Weekend Afterthoughts On Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. As Necessary Evil, Vasyl Lomachenko’s Arrogance And More

The Guano Apes tried to warn Robert Stieglitz with their performance right before the Arthur Abraham rematch: Don't be flying too close to the sun. But did he listen to the German metal act that named itself after shit monkeys? No, no he didn't.

There were warnings we'd have good fights and/or controversial ones, and this past weekend we got both. The bout between Orlando Salido and Vasyl Lomachenko dominated some of the conversation afterward, so it'll dominate this edition of Weekend Afterthoughts, but we'll obviously talk Abraham-Stieglitz III, Terence Crawford vs. Ricky Burns, Teddy Atlas and of course Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. vs. Brian Vera II.

  • Vasyl Lomachenko's arrogance. One of the more peculiar arguments from the weekend was that somehow Lomachenko got his comeupppance for pushing to fight for an alphabet title so soon. I've already commented on the validity of the title he was competing for; I'll comment momentarily on exactly how quick that title push was. I can't say taking on such steep competition so early was arrogance-free, but two replies: 1. Should we berate fighters for being ambitious? We can question the wisdom of it, but isn't the quality of aiming high an impressive one? There's a thin line between bravery and stupidity, sure, but I'm turned off by the notion from some boxing fans and writers smirking at Lomachenko for taking on a harder challenge than was perhaps wise, as though there was cosmic justice in his loss. Give me a Lomachenko any day over a Gary Russell, Jr., a fighter with an elite amateur pedigree who refuses to fight a live body this late in his career. 2. It almost worked. Let's say we get a properly officiated bout; let's say Salido tries to make the featherweight limit Friday. Does Lomachenko win? It wouldn't have taken much to turn the scorecards. I say this not to diminish what Salido did to legitimately win the fight, because he did an awful lot. But can you really scold the arrogance of a guy who tried something audacious and very nearly pulled it off? He aimed high. He wasn't quite ready for the kind of pro performance Salido could deliver (and his team, as Mike Ricciardelli and others have pointed out, wasn't ready either, never complaining to the referee about the low blows). But he proved he was on a high level already. 
  • Orlando Salido's low blows vs. Lomachenko's holding. Another oddly popular discussion from this weekend in response to Salido's frequent low blows was, "Yeah, so what, Lomachenko was holding!" The notion seems to be somehow that all fouls are created equal. They are not. Certainly, holding and low blows can both affect the outcome of a fight. But one does physical damage. One does not. That differentiates them in a key way. Also, referee Laurence Cole — who got a deserved verbal beat down from HBO's Jim Lampley in a commentating team performance that otherwise too heavily favored Lomachenko and ignored Salido's good legal work — didn't treat them equally, either, in a way that affected the outcome of the fight more. Cole warned Lomachenko early for holding. It wasn't until the final third of the fight that he issued any kind of warning at all to Salido for his low blows. And let's not forget that Salido opted to blow off the weigh-in, effectively. We still need to up the financial penalties for that. So to recap: Salido cheated in multiple ways, Lomachenko just one; at least one form of Salido's cheating was more physically damaging than Lomachenko's; and Cole did more to administer the rules in Salido's favor than he did Lomachenko's. Not the same.
  • Next for Salido and Lomachenko. Salido is gone to 130 pounds, obviously. There's been less discussion about who he might fight next, but there are all sorts of appealing fights for him there: I'd take Salido-Juan Carlos Burgos or Salido-Rocky Martinez in a battle of guys who have been beaten by Mikey Garcia, say. Apparently Lomachenko might still be up for the title that Salido vacated, which could mean he fights the aforementioned Russell. I'm guessing the powers that be will find a way to avoid the two squaring off, what with Lomachenko repped by Top Rank and Russell repped by Top Rank's mortal enemy Golden Boy, and what with the two men therefore fighting on opposite networks. I'd be pleasantly surprised if that fight happens with a WBO assist, but it's worth remembering that even a broken clock is right twice a day.
  • Lomachenko's record. So…. is Lomachenko 1-1 or 7-1? I come down on it like this: Technically, 7-1, because of the letter of the law on the World Series of Boxing bouts in which Lomachenko participated. But I'm perfectly fine considering him 1-1 for a whole host of reasons. Lee Groves did a lengthy breakdown of this that was quality, although I would dispute him on some of the specifics. For instance, FightFax determined the WSB bouts were pro fights not because of their own authority, but because some state commissions deemed them such; other countries' commissions did not. The arguments about "paid, no headgear, it's a pro fight" are offset by the fact that amateur fighters were already sometimes paid and the amateurs have been moving back toward no headgear for a while. The line between "pro" and amateur has become increasingly blurred. For more on the WSB, check out what I wrote here about FightFax and the related links, and then check out the answers to questions I asked of AIBA here. This all clearly straddles the line. Something that is "semi-pro" is not by necessity actually professional — the semi means it's somewhere in between. I've tended to rely on BoxRec for fighters' records because they're the ones I have access to rather than FightFax, but if someone wanted to say Lomachenko was 7-1 instead of 1-1, I have no serious dispute with that.
  • Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr.'s appeal. While I have tended to enjoy Chavez fights, that's as far as my appreciation of this spoiled, lazy, serial cheating brat goes. It counts for a lot — fans tend to watch him in droves on HBO, to the tune of 1.4 million viewers for his super middleweight rematch win over Bryan Vera, and probably a good percentage of them did so because Chavez tends to put on a good show. But his antics have probably hurt him at the gate, as this was the second consecutive lower-than-usual attendance figure, albeit a figure that is good for any U.S. audience. There are fighters who do big TV ratings and fighters who do big gates and there's some crossover in those groups, but there is no strict correlation; fighters who have passionate, passionate followings tend to get the big live audiences. I continue to be baffled, though, about why anyone would idolize a fighter for what amounts to simply his last name; there are other action fighter with far smaller followings, and who work harder, and who are more like Chavez Sr. than Jr. is. Someone said to me on Twitter recently that if Chavez had a different last name, he'd be more hated than Adrien Broner. I don't think he would, but he'd be at least in the ballpark. I saw a comment on Twitter over the weekend to the effect that when Chavez wins, it's good for boxing. In some ways, it is — he does bring in the eyeballs, and often he appeases said eyeballs. But he also does a lot of things that reflect poorly on the sport and its governance.
  • Chavez's future. Speaking of Sr., he said (via promoter Bob Arum) that Chavez needs a better trainer as an A-level fighter. In a roundabout way, Chavez, by virtue of his size and chin and some amount of schooling, is an A-level fighter divisionally speaking, as he showed as a middleweight and as he might yet prove as a super middleweight. But he's not an A-level fighter in a pound-for-pound sense, and there's been little to suggest he ever could become one. And let's not forget that Chavez has had an elite trainer in Freddie Roach, and while it worked for a little while, it didn't cure all his ills. So we're looking at a Gennady Golovkin fight for Chavez in possibly his next fight, as mentioned before, and on skill Golovkin is A-level in a way Chavez isn't. But size, strength and a chin are weapons of their own, or else Chavez wouldn't have gotten this far, right? I lean toward thinking Golovkin beats Chavez up so badly most of his internal organs squirt out his mouth midfight, but I just don't know because Chavez is massive and Golovkin is untested at 168.
  • Terence Crawford vs. Ricky Burns, revisited. Burns thought the scores were too close because he got the benefit of the doubt in his last fight. Whatever, dude. He and his promoter said he'll try for a rematch or else next pursue a title shot against someone less tricky, but he's neglecting that the other lightweight titleholders include the ultra-tricky Miguel Vazquez and Richard Abril, so, pssshhh. Another is Adrien Broner, who hasn't fought at lightweight in his last several fights and isn't expected to in his next one; maybe that alphabet outfit will find a way to strip him, and then Burns can fight for a vacant belt. If I had to guess, Crawford might target a fight in Nebraska, which means the boxing media will flock to the state to cover it… jk, go for it, Crawford. If Nebraska can become a boxing hotbed, more power to you. I wouldn't be surprised if they turned out to support the local guy, either.
  • Arthur Abraham vs. Robert Stieglitz III. Like everybody else, I didn't see a performance like this being on the cards for Abraham, who has proven a so-so super middleweight who has gotten mostly narrow wins since leaving 160. He was more active than is his wont, and it made a difference. But Stieglitz was, too, overly aggressive, giving Abraham counterpunching opportunities aplenty, most especially in a 12th round he was winning until he got knocked down. It's one thing to come out hard like he did in the 12th to try to win it (thumbs up), and another thing to get as reckless as he got (thumbs down to still trying to go blow-for-blow with Abraham even after he was wobbled). Stieglitz can complain about the scorecards all he wants, but I don't know anyone who scored what was an honestly close fight for Stieglitz. I'm glad ESPN3 picked this one up, because while I couldn't watch it as I checked out Crawford-Burns on AWE at the same hour, I'd rather watch the replay on my Xbox 360 than catch some stream/YouTube clip on my computer screen.
  • All Access: Canelo vs. Angulo. Showtime has gotten the hang of this "marketumentary" format, hasn't it? There was compelling material in the first episode of the preview series for the junior middleweight pay-per-view fight between Canelo Alvarez vs. Alfredo Angulo, especially in the Angulo camp — we haven't seen him in this light before, with his daughter, with him considering trainer Virgil Hunter his father, with his stablemates a cast of big talents and/or misfits trying to rebound, etc. Anytime a series like this (HBO 24/7 being the other and the originator) features new characters, it benefits. But All Access is striking the right tones on the song choices, the cinematography, the narration, all of it.
  • Friday Night Fights. Gotta agree with my man Matthew Swain — you guys noticed he's a staff writer now, right? — on every aspect of the ESPN2 show this weekend. Lightweight Boxcino > middleweight Boxcino, at least so far; the second round match-ups for the 160 pounders don't look half bad to me. FNF's Teddy Atlas became a subject of discussion for his bizarre, disturbing singing performance of "Coconut," which was one of those rare "funny yet scary or maybe the other way around" moments. While folk question from time to time whether Atlas has lost his marbles, I think at least most of the time he knows what he's doing. I've never spoken to him, but the impression I get from watching is that he wants to keep people engaged one way or another, be it endless metaphors or themed "fight plan" gimmicks or even, this go-round, singing. I suspect, for as long as he's been alive, he knows what his singing voice sounds like, and probably realized that such a performance would get people talking. But I dunno; that's me speculating. Sometimes I disagree with Atlas and he makes me groan, and sometimes I think he's one of the sanest guys out there. Speaking of, here he is talking about the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board of which I am a chairman. 

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.