Vicente Escobedo: The battle between former U.S. Olympians Saturday in Southern California was a must-win for both fighters, Escobedo and Rocky Juarez. Escobedo, a member of the 2004 team, has been tripped up three times on his way toward a world title. His stunning split-decision setback against unheralded Daniel Jimenez in 2006 slowed his early-career momentum and shook his confidence, which he seemed to regain only recently. Then losses to Michael Katsidis (split decision) in 2009 and Robert Guerrero (one-sided decision) last year raised serious doubt about Escobedo’s ability to win a major belt. That’s why it was crucial he win the fight on Saturday. Well, he came through. He survived a late rally by Juarez to win a unanimous decision in a hard-fought, competitive fight and remain relevant. The same can’t be said for Juarez, who now has lost five consecutive fights.
Rocky Juarez: The 2000 U.S. Olympian’s silver medal apparently will turn out to be his greatest achievement in boxing. A lot was expected of Juarez coming out of the amateurs. He had an impressive combination of boxing ability, power and toughness, which enabled him to start his professional career 23-0 (with 17 knockouts). That included victories over capable Antonio Diaz, Zahir Raheem and Guty Espadas. Juarez is 5-9-1 since, including five failed attempts to win a world title. Juarez gave hell to some elite fighters, losing razor-thin decisions to Humberto Soto and Marco Antonio Barrera and fighting to a draw with Chris John. However, the Houstonian could never get over the hump. That, sadly for him, probably will be his legacy. He’s only 31, meaning it’s not too late for him. However, his chances of finding great success seem to dwindle every time he steps into the ring.
BIGGEST WINNER II
Jorge Arce: Arce is as consistent as any fighter in the world in at least one regard – when he fights, you get your money’s worth. That was the case again on Saturday, when the WBO junior featherweight titleholder was defending his belt for the first time and seeking to avenge a junior bantamweight loss to Simphiwe Nongqayi in 2009, Arce’s most-recent defeat. The popular Mexican got the job done and entertained us at the same time. The two slugged it out for most of the abbreviated bout, Arce trying to impose his will on the tough South African but receiving great resistance. Finally, 2:01 into the fourth round, Nongqayi could take the pressure no longer and the fight was stopped. Arce, who some believed was finished after he lost Nongqayi, is 6-0-1 (with five knockotus) in his last seven fights.
Maidana knockout: The Argentine will always have trouble against a clever boxer because of limited skills, Amir Khan and Erik Morales being two recent examples. However, if you put him in with an opponent who is even slightly less skilled, odds are that the fight won’t go the distance. That was the case when Maidana took on relatively unknown Petr Petrov in Buenos Aires. Maidana put Petrov down with a straight right early in the fourth round. The Russian survived only to go down again later in the round from another right and a body shot, after which referee Uriel Aguilera ended the fight. The stoppage seemed to be premature but a knockout seemed to be inevitable. Maidana (31-2, 28 knockouts) has one of the best knockout ratios in the world. He was supposed to have fought Robert Guerrero in California but Guerrero pulled out with a shoulder injury.
Ward-Froch postponement: The news is always frustrating. A big fight to which we’re all looking forward is postponed or canceled because a fighter is injured or takes ill. Andre Ward suffered a cut during sparring Thursday and cannot fight Carl Froch for THE RING super middleweight and Super Six World Boxing Classic championships as scheduled on Oct. 29 in Atlantic City, N.J. The promoters are working to find a new date on a busy fight schedule, meaning it could be rescheduled for as late as early next year. An angry Froch believes five weeks is more than enough time for a cut to heal but he has no choice but adjust his schedule. The Super Six tournament has been plagued by injuries, Jermain Taylor, Mikkel Kessler and Andre Dirrell all pulling out for health reasons. The good news here is that Ward-Froch almost assuredly will happen. We’ll just have to wait a little longer.
Geroge Benton: Benton’s career in boxing might’ve been a tragic one. The gifted fighter from Philadelphia was one of the best middleweights of his time (1949-70) yet never received an opportunity to fight for a world title, reportedly because his manager refused to do business with the mob. Among those he defeated were future titleholders Freddie Little, Joey Giardella and Jimmy Ellis (who would go on to win a heavyweight belt). He reportedly was never knocked down in 76 fights. Still, no title shot. Fortunately, the story didn’t end there. Benton (62-13-1, 37 KOs) would go on to become one of the most-respected trainers in the sport. He guided Leon Spinks, Evander Holyfield, Mike McCallum, Meldrick Taylor and Pernell Whitaker, working much of his training career with Lou Duva. Benton was twice named Trainer of the Year by the Boxing Writers Association of America, in 1989 and 1990. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2001, the crowning achievement in a remarkable career. Benton died of pneumonia at 78 last Monday. He will be sorely missed.
Alvarez vs. Chavez Jr.: A showdown between Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. is a natural. The young Mexicans have roughly the same level of ability and are huge drawing cards in their native land, which means they’d generate a lot of money for everyone involved. The problem is weight – Chavez probably is a natural super middleweight at this point; Alvarez is comfortable at junior middleweight. Bob Arum, Chavez’s promoter, reportedly is throwing out 158 pounds as a possible catch weight for the fight. Golden Boy, Alvarez’s promoter, apparently is pushing for 156. Of course, the most-obvious compromise is 157. That would be a stretch for both fighters. Chavez reportedly struggled to make 160 when he fought Sebastian Zbik in June. Alvarez has never weighed more than 153¾. Maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be, though – a stretch for both fighters. Hopefully they find a way to make the fight. So many want to see it.
MOST CLEAR CUT
Pound-for-pound ratings: THE RING kept Manny Pacquiao at No. 1 on its Top 10 pound-for-pound list, with Floyd Mayweather Jr. re-entering the rankings at No. 2 after his knockout of Victor Ortiz on Sept. 17. The Yahoo! Sports poll of journalists worldwide arrived at the same place. Pacquiao received 26 of 43 first-place votes, 60 percent. Mayweather received the remaining 17. Pacquiao received only first- or second-place votes. Mayeather received 16 second-place votes, seven thirds, two fourths and a fifth. Mayweather supporters will blame their fighter’s runner-up finish on “haters.” The reality is that Pacquiao has dominated his opponents just as impressively as Mayweather has and has been more active. The Filipino has done nothing to lose his No. 1 position.
Virgil Hunter, trainer of Andre Ward: "We were sparring. And then the next thing I know, Brandon Gonzalez, one of the sparring partners, says, 'Man, you're bleeding.' Andre walks toward me. I thought that he had gotten a scratch on the bridge on his nose as he came toward me. But once I took the towel and wiped him off and saw the cut, I'm like, 'How on earth did you get that?’ I was wondering how it got there. He had the face guard on so you don't get cut. We had taken all of the necessary precautions. We had put Vaseline on the face and had the head gear on and the whole bit. There didn't seem to be a punch. Nothing. Andre was wearing the best head gear that he could get. No ridges on it. It's just incredible. It just seemed like the cut came out of nowhere."