It's givin'-up time for James Kirkland, for me. It might be a bit premature, since he just reunited with old trainer Ann Wolfe. But in the above video he looks like the sloppy barroom brawler pal of the site Paul Kelly called him. I have no idea why he's leaning over into Dennis Sharpe at a 45-degree angle in the footage from Friday night's Solo Boxeo Tecate above, unless he's trying to get knocked out by an uppercut. He just plain looks terrible, and I don't care that he knocked out a guy in the 1st round who hasn't won a fight since 2004. Does he need more time with Wolfe? Does he need to return to junior middleweight? Is he still working off rust from his long jail stay? Or is whatever he had -- and admittedly it was rudimentary back then, too -- gone? I'm siding with the latter. I hope I'm wrong. A sharp (or as sharp as he can be) Kirkland is a nice force to have in the sport.
It was a jam-packed weekend, so before we start up with the marathon coverage of Wladimir Klitschko vs. David Haye this coming Saturday, let's revisit the most recent Friday and Saturday in boxing.
- Devon Alexander vs. Lucas Matthysse scoring. Opinions are all over the damn place about this one, with some (such as our Gautham Nagesh) scoring it narrowly for Alexander and others (including myself) scoring it fairly widely for Matthysse. Because I think both are valid outcomes, I'm not of the mind that this was a "robbery," as some called it. I had it 97-92, but three of the rounds I had Matthysse winning -- as well as one of the rounds Alexander won -- I marked as "close." The 4th, 7th, 8th and 10th were clear Matthysse rounds for me, while Alexander clearly won the 5th and 9th; I gave the 2nd to Alexander, among the close rounds, and Matthysse the rest. If I switch all of those close rounds I scored for Matthysse to Alexander, I end up with Gautham's score. Why I don't like that score, though, is because it requires giving all the close rounds to Alexander, or giving the 10th to Alexander, and I'm not questioning our man Gautham here specifically, since he was far from alone in that score. But the former is a bit of a stretch -- how could Alexander win ALL the close rounds? -- while the latter is, I think, a mistake, even if there were some people who scored the 10th for Alexander, because Matthysse to me clearly landed the harder and more numerous blows in that stanza. To get a 96-93 score, the way judge Carlos Colon did, you have to give all the close rounds to Alexander plus the 10th. It's one thing to do one or the other; doing both smacks of hometown judging. So, I don't like the decision, especially with that one bad scorecard, but I'm not going to scream bloody murder. Oh, and that trick of making it 10 rounds rather than 12 probably helped Alexander, since he didn't have to deal with Matthysse piling up as much punishment -- it's a trick I haven't seen used in a long time for a fight of this stature, and speaks once more to the advantages he had coming in to the fight.
- Next for Alexander. Alexander is becoming an unpopular fighter outside of St. Louis. As friend of the site HitDog explained in the comments section Gautham's write-up, it's because he keeps getting decisions that many think he doesn't deserve, when you combine the Matthysse decision with the Andriy Kotelnik decision. And I get it. On one level, you can't blame Alexander for benefiting from judges' decisions, because he's not the judge. On the other, you have a fighter who has two wins on his career that few believe he earned, and between them, a poor showing against Timothy Bradley in an undisputed loss where he appeared to quit. (I scored Alexander-Kotelnik a draw, so I have him 0-2-1 in his last three fights.) I have considered myself an Alexander fan, and I got a little ammo for that Saturday, with him showing impressive resolve by coming back from the 4th round knockdown to win the 5th and two straight rounds of shellacking to win the 9th. Yet, I don't really see being a fan anymore. His technique has really degenerated; the first time I saw him, against Chris Fernandez in 2008, I described his body shots as "ferocious," but now he barely punches at all, since he was already pulling the string back on his shots against Matthysse before he finished landing them. And despite the showing of heart against Matthysse, he had a few rounds of aimlessness there, where he just mentally seemed to lose his focus. A man who looked like a potential world-class fighter to me not so long ago now looks like a borderline talent. And next he wants to move up to welterweight, when he can't and/or won't punch at junior welterweight? His team wants Paulie Malignaggi, who's slowed down in recent years and also can't punch, so it's not the most dangerous 147-pound debut. But it's a fight I'd rather see on ESPN2 than HBO.
- Next for Matthysse. I thought Matthysse beat Zab Judah and I thought he beat Alexander, and I know I'm not alone. The only criticism I've seen of Matthysse came from RingTV's Doug Fischer, who quizzically argued that Matthysse had no right to complain about the decision because he should've known better and fought harder in the 9th (and then insulted everyone who questioned him in the comments section). I say "quizzical" because while it's one thing to argue Matthysse could've and should've done more, it's another thing to say he loses the right to complain about a bad decision over it. I think a boxer has the right to complain about anything he wants, but if he thinks he's the victim of a bad decision and has a good argument for it -- and Matthysse is far from the only one to view it that way -- then he definitely has the right to complain. Furthermore, cruiserweight Steve Cunningham argued that fans have no right to complain about the decision because they're not judges, which is an even weirder attempt to curtail justifiable opinions. Fans have the right to speak out about anything they want, and they don't have to respect bad decisions; how could anyone respect, say, the decision in Joan Guzman-Ali Funeka I? And speaking out can make a difference. Maybe a judge will hear the criticism and improve his or her self, or maybe demand will build for a rematch, the way it did for Guzman-Funeka II, Juan Diaz-Malignaggi II, Sergio Martinez-Paul Williams II and a host of others, where justice can be established. Anyway, I want to see Matthysse against everybody available at 140, be it the winner of Amir Khan-Judah, the winner of Robert Guerrero-Marcos Maidana, Bradley or Erik Morales.
- Tavoris Cloud. How can you not like Tavoris? The light heavyweight put on another dynamic offensive performance Saturday, this time in a stoppage win over Yusaf Mack. I think Cloud's limitations have been established: He doesn't punch as hard as his knockout record would suggest, and his defense is on the lackluster side. But he makes good fights, as he would against Jean Pascal or the winner of Bernard Hopkins-Chad Dawson in the fall. More Tavoris on HBO, please.
- Bermane Stiverne. Stiverne clearly can punch, but the heavyweight simply couldn't figure out how to get into position against the taller Ray Austin, which bodes poorly for his chances in the division. If he can figure out how to work his way inside, great. If not, he'll be a lot of power whiffing on a bunch of lackluster heavyweights because they are merely tall. I'm not interested in seeing him back on HBO until he fixes this, if then.
- Cornelius Bundrage. There was a time when the junior middleweight prompted groans from me, owing to an ugly style and a tendency to lose against anyone any good. But Bundrage has reformed himself on both counts, with the latest piece of evidence being his win over Sechew Powell in a rematch Saturday on the untelevised portion of the Alexander-Matthysse undercard, which was reportedly a good scrap. Maybe he gets himself a shot at Saul Alvarez eventually, and it would be a richly deserved big-money fight for a boxer who has really come a long way. Alvarez' people are instead talking about Alfonso Gomez or Ricardo Mayorga or the winner of Williams-Erislandy Lara. Bundrage might instead end up facing mandatory opponent Deandre Latimore, which figures as a good scrap in the meantime.
- Felix Sturm-Matthew Macklin scoring. Here's one where I'm on the other side of conventional wisdom. I had Sturm winning this middleweight clash by one round. I gave him the 4th and every round after the 6th, marking the 3rd through 7th as close as well as the 9th. Some thought this more of a robbery than Alexander-Matthysse, but I'm not sure how. This one struck me as a legitimately close bout that could have gone either way or to a draw, which is the way the Sky Sports team scored it for their man from the U.K., rather than the Alexander-Matthysse battle where a lot of people had it wide for the loser. That said, Sturm is another guy who keeps getting the benefit of the doubt on his German soil, a la Alexander in St. Louis, and I understand why this decision would frustrate more than a few people. I'd also remind anyone who watched this bout and scored it for Macklin to consider that Sturm fights are often a bit controversial on the scorecards; his tendency to get outworked while landing the cleaner blows means his bouts will usually be a bit of a bitch. At least we got two action-packed and dramatic bouts out of the two biggest fights of the weekend, I guess, offsetting the controversy a touch. We might get a rematch of Sturm-Macklin, and we should.
- Friday Night Fights, with another scoring dispute. The third controversial scorecard of the weekend came in Mauricio Herrera's majority decision over fellow junior welterweight Mike Dallas, Jr. I had it six rounds to four for Dallas, with four of the first five rounds close (excepting the 4th) and the rest pretty clear in my books. I had heard about the scoring controversy, and for most of the fight, I was kind of glad of the alleged injustice, since maybe it meant I wouldn't have to watch Dallas anymore. Dallas was annoying me terribly. He had about three moves: 1. skip backward, doing nothing except sticking his head out; 2. lunging in with often-inaccurate shots; and 3. holding on for dear life. Then, in the last couple rounds, Dallas mustered some confidence and actually threw punches on the inside, and as a result I didn't loathe his style so much. I think Dallas won the 4th, as well as the 7th through the 10th, with the shortened 5th round (due to a timekeeper's error) the close round I had him taking. I don't have a clue how judge Fritz Werner had it 98-92 for Herrera, whose body language late in the fight suggested he knew he was losing. I'd like to be happy for Herrera, who got another victory in a fight he wasn't expected to win, but... In the main event, lightweight John Molina, Jr. won by 5th round stoppage over Rob Frankel owing to Molina cutting up Frankel's face all over the place, particularly the X above his right eye, in what has to be the bloodiest fight of 2011. Frankel gave Molina trouble for three rounds, but Molina turned it around at the end of the 3rd and started beating the tar out of Frankel. Molina is trying to learn to box more. I'm not thinking he'll get there. He'll make his money with power and a determination to use it.
- Fernando Montiel-Nehomar Cermeno. Montiel won in the 3rd round in the video below when Cermeno quit, although I'm not sure why the ref gave him a 10 count to start the round. It apeeared that a body shot or combination of them at the end of the 2nd prompted Cermeno to retire. Montiel looked good, a class above Cermeno, as he is, showing no ill effects from the Nonito Donaire knockout loss. I'm still not seeing a junior featherweight in there, as Cermeno was until recently a bantamweight like Montiel. Time will tell if Montiel can make that transition, but this is a good start on that road.
First time I've watched the Kirland fight and it was just sad, hell it was even more obvious why Ishida knocked him out; he was getting rocked by Sharpes punches. If the opposing fighter has even the slightest power behind his punches then Kirkland will get hurt. Granted they keep putting him in front of guys who are made to be knocked out, he should be going for the kill, but some semblence of defense would be appreciated and would give him at least a chance to fight the best..
@jblatt1 And hey, check out David's point below. It's a fair point.
But the combination of his degenerated technique (which didn't have that far down that it COULD degenerate) and his inability to take a shot post-jail (he got wobbled or dropped at times prior to jail, but not by such feather-fisted fighters) are what have me jumping off the bandwagon.
Since I didn't get to watch the whole Macklin-Sturm fight, the Mike Dallas Jr loss was the real robbery of the weekend for me.
There is not all that much one can get out of Kirkland/Sharpe obviously. But do you really think his technique is that much worse than it was in, say, <a href="/http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JP1ugoEW3kk">the Allen Conyers fight</a>? Kirkland has always been open to be hit, he's always been pretty reckless coming forward and very free-swinging. I don't think it is anything new to his post-prison fights that he leans way in and wings shots.
@DavidSchraub Fair question.
I'd answer this way: I think Kirkland showed improvement from the Conyers fight to, say, jail. You're right in that he's always had a tendency to lean and wing shots, but that's ALL he's done since his comeback, that I've seen. Contrast it with, say, this sequence, where he doesn't exhibit either bad habit in any large measure: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZlTOdG0AuU
I had Sturm by a round too, and though I've been a detractor of the man in fights past, he earned a tough win in my eyes with some very powerful shots. It's just that any close fight + Germany + Sturm equals something questionable at this point simply due to the past, leading to some comments I saw from people who had Sturm by a round crying out how wide the cards were. Wide...by a round more?
It was fun to see everyone's least trustworthy scorekeeper Dan Rafael on Twitter sounding the bell for Macklin's robbery while saying Matthysse clearly lost. (Even though, if you did the math Rafael couldn't, his card turned up a draw.) Dan digs up a lot of news, but I'm not sure he can count to 10; all I can say is that my best friend is number dyslexic, and it's nothing to be ashamed of.
@HitDog Our own Mr. Kraus thought Macklin was robbed more decisively. Thomas Hauser was also pretty upset about the Macklin decision, although Hauser hasn't been the most... shall we say... ACCURATE in his views of late.
Ain't that the truth, on Rafael. I'm more pro-Rafael than most people, but almost all the time, his scorecards are at odds with everyone else's.
@tstarks @HitDog I did score the fight for Macklin, with some definite very close rounds in there, but I had it 8-4, not by a round. Still, I thought Macklin made the fight; I gave him credit for forcing Sturm to fight on the inside for almost the entire fight and for mostly neutralizing Sturm's best weapon, his killer jab, by digging his head into his chest and abusing Sturm's body. I thought Macklin was much more active and, while I did note that Sturm landed plenty of flush, extremely accurate shots, Macklin's body work was consistent and effective, the side of Sturm's body was clearly marked by the punches.
I watched the fight again and don't feel as strongly about Macklin being robbed, though I feel some of the official scores were out of whack. Sturm definitely landed a lot of head rattling blows, I just though Macklin's consistency and ring generalship were superior to Sturm's flush, accurate but often (especially in the first half of the fight, which I gave very widely to Macklin) too infrequent.
Love the screen name & avatar, bolivian.
@tstarks @HitDog Not to derail, or turn this into any sort of Rafael bashing (I find myself in his corner more often than not)...but does anyone else get the feeling he just looks to be the dissenting opinion at times with his cards? Or, at the very least, relishes championing said cards whenever they are dissenting?
Whatever the case, he's delivered some stinkers.