The dueling, promising HBO and Showtime double-headers made for a satisfying night of boxing. On Showtime, the light heavyweights (175 lbs.) delivered one tremendously excellent fight, young Chad Dawson’s decision win over veteran Glen Johnson, and one decent fight in surprising Antonio Tarver’s decision win over the uninspired Clinton Woods. On HBO, the welterweights (147 lbs.) provided the knockouts: Miguel Cotto showcased his greatness in a mismatch against Alfonso Gomez, and Antonio Margarito demonstrated how dangerous he was in a win over Kermit Cintron, who’s improved but still not good enough skill-wise or toughness-wise.
Breakin’ it all down after the jump.
DAWSON – JOHNSON
I saw nothing boo-worthy about the judge’s decision to give it to Chad Dawson in a stirring, well-fought battle with Glen Johnson that was the best of the evening. I had it 115-113 for Dawson, and all the judges had it 116-112 for him. Maybe it was a draw. Maybe Johnson had the slight edge. But 116-112 isn’t that wide a decision, if you think about the fact that a number of those rounds were close and could have gone either way. And yet, the fine people of Tampa saw fit to boo both the decision and Dawson, as if Dawson fought like some kind of pansy. He didn’t. He fought his guts out, and only a couple times did he evade Johnson to save his own neck when things got rough. The rest of the time, he was boxing strategically and delivering some pretty scintillating offensive displays. I hope they were handing out coupons at the door of the St. Pete Times Forum for discounts at the opthamologists, because the boo-birds there need a check-up.
Now, Johnson’s emotion and loud protest afterwards? That’s a little more understandable. Here’s a 39-year-old man who’s spent his whole life getting the short end of the stick. I think he legitimately came up short, but you’d think at some point he’d get the benefit of the doubt. Saturday wasn’t that day. He nearly had Dawson down several times, but Dawson’s a tough cat who always rebounds from trouble. Some of the trading in this fight was unbelievable. Johnson’s basically unknockdownable, but Dawson isn’t, and both men took and delivered some seriously dangerous combinations. Heckuva fight.
Next for Dawson might be, at long last, Antonio Tarver. I’d personally prefer a rematch of this one. Johnson deserves it. But Dawson, who was brave to take on Johnson at all — every time he fights, you see why people avoid this guy — didn’t seem to want to go near him again.
MARGARITO – CINTRON
Well, I don’t think I could’ve called this one more perfectly. The first time Antonio Margarito and Kermit Cintron fought in 2005, Margarito scored a fifth round knockout. I predicted the same result, but slightly later in the fight. It came in the sixth on a well-placed Margarito body shot after the early slugfest began to turn into a mismatch.
This Margarito fellow is growing on me. His slow starts used to annoy me, but he started fast this time. He is gritty beyond belief. Cintron’s one of the biggest punchers in the sport, and he caught Margarito perfectly on the button plenty. Margarito didn’t even blink. In between, he was unloading punches of every kind from every angle, at a ridiculous pace, with head-snapping power. Cintron fought a little more bravely this time than last, but his lack of comparable mental toughness showed up when he kept complaining to the referee about Margarito hitting him on the back of the head. Well, Kermit, next time consider not ducking so low as Margarito throws so that he has no other place to hit you. Cintron still isn’t ready for prime-time, so he’ll need to start anew against the welterweights’ bottom 10.
Once upon a time, I thought Margarito was Miguel Cotto’s kryptonite. Don’t get me wrong, Margarito’s a legitimately good fighter, but I think a skilled, speedy boxer would give him trouble. Paul Williams did when he beat him, and he’s not in the skill/speed class of welterweights like Shane Mosley and Floyd Mayweather, Jr. who would potshot him to death. Cintron isn’t even in Williams’ class in the skill/speed department, so I just didn’t see him pulling it off. Cotto? Well, against Mosley, he showed he was quite good in those categories. I don’t know if it’s enough. But it’s a great match-up, and I’d love to find out.
COTTO – GOMEZ
Miguel Cotto’s obliteration of Alfonso Gomez showed just how fearsome Cotto is, and, to a lesser degree, how far below the elite graduates of “The Contender” are. Cotto is so, so, so good, and getting better all the time. Gomez never had a chance.
Away from the aforementioned reality show, Gomez is a sub-contender who’s not bad at anything, but really has just one championship-level attribute, that being his heart. It was of use for only one thing Saturday night, that being the hand it lent in him getting smashed for too long. The doctor’s decision to stop the fight before the sixth round was correct. How Gomez’ corner allowed him to take 60 deeply unpleasant punches in one round, the fourth, without stopping it, I can’t understand. Gomez wasn’t in Cotto’s league, and if Cotto’d shown a tendency to wilt at any point in his career, maybe you give Gomez a chance to try to tough out a victory. Instead, I hope he gets a chance to fight again after this thrashing, because it was a frightful one, the kind that can ruin a boxer. When you go down from a jab, as Gomez did near the end, you are spent.
But back to Cotto. He was mega-impressive. He looks faster every fight. His jab has become a real weapon. His defense has gotten better. He’s going to need all that beautiful boxing to beat Margarito, if that’s the fight up next.
TARVER – WOODS
Antonio Tarver looked significantly better than he has in a long while, and Clinton Woods didn’t fight up to his capabilities. It was the recipe for a definitive Tarver decision. I scored it 116-112 for Tarver, although some of the judges saw it a little wider.
I don’t know what got into Tarver. He looked gawdawful in his last three fights, then suddenly is busier, sharper and trickier than the lethargic zombie who we’ve all come to know and not want to watch. And after fighting somewhat tactically for 11 rounds, he suddenly finds the energy and desire in the 12th to go for the knockout? He should have tried that a little sooner. This was a convincing win, but it could have been a real statement if Tarver had knocked out Woods. Instead, the opportunity passed him by. Woods passed up plenty of opportunities himself, all captured accurately by the Showtime announcing team. He never threw the uppercut, underutilized his jab, etc. It’s enough to make you wonder if he was affected by the recent death of his friend, or by coming off elbow surgery, or what have you. We could never find out, because Woods is one of those humble Brits who just fights and lets come what may. He may now let retirement come.
Tarver said he was interested in fighting Dawson, but we’ve been teased down that road before only to see Tarver find some reason or the other to avoid it. I do think it would be a good fight. We’d find out, if Tarver took it, whether he was sincerely interested in proving he was the best light heavyweight out there. I don’t think he is the best, but taking on and beating Woods is one step closer to the idea being less ludicrous, and taking on Dawson and beating him would be a major step closer.