Saturday, April 23, 2011

SNB Nuggets (Ortiz, Maidana-Morlaes, Guerrero-Katsidis)

Golden Boy deserves all the credit in the world for sticking with Victor Ortiz, who had marginalized himself in the boxing world over the last two years with a series of dubious performances.  Many promoters (Don King and Top Rank come to mind) would have kept a fighter like Ortiz on ice after quitting in one fight (against Marcos Maidana) and easing up on a wounded opponent in another (Lamont Peterson).  With Ortiz's rousing victory against Andre Berto, the Golden Boy head honchos (Oscar de la Hoya, Richard Schaefer and matchmaker Eric Gomez) must have felt a tremendous amount of pride.  They kept Ortiz in the limelight, securing him additional fights on HBO, and placing him on undercards of some of Golden Boy's major fights. 

In short, Golden Boy understood what they had in Ortiz.  Strategically, he is an important asset: he's of Mexican-American descent, speaks English as his first language, interacts very well with the media and possesses knockout power.  

Golden Boy would have received no scorn from the boxing world had they decided to run out their contract with Ortiz and cut their losses.  His performances in those two previously mentioned fights were brutal; there was a good reason why Berto was a healthy favorite in their contest.  But Golden Boy steadfastly continued with their support of Ortiz.

I hope Ortiz is celebrating his well earned victory lap.  His team believed in him, as well as his family.  After those constituencies, I'm not sure there were too many others who thought he could beat Berto in the manner in which he did.  It was an inspiring performance and he will be up for some mega fights over the next 18 months.

The Marcos Maidana-Erik Morales fight was an entertaining scrap, where Morales showed he still had the physical dimensions to fight at least one top-level fighter.  It was a great performance from the Mexican legend but let's not get ahead of ourselves.  Agreeing with two of the judges, I scored the fight 116-112 for Maidana.  

The competitive nature of the fight can be attributed to the style matchup.  Maidana is slow and Morales has a super-human chin and a champion's determination.  Against Pacquiao, who throws lightning-quick combinations from odd angles, Morales could not see the punches coming.  The older Morales can't deal with speed or lateral movement.  Maidana does not possess either attribute.  If Morales has a future in boxing, he must be matched very carefully.  A fourth fight against his chief rival, Marco Antonio Barrera, is a natural, next step.

Maidana would have knocked out many fighters with that performance.  His blistering straight right hands, left uppercuts, left hooks and his commitment to body punching, make him one of the best offensive fighters in all of boxing.  Don't let anyone try to convince you that Maidana was overrated because the fight with Morales was close.  Morales can take unbelievable amounts of punishment.  

Maidana would help himself in future fights if he did two other things.  First, if he had even a serviceable jab, his power combinations would land at a higher rate.  Second, although Maidana has tremendous desire and fighting spirit, he needs to be able to fight 12 rounds.  No one questions his heart; he is relentless and keeps coming forward despite taking his opponents' best shots.  However, he also gives away rounds. 

I think Maidana needs to strengthen his legs, especially his thighs.  He gets wobbled a lot, and while he is not necessarily hurt, his lack of a strong base gives the impression that he is unsteady, thus losing rounds.  His punch output trailed off in the middle rounds before he turned on the jets in the final three stanzas.  If Maidana fought in his style for 12 consistent rounds, he would be that much more difficult to beat.

Two rounds of the Maidana-Morales fight deserve special mention.  The 8th round was just a brutal affair.  Morales landed a stunning left hook in the first few moments, followed by a short uppercut and some stinging jabs later in the round.  Maidana hit Morales with a  thundering overhand right about half way through the round and had some great moments along the ropes with left hooks and uppercuts.  These two fighters went to war and it was savage and beautiful. 

Maidana won the fight with a combination at the end of the 10th round.  The frame was up for grabs with 20 seconds remaining.  Then Maidana threw a punishing right had that landed flush on Morales' left cheek and followed it up with a strong left uppercut that landed on Morales' other cheek.  Morales looked defeated in the corner after the round and didn't have much left throughout the rest of the fight.  These two punches (as well as Maidana's constant body attack) swung the fight for good.

After the fight was over, Morales walked back to his corner.  There were huge red blotches all across his right side and right-hand area of his lower back.  The markings were from Maidana's vicious left hooks to the body.  Morales absorbed tremendous punishment in this fight.  I'm not sure many others could have withstood Maidana's assault.

Robert Guerrero displayed a textbook example of how to defeat a pressure fighter.  Seriously, they could show his performance in boxing instructional videos.  Establishing space in the center of the ring, Guerrero varied his attack against Michael Katsidis by throwing strong right jabs, lead left uppercuts, right hooks and straight left hands.  He controlled distance beautifully, circled away from Katsidis' right hand and engaged his opponent with sharp combination punching. 

For most of the night, Katsidis look flustered, unable to get inside against Guerrero, who seemed to land at will.  Katsidis did have a second-round knockdown that should have been called.  However, Guerrero was not badly hurt and the knockdown would not have made a difference in the scoring. 

At lightweight, Guerrero looked enormous.  His combination of boxing technique, size and speed will be formidable against any opponent at 135.  He could easily transition to junior welterweight without any difficulty.  

Sorry to harp on a theme again, but 135 is Guerrero's proper weight.  There were instances during his fights at featherweight and junior lightweight where he faded or didn't have that second offensive gear.  The process of shedding pounds to get to an uncomfortable weight can be enervating.  Now that Guerrero has found his ideal weight, he could emerge as an elite fighter very quickly.   

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