My apologies to Barrera and Morales…

Photo credit: Laura Rauch/Associated Press

Photo credit: Laura Rauch/Associated Press

 

Yeah, right now my stomach is in great pain. That’s because I’ve had to fall on the sword. See, for the past few years, I’ve trumpeted the match-up between junior featherweight rivals Carl Frampton and Scott Quigg as a can’t-miss fight, one that could become the UK version of Marco Antonio Barrera-Erik Morales. Well, this fight – which Frampton won via split decision – missed.

 

And as someone who was fortunate enough to be ringside for all three chapters of Barrera-Morales, I just want to give them both my heartfelt apologies for ever uttering such nonsense. I hope you find it in your hearts to forgive me one day. (And I’ll understand if you don’t. Yeah, I deserve a bit of a flogging for this one.)

 

To paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen, I know Barrera and Morales and Frampton and Quigg are no Barrera and Morales.

 

What was supposed to be a blood-feud between the two at the Manchester Arena was a colossal disappointment. The first half of the proceedings could be described as a game of tag in which one fighter did little (Frampton) and the other did even less (Quigg). Things heated up in the later stages but, for the most part, this fight (which had a packed venue and an electric atmosphere, a trademark of big fights in Britain) failed to live up to expectations. In fact, it didn’t come close.

 

Because like too many other “big” fights of recent ilk, the combatants seem far too content on playing not to lose instead of playing to win. With that, you had cautious fighters who simply were too reticent to take any real sustained chances offensively and leave themselves vulnerable. It’s like watching a football game in which both teams go into a “prevent offense.” Part of being great is being reckless at times and giving of yourself in that ring, getting into harm’s way for the pursuit of a goal.

 

That’s what made Barrera and Morales the rivalry it was and the fighters they were.

 

As I watched the fights on Saturday night at the home of “Mr. Soapbox” Matt Swider, we ultimately watched the first chapter of Barrera-Morales I after the HBO and Showtime telecasts had both concluded. It was amazing just how quickly things escalated in that contest, 16 years ago at the Mandalay Bay. And the intensity of that match-up didn’t subside till they had fought 36 total rounds over four years. They detested each other and it was evident by how hard they hit each other and refused to give an inch. It was clear these bouts were more than just a prizefights or athletic contests to these two men, from opposite ends of the Mexican spectrum. This was about pride and honor – and bragging rights.

 

They don’t make ’em like that these days, it seems. Those were men of a different cloth or, as Larry Merchant said to me on Sunday morning, “Those were Mexican men.”

 

Right now, boxing needs more men like Barrera and Morales.

 

 

WEEKEND THOUGHTS

 

– That said, Quigg suffered an injury to the jaw which required surgery and Frampton had to overcome some rough moments in the late stages to hold on for the victory. There was still a price to be paid in this fight. But again, I found Quigg’s game plan and his lack of urgency in the early innings to be a bit mindboggling. On the flipside, I wasn’t nearly as impressed by some with the supposed early-round mastery of Frampton, who, for some reason, by default, was given the nod in rounds in which not much happened. I thought the first stanza was why you need even rounds and I gave the fourth to Quigg.

 

Again, I’m not arguing with the verdict but it’s my opinion that not much separated the two.

 

– In his three outings at 140, WBO beltholder Terence Crawford has defeated the trio of Thomas Dulorme, Dierry Jean and now Hank Lundy, who he halted this weekend in five rounds at the Theater at Madison Square Garden.

 

That may not be three the hard way and, before you anoint him, you might want to see him face the truly elite at 140 but I do think, for the time being, he is passing the eye test. Crawford has a real skill set and, beyond that, a certain nastiness that won’t allow him to just coast to wide decisions. Once he gets you in his crosshairs, he’s out to finish you off.

 

And he’s the best switch-hitter since Mickey Mantle. I can’t recall a boxer who fought with such effectiveness from both the orthodox and southpaw stances like the native of Omaha, who actually stopped Lundy with a barrage of punches as a left-hander. Many fighters in the past have used this tactic as a diversion or out of desperation. For Crawford, 28-0 (20), it’s a real strategic weapon.

 

Now, can we get him in there against WBC titlist Viktor Postol or Ruslan Provodnikov?

 

– For Felix Verdejo, his was the classic “Win tonight; look good tomorrow” fight against William Silva, who was able to survive 10 rounds versus the young Puerto Rican star. Quite frankly, it was a bit of a bore and there were a few boos that could be heard at the Theater. But these rounds will prove valuable in the development of “El Diamante,” who’s been groomed as the next icon on the boxing-rich island. It also showed why Top Rank Promotions hasn’t moved him faster – he still has a lot to learn. It’s clear that he still needs to do a better job of closing distance behind his jab versus reluctant opponents and develop a semblance of an inside game. His left hook is too good to not use more to the body.

 

Remember, Verdejo’s still just 22 years old. This journey has just begun.

 

– Leo Santa Cruz did the expected (it was a weekend full of chalk) in dispatching the tough-but-shopworn Kiko Martinez in five as the headliner on Showtime at Anaheim’s Honda Center. Santa Cruz sent him to the canvas twice in the first and then ended things several rounds later. In between, the fight was actually pretty entertaining as Martinez got in a few licks and was game throughout. Problem was he was simply out-gunned and out-sized by Santa Cruz, who was his usual windmill self. If there’s one thing Santa Cruz is good at is throwing a multitude of punches.

 

It’ll be interesting to see where “El Terromoto” goes from here. Currently, he holds the WBA featherweight title and I wouldn’t mind seeing a unification bout with WBC beltholder Gary Russell Jr. Both are under the Al Haymon/Premier Boxing Champions umbrella, so it’s a fight that is makeable in theory – at least.

 

– With all this recent saber-rattling being done by Bob Arum (and nobody can rattle sabers like Mr. Arum) toward HBO, it dawned on me that, during this interview I did with the veteran promoter a few weeks ago, he mentioned almost out of nowhere it seemed that he had promoted Showtime’s initial foray in boxing 30 years ago. For the record, it was Marvelous Marvin Hagler versus John “The Beast” Mugabi in March of 1986.

 

Honestly, as I did the interview, I thought it was a bit random that he would mention that. Well, as you look back and see his latest dalliance with Showtime, you have to understand that Arum says certain things for a reason. There are reports/rumors that Arum went to the Super Bowl (which is confirmed) with CBS head man Les Moonves (something that hasn’t been confirmed) and I’m told he had dinner last week in New York with Showtime executives Matt Blank and Stephen Espinoza. Oh, to be a fly on the wall in that meeting.

 

It’s clear that Arum is once again butting heads with Peter Nelson at HBO Sports and is threatening to take some of his content across the street to Showtime: the same network, which has been in bed with Haymon for several years now running. In fact, the last time the network did a “Showtime Championship Boxing” telecast outside the Haymon realm was March of 2012, which just happened to be a Top Rank card featuring the rematch between Orlando Salido and Juan Manuel Lopez in Puerto Rico.

 

Now, does Arum now see an opportunity to go back to Showtime with the supposed demise of the PBC? Perhaps, in the past with Showtime, being monopolized by Haymon, Arum had no choice but to only deal with HBO. It’s not the first time that Arum has tried to leverage one network against the other in order to get what he wanted.

 

We found out again that Arum is always playing chess. And he always keeps things interesting.

 

 

FINAL FLURRIES

 

Christopher Diaz looks like a prospect worth keeping an eye on…It’s a shame that Hugo Ruiz-Julio Ceja II turned out the way it did…Steph Curry is amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a shooter quite like him…The Golden State Warriors have become must-see TV…I also rewatched Prince Naseem Hamed-Kevin Kelley on Saturday night. What a spectacle that was at the Garden. Boxing misses the showmanship of “The Prince”…So yeah, I guess I’m not on the Roc Nation Sports Christmas card list…I can be reached at k9kim@yahoo.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.

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