PHILADELPHIA – There’s a decent-sized crowd here in Philly for fight night. It’s about 85 percent black, which I point out because I’m constantly surprised each time I attend a live fight by the degree to which ethnic (in this case) and national allegiances play such a role in selling boxing tickets, even though I understand it implicitly.
It’s a nice crowd, too. As a round card girl strutted her stuff, a man near me said, “It’s true love,” and he almost seemed to mean it. Good fights have gotten good applause, and everyone’s engaged. You can get your picture taken with the author of “Pimps in the Pulpit,” if you want, but other than that there’s nothing much happening in the way of special effects. As you could see if I could successfully upload a damn picture, I’m just about three rows back, and I’m pretty happy with that arrangement.
Enough stallin’, though. On to the fights, at least those that air before the main event, Bernard Hopkins-Enrique Ornelas — starting very, very soon, as I write this.
By now you’ve all seen Roy Jones, Jr. get knocked out in one round by cruiserweight Danny Green. I encourage you again to read Alex’s take from earlier today, but here’s what I’d add: Obviously, Jones-Hopkins II is off, and it should be; few were interested in it to begin with, and who would want to watch it with one of the combatants coming off a 1st round knockout loss? Yes, Jones ought to hang up the gloves. I say that despite the fact that the knockout struck me as a little fluky. It hit him in a weird place, and he never quite recovered. There’s been some debate about whether the referee should have stopped it, but I think it was a fair stoppage. Maybe it could have gone one way, maybe another, but it wasn’t out of order at all. It would be a sad end to an amazing career, but then, we all knew it would go that way after those back-to-back knockout losses around six years ago, right? Jones has been stretching things out against terrible opposition, and whenever he stepped it up, this happened.
I say this not to rob Green of his win. I thought Jones would win. Almost everyone did. Green overcame the odds, fluky shot or not. That’s how boxing works. You can win with one shot, can’t you? It’s one of the things that makes the sport exciting. And Australia has a lot to be proud of. This was a historically big win for the country, and as I have some Aussies who are pals, I’m regretting I wasn’t there to have a beer with them. At 36, Green’s future is ahead of him — a rematch with Anthony Mundine for all the Australian marbles? A shot at a more acclaimed cruiserweight alphabet strap? He’s got options, especially because he means a big paycheck for whoever goes to fight him down under.
But after the old, comes the new. There were a lot of youngsters on this undercard I’m attending live.
One really made an impression. Junior welterweight Danny Garcia had previously struck me a solid all-around prospect, nothing spectacular in any particular category. But you can make an OK living that way – just ask Green, or Andre Ward, the super middleweight who toppled division king Mikkel Kessler a couple weeks ago.
But tonight, Garcia turned in a remarkably destructive performance in what was quite a step up in class for him. Enrique Colin had been in with some decent names, like Demetrius Hopkins and Humberto Soto. Colin went the distance with Hopkins. Soto knocked him out in two. That’s the route Garcia took: A 2nd round knockout that was absolutely crushing and that electrified the crowd. He boxed smartly in the 1st before connecting on a counter combo that sent Colin down hard, but the combo he landed in the 2nd was of the “Is Colin gonna be OK?” variety.
I’m not saying he’s Ward, or Green, or a replacement for Jones. I’m just saying Garcia’s on my radar after tonight in a way he wasn’t before.
The other most promising prospect of the evening, junior welterweight Karl Dargan showed off both his promise and some potential problems in a six-round decision over Samuel Santana. His defense and speed are tremendous. But he doesn’t have a ton of power, to say the least, despite scoring a 2nd round knockdown, and I thought I saw a tiny bit of punk in him when in the 4th round he got frustrated not being able to finish matters and started fouling. Things got chippy thereafter: When Dargan hit Santana in a clinch with several consecutive low blows, Santana began retaliating, and I swear I thought it looked like Santana bit him at one point. It stayed chippy, but Dargan stayed fast and good on defense, so he wins. His lack of power may hurt him someday, and if I’m right about the punk-ness, that might too.
Opening the card was welterweight Jesse Vargas, whom you may recall as the guy who inspired fellow boxer Trenton Titsworth to kiss him in the ring somehow in one of the weirdest incidents of 2008. Away from that peculiar limelight, he looked like he had the killer instinct by repeatedly knocking down and eventually knocking out Travis Hartman in two rounds, although Hartman, tough as he was getting back up after each body-crunching knockdown, is strictly easy pickings having one just one fight in his last nine. I guess what I’m saying is, there’s more to the guy than getting kissed, but how much is hard to say given his opposition.
The second fight was quite a slugfest between cruiserweights Teneal Goyco and Lamont Barnes, with Barnes, 2-3 to Goyco’s 3-0, coming out on top by a four-round majority decision – no doubt helped by the quick 1st round knockdown, surviving a difficult 2nd round where he was on the verge of being stopped and doing enough in the 3rd and 4th to pull a close one out on the cards. I don’t see either of these fellows as real prospects, but they got a well-deserved round of applause from the sparse Philly crowd.
In the TV “swing” bout that they put on for timing reasons, featherweight Derrick Wilson appeared to me on the verge of continuing his momentum from knocking out more ballyhooed Charles Huerta. But he dropped a four-round decision to Guadalupe De Leon — loser of seven straight, but, sturdily, none by knockout — and he showed speed and an all-around skill level (good defense, accurate punching) that made it quite obvious the Huerta win wasn’t a fluke. He got a little sloppy in the 4th, I’m guessing because he was eager to impress, but he’d impressed me before then. The split decision (39-37 twice for De Leon, 39-37 for Wilson) got booed. I guess I was alone in thinking Wilson essentially shut out De Leon on press row, though.
And I missed one fight buying some chicken strips and fries – sue me – but if you’re a completist, Mike Perez knocked out fellow lightweight Ron Boyd in some round or the other.