Archive for November 29, 2011

It’s Saul Well and Good. Or Is It?

It’s Saul Well and Good.  Or Is it?

By Aaron Lloyd

Mexican sensation Saul Alvarez defended his WBC junior middleweight title on Saturday night with a 5th round technical knockout over veteran Kermit Cintron in front of 7,000 fans at the Plaza de Toros in Mexico City.  Over the first three rounds, Alvarez fought a calculating, yet tactically conservative fight, however, in the fourth round, he managed to land well to the body, before finally connecting with several hard overhand rights that landed flush on the cheek and temple of the challenger, forcing him to one knee.  As the round ticked to a close, Cintron looked to be in trouble once again, however, the bell sounded before Alvarez was able to put enough punches together to finish his opponent off for good.  In round five, Cintron turned the tables briefly, and landed well with a series of combinations, however, with ten seconds to go in the round, Alvarez landed a solid straight right hand, which prompted referee Hector Afu to step in and immediately call a halt to the action.  In all, Alvarez out landed Cintron by a total of 79-41, and at the time of the stoppage he was ahead on all three official scorecards by a margin of 40-35.    

So, the 21 year old remains undefeated and keeps intact his standing as the world’s youngest current titleholder.  The question now is do you keep pushing him to take bigger and bigger fights while he is still arguably in the formative years of his career?  Or do you capitalize on the current momentum, accepting that his abilities are near peak levels, on the off chance that he implodes and self destructs before the age of 25 anyway, like a certain former heavyweight champion that shall remain nameless?    

On one hand, Alvarez does have 40 professional fights under his belt, and more than six years worth of prize fighting experience.  He has beaten Carlos Baldomir, Matthew Macklin, Ryan Rhodes, and now Kermit Cintron, and as Roy Jones Jr. pointed out, “He grew up boxing; you can tell by the way he reacts in the ring, and how patient he is, that he is not a guy that just came to the sport.”  That being said, you still have to be mindful of not pushing a thoroughbred to the point that his proud heart simply bursts from too much desire.  Alvarez is an excellent fighter, but he is still just 21 years old, and he had a very limited, twenty bout amateur career.  For his age he shows great maturity and poise, however, sometimes a fighter must be protected from himself above all else, and in this case, he must be protected from his own off the cuff, post-fight celebratory remarks in which he calls out Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Personally, I believe Alvarez will be a better fighter several years from now than he is today.  I think his work ethic, attitude, and genuine passion for the sport will only continue to aid his progression, and as a result, there is no reason to put him in over his head at the present.  After all, the great Julio Cesar Chavez was only 17 years old when he turned professional, and it wasn’t until his 44th fight (almost four and a half years later) that he received his first title shot.  More importantly, it wasn’t until a few years later (between 1986 and 1989) that he truly began to hit his stride, with successful defenses against top caliber fighters like Rocky Lockridge, Juan LaPorte, Edwin Rosario, and Jose Luis Ramirez.

Alvarez has stated repeatedly that he wants to fight the best available regardless of money. Unfortunately, as tempting as it may be to capitalize on the boom times, all it takes is one ill-advised matchup too early in a fighter’s career to send him into a demoralizing flat spin that could ultimately ruin his career.  Just ask Meldrick Taylor.             

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For Broner, the Only Problem is Who’s Next?

 For Broner, the Only Problem is Who’s Next?

 By Aaron Lloyd

Cincinnati, OH- Hometown favorite Adrien Broner thrilled the sparse but raucous crowd at the U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati Saturday night, en route to a spectacular 3rd round knockout over Argintinean Martin Rodriguez for vacant WBO junior lightweight honors.  Broner exhibited the far better hand speed and defensive ability, as Rodriguez came lunging in with wide shots that Broner was easily able to deflect via his “Mayweather style” shell defense.  In the second round, Rodriguez forced the pace and landed the same as Broner, while throwing an additional 25 more punches, making a case for himself on the scorecards; however, Broner’s effective counter punching and overall ring generalship was enough to earn him the round on all three of the official judges’ cards.  In the third round, Rodriguez came out with even greater intensity and had Broner on his heels to start, even sending him into the corner and unloading a barrage of punches that brought a sense of uneasiness amongst the partisan crowd.  Broner, however, calmly weathered the storm (slipping and blocking the majority of the incoming assault) and then simply went back to dominating with his lightening fast hands and combinations.  Just as the round was about to turn over, Broner reversed the false momentum and landed a series of clean punches that sent Rodriguez reeling back into the ropes.  He then steadied his attack, missing with shots upstairs, but finding openings to the body, before ultimately landing a perfectly timed left hook that dropped Rodriguez onto the bottom ropes and out for the ten count.  “He was wild, so I figured I’d let him come in, open himself up, and I caught him coming under,” stated Broner in his own unique and explicable way.  With the win, the 22 year old victor improved to 22-0 with 18 knockouts and became the second youngest titleholder in the world behind 21 year old reigning WBC middleweight champion Saul Alvarez.

So the question is where does Broner go from here?  In his post-fight interview he stated that “the sky was the limit” going forward.  Unfortunately, despite the guidance of Al Haymon and Golden Boy Promotions, Broner still lacks the major drawing power necessary to command the big money fights.  Therefore, if he stays at 130 pounds and challenges guys like Takashi Uchiyama, Takahiro Ao, or Juan Carlos Salgado, he is positioning himself in fights that are high risk and low reward.  Another option, and perhaps the better one, would be to test the waters at 135, and catch a few named fighters on the skid like Miguel Acosta, or Michael Katsidis, before ultimately turning his attention towards the upper echelon of the division to take on fighters like Ricky Burns, or dare I say, Juan Manuel Marquez.  The potential and future of Adrien Broner is indeed ripe with possibilities, but in the end, if the sky is indeed the limit, than he may not want to limit himself to what is available only at 130 pounds.    

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Alvarado”s Heart Grows Three Sizes in Win Over Prescott

Alvarado’s Heart Grows Three Sizes in Win Over Prescott

By Aaron Lloyd

In this day and age of successful box office “robot fighting” movies, it is extremely nice to see that the human element in boxing is still very much alive and well.  Now, I don’t mean to knock the acting efforts of Mr. Hugh Jackman or disparage the cinematic efforts of those responsible for giving us “Real Steel” in any way, I am merely stating that as a boxing purist, I prefer the blood sweat and tears of actual human beings over  the carnage of giant impassive machines.  Boxing is compelling because of the self sacrifice of its participants and the emotion it evokes, and when you witness two guys laying it all on the line, giving everything of themselves, it is a very unique and special sight to behold.  Such was the case last Saturday when Mike Alvarado, an undefeated and relatively untested junior welterweight, demonstrated his fortitude in the face of tremendous adversity.  Matched up with a very slick, more experienced Columbian fighter named Breidis Prescott, Alvarado quickly found himself down on the cards through five rounds and bleeding profusely from his left eye, nose and mouth.  Rather than packing it in mentally and choosing simply to survive the distance (as many fighters out of their element for the first time would have done), Alvarado forged ahead, altered his approach, and by the late rounds had fought his way back into the fight.  It was absolutely one of the gutsiest performances I have seen in some time (Pawel Wolak notwithstanding), and it was also one the greatest comeback wins of the year so far.  In the end, the “Real Steel” folks had it partially right when they said “Champions aren’t born, they’re made.” Champions are definitely forged through adversity and in their ability to rise above thresholds that were previously thought to be impossible.  Face to face with doubt, swallowing blood, and not giving in to fatigue or the overwhelming urge to quit, a champion throws himself willingly into unchartered territory, unsure of whether he will sink or swim, but undaunted by the task at hand.  That is exactly what Mike Alvarado did.  

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Third Time is No Charm for Pacquiao-Marquez Closure

Third Time is No Charm for Pacquiao-Marquez Closure

By Aaron Lloyd

Despite 36 rounds of hard fought, spirited action between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez, the boxing world is still no closer to identifying a clear-cut victor, after a third indistinguishable performance and a third contentious result.  To be sure, Pacquiao and Marquez have thrilled fight fans with their engaging styles and exemplary skill over three fights; however, each fighter has offset the attributes of the other to such a degree that establishing differences from the similarities has become a pointless endeavor.  As a result, we are left with three ambiguous, albeit entertaining bouts, and very little sense of finality.   Pacquiao supporters will claim that their man was the more aggressive fighter this time around, he threw more punches (578-436), he landed more overall punches (176-138) and power shots (117-100) than did Marquez, and he deserves the champions’ benefit of the doubt in the inconclusive rounds.  Marquez fans, however, would argue that their man landed the majority of the cleaner, more telling blows, and those of the more cynical persuasion, may even hint at the fact that Marquez never even had a chance with the prospect of a potential Mayweather-Pacquiao fight still looming on the horizon.   

The truth of the matter is, it was another very close fight, with the distinctions each round almost imperceptible, and the scoring a matter of personal preference.  As I totaled my own scorecard (after more than a few beers), I realized I had come up with the “sister-kissing” result I had been dreading from about the third round on; a stinking draw.  I realize that Marquez probably looked like the more impressive fighter over the course of the twelve rounds, but when assessed strictly in three minute increments, I don’t think he did quite enough frame by frame to earn the decision.  Having said that, this was one of those fights where I had already made peace with the notion of seeing another controversial decision well before the final scores were officially announced.  

So once again, we are left with an unfulfilling result in a fight that desperately needed a decisive outcome.   Pacquiao wanted greatly to impress and distance himself from the rest of the pound for pound field, and Marquez wanted to prove that he was just as deserving of inclusion at the top of that same list.  Unfortunately, both guys left it to chance once again, and as a result, neither fighter was able to draw much benefit much from verdict, except for Pacquiao, who still finds himself in a position to demand exceedingly lucrative deals going forward. 

Some have speculated on a fourth Pacquiao-Marquez fight somewhere in the future and there are those out there that seem genuinely interested in rehashing another episode that is almost certain to produce similar results.  Perhaps I am in the minority on this one, but I personally have little desire to see a fourth Pacquiao-Marquez fight unless the fight takes place on some muddy English hillside and Queensberry rules are thrown out the window.  Hell we may even have to go all the way back to the Broughton Rules (which existed prior to 1838 and stated that no man could be deemed beaten unless he fails coming up to the (scratch) line after being knocked down in the limited time), in order to avoid controversial scoring systems and disputed outcomes.  Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.  Fool me a third time and you answer to the “scratch line.” 

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Does Manny Need a Decisive Win Over Marquez?

In the likely event that a potential matchup between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. never materializes, the matter of determining this era’s best fighter will unfortunately be left to conjecture and the opinions of boxing fans the world over.  If Pacquiao and Mayweather cannot make any progress on the negotiation front (and it appears that they are as far apart as a couple of Leon Spinks’ bicuspids), then boxing fans may be deprived of witnessing one of the biggest, and most lucrative, events in the illustrious history of the sport.  Despite Mayweather recently announcing that he intends to fight “the biggest opponent possible” on May 5th of next year, boxing insiders recognize, too well, the putrid smell of inflammatory hyperbole and remain guarded against such declarations.  In fact, according to Bob Arum, Erik Morales’ name has been mentioned as a possible for the date in question making Mayweather’s “biggest opponent possible” statement even more worthy of disregard.             

The truth of the matter is there are way too many obstacles standing in the way of this fight taking place and over sized egos and promotional red tape are just the beginning.  Therefore, in lieu of tangible results, we may be forced to contemplate hypothetical outcomes and “What ifs” in order to establish primacy from this era, and as far as I’m concerned, beating Juan Manuel Marquez is critical towards the leveraging of Manny’s case against his verbal adversary.                     

Right now, the Pacquiao-Mayweather debate is one of the most trending topics among the many online forums and regulars on the Twitter set.  Everyone has an opinion on which fighter is most deserving of the coveted pound for pound crown, and recent polls are now showing Manny Pacquiao as a slight fan favorite.  Unfortunately, without a resounding victory over Marquez, Manny is allowing those of the Floyd contingent too much ammunition for their cause.  Mayweather is undefeated, he beat Ricky Hatton two years before Pacquiao did, and it can be argued that he also fought better versions of de la Hoya and Mosley.  He also looked very impressive against Victor Ortiz in his most recent outing (pre-taint), and statistically speaking, he is one of the most accurate punchers and best defensive fighters to ever lace up a pair of gloves.  Finally, and possibly the most persuasive piece of evidence favoring Mayweather, is the fact that he thoroughly outclassed the one fighter that Manny Pacquiao has failed in two attempts to beat decisively.  Now I know a lot of people will claim that Marquez (having never weighed in over 135 pounds prior) was out of his element at welterweight but that still does not excuse the complete one-sidedness of the fight.  Mayweather out landed Marquez 290 to 69, and he landed 59% of his punches to Marquez’s 12%.  At the end of twelve rounds, Mayweather had won virtually every round and earned a convincing, “controversy free” decision against an excellent future hall of famer, and I think he fails to get the credit he deserves for his performance in this fight.            

In contrast, Manny Pacquiao has struggled in two previous encounters with Juan Manuel Marquez and left the door open to doubt regarding this most important of comparative assessments.  Marquez out landed him 330 to 305 in total punches, he out landed him 649  to536 in power shots, and over the course of two fights and six judges’ scorecards, his overall points margin was a fractional 679 to 678.  Marquez was more accurate in the two fights and proved that he could be effective counter punching against the more aggressive Filipino (and Mayweather is arguably the best counter puncher in the business).  

Now, the point of all this is not to say that Mayweather would necessarily beat Pacquiao.  Personally, I think Pacquiao is at his best right now, and Mayweather’s inactivity and lack of recent experience in competitive fights may be a detriment to him if and/or when these two actually meet.  However, for Pacquiao, the implications of this third fight with Marquez cannot be overstated.  Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao are without question the two greatest fighters of this generation, and if things cannot be settled in the ring, then fights like Pacquiao-Marquez will be used to sway future deliberations about who was truly the best all around fighter of the period.  Pacquiao has put together a nice resume so far and has built a strong case for himself, but if he really wants to convince future generations that he was indeed the preeminent fighter of this era, he needs to finally close the book on the Marquez chapter and rid himself of the Pyrrhic shadow that threatens his ultimate legacy.                     

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