“The MGM Grand once again proudly boasting that boxing is back,” Joe Tessitore said Thursday night in the lead-in to the ESPN show. Well, it sort of is. The main event feature fight with Jose Pedraza headlining got postponed to July due to Mikkel LesPierre’s manager testing positive despite being “in the bubble.” It’s the third time in two weeks a fight has gotten shitcanned, so, yeah, boxing’s back. Somewhat. Whatever “opening up” we do as a society, this virus ain’t going away anytime soon, it looks like. Probably best not to get hopes too high for that nice fight you circled on your calendar.
What did we get after Timothy Bradley et al griped about the manager even being there? (Aside: Geez, LesPierre having three people around, one of them said manager, didn’t warrant that Timmy tongue-lashing, IMO.)
Lightweight/junior lightweight Gabriel Flores Jr. was very sharp in a one-sided 10-round decision drubbing of Josec Ruiz, which makes sense given Flores’ pedigree, team and skills compared to Ruiz’s record that’s more numbers than substance. He’s just 20 and he’s a very, very bright prospect who could very soon become a contender. Speed, accuracy, movement, all of it equals an authentic talent. And he said he did it with the worst injury of his career, to his lower back.
What’s Flores missing? Power, certainly, with just six KOs in 18 fights, but at his age he might develop it. He isn’t exactly sporting cum gutters, suggesting that perhaps working on his physique could help, too. He flashed power early on with a knockdown and couldn’t finish. If he’d thrown a body punch, like his trainer/dad urged, maybe he would’ve. Flores also was sometimes out of position after an attack, leaving his chin exposed way up in the air. Bradley really wants him to get good at fighting on the inside. This writer isn’t so sure it should be such a priority, not that it wouldn’t be a useful thing to have.
The rest of the card, it was like every fighter with one exception signed a contract forbidding head movement or using feet on defense. Even once, and they would’ve lost all their money, per that contract.
The exception was Clay Collard in his super middleweight upset of David Kaminsky. He may never have thrown a punch using conventional technique, suggesting that was his contractual obligation. What he did instead was just throw a billion of them (well, 481 over six rounds) and Kaminsky took basically all of them. After the fight kid looked like he had ascended a ladder and stuck his head in a ceiling fan on full blast for a half hour. He even needed a CT scan afterwards, which thankfully came back negative. Perhaps his team should’ve seen the upset coming. Collard has now knocked off three undefeated fighters in a row. Clearly, he’s ready for becoming a better class of gatekeeper, and if he keeps doing that, maybe he’s ready for more, although his tough guy/volume punching/low KO power combo doesn’t point to that future.
Two other undercard fights failed to capture the imagination. Or, at least, failed to capture mine. The opener was a real case study in the school of fights known as “one fighter moves up a couple divisions, faces a fighter who’s almost a couple divisions higher even than that,” and it went about as you’d expect. “Bantamweight” prospect Robert Rodriguez knocked out Adrian Servin in two.
(Photo: Gabriel Flores Jr. connects against Josec Ruiz, via)