Last night was a great night for real boxing fans who got a four-fight package instead of one megafight and little else. The night also featured "the return of the body shot" as it became the greatest weapon in three of the four fights. Here are some thoughts as in-depth round-by-round boxing analysis will be left to others.
HBO vs. Showtime: Why can't HBO and Showtime work out these scheduling differences? HBO had the welterweights battle it out while Showtime had the light heavyweights. Sure, some of us had to tape the action on one DVR while watching another channel, but boxing loses when this happens… The casual sports fan will not do this…
Miguel Cotto vs. Alfonso Gomez: There is one type of fight that I find unwatchable — if not stomach-turning: The mismatch. Gomez of "The Contender" fame, who has no shortage of heart, pride, and guts, simply should not have been allowed to occupy the same ring as someone as skilled as Miguel Cotto. The fight was stopped after five rounds, could have definitely been stopped after 4, but really should have been stopped before round 1. When the Yankees play their triple-A team, it is merely a preseason exhibition. In boxing it is for the championship. When a fight is competitive it is a sport first that just so happens to be violent. When it is not, it becomes brutality for its own sake. The last time I felt myself wincing like this was when Floyd Mayweather destroyed Arturro Gatti as Gatti kept returning each round to be dominated without any chance of winning. Now this does not mean that referees should have quick triggers in general, but only when it is abundantly clear that the lesser fighter is completely out of their league. For historical reference see Larry Holmes-Randall Tex Cobb.
Antonio Margarito vs. Kermit Cintron: Margarito's 6 round destruction of Kermit Cintron on HBO's undercard of the Cotto fight is a perfect example of dominance of fighters who DO belong in the ring together. Cintron whose only other career loss is to Margarito was game, fought back, and has considerable punching power. Margarito — who clearly has Cintron's number — has set himself up for a July 26 match against Cotto in what promises to be an exciting slugfest amongst two warriors. Expect the more skilled Cotto to be victorious, but never count out Margarito who will press the action and bring out the best in Cotto.
Antonio Tarver vs. Clinton Woods: Over at Showtime, Tarver's unanimous decision over the game Clinton Woods was a typical Tarver victory. Not incredibly exciting, but enough spurts where he would steadily show his superior boxing skill. At 39, Tarver can still fight. Expect to see him matched up with the "undefeated" Chad Dawson.
Glen Johnson vs. Chad Dawson: While short on name-recognition, the Tarver-Woods undercard fight at Showtime was the most intriguing fight from the start. Boxing has a great tradition of matching-up the young talented undefeated, yet untested fighter (Dawson) with the older, battle-worn, and cagey veteran. Unlike most of these match-ups, Johnson is not washed up. (He has beaten Roy Jones, Tarver, and Clinton Woods since 2004) No fighter has more heart and will than Johnson. In a close action-packed fight the decision predictably went to Dawson in unanimous scorecards of 116 – 112. Here is what Johnson had to say:
"I cannot believe at my age, at 39, they would rip me off like this for a… talented young guy that has the world in his hands in the future. I'm on my last leg working for my future, trying to pay my bills just like [Dawson]… but I work hard and I win the fight and I deserve it. I don't understand where people find it in their hearts to do what they did to me time and time again… America needs to protest what's going on in boxing. If this is what it has to be for people to be successful — it's not about boxing and using your skills and winning the fight. It's about politics and who you know…"
Quantity vs. Quality?: Personally, I had Glen Johnson a 115-113 winner (splitting the first 6 rounds and winning the last 4). In addition to boxing "politics" that always favor the younger fighter with the future, the fight brings up the age-old boxing "quantity vs. quality" scoring controversy: Do you give points to the guys who land more light shots and pitter-patter (Dawson) or the guy with the more significant blows. For his part, Dawson deserves credit for weathering through his first-ever storm and remaining on his feet. Had it gone 15 rounds like the old days, there would be no judging contyroversy. It was Johnson who pressed the fight, consistently landed the harder blows, and hurt/backed Dawson up on many occasions including a 10th round right which wobbled Chad. After the 6th round Dawson wanted no part of Johnson's pressure and began to box and use his quickness try to win the rest of the fight on points. The judges rewarded him for this. In contrast, Johnson — who absorbed many blows as usual — never appeared hurt at any time. Johnson continues:
"and I tell Showtime that if I win the fight, I give him [Dawson] a rematch like THAT because I'm afraid of nobody. I fight every man in the world and I never duck or hide from anyone… I fought my heart out and they still have the heart to rip me off. He [Chad Dawson] should protest it"
Dawson would not protest it – and judging from his post-fight interview — will not give Johnson any rematch. Dawson wants absolutely no part of that — and might be the best indication of who Dawson believes won the fight. He will likely go on to fight Tarver next.
Hopkins-Calzaghe: All this light-heavyweight action is merely a precursor for next week's main event: Bernard Hopkins vs. Joe Calzaghe. In an absolute treat, this fight of two continental boxing legends will not be on Pay-Per-View, but on HBO. There will be no prediction on this one. Calzaghe is a brilliant undefeated fighter who I believe would have been competitive with Roy Jones had they fought eight years ago. On the flip side, it is important to adhere to a boxing rule: NEVER BET AGAINST B-HOP. He was supposed to lose against Tito. He was supposed to lose after moving up in weight to face Tarver. Lesson learned. Two great fighters and I've got no clue who will win… and that is why it should be a great fight… tune in next week…