Dougie, huge/longtime boxing fan and reader of yours. A few thoughts from Saturday in Macau:
1. I don’t know what to make of Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. (WV2). That certainly was not the guy who gave Nonito Donaire his toughest fight in years. I think he competes up/down to the level of his competition.
2. Of all the talented Puerto Rican fighters out there, I can’t believe Ramon “Rocky” Martinez is the lone champ right now. He isn’t fancy, but he gets it done (albeit controversially at times as I thought he lost to Miguel Beltran Jr. and Juan Carlos Burgos). As for Diego Magdaleno, I’m a bit disappointed in him. I think he has the tools and spirit, but he needs way more power to become a serious title threat. His punches are loopers and he needs to throw shorter/straighter to get more sting on them.
3. Juan Estrada beating Brian Viloria is a big deal. Many had Viloria in p4p consideration coming in. He was DESTROYING guys of late. I’m not gonna take anything away from Viloria, I don’t think he “got old overnight,” I just think he could not land his hardest thrown punches and Estrada was not going to be denied Saturday.
4. I was not impressed by Zou Shiming. I know it’s his first pro fight, but I think he’s a gimmick. He’s good, and might even win a belt one day, but he started too old, and at 31, will be beat by most top 10 guys in his division. Call me crazy, but I thought his fight Saturday was a draw. I have round 1 and 3 to Zou, and 2 and 4 to Valenzuela.
5. George Foreman and Larry Merchant are legends in their crafts, but between them two, whoever the third guy was, and the dull atmosphere in Macau, I almost nodded off a few times. Seems to me that boxing is a “good ol’ boys club” and I think we need younger/more charismatic people covering boxing on TV (such as yourself).
— Jose G. in San Diego, CA
Thank you for all the kind words, Jose. I’ll respond to your comments in the order you gave ‘em:
1) You might be right about WV2 fighting up or down to the level of his opposition, but he always seemed mature and professional to me. I can’t think of another occasion when he underperformed against an opponent he was supposed to beat. I know some fans will say that’s what happened against Jorge Arce, but I disagree. I thought he Vazquez boxed and fought a hell of a fight that night, he just happened to exchange a little too much with an old-school Mexican badass who had one more great effort in his veteran body.
I think WV2 was physically well prepared and motivated going into the fight with Yasutaka Ishimoto – after all, he had to know that he was on the short list of Top Rank-approved opponents for the winner of Donarie-Rigondeaux – but he was unfamiliar with the Japanese veteran and wasn’t expecting such an aggressive fight from an older guy with such a low KO percentage. But Ishimoto’s solid whiskers, quick combos, consistent body work and subtle savvy (he’s a decent counter puncher who makes good use of feints) was enough to overcome Vazquez’s sharp jab and edges in technique, footwork and punching power. I’m not going to piss on Vazquez. I thought he fought very well, just not good enough to get the nod on the official scorecards. But the fight was close (the flash knockdown at the end of the eighth was probably the difference). It could have gone either way by a point or two, in my opinion. I’d still love to see him fight top-10 junior featherweight contenders. Likewise with Ishimoto, who has a more fan friendly style.
2) I’m surprised Martinez is the only major titleholder from Puerto Rico right now, but I’m not surprised that he’s got a belt (even though I thought Burgos beat him). Martinez doesn’t have much in the way of technique or savvy but he’s got big balls and mad heart. He made me a believer when he outlasted Daniel Jimenez 5½ years ago. Jimenez was the better boxer, technician and athlete and Martinez just pulled a “Rocky” on him. He’s got the right nickname. Martinez doesn’t look like he can box, but he’s competent in the ring, he tough as nails, he never panics and he knows when to put his foot on the gas pedal. I thought Magdaleno fought well. He didn’t do quite enough to take the title on his first try at a major belt but I think the converted southpaw will grow from this experience and eventually earn a title at 130 or 135 pounds. I think the best thing for Diego is to get back in the ring with a good opponent as soon as possible.
3) Estrada served notice with his bold stand against Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez last November, so nobody should be shocked that he was able to edge Viloria in a battle of attrition. But Estrada’s victory must be viewed as an upset. Viloria was on a quality win streak and the Mexican challenger is 22 years old! I thought Estrada fought the perfect strategy against Viloria. He moved a lot in the early rounds to avoid getting caught with one of the Hawaiian Punches deadly counter shots, but whenever he planted his feet he dug to the Viloria’s body. He made sure to answer back whenever Viloria caught him in the early rounds, and he generally outworked the shorter, older man on the inside. And he pressed forward in the late rounds, when Viloria typically fades a bit. He made for a hell of fight and I think he’s a major play at 112 pounds. I can’t wait to see rematches with Gonzalez and Viloria as well as a Mexican civil war with Tyson Marquez and an eventual title unification showdown with the winner of Igarashi-Yaegashi.
4) To be honest, I didn’t pay much attention to Zou’s pro debut. I know he’s not going to be in the pro ranks very long and view him as a pioneer for the sport in China.
If Zou can turn a few million Chinese citizens into diehard boxing fans over the next two or three years, and perhaps pave the way for aspiring young Chinese boxers, I couldn’t care less if he ever wins a major title or fights a legit contender (or even fights past eight rounds).
5) I guess I’m getting old. I enjoyed the low-key conversational commentating of Big George, Merchant and my all-time favorite blow-by-blow announcer, Tim Ryan.
A ‘PISANO’ ON FNF
Long time lurker and a first time writer of the mailbag. Pretty good scraps on Friday Night Fights and was surprised to see Jonathan Maicelo, a countryman, on the card. I had seen the dude fight before against bros not nearly as talented so I’ve seen him add showmanship and bad defensive habits (keeps his hands down) to his repertoire over the years. He has heart but these bad habits caught up to him by getting KTFO’d but hopefully he can learn from this and there can be more Peruvian talents that appear on FNF cards and in particular Carlos “Mina” Zambrano. This guy has a deep amateur background, comes from a boxing family and has more skill/talent of the current crop of Peruvian boxers, I hope to see him in a FNF in the near future. Keep up the good work Doug! P’s – Julio
I do too, Julio. I’ve heard of Zambrano and I’d like to see him fight on TV against a quality opponent. I think it’s time. He’s 28 years old and undefeated (19-0 as Maicelo was prior to facing Rustam Nugaev), but he hasn’t fought anyone of note.
We won’t know how good he really is until he faces a bad mother-you-know-what like Nugaev. Maicelo fell short but he also showed a lot heart and talent. If he can tone down the hot-dogging and bring his hands up there’s still a chance that he can develop into a contender.
Right now, however, I think the best fighter from your home country is female champ Kina Malpartida. Like Nugaev, I’m familiar with Malpartida from watching her toil at two of the hardest gyms in Southern California – the Maywood and Azteca boxing clubs.
And like Nugaev, I’ve seen how hard she works even when she doesn’t have a fight scheduled and I’ve seen her kick her share of ass in sparring.
Who knows? Maybe Maicelo will bounce back or Zambrano will get an opportunity to prove his talent in the next year and one or both of the Peruvian fellas will rep your homeland to the boxing world, but until then Malpartida is “the woman,” as well as the best looking fighter (and surfer) from Peru.
IS BOXING ALWAYS THIS GOOD?
My best memories by far come from Iron Mike as I am grateful to have been just old enough to remember and truly appreciate the greatness of Tyson in his prime. I enjoy talking about him to my son as I try to explain how you could see the fear in the eyes of his opponents and how many were beat the moment Mike made his intimidating walk to the ring.
Anyway, I finally am in a position to purchase both HBO and Showtime and have done so during the first week of January this year. I was able to view all of the replays of the best fights of 2012 and could not believe what I missed. With it being only the beginning of April, I am amazed by some of the fights I’ve been able to watch in such a short period of time. My question for you is this… Has the fights of this early year been an exception or is today’s boxing really this good? I look to the fights coming up again this month and it just looks to get better. Thanks – Matt from DeFo
In general, today’s professional boxers are as tough and courageous as the fighters from previous decades and eras, and thus, when the right matchups are made the fights these special individuals produce are as dramatic and entertaining as the classic confrontations during the sport’s Golden Age and numerous “glory years.”
The only difference is that today’s top fighters don’t fight as much as those of previous decades and they aren’t fighting on free television. If they were, you would have been a hardcore fan 20-30 years ago.
So, no, the two fight-of-the-year candidates (Bradley-Provodnikov and Rios-Alvarado II) that we’ve witnessed in the first quarter of 2013 is not an “exception.” There are always a few barnburners in the early months of the year. Last year it was the scintillating Orlando Salido-JuanMa Lopez rematch, Mike Alvarado-Mauricio Herrera and a gem from the Philippines, Dennis Laurente’s 12th-round TKO of Eusebio Baluarte.
Anyway, if you think you’ve seen the best of 2013, think again. There’s more to come. There always is.
Photos / Chris Farina-TOP RANK
Email Dougie at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @dougiefischer