by Cliff Rold
Sometimes we get good fights, other times strong performances. Often, it’s a little of both. Fight fans got one, the other, and the in-between on Saturday.
For the second week in a row, Heavyweight was the class with the action. Improving on the excellent Vitali Klitschko-Dereck Chisora battle on February 18, WBO Cruiserweight titlist Marco Huck came within a hair of upsetting WBA paper Heavyweight titlist Alexander Povetkin in Germany. Stateside, Adrien Broner and Devon Alexander both posted statement wins, the latter in a fight that managed to be entertaining while one-sided.
Let’s go the report cards.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Povetkin B; Huck B+/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Power – Povetkin B+; Huck B/Post: B; B+
Pre-Fight: Defense – Povetkin B; Huck B/Post: B-; B
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Povetkin B; Huck B/Post: B; A
Pre-Fight: Speed – Alexander A; Maidana B/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Power – Alexander B; Maidana A/Post: B+; B+
Pre-Fight: Defense – Alexander B+; Maidana C/Post: A-; C-
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Alexander B; Maidana A/Post: A; A
Pre-Fight: Speed – Broner A; Perez B/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Power – Broner A; Perez B/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Defense – Broner B+; Perez B/Post: A; C
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Broner B; Perez B+/Post: A; B
Beginning from the low point of the scale and working up, Broner looked every bit the potential star he likes to play in the ring on Saturday. After a nice, close first round, he walked Eloy Perez down. His offense and defense were both in synch and the transitions between them were seamless. He proved more than a full level up from a Perez many thought would make it a fight.
Broner’s problem from here is one of division. He’s not in a very good one. The only real challenge he’s likely to find currently battling at Jr. Lightweight is Japan’s Takashi Uchiyama. That would be an interesting fight. It’s also almost impossible to imagine happening. Neither has anything to really draw the other man to their court. Broner traveling to Japan isn’t likely. Uchiyama is anonymous in the States, with little value for T.V.
Fan musings on Facebook Saturday were already dream-matching Broner with undefeated Featherweight prospect Gary Russell Jr. A year from now, assuming Russell enters the title picture (and he should), it could be a hot issue. Will Broner still be at 130 lbs.? Lightweight may come calling sooner than later with bigger names available there.
As to the persona Broner brings with his fists…some will like it. Some won’t. The latter can get over it or despise it and make him bigger. From these eyes, he’s highly entertaining and has just enough of a glint in eye about it all to be good for a chuckle. If he’s good enough to put on a show and lay down an ass whooping, more power to him.
Both Alexander and Marcos Maidana know their callings after the weekend. Alexander is a Welterweight now. Maidana is headed back down. There were times, late in their fight, where it looked like Maidana would be headed down for a count. The Argentine showed his always-admirable heart in staying afoot and was still praying for bombs in the tenth and final round.
Alexander, with the help of a ton of uncalled, sometimes excessive holding, boxed Maidana’s ears off and managed to show grit all at the same time. Maidana made a good push from round two to round four and Alexander weather what storm emerged. In the fourth, he rallied in the final minute to show he could outfight Maidana as well as outslick him. Having had trouble landing consistently in recent affairs, Alexander was put in with someone he couldn’t miss. He didn’t.
This was a make or break fight for an Alexander many saw losing his last three fights. Under the sort of pressure Maidana can exert, a lesser man may have wilted. Alexander rose to the occasion. Only 25, he may yet have his prime ahead of him.
Finally, the big men…
The score from this corner was 7-5 for Huck. None of the official scores were really a problem (even and two scores for Povetkin). Huck won his best rounds huge. Povetkin worked hard in a lot of the close rounds. Fights can go that way. It was nowhere in the ballpark of Huck’s gift over Denis Lebedev at Cruiserweight.
The problem with the fight was the officiating. Referee Luis Pabon did too much of it. He refused to let them work inside for most of the night and spent way too much time hawking Huck for fouls he wasn’t really at fault for. Povetkin did more than slip shots. Gassing for large chunks of the fight and clearly not in his best shape, Povetkin was resorting to falling into Huck all night. It’s not uncommon to clinch at Heavyweight. Povetkin sometimes ventured towards the worst of John Ruiz with it, laying into Huck at the waist instead of the chest.
To clinch while bent with head to waist most of the time is not common, and unseemly to boot. Huck has always been liberal with rabbit punches, but in this case his foe was drawing them. What was Huck to do? Wait for Povetkin to stand back up or stop punches already in flight? That he used some forearms to grind on a Povetkin whose head was already in sniffing range of his cup probably wasn’t the best idea, but making an opponent pay for a bad tactic is part of boxing. It wasn’t in the ballpark of Ali-level neck action.
Pabon least be commended for not taking points, but Povetkin should have been at least sternly cautioned not to fall forward with his head down. Huck merited warning, but so did his foe. Further, Pabon was intrusive to the point of potentially altering the fight. In the eleventh, Huck rocked Povetkin and the action was broken for critical seconds when Huck threw a right hand at a Povetkin who hand, again, bent all the way over in defense. There were too-quick breaks like that all night, most going against Huck but enough the other way to offer the question, “who paid to see Luis Pabon?”
It was a good fight that may have been officiated away from being even better. There is a fine line where a fight can devolve into foul chaos and that’s understood. However, interrupting the flow of the action consistently crosses the line too far to the other side. The proper balance was not struck.
Despite some of the tactical and officiating issues, Povetkin showed plenty of fighting spirit and did excellent work to the body. It was no one-sided affair. When Povetkin slipped and blocked instead of bending, he was more effective and did nice work.
The world could see some of why Povetkin has been so slow to challenge a Klitschko but also saw that, for entertainment sake, he can be matched elsewhere and the division get along just fine. Neither Povetkin nor Huck looked like any threat to the Klitschko’s. They are a great threat to each other.
Let’s see it again.
Report Card Picks 2012: 8-2
Heavyweight: Huck enters at eight and remains rated at Cruiserweight as well. He’s earned ratings in both classes and deserves time to decide where his home will be long term.
Welterweight: Alexander enters in the middle of the pack. Given the strength of his performance Saturday, he looks like a strong addition to the class
Jr. Welterweight: Maidana remains but slips behind Lucas Matthysse given the difference in their performances versus Alexander. Alexander exits the ratings, making room for Vernon Paris to enter.
Jr. Lightweight: Broner leaps to the number two slot. Juan Carlos Burgos enters the ratings after defeating former Featherweight titlist Cristobal Cruz on Friday. Perez exits.
The full ratings update is a click 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 firstname.lastname@example.org