Thank you to everyone for your continued support, and thanks to those who continue to visit this blog and reference my older posts, but I no longer post here.
Instead you can find my work on both BelovedOnslaught.com, as well as Queensberry-Rules.com, where I contribute as a staff writer.
I won't shut this blog down, for anyone wishing to look into the archives or see my fight recaps, but I won't be making any new posts here.
Again, thank you all for the support.
Saturday, June 30, 2012
Thursday, December 30, 2010
When most boxing fans hear the name "Kennedy McKinney," they think of the classic brawl between he and a 22-year old Marco Antonio Barrera in February 1996.
Often forgotten is the Mississippi native's tumultuous rise to the top long before the Barrera fight, which featured about as many well-documented hurdles as is it did highlights.
A ranked player in the amateurs since the mid-80's, McKinney became well-known for his work ethic, and steadily placing in the US Amateur Championships a few years in a row. McKinney then earned the right to represent the US at bantamweight in the 1988 Seoul Olympics, beating future champion Junior Jones in the Olympic box-offs, and avenging previous losses in the qualifiers.
Despite Kennedy winning gold at 119 lbs., much of the talk following the Seoul games centered around Roy Jones Jr.'s highly controversial decision loss to Korean fighter Park Si-Hun. Regardless, McKinney still experienced a period of celebrity status upon arriving home.
According to McKinney, this was precisely when he began abusing alcohol and cocaine.
Kennedy signed with Top Rank and moved to Las Vegas before turning pro in February 1989. In the first 20 months of his career, McKinney went 5-0-1, but hit the boxing drama trifecta by having his license yanked for failing a drug test, going to rehab and getting arrested and charged with attempted kidnapping.
Avoiding more serious trouble, McKinney continued to fight on the undercards of bigger events and headline smaller shows in Vegas, often fighting while in rehab programs and well above the junior featherweight limit. Still, he stayed busy, compiling a record of 21-0-1 (13) in his first 3 years as a pro, decisioning former super flyweight champ "Sugar Baby" Rojas, and stopping former super bantamweight champ Paul Banke in March of 1992.
Following the win over Banke, McKinney again found himself skipping out on training and staying away from the gym, forcing his trainer Kenny Adams to pull him from his meeting with former super bantam champ Pedro Decima on the undercard of Evander Holyfield vs. Larry Holmes in June 1992.
Shelved for another 6 months, McKinney would take aim at Welcome Ncita's IBF super bantamweight belt and challenge the South African in Sardegna, Italy on December 2, 1992.
Born in East London, Welcome Ncita was reportedly not entirely interested in South Africa's rich fighting history, favoring soccer over boxing as a young man from a poor family.
Ncita was encouraged to focus on the sweet science by his trainer Mzimase Mnguni and father, however, and ended up doing well on the local amateur scene. In March 1984, at 18-years old, Ncita turned pro in Eastern Cape, South Africa, earning a 4-round decision over Vuyani Mngxaso.
Campaigning at flyweight, by his 12th fight, Ncita had captured both the Cape and South African flyweight titles from veritable veterans Frazer Ndzandze and Johannes Joe Miya, respectively.
"The Hawk" stayed local, for the most part, defending the South African flyweight title 3 times and racking up non-title wins over opposition that couldn't deal with his busy style. For his 3 consecutive defenses, Ncita was presented with the coveted "Old Buck" championship belt - a unique belt proposed and designed by the distillers of Old Buck gin in 1977.
Ncita then took his show on the road. Following his third title defense, he fought in Panama, the US and Italy in addition to his native Eastern Cape, going 6-0 with 5 stoppage wins as he rose in weight. The IBF ordered their bantanweight champion Fabrice Benichou to face Ncita after the latter's first 3 wins at 118 lbs., and the South African lifted the title from the Frenchman in Tel Aviv, Israel by way of unanimous decision in March 1990.
Shortly after winning the title, famed trainer Manny Steward briefly took the 24-year old under his wing and brought him to the Kronk Gym in Detroit. Whether his time in Detroit helped much is unclear, as Ncita earned stoppage wins in his first 2 defenses against relatively weak opposition. His third defense in February 1991 against Colombian stylist (and former titlist) Bebis "Sugar Baby" Rojas ended controversially, with Ncita winning a split decision in a fight many felt he lost.
Rojas' team petitioned for an immediate rematch, but Ncita managed to stay busy with a tough decision win in the US over Hurley Snead before his second fight with Rojas in September. Welcome reportedly won more convincingly this time around, defending his title for the 5th time.
His 6th successful defense was a points win over experienced Jesus Salud in Italy, bringing his record to 32-0 (15), setting up a scuffle with rising contender Kennedy McKinney.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
When Manny Pacquiao fights these days, it's more like a spectacle or parade than your typical squared circle matchup. Like many superstars before him, his celebrity status draws interest to events that, for other "regular" fighters, are otherwise ordinary.
For instance, the process by which opponents are chosen for Manny isn't so much a negotiation as it is a sweepstakes. Fighters, high profile or not, make the rounds on the internet, doing whatever it is they feel will get them the payday they've been waiting for, be it trash-talking or begging. And for many fans, this is just as entertaining as the fight itself.
It's unclear whether or not they showed up on a doorstep with a handful of balloons, stuffed animals and an over-sized check for $5 million, but Shane Mosley hit the lotto this past Tuesday when it was announced by a number of sources that he'd be fighting Pacquiao on May 7, 2011.
Now at the height of his popularity, the 52-3-2 (38) Manny is facing initial backlash from the boxing community for choosing the 39-year old as his next opponent.
"Sugar" Shane, currently 46-6-1-1 (39), is a Hall of Fame-bound fighter. But the California native was last seen feinting and clinching "The Contender" anti-star Sergio Mora to a frustrating split decision draw this past September. His previous fight in May of this year saw Mosley lose at least 10 of 12 rounds to the sport's deposed former pound-for-pound king, Floyd Mayweather, Jr.
Shane's thrashing of feared welterweight Antonio Margarito was indeed impressive, no matter the circumstances. Mosley was a clear underdog against Margarito in January 2009, and he pounded the "Tijuana Tornado" with thudding body shots and huge hooks to the head before stopping him in the 9th. But he also failed to capitalize on the potentially career-defining win, taking off 16 months before his loss to Mayweather.
That the Mora fight ended in a relatively controversial draw and put folks to sleep in the process was bad enough, but the promotion itself was laughable and trite.
In any event, here we are, waiting another 5 months for a fight that nobody seems to want. Granted it has only been 2 days since the fight's announcement, but popular boxing news outlets and news figures have already declared that they haven't heard from a single person not tied to the matchup who actually wants to see it.
The fight has been repeatedly deemed a "stay busy" fight by many, but that tends to suggest that at least one fighter involved is, well...staying busy.
While Manny's recent higher weight achievements are without a doubt impressive unto themselves, aside from comical weight demands, diva antics and ridiculously arrogant behavior, when the Mosley fight rolls around this May, Manny will have fought 5 times in a little over 2 years. That's not exactly a hellacious schedule, and hardly "staying busy." And on the heels of lopsided decision wins over foes with favorable styles that lacked any career momentum, fans are left expecting more from Manny.
Shane hasn't exactly been stepping in the ring often either, by the way. The Pacquiao fight will be his 5th in 3 years.
There is of course almost no need to mention the fact that a pound-for-pound showdown between Manny and Mayweather has loomed for over a year now, and completely imploded multiple times with plenty of blame to spread around generously. And equally lame, according to many fans, is the fact that a third fight with arch-nemesis Juan Manuel Marquez was quickly dismissed by Pacquiao and his promoter, Top Rank's Bob Arum, in favor of this gruel.
It was officially announced this week, yes, but many of us saw it coming.
The numbers, of course, don't lie. Shane Mosley is probably a more recognizable name in the sport than Marquez, and has undoubtedly been involved in farther-reaching fights and events in the sport than the future Mexican hall-of-famer. Unquestionable though is the fact that Marquez is the only fighter to even temporarily tame the unbridled aggression of Pacquiao, arguably winning both of their prior tangles. Additionally, Marquez, unlike Shane, is on an extraordinary twilight roll in his career, despite not fighting often himself.
It may just be that a seemingly dull 2010 in boxing has us fans anxious for one of the sports biggest fights involving one of the sport's biggest fighters. Or it may be the disappointment of concretely realizing that Manny - a guy so many of us looked to for the "anytime, anywhere" attitude and good guy story - is merely human like the rest of em.
The story is beginning to sound familiar.
If Manny drives over to his mistress' house, beats her, threatens her kids and steals her iPhone, I'm outta here.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Significant mind games have entered the equation for this weekend's matchup between light heavyweights Jean Pascal and Bernard Hopkins.
Mind games are nothing new for the old mummy from Philly. This is the same guy who twice snatched a miniature Puerto Rican flag out of the hand of Felix Trinidad, once in San Juan. The same cranky fella who made a "cash in a duffel bag" side bet with William Joppy that he'd stop the former middlweight belt-holder, or pay him out 2-to-1. And the mischief took a turn for the comical when Hopkins blew up during the promotion for his bout with Joe Calzaghe, accusing British press of racism. We've come to expect the pre-fight antics from the old man.
Now, despite these attempts at sending the atmosphere surrounding the fights into chaos, and some desperate efforts during fights (feigning low blows and rabbit punches, excessive grappling, talking to opponents, etc.), Hopkins has largely looked flat and boring in his last few outings, win or lose.
Regardless, I've been confused by Team Pascal's decision to take on Hopkins since the day it was announced, not long after a big win over Chad Dawson that essentially saw the Haiti-born Pascal catapult himself to the top of 175 lbs.
Aside from the fact that Hopkins hasn't exactly been spitting out scintillating performances lately - or even just more than one performance a year for that matter, the 45-year old stays in the gym and has taken care of his body like very few fighters do. Even as Pascal's surprising out-maneuvering of the likely pound-for-pound level Dawson showcased the Montreal transplant's handspeed, adept footwork and ability to stick to a gameplan, the younger man still appeared to expose a few flaws for Hopkins to feed on.
Chad Dawson appeared to land well on Pascal when he actually threw shots in their August fight, but Jean consistently led and finished exchanges, using his relatively unorthodox footwork and in-and-out movement to nail Dawson with punches from odd angles that snapped the head of Dawson back and surely wooed the crowd. But as with a couple of other recent fights, Pascal faded down the stretch and his output clearly dropped. Unfortunately for Dawson, he didn't seem to be interested in rallying to keep his belt, taking his game to another level in potentially dire circumstances.
As many of us already know, Hopkins is a master at identifying his opponents' weaknesses and exploiting them all night long. And at his best, Hopkins is a late-rounds fighter. Once there, he's generally already set himself up to make a late round push with a generous heap of inside smothering, hip shots and forearms. Add on that Pascal's not-so-busy style means one less problem for Hopkins to solve, and it could spell a drawn-out disaster for Pascal on Saturday night in Quebec City.
As if I haven't helped exaggerate Hopkins' chances enough, here's a video of a presser held today where Hopkins takes Pascal's belt from the mayor and refuses to give it back when Pascal confronts him:
Bernard thrives off this stuff.
It's only fair to point out that Hopkins could literally get old overnight, being that fighting once a year only makes it more likely that we're surprised by a dreadfully shot performance from the guy who promised his dying mother he'd retire before the age of 42. While Pascal doesn't usually throw with the type of volume that would probably put Hopkins on the full defensive and prevent him from finding a groove, he still seems to have a handspeed advantage over the former undisputed middleweight champ. And a punch or two at a time may be enough to take one from Hopkins.
It's an interesting fight, but highly dependent on whether or not Hopkins is past it enough for Pascal to defend his belt. There's no question Jean Pascal isn't on the same level as Hopkins in a handful of facets of the game, but Bernard's output has dropped enough that he's been relying on veteran shenanigans to help him out when he's not dominating.
If Pascal were more precise with his footwork and not quite as sloppy with his upper body movement, I'd cite those as reasons why I feel he'll win. But what Hopkins has lost in foot speed and reflexes, he's made up for in smart positioning. Instead, I think Pascal will outwork Hopkins and be just strong enough to avoid too much inside scuffling. And in a close, potentially ugly fight, Quebec City fans going berserk every time Pascal throws a shot should work in his favor.
Jean Pascal by Unanimous Decision, 7-5 or so, in a fight we don't want to see again.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Expectations were high, and eight of the best and/or most promising fighters in two of the deepest divisions in boxing didn't disappoint Saturday night.
What a great night of fights.
Overall, one title was lost in surprising fashion, another title was defended in an expectedly rough tumble, a pair of former title challengers nullified each other to a majority draw, and a former 2-division champ and young star battled to a split decision. We had boxers, sluggers, movers, in-fighting, defensive displays, point deductions, post-fight scuffles. For a night, at least, we had it all.
Home Box Office in particular went out with a bang, even though the network ended the year quite early in the month of December and isn't scheduled to air another boxing card for more than a month and a half.
As boxing network rival Showtime staged a divisional tournament between four name fighters, HBO again counter-programmed and put together their own tournament of sorts, matching up junior welterweights Victor Ortiz and Lamont Peterson, and Amir Khan and Marcos Maidana.
Seemingly on a comeback tear since being stopped by Maidana in a crushing war, Golden Boy Promotions-backed Victor Ortiz may have actually been deliberately fed spent name opponents while mending a likely scarred psyche. Not only were were Nate Campbell, Antonio Diaz and Vivian Harris fighting through injuries, ongoing promotional issues and inactivity, but Harris and Campbell were essentially signed by GBP specifically to be opponents for the company's budding 140-lb. stars.
That said, it came as a surprise to many that Golden Boy would be putting Ortiz in with a guy who went a hard 12 rounds with perhaps the best junior welterweight in the world, Tim Bradley.
Despite being timed and schooled down the stretch, Lamont Peterson showed terrific handspeed and promise against "Desert Storm" in December 2009, snatching a few rounds from Bradley and showing toughness not many knew he had.
But regardless of what the "pundits" thought, Lamont Peterson wasn't being brought in to beat Ortiz in this 10-round bout. 20 months ago, Victor Ortiz was an undefeated "next young star" complete with commercials and inspirational video blurbs airing on HBO before and after a number of their shows.
The fight began with Peterson seeming tentative and cognizant of Ortiz' size advantage, and Ortiz capitalized early, possibly shaking Lamont up with a lead left or two. In the 2nd, Ortiz was cut on the scalp by an accidental headbutt and Peterson came back with some stiff shots, but went down twice in the 3rd, once from an uppercut-hook combo (followed up by a right hand to the gloves) and again from a near-tumble into the ropes, both possibly caused by balance issues. But the D.C. native recovered well at the end of the round, cracking Ortiz with a few nice hooks.
Peterson picked up where he left off in the 4th, handling occasional single shots but controlling much of the pace with his jab, and even backing Ortiz up at times. Lamont was again wobbled in the 5th though, but appeared to be using his legs well and moving his head at the right times.
The 6th round saw the momentum swing towards Peterson as he caught with hooks while the younger man jumped in, and dipped his head in close before landing flush body shots and quick combinations from a distance. Starting quickly in the 7th, Peterson controlled the fight with snapping shots from a favorable range. When Ortiz bore in with his head down, he was generally tied up, save for two good combinations he landed near the end of the round.
Ortiz wasted no time in round 8, going right after Peterson and landing a few left hands that his opponent took surprisingly well. But with about 30 seconds to go Peterson wobbled Ortiz with a series of stinging left hooks and sent Victor back to his corner a bit shaky.
Righting the ship, Ortiz tightened his shots up in the 9th and landed a couple of good 3-2's, but again Peterson stole his thunder with two heavy rights and more body work. Ortiz began backing up not long into the round, and Lamont cracked him with right hands when he'd lunge in, predictably.
The final round saw Ortiz moving forward behind hard shots, backing Peterson up for most of the round. Peterson did manage to land a right hand bomb that clearly wobbled the young man though.
Judges saw the fight 95-93 for Peterson, and 94-94 twice, resulting in a majority draw. Ortiz, now 28-2-2 (22), could only smile after the bout, clearly feeling he won on the strength of his early rounds attack.
The now 28-1-1 (14) Peterson also seemed confident he pulled the fight out by dominating Ortiz later on.
While not scintillating, the fight was entertaining in spots. Indeed Ortiz seemed to ease up at the wrong moment, allowing Peterson to get confident later in the fight and hurt him on more than one occasion. Both men showed the ability to take a slug or two and give some back, though the bigger Ortiz showed that he may still have a few mental hangups.
Where "Vicious" Victor goes from here is difficult to tell. Backing up and being forced to hesitate against a guy that's not a huge puncher may not bode well for the 23-year old. The fluid combination punching from past fights was mostly absent, and twice now we've seen him struggle when his opponent could take the heat.
On the other hand, Peterson seems to have surprised many who thought he'd crumble in the face of adversity. 0-1-1 in his sternest tests to date, the man needs a signature win, and this gutsy performance may steer him towards an opportunity to get one.
The main event of Amir Khan and Marcos Maidana clearly stole the show with late-round drama, when what everyone was waiting for finally happened. Aside from a woeful officiating job by Joe Cortez, it was a fun fight; an unlikely early ending loomed, then the fight turned into a clinic, which turned into a slight struggle, which turned into a life-and-death effort.
Having picked up the pieces after getting blasted in 1 by Colombian banger Breidis Prescott in 2008, the Pakistani Brit rebounded by out-speeding Marco Antonio Barrera over 5 rounds before a cut ended the fight, then taking away Andriy Kotelnik's WBA 140 lb. title. Khan then crushed Dimitriy Salita in one and debuted in the US with a beatdown of possibly former contender Paulie Malignaggi this past May.
Argentinian Marcos Maidana came out of almost nowhere to challenge former WBA titlist Kotelnik in early 2009, turning heads in the diehard boxing community by thumping the Ukrainian en route to a split decision loss. In his very next fight, Maidana went to war with the opening bout's Victor Ortiz, hitting the deck 3 times, but rallying back to make the young charge quit. Since that June 2009 evening, Maidana went 3-0, bludgeoning William Gonzalez and undefeated Victor Cayo, and winning a difficult decision over a faded DeMarcus Corley.
Maidana, echoing the months of calling Khan out, bypassed touching gloves with the Brit at the opening bell, instead swinging wildly at him only to miss. But Khan wasted no time countering Maidana's rushes and wound up hurting him badly to the body late in the round. Maidana somehow made it to his feet, but was forced to barely survive.
Fans in the Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas loudly cheered for Khan as Maidana pressed forward and ate flush bombs in the 2nd, although Khan seemed to get away from working the body. Maidana ended the round by landing a few thudding hooks to Amir's sides, but was warned by referee Joe Cortez for a number of infractions, some legit, some not.
Khan took two flush right hands from Maidana surprisingly well in the 3rd round, and was otherwise in control. But Maidana broke through again in the 4th with multiple body shots and right uppercuts, snapping Khan's head back and causing him to take some deep breaths in his corner between rounds. Cortez again went out of his way to warn Maidana for borderline low blows, and Khan for pushing Maidana's head down in close.
The Argentinian had a tough time catching Khan in the 5th, and the WBA champion found his range with hard combinations. Possibly out of frustration either with Cortez' curiously physical outing or Khan's movement, Maidana seemed to throw an elbow when being broken up in the clinch and was deducted a point. "El Chino" pushed to even up the round with a stiff combination towards the close, but found himself manhandled to his corner by the referee as the bell sounded.
Amir resumed moving in the 6th, stopping briefly to out-quick the challenger, displaying impressive handspeed and accuracy. Maidana rallied halfway through though, clocking Khan with left hooks that had him holding, for which Cortez warned him thrice before the end of the round.
(Note: Joe Cortez was intrusive in nearly every round, got pissy with Maidana and warned Khan for pushing Maidana's head down in every round from 4 on, so take that as a given so I can stop mentioning it.)
Clearly on steadier legs in round 7, Khan shoe-shined and pot-shotted his opponent, who resorted to taunting the champion before attempting a telegraphed hook. A visibly slowing Maidana looked to be simply following Khan around the ring, but landed several sweeping right hands and uppercuts that appeared to win him the round. Recovering well, Khan stood his ground more in 8 and strafed Maidana with right hands, sending him walking slowly back to his corner.
Uppercuts again played a role in the fight, but primarily for Khan this time in the 9th. The younger man also used his handspeed to fire quick combinations down the middle, clearly wearing Maidana down. His corner agreed, growing more and more restless between rounds.
Very lethargic rising from his stool, Maidana took several deep breaths between missing wide punches and getting slammed with right hands. About a minute into the 10th round, Maidana landed an explosive right hand as Khan backed up with his hands down, and suddenly the champion found himself being battered about the ring and repeatedly sent to the ropes by everything Maidana had, not throwing more than a shot or two for almost a full 90 seconds. He gamely fought back in the final seconds, was again badly hurt, but managed to finish the round on his feet.
An exhausted Maidana struggled to maintain control in the 11th, punishing Khan in close near the end of the round after not doing much for the first 2 or more minutes. All in all a good comeback round for the champion considering how the previous round went.
After moving away from Maidana for almost a minute in the final round, Khan was relegated to holding Maidana's gloves with his elbows in order to survive while getting mauled. Again Khan stopped throwing for the better part of the last minute, but finished the round with a few quick flurries.
A unanimous decision for Amir "King" Khan improved his record to 24-1 (17), and the young star's bruised face proved he worked hard for it. Judges scored the bout 113-112 and 114-111 two times, as Marcos Maidana fell to 29-2 (27).
Both fighters overcame the inept refereeing to close the HBO telecast with some nice surprises and late round excitement. Both men bared flaws over and over again, but wound up withstanding punishment, fighting fatigue and letting leather fly, making for a possible Fight of the Year candidate.
Assuming no rematch is on the table, Khan should be able to find a capable opponent or two while Tim Bradley and Devon Alexander sort things out. While he definitely stood up to more punches than many of us expected, his inability to adjust to certain shots landing on him over and over could be worrisome. Regardless, his talent and new-found durability should see him through more adversity.
As for Maidana, I have a feeling he'll be trying to slug his way into our hearts before too long.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
November opened a potential can of worms in terms of action, whetting the appetite of boxing fans that have been long looking forward to the excitement that December may bring.
In a division filled with solid, name fighters, three separate promoters found a way to join forces and stage a tournament between four of the best guys at bantamweight. Not exactly a common occurrence these days, fans have been salivating at the idea of this single-elimination event since it was officially announced mid-September.
Though the Showtime Bantamweight Tournament hasn't been without its own hitches and venue switches, Gary Shaw and Golden Boy Promotions teamed up to headline the telecast with a collision featuring unbeaten rising star Abner Mares and former flyweight and super flyweight champion Vic Darchinyan.
The boxing gods will kindly afford fans a second helping of bantamweight goodness in the form of a support bout, in which Yonnhy Perez will defend his IBF title against Joseph Agbeko.
This rematch of one of the best scraps of 2009 is set to open up the broadcast from the Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma, Washington, and hasn't been without its own sub-plot since their first meeting.
Claiming almost 250 amateur bouts, the Colombian Perez has fought out of Santa Fe Springs, California for most of his professional career. Turning pro at 26-years old in 2005, "El Colombiano" took his first significant step up in decisioning tough journeyman Oscar Andrade in his 10th outing. Perez earned 12 stoppage wins in his first 15 fights, with the 15th being a knockout victory over pug Alex Becerra on the undercard of Vazquez vs. Marquez III in March of 2008.
Yonnhy returned to the Home Depot Center in Carson, California 2 months later to decision veteran Manuel Sarabia, in a fight that proved to be more difficult than expected, on the undercard of Escobedo vs. Arrieta.
A second decision win over Oscar Andrade and a slow beatdown of game former prospect David Martinez on Showtime's ShoBox led to and IBF title elimination showdown with South African bruiser Silence Mabuza in May 2009.
Not surprisingly, Mabuza took the fight directly to Perez, who deftly countered and seemed to be landing cleaner punches, but was probably getting outworked while being pushed backwards in the Mabuza's backyard. The entertaining tumble came to an end in the 12th round when, behind on all cards, the Colombian landed a hard jab on an off-balance Mabuza that sent him falling backwards into the ropes, where he landed awkwardly. As Mabuza rose on seemingly unsteady legs, Perez dialed in with a hard left hook that had his man stumbling, forcing a referee stoppage at 1:06 of the final round.
The emphatic win set up what would be a sometimes rough (but always fun) 12-round battle with Joseph Agbeko in a Showtimes Championship Boxing Halloween headliner .
Agbeko was ad advertised early on in the fight, constantly throwing and moving forward, while Perez again countered with sharper punches, occasionally rocking "King Kong" back on his heels. Things got noticeably sloppy as the bout progressed, both fighters complaining about head clashes, both guys showing signs of wear (including a cut caused by a head clash for Perez), and a few seemingly intentional butts from the champion Agbeko for good measure. An unintentional headbutt in the 10th caused Agbeko to turn his back and eventually drop to a knee, resulting in a called knockdown. Perez then used better footwork to walk Agbeko into shots late in the fight, finishing strong and winning a convincing unanimous decision.
Efforts by Don King and Gary Shaw - who promote Agbeko and Perez respectively - to talk Showtime into airing an IBF-mandated rematch proved fruitless, and after seven months off, Perez was slated to defend his IBF title for the first time against unbeaten potential star Abner Mares as an opener for the final war between Rafael Marquez and Israel Vazquez in May of this year.
The Colombian's counter-punching opened the door for the younger challenger Mares to take a lead early in the fight by out-hustling the champion, though Perez once again appeared to land the cleaner shots in many rounds. Perez took over as Mares faded in the middle rounds, clearly gaining momentum. But by the 9th round, Mares was landing thudding body shots and finding a groove with good footwork and quick combinations. Both men were sore and swollen after the contest, which resulted in a majority draw.
A relatively small country in West Africa, Ghana has produced a number of solid, and even world class fighters. Joseph Agbeko hopes to be mentioned among names such as Roy Ankrah and Azumah Nelson if he wins this tournament.
Fighting in or around Ghana against opponents with unverifiable records, Agbeko went 21-0 (19) before running into future longtime WBA bantamweight titlist Volodymyr Sydorenko. The Ukrainian handed Agbeko his first loss by decision in May 2004.
After going 12 rounds with a 3-2 opponent in Accra 5 months later, Agbeko took over 2 years off from the sport. Following a return to the ring in March 2007, Agbeko fought in a support bout for a Top Rank-promoted card televised by Versus and featuring fellow Accra native Josh Clottey against Felix Flores. The TKO win over unheralded Fidencio Reyes marked the first time Agbeko had fought in the US after having relocated to New York.
Evidently "King King" impressed enough to be given a title shot against scrappy, yet woefully inactive IBF champion Luis Perez in September 2007. Opening up for a mismatch between Chad Dawson and yesteryear spoiler Epifanio Mendoza, Agbeko beat down the brawling Nicaraguan over seven rounds, forcing the ringside doctor to stop the contest due to a nasty cut below Perez' left eye, and seizing the title with relative ease.
After more than a year off, the champion, now under Don King's promotional banner, defended his title for the first time in another Versus co-feature against Nicaraguan boxer-puncher William Gonzalez in December 2008. Perhaps because the main event of Tomasz Adamek vs. Steve Cunningham was so thrilling, Agbeko failed to impress in winning a majority decision. The champion never seemed to find a rhythm, and Gonzalez used a consistent jab to thwart Agbeko's advances.
Agbeko's second defense came a full 7 months later against Vic Darchinyan, who had moved up two divisions and gone 4-0-1 since being stopped by Nonito Donaire at flyweight two years prior. A rough, and often dirty fight, both men forearmed, elbowed and hot below the belt, with Agbeko continuously interrupting Darchinyan's offense by moving forward and outworking the Armenian. The Ghanaian was awarded a close unanimous decision, leading to his next defense against "El Colombiano" Perez.
PREDICTION: Although their last fight was a headliner, Yonnhy Perez finds himself fighting in the opening bout of the broadcast yet again. But it should be markedly less pressure than trying to preemptively outdo Rafa Marquez and Israel Vazquez, and he still performed well in both instances. Agbeko doesn't have the overall ring smarts and multiple gears of a guy like Abner Mares, and while I don't see Perez as having developed a ton since their first meeting, I believe he has the wider range as a fighter and will slightly improve on his first performance, beating Agbeko more convincingly this time around. Perez may even be able to avoid head collisions early on as he appears to have worked hard at his footwork, but later on it could get interesting. Perez by unanimous decision.
Monday, December 6, 2010
"Remember, remember the eleventh of December..."
Alright, the old rhyme doesn't exactly go that way. But for boxing fans, it should.
Just under a week away, December 11 may see the awakening of this year's snoozing beast. And Yonnhy Perez, Vic Darchinyan, Joseph Agbeko and Abner Mares are carrying the stick with which to poke it.
Early 2010 was admittedly a less-than-stellar period for boxing in terms of bigger matchups between name fighters. Many bouts fell apart before being finalized, and some anticipated fights fell short of high expectations.
But as with a few other recent calendar years for the sport, the little guys may just make all suffering worthwhile.
Notably, 2004 was dubbed "The Year of the Upset" before half of the year was up. By May, three of the sport's biggest stars had fallen in Roy Jones, Shane Mosley and Wladimir Klitschko, and all in relatively dramatic fashion.
Later in the year, Jones was again stretched by longshot Glen Johnson, and heavyweight hopefuls Dominick Guinn and Juan Carlos Gomez were both handed tough defeats. Oscar de la Hoya was heavily scrutinized for taking a ten count over a not-so-hellacious liver shot in the year's biggest event, and Juan Manuel Marquez and Manny Pacquiao's entertaining tangle produced a fan-dividing draw.
In November of the same year, Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales closed out their classic trilogy with what many considered the best war between them yet. What many folks claimed was a terrible year for the sport coasted to the New Year riding the high of the ebb and flow between two great warriors and fierce rivals.
This time, a bleak year of pugilism may yet be salvaged when the month of December attempts to outdo an entertaining November.
On December 11, four of the best fighters in one of the deepest divisions in boxing will square off in the semi-finals stage of a single-elimination bantamweight tournament on Showtime.
Many have argued that boxing tournaments should go the way of the Dodo after the collapse of Showtime's 168 lb. "Super Six" tournament. Forgotten is the fact that the Super Six has produced a few fun scraps, and that regardless of recent developments, we're still treated to matchups between name fighters that we wouldn't have seen otherwise.
While the winner of the bantamweight tournament won't produce a consensus or universal bantamweight champion, the four participants are undoubtedly world class fighters. Aside from that, all four fighters possess respectable punching power and entertaining styles that should produce fireworks when matched against one another. And of the six total blemishes on the fighters' records, four of them have come against another participant in the tournament.
The main event of the broadcast pits super flyweight belt-holder Vic Darchinyan against undefeated contender Abner Mares.
Coming off a win against unheralded bantamweight Eric Barcelona, the 35-2-1 (27) Darchinyan appears to be using his clout from fights at lower weight classes to compete in this tourney. The Australia-based Armenian rose to prominence thrashing opponents and displaying an awkwardly effective herky-jerky style, stopping reigning (yet inactive) Colombian titlist Irene Pacheco in the 11th round to snatch up the IBF flyweight strap in December 2004.
Darchinyan then took his act Stateside, fighting twice in California and twice in Las Vegas after two relatively easy defenses in Australia, offering up a healthy dose of trashtalk along the way. In March 2007, Darchinyan drew large amounts of criticism for his lack of compassion after beating down smaller man Victor Burgos over 11 rounds, which resulted in doctors putting the tough Mexican into a medically-induced coma due to a blood clot on his brain.
His very next fight in July of the same year saw Darchinyan hand over his IBF title as he was outboxed and subsequently decked by one hard left hook against Nonito Donaire, earning him his first loss.
The road back has had its own highs and lows, the "Raging Bull" Darchinyan going 7-1-1, with wins over Cristian Mijares, Jorge Arce and Dimitry Kirillov, a draw with Filipino contender Z Gorres, and a rough loss to the aforementioned Joseph Agbeko, in which he forfeited the titles he had unified at super flyweight.
Despite a decent win streak, Darchinyan should have his work cut out for him when he faces Mares.
Mares, who will turn 25 before their bout, is undefeated at 20-0-1 (13).
Following a successful amateur career that included representing Mexico in the 2004 Olympics, Mares was signed by Golden Boy Promotions in November 2004 when the promotional company was merely in its fledgling stage. Mares fought on a number of Golden Boy pay-per-view cards alongside fellow Olympian Vicente Escobedo early in his pro career, showing heaps of talent and promise.
Mares' first significant step up in class came in April 2007 as he headlined a Telefutura card in his 11th pro fight against Colombian journeyman Angel Priolo. Mares took a couple rounds to find a groove, but once he did, Priolo fell in six.
On the undercard of Pacquiao-Marquez II in 2008, Mares destroyed Filipino Diosdado Gabi in 2 rounds. At the time, Gabi had lost once in 6 years, that loss coming at the hands of none other than Vic Darchinyan.
The young man's punching power seemed to actually be increasing as he came along, outclassing borderline contenders and prospects since the Gabi fight, until finding himself staring across the ring at IBF bantamweight champion Yonnhy Perez in May of this year on the undercard of Marquez-Vazquez IV.
An interesting affair, Mares-Perez began with the young Mexican beating Perez to the punch and controlling the pace of the fight. In the middle rounds, the experienced Colombian took over and appeared to be on his way to a dominant win. But in the late rounds, Mares rallied to even the fight up after 12, resulting in an entertaining majority draw. Perez had retained his title.
Mares and Darchinyan shouldn't have much trouble putting a period on the evening -the opening bout may be the exclamation point.
PREDICTION: Darchinyan may be the overall more accomplished fighter, and probably the better guy PFP, but he should find himself at least one division out of his comfort zone in this fight. Whether or not Darchinyan brings significant punching power up to bantamweight with him should be a large determining factor in the fight, as Mares will walk through his shots to land his own if Vic can't hurt him. Stylistically, a good jab and head movement have bothered Vic previously, and fighting inside isn't much of an option for him. Needless to say, Mares does all of those things well. Past that, Vic seems to be getting easier to hit, and Mares shouldn't have a very difficult time controlling the distance and pace. Mares by stoppage in about 8.