You've got to hand it to Lamon Brewster. What he lacks in talent and endurance he more than makes up for in grit and determination. And that strange combination certainly makes for entertaining brawls.
Brewster barely escaped with a split decision over Kali Meehan Saturday in Las Vegas, evoking memories of horrid "Sin City" verdicts of the past - Michael Spinks-Larry Holmes I, Erik Morales-Marco Antonio Barrera I, etc. But let's forget the dubious scoring for an instant and recognize Brewster for what he is: One of the more watchable fighters in a scrap heap of a division.
Brewster seems to be trying his best to become the Arturo Gatti of the heavyweight ranks - the mid-1990s Arturo Gatti who waited until he his hide hit the canvas a few times before mounting a fight-winning comeback. As in his upset knockout of Wladimir Klitschko in April, Brewster absorbed an inhumane amount of punishment from a much bigger man before going on to win.
The eighth round was especially violent for Brewster, who sat on the ropes and let the 6-foot-5 Meehan pound on him for practically the entire three minutes. Volleys and volleys of punches rammed against Brewster's skull - a right hand here, a rocket right uppercut there - but Brewster never came close to touching the canvas. Sure, referee Jay Nady thought about stopping the fight - come to think of it, it's a shock that the quick-trigger ref allowed this one to continue - but the WBO champ from Los Angeles never thought about quitting.
And he continued to punch back, as feeble as those offerings sometimes were.
The sequence was reminiscent of the 1980 showdown between Matthew Saad Muhammad and Yaqui Lopez.
Lopez, vying for Saad Muhammad's WBC light heavyweight strap, pounded on the champ for the entire eighth round. But, like Nady, the ref was aware of Saad's penchant for rebounding from beatings, and let it go.
Saad Muhammad went on to knock out Lopez in the 14th in the year's best fight.
Like Saad, Brewster came back as well, but his victory wasn't nearly as conclusive. Brewster didn't come close to knocking his Australian challenger off his feet. Fatigue affected Meehan - which was no surprise after his exhausting assault. But it appeared that, in an otherwise even fight, Meehan's heavier punches and big eighth round would be enough to get him the victory.
And so one of the better heavyweight fights of the year naturally ended in controversy.
The official decision was split for Brewster, while much of the ringside press had Meehan winning a close nod. It wasn't a high-profile fight. And it surely wasn't a "championship" fight, as Don King and the WBO would want you to believe. But it sure rankled enough boxing people to make them wary of future Vegas decisions.
And to think Bernard Hopkins-Oscar De La Hoya is less than two weeks away.
Regardless, Meehan will get his second opportunity again, whether it's a rematch with Brewster or a shot at another King fighter - you could certainly see him getting the winner of John Ruiz-Andrew Golota. Brewster, meanwhile, will meet Evander Holyfield in his third defense of the WBO title.
Yeah, Evander Holyfield.
And while that fight won't tell us much, Brewster has already proven himself in the heart department. He'll eventually get beat - maybe even knocked out. But it will take one supreme effort to get this guy out of there.
His skills are questionable, but his heart is top notch. You could certainly say a lot worse about a fighter.
Matthew Aguilar may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org