by David P. Greisman
Power isn’t solely derived from how it’s used, but also from how it’s viewed.
There will always be believers and skeptics, with extremists on both ends of the spectrum overstating or underrating its effectiveness, paralyzed or unmoved by its presence. Some will fear it, while others will think it can be defied and defeated.
All of them can be blown away with an effective display of brute force.
Boxing is full of Ozzes Great and Powerful whose greatness and power are rather a matter of smoke and mirrors. It’s too easy to game the system and mislead the masses through deceptive matchmaking and disingenuous marketing. For every Edwin Valero blasting through his first 19 opponents in just 20 rounds and then going on to win a world title, there is a Tyrone Brunson who will take out 19 foes in 19 rounds and soon be exposed as a flawed fraud.
And so we question undefeated records and knockout streaks, seeking the steak to substantiate the sizzle. We pore over the quality of opposition, ponder whether there are limitations and weaknesses to be revealed, and wait for the day when the fighter in question will provide us with some answers.
There have been three notable knockout artists hyped in the past couple of years.
Lucas Matthysse had earned early endings in all but two of his victories — and had lost by split decisions in his two defeats. But the junior-welterweight bomber who made quick work of one titleholder in Lamont Peterson last year wasn’t able to do the same against Danny Garcia. Matthysse lost a decision to Garcia, then struggled mightily at times with John Molina earlier this year before taking over and scoring the stoppage. Nevertheless, his bandwagon has stalled for the moment.
Deontay Wilder began as a raw prospect whose power propelled him while his technique caught up. He’s scored knockouts or technical knockouts over every single one of his 31 opponents, with no foe getting past the fourth round. He’s scored 18 knockouts in the first round, 6 knockouts in the second, 4 knockouts in the third and 3 knockouts in the fourth. He’s about to challenge for a heavyweight title without having ever defeated a high-quality foe. The 6-foot-7 Wilder will either step up and be the next big thing or will go down as yet another tall tale.
Gennady Golovkin stepped into the ring at Madison Square Garden this past Saturday with an undefeated record, with 26 knockouts in his 29 wins. He was an accomplished amateur who won a silver medal in the 2004 Olympics. As a pro, he’d held a world title belt for a few years, battered and blown out his opponents and was being described as the destroyer who would dominate the middleweight division if only the middleweight division wouldn’t avoid him. Yet his challenger, former titleholder Daniel Geale, was admittedly a significant step up in class of competition.
Some wondered if Geale would reveal any of Golovkin’s weaknesses and limitations. They believed that Geale’s volume punching could pose problems. It wasn’t just because of what they felt Geale was, but also due to what they thought Golovkin might not be.
Those doubts, like Geale himself, were struck down by the hand of Golovkin.
Some fear power. Others try to defy it. Geale sought to walk the fine line between being aware and being too wary, his strategy a mix of confronting Golovkin while avoiding his shots. He had to throw punches in hopes of making Golovkin defend them. He had to move regularly in hopes of making Golovkin reset.
Golovkin showed skill in blocking punches, and he absorbed those that got through. He cut off the ring to get to Geale, landing jabs and body shots and opening a cut above Geale’s right eye. As the second round began, Golovkin cranked up the pace and pressure. Geale was directed toward the ropes. He ducked a right hand, dodged a left hook and then got caught with a right hand as he tried to slip underneath. The blow hit the side of Geale’s head toward the back of it, and he went to the canvas, complaining incorrectly that he’d been hit with an illegal shot.
Early in the third round, Geale dodged a sequence of several punches, then showboated a bit in a vain attempt at frustrating Golovkin. It didn’t work. Golovkin kept coming, missing with a right hand and landing a left hook. He soon trapped Geale in a corner and went to his body. Geale continued to compete.
And then he got blown away with brute force.
Geale’s back was on the ropes. Both men threw lefts. Then both threw right hands. Geale’s landed first, bouncing off the front of Golovkin’s face and closing Golovkin’s eyes momentarily. That collision occurred as Golovkin was pulling his right hand back. Golovkin’s balance was off, but his feet remained planted. He rotated his body into a right cross that had less force than it initially might have. There was somehow enough power left, though, and he opened his eyes to see the blow catch Geale clean and unaware. Geale went down.
Geale got back up before the referee’s count reached four, walked backward to the ropes, then walked forward again toward another corner. The referee’s count reached eight. He instructed Geale to come to him. Geale shook his head, and the referee waved the fight off.
Geale didn’t protest. In the post-fight press conference, however, he said he could’ve gone on, that the head shake was one of emotion, not of surrender.
“I guess in that moment I was just completely disappointed in myself and I wasn’t thinking,” Geale said. “I got up, and the next minute I looked around and the referee waved it off. I didn’t really have much time to work out what was going on at that stage. He definitely caught me, I know that. Whether I could’ve gone on or not, that’s hard to say. I would’ve liked to have, but I probably made the wrong decision being so pissed off at myself about getting caught, that I looked like I wasn’t right.
“I felt I could’ve went on and finished the rest of the round,” he said. “I sort of thought the referee was going to speak to me and ask me, but the next thing I knew the fight was finished. It happens very quickly.”
Geale chalked up the knockdown to a mistake, and he credited Golovkin for being highly skilled and able to make him pay for it. It was actually Golovkin who pressured him into making the mistake, though. Golovkin’s ability to break his opponents down physically winds up breaking them down mentally as well. Geale was a decent former titleholder and a skilled challenger. He didn’t have the power to bother Golovkin. Even if he did, that might not have made much of a difference.
Golovkin’s sparring sessions were already building buzz before he’d even made his official United States debut. He was training in California but fighting overseas when Doug Fischer of RingTV.com wrote about him in 2011. Fischer had been told beforehand about Golovkin “lighting up” Alfredo Angulo, “embarrassing” Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and “giving Peter Quillin all he could handle.”
Fischer watched Golovkin spar six rounds with Canelo Alvarez.
“My first look at Golovkin was a treat,” he wrote afterward. “I think he’s the real deal. … Golovkin is a very strong and durable athlete with all-around skill and excellent technique, which includes defensive prowess. He has good footwork. Pivots well. Makes use of feints. He’s brutal but crafty. If he can take a punch, he’s going to be very hard to beat.”
The more we see of Golovkin, the more we’re realizing that he’s probably not another mirage of marketing and maneuvering.
We’re so used to being deceived — but it might just be time to believe.
The 10 Count
1. Don’t hold your breath for a fight between Gennady Golovkin and Miguel Cotto.
Yes, Cotto is the lineal middleweight champion right now while Golovkin is the other top titleholder in the division. But I’m guessing we’re more likely to see Cotto against a mid-level guy at a weight somewhere between 154 and 160 before the year is out, and for him to then face either Canelo Alvarez or have a Floyd Mayweather rematch in May or June of 2014.
“GGG” will get his big opportunity someday. We’ll still be seeing a lot of him on television in the meantime.
2. I can understand why some boxing fans were upset at the point deduction in the final round of Bryant Jennings’ win over Mike Perez on the undercard to Golovkin-Geale.
I just can’t agree with them.
Granted, we never want to see an official’s call decide the result of an athletic event. The point taken from Perez was the difference between the fight being a split draw and the eventual result: a split decision for Jennings.
We seem to frown particularly upon points being taken so late in the fight. I think that’s hogwash. The rules are the rules are the rules, no matter when an incident takes place.
Perez bulled his head into Jennings. He pushed Jennings’ body back over the ropes. And then, as the referee was breaking them, he threw a shot that landed on Jennings.
This had already been a dirty fight. I was in the arena, haven’t watched the broadcast yet and can’t say whether referee Harvey Dock issued verbal warnings to Perez throughout the fight (as Jennings claimed). And no, Dock never gave one of those “demonstrative” warnings where a referee pulls a fighter aside and tells him that anything else will result in a point being deducted.
But there don’t need to be warnings for a point to be taken for an intentional foul. And Perez’s combination of actions in that sequence were quite intentional.
Beyond that, here’s what the Association of Boxing Commission’s guidelines for referee say:
“Deduction of points for intentional foul(s) is mandatory … If an intentional foul does not cause injury and the fouled boxer can continue, the referee will deduct one (1) point from the boxer who committed the foul.”
3. A tweet from the account for promoter Main Events toward the end of Bryant Jennings’ win over Mike Perez this past Saturday:
“Is it me, or was Jennings a lot more exciting when we were making the matches?”
A response from a Twitter user named @StefanABJ:
“It's because you were matching him against soft guys.”
4. Roy Jones beat Courtney Fry this past Saturday in Latvia, scoring the stoppage when Fry retired in his corner after the fifth round, a round in which he suffered a knockdown.
James Toney was supposed to face Evgeny Orlov on the same card. A few folks on Twitter said that Toney didn’t show up in the country. I don’t really know for sure. I don’t really care.
That was only Jones’ third knockout win in a decade — and fourth in a dozen years going all the way back to his 2002 win over Clinton Woods. The others were his stoppages of Jeff Lacy and Omar Sheika back in 2009.
Jones has gone 9-7 in the past 10 or so years. And the guy who once said he couldn’t “get up” for the Glen Johnsons of the boxing world is now flying to Latvia to face the Courtney Frys.
But hey, at least something called the World Boxing Union, or WBU, has Jones as its cruiserweight titleholder.
That and two bucks will get you a pair of McChicken sandwiches…
5. The story of former cruiserweight titleholder Steve Cunningham’s daughter Kennedy is a touching one with which we’ve become familiar. Nearly every boxer fights for his loved ones, but Cunningham’s case is particularly gripping.
“She had her first open heart surgery at two days old and the second six months later,” reads a statement sent to the media last week. “She was hospitalized for the first year of her life and suffered many setbacks along the way, including a stroke, many blood infections and also required a trach and vent for several years when she was younger.”
Kennedy is now nearly nine and needs a heart transplant. Cunningham, who hails from Philadelphia, now needs to travel all the way across Pennsylvania to Pittsburgh on a regular basis while they await the incredibly short and sudden notice informing them that a heart has become available for their daughter.
Cunningham and his wife, Elizabeth, have set up a fundraising website and are hoping to get $25,000 to help them cover some expenses. As of Sunday evening, a total of 119 people had gotten them 68 percent of the way there — with about $8,000 left.
The fundraising website can be found at HeartByFaith.com.
6. January 2012: Andre Dirrell, less than a month off returning from an extended layoff, parts ways with promoter Gary Shaw and powerful boxing adviser Al Haymon, and he tells Lem Satterfield of RingTV.com that he’s starting his own promotional company.
July 2012: Dirrell still hasn’t fought again, but he announces that he has signed with a promotional company that is expected to be run by rapper 50 Cent and boxer Floyd Mayweather. The company ends up being just 50 Cent’s, and Dirrell remains with it.
February 2013: Dirrell didn’t fight at all the year before. He finally gets back into the ring again with a 10-round decision over Michael Gbenga. Dirrell didn’t fight again in 2013, and it’s reported at times (and rumored at others) that the inactivity is Dirrell’s fault, including him turning down or pulling out of opportunities.
July 2014: Dirrell still hasn’t fought since early 2013. And so he parts ways with 50 Cent… and signs with powerful boxing adviser Al Haymon. Though Dirrell initially said he’d be back in the ring on the Aug. 1 episode of ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights,” he’s not listed on the schedule for the card.
For those keeping track at home, Dirrell’s had two fights in the past four years — including a layoff of 21 months, a layoff of 13 months, and another layoff that at this moment stands at nearly 18 months.
7. Boxers Behaving Badly, part one: Former junior featherweight and featherweight Antonio Escalante is in trouble yet again for allegedly driving drunk — he was arrested in mid-July, the third time since February, according to the El Paso (Texas) Times.
The other alleged incident occurred in June — online court records list the charge as “driving while intoxicated with a child under 15 years of age,” and one wonders if it’s the same child who was in Escalante’s car when he was cited in May for allegedly having a child not secured by a safety seat. Online court records list similar accusations over the years: an unrestrained child in 2004, driving under the influence in 2006, driving without a valid license on multiple occasions in 2009 and 2010. Some of these cases wound up dismissed. He’s also had alleged license/license plate violations this year as well. The June drunk driving case is scheduled for a Sept. 26 trial.
Escalante, who is 29 years old, turned pro in 2003 and is 29-6 with 20 knockouts. Among his notable wins are victories over Cornelius Lock, Mike Oliver, Miguel Roman and Gary Stark Jr. His losses came to Jairo Sanchez early in his career, to Mauricio Pastrana in 2007, in back-to-back knockout losses to Daniel Ponce De Leon in 2010 and Alejandro Perez in 2011, and in back-to-back stoppage losses to Rocky Juarez in 2012 and Robert Marroquin in 2013.
Escalante returned this past January, scoring a first-round technical knockout of designated opponent Sammy Ventura. Escalante tweeted earlier in the month that he’d be fighting Jose Pedraza on ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights” on Aug. 15, but the ESPN.com boxing schedule presently lists Pedraza’s opponent as “TBA.”
8. Boxers Behaving Badly, part two: Jonte Willis — a heavyweight with a record of 9-10-1 — is facing domestic violence and harassment charges after allegedly attacking his girlfriend, then threatening her life later on, according to Washington state’s KOMO News.
“The victim attributed Willis' change in behavior to a head injury he received in a recent boxing match,” the report said. “She later told the Fife Police Department Willis spoke in tongues, cried like a baby and claimed to be a ‘Terminator T-9000’ and the ‘son of God.’ She said he spoke to the power light on a stereo, sprinkled dirt on people to protect them and claimed to be ‘all powerful.’ ”
Willis, 30, last fought in April, getting stopped in two rounds by some dude named Dwayne McRae. That was his sixth straight defeat and his 10th loss in the past 12 fights. Among those losses are recognizable names such as Lateef Kayode and Andy Ruiz.
9. The folks who got riled up at Harvey Dock taking a crucial point away from Mike Perez this past weekend should redirect their anger toward the result of this past Saturday’s women’s junior-middleweight title fight between Christina Hammer and Anne Sophie Mathis.
The end came in the fifth round, with Hammer walking the pair off the ropes back to the ring center while Mathis’ left glove was draped over Hammer’s right shoulder. Hammer was holding Mathis’ arm, and so Mathis used her free hand to land five short blows to the side of Hammer’s head, the punches hitting right on or slightly behind Hammer’s left ear. Hammer went to the canvas, and the referee soon saw that she was in condition to continue. He waved the fight off. The result? Mathis was disqualified for punching behind the head, even though, well, she didn’t.
10. In other words, Hammer got nailed and Mathis got screwed…
“Fighting Words” appears every Monday on BoxingScene.com. Pick up a copy of David’s new book, “Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing,” at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsamazon or internationally at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsworldwide . Send questions/comments via email at [email protected]