Photos by Sumio Yamada
DANNY GARCIA KO4 ERIK MORALES
Showtime has found a winning formula with its quadruple-header shows. Having four fights on one card lends a sense of occasion to the evening. If one bout is a disappointment, even if two fights don’t work out from the entertainment aspect, we have two others potentially to save the show if necessary.
Back in the 1970s it was nothing unusual for the networks to feature three or four fights in one night on what we would call “free” TV: ABC, CBS and NBC. I remember The Night of Champions show on CBS in September 1977 with Carlos Palomino and Danny “Little Red” Lopez in title fights and Olympic gold medallists Howard Davis Jr. and Michael Spinks and bronze medallist John Tate in supporting bouts. The next evening there was a Night of the Heavyweights show on NBC with four 10-round fights televised, including bouts featuring Ken Norton and Larry Holmes.
On Saturday we had four title fights from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and it was a show that had a bit of everything — knockdowns, a knockout, blood and guts, a controversial decision and one fight that boxing fans of a certain age would have called a stinker.
It was unfortunately the lacklustre welterweight title fight between Devon Alexander and Randall Bailey that opened the show, but analyst Al Bernstein reminded viewers that there was “lots more boxing to come” — in other words: “Hang in there, folks, it can only get better.”
The fans started booing in the first round of the Alexander-Bailey bout — “a tough crowd” as colour commentator Barry Tompkins noted.
Bernstein kept reminding viewers that Bailey was always dangerous and had knocked out Mike Jones late in a fight that Bailey was losing widely on points. As the rounds went by on Saturday night, though, the element of suspense faded. Bailey moved in without throwing punches and Alexander sneaked points from out of his southpaw stance while staying clear of involvement — a “cutie” as old-timers would say. Even when Bailey landed the vaunted right hand it didn’t seem to affect Alexander much — except, maybe, to ensure that he would remain in safety-first mode.
The middleweight fight between Peter Quillin and Hassan N’Dam was quite different, though, a six-knockdown thriller. Unfortunately for N’Dam, he was on the receiving end of all the knockdowns.
N’Dam was very game and obviously in tremendous condition to have survived all those trips to the canvas — two in the fourth round, two in the sixth and two more in the last minute of the fight. When N’Dam wasn’t going down, though, he was making a great fight of it. There were moments when N’Dam seemed to be in with a chance of pulling off a miraculous win as he backed up Quillin on the ropes and fired punches at the latter-day “Kid Chocolate”, but Quillin’s superior firing power decided the outcome.
Paulie Malignaggi struggled against Pablo Cesar Cano, who although moving up from 140 pounds looked the bigger, stronger man in the second of the evening’s two welterweight title bouts. Showtime’s commentary team had Cano winning, as did judge Glenn Feldman, who surprisingly saw Malignaggi winning only two rounds. Judges Tom Miller and Nelson Vazquez, though, had Malignaggi scraping home by a one-point margin. It seemed to me that Malignaggi’s left jab got him home, 114-113, with Cano’s big 11th round, when he knocked Malignaggi down with a right hand, tightening up the scoring.
Cano did very well to make this such a tough, close fight, after getting badly sliced over the left eye in the second round. The young man from Mexico has heart, toughness and he can fight, but I fear that Cano marks up far too easily.
In the main event, Danny Garcia unloaded his big left hook for the second fight in succession when bombing out the shell of Erik Morales in the fourth round of their junior welter title fight. Garcia’s left hook did for Amir Khan in an upset, and he landed a perfect shot from the port side to send Morales slumping over the bottom rope in the fourth. It was clear by the third round, though, that Morales wasn’t going to make it all the way to the finish. This was a different, more authoritative Garcia and a different, suddenly far more ring-weary Morales than we saw in the first fight between them in Houston.
Garcia took command from the start. His punches were sharp and fast, and his body shots seemed to be affecting the 36-year-old Mexican veteran every time he landed a punch downstairs.
Morales having tested positive for clenbuterol had me wondering if the older man would be looking, shall we say, “unnaturally strong” in the fight, but Al Bernstein gave us the tip-off that Morales had been struggling to lose weight even on the day of the weigh-in.
Not only was Morales slow, he seemed to be in slow motion. It’s a reminder that when an ageing ex-champ talks about having had a great training camp and professes himself to be in great shape we should perhaps allow ourselves a degree of scepticism. Still, Garcia did what he was supposed to do — he beat what was in front of him, and he did so in spectacular fashion.