Some boxers have a funny way of falling down or getting rocked, like Zab Judah, say. Another is a second boxer from this past weekend, the breakdancing Austin Trout. He should swerve into it: Drop the "No Doubt" nickname that people were making fun of Saturday as the Erislandy Lara bout slipped out of control ("Some Doubt," "A Lot Of Doubt…") and transform himself into Austin "Electric Boogaloo" Trout. (photo via)
It was a full weekend of top boxers and/or televised boxing, yet very little of the combat delivered. The best bout was marred horribly by the failure of a ring doctor, a referee and a corner to save Glen Tapia from himself. We'll start there and then move to the latest game of "is he boring or isn't he?" with Guillermo Rigondeaux, what's next for Shawn Porter, the bouts Friday featuring elite Asian boxers and more.
- The James Kirkland-Glen Tapia ending. There's nobody defending the Kirkland-Tapia junior middleweight brawl for continuing as long as it did. The cavalier attitude of trainer Alex Devia as his boxer soaked up potentially career-ending and life-threatening punishment from the 4th round on was sickening — "It's a sparring session," he said to referee Steve Smoger, and yelled at Tapia to tell ring Blair Bergen doctor he was fine — and is all the more unfathomable in light of recent boxer injuries and the transparent inability of his boxer to compete after the early rounds. The discussion between Smoger and Tapia at the end of the 4th, where they agreed that any more big head shots would make them halt the bout, was potentially encouraging, and giving Tapia that 5th to try one last rally was at least defensible. But the rally only lasted 30 seconds or so, and then Tapia took big head shots the rest of the time, and still the bout wasn't stopped as promised. That's a huge knock on Smoger and Bergen. Then he took more punishment in the 6th, a lot for such a compressed amount of time, and Smoger indecisively grabbed at Kirkland to halt it. I blame Kirkland a little for continuing to throw after Smoger pushed him back, but understand it to a degree given that he was in the heat of combat; Smoger is more to blame for his feeble move in. There was a time when I viewed Smoger as the best ref in the business, the guy who got it "just right," but too frequently and for too long his decisionmaking has offered too much grist for criticism. Devia, Smoger and Bergen should take a hard look at themselves over putting a young man at such great risk. Fortunately, Tapia reportedly checked out OK at the hospital, but too often lately that hasn't been the case, and we have no notion of whether he'll be able to continue a successful boxing career after this beating.
- Kirkland's performance and what's next. If this fight had ended in the 5th, we'd be spending more time talking about what a hellion Kirkland is. When he pairs with Ann Wolfe, he's simply demonic. It's an unconventional kind of muse role Wolfe plays for Kirkland, inspiring him with her cajoling for animalistic aggression between rounds and torturing him in training camps that probably violate the Geneva Conventions. The fight he wants, against Canelo Alvarez, won't happen under any circumstances after Kirkland's divorce from Golden Boy, unless Alvarez does the same, and he has said he doesn't want to. That also rules out a rematch with Alfredo Angulo. Miguel Cotto can make more money elsewhere. What's that leave? A rematch with Carlos Molina, perhaps — they have unsettled business — or Demetrius Andrade in a boxer-brawler match-up. Kirkland has his recurrent troubles outside the ring that never seem to permanently go away, and he rarely wins easily with his reckless all punishment/all the time style. But Kirkland + Wolfe, when they can get on the same page and stay there, and Kirkland spending his time in the ring rather than in the legal system, is a dangerous proposition for any contender at 154 pounds. Anyone.
- Guillermo Rigondeaux's performance. If you can appreciate the style of a pure boxer like junior featherweight champion Rigondeaux at all — and HBO's commentary team did a bit of condescending disservice to viewers who don't appreciate him by suggesting they might not be bright enough — then I struggle to see how you could watch a fight like this and think Rigo was the boring one Saturday. Joseph Agbeko fought like someone who didn't want to get hit, as his trainer Roger Mayweather accurately noted between rounds. If Agbeko hadn't been so tentative, this would've been a fight even fans who only like bloody action could've enjoyed. Rigo boxed, certainly, but he was aggressive and came forward more than not. The other element that made it boring as far as it was boring was that it was so one-sided. That's not Rigo's fault, either. He's really fucking good. Personally, I liked about half the fight and found it got a little tedious when Agbeko never accelerated the pace the way he needed to and the pattern of Rigo's dominion was established. It was a nice bookend victory to a potential Fighter of the Year campaign, although he could've used a third bout to really bolster a case founded largely on beating last year's Fighter of the Year, Nonito Donaire.
- Next for Rigondeaux. Donaire has gone from calling out Rigo for a rematch to focusing his attention on Nicholas Walters, the fight his promoter wants him to take. Rigo wants his next fight to be in Miami, which makes sense — it's the best chance he has for drawing a crowd, given his Cuban roots. Top Rank putting Rigo in Atlantic City on HBO while a New York-centric card was happening in Brooklyn on Showtime almost is like they were trying to lose money on him, and he doesn't need the help. Eventually the idea is Vasyl Lomachenko in a match-up of great Olympians, although I doubt it happens early next year, and that means Rigo could be struggling to find an opponent in the first part of 2014 like he did in the back half of 2013.
- Agbeko's corner. As for Agbeko and Roger: The Mayweather trainer/brothers have an annoying tendency to give up on their fighters when they're not performing, rather than at least trying to figure out a way to get them going. They've had some success here and there developing fighters, but mostly it's like they're spoiled for having Floyd, Jr. and get frustrated that everyone else isn't likewise Floyd, Jr. It also smacks of two men who don't want to be associated with failure, as if quitting on a fighter mid-bout means their hands are washed of anything that comes next. When you have a Mayweather in your corner and the fight isn't going your way, they'll completely subvert the definition of "in your corner."
- Next for Paulie Malignaggi. Apparently it's a "lot of money," as he said he was promised should be beat Zab Judah. But from where? The big money name in his welterweight division is Mayweather, and all signs point to Mayweather fighting Amir Khan next. Would Malignaggi sit out almost a year to wait for Floyd, and would the public buy Mayweather-Malignaggi at all? Certainly it would feature a lot of lip-flapping to help with the marketing of the bout. An Adrien Broner rematch might do the trick for a big-money bout for Malignaggi but Broner is busy elsewhere and there's no sign they're interested in Malignaggi again. From there it's guys like Robert Guerrero and Danny Garcia, and it's hard to figure how either of those are worth so, so much cash. Solid paychecks, sure. A Broner rematch doesn't do much for me, but Malignaggi-Garcia or Malignaggi-Guerrero or even Malignaggi-Victor Ortiz — I'd watch. Just thinking about the trash talk between goofball Ortiz and verbally dextrous Malignaggi makes me want it. Ortiz has to beat Luis Collazo, though, which he might not be able to do.
- Erislandy Lara's best win? On paper, beating Trout was the best win of Lara's career. The junior middleweight hasn't beaten anyone as good as Trout, even if Trout had the air to me of someone whose focus on boxing has faded and he's not as hungry anymore. It's just a feeling; I don't have any evidence of it. But of the two big name Cubans fighting Saturday, Lara's win probably did the most damage to his financial prospects. There is zero chance Alvarez will fight Lara if he's going to be so difficult to hit and won't engage unless he absolutely has to. There's no money in it, and while Alvarez did that once with Trout, he's proven the point that he can beat a slick boxer when there were doubts he could, and beating Lara won't make a Mayweather bout credible the way beating Trout did. Because both bouts were solid and not definitive, I'd take a Lara rematch with Angulo or Molina gladly. Lara was far more entertaining in those two bouts because his opponents forced him to trade in spots.
- Felix Sturm-Darren Barker revisited. Our Andrew Harrison already shed ample light on Barker's physical condition and its contribution to his loss to long-time top middleweight Sturm, a tragic end to a year that saw Barker go through a lot to get the best win of his career one fight ago against Daniel Geale. I'd like to add some more on Sturm fighting like a man possessed and trying to really land power shots. He spent so many years coasting by to narrow victories on his home soil in Germany that maybe he picked up bad habits assuming he could do so little and win anyway. This guy? He fought like someone who realized he needed to change his ways. Barker has nothing to be ashamed of for his body betraying him. But he also has nothing to be ashamed of losing to this version of Sturm even without an injury.
- Akira Yaegashi-Edgar Sosa. Flyweight champion Yaegashi put a halt to Sosa's own Fighter of the Year candidacy with a solid win to defend his crown. Yaegashi boxed rather well, especially for a guy with a reputation as a brawler. Although the flyweight lineage got a bit shaky in 2012 with Sonny Boy Jaro and Toshiyuki Igarasha, any doubts that Yaegashi is worthy of the throne ought to be completely gone after a victory like this.
- Simpiwe Vetyeka-Chris John. Big upset in this one, although maybe it shouldn't have been seen as such, since Vetyeka has in two consecutive bouts shown he is the Indonesian Assassin. Still, John is a featherweight a notch above Daud Yordan, whom Vetyeka also beat, and Vetyeka even stopped John. Apparently John had trouble making weight before the bout and that affected him, but Vetyeka is also a rugged customer and brought the right kind of heat to John. There's a rematch clause and it's not clear if John will or should exercise it. Kudos to Vetyeka's team for wanting to fight the winner of the Johnny Gonzalez-Abner Mares rematch instead. Right now, if the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board rankings debate continues on its current course, Vetyeka will end up #1 and the winner of Gonzalez-Mares II would probably be #2, so the featherweight championship lineage that was hard to get thriving because of John's seclusion in Indonesia could be resolved.
- Next for Shawn Porter. By beating Devon Alexander, Porter acquired Alexander's welterweight alphabet strap. That means he inherits Alexander's mandatory challenger, too: Kell Brook. I really like the sound of Porter-Brook, two promising young fighters who have been showing improvement in recent bouts.
- Matthew Macklin's performance. Macklin has taken drubbings from middleweight champion Sergio Martinez and Gennady Golovkin such that his late substitute opponent Lamar Russ was a relatively popular upset pick among some in the media, some of whom had seen Russ and knew he could fight a little. And Russ proved he could, indeed, fight a little. In so doing, Russ made Macklin's performance a credible indicator that he is not, in fact, shopworn from the damage Martinez and Golovkin did to him. Macklin-Andy Lee/Martin Murray, anyone? Me me me!
- Next for Sakio Bika and Anthony Dirrell. Bika doesn't want a rematch of his draw with Dirrell but Dirrell does. We'll see who gets his way. Another option for either might be Badou Jack, promoted by Mayweather and therefore an option to work with the two Golden Boy products on Showtime.