Michael Rosenthal

Weekend Review: Rios’ KO and a bad decision

 

BIGGEST WINNER

Brandon Rios: Rios is reminiscent of the magnificent Mexican trio of Erik Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera and Juan Manuel Marquez when they were young. The Mexican-American might not have quite their level of skill but he’s physically stronger pound for pound than any of them. More important, he has the fighting spirit and utter lack of fear that made the trio fan favorites around the world. That unsual combination of power and fire wreaked havoc on the body of Urbano Antillon, who lasted less than three rounds with Rios in spite of a spirited effort on Saturday in Carson, Calif. And there are more victims to come. Rios is a gathering storm, a force of nature that will leave untold wreckage in its wake. No one at 135 pounds can handle him. And the best at 140 had better think twice before taking him on. Rios is the real deal and just getting started. One thing, though: The careers of fearless fighters normally don’t last long. Let’s enjoy this while we can.

 

BIGGEST LOSER

Urbano Antillon: Antillon, a warrior’s warrior, will give almost any opponent hell even in a losing cause. Almost. Antillon ran into the eye of a storm on Saturday, a fighter with superhuman strength and the skills to use it in a painfully destructive manner. Standing toe-to-toe with Rios and exchanging punches – as Antillon did for two-plus rounds – is like fighting an industrial-sized meat grinder. You’re going to lose that matchup. Antillon gave us some great moments in a brief, but memorable brawl, landing some monstrous shots even as he took them for two-plus rounds. The punches he landed would’ve been too much for most opponents to absorb, at least for long. They just weren’t enough against this opponent. Antillon remains a very good and entertaining fighter. He’ll be back.

 

MOST-PREMATURE CONCEPT

Rios-Pacquiao: Bob Arum, the promoter of both fighters, might have been right when he said: "Rios is the kind of guy who can match the power and intensity of Manny Pacquiao." Just not any time soon.Rios would be wise to build up to fighting a welterweight even though he and Pacquiao rehyrdate to a comparable weight on fight night. Rios said as much during the post-fight news conference. First 140 pounds and then 147. The idea is fascinating, though. Rios most likely would lose to Pacquiao.He has never seen the kind of speed Pacquiao brings to the ring. The No. 1 fighter in the world would be in and out before Rios knew what hit him. However, unlike some of Pacquiao's recent opponents, he'll fight hard from beginning to end. And who knows? Maybe the power and fire we've mentioned will prove too much for Pacquiao. Let's hope we get to find out.

 

MOST FORTUNATE

Paul Williams: Don’t blame Williams for the bad decision against Erislandy Lara on Saturday in Atlantic City. N.J. The former two-time welterweight titleholder showed a degree of courage just to take the fight against a talented southpaw after what happened against Sergio Martinez in his previous fight. And he worked extremely hard on Saturday, once again throwing more than 1,000 punches and absorbing a few hundred himself. He should be applauded for his effort. It wasn’t his finest hour, though. No one who watched that fight will have said, “Yeah, Paul Williams is back!” The TV broadcasters were talking about his retirement before the stunning decision was announced. Williams can continue to win fights, particularly if he can figure out how to avoid big lefts, but at the moment he certainly isn't the feared punching machine he was before he met Sergio Martinez. And he most likely never will be again.

 

MOST UNFORTUNATE

Erislandy Lara: The former amateur star from Cuba did everything asked of him against Williams. He came up with a good game plan – which exploited Williams’ inability to avoid big left hands – and executed it well enough to win the fight in the eyes of most observers. He had every right to be outraged by the decision because he won the fight. He shouldn’t get too discouraged, though. His stock soared in spite of the loss. We knew he had exceptional natural gifts and exquisite skills. Now we know he can use them effectively against an elite opponent on a big stage, even if Williams has slipped to some degree. In effect, Lara came of age on the most-disappointing night of his boxing career. Boxing can be funny that way. Look for Lara get another big fight soon, win this time and go on to do great things. He’s that good.

 

WORST DECISION?

Williams-Lara: I don’t think the decision was quite as outrageous as some do, although I was at a disadvantage not being at ringside. Williams outpunched Lara roughly 2-1, according to CompuBox statistics. I think his 19-percent CompuBox connect rate was too low. He connected on more than 1 in 5 punches. And it’s somewhat difficult to criticize a decision when all three judges have roughly the same score (114-114, 115-114 and 116-114). That said, they blew it. They apparently were enamored with Williams’ work rate. However, if we’re going to use punch stats, consider this: The fighters landed about the same number of punches (200 for Williams, 224 for Lara) but Lara  clearly landed the bigger shots. The Cuban busted up Williams’ face with an overhand left that couldn’t miss, which is Williams’ great weakness. I scored the fight 116-112 in Lara’s favor but I could see 115-113 if I give Williams all the close rounds. A victory for Williams? No way.

 

MOST BAFFLING

Williams’ weakness: How many left hands does an opponent of Williams have to land before he at least tries to do something about it? Martinez stopped him with a left in November, which should’ve been a red flag. Nope. Lara’s left met Williams’ face so many times it seemed as if the two body parts were attached by a rubber band. Boing, BAM, boing, BAM. I’m not a trainer but … keep your right hand up? Even more baffling was trainer George Peterson’s comments in an interview between rounds. He was asked what Williams could do to avoid the left. His response? “Take it away.” Uh, OK. The career of Williams was given life when he was given a gift victory. That life won’t last long if he doesn’t do something about his most-glaring weakness. One step in the right direction might be to avoid southpaws at all cost.

 

BIGGEST GAME-CHANGER

Rico Ramos’ punch: Ramos admitted after his fight against Akifumi Shimoda on the Williams-Lara undercard that he was nervous. He fought like it. He seemed almost skittish as the Japanese fighter took control of the fight through five-plus rounds with effective aggression. Then he was cut in the fifth round, which he said created a sense of urgency. He also said that he sensed Shimoda was getting tired at the midway point of the fight. Thus, Ramos fought with more purpose as the fight went into the seventh round. And his efforts paid off with one punch. Ramos landed a grazing right and then followed with a perfect left hook that knocked Shimoda down and out at 2:46 of the round. Just like that, he turned a poor performance – he was losing badly on the scorecards – into a spectacular victory that earned him a world title. Ramos would be wise to reflect on the fight, though. He can’t afford to fight tentatively and fall behind as he did on Saturday. He was fortunate to get away with it this time.

 

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT

Akifumi Shimoda: The then-junior featherweight titleholder from Japan decided to fight in the U.S. because he wanted to become an international star, perhaps inspired by Manny Pacquiao. And, through six rounds, he seemed to be on his way to an important victory against Ramos. He was boxing beautifully, beating Ramos to the punch at every turn and couldn’t have been more confident. Then WHACK! The left hook sent him to the canvas and spoiled his plans. Shimoda, who had been down only once and never stopped, had to return to his homeland with an ugly blemish on his record and without his title belt. He shouldn’t be counted out after one loss. He bounced back from two previous losses and he’s only 26. Coming back from a knockout like that is more difficult, though. And that notion of becoming an international star? He probably won’t be fighting outside Japan any time soon.

 

BIGGEST PUNCH

Jessie Vargas: Sometimes boxing moves with breathtaking speed. Vargas, the outstanding prospect from Las Vegas, and opponent Walter Estrada were exchanging a whirlwind of damaging punches one second and the fight was over in the next Friday night in Primm, Nev. Vargas (16-0, 9 KOs) landed a grazing right that knocked Estrada off balance. When the Mexican regained his footing, a perfectly positioned Vargas landed a perfect left hook to the chin that instantly ended the fight. Estrada lay semiconscious on the canvas for a few minutes until he recovered. The fight was televised on Spanish-language Telefutura, meaning a lot of people saw the knockout and another nice step in Vargas’ career. He might be wise to avoid reckless exchanges. He appeared to take some big shots during the pre-knockout flurry. But the fans undoubtedly liked what they saw. We look forward to a bigger challenge in his next fight.

 

MOST CONSISTENT

Lucian Bute: Bute (29-0, 24 KOs) hasn’t been challenged since he ran out of gas and almost lost in the first fight against Librado Andrade in 2008. He has stopped all six of his opponents since then, including Andrade in 2009 and then-unbeaten Jean Paul Mendy in four rounds on Saturday in Bute’s native Romania. The Canadian clearly is one of the best fighters in the world. We’re still waiting for that next-level challenge, though. That could come in his next fight. Bute reportedly is expected to fight Kelly Pavlik in November if Pavlik beats Darryl Cunningham on Aug. 6. The former middleweight champion has not demonstrated recently that he is the fighter who dominated the 160-pound division for a time but he should be Bute’s most-significant test. I would favor Bute but don’t be shocked if Pavlik takes him to hell. Andrade arguably is Bute’s most-accomplished victim. A good version of Pavlik is a much-better all-around fighter than the Mexican. We’ll learn a lot about Bute on that night.

 

MOST YEARS

Jake LaMotta: The careers of most fighters willing to take punches in order to give them normally don’t last long because of the pounding their bodies – and brains – take. The same might be said of their lives. Ring warriors undoubtedly have shorter average life spans than the rest of us. LaMotta is the exception: The Bronx Bull turned 90 years old on Sunday. LaMotta (83-19-4, 30 KOs) was one of the greatest fighters ever. He didn’t have great physical tools or an abundance of power but he was extremely crafty and no one – I mean no one — was tougher than the middleweight champ. He never went down in 13 years of wars, including a legendary beating he took from Sugar Ray Robinson in the last of their six meetings. He must’ve taken tens of thousands of punches yet always finished on his feet. And 57 years after he last fought he’s still standing. Happy birthday Jake! And God bless you.

 

BEST QUOTE

Rios: “At 135 you don’t have to look for a champion or look for a good fight. I’m right here. If not, then 140 pounds, here I come. Whoever is at 140, there’s Amir Khan, there’s Maidana. I want to fight warriors. The toughest S.O.B. at 140, I want him so I can say that I beat the toughest S.O.B. at 140 and then I can go up to fight Manny Pacquiao, the toughest S.O.B. at 147 pounds. If Bob Arum thinks I’m the man who can give Pacquiao a fight I’ll go with him. He knows this business.”

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