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S.F. boxing event sitting ‘Pretty’

Marin Independent Journal | November 8, 2001
By Dave Albee

SAN FRANCISCO – The Ring Inside the World Gym yesterday was surrounded by 75 or so people. Some had TV mini-cams. Others had still cameras. The rest just wore the gaped expressions of boxing fans who hadn’t seen such a sight in the City in almost 40 years.

World champion “Pretty Boy” Floyd Mayweather was putting on a show for them. All onlookers were impressed. Peter Howes was simply captivated.

Howes, a 1974 graduate of Redwood High, was watching Mayweather box at an open workout Howes had arranged in preparation for the HBO fight set for Saturday night at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. Howes, who is promoting the event with Bob Arum, stood against the ropes in a corner and absorbed the magnitude of the moment.

“The last time I was up on the apron watching him in the ring was when he was training for his fight with Justin Juuko (in May 1999) on the Oscar De La Hoya card and there were maybe five people in the gym,” Howes said. “I was thinking how privileged I was to enjoy a private demonstration by what had impressed me as clearly one of the best fighters I had ever seen.”

Certainly, San Francisco hasn’t been witness to a fighter of this skill level in his prime nor a world championship fight of this caliber since the 1960s. Mayweather, 24, is 26-0 with 19 knockouts and the WBC super featherweight champion. He’s considered one of the best fighters in the world pound for pound and one of the fastest and most entertaining. If you don’t believe it, just ask him.

“I’m going to give the crowd all they want and all they need,” Mayweather said.

The only worry Mayweather may have is about his hands, which are known to swell and hurt in the course of a bout. But Top Rank Inc. flew in Rafael Garcia, noted hands man, to tape and protect Mayweather’s jab.

It’s Bad Hands vs. Hands Off. Mayweather’s opponent for the 12-round bout is WBC No. 1 ranked contender Jesus “El Matador” Chavez, who was once convicted of robbing a grocery store in Chicago, served 3 ½ years in prison and was deported to Mexico even though he didn’t speak Spanish.

Speaking of hands, this fight originally was headed for Las Vegas when Howes swooped in and essentially stole it. His pitch was faster than Pretty Boy’s hands. Howes convinced Arum that San Francisco was hip to it.

“This is a Vegas fight we’re having right there,” Howes said yesterday. “The stars were aligned and we had the opportunity. It was the right time. I said ‘Come here and we’ll show you some love.’ It’s an absolutely phenomenal rare opportunity.”

The Mayweather camp doesn’t seem to mind the venue change.

“The only difference between this and Las Vegas is they didn’t have an earthquake in Las Vegas. We’re going to bring another one (earthquake) here,” said Roger Mayweather, Floyd’s uncle and trainer.

“You can put me in a cardboard box. I can fight anywhere,” Pretty Boy said. “Vegas is always staging championship fights. It’s good some of the other boxing fans get a chance to see the performances from Floyd Mayweather live.”

The co-main event is the IBF Super Bantamweight title fight between champion Manny Pacquiao and Agapito Sanchez. The bouts will be staged in front of a crowd of about 7,000 in the Civic Auditorium and an HBO audience covering 120 countries and 60 million homes around the world.

For Howes, this is gigantic undertaking for someone who only a year or so ago was staging fights at the Marin Civic Center Auditorium.

“All roads lead back to Marin. All roads lead back to San Rafael. That’s where I started. That’s where I’m from. That’s where I learned to box,” Howes said.

Now he’s learning the ropes, so to speak, of big-time world professional boxing. Howes has been responsible for publicity and promotional deals for the fight card while arranging hotels and transportation for the fighters. Aside from hiring a driver who got lost taking Mayweather and his entourage to World Gym yesterday, Howes has left a positive impression.

“He’s always there when we need to get him. He’s always been prompt in everything we needed and helping us out with whatever,” said Top Rank’s Stephanie Davis. “I would think he’d rank right up there with other local promoters we work with.”

And to think one day not long ago Howes was staging a fight press conference at Embassy Suites in San Rafael. Today, he’ll join Arum on the steps of City Hall with the Honorable Mayor Willie Brown. Tomorrow, Howes will be at the weigh-in at the Hotel Nikko and, on Saturday night, he will be at ringside with HBO commentators George Foreman, Larry Merchant and Jim Lampley when ring announcer Michael Buffer roars “Let’s get ready to rrrrrrrrrrumble!"

Howes can recall a time two years ago when he was seeking a high-altitude training site for Marin’s Paul Nave, who was prepared to fight Livingstone Bramble. Howes rented a cabin in Big Bear, in the mountains northeast of Los Angeles. Nave wound up sparring with Mayweather there and Howes, much like yesterday, just stood in awe and watched Mayweather at work.

“I had never seen a kid train harder,” Howes said. “It was obvious to me why this man is a world champion. He has the skills, he has the dedication and he’s extremely intelligent.”

This week, it has been Howes’ job to promote him. That’s when he’s not admiring Mayweather from near and afar.

“At once, pride and the appreciation of a spectator,” Howes said, nodding toward the ring. “Weighted more toward the spectator.”