An Open Letter to Roberto Bolonti

Dear Mr. Bolonti:

I trust this letter finds you doing well and fully recovered from your medical mishap this past Saturday night. As you must now be safely back in Argentina, I envision you enjoying the sand and the surf after a lengthy stay in the frosty surroundings of Montreal in November. Though, as I understand, you might be having to keep your homecoming celebrations a bit on the low-key side seeing as you have yet to be paid for your troubles up here and, if Interbox has their way, you never will. No doubt you feel you are a victim of an injustice, that you got ripped off. Strange as it may seem to you, I think I know exactly how you feel.

I am writing to you as both a boxing fan and a paying customer. I forked over my hard-earned cash to see you perform this past Saturday night but perform you did not. Not in a sporting sense, that is. Perform you did in a most theatrical way, though not to a high standard. I’m afraid your talent for stagecraft proved inadequate to the role you assigned yourself. While the ringside officials had no choice but to buy what you were selling and had you carried from the ring on a stretcher and taken to hospital by ambulance,  those of us watching from the stands found your presentation wholly unconvincing. I assume the chorus of boos and chants of Bullshit! Bullshit! as you were carted away may have alerted you to this fact.


I read with interest, Mr. Bolonti, the statement on your Facebook page which you posted not long after your brief stay in the hospital, during which you refused a CT scan of your supposedly injured brain. You wrote (albeit in Spanish so forgive me if anything is lost in the translation):

Now that I’ve told you I’m all right, I want you to know we were deceived and lied to ever since we arrived in Canada. We were supposed to fight Bute, then Pascal, for the diamond WBC belt for twelve rounds at 175. But none of this happened. They took the belt out of it to avoid paying fees to the WBC, and Pascal couldn’t make weight either, so they told us we’d fight at 180 in a ten rounder.

I suspect you may not realize this, but your argument here only bolsters the judgment of everyone in the Bell Centre, including myself, who saw you as the perpetrator of a ridiculous dive. Had you actually been knocked out by an illegal blow and unfairly deprived of your chance to compete against Pascal, I’m certain you wouldn’t bother bringing up the extenuating circumstances of the situation. What does any of this have to do with what took place inside the ring?

You go on:

Then, when Pascal threw the illegal punch, the referee ruled a disqualification for Pascal, but then one of the promoters saw the announcer holding this verdict and immediately spoke to the authorities to change the ruling to a no contest. This would’ve been a DQ anywhere else in the world, except for Pascal, who couldn’t afford to lose because of a signed contract to fight Kovalev for the title on March 14.

Again, the focus of your appeal here only makes clearer your original intentions. You do not decry the lost opportunity to prove yourself against Pascal, to win legitimately and vault yourself to the top of the light-heavyweight rankings. No, instead you lament the fact that Pascal was not disqualified. In future, Mr. Bolonti, do not rush to explain yourself on social media. Here you have only reinforced what all of us in the Bell Centre already learned, having seen it firsthand: you have no pride and no guts and you took the coward’s way out on Saturday night, hoping to get a cheap DQ win.

Perhaps the things you detailed in your Facebook post are true. Perhaps you were misled and mistreated. But two facts remain: 1. No one held a gun to your head and made you enter the ring Saturday night. Presumably, once Lucian Bute had pulled out of the match with an injury, you could have simply gone home instead of enduring all this shoddy treatment and deception. And 2., the best possible revenge for all of your suffering would have been to defeat Jean Pascal in the ring.

Against Tony Bellew you showed heart and durability but an off-balance poke from Pascal knocked you out cold?
You took Tony Bellew’s best shots, but an off-balance poke from Pascal knocked you out cold?

Strangely, that is exactly what I thought was your intention as we watched you make your way to the ring at the Bell Centre. Yours was a visage of determination and focus and after a dreary undercard, we thought we might finally see some fierce competition between yourself and Mr. Pascal. After all, while few of us knew much about you outside of your decision losses to Tony Bellew and Juergen Braehmer, as well as the fact you had never been knocked out, you are from Argentina, the home of such gutsy warriors as Marcos Maidana and Sergio Martinez. Surely, we thought, we’ll see some fireworks now.

How you let us down, Mr. Bolonti. But of course, the one you have let down the most, is yourself.

One speculates on what was in fact going through your mind as you lay on the canvas and followed the instructions of your promoter, Osvaldo Rivero, who repeatedly shouted at you to stay down. After only five minutes of action, had you decided you could not possibly defeat Pascal who, everyone knows, tends to fade in the late going? Or was it more that you were waiting for the opportunity to flop because of all the terrible mistreatment you had suffered in this strange northern country where the winds in November blow cold and lonely? Were you tired of poutine and smoked meat sandwiches? Did the charms of Montreal leave you unmoved? Had some Quebecois chica rebuffed your advances?

Again, while admittedly Argentina is the home of many elite soccer players who are also elite floppers, it is as well the land of such legendary macho warriors as Carlos Monzon, Victor Galindez, Oscar Bonavena and Luis Firpo. Would any of these battlers have put on such a shameful display? Can you imagine any of them lying down on the dusty canvas and refusing to rise? How they all must be rolling in their graves to know one of their own opted to lie down and play dead instead of trying to win.

You looked so determined to go to war. Was it all an act?

You had a golden opportunity, Roberto Bolonti, and you flushed it down the toilet. The culprit in this sad episode is not any ringside official who made sure Pascal did not suffer a disqualification defeat, or Pascal himself who did indeed commit a foul, or even Mr. Rivero. The fall guy and the bad guy are both you. You let yourself down, as well as those of us who paid good money to watch you fight. You had the chance to try and score a huge upset and put yourself in a position to command massive paydays. Or to at least impress us by trying. Had you fought with heart and courage you would have found the fans of Montreal easily won over. We are suckers for underdogs and battlers who give their all. And because of that, you no doubt could have looked forward to future lucrative opportunities in this fight-mad town.

Instead, now you may not get paid at all. Which would be only fitting since myself and my fellow ticket buyers in the stands that night, can never get our money back.

— Robert Portis

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