Bet on Saul Avelar and you bet on a winner

 

ESPN favorite Saul Avelar has the worst record in Boxing. His official professional record is 9 wins and 2 losses. That record does not mention his unofficial fights with strongman Teddy Atlas, fight commentator for ESPN's Friday Night Fights. Each week Atlas beats Avelar unmercifully in back-to-back fights as he gives the keys to the audience for various opponents to win fights on the evening’s cards. Avelar takes the beatings with grace, style, and a smile on his face. Atlas’ affection for Avelar is clearly evident. Avelar takes the defeats and is happy to take repeated beatings the following weeks.

I cornered Avelar at Little Creek Casino, in Washington, during a recent fight. A short man with a big smile he was stirring his coffee, a tall latte - no whip. He tested the drink through the straw but, like most men, tossed the straw away. Real men don't use straws and boxing is one of the last bastions of real men, an open field of battle where one man, without any team excuses, faces another man and attempts to tear out his heart. These days boxers are civilized enough not to eat it and tend to leave it beating on the ring canvass as Midana did against Broner. A 2-cycle screaming mouth never beats a 4-cycle professional boxer.

Like most people in the fight game, Avelar was willing to sit down and talk. He is personable, knowledgeable, and articulate in several languages. Boxers, even world champions, seldom act like prima donnas. Because they often emerge from working class surroundings, or worse, they never lose their humanity and are very approachable. There are exceptions, but not many.

Avelar abandoned his boxing career in 1996 in St. Petersburg, Florida, to work for Compu-Box. He started with one show a month but the work soon added up. Soon he was doing shows on Tuesday and Fridays, then Wednesday and Fridays. His work increased because of his Spanish skills. Many fighters are Latinos, especially Mexican. He also started helping Teddy Atlas train fighters. "Teddy has a foundation that helps kids and I work with them also."

Saul's greatest ring battles were always sparing in the gym. He sparred with Kennedy McKinty, Jo Jones, Diego Corralas, and Azuma Nelson. "Every fighter eventually comes to Las Vegas and, while I was still fighting, I fought them all." Sometimes the sparring became serious. "Livingstone Bramble wanted me to spar with him even though he was much bigger and stronger than me. I was just 122 pounds. I made him look pretty bad and he was not happy.” The next day Bramble tried to knock him out. Fortunately the fight was stopped before the smaller Avelar was hurt.

Too often people behind the scenes receive little, if any, recognition. Avelar manages to appear on the broadcast as a boxing heavy bag, just a small portion of what he does as stage manager for the production.

An ESPN Friday Night Fights broadcast starts in apparent chaos: equipment everywhere, people running around, fighters wandering about, rings and lights being erected, electrical equipment being set up ringside along with monitors and cameras. To a spectator the scene resembles the aftermath of a tactical bombing.

Each member of the crew has a specific job and within a very short time everything comes together. From chaos comes order and by fight time the broadcast is usually flawless. Avelar is a big part of that order.

Even before the fights Avelar often recommends fighters. He knows something about the game and ended his own career mostly because of poor management. He works with fighters during the events getting them into the correct dressing rooms, arranging the gloves, walking them to and from the ring. Any small problems that occur, he handles. After the fights he makes sure everything is closed down properly.

No show would be complete, however, without him taking that beating. Maybe one day he can hit Teddy back.

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