Rigondeaux over Agbeko: We can go back and forth forever about whether it’s enjoyable to watch Guillermo Rigondeaux fight. Some love it, citing his remarkable skills. Some don’t, citing a lack of drama. And some (like me) fall somewhere in between. No one would dispute this, though: The Cuban is an incredibly good boxer, as he demonstrated again on Saturday in Atlantic City, N.J. Joseph Agbeko, his opponent, is a skillful, experienced professional who held two world titles. And Rigondeaux (13-0, 8 knockouts) made a fool of him, picking him apart with hard, fast punches from A distance while taking almost nothing in return. It was “hit and not be hit” at its best. The punch stats are striking. Rigondeaux landed only 144 of 859 (17 percent) overall – because his jab was more of a measuring stick than a punch – but 91 of 222 power shots (41 percent). More striking: Agbeko (29-5, 22 KOs) landed only 48 punches total, four per round. He threw only 349 punches, 29 per round. Credit Rigondeaux for that. His precise punching and power stole Agbeko’s will to take the risks necessary to land his own punches. The Ghanaian should be embarrassed but he can take solace in the fact that very few fighters would fare better against Rigondeaux.
Kirkland over Tapia: James Kirkland vs. Glen Tapia was as crazy as we’ve come to expect from a Kirkland fight. The combatants crammed into five-plus rounds enough punches to fill three entertaining 12-round fights, which made for spectacular TV on the Rigondeaux-Agbeko undercard. Tapia paid a price, though. Kirkland (32-1, 28 KOs) landed enormous shots from beginning to end, including a staggering 287 power punches. Tapia (20-1, 12 KOs) never stopped firing back and had his moments, wobbling Kirkland a few times, but he took a terrible beating until the fight was stopped 38 seconds into Round 6. Kirkland isn’t the best fighter in the world – he’s far too easy to hit – but he might be the most fun to watch. Now let’s hope he fights regularly. Tapia (20-1, 12 KOs) showed tremendous courage, too much for his own good. He had already taken too many blows to the head by the end of Round 4 but wasn’t about to quit. That’s when the ring doctor, the referee or his cornermen should’ve stepped in to save him from himself. They failed to do so. Steve Smoger, the referee, finally waved his arms but Tapia had taken unnecessary punishment. I hope Smoger and Co. reflect on the fight and err on the side of caution next time.
Porter over Alexander: One of the great experiences for boxing fans is watching a young fighter blossom before our eyes. We witnessed that with Shawn Porter on the Malignaggi-Judah card. Obviously, Porter (23-0-1, 14 KOs) had had success. He hasn’t lost a fight. However, he drew with Julio Diaz in 2012 and looked only so-so in winning their rematch in September. He also had never beaten an elite opponent or even fought on a stage this big. That’s why then-IBF welterweight titleholder Devon Alexander was favored on Saturday. Porter didn’t fight like an underdog, though. He isn’t beautiful to watch – he’s more a whirling dervish than a sweet scientist – but he’s strong, quick and athletic, and he fights with purpose. He stayed on top of Alexander (25-2, 14 KOs) from the opening bell and didn’t get off him until his hand was raised in victory, giving him his first world title. This was no fluke. A very good fighter has arrived on the scene. Alexander? He’s too good to fade away just yet. He’ll use this disappointment as motivation to become a better fighter going forward.
MOST THOROUGH II
Lara over Trout: Talented but erratic Erislandy Lara had shown signs of brilliance to go with a number of slip-ups but had never claimed a convincing victory over an elite opponent. Until Saturday. Lara (19-1-2, 12 KOs) outclassed Austin Trout (26-2, 14 KOs) to win a one-sided decision in a junior middleweight bout on the Malignaggi-Judah card and solidify his position as one of the best 154-pounders in the world. The left-handed Cuban would seem to be in the mix of possible opponents for Floyd Mayweather Jr. or Canelo Alvarez, which would make Lara a rich man. And make no mistake: Neither Mayweather and nor Alvarez would have an easy time against Lara. Things don’t look good for Trout. The slick southpaw from New Mexico quickly climbed to prominence with a convincing victory over Miguel Cotto last December but has now lost consecutive one-sided decisions, to Alvarez in April and Lara on Saturday. He has a lot of work to do if he hopes to regain lost ground.
Malignaggi over Judah: First, Paulie Malignaggi (33-5, 7 KOs) deserves credit for an excellent performance against Zab Judah (42-9, 29 KOs) on Saturday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., the hometown of both fighters. Malignaggi, 33, never looked better. He thoroughly outboxed his decorated opponent to win a one-sided decision and remain a player in the deep welterweight division. The disappointing part was Judah’s performance. To say something was missing from the six-time world titleholder is an understatement. Not-so-Super Judah seemed passive, almost disinterested, as if he didn’t want to be there. He seemed to blame the loss afterward on what he called Malignaggi’s unwillingness to engage, which is interesting. The quick, slick Judah of the past would’ve found a way to get in his licks even under difficult circumstances. That leaves us to wonder whether this version of Judah, the one who is 36, still has the tools to hang with a quick, athletic fighter like Malignaggi. The answer appears to be a resounding “no.” Of course, there’s no shame in that. Every fighter who sticks around long enough slows down. The point here is that those hoping for a competitive fight left Barclays disappointed.
Bika-Dirrell and Macklin-Russ: Sakio Bika was Sakio Bika against Anthony Dirrell on the Malignaggi-Judah card, rugged, a bit dirty, determined. And that was enough for Bika to earn a draw with Dirrell (26-0-1, 22 KOs) and retain his WBC super middleweight title. Why unfulfilling? I expected much more from Dirrell, who is more talented than Bika. The brother of Andre Dirrell had his moments, countering nicely at times and putting Bika (32-5-3, 21 KOs) down in the fifth round, but he was far too inactive to complain about the decision. He could’ve won that fight had he let his hands go more. The fact he didn’t do so is inexplicable given the opportunity at hand. The reason the Matthew Macklin-Lamar Russ fight was unfulfilling is that Russ, a late replacement for the injured Willie Nelson, wasn’t experienced enough to compete with a veteran like Macklin. He had only 14 fights going into Saturday. Thus, it’s no surprise that Macklin (30-5, 20 KOs) cruised to a one-sided decision to stay in the mix of contending middleweights. Meanwhile, the 6-foot-2, athletic Russ (14-1, 7 KOs) showed potential. The loss was a learning experience that will serve him well as his career progresses.
Sturm over Barker: No one is stunned that Felix Strum defeated Darren Barker to take Barker’s IBF middleweight title Saturday in Stuttgart, Germany. It was the WAY Sturm (39-3-2, 18 KOs) won the fight, blowing Barker out in only 5:09 of action in the Briton’s first title defense. And, sadly for Barker, his career is in jeopardy because he apparently dislocated a hip in the process. He already has had two hip-replacement operations. Barker has a contractual right to a rematch but only time will tell whether that is possible. Meanwhile, Sturm had reason to celebrate. Many believed he was in decline after struggling in a number of fights between 2011 and early this year. He avoided losses against Matthew Macklin (split decision) and Martin Murray (draw) as a result of controversial scoring and then lost back-to-back fights against Daniel Geale and Sam Soliman, although the latter fight became a no-contest after Soliman tested positive for a PED. Sturm proved by becoming a middleweight titleholder for the fourth time Saturday that he remains a factor in the 160-pound division.
Perhaps lost in a busy weekend was a stunning result in Australia: Simpiwe Vetyeka of South Africa handed WBA featherweight titleholder Chris John the first loss of his stellar career Friday. And, by all accounts, the 34-year-old Indonesian took a beating. He quit on his stool after the sixth round. John (48-1-3, 22 KOs) had made 18 successful title defenses going into Saturday. The 32-year-old Vetyeka (26-2, 16 KOs) had lost a fairly close decision to Hozumi Hasegawa in Japan in his only other title fight. One must wonder whether Vetyeka simply caught John on his way down or whether a star was born Friday. … Shane Mosley announced his retirement on Saturday. Of course, we’re sad to see him hang up the gloves because he was one of the best and most entertaining boxers of his era – and one of the sport’s good guys – but he hung around too long. He’s 42 now and no longer resembles the fighter who won six world titles in three divisions. Mosley (47-9-1, 39 KOs) probably was at his best when he was a lightweight. He was 32-0 – with 30 KOs – at 135 pounds. He was only 15-9-1 (nine KOs) after that, including a record of 1-4-1 in his last six fights. He beat Hall of Famer Oscar De La Hoya twice, although he later admitted he used performance-enhancing drugs before their second meeting. His last great performance was his ninth-round knockout of Antonio Margarito in 2009. Since then he earned huge paydays in lopsided losses to Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao. He probably earned them with his career accomplishments.
Photo / Chris Farina-Top Rank