Quick Jabs: Lots Of Lightweights; De La Hoya’s Daddy Issues; The Drunken Master’s Honor; More

Between arranging and hosting bachelor parties, visiting friends in Indiana, covering political conventions for my day job and an upcoming wedding, I’ll have been out of town five straight weekends and out of town about three total weeks over that stretch. Which is my way of saying — as bloggers often do in a way that annoys me to the nth degree, so I’m a hypocrite — that I’m pretending anyone out there cares at all about my recent stretch of inactivity at Ring Report, and that it will end soon. It’s also my way of saying I’ve got some catching up to do. A serious amount. First things first: If you haven’t read all of my colleague Sean’s colorful coverage from the big fights in Texas this weekend, do so now. Then come back here. The Weekend’s Fights September is THE month for the 135-pound class, which I consider the best division in the sport right now. Next weekend features two major, major lightweight fights: Joel Casamayor versus Juan Manuel Marquez for Casamayor’s lineal Ring magazine belt, and Nate Campbell versus Joan Guzman for Campbell’s slew of alphabet title belts, which we’ll preview later. The division just got more interesting with the official addition of Edwin Valero. It’s an embarrassment of riches, with seven top-10 caliber lightweights in action over the span of two weekends. Let’s turn to the weekend past, where three were in combat. Juan Diaz – Michael Katsidis The reason this wasn’t the barnburner everyone expected — it was merely a very good bout — is because both lightweights modified their games in light each of their first losses, emphasizing boxing over brawling. The headline to my preview of Diaz-Katsidis was “Their Loss Is Our Gain,” by which I meant that they needed to make this fight happen to rebound from their losses and reestablish themselves. In actuality, their losses — Diaz to Campbell, Katsidis to Casamayor — were not our gain. Both losses taught them that they needed to add some wrinkles to their repertoire, and the result was a slightly less exciting fight, featuring Katsidis trying to jab, for some reason, and Diaz trying to fight more defensively instead of unloading hundreds of punches per round. In the end, it was a very impressive performance by Diaz, but a slightly more boring one than we’re accustomed to from him. I’m not knocking him for diversifying, though, because he’s still plenty fun. Likewise for Katsidis, although he was getting some truly awful advice from his corner, despite the scores appearing to validate that advice. I had it nine rounds to three for Diaz, giving Katsidis the 1st, 8th and 9th. It had nothing to do with whether Katsidis looked beaten up compared to Diaz, because that’s not how fights are scored; if they were, Erik Morales might have had a record of 34-20 with 34 knockouts instead of 48-6 with 34 knockouts, because every time Morales fought he swelled up like a frog’s throat and the judges would have gone against him in his 14 decision wins. Katsidis’ skin is merely prone to uglification. I’m not sure, by the way, whether the broken hand had much of an impact on Katsidis’ performance, because he started off more tentative and boxing-oriented than we’re used to from him anyhow. I like Diaz’ idea of fighting the winner of Casamayor-Marquez. Whoever wins that bout would make an excellent fight for Diaz. Katsidis needs to consider a change in his corner, then target a more brawl-a-riffic opponent for his next fight out (or second or third fight out, after some softer touches if he reverses his admirable “go big or go home” stance), a David Diaz or Jose Armando Santa Cruz or the like. If he’s going to turn into a boxer, I don’t blame him for trying, but it’s going to take a while, if it even can work at all. Breidis Prescott – Amir Khan Holy smokes, was this some kind of upset or what? In retrospect, everyone should have seen something like this, if not this exactly, coming. Khan, a lightweight and one of boxing’s rising stars, has shown a shaky chin before, and they put him in with… a Colombian slugger? Who was asleep at the switch on this one? Did someone say, “Hey, we need to find out whether Khan, who’s been knocked down by sub-par punchers, can handle someone with 17 knockouts in 19 wins from a country where unknowns regularly pull off upsets in their first major fights when they leave home?” If so, stupid. Khan is an ambitious 21-year-old, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he was the one who asked for it. Maybe now he’ll dial it back a little. With his offensive gifts, he can be a really good fighter still if he learns to compensate for what is, if not a fatal, flaw, a near-fatal one: He can’t take a punch. He really does need to hire a Mayweather to turn him into a defense-first specialist or figure out something, if he has any hope of rebuilding himself, like going through some kind of Karate Kid-like face-strengthening exercises — say, repeatedly smashing his visage into barrels of rice — to make it so getting hit isn’t such a problem. Great Britain-based promoter Frank Waren has to be cursing the gods, since Joe Calzaghe and Ricky Hatton abandoned him and his next-biggest stars, Khan, Enzo Maccarinelli and Alex Arthur, all have lost in their most recent bouts. I don’t have my own entry, but for your own entertainment, I collect from various publications their new labels for Amir Khan and/or his loss: A Mere Con; Tomato Khan; The Wreck of Khan; Shock-a Khan. Rocky Juarez – Jorge Barrios (130 lbs.) I wasn’t able to catch the whole fight because I was out of town and my DVR was gathering dust for the week, but I was able to grab a seat just in time to witness… that. You know what I’m talking about. That grotesque mouth injury Barrios suffered was one of the most graphic things I’ve ever seen in a ring. Alas, a female friend of mine was watching, too, and I doubt she’ll be giving boxing another try anytime soon. As friend of the site Bob texted me (and later commented on this blog): “Sometimes boxing in high definition isn’t a good thing.” Another thought: Juarez almost made a fool of me for predicting he would win by knockout in the comments section of my Diaz-Katsidis preview. I’m not sure what’s cooler and more dramatic than a guy pulling a knockout out of his ass at nearly the last possible moment, but there isn’t much. Another thought: What the hell is Juarez’ problem? It doesn’t seem to be stamina, because he clearly carried his power into the 11th round. He just goes those long stretches without punching, and it’s really frustrating. Another thought: The 9th round point deduction Barrios received for low blows seemed pretty borderline to me. I had too many beverages to understand Max Kellerman’s anti-corruption rant at the end of the night, and maybe Texas-based co-blogger Sean can help me with this, but how is it that Barrios almost got screwed out of a decision against a hometown Houston fighter and the other Texas product, Diaz, almost got screwed out of a decision win, too? Is it corruption if it’s just random and inept, or does that deserve some other category? Juarez is reportedly back in talks with featherweight (126 lbs.) title-holder Chris John. Believe it when it happens. Barrios — I dunno what he’ll do, but he might be a good challenge, as Doug Fischer suggests, for new 130-pound entrants Jorge Linares or Robert Guerrero. There’s a lot of wacky moving up and down at around 130, with Pacquiao, Marquez, Guzman and Valero moving up and out of it, Linares and Guerrero going up to it, Juarez and YURIORKIS GAMBOA! moving down out from it to 126, and cats like Humberto Soto sort of floating around. It’s going to be a question mark around there for a while. Oscar De La Hoya’s Daddy Issues A couple different folk out there — I can’t remember who all — have written about Oscar De La Hoya’s peculiar relationship with Mexican fans. I’d recommend you to the write-ups, because they were all very good, but I can’t remember where they were. One thing about them, though, is that all of them left out one thing that I think is vital. De La Hoya, early in his career in particular, fought primarily for the approval of his stern, unrelentingly negative father. He really had a lot of trouble getting it. It wasn’t until De La Hoya lost to Felix Trinidad that his dad offered even the most remotely kind word to his son. This confounded De La Hoya’s psyche profoundly. If nothing he did when he lost was ever good enough, why was losing the time he won his father’s approval? So when De La Hoya pines to avenge the losses of Mexican fighters who have succumbed to Manny Pacquiao, I honestly think it’s his way of trying to do with Mexican fans what he did with his father. This is the way he imagines he can please them. He thought he could do it by beating Julio Cesar Chavez, but the Mexican fans didn’t think he was macho enough in his style for that fight. When he came back and beat Chavez in a very macho manner in the rematch, he caught hell from them for beating up an aging legend. He must know that if he fought Antonio Margarito, he would not be the favorite of the Mexican fans. Mexico is his daddy now. I honestly think the only cure for what ails De La Hoya’s standing with the Mexican fans is for him to take an ass-whupping in a profoundly Mexican slugfest, one that he would probably have to lose to win the fans’ respect, echoing his own father’s acceptance. I had to see Michael Jordan humbled before I could ever root for him; there is a part of that in human psychology. De La Hoya has lost before, but he’s never gone out on his shield in dramatic fashion. And now, with his retirement plans up in the air, he may still get his chance. I could be indulging in some awful sub-Freudian b.s. here, but it’s my theory. The Rest Of The Quick Jabs, Quickly Not bad voting in a couple categories for ESPN’s best of the decade awards. Emmanuel Augustus won “fighter of the decade,” and may be the ultimate TV fighter; if he was not on the decline like he seems to be, he very well could have been on my recent list… Floyd Mayweather, Jr. got some jewels stolen, $7 million worth, if you didn’t hear. Yawn. It does seem like a side effect of constant boasting about one’s wealth is that someone might get a bright idea to try and take it from you… Unsilent Majority and I were just discussing who might get a slot on the De La Hoya-Pacquiao undercard, where we mutually insisted that it MUST spotlight some great young talents. He nominated Rey Bautista, on the Golden Boy Promotions side. I nominated Juan Manuel Lopez, on the Top Rank side. Not against each other, I must be clear — in the 122-pound class, Daniel Ponce De Leon knocked out Bautista in one round, then Lopez knocked out De Leon in one round, so you have to wonder whether Bautista would last very long against Lopez. As it turns out, both of those names are under discussion for a spot on the undercard, yay, and could be matched against each other, sigh… Sayonara, Dan Campbell. The USA Boxing coach who led our team to its worst finish ever probably won’t be missed by many. I do think the residency program can work with some modifications, but Campbell clearly wasn’t the personality the team needed, and so has retired rather than be formally fired… Versus is out of the “all Top Rank all the time” business, and they’re featuring two fighters who are very fan-friendly from the Goosen Tutor camp later this month: Paul Williams, a welterweight (147 lbs.) who will fight at middleweight (160 lbs.) for the night, and Chris Arreola, an exciting American heavyweight prospect-turning-contender who is the best we have to offer for the time being. Neither are fighting opponents of note. What’ll be interesting is primarily how Williams fares at middleweight. I’ve argued that he should stay at welterweight as long as he can because of his peculiar advantage of being gigantic compared to the rest of the field, but I’ve wagered he will be a substandard middleweight. My bet is he maxes out at junior middleweight (154 lbs.), but strangely enough, the plan is for him to return all the way back to welterweight after this quick jump. It’s worrisome, if you ask me, for his ability to make weight, even though I’ve resisted such speculation before… Cristian Mijares – Vic Darchinyan is in the works in another of boxing’s best divisions, junior bantamweight (115 lbs). I don’t see why. I like both fighters, and I suppose there’s a title unification at stake, and I suppose Showtime’s love of Darchinyan gives this fight the division’s best chance to take the center stage it deserves. But I see Mijares ripping Darchinyan up, if it ever happens, and besides, is there anyone in the boxing world at all listening to all the people clamoring for Mijares to fight Fernando Montiel?… Speaking of Mijares, Ivan Calderon’s defeat of 108-pound rival Hugo Cazares propels him back into my pound-for-pound top-10, bumping Mijares from 10 to 11. I’m thinking Diaz deserves to be back in the top 20, too. Maybe he overtakes the relatively inactive David Haye… P.S.: Left off my list of quality TV fighters who may or may not ever win a title was John Duddy, now a junior middleweight. I’ve enjoyed every fight I’ve ever seen him in, limited though he may be in the art of ducking. Perhaps I enjoyed them because he is limited in the art of ducking, actually. He’s now in discussions to fight Thomas Hearns’ kid… Everyone must know by now how much I love prospect James Kirkland, a 154-pound brute with a style that reminds many of Mike Tyson; in fact, today I’m thanking my lucky stars I picked him as 2007’s Prospect of the Year over Khan. But his assertion that he is better than, well, Mike Tyson is a little much. Do something first, James, then make that kind of claim… Dan Rafael is right to raise questions about why junior middleweight fave Joel Julio is pursuing a fight with Sergei Dzindziruk. The answer, though, I’m guessing, is fairly easy. Maybe fight scribes such as Rafael and myself don’t put much stock in the belts of the WBO and the other alphabet sanctioning organizations, but fighters still do. Taking on Dzindziruk gives him a chance at a title, albeit for less money in the short run, whereas the bigger-money, bigger-stage fight against Sergio Martinez is two steps away from one. (Sources: ESPN.com; Maxboxing.com; thering-online.com; BoxingScene.com; The Associated Press)

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.