Saturday night fever
There was a abundance of boxing on this past weekend in the States, highlighted by two very good cards on both Showtime and HBO that saw eye-opening knockouts, titles changing hands and some good ol’ fashioned donnybrooks. Here’s some random thoughts on what transpired…
- I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Mikey Garcia – the newly minted WBC 135-pound beltholder – is Juan Manuel Marquez 2.0. Now, he may not throw the combinations a young “Dinamita” did but his precision, timing and counter-punching is very Marquez-ian. And this past Saturday at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, he made easy work of the previously undefeated Dejan Zlaticanin.
It says here that if you decide to work in a straight line against Garcia, well, you’re doomed. It’s like throwing fastballs to Barry Bonds in 2001. Garcia (who improved to an impressive 36-0 (30)) will only be troubled by those who can box in circles and hit on fly. You must get him to reset his feet consistently. But if you can only work in a linear fashion against him…good luck. This guy is truly one of the master craftsman in the sport, one who isn’t flashy but as well-grounded fundamentally as any boxer today and executes the most basic things at an extremely high level, over and over again. He is a textbook example that punching really begins from the feet up and is proficient at setting them properly, stepping with his punch and punching through his legs and core, creating a great amount of force and momentum in short, confined spaces. I’d bet he isn’t hitting pool noodles in the gym or practicing 34-punch combinations on the pads. Young boxers and trainers should actually watch his fights from the waist down; it’s an exhibition of balance and creating torque.
And yes, Garcia can be a bit finicky in his punch output but when he does let his hands go, he is usually very accurate and clean with his shots. The 29-year-old resident of Riverside, who has now captured major titles in three different weight categories, is one of the best the sport has to offer. Tell me whom you’d favor over him between 130 and 140.
- Speaking of which, perhaps the three biggest threats – or just as importantly, the three most anticipated match-ups – for Garcia in the near future are probably Vasyl Lomachenko (the current WBO super featherweight titlist), Jorge Linares (who holds the WBA lightweight strap) and unified junior welterweight king Terence Crawford. Great pairings, right? Yeah, but there’s this one not-so-small-problem attached to those guys: Two are with Top Rank Promotions (Lomachenko and Crawford) and Linares with Golden Boy Promotions, while Garcia is in the Premier Boxing Champions universe of Al Haymon and whatever promoter is assigned to him on a bout-by-bout basis. The usual politics and alliances (of the promotional and network variety) will most likely hinder these fights from ever becoming a reality because, quite simply, the power brokers involved don’t break bread.
But for boxing to be be taken seriously – as both a sport and a business – they need to make more of these types of fights that simply haven’t been happening for some time.
- Gotta hand it to Leo Santa Cruz, who evened the score against Carl Frampton on the Showtime main event, by doing what many (including this pundit) didn’t believe he was capable of doing – and that’s making an adjustment and bringing a more forceful, consistent jab to the table. And with that, he was able to control the distance and spacing and, unlike in their first affair, dictate the tempo versus Frampton. By nature, Santa Cruz is a grinder, who relies on volume on the inside to wear his foes down over the course of time but, for long stretches in this rematch, he was bit more of a boxer. This time around, Frampton had a much more difficult time navigating around the ring with the presence of Santa Cruz’s jab.
Frampton, who was recently named the 2016 “Fighter of the Year,” had his moments but was never in control, as he was last summer when they first met. “The Jackal” also did a poor job of consistently getting his hands back high and in a proper defensive posture, after unleashing his offensive attacks and was subsequently caught at the end of Santa Cruz’s long punches in heated exchanges. While the scores were close, not unlike in their first chapter, it was clear who was the superior man on this night. Santa Cruz was the rightful winner in regaining his WBA featherweight belt.
- – There was a decent crowd at the MGM Grand but it was far from capacity and the word is $200 tickets were reduced to $50 on fight week. It seemed that, just like in their first encounter, Frampton brought the lion’s share of the fan support from Ireland. So the question is: If the first fight was in New York and the rematch was in Las Vegas (which, last I checked, both cities were both in America) how come the rubber match can’t be in Dublin? Isn’t that only fair to Frampton? And wouldn’t the third fight would sell the best there?
That said, yeah, snowball’s chance of that occurring.
- Meanwhile on HBO, Francisco Vargas was slowly beaten down by the younger, fresher and ultimately stronger Miguel Berchelt over 11 rounds at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, California.
That’s the thing about being involved in the Fight of the Year in consecutive years. It’s great for your reputation, your standing in the sport, maybe even your wallet but, as a fighter, well, it can age you prematurely. On this night, though Vargas fought gamely and certainly had his moments, he simply didn’t have the same constitution or physical wherewithal as he had previously exhibited in his memorable back-and-forths against Takashi Miura and Orlando Salido. As the night went on, he was 32 going on 48. In Berchelt he was facing a big, strong puncher, with pretty good boxing skills, who simply wasn’t going to let Vargas off the hook.
Speaking of the new WBC 130-pound beltholder, his one loss was a shocking first round knockout at the hands of Luis Eduardo Florez back in March of 2014. One thing I’ve been taught by matchmakers and other veterans of the sport is first-round KOs (both in wins and losses) should almost be thrown out because, many times, they are about real soft matchmaking or an aberration, a bolt of lightning that may never strike again. That certainly seems to be the case with the 25-year-old Berchelt, who looks like another really good piece in a stacked junior lightweight class. Again, there are about a dozen fighters in that category who can just mix and match and have at it.
- Coming into this doubleheader, the WBC had mandated that the winner of the two fights on HBO would have to square off. That said, Berchelt is lined up to face Miura, whose class separated him from the tough Mexican Miguel “Mickey” Roman, who he halted in the 12th stanza. This should be a really good scrap. Damn those dastardly sanctioning bodies.
In attendance was one Orlando Salido, who was certainly an interested observer on this evening. Berchelt’s promoter Fernando Beltran told me he had every intention on going through with the WBC’s edict of Berchelt-Miura but where does this leave Salido? Is a guy like Jason Sosa available or do they re-visit the Lomachenko rematch? Lomachenko is scheduled to return April 8 on HBO. Does Salido go through with a stay-busy fight in April in Mexico and then face the winner of Berchelt-Miura?
Jason Quigley will face Glen Tapia on March 23 in what the kick-off of Golden Boy Promotions’ deal with ESPN. Not sure if “The Jersey Boy” has anything left in the tank…The return of Tureano Johnson was supposed to take place this past weekend in Fantasy Springs but he failed to make weight and his opponent refused to take any extra money. (I’m told up to a point in which he could’ve made $40,000 but decided to go home). When it’s all said and done, Johnson didn’t do his job. This is on him…I didn’t realize that Jim Thomas, best known for representing Evander Holyfield, is working with Johnson…National signing day is on Wednesday, so please don’t bother me…I have one quibble with Fantasy Springs: Must they put press row behind regular seats? My head was bobbing-and-weaving like young Mike Tyson, as fans were getting in and out of their seats…The New Edition mini-series on BET was great, thoroughly enjoyed it…So is HBO doing another “Legendary Nights”?! Say it is so!…I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org 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.