I don’t think Saturday’s HBO doubleheader is terrible by any stretch, but Showtime’s boxing event the same night is significantly more meaningful, so you should watch that one if you have to make a choice. (Since it’s on a free preview weekend for Showtime, you certainly will have that choice.) What’s more, Kevin Iole said ratings for the Showtime Super Six tournament are not so hot. That sends the wrong message, boxing fans. The Super Six is a great idea that’s hit a hitch or two, but remains an exciting concept that deserves our devotion.
End sermon. Let’s examine the merits of the HBO card. Junior welterweight Marcos Maidana (above right) is good television, a power puncher who earned his way back on to HBO after his upset of Victor Ortiz (above left). Victor Cayo, Maidana’s opponent for the night, was about the only one actually pining to fight Maidana, and he’s a talented if unorthodox boxer who recently got a career-best win over Julio Diaz and is looking to prove he’s got more to offer than taking out faded vets.
Ali Funeka-Joan Guzman II, meanwhile, is something of a downer. It’s a rematch of a lightweight title bout from last year that Funeka should have won on the scorecards but the judges decided it was a draw. Some boxing people advocated appropriately that Funeka should fight for the vacant belt against the next highest-ranked available contender rather than being forced into a do-over of a bout he deserved to win, and that contender was Rolando Reyes, who withdrew over money. That left the IBF with not so many choices, and thus we end up with the Guzman rematch. If nothing else, it will be good to see Funeka get a shot at correcting a wrong, and the first fight wasn’t a particularly bad match-up.
MARCOS MAIDANA-VICTOR CAYO
Maidana hasn’t been around the ring much since his Ortiz upset. There was a brief fight back in his native Argentina — won by knockout, of course — and some jousting with Amir Khan’s team in the press. Khan owes Maidana a title shot, but Khan’s people don’t want that for him, since Maidana’s a big power puncher and Khan’s ability to take a shot is the biggest impediment to his superstardom, although Khan’s team spins it as Maidana simply not being a big enough star for them right now. Whatever the situation, there’s an agreement on both sides that fight won’t happen for a while, and if it is to happen, Maidana turning in exciting performances will be helpful.
Maidana is one of the hardest hitters in the sport. There are some who might rightly point out he’s only knocked out one very good fighter — Ortiz — but you could see that the power punches Maidana landed on Andreas Kotelnik were really hard shots, and that Kotelnik only took ’em because he’s got a reliable chin. He mainly throws hooks with both hands, faster than they ought to be given how wide they usually are, all of them with real steam. He’ll occasionally jab or uppercut, and he’s not only a headhunter, but he’s limited offensively. Mainly it’s volume and power. He’s not awful on defense because he picks of shots with his gloves and because he’ll counter you at times, but he’s pretty easy to counter if you throw a straight shot while he’s hooking. I think his speed and boxing ability overall are underrated, but he’s not great in either department. His chin took a dent or three from Ortiz, too, but he showed world-class toughness to get up from three knockdowns to score the knockout. My sense is that somebody someday is going to outbox Maidana, and if that person has enough power, he might knock him out too, but he’ll always be dangerous.
Is Cayo the person to outbox him? It could explain why he’s been so confident in his pursuit of Maidana. Cayo is, if nothing else, a boxer. He imitates Roy Jones, Jr., with that hands down, quick feet, in-out, left hook/straight right style. He’s more awkward than Roy, less fluid, not as fast, not as powerful. People who fight like Roy but aren’t Roy haven’t always been that successful. The hands-down thing is a bad idea unless you have reflexes delivered from another dimension a la Roy, and Cayo doesn’t have those, either. Like Maidana, he has just one win of true note, that being Cayo’s decision win over Diaz. Even still, Diaz, a faded and blown-up lightweight, got some leather on Cayo. Cayo just was younger, faster, better — it was an eye-opening win, even if beating Diaz shouldn’t be that big a deal at this point. I’d say Cayo’s power is OK, but he probably should have done better than wobbling Diaz a couple times if he had much pop in his gloves.
I’d bet Cayo isn’t the one to outbox Maidana, at least not all the way. I think he’ll give Maidana some trouble early with his herky-jerky style, but he won’t hit hard enough to keep Maidana off him for too long, and he’s not technically solid enough to do a pure “cutie” number on Maidana. Expect a mid- to late-rounds knockout for the Argentian.
ALI FUNEKA-JOAN GUZMAN II
You know, someone pointed out recently — don’t remember whom — that this fight doesn’t happen if Guzman isn’t a Golden Boy Promotions product. That’s probably true. And really, it’s hard to get excited about it. But I bet Funeka’s getting more money being on HBO than fighting Reyes back in South Africa, so there’s that. Clearly, I haven’t stopped searching for consolation here.
In the first fight, Guzman looked in the initial two rounds like the Guzman who had climbed the pound-for-pound rankings — slippery, fast, landing without much pop. Then in the 3rd, the tall, long Funeka began doubling his jab and firing combos, bloodying him, and later in the fight added a counter right and lead left uppercut. Guzman was completely flummoxed. In the 8th, he was wobbled. In the 11th, his corner contemplated throwing in the towel. In the 12th, Funeka almost knocked out a battered Guzman. Somehow, two judges saw it as a draw.
The question, I guess, is what might be different this time. Guzman’s made some noise about how he didn’t train right for Funeka. Now he’s got a new trainer, Lee Beard, whom Guzman said has gotten him into the right condition and will be offering him a better game plan. This strikes me as plausible, if not likely. Another potential difference is that if Funeka hurts Guzman, he goes for the kill. Guzman was able to survive when wobbled a couple times, and perhaps a more aggressive Funeka can finish the show.
I’m inclined to think that an even older Guzman — if only by four months — isn’t a good thing, and that if Funeka showed he was able to cause Guzman trouble with his length, volume and angles the first time around, he’ll be able to do it again. While Guzman hasn’t beaten anyone very good since 2007, when he decisioned Humberto Soto, would be overdue if Funeka gets the win. I thought he deserved it against Nate Campbell, although that’s the minority view, and he deserved it against Guzman. This time Guzman’ll get what he deserves, but it might take him a couple more rounds to start getting to Guzman, and thus it might be a legitimately close decision where before it should have been a landslide.
[The TQBR Prediction Game is in effect. Remember the rules.]