A Night of Veterans fighting One Last Time
This past Saturday on Showtime featured an evening of the grizzly veterans fighting prospects and youngsters on the way up. Beginning with Sakio Biko exposing the weakness of Dyah Davis; the evening was to answer the questions how much does experience count and when does experience cease to be a benefit and age becomes a hindrance?
In the opening bout of the evening, Biko simply pounded Davis from the opening bell to the finish when Davis resorted to using his head to block Biko sledgehammer punches. The referee decided that the head blocking strategy would simply not do and stopped the fight.
In second fight, 32 year old South African veteran Vusi Malinga challenged the 23 year old Leo Santa Cruz for the vacant IBF Bantamweight title. The first round started out fast and set the pace for the fight as Cruz connected on punches through the southpaw Maligna guard; while throwing over 100 punches, a total that he averaged for the fight. This was a fight that was competitive every round as Maligna held his ground to fire back but Cruz was simply too much for the older Maligna. Round after round, Cruz connected on double the punches and had double the output and Maligna simply could not keep up the pace set by the younger Cruz. Cruz victory was a case of a younger, aggressive fighter who simply put the pedal to the metal and went for broke.
If the second fight was a wall to wall action fight with both fighters average some 170 plus punches per round, Austin Trout fight with Delvin Rodriguez was a snoozer. Trout hand speed perplexed Rodriguez who never seems to get off as he threw a punch here and punch there. It took Rodriguez nearly eleven rounds before he found a home for his right hand but by then, it was too little, too late. As for Trout, Al Bernstein final statement on the fight summed up his performance, “Efficient but not spectacular.” This was a night that he needed to be spectacular, he settled for being merely effective. As for Rodriguez, he had an opportunity to break through and become a championship contender. Rodriguez always produced action fights and had lost his share of close controversial fight but on this night, he simply froze at time and allowed Trout to set the pace of the fight. For Rodriguez, this was his opportunity for the big time and he simply did not meet expectation.
Winky Wright has fought some of the best fighters and over his last 18 fights, he fought 12 champions and his record was 13-4-1 but his last fight was nearly four years ago and he was now 40. Pete Quillin found himself in a no-win position for he had to win and win impressively against one of boxing smarter fighter. The first round showed Wright dilemma as he simply had trouble with Quillin’s hand speed as Quillin unleashed solid combinations. Wright had to pursue Quillin, but this made him vulnerable to Quillin’s counters.
In the third round, Wright got closer to Quillin as he managed to connect on a few jabs but Quillin shook Wright up with an upper cut and Quillin ended the fourth round with a tough combination. Quillin and Wright got into a firefight but it was Quillin's quicker hands that held the advantage. With forty seconds left in the round, Quillin connected on a straight right that sent Wright down and for the next thirty seconds, Wright survived by keeping his hands up and blocked many of Quillin’s bouts.
In the sixth round, Quillin teed off with some sharp combinations and while Wright did manage to land some solid left, they did very little damage. At his peak, Wright was never a one punch knockout artist but in this fight, Wright power was missing.
In the eighth round, Wright moved forward in an effort to change momentum got nailed by an upper cut that sent him reeling. Wright was saved simply because there only fifteen seconds left. If there was more time, Wright would have been stopped for the first time in his career. Wright survived the fight but there was no doubt that Wright was not the fighter of yore and Peter Quillin showed some nuance in his defense skills. Bernstein summed up what it meant for both fighters as he noted, “This fight showed that Quillin victory due to Wright diminished skills and his own improvement.”
Antonio Tarver faced Lateef Kayode, an undefeated cruiserweight and this fight came off because Kayode didn’t like comments Tarver made about him as a Showtime announcer. Kayode threw some rights that got through but nothing seem to hurt Tarver as Tarver played possum, looking to see what the young fighter had. Kayode athletic ability looked decisive over the first half of the fight. After five rounds, Tarver corner told their fighter that he was behind and he came out in the sixth more aggressive. Tarver nailed Kayode with a straight left and an upper cut that spin Kayode’s head. At the end of the seventh round, Tarver caught Kayode with two left, one that pushed Kayode back. Tarver repeated the same thing in the eighth round as he staggered Kayode with time running out of the round.
Tarver continued to stalk and nail Kayode with lefts and one left once again staggered Kayode for yet another time with a minute left but Kayode did manage to land two rights to get back in the round but this was another round for Tarver. With three rounds left, it was a close round. The tenth round was close as both fighters had their moments but the most effective punches of the round may have been Kayode’s body shots. The eleventh round was also a close round but the final minute saw Tarver connect on two sharp left. The twelfth round was another close round with neither fighter landing that big punch nor made a definite statement on who was the big winner.
The decision was as a draw as the judges could not really come to grip with who truly won. Tarver kept his title with the score 115-113 for Tarver, 115-113 for Kayode and 114-114 even. The fight was even as both fighters landed similar number of punches. Tarver showed that he was 43 years old and at time, he looked slow. Kayode showed improvement over his past fights against an elite fighter, even an old elite fighter. This was a fight that saw a diminished Tarver and an improved Kayode.
There are still question about Kayode since while he showed improvement, he never hurt Tarver and over the second half of the fight, it was the old man who looked the strongest. There were at least three times that Kayode was staggered and one has to ask, if a 43 year old Tarver could nearly stop Kayode, what happens when he step up further in competition?
As for Tarver and Wright, it is time to end their career. Both men have fought well over their career and both may be heading for the boxing Hall of Fame but neither had the skills of old. A younger Wright would have beaten Quillin and a younger Tarver would have knocked Kayode out and at least Tarver will retire with a title.
Thoughts on Tapia and Williams
Over the past week, there were three big events of note. The first was the passing of Johnny Tapia, a boxing legend. In the 1990’s, he made the lighter weight interesting with his life story, many tattoo and exciting style of fighting. He began his career as a Super Flyweight and fought his last fight as a light weight.
In the ring, Tapia showed mastery of the sweet science but he still had enough power in his punches to make a statement. He had 30 knockouts in 59 victories but what set him apart from others was his boxing skills. Many New Mexican sports fans remember his fight with Danny Romero, another New Mexico fighter when both were among the elites of their division. Tapia won the decision while capturing Romero Super flyweight belt while keeping his. More importantly, he won the battle of New Mexico. Tapia had his share of demons outside the ring including drug abuse and in the end, Tapia died too young with much left to give to the sport outside the ring. RIP, Tapia.
Paul Williams was on his way to fight one more big battle this September against the Mexican youngster Saul “Canelo” Alvarez but that fight will never happen. Williams may be paralyzed as result of a motorcycle accident and now, the real miracle will be if he is able to walk again. Williams had a unique, go for broke style in which his offense was his defense. Despite his lanky 6’1” frame, Williams did not always fight tall but simply threw volume of punches in an effort to overwhelm and then stop his opponent.
His first big victory was against Antonio Margarito , and his next big moment was revenging a twelve decision lost to Carlos Quintana with a spectacular one round knockout. He followed that up with an easy decision over the veteran Winky Wright.
Williams managed to win a close majority decision over Sergio Martinez but Martinez nailed Williams in the rematch when he stopped Williams in the second round. From that point, he had a close controversial wins over Erislandy Lara before defeating Nobuhiro Ishida in his last bout. Williams had a good career, was a champion, beat some excellent fighters and now he fights for his ability to do what many of us take for granted, simply walk a few steps.
Last week, Carl Froch showed that he may just be the second best Super Middleweight in the world as he stopped and dominated Lucian Bute. Bute came into the fight as the overwhelming favorite in a two fight home and home contract with the first fight being in Nottingham England; Froch home town.
Bute cleaned out the non-Super Six portion of the Super Middleweight and considering that when the Super 6 tournament began, the Super Middleweight was the deepest division with twelve or thirteen fighter capable of being the man of the division. When the smoke cleared after the tournament was over, Andre Ward was the king of the Super Six and Bute was the undefeated last obstacle in Ward’s way. Except that Froch showed the world that maybe the best Super Middleweights already fought in the Super Six and he pounded Bute from the opening bell till Froch stopped him in the fifth. The difference between Bute and Ward could be seen since Ward demonstrated that he could fight on the inside and outside. Froch admitted as much that Ward was the better fighter between the two but Bute had Ward hand speed but he lacked Ward flexibility as fighter. As for Ward, he is now relieved of fighting Bute and now he may have Chad Dawson in his sight for Dawson’s light heavyweight belt.
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