Printer Friendly

Ring the bell; Rivera remains relaxed; Simms seems steamed.

Byline: Bud Barth

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. - On the eve of the biggest fight of his life, a moody Travis Simms - perhaps tipping his hand that he's scared, perhaps simply acting like just another spoiled pro athlete - was in full retreat last night at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.

First, the unbeaten super welterweight from Norwalk, Conn., who claims to be the uncrowned WBA champion even though the belt is firmly around the waist of Worcester's Jose Antonio Rivera, walked away from a stare-down with the champion during a photo-op after they had weighed in for tonight's 12-round title fight at the 5,000-seat Hard Rock Live arena.

A little later, Simms and his entourage high-tailed it out of a hotel restaurant to flee an inquiring reporter, with his wife and manager, Sandra Stokes-Simms, declaring: "We're not giving any more interviews. You misquote us."

Asked if he had nothing to say, Simms - normally a cocky, loquacious sort - mumbled something unintelligible under his breath as he walked away.

Meanwhile, Rivera (38-4-1, 24 knockouts) was his usual relaxed, confident self, but refused to make a prediction on how the fight will end.

"Just a victory, I come for victory," said Rivera, who weighed a lean and mean 153 pounds, a full pound below the limit. "How it comes, it comes - as long as it comes."

The 35-year-old Simms (24-0-0, 18 KOs) weighed 153.8 pounds, but both fighters probably will be over 160 by the time they enter the ring for tonight's bout, which will be televised live on "Showtime Championship Boxing" at 10 p.m.

After they weighed in - Rivera wearing only gray skivvies, Simms clad just in white Jockey shorts - the combatants flanked promoter Don King to pose for photographers. They made fists and glared at each other for 10 seconds or so before Simms suddenly turned and walked away, leaving King and Rivera with surprised expressions.

King's eyes bulged in a quizzical look, while Rivera held his hands out to his side, palms up, as if to say, "What happened?" His personal entourage and corner men, especially Worcester's Sean Fitzgerald, claimed it was a sign of fear by the challenger. It's called blinking first.

"We were just letting each other know that it's all business now," Rivera said. "No more games, no more talk. We're getting in there to take care of business."

In previous encounters, Simms - who last year was awarded the title of "champion in recess" by the WBA to settle a lawsuit he brought against the sanctioning body - couldn't stop talking about how great he was and about how he was going to dominate Rivera and take back the title that he won in 2003 with a tainted fifth-round knockout of Alejandro "Terra" Garcia.

The punch was shown again on video at Thursday's press conference here, and it was clearly a cheap shot by Simms that caught Garcia just as the referee ordered them to break a clinch.

Simms was stripped of that title in 2005 for failing to give Garcia a rematch, although Simms disputes the circumstances, which prompted his lawsuit against the WBA. Garcia won the vacated title, then lost it to Rivera in a one-sided bout last May at the DCU Center in Worcester.

Simms hasn't fought since October 2004 - a layoff of 2 years, 3 months - but both he and the 33-year-old Rivera looked like they were chiseled out of granite at last night's weigh-in, so rust might not be a factor. They're obviously in terrific shape.

The game plan for both fighters is simple: Simms, a crafty southpaw, wants to box and move around, use the entire ring; Rivera, the bigger puncher, wants to cut off Simms' escape routes, get inside, and turn it into a brawl.

The champion wants to make it a war of attrition, pointing out that Simms has been past the eighth round only twice in his pro career. Rivera has racked up double-digit rounds 10 times, including 12-rounders his last three fights.

Trainer John Scully, who has done a marvelous job since coming aboard after Rivera lost his WBA welterweight title to Luis Collazo in 2005, said he has tried to concentrate on improving Rivera's defense and jab work.

Rivera never cared about taking two punches as long as he could throw three or four, but Scully has cleaned up that part of his game, although Rivera has shown that he can endure punishment if he needs to - he has been knocked down only once in 43 pro fights, and never knocked out.

"I thought two weeks ago that he was already in better shape than he was for Garcia," Scully said, referring to Rivera's five-knockdown victory eight months ago. "It's amazing, the untapped potential of the body - nobody has ever reached it - but he's showing how much better you can actually be. It's unreal."

Rivera did some shadowboxing at the steamy, non-air-conditioned Seminole Warriors Boxing gym next to the hotel after arriving here last week, but has tapered down his training daily to the point where he'll do nothing at all today except prepare mentally.

"I think everything is coming into play, like a puzzle coming together," Scully said, "and I feel real good about it."

ART: PHOTOS

PHOTOG:

CUTLINE: (1) Travis Simms, left, and Jose Antonio Rivera, right, stare each other down on either side of promoter Don King after yesterday's weigh-in. (2) WBA light middleweight champion Jose Antonio Rivera enjoys some downtime at the Seminole-Hard Rock Hotel and Casino yesterday. relaxing in the sun alone. (3) Spending time with his team, including, from left to right, cut man Dave Tenny, Rivera, trainers Carlos Garcia and John Scully, and and corner man Sea

(3) Top, Promoter Don King, center, expresses amusement after Travis Simms, left, backed off a stare-down with Jose Rivera and then Rivera, bottom, wonders what happened.

T&G Staff/STEVE LANAVA

T&G Staff Photos/STEVE LANAVA
COPYRIGHT 2007 Worcester Telegram & Gazette
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:SPORTS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jan 6, 2007
Words:985
Previous Article:Naps team just too strong.
Next Article:Jets kept Pats off field; New England wants to reverse that trend.


Related Articles
Collazo won't pick a winner.
Ready to rumble; Area fight fans flock to Florida for championship bout.
Jose TKO'd; Worcester fighter dominated, stopped in ninth round.
What's next for beaten Rivera?
Rivera trades barbs; City boxer expects `war'.
For now, Harris barred from title dreams.
Rivera mulls Santos fight; King offers July 7 bout.
Rivera frets, but contract is `in the mail'.
4th title may toll bell on Rivera's career.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters