FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS
Anyone who reads this column already knows that Friday Night Fights is must-see TV, especially this year. I’ve said it a few times this year (on the new Ring Radio and both times I was guest on Tessitore‘s podcast on ESPN.com), but I’ll repeat it: this was the best season of FNF in recent memory and the series was by far my favorite boxing show of 2011.
The competitive matchups gave us hardcore fans something to look forward to and talk about on weekends when HBO and Showtime lacked boxing programming. The upsets and the comeback stories that FNF gave us on a regular basis were inspirational. Five ballyhooed prospects got their first stern tests, lost their “Os” and, in the words of Fernando Guerrero, became “real professional” fighters. Talented vets who were left for dead, such as Delvin Rodriguez and Kendal Holt, rekindled their careers with excellent performances. Worthy contenders and fringe contenders, such as Lamont Peterson and Henry Lundy, moved up the rankings in significant fights (and in the case of Lundy vs. David Diaz, a damn good one). A wide U.S. audience got a chance to look at a talented light heavyweight, Ismayl Sillakh, that Tessitore and I are very high on. And, of course, Pawel Wolak and D-Rod gave us a true fight-of-the-year candidate.
What’s not to like about this season of FNF? I also thought Mora, Hopkins and Ward did well substituting for Atlas.
ANDRADE AND MARES
Just my demented thoughts. Demetrius Andrade totally outclassed Grady Brewer Friday night. I was totally impressed with his confidence, composure, sense of distance and more importantly his ability to offset/shutdown Brewer’s offence ala Mayweather and not afraid to clinch and hold. I am getting that feeling again, this guy is going to be special albeit boring. That is the key, smarts. I noticed most arm chair Eddie Futches calling him boring in the forums and will most likely bet against him in meaningful matchups and of course I’ll take them to the cleaners. It is good to know boxing, and even better not to vest your emotions in a fighter. I think Andrade will make me some dough.
On to Mares. I was not suggesting that he is not world class in my last email. Not at all, I only thought he was going to be the “Donaire” of the division. He may win the rematch, but I don’t know if he is going to be better than he is now. What I am trying to say is that I expected him to grow from each fight and separate himself more in big fights and I have had this doubt since the Yonnhy Perez fight. However, dude got balls and I will be watching as long as it lasts.
Your thoughts. — William
Mares doesn’t have a fraction of the natural talent that Donaire is gifted with. He’s smart, versatile, tough and gutsy, but he will always be in a hotly contested fight when he faces the top fighters of the 118-pound division (except for Donaire, who I believe can dominate him and every other elite bantamweight). That’s one of the reasons I like watch Mares. He’s got to scrap his ass off for 12 rounds if he wants to get the “W” (or even a draw).
I think the rematch with Agbeko will be another nip-and-tuck battle, but I favor the younger, fresher man. If Mares does win you can expect him to have more close distance fights with the likes of Anselmo Moreno and Eric Morel. Those fights will not be walks in the park for Mares. A showdown with Donaire could be a mugging, but who knows how long “the Filipino Flash” will stay at 118 pounds? He might move up to junior featherweight or featherweight next year.
I was impressed with the poise and ability Andrade displayed against Brewer. He won every round on my card. However, I was under whelmed by his effort. There’s a certain fire that appears to be lacking with him. I see a top prospect. I don’t see a star. Not yet, anyway. But at least I can call him a real up-and-comer. He beat a solid gate-keeper in Brewer, and only blue-chip prospects do that. However, Brewer is limited in ways that a safety first boxing Andrade could easily exploit. The 40-year-old veteran does not apply hard pressure, nor does he cut off the ring, nor does he possess the speed and reflexes to catch a rangy speedster like Andrade.
Sooner or later, we’ll find out what’s really ticking in Andrade’s chest. But it will take a younger, more talented fighter than Brewer to expose it. I hope the young man does possess championship fire because he appears to have an affable personality.
I hope all is well. The cancellation of the Marcos Maidana-Robert Guerrero fight has left me in a gloomy mood. I was really looking forward to watching the fight. Guerrero really needs a break-out fight, and I was expecting the Maidana fight to be it. My wife even gave me the go-ahead to buy tickets.
Amir Khan tweeted that he believes that Guerrero took step aside money so that Maidana can claim the WBA belt. Your thoughts?
To make matters worse, this Friday will be the season finale of FNF. I'm predicting for Brewer to make it two in a row. Thanks. — Jaime, South San Francisco
Well, 1-1 on FNF ain’t bad for “Bad Boy.”
Khan tweeted that? Man, Twitter really is for twits. If the Brit-twit ain’t tweeting that he wants to fight Guerrero as soon as “The Ghost is” healthy, I don’t want to hear about it.
The shoulder injury is another tough break in a long line of ’em for Guerrero, but the Gilroy, Calif., native has strong character. He’ll get through this setback and comeback better as he always does.
I agree that he’s need of a break-out fight, He had a semi-breakout bout with Michael Katsidis in April, but the Maidana fight was a bigger match and in front of a wider audience. For what it’s worth, I think he was ready to give Maidana a brutal boxing lesson.
I just watched a bunch of sparring sessions with Jorge Linares at the Wild Card gym (through Youtube.com) and I am really impressed. His fight with Antonio Demarco is the main reason I am gonna buy the Hopkins-Dawson PPV. He has been one of my favorite fighters since you and Steve Kim brought him to my attention years ago. Have you had the chance to watch any of his sparring at Wild Card?
I would love to see him in the ring with Brandon Rios, I think that would be a great match up of styles and of course an exciting fight. — Anthony
Funny you mention that potential 135-pound showdown. I had dinner with Linares, WBA vice president Gilberto Mendoza Jr., Golden Boy Promotions matchmaker Robert Diaz and a handful of boxing media guys, including Steve Kim (an early advocate for “Nino de Oro“) of MaxBoxing.com, Rick Reeno and Ernest Gabion of BoxingScene.com, the night of the Khan-Judah fight in Las Vegas.
Talk of Rios vs. Linares came up. Diaz asked the media at the table who would win. Now you know I love me some “Bam Bam,” but I also believe that Linares is a rare talent. I wasn’t as high on him as I was his fellow Venezuelan (and former Teiken Boxing stablemate) Edwin Valero, but I always thought he was just as talented as his countryman (but instead of fire, ferocity and power, Linares is gifted with poise, precision and speed).
Anyway, I believe Linares has the ability to outbox Rios. Can he do it now? This year? No. He hasn’t even proven that he’s a legit lightweight contender. (He has to beat DeMarco first and that‘s not an easy task.) But here’s what I said at the dinner table (with plenty of witnesses): “Give him one year to develop and muscle up with Freddie Roach and Alex Ariza and I’ll pick him to beat Rios by decision.”
I think everyone else went with Rios (yeah, right in front of Linares, who was too busy chumming it up with Nonito Donaire — did I mention he was there with his wife? — to pay attention to our goofy asses). Gabion suggested that I picked Linares because I’m a “Golden Boy,” but that ain’t it. It’s about styles.
I’m sure you can tell from the sparring footage on Youtube that Linares is like a freakin’ cat in the ring. He sticks and moves with beautiful purpose.
I have not watched a live sparring session with Linares at Wild Card since he went four rounds with Manny Pacquiao at the start of PacMan’s camp for Ricky Hatton in early 2009 (which was the subject for one of my first Gym Notes columns for RingTV.com). I was able to schedule a “sit-in” during one of Linares’ recent non-sparring days at the famous Hollywood gym (which will be the subject of a Gym Notes this week), but I gotta tell ya, it’s easier to get an exclusive interview with President Obama than to pop in on a sparring session with one of Freddie’s top dogs at the Wild Card these days.
TOP FIVE PSYCHOS
1.) I saw that in the "dishonourable mentions" section of the worst referee performances you included Frank Cappucino in Gatti-Ward I. I'm interested in knowing why you chose that fight?
2.) Another top 5 for you! Top 5 fighters that seemed the most psychotic in the ring? By that I mean, the most oblivious to fear/pain and seemed to fight with an animal instinct that made them appear to relish trading punches.
Thanks. — Imran, England
Thanks for finally writing in to the mailbag, Imran. I’ll answer your questions in order:
1) Cappuccino didn’t do a horrible job officiating Gatti-Ward I but he made some poor calls, in my opinion, that effected the fighters and possibly the outcome of the fight. Most fans (including me) forgot about Cappuccino’s role in the fight because the courage and brutality the fighters displayed was so incredible. Joe Tessitore reminded me of some things the veteran ref did (and didn’t do) when I spoke to him about No. 1 on my 10 List (Dan Kelley in Augustus-Burton I). Anyway, Cappuccino penalized Gatti a point for a hard low blow in the fourth round. He did warn Gatti to keep his hands up at the end of the third round, but it wasn’t like Gatti was pulling a “Mares” on Ward in the first three rounds of the bout. Gatti didn’t hit Ward low before landing that one big one in round four, so while Ward deserved to get a 5-minute break for what I thought was an unintentional foul, I don’t think Cappuccino should have docked Gatti a point in that round. That one point was the difference between a majority decision loss (the outcome of the bout) and a majority draw for Gatti. And to make matters worse, Cappuccino did not call time and instruct the time keeper to stop the clock. So Ward did not get much recovery time at all. The round ended and both fighters had no choice but to go to their corners. Two things about the classic round nine: one, Cappuccino allowed Gatti to get off with a series of borderline low blows (after he got up from that hellacious body shot knockdown), and two, he probably should have stopped the damn fight before the end of the round. It’s great for us fans that he allowed it to continue, but it wasn’t great for Gatti’s health. He took an inhuman beating in that round. And finally, after allowing Gatti (both fighters, really) to beat each other near to death in the ninth, I think he needed to go to both corners and make damn sure that both fighters were A) in condition to continue, and B) aware that the final round was coming up. He didn’t do that. And at the start of the 10th the time keeper, who must have been smoking crack at ringside, rang the bell in a manner that indicated the fight was over. People started to climb in the ring and poor Micky thought he had won by TKO. Imagine the relief he felt — for about 5 seconds, until Cappuccino yelled at everyone “Nah, no, no, the fight ain’t over!” and motioned for the two warriors to touch gloves for the final round. For the most part, Cappy did alright. But he made some calls/decisions that put both fighters at a disadvantage at different points in the fight, and don’t you think both guys were dealing with enough adversity?
2) When it comes to ring “psychos” that I saw live and covered as media, five guys immediately come to mind — Diego Corrales, Arturo Gatti, Edwin Valero, Micky Ward and Antwun Echols — and I would rank them in that order. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my top three died way before their time under violent/tragic/murky circumstances. The same craziness than made them fearless and formidable in the ring was also made them a danger to themselves (and others around them). Brandon Rios has got a little bit of that craziness in him. Hopefully, he steers clear of tragedy and ends up more like Ward than Echols, who somebody needs to force into retirement. A few other ring warriors who possess a frightening willingness to take damage and do damage to their opponents are Israel Vazquez, Erik Morales, Evander Holyfield and James Toney. These champs don’t make my top five because they mixed in defense and technique with their offense and willingness to take shots. Now that I think about it, maybe I should switch Vazquez with Valero, who had underrated defensive ability. Then again, Valero seemed more hell bent on hurting his opponent than “El Magnifico.”
I was after your opinion.
My favourite fighter has always been Ricardo Lopez. I think it's fair to say that he would have to be considered one of, if not the, most technically gifted fighters we have yet to have the pleasure of watching. Offence, defence, footwork, intelligence – the guy simply had it all.
My question therefore is: why is this bloke not a household name? I know that he is well respected amongst longtime fight fans, but I never hear his name mentioned when talking about recent greats. With all due respect to the Trinidads, De La Hoyas, Jones Jnrs, Mayweathers & so forth, all of whom are wonderful boxers in their own right, I think it's safe to say that they could not compare to Lopez from a technical perspective.
The only thing that comes to my mind is the weight class in which he fought – strawweight. I know the general public only seem to pay interest when it is a heavyweight contest, particularly here in Australia from a media stand-point (unless it is Danny Green or that powder-puff Anthony Mundine), but there is no heavyweight who can compete from a boxing skill point of view with Lopez. Your thoughts? Cheers big ears. — Sam, Bannockburn, Australia
I agree that, technically speaking, Lopez was near perfection. I consider it an honor to have covered his last three bouts (and he was still razor sharp I those bouts, despite only fighting once per year). He also displayed a lot of heart and grit in those bouts.
Next to Mark Johnson, another underrated “little big man,” Lopez might be the best fighter I’ve seen live. I think his weight class (105 pounds, and 108 pound late in his career) was part of the reason he was not as appreciated as he probably should have been, but there were other factors.
For starters, he was too technical and poised to capture the passion of Mexican fans. He knocked guys out, but he rarely had to scrap in order to do so. One good shot is all he needed at 105 pounds. He was too good to be in any kind of struggle for years, and Mexican fans relish that sort of fight. His former stablemate and understudy, Juan Manuel Marquez, was not appreciated for years. It wasn’t until the fabulous featherweight got off the canvas three times and gave Pacquiao hell in their first bout that his countrymen began to really root for him and support his fights.
Also, Lopez stayed at 105 pounds too long. There were high-profile matches at 108 pounds (against Humberto Gonzalez and Michael Carbajal) that he should have pressed his promoter, Don King, to make, but he seemed content with being the king of the strawweights for far too long.
And finally, King didn’t feature Lopez enough on his exclusive Showtime cards or on his star-studded pay-per-view shows when the magnificent Mexican was in his prime.
REFEREES AND SCHYSTERS
Anyway, wondered if you'd ever seen the 3rd fight between Danny Williams and Michael Sprott? Dave Paris not only ref'd the fight, he also scored it… The two had fought twice in the space of about a year and a half, with Williams stopping Sprott fairly comfortably both times. The Brixton bomber was obviously irritated at having to fight Sprott again, and in his own weird way went about making his point. After a few rounds beating up on Sprott, Williams started showing Sprott up… he made him miss, made him look clumsy, threw in the kind of thing you'd only try in a friendly spar. He was probably at the edge of sporting behaviour, and obviously annoying Parris. But Sprott just couldn't land. And round after round went by with Williams making Sprott look poor. Yet when the final bell went Dave Paris raised Sprott's hand… Williams appealed by to no avail, the BBofC standing by their man.
Can't find it on youtube… sorry. But sure you've got your sources.
Ottke's victory is still the least deserving I've ever seen. But Sprott's was close, and all the more galling as it wasn't just helped by the ref, it was literally given to him by the man in the middle.
Anyway, take care, keep up the great work… and shout your lungs out for Froch! — Morgan
I can’t do that, Morgan. There’s no cheering on press row. But even it was OK, I don’t have a favorite in the finals match of the Super Six tournament. I have equal respect for Andre Ward and Carl Froch.
I recall reading about the Williams-Sprott decision when it happened. Something I wonder about that fight is if Danny would have got the opportunity to fight Mike Tyson if he had got the nod. My guess is that he wouldn’t. So maybe he should thank Paris.
Anyway, Paris poor officiating in Williams-Sprott III seems to be in the realm of scoring, not refereeing, so his performance in that particular fight doesn’t really qualify him for my recent 10 List.
Oh, and by the way, Ottke ain’t getting’ a checkmark by his name on the IBHOF ballot from this boxing writer.
Doug Fischer can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org