It was a busy weekend of boxing with cards on Spike, Showtime Extreme and HBO Latino. As always, there were some interesting things going on, both in and out of the ring. Here’s a look at what transpired…
– In front of a spirited throng of just over 9,000 patrons at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, Carl Frampton lifted the WBA featherweight title from Leo Santa Cruz by the scores of 117-111, 116-112 and 114-114. While the first two scores seem a bit wide and don’t do justice to the type of combat that took place between the two, the correct verdict was rendered. Early on, “The Jackal” was simply too shifty and quick off the trigger for Santa Cruz and he built a commanding lead in the first half of the proceedings. To his credit, Santa Cruz never stopped trying to win and kept chipping away. He rallied late and closed the gap but as the bell sounded for the last time, one would assume the Belfast lad should get his hands raised in victory.
What Frampton’s fight with arch-rival Scott Quigg was supposed to be – this was.
And what Keith Thurman-Shawn Porter was supposed to be (a fight that took place in the very same building in Brooklyn about a month ago) was far exceeded by Frampton-Santa Cruz, which had more sustained action and a higher level of offensive and technical execution throughout.
For Frampton, who improved to 23-0 (14), this is his second major victory of 2016. If you care about such things as “Fighter of the Year” awards, as of right now, it’s Frampton by a landslide in this election year.
– Looking at the landscape at 126, you now have Frampton, Gary Russell Jr. (WBC), Lee Selby (IBF) and Oscar Valdez (WBO) as the beltholders and Abner Mares, Jesus Cuellar, Santa Cruz and Joseph Diaz Jr. right behind them in contention. This is a deep division, one with major talent and some star power. But again, while certain match-ups can be made with relative ease, there are others that will be bogged down by the usual politics and alliances. This dynamic here is hurting boxing in the States more than anything else. (In that vein, you have Valdez, Santa Cruz, Diaz and Mares, who are all from the Los Angeles area and know each other quite well from the gym scene out here. In a perfect world, they would be going through some sort of round-robin series of fights at venues like The Forum and the StubHub Center. But then, we don’t live in a perfect world.)
– Mikey Garcia made a triumphant return to the ring by dispatching Elio Rojas in five rounds. This was the expected rust-shaking bout that should be expected, given that Garcia hadn’t seen action in over two years. Now 35-0 (29), he embarks on the next chapter of his career as a lightweight. Word from those at Barclays Center is former Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer was on the scene and he certainly has his eyes on Garcia, who is/was one of the finest craftsmen in the sport. How he will translate as a draw in the Southern California area will be interesting. In the past, he wasn’t always the most exciting fighter in the world but he was among the most efficient. He was as precise as he was calculating with very little wasted motion.
At 28, he is still in his physical prime. The question is: Just how much was lost – if anything – over the past couple of years? We will soon find out.
– Speaking of the Barclays Center, it’s done a nice job of becoming the boxing hub on the East Coast. It now draws pretty substantial crowds (or at least it seems that way). It’s clear that, for the foreseeable future, it will have a consistent schedule of fights. Last Saturday night, there was no doubt that, despite being in a foreign country, Frampton had the home-canvas advantage (something Santa Cruz lamented about after the fight). Unlike the non-existent atmosphere that existed for Frampton’s fight last year in El Paso (yeah, that big Irish hotbed), against Alejandro Gonzalez Jr., last weekend’s bout had a real electricity to it and it would be safely assumed that it spurred Frampton on and his loyal band of followers might have influenced the judges here and there with their emotions.
– Tevin Farmer riddled Ivan Redkach over 10 rounds, which really isn’t a surprise, given that Farmer is as slick as they come and one of the most improved boxers in recent years. After some early setbacks, Farmer has developed into a master boxer. I think he’s an extremely difficult out for anyone at 130 (which is where he belongs) and I get the sense that, with his style, he will have to become a mandatory contender to get that title shot. But take away WBO titlist Vasyl Lomachenko and is there anyone right now who wouldn’t have their hands full with Farmer?
– I know it’s become vogue to lampoon and dismiss Adonis Stevenson with the way he has handled his career over the past couple of years but this is still a guy who can punch and he can do so from the left-handed stance. On Friday night, as the main event on Spike, he engaged in an entertaining slugfest with Thomas Williams Jr. that ended in the fourth round. He blasted “Top Dog” with his favorite weapon, sending Williams down to the canvas and unable to beat the 10-count. Yeah, he’s getting up there in age (38) and has been buzzed before but remember this: The last thing to go on a fighter is his punch. The best way to describe Stevenson is dangerous and vulnerable.
Yeah, he does seem beatable, at times, but it’s still going to take a pretty good fighter – and a very intelligent one at that – to consistently defuse that left-handed bomb of his.
– Speaking of Williams, heavyweight Amir Mansour posted this on Instagram after this fight in reaction to the KO. I’ll just leave this here because it will explain itself:
– I was at the Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California on Saturday night, where Beto Duran and Yours Truly did the international call for the HBO Latino show that featured Antonio Orozco-Abner Lopez. As I said on the broadcast, I thought Lopez did enough to win. For much of the night he backed up Orozco – who was more “Retreating” than “Relentless” in this bout – and had him fighting off his back foot throughout most of the middle rounds. Orozco fought back gamely in the last rounds, to his credit. My card had it 96-94 for the native of Tijuana, Mexico but my broadcast colleague and I were stunned (as were many others ringside) as two judges, Pat Russell and Dr. Lou Moret, had Orozco winning 99-91. Max DeLuca had Orozco on top by a score of 97-93.
Lopez’s corner was right above our broadcast station and his trainer flat out told him before the 10th round, “You have to knock him out. We can’t win a decision.” Now, I thought this was a trainer just exhorting his charge to finish out the fight strong but I never imagined he was so prophetic.
– Also on this card was “JoJo” Diaz, who stopped Victor Proa in two short rounds. Diaz, a 2012 US Olympian, improved to 21-0 (12). This 23-year-old from South El Monte, California isn’t a true puncher but he IS very sharp and accurate. While he may not be a true home run hitter, he does possess gap power. Diaz and Errol Spence Jr. have clearly established themselves as the class of their Olympic team as professionals. It’s only a matter of time before Diaz gets his title shot. He is now ranked No. 2 in the WBC, No. 8 in the IBF and No. 10 in the WBO and it looks like he will have a spot on the Liam Smith-Saul Alvarez pay-per-view undercard in Dallas/Arlington on Sept. 17.
– Trainer Joel Diaz, best known as Tim Bradley’s former chief second, is sky-high on a group of youngsters at his gym. Two of them were in action on the undercard at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, Cesar Diaz (who moved to 2-0) and Vergil (yes, that’s how it’s spelled) Ortiz, who scored a stoppage in his pro debut. “Trust me,” said Diaz on Friday afternoon at the weigh-in, “I got a whole group of them, about seven or eight. All gonna be world champions.”
For Diaz, there is life after the “Desert Storm.”
Yeah, so that interview Russell Jr. did with Showtime was quite cringe-worthy, huh?…The Chinese place at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, JOY, is now on my pound-for-pound list…Did anyone else hear some of the hyperbole of the Spike broadcast team?…Gonna be on the call with my old friend Alan Massengale and Patrick Ortiz for CBS Sports on Friday Aug. 5 as Rob Brant headlines from the Pechanga Resort and Casino…On the ride back from Fantasy Springs, I heard Queen Pen on the radio. Seriously, what happened to her? I loved her first album…Let football commence!…What a night Sunday is for TV with shows like Showtime’s “Ray Donovan,” and HBO’s “The Night Of” and “Ballers.”…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.