Andre Berto: The new IBF welterweight titleholder on Saturday was more or less the same fighter who lost the WBC belt to Victor Ortiz in April, a quick-handed slugger who is easy to hit and fun to watch. Only this time the opponent, Jan Zaveck, wasn’t quite as good as Ortiz. This isn’t a knock on Berto (28-1, 22 knockouts), whose explosiveness would be challenge for anyone in and around the 147-pound division. And he deserves credit for bouncing back from his devastating loss with a solid performance, one in which he seemed to have more fire and energy than he did against Ortiz. His speed and power were too much for a good fighter. Berto just didn’t make much of a statement on a large HBO stage, as he apparently had hoped to do. Again, he was the same old Berto, a pretty damned good fighter but not a particularly special one.
Jan Zaveck: The Slovenian demonstrated impressive confidence by agreeing to defend his 147-pound title in Berto’s home country. Then, in the fight itself, he gave a gutsy performance that underscored his reputation as a tough, skillful fighter and kept him in an entertaining fight as long as it lasted. He sincerely wanted to keep fighting even with a closed right eye and nasty cuts above both eyes, which undoubtedly won him admiration from many fans. Still, he had to travel back to his home in Germany with a busted up face and no championship belt, which he had held since December 2009. That had to be tough. Zaveck obviously is a good fighter and proved beyond a doubt that he’ll never give up. He’ll be back.
Gary Russell Jr.: The featherweight prospect was impressive once again on the Berto-Zaveck undercard, his rapid-fire combinations at close range overwhelming a helpless Leonilo Miranda en route to an eight-round shutout. The limited Mexican simply didn’t have the tools to cope with Russell’s gifts. One thing was missing, though: A knockout. Russell (18-0, 10 knockouts) can compete with virtually anyone in the world even with his limited experience because of his boxing ability and remarkable speed. However, if he wants to be superstar, he’s going to have to finish the show. Fans respect a talented boxer; they love a fighter who stops his opponents. Perhaps Russell’s brittle hands hinder him. Or perhaps he simply needs to develop a killer instinct. The point is that his performance against Miranda was good but not great. And we expect great things from Russell.
Eloy Perez: The 24-year-old junior lightweight contender isn’t supposed to be a puncher. He had only five knockouts in 21 victories going into his fight against Daniel Jimenez on Friday in Salinas, Calif., which is hardly a fearsome resume. That’s why Perez’s performance on Friday was so stunning. He put an overwhelmed Jimenez down twice in the first round – once with a big right, then with a short left – and once in the second with another left. That was that: The fight was stopped after only 3 minutes, 56 seconds of boxing. The victory was particularly gratifying for Perez for a number of reasons. One, Jimenez hadn’t been particularly active but he was a seasoned pro with some impressive victories of his own. Two, Perez was fighting in front of his hometown fans. And, three, he scored the most-impressive victory of his career on national TV (Telefutura). Not a bad night.
Oscar De La Hoya: The Golden Boy earned his nickname not just by winning an Olympic championship in 1992. It seemed everything he touched turned to gold. He won major titles in six weight divisions and became one of the biggest money-makers in the history of the sport, establishing himself as a true superstar. He was superhuman. Or so it seemed. Some fighters, particularly those who experience great success, have great difficulty coping with the void left by retirement. What can compare with the glory of standing in the ring before adoring fans with your hand raised? Nothing. I don’t know how difficult that transition has been for De La Hoya but it had to play a role in his self-destructive behavior, which he revealed this past week. The good news? He acknowledged his problems and seems to understand that his loved ones are much more important than his accomplishments in boxing. De La Hoya’s fighting spirit was always underrated. He’s a fighter. He’ll be fine.
Juan Manuel Marquez: The lightweight champion gave Manny Pacquiao all he could handle in two previous (and controversial) meetings, a draw in 2004 and a split-decision loss in 2008. He acknowledged at a news conference on Saturday in Manila that their Nov. 12 fight in Las Vegas will be different. “This is a different fight because he changed,” Marquez told The Associated Press. “He’s working with two hands. He uses the right hand.” The Mexican added that Pacquiao also has improved his speed. Exactly. As strange it might seem, Marquez unwittingly explained why he has almost no chance against Pacquiao. The Filipino icon has grown tremendously as a boxer and has maintained his speed and power. On top of that, he’ll be bigger than Marquez. And Marquez is 38, six years older than Pacquiao. This is wipe out waiting to happen – an entertaining wipe out but a wipe out nonetheless.
Victor Ortiz's knockdown streak: Ortiz’s handlers say that every one of his 33 opponents has hit the canvas, which is a fascinating concept but also an exaggeration. For example, he won his second fight (a four-rounder) by three scores of 40-36. That almost certainly means his opponent didn’t go down. And, more recently, Mike Arnoutis was saved by the ref in the second round but remained on his feet in 2009. We quibble, though. Ortiz’s knock down record IS remarkable. Each of his last seven opponents – Marcos Maidana, Antonio Diaz, Hector Alatorre, Nate Campbell, Vivian Harris, Lamont Peterson and Andre Berto – have all gone down, which is a testament to Ortiz’s power. Will Floyd Mayweather Jr. be KD victim No. 8 on Sept. 17? That would be something. Mayweather, one of the best defensive fighters ever, has been down only once. That was when he injured his hand and took a knee in pain against Carlos Hernandez in 2001. One thing is certain: A lot of people would LIKE to see Mayweather on his ass in the middle of the ring.
Floyd Mayweather Jr., on his Twitter account: “De La Hoya is a drug user, dresses like a drag, committed adultery and drinks alcohol and (Victor) Ortiz looks up to this guy.”
Photo by Scott Foster / Fightwireimages