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Late Night Boxing Makes Fans Weary

November 13, 1997

It’s a good thing Damian McShane is a sports fan, not just a boxing fan.

If not, he might have been asleep by the time the Evander Holyfield-Michael Moorer fight started at about 12:50 a.m. EST Sunday in New Jersey, where he was watching with family and friends.

The pay-per-view telecast of the heavyweight title match in Las Vegas had begun almost three hours before.

``We were switching to different sports, and finally they were over,″ McShane said. ``Then we watched almost all of `Saturday Night Live.′ By the time the fight came on, we were totally exhausted.″

Perhaps McShane and other East Coast fans, who paid $40, also were a bit alcohol-hazy by the time the fight in Las Vegas began.

``That’s part of exhaustion,″ McShane said.

McShane could have watched three 12-round title bouts _ two cruiserweight and a featherweight _ but they were meaningless, as many championship fights are these days, and pretty tedious besides.

At least ``Saturday Night Live″ is funny.

The main event was a very watchable fight. Holyfield knocked Moorer down five times, but Moorer kept battling back until the bout was stopped after the eighth round.

``I enjoyed the fight,″ McShane said. ``I thought it was a good fight. But by the time the fight started, I just wanted it to be over. I wanted to go to bed, but I couldn’t go to bed.″

Some people must have gone to bed grumbling about paying for a fight they were no longer able to stay awake to watch. A lot of those who stayed the course had to be unhappy, too _ many of them after they sobered up and realized they had blown $40.

``They absolutely had the right to be upset,″ said Jay Larkin, who produced the fight for SET, Showtime’s pay-per-view arm. ``It was inexcusable. There were reasons for it, but they are not an excuse.″

Larkin said because of a hockey game _ Las Vegas, hot bed of hockey _ it was after midnight Friday night before crews could be start setting up for the fight telecast. So there was no time to set up a taping of the first 12-rounder so that it could be shown after the Holyfield-Moorer match ``for die-hard fans,″ according to Larkin.

Another reason, of course, Larkin said, ``was the three undercard fights went the distance.″

Why does there have to be two or three championship undercard fights on a pay-per-view telecast, or any other telecast? If you put a legitimate champion in this era of watered-down titles on the undercard of a big fight, the champion usually wants an overmatched opponent because he’s not getting the kind of money he feels he deserves.

In other words, most undercard title bouts are fights that wouldn’t be main events in their own right. Maybe, just maybe, the fans would like to see competitive bouts even if they are only between well-matched boxers of lesser abilities. Action is a great time-killer while you’re waiting for the big fight.

Whatever the quality of the undercard, it is the time that should be of the essence.

Larkin agrees that big pay-per-view fights should be started within a certain time window _ say 11:30 p.m.-midnight. Saturday night fights should start on Saturday night all over the country.

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