Weekend Afterthoughts: Vitali Klitschko – Chris Arreola Revisited; Hopkins – Jones II And Diaz – Malignaggi II On Tap; Edwin Valero < The Law; More

(The blubber of Chris Arreola, left, flaps as he is punched by Vitali Klitschko, with a right and at right. Photo: Pavel Terekhov)

I could like Dana White, I really could. I respect what the man does promoting the UFC, giving fans the best match-ups most of the time, loading up his undercards from top to bottom, all of it. And even if his acolytes refuse to see much of an accomplishment in Floyd Mayweather-Juan Manuel Marquez doing 1 million pay-per-view buys Sept. 19 vs. significantly less for UFC 103 the same night, White tipped his cap to boxing overall for just that. It was humble, realistic stuff, far from the incorrect “boxing is dead” propaganda White usually spews. I think the UFC has forced boxing to become a better sport. Mixed martial arts is vital and growing, especially in the United States, and MMA and boxing are capable of coexisting just fine whether the two sides go Hatfield and McCoy or just respect one another. I just prefer they respect one another.

White’s comments are but one subject from the weekend worthy of rumination, along with the subjects in the headline, an important boxing doc coming out soon, and news of Manny Pacquiao, Shane Mosley, Ricky Hatton, Fernando Montiel, Gerry Penalosa, Eric Morel, Z Gorres and John Molina.

  • There’s been some difference of opinion about whether top heavyweight Vitali Klitschko’s performance on Saturday was one that deserves praise for its entertainment value or just more of the same Klitschko snoozefestin’. It certainly was a notch above Vitali’s work since his return to the sport. And we can’t fault Klitschko for being so much better than anyone he’ll get in the ring with, which excludes only his brother Wladimir, whom he won’t fight. But I said this in the comments section the other day, and I want to repeat it. What made Klitschko’s dominance of a different, lesser shade of entertainment value for me compared to, say, Shane Mosley’s domination of Antonio Margarito or Manny Pacquiao’s domination of Oscar De La Hoya is that both those men were willing to put themselves in harm’s way to focus on offense. Neither Mosley nor Pacquiao got hit in those fights much at all. But it was clear that what they wanted to do was destroy first, second and third, and avoid getting hit somewhere after that. Klitschko wanted to avoid getting hit first, second and third, then destroy somewhere after that. There were too many sections of the fight where Klitschko literally sprinted from one end of the ring to the other to avoid getting hit. It’s not just that Klitschko was “boxing;” while I’m no fan of Floyd Mayweather, he’s no runner, he’s a boxer. Mayweather is just as safety-first as the Klitschkos, which makes him annoying to me, but at least he’s figured out a way to avoid getting hit without making like Usain Bolt. It’s not an easy skill for a bigger man to manage, I understand that, but it’s duller to watch when the Klitschkos do it whatever the excuse.
  • Can the Klitschkos ever be popular in America fighting in their style? Maybe somewhat. It was cool to see the brothers on Sportscenter as studio guests Saturday morning as the show moved to Los Angeles for the day. They’re likable guys in many ways, guys I wish I could root for because of who they are outside the ring. And America has shown it can admire boxers who are less than action heroes as long as they win, because America, it loves its winners. But what they do, it’s not for me. I can’t make peace with it.
  • It’s unclear where Vitali goes next: Kevin Johnson in December, or Oleg Maskaev, his mandatory title challenger. I don’t think it matters much, really. Both get decimated, even though I wasn’t aware Johnson had a couple inches of reach advantage over Vitali. On the scale of American boxers coming in to the weekend, I had Eddie Chambers #1,  Johnson #2 and Chris Arreola #3. Again, it doesn’t matter. Vitali beats everyone. Little brother is a bit more vulnerable, given his lack of punch resistance, which is why I give the speedy, mobile, hard-hitting David Haye an outside chance of beating him, but Haye probably gets wrecked by Vitali because Vitali proved once again Saturday night that he can take a hell of a shot, and we all know Haye can’t. Vitali goes undefeated until he retires sometime in 2010, assuming he goes through with his plans, and assuming he doesn’t suffer a freak injury or freakishly “get old” overnight, something I don’t ever see happening given how well-preserved he is. Like SC, I think Deontay Wilder is the only guy on the horizon with the size, speed and power to really give a Klitschko a run for his money, but that’s a long, long ways away, because Wilder is as green as a heavyweight prospect gets and needs to avoid anybody like Klitschko for another five years at least. And it’s an intensely speculative position because of that — Wilder could get exposed well before then, if a Klitschko is even around still at their ages.
  • I find it hard to believe people are still peddling the “Arreola is/was in shape” line after seeing him come in a mere seven and a half pounds below his highest weight ever and a whopping 22 pounds above his lowest. But they’re doing it. In contrast to Arreola agreeing with people who thought he was a “fat so-and-so,” Michael Rosenthal wrote that “In fact, he worked hard in training camp…” In the picture above those words, Arreola’s fat is literally jiggling. Isn’t that all the proof we need that when Arreola promised he was going to be in shape, that he was going to work hard this time, it wasn’t true? Remember, his trainers expected he would be down to 245, which means he fell short of the goal, and they denied that he’d fattened up to 280, so we can’t say that he “worked hard to lose 30 pounds,” or else it’s a lie that he didn’t fatten up to 280. If anyone says, “He worked hard compared to how hard he usually worked,” fine, say it, although there’s not much physical, tangible evidence of that, either. And it’s still not good enough. Look, I want to like Arreola just as much as everyone else. He’s got a fun personality and he’s a fun fighter, but please, Rosenthal, Doug Fischer, Steve Kim — stop it. Please stop it. And know that I love all of you as boxing writers 99.9 percent of the time.
  • So what’s next for him? Well, he’s sworn off beer, and he says he wants to fight again soon, in December. Maybe this is the wake-up call Arreola needs, this losing, because he took the loss hard and it is indeed a good thing that he did, because it does, indeed, mean he doesn’t like to lose, and he has to see that there’s probably a connection between him losing and him being fat. Maybe if he stays in the ring all the time, he doesn’t get the same chance to blow up between fights. But it’s well past time for us to stop giving him the benefit of the doubt on this, before the fact or after the fact. Let’s see the results, let’s see an even relatively trim Arreola in the 230-240 range, before we cite progress. And let’s say as well — again repeating something I brought up in the comments section yesterday — that Arreola needs to work on his game. It’s not as simple, per Larry Merchant, as dancing with what brought you. Arreola needs to figure out how to work angles, how to move in another direction than straight forward. This is a wrinkle that he should be able to add, as it’s really just a tactical thing, even if his physical capabilities and temperament mean he’ll never transform into a punch-and-move specialist. Arreola is not necessarily permanently a fighter who can’t adopt new tactics. Since I’ve not been generous elsewhere, let’s assume he can learn until he proves he can’t, because it wasn’t until now that he figured out he had to learn stuff, unlike with the weight thing.
  • On the Klitschko-Arreola broadcast, Jim Lampley continued HBO’s policy of giving Mayweather a hummer every time they talk to or about him, this time in a softball interview where the quality of the questions was something like, and I hardly exaggerate, “How awesome was your performance against Marquez, and how did you get to be so awesome?” This was the first time Mayweather was a captive interview subject with HBO since his controversial post-fight interview where he answered no questions, argued with Shane Mosley and then tried to physically wrestle the microphone from HBO’s Max Kellerman. Some writers have thought that Lampley received some information when he got around to asking the latter of two pertinent questions that he didn’t follow up in any meaningful way — “What was up with you not making weight?” and “Who do you want to fight next among Mosley, Manny Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto?” The perceived meaningful information was that Mayweather brushed off the idea of fighting Mosley, but all he said was all he’s ever said a
    bout Mosley, which is that Mosley turned him down for a fight twice, which is true even if it leaves out the fact that Mayweather has also turned down Mosley at times. He’s always dismissive of Mosley. It doesn’t mean anything more today than it did last week. If Pacquiao isn’t available to Mayweather — a subject I’ll get to momentarily — then isn’t Mosley his only option left of any meaning? I’d like to think that would be convince Mayweather to get in the ring with Mosley, even if I have little confidence.
  • To me, the headline of the Lampley interview was instead that Mayweather apologized, although it’s less clear to me what he apologized for — not making weight, or his behavior with Kellerman. I can’t recall a time that’s ever happened, and even if it was some kind of disingenuous face-saving maneuver, it still takes some kind of sacrifice of ego to pretend to apologize, as being seen to apologize is sometimes viewed by the apologizer as a negative experience. On that count, there are two explanations from Kellerman and on his behalf that to me absolve Kellerman of some of his perceived misdeeds during that interview, and I’m sympathetic to both. Kellerman still clearly needs to learn to control a post-fight interview better, to figure out when to let a fighter talk as opposed to when to cut him off, and he admits it in The Sweet Science piece above. But under no circumstances should he have let Mayweather take the microphone away from him; if ending the interview was the only way to prevent that from happening, then he did the right thing.
  • The reason Pacquiao may not be available to Mayweather is because of the chance, which strikes me as an increasing one as opposed to a diminishing one, that Pacquiao will retire for good in 2010 post-Cotto to run for Congress and maybe win this time. The talk of him doing just that is getting a little more voluminous. Like Freddie Roach, I’d like to see Pacquiao fight Mayweather first, assuming Pacquiao gets past Cotto. And I know Amir Khan is biased, that he’s a Pacquiao stablemate, but Khan says he’s trained with both and I’m of the same mind as him: Pacquiao is at least as fast as Mayweather. I spent some time recording recent Pacquiao fights the other day, and something I noticed he changes up the speed of his punches, sometimes throwing slower on purpose and sometimes really snapping them out there. Those punches he really snaps? That shit is fast.
  • As mentioned above, White had some interesting thoughts on the Mayweather-Marquez numbers, and I really do hope that if White can concede the point then his devotees who are dying to bury boxing can, too. It’s like I said: MMA is alive and surging, and so is boxing. You can debate it on the margins, who does better overall, who does better in which countries, which one is growing more, but those two facts are indisputable, and not mutually exclusive at all. I did like Golden Boy Promotions boss Richard Schaefer challenging White on a few counts, even if Schaefer had to know it was a challenge White would be a fool to take him up on, about hiring an accountant to audit the UFC’s pay-per-view numbers, which Schaefer and Top Rank boss Bob Arum have both publicly questioned. Either way, I like what White had to say: “I’m a true boxing fan and I’m happy for them, but what that number they pulled shows is the promise of combat sports.” See? Is it that hard to take the approach that. And White can say all he wants that Mayweather-Marquez wasn’t much of a fight — I actually agree. But almost everyone knew it wouldn’t be, and people wanted to watch anyway, and there was a large segment of the public who watched and liked what they saw. Oh, and one more thing from that interview: Schaefer said the 170 movie theaters that hosted Mayweather-Marquez were filled to about 80 percent capacity. That’s encouraging too.
  • Two coveted rematches, if not oh-my-God-gotta-happen coveted rematches, look to be on now as of this weekend. The bigger of the two is Bernard Hopkins-Roy Jones II at light heavyweight. Hopkins-Jones I wasn’t very good, and we’re talking about some old men here. But I think Hopkins-Jones II is a much more interesting fight. Hopkins is the fresher fighter, but Jones still has something left, and Hopkins has had trouble with speedy fighters in the last few years. Most importantly, it has the ingredient that is common to all the too-late rematches that William Dettloff identified as good ones: hatred. Jones and Hopkins hate the bejesus out of each other, and they’ve got a contractual incentive — 60 percent of the purse — to knock the other out. Could just be a gimmick to sell the idea that both men will be going for the knockout when neither usually does, but every little bit helps. The other rematch is Juan Diaz-Paulie Malignaggi II at some unspecified weight — presumably junior welterweight or close to it — after HBO upped the amount the fighters would get and agreed to make it a co-promotion between Golden Boy Promotions and DiBella Entertainment as opposed to just a GBP product. This counts as good news.
  • GBP wants to make Marquez-Ricky Hatton happen, and even though it’s a “who has what left” kind of fight, it’s still interesting to me, in part because it’s that kind of fight. It’s not a sure thing by a long shot that Marquez-Hatton happens  — presumably at junior welterweight — but that GBP wants it to is progress.
  • I don’t know how the WBO decides these things, hat drawings or goat entrails or what have you, but the end result is that we’ll have a pair of decent bantamweight fights, Fernando Montiel-Gerry Penalosa and Eric Morel-Z Gorres, and somehow somebody will end up the “champion.” Morel-Gorres could be on the Pacquiao-Cotto undercard, although Kim has a different story about what Gorres will be up to. I haven’t seen much of Morel admittedly, but it wasn’t that boring, and people keep saying he’s boring. I’ll reserve judgment on whether this is a good thing or a bad thing for the Pacquiao-Cotto undercard until such point we know if it’s even on said undercard, and until I see more of Morel in action. As for Montiel-Penalosa, I know there are people out there who see Penalosa as endangering his health, but I’d been leaning toward “let him fight” and I’m really torn on this after Roach suggested he should retire. Montiel’s looked anything like a world beater himself lately.
  • Lightweight Edwin Valero has run into yet more trouble. This time, it’s domestic violence charges. I wonder if he thinks this is political persecution, the reason he believes he was denied a visa to the United States, even though it’s in his home country where this allegedly happened. Doesn’t it seem like Valero, whose brain wound sabotaged his career early, is doing everything he can to sabotage his career now? I don’t go around judging people based on how smart I think they are, but it does stand out to me when someone comes across as particularly smart or particularly stupid. L
    et’s just say Valero doesn’t strike me as particularly smart.
  • In other boxing results of any note from the weekend that I didn’t already cover, lightweight John Molina utterly demolished Efren Hinojosa in one round whereas Robert Guerrero had to go the distance with him. We know Molina can punch. We now know he has the kind of power that makes him able to mess up opponents who did better against highly-ranked, highly-regarded fighters. And if you care, junior featherweight Takalani Ndlovu beat Kiko Martinez in some title eliminator, which makes him the mandatory challenger to Celestino Caballero, who probably will vacate the belt anyway.
  • I only just discovered this 30 For 30 film series that ESPN is doing — it was advertised before “The Informant,” the film I saw over the weekend — and I was pleased that there was a boxing flick in there. It’s called “Muhammad and Larry,” and it’s directed — as all the films are directed by quality directors — by one half the team that brought us “Gimme Shelter.” It’ll air later in October, but the link above includes the schedule if you need it.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board (http://www.tbrb.org). He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.