By Cliff Rold
It was a good fight.
It looked like it was on the way to being even more than that. Cuts sometimes add drama to a fiery encounter. Saturday, cuts over the left and right eyes, and bad swelling around the right, were a wet blanket, snuffing out the flames just as they were beginning to roar. Slovenia’s Jan Zaveck (31-2, 18 KO) saw his IBF Welterweight belt passed into the hands of former WBC titlist Andre Berto (28-1, 22 KO) and fans saw a developing war end as merely a quality skirmish.
So, sure, it could have been more.
Everything up to the early exit was pretty good.
Let’s go to the report card.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Zaveck B; Berto A/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Power – Zaveck B; Berto B+/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Defense – Zaveck B+; Berto C/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Zaveck B; Berto B+/Post: A; A
No one needed it to be ‘more’ than Zaveck, who did far better than he was getting credit for from the HBO announce crew. Overly fixating on Berto, Zaveck’s clean, hard shots were often overlooked by the announcers in favor of Berto shots being blocked on arms and elbows. The most decisive round of the five completed was round four, in Zaveck’s favor.
That’s not to say Berto wasn’t landing or winning rounds. He was. Just not in proportion to the attention he was getting. Zaveck couldn’t miss with the left hook and his right wasn’t bad either. Berto was excellent to the body and, while lefts and rights were often being muffled upstairs by the guard of Zaveck, Berto’s uppercuts were stinging.
They also, ultimately, may have made the difference. It was hard to tell if punches or some head contact caused either or both cuts, but the uppercuts played their part. Berto was coming off a first loss, a savage affair with Victor Ortiz, and he didn’t shy from new combat.
He also didn’t move his head enough. By enough, it could be read he didn’t move it nearly at all. It is, and remains, his biggest flaw. Berto gets hit too much, too clean, too often. He’s long needed a preacher along with his trainer. Why a preacher?
Because Berto needs to embrace the truth that it is not a sin to duck.
What was learned Saturday about Zaveck was, at least early, he didn’t hit quite hard enough to do more than shake Berto. Could he done more without cuts? The trend of the fight suggested that a second half could have gone either way. Zaveck was taking the shots of Berto well on the chin and sucking it up against big body shots. He seemed to be warming and growing into the task.
Cuts are part of boxing. Zaveck suffered them. He lost. However, the way he lost, any fan should be excited to see Zaveck again. In a fairer world, a rematch with Berto would be in order, if not right away than before the 35-year old Zaveck gets too old.
Fairness has little place in the business of athletics and Berto is more likely, at least right away to do what everyone most fans will join him in doing. Berto said after the fight he’d like a rematch with Ortiz. Ortiz has business with Floyd Mayweather in two weeks.
There is no point speculating about any Welterweight futures because the course of the division is set on September 17th. That day will come soon enough.
Report Card Picks 2011: 27-11
Welterweight: Despite the win, there just isn’t anywhere for Berto to go. Zaveck didn’t do anything to lose his slot. The belt changed hands. These ratings remain the same.
Jr. Bantamweight: In arguably the biggest upset of the summer, WBC titlist Hugo Cazares lost a narrow decision to unheralded Tomonubu Shimizu, ending what was a healthy run after previously ruling the Jr. Flyweight class. The narrow split decision, on the road in Japan, should mean a rematch. For now, Shimizu riders a rocket and Cazares stumbles a slot.
These results and more are reflected a page away.
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]