Friday, May 18, 2007

Boxing Blogging Part II

Boring card tonight out in Oklahoma. It's unfortuate that I don't get HBO here, because tomorrow's fight between Edison Miranda (28-1, 24 KOs) and Kelly Pavlik (30-0, 27 KOs) should be spectacular. I'm a huge Miranda fan, but both of them are spectacular punchers. I got my first taste of Miranda in his one round demolition of Willie Gibbs, who was supposed to be a real contender in the division. He followed that up by handing white hot prospect Allan Green his first defeat (I think Green was a bit over-rated, but it was still a great victory). For his part, Kelly Pavlik's last fight ended in a highlight reel knockout of former Olympian Jose Luis Zertuche. I'm calling Miranda by KO, but any outcome is possible here.

Meanwhile, while Jermain Taylor's (26-0-1, 17 KOs) man-handling of game but undersized Kassim "The Dream" Ouma (perhaps my favorite fighter) should turn me off on a repeat performance against a bulked-up junior middleweight (this time Cory Spinks (36-3, 11 KOs)), I'm optimistic that fight could have some moments too. It's certainly better than the original bout, which scheduled Taylor to walk over fight "Contender" star Sergio "The Latin Snake" Mora. Mora said he withdrew due to location, but I think it's because he knows he would have gotten taken apart. Spinks is much smaller than Taylor, but he's a slick boxer and a better stylistic matchup than Ouma was. I think Taylor lost to Winky Wright when they fought (he escaped with a draw), and it's high time he lost that zero at the end of his record. The winner of Miranda/Pavlik is a mandatory for Taylor if he wins, and that could be spectacular. Miranda, particularly, has been calling Taylor out, noting that if he defeats Spinks on top of Ouma, he'll be "the best Junior Middleweight in the world. Unfortunately, he's supposed to be the Middleweight champion."

But back to Oklahoma. The undercard featured Shaun George (13-2-2, 6 KOs) against former three-time light heavyweight title challenger Richard Hall (27-6, 25 KOs). Hall had the reputation as a puncher, but he was never able to hurt (or even really connect) with the very slick George, who outboxed him the whole night. However, George faded badly after the second half of the 7th round (it was an 8-round fight), and spent most of the remainder running away. George clearly has boxing skills, but what he doesn't seem to have is a killer instinct. And I wonder if a more accurate puncher might cause him significant problems, as his defense mostly involves running away. Hall did not body punch effectively, but George won't be able to count on that his whole career. George won a comfortable unanimous decision.

The main event had lightweight Zahir Raheem (27-2, 16 KOs) fighting against Cristobal Cruz (34-10-1, 22 KOs). Raheem's two losses were both against top flight opposition--one to then undefeated Rocky Juarez in a very controversial fight (one where the ref docked him several points for holding), and the other against Acelino "Popo" Freitas in what was universally described as a close but ugly and choppy fight. Raheem does own a win over Eric Morales, and was looking to use this fight to impress folks and vault him back into elite competition.

Raheem, to put it bluntly, did not impress. Oh, he won (on the scorecards anyway--I had it a draw) alright. But he did not do anything eye-raising. Cruz continually pressed forward and turned it into an ugly fight, precisely what the slick and speedy Raheem did not want. Raheem also was completely spent in the last few rounds, falling to the canvas no less than three times (all three were ruled slips, much to Cruz's dismay). Finally, Cruz kept jumping inside, and Raheem did nothing but tie him up. All. Fight. Long. It was not just boring, it made me wonder whether all those "controversial" deductions against Juarez were justified. Teddy Atlas said both fighters were to blame, but I disagree--I thought that Cruz was making a genuine effort to work on the inside. And he landed a fair amount of solid body work. Raheem apparently had difficulty making weight for this fight, so that might be to blame. But he did absolutely nothing to show he was an elite fighter tonight, and even with the win raised more questions than he answered.

Finally, I should note the scorecards--I had it a draw (96-96). Teddy Atlas had it, I believe, 98-93, Raheem. The judges at ringside, by contrast, meted out one 99-91 and two shutouts, 100-90. That, to my mind, is ridiculous. And while Oklahoma is trying to make itself a fight destination, I have been consistently disappointed with their judging. The majority decision win they gave to Brian Vera over Samuel Miller was questionable, to say the least. And while I thought he won the fight, the margins they gave Allan Green in his defeat of Emmett Linton (97-92, 98-91, 98-91) struck me as a bit of home cooking, to say the least. It's a problem when in every card I've seen in Oklahoma, at least one of the fights has seen scoring that's raised my eyebrows.

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