Monday, October 1, 2007

Saturday Night Revisited

There's plenty yet to reflect upon about Saturday night's fights, so I shall.
  • Consensus is, new middleweight (160 lbs.) champ Kelly Pavlik became a star this weekend. Certainly, within the world of boxing, he has arrived. Anyone who follows the sport but hadn't witnessed much of what Pavlik can do must have liked what they saw from him on Saturday night. Over at Maxboxing.com and kindred blog Boxingchronicles.blogspot.com, there are nominations for him as Fighter of the Year, and I'm inclined to agree -- lesser-known bantamweight (118 lbs.) Gerry Penalosa has a decent case, but Pavlik in 2007 has soundly KO'd tough gatekeeper Jose Luis Zertuche, feared contender Edison Miranda and division champion Jermain Taylor. That's an impressive resume, and it's hard to imagine anyone equaling it despite all the great fights still ahead this year. Obviously, I'm a fan of Pavlik, a fellow Midwesterner who possesses all of the region's best qualities (humble, friendly, etc.), and have been for a little more than a year, when I first saw him. And he does have breakout star potential. I watched Taylor-Pavlik with a roomful of people who haven't seen a fight in ages, and he impressed. His personality passes the star test, too; everyone in the room laughed when Pavlik answered HBO interviewer Larry Merchant's post-fight question about what he was thinking when he was nearly knocked out in the second round thusly: "You know what I was really thinking? Shit, this is going to be a long night." And yes, it helps that he's white, not that it should matter. Nonetheless, I think it's going to take more of Pavlik continuing to do what he does best before he gets the kind of widespread recognition he deserves. A highlight on ESPN, plus maybe the chance click on a headline at a sports website, is about the most your average non-boxing fan will have seen of Pavlik until such point he wins enough fights like this that he can't be ignored. I think he can do it, but it's still a little ways off. Maybe if some of the other fights ahead for 2007 deliver on their promise as much as Taylor-Pavlik did, the rising tide lifts all boats.
  • A Taylor-Pavlik rematch no longer is as predestined as it appeared Sunday morning, just to revisit a subject of yesterday's post. Dan Rafael reports that Taylor's team probably won't want to put him in against Pavlik again, at least anytime soon. Pavlik's promoter, Bob Arum -- basking in some deserved praise for how he's brought along this raw talent at precisely the right speed -- is looking for an interim fight for Pavlik first, perhaps against popular Irish fighter John Duddy, German belt-holder Arthur Abraham or former "Contender" winner Sergio Mora. I think Pavlik would absolutely slaughter Duddy, find the tricky Mora a surprisingly difficult test and wage a pretty nice battle with Abraham. All but the Abraham battle sound like great moneymakers that could help build Pavlik's star potential, with the Abraham fight maybe being the best one from a boxing purist's perspective. Interestingly, super middleweight (168 lbs.) champ Joe Calzaghe has invited Pavlik to his November match against Mikkel Kessler, and in his politely British way, hinted that he wants to fight the newly crowned middleweight champion. Whether this is an indicator that the speedy, awkward but more technically sound Calazaghe believes he would obliterate Pavlik, or a way of lining up options for bigger money in negotiations with Bernard Hopkins following a victory over Kessler, or just an indicator that Pavlik has fully arrived at stardom, I wouldn't pretend to know. But Calzaghe can't possibly in one breath talk about how he won't look past Kessler the way Taylor might have looked past Pavlik then in the next talk about fighting Pavlik. Not that I wouldn't like to see that one. My bet is, Pavlik hangs around at middleweight a little longer before going to 168. Scarily, Maxboxing.com's Doug Fischer, who's seen Pavlik fight above 160 -- I saw him fight at the not-much-different 161 once -- says he's even more powerful when he's not drained from making weight.
  • Say, there are two souls on the planet besides myself that wondered about whether the ref should have given Taylor a standing eight count prior to calling it a night in the seventh. Not only did I propose this loudly Saturday night to the denizens of the Virginia locale where I viewed the fight, but I also called my boy Bob -- the person I viewed as most likely to be willing to see Taylor continue, given his good-natured gruffness about KOs -- only to find out I was all alone in my protests. But Fischer and a reader who e-mailed him showed that I wasn't so foolish all by my lonesome, with Fischer, too, backing down in the end. (In another assessment of my relative rightness, this one far more favorable, I originally thought to type in my prediction post, "I should call a seventh round KO for Pavlik," but feeling some heat from the number of experts who were predicting a Taylor win, I unfortunately moved my call to the ninth. Cowardly move.)
  • Andre Berto, at least, is convinced of the viewpoint that he should have been smarter on defense in his eventual knockout of David Estrada in a great welterweight (147 lbs.) crossroads match. I still say Estrada hits most everyone plenty early on, but Berto's defense looked far improved late, suggesting he might have the capacity if not the will. Also, he astutely noted he should have gone to Estrada's body more often. As anyone from the aforementioned Virginia locale can attest, I proclaimed frequently and with growing irritation that I thought both Berto and Pavlik should have thrown more body punches, as did Fischer. Berto, I've noticed, is getting reviews ranging from "he's clearly ready for stardom" to "he's got a lot to work on before he moves up," with me offering the rare review somewhere between those two extremes.
  • I need to get Tivo, already. On Saturday I missed another of my favorite fighters, light heavyweight (175 lbs.) belt-holder Chad Dawson, and caught on replay just a few sizzling rounds of the opening bout on the Showtime card, bantamweights (118 lbs.) Luis Perez and Joseph Agbeko. I've read that Perez faded thereafter, but it still would have been nice to see the drama through to the end, and my very tolerant girlfriend understandably thew in the towel to call a halt to me watching more boxing from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. or so, as I was nearly as unconscious as Taylor was in the seventh by then. There were plenty of other fights Saturday night I'd have loved to see, but even Tivo couldn't have saved me there, since few of them were televised. One, on the undercard of Taylor-Pavlik, heralded the return of former welterweight champion Carlos Quintana. Quintana is exactly the kind of boxer Berto should take on next, incidentally. He's what I had in mind by way of borderline top 10 contenders who could offer seasoning. Let's make it happen.

6 comments:

Dammrod said...

Arum can be just as much a snake as any other promoter out there, but the man knows how to bring up a fighter and make them into a boxing star. The guy helped guide Pavlik to become the new Middleweight Champion of the World, and he's also done some great work for Miguel Cotto.

I have DVR, which is sort of a barebones version of Tivo, so I was able to enjoy the fights on Showtime. Agbeko outclassed and dominated Luis Perez. In the early rounds it looked like Perez might be able to make it competitive, but as the fight wore on it became clear that it was Agbeko's fight to lose. In the end Agbeko was toying with Perez. Dodging his shots and juking him out ala James Toney. The stoppage was quite unusual though, as it came about due to the physician's recommendation. Perez had been hurt and stunned, but he hadn't been staggered, and even though his face was starting to swell up he wasn't bleeding or had any of his eyes swell shut. That said, it would have been pretty unlikely that Perez could have won the fight if it had been allowed to go on. "Bad" Chad Dawson destroyed his opponent. There simply was no competition. It looked like a man beating a child. I was quite impressed with how Dawson managed to utterly dismantle his opponent. He showed speed, power, and poise, and at the young age of 25, he is a force to be reckoned with.

Last Saturday was a very good night of boxing.

Sean A. Malone said...

In all fairness I have my doubts that had Taylor been given the "8 count" the outcome would have changed. Taylor was a beaten man and I think the ref prevented him from taking any further damage. You loose but get the opportunity to fight another day.

By the way, I am in total agreement with your assessment on the outcome of a Pavlik-Duddy fight. It would be a massacre.

Tim -- tstarks2@gmail.com said...

Dammrod: Grateful for the summary of Agbeko-Perez. I'll be checking it out On-Demand ASAP. Scary to think that Dawson isn't probably anywhere as good as he's going to be, huh? And your take on Arum is also mine.

Sean: I know, I know. I backed down from that one, as far as Taylor eight count. I just was trying to prove that I wasn't the only one. Believe me, I'm usually quick to want to pull the plug on a guy taking a beating. I was wrong here, I confess. Thanks on the Duddy call. I can't imagine how his handlers would want to put a cash cow like him out to pasture.

dammrod said...

I think if Dawson fights Hopkins down the road, I will be leaning towards a Dawson victory. Hopkins is as wily as they come, but Dawson's fast, strong, measured style could very well end Hops light-heavyweight reign. It would be a classic Young Lion vs. Crafty Veteran fight.

I also think Duddy would be massacred by Pavlik. Duddy had his hands full with an old Yory Boy Campas, I can only imagine what Pavlik would do to him.

Tim -- tstarks2@gmail.com said...

Main thing is, I wanna see Dawson in there with some more legit guys. Not his fault that he beat up a late substitute, or that he took one easy title defense before that. But I bet a lot of people avoid him, especially grizzled types like Hopkins and Tarver, if Tarver hasn't already per the stories I've read.

dammrod said...

Dawson sort of occupies this strange good-bad position in the light heavyweight division. He's in a good position because he's a young man with a crowd pleasing style who could potentially beat anyone in his weight class. As you mentioned, many of the top light heavyweights right now are grizzled, experienced veterans. Tarver, Hopkins, and Glencoffe Johnson are closer to the end of their careers then the start. Ironically, this also puts him in a bad position because the top fighters are either booked or not likely to fight him. I just hope that a Tarver-Dawson fight can be made, though in my dream world Hopkins would fight the winner of Calzaghe-Kesller, and then Dawson would get to fight whoever won that fight.