Brick City Boxing

Finkel, HBO Pushing Panic Buttons….MICHAEL MARLEY COLUMN

Trainer Valle Asks: What Part Of No Don’t HBO, Finkel Understand? Why Are They Rushing To Match Two Russian Heavyweight Champions? Briggs, Meanwhile, Twisting In The Wind

Victor Valle Jr., who works as a custodian for the City University of New York and is the boxing custodian for new WBC heavyweight champion Oleg Maskaev, has a question.

What part of no, Valle asks, doesn’t HBO understand?

What part of no, Valle asks, doesn’t Shelly Finkel understand?

I am sure that HBO boxing voices Jim Lampley and Larry Merchant will lump it, and certainly not like it, but Valle told me late last night that, if he has his druthers, there is no way that the 37-year-old Maskaev, who has now twice KTFO’d Hasim Rahman (Oleg’s fellow American) will run this week to set up another training camp so that he can climb into the Madison Square Garden ring on Nov. 11 for a unification bout against IBF champ Wladimir Klitschko.

Valle, whose late father Victor Valle Sr. (Gerry Cooney, Billy Costello, and many others) was a fine trainer and also a custodian, may clean up when he is at his regular day job, but the 54-year-old is willing to wait to clean up financially until next year. Valle wants Maskaev to be rested and ready when he attempts to add to his title belt collection.

“November is just too soon,” Valle said from his Bronx home. “Even if (promoter) Dennis (Rappaport) wanted it, even if Dennis said let’s do this November 11, I would tell Oleg no. We have a good team, Oleg, me, Dennis and Fred Kesch. We have good teamwork. I think both Oleg and Dennis realize that my opinion matters.

“I walk humbly. I don’t shout and curse. I still haven’t touched reality after Saturday night (the 12th round KO over Rahman in Las Vegas). I walk humbly, but I speak my piece, and I think that Dennis has a lot of confidence in me. I think Dennis would agree with me.

“About 11 years ago, I gave my life to God. I am a chaplain now. I know what boxing can do to a person. That is why I taught Oleg so much defense. The name of this game is to hit and not get hit, to preserve your health, make some money and save it and then get out of boxing.”

Valle said that Maskaev has more than the usual bumps and bruises after his stirring, come-from-behind KO over Rahman. Valle is not blind or deaf and he knows that HBO and Finkel are on a campaign designed to keep Shannon Briggs twisting in the wind and dump him completely as the November 11 challenger, if they can rush Maskaev into a unification bout.

Valle gets the urgent message. But, like any good trainer, he wants what’s right for Maskaev.

“I think it’s all coming from Shelly Finkel,” Valle said. “He is just pushing the panic button. They forget that Oleg is a human being, not a machine. So they can push all the panic buttons they want. There is more to discuss here than what I say and what Dennis and Fred might say. There is the important matter of what Oleg says. You know, the fighter does have a say, too.”

Rappaport is known for his eccentric but forceful personality. He is also known for being a businessman above all else. A Whacko businessman, maybe, but a businessman nonetheless. But Valle confirms reports that time has mellowed Rappaport somewhat.

“Forget about the Cooney era,” Valle said. “That was a long time ago. Dennis lets me handle the training. To me, Dennis is a pussycat. He does his thing, yes, but he does not interfere with me. I like to be kind and to talk softly to people. Dennis listens to me.”

His father is deceased, but Valle put me on the phone briefly with the next generation. Danny Joey Valle, only age 20, is a 132-pounder who has won amateur ring titles. Another chip off the Valle boxing block.

Valle admits that Rappaport remains the general of the Masaev Army.

“Look, Dennis calls the shots. I just don’t see any reason for us to rush into another fight against anyone right now. The truth is I love Oleg. I love him like a son. I can’t let him train or fight when things are not right.”

The trainer’s priorities are to get Maskaev’s two main physical problems, a sore left thumb and an aching back, sorted out. Then, and only then, does Valle want Maskaev returning to the gym.

“People don’t know this but, on a 1 to 10 scale, Oleg was only at a 2-3 level physically against Rahman Saturday night,” Valle said. “I want him to go to Dr. (Charles) Melone to get the left thumb and his whole left hand checked out. We have to get that checked and rechecked by Dr. Melone. Oleg says there is nothing broken in the left hand and he does not want to go to the doctor. But I told Oleg you can’t see inside the hand. We need to get x-rays and see what the doctor says.”

Maskaev dislocated his back while moving furniture, Valle said. This happened about three to four weeks before Team Maskaev shifted its training center to high altitude Colorado Springs.

“We were going to go up to Big Bear, but then we heard Rahman was going to be up there,” Valle said. “We didn’t want to run into him, so we decided on Colorado Springs, and we got Dickie Wood to help us because he’s got all the connections out there. Anyway, Oleg has a house in Sacramento and two houses in Staten Island. He was moving some furniture and he threw his back out. I was so pissed.

“I knew Oleg had a wounded back going into this fight, but we kept it a secret. Now I want Oleg to rest his back and to get that left hand checked out.”

The HBO money pile is said to be getting higher and higher. Finkel and HBO believe they will stack so much money that Rappaport and Maskaev won’t be able to resist. They think that Valle’s cautionary voice, a voice of reason really, will be ignored.

They don’t know Victor Valle Jr. They didn’t know Victor Valle Sr. They don’t know how deep some relationships run. Let me give you one example. Even after Team Cooney cashed in with the losing heavyweight title bout against Larry Holmes in 1982, Victor Sr. kept his janitor’s job.

In a big basement on East 34 Street in Manhattan, Valle Sr, had a desk, his cleaning equipment and a mini-Valle boxing hall of fame complete with pictures of Cooney, Costello and others.

One floor above the custodian’s office? There you could find a rising star of hand surgery, a boxing nut named Charley Melone.

He’s been treating boxer’s banged-up mitts for nearly 40 years. Valle Jr. wouldn’t say it, but I will.

Oleg, you’ve got it to hand it to him. See what Dr. Charley says, listen to Victor, to Dennis, to Fred and to yourself. And ask your wife what she thinks.

They were on your side when you had no belt. They were with you when there was no bandwagon.

You can ignore the panic buttons the same way you ignored Rahman’s intermittent jabs.