By Ryan Songalia
Photo by Javiel Centeno/FightWireImages.com
For the first seven rounds, the middleweight bout between Edison Miranda and Allan Green was an uneven, uneventful, and unfulfilling contest. Then the unprecedented happened. Moving forward in a rare sign of aggression, Green stepped in with a right hand and followed the cross with a well-timed left hook that sent Miranda to the floor for the first time in his professional career.
"I wasn't hurt at all," recalls Miranda. "The hit he knocked me down with was nothing. I was a little off balance. I popped right up and my mind told me to go after this guy harder than ever, just like Tito [Trinidad] used to do. If anything, I think it hurt Green, because I came back into the fight even angrier."
Tulsa, Oklahoma native Green must've concurred with Miranda's statements above, as he failed to press the advantage he had gained from putting Miranda on the canvas. Miranda stepped up the tempo in the ninth and hurt Green with a right hand in the opening minute that erased any pretenses of momentum that Green had picked up in the previous stanza.
With the fight seemingly in the bag on the scorecards, Miranda could have been excused for exercising caution against the man who registered Ring Magazine's 2005 Knockout of the Year against highly regarded Jaidon Codrington. Instead, he fought like a champion.
Midway through the final round, both fighters traded right hands, but Miranda's was the one that connected. In an instant, Green's legs betrayed his frame and sent the valorous vegetarian reeling into the ropes and deep into survival mode. Pursuing his prey like the beast he derives his nickname from, "Pantera" went on the attack and began to seperate himself from his adversary.
With 30 seconds left in the fight, Green's shaky body could no longer handle the relentless abuse as he collapsed to his knees from a series of right hands. Two less definitive right hands brought the already-spent Green to the canvas for the second time, with the irony of the last round knockout victory he achieved in his last bout against Jerson Ravelo running through this writer's mind.
Green arose at the count of nine, and with only 5 seconds remaining, the knockout that Miranda so desperately sought would elude him. To give his adversary one last shot to remember him by, Miranda dashed the distance from the neutral corner and landed about as flush a right hand as one could ever hope to connect with. The bell sounded, the cards turned in as a victory for the Colombian expatriot who now calls San Juan, Puerto Rico home, but an even more important mission was accomplished by his late rally.
"I like to give the boxing fan their money's worth," Miranda, now 28-1 (24 KO), says. "There are too many boring fighters out there who dance around and win on decisions. People want to see the days of Mike Tyson and all the knockouts, so I try to give them that. I naturally go for the knockout when I think I have my opponent hurt. I came close, some people think it should have been a TKO."
For the man who came all the way from Buenaventura, Columbia, being impressive in front of his adopted home country was a little like the first dinner with your prospective in-laws. It was awkward and uncomfortable at times trying to connect with Mom, but once you find common ground with Dad, you can coast and ride that wave to acceptance. The way that Miranda brought the crowd, that came to see native-born national treasures Miguel Cotto and Juan Manuel Lopez, out of their seats in the final third of the bout seems to suggest that Miranda made the appropriate impression on the Puerto Rican audience.
When asked how he felt about fighting in front of the Puerto Rican crowd, Miranda responded "I loved it. I love Puerto Rico and I wanted to give them a show. I think I did. I hope I can return to fight in [Puerto Rico] soon."
The question that many hoped would be satisfied in this bout centers around Miranda's jaw. How well could he take a punch? "I have no concerns with my chin," Miranda assures. "I'm a puncher and I need to be prepared to take a shot every now and then. I have taken some shots and proven that they don't bother me."
"As for Allan Green, I took some shots from him but nothing hard. I think he was a little scared to exchange with me so he maybe he didn't throw his hardest punch that frequently. The punches I did take were nothing for me."
After all was said and done between the two combatants, Miranda left with a sense of respect for Green, who sustains the first blemish on his record at 23-1 (16 KO). "I think he has a lot of skill because I saw a lot of his tape. I just think he was scared to fight me because of my power and I don't blame him. Against me, he will look bad as will anyone else. I think he will do very well in his career."
With Miranda's last few fights, he has stamped himself as the pre-eminent action star of a division that a few years prior was under the mundane grasp of the legendary Bernard Hopkins. Now, with a plethora of talent materializing from parts unknown, the middleweight division is now beginning to take on a depth that for many years was lacking at 160 pounds.
Rumored as the next possible opponent for Miranda is the undefeated, long-armed bomber Kelly Pavlik of Youngstown, Ohio. Pavlik, who made his HBO debut in January with a devastating knockout of Jose Luis Zertuche, has a record of 30-0 with 27 knockouts. "I think that Pavlik must have some talent since he is a professional fighter and has no losses, but I also think he is at a completely different level than me. I will prove that if I fight him."
"Next up might be Pavlik in June or July if we can't get to Jerman Taylor first," Miranda's manager Steve Benbasat said. "We shall see in the coming weeks."
When confronted about who he would fight next if given an option, Miranda selected consenus middleweight kingpin Jermain Taylor, who appears to be headed towards a mismatch with Sergio Mora.
Miranda exclaims, "I want to fight Jermain Taylor badly! I don't think he's deserving of being the champion. A champion should be someone who people respect. How can you respect a man who hand picks his opponents just to get easy wins?"
"And even with this, he still can't knock them out. He will have a lot of problems when he faces me. He knows this and that's why he's staying away from me. But soon, I will get my chance with this kid."
The Achilles Heel of most young fighters who become accustomed to scoring knockouts and believing their own hype is the potential to become complacent about their careers. The reasoning, "Why not, everything is going great!", prevails in many fighters and hence the existence of shooting stars that burn out quickly. Not so with Miranda, claims Benbasat.
"I'm very proud of Edison's hard work ethic. It's a pleasure to work with a kid who is so determined, motivated, and well well-behaved. He always wants to learn more and train harder."
"He truly loves the sport and he's probably one of the only boxers out there where money is not everything. Winning and impressing the fans is what matters most to him. There is never a problem with him as far as conflicts with his management, promoter or his trainer. The camp we have now is perfect, and we are all on the same page. I see us going a long way for a long time. I think he is giving boxing the shot in the arm that it needed for a very long time."
Miranda, who has gained a reputation as one of the more personable figures in the sport despite his limited English, maintains a close relationship with his fans. After the Allan Green fight, Miranda stayed in the parking lot of the Coliseo Roberto Clemente until 3 AM interacting with the fans. It's this kind of dedication to his supporters that has earned him cult status within the sport.
"Fans are very important to me. I know many boxers try to stay away from that, but I choose to be close to them. This is what they want and I'm willing to share it with them."
Since Allan Green is not quite the Super Bowl of Boxing, we can rule out a trip to Disney World in the immediate future. On the table for Pantera is a return to the home country where it all began for Miranda, Colombia. "I am going to Colombia this week. I will hang out with my friends and fans. The people there love me because they consider me their champion."
I wasn't present at Coliseo Roberto Clemente, but I have a hunch that there are alot of people who consider Edison Miranda to be "their champion".
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