If junior middleweight Cory Spinks got a close decision win I disagreed with over Deandre Latimore on Showtime Friday night, I can’t begrudge him too much. He’s now been in three straight close decisions. He lost the first two, against Jermain Taylor and Verno Phillips. And Spinks had to gut this one out to win it. He showed some balls, even though he also showed that he is probably a significantly faded fighter now.
Over on ESPN2, junior featherweight Antonio Escalante dropped Gary Stark, Jr. twice with two massive shots in the 3rd round that finished him off. I didn’t think it was quite Knockout of the Year material, but it was a big KO and a performance that suggested to me that Escalante could make good and competitive bouts with some bigger names in the division.
There were other fights, too, in a pretty packed evening. Middleweight John Duddy lost a close decision in a non-televised bout against a not-so-feared opponent to suffer his first defeat, a pretty interesting development. I’ll have to cover that one another night, perhaps if there’s a way of getting footage of the bout.
–Junior welterweight prospect Devon Alexander kicked off the ShoBox card in St. Louis, and he had a moderately rough go of it before scoring the 9th round knockout. It’s not that Jesus Rodriguez was very competitive. He just made it hard for Alexander to look all that good. Some of that was on Alexander, though.
I only gave the 6th round to Rodriguez, thanks to him landing multiple flush blows. And even though it was more of a balance issue, Rodriguez scored a legitimate knockdown in the 1st that was erroneously ruled a slip. Otherwise, it was all Alexander. Rodriguez wasn’t aggressive at all. He just backed up and avoided getting punched all that much. I hadn’t thought of Rodriguez before as a defensive master or anything, but he was really focusing on it. Alexander, as eager as any young prospect in the game, had to switch from being a counterpuncher to the stalker, and it wasn’t comfortable for him. Making matters worse, he struck me as a little slower than usual, and he didn’t go to the body with the regularity he usually does.
Nonetheless, he was landing the cleaner, harder shots, and he wasn’t getting hit much in return. The punishment accumulated on Rodriguez’ face, and what Alexander was landing appeared to be wearing Rodriguez down. Alexander hurt him in the 7th, then knocked him down in the 8th and Rodriguez didn’t look eager to continue between rounds. An uppercut troubled Rodriguez in the 9th — he kept pawing at his eye — in the 9th. He stayed down, too.
Alexander’s in line for a mandatory title fight with Timothy Bradley. I like that fight — I think they’re fairly similar boxers — and wouldn’t mind seeing it at all.
–I can’t say it was a good fight, but Spinks was at least more aggressive than usual in his battle with Latimore. Spinks was booed by the hometown crowd during his ring entrance, inexplicably, although later when Spinks was having good moments, the chants of “Cor-y” were louder. Fairweather fans in St. Louis, I guess.
At any rate, the boos seemed to motivate Spinks, and it hurt him when he was so aggressive in the 1st round. Latimore rocked him repeatedly with wild shots, and a straight right put Spinks down and hurt him badly. In the 2nd, with Spinks not being so aggressive, Latimore still tagged him with crazy stuff that once would never have connected, and his reflexes looked shot. But in the 3rd, a round I gave Spinks, he began to move around a little bit more, and Latimore began to slow. Latimore’s conditioning would remain a huge problem throughout the rest of the fight. I don’t know how a 23-year-old gets gassed so early against a 31-year-old who was clearly on his last legs and never could punch worth a lick, but it would be Latimore’s undoing.
In every round I gave Latimore thereafter — 4, 5, 9, 10 — he just outworked Spinks a tad, but his shots no longer had the spark of the 1st. Spinks took full advantage of Latimore’s tired state by leaning on him and working on him in close, including to the body. I hadn’t previously thought of infighting as Spinks’ specialty, but it proved a very helpful dimension. The only late round I gave Latimore, the 10th, featured him pumping his jab and keeping his distance to land bigger shots. I scored it 114-113 for Latimore, but of four rounds I marked “close,” I gave Latimore three of them. It might have been some anti-Spinks bias, who knows. But one judge saw it 115-112 for Spinks, another 115-112 for Latimore and the third gave it to Spinks 114-113.
Latimore was unimpressive in many ways, but with some more polish from trainer Kenny Adams and improved conditioning, who knows how much better he can get. As for Spinks, it could be he was just rusty from yet another long, Don King-imposed layoff, but I doubt it. Spinks didn’t look all that good against Phillips, either, and the specific way in which Spinks looked bad Friday night suggested he was an old 31. Spinks doesn’t exactly take care of himself between fights, and if you thrive on reflexes and movement, that is a particularly damaging habit. That said, I liked his heart in this fight, and as much as I said I wanted him to be dispensed with, he’s earned his next chance. But if it’s a top-10 fighter, he probably loses. Howsabout Spinks-Daniel Santos, in a meeting of Don King products? I’m not saying King would do it, I’m only saying it sounds like the most interesting bout for Spinks, such as it is.
One note. As of this fight, there are now SIX fighters in the junior middleweight division who hold some alphabet title or the other. That’s ridiculous. Those sanctioning organizations are a pox upon the sport.
FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS
–Heavyweight U.S. bronze medalist Deontay Wilder was fed a terrible opponent, and he chopped him up. Honestly, that guy, bless his heart, had no business in the ring with Wilder. He charged at Wilder to start, which was brave of him, but Wilder, for all his mistakes, had way too much speed and power to get much resistance from this caliber of opponent. Three knockdowns, 1st round KO. Wilder needs to work on his defense a lot, but I especially like his speed at 6’7″. I just don’t think I needed to see this fight, frankly. I know this kind of thing is normal for the development of a prospect out of the Olympics, just keep this stuff off television.
–Super super middleweight prospect Daniel Jacobs stepped up in competition and therefore his bout was worth televising. Jose Varela had lost three straight coming in, but was only knocked out by Joel Julio, and was in tough in all three fights. He also once went the distance with big puncher Edison Miranda. So Jacobs making mincemeat of him in two rounds was at least mildly noteworthy. He landed a big right hand to finish off Varela after boxing smartly and picking his spots prior to launching the finishing blow. ESPN2′s Teddy Atlas said he didn’t think Jacobs was a big puncher. I don’t think of him as a pure puncher, but he’s a boxer-puncher with very nice power if you ask me. Keep moving him up and see how he does. I think he’s highly promising.
–Junior featherweights Escalante and Stark were waging a pretty nice battle prior to Escalante teeing off. Stark was supposed to be the boxer and Escalante the puncher, but I thought Stark won the 1st round with the more resounding shots. Escalante’s naked aggression in the 1st turned to a kind of simmering, controlled aggression in the 2nd, and he was matching Stark’s speed. The finish was awesome. Stark, who was posturing and taunting with his hands low the whole fight, got caught with said hands down when Escalante threw a very wide, almost leaping left hook, and Stark went straight down from it. He said he was OK when he got up, but he wasn’t, and the ref warning Escalante to go to a neutral corner for a few extra seconds didn’t help him much. Escalante was on him a split second later, landing a right hook and left hook combo that badly damaged Stark, who tried to get up to no avail. Stark, upon recovering, stomped out of the ring and tried to attack some fan that was booing him or something.
I liked the look of Escalante, who has a bad loss on his record, but that happens sometimes. I liked what Escalante did against Mike Oliver last time I saw him, too. I fancy the idea of him in against a Bernard Dunne, Steve Molitor, Jhonny Gonzalez or Daniel Ponce De Leon.
[UPDATE: Here’s the KO round. In Espanol!]