Friday, May 23, 2008

Boxing Blogging: 5/23/08

Good Friday Night Fights card tonight, including a nice juicy upset win for Jose Luis Herrera. Also, tomorrow we have the Ricky Hatton/Juan Lazcano fight, which I hope to catch on Versus, and an incredible trash talk sequence between Nate Campbell and Joan Guzman. Sorry "Joanie", but Nate's better at it than you are.

But anyway, back to tonight's action:

Jason Estrada (13-1, 3 KOs) TKO7 Moultrie Witherspoon (14-2, 8 KOs)

Estrada, a former US Olympian, may not have much pop, but he was able to do as he pleased against the over-matched Witherspoon, whose record was wildly inflated. Estrada was landing combinations, particularly ones that started with a right uppercut that couldn't miss. Witherspoon occasionally sneaked in upper-cuts of his own, but by and large was content to get hit. A lot. The best thing you could say about him is that he never went down even after absorbing a lot of punishment (the referee jumped into stop it while Witherspoon was still on his feet). As for Estrada, well, he's still no puncher, but he showing a little more offensive-mindedness that is good to see from a young heavyweight prospect. We'll see if it translates against fighters who are slightly more a threat than Moultrie Witherspoon.

The stoppage raised an interesting question for a referee. It was clear that Witherspoon was getting battered around all night, and nothing was changing. But there wasn't any point where he was defenseless or even particularly dazed, just an endless march of gradual sustained punishment. That, of course, can be the most dangerous thing for a boxer -- the accumulation of punches is far worse for a fighter's health than one big highlight reel haymaker. So even though there was nothing particular dramatic happening when the ref stepped in, it's hard to protest the decision (though Witherspoon did, very briefly).

Henry Lundy (11-0-1, 6 KOs) UD4 Esteban Almaraz (7-1, 4 KOs)

This is the second time I've seen Lundy on a ESPN2 fight card, and my thought upon seeing this match-up was much the same as it was the first time around: why only four rounds? Two unbeaten guys (same as the last time), good pedigrees, fun to watch -- four rounds hardly seems sufficient. And this was a fight which really could have used a few extra stanzas to really establish who earned the "W". Almaraz knocked down Lundy in the first, but Lundy returned the favor later on in the same round and seemingly had Almaraz more hurt. So I (and Teddy Atlas, whose scorecard mirrored my own) scored it 10-9 Lundy. Round two was competitive but I thought Lundy won it as well. Round three was far and away the closest round of the fight, and I scored it even -- but either fighter could make a case for it. And in the last round, Almaraz knocked down Lundy again. It was a bit of a flash knockdown, and the rest of the round was relatively evenly fought, but still -- that's 10-8 Almaraz.

So Teddy and I both have the fight a 38-38 draw (just like Lundy's first ESPN fight, incidentally). To my mind, only the third round was in doubt, making any score from 38-37 Lundy to 38-37 Almaraz also acceptable. Almaraz thus has the right to be at least a little upset that Lundy won by unanimous decision, and a lot upset at the bogus 38-36 card, which only could happen by giving Lundy a 10-8 round one when Almaraz also scored a knockdown. Not Kosher.

But you know what? As Brian Kenny said: Rematch! Who wouldn't want to see them again -- this was a really entertaining fight. Just schedule it for a bit longer next time.

Jose Luis Herrera (16-4, 16 KOs) TKO5 Aaron Williams (17-1-1, 12 KOs)

When Allan Green was scheduled to fight Edison "La Pantera" Miranda, he derided his gaudy knockout ratio as being built up against "Columbia cab drivers." He was made to eat his words as Miranda knocked him down twice to win a wide decision victory and hand "Sweetness" his first (and thus far only) career loss.

Herrera is also a Columbian fighter, also nicknamed "La Pantera", and also with a rather impressive knockout ratio: not only have all of his wins come inside the distance, but so have all of his losses. As Joe Tessitore remarked, "either you knock him out, or he knocks you out."

At the start of this bout, it looked like talented prospect Aaron Williams would accomplish the former, scoring a knockdown and simply battering Herrera around the ring for much of round one, so much so that the doctor stepped in and demanded to look at Herrera. That proved to be a blessing in disguise for the Columbian, giving him the breather he needed to get out of the first frame and get his legs back under him.

By round four, Herrera was beginning to get some confidence, though Williams was still in complete control. But Williams was leaving his hands low, and Herrera was looking to make him pay for his cockiness. And in round five, Herrera finally landed a huge overhand shot that sent Williams reeling. He chased him down and battered him against the ropes, scoring a knockdown. Williams got up and signaled he wanted to continue, but only a few seconds later he went down without a punch landing to try and buy more time. At that point, the doctor took a look at him, and after a short conversation, recommended the fight be stopped. Apparently, Williams kept calling him "ref", and the doctor (not being the referee) took that as a sign of disorientation. Williams did not look happy about the stoppage, but then, that might have been bravado.

It was a big upset, to be sure -- Williams was considered one of the brightest prospects in the cruiserweight division, and Herrera had been knocked out in three of his last four (admittedly against good competition). But Herrera has, as Teddy likes to say (and I can't believe he didn't say it here) that "big eraser" -- his power. It's genuine, and he made Williams pay for his neglect of defense.

Herrera will never be a big player in the division -- he's too raw and too chinny. But his power will give him a punchers chance against anybody. Who wants to see him against Darnell Wilson? I do!

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