involuntary transmission. Excellent. Once inside we automatic my GPS for Arctic Avenue, my initial turn-off travel in Atlantic City.

Although a Magellan guided me perfectly, we was means to expect each spin and spin on a track – something we had never finished when pulling by Philadelphia. Once we reached a Walt Whitman Bridge, we was home free. When we paid a initial $3 fee on a Atlantic City Expressway, we removed an exact-change 75-cent counter was stationed a few miles ahead, so we asked a fee taker to change an additional dollar check for buliding so I’d be prepared for it. The tough lessons schooled from past troubles now were portion me well.

When we approached Atlantic City and looked down during my itinerary, we satisfied a hotel we sought was a same one we stayed during in October. Upon finding this we close off a GPS given my memory now was sufficient to finish a task.

I found a parking garage opposite a travel with palliate and as we walked toward a hotel we felt something we had never gifted during prior trips here – autarchic certainty and competence. It isn’t each day that a past fear is totally conquered. Could pulling in New York City be next? we consider not.

After settling into my ninth building hotel room, we walked to a Subway opening during a circuitously piazza and systematic a foot-long Subway Club, chips and a Diet Coke to go. Once we returned to my room we spent a rest of a dusk swapping between a Louisville-Cincinnati college football diversion and coverage of Nelson Mandela’s flitting during age 95.

I witnessed a reduction of grief over his genocide and jubilee of his life on a streets as listened a intense tributes to a male who fueled a transformational rebirth of South Africa. Given Mandela’s many accomplishments, his challenging mental strength and his unusual beauty in a issue of his imprisonment, we find it quite delightful that he was a romantic partner of boxing, both as a member and as a fan.

It is engaging to note that Mandela was expelled from jail a day after James “Buster” Douglas constructed a many intolerable dissapoint in sports story with his knockout of undisputed heavyweight champion Mike Tyson. One has to consternation if Mandela knew about a earth-shaking outcome as he was formulating his possess story by walking out of Victor Verster jail and holding his new place on a universe stage. As a universe mourns his passing, President Obama put it good when he pronounced that Mandela now “belongs to a ages.”

Friday, Dec. 6: Arising during 8:30 a.m., we spent many of a morning writing, surfing a web and doing CompuBox research. we finished a eventuality customarily a integrate of tasks divided from completing work for a year so we felt good about where we stood.

The skies remained cloudy nonetheless a pea-soup haze that had descended late yesterday afternoon had carried somewhat. The mercury stood during 51 degrees, so we felt gentle venturing out in a sweatshirt with no windbreaker. we motionless to eat lunch during a Cavo Crepe Café – a new symbol for me – and systematic a turkey BLT Panini, waffle fries and a Diet Pepsi (my elite soda along with a internal code called Bubba). The portion distance was many incomparable than we suspicion it would be and nonetheless we managed to purify my image we felt during a transport behind to a hotel that my arteries were hardening with each subsequent step.

The subsequent stop on a channel was a parking lot inside Boardwalk Hall, afterwards a transport toward a Palladium Room inside Caesars where a weigh-in was scheduled to start during 3 p.m. – “scheduled” being a user word.

In reality, a festivities started 40 mins late. we never found out a reasons behind a check nonetheless a organisation of people for whom we felt many contemptible was a fighters. To make weight they customarily dry out, repudiate themselves food, or both and their efforts are privately timed to a weigh-in. When logistical issues means a delay, they are forced to humour even longer and meaningful that customarily strong my magnetism for them. During past weigh-ins I’ve seen spectators splash beverages or eat equipment even as they sat beside a fighters, that strikes me as terribly insensitive. Yet even then, a influenced fighters confirmed their discipline. I’ve always deliberate fighters to be special people, and that’s customarily one some-more instance of given we feel this way.

I upheld a time by chatting with Roger Mayweather – who, notwithstanding a mythological mass of Kobe Bryant, should be a sports world’s one and customarily “Black Mamba” – as good as 1976 U.S. Olympian Charles Mooney (who was training middleweight Matt Korobov for this show) and Lamar Russ’ arch second Al Smith, who had lerned Evander Holyfield, Roy Jones Jr. and Ray Mercer as amateurs during his scarcely 40 years in a sport. we couldn’t consider of a many improved approach to spend my time when pronounced time was slowed to a nearby crawl.

Once a logjam finally loosened, a eventuality proceeded with lightning speed. The weigh-ins for a 3 HBO-televised fights was finished in customarily 8 mins and nothing of a 6 fighters missed their engaged poundages. They also conducted themselves professionally; no mind games, no pulling or shoving and no attempts during intimidation. How refreshing.

As many as we wanted to stay for a weigh-ins involving a untelevised undercard fighters, we couldn’t do so given we had to lapse to Boardwalk Hall for my 4 p.m. call time. Unlike my transport from Boardwalk Hall to Caesars 90 mins earlier, this outing was totally abandoned of drenching, chilling rain.

While we had worked shows inside a large room, we had no suspicion where a smaller locus was located. When we asked an HBO technician how to get there he simply and logically replied “once we go adult a escalator to your left, customarily follow a wires to ringside.” So, customarily as Dorothy followed a Yellow Brick Road in a “Wizard of Oz,” your accessible area punch-counter followed a spidery wires to my dictated end (talk about churned metaphors).

Once a energy source was finished available, we was sanctified with another Carnicelli in terms of receiving technical acknowledgment that all was well. we grabbed a can of Diet Coke from a area nearby a prolongation lorry and gathering behind to a hotel to tackle some some-more investigate compared with tomorrow night’s show. Although it was roughly 5 p.m. a object had prolonged set – another joyless sign of a coming winter season.

After shopping a mid-evening snack, we wrapped adult a dusk by examination a Showtime-televised quadruple-header. we quickly wondered, given a stream tensions between a networks, if examination a uncover on Showtime while operative a pursuit for HBO constituted a crack of etiquette. we shrugged it off, for my adore of fighting trumps customarily about anything else.

Saturday, Dec. 7: we again woke adult during 8:30 a.m. and when we looked out a window we saw a distant brighter day. The clouds remained nonetheless a object finally pennyless by a gray wall by late morning and reached full luminosity by early afternoon.

After shopping lunch during Subway and relaxing in a room for a few hours, we went to a business core to imitation out my boarding pass. To my pleasure we detected we had been bumped adult to initial class. Better yet, we was seated in quarrel dual given there we could put one bag underneath my chair while putting a other on a beyond bin. For those who remember my final outing to Atlantic City (if we are one of them, magnify you), we was placed in quarrel one of initial category and had some issues per storage given we was in quarrel one and didn’t have a chair in front of me to reserve my stuff.

Not prolonged before withdrawal for Boardwalk Hall, we schooled that Jacob Matlala – boxing’s shortest ever universe champion during 4-feet-10½ inches and Nelson Mandela’s favorite warrior during his after years – had died as a outcome of several health issues. “Baby Jake” finished his biggest symbol on Jul 18, 1997 with a cut-induced ninth turn TKO over Michael Carbajal on HBO’s airwaves, a startling outcome to many nonetheless not to me. we had several videos of Matlala in my collection and we suspicion a styles – and Carbajal’s cut-prone brows – worked in a South African’s favor. Throwing some-more than 130 punches per round, a 35-year-old Matlala was on gait to settle a new CompuBox record for many punches thrown in a quarrel nonetheless Carbajal’s cuts valid too serious to clear serve action.

It was a kind of feat that had propelled other fighters toward stardom in a U.S. and on HBO nonetheless sadly he never again seemed in possibly forum. But few who ever saw him quarrel will ever forget his tenacity, his toughness and his definite charisma.

My call time to a locus was 4:30 and during 4:10 my punch-counting partner Andy Kasprzak knocked on a doorway as expected. Everything lined adult electronically during ringside and we spent a infancy of a down time doing what we always do – articulate fighting with ringsiders. My conversational partners enclosed arbitrate Steve Smoger, HBO researcher Max Kellerman, writers Keith Idec, Ken Hissner and Joe Santoloquito and, of course, Andy, a associate video-phile. we also spoke with a Original Travelin’ Man Jack Obermayer, who told me inroads have been finished in terms of carrying him news on a quarrel label in Alaska, a 50th and final state of his lifelong fighting odyssey.

Following a HBO organisation dish during Roberto’s Restaurant inside Trump Plaza, Andy and we reassumed a ringside positions and readied ourselves for what would be a many beguiling – and numbers accessible – night during a fights.


Photos / Alexander Joe-AFP (Mandela statue), Todd Warshaw-Getty Images (Matlala)

Lee Groves is a fighting author and historian formed in Friendly, W.Va. He is a full member of a BWAA, from that he has won 10 essay awards, including 7 in a final dual years. He has been an solon for a International Boxing Hall of Fame given 2001 and is also a writer, researcher and punch-counter for CompuBox, Inc. He is a author of “Tales From a Vault: A Celebration of 100 Boxing Closet Classics. To order, greatfully revisit or e-mail a author during to arrange for autographed copies.

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