What a stunning fight, and a stunning outcome, with a stunning aftermath. In a junior welterweight fight Saturday on HBO, Marcos Maidana stopped Victor Ortiz in a fight that had two crazy first rounds, a strange ending and a bizarre interview after with Ortiz. Ortiz’ superstar rise is definitely well off the tracks now, and the way Ortiz sounded at the end, he may not want to put it back.
(Meanwhile, on Showtime, top middleweight Arthur Abraham made mincemeat of the tough but underpowered Mahir Oral. But I saw some holes in Abraham’s game that I hadn’t noticed before.)
MARCOS MAIDANA – VICTOR ORTIZ
In the 1st round, Ortiz decked Maidana, then Maidana returned the favor. Ortiz looked worse off, though, so it was dramatic to see him come back and knock Maidana down twice in the 2nd. The next two rounds were toss-ups, with both guys standing and slugging and landing plenty of hard punches. In the 5th, Maidana opened a cut over Ortiz’ right eye, but it was the right he landed at the close of the round that was scary — between rounds, Ortiz’ corner was threatening to stop the fight because Ortiz wasn’t responding to questions, and while he sat on his stool, his left eye swelled up massively.
In the 6th, Maidana came out hard and a still-dazed Ortiz was clearly just trying to survive the assault. A flurry that Maidana capped with a kind of push-punch to the body sent Ortiz down, and both eyes looked terribly damaged. That’s when Ortiz kind of got up and walked away like he didn’t want to continue, and the referee brought Oritz over to the doctor, who stopped the fight on the cut.
Let’s not pretend this fight was about Maidana. It must be said he showed great heart and demonstrated tremendous power-punching, of course. But this was the fight where Ortiz was supposed to pass his final test, the test of his shaky chin, and he failed in a couple different ways.
He acknowledged, rightly, “I fought really dumb.” The crowd cheering him on, he said, compelled him to stand and trade. He shouldn’t have. He was the faster guy, the better boxer, and the guy with the weaker chin. Recipe for disaster. The composure he’d shown prior to the fight was enormous for a 22-year-old, but that went straight to hell Saturday night.
Second, he quit. There are circumstances where quitting is defensible, I think, but I didn’t like his attitude, and if I don’t like it — considering how much more forgiving I am in situations like this than the average boxing fan — no one will. Why did he stop fighting, he was asked? Because he didn’t want to “go out on (his) back,” he answered. “I was hurt… I’m gonna stop while I’m ahead that way I’m going to be able to speak well when I’m older… I’m young and I don’t think I deserve to be getting beat up like this. I have a lot of thinking to do.”
That’s a shocking admission. In that I value honesty, points there, I guess, and maybe it was the kind of thing a 22-year-old who felt invincible and was forecast for greatness and mega-stardom would say in the life-altering moments after having all of that grind to a halt. But man. Those words are going to haunt him if he returns, at least until the moment — if he ever gets the chance — he digs himself another hole then catapults himself out of it to show toughness like toughness has never been shown before. Even then, they may still haunt him.
Maidana will be in line for a mandatory title shot against the winner of Andreas Kotelnik and Amir Khan, with a Kotelnik rematch giving him a chance to avenge his only loss, and with a Khan bout offering him a chance to rattle another superstar-in-the-making with a shaky chin. Khan’s model — knockout loss to a big puncher followed by a rebuilt defense and smart matchmaking — offers the prospect for Ortiz to rebound, but then, Khan didn’t act like he was contemplating retirement or say anything about how he’d rather quit than go out on his back.
It’s really mind-blowing what happened tonight on many, many levels.
ARTHUR ABRAHAM – MAHIR ORAL
It was a given that Abraham would win this fight, really, so what it looks like is that Showtime bought it because they think he’ll be figuring into the super middleweight picture, a division in which they’ve invested heavily. And if Abraham moves to super middleweight next, despite how much I wanted to see him take on middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik, it probably won’t be a moment too soon.
Abraham had no trouble making weight this time, but I do have to wonder whether weight is to blame for him taking long stretches of each fight off, although he did the same thing in his super middleweight rematch with Edison Miranda. Abraham insists it’s a tactic where he sizes up his opponent and then heats up, but someday it’s going to backfire, I think. It didn’t against Oral. Oral just couldn’t hurt him — he can’t punch plus Abraham’s beard is outrageous — and Abraham can hurt everyone. Oral kept coming forward and won the first three rounds as well as maybe the seventh just by being busier and getting the occasional shot through Abraham’s high guard. In the 4th, though, Abraham decked Oral with a straight right; in the 6th, with a right hook; then in the 10th three times with a left hook, a right to the body and a flurry of body punches. Oral’s corner had seen enough and threw in the towel.
So about those holes. I think a slick fast fighter who takes the gift of Abraham’s first three rounds, then moves and picks his spots the rest of the way — especially if he can counterpunch — can beat him. Oral did some of his best work countering Abraham. I’m not saying it’s easy, since Abraham has a pair of cannons, and he’s not slow, either. I just think there are faster guys out there than him, like an Andre Dirrell, perhaps, or maybe even a Lucian Bute, although that’s a closer call.
Abraham said afterward he wants whatever fight gets him to America, whether it’s at middleweight or super middleweight. That’s Pavlik, easy, although Pavlik-Abraham isn’t a fight anyone in the Pavlik camp is talking about anymore. I’m guessing that means super middleweight, given Showtime’s interest and the lack of depth at 160. Are there any of these fights that suck for Arthur Abraham: Carl Froch, Mikkel Kessler, Lucian Bute, Librado Andrade, Sakio Bika, Andre Ward, Andre Dirrell? Nuh-uh.