Weird, wild stuff in boxing

WBC/WBO junior welterweight champion Terence Crawford (left) vs. Felix Diaz. Photo credit: Top Rank Inc.

 

Well, it turns out I went to the wrong card at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland. Yeah, the April 8 card at this new venue was fine, having seen WBO super featherweight titlist Vasyl Lomachenko ply his trade, as only he can, along with the rest of the “Ukranian Dream Team.” But the card this past weekend provided the most…ummmm…“fun” and frivolity. It capped off with – as the late, great Johnny Carson would say – some weird, wild stuff.

 

While Gary Russell Jr. headlined this show in his home region and impressively polished off the game Oscar Escandon in seven rounds, in defense of his WBC featherweight title, the super middleweight match-up between Andre Dirrell and Jose Uzcatagui, and its immediate aftermath, will forever be etched in our memories. In a competitive bout that was heading down the home stretch toward the end of the eighth round, Uzcategui launched a three-punch combination just as the round was ending. Of his left hook/right cross/left hook combo, the first punches both landed on Dirrell (and seemed to buzz him) and the last shot was thrown as the bell sounded that sent him down.

 

Referee Bill Clancy ruled it was a late shot. Earlier in the bout, Uzcategui was warned for throwing punches after the bell. This was shades of Dirrell’s disqualification victory over Arthur Abraham in the “Super Six World Classic” tournament, seven years ago. Initially, Dirrell was on his knees and in the process of trying to shake off the blow. Soon he was on his back and Clancy notified him that, if he couldn’t continue, Uzcategui would be disqualified. That’s is precisely what happened and when things turned ugly.

 

But going back to Clancy, he seemed to be out of position at the end of the eighth round. Many times when the 10-second warning is given, you’ll see referees get near both fighters, placing themselves almost between the two boxers, ready to get jump in, if necessary. As boxers see referees nudge closer, it provides a clear sign that the round is about to end. In this case, Clancy was behind both boxers as they were in the neutral corner. Also, while it’s impossible to know just what Dirrell was going through physically at that time, the usual five-minute period to assess the situation was not given here.

 

During his post-fight interview with Showtime, Dirrell admitted to Jim Gray that he believed the last salvo from the Venezuelan came as the bell sounded. Clancy, who was also interviewed by Showtime, stated that Dirrell was unconscious, which wasn’t the case. While he was prone and being attended to, his eyes were open and he was communicating with those looking over him. Showtime analyst Paulie Malignaggi (who didn’t question the final decision) made a good point in stating that if you tell a fighter a DQ is on the table, most likely, he will take that option. Afterward, Dirrell felt well enough to go over to Uzcategui and could be heard saying that he forgave him for his indiscretion.

 

Meanwhile, the Showtime cameras captured Dirrell’s brother Anthony jostling with several members of the security detail outside the ring and is seen shoving one forcefully. As things seem to be calming down, the uncle and trainer of Dirrell, Leon Lawson Jr., launched “The sucker punch heard ’round the world” as he assaulted an unsuspecting Uzcategui.

 

 

Simply put, this was an assault captured on national television and charges have been filed against Lawson, who still has not turned himself in.

 

It was one of the ugliest incidents in recent boxing history. It brought to mind the incident between James Butler and Richard Grant, in which Butler struck Grant after their fight (which Grant won by unanimous decision), with his wrapped hands, after their fight on ESPN in November of 2001:

 

 

After Lawson’s cheap shot on Uzcategui (who, to his credit, barely moved as he was clipped on the chin), a few more individuals associated with Dirrell streamed into the ring – and it wasn’t to calm the situation. Outside the ring, there was general unrest and you could see people being escorted out of the venue by the security.

 

Where was Dr. Shaw High when you needed him?

 

As this story is being written, Lawson is still on the lam and has not turned himself in. All jokes aside, the bottom line is not only should Lawson serve a significant amount of time, he should never be allowed to work in a corner again.

 

One has to wonder if an incident like this will dissuade a venue like the MGM National Harbor, which has certainly made an early investment in the sport, from bringing boxing back on a regular basis. Its first couple of cards, which took place in April, went off without incident and have been well-attended. Boxing has always had to fight the perception that it’s a corrupt and seedy sport and things like what took place this past weekend certainly don’t help the reputation of the business.

 

But, then again, the riot that followed Riddick Bowe-Andrew Golota I at Madison Square Garden in New York hasn’t kept the Garden from showcasing boxing. And during its glory years, the Grand Olympic Auditorium was not free from a few fights and unrest from its partisans. Hey, it’s boxing. To a certain degree, you should understand what this sport attracts, at times.

 

The venues – in choosing what to work with – should be mindful of who you are inviting onto their properties.

 

– Just about everyone with any semblance of common sense did not condone Lawson’s actions. Well, Claressa Shields endorsed them, putting the following out on social media:

 

 

Yeah, certain things speak for themselves. Mark Taffet has his work cut out for him.

 

– Meanwhile at the Garden, it wasn’t nearly as eventful but, once again, WBC/WBO junior welterweight champion Terence Crawford put forth another exhibition of sterling boxing by outclassing Felix Diaz, who is a pretty solid professional prizefighter. I often say that sometimes it’s not if you win, it’s HOW you win. And once again “Bud” made Diaz – a former Olympic gold medalist, who many believed defeated Lamont Peterson back in 2015 – look wholly ineffective for much of the night. And he did it by out-boxing a southpaw by fighting exclusively as a left-hander. (At this stage, Crawford could be labeled a modified lefty instead of an orthodox boxer and not be incorrect):

 

 

While the HBO hyperbole can grate on the audience (and on this telecast, Crawford was compared to Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Jessie Owens, Jim Thorpe and Babe Ruth – or at least it seemed that way), there’s no doubting the native of Omaha, Nebraska is one of the most versatile and adaptable boxers in the sport today. But it’s clear that if you don’t have a certain length or height, you really have no chance against him. Not only can he control distance with his long jab, he has quick hands and a stout chin. Beyond that, Crawford has a mean streak as deep as Warren Buffet’s bank account.

 

His critics will say he hasn’t really faced a great fighter, which might be true, but he’s certainly handled a slew of good ones easily. And it’s not like many marquee boxers and their management are in a rush to face Crawford. Top Rank has done its best to break him out of just being a regional draw in his home state (which is why he was fighting in New York on Saturday night) and it was able to fill most of the lower bowl of the Garden.

 

Many are clamoring for Crawford to move up to 147, which is good in theory, but WBO welterweight titleholder Manny Pacquiao and his brain trust want no part of him and the rest of the blue-chip welterweights like WBA/WBC welterweight champion Keith Thurman, Shawn Porter, Danny Garcia and Errol Spence Jr. (who faces Kell Brook next weekend for the IBF title) are affiliated with Premier Boxing Champions and Al Haymon. Is there any guarantee that Crawford gets these fights in the near future?

 

Yeah, it’s one thing for the PBC to sacrifice John Molina Jr. (who faced Crawford in December) but those aforementioned names will not get sent across the street unless the risk matches the reward. This was the case for Daniel Jacobs, who did face Gennady Golovkin for a career-high payday back on March 18.

 

It says here that, if Crawford can face Julius Indongo (who holds the other two major straps in that division) for all the marbles, that should be the focus for a summer fight. Yeah, some think the belts are meaningless but consolidating a whole division is a major accomplishment in any era.

 

– The opening bout of this HBO broadcast featured Ray Beltran, who, after a rough first frame, scored a highlight reel KO of Jonathan Maicelo in the second:

 

 

Not only did Beltran punch his ticket for an IBF title shot, he may have put himself in line for a green card. He told me a day before the fight, “I have a working visa. It’s a P-1 visa (for athletic competition) but I’m trying to qualify for a green card.”

 

His manager Steve Feder explained before the Maicelo bout, “We’re working with Frank Ronzio, the immigration attorney and it’s going really well. Everything we’ve been told is this will qualify us to get it done. We just wanted to make sure we had all our ducks lined up before we presented it because we didn’t want to have to come back and redo the application again, so the more we can put together prior to putting in the application the better and we feel pretty confident at this point that we qualify.”

 

This situation was explained in great detail early last week by Martin Rogers of USA TODAY Sports.

 

“The key is to continue to put (Beltran) at a level where it makes him a ‘unique individual,’ a ‘unique athlete’ within his peer group, and that’s pretty much what the qualifications are. So this will qualify him because it keeps him at the world-class level. We feel real confident this is going to get done,” said Feder on Friday afternoon.

 

– Gervonta Davis made the first defense of his IBF 130-pound title by blasting out Liam Walsh in three rounds in London at the Copper Box Arena. From the very onset, it was clear that Davis was simply too strong and powerful for Walsh, who really made no attempt to box the hard-nosed southpaw from Baltimore, Maryland:

 

 

This was Tiananmen Square all over again, as Walsh was simply no match for “Tank” Davis.

 

Davis can fight. There’s no denying that and he’s just 22 years old. It will be interesting to see how his promoter, some guy named Floyd Mayweather Jr., will guide his career. Will he try and develop Davis into a draw in Maryland and will he ever dare match him against Vasyl Lomachenko? (And yeah, that’s basically a non-starter.)

 

– The boxing weekend began in Tokyo, Japan, where a horrendous decision was rendered in the fight between Hassan N’Dam and Ryoto Murata. After a relatively even first three rounds, Murata took this fight over by scoring a knockdown in the fourth – and it’s not a N’Dam title fight unless he hits the canvas – and then steadily winning almost every round thereafter by landing the more telling punches. Perhaps Murata could have been more active but, for much of this contest, N’Dam just circled the ring without much offensive output. Another knockdown was missed by referee Luis Pabon in the seventh as a right hand from Murata sent N’Dam backward, where only the ropes kept him upright.

 

After 12 rounds, for all the world, it seemed like Murata had done more than enough to win one of the multitude of WBA middleweight belts. But to the surprise of everyone, N’Dam had his hands raised in victory by the scores of 116-111 (Gustavo Padilla) and 115-112 (Hubert Earle). Raul Caiz Sr. saw it 117-110 for Murata.

 

You’ll be hard-pressed to find scorecards more outrageous than this in 2017. What makes it even more bizarre is that Murata was the house fighter here. WBA President Gilberto Mendoza was so outraged by the verdict, he has basically called for the immediate rematch, which seems just.

 

But if Mendoza really wants to rectify this situation and further others like this from happening, Padilla and Earle should be held accountable for their scorecards and not be given further championship assignments from his organization.

 

– Anyone see the impressive performance by David Benavidez from Laredo, Texas? He flat-out obliterated the tough Rogelio “Porky” Medina in eight. He flashed his impressive hand speed and threw lightning quick combinations that riddled Medina – who, last year, gave James DeGale hell – and left him drowning in a torrent of leather. Medina was knocked down in the sixth, seventh and eighth rounds and that final flurry that finished him was nothing short of spectacular.

 

With this victory, Benavidez moves to 18-0 (17) and inches closer to an IBF title shot (which is held by DeGale). The scary thing is he’s still just 20 years old. He’s come a long way from that overweight kid who used to come to the Wild Card Boxing Club seven or eight years ago with his brother Jose Jr., who was then a highly-touted prospect. While Jose has had a decent career, it’s clear that the best fighter in this family is David, who had a certain passion for the sport his older brother lacked.

 

 

 

FINAL FLURRIES

 

Does anyone give mixed messages in their interviews quite like Gary Russell Jr.? I get the sense he doesn’t know if he’s coming or going in his career…Yeah, I thought Rances Barthelemy got a bit of a gift versus Kiryl Relikh…While everyone talks about Shakur Stevenson (and HBO showed clips of his second bout), the Top Rank prospect I’m most high on is Teofimo Lopez, who moved to 5-0 (5) by halting Ronald Rivas with a huge left hook…Had a great time calling the Thompson Boxing Promotions card this past Friday with Beto Duran. Yes, they will be going monthly from here on out on Facebook Live and their webpage (ThompsonBoxing.com). The next card will be on June 23…Great to have our weather back in Southern California. Shorts and Sandals Season is officially here…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.

 

 

Comments

comments

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,