BROOKLYN, NY — I don’t know why he was shot. What we do know for certain, however, is that late one night on August 22, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona, Jose Benavidez Jr. was walking his pet dog and exotic cat when a guy approached him and shot to the right. leg. This was unfortunate, because violence is a poor way to settle disputes, and also because Jose Benavidez Jr. was a very legit 25-0 welterweight boxer at the time, quickly going from “prospect” status to that of “competitor”. It was a serious injury. There were questions as to whether he would fight again. In less than two years, he was back. Nearly six years later, on Saturday night, Benavidez, his head neatly shaved on the sides to show off his skull tattoos, entered the Barclays Center in Brooklyn to the haunting tones of “Ave Maria.” I’ve never heard this used as a walk in song before. It was effective. Extremely disconcerting. The whole place became quiet as hell. It was a wise decision. It was all downhill from there.
It was a beautiful summer night in Brooklyn. Even riding the swinging bus on Flatbush Avenue filled me with an overflowing sense of love for the city, a post-pandemic love for a hot summer night in the fighting, a love that will eventually end. fade and turn into frustration with the many aggravations brought on by my fellow Brooklynites’ constant crush, but that’s not quite there yet. There were a lot of fights at Barclays before COVID, but there haven’t been too many since. The arena, at the confluence of the Atlantic and Flatbush, was a testosterone magnet – pulsating testosterone, injected testosterone, frustrated testosterone leading the men to fights, to worship and scream and leave their testosterone on the sticky floors. “What if my children don’t talk to me? They are 16 and 18 years old. They are teenagers. They want to come out and light up. So what,” a man in his 40s said to another man, waiting at a red light to cross the street. “When I was a teenager, I didn’t care either. You can’t make them do anything. Who has time for daddy? It doesn’t matter. So what.” He went to fights.
When the lights went out for SHOWTIME, you could become mesmerized standing behind the press section and watching a whole long row of monitors tuned simultaneously to the same image of a boxer hopping from foot to foot, who was broadcast live on Showtime. Inducing dizziness. There were three fights on the card. The first was Rances Barthelemy, who had a bunch of braids atop his already high head that made him cartoonishly tower over his opponent, Gary Antuanne Russell, the up-and-coming light welterweight not to be confused with Gary Russell Jr., his older brother, who was a world class lightweight, also not to be confused with his three (3) other brothers, all of whom were named “Gary Russell” by their recently deceased father, Gary Russell, Sr. . I can’t judge what anyone names their five sons, but I can tell you that Gary Russell Jr. had faster and more refined hands than his younger brother, although they both fight in a quick flat hands/feet style. very dependent on his ability to beat an opponent with a punch. Barthelemy and Gary A. Russell are both southpaws, and for much of the fight they would stand directly across from each other, and Barthelemy, who was knocking down the shorter man, would rotate his whole body and shoot an absolutely vicious right to the left. , which would miss, and Russell would then appear and return a hard right hook, which would also miss. Then they would reset and start over. Eventually, Russell thought about jumping a bit and hit Barthelemy in the face with that hook and knocked him down, forward. He was stunned but he got up, ready to fight, but the referee stopped the fight, for reasons that neither me, nor Barthelemy, nor Barthelemy’s trainer, nor anyone else in the arena couldn’t understand. There were a lot of boos. Russell probably would have won anyway, but he doesn’t look quite ready for prime time in this tough division. Too much time training with other Gary Russells, maybe.
If you ask me who had the most fans there, I’d have to be honest and tell you it was Adam Kownacki, the baby-faced Polish heavyweight from Brooklyn whose nickname is “Babyface” and who looks a lot like a fat bald baby with a beard. There is a strong contingent of Polish boxing fans in New York, and they reliably flood every appearance of whoever is New York’s Polish fighter of the moment, which is, right now, Adam Kownacki . The Polish fans all wear red t-shirts and white and red scarves and the young women sometimes paint Polish flags on their cheeks and middle-aged Polish men knot around the arena drinking beer and staggering and singing KOW-NAS-SKEEE! Babyface is a very legit heavyweight who has been around for years and has beaten several top 10 heavyweights before losing his last two fights to Robert Helenius, who is, to be fair, some kind of black metal wizard monster. Kownacki has a good chin and pretty fair power and throws a good number of punches for a heavyweight and is generally a steady grinder who somehow manages to fight at a good pace for 10 or 12 rounds in a row despite the physique of a guy who drinks a lot of beer and probably doesn’t run much. But that night, Kownacki seemed to run out of steam and lost a decision to Ali Eren Demirezen, an equally big Turkish heavyweight who fought in a similar style but had a little more stamina. It was a deflating moment for the hundreds of Polish fans in their red shirts, but there have been many convicted Polish fighters in history, so this was nothing new. Kownacki is 33 years old and has been in many brutal wars with great men. Her forehead is so swollen with scar tissue that it seems to swallow her eyes, which have shrunk into tiny dots. After the fight, he smiled with blood pouring from his left eye and said he would like to retire with a win, but he has to tell his wife about it. He would be worshiped in Brooklyn for the next 50 years.
The main event was Benavidez, the man who shot once with one more shot, against Danny Garcia, a super-reliable top welterweight over the past decade who delivers a consistent product every fight, like a fast casual restaurant chain. He has a dark goatee and slightly pointed eyebrows and a crazed father who trains him and has, I’m sure, instilled a number of undiagnosed and devastating emotional malignancies into his psyche. Garcia has power in both hands, a cracker left hook that spun lesser opponents around 180 degrees when they caught him in the jaw, and a cautious, well-mannered approach. He wants you to come to him, then he wants to knock you out with a counter-hit. The flaw with this approach is that it allows the opponent to dictate the pace of the fight. You can beat Danny Garcia, but you have to put it on him. He doesn’t make small mistakes, but when he falls behind in fights because he hasn’t thrown enough punches, he can’t catch up; the backlash is his nature, his temperament, not just a choice. Asking him to suddenly step forward and throw hundreds of punches is like asking an alligator to turn into a porpoise. It’s not the kind of change that can be taken away.
Jose Benavidez Jr. has a brother, David, who is a bit taller than him and whose career is on a much more promising trajectory, in part because he has never been shot in the leg. Both show a kind of hand game style, arms up, palms facing out, standing up straight and picking up incoming shots, then hitting back with spectacular flurries. Jose, however, always had more of an affinity for ripping your guts out with hard body shots. He’s a long-armed athletic puncher, or was. He still looks like a wolf now, but the wolf’s soul is gone. He stood in front of Garcia, mocking and shrugging his shoulders whenever he was hit, pointedly lowering his hands and sticking his tongue out at her. But what he didn’t do was throw a lot of punches. The spring disappeared from his broken leg. He would often retaliate with a long, rocking kick that he would stretch by leaning over his front foot, a telltale sign that his legs are too slow for him to move his feet with the rest of his body. Garcia was slipping them, always, and dancing backwards, and throwing a few punches back, just enough to win the exchanges, to stay ahead in every round. Benavidez was like the retired fighters in the gymnasiums who position themselves, pose and project pure machismo in replacement of the physical gifts that time has taken from them, who try to drown their opponents with bravery when agility has left them behind. . Danny Garcia is not the kind of fighter who falls in love with this shit. He would slide, throw his few little punches, spin and reset, and that was all it took. There were times when Benavidez would start to get his hands going and show flashes of the fighter he once was, but he could never keep the fight distance where he wanted because he couldn’t explode from his back leg. Garcia never had to risk much. He learned how to win fights on points. He’s an adult boxer. On the final lap, he danced back and pumped his fist and bounced on his toes as if to show Benavidez what healthy legs look like. Garcia is also a wolf. But he knows how to make do with an adequate meal.
The lesson, I guess, is don’t get shot. If you are a fighter, you must cultivate a peaceful life.