By Cliff Rold
Across two Saturday’s, fans were treated to three eye-catching main events, two of them Fight of the Year contender, and on an undercard arguably the second best fight of 2012. Not a bad Saturday (or two) if we can get it.
So did some of the fighters. Welterweight Andre Berto probably still has ice packs on his eyes. Lightweight Antonio DeMarco likely still hears the whistling hands of Adrien Broner bouncing off his head. Flyweight Tyson Marquez might be flinching at every corner, sure of his footing but unsure of when the next perfect counter is coming.
It’s always best when the fights leave us talking about what was seen, and what comes next. First, it’s a look back at the last two Saturdays.
Let’s got the report cards.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Viloria B+; Marquez B+/Post: A; B+
Pre-Fight: Power – Viloria A-; Marquez A-/Post: A; B+
Pre-Fight: Defense – Viloria B; Marquez B/Post: B; C
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Viloria B+; Marquez B+/Post: A; B
Pre-Fight: Speed – DeMarco B; Broner A/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Power – DeMarco B+; Broner B+/Post: B; A
Pre-Fight: Defense – DeMarco C-; Broner B+/Post: D; A-
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – DeMarco B+; Broner B+/Post: DeMarco B; Broner A
Pre-Fight: Speed – Berto A; Guerrero B+/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Power – Berto B+; Guerrero B/Post: B+; B+
Pre-Fight: Defense – Berto C; Guerrero B/Post: D; C+
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Berto B+; Guerrero B+/Post: B+; A
Beginning with the best main event of three big shows, a fight that fell just short of some of the hoped for Armageddon marking the build-up still managed to be one of the most exciting fights of the year. Brian Viloria, now a unified titlist at Flyweight, probably won eight of the first nine rounds but few cared at the end. Four rounds made all the difference.
In rounds one, five, nine, and ten, those who attended got their money’s worth. In the first and fifth, and tenth, Tyson Marquez appeared to rock Viloria and appeared ready to make a big turn. Every time, he ate a big shot and got a turn on the deck. The fifth was particularly notable as Viloria endured a hellacious stretch to turn the tide. In round nine, Marquez seemed to be seizing the momentum, the ghosts of Viloria past rattling their chains. In losses to Carlos Tamara and Edgar Sosa, late fades cost Viloria the chance for a win.
In this one, he extended the best winning stretch of his career. The former Olympian closed the show in the tenth, nuking the momentum of Marquez and becoming the first man to hold two major alphabet titles at Flyweight since the WBC and WBC went their separate ways in the division in 1965. It’s hard to believe it wasn’t even the best fight of the night.
That honor went to an undercard war at 108 lbs. between Roman Gonzalez and Juan Estrada. The unknown Estrada lost about 8-4 (that was official on two cards) but made it a go, making a name for himself and giving the previously invincible Gonzalez the toughest title fight he’s had yet. Gonzalez won, and claims he’ll stay at 108 for a couple more fights. Could that mean a big WBA showdown with Kazuto Ioka?
Maybe. After sharing the bill though, Viloria and Gonzalez looks like the fight Flyweight needs most. When was the last time Flyweight proper had a fight where there could be anything seen as real demand? It’s been awhile. While we wait, Viloria’s run is one of the sports best stories. His rebound from the Tamara loss in 2009 is reminiscent of the way Wladimir Klitschko rebuilt from Lamon Brewster with a more demanding level of foe. He avenged his first loss against Omar Nino earlier this year. Maybe a rematch with the still game Sosa could mark some more time.
Viloria has something the equally impressive Adrien Broner did not have at the end of his fight with Antonio DeMarco: a lot of option in his division. Broner leaps to the head of the Lightweight division with a one-sided whooping.
The win was not unexpected.
What impressed was the way he did it.
Broner stayed right in the pocket, didn’t avoid getting hit, and just teed off as the fight progressed. He took enough shots on the night to show some beard while putting on a display of the technical application of power as fine as any in recent vintage.
Now, to be fair, DeMarco is nothing special at Lightweight. His place as the arguable top dog in class said to anyone who has seen Lightweight at high tide that the cupboard is a little bare right now. But for a Broner who hasn’t faced many men who rated much below the dregs of the top ten at Jr. Lightweight and Lightweight, it was a showing that said there is more to come and that more is well worth following. Broner has grown in leaps and bounds since near misses against Fernando Quintero and Daniel Ponce De Leon.
At Lightweight, a clash with Ricky Burns might be the only interesting scrap in terms of entertainment value but he’d have to be a prohibitive favorite. His future is at 140 lbs. and above. Let’s hope the future arrives sooner than later.
Finally, there was last weekend. For fans that cry foul when referee’s constantly break fighters, stop fights for bad swellings, and won’t let fighters work the free hand in the trenches, this was their night. Robert Guerrero laid a beating, some butting, and a little holding and hitting on Andre Berto. Berto did his best to survive and fight back, mixing in some nasty rabbit punching.
It wasn’t sweet or scientific, but it was a fight.
Guerrero, once a Featherweight titlist, has made the transition to Welterweight and showed on Saturday that he can take a Welterweight shot. If nothing else, Guerrero has one of the game’s best beards. He may also be subtly developing one of its best overall games. Is this really the guy who lost to Orlando Salido (in the ring) and Gamaliel Diaz?
He’s got to be seen as one of the game’s most improved fighters in the last five years. He has shown the ability to win outside and now in, to outbox a slick guy like Malcolm Klassen and then just beat down a guy who was supposed to be bigger. Guerrero may never beat a Floyd Mayweather type, but he’s earning his way to a fight where he gets a chance to show how close to the top of the sport he can get.
That’s all he can do.
For Berto, it was a rough setback. The knock on Berto coming up was to wait until he got hit. He’s proven vulnerable. What he’s also shown, in wars with Luis Collazo, Victor Ortiz, and now Guerrero, is he’s got a ton of heart. There were some turned off by his post-fight complaints about referee Lou Moret, and some who concurred, but that’s ultimately irrelevant. What a fighter says in the heat of a tough loss means little. What they do in the ring is what counts.
In the ring on Saturday, Berto lost but never quit. If his fate is to be one of many fighters whose physical attributes never quite come together, and all he can do is make some really good fights before the attributes wash away, that’s not so bad.
Report Card Picks 2012: 59-22
Welterweight: Guerrero moves to number three while Berto re-enters the ratings at number ten after a removal for inactivity. Some consideration was given to former titlist Vyacheslav Senchenko after his retirement of Ricky Hatton, but Hatton’s lengthy inactivity makes that a tough call. Great knockout regardless and he’s on the bubble.
Lightweight: Broner goes to number one and a showdown with number two Ricky Burns could give the division its first lineal champion since Juan Manuel Marquez vacated the crown.
The full results of note and impact on the ratings are a click away.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene and a member of the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]