Are there even enough words, enough “elephantiasis of the balls”-style puns? Or does one shake his head and offer none? If Paulie Malignaggi’s loss this past weekend leads to his retirement, as he has said he might, we can count on a lot fewer of these kind of stunts to brighten/sully/whatever the sport. It’s just as well, and not just because everyone will be at lesser risk of a devastating injury stemming from eye-rolling. Malignaggi has had a longer run than he ought to have based on his abilities, and a fun overachieving career with a surprising share of entertaining fights for a guy whose punches are more likely to lull his opponents to sleep via gentle lullaby than via savage consciousness separation. But when I say it’s “just as well” that he might retire, it’s only because of my appreciation for him as a Showtime commentator. The sooner he’s doing that full time, the better for the viewers.
We’ll talk in this edition of Weekend Afterthoughts about the man who beat Malignaggi — Shawn Porter — but mostly about Bernard Hopkins-Beibut Shumenov, with a mix of All Access: Mayweather vs. Maidana episode 1, Friday Night Fights, Peter Quillin and Anthony Crolla vs. John Murray thrown in there, too. For the original Weekend Duringthoughts on all this, make sure you consult with our Jeff Pryor, Matthew Swain and Andrew Harrison.
- Bernard Hopkins’ achievements. The biggest debate right after Hopkins’ latest domination of a fighter young enough to be his son was about whether it meant a damn thing about Hopkins himself, or rather reflected on a sorry opponent. (Well, maybe that debate was rivaled by the talk about how boring Hopkins is to watch. At this point, it’s moot. Hopkins is always going to be on a range of boring from “entirely” to “mostly,” unless you enjoy watching him pick people apart [as some do], so why waste your breath going on and on about it? He’s proven a ratings draw just on the strength of his story as a 49-year-old boxer — if not a smaller one this time around thanks to some special circumstances — and your television presumably has a channel button, if you’d like to vote with your feet.) It’s another “little of column A, little of column B” situation. For any 49-year-old to be beating someone in the top 10 of the light heavyweight division says something very good about that fighter, and if 28-year-old beat Shumenov that person would probably get some modest plaudits and entry into the top 10 himself. That said, the area of the division’s top 10 Shumenov inhabits is a fairly dismal lot — he was just a spot above Juergen Braehmer in the Transnational Rankings, for chrissakes, and now he’s only one below. This, from a man who stupidly brought no trainer to the fight who might’ve told him to hold his left hand up so he didn’t get dropped by the only punch Hopkins really threw all night, the right. Hopkins’ performance was given a steroidal boost (more on that in a moment!) by Shumenov’s cluelessness — he usually right-hands everyone to death, but Shumenov was spectacularly easy pickings. Gustavo Padilla’s scorecard for Shumenov is going to be a tough one to beat for the worst of 2014; I scored it 118-109 for Hopkins, fairly in line with everybody else. In the end, color me impressed that Hopkins, nearly 50, keeps schooling top-10 level competition — just not so much that I’ve contracted a case of the vapors, given that the top-10 level competition he’s schooled of late is unexceptional.
- Hopkins drug testing. OK, so there were three big talking points about Hopkins-Shumenov. People are beginning to speculate, worry or be concerned in much higher volumes about whether Hopkins has had some artificial assistance. The more advanced drug testing in boxing we get these days — be it via the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association or the state of Nevada — the better. It’s wholly possible that Hopkins’ run has benefitted from the aforementioned crappiness of opposition, by how well he can conserve energy with his guile and avoid punishment thanks to his superior skill level. But it’s time for his next opponent to push the drug testing issue during contract negotiations. Jean Pascal did it after negotiations, making it look like he didn’t actually care about the drug testing and rather that he was trying to get a rise out of Hopkins instead. And there’s no good reason for Hopkins to say no if that happens.
- Next for Hopkins. Presumably the “next” for Hopkins is lineal champion Adonis Stevenson, or else Showtime just wasted a lot of money stealing Stevenson away from HBO. It’s not as purely exciting a match-up as the one we were robbed of when Stevenson departed — a power punching delight with Sergey Kovalev — but it is the champ vs. the #1 contender, and a match-up with no certain victor the way Hopkins-Shumenov was. The thing all of Hopkins’ conquerors have in common over his career, going all the way back to Roy Jones, Jr. and fast-forwarding to Hopkins’ elderly years vs. Jermain Taylor, Joe Calzaghe and Chad Dwson, is athleticism. Stevenson probably isn’t in any of their classes as an athlete, but he does have plenty of the stuff, and with the exception of perhaps Jones, he hits harder than all of them. I can imagine Stevenson making contact and shaking up Hopkins just as easily as I can imagine Hopkins making a fool of him. Stevenson is a real serious opponent, coming off a Fighter of the Year campaign and getting to the verge of the top 10 fighters in the world pound-for-pound, not just the top 10 of his division. Hopkins already deserves to be mentioned in the same conversation with Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather as the most accomplished active fighters still going at a high level, but a win over Stevenson would further strengthen his position within the trio.
- Unification fights. For some who defend the alphabet belts, the argument is that they are responsible for good fights happening. Sometimes they are, but often they are responsible for bad ones happening, too. And they stand in the way of plenty of good ones besides. For some, the belts signify a certain level of accomplishment, of excellence achieved. If that’s true (and it often is not), then ideally we’d want a lot of unification fights to make even better fights, right? Except we don’t get them. It’s a very rare phenomenon. Right now, there are 17 divisions; four major sanctioning organizations; and only four vacant titles, or 64 belts if you only count one per division per org. There are only six fighters who are unified titleholders of more than one belt, one of them, now, Hopkins. A small percentage of that is because unified titlists sometimes drop belts, and sometimes because the alphabets mandate that they do so. But the number of unification fights that ever happen per titleholder is exceedingly small. Most title fights are mandatories or optional defenses that don’t involve a second titlist. And that’s an institutional flaw.
- Shawn Porter vs. Paulie Malignaggi, and next for Porter. Porter really has made a tremendous leap in the last year and a half or two. The uneven young pro who was searching for an identity, a weight class and struggling with some bad habits in the ring has found the first and second and ended the worst of the third. Once a volume puncher who tried to convert into a better boxer, Porter has turned into an aggressive mauler who makes a lot of flush contact thanks to the boxing part. Malignaggi’s welterweight run might have had its share of luck, but he had established himself in the division all the same and at least held his own with everyone he has fought at 147. Porter demolished him. Some of that was perhaps because age caught up to Malignaggi — his legs haven’t looked great in a while — but he performed pretty well just one fight ago against Zab Judah. Porter was simply faster and too aggressive for Malignaggi to get away from, and he became the first person to leave Malignaggi on the canvas, who only has been stopped by referees or his corner. Now he’s likely to face Kell Brook next, a good one, although Golden Boy is also talking him up as a potential Mayweather opponent. And he’s getting there, merit-wise if not marketability-wise.
- Peter Quillin vs. Lucas Konecny. What was the point of this, again? Why did anyone make this fight? Why did anyone think anyone would care? Quillin has some talent, and he’s established himself as a top middleweight largely on the basis of that rather than who he has beaten, so he shouldn’t still be fighting opposition like Konecny. And if he’s going to fight opposition like Konecny, the least he could do is try to make an impression, because it’s not like Konecny gave him much trouble or anything to worry about if Quillin put his foot on the gas. What’s worse than a showcase fight where the showcased fighter doesn’t put on a show? Both Quillin and Daniel Jacobs, whom Golden Boy have been steering toward a showdown, have taken horrid fights of late, and the bummer of it is, Quillin-Jacobs isn’t THAT good a fight — just a solid one, one that will make a little money on the East Coast. So just make the fucking thing already and stop with all the throat-clearing. But hey, 6,823 people still came out to see a card that had one well-matched fight on it (Porter-Malignaggi), one terrible one by any measure (Quillin-Konecny) and one big name in a mismatch (Hopkins-Shumenov). Washington, D.C. — fight town!
- All Access: Mayweather vs. Maidana. I’m sick to death of watching Floyd Mayweather buy things. It’s not going to suddenly become interesting to me. Who it’s interesting to, other than Floyd himself, I can’t imagine. There was some good stuff in the opening episode of All Access about Mayweather — his comments on slacking “little brother” Adrien Broner making “pornos,” the kids boxing, his remarks on his ex-fiance Miss Jackson — but the Miss Jackson stuff was given short shrift, and while Mayweather was playing up the “we’re still friends” angle, he (and Showtime) left out the post-relationship taunting. Marcos Maidana’s bit wasn’t totally riveting, but the info about him delaying training with Robert Garcia was worthwhile, if nothing else because it was a ding on Maidana’s already low chances of winning. And his baby was cute as hell, as well as his family’s interactions with her. But this series is going to be a slog. One of the coolest things Maidana said was that he would prefer that fights not even be on TV or with a live audience. It shows what a no-frills guy he is, and that rarely makes great television. So we’ll see Maidana being frills-less, and Mayweather buying more stuff and not truly opening up about new things, like the demise of his relationship.
- Anthony Crolla vs. John Murray and Friday Night Fights. I had higher hopes for Crolla-Murray as a lightweight cracker that might offer a Fight of the Year contender. It didn’t quite reach that level, but it very much had its moments in a bout where Crolla came out on top … On FNF, the middleweight tournament hasn’t been as exciting or dramatic as the lightweight version, but the semifinals offered the surprise of Willie Monroe, Jr. beating Vitaliy Kopylenko. Monroe fought very, very well, but Kopylenko either couldn’t or wouldn’t get his jab going, and hurt himself by pushing down on Monroe in clinches so much — he had Monroe in a touch of trouble at one point after knocking out his mouthpiece and then shoved him down to give him time to recover (whether Monroe flopped some or not, I’m going to go ahead and endorse that against future opponents of Wladimir Klitschko, another Ukrainian who does his share of leaning down on opponents in clinches). The scorecard that had Brandon Adams losing to Raymond Gatica might’ve been worth more talk this week if not for the fact that Hopkins-Shumenov had a much worse one. Monroe-Adams for the trophy might not be a great style match-up but it looks like close to an even fight and one worth watching.