Three interesting fights Saturday night, all for different reasons. Andre Dirrell won by disqualification over Arthur Abraham in a fight he was controlling even though Abraham was gaining ground, a DQ that came because Dirrell slipped and Abraham blasted him into a terrible sleep while he was on the ground. Joan Guzman won a split decision over Ali Funeka in a rematch where Guzman came in two full weight classes above the weight limit the day before, and the weight difference seemed to be a factor. And Marcos Maidana slugged it out with Victor Cayo before scoring a big body shot KO in the only bout of the night that wasn’t tainted by significant controversy.
Also Saturday, Pongsaklek Wonjongkam beat Koki Kameda by decision to deliver one of the day’s three upsets, alongside Dirrell over Abraham and Funeka over Guzman, in what was a big day for boxing.
ANDRE DIRRELL-ARTHUR ABRAHAM
After three rounds, Dirrell was ahead, but that was to be expected because Abraham always gives those rounds away studying his opponent. In the 4th round, Dirrell knocked down an off-balance Abraham with a solid counter left, which was not to be expected, as Abraham had never been down before. By the 7th, Abraham still hadn’t won a round on my scorecard, and Dirrell opened a cut over his right eye — and scored a knockdown even if referee Laurence Cole didn’t recognize it as such.
This was astounding stuff. Dirrell already had a win in the bag or pretty close to it unless he got knocked down before the final bell rang. He was doing it without running or holding, two oft-criticized habits of his. The former Olympian was showing what kind of fighter he could be, outsmarting, outquicking and outmaneuvering the fearsome and undefeated Abraham. He was countering Abraham, controlling distance, freezing Abraham behind his high guard, looping hooks around said guard, dropping straight punches down the middle of that guard, landing hard body punches beneath Abraham’s defenses and leaning to avoid what punches came back.
The 8th was the first round I gave to Abraham as Dirrell got trapped against the ropes by an increasingly aggressive and desperate Abraham. Dirrell rebounded to take the 9th and the doctor closely examined that bad cut for forever, but allowed it to continue. The 10th was a bad one for Dirrell, as it was Abraham’s turn to get robbed of a knockdown. Dirrell looked worse for the wear. Abraham was coming on, and it was going to be a nail biter to see whether he could make it to the finish line.
He didn’t, but he came away with the win nonetheless. For the second time of the fight, Dirrell slipped on a logo in the corner, and well after he was on the ground, Abraham crashed a massive flush right hook into the defenseless Dirrell’s head to leave Dirrell unconscious and twitching. Cole had his usual bad night, but he got it right in the end: Abraham was disqualified.
Dirrell came away with a much-needed win in Showtime’s super middleweight tournament, having lost a disputed decision against Carl Froch in the first leg of the competition. Even with Abraham’s late charge, Dirrell’s performance had the look of one that could be celebrated much as American compatriot Andre Ward’s was over Mikkel Kessler, with inexperienced youths putting together comprehensive and skillful upsets of pound-for-pound top-20 boxers from Europe.
Instead, we’re left wondering what kind of damage Dirrell suffered to get the DQ win. In a troubling scene, Dirrell was inconsolable, apparently convinced he’d been knocked out and lost. He needed to be taken to the hospital. Meanwhile, Abraham lost serious sportsmanship points not only for the extremely late punch, but for saying of Dirrell afterward that he was a “great actor.” (He’ll fight Froch next.) If there’s anything good about some of the tournament snafus, it’s that Andre Ward — Dirrell’s opponent in the third leg — won’t be ready to go for a while, as his injury prompted the Allan Green fight to be pushed to June 19. That should give Dirrell time to rest and recover. After finally fighting up to his potential against the best opponent of his life, it would be a shame if lasting damage was done by what might turn out to be a pyrrhic victory.
(Oh, and for the millionth time, can we come up with advertising logos on the canvas that don’t cause so much slipping? Is science not advanced enough for such a thing? If Dirrell’s career doesn’t recover from this, could there be a stupider contributing factor than “slippery advertising?”)
JOAN GUZMAN-ALI FUNEKA II
I can barely stand to review this fight because Guzman’s behavior beforehand was so disreputable that acknowledging he won the bout gives him more credit than I want to give him. I scored the fight 114-113 for Guzman, as did one of the three judges, with another giving it to Guzman by 116-111 and one seeing it for Funeka 114-113.
Guzman fought better this time around than in the first Funeka fight which ended in a draw, but the three major differences — better movement, heavier punches and improved ability to take Guzman’s shots — can absolutely be attributed to Guzman weighing in Friday at 144 pounds, a full nine pounds above the lightweight limit. I don’t know if the weight was the only difference, but I’m inclined to think it was. It was a close fight, mind you, even under those circumstances. Guzman often landed the better punches, especially to the body, and dropped Funeka in the 5th with a looping right. Funeka often landed more power punches, sometimes by about three to one in some rounds, but they didn’t have as much snap as Guzman’s. Funeka hasn’t gotten the benefit of the doubt yet, so it was inevitable he wouldn’t again.
Funeka was assured by HBO that a loss to Guzman wouldn’t keep him off the network because of the strange circumstances, and he’ll leave $25,0000 richer because of the penalties imposed on Guzman’s purse. It’s unclear what the IBF will think of this. There was talk that the sanctioning organization wouldn’t guarantee Funeka wcouldfight for their vacant belt if he lost to Guzman, a ludicrous decision since Guzman wasn’t eligible for the lightweight strap by coming in overweight — and the fight wasn’t even at lightweight because of the agreement between both sides after Guzman came in heavy. I want to see Funeka get a spot of luck one of these days, because he’s a good, honest and crowd-pleasing boxer.
I’d really prefer never to see Guzman again unless it was in a fight against someone two weight classes above his. I wonder how he’d like some of his own medicine. All signs suggest he didn’t even try to make 135. HBO’s Lennox Lewis really needs to be fired because with as brain dead as some of his commentary of his I don’t understand how he ever won a single boxing match — he didn’t seem to understand that making weight the day before the fight wasn’t equivalent to walking into the ring at whatever weight it is the next day. HBO’s Max Kellerman made a stronger point: Too often, boxers come in over the weight limit and gain an advantage against opponents who take the fight anyway because otherwise, it’s no paycheck. Boxing commissions ought to look into stiffer penalties than taking a quarter of a boxer’s purse when he misses the weight target. Howsabout 50 percent? And if that doesn’t work, upping the percentage again?
MARCOS MAIDANA-VICTOR CAYO
Maidana is getting really accurate with his behind-the-head punches, but that was about the only controversy in this fight, and it didn’t appear to have any real impact on the outcome. Maidana uppercutted Cayo right in the gut in the 6th, and Cayo couldn’t get up.
Before that, Maidana and Cayo exchanged plenty of blows. I had Cayo slightly ahead on my card, three rounds to two, only scoring the 2nd a 10-9 round for Maidana rather than 10-8 because the knockdown was questionable — after the bell, a bit behind the head. I thought Cayo was winning the round otherwise.
As expected, Cayo’s awkward movement and all-around boxing ability gave Maidana some trouble. But he wasn’t merely trying to outbox Maidana. He was putting some serious leather on him, appearing to hurt him at one point in the 5th. Unfortunately for Cayo, his aggressiveness gave Maidana plenty of opportunities to exchange, especially since Cayo fights so often with his hands down, and Maidana had the bigger cannons. The 6th was a real smackdown for Maidana even before he crushed Cayo with the body shot.
Cayo comes out of this with esteem for bravery and maybe a recognition that he wasn’t ready to step up against Maidana — he’s got some holes in his game to work on, but he’s young. I don’t think this changes anything about the perception of Maidana — he is still clearly a dangerous power-puncher, and he still very well might get beat the next time he fights anyone who has good boxing fundamentals and enough power to prevent all-out charges. He might end up with Devon Alexander next, and he’s very much the type I mentioned.
Other Saturday results, all via BoxingScene, Fightnews and ESPN:
- Pongsaklek won a decision over Kameda to start the day. Kameda was the favorite, with his youth, speed and better recent experience against a shared foe — Daisuke Naito — expected to carry the day, and a hometown advantage fighting in his native Japan possibly there as a backstop. No such luck. The Thai reportedly outworked Kameda and was more accurate, with Kameda being forced to work through a bloody cut. With the win, Pongsaklek became the true lineal flyweight champion of the world, and may very well have punched his ticket to the Hall of Fame.
- YURIORKIS GAMBOA! The featherweight took it to Jonathan Barros, although he didn’t get his usual WTF happened there KO — he won a wide decision. Up next could be Celestino Caballero. That’s a hugely sexy fight.
- Junior flyweights Ulises Solis and Giovanni Segura got KO wins over Bert Batawang and Ronald Ramos, respectively. Solis’ win was an eliminator for the belt held by Carlos Tamara. Can Segura now fight a top-notch junior flyweight? It was his third straight against competition like this.
- Erik Morales returned at welterweight and reportedly didn’t look so hot, but won a unanimous decision over Jose Alfaro, who like Morales shouldn’t be fighting over 135 lbs. (and Morales arguably shouldn’t be fighting above 130. Or at all). On the undercard, Chris Henry got a 1st round knockout win over Hugo Hernan Garay. It was an eliminator for the alphabet strap held by Beibut Shumenov.
- Steve Molitor took a unanimous decision over Takalani Ndlovu and in doing so took a junior featherweight title belt.
- Anselmo Moreno decisioned fellow bantamweight Nehomar Cermeno and Jorge Linares decisioned fellow junior lightweight Francisco Lorenzo, but both fights were close on the scorecards.