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Editor’s note: This column originally published at USA TODAY Sports.
Former President Donald Trump began his debut as a boxing commentator Saturday night just as you might have expected.
With a verbal jab.
Trump agreed to provide commentary during a four-fight card featuring Evander Holyfield, the former heavyweight champion who was making his return to the boxing ring at 58 years old. And at the outset of the pay-per-view livestream, the lead commentator noted it was the 20th anniversary of 9/11 and deferred to the former president.
Calling the anniversary of 9/11 “one of the most important days,’’ Trump added, “and we had a very bad week because of some very bad decisions that were made… We should have never allowed to happen what happened in Afghanistan with 13 great warriors and many injured and many people killed in these final few days and it was just a shame.’’
Later, while waiting for the results from the three judges after the first fight, Trump noted he has seen a lot of bad boxing decisions over the years.
“It’s like the elections,’’ he said. “It could be rigged.’’
(Editor’s Note: The Justice Department has found no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election.)
However, on a night when Holyfield got stopped before the end of the first round at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida, perhaps the most surprising thing of all is this: Trump mostly stuck to boxing.
Having hosted memorable fights at his casinos, Trump exhibited an enthusiasm for the sport, a decent knowledge of boxing and stamina. Which is to say he continued to mix it up with his son Donald Trump Jr. and guest commentators during the pay-per-view event that stretched almost 3½ hours long.
What he seemed to enjoy most was the adoring crowd, which broke out into chants of “We want Trump! We want Trump!’’ He rose to his feet and with a broad smile shook his fist.
Former President Donald Trump salutes cheering fans as he prepares to provide commentary for the Triller Fight Club event in Hollywood, Fla. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
But for most of the night, he did his agreed-upon guest commentary duties, offering insights and opinions. Some of the most notable came after Holyfield lost by TKO in the first round when the referee waved off the fight.
“Right from the beginning you could see it, he was not the same fighter,’’ Trump said. “He lost a lot. That left jab was very slow.’’
Holyfield did not leave quietly.
“So Evander’s complaining a little about it stopping. I think you probably had to, right?’’ Trump asked.
The commentators agreed but noted it would be hard for a one-time champion to accept defeat.
As Holyfield left the makeshift area, Trump said, “That’s probably the last time you will be seeing the great legend of Evander Holyfield, right? Probably the last time, in this capacity. I hope so, I hope so.’’
Trump seemed to be most familiar with fighters of the past – such as Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran and Mike Tyson. He he also talked about more obscure fighters, like Iran Barkley and James Toney. Yet despite his reminiscing about old fighters, he was familiar with two relative newcomers: Jake Paul and Logan Paul, the YouTube celebrity brothers who have energized the boxing scene.
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Toward the end of the night, Trump was sitting next to UFC star Jorge Masvidal, who has traded barbs with Jake Paul and said he’d like to fight both brothers. Said Trump: “So the Paul brothers, we have Jorge and he wants to fight you and I think it would be an incredible fight.’’
The first two fights were mostly dull, and at times Trump’s commentary was lackluster, too. But he spiced it up with opinions. Such as being in favor of championship fights going 15 rounds rather than 12 rounds.
“I think it’s really hurt boxing,’’ Trump said, bemoaning the lost “championship rounds,’’ previously the 13th, 14th and 15th rounds before the change in format.
The fights were shortened after Kim Duk-koo died following a championship fight against Ray Mancini in 1982. Duk-koo lost by TKO in the 14th round and died five days after the fight.
Other things you probably never heard at a Trump rally: He’s a big fan of British heavyweight boxer Tyson Fury and he thinks Larry Holmes had the best left-hand jab.
Junior Dos Santos, a former UFC heavyweight champion, joined the Trumps as a guest commentator and spent a good portion of the time chatting with Trump as the cameras rolled and the fights progressed.
“I’m impressed with how much the gentleman knows about boxing,’’ Dos Santos said.
“We’ve had a lot of fights,’’ Trump replied, apparently referring to those he has staged rather than those he has fought.