Lucian Bute’s speed and power and craftiness are all very good, but that left uppercut of his is special. It might be my favorite weapon in boxing right now. In a super middleweight bout webcast on ESPN3, Bute dropped Jesse Brinkley three times with it, once to the body and twice to the head, the second head shot putting Brinkley down for good in the 9th. Brinkley fared better than most of Bute’s victims, showing good defense and landing the occasional overhand right while toughing out the first two knockdowns, but he was woefully outclassed, as expected.
Meanwhile, over on ShoBox, Antonio Tarver made his heavyweight debut in a decision win over Nagy Aguilera, primarily using his light heavyweight speed to outbox Aguilera by avoiding his shots and landing his 1-2 against the curiously backpedaling larger man. I expected worse from a 41-year-old who wasn’t much of a puncher at 175 pounds coming off a 17-month layoff, but that didn’t save it from being a “meh” kind of showing, not the capture-the-imagination kind of performance Tarver was hoping to muster.
Since neither fight was particularly competitive, it’s enough to make one turn one’s attention to what’s next for Bute and Tarver.
LUCIAN BUTE-JESSE BRINKLEY
I gave Brinkley the 2nd round, thinking he’d landed more than Bute, something the punch stats contradicted. It was one of two close-ish rounds, with the other being the 7th. In that regard, Brinkley did better than most everyone Bute’s fought in the last several years. His defense made him less of an easy target than the blindly charging-forward likes Fulgencio Zunia, Edison Miranda or Librado Andrade, Bute’s last three opponents, whom he knocked out by the 4th. Brinkley touched Bute a bit more than in those three fights, especially with his lunging overhand right, but he was mostly very inaccurate against a man who’s hard to hit cleanly. And he survived the first two knockdowns during the end of the 5th and 8th, the inaugural one by spitting out his mouthpiece to buy himself some time from a vicious body shot and the sequel to the head when the referee had the ring doctor check out a cut.
Basically, Brinkley can’t look back and say he screwed much of anything up. He just got beaten by the bigger, stronger, faster, better boxer. That’s something everyone fully expected to happen. Even the “how” was predictable. I get huge kicks out of watching Bute plant that left uppercut. It comes so suddenly. You know it’s coming at some point, because he loves it and he’s good at it, but it’s always a shock the moment it arrives. I suspect he broke Brinkley’s nose with it just prior to the second of the three knockdowns.
The talk is of Kelly Pavlik as Bute’s next opponent in a 166-pound fight. Given how the best potential super middleweight opponents for Bute are tied up in the Super Six, that fight makes as much sense as any. I wouldn’t give Pavlik much of a chance at all, though. It’s possible his relentlessness and proven chin could give him a chance to land something huge, but Pavlik’s power above 160 is nowhere near as convincing as below it. I love the Super Six, but can we fast forward to Andre Ward-Bute? And if not, can Bute move up to light heavyweight and fight Jean Pascal in a gigantic all-Canadian Super Bowl of boxing for our friends north of the border?
ANTONIO TARVER-NAGY AGUILERA
Not much of anybody was looking forward to this ring return. Tarver has had a grand total of one compelling performance in the ring since 2005, his drubbing of Clinton Woods, and in the midst of the seven bouts since he beat Glen Johnson, he has three losses, all three drubbings — from Chad Dawson twice and Bernard Hopkins once. And the guy has never had much of a fan base, per se. He gets booed when he fights in his native Florida. That he’s been arguably the best former boxer/commentator was a situation that worked out great for everybody. We didn’t have to watch him fight, and we got to listen to him talk, something he’s always been good at doing.
Tarver returning at heavyweight was just as uninteresting. The heavyweight division doesn’t have a ton of juice these days in the United States. Tarver wasn’t much of a puncher at 175, so it’s not like he was going to be a good one at heavy. As it happened, he wasn’t. Maybe his training had something to do with it; he wasn’t as flabby as Cristobal Arreola or anything, but he sure looked like his weight training program was “eat a bunch of food until I weight 220 pounds.”
Aguilera was the most baffling part of the equation. Why a naturally larger man with some pop wouldn’t try to chase and knock out an old, rusty, powerless smaller man like Tarver is hard to imagine, but the constant backing up into the corner was even more of a puzzler. Aguilera maybe one one round, the 10th, when he finally came after Tarver. Otherwise, Tarver, far faster, was able to connect on his 1-2 at will. The shots would pop Aguilera’s head back, and by the end of the fight he was bruised and had a bloody mouth, but he never seemed seriously hurt by Tarver’s flush connects. It’s possible that Tarver’s shoulder injury hurt some of his left-handed power, but it seems just as likely to me that a light heavyweight with average power would be a heavyweight with very little power. Tarver’s speed was the difference, both on offense and defense, as he avoided most everything Aguilera threw and tied up when he was in any danger.
It wasn’t a good fight or a bad one, by my eye. There were enough connects to make it about par for your basic lackluster heavyweight bout, and a few good moments where Tarver poured it on rather than landing single shots then backing off. What it says about Tarver is unclear. I can see him beating some top-20 caliber heavyweights, like say a Sergei Liakhovich. I can’t see him beating a top-10 caliber heavyweight, like say a Tony Thompson. If both of them insist on fighting on, I could get moderately interested in Tarver battling James Toney, although mainly just for the trash-talking war beforehand. The actual fight, with lots of posing and waiting, would suck by comparison. Toney-Tarver could go down in the Guiness Book of World Records as “Best Trash-Talked Boxing Match.” But short of that, I’m no more interested in Tarver at heavyweight now than I was before, which is to say, nil. His post-fight promise to “power up” by next fight didn’t sell me. Tarver said he wanted to see what fight Showtime would buy next, but ideally Showtime will fatten his broadcaster check a little to get him to sit down behind the mic where he’s at his best these days.
In other action Friday:
- Adrian Diaconu survived a 2nd round scare against Omar Sheika in a return from a nearly year-long layoff. In a bout contested at light heavyweight, Sheika flashed the power that makes him sporadically, mildly dangerous with one knockdown and another near-knockdown in the 2nd. Then, Diaconu outboxed Sheika with a fair amount of ease thereafter, and Sheika did what the journeyman often does, which is to take a ton of punishment. It wasn’t the “great performance” Sergio Mora labeled it as a commentator on ESPN3. By the by, Mora’s performance in the booth was not good, but it was better than watching him fight.
- Shawn Porter smashed up Hector Munoz en route to forcing a 9th round corner stoppage in his welterweight debut. Porter finally looked the right size; he’s been a small junior middleweight who’s occasionally had trouble with very tall 154-pounders, and still might be a bit undersized for welter, but against Munoz, 5’8″, he was better-suited physically. It’s too bad the bout was marred by so many Porter head butts gashing up Munoz. Munoz clearly had trouble seeing through the waterfall of blood pouring down his face from every direction, and by the late rounds, the doctor or ref should have thrown it to the scorecards, but instead Porter enjoyed an advantage brought about by misfortune. Munoz was ridiculously tough, so his corner was right to throw in the towel, because Munoz also was taking an ass-whooping. For comparison’s sake, Mike Jones stopped Munoz in the 4th. Porter is fun to watch, and he doesn’t appear to mind getting hit, two facts that are related. I wonder what happens, though, when someone with significant power hits him after he leaves himself wide open following a missed punch, something that happened regularly against the light-hitting Munoz. P.S., Munoz’ tattoo, below, was captured by friend of the site cardscott5. That’s right! It’s a gun, “tucked” into his pants!
- According to accounts of Telefutura’s Solo Boxeo show that I read on Twitter, junior welterweight prospect Frankie Gomez was stretched to a decision for the first time, against Ramon Montana, and junior lightweight Eloy Perez fought to a majority decision over Dominic Salcido.