The Weekend Boxing Wrap-Up is a companion to the weekly Boxing Beat column, providing closure to the weekend's action from the schedule of MMA's combat sports cousin.
There was a whole host of action this weekend that I'd love to dive right into, unfortunately there is a bit of sad news that must be mentioned first. One of boxing's most iconic writers and personalities, Bert Sugar, passed away yesterday at the age of 74. Sugar, known best for his trademark fedora and cigar, was a former editor of The Ring and Boxing Digest as well as the author of more than 80 books.
His quick wit and easy storytelling style made him even more interesting in the age of TV than he was as a writer. He also was someone who never let the sport pass him by, never dwelling on the old "glory days" of his youth but using the knowledge gained to provide more insight into the modern landscape of boxing.
He liked few things more than to pull up a bar stool and regale friends and strangers alike with tall tales and recollections, frequently convulsing in laughter as he did so.
Often, during such sessions, he would pause, look at the drink in front of him and observe, "I have always said: I would rather be a good liver than have one." And that he certainly was. His was a life well-lived, and his was a presence that will be much missed.
Best wishes to Bert's family. He will be missed.
On to the results...
Friday Night Fights
- Antwone Smith did his usual screaming and barking routine with every punch but that wasn't enough to overcome a good effort from Roberto Garcia. Garcia isn't likely to make a big splash any time soon, but he's good enough to overcome Smith-level tests and get in as a tune-up opponent for big names. Basically the same role that he played against Antonio Margarito prior the the Pacquiao bout.
- James De La Rosa romped to a lopsided win over Tyrone Brunson. Brunson held a crazy first round knockout streak over a bunch of bums a few years ago and, as Scott Christ of Bad Left Hook put it "His bogus 19-fight, first round stoppage streak did absolutely nothing for him, and when he has to go on the defensive now, he really looks like he doesn't know what to do." De La Rosa is similar to Garcia in that he simply has too many liabilities to be a top guy, but he'll be able to earn some decent paydays if he's handled correctly going forward.
- Undefeated prospect Diego Magdaleno ran his record to 22-0 with a stoppage win over Fernando Beltran. Beltran was a late replacement and, with that in mind, gave a commendable performance. Magdaleno was too much or Fernando, but Beltran did manage to score a knockdown in the middle rounds. Unfortunately, that knockdown seemed to do little more than anger Magdaleno as the rising star turned up the heat and forced Beltran's corner to throw in the towel in the seventh.
- Yordenis Ugas came in as the highly touted and undefeated promotional darling. Despite an abhorrent performance earlier this year on Friday Night Fights, Showtime continued to throw out the line of Ugas being a Cuban who fought more like a Mexican (meaning a Cuban with a storied amateur career who didn't fight the safe, amateur style in the pros but rather a face-first action style). Instead, he fought Johnny Garcia with the same reluctance to engage that he showed on that Friday night in January. While it appeared clear that Ugas had done enough to win on the scorecards, the judges instead rewarded Garcia with the controversial split decision victory.
It's hard to really discuss the decision with any emotion. No one thought much of Garcia coming in. His undefeated record was more a product of fighting bums on the midwest circut and he earned his ShoBox chance with a win over a 10-27-1 fighter. He was there to be an opponent to get Ugas some more exposure and ring time. So it's hardly the usual case of the little guy getting screwed over. The decision went the wrong way, but Ugas probably should be blaming himself for not coming out and pushing the pace against an inferior fighter.
HBO Championship Boxing
- Erik Morales showed up to give everything he had against the much younger and favored Danny Garcia. In his prime, Morales would have ran through a man like Garcia, a talented fight but one seemingly lacking that "special" quality that defines the greats in this sport. Instead, Morales' toughness allowed him to fight Garcia more or less even until the championship rounds where a steady diet of body shots had seemed to sap Erik's energy. A crushing shot by Garcia left Morales on the mat and while he was able to recover, he was never quite the same as Garcia took the last rounds to claim a deserved decision victory and the WBC light welterweight title.
For Morales, it may be the end of the road. He said that he will have to "really think about it" when asked if he would be retiring after the fight. Erik missed weight, unusual for him, and was forced to vacate the title that Garcia earned with the victory. This had people questioning if his heart is even in it anymore. But once Morales gets between the ropes, there is no denying his heart is filled with nothing but the love of being in a good scrap.
If this is the end of the road for him, one can only hope people remember how truly great Morales is. One of the absolute best to ever lace up a pair of gloves.
- Unfortunately what Morales represents about all that is right in boxing came in the shadow of a reminder of that which is wrong. The opening bout on the broadcast saw James Kirkland, one of the best action fighters on the planet, beat Carlos Molina via a very bizarre disqualification.
Molina appeared to be up wide on the scorecards using a befuddling style of clinching and potshotting to disrupt the timing of Kirkland. With Kirkland reduced to trying to single-shot his way to victory rather than unleashing his usual whirlwind of violence, Molina was able to pick his way through the rounds. Somehow, despite looking completely out of sorts to that point, Kirkland landed a shot in the tenth round that floored Molina with just seconds left in the frame. Molina was able to climb to his feet, but as the referee issued a standing eight count, one of his cornermen accidentally entered the ring. Referee Jon Schorle told the cornerman to get out, finished the eight-count and then sent the fighters to their corners for the round break.
Mere seconds later, Schorle waived his arms over his head, indicating the end of the bout prior to the start of the eleventh round. He had disqualified Molina for his corner entering the ring during a live round. While correct by the "letter of the law" it was an unnecessarily strict interpretation of the rules given that it was the Texas commission (which has members in each corner enforcing rules) who allowed the second to enter the ropes. Given the end of round confusion, there was no need to disqualify Molina for something that had no impact on the fight itself.
What's worse, Molina looked to be fading while Kirkland was getting worked up and had scored the knockdown. With two rounds left to go, it's possible that Kirkland was just as robbed of a legitimate knockout in the final rounds as Molina was of trying to get to the final bell and take a decision. Of course, judge Gale Van Hoy, little more than a professional thief, stealing wins from deserving boxers, inexplicably had Kirkland ahead at the time of the stoppage. So who knows what would have happened had it gone to the scorecards after two more rounds.
Only in Texas, I suppose.
Bad Left Hook: Spotlight On Texas After Another Miscarriage Of Justice
NBC Sports Fight Night
- Bryant Jennings proved that he is one of the few American heavyweights worth keeping an eye on as he stopped former world champion Siarhei Liakhovich to improve to 12-0. Jennings appeared to take every round from Liakhovich, really busting up his face over the course of the fight and forcing Siarhei to quit.
- Tomasz Adamek won a wild brawl with Nagy Aguilera in a fight that stuck out as the best of the weekend. Adamek won wide on the scorecards but had to truly earn it as Aguilera mixed it up with him and even had him rattled a few times. Aguilera was more live in this fight than expected and it made Adamek work just enough to turn into a fun slugfest that had the crowd really going.
- The crowd was able to keep on going as hometown boy Zab Judah demolished a lost and overmatched Vernon Paris. Paris was the favorite coming in but hardly had a single moment worth noting all night. Judah's speed and power left Paris impotently covering up while waves of Zab offense crashed on his face eroding his will. In the ninth, Zab opened up with a big combination that left Paris covering up and about to fall, forcing the referee to call a stop to the bout and save Paris any further punishment (and embarrassment).
It was the best Judah performance in years but it's worth noting that Paris didn't do the one thing people expected and the one thing that always seems to bother Judah, he simply didn't come forward. Judah has always crumbled under the weight of a pressure attack, instead Paris tried to be cute and pick his spots to box, which amounted to little more than making the decision to let Zab tee off on him. This likely lines Zab up for yet another shot at a title, but we'll have to see if that means anything the next time he steps through the ropes.