The Boxer, the Murder, the Fall from Grace
The argument started over gas money. It escalated to the point where a man got shot in the testicles. And it finished with one of the participants murdered and the other—a professional boxer with 20 victories to his name—in prison.
The dead man’s name was Raul Bennett Sambola, and I’ll get to him, but it was the boxer’s involvement that made the argument and its aftermath famous up and down Nicaragua’s poverty-stricken Atlantic coast. Evans Quinn was a 28-year-old heavyweight at the time of the February 2012 murder; just nine months earlier he had been in Nevada fighting Seth Mitchell. That bout ended with Quinn getting knocked out in the first round, after which he returned to his hometown of Bluefields. But before that humiliation, before he got involved in a feud, killed Sambola, went on the run, and was finally thrown in prison, Quinn was already a local legend, beloved by the people of Bluefields because he was one of them. As he came up through the boxing ranks, they imagined he’d make it to the top and show the world that the people in this poor but lively region are fighters and winners.
“God gave Evans Quinn the ability to rise up the people of Bluefields,” a local pastor told me. “But he threw it away.”
It’s hard to describe Quinn without using words like “potential” and “ability.” He was charismatic as hell, handsome, successful, and able to make whoever he talked to feel like he was the most important person in the world. He claimed to have seven wives (“I’m Muslim,” he told me) and surrounded himself with friends, drugs, women, and guns. But he could also be dangerous—if you crossed him, he wasn’t afraid to use his immense physical talents to show you who was boss. Like when he punched that pastor’s son in the mouth just because the kid was at a nightclub with a girl Quinn thought would be better off with him.
“He was crazy, but he could have done great things,” the pastor said. That’s how eager many in Bluefields were to look the other way when Quinn did something most people would be hated for. That was the influence the boxer had once had here. Today Quinn is still a legend, but now that he’s in prison, his glory days long burned away to ash, his story is now one about wasted potential, or a cautionary tale about what happens when a man takes justice into his own hands. If you’re willing to forgive his excesses and his ugly violent streak, he could even be a folk hero who got thrown in prison by cops with a grudge against him.
Floyd Mayweather Used Justin Bieber as a Decoration
It was just before midnight on Saturday and no one gave a shit that Justin Bieber was in the room. Less than an hour earlier, Floyd Mayweather had badly abused Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in boxing’s biggest event in years, improving his record to 45 wins in 45 paying fights. No one seemed to mind that it was a lopsided matchup unworthy of the months of breathless hype. Now the immaculately coiffed pop star who, aside from the thick chain dangling from his neck, could’ve easily passed for Pony Boy in The Outsiders, was seated on stage as the finest boxer of his generation stood at the dais, testifying to his own greatness and fielding compliments disguised as questions from the media and fans who had negotiated their way into the news conference. That scene provided a sense of perspective on the situation: Bieber is one of the most famous celebrities on the planet, but amid the chaotic aftermath of a Mayweather fight he was a decoration, not unlike a potted plant with designer sunglasses.
Look on Mike Tyson, Ye Mighty, and Despair
There he is, like he’s always been, perpetually on the brink of breakdown, hands grasping for nothing in particular, eyes twitching, voice abruptly fluctuating in and out of his signature cartoon squeal. It is late August and Mike Tyson is at a press conference discussing his new life as a boxing promoter—but his comments occasionally veer into barely coherent memories, like a veteran suddenly gripped so severely by flashbacks he starts giving orders to a unit in a battle that happened long ago. But mostly he spends 15 minutes dispensing how-great-it-is-to-be-here platitudes about boxers you’ve never heard of.
He has been enthusiastic and hyperbolic. It has been a very encouraging Fresh Start and now he is ready to leave. But someone has one more question, about Tyson reconciling with Teddy Atlas. Atlas helped train him when Tyson was 16, but was dismissed when he threatened to shoot the teenage boxer in the head after he grabbed Atlas’s 11-year-old sister-in-law’s ass. They didn’t speak to each other for the next 30 years.
This is how Tyson responds:
“I’m a motherfucker. I’m a bad guy sometimes. I did a lot of bad things, and I want to be forgiven. So in order for me to be forgiven, I hope they can forgive me. I wanna change my life, I wanna live a different life now. I wanna live my sober life. I don’t wanna die. I’m on the verge of dying, because I’m a vicious alcoholic. Wow. God, this is some interesting stuff. I haven’t drank or took drugs in six days, and for me that’s a miracle. I’ve been lying to everybody else that think I was sober, but I’m not. This is my sixth day. I’m never gonna use again.”
He turned a fight into a press conference, a press conference into a confession, a confession into a suicide note, a suicide note into his own eulogy. Mike Tyson has never been uncomfortable walking hand in hand with death.
Wide World of Balls
Hoooooo-leeeeeeeeeeeee shit is boxing fixed. Manny Pacquiao—the King of the Philippines—and Timothy Bradley fought Saturday in one of those big-deal fights, and the refs say Bradley won, which surprised everyone. It was Manny’s first loss since 2005 and there’ll almost fucking undoubtedly be a rematch. People say boxing is dead—mostly people who are paid American money to cover boxing as reporters—but the fight was a pretty big deal, and people shit themselves when the terrible decision was handed down. Still, those big fights are outliers: Of course people give a shit about the big HBO pay-per views. But will people care when two off-duty firemen fight each other outside my apartment, like they did yesterday?
Was it the biggest sports story of the week? Certainly not, though it could have been. I’ll Have Another, which is a horse, was scratched from its Saturday race at Belmont and didn’t get the chance to run for the Triple Crown, which is winning three big races. It would have been the first Triple Crown in over 30 years.The air was sucked out of Belmont when the news broke, and bad vibes don’t usually reach Belmont until Sunday morning.