Sunday, April 17, 2011

Boxing Roundup: 04/17/11

Recapping last night's fights (well, three of them -- I missed Cruz/Honorio).

Amir Khan (25-1, 17 KOs) TD6 Paul McCloskey (22-1, 12 KOs)

This was the dullest fight of the night, albeit against some stiff competition. McCloskey was doing the ol' poor man's Roy Jones thing, which is a sin on its own and a mortal sin when facing an opponent who is far, far faster than he could ever hope to be. The best thing you could say about McCloskey was that he made it awkward, but the fact of the matter is he was being beaten soundly all fight long. The stoppage was a bit wonky (iffy referring was unfortunately a theme of the night), but McCloskey didn't really seem to complain about it until after the fight ended (his corner, on the other hand, was apparently apoplectic). Khan apparently has already said he doesn't feel a rematch is necessary, and I agree with him.

Next on Khan's plate is hopefully a big unification fight with Tim Bradley (27-0, 11 KOs). That's a fight I very much want to see. Tim Bradley is a B+ fighter along every single dimension, except his A+ head. I mean that metaphorically -- he has good boxing IQ and has that intangible "will to win" factor -- but also quite literally: his forehead is one of the most dangerous weapons in the sport.

Khan clearly has the athletic edge, but Bradley will easily be the best and smartest fighter he's faced. Nonetheless, I think I have to favor Khan by a surprisingly healthy margin (given that I like Bradley a lot). The key is the Bradley/Kendall Holt fight. There, too, Bradley was facing a fighter who in terms of raw talent and athleticism was his superior. And while you can say about Bradley that he found a way to win -- good for him, coming off the canvass twice -- I also had the feeling watching that fight that it was Holt's fight to lose when he felt like fighting, which was a sentiment he apparently sensed for only a handful of rounds during the bout. I doubt Khan will have the problem being athletic and aggressive all night long, and that spells trouble for Bradley.

Victor Ortiz (29-2-2, 22 KOs) UD12 Andre Berto (27-1, 21 KOs)

I was a Victor Ortiz doubter going into this fight, but not more than anyone else. I knew the talent was there, but I had the same questions the broader boxing community had -- about his heart, chin, and commitment. As for Berto, I think I was a little higher on him than some. Even though I felt the Collazo fight was essentially a toss-up, I think Collazo was underrated and Berto acquitted himself very well in a very tough fight. I also think that Collazo would make a very interesting opponent for Ortiz the next time out in what is still a pretty thin welterweight division.

Folks said this fight could be good, and I didn't doubt that, but I didn't think it could be FOTY -- mostly because I thought if things got that chippy, Ortiz couldn't hang. Boy, was I wrong. Ortiz was in full seek-and-destroy mode, and it created a firecracker of a fight which Ortiz won by close and convincing unanimous decision. Berto seemed genuinely taken aback by Ortiz's aggression from the start, and landed on the canvass in round one. And while he never really seemed to recover from that knockdown, he never stopped trying -- putting Ortiz down in the second and then trading knockdowns in a wild sixth round that has to be a top contender for round of the year. Ortiz showed true grit and determination, stood up to some hellacious shots, and never lost his cool or his focus. It was a performance that made believers out of a lot of folks, myself included. Congratulations.

The only blemish on this fight was a miserable job referring by Mike Ortega. He was inserting himself into the fight way too much, and is very lucky that his bogus point deduction against Ortiz for hitting behind the head was not decisive. I think Ortega was "warning" Ortiz for a lot of borderline shots (including the one that resulted in the deduction), and in any event they were caused almost entirely by Berto trying to duck underneath Ortiz. The deduction nearly sapped the momentum from what was turning into (and eventually reemerged as) a classic high-level brawl, and that would have been inexcusable.

Orlando Salido (35-11-2, 23 KOs) TKO8 Juan Manuel Lopez (30-1, 27 KOs)

Probably the biggest pure upset of the night. Salido's record is deceptive, but he wasn't supposed to beat JuanMa, who was steadily climbing up the P4P rankings in preparation for a megafight with Yuriorkis Gamboa. Bet letting that fight "marinate" forever doesn't seem like such a good idea now, does it Bob Arum? Anyway, while at one level this is rightfully seen as a pretty big upset, on another, it was a long time coming. Lopez's chin isn't great and he has a tendency to get into slugfests where he spends too much time being rocked around the ring. To his credit, he's shown tremendous resilience in battling back to win those fights, but eventually when you're ragdolling in the corner the ref is going to stop it before you have a chance to storm back. And that's basically what happened here.

Again, there will be some who question this stoppage. It was oddly timed -- Lopez was still throwing back and slipping, though he had been badly hurt and was taking flush shots. Honestly, if the ref had stopped it 25 seconds earlier I think it would have been less problematic, because there was a flurry in there where JuanMa's legs got all googly and his hands dropped. I think what happened was that the ref saw that combination and his "okay, if Lopez takes anything more flush I'm stepping in alert" went off. 10 seconds later, Lopez was still getting hit cleanly and the ref jumped in (even though by now Lopez was at least managing to throw back).

I can't say I agree with the stoppage, but I don't think it was an utter travesty either. The fans in Puerto Rico, needless to say, disagreed, and belted the ring with water bottles (hitting Showtime commentator Al Bernstein while he was mic'd).

Frankly, if this bout teaches Lopez a little humility and gets him to straighten up his punches, I think it will be good for him. And as for Salido, he regains a featherweight title, though I'm not sure who is next for him. A rematch with Gamboa would be a terrible idea, as though Salido gave a game effort, Gamboa's style is tailor made to eat him alive seven nights a week.

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