Mikey Garcia: A fourth-round knockout over this version of Juan Manuel Lopez is not a monumental accomplishment, particularly because Garcia came in two pounds overweight for their featherweight fight on Saturday night in Dallas. Lopez is good but not what we believed he once was. At the same time, THE RING champion clearly demonstrated once again that he is a special talent. His combination of superb boxing ability and sharp-shooting power might be unrivaled in the sport, although Adrien Broner seems to have similar qualities. Garcia (32-0, 27 knockouts) picked Lopez apart from the opening bell, consistently firing laser-like left jabs to set up hard, debilitating power punches whenever he saw openings. The result was a cold, clinical demolition that left Lopez a badly beaten man and enhanced the winner’s reputation as a wrecking machine. Garcia is still young, only 25. His best probably lies ahead of him. That can’t be a comforting notion for other elite fighters in and around the featherweight division.
Juan Manuel Lopez: Only two years ago Lopez (33-3, 30 KOs) was considered one of the best fighters in the world, having built a record of 30-0 (with 27 knockouts) and a reputation as a monster in the ring. Today, after losing three of his past six fights by knockout, the 29-year-old Puerto Rican appears to be finished as a major player in the sport. The presumption is that too many wars have a taken a toll on him, which makes sense. And we can probably assume that he was overrated. He’ll always have admirable fighting spirit and the punching power to go with it but no one will accuse of him being a very good boxer. So we’re left to remember his many scintillating knockouts over elite opponents between 2007 and 2010, which will keep in the hearts of Puerto Rican fans. And who knows? The spirit and power is still there. He probably could still beat many featherweights or junior lightweights out there. He just can no longer compete with the best of them.
Failing to make weight: I don’t believe Garcia intentionally failed to make the 126-pound limit for his fight against Lopez. Still, his offense is evidence of a serious problem in the sport: B-side fighters have no choice but to face overweight A-siders because they can’t afford to give up the payday and opportunity. Make no mistake: A junior lightweight fought a featherweight on Saturday, which isn’t fair. The answer isn’t same-day weigh-ins because fighters undoubtedly would enter the ring dehydrated. I do think something needs to be done, though. One possibility is cancelling any fight in which at least one of the principals fails to make weight. That would be justified. A more realistic option might be establishing an overweight limit, which if exceeded would require cancelation. Perhaps that could be .005 percent of the designated weight, which would be .63 pounds in the featherweight division. The offended fighter would still be fined and lose his title on the scales but he would be allowed to fight. That’s just one idea. What are your thoughts?
Sergei Kovalev: Kovalev (21-0-1, 19 KOs) is rounding into a future pound-for-pound candidate and a fan favorite. The Florida-based Russian demonstrated his frightening power again on Friday in Bethlehem, Pa., putting Cornelius White (21-2, 16 KOs) away in three rounds. He’s more than a banger, though. He is a smart, capable boxer who happens to be very aggressive and powerful. That makes him extremely dangerous for any opponent – even the best – and fun to watch. I don’t think White ever posed a serious challenge but veteran Gabriel Campillo, Kovalev’s previous opponent, did. And Campillo also lasted less than three full rounds. In fact, only one of his 19 KO victims has made it out of the third round. That’s eye-popping punching power. Of course, we must withhold final judgment on Kovalev until he faces more elite opponents but we love what we’ve seen so far. Trainer Freddie Roach, who doesn’t work with Kovalev, called him the best prospect in the world. Roach might not be far off the mark.
The light heavyweight division is evolving into one of the more interesting weight classes. New RING champ Adonis Stevenson gave the division a jolt by stopping Chad Dawson. Nathan Cleverly continues to grow in stature. Bernard Hopkins remains elite at 48. Kovalev captures the imagination because of his power. Andre Ward probably will move from 168 to 175 sometime soon. And Dawson should not be counted out. Stay tuned. … American heavyweight hopeful Bryant Jennings (17-0, 9 KOs) had to work to beat Andrey Fedosov (24-3, 19 KOs) but got the job done, stopping the California-based Russian in six rounds in the main event in Bethlehem. A Top-10 opponent should be on the horizon. … Terence Crawford (21-0, 16 KOs) manhandled untested Mexican Alejandro Sanabria (34-2-1, 25 KOs) on the Garcia-Lopez card, scoring a sixth-round knockout. The Omaha, Neb., product appears to be a complete fighter – ability, power, toughness and fighting spirit – but he has yet to prove it against top-tier opposition. That should come very soon. …
Vanes Martirosyan (33-0-1, 21 KOs) stopped overmatched Ryan Davis (24-11-3, 9 KOs) in two rounds on the Garcia-Lopez card. Martirosyan, a former Olympian, has been fighting professionally for more than eight years and has yet to fight for a major title. He ran into bad luck in his previous fight, a title eliminator against Erislandy Lara that ended in a technical draw because Martirosyan was cut. Still, we wonder whether his time will ever come. … Some of us were under the impression that strawweight Hekki Budler (23-1, 6 KOs) wasn’t quite as good as his hype. It appears we were wrong. Budler defeated former IBF titleholder and fellow South African Nkosinathi Joyi (23-2, 16 KOs) by a split decision Saturday, making it mandatory that we take him seriously. … Keep an eye on young southpaw Patrick Nielsen (19-0, 9 KOs) of Denmark, who stopped Crispulu Andino in four rounds on Saturday. Nielsen, 22, apparently has world-class ability.