Weekend Afterthoughts, Focusing On Scoring Controversies In Wins For Devon Alexander, Felix Sturm And More

It’s givin’-up time for James Kirkland, for me. It might be a bit premature, since he just reunited with old trainer Ann Wolfe. But in the above video he looks like the sloppy barroom brawler pal of the site Paul Kelly called him. I have no idea why he’s leaning over into Dennis Sharpe at a 45-degree angle in the footage from Friday night’s Solo Boxeo Tecate above, unless he’s trying to get knocked out by an uppercut. He just plain looks terrible, and I don’t care that he knocked out a guy in the 1st round who hasn’t won a fight since 2004. Does he need more time with Wolfe? Does he need to return to junior middleweight? Is he still working off rust from his long jail stay? Or is whatever he had — and admittedly it was rudimentary back then, too — gone? I’m siding with the latter. I hope I’m wrong. A sharp (or as sharp as he can be) Kirkland is a nice force to have in the sport.

It was a jam-packed weekend, so before we start up with the marathon coverage of Wladimir Klitschko vs. David Haye this coming Saturday, let’s revisit the most recent Friday and Saturday in boxing.

  • Devon Alexander vs. Lucas Matthysse scoring. Opinions are all over the damn place about this one, with some (such as our Gautham Nagesh) scoring it narrowly for Alexander and others (including myself) scoring it fairly widely for Matthysse. Because I think both are valid outcomes, I’m not of the mind that this was a “robbery,” as some called it. I had it 97-92, but three of the rounds I had Matthysse winning — as well as one of the rounds Alexander won — I marked as “close.” The 4th, 7th, 8th and 10th were clear Matthysse rounds for me, while Alexander clearly won the 5th and 9th; I gave the 2nd to Alexander, among the close rounds, and Matthysse the rest. If I switch all of those close rounds I scored for Matthysse to Alexander, I end up with Gautham’s score. Why I don’t like that score, though, is because it requires giving all the close rounds to Alexander, or giving the 10th to Alexander, and I’m not questioning our man Gautham here specifically, since he was far from alone in that score. But the former is a bit of a stretch — how could Alexander win ALL the close rounds? — while the latter is, I think, a mistake, even if there were some people who scored the 10th for Alexander, because Matthysse to me clearly landed the harder and more numerous blows in that stanza. To get a 96-93 score, the way judge Carlos Colon did, you have to give all the close rounds to Alexander plus the 10th. It’s one thing to do one or the other; doing both smacks of hometown judging. So, I don’t like the decision, especially with that one bad scorecard, but I’m not going to scream bloody murder. Oh, and that trick of making it 10 rounds rather than 12 probably helped Alexander, since he didn’t have to deal with Matthysse piling up as much punishment — it’s a trick I haven’t seen used in a long time for a fight of this stature, and speaks once more to the advantages he had coming in to the fight.
  • Next for Alexander. Alexander is becoming an unpopular fighter outside of St. Louis. As friend of the site HitDog explained in the comments section Gautham’s write-up, it’s because he keeps getting decisions that many think he doesn’t deserve, when you combine the Matthysse decision with the Andriy Kotelnik decision. And I get it. On one level, you can’t blame Alexander for benefiting from judges’ decisions, because he’s not the judge. On the other, you have a fighter who has two wins on his career that few believe he earned, and between them, a poor showing against Timothy Bradley in an undisputed loss where he appeared to quit. (I scored Alexander-Kotelnik a draw, so I have him 0-2-1 in his last three fights.) I have considered myself an Alexander fan, and I got a little ammo for that Saturday, with him showing impressive resolve by coming back from the 4th round knockdown to win the 5th and two straight rounds of shellacking to win the 9th. Yet, I don’t really see being a fan anymore. His technique has really degenerated; the first time I saw him, against Chris Fernandez in 2008, I described his body shots as “ferocious,” but now he barely punches at all, since he was already pulling the string back on his shots against Matthysse before he finished landing them. And despite the showing of heart against Matthysse, he had a few rounds of aimlessness there, where he just mentally seemed to lose his focus. A man who looked like a potential world-class fighter to me not so long ago now looks like a borderline talent. And next he wants to move up to welterweight, when he can’t and/or won’t punch at junior welterweight? His team wants Paulie Malignaggi, who’s slowed down in recent years and also can’t punch, so it’s not the most dangerous 147-pound debut. But it’s a fight I’d rather see on ESPN2 than HBO.
  • Next for Matthysse. I thought Matthysse beat Zab Judah and I thought he beat Alexander, and I know I’m not alone. The only criticism I’ve seen of Matthysse came from RingTV’s Doug Fischer, who quizzically argued that Matthysse had no right to complain about the decision because he should’ve known better and fought harder in the 9th (and then insulted everyone who questioned him in the comments section). I say “quizzical” because while it’s one thing to argue Matthysse could’ve and should’ve done more, it’s another thing to say he loses the right to complain about a bad decision over it. I think a boxer has the right to complain about anything he wants, but if he thinks he’s the victim of a bad decision and has a good argument for it — and Matthysse is far from the only one to view it that way — then he definitely has the right to complain. Furthermore, cruiserweight Steve Cunningham argued that fans have no right to complain about the decision because they’re not judges, which is an even weirder attempt to curtail justifiable opinions. Fans have the right to speak out about anything they want, and they don’t have to respect bad decisions; how could anyone respect, say, the decision in Joan Guzman-Ali Funeka I? And speaking out can make a difference. Maybe a judge will hear the criticism and improve his or her self, or maybe demand will build for a rematch, the way it did for Guzman-Funeka II, Juan Diaz-Malignaggi II, Sergio Martinez-Paul Williams II and a host of others, where justice can be established. Anyway, I want to see Matthysse against everybody available at 140, be it the winner of Amir Khan-Judah, the winner of Robert Guerrero-Marcos Maidana, Bradley or Erik Morales.
  • Tavoris Cloud. How can you not like Tavoris? The light heavyweight put on another dynamic offensive performance Saturday, this time in a stoppage win over Yusaf Mack. I think Cloud’s limitations have been established: He doesn’t punch as hard as his knockout record would suggest, and his defense is on the lackluster side. But he makes good fights, as he would against Jean Pascal or the winner of Bernard Hopkins-Chad Dawson in the fall. More Tavoris on HBO, please.
  • Bermane Stiverne. Stiverne clearly can punch, but the heavyweight simply couldn’t figure out how to get into position against the taller Ray Austin, which bodes poorly for his chances in the division. If he can figure out how to work his way inside, great. If not, he’ll be a lot of power whiffing on a bunch of lackluster heavyweights because they are merely tall. I’m not interested in seeing him back on HBO until he fixes this, if then.
  • Cornelius Bundrage. There was a time when the junior middleweight prompted groans from me, owing to an ugly style and a tendency to lose against anyone any good. But Bundrage has reformed himself on both counts, with the latest piece of evidence being his win over Sechew Powell in a rematch Saturday on the untelevised portion of the Alexander-Matthysse undercard, which was reportedly a good scrap. Maybe he gets himself a shot at Saul Alvarez eventually, and it would be a richly deserved big-money fight for a boxer who has really come a long way. Alvarez’ people are instead talking about Alfonso Gomez or Ricardo Mayorga or the winner of Williams-Erislandy Lara. Bundrage might instead end up facing mandatory opponent Deandre Latimore, which figures as a good scrap in the meantime.
  • Felix Sturm-Matthew Macklin scoring. Here’s one where I’m on the other side of conventional wisdom. I had Sturm winning this middleweight clash by one round. I gave him the 4th and every round after the 6th, marking the 3rd through 7th as close as well as the 9th. Some thought this more of a robbery than Alexander-Matthysse, but I’m not sure how. This one struck me as a legitimately close bout that could have gone either way or to a draw, which is the way the Sky Sports team scored it for their man from the U.K., rather than the Alexander-Matthysse battle where a lot of people had it wide for the loser. That said, Sturm is another guy who keeps getting the benefit of the doubt on his German soil, a la Alexander in St. Louis, and I understand why this decision would frustrate more than a few people. I’d also remind anyone who watched this bout and scored it for Macklin to consider that Sturm fights are often a bit controversial on the scorecards; his tendency to get outworked while landing the cleaner blows means his bouts will usually be a bit of a bitch. At least we got two action-packed and dramatic bouts out of the two biggest fights of the weekend, I guess, offsetting the controversy a touch. We might get a rematch of Sturm-Macklin, and we should.
  • Friday Night Fights, with another scoring dispute. The third controversial scorecard of the weekend came in Mauricio Herrera’s majority decision over fellow junior welterweight Mike Dallas, Jr. I had it six rounds to four for Dallas, with four of the first five rounds close (excepting the 4th) and the rest pretty clear in my books. I had heard about the scoring controversy, and for most of the fight, I was kind of glad of the alleged injustice, since maybe it meant I wouldn’t have to watch Dallas anymore. Dallas was annoying me terribly. He had about three moves: 1. skip backward, doing nothing except sticking his head out; 2. lunging in with often-inaccurate shots; and 3. holding on for dear life. Then, in the last couple rounds, Dallas mustered some confidence and actually threw punches on the inside, and as a result I didn’t loathe his style so much. I think Dallas won the 4th, as well as the 7th through the 10th, with the shortened 5th round (due to a timekeeper’s error) the close round I had him taking. I don’t have a clue how judge Fritz Werner had it 98-92 for Herrera, whose body language late in the fight suggested he knew he was losing. I’d like to be happy for Herrera, who got another victory in a fight he wasn’t expected to win, but… In the main event, lightweight John Molina, Jr. won by 5th round stoppage over Rob Frankel owing to Molina cutting up Frankel’s face all over the place, particularly the X above his right eye, in what has to be the bloodiest fight of 2011. Frankel gave Molina trouble for three rounds, but Molina turned it around at the end of the 3rd and started beating the tar out of Frankel. Molina is trying to learn to box more. I’m not thinking he’ll get there. He’ll make his money with power and a determination to use it.
  • Fernando Montiel-Nehomar Cermeno. Montiel won in the 3rd round in the video below when Cermeno quit, although I’m not sure why the ref gave him a 10 count to start the round. It apeeared that a body shot or combination of them at the end of the 2nd prompted Cermeno to retire. Montiel looked good, a class above Cermeno, as he is, showing no ill effects from the Nonito Donaire knockout loss. I’m still not seeing a junior featherweight in there, as Cermeno was until recently a bantamweight like Montiel. Time will tell if Montiel can make that transition, but this is a good start on that road.

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.