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 "A Ring of Their Own" Deserves Better
By Bernie McCoy
April 26, 2005
(APR 26) I finally found "A Ring of Their Own". It took me almost as long as it took the sport of Women's boxing to get it's own TV show. The problem of female boxers getting TV exposure has been well documented, but in my case the problem of finding "A Ring of Their Own" was directly related to the fact that it is being broadcast in near obscurity on the Metro Channel in New York. The Metro Channel is a low tier cable channel, positioned slightly above public access outlets and substantially below the major sports channels such as ESPN and Fox Sports.

"A Ring of Their Own" deserves much better. In addition to being the first TV show dedicated, exclusively, to the female boxing, the show manages to pack more boxing action into two hours than any existing show on the air. Additionally, the presentation features high quality production values along with fast paced, (women fight two minute rounds) competitive bouts, and the ringside commentary is.....well.....the bouts are fast paced and competitive.

I caught up to "A Ring of Their Own" for the second of the show's two boxing cards that have been held thus far. There are future shows planned in venues around the country, but the first two were held in Nevada on January 29 and March 26, with the delayed broadcast telecasts beginning approximately two to three weeks after each "live" show. In the New York television market, the show is relegated to an Elba-like time slot of weekend afternoons, with strong competition of major league sports and golf. However, given the dearth of television exposure that the sport of Women's boxing has experienced in the past, boxing fans should make the effort to seek out the show, wherever it's being broadcast. It's a winner.

Not surprising, the best thing about "A Ring of Their Own" is the boxing. The show I watched, held on March 26, featured a bantamweight main event in which Alicia Ashley exhibited her major league boxing skills in stopping Elena Reid on a cut in the seventh round. Reid who hadn't lost in nearly five years and twenty fights was a game competitor but simply couldn't match Ashley's superior ring skills. In a scheduled eight round junior middleweight bout, Akondaye Fountain TKO'd a tough Shelly Burton in the seventh round of a toe-to-toe slugfest.

This was Fountain's fifth fight and her heavy-handed punching power should make her a sought-after main event attraction in the near future. In a six round junior middleweight fight, Asa Sandall of Sweden and Yolanda Swindell fought to a draw, a very good call for a very good bout. In the opening four round fight on the telecast, Heather Percival out-boxed Jennifer Salinas, handing Salinas her first loss in six bouts. This was four rounds loaded with boxing skill and almost totally devoid of clinches. Thus, for those keeping score at home, the two hour telecast had 24 rounds of boxing, all high quality. This fact alone separates "A Ring of Their Own" from all other boxing shows on the air.

Rock and Sock Productions, in the personages of Arnie Rosenthal, longtime broadcaster and boxing commentator and Ken Weiss, promotion veteran in the entertainment and sports fields, seems to "get it" as far as televising boxing is concerned: it's boxing action that "makes" boxing telecasts. Rosenthal and Weiss accomplish this by minimizing the air time between each bout and, additionally, in a number of instances, not televising the one minute period between rounds. This often results in programming that provides the viewer with six minutes of boxing action (three rounds) in slightly over six minutes of air time. The action on the TV screen moves almost as quickly as the fighters in the ring. It's the best element of the broadcast.

The commentators aren't. It's not that the ringside announcers on the second show were bad, but they, like the current time slots for the show, need improvement. Tim Neverett did the blow/blow commentary, with Kevin Kelley, the current featherweight from Queens, New York handling the "color" along with Mia St. John, the female boxer and former Playboy centerfold. The show got off to a somewhat strange start as St. John spent time expounding on the reasons for the bright future of Women's boxing by citing the Christy Martin cover on Sports Illustrated and St. John's own cover on Playboy. She neglected to mention that the Martin cover was a full nine years ago and the Playboy "coverage" was almost as long ago, rendering both, essentially, irrelevant to the sport as it exists today.

Once the bouts began, St. John, initially, seemed to react to the boxing action only when prompted by Kelley or Neverett. Mia became more comfortable as the broadcast proceeded, having her best moment when she noted Shelly Burton's tendency, when boxing, to stand straight up, exposing her chin. This observation proved especially prescient as Akondaye Fountain continually found a home for her big punches which inevitably led the referee to save Burton from further shots to that exposed chin.

Kevin Kelley, on the other hand, with typical New York brio, seems to have never met a microphone he didn't want to get "up close and personal" with. Kelley has a lot to say about the sport of boxing, his career and the action in the ring. The downside is that Kelley seems to talk about those subjects in no particular order and he has a tendency, at times, to ignore the action in the ring. Also, he occasionally exhibits a disconcerting tendency to "talk over" his colleagues at ringside. Kelley is worth listening to, but he needs to be reined in and learn to concentrate on what's happening with the boxers in the ring. Even with those shortcomings, Kelley is the best of the ringside group.

Tim Neverett is a new voice to me, but has been a fixture in the Las Vegas sports broadcasting scene for over ten years. He calls the boxing action in front of him in an efficient fashion without any of the distracting "signature" lines or the or annoying cliches ("this is what boxing is all about") that are far too prevalent in today's blow/blow commentary (listening Jim Lampley?). Neverett misses very little of the action in the ring, but, unfortunately, he saw fit to venture into the ring for post fight interviews following the Ashley/Reid and Fountain/Burton fights, interviewing all four boxers. He went 0-4! Neverett's questions were awkward and ill-considered, resulting in even more tortured responses from the fighters. The most clumsy moment came with Shelly Burton as Neverett began by noting that Burton had been "hit by a lot of right hands (from Fountain)" and then, disingenuously asked Burton, "How do you feel?" After an uncomfortable moment during which Burton may have been contemplating a reply of "Duh", the fighter noted "(I feel) like I got hit a lot." Not Tim Neverett's finest moment, but one which, to his credit, he acknowledged on the air. Tim Neverett is a "keeper" for "blow/blow", but it's probably a good idea to keep him at ringside and send Kevin Kelley up for the post fight interviews.

In sum, "A Ring of Their Own" is a quality presentation. The boxing action, on the second show, ranged from good to outstanding. It's unfortunate that the show has yet to acquire the type of time slots that a boxing show this good deserves. Hopefully, that will happen in the future. Tim Neverett provides competent blow/blow descriptions and Kevin Kelley, once he tempers the sheer volume of his words, should provide a valuable "color" complement. What's needed, in the third commentary slot, is a voice with an overall view of the sport of Women's boxing. It's not, specifically Mia St. John that's the problem, but rather the fact that the view of the sport by any current fighter is, by nature, too narrow. Rosenthal and Weiss should seek a woman with a more encompassing knowledge of the sport and put her with Neverett and Kelley.

So far, it's two shows down and, hopefully, many more to go for "A Ring of Their Own". It took me a while to catch up with the show and it's worth the time of any boxing fan to do the same and give the show a look. Bernie McCoy

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