Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Opinions and Observations: Ortiz-Lopez

The two most important takeaways from Josesito's Lopez's upset victor over Victor Ortiz are the following:

1. Lopez broke Ortiz's jaw.
2. Ortiz chose not to continue.

The other aspects of the fight are less important. Ortiz was up fairly big at the end of nine rounds: 88-83, 87-84 (that is how I had scored the fight) and 86-85. Certainly, if Ortiz was able to fight on, he had an excellent chance of winning the bout. I want to be clear that Ortiz's broken jaw was a legitimate injury and not merely a convenient way to exit the fight. The essential question is: could he have continued?

Ultimately, it's a personal decision left up to the boxer. We have seen a recent fighter such as Arthur Abraham overcome a similar injury to win. In the past, legends such as Pernell Whitaker and Muhammad Ali fought with broken jaws. However, the pain is real; and Victor chose to end his night. The prospect of fighting three more rounds was not worth it to him.

Ortiz has now backed out of two fights; he was disqualified another time and he rendered himself defenseless against Floyd Mayweather. This is not the oeuvre of a fighter who has it 100% together in the ring. In the fifth round against Lopez, he threw such a flagrant rabbit punch to the back of Lopez's head while the fighter was looking down, that I believe that he should have been disqualified. This punch occurred just moments after Ortiz landed a vicious uppercut that did a lot of damage. Similarly, in the fourth round against Mayweather, as soon as Ortiz landed some right hooks, he intentionally head butted. This is strange behavior from a boxer.  

Referee Jack Reiss failed in his ability to protect Lopez. He permitted five minutes of recovery time but maintained that the illegal blow was a grazing shot; he missed the call. Ortiz landed hard behind the head. His intention was to get Lopez out of the fight by any means necessary.

Although I do not begrudge Ortiz for stopping the Lopez fight or even walking away from Marcos Maidana's thunder, his body of work suggests a fighter who is unable to maintain his composure in the ring. The Maidana and Lopez fights were winnable. He was just starting to have success against Mayweather. He was up big against Lamont Peterson before backing off. In short, he can't see himself through to get big victories. He did persevere against Andre Berto, where he survived two knockdowns to get a decision victory. That was a gutsy performance. However, keep in mind that Golden Boy loaned him out for that fight; he was the "B-side." Coming off of the uninspiring draw with Peterson, for Ortiz, the Berto fight could have been his last chance in the premium-television level of boxing.

Ortiz will get another shot after this fight; he makes very entertaining nights of boxing. But I want to know if he will he pull himself together, as he did against Berto, or if he will continue with cheap shots, bizarre decisions in the ring and a lack of mental toughness, attributes which marginalize his considerable talent.

During the fight, Ortiz showcased his entire arsenal against Lopez. His straight left hands were punishing, the hooks were crisp, the uppercuts found their mark and he even showed a jab and some boxing skills. However, Ortiz's lack of regard for defense also manifested. After he threw a punch or a combination, he stood right in front of Lopez, open for any counter that Lopez could conceive of. Here Lopez, a natural junior welterweight who moved up to welterweight for this fight, tattooed Ortiz with left hooks, straight right hands and both left and right uppercuts. Essentially, Ortiz's disdain for defense led to his broken jaw. His glove positioning was terrible. He failed to return his hands to a defensive position after throwing punches; he literally kept his hands extended away from his body. His face was wide open all night – even before his jaw injury.

Lopez, who had previously been on the bad end of a number of close decisions, fought his heart out. He could have folded after tasting Ortiz's power early in the fight. He had to overcome a stalker and a bad rabbit punch. He showed an excellent chin, resiliency and a true fighting spirit. His counters were sharp and they hurt Ortiz a number of times.

He now becomes a player at 140-147. Hopefully, he gets another opportunity on U.S. premium television. However, he does have his own defensive shortcomings and his lack of a jab is problematic. Good boxers can outwork him and he does seem like a straight-line fighter.

Nevertheless, Lopez captivated the boxing public with his rousing spirit. He was supposed to lose and he functioned as a mere afterthought in Golden Boy's grand plans for a future Ortiz fight against Saul Alvarez. A late replacement for Andre Berto, Lopez was only on TV because he was deemed "sellable" by Showtime. Most likely, he would provide Ortiz with some solid rounds; he far surpassed those expectations. Whatever else happens in his career from this point forward, Josesito Lopez officially mattered in boxing; he made his mark.  

The undercard fight between Humberto Soto and Lucas Matthysse delivered plenty of action as well. The first few rounds saw Soto display his solid boxing skills to gain an edge. Fighting in the pocket, he pasted Matthysse with his jab, left hook and right uppercut. Unfortunately for Soto, he was fighting one of the hardest punchers in the junior welterweight division. Once Matthysse got untracked, Soto couldn't withstand his power. At the end of the fifth round, Matthysse unloaded three blistering overhand rights in a row and Soto dropped to the canvas. He got up, but it was too much for him. He never saw the sixth round.

Matthysse earned a much needed knockout win. After losing two heartbreakers on the judges' scorecards to Zab Judah and Devon Alexander (a fight which Matthysse easily won), he needed an impressive win on American soil. Hopefully, Golden Boy keeps Matthysse on its priority list. An all-Argentine matchup against Marcos Maidana makes perfect sense (they were also amateur rivals), and there isn't a U.S. boxing network that would reject that matchup. Matthysse's power is real, and it was nice to see him start earlier and fight with a little more urgency. He is live against anyone at junior welterweight.

For Soto, it's unclear if he has the chin to withstand the bangers at junior welterweight or if he just happened to catch a heavy-handed stalker on the wrong night. My guess is that he can probably compete with a number of good fighters in the 140-lb division, but he will have to be matched carefully. There's a lot of tread on his tires and he's not getting any younger.

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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Boxinghead Battle

I have started a prediction game featuring many of the boxing experts in the United States and a few sprinkled in from around the world. I call it the Boxinghead Battle. Predictions will be tabulated throughout the year for major fights.

The rules are as follows: One point (+1) for correctly picking the winning fighter, minus one point (-1) for picking the losing fighter and five points (+5) for correctly picking a draw. No points are awarded for fights that are declared a "No Contest."

Below you will see the current standings through the first three fights of the Battle (Pacquiao-Bradley, Chavez-Lee and Adamek-Chambers). Each expert is identified along with his publication. Some names are prominent boxing figures on Twitter and do not have an affiliation. I will provide periodic updates as the year progresses. The current leaders are in bold; they are Scott Kraus, Mark Ortega, Joel Stern and Two Piece Boxing. 

Check http://www.saturdaynightboxing.com/ for updates to the Boxinghead Battle. There will be a dedicated page on the upper right hand side of the website. 

Update as of June 23:

Abramowitz, Adam (saturday night boxing) -1
Barry, Bart (15 Rounds) 1
Bivins, Ryan (sweetboxing) -1
Burton, Ryan (boxing lab) -1
Campbell, Brian (espn) 1
Christ, Scott (bad left hook) -2
Conner, Patrick (tqbr) -1
Coppinger, Mike (ring) -1
Donovan, Jake (boxing scene) 1
Fake Larry Merchant 1
Ferguson, Billy (fighthype) 1
Fight Score Collector -1
Fischer, Douglass (ring) 1
Fitzsimmons, Lyle (boxing scene) 1
Foley, James (tqbr) -1
Gaibon, Ernest (boxing lab) -1
Greisman, David (boxing scene) -1
Groves, Lee (ring) -1
Idec, Keith (boxing scene) -1
Iole, Kevin (yahoo) -1
JE boxing -1
Linus -1
Lito (boxingheads) -1
Kraus, Scott (tqbr) 3
Mannix, Chris (sports illustrated) -1
Maquinana, Ryan (boxing scene) -1
McCarson, Kelsey (the sweet science) -3
Mojica, Matthew -2
Montoya, Gabe (maxboxing) -1
Mulcahey, Marty (maxboxing) 1
Nagesh, Gautham 0
Olson, Hans (boxing insider) 2
Ortega, Mark (tqbr) 3
Poplawski, Ray -3
Pryor, Jeff (tqbr) 0
Rafael, Dan (espn) 2
Raskin, Eric (grantland) 1
Robinson, Chris (boxing scene) -1
Rold, Cliff (boxing scene) -1
Rosenthal, Michael (ring) -1
Sandoval, Luis (boxing lab) 1
Santoloquito, Joe (ring) -1
Starks, Tim (tqbr) 1
Stern, Joel 3
Two Piece Boxing 3
Velin, Bob (USA Today) -1
Wainwright, Anson (maxboxing) 0
Woods, Michael (espn) -1
Wylie, Lee (the sweet science) 2

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Revisiting the Young Middleweights

Sixteen months ago, I wrote about the young crop of emerging middleweight fighters. I thought it would be a worthwhile endeavor to revisit the dozen boxers whom I identified and provide a status update of their careers. Most interestingly, two of the hotter prospects from early 2011 saw their career momentum fade with unexpected losses. In addition, one of the fighters whom I was skeptical of in the previous article has turned out to be a top talent in the division.  

Last year, I separated the fighters into three categories. I'll call them Top Talents, Solid Prospects and Suspects. I'll provide a quick progress report for each fighter along with an inflection mark (“+,” “-“ or “NC”), which indicates the trajectory of their careers from the last update in early 2011 to today ("NC" stands for "No Change").

I also will incorporate a few new fighters onto this list. These boxers have successfully forced their way into the crowded middleweight picture. Finally, I will re-rank these fighters based on their current status within the division.

2011 Top Talents

David Lemieux (-) Perhaps no fighter's stock has fallen as far as Lemieux's has over the past 16 months. Cruising through five rounds against Marco Antonio Rubio in a title eliminator, Lemieux hit the wall and Rubio rallied to earn a brutal stoppage. After an eight-month rest, Lemieux faced Joachim Alcine (a fighter thought to be washed up) and stunningly lost a decision. Lemieux has parted ways with his previous trainer and there have been whispers about his lack of dedication in training and his focus on the sport. His fast track to success has been completely derailed.

Dmitry Pirog (NC) Pirog spent most of 2011 angling for a big fight, which never materialized. Since his knockout victory of Danny Jacobs in 2010, he has made three stay-busy title defenses. In August, Pirog will finally get the big opportunity that he has been looking for when he meets Gennady Golovkin.

Fernando Guerrero (-) Guerrero faltered against veteran gatekeeper Grady Brewer in a major upset. Unlike many prospects, Guerrero had faced several serviceable fighters leading up to Brewer; he just couldn't withstand Brewer's body attack and pinpoint punching. Guerrero suffered a fourth-round knockout and has only fought a pair of eight-round fights against lower-level opposition since his defeat. He can still make another run towards the top of the division but his handlers are treading very carefully.

Gennady Golovkin (+) Golovkin finally built some momentum in 2011. He knocked out a rejuvenated Kassim Ouma and also had a KO-of-the-year candidate against LaJuan Simon. Aligned with the Klitschkos' K2 promotions, Golovkin was introduced to American boxing networks through a series of personal meetings in New York City, which has led to a coveted HBO slot against fellow European fighter Pirog in August. He had a stay-busy fight earlier in 2012 but is clearly ready for bigger challenges.

2011 Solid Prospects

Sebastian Zbik (-) Zbik fought a close battle against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. last year. He lost the championship rounds and fell short via a majority decision. He showed a fighting spirit but chose to engage in the wrong type of match against the punishing body puncher. Earlier this year, he had no answers for the hand speed of Felix Sturm and didn't make it to the tenth round. He no longer should be considered an emerging talent in the division.  

Matthew Macklin (+) Macklin had a much better outing against Sturm than Zbik did. Although he lost a split decision, the majority of observers felt that he should have earned the victory. In March of this year, he acquitted himself very well against Sergio Martinez before losing steam in the later rounds. Martinez turned the fight with his vicious counter left hands but Macklin won several rounds in the fight. After competing well with the top talents in the division, Macklin should be considered a legitimate threat to any fighter on this list.

Daniel Geale (+) Geale, an Australian, accomplished the unthinkable in 2011 by winning a decision in Germany. He bettered titlist Sebastian Sylvester and has since made two defenses in his native country. He returns to the scene of his greatest professional victory later this year when he takes on Sturm.

Darren Barker (+) Perhaps the most obscure fighter identified on the list in 2011, Barker faced Sergio Martinez and showed a number of positive attributes in his knockout loss. He clearly has a firm grasp of his strengths and weaknesses as a fighter. He also has a high ring IQ. Martinez eventually did outclass him, but Barker, who was a relatively unknown fighter in early 2011, would now make a credible foe against anyone on this list.

Daniel Jacobs (-) Jacobs has had far more serious problems to worry about than boxing. Trying to overcome osteosarcoma, a rare form of cancer that caused nerve damage and partial paralysis in his legs, Jacobs has faced a grueling recovery. He has insisted that he will return to boxing but even if he makes it back into the ring, his road back will be a long one.

2011 Suspects

Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (+) In February of 2011, Chavez was still seen as a novelty act, a protected son of a legend who seemed uninterested in becoming a top fighter. Four fights later, Chavez is now viewed as a competitive aspirant to Sergio Martinez's top-dog status in the division. Working with Freddie Roach, Chavez has made great strides in his defense and rounding out his offensive arsenal. His destruction of Andy Lee earlier this month was the signature performance of his career.

Craig McEwan (-) McEwan's old conditioning problems surfaced against Andy Lee in March of 2011. Even though he had an early lead, he wilted down the stretch of the fight and was stopped in the 10th round. Later in 2011, he turned in a listless performance against Peter Quillin. McEwan returned to Scotland earlier this year and picked up a victory against a no-name opponent. He's now 30 and it's unclear if he can actually survive, let alone win, a 12-round fight.

Andy Lee (+) Remember, in February of 2011, Andy Lee was very much a suspect. A protégé of Emanuel Steward, Lee had seen his career stagnate with a loss to Brian Vera. But 2011 was a banner year for Lee.  He was able to rally to knock out McEwan and also avenged his earlier loss to Brian Vera in a solid performance. He was knocked out by Chavez earlier in the month, but he was ahead on all three scorecards at the time of the stoppage. Lee may never win a title but he could be a solid B-side for a number of fighters on this list; he might beat a few as well.

2012 Additions

Peter Quillin Quillin infused some life into his career in 2011. He fought four times and had a nice stoppage win over McEwan. Quillin's talent was never in question but he had a number of promotional problems and injuries which kept him out of the ring for long stretches. Now aligned with power manager Al Haymon, Quillin defeated Winky Wright earlier in June. Although he scored a wide victory, he seemed tentative at many points and wasn't able to mount a consistent offensive attack. Nevertheless, I expect that he will have some significant opportunities over the next year.

Martin Murray Murray was an obscure, undefeated middleweight who was selected by Felix Sturm to come to Germany and lose. Instead, Murray fought bravely and earned a draw in a fight that could have gone either way. Since his solid performance against Sturm, Murray has marked time with a stay-busy fight. He waits for bigger game.

Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam N'Dam N'Jikam is an undefeated fighter from Cameroon now based in France. He was a 2004 Olympian (he beat Andy Lee) and has slowly climbed the professional ranks. He defeated Giovanni Lorenzo in 2011 and has picked up interim title belts in two different sanctioning organizations. Look for N'Dam N'Jikam, 28, to face some of the division's top talent over the next 12 months.

June 2012 Rankings

Top Talents
Julio Cesar Chavez
Daniel Geale
Gennady Golovkin
Dmitry Pirog

Darren Barker
Andy Lee
Matthew Macklin
Martin Murray
Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam
Peter Quillin

Fernando Guerrero
David Lemieux
Craig McEwan
Sebastian Zbik

Not Active
Daniel Jacobs

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Saturday, June 16, 2012

Chavez-Lee: Keys to the Fight

Tonight features a fascinating middleweight showdown in El Paso, Texas between Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (45-0-1), the son of the Mexican legend, and Andy Lee (28-1), an Emanuel Steward prodigy and former Irish Olympian. For both fighters, tonight's opponent will be the best of their respective careers. Read below for the keys to the fight. My prediction will be at the end of the piece.

1. Lee's conditioning vs. Chavez's chin.
Chavez is a merciless body puncher. His left hook to the body is his money shot. Lee must avoid those punishing blows by throwing quick combinations and getting out of the pocket. Movement for him will be key. Chavez will try to invest in Lee's body early in the fight to create a more stationary target in the bout's championship rounds. Lee is not an athlete who is a prime physical specimen. If his conditioning is not 100%, Chavez will exert his will in the fight.

In addition, Chavez uses his forearms and head to further break down his opponents; he rests them on his foes' shoulders and head. Usually, he comes into fights with a significant weight advantage, which helps him absorb blows and further wear down his opponents. In inside wars, Chavez expertly uses his physicality to gain an edge.

To this point in his career, Chavez has acquired the reputation as having a very solid chin. However, by looking at his record in championship fights, it's tough to say that he has an excellent set of whiskers. True, he ate a lot of shots from Sebastian Zbik and Marco Antonio Rubio, but neither was an excellent power puncher. Zbik was feather-fisted; Rubio, who does have solid power, more often wears opponents down over the course of a fight. However, Chavez's significant advantages in weight and boxing ability were able to negate Rubio's effectiveness. In Chavez's other title fight, he was rocked once by Peter Manfredo, a boxer who has only average punching power at best. Lee has two, true knockout weapons with his straight left hand and right hook. Tonight will be a real test of Chavez's chin.

2. Battle of the Hookers.
Both fighters feature hooks as their best punches. For Chavez, his left hook to the body can be pulverizing. Although the rest of Chavez's offensive arsenal can be spotty, his hook is a world-class punch. For Lee, who has had stamina and conditioning problems in the past, his body must hold up to get the victory.

Lee, a southpaw, throws a hard and very accurate right hook. It stops opponents in their tracks and provides him with the opportunity to land his straight left hand.

3. Southpaw angles.
Chavez does not have experience against top southpaws. Although Chavez's defense has improved under Freddie Roach, Lee should have the ability to land his right hook and straight left hand with ease. It's up to Lee to put his punches together in combination and keep Chavez guessing.

4. Weather.
El Paso is supposed to be 84 degrees Fahrenheit/29 degrees Celsius at fight time. Lee has never fought an important professional match in these conditions. Although it will be relatively low humidity tonight, the high temperatures can certainly cause cramping, dehydration and a reduction in energy. On the surface, the edge in tonight's weather conditions should favor Chavez, who is more used to warmer climates than Lee is. Chavez has also fought several times in outdoor stadiums in Mexico.

5. It's Texas. Who knows what can happen?
To guess which potential scandal could happen in Texas is a fool's errand. In the last year, we have seen terrible decisions, the failure to drug test (in that case it was Chavez) and horrible judgment calls by referees. Tonight's ref is Laurence Cole, a shaky official (and son of the head of the Texas Commission of Licensing and Regulation) who has missed knockdowns, told specific boxers they were winning during bouts and provided preferential treatment for house fighters. If you get the feeling that I'm not necessarily confident in his abilities, you're right.

The judges for tonight's action are John Keane, Jesse Reyes and Rey Danseco. Keane is an excellent judge from the U.K. and has worked scores of world title fights. He is a fair judge and to use the old John Wooden line, he never mistakes activity for achievement.

Reyes, from Texas, has judged for a long time in his home state and Mexico, but he has received very few high-profile assignments. He was selected for Alvarez-Mosley earlier in the year, although not much effort was required to judge that one-sided fight. He's a wildcard tonight.

Danseco is a relatively young judge from the Philippines who has become one of the WBC's go-to officials. In the last few years, they have sent him to Japan, Mexico and Canada for their title fights. He did correctly have Hopkins beating Pascal in their second fight. However, Danseco has not amassed a large body of work.

It should be noted that Chavez is the reigning WBC middleweight champion. Jose Sulaiman, the president of the WBC and a fellow Mexican, has showered Chavez with praise in the past and has permitted the fighter to avoid the true lineal middleweight champion, Sergio Martinez.

I see Lee having early success in the fight with his straight left hand and right hook. His slight hand speed advantage and sharper punches will hurt Chavez in the early rounds. He will use his boxing skills and movement to build an early cushion in the fight.

However, the three factors of Chavez's body blows, the warm weather and Lee's conditioning will conspire to swing the fight in the Mexican's favor. As the match progresses, Lee's legs won't permit him to move around the ring and it will become a fight in the trenches. I think that Lee wilts down the stretch. I see Chavez wearing him down in the final third of the fight.

Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. defeats Andy Lee by TKO 10.

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Sunday, June 10, 2012

Opinions and Observations: Pacquiao-Bradley

In close rounds, I score fights for the boxer who landed the harder punches. There are those who select the "aggressor" or the more active fighter over the course of the three minutes, but I score for the clean blows. To me, Manny Pacquiao undoubtedly landed the more damaging shots from rounds 1-5. Although he fought in spurts throughout these rounds, he had the more impressive landed shots. Timothy Bradley's work in these rounds just wasn't persuasive enough for me. I thought Pacquiao had Bradley hurt in rounds three, four and five. Bradley threw a number of punches, but they didn't really cause any damage or effectively change the tenor of the fight.

Round 6 and rounds 10-12 were clearly Bradley's. In the sixth, Pacquiao tried to flurry in the last minute, as he had in previous rounds, but he didn't land anything too convincing to my eyes. In the final three rounds, it appeared that Bradley really found something. Instead of standing and trading with Pacquiao, which resulted in him eating a ton of left hands, Bradley threw quick two-punch combinations and used his lateral movement to get out of the pocket. This selective engagement is what worked very well for Juan Manuel Marquez in his last fight against Pacquiao.

You could certainly make a case that Pacquiao took his foot off the gas in the fight's last third. He and his team believed that they were comfortably ahead. In an ironic outcome, Pacquiao's lack of activity in the last three rounds handed the fight – on the official scorecards – to Bradley, just as Juan Manuel Marquez's passivity in the final few rounds helped swing his last bout to Pacquiao.

In my opinion, Pacquiao was well ahead in the final rounds. My 116-112 card for Pacquiao credited the good work that was done by Bradley in the last three rounds, but didn't reward him for getting outslugged throughout the first half of the fight.

Obviously, I have significant disagreements with the scorecards handed in by Duane Ford and C.J. Ross, who believed that Bradley won the fight 115-113. Even with the good work and solid ring generalship by Bradley in the final rounds, I struggle to think of four additional frames where Bradley was the victor. I gave Bradley the sixth and perhaps a case could be made for the first, but the other rounds Pacquiao won with his damaging power shots.

It was a very good performance from Pacquiao, but not flawless. His hand speed looked excellent. His power, whether from his straight left hand or left uppercut, moved Bradley around the ring all night. He looked very crisp in exchanges.

Clearly, Pacquiao didn't fight three minutes of each round. Because of age, conditioning or want, Pacquiao didn't feel compelled to press Bradley throughout the whole fight. This was a different fighter last night from vintage Pacquiao, the ball of energy who used to throw 80 punches in a round. However, this was also a different Pacquiao from the Marquez and Mosley fights. Pacquiao looked comfortable in the ring. He accomplished what he set out to do, which was impose his will and get the better of Bradley in exchanges.

In addition, let's not fall into the trap of giving Bradley credit for what Pacquiao didn't do. Pacquiao chose not to fight three minutes of each round, not because he was busy defending himself from Bradley's offensive forays, but because that is how he decided to engage. Bradley was marginally busier in these periods, but he wasn't all that effective. In fact, throughout the fight, Pacquiao's defense was excellent, blocking numerous punches with his arms and evading many of Bradley's power shots.

When Bradley did land, his left hooks and straight right hands weren't enough to cause real damage. Pacquiao took the blows and continued with his agenda. It was only later in the fight, when Bradley decided to use his legs more, that he had sustained success.

I believe that Bradley engaged in the wrong type of fight during the first half. Standing at medium range, he attempted to win rounds based on his belief that he had superior hand speed and at least similar power to Pacquiao. Instead of rushing in aggressively and forcing Pacquiao into a dogfight, he backed off and fired ineffectual jabs and power shots. When Pacquiao decided to engage, Bradley was overwhelmed.

It seems that Bradley's trainer, Joel Diaz, was so concerned about Bradley running into a shot on the way in that he restricted one of his fighter's best attributes: aggressive infighting. At no point, surprisingly, did Bradley try and rough up Pacquiao on the inside. Only at the end of the match, with Bradley fighting in a hit-and-run mode, did Bradley start to control the action of the fight. I think that Diaz and Bradley left some things at the gym that could have been very helpful last night.

Nevertheless, Bradley acquitted himself well. He clearly fought through a foot injury and never stopped trying. His superb conditioning was illustrated by his ability to take many of Pacquiao's bombs. His lack of punching power was obvious as the fight progressed, but he made wise tactical adjustments in the later rounds. It wasn't enough in my view to win the fight, but he showed tremendous heart, adaptability and intelligence.  It's clear from last night's performance why Bradley has been such a successful fighter.  

Bradley is a realist. He heard the boos in the crowd after the decision was announced. Even if he believed that he had won the fight, he knows that it wasn't a convincing performance. I'm sure he will review the tape and focus on the things that worked well for him in the last few rounds of the fight. He certainly has some positives going into the rematch.

For Pacquiao, last night was not evidence of further decline or an obvious statement that his time in the sport should be waning. There were many who predicted that Pacquiao's rededication to religion and his family would mark the end of his reign as a top prizefighter; clearly that reality did not manifest last night. He looked fresh in his bursts of action. He fought intelligently and his punching power looked excellent.

After the scores were announced, there was no anger on the faces of Manny Pacquiao or Freddie Roach. They know that they had won the fight and there's not a damn thing that two Las Vegas judges could claim that would convince them otherwise.

Mike Jones was patiently boxing his way to a ho-hum decision victory and his first world title. He engaged very selectively with his jab, a few right hands and some hooks sprinkled in. His opponent, Randall Bailey, an older veteran fighting for his last shot at the big time, followed Jones around the ring and seemed reticent to throw his massive right hand. It was a painful scene to watch, with one fighter doing barely enough to win rounds, while the other seemed unwilling to let his hands go.

In the 10th round, the whole fight changed. Jones landed a couple of impressive flurries and believed that he had caused some damage. He pursued Bailey throughout the round, and for his troubles, he was dropped by a massive straight right hand. In the 11th, Jones went back to boxing but Bailey landed an absolutely perfect right uppercut which sent Jones sprawling onto the canvas. Jones' nose started to bleed instantly and he struggled to get up. Jones couldn't make it to his feet and the 37-year-old Bailey pulled out an improbably come-from-behind victory.

Bailey illustrated the axiom, "a puncher's chance" last night. Having one of the best right hands in the sport, Bailey can never be counted out in a fight. Nevertheless, with his advanced age and limited overall set of skills, Bailey could be ripe for the taking by other aspiring welterweights. Of course, they are going to have to avoid and/or neutralize his right hand. Bailey is now a mere one-trick pony, but it's a hell of a trick.

Guillermo Rigondeaux demonstrated last night why other top junior featherweights won't want to fight him any time soon. Dismantling a functional Teon Kennedy, Rigondeaux knocked him down five times in five rounds to pick up the stoppage. Rigondeaux, the decorated Cuban amateur star, is a counterpuncher with real power. He throws punches very selectively, but his punch placement is superb and he has an awesome mix of physical gifts and ring intelligence. Rigondeaux landed his straight left hand, left uppercut and a left hook at will. He featured his right hand, whether his jab or hook, sparingly, but it wasn't needed.

I'm quite sure that Bob Arum will keep Rigondeaux away from stablemate and star Nonito Donaire. Rigondeaux poses many challenges for the young, dynamic fighter who can sometimes lose focus in the ring.

However, Rigondeaux isn't unbeatable. By keeping things tight and short, an accurate puncher could score with quick jabs and two-punch combinations while Rigondeaux waits to land his counter bombs. Of course, this is all theoretical, but Rigondeaux's low punch output and unwillingness to lead can give opponents some opportunities. Nevertheless, it was a great performance from him last night and he has made great strides in making himself a more TV-friendly fighter. He'll be back soon.

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