By Kieran Mulvaney
When episode two of 'The Fight Game with Jim Lampley' airs immediately after Saturday's World Championship Boxing broadcast from El Paso, Texas, it will air live from on-site—a departure from the opening gambit of the series last month, which followed a "taped-in-New York" format.
"When the schedule showed up and I realized I had the Fight Game scheduled immediately following a live fight, I went to my production team and eventually to management and said, 'We can't do a live fight and then put a news show on afterward that doesn't say anything about the live fight,'" Lampley told InsideHBOBoxing last week at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. "So the lead story in this show has to be what just happened between Julio Cesar Chavez and Andy Lee, because it's a tremendously significant fight. It may or may not set up a unification fight we've all been waiting for with Sergio Martinez, so the first segment of the show will play directly off what happened in that fight."
Of course, subsequent to that conversation at the MGM, there was a reasonably high profile bout that generated fair amount of controversy and that must also be reviewed, but after Lampley and guests have dissected the Manny Pacquiao-Tim Bradley brouhaha and then examined the issue of performance-enhancing drugs in the sport, there will remain one important matter to address, in five different ways.
Since the premiere episode of the show aired on May 12, five prominent professional prizefighters have left the sport – and in one case, this mortal realm – in very different circumstances. Shane Mosley, Winky Wright and Antonio Margarito have all retired , making the ultimate concessions to age and, in Margarito's case, the right eye injury that resulted from his 12-round battering by Pacquiao in November 2010. All will receive acknowledgment on the show, as will of course Johnny Tapia, the hugely popular former three-weight champion, who was finally consumed on May 27 by the lifelong demons that only truly dissipated during the times he was in the ring.
It was, Lampley concedes with emotion in his voice, an event that many people had been uncomfortably anticipating. "Something I'm almost certain to say in the script is that there's only one thing that could have kept Johnny Tapia alive, amid all his depredations, and he retired from boxing last year," he said. "And when I read he was 45 years old, it filled me with joy that Johnny had somehow made it to 45."
Then there is Paul Williams, who, on the same day Tapia died, was severely injured in a motorcycle accident that badly damaged his spinal cord. Williams' boxing career is assuredly over, but the news that the cord is damaged and not broken gives at least some hope that he may win the most important fight of his life so far, and one day walk again.
His public determination to do just that is testament that he will apply to that battle the same spirit that he showed over 43 professional contests, a spirit to which Lampley will pay tribute on Saturday.
"There will be 11 fighters on the Gatti list," he said, referring to his episodic guide to the ten most exciting current pugilists in the sport. "Paul Williams will gain an honorary mention because he was that kind of fighter."
He still is.