Sunday, April 17, 2011

Notes from Berto-Ortiz, Khan-McCloskey

·      What an amazing fight!  From my vantage point, there are three factors that led to Victor Ortiz's win: 1. Ortiz fought at the right weight.  2. Ortiz was able to overcome his psychological roadblocks and persevere.  3. Ortiz and trainer Danny Garcia had an excellent game plan.
·      Here's the theme of the weekend: fighters can get a lot better when they are at their ideal weight. Amir Kahn has shown that his chin is a lot better a 140 than it was at 135.  Juan Manuel Lopez is no longer a featherweight.  Victor Ortiz's chin and stamina were significantly better at welterweight than they were at junior welterweight.  
·      What was most impressive about Ortiz tonight was his mental toughness.  After Ortiz quit against Marcos Maidana and relinquished control of the Lamont Peterson fight, most boxing observers believed that Ortiz's undoing with Berto would be his focus, concentration and determination as the fight progressed into the later rounds.  Ortiz answered all questions about his heart by overcoming a tremendous knockdown in the 6th round to press forward and land his own knockdown as the round closed.  Furthermore, after Ortiz was docked a point in the 10th round, he fought like a pro and redoubled his efforts, crushing Berto to the body with hooks throughout the rest of the round.  
·      Garcia came up with a great game plan.  He saw that Berto likes to fight at a distance, either to box, lunge in with flurries or to counter.  The strategy was for Ortiz to impose his will, with the idea that Ortiz's straighter punches would get to the target before Berto's flashy but longer shots.  The strategy was a dangerous one because Berto can punch and Ortiz can be knocked down.  To Ortiz's credit, he didn't deviate from his corner and kept coming forward, even after getting knocked down.  A trainer can prepare the best game plan in the world but if a fighter doesn't want to execute it, the strategy is moot.  
·      Berto never looked right from the third round on.  After Ortiz hurt him with a series of shots in the first, leading to a knockdown, Berto responded with his own knockdown in the second.  However, Ortiz pummeled Berto in the third round with various straight left hands, right hooks and right uppercuts.  Berto, known for his athleticism, was stuck on the ropes by the third round, motioning Ortiz to fight him there.  His legs were shot.
·      It's tough to determine what Berto's game plan was for the fight.  He got hurt so early that he never really got into his fight.  If trainer Tony Morgan thought the key to getting the win was for Berto to impose his will in the first round and take the fight out of his opponent, then Morgan severely underestimated Ortiz's power.  
·      Is there a better first-round fighter than Ortiz?  When Zab Judah was in his prime, he was the best front-runner in the game.  Khan is good too.
·      Although Ortiz's straight left hand was a tremendous weapon, I think he won the fight with his right hook and right uppercut.  When Berto was in trouble along the ropes, he covered up with his gloves, protecting himself from Ortiz's straight left hand.  Ortiz threw all of his shots during these moments; his right hook and right uppercut continually found their way through Berto's defense.  Ortiz also mixed in body shots, especially in the later rounds.  His body work in the 10th and 11th rounds was punishing and spectacular.  Ortiz's emphasis on the body also signaled his maturation.  Young fighters love knockouts and headshots.  The elite pros know that if you kill the body, the head will follow.  Ortiz's incorporation of the body attack is a new dimension that will serve him well in future fights.  
·      It will probably be forgotten, but Berto's right-hand counter in the 6th round that dropped Ortiz was a thing of beauty: an absolutely perfect shot.  For a few minutes he probably thought he had a path to winning the fight.   Berto, as well as most boxing observers, probably thought that Ortiz would fade in the middle and late rounds; it would then be his fight to win.  However, Ortiz stubbornly refused to follow that script.  
·      I still don't know what to make of Tony Morgan's job during the fight.  He kept advising Berto to box during the middle and late rounds.  That advice clearly allowed Berto to see the final bell, but it wasn't a realistic way of winning the fight.  At that point, Berto (whose legs were shot) had to set a trap for Ortiz and go for the knockout.  After Ortiz dropped Berto at the end of the 6th, Berto wasn't going to get the points victory.  In Berto's corner, Morgan was telling his fighter to "box," while Berto's brother was telling him that "he's an assassin."  Certainly some mixed messages there.  The corner was in disarray.
·      Referee Michael Ortega did not distinguish himself.  He constantly stepped in to break Ortiz and Berto even though Ortiz often had a hand free.  The 8th and 9th rounds were brutal.  I didn't mind the point deduction but Ortega inserted himself into the fight too much for my liking.
·      Kudos to the judges for getting the scoring right.  There were some funky rounds to score.  The 6th featured a knockdown for each fighter and could have been scored 10-8 or 10-9.  The 10th round featured a point deduction for Ortiz, yet he clearly won the round. It should have been a 9-9 round.  However, often times judges go on autopilot and immediate assess a 10-8 round to the fighter that wasn't docked.  The scoring tonight was very good.   
·      Lou DiBella (promoter) and Al Haymon (advisor) have protected Berto throughout his rise to the top.  He had not faced a true puncher before Ortiz.  Berto had been dropped earlier in his career by Cosme Rivera and was stunned by Luis Collazo.  Neither of those two fighters is a good puncher.  Although Berto's team got Berto to the title, their fighter may have been ill-prepared to face real punchers.  However, you can't blame Haymon and DiBella too much for making this fight; how were they to know that Ortiz would put forward the fight of his life?  The Victor Ortiz of the last two years was a very beatable opponent for Berto.  
·      This is where DiBella and Haymon need to prove their worth.  They need to keep Berto busy.  Before tonight, he fought one round in essentially the last year.  There are things that Berto needs to work on--infighting, using his uppercuts, going to the body; they need to find the right opponents for him.  Perhaps a rematch with Ortiz will be great one day, but they shouldn't go for the quick money.  Berto needs to be built back up.  He has every chance to still be an impact fighter in the sport, but don't feed him to the wolves for more punishment.  Let Berto dictate when he is ready to fight for a title again.
·      Whatever happens is Ortiz's career, he will always have this performance.  No current fighter has taken public vitriol like Ortiz has.  People can criticize Mayweather's style or reluctance to fight, but everyone knows his ability level.  You don't beat Zab Judah, Shane Mosley and Diego Corrales without intestinal fortitude.  The criticism of Ortiz was more stinging; it was about his heart and his manhood.  Ortiz fought like a beast tonight and was willing to go out on his shield to get the victory.  Pure balls!  Questions answered.
·      I don't know what's next for Ortiz.  There are some good names at 147.  Golden Boy only has Mayweather and Paulie Malignaggi in the division.  I doubt we will see those fights happening immediately.  It will be interesting to see which direction Golden Boy pursues for their suddenly hot welterweight. 
·      Amir Khan fought very well against Paul McCloskey, a slick boxer that doesn't present an easy hitting target.  Khan paced himself well and patiently unloaded his whole arsenal of weapons.  He didn't land a lot of clean shots during the initial few rounds, but he was the busier fighter.  Eventually he would have success with his left hook and straight right hand.  
·      McCloskey, in that he didn't apply pressure and only looked to counter, was a great opponent for Khan.  Khan implemented his attack when it suited him; he was not in jeopardy at any point in the fight.
·      Khan landed an amazing combination towards the end of the 5th round, where he threw a right uppercut and finished up top with a left hook.  It was a very mature combination and perfectly executed.    Khan also landed another eye-opening combination where he feinted throwing the right hand and then crushed McCloskey with a left hook.  Most fighters usually feint with their jab and follow up with their straight shot.  Feinting with the straight right for the left hook is great stuff.  Khan's combinations and his poise in the ring demonstrate that he has all of the tools to be an elite boxer.  The only question remains is whether he can put together 12 great rounds against a top-level opponent. 
·      The match was called off in the sixth round because of an accidental head butt.  It was a bad stoppage but I had seen enough.  McCloskey had no clear path to victory.  He didn't have any punching power to change the complexion of the fight.  He also didn't throw enough to pile up points.  If he couldn't knock his opponent down, or outwork him, he wasn't going to win the fight.
·      Khan would make life a lot easier for himself if he went to the body.  Against McCloskey, who would lean his head back, taking it out of harm's way, Khan did not recalibrate and go downstairs.  McCloskey's body was there to be hit all night yet Khan just thought of additional ways to get to the head.  I'm not sure if Khan has thrown a good body shot since his knockdown of Maidana in the first round of their fight.  Lucian Bute would have had a field day with a fighter like McCloskey.  Khan remains a headhunter and this attribute will be a problem against Tim Bradley, another awkward fighter who isn't easy to hit cleanly.
·      Khan also resorted to some bad habits in the sixth round.  Like he did late in the Maidana fight, Khan just stood in front of McCloskey for long periods of time with a high guard up, not throwing punches.  This is not a good habit.  Even if he is trying to set a trap, his hands are too high to counter from that position, plus he remains in punching range.  I think it's a focus issue.  There were moments and parts of the fight where Khan didn't fight three-minute rounds.  These are the type of opportunities that Bradley can exploit if they ever face each other.    
·      British boxing crowds are the best.  That's not sucking up to my readers from the U.K.  The crowds there are really unlike any other.   The fact that an uncompetitive scrap like Khan-McCloskey sounded like Pacquiao-Morales goes to show you how seriously they take their sports.  If Haye-Klitschko were made on British soil, I couldn't even contemplate what that atmosphere might be like.    

No comments:

Post a Comment