By Cliff Rold
It’s been an intriguing couple of weeks at the title level.
The pre-fight report card for Adrien Broner-Gavin Rees predicted the fight looked “like an appearance, will play out as a showcase, and likely end with a stoppage sometime between the sixth and eighth rounds.”
Rees almost got to the sixth round.
Rees, a former titlist at 140 lbs., showed up to fight on Saturday and gave it all he had. It wasn’t enough. No one expected it to be. It still ended up more fight than showcase by the end because Rees fought like he wanted to win.
Broner did too and the gap in talent was far too much. Broner has become boxing’s clown prince of petulance outside the ring and, given to showboating, often in the ring as well. Over the next couple years, we will see if he can also fulfill what many think will be a career worthy of a king.
One week later, at Jr. Welterweight, Lamont Peterson shook off a rusty start and began his climb back from a positive PED test that derailed him after a career best win over Amir Khan. Kendall Holt gave him problems. Peterson gave Holt more, showing off the tenacity and bodywork that keeps him, returns him, among the best at 140 lbs.
Let’s go to the report cards.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Broner A; Rees B/Post: A; B+
Pre-Fight: Power – Broner A; Rees B/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Defense –Broner B+; Rees C/Post: B; C-
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Broner A; Rees B+/Post: Same
Rees showed in the opening rounds many of the traits that had served him will in the past. His hands were quicker even then credited for before the fight. He’s tough and throws plenty and, as he showed in spots, his head movement is decent. Unfortunately, he doesn’t integrate his components that well. He does one thing, or the other.
In between, Broner found and exploited the holes. By the third, he was winning rounds and stunning Rees. In the fourth and fifth, it was a display of an offense that has steadily improved from some early career wildness. Broner is increasingly accurate and shows off solid killer instinct with some of the fastest young hands in the game.
Now it’s time for more. At 26-0, and with a Lightweight belt in tow, there are only two questions about Broner worth asking:
1) Will a fight be makeable with the winner of the unification fight at 135 between Ricky Burns and Miguel Vazquez?
2) When is Broner moving up to 140?
Let’s be honest: 135 is not a very good weight class right now. 130 wasn’t when Broner was there either, but given that Broner barely faced notable top ten fighters, that’s already behind. 135 has a few serviceable fighters and Rees was legitimately top ten. Considering who Rees fought following his loss to Kotelnik a few years back, that says a lot about the division’s lack of depth. The run the division went on in the 2000’s through Juan Manuel Marquez’s rivalry with Juan Diaz is well over. The Burns-Vazquez winner would give us a clear champion in class. Beyond that, 140 looms.
From one of boxing’s lesser classes in the moment to one of its best, and deepest, the possibilities at 140 for Broner are too many to ignore. Putting aside names like Juan Manuel Marquez, Brandon Rios, or anyone else signed to Top Rank, 140 still has many options to choose from. Lamont Peterson and Danny Garcia have titles and share a promoter.
So does Lucas Matthysse.
Is there a more fascinating fight in the pool of the possible for Broner than the Argentine sharpshooter? Matthysse, without a title, may already be the best fighter in the world at 140. For a defensive fighter, Broner gets hit a lot more than the television announcers pay attention to when they’re not trying to explain how he’s just letting it happen. Broner would clearly have an edge in speed. They both throw a lot.
Seriously, screw it, can we just skip to Broner-Matthysse now?
The answer is undoubtedly no. A result one week later could be part of why.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Peterson B; Holt B+/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Power – Peterson B; Holt B/Post: B+; B
Pre-Fight: Defense – Peterson B; Holt B/Post: B+; C+
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Peterson B+; Holt B/Post: B+; C+
Holt has never struggled in starting a fight. Winning at the highest levels is about finishing and it’s never been his strong suit. In rounds two and three, Holt was making the fight and starting to tag Peterson. He was doing it again in the fourth and then Peterson found the gear he needed.
Peterson, against Timothy Bradley, Victor Ortiz, and Khan, has shown two consistent traits: slow starts and round by round improvement. It’s like he doesn’t how not to fight out of a hole. Perhaps he would have been better off in an era with fifteen round fights. His style is suited for it. He’s underrated in terms of the best body punchers in the game and his ring IQ is on display when he creates openings to the head as fights move on. His defense gets better too as fights go on, and he’s subtly difficult to find in general.
Against Holt, he didn’t need any extra rounds. Durability has never been Holt’s strong suit and, as Peterson’s trainer Barry Hunter noted at the post-fight press conference, Peterson wisely avoided the sort of exchanges where Holt could catch him blind. Peterson’s steady grind swelled Holt’s right eye. His steady, vicious assaults along the ropes eroded resistance.
It was a good, solid action fight. Good and solid aptly describes a Peterson who doesn’t seem to be special in any one category but, on his good nights, appears a most complete figher. The dark cloud of PED use isn’t past him yet but he remains a titlist.
And he returns as a factor.
Also a plus, he once again delivered a solid crowd at home in Washington, DC. He said he wants more fights there. Of the options that could develop this year, Lucas Matthysse is the one top Jr. Welterweight he might have the leverage to force on the road. Following the fight, Peterson called for Danny Garcia. At the post-fight press conference, it was a proposed Matthysse fight in the air.
Peterson said he felt he could handle it. Who wouldn’t love to find out?
And of course, there was the Jr. Middleweight title tilt.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Bundrage B; Smith B/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Power – Bundrage B+; Smith C+/Post: B; B-
Pre-Fight: Defense – Bundrage C+; Smith B-/Post: C-; B
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Bundrage B; Smith B-/Post: C+; B
In the feel good story of the week, veteran Ishe Smith overcame personal demons and a career of disappointments to add a major title to his ledger at age 34. It wasn’t a pretty fight, though it got interesting in the last third. Smith rocked Cornelius Bundrage a few times late and was able to box safely to an earned decision.
His tearful celebration made for too nice an ending to dig in too hard on the fight. Bundrage was, as always, awkward. In defeat, it can be said he’s done more with what God gave him through hard work than many more talented men have. Smith can hope to cash in where Bundrage could not on his title belt.
Report Card Picks 2013: 5-4 (0-3 on Saturday the 23rd…ouch)
The impact of these fights in the last two weeks is felt in the latest ratings update.
Heavyweight: Tony Thompson makes a strong return to the top ten, nailing #9 David Price for a career saving win. Since mid-2000, only Wladimir Klitschko has proven better than Thompson in the ring. He’s one of Klitschko’s most unsung conquests. Price exits the top ten.
Jr. Middleweight: Smith enters the top ten in place of Bundrage who exits.
Jr. Welterweight: Peterson returns to the top ten only a little lower than where he was before a year of inactivity removed him from the top ten. Kendall Holt, previously #10, exits the ratings.
Lightweight: Broner stays at #1 while Rees slips a couple of slots. His effort was game enough to keep him rated for now.
Jr. Featherweight: Jonathan Romero earned the IBF 122 lb. title against Alejandro Lopez and takes his place in the top ten.
The full results of note and impact on the ratings are a click away.
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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@example.com