Friday, March 28, 2008

Boxing Blogging: 3/28/08

Though boxing fans everywhere celebrate Cory Spinks losing last night (not because we have anything against him, but because it makes it less likely he'll "grace" our TV screens in the near future), I mourn for Kassim "The Dream" Ouma, who just lost his third straight bout via unanimous decision against Cornelius "K9" Bundrage. Recap of both tonight's and yesterday's action below.


Devon Alexander (15-0, 8 KOs) UD12 Miguel Callist (24-7-1, 17 KOs)

Ugh and ugh. After a couple of entertaining undercard mismatches on the Don King webcast (which went off surprisingly smoothly, incidentally), this fight was the epitome of a stinker. Callist ran, and ran, and ran and ran. He couldn't have created less action if he was sitting in the audience. Alexander did his best to walk him down, but ultimately, if someone is fleeing for their life in the ring, there is not all that much you can do. Hopefully Alexander will move on to bigger and more entertaining pay-days, and hopefully Callist will never be heard from again.

Verno Phillips (42-10-1, 21 KOs) SD12 Cory Spinks (36-5, 11 KOs)

It's a pretty sad day when a Cory Spinks fight is the more exciting of the two main events, but that's what happened tonight. The fight wasn't all that exciting, but it wasn't bad, and it certainly beat the crap out of the execrable Alexander/Callist bout that preceded it. Phillips' victory was a little controversial (though I don't think it was a "robbery", as some have said). I personally judged it a draw, though I could see it going either way. But when I'm judging bouts, I have a lot of trouble giving credit for the type of pitty-pat punches someone like Spinks throws. I don't think you need to be a slugger to win rounds, and I respect the defensive stylings of a Spinks or, say, a Winky Wright. But ultimately, this ain't amateurs. The goal isn't to simply land punches, it's to hurt the other guy, or at least land flush. So most rounds, where "nothing" happened I gave it to Spinks on accuracy, but in those rounds where Phillips did connect with a couple solid punches, it was very difficult for me not to give him the nod even where Spinks might have had the superior work rate.


Mike Jones (13-0, 12 KOs) UD8 Germaine Saunders (27-6, 17 KOs)

Not the most action-packed fight, but a good test for the prospect Jones, as the 38-year old Saunders gave him some veteran looks he'd never seen before (and also, unlike Jones' other opponents, survived to the final bell). I scored it a draw, but don't object to Jones getting the tight decision victory. I wouldn't say he looked phenomenal, and he did seem a bit flummoxed at times, but he stayed the course and got the win, and ultimately that's what good fighters need to do. Certainly, Jones will learn from it. For Saunders, it's his third straight close loss, all against good opponents, but disappointing nonetheless.

Henry Lundy (10-0-1, 6 KOs) D4 Darrell Jiles (8-0-1, 3 KOs)

Far and away the most entertaining of the match-ups I saw, I was surprised this was only a four rounder. Two undefeated prospects, with good pedigrees and an exciting style, certainly took a risk facing each other. Ultimately, neither paid the price as they fought to a hard-earned draw where both had their moments and the pace was kept throughout. Ultimately, I think Jiles has more of a future, simply because he's younger and has a great boxing build. Furthermore, even though he shouldn't have been engaging in an inside fight with the smaller, more muscular Lundy, he showed he could operate in tight, which is a good sign for his versatility as a boxer. But both guys showed that they're worth keeping an eye on.

Cornelius "K9" Bundrage (28-3, 16 KOs) UD10 Kassim Ouma (25-5-1, 15 KOs)

Over at MVN, I engaged in a protracted battle over whether this bout was worth watching -- specifically, whether Ouma still had it in him to be an elite fighter. I've made no secret I'm an Ouma fan (I don't see how anyone can not be, given his life story), but my argument was that all his problems were mental, not physical. Ouma at his best is an elite guy at 154 pounds, but Ouma is not always at his best, which at least in part has to be due to the immense trauma he's experienced throughout his life.

After watching his fight tonight, I'm more convinced than ever that it's a head problem for Ouma. For a couple moments in the middle rounds (after K9 was cut), the old Kassim Ouma was back, and he was giving Bundrage serious problems. It was beyond obvious that Ouma has more natural skill and gifts than the physically imposing but limited Bundrage. But for too long, he fought lethargically (and Ouma is normally a "punches in bunches" type of guy), like he wasn't really interested in being a boxer anymore. And so even if it is just in his head, I really don't know if he'll ever regain the focus and mental clarity he needs to become a world champion again. I gave him a close decision that might have been judging with my heart over my head, but I can't say he looked particularly impressive.

As for K9, I was reminded all over again why I don't particularly like him (again, with the caveat that my heart was against him fighting against Ouma). He fights dirty, he wrestles, he clinches like he wasn't hugged enough as a child, and he's offensively limited except for his right-hand. I'm glad referee Steve Smoger took a point away for excessive holding, because Bundrage has an annoying tendency to just skirt under that point deduction line, often by simply varying up the fouls he performs. But that rant aside, this is a career best win over his most credible opponent yet, even if Ouma is on the downslide. So maybe he'll parlay it into a bigger fight where he will get back to being smoked. We can only hope.

Going briefly back to Ouma, there is a documentary film, "Kassim the Dream" coming out detailing his life story, including his harrowing time as a child soldier in the Ugandan army. ESPN previewed a bit of it, and in one clip Ouma said that boxing was "therapy" for him and all the horrors he's lived through. I can only, only hope that his recent downturn is because his therapy is finally complete, and he doesn't feel the need to fight anymore. Because no one in the world deserves to live a happy and successful life more than Kassim Ouma.

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