Saturday, July 19, 2008

Boxing Blogging: 7/19/08

We're back! Sorry for the long hiatus. I was watching fights, I just couldn't think of anything good to write about them. But this week's action seemed to reinspire the muse. Unfortunately, part of that has to do with the tragic events on Wednesday, where Texas-based Oscar Diaz collapsed in his corner and is currently comatose after suffering severe brain swelling. The doctor has said Diaz is "likely to survive", which is good news but also underscores the gravity of the injury he suffered.


Terrance Cauthen (33-4, 9 KOs) UD8 Alexis Camacho (16-1, 15 KOs)

The last time I saw Cauthen fight, it was in a title eliminator against the superbly talented Sechew Powell. Cauthen, as his record indicates, is not a brawler, but for some reason he decided to mix it up with Powell and was rewarded with a knockout loss (admittedly in an entertaining fight). Powell, for his part, blew his title shot by smoking pot before a tune-up fight, getting knocked out and getting suspended for the drug use. Oops.

But anyway, back to this week. Cauthen, a former Olympic bronze medalist, was a huge step up for Camacho, who (after a close win in his first fight) had rattled off 15 straight knockouts against limited opposition. The Powell fight apparently convinced Cauthen to stick with what he knows, because there was no brawling or mixing it up in this fight. The first round was indicative: the total punch landed stats totaled Cauthan 1, Camacho 0. Cauthen pot-shotted, used his speed and movement, and counter-punched effectively, frustrating the slow and limited Camacho. The decision win was deserved, but promoters have to know that this is what you get when you put Cauthen in the ring: a very capable fighter who does not make interesting fights.

Delvin Rodriguez (23-2-1, 14 KOs) KO11 Oscar Diaz (26-3, 12 KOs)

This was a back-and-forth fight for most of the evening, though Rodriguez was beginning to take over in the later rounds. But at no point did Diaz look battered or severely injured. Until, of course, he wailed in pain and collapsed in his corner prior to the start of the 11th. He was immediately attended to by medical personal, and when they couldn't even get him to sit upright in his stool, they put him on oxygen, got him on a stretcher, and rushed him to the hospital.

When I told a friend of mine what happened, he was incredulous: "Stop fighting before your brain swells up." But I have to say, while there may have been an element of "too tough for his own good" in Diaz's injury, as I said there was no time I saw prior to him collapsing where he looked seriously injured. He was still attacking Rodriguez and still winging solid shots throughout the fight. The referee saw something we didn't in the corner, because he was all over Diaz and probably insured that medical help got there as quickly as it did.

Everyone's thoughts and prayers are with Oscar Diaz, who is still comatose as far as I know.

James Toney (71-6-3, 44 KOs) TKO3 Hasim Rahman (45-6-2, 36 KOs)

Don't let the result fool you: this was not an exciting fight. How could it be, with these two plodding, over the hill fighters in the ring together. A clash of heads opened a cut over Rahman, who then quit after the third round. Then it was ruled the clash came from a punch (false, but that's boxing), and so Toney came out with a TKO victory.

The third round had some decent action, I guess, but in general heavyweights are not worth your time. And these two fighters are particularly suspect: Rahman is a serious underachiever who, aside from his cinderella knockout of Lennox Lewis, has never really done anything of note in the division. Toney actually was an all-time great at middleweight, but in his campaigns at heavyweight looks doughy and slow.

I actually have a lot of respect for Toney (aside from the doping), because he's someone who -- like Chris Byrd, Floyd Mayweather, and now Manny Pacquiao -- can fight effectively well above his natural weight class because he's so skilled and so talented he can take down much bigger opponents. But Toney is well past his prime, and has not looked good since his first fight against Sam Peter. Rahman struggled against Zuri Lawrence for God's sake -- he is no longer an elite echelon fighter either.

That networks still believe these are the types of fights we want to see, when folks like the sensastional Yuriorkis Gamboa are fighting down in the lower weight-classes, is utterly bizarre to me.


Richar(d) Gutierrez (24-2-1, 14 KOs) D8 Jerome Ellis (11-8-2, 10 KOs)

Didn't HBO tell us that this guy's name had no "d" at the end of it? I'm pretty sure they did. But BoxRec still has the "d", hence my confusion.

At first glance, Teddy Atlas was right when he briefly questioned why the commission would sanction this fight. Guiterrez is a legitimate title contender whose only losses have come to Joshua Clottey, and a (possibly early stoppage) knockout loss to super-prospect Alfredo Angulo in his last fight. Ellis is a journeyman who had lost four fights in a row coming in tonight, and took the fight on three days notice.

But dig a little deeper into Ellis' record. The combined record of those last four opponents? 86-15-1. Okay, but there are lots of journeymen who consistently fight and lose to top level opposition. However, prior to that streak, he had three straight wins, all by knockout. Combined record of those opponents? 49-9. The point being, Ellis has only fought good fighters throughout his career. He hasn't been stopped since 2004, and all but one of his wins (a split decision over the quite capable Ed Parades) have been by KO. Ellis' clearly has nobody taking care of him: he takes fights on short notice, he's been matched way too aggressively, and this is the record that results. If he had fought the standard assortment of schlubs along the way, his record would be more in the 25-8-2 range.

And so, far from being a mismatch, last night's fight was exciting, action-packed, and relatively even. When Gutierrez was able to get inside (and, importantly, elected to work) he landed some gorgeous ripping body shots. But Ellis was often able to use his superior speed and movement to keep Gutierrez on the outside, or duck in, land a fast combination of his own, and get out before the Columbian could counter. It was a war of wills, and at the end of the day Ellis certainly earned his draw. But for the love of God, can somebody get him a promoter that will get him some easier fights after this?

Yuriorkis Gamboa (11-0, 9 KOs) TKO1 Al Seeger (27-4, 21 KOs)

Gamboa continues his trend of making mincemeat of extremely capable fighters who normally would be considered huge steps up for a fighter of his age and professional ring experience. Tonight, it was a highlight reel one round KO of former title challenger Al Seeger, who has now lost three straight. Seeger did take the fight on short notice, but I don't want anything to take away from the tremendous skill set that Gamboa displayed tonight.

Everybody talks about Gamboa's power and speed, and they were in abundent display tonight. But what impresses me most is that Gamboa does not allow himself to get tied up. You try and grab him, and he will go to war to get his arms free and keep socking you. It's what gave him his knockout tonight: Seeger was trying to hold, Gamboa ripped his arms free and launched a beautiful downstairs/upstairs combination that left Seeger flat on his back. The referee didn't even bother to count.

It was a good performance from Gamboa, coming off the toughest fight of his career against Darling Jiminez. That's not saying that much -- Gamboa dominated most of that fight too -- but he was on floor and Jiminez was really the first fighter not to completely wilt before his dominating skill set (so props to Jiminez for that). Anyway, with Gamboa, it's just a matter of time. He has the skills and the resume to fight anyone in the division. You just don't see brighter prospects than this.

Special bonus coverage!

A little while ago, Humberto Soto was handed one of the clearest quotation mark "losses" seen in boxing, a disqualification in a fight where he was pummelling a clearly out matched Francisco Lorenzo. Referee Joe Cortez kept moving like he was going to jump in and stop it, but never pulled the trigger, so Soto kept punching. When Lorenzo finally went down, Soto (still in the motion of punching) landed a single grazing shot to the back of the head. Lorenzo -- whose face was a bloody mess -- acted as if that was the punch that did him in, and Cortez bought it. It was an utterly bogus move, a terrible decision, and a robbery for Soto, who again fell just short of winning a world title.

The WBC, for its part, reacted harshly: it refused to award Lorenzo the title, ordered an immediate rematch (Soto: "he won't take it, because he knows I'll rip his head off next time."), symbolically labeled the fight a no contest (it still officially goes in the books as a win for Lorenzo unless the Nevada commision overturns the result -- which I think they should), and recently fined Lorenzo $2,000 for unsportsmanlike conduct.

This last bit Tim Starks thinks goes a bit too far. Fighters fake all the time, he says, so why start handing out fines now?

I think Starks is dead wrong on this though. First of all, fighters faking injuries in a sport where (as Oscar Diaz just frighteningly showed us) real injuries can be deathly serious is very dangerous. Referees need to know for sure that when a fighter acts severely injured, he's severely injured. What if Diaz had been cut earlier in the fight, and the referee assumed he was faking his injuries to get the fight to go to the cards (given that he was beginning to lose momentum as the bout progressed)? Even a couple seconds delay could have been literally lethal for him. This sort of behavior needs to be nipped in the bud before it gets out of hand.

As for the "everyone is doing it, so why not fine everyone" defense, I think that it makes perfect sense to give a mostly symbolic $2,000 fine in this particularly flagrant case of unsportsmanlike conduct, as a sign that the sanctioning bodies are on notice and are growing less likely to tolerate this BS. It'd be one thing if the WBC docked Lorenzo's whole purse, but $2,000 strikes me as a good "opening bid" to start checking this sort of behavior. Nobody is going to go after the borderline cases anyway, but these extreme examples of unsportsmanlike conduct are bad for the sport, unfair to the contestants, and dangerous for the health of the fighters.

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