Last week, this column kind of just appeared out of nowhere, with no explanation of what the heck it is and when to expect it. It’s like this: After signing with Al Haymon, I struck a multi-billion dollar deal with Dino DaVinci & Michael Woods to allow me to throw this column onto TSS every Monday. So, here is installment #2…Oh, I also said I’d remind you guys to call toll free into my show on SiriusXM later today. The number is 1-866-522-2846. We are on from 6-8pm (ET). You guys in other time zones, make the adjustments.
On Saturday night in Omaha, Nebraska, a boxing match—for a world championship—took place in the CenturyLink Center. Not since 1972, when heavyweight Ron Stander—who was from across the river in Council Bluffs, Iowa—took on heavyweight champion Smokin’ Joe Frazier in Omaha, had a title fight taken place there.
On Saturday, a capacity crowd came out to cheer for Omaha native Terence Crawford, who was making the first defense of the WBO lightweight title he had won less than four months earlier.
The opponent across the ring was as tough an opponent as Crawford could have possibly selected: A Cuban refugee named Yuriorkis Gamboa. The challenger brought a 23-0 professional record—enhanced by over 250 amateur fights, most of them on the elite level—into the fight. Sixteen of his wins were by knockout. Oddly and ironically enough, Crawford had the same record.
After falling behind in the first four rounds to the quick, shifty and talented Cuban, Crawford brought out his championship pedigree.
The right-hander switched to southpaw, a move which was questioned by many in the crowd and even by HBO announcers Jim Lampley, Roy Jones Jr. and Max Kellerman. However, it was really easy to see what Crawford was doing.
By switching to southpaw, his right jab began repeatedly finding the challenger. Not since switch-hitting middleweight champ Marvelous Marvin Hagler has any champion been able to switch boxing stances as easily as effectively as Crawford did. From the southpaw stance, he began to take Gamboa apart.
Crawford dropped Gamboa in the fifth and sixth rounds, only to have the Cuban come storming back each time. Finally, after two more knockdowns over a challenger who insisted on going out on his shield, referee Genaro Hernandez waved it off after 2:53 of the ninth round.
The incredibly game challenger later said he could have continued. He could NOT have. What he meant to say is that he WANTED to continue. He truly wanted to go down swinging. The fact is, he did exactly that.
He fought his heart out against probably the best lightweight on this planet and gave an amazing account of himself. A recommendation from this corner: Drop down to 130, Yuri. You’ll probably be able to win another belt there.
The fight itself was memorable in its two-sidedness and in how the champion was able to kick-start his huge heart into turning it on when the champion found himself falling behind on the scorecards.
For me, I took four things from this fight:
One: Yuri Gamboa needs to take the summer off, then get back in the ring before the end of the year. We want to see him again.
Two: Terence Crawford is the best lightweight in the world, perhaps far better than anyone else at 135 pounds.
Three: This fight might just beat out last week’s Robert Guerrero- Yoshihiro Kamegai battle for 2014’s “Fight of the Year.” How can that be, you ask, when Guerrero was 10 rounds of non-stop you-hit-me-and-I’ll-hit-you action? That’s because, Guerrero-Kamegai was contested between two guys with very little defensive skills. They get insulted if you miss them with a punch. Crawford-Gamboa was nearly nine full rounds of amazing boxing ability, drama and will-to-win excitement.
Four: Omaha, Nebraska, has a world champion. He’s one the city is in love with and who loves the city right back. His presence packed the arena on Saturday.
You can rest assured It won’t be 42 years before Omaha, Nebraska, hosts its next world title fight!
WHERE’S HAROLD? : HBO’s longtime ringside scorer, Harold Lederman, was conspicuous by his absence from the HBO telecast from Omaha. Sitting in, explaining the rules and giving us his scoring was Steve Weisfeld, who has been working in that capacity for over a year. Sometimes, HBO uses both Weisfeld and Lederman. We like Steve Weisfeld a lot. When I was commissioner in New York, I gave Steve his judge’s license. He turned into one of the finest judges in the world. In my mind, he’s one of the Top-10 judges. As is another once of my N.Y. judges, Julie Lederman, Harold’s daughter. Back to Harold. Here’s a guy who is a pharmacist by trade. He may hold the Guinness Book of Records for getting fired from more jobs than anybody. That’s because of fights he was assigned to by HBO when the pharmacy expected him to work for them on that night. When it came to making a choice, there was no choice. Harold chose the HBO. Incredibly, early in his HBO career, Harold made more at his pharmacy job than at HBO. Harold has shown HBO nothing but respect. They should be proud they have an employee so loyal as Harold Lederman. You’d think the least they could do is show some loyalty back to him.
LIGHTWEIGHT RATINGS: With Terence Crawford’s huge victory on Saturday night, I couldn’t help but put my list together for the world’s top 135-pounders. The list, with the title they hold in parentheses, looks like this:
1. Terence Crawford (WBO)—24-0 (17)
2. Miguel Vazquez (IBF)—34-3 (13)
3. Yuri Gamboa—23-1 (16)…He’d help his cause if he dropped to 130
4. Omar Figueroa—(WBC) 23-0 (17)
5. Ray Beltran—29-6-1 (17)
6. Richard Abril (WBA)—18-3-1 (8)“The Road Runner”…Inactive since March 2013
7. Dejan Zlaticanin—19-0 (13) WBC International Champion
8. Paulus Moses—33-2 (21) WBO International Champion
9. Hank Lundy—25-3-1 (12)
10. Kevin Mitchell—38-2 (28)
MY TWEEKED PxP LIST: Last week after my column was posted, I realized I had omitted one of my favorite fighters, whom I believe absolutely belongs on the list. That man is GuillermoRigondeaux. So, here goes:
10. Leo Santa Cruz
9. Vasyl Lomachenko
8. Sergei Kovalev
7. Guillermo Rigondeaux
6. Mikey Garcia
5. Wladimir Klitschko
4. Gennady Golovkin
3. Manny Pacquiao
2. Andre Ward
1. Floyd Mayweather
If you guys would like, do your own PxP list and either post your own ratings or in-box them to me by Friday at midnight (ET). I will compile them all, giving 10 points for first place down to one point for 10th place. That way, TSS can have its own PxP Top-10 List. I await your entries.
WEEKEND RESULTS: The boxing career of Ricky Burns lies in ruins, as he suffered a 12-round split decision loss on Saturday to Montenegro’s Dejan Zlaticanin. In front of a silent, stunned hometown crowd in Glasgow, Scotland, Burns was dropped by a left hook and was never in the fight, despite the scorecards (on which a British judge, naturally, gave it to Burns). In reality, he lost at least seven—perhaps eight—of the rounds. The fight, for the WBC International Lightweight Title, was Burns’ second loss in a row. He lost his WBO lightweight title to Terence Crawford last March 1…In Kinshasa, Zaire, localite Llunga Makabu won the vacant WBC International Cruiserweight Title with a ninth-round stoppage of former world champion Glen “The Road Warrior” Johnson in the ninth round. The 45-year-old Johnson told me, when I saw him at the IBHOF weekend earlier this month, “I hope to get one more title shot.” This loss should effectively end his career and begin his five-year countdown until he is inducted in the IBHOF. Johnson is 54-19-2. Makabu is now 17-1 with 15 KO’s…Heavyweight Shannon Briggs was forced to go the distance for the first time in four comeback fights, taking a unanimous decision over Raphael Zumbano Love for the vacant NABA heavyweight title. Briggs is now 55-6-1 (48) and hoping to punch his way into a world title shot. He is 42…2012 U.S. Olympians Errol Spence and Marcus Browne scored impressive wins in Las Vegas on Saturday. Welterweight Spence took a unanimous 10-round decision over tough Ronald Cruz. It was Spence’s 13th win in as many fights. He has 10 KO’s. On the same card, light heavyweight Marcus “The Liver Killer” Browne needed just 91 seconds to dispatch of last-minute replacement Donta Woods. Browne’s original opponent, Yusaf Mack, failed a NSAC blood test and was scratched from the card. “The Liver Killer” is 11-0 with eight stoppages. It is expected he will be fighting again on the August 9th card at the Barclay’s Center…Also on the card in Las Vegas, heavyweight prospect Gerald Washington went to 13-0 (10) with a second-round wipeout of veteran Travis Walker…Unbeaten junior welter Ivan Redkach labored to a 10-round unanimous decision against rugged veteran Sergey Gulyakevich on a Showtime-televised card in St. Charles, MO.
MY FAVORITE LOSER: British junior welterweight Kristian Laight dropped a four-round unanimous decision to Ryan Smith on the undercard to Dejan Zlaticanin-Ricky Burns. For Ryan, the win upped his record to 2-0. For Laight, the loss dropped his record to 9-176-7. In 2014, Laight is actually doing quite well—he has won two fights while only losing 12. He has two more fights scheduled in July. If he pushes, he may be able to reach that magical 20-loss circle this year. He has done it before. We just know he can do it again. Oh, in those 176 losses, he has only been stopped five times. In his nine wins, he has yet to record a knockout.
TWO MORE FOR AL: Junior middleweight Vanes Martirosyan recently signed with advisor Al Haymon. So did IBF lightweight king Miguel Vazquez. If you’re keeping track, here are some of the bigger names who have signed with the powerful but reclusive Haymon: $$$May, Deontay Wilder, Marcos Maidana, Shawn Porter, Lucas Matthysse, Amir Khan, Adonis Stevenson, Robert Guerrero, Keith Thurman, Omar Figueroa, Peter Quillin and most of the 2012 U.S. Olympians.
FUNNY: On Saturday evening, a few hours before the HBO telecast of Crawford-Gamboa, my wife and I went to see “Jersey Boys” at a Long Island theatre. As I was about to pay for the tickets, I noticed a poster on a stand. “CANELO ALVAREZ vs ERISLANDY LARA” read the poster. “See it Here.” Two female employees, one perhaps around 40 and the other in her early 20’s, stood behind the counter and saw me looking at the poster and then heard me discussing it with my wife.
“Are you a boxing fan?” asked the older woman.
“I am indeed a boxing fan,” I answered.
“Well, this is the second time we’ll be showing a big boxing match,” she replied.
“When was the first boxing match you showed? Who were the fighters?” I asked.
The older woman looked at the sign.
“We showed Alvarez,” she said, pointing to the photo of Canelo. “He fought, uh, uh…”
She had to think of Alvarez’ opponent’s name. Then it came to her.
“He fought Mayflower,” she said. I smiled. I knew who she meant.
Her younger colleague laughed and playfully said to her, “You dummy, it’s not Mayflower.”
“Well, it was something like that,” she retorted.
Before I could correct her on “Mayflower,” her colleague said, “It’s Merriweather.”
“Oh, that’s right,” said the Mayflower girl. “Merriweather. I knew it was something like that.”
I never bothered to correct her.