Sunday, July 17, 2011

Here's to Karma - A Look at Upcoming Fights

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Weary from a pestilence of inept and/or corrupt judges, moron promoters, depraved sanctioning organizations and countless short-sighted "state commissioner"-like suits wielding much more power over boxing than they deserve, naively persistent fans are owed a reprieve. 

Or at least a reminder of how things were unfolding before the latest string of frustrating stroke-inducers. 

Aside from recent snafus and outright calamities, the action over the last year or so has usually been enjoyable. Divisions like bantamweight, super middleweight and featherweight are the gifts that look to keep giving for a little while longer, with some surprises at light heavyweight. Meanwhile junior welterweight is poised to reclaim the popularity it held in the early 2000's. 

Fine-tuning or even revamping the system that at times appears broken may be an impossible task. Many have claimed viable solutions, few have had the clout or desire to implement them. Not with so much money invested in television fighters based on who they call "advisers" or "promoters" - guys who usually do very little advising or promoting, but rather act as middle men, pimping out TV dates. 

Make no mistake. The dynamic is unlikely to be altered easily.  

In the meantime, a couple of high profile fights approach that can help lift the fans' spirits clear out of their rut. 


Comparing the fight card televised on Showtime last weekend (and especially the non-televised undercard) to the HBO broadcast for Williams vs. Lara the same day, would be like comparing a glass of snazzy champagne to a dirty cup full of expired Tang. 

The Showtime card, held at the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA, was all that is right in the sport: a solid promotion, cheap admission, guaranteed action, and more scrappy characters in non-TV bouts than you could shake a stick at. 

Main event victor Brandon "Bam Bam" Rios also embodies much of what makes boxing so great: big mouth, but tremendous heart, will to win, desire to finish a fight, and he loves to make a comeback. It's difficult to question what he does in between the ropes when it's excellently straight-forward. 

Rios vs. Antillon, and support, went about as well as it could have.

No controversy, and despite a return visit from our old friend in the 51st Airborne, Pvt. No Class Kermit Cintron, there wasn't any unwanted drama.

No guarantees on the drama aspect, but the following fights could help to speed up the selective amnesia process:

Amir Khan vs. Zab Judah

True, even prime Zab probably never was in Amir's league, and he'll likely lose. Alas, this is our consolation as Khan-Bradley failed to get finalized. That's why next weekend's fight is first on the list.

But it's also a bit of a showcase for a guy creeping up on a potential "best in the world"  label - a younger fighter with unreal talent, on the cusp of pound-for-pound level stuff, if he's not on a few lists already, his record 25-1 (17 KO).

Zab Judah, who Max Kellerman once described as "Pernell Whitaker with punching power," is undoubtedly on the decline. Still quick, Zab doesn't quite impress the way he did as an undefeated titlist in the early '00's on Showtime, his record now 41-6 (28 KO) and 2 No Contests. The former welterweight champion of the world and former/current IBF junior welterweight titlist's eyebrows have built scar tissue, much of his mobility has been replaced with a clinch game, and his disposition is more docile than nasty these days. 

With Amir Khan, however, there always seems to be the questionable chin factor. Diminished (and probably overrated) as his skills may be, Zab can indeed punch a little bit, and Khan has been wobbled before by guys whose punches could clearly be seen coming. Tough but predictable Michael Gomez was able to stun and floor Amir, and Breidis Prescott, who dealt Khan his lone loss, and by brutal KO no less, has seemed far less monstrous and capable in his fights since, for example. 

Odds are Khan shuts Judah down early and never lets him in the fight - Zab is only dangerous in the opening rounds, and only in spots these days. There's just enough intrigue in this matchup to keep it worthwhile, though. 

Marcos Maidana vs. Robert Guerrero

Guerrero, not long ago a huge featherweight champion, is now a huge lightweight champion moving up yet another weight class to tangle with bruising Argentine wildman Marcos Rene Maidana over a WBA trinket in late August. 

A career-defining, thoroughly impressive victory has eluded "The Ghost" Guerrero thus far, and at 28-years old, the kid is on the hunt with a ledger of 29-1-1 (18 KO) and 2 No Decisions. 

This contest matches two fighters, equally inconsistent: Guerrero from fight to fight, Maidana from minute to minute. 

The likable Guerrero has seesawed between uninspired decisions and ruthless muggings, unbeaten since 2005. The Gilroy, CA native was outfought and defeated by Orlando Salido in 2006 though, despite the bout accounting for one of his ND's as Salido tested positive for steroids after the fight. 

It is, however, important to note that Salido just conquered then-unbeaten JuanMa Lopez this past April. 

Conversely, the walking maelstrom Maidana seems to go from lifeless to ferocious in the blink of an eye. It's as if he's simply not going to reach overdrive unless he eats some hard shots first. Hurting him doesn't initially appear difficult, until he's back up and in your grill soon after. Ho-hum performance against an aged DeMarcus Corley about a year ago aside, Maidana has kept fights sensationally close against outstanding opposition like Andriy Kotelnik, Amir Khan and Erik Morales, not to mention a thriller with Victor Ortiz, and he stands at 30-2 (27 KO). 

Guerrero's style and game have become more fierce over the years, and he likely has a fair advantage in skills, but that's one department where Maidana is consistently underrated, and it's highly unlikely he'll be relenting in this fight, however it goes down. 

Abner Mares vs. Joseph Agbeko

Showtime apparently learned from mistakes made with their "Super Six" tournament, staging a elimination-style mash up with four of the best fighters at or around bantamweight, of which Mares-Agbeko is the finale. 

A representative of Mexico in the 2004 Olympics and a distinguished amateur, Mares has had solid financial backing since very early on in his career, fighting on the undercards of major fights and Pay-Per-View events alongside fellow Golden Boy Promotions prospect Vicente Escobedo. Now, the aspiring star Mares, sporting a 21-0-1 (13 KO) record, hopes to follow up impassioned performances against Yonnhy Perez and Vic Darchinyan, with a win over Joseph "King Kong" Agbeko, who has been an elite bantamweight regular since 2007.

Agbeko hails from Ghana's capital Accra, which has also produced such champions as Azumah Nelson and David Kotey. At 28-2 (22 KO), Agbeko actually fared better against Darchinyan and Perez than Mares did, clearly outpointing both; Mares earned a hard-fought close decision over Darchinyan in the first leg of the Showtime Bantamweight Tournament, and drew with Perez in a May, 2010 scrape. Additionally, Agbeko boxed and countered much more effectively than expected in his rematch with Perez, displaying skills few knew he had. 

The bantamweight final might now crown an undisputed champion at 118, but these two warriors have shown propensities toward involvement in crowd-pleasing collisions of late. No matter the outcome, this should be boxing on an entertainingly high level for as long it lasts. 


The current atmosphere of the sport almost feels as it did when the Summer of 2009 came to a close. 

In a short span of time, boxing lost guys like Alexis Arguello, Arturo Gatti and Vernon Forrest, with violence involved in all three deaths. We were exhausted, at that point, of the constant reminders of how much growing attached to the sweet science can take out of you. 

And before we knew it, the sport came thundering back into our good graces with battles like Viloria-Solis, Williams-Martinez I, JuanMa Lopez-Mtagwa, Jose Lopez-Sonsona, Moore-Rhodes and Perez-Agbeko I before the year could manage to end. 

This ebb will also flow soon. And may the aforementioned fighters begin next Rain Dance. 


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