I don’t think I’m alone in still having all kinds of conflicted feelings about what went down this weekend, especially vis-a-vis Victor Ortiz’ Fight of the Year effort/surrender routine. There’s much I’m still processing about what went down there, plus plenty to discuss about Friday Night Fights and some other subjects I didn’t get to over the last few days.
First, enjoy the clip above of flyweight Omar Narvaez’ knockout win. You can watch the whole thing if you want by following the links.
Overhyped? All you people out there saying you knew the junior welterweight Ortiz was overhyped, that there was nothing there, that he had no heart, etc. — where were you before? Because I don’t remember hearing from you, and I don’t remember reading it from you. Hell, Bob Arum, who used to promote Ortiz before he left for Golden Boy Promotions, is now crapping all over Ortiz when in fact he was extremely angry about Ortiz leaving him. I think we know where Arum is on all this. Tomorrow he’s telling the truth. I don’t see how anyone could take seriously anything he has to say now about whether Ortiz was any good. Now, there WERE people who were questioning his chin before this fight, and those people can now crow if they want. But when I hear Steve Forbes, loser of four of his last six, badmouthing Ortiz, again, how can anyone take that seriously? Why does Steve Forbes’ opinion even matter here? (I don’t blame him for speaking his mind on Facebook, but why anyone would publish it…?)
Genie Back In The Bottle? Just as dishonest and/or blustery is the revisionist history Ortiz and Golden Boy tried to sell at the news conference after the fight. Ortiz and his team would have you know that he wasn’t trying to quit after all. Except that’s exactly what he said he did moments after the fight. Somewhere between that interview with Max Kellerman and the news conference, one imagines Oscar De La Hoya and/or Shane Mosley chewed his ass out about the interview, much as it looks like they were doing right after the fight ended. Sorry, GBP. Ortiz quit in that fight. Still, this is about as good a salvage job as they could put together today in a news release: “I made some comments after the fight that were an emotional response to the loss,” Ortiz continued. “I take full responsibility for my mistakes and actions, but I didn’t mean what I said. I am young, have things to learn and I guarantee you, I will be a world champion, MARK MY WORDS…Just watch me!”
Can One Find Heart? This is a different question. I think there’s a sense that in the boxing world, if you don’t have heart, you’ll never have it. That is, it’s in your makeup to be the kind of fighter who will fight to the death or it isn’t. But I wonder if that’s true. Take the case of welterweight Kermit Cintron. For a long time, he’d been plagued by questions about his heart, and the sense that he’d fold under pressure every time. But he didn’t fold under pressure the last time he fought. Ortiz right now hasn’t demonstrated he can rebound in that same fashion. But put yourself in his shoes. He’s a 22-year-old kid who quit when the going got tough and how he’s had boos rain down on his head in every corner of boxing fandom. Think of your own life. Weren’t there situations you encountered when you were 22, where maybe you fell short in a crucial moment, and you learned from it, made you realize that next time you were in that situation, you’d do it all differently, that you’d burn for the chance to prove yourself if you could? I know that happened to me once, and once I got into a similar situation years later, I manned up. Granted, it didn’t involve me getting my face pulverized by some giant power-puncher, but it’s enough to make me wonder if Ortiz won’t find this loss inspirational. At any rate, I won’t rule it out.
Rematch? One way, incidentally, Ortiz could erase the memory of this rather quickly is a la Paul Williams-Carlos Quintana II. There was a sense, you’ll recall, among some, that Williams got exposed in the first fight with Quintana. Not his heart, per se, but there was a thought afterward that any tricky, quick counter-punching slickter would do the same to Williams. Williams erased all of that thinking right quick when he knocked out Quintana in one round in a rematch. I don’t know if that plan would be wise for Ortiz. His defense was atrocious against Maidana, although he’d shown competence in that area before, so maybe it was a question of focus. Maybe he needs a confidence-builder fight first. I have no answer; it’s just a thought. Because it certainly would be the quickest path for Ortiz to get back on track, to avenge that loss.
Next For Maidana? And why wouldn’t it be worth it for Maidana? After all, even if he gets a rematch with Andreas Kotelnik out of this, it’s not going to be worth the kind of money the Ortiz fight probably would be, and besides, the way things look now that mandatory title shot may not happen for forever. There’s a question of whether Dimitriy Salita is the next mandatory challenger for that belt, too. This may not be resolved for a long, long time. And what’s Maidana got going that’s better?
What Was The Ref Thinking? I didn’t complain about it at the time, but I should have. Raul Caiz did a horrible job of managing Maidana in this fight. Maidana hit Ortiz behind the head a bunch, and extremely hard. Really hard. When he wasn’t doing that — actually, even sometimes when he was — Maidana was holding Ortiz’ arm and hitting him. He should have been warned far more severely than he was for both things, and after warnings, should have been penalized. Instead, Caiz warned Maidana then let him keep getting away with it. CEO of Golden Boy Promotions Richard Schaefer said in the news release today, “Victor suffered from being hit by several illegal blows to the back of the head and was sent to the hospital after the fight for a post-fight check up as a precaution. He was there until close to 3 AM for testing and, although he is thought to have suffered a concussion, was released from the hospital.” This is a little bit more of “genie back in the bottle” management, but the fact remains that nobody should be allowed to do the things in the ring Maidana did. For the record.
Golden Boy’s Role? Some of the Golden Boy Promotions haters have been out in droves about this whole debacle, and I’m not sure if they’re right or wrong. Maybe a little of both. Look at the original lineup they had in mind for the card this past weekend — Ortiz, junior lightweight Robert Guerrero and junior middleweight James Kirkland, three of their young stars-in-the-making. Ortiz is now damaged goods; Kirkland is in jail; and Guerrero had his own incident involving his heart and whether he quit when he shouldn’t have. Some folk are saying, “See, Golden Boy was overhyping these guys.” But what were they supposed to do? NOT promote those guys? Boxing is a difficult business, because sometimes, yeah, fighters lose. Sometimes freaky things happen, like Kirkland’s legal problems. I’m not saying the GBP brand isn’t hurting right now, because it’s definitely had some massive setbacks. And I’m not saying De La Hoya didn’t get carried away, suggesting like he did that Ortiz might be the best fighter in all of boxing. But
I didn’t take him seriously when he said it and nobody else should have. If we gave a demerit to every promoter who overhyped one of his products, Arum, Don King and the whole gang would be in permanent after school detention. (Howsabout “Breakfast Club 2” starring Gary Shaw, Oscar, Lou DiBella, all of them?) A different question is whether GBP should have put Ortiz in with someone like Maidana. Here’s what I said when it was being discussed months ago: “Maidana can really punch, so that’s no joke fight.” It was an exceptionally ballsy case of matchmaking, and really, haven’t fans been asking for guys not to be coddled for the last couple years? But if it isn’t obvious from the tone of my brief sentence there, I thought it was a very risky move. Maybe, sure, GBP should have moved Ortiz a tad slower. Maybe they shouldn’t have put a chinny prospect in against a mega-puncher so soon. Maybe he would have been better off gradually moving up the power chart rather than jumping in against one of the biggest sharks. But I’m not going to fault GBP excessively here for taking a gamble on a prospect that everyone was gushing about as the best of them all in 2008, who’d been blowing difficult competition of the water, who everyone thought was ready for another step up and who was a significant favorite to win the fight against Maidana.
HBO’s Role? It’s a different question whether HBO overhyped Ortiz; as a broadcaster, its credibility is far more of an issue than the overcooked remarks of a promoter. Friend of the site WF keeps making this point, and I’m about half on-board with it: HBO shouldn’t be hyping specific fighters, instead putting on good fights and letting them sort out with their fists who the next stars are. Thomas Hauser is on board with that, too, as of today. Here’s my counter-point, and I admit it’s half-hearted: It wasn’t that long ago that everyone was annoyed at HBO because it wasn’t doing anything to build up the stars of tomorrow, instead hitching its wagon to the old fellas. So HBO, it seems to me, is in a “damned if they do/damned if they don’t” situation, and I’m not sure what course is best. I do think that some of the arguments out there about HBO having promoters at their mercy because they can reject any fight they don’t want is more of the same situation. When HBO wasn’t leveraging its power to force good fights to happen by refusing to broadcast crap fights, everyone was jumping down their throats about it. Now that they’re being choosier, all a sudden HBO is some crazy dictator that has brought Arum et al to heel. Well, pick your poison, friends. I’m picking the “HBO getting choosy” poison. Sure, some good fights will be rejected at times, because I think we all know HBO doesn’t always make the best decisions. But if its subscribers protest those decisions, hopefully they’ll respond, and minimize that weakness in this choice of poison. But by HBO being choosier this year, the fights have been generally better than last year, and I think everyone would have to admit that. If a promoter doesn’t like the way HBO is rejecting them, they can go to Showtime or Versus or ESPN2 or put on an independent pay-per-view that way. Certainly, they won’t get as much money, but then, HBO can do with its money whatever it wants — if the promoters want that money, then they have to play by HBO’s rules. Right now, the HBO rule is “we’re going to be picky about fights we put on our network,” and the downside, as I said, is that sometimes they’re not going to make the right decision.
On The Top Rank Pay-Per-View
Juan Manuel Lopez. Lopez did have a little trouble with Olivier Lontchi who, despite some running and some fouling, did prove a tougher opponent than much of anyone expected. Actually, the running and fouling helped him give Lopez so much trouble. Still, it was a better showing from Lontchi more than a worse showing from Lopez that sent the fight so much longer than the usual Lopez fight. Absent a bout against fellow junior featherweight Celestino Caballero I’m very down for the plan to match Lopez against YURIORKIS GAMBOA! next year, and as much as I think Lopez should be the favorite there, the fact that he’d be moving up to featherweight and the degree to which Lontchi’s speed and movement caused Lopez trouble points to the potential for the bigger, more fleet-footed Gamboa’s chances being better than nil.
Foreman-Bundrage Rematch. That’s right. Yuri Foreman and Cornelius Bundrage are probably going to have to do a rematch, since they were fighting in a junior middleweight title eliminator. What are the odds it’s on television some way somehow?
On Friday Night Fights
Daniel Jacobs. Jacobs, a talented young middleweight, thrashed George Walton all about in a rather impressive showing on FNF. I really do think he’s got to be the frontrunner for Prospect of the Year. Who else is even in the discussion? Those who think the GBP roster is decimated are right in one sense (even if, again, Arum is one of the main people saying it and he’s also the guy usually saying “one loss shouldn’t permanently set a fighter back, sometimes fighters lose”) but Jacobs is quite a catch.
Deontay Wilder. No, you shouldn’t make too much of Wilder, a talented heavyweight prospect, scoring another 1st round knockout. But here’s my takeaway: A. He’s so very, very raw. Anyone urging him to move up is just asking for him to get exposed while he’s throwing one of those wild punches. But whew, is he tall, and whew, is he fast. I think this kid should be moved very, very slowly, since he has such a limited amateur background, and if he’s handled correctly, he could end up being very good. B. It’s worth nothing Wilder’s opponent went the distance with Tor Hamer. I like Hamer as much as the next guy, but maybe this points to the chances that it’s Wilder, not Hamer, who’s the best extremely green American heavyweight prospect. Maybe.
Stoppage. The stoppage on the first fight of the night was questionable. But come on. The kid was walking into all kinds of shots trying to score a last-round knockout, and he was just going to get more of the same. I think the referee shouldn’t take too much flack for that stoppage.
Other Weekend Thoughts
There was a story about how HBO “lowballed” the Kelly Pavlik-Felix Sturm middleweight fight with an offer of $2 million. The fact that the network paid so much more for Chad Dawson-Antonio Ta
rver II at light heavyweight was cited as evidence of this lowballing. But everyone knows HBO overpaid for Dawson-Tarver II. Given that Pavlik’s star rise has been slowed, and given that nobody in the United States knows or cares about Sturm, that price sounds about right to me. If Arum can do better on pay-per-view, he should go for it… The WBA made Chris John its featherweight “super champion” up from regular champion after he pulled out of a fight with an illness. What kind of sense does that make? Unless you just want to collect more sanctioning fees by bumping everyone up one notch so you can have another interim champion. Oh wait — that’s the kind of sense it makes… Jorge Linares won again over the weekend. Can someone PLEASE get this ultra-talented junior lightweight on U.S. television?… Junior featherweight Steve Molitor struggled in his return bout after his first loss. Not sure whether that means anything — lots of guys struggle in their first fight after a loss… Gary Shaw is saying he never was opposed to Nonito Donaire-Vic Darchinyan II, he just needs the right money and the right weight class since both men have moved up from flyweight. First off, Shaw is lying. He did say he was opposed to the rematch. Second off, I hope this is him changing his tune for good. Third, he’s right about Top Rank not doing much for Donaire’s career… Manny Pacquiao, WWE star Batista and Pussycat Dol Nicole Scherzinger are all going to star in some kind of karate-based movie, apparently. Sounds like dynamite cheese… It’s good to see the press turning around on Max Kellerman, who I think has really ironed out some of his flaws as a boxing analyst and is really finally growing into the role. Here’s what The Ring’s Eric Raskin said: “Max Kellerman’s reaction and wording in the 20 seconds after Ortiz caved against Maidana were as perfect as anything I could have written with hours to work on it. Just as Max said that moment might define Ortiz’s career, I think Max had a career-defining moment as a broadcaster in so quickly putting in perspective the young fighter’s sudden and surprising capitulation.” I actually think he’s been doing it for most of the year, but the more moments Kellerman has like that, the more people he’ll win over… I do plan on having that Fight Night Round 4 review up someday. But my XBox360 crapped out an hour or so after I first started playing the game, and hasn’t been the same since. From what I could tell the game was pretty good — the artificial intelligence was definitely improved, anyway, although I found that if I just went crazy throwing tons of punches I could usually win with relative ease.