By Arne K. Lang
Seinfeld ran nine seasons on NBC. One of the most memorable episodes was the “Bubble Boy” episode that ran in Season Four (1992). The Bubble Boy had an immune deficiency that forced him to live inside a germ-free plastic bubble. But he wasn’t a sympathetic character; he was a cantankerous SOB.
Las Vegas boxing trainer Bones Adams isn’t the cantankerous sort -- well, at least not in the company of this reporter – but the former WBA super bantamweight champion has been spending a lot of time lately as a "Bubble Boy." Others in the fistic fraternity have been Bubble-ized more often, but likely not in as many different settings. Adams, 46, has been through the rigamarole in California and in far-off Connecticut and by the time you read this he will be hunkered down in the Top Rank Bubble at the MGM Grand, his second visit to his hometown Bubble.
We caught up with Adams on Thursday morning at his gym. Later that day he would be checking in to his dormitory at the MGM Conference Center. A fighter that he has been training, heavyweight Mitchell Sipe, makes his pro debut this Saturday in one of the undercard fights on the Top Rank card topped by the match between junior welterweights Jose Pedraza and Ivan Baranchyk. ESPN+ will televise.
Adams and the other principals on the show have already received their instructions. The letter of welcome from Top Rank comes illustrated with pictures of their private entranceway and other places they need to be. The Conference Center is segregated from the main hotel and casino which is off-limits.
Bones knows the routine. When he and his fighter arrive, they will be greeted by a security guard who will accompany them to the COVID testing lab, the first order of business. All of the participants are housed on the second floor which is reached by an elevator inaccessible to outsiders. It’s one person to a room and although one can interact with others in the dorm, one is compelled to practice social distancing. Masks must be worn at all times when leaving one’s assigned room. A second COVID test will be conducted before the fight. Results are made known in 3-5 hours.
Bones’ first “Bubble” came at the Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, CA where Golden Boy potted a show on July 24. The excursion started off on the wrong foot and ended badly.
When he and his fighter Samuel Vargas arrived at the airport in Ontario, they were told to wait around to pick up another fighter to transport to the venue. The wait lasted four hours in a hot van. It took another hour-and-a-half to reach Fantasy Springs which was 92 miles away.
The grub at the commissary was lousy. No problem; Bones just ordered from room service. But the promoter didn’t pick up the tab. The cost was borne by him.
Vargas, the Canadian-Columbian veteran, was matched against fast-rising welterweight Vergil Ortiz Jr, the third-most-valuable property in the Golden Boy stable (trailing only Canelo Alvarez and Ryan Garcia). Vargas, who was game to the core, could have turned his career around with an upset, but he was stopped in the seventh round by Ortiz who scored his 16th knockout in as many starts.
Adams’ trip to the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut, also began on a sour note. The plane trip from Las Vegas wasn’t a direct flight. When the aircraft landed in Hartford, 45 miles from Uncasville, it was 1 am and Bones and his traveling companion, WBO world bantamweight champion John Riel Casimero, were famished. There was no food on the plane because of COVID restrictions.
At the venue, there was nothing to eat at that hour except snacks in the hospitality room. “They had a great selection of snacks,” said Bones. But it goes without saying that a world champion shouldn’t be sating his hunger with Snickers in the wee hours of the morning when he is days away from defending his title.
Although the Connecticut excursion started out badly, it ended on a bright note. John Riel Casimero’s bout with Duke Micah was the opener of the six-bout PBC/SHOWTIME card featuring the Charlo twins. Dominant from the opening bell, Casimero took out Micah in the third. “Bring on the Monster,” he said after the fight, referencing baby-faced Japanese knockout artist Naoya Inoue. Casimero will be the underdog when they meet, but he shortened the odds with his stellar performance.
The Mohegan Sun event marked Bones’ second Bubble in as many weeks. Seven days earlier, on Sept. 19, he was at the MGM Grand for Jonathan Rice’s fight with Efe Ajagba.
Rice lost the fight, but may have actually increased his marketability by extending the highly-touted Ajagba the full 10-round distance. The former Olympian was undefeated and had knocked out 11 of his previous 13 opponents.
Rice was less tentative as the fight wore on. “If he would have started the fight the way that he finished it, he would have won,” says Adams. That may be stretching it, but he isn’t the only one who thought that the scores (99-91, 99-91, 98-92) were too wide.
Bones Adams gives Top Rank high marks. “When I was fighting,” he says, “they were always more professional than everyone else, and that’s still true today. No one else is as well-organized. They remember to take care of all the little things.”
Being sequestered in a Bubble is tedious, but for Bones Adams, the Top Rank buffet makes it more palatable, pardon the pun. “It’s outstanding,” he says, “and we can take as much food as we want back to the room.”
What grates on Adams is that others involved in a Bubble production -- ring officials, members of the promotional and broadcasting teams, etc. – have more freedom to roam than the boxers and their seconds. “I think it should be the same for everybody,” he says.
At the Mohegan Sun, he was given the bum’s rush when he tried to re-enter the studio to watch the second fight on the card. He had more than a passing interest in the fight as he had once worked with Damien Vazquez and was well-acquainted with the members of Vazquez’s team.
The Bubble Era of Boxing will end soon (hopefully), but people will be talking about it for decades. And Bones Adams will have some interesting stories to share with his grandchildren.
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