This part 2 of a two-part Combat Sports Recap (read part 1, which covers recent MMA fights, here). Brief summaries of the most significant boxing matches of the past eight weeks or so, and my thoughts on them:
03 September 2011 (welterweights): Andre Berto def. Jan Zaveck (Technical Decision 5)
Andre Berto rebounded from losing his WBC welterwight belt to Victor Ortiz (more on him later) earlier this year by stopping a game but ultimately outgunned Jan Zaveck on cuts. I thought Berto acquitted himself quite well in showing that he’s recovered from his first major career setback. There were a lot of questions about where Berto would go from the Ortiz loss, given his reputation as being something of a “protected” Al Haymon fighter. I don’t think he’ll ever shake off that reputation as long as he’s associated with the enigmatic power broker, but on this night, he again showed why so many boxing observers were so high on him in the first place. As for Zaveck, I quickly became a fan after seeing the Germany-based Slovene battle through some really bad cuts. He doesn’t seem to have word-class punching power based on his record and what I saw in the fight, but he’s got heart and skill in the ring that are rare commodities in the sport (despite what the score cards said, he was hitting Berto cleanly before the blood from his cuts started interfering with his vision), and I can see him being competitive with any of the top 147-pounders as long as his corner can do a better job of keeping his cuts and bleeding under control.
10 September 2011 (heavyweights): Vitali Klitschko def. Tomasz Adamek (TKO 10)
It seems ridiculous calling a guy who stands over 6′ 1″ and weighs 216 lbs. “undersized” but that’s precisely what Tomasz Adamek was against the 6′ 8″, 243 lbs. elder Klitschko brother. I knew going into the fight that Adamek had little more than a puncher’s chance (and that’s only if Vitali had suddenly aged overnight) but I tuned in anyway. Call it morbid fascination if you want. Fighting in Adamek’s native Poland, Klitschko systematically broke down the intrepid fighter with looping lefts and awkward-looking rights that somehow managed to consistently find their mark, dropping the Polish pugilist twice (although officials only counted one as an official knockdown) before the referee waved off the fight in the tenth. The big Ukrainian made the #3 ranked heavyweight in the world look practically helpless in the ring, and it seemed like Klitschko could have stopped the fight anytime he wanted. I don’t know what’s next for Vitali Klitschko from here. The only active heavyweight with the combination of skills and size that can give him a stiff challenge is his younger brother Wladimir, and they’ve both made it clear that they’ll never go against each other. I think the rest of the division will simply have to wait for one or both of them to retire or pounce on them once they start the inevitable decline that comes with age before we can see any movement in the top of the weight class.
17 September 2011 (welterweights): Floyd Mayweather, Jr. def. Victor Ortiz (KO 4)
From a post I wrote on the Kitty’s Pryde Forums Combat Sports Thread:
Well, if you’re any sort of combat sports fan, you’ve probably heard of the controversy surrounding the recent Mayweather-Ortiz WBC welterweight title match. Long story short, Ortiz dove into Mayweather for an intentional headbutt, referee Joe Cortez docks Ortiz a point, re-starts the fight, and then, while Ortiz is approaching Mayweather for what looks like an overly histrionic hug as a demonstration of his apology, Mayweather sucker punches him twice, knocking him down (and out).
So many things wrong with the whole scenario. First off, Ortiz’s intentional headbutt was a punk move, no two ways about it. Secondly, referee Joe Cortez screwed up: an intentional headbutt merits a two-point deduction, not a single-point deduction. Third, Mayweather’s sucker punches were legal blows: on the replay, Cortez can be clearly heard saying “let’s go!” or something similar after briefly stopping the fight to register the point deduction with the ringside officials. Were they cheap shots? No question. But were they legal? I would have to say yes.
But the fight shouldn’t have come down to such an ignominious end. Cortez should have sent both fighters to opposing neutral corners while registering what should have been a two-point deduction. He should have made it clear to Ortiz that the fight was back on. Cortez lost control of the fight. Had he separated the fighters by sending them to neutral corners, he would have made the sucker punches less likely.
Despite all the controversy surrounding how the fight ended, the biggest story that may come out of all of this nonsense might be the fact that the PPVs didn’t sell all that well. Rumour is going around that the fight did less than 850,000 buys, which is uncharacteristically low for a Floyd Mayweather, Jr. fight (Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer was predicting 1.75 million buys the week before the event). I think this could be a case of Mayweather’s obnoxious “Money” persona finally catching up with his popularity as an athlete. Between the racist video rant he posted on UStream targeting pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao (and the only slightly less racist “apology” video he posted after the public’s backlash), multiple felony charges of him committing domestic violence and theft (coupled with the assault charges laid against trainer and uncle Roger Mayweather by a female boxer), his continued slandering of Pacquiao with baseless allegations of PED use, and a less-than-flattering look into his camp during the HBO-produced 24/7 mini-documentaries leading up to the Ortiz fight, I suppose we shouldn’t be so surprised at the news. Controversy sells fights, sure, and Mayweather has capitalized on this truism for years. But past some point, fascination with the seamy aspects of a fighter’s personality can and will turn into disgust, and with that comes a reduced desire to support the fighter’s commercial endeavours.
01 October 2011 (middleweights): Sergio Martinez def. Darren Barker (KO 11)
Lineal middleweight champion Sergio Martinez started out slow against British challenger Darren Barker but eventually took him down with a sloppily-executed combination in the 11th round. Barker actually made the extremely well-conditioned Martinez look somewhat vulnerable in the fight’s early going, which is an impressive feat in and of itself considering how dominant Martinez has looked in recent fights against Kelly Pavlik, Paul Williams, and Sergiy Dzinziruk. I don’t know if Martinez will ever become the top PPV draw that his fearsome level of skill and talent deserve to be, though. Ironically, those qualities coupled with his size (he has a heavyweight’s reach, something many commenters seem to forget and has a huge frame for somebody who campaigns at 160 lbs.) and decided lack of name recognition outside of serious boxing fan circles will mean he will always be too much of a risk for the promoters and management teams of smaller but more marketable guys like Mayweather, Jr. and Pacquiao. I’d love to see him take on Mexico’s Saul Alvarez, and he could just be the scalp that the young Alvarez feels like he needs to collect in order to establish himself as a legitimate world-beater. Still, I think Martinez beats Alvarez at this point in their careers. Jesus Chavez, Jr. could also be a good match-up, but the way Junior’s been protected his whole career, I just don’t see Top Rank risking their biggest box-office draw this side of Pacquiao in a fight against the slick Argentinian.
Also on the same date, Japanese junior featherweight Toshiaki Nishioka battered Rafael Marquez en route to a unanimous decision victory, paving the way for a showdown with Nonito Donaire (more on him below).
15 October 2011 (light heavyweights): Chad Dawson def. Bernard Hopkins (TKO 2)
Perhaps trumping the Mayweather, Jr.-Ortiz fight as the most bizarre title match of the year, Chad Dawson was awarded Hopkins’ light heavyweight belt when ringside officials ruled the fight a TKO win for Dawson after Hopkins was deemed unable to continue after dislocating his shoulder from a fall instigated by a shove by Dawson. I don’t want to waste any more space going over the details of this crap fight (I can’t believe it was on PPV), so go here if you want to read about how it all went down.
In one of the funnier things to come out of this sports travesty, upon review, the WBC ruled the fight a technical draw, maintaining Hopkins as its light heavyweight champion. But based on California’s commission rules, the fight should have been ruled a no-contest, proving that even when the clueless bureaucrats at the WBC try to do right by the sport (for once), they still manage to get it wrong. Anyway, the WBC’s ruling doesn’t actually change the fighters’ records: only the California commission can change Hopkins’ TKO loss and Dawson’s TKO win to no-decisions (or whatever else they decide to rule the fight results to be) and they don’t do reviews until the end of the year.
The undercard produced a legit fight of the year candidate in DeMarco vs. Linares though, and in the feel-good boxing story of the year, Arthur Ashe Courage Award recipient Dewey Bozella finally achieved his dream of fighting in a professional boxing match.
22 October 2011: Nonito Donaire def. Omar Narvaez (unanimous decision 12)
In what I found to be a very disappointing fight, Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire beat two-time Olympian and junior bantamweight champion Omar Narvaez in a shutout, scoring 120-108 on all three judges’ scorecards. You’d think a shutout would have provided some fireworks, but Narvaez clearly only came to cash his check, refusing to engage (he landed a ridiculously low six punches per round!) and going into a defensive shell at every opportunity. It wasn’t all Narvaez’ fault, though. I think a savvier fighter with Donaire’s athleticism and power could have found a way to get Narvaez to drop his hands, although I could be underestimating Narvaez’ defensive prowess (he is a two-time Olympian and a current junior bantamweight title-holder after all, and has never been knocked down in his pro career). Still, this was supposed to be something of a coming out party for Donaire, and the uneventful and frankly boring fight (in Madison Square Garden no less!) was a letdown, victory aside. The good news is, his career’s momentum seems unaffected… in the post-fight presser, Donaire and Top Rank president Bob Arum announced that he would be taking on Jorge Arce and Toshiaki Nishioka early next year, and those guys are almost never in boring fights.