Quick Jabs, The Weekend Aftermath Edition

In a weekend with equal amounts controversy — wacky disqualifications! alleged post-knockout foot-whompings! — and star-making perfomances — welcome to America, Arthur Abraham! hope you enjoy your arrival, Andre Berto! — there’s no way Saturday’s quick wrap-up could suffice. The week that was offered some ha-cha-cha too. Sean’s already hit up Friday night on Showtime, so I’ll color around the edges:

Alex Abraham
Yes, that’s right, Alex Abraham. You’ve probably heard by now that the brother of middleweight (160 lbs.) titlist Arthur allegedly took the occasion of big bro’s knockout of hated rival Edison Miranda to stomp on Miranda a little. If true, it’s obviously a super-uncool thing to a man in need of medical care. If true, Alex also somewhat upstaged big bro’s time to shine with his low-down, no-good big payback for Miranda mouthing off (and even if it’s not true, in some ways, since I’ve started off this blog entry with Alex instead of Arthur). The upstanding constables of Florida saw something to some kind of allegations, as they arrested Alex. I’ve got no video footage, and so far the only people who were involved and who are talking are the Abraham team — they said he didn’t do it — and friends and allies of the Miranda team — charismatic lightweight (135 lbs.) titlist Nate Campbell said Alex did do it — so I honestly have no opinion or inclination to pass judgment. It doesn’t look good for Alex that ESPN and BoxingScene reported their own “this is what happened” accounts fingering Abraham as the culprit. But thinking about the mere possibility of this happening makes me about as flustered as David Cross on Mr. Show’s “Pre-Taped Call-In Show.” As in: “OK? It’s just… let’s think, before we… all right.”
Arthur Abraham
Fortunately for Arthur, anyone who saw him thrice propel Miranda off his feet like Popeye used to do Bluto can’t be anything but a fan now, right? I’ve been a fan of Abraham ever since their first fight, despite my gentle mockery of his Smurf get-up during his old ring walks. What’s not to like about a man who fights on with a twice-broken jaw? Who loses a liter of blood during a fight but still wins (that’s about a quart of blood, you ugly American you)? Who needs two titanium plates afterwards? 22 screws? That’s a tough SOB. To make matters better, he spent the time between his 2006 Miranda bout and his 2008 Miranda bout scoring one highlight reel knockout after another. Really, he just needed to do two things to sell me on any remaining skepticism I had about him: Win in America, and beat Miranda definitively, this time without the aid of an oh-so-friendly referee. He manned up and did both in one fell swoop. I was confident he was the better fighter, if not super-confident he would win the fight given the tactical advantages Miranda had coming in of a friendlier weight (166 lbs.) and friendly U.S. confines. He sold me with both the win and how he won it.
So the next step is to… well, he must see about making a fight with middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik, right? It’s a great style match-up: Kelly’s big bombs and underrated skill against Abraham’s big skill and underrated bombs. Eh, no. See, because of the courage of a 36-year-old man named Raul Marquez who, on the undercard, won a mandatory shot at Abraham’s title, Abraham must fight Marquez or risk losing his belt. So since Abraham wants to make it big in America… I mean, it’s so patently clear he can keep building his audience here rubbing out a tough old man who doesn’t have any quit in him and only knows how to fight in one direction, right? Um. Yeah. So that potentially exciting if not one-sided fight’s going to be in Germany, probably. OK. But at least there’s talk about matching the #1 honcho in the division, Pavlik, against the #2, Abraham, in early 2009. Too far away for my tastes. I’ll still be interested by then, I expect. It’s one of the better matches that can be put together in the sport right now.
Edison Miranda
There’s some rather nasty anti-Mirandaism out there because either A. He talked smack before this fight and nobody liked it or B. He’s not all that good. Or both. Neither fact bothers me. Clearly his loudmouth act is not everyone’s cup of tea. So what he talked some smack? It’s creative stuff. It’s funny to me. Which is better (another multiple choice question): A. Vernon Forrest threatening to send Sergio Mora out on a stretcher and losing? B. Bernard Hopkins saying he would never lose to a white boy and getting beat by white boy Joe Calzaghe? C. Edison Miranda accusing a referee in Germany of treating Abraham like his daughter and losing to King Arthur? To me, both Forrest and Calzaghe showed less class, and were less amusing, than Miranda. So why does Miranda catch so much heat? Miranda arguably caught less than Hopkins, but there’s a certain glee to some writers’ attacks on Miranda that didn’t exist with Hopkins.
I can only guess it goes back to Miranda not being that good. Forrest and Calzaghe accomplished more in their careers by the time of their aforementioned trash talk. I still don’t get it, but whatever. Look, Miranda’s not that complicated. He established who he was in losses to Abraham the first time and Pavlik, and only cemented it against Abraham the second time around. He’s a big puncher. Real big. He has no D. His chin makes him vulnerable, and if he keeps getting knocked out like this, he’s not going to last much longer. No matter what, he’s only got a puncher’s chance of beating a world class opponent. He can hover around the middle of the pack in his weight class for a while longer and maybe even pick off a vulnerable title holder. Seriously, whatever. I’ve never been bored once by a Miranda fight. Just enjoy him for what he is, people: A funny, big-mouthed puncher who is going to give or receive a knockout every time he fights.
Andre Berto
I would’ve thought Berto would’ve won over a few more of his remaining skeptics with a dominant win over Miki Rodriguez to pick up his first welterweight (147 lbs.) belt. They’re still out there. Trust me, I know Rodriguez wasn’t some killer. Berto did what he was supposed to with a non-killer: He dominated his ass, he was his usual amazing offensive machine and unlike in the past, he didn’t get hit by anything stupid. Or basically anything at all. Berto connected on 52% of his punches. Rodriguez connected on 25%. That’s a landslide, friends. Almost all of that 25% barely connected; Berto was on his angles, very little Rodriguez threw landed cleanly. I’m not saying he’s ready for Miguel Cotto. Is he ready for Zab Judah, though? Yeah. Would Luis Collazo or Joshua Clottey give him some grief? Sure, but he’s ready for them. Is this my most question asked-answered post ever? For serious. I’m not saying Berto needs to rush things, but he’s answering a lot of the questions people had about him. And as Bad Left Hook points out, some of the questions are silly, anyhow. HBO’s Max Kellerman talks about Berto’s height, but it’s not like the top welterweights are so much bigger. Plus, Berto’s faced and beaten taller welters. He’s proven he can do it. Like Unsilent Majority said at Deadspin: “The 24-year-old welterweight put the boxing world on notice.” I just wonder if everyone’s paying attention.
(Rodriguez, by the way, made a fan out of me and just about everyone with his 50s greaser hairdo, his goofy smiling as he was getting bashed around the ring and his utterly hilarious, admiring exclamation of “whoo!” as he landed on his trunks because of a Berto uppercut, which mirrored the exact admiring “whoo!” I shouted out watching him get hit by it. Doug Fisher believes Rodriguez could make a good living on Telefutura or the like against fellow tough-nosed brawlers like Jesus Soto-Karass. I know I’d watch him again against a less swifty fellow brawler like Soto-Karass, if only I had Telefutura.)
The Disqualification
Looking it over a couple times, it now appears to me as though referee Randy Phillips made the right call when he disqualified heavyweight Chazz Witherspoon and gave the win to Chris Arreola. But man, what a lame disqualification. I don’t think Phillips had a choice. If he did, I would hope he would’ve given Witherspoon’s team the benefit of the doubt for getting in the ring too early. It was a confusing scene, the way the bell rang before Phillips stopped administering his eight count to the beclobbered Witherspoon, who went down twice in the 3rd. I bet a few other corners would’ve climbed into the ring after the bell sounded, too, thinking that was their cue. Phillips originally wasn’t going to DQ anyone; the Arreola team talked him into it, basically, and only after consulting with the local boxing commission at ringside did Phillips have a light bulb go off in his head. It doesn’t matter much because Witherspoon was getting knocked out the very next round if it continued. Witherspoon was tough and gutty to get up when he was so beclobbered and he took a lot of punches before he even got there. It’s simply that there’s only so much beclobbering a man can take, and I bet Witherspoon would’ve reached his threshold early in the 4th. I think he’s plenty young enough and and tough enough and skilled enough to bounce back, and like I said, he’ll have a better chance of it because he was disqualified. All that awaited him was more pain. (This is a rare case where an appeal, which Witherspoon’s promoter has filed, could be justified, but to me, it looked like a fair if annoying DQ and a likely loss for Witherspoon anyway.)
Chris Arreola
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not sold, as I was on Abraham, by Arreola’s own Saturday night (would-be) knockout. I do think he’s better than I realized and I don’t see the idea of him winning a heavyweight title in its current sclerotic state as all that crazy. He really destroyed another fellow, unbeaten heavyweight. Destroyed him. Yes, he’s flabby, and yes, he doesn’t have ballerina-like coordination. Kellerman was spinning some “I have waking nightmares and that’s what fighting Arreola’s like because you can’t believe it’s happening” nonsense, but I kinda get what he was going for. Arreola’s not very well-conditioned. He’s a straight-ahead brawler. The first time I watched the fight, I couldn’t figure out how he kept getting inside on Witherspoon. But you know, watching the rematch, he had some skills. He worked off his jab. He covered up and moved his head to defend against oncoming blows. He’s a big enough puncher that, if he gets someone hurt and doesn’t get gassed, he can use what skill he has to pick off a weak titlist in a weak division. The things separating him from a title are more experience against top-ranked opponents, some sit-ups and some luck. Main thing is, he’s fun to watch, and I’ll watch his next fight when it comes on the teevee.
Amir Khan
I just got caught up to star British lightweight Amir Khan’s slugfest with Michael Powell. It’s good stuff. I confess a few things here. First, I really like Khan. He’s so fast and powerful and I love fast, powerful combo punchers. Second, this is indeed, as ESPN’s Dan Rafael says, the kind of fight from which a young fighter can learn. Third, I really worry about Khan’s ability to take a punch. He went down in the 2nd and was hurt to the body in the 4th against an opponent who had a lot of miles, and he’s been down before against severe underdogs. I’ve said it before a million times: It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get back up. This is not some Rocky Balboa platitude. It’s just boxing fact. It’s always worrisome when a boxer gets knocked down, but because one of my favorites, Felix Trinidad, did it routinely and still was unbeaten through almost an entire career filled with murderous opponents, I don’t see it as a fatal flaw. Khan, to his credit, handled the trouble in both rounds with aplomb. I’m not saying the kid — he’s just 21 — is a surefire thing, because for all his talent, he is getting hurt by non-elite opponents, nor am I saying he is hopeless, because all that danged talent is enough to maybe get him to the top. I do think it would be wise to figure out what exactly the problem is. If it’s that he can’t take a punch, then Khan’s current trainer hunt should tilt toward Roger Mayweather, who has taught his charges a thing or two about defense. Until he gets it solved, I agree with this interpretation: Slow it down, don’t get too eager for a title fight he will soon be owed.
Sechew Powell
Remember how Sechew Powell threw away a mandatory junior welterweight (154 lbs.) title shot with an uninspired loss last week to Deandre Lattimore on ESPN2’s Wednesday Night Fights? In more “you may have already heard” news, Powell, according to his promoter, was stoned. Sometime before the fight, anyway. He tested positive for marijuana. This is one of those stories that tells itself, really. Anyone who knows anything about mary jane knows she isn’t a major contributor to a spartan lifestyle. Could be Powell just had one puff and a few Cheetos to go with his cheeba. None of the scenarios speak well of his training regimen, no matter what. Powell has some talent. He’s made his road back to the top really hard by wasting it when he was right near the top of the mountain, because he’d already had one chance to build himself back up after a loss to Kassim Ouma and third chances are few and far between.
Campbell-Guzman vs. Casamayor-Marquez
This one’s only tangentially related to the weekend. Over said weekend, ESPN’s Rafael reported that Campbell-Joan Guzman has been booked for the same day as Joel Casamayor-Juan Manuel Marquez, another lightweight bout of importance. Jerk move. Too bad it’ll probably work out for Showtime, since Campbell-Guzman will be free on Sept. 13 and Casamayor-Marquez was a dicey pay-per-view prospect already. If I were HBO, I’d up the ante by moving Casamayor-Marquez off PPV. It’s the right move anyway. I love Marquez and I’m the exact target market for a cerebral showdown of the like that Casamayor-Marquez would deliver. I’m not representative of the broader boxing populace in that regard. If HBO does that, maybe they force Campbell-Guzman to a different date. It would suck if two quality bouts in perhaps boxing’s best division — I’m going to go ahead and switch that honor from the welterweights to the lightweights — happened and the viewing public had to pick which one they wanted to see. Suck suck suck.
Friday Night Fights
Speaking of ESPN shows, check out the rundown over at Jab and Grapple of the wild, wild ending to an ESPN2 Friday Night Fights bout, if you weren’t aware of the way the fight between heavyweights Kevin Burnett and Horace Ray Grant finished. And after this long-ass post, I, too, am lucky to beat the… zzzzzzzzzzzz

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.