YESTERDAY the Manhattan streets were bursting with activity as they always do. But for those accustomed to having their lunch break in the Madison Square Garden area things were different on this day. On the corner of 33rd street and Eighth Avenue, next to MSG, a ring was set up parading around the boxers who will be appearing at the famed venue this Friday. It was the traditional fighter workouts that normally take place three days before big shows. This one was open to the public.
People watched from a distance, the barriers preventing them from getting too close to the ring. Near or far, the smiles on the faces were inescapable. Many doubtless were not boxing fans, but were nevertheless fascinated by the spectacle that was unorthodox for the most unorthodox city of them all. Those on tourist buses, some in New York for the first time looked on trying to get a glimpse of the goings on around the worlds most famous arena.
The fighter workouts always adapt a revolving door policy. When one fighter leaves another enters. They are on a time schedule in which opponents’ times are spread out as to not have them run into the other which could cause an altercation. However, on this afternoon calmness was in the air. The competitors made what was an obligatory appearance, some more enthusiastically than others.
As innocent as the workouts were they did leave impressions. Devin Haney, went last, the only one with an entourage in tow. Haney addressed the crowd promising to deliver yet another devastating knockout. Haney is on the brink of stardom and has the swagger of a young Floyd Mayweather. Opponent Zaur Abdullaev is quite the opposite. He smiled, lightly shadowboxed doing the bare minimum.
The women in the crowd seemed pleased that two of their own were displayed so prominently. New Yorkers Amanda Serrano and Heather Hardy do battle in a fight with great local interest, but seeing them workout separately Serrano looks so superior. On paper the matchup is viable even though Serrano has accomplished far more and dwarfs Hardy in talent.
Sergey Kuzmin who boxes Mike Hunter in an intriguing heavyweight encounter was the happiest boxer of the lot, showing an abundance of enthusiasm that perhaps he should have saved for fight night. He arrived happily and took a group photo, then vaulted into the ring reminiscent of Prince Naseem Hamed. Kuzmin then frantically shadowboxed, looking pretty serious in such a calm setting.
Hunter for his part went through the motions and hardly smiled. Hunter looked in better shape than his trainer Hasim Rahman who has put on a few stone since he held the world heavyweight title. I came to the workout favoring Hunter, but left thinking that Kuzmin is in such a good place that he’ll prevail. Today there would be the press conference, then the weigh-in tomorrow. These are the building blocks to the inescapable reality of fight night where the moment of truth arrives.