Happy 4th of July, fellow ‘mericans. Above are some fireworks of the kind we hoped for but didn’t get from heavyweight champ Wladimir Klitschko in his win over David Haye, on undercard of said bout. Ola Afolabi is a very skilled cruiserweight who’s capable of one-shot knockouts, so I’d like him to stay in the mix. And that was a real Knockout of the Year candidate in a 2011 that’s had few of them, with the obvious potential leader, Nonito Donaire-Fernando Montiel, spoiled a little by a referee misjudgment.
Before we do a no-holds-barred Open Thread tomorrow, let’s catch up on some Weekend Afterthoughts, featuring the stuff in the headline — it’s a really Klitschko vs. Haye-centric edition — as well as Celestino Caballero’s controverial decision loss and Sebastian Lujan’s gritty win.
- Wlad’s place. Our Corey Erdman tweeted that Klitschko would beat Muhammad Ali. (It was partially meant to be provocative, to say that Klitschko would give any heavyweight in history a tough night.) Steve Kim said Klitschko should be considered in the top 10 or 15 heavyweights all-time. I’m not sure I agree with either argument, but the point is, such talk is less blasphemous all the time. With his style, size and athleticism, I honestly can’t think of many great heavyweight’s I’d say would beat him with certainty — Lennox Lewis comes to mind, who had all those qualities but took a better punch. And Erdman tallied it up: Klitschko is one of only four heavyweights with 15-plus title defenses, something that puts him in a class with Muhammad Ali, Larry Holmes and Joe Louis, albeit against mostly terrible competition, even with the Haye win behind him. Doug Fischer made the point that smaller fighters have been able to work their way in on taller fighters, citing Mike Tyson’s work against the likes of Razor Ruddock and Joe Frazier’s work against Ali — but then, neither of those men were as big and as good at using their size as Klitschko. When you combine his lengthy reign and his style that would trouble vritually every heavyweight great, we’re talking about a very accomplished and formidable boxer.
- Wlad’s performance. That doesn’t mean anyone has to like him for it. Respect, yes. Like, no. Klitschko’s performance Saturday, for all the heat Haye got, was up to his usual putrid win-boring antics. There has been a mild double-standard, of course: Haye talked a storm up about how he was gonna demolish Klitschko, but Klitschko also talked a great deal about knocking out Haye. But there’s a reason or two Klitschko isn’t taking the same amount of fire as Haye. First off, he won, and tried to make the fight, whereas Haye circled away. It’s not that Klitschko took any chances, but at least he was the one pressing forward. Second off, Klitschko fought like he always does. When a guy talks a big game and then is usual self, it’s different than when a guy like Haye talks a big game and fights more tentatively than usual.
- The dead heavyweights. The heavyweight division very well could have some good fights between now and when the Klitschkos retire, but Haye’s flameout effectively ends any drama at the top of the division indefinitely. Maybe Vitali gets a decent challenge from Tomasz Adamek in the fall, but in no universe would I give Adamek a chance against Wlad. Thank goodness everyone realized Klitschko-Haye wasn’t going to save the division. As I worried last week, there was a chance it damn near killed it. There simply are no viable challenges for Wlad on the horizon. He’s going to have to get “old” or quit in the next several years for that to change.
- Haye’s excuse. Let’s try to be open-minded to Haye about this “broken pinkie toe” excuse. Try. Some respectable boxers and commentators have observed that a broken toe would indeed inhibit one’s ability to fight. Which, of course it would. But setting aside the usual warrior ethos in boxing — the one where boxers are supposed to give their all through broken hands, broken jaws and torn muscles (and often have) — it still comes off as bunk. Haye got around the ring plenty. He was very good at defending himself by moving his feet. He was clearly capable of launching assaults, because he did, however infrequently. What was it about his toe that prevented him from following-up when he did connect cleanly on Klitschko? Because that was what was missing, ultimately. And last I checked, NBA players needed their toes for running and jumping and landing and such, yet Danilo Gallinari missed a mere eight games with a broken toe this past season, and that was his big toe, not his little one. Nor were any of the tales of Haye in sparring from the likes of Joe Calzaghe indicating that he was showing any inability to move. No, this really does just come off as a horrible, all-time bad excuse, and it’s all the worse because it was in such an important bout.
- What else Haye did wrong. So Haye’s defense was good, which, if that’s the best you can say about him, is kinda depressing. But besides his lack of follow-up attacks, he did some other things wrong. One, he didn’t use his jab nearly as much as he should’ve. It really was effective, but he virtually never unleashed it. And he used the wrong strategy, frankly. He should’ve fought with the same abandon he fought in the 12th round early on. Granted, that could’ve gotten him knocked out or exhausted. But of the two ways he could’ve fought — the way he did, versus with fury — “abandon” was the only path to victory.
- Next for Wlad and Haye. Haye called for a rematch with Wladimir, which was nearly as laughable as his pinkie toe excuse. I think the simple answer to the question about what’s next for Wlad and Dave is, “Who cares?” No matter who Wladimir faces, he’s going to be a heavy favorite and he’s going to be boring. If Adamek upsets his brother, I suppose that fight would have juice in Europe, as would facing the winner of Dereck Chisora-Tyson Fury, and maybe someday Alexander Povetkin’s trainer Teddy Atlas will stop sitting on him and get him to sack up for a Klitschko fight, and maybe someday Chris Arreola will be rehabilitated enough for another Klitschko go-round. If any of that excites you, you are probably Ukrainian. Haye maybe ought to move down to cruiserweight again, or maybe he could make interesting fights with any number of the above Klitschko opponents, or maybe he could just retire like he has threatened. Don’t care. Not a bit.
- Boxing versus mixed martial arts. Bloody Elbow — and some other MMA advocates — decided to party like it was 2006 and take Saturday’s heavyweight showing vis-a-vis the UFC pay-per-view that night as an excuse to revive outdated, idiotic arguments about how MMA was better than boxing. As if one crappy heavyweight fight — one that did massively more business than the UFC could have possibly done that night — erases everything else good about boxing, or suddenly redeems every lackluster UFC bout ever. The only way this is a valid thing for Bloody Elbow to do is if they’re trolling for controversy-based traffic, in which case, congrats on getting a response from me. Why can’t smart people (and I usually think of Bloody Elbow as a smart site; not sure what kind of stupid pills they were taking when they published that Josh Nason item) just go ahead and recognize that both sports are thriving to some extent or the other and clearly can do so without putting down the other?
- British fighter swoon. It has been a good year for domestic bouts in the U.K., with slugfests aplenty all over the place. But it’s been a bad year for British fighters who appear on HBO, for the most part, with Haye, Ryan Rhodes, Matthew Hatton and Paul McCloskey all getting whooped, albeit with McCloskey by a fellow Brit in Amir Khan. All the Zab Judah fans should be encouraged by this, since Khan faces him in a few weeks and there’s no fellow Brit for him to beat.
- Jonathan Barros-Celestino Caballero. The other fighter who threatened to retire in advance of his weekend fight was Caballero, but the featherweight will probably fight on after this controversial split decision loss. I had it 115-111 for Caballero. (When I watched the last third of the fight live, I was full of Four Loko. It was a can before they defanged it. That explains why I gave Barros the 11th round, a clear Caballero round when I rewatched it just now.) I had four close rounds, three that went to Caballero and a fourth to Barros. That means I can, being generous with every single close round, arrive at a score where a Barros win is viable, and with the fight on Barros’ home turf, those are the ideal conditions for incubating a controverial decision where the hometown fighter gets the benefit of the doubt. Whatever the case, Caballero no longer strikes me as an elite fighter. The Jason Litzau loss could’ve been a fluke. But he’s not the same volume puncher — he made too many of those rounds close by not throwing very much. You can watch it here if you want, but it’s an ugly fight with lots of missed punches and back punches and such and I don’t recommend it.
- Sebastian Lujan-Mark Melligen. This is a welterweight fight I recommend catching up to on ESPN3, if you didn’t catch it on Friday Night Fights. Melligen controlled the early part of the fight but the middle rounds turned into a slugfest and eventually Lujan caught up to Melligen and stopped him. I’m not a fan of Melligen’s talent, but he showed some grit fighting on as the bout turned against him, although Lujan was that much grittier and never seemed to feel Melligen’s punches. Lujan’s a real likable fighter. He should be an FNF staple. For other results, you know the deal.