This past weekend we saw three nationally televised cards that gave us a wide variety of styles and varying degrees of entertainment value. On NBC, the Premier Boxing Champions in which the “Battle for Ohio” took place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas – yeah, I know; I know – between Shawn Porter and Adrien Broner; in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, David Lemieux and Hassan N’Dam battled for the vacant IBF middleweight title and, finally, Andre Ward made his return in Oakland, Calif. against Paul Smith.
Some thoughts on this trio of fight cards…
– The fight of the night by far was Lemieux-N’Dam, which saw Lemieux coming out of the gate quickly, cranking up left hooks and – as the old-timers used to say – fighting as if he were double-parked. There was no feel-out period from Lemieux, who understood he couldn’t allow the Frenchman to set up comfortably on the outside and use his solid boxing skills. Lemieux simply never let N’Dam get comfortable and had him fighting off his back foot for much of the night.
The Bell Centre partisans were treated to a highly entertaining – if one-sided – affair that saw N’Dam hit the deck in the second, twice in the fifth and once again in the seventh. But as he did versus Peter Quillin a few years ago, N’Dam showed an incredible resiliency by dusting himself off the canvas each time and soldiering on. He did more up-downs than a high school football team in August.
Lemieux has come a long way from that guy who was stopped by Marco Antonio Rubio and decisioned by Joachim Alcine. It shows that sometimes, early losses from highly-touted prospects are just that – losses – and something from which can be learned. He still might be vulnerable against real sharpshooters and, defensively, might still have some holes but he’s never pretended to be a stylist in there. He’s a puncher; he will live and die as one.
– OK, anyone up for Lemieux, now the IBF middleweight titlist, facing WBA beltholder Gennady Golovkin in a unification tilt? K2 Promotions’ Managing Director Tom Loeffler says he will be dialing up Golden Boy Promotions on Monday. This would be a fun and explosive fight for as long as it lasts. It says here that “GGG” is still too precise and technically superior for Lemieux but it would be interesting to see Golovkin versus a bona fide puncher. And unlike many other middleweights, Lemieux brings his own fan-base to the table. This fight would draw very well in locales such as Montreal or New York.
The question is: Are Golden Boy and Lemieux’s management willing to make this fight immediately?
– Lemieux-N’Dam was televised in the States by FOX Sports 2 and FOX Deportes and more than one person has wondered why HBO didn’t broadcast it on one of their platforms. Quite frankly, I really don’t know why either. I assume it was a scheduling issue but with them being so heavily invested in Golovkin and, therefore, the middleweight division, yeah, you have to wonder if they should have found some way to get this on one of their networks. Also, the reality is there are a good number of folks who don’t get the two aforementioned networks in their cable package.
– Seriously, didn’t Lemieux’s robe and trunks have you thirsting for some Crown Royale?
– While the deck was stacked from the very beginning against Shawn Porter as he agreed to face Adrien Broner (from the 144-pound catchweight to having Floyd Mayweather’s company “promote” this event to the the inaction of referee Tony Weeks), he simply wanted to win this fight more than “The Problem.” Yeah, I know that is an overused cliche in sports because the reality is most combatants really want to win badly. However, in this case, Porter pressed forward for much of the bout and actually tried to fight, while Broner seemed more suited for the MMA on this night. He grappled and held so much you would’ve thought that he believed he was in an Octagon.
And Weeks didn’t help matters much and was downright complicit as he simply waited too long in penalizing Broner for his tactics. I’ll say it again: Holding and clinching are illegal and until we get referees re-trained in spotting infractions and then docking points, the quality of action will suffer. We need what Keith Hughes did in the fight between Andre Berto and Luis Collazo, in which he deducted a point from Berto early on for his clutching. What transpired was a much cleaner and competitive fight.
– Porter, who lost his IBF title last year to Kell Brook, isn’t what I’d call a great talent or supremely gifted but he’s a guy who gets everything out of his ability and is a real grinder. It’s not always pretty with him but he usually finds a way to get the job done somehow. And I think a large part of that is chalked up to the presence and influence of his father/trainer Kenny Porter. And let’s just say this isn’t the type of relationship in which Shawn orders his pops to brush his hair.
During their time at Wild Card Boxing Club, I witnessed Kenny excoriate Shawn after sparring sessions he deemed lackluster or lacking in execution ( I’ve also seen him have his son work mitts while blindfolded – yeah that was something I hadn’t seen before). This is a relationship built on tough love; no doubt. There are a lot of doubts about father-son combinations in boxing – and for good reason – but this particular union seems to be working.
Shawn told me a couple of years ago, something to the effect of, “I don’t know if he’s the best trainer – but he’s the best trainer for me.”
I’m sure they enjoyed Father’s Day.
– There was an announced crowd of around 8,000 inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday night but I’m told they employed the use of another seat-filling company, FillASeat Las Vegas, to get people into the arena in an attempt to make it look better for the television audience. I know they were giving tickets away to local veterans.
Now I still haven’t heard any reasoning as to why a fight billed as the “Battle for Ohio” – after all, one guy is from Cincinnati and the other is from Akron – was held in a Vegas casino. I don’t think this would have been an issue if this would have actually been placed in the “Buckeye State.” This has been one of the great failings of the PBC, selling tickets and building local attractions. They got it right by placing WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder in his home state of Alabama but, for the most part, their events have been papered more than a pinata.
– Speaking of Broner, yeah, what is there really to say? At this point, he’s much more Andre Berto than Floyd Mayweather Jr. – as Larry Merchant quipped to me after Broner’s first loss against Marcos Maidana. And his post-fight interview in which everything was “OK” was cringe-worthy. He’s been on NBC twice for the PBC and after this latest loss, you have to wonder where he goes from here. It’s clear he isn’t elite and needs to compete at 140 pounds but does he now get demoted to Bounce TV?
Regardless, I’m sure you all will still ask to take his picture and get his autograph.
– Andre Ward did the expected by systematically picking Paul Smith apart and stopping him in nine rounds at the Oracle in Oakland in his first appearance in the ring since outpointing Edwin Rodriguez in Nov. of 2013.
Now the question is: Just where does he go from here? Is he a light heavyweight (as he fought over 168 pounds this past weekend) or does he go back down to rule the super middleweight class? Can he even make that weight anymore? And which network does he perform on?
Yeah, Ward made a nice chunk of change for this tune-up bout (reportedly $2 million, which, by the way, is about the same amount he got for his last bout with Dan Goossen) but to face the other marquee names between 168 and 175, well, it wont be on BET.
Golden Boy Promotions now has Lucas Matthysse, Jorge Linares and David Lemieux surrounding Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. That’s a very good foundation. Now they need some prospects to develop…Sammy Vasquez will make for some pretty good fights as he steps up the welterweight ladder…Rances Barthelemy will be a tough out at 140…Errol Spence Jr. is a blue-chip prospect; it’ll be interesting to see how he’s stepped up in the next fight or two…Yes, Summer is here; break out the shorts and sandals (not that I ever put mine away)…OK, going to give “Ballers” on HBO a chance…”Tyrant” on FX is back for its second episode and I just knew they couldn’t off Bassam in the first episode…I can be reached at email@example.com and I tweet (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.