Bute’s total annihilation of Librado Andrade last weekend brought that question to mind, although it’s been there ever since the original lineup was announced and the undefeated IBF champion wasn’t on the list.
The undefeated Bute is the only holder of a major recognized title not included in SHOWTIME’S tournament and one assumes the reason for that is that former WBA champion Mikkel Kessler and reigning WBC champion Carl Froch were better known Europeans, as is undefeated former middleweight champion Arthur Abraham, who is also in the event.
With three Europeans filling half the slots, SHOWTIME bowed to geography and American insularity and ignored the Romanian-born, Canadian citizen, opting instead for three U.S.-born fighters –ex-middleweight champion Jermain Taylor, Andre Dirrell and recently crowned WBA super middleweight title holder Andre Ward - to fill out the lineup.
Of those, only Ward won his first round fight, beating up Kessler in a fashion that has turned him from underdog to co-favorite to win the whole thing. Where this all leaves Bute is on the outside looking in with really no one in his division left for him to fight now that those six are tied up for the next year and a half or so with their contractual obligations to SHOWTIME.
If Taylor pulls out after being knocked out for the second straight fight (by first Froch and now Abraham), it is believed he will be replaced by Allan Green (29-1) so there’s probably no play for Bute there. SHOWTIME has never said for sure that Green is the first alternate but that has long been the supposition in boxing circles.
If that promise has been made it should be honored. But if not, Bute deserves the slot, one he has earned by virtue of being 25-0 with 20 knockouts and clearly one of the best super middleweights in the world.
If Green joins the tournament it removes him as well as a potential Bute opponent, leaving the IBF champion only the likes of dangerous but flawed Edison Miranda to do some business with. This week Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer suggested Bernard Hopkins could move down to 168 to challenge Bute in what might well be a decent money fight for him but as Kelly Pavlik and Felix Trinidad, among others, have learned the hard way, Hopkins is a guy best left alone even if he will turn 45 in a few weeks.
If Bute can keep winning long enough he could eventually be in position for a very big-money fight with whomever emerges as the SHOWTIME champion but that’s a long ways away. What is unfortunate is that Bute proved in his rematch with Andrade that he belonged in that super middleweight mix all along.
He actually had dominated Andrade in their first fight until he ran out of gas late and was on the ropes when the final bell sounded. Some tried to suggest the fight should have been stopped and Andrade awarded a TKO. That seemed a reach at the time and even moreso after watching the rematch, in which Bute dropped Andrade for the first time in his career with a short left hand to the head and finished him not long after he got up with a body shot to the solar plexus that doubled him over and left him helpless. “This was the real Lucian Bute,’’ Bute claimed.
Whatever Lucian Bute it was it was one who looked good enough to be in any Super Six Super Middleweight tournament you could come up with.
Briggs (49-5-1) put McGee (22-18) down with what was for all intents and purposes the first hard punch he threw. After missing with a jab, he followed with a hard right to the body that caved the Alabaman's side in and may well have left him with a fractured rib. McGee fell heavily to the floor, where he was counted out.
Briggs had repaired to Miami in 2007 after losing what he cited as an asthma-induced unanimous decision to Sultan Ibragimov, and, he conceded after Thursday's brief exercise, had balooned up to 334 pounds, making the 272 1/4 he carried into the ring against McGee seem downright svelte.
Although he had not anticipated fighting again when he walked out of Boardwalk Hall a loser two years ago, Briggs said, "my friends talked me into it. They told me I'd left the game too soon without accomplishing everything I'd hoped to. They're the ones who got my off the couch and helped me lose more than sixty pounds."
The heft he packed for the McGee fight didn't appreciably differ from what he weighed against Ibragimov, but it does represent more than 70 pounds since Briggs' 1992 pro debut, and is 45 more than he weighed when he controversially outpointed George Foreman for the lineal championship in 1997.
As Briggs, who would celebrate his 38th birthday just hours later, waited in mid-ring to be interviewed by Versus after his bout, he reached out and tried to give McGee a playful hug. Only when the opponent shrank away in what appeared to be genuine terror did Briggs recognize the extent of the damage he had wrought.
"Sorry, man," he apologized.
McGee was facing his second former champ in a row, having been knocked out by Samuel Peter in Mexico back in July. The opponent, who is also 38, was scheduled to undergo x-rays afterward.
Some might have described Joe DeGuardia's business as "Hustler Boxing" even before his recent alliance with Larry Flynt, but the brand name has been formalized with the marriage of convenience that joined the bottom-feeding boxing promoter with the upscale strip-club owner. A bevy Flynt's exotic dancers were drafted to work as round-card girls at the Manhattan Center, and arrangement that did not always proceed flawlessly. On a couple of times a stripper paraded around the ring with an empty sign, leaving the audience clueless when it came to what round was coming up.
"Hey, give her a break," pleaded ring announcer Joe Antonacci on one such occasion. "She's working without her pole.
The ostensible main event saw Baltimore's Tim Coleman win a controversial split decision over "Mighty Mike" Araoutis to capture the USBA junior welter title. Arnaoutis (22-4-2) fights out of Queens, but is Athens-born, and a substantial segment of the audience consisted of fellow Greeks who were none too pleased by the verdict.
Arnaoutis was fighting for just the second time since being stopped by Victor Ortiz in March. Once a promising contender, he had been unbeaten prior to his back-t0-back losses to Ricardo Torres and Kendall Holt in 2006-07, and had hoped to bounce back against Coleman, a 17-2-1 Baltimorean. Coleman build up a substantial lead over the early going, but Arnaoutis seemed to be coming on strong over the last half of the fight and looked to have done enough to win. He did carry the evening 116-112 on Robin Taylor's scorecard, but she was overruled by Glenn Feldman and Kevin Morgan, who both returned 115-113 cards for Coleman.
Both fighters were cut in the latter rounds. Coleman sprouted the first leak, to the side of his left eye, in the tenth, while Arnaoutis fought the last round with blood literally pumping from a much nastier gash in the same approximate area of his own face. It was one of those wounds that, had it occurred several rounds earlier, might well have impacted the outcome, or even forced a stoppage, but referee Sparkle Lee, recognizing that she was overseeing a close fight that was less than three minutes away from its conclusion, wisely opted for a hands-off policy.
Somebody's "O'" had to go in the 8-round preliminary matching unbeaten welterweights, and it turned out to the the one belonging to the Philadelphian who styles himself "The New " Ray Robinson (not that anyone was likely to confuse him with the old one). Louisiana visitor Brad Solomon extended his pro mark to 9-0 as he posted a majority decision over Robinson, now 11-1. Don Trella and Steve Epstein both scored it 79-73, while Matt Ruggero had it level at 76-76.
The opening bout saw Providence cruiserweight Josh Harris improve to 5-3-1 with an upset fourth-round TKO of previously unbeaten Virginian Jaywon Woods (7-1-1). Harris, who himself had been wobbled at the end of the second, interrupted what had been a relatively close contest midway through the fourth when he caught Woods with a sweeping roundhouse left that left him flailing. When Harris wound up to deliver the same punch again it was with such ferocity that he flung himself to the floor int the process, but by then Kelly, noting Woods' helpless condition, had already waved the bout off at 1:17 of the round.
An originally scheduled 7-bout card had been reduced by two at Wednesday's weigh in. xx(Cowgirl) Shiver, the scheduled opponent for Maureen Shea in what was advertised as a WBA 'interim' title fight, was medically disqualified when the MRI portion of her pre-fight physical picked up a previously undetected brain cyst. (Shiver, 9-4, had previously fought exclusively in Tampa, where testing procedures are somewhat less rigorous.)
Since no suitably inept replacement oould be procured on short notice, Shea, 13-2 but knocked out in each of her last two fights, got the night off.
Scottish heavyweight Kevin Millarvie was also excused from performing when his opponent, Terrell Nelson, failed to turn up for the weigh-in rather that risk arrest on an outstanding domestic violence warrant. Millarvie (7-0 and listed on the program as from "Glasgow, Poland") had fought once previously in New York, winning a majority decision over Shawn McClean at the Paradise Theatre in the Bronx two years ago, a bout remarkable primarily because McLean's 1-0 reresented the only winning record on the list of Millarvie's previous victims. Nelson, who was outpointed by Devin Vargas in Howard Beach in September, would have fit nicely into that tradition: He was 7-9, but winless in his last seven before going on the lam.
The walkout bout saw Bronx super-middleweight Hajro Sujak 5-0 with a unanimous decision over winless New Jerseyite Todd Erickson, now 0-2-1. Erickson was decked in the second, and had his nose bloodied in the third, but fought gamely enough. Epstein and Trella both scored it 40-35, Rugggero 39-36.
* * * HUSTLER BOXING MANHATTAN CENTER NEW YORK CITY Dec. 3, 2009
JUNIOR WELTERWEIGHTS: Tim Coleman 140, Baltimore, Md. dec. Mike Arnaoutis, 140, Athens, Greece (12) (Wins vacant USBA title)
HEAVYWEIGHTS: Shannon Briggs, 272 1/4, Brooklyn, NY KO'd Marcus McGee, 223 1/2, Tuscaloosa, Ala. (1)
We found ourselves suppressing a chuckle the other day when an in-house memo by a TSS colleague described Williams-Martinez as "the poor man's Pacquiao-Cotto." If so, these must be very poor men indeed we're talking about. How else to explain that an otherwise attractive Saturday night matchup will take place not in the 12,000-seat main arena at Boardwalk Hall, but in the cozier confines of the Adrian Phillips Ballroom, whose boxing capacity is listed at 2,900.
If you can put aside for a moment the fact that it is taking place 3,000 miles away from what would be its more natural constituency and it would seem from this vantage point that a card like Williams-Martinez in tandem with Chris Arreola-Brian Minto is exactly what Lou DiBella had in mind when, back in his HBO incarnation, he came up with the Boxing After Dark concept nearly 14 years ago.
The idea then was to produce competitive bouts involving fighters who were, in DiBella's vision, "not necessarily A-List fighters," which would certainly describe the dramatis personae of this show. Martinez (44-1-2) currently owns a belt and Williams (37-1) has gone through a few of them. Their accomplishments are well known to hard-core boxing fans, but the pair of them could -- and did, the other day -- walk down the streets of New York without attracting so much as a glimmer of recognition from the public at large. In fact, from among the four of them, Arreola is the most likely candidate to elicit a double-take from a passerby, mainly by virtue of a cameo 10-round appearance against Vitali Klitschko in a title bout whose whose arrangement proved to be, shall we say, somewhat premature.
The point is that, as the late Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart once said of pornography, "i know it when I see it."
I know a Boxing After Dark card when I see one, and whatever they might want to call it, that is what this one is -- or should have been.
And, not to let the other network off the hook here, it should also be noted that Showtime has strayed pretty far afield from its original concept with what it sometimes airs under the imprimatur of "ShoBox: The Next Generation" -- a point that may have been driven home a couple of months ago when the definition of "the next generation" was expanded to include 38 year-old Tarvis Simms.
Granted, to preserve this show at all HBO had to make do with what it had left when the originally scheduled headliner, middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik, did a dixie back in October.
"As a fight fan, I was bummed when I heard Pavlik-Williams was off," said Arreola, during a stop at a Manhattan steak house Wednesday. "But then when I found out Martinez would be the new opponent I got excited all over again." And that was even before Cristobal himself was added to the bill against Minto.
Arreola is 27-1 after the Klitschko loss, and MInto is exactly the sort of opponent against whom he should have been proving himself at this stage of his career. You'd say that Minto, a 34 year-old Pennsylvania journeyman, has made a career of beating up over-the-hill heavyweights with fading name recognition, but even in that pursuit he has occasionally overstepped his bounds -- as was the case on the night he lost to an out-of-shape 46 year-old Tony Tubbs five years ago in West Virginia.
Whatever rewards might accrue to Arreola from beating Minto, one prize we know isn't coming is another WBC title shot. The F-bomb barrage with which Chris cut loose on the air served to get him suspended -- not, as one might have supposed, by HBO, but by Jose Sulaiman. (Arreola's promoter Dan Goossen pointed out that were Los Bandidos to evenhandedly apply this criteria, DiBella might end up on the WBC's permanently suspended list. On cue, DiBella then followed Goossen to the microphone and began his address with "I'd like to thank you all for for fucking coming.")
To hear the principals, including Williams himself, tell it, "the most avoided man in boxing" has stepped into a more dangerous bout with Martinez than he might have faced with Pavlik, but that further assumes another leap of faith -- an investment in the notion that Pavlik was ever going to show up for this one in the first place.
Although Goossen likes to boast that the 6'1" Williams "is capable of beating anybody from 147 to 168 pounds," the fact is that on at least one occasion he did not. In California in February of 2008 Williams was routed by Carlos Quintana, like Martinez a southpaw, and as DiBella has pointed out at every turn since the replacement match was made, "Martinez is bigger, stronger, and faster than Carlos Quintana."
HBO's Kery Davis concurred with this assessment: "The only fighter to give Paul Williams trouble was Carlos Quintana -- and Sergio Martinez is like Quintana on Red Bull."
"Good. They say they're using Quintana as a blueprint for how to fight Paul Williams," pointed out Williams' venerable trainer George Peterson. "I hope they follow through with that plan, because if you'll recall, it didn't work so well the second time they fought."
Whatever Quintana's perceived advantages in the Pechanga upset might have been, they were not in evidence at the Mohegan Sun four months later, when Williams stopped him at 2:15 of the first round.
Quintana (26-2) is also scheduled for action on the Atlantic City card, where he will be opposed by Jesse Feliciano, who despite a 15-7 record gave Kermit Cintron a world of trouble when they fought in Los Angeles a year ago. A surprising deep undercard will also see heavyweights Chazz Witherspoon (26-1) and Tony Thompson (32-2) square off. Thompson was knocked out by Wladimir Klitschko last year; Witherspoon's loss had come a month earlier when he was DQ'd against Arreola in Memphis.
While Hagler was training in Philly he was told by Joe Frazier that he had three strikes against him in regards to the fight game - 1) he was a southpaw 2) he was good and 3) he was black. Hagler went on to beat Monroe in their rubber match and then had to wait 25 months before he was given a shot at the middleweight title.
Today Paul Williams 37-1 (27) is a modern day version of Marvin Hagler. Like Hagler, despite being different stylistically, Williams is a southpaw, he's really good and he's black. On top of that he's 6'1" tall with a long reach. Williams throws punches in bunches and can fight just as effectively on the inside as he can from outside. Also like Hagler, he was outboxed and lost a fight early in his career only to come back and devastate his former conquer in a rematch.
As of this writing on the eve of his fight with Sergio Martinez 44-1-2 (24), Paul Williams is in an odd position being that there's really not a big fight out there for him. He tried to get WBC/WBO middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik into the ring but Pavlik pulled out due to him being afflicted with a staph infection on his hand. As a result of that the Williams-Martinez fight was made.
Martinez is a very good fighter. Quick, a beautifully conditioned lefty, clever, and a tough guy. The problem is that there's not one thing that he can do better than Williams. He gave Kermit Cintron a good going over in his last fight but got robbed when the bout was declared a draw.
Assuming that Williams does in fact get by Martinez Saturday night, who's out there that Williams can be matched up with who could stimulate substantial interest among the boxing public? The reality is that in order for Williams to partake in a big fight, he'll have to go up or down in weight significantly or he'll have to force a prospective opponent to do the same to make the fight.
Williams has stated that he'd love to meet the Pacquiao-Mayweather winner sometime in 2010. But is it likely that either one of them would get into the ring with Williams? He's just too big and versatile for either Pacquiao or Mayweather and that's assuming Paul could get down to welterweight which of course isn't a given by any means.
Perhaps if Shane Mosley beats Andre Berto in January Shane would be willing to fight Williams if the money was right and he can't land a fight with the Pacquiao-Mayweather winner. Then again Williams would be a tough match up for Mosley stylistically. And Mosley has already fought bigger fighters like the late Vernon Forrest and Winky Wright and suffered four of his five career defeats in those bouts. So unless the money is off the charts Mosley probably won't seek to make a fight with Williams.
Seeing Bernard Hopkins and Paul Williams in the ring facing each other would be intriguing. However, Hopkins is bigger and much more experienced than Williams and is capable of schooling Paul at this time in his career. As for Hopkins the risk-reward would be outta whack and the money wouldn't be worth the risk for Bernard.
Some have suggested Williams could take on the winner of the Super-Six tournament that just concluded its first round. But once again, with the exception of Arthur Abraham if he won it, Williams would be spotting size and weight against the other fighters participating in the tournament if they won.
Another fascinating match for Williams would be a bout with Chad Dawson, who along with Williams is considered one of the best up and coming young fighters in America. The problem is at what weight? How high can Williams go without being compromised and how low can Dawson get without him being weakened? In reality it would be another catch-weight bout and one of the two would be dramatically affected depending on the contracted weight. And with both Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather fighting in high profile catch-weight bouts in their last fight, we've had enough of those for the time being.
The truth is there's really not a compelling fight in the junior middleweight division that Williams currently campaigns in to seek out. So that leaves him hoping that Kelly Pavlik beats Miguel Espino in two weeks and a fight between them can be put together. And if that can't be worked out he could take two stay busy fights against Yuri Foreman to pick up the WBA title and Alfred Angulo, where HBO would pick up the tab.
Hopefully, the most avoided fighter in boxing will be seen in a high profile fight sometime in 2010. The sport of professional boxing will be greatly enriched the more Williams is exposed to boxing/sports fans.
Paul Williams really never takes easy fights. He's a real fighter, regardless of the outcomes of his fights.
Bernard is a tough technician and a masterful counter-puncher. He first takes the bullets out of his opponents' guns and then dismantles them. And that's exactly what he did to Ornelas starting after the fourth round. From the fifth round on through to the conclusion of the twelfth Hopkins showed Ornelas something a little different each round. Just when Enrique thought Hopkins was in counter-punch mode, Bernard pressed him. When Ornelas thought he was fighting Hopkins the attacker, Bernard fought him on the inside and made good use of his shoulders and head.
No doubt Ornelas is hurting and feels physically like he was mugged by three or four guys. Bernard broke out all the tricks against Ornelas. Resting his head on the inside and tying his opponent up and hitting him with his free hand. The short double-counter rights on the inside mixed in with some lead left uppercuts and hooks, punches Hopkins seldom throws. During the course of the twelve rounds they fought, Hopkins displayed remarkable versatility and there wasn't anything Ornelas could do about it.
Hopkins clearly won the fight and controlled the action most of the way. But Ornelas did have his moments and did get through to Hopkin's chin a few times but really wasn't much more than competitive for the first half of the fight.
The Ornelas fight was the best thing in the world for a 44 year old fighter--12 rounds of good, solid work without having to risk too much, but against a guy who can win a few rounds from him. Hopkins is outsmarting all of us. However, the fight with Ornelas was supposed to be a tune-up and the start of his preparation for his proposed rematch with Roy Jones which was slated for March of 2010. But that came crashing down when Roy was stopped in the first round by cruiserweight Danny Green earlier in the day in Australia.
Jones wasn't even hit that hard and clearly has no punch resistance. Bernard can say all he wants that because Roy wasn't counted out or flat on his back when the fight ended that a fight between the two of them is still viable. The fact is nobody would pay to see Jones fight again regardless of who the opponent is. Hopkins held up his end of the deal and cannot do anything about Jones getting stopped and blowing any chance they had of meeting again 17 years after Jones won a decision over him when they fought in May of 1993.
So what now for Hopkins who is clearly not ready to retire and can still fight at the highest level in professional boxing? With Hopkins it's much more than finding an opponent who can make for a good fight. Hopkins is looking for legacy or break the bank fights only at this time. Someone wrote after Danny Green stopped Roy Jones that perhaps Green would be an attractive opponent for Hopkins, which is a joke.
Green is a big and strong cruiserweight who fights aggressively and can punch pretty good. Not only is he a tough stylistic match up for Hopkins, beating him doesn't really enhance his legacy. So we can forget about Hopkins fighting Danny Green unless it's for a ton of money and the odds of that are minuscule at best.
After the fight Hopkins said he'll be the heavyweight champ in 2010. Which is his way of conveying to the boxing public that he's looking to make a fight with WBA heavyweight champ David Haye. And that would be an intriguing fight. Hopkins would be fighting the smallest heavyweight in boxing who holds a major title. In addition to that, Hopkins is a much more experienced and better fighter than Haye. The question for Bernard is can he handle a 6'3" 215 pound younger fighter the caliber of David Haye? And that alone would be the intrigue of the fight.
Haye-Hopkins makes perfect sense for Bernard. It's doubtful that Hopkins would be hurt or embarrassed if he lost. And it's not like Hopkins's legacy would take any hit at all fighting Haye. He's basically playing with house money and would be an underdog in the fight. With that, Hopkins' legacy would be greatly enhanced if he were somehow able to beat David Haye after turning 45 years old.
In all likelihood Hopkins and Golden Boy Promotions will try to bring Hopkins and Haye together. And if that fight cannot be made then perhaps Hopkins will look to fight Chad Dawson which is another fight in which there's no downside for Hopkins not to mention the upside is monumental. That said, Dawson is a risky fight for Hopkins and I think he'll go in another direction if he can make another fight with the risk-reward tilting in his favor.
Hopkins has positioned himself great and is now at the point where he can choose whatever fight he thinks serves his career best. Regardless of who Bernard Hopkins fights next, he's assured himself that he'll retire with his health, wealth and legacy intact and will be remembered as the greatest fighter in boxing history who fought beyond their 40th birthday.
Sometimes that lack of attention ends up just as well, whenever the lesser lights end up putting on lesser fights.
However, there are more than just a few instances when an intriguing contest falls through the coverage cracks or gets forgotten in place of a beer run or trip to the backyard smoking lounge. Solid fighters trade heavy shots with little to show for it but a blink of the public eye.
One such situation could be Saturday night's 10 round Atlantic City appetizer between Tony "The Tiger" Thompson and Chazz Witherspoon, set as a warm up act on the undercard of the Paul Williams - Sergio Martinez show at Boardwalk Hall.
The minor crossroads conker could end up producing a future alphabet challenger, or at least a possible opponent for popular Cristobal Arreola, who faces Brian Minto on the same ringpost agenda.
The 38 year old Thompson has already been stopped in a widely criticized challenge for consensus champion Wladimir Klitschko's laurels, in a resulting 11th round TKO loss in July 2008 in Hamburg, Germany. That fight occurred during a time when Klitschko was respected less than he is currently, and it was the type of methodically dull exercise that seemed to make the lack of appreciation warranted.
Klitschko finally scored a knockdown to end a fight where the most action prior to that came when Thompson and Wlad literally fell all over each other after a mauling clinch type waltz. When they got up from the canvas, it looked like only Klitschko was motivated to go on.
Still, Klitschko had a couple cuts and bruises to show for the bout, and he declared that Thompson had exhibited extraordinary determination. It seemed like that appraisal was heartfelt when the Klitschko team hired Thompson as a primary sparring partner for brother Vitali's defense against Juan Carlos Gomez last March, and also rewarded Thompson with a featured preliminary spot on the high profile card.
Southpaw Thompson, 32-2 (20), looked like a real contender when he scored a 5th round TKO of the usually tough to dent Adrian Serin that night, but since then Thompson hasn't done anything to capitalize on new momentum until now.
Serin was John Ruiz's opponent on the David Haye-Nikolai Valuev undercard, and comparing Ruiz's 7th round TKO to Thompson's earlier performance, Thompson looked more impressive.
For now, neither 6'5 Thompson or 6'4 Witherspoon is in over their head. Nor can they afford to look past Saturday, but the winner can look skyward to a much bigger check in his next fight.
Whether the 28 year old Witherspoon, 26-1 (18) can take his own sizeable step toward a legitimate ranking and solid payday against somebody like Arreola, Alexander Povetkin, Denis Boytsov or Alexander Dimitrenko remains to be seen.
If David Haye beats John Ruiz and subsequent negotiations with the Klitschkos stall, Haye might want the type stay busy but safe type payday Thompson or Witherspoon could present. Same goes if Ruiz pulls off the longshot against Haye and looks for a celebratory homecoming.
The best thing the loser can expect would probably be a 2011 fight against Evander Holyfield in some country that hasn't had a major fight in years.
Both Thompson and Witherspoon should be able to find plenty of motivation Saturday night, and if they both bring what we still have to call their "B" game, they could find themselves in a comfortable profit margin landscape similar to what Kevin Johnson gets to explore a bit of Switzerland versus Vitali Klitschko next week or the sugarplum opportunity Eddie Chambers is sitting on.
In other words, the winner of Thompson-Witherspoon could very well be just a fight or two away from a shot at all the marbles.
On paper, Thompson has faced much better opposition, on bigger stages, but the match is really about who understands the stakes and responded better during training.
This isn't a claim that the winner deserves a top ten ranking, but in the slowly but surely revitalizing heavyweight division these days even on the fringe there can be a little pots of gold.
On Saturday, Dec. 5, Malpartida defends her world title against Great Britain’s Lyndsey Scragg (10-1, 3 KOs) at the Citizen’s Business Bank Arena in Ontario. The fight will not be televised locally but will be shown nationally in her native Peru.
Expect an entire country to be watching their national hero.
How did it happen?
Nine months ago Malpartida entered Madison Square Garden as the big underdog and emerged as the new junior lightweight world champion. In her previous fight at the San Manuel Casino, she suffered a knockdown in the last round and lost a close fight. But all her losses and disappointments were completely erased when she beat Maureen Shea.
On her return home to Peru a she stepped off the plane Malpartida didn’t know what to expect after winning the WBA junior lightweight world title and becoming her country’s first and only world champion.
For years the tall rather shy Malpartida had toiled alone often shunted aside by trainers and sometimes ridiculed by other boxers as she continued her quest to become a champion.
When confronted with thousands of fans she realized her life had changed as television crews and media representatives crowded the airport to get a glimpse of its new national hero.
“She’s big,” said Armando Huerta, a California native who trains Malpartida.
“I still can’t believe it,” says Malpartida (10-3, 3 KOs) who is defending her title for the second time.
“It’s amazing to me,” said Malpartida, 29, who has been training in Southern California the past four years and is now a regular at the Maywood Boxing Gym.
Since winning the title the Peruvian champion was given a whirlwind tour of all the major cities of her native country and became a daily fixture on tabloid television, newspapers and magazines. It’s been a shock.
“In Peru there were lots of parades and I went to all of the cities and met all of the mayors. I even met the president,” Malpartida said. “My last fight was in the National Stadium.”
Malpartida beat Brazil’s Halana Dos Santos in front of thousands of fans by a seventh round technical knockout this past June. Now she faces England’s Scragg who is searching for her first world title.
“She’s a good fighter. She comes forward and is not tall,” said Malpartida of her next opponent Scragg. “I know she is very tough if she fought Jelena Mrdjenovich.”
At the Maywood Boxing Gym a dozen reporters from Peru milled around the crowded the fighters who were waiting in line to spar. One cameraman kept his large black video camera pointed at Malpartida at all times as if fearful he might lose an important moment.
Huerta, whose son Charles Huerta is a young prospect with Golden Boy Promotions, said he was thoroughly shocked when he arrived in Peru last June to prepare his protégé for a fight.
“She can’t walk the streets without being recognized,” said Huerta who also was recognized daily while in Lima, Peru. “The paparazzi are always following her.”
In California the rather quiet female boxer used to be able to travel freely. Now the Peruvian newshounds follow her wherever she goes. She was on the cover of Time Magazine in South America. She’s that big.
“I was thinking I’m a very fortunate girl to be from a country that hasn’t had a lot of champions,” said Malpartida as she was saturated with adulation during her last stay in her native country. “It’s really taken me by surprise.”
Malpartida remembers being tossed aside by trainers, given phony visas by former managers and told she was not very good. Until she met Huerta she doubted herself.
“Now I know the secret,” Malpartida says. “Boxing is a mind game. You have to believe in yourself.”
One girl who spars with the Peruvian is Moreno Valley’s Kaliesha “Wild Wild” West, a bantamweight with speed and power.
“She has a good jab,” says West, who fights on Dec. 12 in Palm Springs. “After a four-punch combination she gets out of there.”
It’s Malpartida’s combination of grace, skill and mental confidence that have made her the first world champion from Peru.
“I knew I was going to be a champion,” Malpartida said.
The doors open at Citizen Business Bank Arena at 3 p.m. For more information (909) 244-5500.
Once Roy Jones was the most respected name in boxing, a fighter much of the world insisted was one of the best boxers in history. While many old-timers would forcefully dispute that, there’s no question he was one of the best of his generation even though he was technically deeply flawed and seldom seemed interested in challenging himself against boxing’s leading challengers.
That is why it was not until this week that he first fought overseas, agreeing to fight the little-known IBO cruiserweight champion in Sydney, Australia. He went there because, frankly, nobody much wants to pay to see him fight in the States anymore.
That’s been proven time after time in recent years both on pay-per-view and at the gate. Once he was a draw. Today he’s just another old fighter who stayed too long at a very violent dance. He’s a tenor who can’t carry a tune anymore but keeps singing in the back of the cabaret.
When Jones pulled himself off the canvas, he spent what is hopefully the final minute or so of his boxing career with both hands wrapped around his ears, resembling a school kid being overwhelmed by a bully on the playground. He never fought back, instead just lying against the ropes and being pummeled by a less-than-effective Green until referee Howard Foster finally stopped it at 2:02 of that first round of hopefully Jones’ last fight.
The 36-year-old Green was supposed to be a tune-up for Jones, preparation for a rematch with Bernard Hopkins that should have happened 17 years ago but never did in large part because Jones didn’t want it to. That was always his M.O. in the old days. Back when he could fight he didn’t want to. Now he can’t and he just won’t leave the arena.
It was once written about a once surly but now genial but washed up old ballplayer that “he only learned to say hello when it was time to say goodbye.’’ Hello, Roy Jones, Jr.
Jones is 5-5 since 2004 and has been knocked out three times. He’s lost every fight against a truly competitive opponent since the night he beat John Ruiz to win the WBA heavyweight title, his wins coming against guys more washed up than he is like Felix Trinidad and Jeff Lacy or against guys who never were. Joe Calzaghe left him bloodied and badly beaten. Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson knocked him stiff. Now it is the 36-year-old Green, who frankly isn’t even in the same discussion with Tarver and Johnson, two guys who wouldn’t have been in the discussion with Jones a few years ago.
“I feel almost bad doing that to someone whom I aspired to look up to as a professional fighter inside and outside the ring,’’ the seemingly embarrassed Green (28-3) said after the fight.
He shouldn’t. Jones got what he asked for. He got embarrassed because, as usual, he wouldn’t listen to anyone, including his long-time trainer and friend, Alton Merkerson.
That embarrassment was his fate certainly seems justified because Jones embarrassed many over-matched opponents when he was at the height of his powers. Few fighters of such high stature treated opponents as lowly as he often did, seeming to revel in making a fool out of journeymen while steadfastly avoiding guys like the long undefeated Dariusz Michalczewski or Hopkins, whom Jones beat by decision in a lack luster affair on May 22, 1993 at RFK Stadium in Washington for the then vacant IBF middleweight title.
Frankly that night both guys stunk, each having far too much respect for the other to turn things into a fight. It was an affair that cried out for a better ending and for years after Hopkins chased Jones but never could get him back in the ring. That was Jones, more elusive and illusory than the kind of fighter you fall in love with.
He may have been the best of his generation but he didn’t make good fights and he never seemed to want to know how good he really was in the way great champions like Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Robinson, Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler and all the greatest boxers did. Had he been around when Hagler was you can count on one thing – Jones never would have gotten in the ring with him.
Jones was a businessman more than a boxer, a guy who took fights against every form of municipal employee and called them title fights because HBO let him get away with it.
He fought a cop, a teacher, a mailman, a garbage truck driver. There was probably a cabbie or a bus driver in there too but memory fades. This week so did Jones, a process that has been ongoing since Antonio Tarver first knocked him cold.
Jones was always technically flawed but his physical gifts were such that it didn’t matter. He could carry his left hand by his kneecap and get away with it because of his speed, balance, hand-and-eye coordination, agility and the fact he was always in shape, which was one thing he should be admired for.
Ali was the same way but Ali also was blessed with an iron jaw so when his flaws began to show he was still able to triumph over them by his willingness to absorb punishment, as in his last fight with Joe Frazier in Manila. Jones wanted no part of that kind of fight but when his skills began to slip he wasn't so lucky as Ali. When he began to get hit by punches he used to slip, he fell down.
It happened again in Australia in a packed arena but so far away you have to look on YouTube to see it. If you were ever a fan of Roy Jones Jr. do yourself a favor and don’t bother. Who wants to be sad before Christmas?
His left hand slung way too low as always, Jones got caught retreating, which he’s done a lot of in recent years. Green’s right hand shot over his low-slung left and clipped him behind the ear and he went down like he was a piece of china someone knocked off the table. He didn’t fall so much as collapse, tipping over on his shoulder on the canvas before righting himself and then pulling himself up with blind resolve, all the fight in him left on the floor.
From that moment on, Roy Jones Jr. was buffeted from pillar to post. Green was so lacking in skills that he never fully took advantage of the situation but that was actually good because regardless of what you think of Jones or how he arrogantly conducted himself most of his career it would have been a shame if it ended with him lying at the feet of Danny Green.
If nothing else he avoided that fate and, perhaps fittingly, something else as well. With that loss Roy Jones Jr. did what he’d been doing for 17 years. He avoided Bernard Hopkins once again. Considering how long he ducked him, maybe that was how it should have ended for him.
Hulking basketball star Shaquille O’Neal once proclaimed himself the “Big Aristotle,” which presumably leaves room for a philosophizing Hopkins to associate himself with other ancient deep thinkers such as Socrates and Plato. How’s “Less-Large Sock-rates” grab you?
B-Hop’s unofficial degrees, of course, are from the School of Hard Knocks and University of Graterford, where the course selections include How to Avoid Getting a Shiv in the Back 101 and Advanced Theory of Kicking Some Bad Dude’s Ass in the Exercise Yard to Get Respect. Those subjects are not in the curriculum at Temple University, the North Philadelphia institution of higher learning in whose campus arena, the Liacouras Center, the 44-year-old Hopkins (50-5-1, 32 KOs) schooled Ornelas (29-6, 19 KOs), 15 years his junior, on the basic principles of the pugilistic arts. The official scorecards had Hopkins romping by margins of 120-108, 119-109 and 118-110, which is worth at least an A-minus no matter what the grading system.
“When the fourth or fifth round started coming, my engine really warmed up and I started feeling great and I let those hands go,” said Hopkins, whose unlumped face again bore no physical evidence that he’d been hit very hard or often.
Ornelas went the distance, which has to be a source of satisfaction to him even though Hopkins isn’t as much of a finisher as he once was, his streak of bouts without a stoppage now standing at eight.
“I give him a lot of credit,” Ornelas said of the old master. “He’s one of the best.”
It was a homecoming in more ways than one for Hopkins, given that Temple’s gritty North Philadelphia location is within siren distance of the high-crime “Badlands” area where many of this fighting city’s better-known boxers learn that fast fists can provide the ticket to something better than drugs, violence, desperation, death and repeat visits to the Big House. And, no, that isn’t a reference to the Liacouras Center.
Hopkins has been lecturing about the dangers of life on the street for some time now, and if you can overlook his woeful sense of geography – referring to Roy Jones Jr.’s first-round technical knockout loss to Danny Green in Sydney, Australia, he mentioned how difficult it is for American fighters to win in Europe – much of what he says makes as much sense now as it did years ago, when he a junior instructor instead of a tenured professor.
“Bernard is one of the smartest guys I know,” says Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer, the former Swiss banking executive who is a pretty bright individual in his own right.
The plan concocted by Hopkins and Schaefer had been for B-Hop to scrape off 14 months of ring rust against Ornelas, proceed to a March 13 rematch with Jones – who outpointed Hopkins in 1993 for the vacant IBF middleweight title – and then bulk up to 203 pounds or so for a challenge of WBA heavyweight champion David Haye. As exit strategies go, every step seemed reasonable. Hopkins has said his perfect farewell to the ring wars would be to win a heavyweight title, a dream dating back several years to when he first suggested getting it on with big, strong but lumbering WBC champ Oleg Maskaev.
But the middle link in the chain was removed when Green exposed the way-over-the-hill Jones as the relic he has become since his luminescent 1990s heyday, as if most fight fans didn’t know that already. All of a sudden Schaefer and HBO pay-per-view chief Mark Taffet were left to brainstorm a feasible Plan B for Hopkins, one in which a “historically significant” candidate could step in to replace Jones.
Hopkins is persistent, though, and his desire to settle that old score with RJJ remained strong despite the Pensacola, Fla., native’s Blunder Down Under. The notion that he’ll one day retire without opening a can of payback against Jones clearly is one he isn’t willing to accept just yet.
“Being a legend, being a future Hall of Famer, I think Roy should at least have been given the benefit of the doubt,” Hopkins said of Jones, who was decked by an overhand right from Green and was taking more unreturned shots than a paper target at a Marine Corps firing range when British referee Howard Foster stepped in at the 2:02 mark. “He lost on his feet, not on his back.
“(Green) was pounding away and got some shots in, but I think some of those were missing. I don’t think the ref should have stopped the fight. When you have someone like Roy Jones Jr., he deserves to get the benefit of the doubt. (Joe) Calzaghe had him hurt worse than that, but they didn’t stop that fight.
“I think I can still fight him.”
Asked if Hopkins-Jones II is still doable, Schaefer and Taffet looked around the packed Al Shrier Media Room uncomfortably, as if they might find an answer in someone’s face that would serve to mollify Hopkins. But of course they know that the idea of Jones going against Hopkins or any other top-flight fighter is now as extinct as the dodo bird, and selling such a matchup -- particularly on pay-per-view or an on-site venue – wouldn’t fly even in Jones’ comfort zones of Pensacola and Biloxi, Miss.
“Roy Jones Jr. is still on that list,” Schaefer finally allowed in saying that representatives of eight fighters already had contacted him concerning a possible go at Hopkins. “He has not been eliminated. But Roy Jones has dropped from the top of that list to the bottom.”
Which is code-speak for saying that Jones should not expect his agreement to fight B-Hop to rise from the dead like Lazarus.
Upon further review, as NFL referees are wont to say, even Hopkins more or less conceded that Jones’ ship has left the dock, struck and iceberg and sank. At his best, Jones probably was the most gifted fighter of the last quarter-century, but his unorthodox style, which was exciting for as long as his reflexes were nearly supernatural, left him vulnerable when his reaction time began to slow, even imperceptibly. The old saying – “He does everything wrong, but it turns out right” – can be a career-killer when you continue to do everything wrong, like drop your hands to your sides and lean straight back to avoid punches – and the results start coming back wrong, too. The Jones his fans will always choose to remember fondly would not have lost to Antonio Tarver, Glen Johnson and Green, and probably not against Calzaghe, had he remained longer at the very top of his game.
“I don’t like kicking somebody when he’s down, but Roy Jones Jr. didn’t have the basics,” a more reflective Hopkins said upon his return to reality. “He didn’t need them. He was that good. But he never learned the ABCs -- basic jab, good defense, hit and not get hit.”
So how does Team Hopkins fill in the blank created by Jones taking his leave? There are several possibilities for the public to speculate about, all of which fall into one of three categories: Guys that Hopkins might want to fight but don’t necessarily want to fight him; guys that want to fight Hopkins but he doesn’t want to fight for reasons rooted in finance and legacy, and, the shortest list of all, those whose participation in such a bout would seem mutually beneficial.
Danny Green, as the guy who took down Jones, might seem a logical choice. He’s got a minor cruiser title and is the most recent man to beat the man. But consider this: Did Kevin McBride become a household name after he thrashed the remnants of Mike Tyson? Did Trevor Berbick after he beat the Muhammad Ali who stayed too long at the fair? Such a fight might make financial sense only if Hopkins traveled to Europe, uh, Australia, but Schaefer seems indisposed to take Hopkins there either literally or figuratively.
It is possible, of course, that Hopkins, who has said he would again enlist the services of noted nutritionist and physical-conditioning guru Mackie Shilstone to pack on pounds the proper way, could proceed directly to Haye. But Hopkins just ended a 14-month layoff since his Oct. 18, 2008, conquest of Kelly Pavlik and he probably isn’t disposed to sit around nearly as long while Haye fulfills his mandatory against two-time former WBA heavyweight champ John Ruiz.
Could former IBF cruiserweight titlist Tomasz Adamek, a one-time target, drift back onto Hopkins’ radar?
“The Adamek fight probably is gone,” Schaefer said. “Bernard only wants to do historically significant fights. As the cruiserweight champ, Adamek brought some historical significance to the table. Now that he’s moved up to heavyweight, I don’t that Bernard would want to fight him with no title involved.”
Undefeated light-heavy Chad Dawson probably is the name most often mentioned by fight fans, but Hopkins – who no doubt is aware that Dawson, for all his talent, has yet to establish himself as a box-office attraction _ places him in the category of not-quite-ready-for-prime-time players. In a sense, Dawson reminds Hopkins of former WBA junior middleweight champ David Reid, the 1996 Olympic gold medalist from Philadelphia who was rushed up the ladder too soon and flamed out.
“They’re trying to make stars out of people that can fight, but they haven’t been given a chance to blossom,” Hopkins said in what seemed like a dig at HBO’s apparent eagerness to hurry along the next batch of marquee fighters before they’ve fully mastered the nuances of the hardest sport.
“We got a microwave society. Pop, pop, pop, pop, they’re great champions. They give them belts, they give them titles, and they call them great. Don’t they understand what `great’ means? I just sit back and laugh. I mean, Jermain Taylor could have been great. But they fed him steak before he had all his teeth.”
So why the need to rush potentially excellent fighters into positions of prominence?
“Lack of patience. Greed. Arrogance,” said Hopkins, who said his Golden Boy partner, Shane Mosley, would use his experience to undress Andre Berto. “That’s why you have these guys falling off and not having longevity. (They don’t) learn their craft. They become a champion and can’t keep the title. I held my (middleweight) title for 10 years. Twenty defenses, man! I think what’s happening now is sad. Everybody wants that bird in the hand now, but this is a rough way to make a living. You got to train hard and live right if you want to stick around.”
Hopkins’ words might be spot-on in many cases, but kids who have been told they’re all that from the time they received their first amateur trophy don’t want to be preached to about patience. Dawson has called out Hopkins to fight him “or get out of my division,” and even out-of-left-field possibilities like identical twins Eric “Murder” Mitchell and Aaron “Homocide” Mitchell were at the Liacouras Center, sneering, “Why don’t you give a Philly guy a chance?” at their fellow homie.
The Mitchell twins are 40, which probably means they’re as fully developed as they’re ever going to be, but they come up way short for historical significance. Their odds of boogeying onto Hopkins’ dance card are roughly the same as yours or mine of hitting the Powerball lottery.
So who’s left that meets all the criteria?
“I hear Joe Calzaghe is getting the itch to fight again,” said Schaefer of the Welshman who edged Hopkins on a split decision on April 19, 2008.
But the trendy pick as Jones’ fill-in might be found north of the border, in Montreal. IBF super middleweight champion Lucian Bute, the Romanian southpaw who has become incredibly popular in his adopted home province of Quebec, is undefeated, he has a title in a division that Hopkins has never fought in and he draws like gangbusters in French-speaking Canada. Bute is coming off an emphatic, fourth-round knockout of Librado Andrade – who, coincidentally, is Enrique Ornelas’ brother – and HBO seems disposed to give him the star buildup.
Hopkins has fought only once as a pro out of this country, an experience he’d just as soon forget, but he said he can be convinced to rummage around for his passport if the opponent is interesting, able to add to his legacy and, of course, good for his bank account.
“I’m not afraid to go out of the country,” Hopkins said. “I been to Quito, Ecuador, in 1995. Quito, Ecuador, ain’t Hawaii. It’s a Third World country, trust me. I fought an Ecuadorean (Segundo Mercado), came off the canvas twice and got a draw.
“At this stage of my career, if they want to lure me over there for something they would check me into a mental hospital if I didn’t take it, I got no problem with it. I’ll fight anybody as long as they got a ring.
“I’m having fun, don’t get me wrong. But I’d have a lot more fun with a big check in my hand.”
After congratulating Schaefer on Hopkins’ 12-round light heavyweight decision victory over fringe middleweight contender Enrique Ornleas, Shaw wrote the following:
“Inasmuch as Bernard stated during his post-fight press conference that he wanted to pursue the rematch against Roy Jones, Jr. rather than fight Chad Dawson, I wanted to offer a slot on Chad’s next undercard for that fight. HBO is holding an April date for Chad. I would be willing to pay Bernard and Roy $200,000.00 each, the same purse Bernard fought for in his fight against Ornleas, though I cannot guarantee the fight will be televised since HBO would be making that decision, presumably based on its evaluation of Bernard’s and Roy’s last performance.
“If Bernard decides to take on Danny Green instead, please wish him luck for me and know that I’m hopeful he will not break Roy’s record of 122 seconds.”
Shaw has not heard back from Schaefer.
Dawson (29-0, 17 KOs), from New Haven, Conn., serving his second term as light heavyweight champion, captured the WBC interim world title while successfully defending his IBO title, winning a dominating unanimous decision in a rematch against two-time world champion Glen Johnson on November 7. On May 9, Dawson successfully defended the IBF and IBO titles in a rematch against former world champion Antonio Tarver, whom he dethroned in October 2008. Dawson won his first world title in 2007, battering undefeated defending WBC champion Tomasz Adamek. He successfully defended the WBC title three times, including a victory over Johnson, before vacating that title to challenge Tarver for his belts.