Fight night at the Forum
It wasn’t quite the fireworks display that was expected this past Saturday night at the Forum in Inglewood, California, where the latest installment of HBO’s “Boxing After Dark” took place. It’s not that the fights were horrible but they fell fall short of being anything truly memorable. But as Larry Merchant has said for many years, fights make fights and a trio of winners advanced their careers in the aftermath.
Some thoughts from ringside…
– What was expected to be a “Fight of the Year” candidate between WBC 130-pound champion Miguel Berchelt and Takashi Miura was instead a solid display of boxing from the Mexican, who, from the very onset, moved in circles for much of the night and very rarely worked in a straight line, where he’d be in the crosshairs of Miura’s preferred weapon – the left cross. For much of the fight, Miura was frustrated by Berchelt’s movement and, time and time again, early on, found his efforts to land that punch futile. Berchelt, who ran through Francisco Vargas back on January 28 to win this title, this time around, used deft movement to defend it successfully for the first time.
Throughout the fight, Miura remained undaunted but he simply couldn’t deal with the moving target that was Berchelt, who gave more angles than a geometry teacher and struck quickly with combinations from the outside (one of which, in the first round, scored a flash knockdown and set the tone for the night). Miura had some moments late but, as the bell sounded for the final time, you knew who the winner was. Berchelt retained his green belt by the scores of 119-108, 120-109 and 116-111.
In this victory, Berchelt showed a versatility many didn’t know he possessed.
Looking at the junior lightweight division there is some real depth, with Vasyl Lomachenko, the current WBO beltholder, Gervonta Davis (the IBF champion), Jezreel Corrales (the WBA titlist) and some familiar names like Orlando Salido, Francisco Vargas and young contenders like Tevin Farmer. Here’s hoping that all the usual politics can be put aside from the various parties and that a series of fights can be made between the aforementioned names. While there is a lot of talk of Lomachenko moving up to 135, one must wonder why, given this division has quality of depth.
– Speaking of Corrales, the Panamanian retained his title by slipping past the awkward and game Robinson Castellanos – who floored him twice in the fourth round – with a 10-round technical decision. A clash of heads in the 10th frame caused enough swelling around Castellano’s for the ringside physician to wave the contest off, at which it then went to the scorecards, that read 94-93, 96-92 and 94-94 for Corrales. Personally I had Corrales a few points ahead. After his big fourth inning, Castellanos simply wasn’t able to sustain or build upon that momentum and Corrales slowed the pace down and box effectively.
– In the televised opener, Sullivan Barrera subdued Joe Smith Jr. over 10 rounds. After scoring a first round knockdown with a left hook during a furious exchange, Smith didn’t have many answers for Barrera, who just steadily took this fight over with his overall boxing ability, which was highlighted by his jab and well-placed uppercuts. Smith, the Cinderella story of 2016, with KO victories over Andrzej Fonfara and Bernard Hopkins, had the clock ring midnight on him by the well-schooled Cuban, who is now clearly among the top light heavyweight contenders in the world.
It turns out that Smith, who looked very dispirited and listless, early on in the fight, suffered a broken jaw and, to his credit, finished the bout.
– Part of the 5,846 who attended this Saturday night’s card at the Forum were a few of my classmates from Montebello High School (the Harvard of East L.A.) and we had a post-fight meal at El Puerto Escondido, which is a couple miles from the Forum, has big portions, booze and, most importantly, is open 24 hours. Anyway, the girls who attended, Liz, Laurie and Jully (yeah, that’s how she spells her name) were raving about the fun times they had. My buddy Hugo (who goes to a lot of shows all across the country) and Richard, who has been to fight cards in the past, weren’t really overwhelmed by the action that took place earlier.
Liz had been to big cards before as she worked for Budweiser, long ago, but Laurie and Jully (yeah, seriously. That’s how she spells “Julie”) had never been to a live boxing show and they raved about their experience. The alcohol flowed and they got to take pictures with Michael Buffer, Oscar De La Hoya (yeah, that was a big one), Roberto Duran, Brandon Rios and even Corrales and his belt. Like Mikey on his Life cereal, they liked it. They really, really liked it.
And they said they would absolutely like to go to another card. Hugo and I told them that the “SuperFly” card at the StubHub Center on September 9 should be their next boxing excursion.
But yeah, actually going to live boxing events is quite the experience, even if the actual bouts aren’t that great.
– There was a bit of irony regarding Smith, who hails from Long Island, New York, fighting 3,000 miles away on the opposite coast, while another nationally televised card (PBC on FOX) was taking place at the Nassau Coliseum. In a perfect world, he would have been headlining there and facing another Long Islander, Seanie Monaghan, in what would’ve been (or should’ve been) a great regional attraction.
Instead, Smith gets defeated by Barrera and Monaghan gets served up to Marcus Browne, for some reason, in his hometown.
Yeah, that PBC on FOX card was…ummm, interesting, to say the least. Robert Guerrero has had a nice career (and yeah, I’m saying that in past tense), he’s gotten paid way beyond his actual value and abilities but it’s been awhile since he’s really showed world-class form and now he’s getting banged up in there…Two undefeated fighters, one from Venezuela (Roger Gutierrez) and the other from Panama (Jaime Arboleda) made their American debuts on Golden Boy Promotions cards this weekend and both are going back with knockout losses. Toto, we’re not in South America anymore…Cruiserweight Sam Crossed remained undefeated by stopping James Jones in four in Washington D.C. on Saturday…For the record, for a pre-fight meal, the Sizzler that sits across the street from the Forum is still the spot to go. I mean, that all-you-can-eat shrimp, c’mon…Lots of chatter about the ACC being the premier conference in college football. Not sure if that holds up over the long haul but, last year, it certainly was…OK, just so you know, I will not be tweeting about “Game of Thrones” till after the HBO broadcast on the West Coast. That is the ground rule Mario Lopez and I have established on “The 3 Knockdown Rule”. Also, can’t wait for “Insecure” and “Ballers” to start up…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.