Monday, October 22, 2012

Opinions and Observations: Brooklyn Boxing

Championship boxing returned to Brooklyn, New York this weekend, the first time since the 1930s.  Four title bouts (at least three-and-a-half) highlighted a deep Golden Boy Promotions card at the new Barclays Center.  Here are my thoughts from a memorable fight weekend. 


This fight almost didn't occur as Erik Morales failed two drug tests leading up to the bout.  Morales tested positive for clenbuterol, a substance used to help expedite weight loss.  The testing was conducted by the United States Anti-Doping Agency and Morales failed both an "A" and "B" sample.  After passing a third test, somehow the fight was allowed to go on.  Usually, in standard drug testing procedures, once an athlete fails an "A" and then "B" sample, he is suspended/banned/flogged/tarred-and-feathered.  Here, with the drug test being conducted outside the purview of the New York State Athletic Commission, Golden Boy and all of the parties involved agreed to push forward with the fight.

Obviously, this situation smacks of a farce.  Why have drug testing if a positive result doesn't prohibit a guilty athlete from competing?  Why have a state athletic commission, whose job it is to protect the safety and health of fighters, if it insists on being toothless in the face of a failed drug test?  Why should Danny Garcia have any faith in Golden Boy if the company would let him face a fighter who failed not one but two drug tests leading up to this fight?  I understand why Garcia wouldn't want to walk away from a seven-figure payday but where was his manager, Al Haymon, or Golden Boy to protect him.

The potential ramifications of this decision are far-reaching and manifold.  The actions and conduct of the various participants from last week merit further condemnation reflection, but we do have some fight action to get to.  Ultimately, Garcia won and looked spectacular but this situation reeks and is a reminder that Golden Boy Promotions, an entity that came into boxing with a stated goal to clean up the sport, is participating in the same type – or worse, an even greater type – of chicanery that they accused the other big promotional firms in boxing of participating in.  Essentially, morality and fighter protection took subordinate roles to money and expediency.   

Ok.  Moving on.

There are many excellent counterpunchers and combinations punchers in the sport.  What makes Danny Garcia special is his ability to use his counterpunching opportunities to start his combinations.  95% of boxers counterpunch with a single shot.  Think about Bernard Hopkins or Juan Manuel Marquez.  They use their counter right hands to land single, punishing power shots. Or take Kell Brook and his counter left jab (Brook had a nice stoppage this weekend over Hector Saldivia with that punch).  Boxers use these counters to freeze and/or hurt an opponent.  After landing the shot, they make a quick assessment of damage.  They then follow up with additional punches as they transition to offense.  Garcia is one fighter who throws fluid combinations when he is in a counterattack position.  Canelo Alvarez is another.  Floyd Mayweather can also do this but he more often pot-shots with single counter shots. 

Garcia will throw a counter left hook and immediately follow with his right hand.  Or he will throw a counter right hook and follow with a left uppercut and then a straight right hand.  In past fights, he has also used his counter uppercuts and right hands to initiate his combinations.  

So good for Garcia.  He does this.  What does this mean?  What should this tell me about him?  Perhaps most importantly, this skill set illustrates how comfortable Garcia is during exchanges.  He's steely and determined when an opponent throws, not frazzled and unsure of himself.  He sees incoming fire as an opportunity not a distress signal.  This also tells me he doesn't worry about getting hit.  To remain in the pocket against fighters with faster hand speed, like Amir Khan, or ones with all sorts of veteran tricks,  e.g. Erik Morales, Garcia shows that he has full confidence in his chin and ring generalship.  Even when Khan blistered Garcia for three rounds, Garcia didn't leave the pocket or change his game plan.  Garcia has the patience and poise to survive his opponents' shots and look for his opportunities to land his combinations.  In short, he can really handle himself under pressure.

In addition, Garcia is a very creative counterpuncher.  It's unusual to see a counter right hook against a conventional fighter.  In theory, this shot leaves the boxer open for a straight right hand.  But Garcia throws the punch, as does Canelo, and it's quite a weapon.  Granted, Garcia had a real hand speed advantage over Morales and he understood his positioning prior to throwing the punch, but he shouldn't be docked for having the wherewithal to throw an unconventional punch.  Think about Floyd Mayweather throwing that looping right hand against Miguel Cotto.  On the surface, Mayweather had four sharper punches than that one, but it landed consistently and hit its target.  It's the mark of a top fighter to fill his arsenal with weapons and to know when and how to deploy them.  It's clear that Garcia has this skill. 

The other facet about Garcia which strikes me as above average is his accuracy.  People have scoffed at Garcia's counter left hook, deriding it as slow or wide, but it almost split Khan's neck into two and sent Morales pirouetting into the ropes.  Garcia doesn't have great hand speed or some type of god-given fluky power, like that which resides in Randall Bailey's right hand, but his punches are thrown with excellent technique and, to my eyes, little wasted energy.  As Andre Ward, Mayweather and Marquez have shown, accuracy is a bitch.  And Garcia demonstrates this point as well. 

I would put Danny Garcia in the top-four at junior welterweight in a group that includes Lucas Matthysse, Marquez and Brandon Rios.  I'm not saying that he beats the other three that I have mentioned, but I wouldn't feel comfortable betting against him either.  I also wouldn't put him in the ring against a cutie like Joan Guzman. 

Garcia has been underrated throughout his entire career, by pundits, Golden Boy and his opponents.  It's clear that he continues to improve as he grows more confident in the ring.  He still has his drawbacks – he can be slow to start fights, he can be outworked and his foot speed is only adequate.  And there are questions to answer about his chin against good punchers in the division.  However, he continues to impress.

The left hand he landed in the fourth that sent Morales through the ropes is the type of perfect punch that fighters dream about and fans pay hard-earned money to see.  Garcia's not a full-on attraction yet in the sport but he's making a name for himself.  As one of just a litany of Golden Boy prospects at this time last year, Garcia has really distinguished himself.  He has become a bona fide player in the 140-lb division.

For Morales, I'll save the official appreciation of his career until he calls it quits.  Hopefully, I'll be able to write those words sooner rather than later.  The man has accomplished so much in the ring, but he's done.  He had a decent first two rounds until Garcia started to open up.  At this point, Morales doesn't have the defense or legs to protect himself against top fighters. 

In terms of morality plays, Morales has cut some corners in his career, like many other top fighters.  He's had problems making weight in the past.  He tried getting there with a little help this time.  He lost spectacularly.  This doesn't mean that I hate Morales or will now think of him only as a "cheater."  It's a data point in an otherwise long and distinguished career.  I won't dismiss this episode but I won't let it color all that came before it either.  I understand that others may approach this situation differently and I respect that, but this is where I stand.


To add to the pre-fight drama, Pablo Cesar Cano failed to make weight in his welterweight title opportunity against Paulie Malignaggi.  It was a rather strange circumstance in that Cano was moving up from junior welterweight for the title shot.  You wouldn't expect a fighter who made weight comfortably at 140 to struggle to make 147.  Often, fighters miss weight when they outgrow a division, don't train hard or move down a weight class.  I'll let you decide which reason it was here. Thus, Cano couldn't win the title in that he didn't make weight.  With everything that went on with Morales leading up to his fight, Cano's transgression seemed rather banal by comparison.

Malignaggi, a brash and light-hitting Brooklyn native, was making his first title defense at welterweight.  The thought was that Cano, a solid but rather unspectacular Mexican fighter at junior welterweight, would be a game enough opponent for Malignaggi to look good in front of his hometown fans.  As we have seen often in boxing, nobody told the "opponent" that he was there to lose. 

Malignaggi had many solid rounds in the beginning of the fight.  He jabbed Cano to death and opened up an awful cut on Cano's right eye in the second round.  Referee Steve Smoger correctly ruled that the cut was caused by a punch.  The question seemed to be when, not if, Malignaggi would be able to open the cut up more and end the fight.  It's a marvel that Cano was able to make it through 12 rounds (there was some great work in his corner). 

Despite several quality rounds throughout the fight, Malignaggi didn't look his best.  He was off with his counterpunching.  Cano did come forward with some head movement but he wasn't particularly elusive.  Cano threw a straight right hand, a jab and a left hook.  His punches were compact and well thrown, but he didn't have blinding speed.  Malignaggi just wasn't accurate and his legs looked sluggish.  For whatever reason, Malignaggi was tagged much more than he should've been and because of the lack of accuracy with his counter shots, Cano kept coming forward, undeterred.

Many rounds played out in the classic boxer vs. pressure fighter matchup, where the boxer wins the first two minutes of the round on activity, ring generalship and work on the outside but then the pressure fighter comes on and lands the best shots of the frame with power punches.  In short, these rounds were tough to score. 

Malignaggi had a solid 10th round and was off to a good start in the 11th.  He was circling well to his left and tagging Cano with his jab and a few straight right hands.  Suddenly, Cano landed a right hand that I don't think Malignaggi took particularly well.  Cano soon hit Malignaggi with another right.  Later on in the round, Cano connected with a third right hand and Malignaggi dropped to the canvas; he was really hurt.  Cano's knockdown punch was a good one but I think that the first two right hands earlier in the round really softened him up.  Cano's momentum from the 11th didn't carry over into the final round;  Malignaggi actually fought well and was able to avoid further harm. 

I scored the fight 115-112 for Malignaggi, or 8 rounds to 4 with one point off for the knockdown.  There were a number of close rounds that could have gone either way and probably my card was on the boundary of what was an acceptable score for the fight.  I think that anything from 8 rounds to 4 for either fighter would have certainly been a legitimate score for the fight. 

Tom Miller and Glenn Vazquez both scored it 114-113 for Malignaggi and Glenn Feldman turned in a laughable 118-109 verdict for Cano.  Malignaggi escaped with a split decision. 

It was a close fight, one in which both fighters could have done more.  For Malignaggi, his timing could certainly have been better and he didn't move as fluidly as he had in the past.  Sometimes Malignaggi gets too brave and likes to mix it up on the inside, to his own detriment, but at his best, he is a boxer/mover.  His legs just didn't look good on Saturday.  That could mean a number of things.  Maybe it's age.  Maybe he over-trained.  Maybe it was just a night where he wasn’t feeling his best.  These things happen.  Nevertheless, that wasn’t a vintage Malignaggi performance.  

For Cano, he lacked agility at moments in the fight and definitely could have been busier.  Although he landed the better shots in many rounds in the fight, often there weren't enough of them.  In addition, he really didn't take it to Malignaggi in the 12th.  Despite having his opponent hurt at the end of the previous round, Cano fought the last round like it was any other.

Because of Malignaggi's lack of punching power and limited formula for winning fights, he needs to be matched very carefully going forward.  Cano seems like a classic spoiler to me.  He doesn't do any one thing great but he's game and has some pop.  As he acquires more professionalism and experience – he’s still only 23 – he may have some real upsets in him yet.  I certainly wouldn't mind a rematch but I'd be surprised if it happens.

Quillin-N'Dam N'Jikam

Brooklyn resident Peter Quillin knocked down French-based Cameroonian Hassan N'Dam N'jikam six times to win a competitive fight for his first world title (the broadcast referred to him as N'Dam, so I'll do the same).  Yes, somehow, N'Dam remained in the match despite being knocked down twice in the 4th, 6th and 12th rounds.  You can watch a lot of boxing and you won't see that dynamic happen again anytime soon. On my card, I had Quillin leading 103-102 going into the 12th round.  He then declaratively sealed the victory with a crushing left hook to drop N'Dam and then moments later he knocked him down one final time.  That shot was a right hand. 

The final scores were all 115-107 for Quillin but take a moment to consider those tallies in more detail.  Despite scoring six knockdowns, the judges only had Quillin winning seven rounds.  I scored it 113-109 for Quillin and believed that he had only won five rounds.  Nevertheless, the knockdowns ensured that there wouldn't be any scoring controversy. 

Going into the fight, I knew that N'Dam would be a difficult matchup for Quillin.  N'Dam moves very well in and out and side to side.  His style is very much built on fluidity and flow.  He comes in from odd angles.  He has a good jab and throws his straight right hand and overhand right from unconventional trajectories.  He also has very good ring generalship and knows what he wants to accomplish in the ring. 

Quillin is well schooled and powerful but he never had to trap a mover.  His best victories were against Winky Wright, Craig McEwan and Fernando Zuniga.  Those were fighters who weren't hard to find.

I thought N'Dam won the first three rounds with his movement, jab and activity.  N'Dam also had a decided hand speed advantage.  Quillin wasn't moving his hands enough to win rounds and he was too stationary; he was an easy target to hit.

Now it's time to pat myself on the back a little bit.  After round two I tweeting the following: (@snboxing, for those who are interested) "N'Dam up 2-0.  To me, the fight will turn on how accurate Quillin's left hook and uppercut are." 

I was seeing some occasional lazy right hands from N'Dam.  They were unconventional shots, but eventually they could be timed.  And in the fourth round, Quillin got his timing down pat.  He landed a pulverizing left hook that sent N'Dam sprawling to the canvas.  Later on in the round, Quillin landed another blistering left hook that sent N'Dam down again.  Somehow, N'Dam survived the round. 

I thought that N'Dam recovered well in the fifth round.  Before the sixth, Quillin's trainer, Eric Brown, who also won with Malignaggi later in the night, implored his fighter to stay aggressive.  Quillin started much more active in the sixth and landed two more knockdowns in the round with left hooks.  Again, N'Dam survived the round. 

From the 7th through the 11th rounds, N'Dam gradually worked his back into the fight.  He often circled to his left which is usually the wrong way against an orthodox fighter, but Quillin's left hook was giving him problems not his right hand; it was the correct move.  N'Dam also let his hands go with more confidence as the rounds progressed.

Quillin at times looked like he was loading up on the left hook.  Instead of working his jab or his right hand more, he was content to lay back and wait for that perfect opportunity to land the hook.  It's an understandable reaction in that he had already scored four knockdowns from that punch, but in the meantime, because of his inactivity, he was letting N'Dam remain competitive. 

Brown kept telling Quillin to remain aggressive, which would be the key to getting the knockout.  However, Quillin's conditioning didn't seem that strong.  At various points as the fight progressed, he appeared winded and he fought with his back to the ropes.  At first I thought that Quillin was laying a trap but it became obvious that he was using the ropes as a crutch.  Remember, HE was the fighter who had scored four knockdowns, but by the 11th, he was not the fresher boxer.

N'Dam continued to press the action with his jab, right hand and left hook to the body.  In an incredibly courageous performance, he didn't let his earlier knockdowns dissuade him from trying to win the fight.  

Prior to the 12th round, Brown again pressed Quillin, wanting his fighter to make an emphatic statement to finish up the fight.  Quillin responded and essentially removed any doubt of the final outcome.  Brown should be given a lot of credit for his performance in the corner.  I'm sure that many trainers would have had a false sense of confidence going into the 12th round with their boxer fighting at home and having already scored four knockdowns.  However, Brown didn't want Quillin to take his foot off the gas.  The fight WAS close and Brown was taking nothing for granted. 

Ultimately, Quillin delivered an exciting performance, displaying power and accuracy.  It wasn't a perfect outing for him, but I'm sure his team knows that.  To cut Quillin some slack, he had been matched far too easily in his run up to the title and there wasn't a great template to prepare for a unique mover like N'Dam.  It's clear that N'Dam's pressure, resolve and high punch volume were bothering Quillin as the fight progressed but Quillin could’ve made the fight easier for himself by featuring his full arsenal of punches.  Most importantly, he'll have to improve his conditioning to make sure he can go 12 hard rounds with the Martinezes and Golovkins of the world. 

For N'Dam, I hope this isn't that last that we see of him on American TV.  In the deep middleweight division, he would make for a great opponent against Daniel Geale, Matthew Macklin or Felix Sturm.  He wasn't able to squeak out the win but he made quite a name for himself in defeat.

Finally, Eddie Claudio had, in my eyes, the best performance by a referee all year.  Claudio is a fairly obscure New York-based referee.  This was probably his highest-profile assignment since the Paul Williams-Carlos Quintana rematch in 2008.  Doing his best Steve Smoger impression, Claudio let the fight go on far longer than most referees would've.  His judgment rewarded fans with a spectacular fight.  He took long looks at N'Dam after each knockdown and saw that the fighter was lucid and responsive.  After each one, he let the fight continue.  All knockdowns are not created equal and too often referees will reflexively stop a fight after a third knockdown.  Claudio looked at this match on its own terms.  I hope that he lands bigger assignments with more regularity after his performance on Saturday.


This was just a brutal fight to watch. Here's how it played out: The younger Alexander threw jabs and a few straight left hands to the body while the 38-year-old Bailey waited, and waited and waited to throw his right hand.  That's it.  That's the whole fight. Bailey's a one trick pony: his crushing right hand.  To my count, he landed four of them and to Alexander's credit he took them well. 

According to CompuBox, Bailey threw 198 punches in the fight.  Think about that for a second.  A 12-round fight is 2,160 seconds (36 minutes x 60 seconds).  Bailey, in essence attempted a punch every 11 seconds.  That's an absolutely brutal ratio, especially when considering that Bailey threw a couple of combinations as well. In total, Bailey landed 45 punches – that’s less than four punches a round!  Just dreadful.  

Alexander didn't do anything spectacular on Saturday.  He stayed very basic and limited his arsenal.  His left hands to the body were risky in that Bailey could counter him with his right uppercut but Alexander remained quick with his shots and didn't remain in the pocket longer than necessary.  He had the right game plan: Establish the jab and score with quick shots and combinations.  He turned Bailey repeatedly, not giving him an opportunity to set his feet.  

Still, there were a couple of things I didn't love from Alexander on Saturday.  He often circled the wrong way (left), which was squarely in the direction of Bailey's power.  Also, Alexander neglected his right hook, which was such a weapon against Marcos Maidana.  If he would have moved to his right more (which he should have) the right hook could have been a great punch for him. 

To me, Alexander is an A-minus fighter.  He has a good amateur background and throws punches with solid technique. He moves decently and has a fairly good defense.  To this point, untraditional fighters with some hand speed (Lucas Matthysse and Tim Bradley) have troubled him. I think of him similarly as I did Vernon Forrest.  He can beat a lot of good names but he doesn't do anything exceptional; the fighter who can show him something different will perplex him in the ring.  If matched right, Alexander could have a belt for a while but I don't see anything elite here. 

For Bailey, he can sail off into the sunset knowing that he won two world title belts.  He was a very limited fighter but that right hand of his was truly special.  I wish him the best and I hope that he retires soon.

On a final note, Arthur Mercante simultaneously deducted points from both fighters in the sixth for excessive holding.  It was a completely unnecessary point deduction and a shameful way for Mercante to insert himself into the fight.  Some referees really believe that people pay their hard-earned money to watch them (Jay Nady is another one who comes to mind).  It's a terribly misguided notion.

Contact Saturday Night Boxing at
Follow Saturday Night Boxing on Facebook:
and on Twitter: @snboxing (

No comments:

Post a Comment