There is a phrase the Japanese use to describe their most powerful works of art, an essence that seems to flow through certain prominent postwar novels and films, and is epitomised in nature by the cherry blossom that blooms so spectacularly for a just few short days a year. Mono no aware, roughly translated as “the pathos of things,” is a refined awareness of the transience of all that there is, of the impermanence that defines everything beautiful in the world. A gentle sadness, such as one finds coursing through the films of Ozu or the greatest literary works of Mishima, it is that which accentuates our appreciation of greatness and true beauty, whilst at the same time offering a constant contextualisation, an ongoing reminder that it will never be quite like this again.
Boxing is a sport that brings out this ephemeral appreciation like no other I’ve encountered. We watch fighters grow and evolve -- sometimes out of all recognition in the case of weight class defying specimens like Manny Pacquiao and Roy Jones, Jr. -- before, eventually, they fade away or burn out in near-instantaneous, often tragic style. Memory and a refined awareness of the past provide the emphasis on continuity essential in the search for that heightened awe. Careers always seem much too brief once they’re over, with fans obsessively lining up to compile hagiographic accounts of the dearly departed, and yet the fact remains that this is pugilism, an endeavour that by its very fundament seeks to dim the lights and bring things to a terribly abrupt halt.
This past weekend we saw a dying star flicker for perhaps the last time as Miguel Cotto dismantled Delvin Rodriguez over three triumphant rounds. Cotto looked excellent, make no mistake, but it would be foolish to suggest that at 32, and with a handful of wars behind him, he can rediscover the same killer instincts that made him so feared before his historic meeting with Antonio Margarito in 2008. And that is not to denigrate Delvin Rodriguez, who is a good, solid fighter capable of causing problems for anyone bar the elite of the division. Those labeling him a journeyman are way off, just as those jovially declaring Cotto’s return are jumping the gun a tad. It was a good win, one through which we could glimpse the spark of that which had previously blazed, but it was little more at this stage.
Usually we start the week’s boxing schedule off with a random, non-boxing piece of media from the Internet (via), but the above Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling program was too cool not to feature. I guess that means we can jump right into the week’s fights, since we’re already talking boxing. The main event is the HBO pay-per-view headlined by welterweights Tim Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez, which has an interesting, if not fully PPV-worthy undercard. Then there are other fights, featuring the likes of Jessie Vargas and Jermell Charlo.
(When Miguel Cotto stopped Delvin Rodriguez, the above Mark Morrison tune may or may not have become TQBR Radio's official anthem)
Miguel Cotto is a mack, in every sense of the word. We think. But it's possible we here at TQBR don't really understand the hip lingo today's kids are using. So we'll just say he's cool and fresh, and give thanks that he's seemingly "back."
On the other hand, we're also kind of obligated to mention the Wladimir Klitschko vs. Alexander Povetkin travesty. But the antacid tablet to that heavyweight gut bomb should be Juan Manuel Marquez vs. Tim Bradley. There should be plenty of comic relief for James Foley of Bad Left Hook and TQBR's Patrick Connor to work with, though. And joining the Flotsam and Jetsam of boxing radio this week is Alex Barry of The Boxing Seed.
Did you see heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko Saturday? Then you very well might have been bored! Maybe you saw lightweight Terence Crawford, and were more bored by him instead. Maybe you were bored by neither. All of these outcomes are possible.
That's because not all "boring" fighters are created equal. And not all viewers perceive them as such. From time to time, you'll hear someone say, "Boring Andre Ward can get a big paycheck by HBO, but boring Guillermo Rigondeaux can't? DOUBLE STANDARD." But then comes a night like Saturday where you'll have people offer up things like "Terence Crawford-Andrey Klimov made Wladimir Klitschko-Alexander Povetkin look like Gatti-Ward" or the exact opposite -- "After Klitschko-Povetkin, Crawford-Klimov looks like Gatti-Ward."
Different allegedly boring fighters are allegedly more boring than others to other people; "boring is boring is boring" doesn't hold any water.
The men on the list below are only allegedly boring. They're top-10 ranked fighters in their divisions or even the champions who've merely been thwacked with the boring label more often than others. Presumably if Klitschko is drawing 35,000 people in Moscow like he did Saturday, there are some people who find something un-boring about him. Presumably if Floyd Mayweather is selling 2.2 million pay-per-view units for his last fight, there are some people who find him un-boring. In fact, a handful of these men are the most popular fighters in the sport, by one measure or the other.
This is merely my ranking of them, from least boring to most. My opinion. No one else's.
(Miguel Cotto, standing, Delvin Rodriguez, falling; photo credit: Chris Farina, Top Rank)
Miguel Cotto salvaged an action-free HBO card in the main event Saturday with a throwback performance against Delvin Rodriguez, electrifying the audience in Orlando, Fla. via the kind of bodypunching that drew cringes of sympathy and via the kind of aggression that left Rodriguez helpless along the ropes barely into the 3rd round.
It's tempting to shout, "COTTO IS BACK, BABY!" and there's grounds for it. This was the relentless ribcage hunter of old, as promised by new trainer Freddie Roach. I felt foolish during the one-sided affair for thinking Rodriguez, a big, long junior middleweight with fringe top 10 credentials, would offer up some competition to a Cotto who has shown signs of fading both physically and mentally late in his career. Looking at what transpired, it's possible that Rodriguez was made to order for this kind of Cotto performance and I was wrong about what Rodriguez offered. But I'm more inclined to think I was wrong because of some combination of matchmaking and execution -- 25 percent to 75 percent. Cotto was landing thudding shots to the body with both hands from the very 1st round, and the history of Cotto suggests that he's more than capable of scoring this kind of knockout against capable competition when he's this focused on attacking rather than playing clever boxer-puncher, albeit at lower weights.
The end of the 2nd round actually was the end of the fight, because Rodriguez was out of it after a left-right combination that had him holding up his glove to his head as the bell rang like, "What just happened to my brain?" Rodriguez tried to hold at the very beginning of the 3rd, but Cotto wasn't to be denied -- he trapped Rodriguez along the ropes, threw a right to the body that forced Rodriguez to lower his guard to defend against it and then came upstairs with a left hook that had him in a dangerous place. Cotto landed a couple more but the ref was already stepping in to stop it, and did. Maybe it was a touch early, but Rodriguez was looking awfully incapacitated there when it ended, so there's no cause for a big to-do.
Whatever percentage of this was about Cotto as opposed to Rodriguez, it got the job done: Cotto now sells as a top match-up for the likes of middleweight champion Sergio Martinez, junior middleweight cash cow Canelo Alvarez or Floyd Mayweather again. The second two men are on Showtime and aligned with Golden Boy, whereas Cotto is seemingly back with Top Rank and its ally HBO, so Martinez is more feasible. If Cotto can shrink back down to welterweight, as some have long suspected, the universe of options gets even more attractive: Winner of Juan Manuel Marquez-Timothy Bradley, anyone? Manny Pacquiao-Brandon Rios? Yeah. Cotto doing what he did Saturday night just opened up a world of possibilities.
On the live undercard, ultra-talented lightweight Terence Crawford struggled to impress against ultra-reluctant Andrey Klimov in a 10-round shutout victory. My view is that Klimov shouldered most of the blame for fighting so timidly for eight rounds that his corner actually told him he was fighting like a "coward." (Klimov fought harder in the last two rounds, not that it made much of a difference.) Crawford caught some clean shots trying to force the action, when Klimov could be bothered to throw punches. Crawford outclassed him easily and could've coasted to a win with a far more anemic output, and didn't; at the same time, he also could've stood to force the action even more, as he showed by hurting Klimov with an aggressive series of shots in the final seconds of the bout. When you're this good and your opponent is this overmatched, you're going to catch some heat when you don't massacre them. The sentiment on Twitter was far more negative toward Crawford than my own, so this performance didn't help him. While I was of the "meh, I can live with it" sentiment with the choice of Klimov of an opponent, we've reached the point with Crawford now where he needs to take on a real serious contender, a Raymundo Beltran type.
The final leg of the action-less undercard, we covered here. I failed to mention that Wladimir Klitschko got $17 million to be an anthropomorphic, belligerent curtain, or that one of the judges scoring the fight actually was wearing an electronic ankle bracelet in an accidental metaphor for how boxing judges these days are criminals roaming among us, robbing boxers. But, hey. Vintage Cotto.
(Wladimir Klitschko, left; Alexander Povetkin, right)
There have been back alley assaults outside West Virginia taverns cleaner than what Wladimir Klitschko did to Alexander Povetkin Saturday in Russia on HBO en route to a 119-104 unanimous decision across the board. There have been more credible performances by WWE referees, too, than the officiating Luis Pabon "administered" Saturday.
Klitschko still was a class above Povetkin, as was expected, and he landed the cleaner punches throughout -- you could maybe give Povetkin a couple rounds out of the 12. It was all the dirty business that happened in between the clean shots that had boxing fans up in arms as they watched. Klitschko technically scored four knockdowns; at least two and possibly three of them don't happen without Klitschko simply throwing Povetkin to the ground. The undisputed one came in the 2nd with Povetkin getting clipped by a short left hook. The others were all in the 7th.
Pabon eventually docked Klitschko a point in the 11th for pushing Povetkin down after two more hurls. By then, his negligence had done too much damage to Povetkin's chances. Klitschko always has abused the rulebook, using his stiff arm, holding excessively, etc. This time out he practically raped it. Anytime Povetkin got close, he held. Anytime Klitschko swung and missed, he held. Tall fighters have often pushed down on smaller fighters' necks, but Klitschko did it incessantly. And then, for good measure, he would hold Povetkin around the neck with one hand and punch him with the other.
I don't want to suggest that Povetkin was likely to win a clean fight. He had some success with his overhand right and showed a lot of heart. But he probably should've won this one because a competent referee doesn't wait until the 11th to dock a point for cheating -- cumulatively, Klitschko deserved to be disqualified for everything he did. Maybe if the ref had docked him two points earlier Kitschko wouldn't have kept it up, and then maybe Povetkin would have been given a fair shot at victory, although it's not a shot he would've been able to capitalize on, I don't think. Perhaps he should've gotten nastier with his own rule-bending to dissuade Klitschko where Pabon would not, and worked with his free hand in clinches for the same purpose. On principle, he deserved that fair shot, however.
For all the concern coming in that the fight being on Povetkin's home soil of Russia would lead to some mob antics to swing it Povetkin's way, I actually uttered during the fight, "Where's the Russian mob when you need them?" Maybe they put all their money on Klitschko, and it was all an elaborate ruse, all the betting money rushing in on Povetkin.
Klitschko becomes the undisputed heavyweight champion from all this; maybe you think his alphabet straps added up to it, or the Ring belt, but the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board championship was on the line and this ought to put everyone on the same page as a result. It's just too bad that this was a performance more befitting a UFC champion than a boxing one.
We're in something akin to a fall sweeps period for HBO boxing, with this weekend and last spotlighting various titans of TV ratings in the sport. Up last Saturday was Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr., and he reportedly delivered the biggest cable boxing ratings of the year so far. Up this coming Saturday are Miguel Cotto and Wladimir Klitschko. Later in October and the rest of the year we'll get red meat for hardcore fans with the likes of Juan Manuel Marquez-Timothy Bradley, Mike Alvarado-Ruslan Provodnikov and Manny Pacquiao-Brandon Rios in what stacks up as an exceptional final quarter of 2013 for the network. But for now, here at the start of the semi-sweeps, it's three superstars in very winnable fights with at least a hint of danger.
Chavez probably had the easiest assignment on paper of the trio, but we saw how his middleweight turned super middleweight turned light heavyweight clash against Brian Vera turned out for him -- a win that should've been a loss or a draw at best.
The main event Saturday features junior middleweight Cotto in a fight that a few years ago would have been at least as easy as Chavez-Vera figured to be, but Cotto isn't what he once was and as such fringe contender Delvin Rodriguez very well could be a handful for him. And if Cotto is renewing his focus on offense the way new trainer Freddie Roach says he is, it could be a damn good time, because a Cotto focused on offense is exciting as fuck and Rodriguez pretty much always brings the excitement himself.
The action actually begins live from Germany in the afternoon at 3:30 p.m. (replayed later in the evening) with top heavyweight Klitschko being given a chance to erase any doubt he's the real heavyweight champion as he faces Alexander Povetkin for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board crown. Whether it will be any harder than any of the other Klitschko walkovers is probably an easy question to answer, alas. But he's facing the most qualified, esteemed opponent in the division on paper, and it's only the enormity of the gulf between the Klitschkos and the rest of the heavyweights that does any damage to the merit-based interest in this fight. Yet as much as Wlad is knocked in the United States for being "boring," people always watch when he's on domestic airwaves, which shows once more how much more there is to a boxer's potential appeal than how frequently he's in a slugfests.
The card also features lightweight Terence Crawford, a sort of "Great Black Hope." We'll defer to our colleague Alex McClintock on that fight here.
(Dennis Andries, left, slams a jab toward Jeff Harding in their first bout; via)
At the time this fight was made, nobody really knew that putting WBC light heavyweight titlist Dennis Andries in with Jeff Harding would be like aiming two high-powered jackhammers at each other. But the punches rarely stopped, and they carried punishment with them.
Andries was to have squared up against Canadian hunk Donny Lalonde. About three weeks out from the June 24, 1989 date, Lalonde announced his retirement from boxing, saying that he couldn't even handle beating up sparring partners, much less opponents during a paid bout. The revelation, though strange, was right in line with Lalonde's eccentric mannerisms. It should be noted, however, that Lalonde went back to boxing in 1991.
As Top Rank's Bob Arum remarked before the fight, Lalonde's oddball personality was a draw, though, and his pullout left a gap in the schedule that ABC needed to fill, and quickly. Unheralded Australian prospect Jeff Harding, who hadn't yet gone 12 rounds -- and hadn't beaten any ranked contenders -- was given the opportunity. Harding's trainer Johnny Lewis would later remark that it was a chance he felt they needed to take.
But Andries, unimpressed and aggravated that Lalonde wouldn't be his opponent, said of Harding to George Kimball of the Boston Herald, "Never heard of him. I wanted Lalonde." Indeed most of the promotion centered on Lalonde, with Arum saying Donald Trump intended to sue the Canadian, but Harding did his best to market himself to the local gentry -- like by displaying a wallaby to children at the Cape May Zoo in New Jersey. As Harding would later say in an interview with Ray Wheatley of Fightnews, Arum had been looking for ways to incorporate Australian fighters into his promotions in order to piggyback off the popularity of "Crocodile Dundee," and the wallaby episode played into that.
Though the bout was contested at the Atlantic City Convention Center, the "Wide World of Sports" billing shone through, with a U.K.-based fighter born in Guyana and trained in Detroit defending his WBC belt against a man aiming to be the first Australian light heavyweight champion.
Adries' Kronk gauntlet with trainer Emanuel Steward was apparent in the opening rounds as he mechanically thwacked Harding with an unpleasant jab, after which would occasionally come a rusty, barbed hook. Meanwhile, Harding stayed content, if you could call it that, to jet out a jab of his own and concentrate on Andries' body, to unknown effect. But already in round 1, Harding's left eye was cut and swelled, and that was beside the fact that a breakneck pace had already been set.
In round 3, the effect of Harding's body work became known, and Andries was jolted a few times, and the 4th round saw Harding wobbled by the incessant facial bomb runs. But Andries was being made to work hard for his points, and with each passing round, the legend of Harding's chin grew -- as must have Andries' discouragement. A small boost for Andries came in the form of a cuffing left hand that somehow put Harding down, kind of, in round 5, but the Australian rose to scrape back into the action. Steward seemed to sense a subtle momentum shift between rounds, imploring Andries to not let Harding get the upper hand, while most observers seemed to relish the bludgeonry and score minutes at a time for his fighter.
Indeed, as Andries grew more stationary and trenches became occupied in the middle rounds, Harding worked in a counter left hook over Andries' right hand, and the body work only served to tie Dennis Andries to a stake in terms of mobility. Harding was bleeding from the mouth, though, and a catalyst was needed. In the 8th stanza, Harding got two: a combination halfway through rocked Andries, and out of nowhere, the Guyanese champion was arm-weary. Still bearing fangs, Andries continued to peg Harding with wild right uppercuts and nice jabs here and there, but his spirit was dissolving with every shot absorbed.
With each subsequent round, Andries visibly wilted -- not completely out of the fight, but his punch resistance dipped and his output waned. He wouldn't let Harding's salvos go unanswered, but results fell short of intent, and an exhausting 10th round would be his last serious stand. With Harding's nose spouting a monsoon of crimson in round 11, Andries fired off a succession of right hands, only to be driven back to the ropes and repeatedly stung by Harding's up and down barrages and forced to survive the round.
Jeff Harding stiffened up Andries' legs with a double jab at the start of round 12. Andries clawed his way out of a corner with a few combinations, but his mobility was nonexistent, leaving and opening for Harding to deck him with a series of punches. It didn't take much for Andries to go down again, and though he rose, the business day had concluded, and a few punches later, referee Joe Cortez waded in to end matters.
Alcoholism and high-spending would soon sink its talons into Jeff Harding, but that specific moment was his. He would go on to have two more fights against Dennis Andries, losing the rematch and winning the rubbermatch, but basking in his role as a national hero for a brief moment.
All the scuttlebutt in recent days points at pound-for-pound and pay-per-view boxing king Floyd Mayweather's next fight coming in May against Amir Khan, the leopard-quick Pakistani Brit with a China chin, a penchant for in-ring dramatics and a knack for outside-the-ring celebreality posturing (along with the kind of "love to hate" relationship with the public that goes along with it). Scuttlebutt being scuttlebutt, and with no official announcement in hand, it could be false. But all the evidence points to this being the fight for Mayweather. Reliable Mayweather news outlet FightHype last week tabbed Khan as the frontrunner for the gig, Showtime's Stephen Espinoza drizzled the match-up with praise in an "exclusive" today on how Khan would get Mayweather in May and Khan hasn't signed a contract with planned December opponent Devon Alexander despite that bout being in the works for months. [UPDATED: Or maybe Espinoza drizzled nothing, and maybe the Khan team's assertions about still targeting Alexander are valid?]
Boxing's hardcore fans are already displeased, both rightly based on any hope of a competitive affair next for Mayweather (above, left) and wrongly because the pickings are slim. On the first count, the best case you can make for Khan (above, right) is that he is, at least, fast. Much faster than anyone Mayweather has faced since Shane Mosley or even further back Zab Judah. You can argue that because he's tall and long, maybe that will trouble Mayweather a la Oscar De La Hoya. The arguments run out right around there, and even those hold little promise. Maybe they held more promise back before Khan lost to junior welterweight contender Lamont Peterson and then got knocked out by then-junior welterweight contender and now-junior welterweight champion Danny Garcia and then got rocked by blown up lightweight Julio Diaz in what was meant to be a "get well" bout -- back around the time Khan proved he could win a life-or-death war with a big puncher in Marcos Maidana or when he boxed so masterfully against Paulie Malignaggi or Judah or Andriy Kotelnik. But to get there we'll need a time machine set for 2011, and as of this moment Khan has demonstrated that the knockout-waiting-to-happen who couldn't take a punch from Breidis Prescott is still in there, and that the knockout timetable in any given fight moves up and up regardless of who he's fighting because he stubbornly insists in every fight on proving just how macho he is -- when all his machismo proves is that he has more machismo than he ought to, and that it is the exact opposite trait that should be coming into play for a light-hitting, low-punch resistance boxer who could be using his quick fists, quick feet, length and capacity for defending himself well to easily outpoint the same men who have wrecked or nearly wrecked him.
The arguments run out "about there" because if the fight is signed, we will no doubt hear about how Khan's punch resistance bugaboo is merely the result of fighting at a weight unsuitable for his frame, and that he'll be A-OK once he moves fully to welterweight. Except we hear the same every time Khan moves up in weight -- the Diaz fight was at 143, don't forget -- and next thing you know Khan's a rag doll flopping around the ring at the gentlest contact.
What he does bring is that penchant for drama outside the ring that could lead to some sales. It's not clear to me what kind of fan base he has in the U.K., if any; I certainly don't know any fans of his in the U.K. personally, and his driving habits and overall tendency to be in the public eye (rightly or wrongly) for unsavory reasons and frequent negative remarks about the U.K. (again, rightly or wrongly) don't speak to someone who is likely to be particularly beloved in his homeland. Still, maybe he rallies some nationalistic U.K. fans a la Ricky Hatton on a smaller scale and ups the overseas money factor. What's more likely to make him sell in the U.S. is that he's also booed here from time to time, and he's likely to say something dumb that leads to a headline, and maybe his Muslim faith makes him a subject of talk generally. His tendency to be in needless brawls in the ring serves him well when it sells even his most unworthy opponents as capable of springing an upset, something that doesn't project to help the bottom line much against a master like Floyd Mayweather, who would probably come in as a betting favorite beyond the margins of any of his bouts in recent years. No, if anything, this fight could very well be the bout where more people want to see Mayweather knock someone out than want to see him get knocked out.
This is how slim the pickings are at this precise moment in the life of Mayweather's multi-fight Showtime deal: Were Khan to take on and defeat Alexander in December, he very well could have been sold as a more competitive opponent for Mayweather, albeit not much more of one than before, but everyone seems to realize that the risk of Khan losing to Alexander is high enough that it's not worth it to potentially spoil what marketability remains for him. Khan might have enough marketability to outsell Mayweather-Robert Guerrero, and for that matter he could have more marketability than anyone else who's even a conceivable option. Does Garcia bring more to the table financially, really? Aged, infirm middleweight champion Sergio Martinez is the better competitive option, but does he for sure outsell Khan, and can we even guarantee that he would make it through camp with his body intact? And is there any sign that Mayweather is suddenly going to be interested in a Manny Pacquiao fight, or that such a fight could even be made given the hostility Pacquiao promoter Top Rank harbors for Mayweather? Khan is arguably the best of a bunch of options that fall into one of three categories by comparison: more competitive and nearly impossible; more competitive and probably less profitable; or both of the above.
We knew that after Mayweather took on the ultra-marketable Canelo Alvarez that it would be downhill for Mayweather after that, at least for a while. Now that the future is potentially upon us, it's possible we didn't realize how steep the hill would be.
I know everyone’s really sick of Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr., but would you look at that photo? He wasn’t always such a big fat piece of shit -- though he did always look creepy. In any case, cast Junior from your mind and let’s concentrate on what’s quite a good week of boxing, with a significant and long awaited heavyweight championship fight, the return of Miguel Cotto and the professional debut of super heavyweight Olympic gold medallist Anthony Joshua. There’s also the premiere of the “Face Off With Max Kellerman” segment for Mike Alvarado and Ruslan Provodnikov’s junior welterweight fight on HBO immediately following the live fights.