By Cliff Rold
He never saw it coming.
Everyone else saw it for him.
There is always that moment of shock when a favored fighter goes down at the end of a genuine bomb. A brief freeze in time before shock turns to the thrill of a possible finish. Boxing fans know it when they see it, a fighter genuinely ready to go.
There is no other moment like it anywhere but combat sports. Team sports end when the clock runs out. Tennis ends when the requisite points are scored. Fight can end any time, and no one ever really knows when that will be.
Almost no one was picking Jhonny Gonzalez to resurrect his career, again, with a mammoth knockout. It was the sort of moment that makes this, inside its playing field, still the greatest sport of them all.
Let’s go to the report card.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Mares B+; Gonzalez B-/Post: B+; B
Pre-Fight: Power – Mares B; Gonzalez A/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Defense – Mares B; Gonzalez C-/Post: D; B
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Mares A; Gonzalez B; Post: B; A
It’s hard to get too carried away with grades here. The easiest thing to overrate in boxing might be the first round knockout. No matter how much skill a fighter has, no matter how deep a resume, the right shot at the right time can fell any man.
Fighters who never suffer knockout losses in challenging careers typically have great beards and certainly the requisite skill. They also have a little luck. Some of the best who ever laced gloves have been felled early in fights, and at points where they were already fairly established commodities.
Ezzard Charles had an early knockout loss after he’d already beat Charley Burley and Joey Maxim multiple times. Chiquita Gonzalez got dusted by Rolando Pascua. Those weren’t first round losses of course. Jack Dempsey had one of those though on his way to the Heavyweight title though.
Mares isn’t being compared to those ring immortals with any expectation he’ll raise that high in history’s esteem. It’s just a matter of perspective for anyone who thinks something definitive was accomplished on Saturday. Given a run of wins that included Vic Darchinyan, Joseph Agbeko, and the outstanding Anselmo Moreno, this is the outlier.
Gonzalez has a way of creating those. In the pre-fight report card, it was noted it’s hard not to lover a gunslinger. That’s what Gonzalez has been with all the thrills that come with it. He hasn’t been the most consistent man of his times, but he’s been among the most professional and it was rewarded.
No matter how tough Mares’s run has been, it was too dismissed that he was facing a man who has seen every bit his level of competition over the years but in greater total volume and for a lot longer. He’s won and lost against men like Israel Vazquez, Toshiaki Nishioka, Gerry Penalosa, Fernando Montiel, and Hozumi Hasegawa.
Boxing fans and pundits largely saw the status quo, the recent past, and the odds and forgot that to a fighter who has seen all that, through good and bad, Mares is just another among many. He had the confidence to believe that if the right shot landed, Mares would go just like others before him.
Just like Gonzalez has gone when the right shots caught him.
Sometime next year, maybe we see a rematch. Maybe Mares rights his ship. Maybe Gonzalez will prove to have Mares’s number. We know this: Gonzalez has made a career out of coming off the deck to get back into the title picture. Mares, to his credit, rose once and was trying to rise again when the fight was waved off.
Mares has learned a lot from the tough fighters he’s faced. Time will tell what he learned from Jhonny Gonzalez.
Report Card Picks 2013: 34-20
Kubrat Pulev didn’t look pretty, but he got the job done in becoming the first man to defeat Tony Thompson besides one Wladimir Klitschko in over a decade. Now comes the big question: is he a real challenger? He has the size, but Pulev doesn’t appear to have the speed or, more importantly, power for the job. At least no yet. We won’t know for sure until a fight goes down. Pulev-Klitschko (or Alexander Povetkin) looms as the Heavyweight fight of 2014…Leo Santa Cruz increasingly looks like the real deal. Just ask Victor Terrazas. Santa Cruz is still learning his craft, but the development curve is a joy to watch and Santa Cruz is going to be in a lot of good fights over the years. If moving up in weight brings more knockouts with it, all the better…For those wondering about grades for the Sergey Kovalev-Nathan Cleverly fight, fear not. A ratings update later this week will answer those questions.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene and a member of the Transanational Boxing Ratings Board, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]