Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Rundown: Mayweather, The One and Bad Judges

BIG STORY OF THE MONTH #1: Mayweather defeats Alvarez
Giving up 13 years and 15 pounds on fight night, Floyd Mayweather still cruised to a victory over Saul Alvarez. Featuring an array of punches, movement, and tight defense, Mayweather opened the fight up in the second half and further cemented his status as the top boxer in the sport. For Alvarez, he lacked the game plan, technical ability or speed to present any real issues for Mayweather.
All parties involved deserve credit for making "The One" promotion one of the most successful events in recent boxing history. Grossing over $150 Million and garnering more than 2.2 million pay per view buys, "The One" promotion pulled out the stops, from a multi-city press tour to an excellent co-feature to a credible and marketable opponent for Mayweather.  Despite a bad judge's best effort, "The One" made boxing shine. Give the fighters, their teams, Showtime and Golden Boy credit for making such a memorable event.
The month started out on bad footing with Ricky Burns getting a questionable split draw at home against challenger Raymundo Beltran. Interestingly, the American judge, Carlos Ortiz, had the absurd 115-112 card. Beltran landed the more meaningful punches throughout the match and decisively won most of the second half of the fight.
That bad scorecard was just a warm-up for C.J. Ross' ludicrous draw tally for Mayweather-Alvarez. Hardly any media members had Alvarez winning three rounds, let alone six. In the aftermath of her atrocious scorecard, Ross took an indefinite leave of absence, and boxing is better for it.
Ending the month on a low note, all three judges had bad cards in favor of Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. over Brian Vera. Gwen Adair's 98-92 and Marty Denkin's 97-93 cards were laughable. Carla Caiz's 96-94 scorecard could have been acceptable if she didn't decide to give Chavez the last six rounds, which dismisses some strikingly obvious Vera frames later in the fight.
A Damn Good Month.
Pablo Cesar Cano: Cano turned it on over the last few rounds to earn a split decision over Mayweather Promotions' fighter Ashley Theophane during the opening bout of "The One" pay per view. Cano's victory helps erase  his recent loss against Shane Mosley and puts him back into more meaningful fights at 140 or 147 lbs. Cano is a fairly basic pressure fighter with just a straight right and a left hook, but he knows what he needs to do to win and he has a nice ability to cut off the ring.
Dereck Chisora: It's not a surprise that Chisora knocked out lightly-regarded Edmund Gerber to win the European heavyweight title. What was impressive was how good he looked doing it. Chisora entered the ring in excellent condition. He featured very sharp combinations and improved quickness. When Chisora did get tagged in the fourth round, he kept his wits, went on defense and came out charging in the fifth and final round. For the record, it may have been an early stoppage, but that seems to be the rage these days in England.
Danny Garcia: Garcia put together the performance of his career by upsetting power-punching dynamo Lucas Matthysse. Surviving some tough early rounds, Garcia made an excellent defensive adjustment with his right hand to neutralize Matthysse's left hook. In the seventh round, he was able to practically close Matthysse's left eye with his own left hook. Garcia's coup de grace was a nifty knockdown of Matthysse in the 11th, capitalizing on Matthysse being out of position. Ultimately, the knockdown swung the fight on two of the judges’ scorecards. It was an excellent performance by Garcia who continues to surprise and impress the boxing world with his well-rounded skillset and ring intelligence.
Roman Gonzalez: Ho-hum. Gonzalez scored another early victory against an unheralded an ultimately overmatched foe, stopping Francisco Rodriguez Jr. in the seventh round. Fighting again at flyweight, Gonzalez has a big opportunity for a nice money fight in a rematch against Juan Estrada. However, Gonzalez has had a puzzling pattern of not jumping at opportunities to face the best opponents in his surrounding weight classes. Let's hope that he breaks this trend and meets the improved Estrada again.
Javan "Sugar" Hill: A longtime assistant of Emanuel Steward in the Kronk gym, Hill has emerged as a solid lead trainer with light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson. Hill clearly studied the struggles of Tavoris Cloud and set up an excellent game plan for Stevenson, relying on boxing, movement and punch variety. Cloud landed no more than a handful of meaningful punches throughout the entire fight.
Jim Lampley: At times throughout his career, Lampley has gotten caught up in cheerleading for the HBO house fighter, but the veteran broadcaster was in fine form calling Chavez-Vera. Lampley pulled no punches in remarking about Chavez's subpar conditioning and commitment to the sport. In addition, once the scores were announced, Lampley didn't do any tap dancing; he knew that Vera had won the fight. Lampley refused to sell the public a bill of goods.  
Paulie Malignaggi: In less than a year, Malignaggi has become a truly special fight analyst. Calling "The One" on Showtime, Malignaggi described clearly how Garcia was able to have success against Matthysse by catch-and-shooting and why Saul Alvarez's insistence on fighting at mid-range played into Mayweather's hands. Malignaggi is a true student of the sport, but more than that, he's extremely perceptive and can describe often esoteric technical boxing concepts in a clear and concise way, a pretty impressive feat.
Floyd Mayweather: After 12 rounds against Saul Alvarez, Floyd had a smile on his face and looked no more physically taxed than if he had taken a light jog. Mayweather won the fight in all areas – physically, technically and strategically. He'll now take a break until next May, and it will be very difficult for the powers that be to find him a competitive opponent below 160 lbs.
Carlos Molina: Well, it wasn't pretty, but Molina landed just enough to earn a split decision over Ishe Smith and win his first title. Molina started off very well with short right hands and controlling the action (when there was any) on the inside but Smith started to win rounds in the second half. Molina ended the fight with a strong 12th, his best display of clean punching all night. Molina had been a victim of boxing politics at many points throughout his career, so it was nice to see him finally wear a title belt. Now if only he wouldn't hold so damn much.
Shawn Porter: Porter avenged the only blemish on his record by easily defeating Julio Diaz in a rematch of last year's draw. Porter focused on his hand and foot speed and wisely decided not to mix it up as much in the center of the ring as he did in the first bout. Porter, advised by Al Haymon, should have bigger opportunities ahead for next year.
Billy Joe Saunders: In a battle of unbeaten middleweight prospects, Saunders eked out a win over slugger John Ryder in a close fight. In truth, Saunders didn't look to be in optimal condition, but he boxed and used his legs enough to earn the victory. It will be interesting to see if Saunders moves up to super middleweight soon or decides to remain at 160. He has excellent boxing skills but little power. To compete against higher-caliber fighters, he's going to have to be in better shape.
Ronnie Shields: Shields had a wonderful game plan for Brian Vera against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. Correctly assuming that Chavez wouldn't have the energy or desire to fight in high volumes, Shields had Vera moving his hands all night with quick combinations. In addition, Shields did a great job of instructing Vera how to fight on the inside without letting Chavez hold or use his size to gain an advantage. With just officials, Shields' game plan would have led to an impressive victory. 
Adonis Stevenson: Proving that he had many more weapons than just a thunderous straight left hand, Stevenson dominated former light heavyweight titlist Tavoris Cloud. Featuring lateral and up-and-back movement, a strong right jab, a sneaky left uppercut and impressive defense, Stevenson had Cloud bewildered the entire fight. When he did land his straight lefts, he made both of Cloud's eyes bleed. He also fractured one of Cloud's orbital bones. With his last two performances, Stevenson has made himself a candidate for fighter of the year. 
Brian Vera: Vera fought bravely and deserved a victory over Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. Originally agreeing to fight at 162, Vera saw the weight limit rise and rise and finally settle at 173, just 48 hours before the match. Entering a hostile crowd against a Top Rank cash cow, Vera consistently beat Chavez to the punch and put together one of the best performances of his up-and-down career. It was a shame to see him hosed by the three California judges but because of his performance, HBO will give him another shot on its airwaves. There aren't too many moral victories in boxing, but this is a clear example. The boxing world knows that Vera was robbed, and Vera will get another decent payday.  
Jim Watt: Watt can often correctly be blamed for being a homer and with fellow Scot Ricky Burns defending his title in Glasgow, the conventional wisdom was that Watt already had Burns up by four rounds before the fight even started. However, Watt had an excellent night calling Burns-Beltran, correctly criticizing the champion for failing to use his boxing skills more and his lack of an inside game. Watt had Beltran winning the fight and called the action straight and professionally. It was a solid showing from him.
Tony Weeks: With two decisions in Garcia-Matthysse, Weeks demonstrated yet again why he is, for my money, the best ref in the sport. During the 11th, when Matthysse got tangled up in the ropes and then was quickly sent to the canvas, Weeks correctly ruled it a knockdown. Nothing landed hard on Matthysse. But he went down from punches and Weeks ruled accordingly, and correctly. In the 12th, after many low blows throughout the fight, Garcia landed another egregious one on Matthysse. Without hesitation, Weeks deducted a point. He didn't worry that the fight was close or that the deduction could affect the scorecards. It was the right call, and he made it decisively.
Not The Best Month, Not the Worst Month.
Raymundo Beltran: In a just world, the journeyman lightweight would have captured his first world title by beating Ricky Burns in Scotland. However, the storybook ending had the final page ripped out, replaced by an unsatisfying conclusion on account of poor judging. Hopefully, Beltran, a late-blooming pressure fighter with heavy hands and burgeoning confidence, gets another title shot. In a fairly weak lightweight division, he may wear the title belt around his waist yet.
Ricky Burns: With two lackluster performances in a row, Burns is one of the more vulnerable champions in boxing. He did have some moments early against Beltran when he boxed and used the ring to his advantage. Burns escaped with a draw but he will need to be better in future bouts. Remembering that he got to the top by his boxing skills and being intelligent in the ring will help.
Lucas Matthysse: It wasn't a poor performance from Matthysse against Danny Garcia; he won five rounds on two of the judges' cards. However, Garcia was the smarter fighter in the ring, made better adjustments and ultimately landed the more decisive blows. Matthysse and his team have now been beaten in three distance fights. He's a fighter who has a ton of power and some underrated boxing skills, but he makes adjustments very slowly and he will struggle against cerebral fighters. He'll get another opportunity to win a title at 140, but he's going to have to realize that often fighters at the top level will be able to take his power. Plan B's are important.
John Ryder: It probably didn't help that Ryder, a Matchroom fighter, was facing Billy Joe Saunders on a Frank Warren card. Boxing politics aside, Ryder got outworked in just enough rounds to lose the fight. He clearly had more power than Saunders did and got to him a few times throughout the fight. However, he didn't let his hands go enough and had only intermittent success in cutting off the ring. He still may have a bright future, but he has things to work on.
Ashley Theophane: Losing early to Pablo Cesar Cano, Theophane made some nice adjustments by taking it to Cano in the center of the ring and letting his superior hand speed win rounds. However, Cano turned it on another gear in the last two rounds while Theophane faded. Theophane was hurt badly in the 10th and dropped a split decision (in truth, he lost six rounds fairly obviously). But he will still be a durable and tricky guy for top junior welterweights on their way up.
Is This Month Over Yet?
Saul Alvarez: Although most boxing observers didn't predict Alvarez to beat Floyd Mayweather, they did expect a more competitive fight than many of Mayweather's more recent bouts. However, Alvarez lacked the power, skills or game plan to win more than a couple of rounds. In addition, Alvarez's refusal to consistently use his size on the inside was a major strategic failing. Alvarez will still be pushed hard by Golden Boy and Showtime. Expect him to pick up another title next year, but the talent gap between him and the top fighters in the sport is sizable.
Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.: Sure, he landed some good shots on Brian Vera and showed an improved right hand, but this whole episode with his weight and lack of conditioning was a major net negative for him. When Mexican fans write on message boards about how Chavez embarrasses the great Mexican boxing tradition, it's not a good month for Junior. Chavez's "win" has already been discredited by the boxing community.
Tavoris Cloud: At least Cloud won a few rounds against Bernard Hopkins. Cloud had no answers for Adonis Stevenson and watching his listless performance, one could reasonably question how he ever once won a title belt. Cloud landed seven punches a round against Stevenson and was never able to find range or consistency. And Stevenson beat him up pretty badly. Cloud's corner mercifully stopped the fight after seven rounds and I'm not sure where he goes from here.
Andy Foster: As the Executive Officer of the California State Athletic Commission, Foster presided over a farcical fight week surrounding Chavez-Vera. A commission's main goal is to ensure fighter safety and Foster's blasé attitude about Chavez's weight problems was stunning. In addition, Foster clearly didn't appoint his best batch of judges for Chavez-Vera and had a 79-year-old work 34 rounds before judging the main event. Appointed in 2012, Foster needs to learn from his various mistakes from Chavez-Vera or he won't be around much longer.
Keith Kizer: Speaking of ineffectual commission leaders, Kizer embarrassed the state of Nevada with his emphatic defense of C.J. Ross' Mayweather-Alvarez scorecard. Ultimately, his higher-ups rejected his excuses and within days, Ross took an "indefinite leave of absence." Had Kizer been good at his job, he never would have selected Ross for the fight after her dreadful score in last year's Pacquiao-Bradley fiasco. In addition, Kizer has been reticent to remove poorly performing officials and judges from Nevada's active roster. He needs to go.
Eddy Reynoso: Reynoso claimed that he had four different game plans for Saul Alvarez to beat Floyd Mayweather. Well, Alvarez wasn't successful in executing one of them. As Mayweather continued to pile up points, Reynoso had no answers for his boxer. Alvarez was clearly beaten in the ring and Reynoso was easily bested in the matchup of the corners.  
Ishe Smith:  A fighter who had experienced a healthy portion of tough luck, Smith finally won his first title belt earlier this year. Making his first defense in front of a home crowd, Smith decided not to let his hands go in the first six rounds against Carlos Molina. Belatedly, Smith landed some right hands and won some rounds, but his performance was vexing and he failed to seize the biggest moment of his career.

Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
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