We’ll get to the preview and prediction of a very interesting weekend rematch between 140-pounders Ricardo Torres and Kendall Holt quite soon, but first, let’s pump some “Quick Jabs,” checking in with last weekend’s combatants, some recent boxing in-the-court news, the Olympics and more:
More and more, it looks like new lightweight (135 lbs.) titlist Manny Pacquiao is headed toward a fall clash with knockout artist Edwin Valero. As I have said repeatedly that Pacquiao needs to fight Juan Manuel Marquez a third time, it may be contradictory for me to give Pacquiao a pass to fight Valero. But with Marquez tied up in the fall himself with a tough September bout against Ring magazine champ Joel Casamayor, if Pacquiao wants to fight in the fall, he has to fight someone other than Marquez. And, in fact, he has to fight someone other than most of the top lightweights, because four of the others are tied up fighting each other in September ,too. Thus, the Valero fight is among the best Pacquiao can make. I think Valero’s overrated in some quarters — he’s a tough, hard-hitting, wide-punching wildman. Pacquiao’s precision, speed, power and improved defense would, I think, rip Valero to shreds. One hope Valero has is of landing a major knockout punch, but his power is untested at the weight and Pacquiao can take big punches just fine. The other hope is that new trainer Kenny Adams will restore the technical boxing tendencies Valero showed early in his career. It could happen, because Adams showed with 154-pound Deandre Latimore that he can really teach the sport, but it’s a lot to ask in a very short time.
However, I do once more want to make the case for Pacquiao fighting Marquez in the very near future, assuming he beats Casamayor. There are some who have advocated for Pacquiao to fight others, like Nate Campbell or consensus junior welterweight (140 lbs.) champ Ricky Hatton. Those are good fights, but not nearly as good or important as fighting Marquez once more. Why? For starters, Pacquiao is the new #1 pound-for-pound king; Marquez is in everyone’s top five. That means it would be two of the five best boxers alive taking each other on, and that’s a higher-quality match-up than either Campbell or Hatton can offer. Maybe moving on to other things would make sense if Pacquiao had definitively beaten Marquez in either of their first two fights. Everyone knows, even the most die-hard Pacman fans, that it didn’t happen. The results were a disputed draw, then a disputed win for Pacquiao. Another thing: Campbell may offer other sanctioning organization belts, but not the lineal “true” championship belt offered by Ring magazine. There are flaws in the Ring policy, true. Generally speaking, though, the flaws of the sanctioning organizations out-pace those of the Ring belt. Odds are good that by the time Pacquiao and Diaz fought, he would no longer hold one or more of those belts, because pleasing the sanctioning organizations’ insatiable appetite for mandatory challengers is no easy task, one that requires the holder of three belts to constantly fight mandatories. If Marquez and¬ fought, and Pacquiao won, Pacquiao could say he was the true champion — because he would own both a sanctioning organization belt and the Ring belt — with greater credibility than he could with several sanctioning organization belts. Beating Hatton would give Pacquiao a similar status, but in a weaker division and with a weaker champion. Really, the only advantage for any of Pacquiao’s other fights comes from Hatton. The Hatton fight would surely bring serious cashflow, but then, Pacquiao-Marquez has already set pay-per-view buy records for lighter fighters, so that fight offers its own serious cashflow. No way Pacquiao-Campbell brings the cash of either. Marquez places first, first and second in the three relevant categories of quality match-up, esteem and money, so it’s the right fight.
Hand it to David Diaz, the man who gave up his belt to Pacquiao, for conducting such a funny interview with the HBO team not long after getting put face-first on the mat courtesy a short, perfectly-placed straight left in the 9th round that finished him off. “He cut me up so much I thought he had a knife in the ring,” he quipped. “He was too f*#!ing fast. I thought Freddie was in there hitting me, too,” he joked, referring to Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach.
What is no laughing matter is that this fight should have been stopped far earlier. By the 8th round, I was, in my mind, seriously thinking, this has got to end this round. When guys are recoiling from jabs the way Diaz was, they are hurting bad. Diaz, tough as he was, didn’t like the ref’s warning between the 8th and 9th that he might need to stop it. His corner should have stopped it for him. Even Diaz recognized how much damage he was taking, at least after the fact. He said of his family, “They still love me. They’re just glad I’m still alive. Everyone thought I was going to die.” Roach said he thinks Diaz should retire.
What should he do? I think if he’s got enough money, hanging it up would be wise. Diaz has made a living by forging through ungodly punishment, which has gone well for him more often than not, but not this time, and maybe never again. If he doesn’t have enough money? I don’t have a problem with him fighting again, but I’d prefer to see him in against softer opposition, much the way fellow former lightweight titlist Julio Diaz recently took on a soft touch to see if he’d recuperated from a severe beating. If Diaz looks good, and he should be watched very carefully during that fight and the plug should be pulled at any sign of trouble, then maybe he gets in with another top-ranked opponent. Not a moment sooner.
The Dark Side Of Boxing Rears Its Head
Two cases here. First up is Kelly Pavlik, the consensus middleweight (160 lbs.) champ. He’s reported to the police that he received some scary sounding-threats from someone Pavlik’s manager said had a “management agreement” with that has since expired. Things like “I’m gonna shoot your hands so you never fight again unless you give me $600,000” threats. And since the guy, according to Pavlik manager Cameron Dunkin, had recently been arrested for kidnapping someone, tying him to a chair and beating him up, well, taking the threat seriously was the right thing to do. Everyone’s innocent until proven guilty, but if the allegations are true, boxing still has more than a few shady characters lurking around, right?
In a quick outside-the-court note: Pavlik, for what it’s worth, has been looking at a far higher-quality match-up than he was headed toward in the fall, in the name of Sergio Mora, the “Contender” grad turned junior middleweight (154 lbs.) titlist. Marco Antonio Rubio and John Duddy, who we’ll get to in a sec, were the other names in the mix while Pavlik awaited a big showdown with middleweight titlist Arthur Abraham, so Mora’s a big upgrade. So, too, is the winner of this weekend’s Felix Sturm-Randy Griffin rematch, which would bring another title into the equation. Bernard Hopkins floated in and out as a possible Pavlk foe, and the aging great, now fighting at 175 pounds, could have offered a tough if not exciting out for Pavlik. Paul Williams, a welterweight (147 lbs.) titlist, offered to fight Pavlik, but that’s just a silly one. I like Williams but he apparently was asking for ungodly dough and at 160, I think Pavlik wins that one pretty easily.
The other boxing-is-shady news of late comes via the disqualification of Humberto Soto Saturday in what I, and many others, saw as a deserved TKO win over Francisco Lorenzo, a ruling so outrageous that HBO commentator Emmanuel Steward nearly burst into tears of anger about it. Soto threw a punch when Lorenzo was on his knees from a Soto knockdown that many called a “glancing” blow, resulting in referee Joe Cortez DQing Soto. Now, I don’t know how “glancing” it was, but it didn’t look terrible, anyway. And the evidence points to Lorenzo’s team encouraging him to stay down and try to earn the DQ, which suggests that Lorenzo’s inability to continue was not, exactly, an inability. That inability to continue was crucial to the ruling. The other crucial part of the ruling was whether it was an intentional foul, as Cortez ruled. That is even more questionable. Soto did not, by my eye, appear to be aiming at the back of Lorenzo’s skull. If Cortez was penalizing Soto for hitting Lorenzo while he was down — and that doesn’t appear to have factored into the decision — then it was Cortez’ own fault, because while Lorenzo was almost going down then getting back up then almost going down, Cortez stepped in twice to stop it then let Soto keep going. Soto, at that point, cannot be faulted for hitting Lorenzo until Cortez pulled him off the bloodied mass that was Lorenzo’s head.
What is a different question is whether the WBC should have ignored the official result of the bout, which was for the interim WBC junior lightweight (130 lbs.) belt. That’s what they chose to do. This has won applause in some circles. I do not applaud it. Here’s why: Since when did a sanctioning organization get in the business of deciding what the actual, official result of the bout is? Is that a good precedent? Shouldn’t they award the title to the person who got the “W” in the books, however questionable that “W” is? Let’s look at how another organization handled this. Last year, lightweight Ring champ Casamayor got beat in at least 10 out of 12 rounds by Jose Armando Santa Cruz, probably 12 out of 12, yet somehow the judges awarded Casamayor the decision. No one but those three judges saw it as a victory or even a close loss for Casamayor. And yet, Ring continued to consider Casamayor its champion. Why? Because Casamayor officially received the win, undeserving though he was. Now, Cortez has apparently admitted to Nevada officials he made a mistake. Good for him. I think Soto’s promoter should try to appeal the Nevada Athletic Commission, or, if possible, the commission should overturn the result itself, based not only on the facts but on the admission of a mistake. Then the WBC is on more solid ground.
Even Quicker Jabs
Duddy is thinking of moving down to junior middleweight to fight Verno Phillips for his title. That’s a smart move, I believe. Duddy’s long, but when I met him, he didn’t seem like he had some kind of gigantic frame, and he often comes in below the middleweight limit anyway. Some of the younger, hard-hitting junior middleweight prospects would eat Duddy alive, but at least he wouldn’t be getting knocked silly by the even bigger Pavlik, and hey, more power to him if he can win a title against Phillips at a lower weight, because it’s hard to see how he does it at 160…
People dog out Tye Fields non-stop, and the lumbering heavyweight made himself an easier target by getting blasted out in one round against well-worn Monte Barrett. Can I just stick up for the guy for half a second? He didn’t start fighting until he was 24. It wasn’t his fault that Arum was selling him so hard when Fields clearly didn’t have the right pro pedigree. If I had made a prediction for that fight, I would have picked Barrett to win easy. He did have the right pro pedigree. Fields never seemed to be anything other than a determined, limited fighter, and I have nothing bad to say about a guy like that who got smooshed the first time he fought someone real…
By contrast, I am happy for Barrett, who probably won himself the David Haye sweepstakes with the win. Haye has a legit shot to be a superstar in our sport, and he’s already that status in the U.K. Barrett’s a credible enough test for Haye’s debut against a decently-ranked heavyweight, what with Haye having spent the last year or so as the consensus cruiserweight (200 lbs.) champ. They’d come into the ring about the same size — 230 lbs. or so. Barrett’s dangerous enough, which is to say, not too dangerous. On the Goldilocks and the Three Bears scale, it’s really just right, actually…
It’s good to see Olympic boxing in the news lately, even if some of it is negative attention. Light flyweight (in the Olympics, 106 lbs.) Luis Yanez, the U.S. team captain has been making a stink about getting kicked off the boxing team, and I must confess he is not the most sympathetic figure. He is openly dismissive of his team coach, who, sure, has not been popular with fighters and their families. His personal coach admits Yanez did not comply with a demand that he return to the training center when required, a mistake the coach acknowledges. I’d like to see Yanez be conciliatory about what mistakes he’s made then get back on the team, because 19-year-olds make mistakes and they’re even more prone to them when they, as Yanez says was the case for him, are amid emotional crises, with a sick sister. There are better stories out there, like this one, about the sad back story and subsequent rise of Olympic heavyweight Deontay Wilder. There are compelling storylines in how Cuba will rebound from its prominent defections, and in whether America can make a run in a sport where there was only one U.S. gold medalist in 2004 and where the amateur system is so crucial to the growth of the sport here. Also: Thank goodness the Jackie Chan-Kostya Tszyu exhibition bout was canceled. I anticipate we’ll be covering Olympic boxing here some, despite the fact that we are a “pro boxing” site…
It’s been nice to see more highlights from ESPN2 boxing cards make it to Sportscenter. I do wish one of the knockouts they highlighted from last week wasn’t such a mismatch — super middleweight (168 lbs.) Julio Garcia’s one-punch, first-round blowout of Jose Medina, who’s lost six of his last seven. Beggars can’t be choosers, I guess. And it was a good punch..