Sunday, April 20, 2008

Boxing Blogging 4/20/08: Wednesday & Saturday Blogging!

Of all the boxing this week, I saw both more and less than normal, on account of Passover and visiting Chicago. On the one hand, it meant I missed Friday Night Fights on ESPN2 (Airport) and Bell/Adamek (Seder). On the other hand, I did get to see Hopkins/Calzaghe after the Seder was over, which I wouldn't otherwise have been able to, along with (most of) the online webcast of Henry/Diaconu, and of course "Wednesday" Night Fights (in quotes because the endless Red Sox/Yankees game pushed it well into Thursday).


Chazz Witherspoon (23-0, 15 KOs) UD10 Domonic Jenkins (13-8-1, 6 KOs

Honestly, I don't remember enough about this fight to give good commentary. I do remember that I thought Witherspoon won cleanly, after an early spurt where Jenkins looked like he might have tried to make a go of it. I also remember Teddy Atlas telling us that if Witherspoon really wants to be considered a prospect, he had to knock out Jenkins (which several other fellow prospects had done in Jenkins' 7 previous losses). Eh. A knockout is nice, and it's not like Jenkins has a granite chin, but I thought Witherspoon looked fine this outing. 15 KOs aside, he doesn't really have that much pop in his fists. He's a boxer. Now, how far will boxing skill take him against a higher caliber than Jenkins? We'll see.

Peter "Kid Chocolate" Quillin (18-0, 14 KOs) UD10 Antwun Echols (31-8-4, 27 KOs)

Now, this was a fight where I really wanted to see a knockout. Echols is a three-time title challenger who is at the end of the rope. Since 2004, he is 0-3-3 (all, it should be said, against reasonably solid opposition) with one loss by knockout. I saw him in his fight immediately previous to this one, against untested prospect Michael Walker after Allan Green bailed last minute. A confluence of factors: Echols' veteran savvy, Walker stepping up for the first time, Walker taking the fight on very short notice -- all led to Echols escaping with a draw. But anyone who saw the fight could see his legs were not there. Had he been in with a power puncher like Green, he would have been destroyed.

And Quillin has a reputation as a power puncher. So I told my friends: "this one is going to end by KO -- possibly a career-ending KO." Wrong by me. To be clear, Quillin absolutely dominated this fight from start to finish. But he displayed no killer instinct when he had Echols hurt. Sure, the older fighter exhibited some solid survival techniques, but he was not being pressured in any meaningful sense. Though the biggest win of Quillin's career, it was somewhat of a disappointing outing, and I hope he shows more aggression next time out.

As for Echols, he looks done. Certainly he needs to stop taking fights against young punchers like Quillin and Green, as they are fights Echols cannot win. The last thing to go in a fighter is power, and Echols still has it. But he doesn't have the legs to stand and trade with a guy with dynamite fists, which takes away his only winning option. It didn't happen tonight, but if keeps up signing for these sort of fights, Echols is going to get seriously hurt.


Adrian Diaconu (25-0, 15 KOs) UD12 Chris Henry (21-1, 17 KOs)

This fight was webcast by, after a relatively successful experiment doing the same with the Spinks/Phillips title fight in St. Louis. Unfortunately, the feed cut out in the middle of the 10th round in what was a competitive and exciting fight, leaving us assorted fans in the dark as to the outcome. While this was disappointing (as one person said, "why doesn't this happen at Cory Spinks fights?"), these sorts of things happen with new technology, and I remain glad we got to see the fight at all.

Anyway. Going into the tenth I had it 5 rounds to 4 for Diaconu, but he seemed to be fading. Since I have no idea how those last few rounds actually played out, I can't comment on the decision. What I can say is that both guys looked good, and I particularly liked Diaconu's adjustments after Henry really dominated the first round. I'd seen Diaconu once before annihilating Rico Hoye in his only other major fight, so I knew he could smoke guys, but this time he also showed he had some ring smarts.

On the bad side for Diaconu, the aforementioned fading late was worrisome. More dangerously, he eats uppercuts like they're delicious, delicious candy. That something Henry was able to exploit throughout the fight, particularly when nothing else was working, and kept the fight close even when Diaconu seemed on the cusp of pulling away.

Rumor is Diaconu might fight Glen Johnson next, which would be a stellar fight and one I think Johnson could win (but an excellent learning experience for Diaconu). As for Henry, he was pretty unknown coming into this fight, and losing rarely helps careers. But he didn't look out of his league or anything, so a few bounce-back fights and he could put himself back on the map of contenders.

Joe Calzaghe (45-0, 32 KOs) SD12 Bernard Hopkins (48-5-1, 32 KOs)

The more I watch boxing, the more I'm realizing I have my own perspective on fights that not every other observer shares. I care a lot more about quality of punches over quantity -- I'm likely to reward even a couple clean hard punches over a lot of pitty-pat work. And I gather that some people share this view, and others don't, which is the why Calzaghe/Hopkins decision is causing such heated debate. On the one hand, SC of BLH thinks anyone who scored the fight for Hopkins is crazy. Well, I guess Dan Rafael is crazy. And I, too, saw it for Hopkins -- albeit very close with many tight rounds. The distinguishing factor is that even though Calzaghe was landing more, Hopkins was landing effectively, and that swings me as a judge more than flashy aggression.

None of this is to take away from Calzaghe's victory. After being firmly out-fought in the first three rounds by The Executioner (including a first-round knockdown that seemed to embarrass him more than hurt him), he was able to substantially turn the fight in his favor -- picking up the tempo and pressuring Hopkins far more than the 43 year old enjoyed. Hopkins is not an easy man to even bend to your will in the ring, and that Calzaghe was able to do that at all is a tremendous accomplishment. Even insofar as we debate what actually happened during that long low blow break (I think Hopkins was simply smart enough to know that, hey, he's 43 and getting a free rest. Why wouldn't he take it? It's not like he cares about fan reaction normally), it's clear that Calzaghe did manage to get inside Hopkins' head, and that might have been his greatest weapon.

But still. A lot of Calzaghe's flurries felt like shoe-shine work to me, and shoe-shining looks a lot more damaging than it is. By contrast, when Hopkins landed his counter right (including the beautiful one that caused the knockdown), it did damage. Inside, Hopkins knows just how to work inside a clinch to actually land punches that hurt. And while it's true that Calzaghe did manage to push Hopkins out of his element, let's not forget he also wasn't exactly showing Miguel Cotto levels of focus (his father basically had to smack him when he started complaining in the corner about Hopkins' "cheating". Not that I disagree -- the generous way to describe Hopkins is a "cagey veteran", or perhaps "it ain't cheating if you don't get caught").

So, in my mind, Hopkins still has not been convincingly beaten. That's not saying this decision was highway robbery or anything like that. Only that, as is so often the case in Hopkins fights, the scorecards are arguable. Calzaghe won that argument where it mattered.

Oh, and one more thing that might betray my total amateur status in terms of boxing strategy. It seems to me that, when Calzaghe goes into one of his furious flailing combination bits, he'd be vulnerable to the uppercut, no? I mean, those punches look wide to me, and if one can overcome the sheer speed of it all, you'd think a fighter could sit down on a good uppercut and catch Joe Cool clean. No?

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