Rafa and Eliott discuss the good, the bad and the ugly from last night’s HBO and Showtime cards. Abandon all optimism, ye who dare to read on.
RF It’s hard to believe such an active Saturday night produced next to nothing in terms of significance. I guess Devon Alexander being completely outclassed by Amir Khan means we’ll see less and less of the Missourian, which is sort of good. Following his loss to the brawling Shawn Porter with a non-performance against a boxer in Khan speaks loudly of how Alexander fails to show up for the big fights. Thus, it’s hard to picture him getting another shot at the big time when so many other big names in the same weight class managed by Golden Boy are aching for that same shot. If there’s any good coming out of this weekend, it’s that Alexander will begin to slowly fade away from big-stakes boxing. If you think that’s a little callous, all I have to say is out with the old, in with the new.
EM That a fighter’s future absence is the biggest ‘good’ to come out of last night speaks to how bad the night was. To me, Saturday’s best moment was Andy Lee’s knockout of Matt Korobov. Lee’s skinny ass came into the ring looking malnourished, as though he’d spent his whole training camp subsisting on gruel, but in the same way he dispatched of John Jackson, Lee overcame first half trouble to land a right hook that entirely changed his fortunes. Lee’s flaws are obvious but he’s exciting and fights with guts. His power takes him through bouts against better opposition. He also thanked people afterwards, as opposed to sponsors. Andy Lee is a cool dude. The win sets up a fight next year with mandatory challenger Billie Joe Saunders, which will be an event of significance in Britain. That Lee’s come-from-behind knockout of Korobov followed his ruin of Jackson makes for a nice little sequence for the lad from Limerick.
RF The Golden Boy card at the MGM Grand will forever be remembered not for Khan’s victory over Alexander, but because it’s the show that finally featured Keith Thurman in a boring fight. Even though that sentence makes no sense in my mind, that’s exactly what went down in The Thurminator’s fight with Leonard Bundu. Make no mistake about it, the judges’ shut-out scorecards in favour of Keith were spot on, as Thurman completely dominated the European, but it was more than a little disappointing to see the winner so inactive that he looked borderline apathetic in there. Perhaps in an attempt to get something useful out of the night, Keith and his team decided to carry Bundu and get some rounds while conveniently avoiding any unnecessary damage or accidents so he can get back into the ring as soon as possible. But pragmatism of that sort is not what has won over so many hardcore fans for Keith.
EM No, pragmatism is not how ‘One Time’ won people over, nor is it what Thurman always promises during his Paul Heyman-scripted interviews, in which he recites prepared one-liners about how “Keith ‘One Time’ Thurman” only needs one shot to end a fight. Bundu made things awkward but Thurman refused to take any chances. In the interest of self-preservation, this was smart, but as an entertainer (which is how Thurman constantly positions himself) it angered the sadists. Thurman is desperate to prove he’ll give exciting fights, which is great, and might press overly hard for the knockout in his next tilt, which will be interesting. The tweets last night that said he’d ruined himself as a draw were ridiculous, even in light of the booing during his interview with Jim Gray. Ultimately, it was a bad fight that shouldn’t have happened because Thurman needs to be in there with better competition. Bundu was tough and savvy but never dangerous. This fight sucked.
RF Without a doubt, the ugliest thing to be seen anywhere in boxing on Saturday night was Timothy Bradley’s fucked up left-side of his face by the time his fight with Diego Chaves was over. It’s like someone made a play-doh sculpture of the Himalayas and then attached it to “Desert Storm’s” visage. Ironically, the second ugliest thing of the night was the draw verdict for this same fight, in which Bradley clearly out landed the Argentine while showing superior boxing skills, athleticism and ring generalship. It’s unfortunate Bradley commands so little punching power because some of those uppercuts and straight right-hands he landed on the South American looked downright nasty. Many will call the outcome karmic payback for Timmy’s first “win” over Pacquiao, but I just like to call it what it is: yet another ass-ugly judging atrocity in a long history of ass-ugly judging atrocities.
EM The verdict in the Bradley-Chaves fight was brutal, and the left side of Tim’s face, which launched a thousand descriptions (I like the dead fetus angle), looked as bad as Julie Lederman’s scorecard. But was the result possibly worse than Herrera’s loss to Benavidez? It was the sort of judgement that confirms what fans suspect and mostly know: hyped prospects will always receive favourable judging so as not to derail their careers and upset the trajectories their promoters have set up. What’s insulting is the gall with which these robberies take place. Do promoters think fans are too stupid to grasp what they’re watching? The brazen dishonesty of boxing powerbrokers underscores their contempt for fans. There was nothing subtle about the judgement in Benavidez’s favour. Promoters are not even trying to pull the wool over our eyes. Instead, they’re saying “Fuck you. We’ve decided this guy’s going to be a star so accept the script we’ve laid out.”
RF Amir Khan impressed many with his fast-paced, busy performance against Devon Alexander. Because of the victory and the flashy way in which Khan attained it, it now seems pretty much a done deal that Amir will face Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the first half of 2015–if “Money” is unable to reach a deal with Manny Pacquiao, that is. While this would be the culmination of a career-long dream for the Brit star, I remain unconvinced by the theory that Khan’s busy approach and handspeed will be enough to overcome Mayweather’s uncanny sense of timing and punching accuracy. Either way, Amir Khan did what he needed to do when it needed to be done—for once—and easily emerged as the biggest winner on Saturday night.
EM Yes, Khan’s the biggest winner because if he does get Floyd he’ll become a rich man. I’m also sceptical about Amir’s ability to trade with ‘TBE’. Mayweather hasn’t been bothered by great boxers, but fighters whose aggression and physical strength were superior to his. Paulie Malignaggi repeatedly said on last night’s broadcast that Amir is a tough guy to time, but if there’s someone capable of figuring out his rhythm it’s Floyd Mayweather. Regardless, Khan deserves credit for fighting soundly and he looks like a well-rounded boxer under Virgil Hill, even if, several times last night, he lunged forward and put himself off balance, which is exactly the sort of mistake Floyd will punish him for. Regardless, he was the best of any of the night’s A-sides, on either network.
RF Indubitably, the boxing public was the biggest loser on Saturday night. While Abner Mares, Victor Ortiz and Andy Lee all scored knockouts in somewhat decent scraps, the truth is Mares and Ortiz earned theirs against hopelessly outclassed competition in Jose Ramirez and Manuel Perez. Lee’s fight with Matt Korobov ranked high in the list of intriguing matches this night, and it saw the Russian outbox the Irishman through five rounds only to get caught by a wild right hook from Lee in the sixth. It was a tremendously lucky outcome for Lee, who for the second time in a row snatched victory from the jaws of defeat thanks to his right hook. However, this result will almost guarantee a follow-up appearance by Lee on HBO—maybe against Gennady Golovkin, who would be an overwhelming favourite for that fight. To give the affable but limited Lee any more airtime would be a further waste of everyone’s time, and possibly dangerous to his well-being if he is to fight Golovkin. Earlier this week you wrote about how something was missing to make middleweight a truly interesting division and the possibility that Lee vs. Korobov would hopefully provide it. Lee’s providential KO of Korobov certainly did not do that.
EM The boxing public is usually the loser because we tune in to these cards, gambling time we’ll never get back, and are inevitably dealt a bad hand. This is nothing new. We are pawns in a cynical system of manipulation, in which fans are teased with excitement but only given what’s sure to profit those in charge, which is usually dogshit. Regarding the prospect of Lee fighting GGG, I think this is a stretch at this point. Lee will have to bypass Saunders next year and then contend with other middleweights, like David Lemieux, for the honour of being knocked out by Golovkin. Lee-Golovkin would be a hard sell, one that HBO might not even consider. But who knows? The network of Lampley, Kellerman, and leading public intellectual Bryant Gumbel fed us Pacquiao-Algieri, which was a joke, so maybe nothing’s beyond them.
To attach the ‘biggest loser’ tag to an actual boxing personality, to me it has to be Mauricio Herrera. He has had a terrible year, although not because he fought badly. Herrera was robbed against Danny Garcia in Puerto Rico and then again last night. In both instances he was fighting younger men who were backed by serious institutional weight. Herrera must be incredibly frustrated right now and feel like boxing is an impossible sport to excel in unless you’re well connected and perceived as someone who can make promoters money over the long term. In other words, he probably sees the sport for what it really is, which is a fucking disgrace because he’s putting his health on the line to obtain a result that external forces will deny him regardless of how well he fights.