Quick Jabs: Fun With Michael Lohan, The Junior Middleweights And More

At news.google.com, I have a section for the top boxing news. It’s fascinating what gets selected sometimes.
But clearly the fact that Lindsay Lohan’s dad is going to fight for charity is big boxing news, and deserves its spot on my section. And since Jose Canseco donned boxing gear for the same purpose, albeit for a charity called “himself,” I’m now going to write a 3,000 word “Quick Jabs” about this…
…I kid. But there are probably damn near 3,000 words below about all manner of boxing stuff.¬† None of it to do with Michael Lohan, I swear.

The Rise Of The Junior Middleweights
A little less than a year ago, I decided to grade boxing’s divisions, the same way a fan or analyst of the NFL would for the NFC. I gave junior middleweight (154 lbs.) a “D,” but a “B” for the future. The future has arrived somewhat faster than I envisioned.
This past weekend, dominant showings from Alfredo Angulo and Sergio Martinez fortified the division considerably. It’s not that I don’t have questions about both men, because I do. Angulo’s still got just 14 fights, and he’s still slow. The former will change; the latter cannot. But if you had told me he would throttle Andrey Tsurkan so thoroughly, I’m not sure I would have believed you. Martinez’ performance was aided by fighting an opponent who I thought looked basic. In retrospect, I may not have given Martinez enough credit for his own throttling of Alex Bunema, because I failed to note how Martinez made Bunema seem more limited than he really was. Those questions, however, are secondary to the larger question of the division, because Martinez and Angulo are both clearly excellent fighters.
As it now stands, the division has two major stars — Oscar De La Hoya and Shane Mosley — who occasionally inhabit junior middleweight, including for both of their last fights. It has Paul Williams, increasingly one of the sport’s best and most exciting fighters, roaming around at 154 should the right opponent present himself. It has proven commodities in titleholders Vernon Forrest and Verno Phillips. It has dangerous talents in Daniel Santos, Martinez, Sergei Dzindziruk and Deandre Latimore. It has a trio of the brightest young fighters anywhere in Angulo, James Kirkland and Joel Julio, as well as a fine prospect in Joe Greene. It has a pair of proven ticket sellers in John Duddy and Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. It has a few fighters coming off recent high-profile losses — Cory Spinks, Sergio Mora, Alex Bunema –who could get back into the mix with the right break. There are graduates of “The Contender” around, like Cornelius Bundrage, Ishe Smith and the comebacking Grady Brewer, to add a little TV star power. There are guys who are hard to categorize like Ricardo Mayorga, Roman Karmazin, Kassim Ouma, Sechew Powell, Tsurkan, Yuri Foreman, Ron Hearns, Joachim Alcine and Travis Simms.
No longer, it seems, is the division plagued by a bunch of old, fading fighters or complete unknowns whose belts are subject to change hands every time they fight one another. Steadily, the division has seen good fights where the cream is rising to the top, and when the belts change hands these days, it’s because the better fighter has proven himself.
Now, as for the two fighters this weekend, Martinez may not get his shot at Forrest, who has until Oct. 14 to decide whether to give up his belt or take on Martinez, his mandatory challenger. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Forrest, who is nearing the end of his career and only wants big money fights, passes, because under those circumstances, who wants to fight a tricky, hard-hitting southpaw who brings little cash to the table? The problem is, if Forrest gives up the belt, he stands to lose recognition that could help him get a big money fight. It’s a real conundrum, but I’d be very impressed if Forrest accepts the Martinez fight, because it would show what kind of a warrior he was. Martinez has options if Forrest does pass; sure, he wouldn’t get to fight for the belt, but he’d get it nonetheless, and with the way HBO’s team was gushing about him, Martinez surely would be welcome back on the network, whomever he fights next. I know there was some chat about Martinez getting to avenge his ages-ago loss to Antonio Margarito, but I doubt that ever happens. Margarito doesn’t like 154, where his power and size advantages are diminished, and until Martinez becomes a major, major draw, Margarito’s just too big a star for him.
Some, too, like the idea of Martinez-Angulo. I think it’s an interesting bout, but a little further down the line. For all the veteran poise Angulo showed in smashing Tsurkan to pieces, I believe Angulo needs to take on a couple tricky boxing types before he’s ready to take on someone like Martinez. Angulo may be rather rapidly rising cream, but he hasn’t proven himself against the antithesis of his slow, plodding, relentless, grind ’em down style. Angulo-Margarito? Interesting because of Angulo’s boasts about getting the better of Margarito in sparring, but unlikely for the same reasons as Martinez-Margarito. Angulo called out Duddy and Chavez, Jr., both of whom would be easy marks for and piles of dough for Angulo. Fascinating dynamic here: Margarito calls out De La Hoya, and Mexican fans who love Margarito’s relentless style and who view De La Hoya as a phony are outraged. On a smaller scale, it’s the same thing for Angulo/Chavez, and yet I doubt there will be any outcry for that one, even a deservedly more muted outcry, because Chavez, despite being a rather empty promotional creation, has a last name that’s like a “get out of jail free” card.
Oh, and yes, the outrage over the extremely late stoppage of Angulo-Tsurkan is totally, 100% deserved. The ring doctor said Tsurkan checked out fine afterward, and his corner said, basically, “we know our guy, and Tsurkan is tough,” but the risk just wasn’t worth it. You can say the game plan was to take Angulo deep all you want, but for me, that means he gets two rounds after the 6th, and then, the plug HAS to be pulled if nothing’s changed. Otherwise, you’re jeopardizing the life of a man who’s too tough to quit on his own.
The Rest Of The Weekend
If you haven’t seen Juan Manuel Lopez’s 47-second destruction of Cesar Figueroa, I’ve attached it here.

It’s wholly unimpressive from the standpoint of, hey, this is Cesar Figueroa, who’d been defeated by a who’s who of boxers from 122 to 130 pounds and knocked out four times prior. What’s impressive about it is that it was basically a one-punch fight, because the first thing Lopez landed was the last thing anyone landed. And it was a hell of a punch, set up by a very stiff lead left, that landed as precisely as you’d ever like to see.¬† It’s more evidence, even if it’s only a little more, of what we learned after Lopez tore through a real, serious, dangerous opponent in Daniel Ponce De Leon in one round, which is that Lopez is a future star with pound-for-pound greatness written all over him. My only question is who he fights that he doesn’t blow out like this. Would Israel Vazquez or Rafael Marquez want a piece of this guy at this point in their careers? I could see him getting the winner of Steve Molitor-Celistino Caballero, and I think they both offer style problems for Lopez — Molitor with his crafty boxing, Caballero with his freakish size — but they won’t be ready for Dec. 6, when Lopez is likely to fight on the De La Hoya-Manny Pacquiao undercard. So, chalk up one blowout on that undercard already, one that reads Lopez KO1 [whoever he fights].
I’m too flustered by Yuriorkis Gamboa to speak of him. The featherweight (126 lbs.) prospect is gonna get knocked out by the first real puncher he faces unless he changes his ways, and everybody now knows it after he got dropped this weekend then recovered to knock out Marcos Ramirez in the 2nd round. There’s too much evidence for me to ignore. He’s gone very quickly from my favorite young prospect to almost swinging to the opposite direction, to my biggest sports pet peeve: A talent wasted. I don’t care who he fights next. I just want him to live up to his potential, and I’m worried he’s too stubborn at this point in his career — amid the HBO spotlight, at age 26, with hundreds of amateur fights — to change.
Shobox put a trio of pretty neat prospects on television Friday night. Another one to file under “seriously, will somebody stop this thing?” was prospect Fernando Guerrero’s drubbing of a very brave Tyrone Watson. Guerrero, a middleweight (160 lbs.), fights in an exciting style, and he’s one of several recent Olympics/near-Olympics amateurs to announce his arrival on the scene, along with Rico Ramos’ stylish performance on Versus recently and all the professional promotional deals signed by medalist Deontay Wilder and his ilk. Guerrero really had the crowd in Salisbury, Maryland rocking, so much so that, what do you know, I’m only a couple hours away from there and it might be worth paying his next hometown fight a visit. He’s too young for this fight to show much, though. I also liked the looks of welterweight (147 lbs.) youngsters James De La Rosa and Tim Coleman. Neither blew me away and Coleman clearly needs to move down a division or two, but they both fought with great determination and some measure of skill.
There was no Arthur Abraham-Raul Marquez 160-pound title fight Saturday as expected. Abraham got the flu, so it’s been postponed to Nov. 8, then it’s a likely Winky Wright fight for Abraham in January, apparently. I still prefer Abraham against Kelly Pavlik, but the main impediment to that is that Pavlik’s promoter thinks it won’t sell except with hardcore fans, and it’s a risky fight. If Abraham takes care of business against Marquez and Wright, I bet that puts it over the edge.
From Welterweight To Lightweight
There’s all kinds of action from welterweight down to lightweight (135 lbs.), so let’s start higher on the scale and work our way down.
Whoever wins De La Hoya-Pacquiao at welterweight wants to fight the champ at 140 lbs., Ricky Hatton. For Pacquaio, that fight makes sense — in my quest to convince everyone that Pacquiao should hang around at lightweight and fight Juan Manuel Marquez a third time, Pacquiao-Hatton is the hardest one for me to argue against — but for De La Hoya, well, he’s running out of passes. When he fought the smaller Floyd Mayweather, the size differential was not so crazy, a mere division. When he fought Steve Forbes, I gave him a pass because that was a tune-up fight. When he picked Pacquiao next, I gave him another one because it was supposed to be his last fight and I thought he was entitled to go out however he wanted. Now that he’s going to continue to fight on, as he has said in the media tour for the Pacquiao fight he would like to do, it just looks like he’s picking on little guys. Hatton has already proven twice that he’s no welterweight. So unless De La Hoya squeezes down to 140, it’s getting a little shark-jumping for the Golden Boy. (In other De La Hoya-Pacquiao news, Pacquiao is staying in shape by playing basketball; ask Andre Ward, the 168-pound prospect, about what a basketball knee injury can do to your immediate schedule, then ask yourself whether that’s a good idea. Also, the HBO “24/7” reality/documentary series starts Nov. 16.)
Reports are that welterweight star Antonio Margarito and Shane Mosley are very much on a collision course for January. I really don’t think Mosley should do that to himself, but it’s his business. Ike Quartey is thinking of another comeback, and I think that’s more along the lines of where Mosley should be going if he continues to fight. It’s an interesting style match-up between men of similar ages and great accomplishment, not a destroyer in his physical prime coming off his most impressive win against an aging veteran coming off one of his least impressive wins. Meanwhile, in his first major United States interview since losing to Margarito, Miguel Cotto again said it was “impossible” for him to punch to Margarito’s body during their fight. I wish someone would get him to explain how that could be. If he doesn’t solve this “impossible” riddle somehow, I give him a significantly diminished chance of avenging the loss when the rematch is significantly next summer. It may even be “impossible.”
Paul Williams might fight welterweight Delvin Rodriguez next, and that’s a more interesting opponent than some who’ve made Williams’ list lately. Unless Rodriguez fights Isaac Hlatswayo instead, which is also in his running. If only it was Williams who had a pair of attractive options instead of Rodriguez. No offense to Rodriguez, but it’s strange to me that he’s the one with choices and Williams is having trouble finding opponents.
I’ve said a few times that Paulie Malignaggi could very well upset the Hatton apple cart when they fight in November, and if he does, Andre Berto could be next for him. That’s because Berto is flirting with a move down from welterweight to 140. And you know what? If he can, I say, more power to him. His short arms and lack of stature is the biggest question about how he’d do against the class of the welterweight division, and if he can neutralize that in a different division, I don’t have a problem with it in the slightest.
Sticking at 140, what Dan Rafael reported in his blog today about talented Devon Alexander being completely ignored by Don King is very disturbing. It looked like King was getting reinvigorated for the promotional business by signing the likes of Gamboa and Marco Antonio Barrera. But Rafael wrote that King is cutting staff and said it appears his heart isn’t in boxing promotion anymore. Strange situation.
Speaking of King, Nate Campbell’s deal with him appears to be severed now that Campbell has declared bankruptcy. If it’s legit and not a ploy to sever a contract the way Victor Ortiz did recently with Top Rank, then this is a bit of good news mixed in with some bad news. The bad news is that Campbell, a talented lightweight, exciting fighter and interesting dude, is broke. Which means that the fight that fell through with Joan Guzman because Guzman failed to make weight now means hardly anyone should forgive him for what he did, apology or no, the way the WBA did. The good news is, Campbell’s options open up a little bit now. A Juan Diaz rematch is now more likely, for starters, since the promotional feud between Diaz and King was one impediment. That’s a rematch I’d like to see, because Diaz showed off some new versatility in his last fight and there were some legitimate distractions in the Diaz corner — the King feud, a bad cutman, etc. — that make you wonder if he wouldn’t fare better in a second bout. Diaz’ team wanted Juan Manuel Marquez, too, but they say Marquez is “obsessed” with Pacquiao and doesn’t want to do anything to jeopardize a third bout. If Diaz’ team is right, I encourage Marquez to get on with it. Pacquiao will come, or he won’t. Not fighting won’t help you, though.
(Sources: TheSweetScience.com, ESPN.com, Maxboxing.com, BoxingScene.com, TheTimes.co.za)

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board (http://www.tbrb.org). He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.