While We Were Away: Wladimir Klitschko, Brandon Rios, Yuriorkis Gamboa, Floyd Mayweather, David Haye, The Super Six

(No, the purpose of my trip to the U.K. was not to watch heavyweight Tyson Fury decision Rich Power. Haven’t even caught up to that one on my DVR. Photo: Tom Casino, Showtime)

In the headline, it’s the royal “we” that went away. While I was in London, there was some fantastic work on this site of the feature/wrap-up persuasion by the awesome Andrew Harrison, the tremendous Alex McClintock and the mighty Carlos Acevedo.

Also while “we” were away, at least three different fighters or former fighters freaking imploded, plus some stuff happened that sent me from optimistic to worried about the best thing happening in boxing. I couldn’t hope to weigh in on all of it, but I can sure hit the high points. Maybe if you have any leftover thoughts, you can share them with me.

  • Wladimir Klitschko. The heavyweight champ won again last weekend, same way he always does. There is no boxer for whom I have such a disproportionate ratio of respect to annoyance. On one level, his willingness to fight anyone is the primary trait I want out of a fighter. On another, I’d rather listen to a banshee shriek for 45 minutes straight than watch one of his bouts. There’s been some thoughtful discussion out there about where Klitschko fits into heavyweight history in light of his knockout of Samuel Peter, and while I haven’t contemplated it in depth, he belongs in at least the same category as post-Muhammad Ali heavies Larry Holmes, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis. He’s young enough that he could surpass at least some of them even in what’s widely-viewed as a weak era, not that those other dudes didn’t beat some crap opponents themselves. But man, I am overwhelmed with the urge to see someone pull a Tyson on his left arm and try to break it off. No referee is going to stop him from breaking the rules by sticking his jabbing hand out and doing the old big brother/little brother trick of putting his hand on his opponent’s head to keep him from connecting. Plus, all that holding, while as effective as all the other cheating he does, drives me up the wall. I suspect the person who beats Klitschko — if anyone — will be fighting him just as dirty as he fights to disrupt his rhythm. (Also interesting: In “Four Kings,” a book which I finished on the plane, Klitschko trainer Emanuel Steward complains about how much he hates boxers from the current era because they take so few chances, but Klitschko is the definition of that kind of boxer. Funny how sometimes trainers end up responsible for the very things they condemn as commentators.)
  • Yuriorkis Gamboa. I’m more on the “pro” side of his decision win over fellow featherweight Orlando Salido than most. I don’t think he was particularly conservative in his offensive approach, as the critics suggested, only that Salido proved he’s a hard-headed type by taking some of the shots he did. Yes, Gamboa backed off a couple times when he had Salido hurt, but he often does that — check out the highlights from Rogers Mtagwa fight for starters. Yes, he’d be better off with a jab, yes, he’s probably not as physically strong as he should be on the inside, yes, that post-knockdown punch on Salido in the 12th was idiotic, and yes, he has balance issues. (I’m of the mind that his flash knockdown was more a slip than a knockdown — he got hit, then launched a punch, then fell down after launching his own punch, in that order — but I think Salido had him hurt in the follow-up flurry, so his chin remains something of a worry.) But, and I know I’m notoriously in the bag for YURIORKIS GAMBOA!, I think he was more good than bad against Salido. As limited as Salido was, and as much as I and others thought he would crush Salido, he still was a quantum leap in competition for Gamboa, and some minor struggles — combined with Salido’s toughness — fail to make it a disaster.
  • Brandon Rios. I loved everything about the performance of this lightweight in his disqualification win over Anthony Peterson, from the eagerness to fight through the low blows to the all-out aggression. I think his boxing skill and physical ability is being underestimated a bit, though. No, he’s not actively fast, and the amount he got hit in the 1st round before Peterson began to fall apart leads me to believe he’s not as good defensively as I thought. But he’s not in the class of brawling, pressure-fighting, iron-chinned Mexicans like Alfredo Angulo or Antonio Margarito in those regards. He’s faster than both, especially in his feet, and he’s better defensively than both of them. I’d pick a fast, slick boxer over Angulo and Margarito almost every time. I think Rios will struggle with that archetype, too, but I’d give him a far, far better chance.
  • Floyd Mayweather. It was already hard to write off last week’s domestic violence allegations against convicted woman-beater Floyd Mayweather, but it keeps getting harder. You could say that since his baby momma, Josie Harris, had years ago alleged domestic violence against Mayweather only to retract it that maybe she’s less credible. But the law enforcement accounts indicate she did suffer injuries — where’d those come from, if not from Mayweather? — and one of Mayweather’s children served as a witness to this allegation of abuse. Nobody should be convicted of a crime in the public before a court does it, but if you wanted to assume Mayweather was guilty, it would be hard to blame you. To say he’s had a bad couple weeks would be an understatement (AT&T and Reebok are out of the picture as sponsors, if they weren’t already) and, again, if you were enjoying his suffering, I really couldn’t blame you. He’s got a jackass public persona and still hasn’t apologized for his homophobia (racism is apology-worthy, though) and the media has really piled on to him for being awful after initially not giving it much attention. If you “play” the villain, then turn out to “be” the villain, then find out that beyond a certain point it isn’t cute to everyone anymore, you deserve whatever misery you have coming your way.
  • Ricky Hatton. It doesn’t bother me that much if every single retired British boxing great gets caught by a tabloid snorting coke. I know it’s a bad example for the kiddies — I get that. But it’s such a non-scandal to me. I suppose it’s worrisome that Hatton’s partying SO hard and why, and as a Hatton fan, I hope he’s OK. I just know that if that every time a celebrity snorted cocaine it was a headline, there wouldn’t be room enough in all the newspapers in the world for it.
  • David Haye. I honestly don’t know how to rank insensitive comments about race, sexuality or rape, but I can’t say heavyweight David Haye’s comment about his upcoming fight with Audley Harrison being as “one-sided as gang rape” is all that great, that’s for sure. And I think he should have apologized. I also know that, from Mayweather to Hatton to Haye, some people will probably find a way to use it all to tar the sport as a whole, as if a couple bits of impropriety by a couple athletes condemn an entire profession. But it happens anyway. That’s why there are things like “morals clauses” in some sports, but it’s not an option for boxing because there’s no central authority to mandate it.
  • Super Six. I’m not saying they’ll work through or won’t work through their current difficulties at Showtime over the super middleweight tournament that has been one of the bright spots of a terrible 2010. But I know that, for the first time, I’m worried. I was fine with the withdrawal of Jermain Taylor and Mikkel Kessler, as withdrawals due to health reasons were always an anticipatable event. I have had little problem with the occasional delay of scheduled fights, also anticipatable and quite managable. I do know that if Showtime has to send legal letters to Andre Ward and Andre Dirrell to compel them to fight, that is no damn good. The Carl Froch-Arthur Abraham postponement doesn’t help either. I still go to my default position — whatever we got out of it if it ends today, I’m glad we got it — but it’s potentially damaging to networks taking a risk on other, similarly exciting tourneys. (Also, is adviser Al Haymon behind almost everything bad about boxing right now? He’s in the middle of this shit pile, too.)

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.