July kind of drags. For most of us, it’s hotter than Satan’s taint, and everything tends to find itself in a bit of a holding pattern. Typically there aren’t a lot of fight cards either. So, in what has been a surprisingly entertaining year to date, now feels like the exact right time to take a look back, shoot the shit about the things we enjoyed the most, and because this is boxing, the things that were awful and/or hilarious.
What has been the most entertaining round, fight, and card so far? And if you’ve got to pick, which one of those is most important to you in terms of your overall experience?
Tim: Best Round is Round 3 of Andy Ruiz Jr. vs Anthony Joshua and I’m not sure it’s even close, although the 1st Round of Ryoto Murata vs Rob Brant was very good, and every round of Julian Williams vs Jarrett Hurd was vicious. In the case of Ruiz-Joshua, traded knockdowns are always great, but this one was special because it went from a fight where it looked damn near over only for the underdog to storm back and completely swing the fight in his favor. Best fight is where it gets a little trickier: Williams-Hurd was the better pure brawl, but Ruiz-Joshua was so ultra-dramatic. I’ll go Williams-Hurd, reluctantly. And the best card was Juan Francisco Estrada vs Srisaket Sor Rungvisai II, a good fight all by itself with an undercard fight that was even better: TJ Doheny vs Daniel Roman. Even the third fight on the card was plenty good: Jessie Vargas vs Humberto Soto. Generally speaking, I’m gonna value the experience of a truly excellent fight over a good single round or a solid all-around card. There’s an exception here for reasons I’ll be discussing very, very shortly.
Brent: I’m on record as having one, single rooting interest in this sport and that is total and absolute chaos. With that as my guide, Andy Ruiz runs the table. By every conceivable metric, at least in terms of what I want and hope to get out of this sport, his win over Anthony Joshua scratched itches I didn’t even know I had. The underdog storyline and the actual fight itself were outstanding but it’s the ripple effect outside the ring that brings me ever so much joy. The heavyweight division had become a god damn staring contest and Andy Ruiz forced everyone to blink. Rankings were reshuffled, expected earnings were dashed and certain promoters’ dry cleaning bills went through the roof as their pants overflowed with their own shit. We got to dunk on the various heavyweights who passed on the fight after Jarrell Miller pissed hot and in turn forwent a paycheck they’ll never come close to seeing again. It was a perfect moment and one that may never be topped in my lifetime.
Honorary mention to Guillermo Rigondeaux/Julio Ceja for fight of the year because mentioning Rigo in that capacity is something I’ll never get the chance to do again if I don’t do it now.
Swain: I tried really hard to find a better round, but the third round of Ruiz-Joshua is just fucking spectacular. The shrieking right hand that Ruiz eats like a tic tac right after he got dropped is probably the single hardest punch of the fight, and it’s the moment Ruiz takes over completely. And then it gets even better.
I’ll go with Hurd-Williams for best fight thus far. Starts fast, stays fast, and the momentum is always contested.
Juan Francisco Estrada vs Srisaket Sor Rungvisai II is absolutely the best overall card of the year like Tim said. The last two and a half hours of the card were terrific. If I have to pick one thing, I always want to see something fight of the year level, but good top to bottom cards are more important to me than anything else.
Jason: Six months? Jesus, it’s been only six hours since breakfast, and for all I know I ate avocado on asbestos shingles. How am I supposed to recall that far back? My aneurysm is on your conscience, Swain. Round: Joshua-Ruiz, Round 3. It had everything. Fight: Hurd-Williams. Fierce and fun. Card: Has to be Joshua-Ruiz. In addition to the tectonic upset in the main event, we were treated to 1) the best women’s bout these eyes have seen in Katie Taylor’s tight decision win over supercop Delfine Persoon; 2) the continued rise of Callum Smith (and, simultaneously, the ongoing falls of Hassan N’Dam); and 3) the sweet, sultry stylings of everyone’s favorite lip-balm-model-in-waiting, Chris Algieri.
Is there a moment from this year that you imagine you’ll think about in ten years? If so, why?
Tim: Ruiz upsetting Joshua, absolutely. It’s not often you get to think a phrase like “biggest heavyweight upset since Buster Douglas-Mike Tyson,” and it’s wholly plausible. That fight was 29 years ago now! That’s nuts! This was by far the coolest thing that has happened so far, despite me ranking Williams-Hurd slightly ahead of it as a nuts-and-bolts fight.
Brent: At the risk of sounding like a drunken parrot in echo canyon, I’m gonna go with Ruiz/Joshua again but I’ll say round 7 and specifically the stoppage. Even though Ruiz was in total control after the third round and Joshua was a spent bullet after the knockdown he scored, this is god damn heavyweight boxing and nothing is guaranteed. This was like a horror movie where no matter how many times you stab the bad guy or cut his fucking head off, he keeps coming back until you burn the Ouija board you used to conjure him. Yeah, sending Joshua’s mouthpiece helicoptering into the ninth row would be cool but getting stopped on his feet somehow felt more suspenseful. Every joyful, spring shattering leap of celebratory exuberance from Andy Ruiz felt incredibly earned. It was a special night for anyone lucky enough to have it as a memory.
Swain: I desperately want to say it’s Andrew Cancio getting off the deck to stop Alberto Machado and then beating him in the rematch because it’s a fantastic story, but it’s Andy Ruiz.
Jason: Truthfully? It was the surfacing of footage from a June 2018 brawl starring Shakur Stevenson. Throw that weak left-handed swipe in the ring, and the world laughs with you. Throw it at a woman in a Miami Beach parking garage and, well … I’ll do whatever I can to make sure the world doesn’t let you forget it.
Best & Worst judging, refereeing, announcing performance?
Tim: I’ll take the first one, and weigh in on the last one… Canelo Alvarez vs Daniel Jacobs was so on the money (116-112, 115-113, 115-113) that even Jacobs’ promoter, Eddie Hearn, scored it 115-113 for Canelo. Some rare kudos for good judging, which doesn’t often stick out: Glenn Feldman, Dave Moretti and Steve Weisfeld, cheers. Announcing performance… There are no more good announcing performances. There are only cheerleading performances in the age of the exclusive deals where each network is tied so closely to promoters PBC, Top Rank and Matchroom, a thing we saw with a different era of networks only not nearly as atrocious. Maybe “cheerleading” is generous, too. Some of these commentators should be up for AVN Awards.
Brent: This has been a bad year for almost every aspect of boxing that doesn’t involve punching. You’ve got Adelaide Byrd back at ringside, Russell Mora taking an asparagus piss all over the rulebook inside it and somehow Laurence Cole is still getting gigs on both sides of the ropes. I mean, I know I said that thing about welcoming chaos but dude, what the fuck? It sure seems like this sport has a death wish at times.
The decision that sticks out as being the most odious is Shawn Porter’s decision over Yordenis Ugas. It wasn’t the worst on a fundamental level, as there were many close rounds, but the fact that you didn’t need to hear the scores announced to know that all those rounds were going to the house fighter. There were definitely more egregiously bad scorecards handed out this year but Porter/Ugas was symptomatic of everything that people hate about this sport. No one will remember this fight in six months except for Yordenis Ugas and that’s the worst part. It’s boxing’s version of the Pump and Dump, and nothing is ever going to change.
Swain: Best Refereeing? I bet there have been a half dozen times I’ve remarked that a referee has done a good job or handled a situation well, but I’ll be damned if I can remember who it was. That’s normally the thing about a good referee, they stay out of the way. For the worst refereeing, I can give you 3 from the same day (June 15): Phil Edwards in Kid Galahad vs Josh Warrington, Robert Byrd in Mairis Briedis vs Krzysztof Glowacki, and Jay Nady in Sullivan Barrera vs Jesse Hart. That’s the double-edged sword here, unless you’re entertaining like Steve Willis, twice the size of most fighters like Tony Weeks, or a mustachioed living God like Steve Smoger, people don’t really remember the good refs.
I definitely agree about the Canelo-Jacobs judging. It was right on the money.
I’m going to go specific and say that the absolute nadir of announcing this year was Tyson Fury vs Tom Schwarz. I didn’t think it would get worse than the DAZN team’s histrionic oral technique during Canelo-Jacobs, but ESPN absolutely blew them out of the water on June 15. And I swear to Gaia that if I hear another fucking story about a boxer and his Dad/Father Figure, I’m going to yank out my beard and wear it as a bushy silver hat.
Jason: For once, a “worst of” boxing category is absolutely dominated by a Byrd and it’s not Adalaide. Last month it was Robert who turned in a signature performance of referee negligence in Mairis Briedis’ stoppage of Krzysztof Glowacki. Byrd was slow to react to Glowacki’s rabbit punches during a second-round clinch, which led to a retaliatory elbow from Briedis that floored Glowacki. Byrd docked a point from Briedis, but only after rushing a still-woozy Glowacki to his feet. “Both you guys know: We gotta keep this fight clean,” Byrd told the fighters. “I don’t want to be a part of it.” And he meant it. Moments later, after Breidis had dropped Glowacki again – this time legally – and Glowacki beat the count as the bell sounded, Byrd was oblivious. Briedis seized the moment, and as those at ringside tried frantically to get Byrd’s attention and the bell sounded over and over, Breidis hammered Glowacki back to the canvas (and finished him off a round later). It wasn’t just a bad night at the office for Byrd. It was an epically incompetent showing that profoundly affected the outcome.
Announcing? Al Bernstein and Steve Farhood continue to set the standard, and Tim Bradley is slowly emerging as a difference-making color commentator. But who’s got next? It’s a hard job, but for every decent voice in the booth, there are a half-dozen shills, weirdos and deers in headlights. Hate to keep banging this drum, but can we please send Mauro Ranallo back to the rasslin’ circuit?
DAZN & ESPN+, and the promoters who get paid by them, have done a good job of putting on fights with full venues and loud crowds. How important is the atmosphere for you when watching a fight on TV?
Tim: This has never been a huge priority for me. It’s better to have it than not. There were probably only between 3,000-4,000 people attending my favorite fight ever, Jose Luis Castillo vs Diego Corrales. Would an even louder, fuller crowd have helped? Sure. That means it’s a worthwhile thing. It tends to matter for me more when I attend in person, because the FEELING of a live crowd when you’re in it is a much, much more visceral experience; on TV, the loudest part is still gonna be the announcing team.
Brent: I have a punk rock mentality when it comes to fight atmosphere. I want intimate but passionate. I want The Replacements at the 7th Street Entry in 1984. Some of the best shows I’ve ever seen were in venues that held less than 50 people but everyone there knew every word to every song and the floor was ankle-deep in sweat and beer. You can’t dogpile a singer and grab the mic at The Target Center and that same mentality translates to boxing in my book. Empty seats and roped off sections look like ass on tv and even worse in person. On the same token, watching the fight from section 225 is about as boring as it gets. Give me the StubHub Center (or whatever the fuck it’s called now) or something of comparable size, packed to the absolute gills on a hot Saturday night where the main event fighters enter the ring at dusk and night falls as the bell for the sixth round rings. Not one single person in attendance would pass a field sobriety test and you can barely talk over the mariachi music. That’s a fight card, baby. Grind it to a fine powder, heat it up in a dirty spoon and inject it into my fucking femoral artery. Let’s go.
Swain: I love a loud audience. It makes a good fight even better. And if you’ve got a good audio set up, you can separate the announcers onto a single channel, mute those motherfuckers, and crank up the ring sounds and audience louder than Pantera on the second day of a coke binge. It is magical. You get the live atmosphere without the hassle of having to be near other human beings.
Jason: I don’t need audience participation to enjoy a fight, but I can get swept up by one of Bud Crawford’s Omaha crowds or even a small room that brings good energy. (ESPN generally gets the most out of the latter situations.) DAZN has been hit or (big) miss in its World Boxing Super Series, with some real crypts for venues. For what it’s worth, though, props to the production value.
The rapture is nigh. You are the leader of the vestige of our species. Using technology stolen by descendants of Dennis Anderson, and delivered by Gravedigger herself, you must assemble a fighter that is made of components of performances in the first half of 2019 to face the reanimated corpse of Victor Ortiz that has been infused with Ruslan Provodnikov’s chin and brain in a winner take all battle. The combatants will be the scaled so they are the exact same size. Go!
Tim: I fear I’m going to have a letdown of an answer here. A Victor Ortiz/Ruslan Provodnikov hybrid probably matches best against a pure brawler (although Ortiz would give him a bit more speed and technique?) and it feels a little like we’re between generations of fighters who have truly established themselves as that kind. Building blocks of Hurd’s performance vs Williams might qualify? Maybe some components from performances by Emanuel Navarrete, TJ Doheny, Callum Smith or Gilberto Ramirez? I’ll just say “every single piece of Naoya Inoue” because I want to see him all the time, against everyone, forever.
Brent: Give me Deontay Wilder’s right hand against Breazeale, Julian Williams’ jab against Jarrett Hurd, Inoue’s hand speed against Emmanuel Rodriguez and Nonito Donaire’s god damn adorableness against Stephon Young. Even all that might not be enough to combat a Victor Ortiz powered by the stress of pending rape charges but I’m willing to risk the money to find out.
Swain: I’ll take Vergil Ortiz’s right cross that liquified Mauricio Herrera, Juan Francisco Estrada’s jab against The Rat King, Josh Taylor’s footwork and hand speed against Ivan Baranchyk, Naoya Inoue’s left hook that crumpled Emmanuel Rodriguez, Julio Ceja’s body punching against Rigo, Canelo’s chin and upper body movement against Jacobs, and Miguel Berchelt’s volume. against Francisco Vargas.
Jason: I don’t know if I’m Gary or Wyatt or the C-cup headgear in this little wish fulfillment, but I’m not gonna lie: I like it. Give me Julian Williams’ brain, Josh Warrington’s work rate, Vasiliy Lomachenko’s footwork, Naoya Inoue’s righthanded power, and Ruiz’s self-belief. Give us a sec here, Chip. We’re ’bout to send Victor to hell.
What’s the biggest thing you’re looking forward to in the second half of 2019?
Tim: Hmmm, I’m torn between what I wish will happen and what I think might actually happen. I still pine for Terence Crawford vs Errol Spence Jr, or Inoue vs Luis Nery as a consolation prize, and yet there’s very little chance of them happening. You can imagine I’d be down for Ruiz-Joshua II. I’m worried Joshua needs some work before then or it’ll be a near-repeat, which is not to say I’m utterly opposed, and that fight is, at least, likely. As far as surefire, it’s hard to see anything on the calendar as good as Regis Prograis vs Josh Taylor. That one’s delicious.
Brent: I know I’m in the (vast!) minority here but I’m hoping we get GGG/Canelo 3 sorted out by the end of the year. Not the fight itself necessarily but at least get it on the god damn books. I understand the exhaustion and outright antipathy towards this fight but get over it, you know? It’s two of the best middleweights of their era attempting to once and for all settle a score before the window slams shut on their primes. And besides the enjoyment of the fight itself (and the first two were fun ass fights) it clears up the logjam this shit is causing in and around 160. Grip it, rip it and get it on the record so we can all move on to bigger and better things. Coincidentally that’s that same thing I said about my morning shit today which you didn’t need to know but feels oddly appropriate for this topic.
Swain: The finals of the WBSS for me. Two high skill action fights and an aging human hug emoji against Godzilla.
Jason: Aside from the (perhaps misguided) hope that the heavyweight picture will gain some clarity, I’m just looking forward to watching the next generation of superstars come to light. With Bernard Hopkins and Miguel Cotto gone, the door all but shut on Floyd Mayweather and the clock ticking down on Manny Pacquiao, who’s left? Gennady Golovkin is 37. Lomachenko is already 31. Canelo Alvarez may be a government drone. Crawford is an extraordinary talent, but will he find an opponent who can help elevate him to crossover star? Is Errol Spence Jr. who we think he is? How about Inoue? Teofimo Lopez? C’mon, let’s see it.
It’s hard to know what not to look at first. The mudflap ears. The lump of a chin, almost an identical twin to the Adam’s Apple in its tiny shadow. The stringy build, like a bedsheet slung over an old TV antenna — or the Vlasic Pickles Stork on a pilates regimen. With an awkward fighting style and an in-ring expression that flutters between smirking and whiny, Rey Vargas cuts the least heroic figure of any world-class competitor in boxing. His signature punch is a range-finding jab, and he hasn’t registered a knockout since Ziggy Stardust, The Waco Kid and Dr. Jason Seaver walked among us. Vargas is as Hollywood as Wilford Brimley. He’s bringing sexy back — to customer service, and only with a valid receipt. It doesn’t fit him.
Even in places like Carson, California — one of L.A.’s relatively rough-knuckled ‘burbs — pretty is its own form of currency. Maybe that’s why when Mexico’s Vargas (33-0, 22 KO) rolled into town for Saturday’s fight with Tomoki Kameda (36-3, 20 KO), it was met with something short of fanfare. The old Home Depot Center, dressed up as a thing now called the Dignity Health Sports Park, had been only half-filled — and that, thanks in part to Kameda’s oddly awesome contingent of fans. A Mexico City resident by way of Osaka, Japan, Kameda moved to La Ciudad de los Palacios at 15, absorbed the Mexican fighting style, married a local and now answers to the handle “El Mexicanito” — seemingly to the approval of both chilangos and nihonjin. Eat your heart out, cultural appropriation.
But because crooked noses and cracked eyelids are often how beauty is measured in boxing — because utility beats pretty’s ass almost everywhere but in Beverly Hills — you’d expect Vargas, unbeaten and making his fifth defense of his junior featherweight title, to have cachet among the commoners. In this case, at least, you’d be mistaken. Depending on the matchup, specifically when an opponent forces him to adjust ranges, a Vargas fight looks something like an elderly orgy: It’s all asses and elbows, and god bless ‘em, but you don’t really want to watch.
Kameda demonstrated early on that he’s the sort of fighter who can give Vargas trouble, squirming inside under Vargas’ reach and landing a cracking overhand right halfway through Round 1. The challenger controlled the first few rounds, stalking a backpedaling Vargas, mostly smothering his length and popping him with occasional clean, eye-catching power shots. Kameda, who had fallen to Vargas in the amateurs and spoken of revenge in the buildup to the fight, seemed to have found a winning formula.
At the same time, Vargas was gradually growing more active, targeting Kameda’s body and increasingly locking into range. As quickly as the answer had come for Kameda, it was gone. By the fifth, the challenger had all but stopped slipping and changing distance, was throwing less frequently and seemed confused about the path forward, in every sense. As Vargas disrupted his timing and began landing more scoring combinations, Kameda took to bumrushing him, causing a clash of heads and far too many of those aforementioned septuagenarian swinger moments — Kameda closing the gap like a linebacker, Vargas happily leaning into a clinch and, when his foe so much as considered the notion of pinning his arms, flopping like a trout on a 20-pound test. It was gross.
And it got worse. As the rounds ticked away, Kameda charged forward with no plan of attack for arrival. Vargas flapped his limbs to measure distance and muffle Kameda’s offense, but for little else. When all else failed, he ran. Vargas was up on the cards, he knew it, and it was his right to play keep-away with his belt. But a crowd that had come to watch Mexican Style let Vargas know where to stick his strategy. For whatever reason, Kameda’s willingness to pick through Vargas’ defenses had evaporated, and Vargas wasn’t interested in changing his opponent’s mind. Some styles break fights.
In Round 12, an increasingly desperate Kameda was docked a point for punching off the break — a topside blow that seemed to leave Vargas shuffling in wet sand. It was a calculated risk, especially after Kameda had smashed Vargas’ button chin flush with a right hand out of a clinch just moments earlier. But the urgency had come at least a few rounds too late, and Vargas recovered well enough in the aftermath to scoot out of danger in the final minutes.
The end result — three 117-111 cards in favor of Vargas — added up, even if the journey felt as uncomfortable and squishy as a Patches O’Houlihan motivational speech (#RIP, King). Vargas had flung 443 jabs on the night, “connecting” at a brisk 12% pace — which somehow told the story of the fight, but only if you’d mercilessly Clockwork Orange’d all dozen rounds.
Next? Kameda, at 28, has no time for get-well fights. In his last major tests, he dropped back-to-back fights to Jamie McDonnell in 2015. It’s now or never, chief. Vargas, meanwhile, will seek, and could receive, a unification bout with fellow 122-pound titlist Danny Roman, who was in attendance Saturday. Or he might try to cash in his chips with a move up to 126, where featherweight titlist Leo Santa Cruz theoretically would be waiting with open, windmilling arms. Here’s hoping Vargas, the extraordinarily effective beast of the ball, finds his consummate dance partner.
If you missed a call from an unknown number this past week, chances are good that it was Top Rank’s matchmaking department inquiring about your availability to fight Shakur Stevenson Saturday night. In the month leading up to the fight, one opponent after another fell through as Stevenson’s team discovered they weren’t either a woman or a defenseless man with his backed turned.
After rummaging through the basement of the featherweight ranks, and presumably, all the female gas station attendants in southern Florida, Stevenson (12-0, 7 KO) and his team decided on the, shall we say “rugged,” Alberto Guevara.
Guevara (27-5, KO) is the type of durable yet non-threatening opponent who can give you rounds, having gone the distance with Emmanuel Rodriguez and Leo Santa Cruz in losing efforts. As far as I know, he doesn’t currently work at a gas station, which made him a surprising choice for Stevenson.
Taking the fight on eight days notice, in what was already simply a showcase fight for Stevenson, not much was expected of Guevara. Even though he was actually expecting to get punched, unlike Stevenson’s typical gas station parking lot opponents, Guevara was brought in to make Stevenson look good. He wouldn’t disappoint.
It would be interesting to see how the 22-year-old Stevenson would fare against an opponent who wasn’t kneeling on the ground and facing away from him, not to mention someone with Guevara’s experience.
As the fighters made their way to the ring at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey on an ESPN televised card, those in attendance and viewing at home were treated to the rare sight of Stevenson preparing to fight an opponent indoors and not surrounded by gas pumps.
It’s unclear as to whether Stevenson said anything sexually suggestive to Guevara’s girlfriend before the fight started but as the opening bell rang it made a noise not dissimilar from the one you’d find on the counter of a gas station, which must’ve been of some comfort to him.
Stevenson came out looking to impress, throwing a wide variety of punches, a few of which didn’t even have the prefix “sucker-” affixed to them, which was an interesting change of pace from his typical fighting style.
Stevenson dropped Guevara twice in the second round with impressive flurries. In a shocking display of will power and self-control, he somehow managed not to punch Guevara six times in the back of the head while he was down and was even able to suppress the urge to spit on him as he was slumped on the canvas. This kid is clearly growing up.
The end came at 2:37 of the third round from a three punch Stevenson flurry that Guevara made a comically lackadaisical attempt to rise from at the count of ten. Again Stevenson managed to stifle his desire to repeatedly rabbit punch his helpless, unsuspecting opponent. I mean, the maturity of this kid.
In a post-fight interview, surrounded by Corona girls which he again restrained the urge to stiff-arm in the back of the head, Stevenson said he wanted the big names of the division, calling out Leo Santa Cruz and Josh Warrington specifically. It remains to be seen whether Stevenson will be able to lure a name like Santa Cruz to his home arena of the Kwik Trip parking lot in Miami or if Warrington’s hometown has a petrol filling station big enough for Stevenson’s entire crew, should he decide to go to the UK.
Full disclosure, I watched this fight on my phone with the sound off as my dad drunkenly told me a story about buying a night vision scope for his rifle and that’s about as much attention as anyone should pay to a Shakur Stevenson fight in 2019.
He’s a talented kid with an exciting style but in a sport that offers a multitude of ways to separate yourself from your money, there are far better outlets to do so than shitheads like Stevenson.
There’s no justice in this world and even less in boxing so he’ll continue to get big fights with little to no comeuppance incurred.
It remains to be seen how Stevenson does away from the cozy confines of the gas station parking lot and against men, specifically ones who know they’re in a fight and can punch back. That will be the test for Stevenson. For boxing fans, the test will be giving a shit when he does.
Before we go any further let’s just get this out of the way: twins are creepy. There’s no way around it. Over three percent of the world has a nearly exact genetic copy and no one ever talks about it. There’s a sentient flesh mound walking around with a Xerox of your genome and we’re all supposed to just be okay with it. This is Twilight Zone shit and normalizing it will be done at our own peril.
Now, if you’re a twin and you’re offended by this please understand, from the bottom of my heart, that I do not care. You and your Plan B, spare parts, mutant offspring should be in cages and I’ll gladly be there to throw the key into an active volcano once you are.
That being said, I have a theory.
Within every set of twins there’s a self-contained, cosmic power balance that must be maintained or else their atoms conjoin in a particle acceleration that makes the Hadron Collider look like a cap gun, thus forming a large, single, cretinous mongoloid who serves no other purpose than to sit comfortably in its own waste and drool and that’s how Republicans are made. The process is not dissimilar from the two Stations fusing together to form one big Station in Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey except these are filthy human twins and not ageless space geniuses with “excellently huge Martian butts.”
But I digress.
This theory explains the finishing of one another’s sentences and the good twin/bad twin thing. Every scale needs a counterweight. Every action needs an equally creepy and opposite reaction. We can’t both sit on the same side of the boat or the goddamn thing is gonna tip over.
In the case of the Charlo brothers, Jermell (32-1, 16 KO) and Jermall (29-0, 21 KO), this concept manifests itself in the yin and yang of violent knockouts from one answered by pedestrian decisions from the other. The magnificent and the mundane.
Jermell goes for a walk in the park against Mario Lozano, Jermall crumples Lenny Bottai into a pile of wet laundry. Jermall white knuckles it against Austin Trout, Jermell bombs out John Jackson. Jermall implodes Hugo Centeno’s brain; Jermell goes life and death with Austin Trout. Hmm, I’m starting to think that maybe this only applies to Austin Trout fights.
You can go down their entire Boxrec page and do this, though please don’t, mainly since I’ve already done it for you and definitely not because this theory has more holes in it than Harambe.
Nevertheless, as Jermall prepared to face Brandon Adams (21-3, 13 KO) at the NRG Arena in Houston on a Showtime-televised card last night, one needed to look no further than Jermell’s sensational third round ethering of a hapless Jorge Cota last weekend to surmise what kind of fight it would be. Adding another highlight reel beat down to his resume would’ve been nice, but the elder Charlo was bound by the laws of nature to grind it out over the distance. He is, after all, a twin and you can only spit in Mother Nature’s face so many times before there’s a price to pay.
Adams is certainly a tough dude and his stocky, muscular frame allows him to fight in close quarters while staying underneath his opponent’s punches and forcing them to swing down on him. I’m told he won some reality show or something but it wasn’t about extreme ghost hunting so I didn’t see it. He’s also, as far as I know, not a twin so he still has a chance at getting into heaven. All good things.
For his part, Jermall, when not busy being a crime against nature, is doing all he can to tread water and keep his name in the mix in an increasingly crowded middleweight division. With Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Gennadiy “I Guess That’s How We’re Spelling My First Name Now” Golovkin still working out their fall schedules and Demetrius Andrade river dancing his way to irrelevancy across the street on DAZN, Charlo would need to make a statement and in Adams he found the EXACT wrong opponent against whom to make it.
The rounds would all play out relatively similarly. As Charlo loaded up right hands and uppercuts on the inside, Adams would attempt to get under them and bull his way in as Charlo then backed up and reset.
There were some good exchanges on the inside and Adams showed a hell of a chin as he took some hard shots. The fight played out like a tennis match with long, back and forth volleys that gave the appearance of parity, but in the end were all won by the same player. Someone has to win the round and even though these weren’t blowouts, Charlo was clearly getting the better of it, as the near shutout scorecards would reflect.
Boxing is like a conversation, in that equal contribution from both participants is required, and also because it’s insufferable when you see women do it. I’m almost positive that’s a joke but there is a back and forth, I-go-then-you-go nature to it, and if Jermell’s one punch cratering of Cota seven days ago was a monologue, Jermall’s fight with Adams was a spirited debate. Neither one is necessarily better but when a violence-starved audience with a Beavis-like attention span is paying the bills, brutal knockouts are the more stable currency.
As we’ve established though, Jermall didn’t have that option. The unchallenged laws of ghastly mutations decried that he must balance the scales with an impressive yet workmanlike performance.
In the end, unanimous scorecards of 120-108, 120-108 and 119-109 will add a tick to Charlo’s win column but not much else.
The middleweight division is in a bit of a holding pattern, and Charlo is caught in the middle. I don’t know where this win gets him but I can tell you where it won’t get him: into heaven.
Demetrius Andrade has a deal with DAZN, which is why he was fighting there Saturday night, but more importantly he has a deal with DAZN because DAZN has the two biggest attractions in the middleweight division, champ Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin. And during his fight with Maciej Sulecki this time out, DAZN’s broadcasting team was giving him the old rub-and-tug. So, in theory, he’s lined up for big things.
DAZN’s Brian Kenny talked about Andrade’s reputation (or, rather, the reputation they’re cultivating for him) as boxing’s most avoided man. “”There’s a reward in that to eventually,” Kenny.
Is there really, though?
Andrade is 31. He’s always been the high-risk talented guy. He’s talked about changing his cautious style before to make him more appealing to fans, but he did it for about a round with his opening stanza knockdown and then went back to actually fighting, sporadically, for the rest of the fight, as is his wont. Drawing 7,000 fans in his hometown of Providence, R.I. ain’t half bad, but it’s a bit more of a start toward building a fan base than commanding one so formidable that he can’t be avoided any longer.
Consider a very different case of an avoided fighter. Antonio Margarito scored his career-making fight against Miguel Cotto at age 30. Does Andrade, one year older, have the kind of momentum Margarito did at 30? Is it even close? Had Andrade faced anyone close to as good as, say, Joshua Clottey or Paul Williams?
Consider another fighter who profiles like him as a talented, low-contact boxer: Chad Dawson, whose old ass was actually in the ring Saturday, too. By the time he was Andrade’s age, he’d faced Glen Johnson, Antonio Tarver, Jean Pascal, Bernard Hopkins and Andre Ward.
Who is Andrade’s best win? You gotta go with Vanes Martirosyan, probably. Nothing against Vanes, but if you had a candle in your hand, you wouldn’t hold it up against any of the men mentioned above. If he’d decided to face someone better he could’ve: He pulled out of a fight against Jermall Charlo (also fighting Saturday) back in 2014. His career has been squandered opportunity, and you can’t squander opportunity so long that you somehow trip into a career-making payday and/or fight.
Andrade cruised Saturday against a solid opponent. He had an easier time with Sulecki, in fact, that the higher-ranked middleweight Danny Jacobs did. Sulecki probably still won a couple rounds because Andrade took so many off, although the judges gave hm every single one of ’em. On the plus side, he didn’t get dropped, which is something he does too often to pick him against someone like Canelo or GGG if he ever got either, anyway.
Canelo is eyeing Sergey Kovalev two divisions north, anyway. GGG still has unrequited love for another Canelo showdown and it’s hard to imagine him having enough professional pride to warrant risking a Canelo payday against a guy who’s going to spoil and even potentially score an upset. Heck, I can be down for guys like Andrade in theory — I like good boxing craft — but not even Andrade does much for me. DAZN’s Chris Mannix was saying the public needs to pressure for Andrade-GGG. Who really will, though? And whose fault is that?
The undercard was also marked by hot starts and sluggish finishes from the A-sides.
In a clash of Samoan heavyweights, Kiwi Joseph Parker took on Australian Alex Leapai and was bashing the tar out of him with sharp, fast punches, but Leapai just wouldn’t go down, and Parker eased off the gas. Accumulation of punches got the point in the 10th round that the fight was stopped. Parker wants another shot at the hot subject in his division, Andy Ruiz Jr., after Ruiz beat Anthony Joshua. Parker has a win over him already, and maybe Ruiz can be convinced, at some point, to want to avenge that loss. It doesn’t happen anytime soon, though, because Ruiz can make a ton more cash in a Joshua rematch, and have his pick of the litter after that, too. Parker’s probably no better than his fourth best option in the next year or two.
Early, Khalid Yafai looked the goods against Norbelto Jimenez, a solid junior bantamweight-ish fighter languishing in inactivity for the year. He had Jimenez hurt a couple times, even. Then Jimenez found his legs and began winning rounds. Unfortunately for Jimenez, any remote chance he had on the scorecards was ruined by referee Danny Schiavone, in one of the worst showings from a ref in recent memory. He docked Jimenez for holding without much warning. As Yafai racked up the low blows, there was no such docking: In fact, after two brutal ones put Jimenez on his knees, Schiavone harassed him into standing up and didn’t give him a chance to say he was ready to continue. Then he scored a non-existent knockdown for Yafai. Yafai wants the likes of Juan Francisco Estrada next. If he has a showing like this one — and he blamed some perforated eardrums and hand injuries for his performance — he won’t win.
(Demetrius Andrade connects on Maciej Sulecki; via)
We are all jobbers. Journeymen. Club-circuit vets. Gatekeepers and B-siders. Taxi drivers, tomato cans and trash men. Pugs and palookas. Oh, that’s not you? You’re special? Hate to break it to you, Chico, but you are not the Floyd Mayweather of your beige suburban office park. You are lower-middle management. You are a junior associate in accounting. You’re the mail room guy. You are Raymundo Beltran.
No shame in it. The world needs more Ray Beltrans, just as boxing needs Ray Beltran himself — and more fighters like him. For 20 years, Beltran, 38, has approached his profession just as you do — courting greatness, with the grim understanding that the more likely outcome was a shady decision against him or a sharp punch to the balls. In December 1999, he lost his third fight — a split decision to some Nogales bleeder who went on to lose 16 of his last 17 bouts. It wasn’t long before the next setback, in Beltran’s seventh fight — a stoppage in Grand Rapids at the hands of Steve Trumble (career record: 13-34). In 2005, Agnaldo Nunes was a speed bump in Tucson, leaving Beltran on the wrong side of another split verdict.
He kept going. In 2008, veteran Ammeth Diaz clipped Beltran for a TKO. In 2011, Sharif Bogere, who once fought for a 130-pound title, decisioned Beltran. A year later, undefeated Luis Ramos Jr. did the honors. Beltran bit down and moved on. In 2013, he fought Ricky Burns for a lightweight belt in Glasgow — better luck ripping the cape off James Brown’s back at the Apollo — and got stuck with a draw. A year later, Terence Crawford — in the midst of becoming Terence Crawford — made Beltran a notch in his belt.
For Beltran (36-9-1), even Friday’s fight at the Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula, Calif., against hammer-fisted lightweight titlist Richard Commey (29-2), was served with a steaming side of disappointment. After holding a lightweight title for a hot minute last year, Beltran was stunned by former prospect Jose Pedraza in his first defense. In 36 minutes, the belt, a matchup with Vasiliy Lomachenko and what very likely would have been a career-high payday slipped from his grasp. The Commey fight was a gift, a chance for Beltran – at an age when other fighters are mopping gym floors — to right all the wrongs and take a final swing at consequence. So of course Beltran missed the 135 limit, was docked half his purse, lost his shot at Commey’s belt and then fought the rehydrated Ghanaian at a weight disadvantage. Very on brand.
That might have been the low point for Beltran, but then the fight began. Commey blitzed his man from the opening bell, landing 31 power shots in Round 1, including a piledriver right hand that dropped Beltran to his trunks midway through. When Beltran beat the count and the action continued, Commey sprung with a swarm of punches. Crouched and in full retreat, Beltran avoided hitting the deck again — but only with aid of the ring ropes. After referee Eddie Hernandez (correctly) ruled a second knockdown, the news wasn’t all bad for Beltran. He would hold on to escape the round. But he was down 10-7 on the scorecards, and the guy who had dug the hole was now looking to bury Beltran in it.
As a fighter, though, you either learn from soul-sucking defeats and bullshit decisions or you ride off into total irrelevance. Beltran is still here, and not without having learned the value of adaptation and a bit of patience. Near the end of Round 1, the Mexican seemed to realize a perch at the end of Commey’s right hand was a dangerous place to be. Although the penalty for that calculation was severe, Beltran had made a discovery: closing distance and slipping punches was his best offense against Commey.
The strategy wasn’t foolproof — Beltran’s legs have lost some spring over the years, and he still had to brave Commey’s power to get inside. But by the 3rd round, Beltran was moving forward, stinging Commey to the body, ducking and countering to at least prevent three scorecards full of foregone conclusions. When a gassed Commey took the worst of a clash of heads and absorbed a Beltran left cross in Round 4, the gap in the ring was closing.
In the 5th, Beltran absorbed a short Commey hook and lurched forward, either losing his balance or, briefly, his wits. He was down again — but back up just as quickly. A blistering right hand and, shortly after, a nasty uppercut had Beltran in dire straits, but Commey couldn’t make his man go away. Whenever Beltran appeared close to finished, he doubled down and created something out of nothing. Although down by a Sinaloa mile on the scorecards, Beltran was stalking Commey — still dangerous but exhausted — and at least giving himself a puncher’s chance in the later rounds.
But in the 8th, after perhaps Beltran’s best round in the fight, Commey summoned a slurvy left hand that could have been sponsored by Skoal — a massive pinch between Beltran’s cheek and gum. With his guard hand positioned a touch too high and back, jabbing out with a left hand that never found its mark, Beltran froze for a beat after the blow, then had the rug pulled out from under him. If he’d stayed down, no one would have been the wiser. Lesser punches have ended thousands of fights. More talented fighters have taken the out. But Beltran was late for work.
When he gathered himself during the referee’s count, Beltran swayed ever so slightly. Hernandez eyed him intently, asking “Are you OK?” and Beltran answered immediately, eagerly: “I’m good.” The fighter stepped toward the referee. Nope. Hernandez’s hand went up. Fight over.
“Make voyages. Attempt them. There is nothing else.” Tennessee Williams said that. Of course, he never had a single prizefight, and he’d wind up choking to death on a plastic bottle cap, so let’s not put too much stock in his words. But I’ll ride with Beltran, answering post-fight questions in a Berny’s Sports ballcap, any day of the week:
“What did you think of the stoppage?” ESPN’s Bernardo Osuna asked.
Beltran, with a grin and a laugh: “I don’t remember.”
“It was a good punch,” Beltran said of the knockout shot. “Commey’s a strong fighter. He got me good. Put me down. No excuses. It is what it is.”
Here’s what it is: Commey would have knocked the fight out of most opponents. Beltran would not permit it. He got up after he was knocked down. And then he did it again. And again. And again. “I’m OK,” he said — to himself as much as anyone. Beltran chose to keep going. He didn’t stop, wouldn’t stop, until someone told him it was time to go home.
What else is there?
(Richard Commey drops Raymundo Beltran; Photo by Mikey Williams, Top Rank)
Jermell Charlo was the headliner on Fox Sports Sunday, so we’ll get to that in a sec, but the fight really worth talking about — for reasons both good and ill — was Guillermo Rigondeaux vs Julio Ceja.
The true junior featherweight champion, Rigondeaux, bafflingly decided to turn it into a phone booth shootout against a guy whose best chance was Rigo turning it into a phone booth shootout. Later, he would say he was demonstrating he could have an appealing style, but yo, maybe don’t do that for the first time when you’re 38.
Rigo still won the exchanges in the 1st round, even though Ceja landed surprisingly clean shots against a man best known for his defensive, spoiling history. That all changed in the 2nd, and continued through the bulk of the fight, when Ceja started getting busy and connecting a ton, including some awfully painful-looking body shots.
Before long, Ceja had bloodied Rigo’s nose and built a commanding lead on the scorecard, despite an odd interlude where referee Russell Mora docked both men a point at the same time. (There had been plenty of head-butting and low blows, of course, but what did this do about it?) At one point Ceja even looked to rock Rigo briefly.
It very much seemed as though Rigo was en route to losing his crown, with steam coming off his punches and needing a KO to win. Then, outta nowhere, Rigo launched a rocket left hand that dropped Cejo and had him badly hurt. Except: He got up, nodded at Mora’s instructions, and walked forward when told. Mora stopped it.
Maybe Mora saw something nobody else saw. More likely, it was just a shady call. Notably, Fox didn’t show a replay of how Ceja looked after the knockdown, the kind of thing you’d see from an NBA home team video board when the fans are booing a call and the guy running the video knows damn well there was a foul and won’t show it.
Perhaps this version of Rigo is bad for Rigo. It was good for us. This was an honorable mention Fight of the Year-type slugfest. He says he wants Rey Vargas next, the #1 man behind him in the division. Let’s do that.
In the main event, junior middleweight Charlo defeated Jorge Cota, who accepted the fight less than a month ago when Tony Harrison, who snatched Charlo’s undefeated record, pulled out with an ankle injury. Charlo dropped Cota with an overhand right in the 3rd, then, after Cota rose and the ref should’ve stopped it because Cota was leaning on the ropes, Charlo advanced and brutalized him with a 1-2. Charlo accused Harrison of faking the injury. God, these Charlo twins are obnoxious.
Back in the mid to late 1990s, NASA’s Theoretical Physics division consulted with pound for pound king Roy Jones Jr. in an effort to advance their studies on the possibilities of time travel. The thinking was that Jones’ preternatural reflexes and timing could provide insight into how matter could be converted into energy and transported through a fourth-dimensional portal. Jones provided insight into the mechanics of involuntary movement that even the most learned scholars in the field had not been exposed to and the relationship was suspended only after Jones suffered his first career defeat, a disqualification loss to Montell Griffin.
Is any of this remotely true?
Not even a little bit.
You started googling it though, didn’t you? Didn’t you, YOU SONOFABITCH?! Sorry, that got away from me.
Boxing is about stories. Whether it be the myth of Willie Pep winning a round without throwing a single punch or the even more far-fetched tale of that time Chris Arreola did a push-up, the narrative surrounding the fights is nearly as important as the fights themselves.
Lucky for us, Andrew Cancio’s 2019 campaign has provided a whopping dollop of both.
After a loss to Joseph Diaz in September of 2016, Cancio (21-4-2, 16 KO), for all intents and purposes, retired from boxing. After a 19 month absence and with the rigors of a physically demanding 9-5 job at California gas company taking their psychic toll, Cancio decided to give the sport another go.
Two wins in 2018 put him in line to contend for a title against the undefeated Alberto Machado. To most observers, Cancio was an afterthought. The type of insignificant roadblock Cancio himself spent his grueling daytime hours jackhammering away at as Machado (21-2, 17 KO) prepped for bigger and better things.
When the two met at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California on February 9th, the story seemed to be following the script. As Machado dropped Cancio early in round one, he planned to dispatch of the unheralded jobber quickly and make it a short night with minimal wear and tear.
What’s the old John Lennon quote though?
Eatin’ ain’t cheatin’?
Wait, not that one.
Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.
Machado put a premature period on an unfinished sentence and proceeded to put his pencil down. Cancio would make sure that this story ended with an exclamation point.
After dropping Machado three times in round four with brutal body shots, the fight was stopped with Machado on one knee and Cancio celebrating what was, at the point, the upset of the year.
Cancio would return to the grind of his blue-collar job and Machado would visit a confused and nauseated urologist who would no doubt ask questions like “Why is it black?” and refer to his piss as Texas Tea while doing a barely recognizable Jed Clampett impression.
Machado would exercise his immediate rematch clause and the two returned to the scene of the original crime last night on a DAZN televised card.
Machado was eager to prove that the upset of the first fight was just that. That a stunted training camp mired by issues making weight had all led to the unfortunate result that followed, one that would surely be rectified in short order.
For Cancio, the rematch was an opportunity to prove that his victory the first time out was no happy accident. That, hey, fuck you, I belong here. That compared to his days of waking up before the sun, pounding the pavement in the murderous California heat and then training until the slight reprieve of nightfall, his opponent’s rumored weight issues were laughable.
From the first bell, the two men took their pent-up frustrations out on one another. Heavy shots in close quarters marked a fast-paced first round that leaned narrowly in Machado’s favor as his punches appeared just slightly crisper.
In the second round, Cancio went back to chopping away at Machado’s body on the inside. A short left uppercut near the end of the round sent Machado staggering and he needed a GPS unit to locate his corner as the bell rang.
Would the sixty-second break between rounds be enough for Machado to gain a second wind and salvage the fight?
I’ll save you the suspense: It would not
The end came quickly and brutally in the third frame as Cancio unloaded a jackhammer of a left hook to Machado’s liver. After a delayed response and an unenthusiastic attempt to rise from his now familiar one knee position, Machado was counted out.
With blood streaming from his right eye, Cancio once again celebrated in front his hometown fans, though this time with an air of defiance and affirmation as opposed to the shocked exuberance of four months prior.
In boxing, you’re an underdog right up until you’re not. Against the big names at 130 lbs, Cancio will get to continue playing that role. Tevin Farmer, Gervonta Davis, Miguel Berchelt et al., will all be favored over Cancio and rightfully so.
As Cancio returns to work Monday morning, as he claimed he will do, it will be mostly token. He still has to put food on his family’s table of course, but the means to do so will now come from prizefighting.
As the next chapter in Andrew Cancio’s story is written, new writers will certainly be brought on board to help punch it up. Entering a new tax bracket has a way of expanding your payroll, doesn’t’ it? Let’s hope they don’t take his story in the wrong direction.
With source material this good, it would be nearly impossible. And this tale deserves a happy ending.
John L. Sullivan took on all comers between and beyond the ropes during his heyday in the late 19th century, and his ability to outlast or overcome nearly every one of his opponents cast him as the most acclaimed fighter of his era and the first of history’s recognized world heavyweight champions.
You know what? I call bullshit.
That boxing’s fabled heavyweight championship lineage traces back to a gluttonous, whiskey-guzzling, ill-tempered street-brawler bothers absolutely no one — and nor should it. Fight fans dutifully support choirboys, but they love dirtbags, and the Boston Strongboy was as filthy as the floor of a Black Sea brothel.
What Sullivan was not, however, was the undisputed heavyweight boxing champion of the world. He burnished his reputation on barnstorming tours across the United States, offering significant sums to anyone who could last four rounds with him, pummeling drunks and blacksmiths, and frequently arriving at Happy Hour early when the police busted up one of his bouts. Sullivan stopped William Samuels in Cardiff, Wales, and drew with Charlie Mitchell in Chantilly France — his first fights on foreign soil — before a celebrated showdown with Jake Kilrain, in Richburg Mississippi, in August, 1889. He crystallized his legacy in the fight, pausing in the 44th round to puke out his guts, then dragged Kilrain into the deepest of waters. Trainer Mike Donovan called off the bout more than two hours later, at the start of the 76th round, fearing for the life of his man Kilrain.
This elevated brand of badassery deserves special recognition, but there was little on Sullivan’s resume to authenticate his bona fides as a “world” champion. Mitchell had been his only significant international opponent, and Sullivan notably refused to cross the color bar for a matchup with Australia’s great champion Peter Jackson. And here’s the kicker: Sullivan’s passing of the torch — the first link in the lineal heavyweight title chain — came a full four years after his previous bout. A puffy, cash-poor Sullivan, who had boozed, brawled and (why not?) sought political office during the four years since the Kilrain bout, ended his retirement in 1892 to be pounded out back into it by Jim Corbett.
It is on this shifty foundation that Saturday’s lineal heavyweight championship contest between Tyson Fury (28-0-1, 20 KO) and Tom Schwarz (24-1, 16 KO), the fighting pride of Germany’s taxi service industry, was built.
To be the man, we’ve been told of the lineal championship many times over, you’ve got to beat the man. And on Saturday, from the MGM Garden Arena, ESPN+ spent the better part of two hours not merely reminding us of it, but audibly and visually searing it into the cerebral cortexes of its viewers. This was Fury’s Las Vegas debut, after all, and his first fight under a new promotional and network banner. Solemn, tastefully vague nods to Fury’s retirement and two-and-a-half-year bender/reincarnation/layoff following his 2015 upset of lineal heavyweight king Wladimir Klitschko were the rubric of the hour. Allowing anyone to suspect for half a moment that Fury was marking time by facing a doughy, no-name European while awaiting a chance to settle his December draw with Deontay Wilder? That simply would not do. Leave open to interpretation the legitimacy of Fury’s claim to the lineal title? Unthinkable.
But the parameters of that lineage, though sacred text to some, are fit for an Etch-A-Sketch. Even if you’re buying Sullivan as the original world heavyweight alpha, the notion of an unbroken line of heavyweight champions holds as much water as you’d have found in one of old John L.’s rocks glasses. When Jim Jeffries retired in 1908, the title went to Marvin Hart. But when Jeffries returned six years later to battle Jack Johnson in the “Fight of the Century,” shouldn’t the lineal crown have been returned to him? More pointedly, shouldn’t it have belonged to Johnson after the Galveston Giant beat Corbett’s ass? (We’re gonna let Jim Crow decide this thing?) Jack Dempsey took two years off, then another three, during his reign before finally having the lineal title wrested away by Gene Tunney. Joe Louis and Rocky Marciano both severed the chain by retiring with the title. In 1967, it was unofficially stripped from Muhammad Ali when he refused to be drafted into the Vietnam War. Look, even fairy-tale titles merit basic standards and statutes of limitations.
So on Saturday, in lieu of certainty, we were treated to spectacle. Fury gave us his well-rehearsed “dosser” routine at the weigh-in. He promised us a show for his ring walk-in, and he delivered — with an Apollo Creed-style entrance, complete with star-spangled sequins and showgirls set to the backdrop of James Brown’s “Living in America.” The network did its part, setting fire to the production budget with an elaborate heavyweight-title-lineage feature and assembling a Missouri highway’s worth of LED billboards in the arena corridor, all but sock-stuffing the broadcast. Finally, Fury, no one’s idea of a heavyweight knockout artist, fulfilled his promise — or nearly so — to finish Schwarz inside a round.
Fury’s not a fool, he just plays one on TV. The Gypsy King knew what he had in front of him, but because the entire heavyweight division has come down with a temporary case of the Andy Ruiz Tics, Fury never had any intention of charging Schwarz straight out of the gate. Round 2 was something else, and within seconds the orthodox Fury had switched to southpaw, bloodied the German’s nose with a big left hand and was bouncing around the ring with his hands at his thighs, mugging and milking the moment.
Schwarz, who appeared to suddenly discover himself in his own taint-clenching “Twilight Zone” episode, could not get off — and soon stopped bothering to go through the motions. A few half-hearted swings at Fury on the ropes launched a thousand “Matrix” memes, and when Fury decided he was done playing with his meal, he collapsed Schwarz with a well-placed left. The German coaxed his body to an upright position, but shouldn’t have. Referee Kenny Bayless called time in, and Fury immediately bullied Schwarz back into his corner. Standing straight-backed and altogether unconcerned, Fury Gatling-gunned unanswered jabs, hooks, and power shots until Bayless came to Schwarz’s rescue seconds before the end of the round.
It was an undoubtedly entertaining performance, and that amounts to real capital today — not only in the eyes of promoters, but also for thirsty fans. There’s a flip side to that coin, though: competitive drama. The most entrenched boxing observers wouldn’t give a pint of cold piss for a “Rocky”-themed ring-walk or an Alex Rodriguez ringside interview. Don’t much care about mythical titles, either. The fights are the thing.
Every fighter — even champions, lineal or otherwise — deserves the occasional stay-busy bout. And there’s enough room under the big top for sideshows, especially if that’s the gateway drug that helps hook new fans. (First taste is free!) But there’s a baseline level of authenticity that even the sport’s charlatans and snake oil salesmen must achieve to maintain stasis. We’re all here to watch dudes get punched in the face and have a good time. But if that’s it — if that’s all you’ve got — and you want to package and sell it as prizefighting? As interconnected-through-the-annals-of-history living lore? Well, boxing fans don’t need my help sniffing out that bullshit.
In a world, or a sport, that isn’t total chaos, we’d still be discussing Yuniel Dorticos’ highlight reel knockout of Andrew Tabiti (17-1, 13 KO) in their World Boxing Super Series cruiserweight semi-final fight yesterday on DAZN from Riga, Latvia. In what had been an ugly, clinch and headbutt filled affair punctuated only briefly by clean punches, Dorticos (24-1, 22 KO) finally got a little clean space to operate in the tenth round. When Tabiti lunged forward left hand down and head unprotected, as he had all night, Dorticos uncorked a perfect right cross that turned Tabiti into 200 pounds of jello that splattered on the floor half melted.
It was a flawless punch that ended matters with beautifully cruel finality and reminded viewers why we’d stuck around that long. The only talking points to that point had been why Tabiti hadn’t been penalized more and how in the hell Dorticos’ cutman had sealed the gash residing just between the brow and lid of his right eye. Those punches are why we watch this crazy sport and provide a jolt of adrenaline that so few others can provide.
The main event was supposed to be a can’t miss affair. Mairis Briedis (26-1, 19 KO), the WBSS runner-up from the last cruiserweight tournament, would be fighting in front of his home town fans in the second semi-final bout, and buddy, they were into it. His opponent was division stalwart Krzysztof Glowacki (31-2, 19 KO), who’d brought his own vocal contingent of fans with him from Poland. This was a can’t miss fight between sluggers who are as technically sound as they are bellicose. There was chirping and attempted drama beforehand by the alphabet organizations, the WBC’s cretinous dauphin Mauricio Suleiman loudly declaring that their belt would not be at stake. No one gave a shit. As long as there were 3 judges and a referee the show would go on and we’d get the specialized flavor of violence that we so desperately crave.
But in boxing, much like in Deadwood, one draws one’s menials from a small and brackish pool. Referee Robert Byrd was one of the sport’s finest third men for many years, but he has slipped recently. He should still be able to handle this, we hoped. Then we saw his wife Adelaide, who for years has turned in one incompetent scorecard after another. The collective groan intensified.
When a fight starts, we tend to forget about our collective apprehensions until we have a reason not to. That’s doubly true for big fights. The amount of energy expended just absorbing the nuances of what’s in front of you has a way of dulling your perspective. The first round was uneventful, as Briedis and Glowacki spent most of the three minutes feeling each other out. It was the only round that lasted for exactly three minutes. A little over halfway through the second round, Briedis and Glowacki got tangled in a clinch. Glowacki intentionally rabbit punched Briedis in the back of the head. Briedis responded with a sharp back elbow to Glowacki’s jaw. Glowacki took a couple of steps back holding his face before lying prone. He might have been playing possum to gain the five-minute foul timeout, he might have been genuinely hurt and actually needed it. In either case, when Byrd took a point from Briedis for the foul, he absolutely should have given Glowacki the five-minute rest. That is the rule. Instead, he walked over and insisted Glowacki get up and continue fighting immediately.
That’s when shit got squirrely. Briedis attacked Glowacki as though he knew he was hurt, and it worked. Glowacki got dropped by a right uppercut and a followup right behind the ear. He was definitively hurt at this point, but rose dutifully and attempted to soldier on. The two attacked again just as the bell rang. If you watch this clip, and listen for the bell, the action continued unabated for 10 full seconds before Briedis again dropped Glowacki, that time even harder. He was on rubber legs as he wandered back to his corner.
Between rounds, Byrd said he couldn’t hear the bell. Maybe, and if that’s the case, he doesn’t need to be refereeing fights. The fighters’ job is to protect themselves at all times, so you can’t entirely blame them for continuing to punch. What looked like happened was that Byrd hesitated multiple times to separate the fighters, which is HIS job. He didn’t, and if that’s the case, he shouldn’t be refereeing fights. If you’ve ever wondered why Steve Willis begins getting closer and closer to the action when he hears ‘ten seconds,’ that round ending was the reason. Byrd was nowhere close.
Under the Unified Rules of Boxing, the referee is “the sole arbiter of a bout,” and is given tremendous latitude to decide how, when, and how severely to impose the rules. This fight could easily have been declared a no-contest and stopped after the second round, but it wasn’t. Instead, a clearly woozy Krzysztof Glowacki went out again for the third round and was promptly, and brutally, knocked out. Byrd had multiple chances to set the fight back to proper order, and he didn’t take any of them.
For some obscure reason, regional boxing commissions are incapable of finding new talent to judge and referee bouts. As the current crop ages, the pool gets smaller with even the worst getting recycled because there just isn’t anyone to replace them. Fans and fighters are cheated of good decisions and clean fights, and the sport itself suffers because to most casual observers and a good many longtime fans this incompetence has gone on for so long that it must surely be a sign of corruption. All other things being equal, I tend to think it’s incompetence. The Byrd’s are the decaying fish from the muddy section of that small and brackish pool at this point. They have no business anywhere near a boxing ring in a professional capacity.