Verona After Dark
After a long day of watching college football (and how bout dem undefeated Hurricanes?!), my focus switched over to HBO, where a “Boxing After Dark” telecast took place from the Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona, New York. It was a tripleheader that started with tape-delay coverage from Belfast, Northern Ireland, where Ryan Burnett unified his IBF bantamweight title against former WBA beltholder Zhanat Zhakiyanov, followed by bouts featuring former two-time 154-pound beltholder Demetrius Andrade, in his middleweight debut, against Alantez Fox and former WBA junior lightweight titleholder Jezreel Corrales versus Alberto Machado.
Here are some my thoughts and recollections as I viewed this action in a Zima-induced buzz…
– Burnett-Zhakiyanov wasn’t a great fight but it was hard-fought and Burnett now owns the IBF and WBA belts, by defeating the rugged Kazakhstani by the scores of 118-110, 119-109 and 116-112. Not sure why HBO felt the need to televise this, given they aren’t in the bantamweight business but perhaps it has something to do with their new relationship with Matchroom Boxing and Eddie Hearn. Besides, it beats having to find a stream later on. Burnett is a pretty solid fighter who was able to match the physicality of “ZZ” and he more than held his own on the inside. But what marred the overall quality of this contest was just how much grappling and holding took place between the two and referee Howard John Foster did very little to curb all the clinching.
Want to make fights better?
Start enforcing this particular rule and you’ll see things open up. Last I checked, this is boxing, not mixed martial arts. But somewhere along the way, clinching – which is technically illegal – has become an accepted tactic in the sport. Long ago, the NBA outlawed hand-checking, in order to free up the flow of the game and improve the quality of play. It’s time that the powers-that-be do the same in boxing.
– The live broadcast in Verona began with Andrade facing the little-known Fox, whose best attribute was being abnormally tall (6-foot-4) for his weight class. There was much made by the HBO crew about Andrade being another blue-chipper in the middleweight class but, truth be told, he never really established himself at 154, where he did win portions of two belts but never had anything close to a career-defining victory as a junior middleweight titlist. This bout with Fox looked more like a sparring session and, quite frankly, it was a bore. But with HBO now entering a multi-fight deal with “Boo Boo,” Max Kellerman and Andre Ward were doing the hard sell on Andrade to the viewing audience. Yes, Andrade has some physical tools (tall, southpaw and long-limbed) and an amateur pedigree. However, he wasn’t remotely entertaining or all that exceptional on this night. He was effective in winning one round after another versus the giraffe-like Fox.
This particular tweet summed up the HBO crew’s kid glove treatment of Andrade:
HBO explains Andrade to the viewers the way a woman describes an ugly friend that they are trying to hook you up with.
— 🎃MattyMalicious👻 (@zumstamm) October 22, 2017
Andrade is now part of the HBO galaxy of middleweights but, on Saturday evening, he showed that he wasn’t as nearly compelling as IBF titlist Jarrett Hurd and WBC beltholder Jermell Charlo, who will probably have better, more memorable runs than he did at 154.
– Thought it was interesting that a narrative was being crafted that Andrade was somehow a boxer who was victimized by the business, hence why he’s been so inactive (just four fights since the end of 2014, coming into this past weekend). Ward said something to the effect that this was beyond his control. Uh, well, actually it wasn’t because what bogged down Andrade after he defeated Brian Rose in June of 2014 (on HBO, by the way) was his fight with Jermell Charlo was sabotaged, as Andrade – who had a promotional agreement with Banner Promotions and Star Boxing – was seduced by RocNation Sports. It’s something Artie Pelullo, the CEO of Banner, has no problems discussing and there is ongoing litigation regarding this issue.
I’m not making a judgment here on what Andrade did but that was something he absolutely could control and was a self-inflicted wound.
It’s ironic that RocNation Sports just happened to be Ward’s promoter for the past few years, as he went through long stretches of inactivity in his own career. Perhaps that was the reason HBO didn’t delve fully into this topic. However this was a clear case of a network pushing a narrative instead of the truth. I expect better from them but perhaps this is where they are headed nowadays.
– This broadcast’s main event ended up being a pretty fun fight, with Puerto Rican Alberto Machado suddenly turning things around and stopping Jezreel Corrales in the eighth round with a well-placed left hand. Machado, 19-0 (16), will have to continue to hone his ability to control airspace and distance with his right jab. It will be interesting to see how he evolves under the tutelage of trainer Freddie Roach.
The 27-year-old Machado is a fun and flawed fighter. Here’s hoping he isn’t promoted into “Bolivian” like Jose Pedraza was. Boxing is always better with a few Puerto Rican champions, especially ones who can pop, as Machado can from his left-handed stance.
– “Jazzy” Jezreel had the temerity to demand a rematch in the aftermath of this fight, which isn’t so unreasonable, till you factor in that he didn’t come close to making the 130-pound limit and therefore was stripped of his WBA junior lightweight belt before the first bell rang. Corrales had just fought on July 15, when he defeated Robinson Castellanos at the Forum in Inglewood, California, so inactivity couldn’t be used as an alibi for this offense (which is becoming more and more typical in recent times). This is the second broadcast in a row in which a Golden Boy Promotions boxer has failed to make weight. (But at least Corrales showed up to fight, something Antonio Orozco failed to do, last month, when he was slated to face Roberto Ortiz). It says here you can’t blame the promoter – after all, their job isn’t to govern making weight – but I do believe all promoters in this situation have an obligation to discipline the offending parties. Too often, they act as enablers, which is a large part of why this stuff keeps occurring.
The closest Corrales and Orozco should get to HBO (for at least a year, as they work they way back up the ladder) is downloading HBO GO. Getting dates on premium networks is not a right for prizefighters but a privilege that they earn – but it is one that also must come with a set of expectations and standards.
It must have slipped Corrales’ mind that, if he wanted a rematch with Machado, it would have to be at 130 pounds, given it would be for the WBA title. Y’ know, the one he had to give up because he didn’t do his due diligence. Corrales will learn the hard way that his whole market value was based on having a major world title (hey, #BeltsMatter) and it’s the reason HBO put him on their airwaves in the first place. Without that title, he’s now just a J.A.G. as Bill Parcells would say: Just a guy.
Corrales’ spot – and belt – has now been taken by Machado.
– I thought referee Mark Nelson had a bad night at the office as the third man. Like most of his colleagues today, he simply is unwilling to penalize for clinching but what I found ironic is that, in the sixth round, as Machado clipped Corrales, he was wrestled to the floor with no penalty enforced (and it was literally a tackle, like the ones you see, on Sundays, in the NFL). Then, in the seventh, as Machado was buzzed, he was admonished for holding, which seemed to be rather routine jostling between the two. The inconsistency in enforcement was maddening to see. Then Nelson’s count of Corrales seemed to be very quick, although, in all fairness, Corrales didn’t complain too much as he was still groggy from that left hand he absorbed.
Listen, I know refereeing is a tough gig but is it too much to ask whomever signs up for these assignments to properly enforce the Queensberry Rules?
– Murat Gassiev advanced to the semifinals of the “World Boxing Super Series” cruiserweight tournament by stopping Krzysztof Wlodarczyk, in three rounds, with a left hook to the body, at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. Gassiev, the defending IBF beltholder will now face WBA titlist Yunier Dorticos. This semifinals should be filled with fireworks with WBO titlist Oleksandr Usyk and WBC titleholder Mairis Briedis facing each other, on the other side of the bracket. Here’s hoping a larger television platform in the States is found for the WBSS as it moves forward.
– OK, this finally has to be the end for Glen Tapia, right? He was halted by Gabe Rosado in six rounds in Las Vegas, last Thursday night, as part of the “Golden Boy Boxing on ESPN” series in his latest ill-advised attempt to jump-start his career. For Tapia, it marks his fourth consecutive loss and three of them have come by KO. I hated this match-up, coming in, because Tapia has long been a spent bullet and a danger to himself. Quite frankly, he was never the same after being left in there too long against James Kirkland in late-2013.
Yeah, you could say that Tapia is a grown man who has the right to do as he pleases – which is true, to a point. When a person becomes a danger to himself and others on the road, drivers licenses can be revoked. At this point, Rosado is that senior citizen with failing eyesight and dulled reflexes, who simply shouldn’t be behind the wheel of a vehicle.
Again, you can argue all you want about an individual’s rights but ask yourself this: If this was your son or brother, would you want him to continue this career?
And is this a good look for boxing and those in charge?
Really enjoyed the bout between Keandre Gibson and Alejandro Barrera…Saul Sanchez, the younger brother of featherweight hopeful Emilio is a prospect worth keeping tabs on…Ryota Murata dispatched Hassan N’Dam in seven on Sunday morning to win the WBA “regular” middleweight title. If he isn’t already, he can be a big star in Japan…Miami games this season simply aren’t easy…So is Lonzo Ball a bust or not?…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.