It's been awhile, but I feel like it's worth commenting on tonight's edition of Wednesday Night Fights. The event, hosted at a Marine base in Jacksonville, Florida, featured three ex-champions trying to see how much they had in the tank. It was not a great night for the old lions, two taking knockout losses and one winning a dominating decision over a nothing foe.
Johnnie Edwards (14-2-1, 8 KOs) TKO7 Freddie Norwood (42-3-1, 23 KOs)
This, to my mind, was the most intriguing fight on the card. Norwood was unbeaten in his first 39 fights, winning the WBA featherweight title twice (he was once stripped for failure to make weight) until he was stopped in the 11th round by Derrick Gainer. After that fight, he took a six year layoff (including some time in prison) before launching a comeback in 2006. He won his first four fights against mediocre competition before facing off against Edwards, losing for only the second time in his pro career via disqualification (low blows).
Edwards, for his part, is a former Marine who won the gold medal in the armed services boxing tournament before turning pro (so fighting in front of the home crowd tonight). When we last saw him (in the fight immediately after his first bout with Norwood), he was blitzed by super-prospect Yourkis Gamboa in one round -- a fight in which Edwards seriously damaged his knee. Wearing a knee brace, he came back just three months later to fight this rematch against Norwood. A bona fide prospect (lots of very good fighters are going to be obliterated by the force that is Gamboa) against a former champ who had only been decisively beaten once before -- count me excited.
But at first, the fight was ugly. Lots of clinching, grabbing, wrestling -- you name it, this fight saw it. Norwood went down in round three, but it didn't seem too bad, and then it was back to the wrestling match. But in the seventh, Edwards went downstairs/upstairs with a gorgeous left hook combination that left Norwood sprawling. He couldn't beat the count, and Edwards has far and away the best victory of his young career. Unlike the other two old hands in the ring tonight, Norwood had not shown himself to be shot yet. This was a very good win, and I'd be quite happy to see Edwards again in the near future.
Arthur Williams (44-15-1, 30 KOs) UD6 Clarence Moore (5-4-1, 5 KOs)
The 43-year old "King" Arthur certainly reigned tonight against an opponent tailor made for him in Clarence Moore. Moore, who himself is 33, got a late start to the game and his folks have been putting him right in the wolf's den early in his career. He's no world-beater, but he wasn't quite the soft touch that folks were making him out to be. His last six opponents prior to Williams had a combined record of 38-3-1 (he fought one of them twice), and he had a respectable 3-2-1 record against them. So no push over, and at least some pop with all his wins coming by knockout.
That being said, he was no match for the former champion Williams, who knocked Moore down twice in the second and arguably should have garnered a stoppage at that point. Williams looked like he was genuinely having fun in the ring, showing movement and hand speed that belied his age. Much of this, of course, is due to him being in front of guy like Moore, and I don't deny that. Teddy Atlas was right that these are the sort of fights that are dangerous for older guys like Williams, because they make them believe they can still do things that they can't. But there was one statistic that I think belies that analysis, and that was punch output -- Williams threw over 100 per round. Older veterans who use their wiles to win fights, but don't have much left in the tank, do not through punches in bunches. Some of Williams punches were range finding jabs, but he maintained a healthy clip of activity, and that's a good sign. It's more than enough to beat Clarence Moore's, but we know from Williams' recent activity it isn't enough to win at anything approaching an elite level. But as far as I'm concerned, his skills have not retrograded to the point where he needs to retire. Maybe put him in fights that are at least a little more competitive, though?
Edner Cherry (24-5-2, 14 KOs) TKO10 Stevie Johnston (42-6-1, 18 KOs)
Johnston, on the other hand, needs to quit. He has not looked good in recent fights, particularly when he was torn apart two years ago by Vivian Harris. Cherry is not a particularly big puncher, but he put down Johnston three times this fight, and the knockout blow was devastating. Johnston has a heart for ages and was a great champion in his time, but the time clearly has come for him to quit. Always a smaller man, "Lil' but bad" looked tiny in comparison to Cherry, and was muscled around the ring all night long. He simply doesn't have the body, chin, or legs to overcome that size disadvantage anymore, and he never was exactly iron-fisted.
Johnston career was a great one, including 4 years spent at the top of the lightweight division. But he's lost three of his last six, all under the distance, and he's running the risk of getting seriously injured. Like Chris Byrd last week, I really regret that we had to watch him go out this way. But it is time for him to retire.
Cherry, for his part, did his thing, and certainly has come back nicely from his loss to now-titlist Paulie Malignaggi. Don't let his record deceive you -- Cherry has been matched very aggressively as a young pro, and has proven he can hang with the best. He has victories over Daniel Alicia, Wes Ferguson (twice, the second by knockout), Monty Meza Clay (his first loss), and former title challengers Jamie Rangel and Antonio Davis. Two of his losses were early in Cherry's career, the other three were to Malignaggi, former title challenger Ricky Quiles, and uncrowned lightweight champion Jose Armando Santa Cruz. Cherry can fight, and his new found aggressive streak suits him very well.