Nights like Saturday make being a boxing fan — with all the annoyance of being made to feel like you’re in some weird cult — all worthwhile. Showtime and HBO put on competing double-headers that produced one action fight after another. Middleweight (160 lbs.) titlist Arthur Abraham answered questions about whether he deserved his 2006 win over Edison Miranda, putting down the Colombian slugger three times in the 4th round of their rematch and finishing him off in the process in one doozy of a U.S. debut. Young, exciting Andre Berto won his first welterweight (147 lbs.) title belt with a flashy performance that suggests he’s finally put it all together, beating tough but overmatched Miki Rodriguez. And the undercards were damn good, too.
To the recap:
MARQUEZ – LORENZO
Congrats to middleweight Raul Marquez, at age 36, for upsetting the young, clearly overrated Giovanni Lorenzo. It was my first look at the 27-year-old who’s been hyped in some circles, and while he has some power and hand speed, he fought too slow, frustratingly ran away for much of the fight and didn’t do much more than land the occasional big straight right. He couldn’t take directions from his corner, didn’t seem to fight with much urgency at the end and was flustered by his first dose of trouble, getting docked a point for intentionally headbutting Marquez. Marquez just fought tougher and smarter, and he took a mandatory title shot away from Lorenzo, who has some talent but needs to sharpen his mental game. I scored it 115-112 for Marquez, a slightly wider margin than did the judges. Marquez forced a shoot-out with Lorenzo, making for abundant action and a great start to Saturday night’s televised pugilism. Marquez now is owed a shot at Abraham, which he almost assuredly will lose but that will give him the one more title shot he wanted and, after this win, earned.
ARREOLA – WITHERSPOON
In his preview here, Sean said this battle of unbeaten young heavyweights Chris Arreola and Chazz Witherspoon would be brawn vs. brains. Arreola’s brawn smashed up Witherspoon’s brains pretty convincingly, before a controversial disqualification swung the win Arreola’s way. With a badly damaged Witherspoon down twice in the 3rd round, the cousin of former heavyweight champ Tim barely got off the canvas after the ringing of the bell, and when there was some confusion about the finish of the round, Witherspoon’s corner rushed in to guide their woozy fighter back to the stool. Wrong move, it turned out, because it earned them the DQ for entering the ring before the round was over — although there was still some confusion about the rule on this. Really, it may have been the right move in the end. Even when the corner was working between rounds to rejuvenate their man, Witherspoon looked baaaaad. They may have saved his big ol’ brain from some more smashing by getting him disqualified. Witherspoon’s a smart fighter, and when he fought smart, he looked good. But Arreola didn’t seem to feel much of what Witherspoon was spoon-feeding him (get it?) and walked through a lot of it to land a ton of combos on the inside. A brave Witherspoon tried to out-slug Arreola, which was foolish, and couldn’t tie up Arreola when he tried. It was a no-win situation. How good is Arreola, who hopes to become the first Mexican heavyweight champ? Still hard to say, but this was a win — his career best — that suggests he’s well on his way, or at least heading down the right path.
ABRAHAM – MIRANDA
Edison Miranda was pummeling away at Arthur Abraham for three straight rounds, and while not much was landing cleanly, it was making me fear I would be wildly off in my prediction of an Abraham knockout. There were signs that Abraham was coming on with a couple big shots in the 3rd, but Abraham, a picture of patience in the ring, was agonizingly patient. In the 4th, he found an opening with a left hook, decking Miranda. Then he found an opening for another left hook, decking him a second time. Then he found an opening for another left hook, decking him once more and forcing the referee to call a halt to things. With those three left hooks, he settled his unfinished business with Miranda, with whom he had a controversial 2006 fight that some don’t think he would have won without some friendly home-cooking from the referee who favored the German on his home turf. Miranda had every advantage this time around — turf, weight, etc. — but Abraham’s better, quite simply. He countered Miranda when he wanted, and Miranda couldn’t get through Abraham’s high guard. I still love the big-punching Colombian, and always will. He knocks you out or gets knocked out, and that guarantees excitement. Abraham, though, proved that if he gets a fight with consensus division champ Kelly Pavlik this year, he will not be easy pickings like Gary Lockett was recently. Abraham’s a very, very, good fighter, an exciting fighter and a real threat to Pavlik.
BERTO – RODRIGUEZ
This makes two straight fights where Andre Berto has shown improved defense, here considerably so, winning his first title belt by dodging Miki Rodriguez, who came in looking like the Mexican Elvis with that pompadour. It didn’t cushion his head enough when Berto landed a massive uppercut in the 7th to start the beginning of the end and put him on his back. Berto put Rodriguez down with another combo, and after thrashing him around for the rest of the round, the referee saw enough and gave the knockout win to Berto. Berto seems to have come up with a modified Floyd Mayweatheresque shoulder roll, one where he leans up or down to block shots and scores counters. Rodriguez didn’t look like much of a contender, truth be told, but when he tried to pressure and maul Berto — which has worked at times against the 24-year-old before — he couldn’t land much of anything. If Berto’s defensive performance wasn’t an illusion against a sub-par fighter, and I don’t think it was, he’s ready for a top-10 welterweight. The only thing keeping him from being ready was that if a heavy hitter landed some of the clean shots on him that borderline divisional gatekeepers were landing, it would be lights out on the Berto show. He’s always had the offense, at one point landing five straight lightning-fast and hard left hooks effortlessly. At 24, Berto can take his time and make a couple easy defenses of his belt if he wants. If he doesn’t want, I think he could step up and be very competitive with some of the best in boxing’s best weight class. Whatever he decides, he’s living up to his early phenom hype, and HBO’s Max Kellerman can question it all he wants — he’s young, talented, fights in a style that’s very eyeball-friendly and improving.
CORRECTED: Origianlly, I misstated the round in which Abraham knocked out Miranda.