(Antonio Pitalua, front/center)
Because it was such a full weekend, I scrimped a little on the “what’s next for everyone” portion of my rundowns, so I’ll make up that ground now, plus offer my observations on important subjects like Bernard Hopkins’ mic skills and Antonio Pitalua’s hair.
I don’t know about you, but I am thrilled that I saw six fights Saturday night and five were really good and the other was at least dramatic. As much of a boxing smorgasbord as this coming Saturday’s HBO night is going to be — Thrilla in Manilla documentary, debut of Pacquiao/Hatton 24/7, Chris Arreola-Jameel McCline (heavyweight) and Paul Williams-Winky Wright (middleweight) — it’s going to have a tough time surpassing this past weekend.
- Pitalua’s hair: I must confess right off that I can’t take credit for the Ready for the World gag. Two Ring writers compared Pitalua’s hair to various 80s acts, with Eric Raskin going El DeBarge, and Doug Fischer going with the singers of “Oh Sheila,” which I now can’t get out of my head. After doing some searches of my own (Luis Guzman from “Carlito’s Way?”), I decided mine was most accurate, Raskin’s was funniest but Fischer was the winner for the proper combination of both.
- Next for Edwin Valero, the headliner of Saturday’s “Lightweight Lightning” card: Naturally, Valero was talking about fighting Manny Pacquiao or Ricky Hatton. They’re the golden ticket these days, but neither of them will probably want Valero’s ratio of risk to reward. Maybe a few fights from now. Likewise for Juan Manuel Marquez, the real champion of the lightweight division, who’s interested in Pacquiao, junior welterweight champion or the unretiring Floyd Mayweather, Jr. A more reasonable suggestion is Juan Diaz, and Bob Arum, Valero’s promoter threw out Jorge Linares. I don’t think Linares makes sense from a size standpoint. Then there is some interest in Valero against Michael Katsidis. I like Valero-Katsidis and Valero-Diaz, but what would be significantly more interesting to me is to see how Valero fares against a first-rate boxer. If he could beat even an aged version of Joel Casamayor, or especially someone like Joan Guzman — two names suggested by various writers — I would go from “warming, still skeptical” all the way to advocating Valero against Pacquiao, Marquez or Hatton.
- Next for Timothy Bradley, who beat fellow junior welterweight Kendall Holt Saturday in the featured Showtime bout: Bradley, too, is calling for the Pacquiaos of the world, but one of the down sides of being a holder two title belts, his own and the one he took from Holt, is that he will inevitably have to spend some time on mandatory title defenses. It’s probably for the best in this case. Bradley did get pretty good reviews for his performance from boxing writers, and he’s now the clear #2 junior welterweight, but some still question whether he brings enough money to the table. If he could beat a murderous lineup of likely mandatory title challengers Devon Alexander and Lamont Peterson (each of with whom he shares many qualities, like speed and boxing ability) and maybe somehow worked in a defeat of Nate Campbell (who was ringside for Bradley-Holt), and look good doing it, he’ll get a great deal closer to fostering demand for him to fight a top-flight golden ticket-like opponent.
- Next for Michael Katsidis, Vicente Escobedo and Rolando Reyes, also winners on the “Lightweight Lightning” card: While I’m fine with Valero-Katsidis, I’m actually moderately more interested in Katsidis-Escobedo. Katsidis can punch, but I don’t think he has one-punch KO power like Valero, and I think the guy who beats Valero either hits harder than Katsidis or can really box. Katsidis proved against Casamayor last year he can make great battles against a counter-puncher, and Escobedo is a counter-puncher who proved against Carlos Hernandez this weekend he can make great battles against aggressive fighters. That leaves Reyes kind of the odd man out, because some people are suggesting Reyes-Escobedo, a fight that I think would make Andy Warhol’s “Sleep” look like “Shoot ‘Em Up.” Since Reyes is a counter-puncher, why not give him an aggressive fighter who had to pull out of the “Lightweight Lightning” card: Jorge Barrios?
- Next for Chavez, Hernandez, Pitalua and Julio Diaz, who lost on “Lightweight Lightning”: Chavez announced his retirement at the post-fight news conference. Good for him. It’s been a good career, a very eventful one, and while his decision to call it quits during the fight may have left a sour taste for some, I’ll remember him more warmly than not. He was in an excellent final bout. Hernandez, though, may stick around. His wife went up to the ring as Hernandez was taking a pounding from Escobedo, which the broadcast team took as a sign she may want the fight stopped. She said it was quite the opposite: She was letting him know the fight was close, and he needed to go for it. As his manager, she says she’s torn because she hates to see him get beat up, but the crowd was going crazy for him. I say that as his manager, she should pull the plug. It would be a great note to go out on, and surely a number of the fans in the arena were applauding Hernandez not only for his effort in that fight but his entire body of work, knowing that he had said he would retire if he lost this fight. Fighting the way he does, the longer Hernandez goes, the more likely he is to be hurt permanently. Pitalua, for his part, had said he thought the Valero fight was his last chance, and at 39, he may be right. I’m sure he could hang around and fight some other top-10 contenders and make OK money. It’s up to him. Diaz may move up to junior welterweight, but I think he’s done as a legit contender no matter his weight.
- Next for Holt: Holt was disappointed in himself after his effort against Bradley, and he should be. There were rounds upon rounds where he disappeared entirely, and he still came within a few points of winning the fight. Here’s what ESPN’s Dan Rafael said about Holt, and I couldn’t agree more: He “refused to press the action. It just seemed as though Bradley wanted to win a whole lot more than Holt. Despite begging from his corner between rounds, Holt wouldn’t regularly throw his jab, and it cost him dearly. Had Holt, 27, used it, he could have certainly won the fight. Had Holt showed even an ounce of killer instinct, he would have won. Instead, he gave away a lot of the middle rounds and was left to beg pathetically for a rematch, which he is unlikely to get.” Think about the kind of rave reviews Holt would be getting if he had beaten Bradley, rave reviews that Bradley is getting instead. I like Holt. I think he has the physical abilities to be a special fighter. But his head isn’t screwed on right. If he couldn’t fix it for a fight this important to his career, it’s going to be a question mark every time he fights. He’ll always be interesting, because which version of Holt shows up is going to be determinative of every bout he’s in, and he blows me away when he’s performing like he can. But I think his career has been a tease and will be nothing more as long as he keeps fighting.
- Next for super middleweight Librado Andrade, who beat Vitali Tsypko on the Showtime undercard: It isn’t obvious that Andrade will get Lucian Bute in a rematch of their controversial fight last year, despite Andrade now being positioned as Bute’s mandatory challenger. Andrade and Bute both say they want that rematch, but Bute is also reportedly flirting with bouts against fellow title-holders Mikkel Kessler and Carl Froch. That means Bute may have to drop his belt to make those fights happen. It would be a pity if Bute-Andrade II doesn’t happen. I like both fighters, and if Bute beats Kessler and/or Froch, it would be hard to criticize him, but for me, it’ll always be a question mark on Bute’s resume if he doesn’t definitively beat Andrade in a rematch. And Andrade deserves a chance to try to avenge the injustice done against him by that long count in the 12th round of their fight.
- Next for junior welterweight Randall Bailey, who scored a Knockout of the Year-caliber KO Friday night on ESPN2′s “Friday Night Fights”: Bailey is now in line for a mandatory title shot at Juan Urango, and tell me what’s not to like about the sound of that fight. I dare you, tell me. YOU CANNOT. It would be two big punchers, Urango more rugged than Bailey, but Bailey possessing more nucl
ear weaponry in his fists. Urango, of course, has a detour to welterweight for an Andre Berto showdown, but he’s still likely to return to junior welter after. I’m no fan of the sanctioning organizations, but even a stopped clock is right twice a day. Incidentally, George Kimball, a very good boxing writer, wrote this very stupid sentence over the weekend: “The presence of Manny Pacquiao, Ricky Hatton, Juan Urango, Nate Campbell and the suddenly resurgent Randall Bailey has been enough to bring Floyd Mayweather Jr. back to the gym, but among that impressive array…” George, Mayweather ain’t coming back for any more than two of those people, and probably won’t come back at junior welterweight, but he especially ain’t in the gym to fight Bailey or Urango. Get it together man.
- Next for heavyweight Alexander Povetkin, who beat Jason Estrada off U.S. television Saturday in Germany: The likely odd man out in the good news that Wladimir Klitschko will fight David Haye is Povetkin. Klitschko’s sissy contract with Haye ensures a rematch for himself if Haye wins, not to mention the fact that Haye would also be obligated to fight his brother Vitali once. Povetkin was in line for a shot at one of Klitschko’s belts. Actually, here’s another case where it’s probably a good thing that he won’t get what he wants right away and fight Wladimir. That belt may have to be vacated, and Povetkin stands a better chance of winning it if he has to fight anyone not named “Klitschko” to get it. He’d be wise to stay busy while he waits. Word is that he didn’t look very sharp against Estrada, and when he fought four times in 2007, he did look sharp. He only fought twice in 2008, and has only fought once this year.
- Next for super middleweight Jean Pascal, who scored a weird knockout win off U.S. television Saturday in Canada: The word is that Pascal is looking at moving up to fight Adrian Diaconu at lightweight in what I have to imagine would be a big-money intra-Canada battle. My first thought was that this might not be a wise move for Pascal, but now I’m thinking, “Why not?” Pascal has very good but not exceptional power at super middleweight, but his speed is exceptional, and Diaconu isn’t the biggest or fastest light heavyweight, so it’s a winnable fight. If he loses, one hopes fans would say, “Well, Pascal wasn’t a real light heavyweight, so we can excuse that loss.” Froch said recently he thought Pascal deserved a rematch of their 2008 Fight of the Year candidate, and that’s another very good option.
- Golden Boy’s stock: With the Lightweight Lightning card, the card in San Jose and the card in Houston, a skeptic of Golden Boy Promotions — Steve Kim of Maxboxing — is saying flattering things about GBP all a sudden. I’ve always thought the coverage of the big two boxing promoters, GBP and Arum’s Top Rank, has been unbalanced. Top Rank gets praised for things GBP gets criticized for. It’s not that boxing writers shouldn’t be skeptical of GBP. There’s a lot of material there. And it’s not that Top Rank doesn’t deserve praise sometimes. There’s a lot of material there, too. But it’s nice to see things put in the proper perspective. Kim wrote: “In the past I have been critical of Golden Boy Promotions, but it says right here that no promotional company is having the 2009 that they are. Yeah, yeah, I know they have certain built-in advantages that other companies don’t have (like their ‘strategic partnership’ with HBO) and they don’t have the track record of developing young talent like Top Rank, but they have made some huge strides. Golden Boy is staging competitive and compelling fight cards and just as importantly, they are putting them in non-casino markets where there is the potential to cultivate new fans and untapped markets. Perhaps they are preparing for L.A.O.(Life After Oscar), and maybe it’s out of necessity more than design, but Golden Boy Promotions is acting and looking like more and more like a true promoter. Yeah, I said it. There.” Good for Kim.
- Hopkins’ commentary: It’s still a work in progress. There were numerous times he got caught in mid-sentence on an incomplete thought that he couldn’t bail himself out from. But I’m bullish on his potential. I liked hearing him describe one fighter’s defensive move, where he bent his head to avoid taking the full blow, as “rubbernecking it.” The guy knows his sport and he can obviously talk. Having been on the radio and TV a few times, I’ve made some of the mistakes he’s making now. If he can smooth things out a little, and be a little more assertive in expressing his opinion of the fights instead of offering routine observations, I think he could be the best boxer-commentator available in time.