Chumash casino resort, SANTA YNEZ, CA, Feb. 4
FRANCO kept firing back. / Photo: TOM CASINO, for Showtime
It’s not often fans get to see an evening of televised boxing as good as last Friday’s. We were treated to three highly entertaining fights; each ending with closely scored decisions. This is what boxing should be all about.
For me, the pick of the fights offered was the featherweight sizzler that saw unbeaten featherweight Luis Franco dig down deep to eke out a split decision win over Leonilo Miranda, but the Brian Vera-Sergio Mora and Charles Hatley-Chris Chatman bouts also held the interest from bell to bell.
Silverdome, PONTIAC, MI, Jan. 29
THIS happened too often. / Photo: David Martin Warr, DKP
The first highly anticipated fight of 2011 failed to live up to expectations. Timothy Bradley came to fight, Devon Alexander to score points, and the clash of junior welter champions on HBO turned into a nip and tuck contest devoid of drama and with an unsatisfying conclusion.
As Jim Lampley said, when the bout went to the scorecards in the 10th round it was the “worst case scenario” for the viewers who had been expecting an exciting fight with a definitive ending.
The Greenbrier, WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, WV, Jan. 22
Sherman the Tank was making things tough for Holyfield. / Photo: Steven Limentani
The physique looks almost as good as ever, but the reflexes are dulled and maybe even the punch resistance is diminishing. Those were my thoughts after watching Evander Holyfield’s struggling performance against Sherman Williams in their three-round no decision on Saturday night in the incongruous setting of a luxury resort in West Virginia.
I wasn’t going to watch the show, planning instead to view the WBC website’s telecast of a show in Mexico. Unfortunately, although I got the invitation I was greeted with the dreaded “unavailable in your country” message when I clicked on the WBC’s link. OK, just another of life’s little disappointments. I changed gears and had a look at the Holyfield fight instead.
HERRERA found Provodnikov hittable. / Photo: Thompson Boxing
Boxing has been slow getting started in 2011 but the first two shows on Friday Night Fights set a good tone for the rest of the year, with Mauricio Herrera’s upset win over Ruslan Provodnikov on Jan. 7 followed by fights that were perhaps more competitive than expected last Friday when Edwin Rodriguez and Peter Manfredo Jr. were each extended for the full 10 rounds.
Although Herrera won by unanimous decision there are many who believe Provodnikov was unfortunate in the fight for the IBF’s North American junior welter title. FNF analyst Teddy Atlas had Provodnikov winning eight of the 12 rounds.
BERLIN, Dec. 18
UPDATE: The fuss lingers over the scoring in the Jean Pascal-Bernard Hopkins fight, but, for me, the real controversy of the weekend was Marco Huck getting a split decision win over Denis Lebedev in their cruiserweight title fight in Berlin.
Judges from the Netherlands and Spain had Huck winning by scores of 115-113 while William Lerch of the U.S. saw Lebedev ahead, 116-112.
QUEBEC CITY, December 18
PASCAL needed more of this. / Photo: TOM CASINO, for Showtime
The decision was a draw, but Bernard Hopkins emerged as the moral winner after 12 entertaining rounds against light-heavyweight champion Jean Pascal in Quebec City on Saturday night. This was a remarkable performance by a fighter who turns 46 next month and it cements Hopkins’s status as a fighter who has earned the right to be called great.
Had it not been for the two flash knockdowns he suffered in the first three rounds, Hopkins would have won Saturday’s fight.
Mandalay Bay, LAS VEGAS, Dec. 11
KHAN countered Maidana's aggression. / Photo: SUMIO YAMADA
Just when I thought I had seen the fight of the year in Humberto Soto’s thrilling win over Urbano Antillon, along came something even better as Amir Khan weathered a late-rounds onslaught to win a unanimous decision over Marcos Maidana in their light-welter championship fight on HBO.
This was boxing at its most dramatic. Khan almost knocked out Maidana in the opening round and proceeded to pile up points with jabs and combinations only to get hurt and hammered in the 10th and 12th rounds.
ANAHEIM, CA, Dec. 4
SOTO dished out punishment. / Photo: CHRIS FARINA, Top Rank
It’s wonderful when a fight lives up to and maybe even surpasses expectations, and we had such a fight on PPV on Saturday night when Humberto Soto retained his lightweight title by outpointing a very brave and determined Urbano Antillon.
Some thought that the judges’ scores were too close but the important thing is that the winner got a deserved, unanimous decision after a fight that had everything except a knockdown.
HELSINKI, Nov. 27
FROCH won all the way. / Photo: TOM CASINO, for Showttime
That was a beautiful exhibition of boxing and fighting put on by Carl Froch in Helsinki on Saturday. He outclassed Arthur Abraham every step of the way. It wasn’t even a contest.
Froch, on a magical night, put it all together for that rarity in boxing, a perfect performance.
MGM Grand, LAS VEGAS, Nov. 27
EVEN on the ropes, Marquez was the master. / Photo: SUMIO YAMADA
To watch Juan Manuel Marquez defeating Michael Katsidis in Saturday night’s lightweight title fight on HBO was a privilege and a pleasure. What we were seeing was a great fighter plying his craft. Even after getting dropped in the third round, Marquez never really lost control of the fight. By the end of the round he was firing right back.
Katsidis gave his all, but Marquez’s pinpoint punching was too much for him. Marquez was even having the better of the exchanges when backed up on the ropes — in theory where Katsidis wanted him to be.
ATLANTIC CITY, Nov. 20
MARTINEZ takes it to WILLIAMS. / Photo: SUMIO YAMADA
Have you ever noticed how a TV pundit can, with one comment, put the kiss of death on a fight’s outcome? For instance, a commentator might say that a boxer has never been down — and within moments the fighter is on the floor. Or he might suggest that a fighter “can’t punch”, and the words are hardly out of his mouth before the non-puncher has blasted his opponent out of the fight.
Another one we have all heard: “One thing I do know — this fight is not going the distance” — and 12 rounds later both men are still standing.
Cowboys Stadium, ARLINGTON, Tx, Nov. 13
FILIPINO PRIDE: Pacquiao outclassed Margarito. / Photo: SUMIO YAMADA
There are contenders and champions, stars and superstars, but every once in a while in boxing there comes a phenomenon, and this description applies to Manny Pacquiao after his one-sided win over Antonio Margarito on Saturday night.
The crowd of more than 40,000 at Cowboys Stadium and a worldwide TV viewing audience saw Pacquiao give a performance that cements his status as the world’s best fighter at any weight.
TOO YOUNG, TOO STRONG — that was Lopez. / Photo: SUMIO YAMADA
There are fights that reinforce one’s love affair with boxing, and such a fight was the war in Las Vegas on Saturday night that saw Juan Manuel Lopez wear down and overwhelm a game Rafael Marquez in eight ferocious rounds.
Lopez is one of the most exciting fighters in the business, an aggressive power puncher who takes risks and has a hint of vulnerability — a featherweight version of his illustrious Puerto Rican compatriot, Felix “Tito” Trinidad.
Middleweights were centre stage last weekend, with Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam of France, Germany’s Sebastian Sylvester, Aussie Daniel Geale and Montreal big-hitter David Lemieux all winning. The 160-pound division is now looking its most interesting in years, with Paul Williams meeting Sergio Martinez in a rematch on Nov. 20, Dmitry Pirog, Felix Sturm, Gennady Golovkin and Sebastian Zbik holding titles and British fighters Matthew Macklin and Darren Barker poised for a breakthrough onto the world stage. Let’s not forget Avtandil Khurtsidze, who gave N’Jikam a desperately hard fight in Paris on Saturday.
I was able to see N’Jikam’s win over Khurtsidze, which was televised on French TV, and this was such an intense, fast-paced fight that it took one’s breath away. You’ve probably read reports where the writer says: “There was never a dull moment.” For me, this was one of those fights. Both men showed great heart and wonderful conditioning, and I was glad to see N’Jikam put his arm around Khurtsidze’s muscular neck at the finish as if to say: “Well, no matter who won we gave everyone one hell of a fight.”
TOKYO, Oct. 24
NISHIOKA boxed beautifully. / Photo: SUMIO YAMADA
Toshiaki Nishioka produced a boxing master-class to defeat Rendall Munroe in the early hours of Sunday morning U.S. time in Tokyo. The British challenger was just as tough and gritty as expected, but Nishioka was on a different level in this meeting of southpaws. Indeed, I believe this was probably the finest performance of Nishioka’s long career as the 34-year-old Japanese fighter retained his 122-pound championship.
Munroe fought as well as anyone could have expected and he was not disgraced. The “boxing binman” from Leicester in the English midlands doggedly took the fight to Nishioka but couldn’t cope with the speed, savvy, skill and power of the champion.