WASHINGTON, D.C. — It’s good to be back home. After a crazy week away — 13 fights, three cities, 20 blog entries, one promoter insulting me, several lost items, six Internet friends met in person and countless dollars spent Saturday night on drinks and… let’s just call them “entertainers” — there’s nothing like your own shower, your own bed and the best feline pal ever put on the globe to make you say “ahhhh.”
But there is yet more to revisit from the weekend before turning to the week that just began. When last I left boxing, the sport had just come off a particularly memorable two-fight card, mostly for the right reasons but for some of the wrong. Thus: Weekend Afterthoughts await after the jump.
- Fixing judging. It’s hard to say whether there have been more poor scorecards rendered this year or the sheer concentration of them the last couple months makes it seems that way, but it feels like an epidemic. As exhilarating as Paul Williams-Sergio Martinez was, it was the judge who scored the closely-contested middleweight battle 119-110 that still sticks in my craw above all else. It’s to the point where we need to be trying to figure out ways to solve this and do something about it. Public shame for these judges — Pierre Benoist is the latest figure of our Bronx cheers — doesn’t appear to be enough. The system is in dire need of active reform. In the comments section of my last post, gavaniacono, Zekiel, willfrank and myself bounced around some ideas, and I’d like to keep the brainstorming session going. Does the 10-point must system, as currently employed, need to be overhauled or re-conceived? I’m open-minded to the notion gaviancono brought up, but haven’t thought of or seen anything better. Do we need to alter how judges are paid and by whom? I felt like Zekiel and willfrank were on to something with this, although there are some potential downsides, too. Are there other options — better training, better enticements for people to become boxing judges, frequent sessions where judges and athletic commission officials sit down together and score old fights? Can’t we find judges who are from neutral ground, the way they JUST did for this weekend’s rematch of the scandal-marred Juan Diaz-Paulie Malignaggi junior welterweight fight (judges from Ohio, Florida and Illinois)? And what do we do with judges who turn in flagrantly bad scorecards? I’m very interested in everyone’s ideas, because I don’t have an immediate solution that comes to mind. But somebody’s gotta come up with something, and it might as well be us, the fans. (And if I don’t say so myself, the very smart fans who frequent sites such as this one.)
- Where Paul Williams And Sergio Martinez are. By this I mean, where I hold them in the pecking order of boxing. Martinez, I most assuredly underrated. I knew he might be that good, but I was skeptical because he hadn’t, in my mind, proven it yet. He’s definitely proven it now. He’s not perfect — he gave away long stretches of the fight’s middle section — but he’s really, really good, maybe just shy of pound-for-pound top-20 ranking for me. That reflects on Williams’ status, too. Friend-of-the-site Israel asked recently: Was Williams overrated, Martinez underrated or both? I think it’s both, with a side of “unfavorable style match-up for Williams/favorable style match-up for Martinez.” After struggling two out of three times against the speedy, counter-punching southpaws he’s fought, it’s fair to say Williams just naturally has trouble with these guys. So do lots of people, of course, but that’s a real knock on Williams in this case because it’s such a major blind spot. Pound-for-pound ranking-wise, Williams is still top-5 material in my view, both on ability and accomplishment. We can’t forget he won this fight against a clearly excellent fighter. And it’s possible I underrated his heart and guts, given how deep he dug to get out of trouble early then finish the final round stronger than Martinez when he needed it. But he showed vulnerabilities against Martinez, the kind of fighter who was perfect to expose flaws I knew were there but I had no idea how deep they ran. Williams still isn’t good enough defensively, which is only partly related to his all-offense, desperate-to-hit-you-even-if-I-get-out-of-position style; why in the world couldn’t he get out of the way of Martinez’ counter right for so many stretches of the night? He still isn’t versatile enough; he fights one way, and while he made some adjustments during the fight, I get the impression he needs a back-up plan. Would it be so bad if every now and then he fought like a tall fighter, worked off his jab, was conservative and thoughtful on offense, sat down on his punches? Don’t get me wrong, I love the way he fights, but I wouldn’t object if when, he got in trouble that way, he switched it up. And he can be hurt when he’s hit super-flush. Everyone can, really, but he’d never shown signs of being vulnerable in that way until Saturday. Opinion was divided on press row and at the bar after how Williams would have fared against the original opponent, Kelly Pavlik — whether he would have tore through him, or gotten knocked out. Speed-wise Pavlik wouldn’t have hit Williams as much as Martinez did, but if he did connect, he would have hurt him. That’s why Williams needs to get to work on his weaknesses, or stay away from the higher weight classes.
- What’s next for Williams and Martinez. There has been some murmuring that because Williams promoter Dan Goossen wasn’t talking about a Martinez rematch much in the post-fight press conference — he was mentioning Bernard Hopkins and Shane Mosley instead — that Martinez now was the more “feared” fighter of the two. But it’s noteworthy that the major options Martinez promoter Lou DiBella was talking about — Cory Spinks, Antonio Margarito — weren’t a rematch with Williams either. Both men had the same take: Williams-Martinez II is a fight that should happen, but neither of them were much in a rush to do it right away. I think both of them realized their fighters had taken a pretty bad beating because of how they match up, and there’s no reason to rush the rematch. So, for Williams: I’d love to see Williams-Mosley at welterweight, because I don’t think Williams is a middleweight and Mosley’s a fellow top-5 pound-for-pound opponent. I definitely don’t think Williams is a super middleweight or light heavyweight, where Hopkins wants to fight, and despite his slow start in his tune-up fight last week, I think Hopkins is still a vital fighter who with his intelligence and size advantages would pose an unrealistic obstacle for Williams. No way a guy who considers himself a welterweight ought to be fighting nearly 30 pounds above that. If Martinez wants to fight Cory Spinks (which as of today would be for the lineal Ring magazine championship), that’s fine with me — Martinez and Spinks may both be counter-punchers by nature, but Spinks was fairly aggressive his last time out, Martinez can be aggressive when he wants to and I think it wouldn’t be so bad a fight. I don’t think anyone should fight Margarito. I genuinely think the guy should be treated like a pariah even if he gets his license back after trying to load his gloves against Mosley, but between Martinez and Carlos Quintana, half of DiBella’s stable is calling out the cheat.
- What made Williams-Martinez great. I didn’t get a chance to say this in my quick post-fight write-up, but I realized it after: One of the main things I liked about that fight was that I hadn’t seen anything exactly like it, from the standpoint of its dramatic arc. We had two 1st round knockdowns, one by each fighter… Martinez taking over the early rounds, with the Williams still landing sizzling shots… Williams turning the tables by hurting his man and then taking over for another long stretch, with Martinez still landing sizzling shots… the sudden, unexpected revival of Martinez late… and the race to the finish in the 12th, with the outcome of that round potentially dictating the fight’s outcome because of how close it was. Just a few weeks ago, we had a similar phenomenon with Manny Pacquiao-Miguel Cotto; I don’t think I’d previously seen a five-round Fight of the Year candidate ever turn into such a one-sidedly destructive performance. It’s amazing to me that after watching hundreds upon hundreds of boxing matches, the fundamentally simple idea of “two men punching each other” could produce such complex plots, such myriad twists and turns. This fight was unique. It was, dramatically speaking, beautiful.
- Not the only bad officiating. I didn’t think referee Randy Neumann did such a hot job refereeing Williams-Martinez — both fighters basically got away with everything, and Neumann was only there to occasionally separate them. At one point in one of the early rounds, Williams caught Martinez in a headlock and hit him with, I swear, seven or eight punches. That’s illegal. It’s called “holding and hitting,” and Neumann didn’t say a word to him. I guess it was commendable that he let both fighters do whatever they wanted, rather than going after one guy. I guess. Also, Maxboxing’s Steve Kim rightly complained that none of the judges scored the 1st round 10-9 for Martinez. Now, I scored it 10-10; I thought Martinez’ knockdown was harder, but Williams would have won the round 10-9 on my card if there were no knockdowns, so I figured, hey, it’s about even. But I think anyone scoring the round 10-9 for Martinez was certainly on fair ground and two judges scoring it 10-9 for Williams — Benoist scored it 10-10 — is kind of wacky. That round’s either 10-10 or 10-9 for Martinez. It definitely isn’t 10-9 for Williams. It has to be said the next time an American complains about bad officiating of a fight in Canada or Germany or wherever: America has its own damn problems with this. Just ask Spain’s Martinez. He came out on the wrong end of a close decision this weekend, and one scorecard by all appearances was decided in advance, but earlier this year against Kermit Cintron in America, he was denied a win in multiple ways by bad officiating and judging.
- Mixed broadcast reviews. It seemed to be a bad night for the facts at HBO. I kept hearing them screw things up. At one point, Jim Lampley said it was Williams’ second fight at middleweight, and then a graphic mentioned he was 3-0 at middleweight, but at BoxRec, I counted 12 middleweight fights from earlier in Williams’ career; Lampley said Martinez suffered a loss to Cintron, but it was a draw; Lampley misidentified twice why Martinez was docked a point in the 12th round; etc. etc. I’m not perfect myself, but Saturday was unusually sloppy for HBO, is all. And I thought there was some unusually one-sided commentary at times. Lampley clearly has a man-crush on Martinez, calling him the fastest 154-pounder he’d ever seen, and he only called about half the fight — the half where Martinez landed punches. (Meanwhile, Emmanuel Steward only seemed to be interested in what Williams was doing.) But this is picking nits. I’m reminded virtually every time I hear Lampley call a fight that boxing has one of the great play-by-play men in any sports. He’s just so fantastic with the turn of phrase, with recognizing a moment. He talked about Martinez’ “festival” of counter rights, and noted at the end that this fight was “uncontaminated by title belts.” He’s a helluva broadcaster, and sometimes it takes me noticing a few faults to remind me of how good someone is.
- Arreola-Minto. Just a few spare thoughts here. I didn’t know until I saw the HBO feature that Arreola started his camp at 270 pounds. He came in at 263 pounds. Considering the average fighter loses dozens of pounds or more in camp, how hard could Arreola have worked? Shannon Briggs weighed 270-something for his last fight, but that was after losing 60 pounds, and Briggs’ work ethic has never been renowned. Just amazing that this guy has enough talent to be a high-level prizefighter when I can’t imagine him even HAVING a training camp, effectively. He needs a new trainer or something, someone who can make him work, because he will never beat a Klitschko but he can maybe be the king of the rest of the division if he could just dedicate himself, something that just isn’t happening with his current team… Arreola and Tony Thompson, who’d looked great on the undercard, had a nice war of words in the post-fight press conference, and that fight may be next. It’s a really nice fight. Thompson said he hoped that Saturday’s fights were the unofficial kickoff of the “best American heavyweight tournament,” and said he’d like to fight Arreola at some point. Arreola got testy, saying he’d rather do it sooner — implied, right now. There were some threatening remarks exchanged between Arreola and Thompson’s entourage, and after Arreola threw a couple verbal shots at Thompson by noting that Thompson had been knocked out by Wladimir Klitschko, Thompson came back with “if HBO isn’t scared to put their baby up there…” But eventually Arreola calmed down, Thompson took it back to respectful desire to fight Arreola and things were good. But I really like the idea of Arreola-Thompson, as I’d said already, and I’m glad the trash-talking may have generated some interest in it for other people, too…. Minto is talking about moving down to cruiserweight, and it makes sense. He’s too small to fight most heavyweights; he looked chubby at 218. DiBella was talking to him afterward about possibly being his promoter, which maybe explains why DiBella was hyping him up so much along press row after he lost.
- Saturday night with the cybergang. You never know how someone will be in person compared to how they are on the Internets. Trust me, I experimented briefly with dating that way. But as cool as willfrank, fabulous mady, ScottB, jaycstyles and boricuaboxing have been in cyberspace swapping opinions about boxing, I couldn’t have imagined them being even cooler in “real life.” ScottB, willfrank and myself had a good time at the bar beforehand, and I had a grand time with the entire crew and mady’s husband at the bar after. A crazy, drunk man saw us and observed that we were quite “organized,” repeatedly and loudly, as if that would have meant something in Sane Semi-Soberville. He also told us his breath was “stank like a motherfucker,” but repeatedly turned down jaycstyles’ refreshing gum. And he announced that “No woman could seduce me right now, I’m too dysfunctional.” That prompted us to hatch an elaborate escape plan, and for mady, her husband and myself, our final getaway vehicle was one of those carts they push you around in on the Boardwalk, where we huddled for warmth in the rain and cold. We escaped to a “cabaret,” let’s call it, where the “dancers” took a shine to my glasses, repeatedly doing what I call “stripper tricks” with them. (Oops, I gave it away what kind of entertainers they were.) And let me say this: If you ever are to go to an “adult entertainment establishment” with mady and her man, you will be a fortunate soul indeed. They will “make it rain” for you, and, when they depart, will leave you a giant stack of bills to hand out. I tried to turn them down, but their generosity had the force of law. Seriously: That was a damn good crew, and I’m glad to have met them.
- Other results from the weekend. I thought junior middleweight Amir Khan stood a strong chance of winning by knockout early, but I didn’t see him knocking out Dmitriy Salita that early. I don’t think he even ever hit Salita as hard as he could have, but Salita was done before the midpoint of the 1st round after three knockdowns. (Aside: Khan hit Salita while he was down a hundred times on the second knockdown. Can we PLEASE crack down on this, boxing referees?) This doesn’t prove much about Khan. It proves Salita is probably worse than I realized, and I don’t think this was some fluky knockout — the first time Salita fought somebody any good, he got creamed. Nice kid, better boxer than 99.99999 percent of people alive, still not worthy of fighting even a semi-top-10 division opponent. Hate to write somebody off like that, it’s just the way I see it, and that he was a mandatory title challenger is one of the nearly infinite lists of indictments against the alphabet title system. As for Khan, for all his talk of Ricky Hatton, apparently HBO wants him against Victor Ortiz in America… Funky Badger provided some helpful comments about the fights on the Khan-Salita undercard in this post; he informs us it was a cracking good night of boxing in the U.K., and I admit I’m now curious to track down some footage of this Kevin Mitchell fellow… Cruiserweight Marco Huck beat Ola Afolabi by decision. Didn’t see it, but as impressive as Afolabi’s win over Enzo Maccarinelli was earlier this year, I can’t forget that he was about half-losing that fight at the time. Afolabi’s got talent, but there’s something missing…. For the rest of the weekend’s results, check out Dan Rafael’s as-always good round-up.