By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Next time, dammit… I’m listening to my wife.
Because she’s been around me nearly every day for nearly seven years and has endured work trips that have sent me from the Cayman Islands to the Nevada desert and many places in between, the lovely lady Danielle has gleaned a bit of knowledge about the fight game.
She knows the guys I like. She knows the guys I don’t like.
And she knows how much it irritates me when I miss a pick I should have nailed.
Especially, that is… when she’s smart enough to have seen it coming.
Case in point: Saturday night in Oakland.
Anyone who’s read me is aware of my affection for Andre Ward. I did a piece on him early in his career several years ago, hopped the aforementioned flight to the Caymans to see him dismantle Jerson Ravelo and was so taken that I’d not picked against him since – correctly forecasting the breakout upset of Mikkel Kessler, the intermediate wins in the Super Six and the crowning defeat of Carl Froch.
A win that, incidentally, looks a helluva lot better now thanks to Lucian Bute.
Anyway, the man-crush I’d developed on the former U.S. Olympian was so complete that I’d chosen him as the guinea pig in 2011, when my inaugural year-opening crystal ball column revealed that he’d be the consensus choice as the sport’s fighter of the year when December rolled around.
And when it did, I’ll be damned if it wasn’t spot on.
Problem is, when the chance arrived to follow through on all the ground-floor prognostication I’d laid… my good sense took a powder.
In spite of lessons recently taught by Roy Jones Jr. and Chris Byrd, who’d clearly been diminished when traipsing down from one weight to another, I was in the minority believing that another of my faves – Chad Dawson – would retain the role of bully when dumping seven pounds to face 168’s king.
I picked him in spite of a long history with his foe. I picked him in spite of the dubious logic of a precipitous scale plunge. And I picked him in spite of the last thing my wife said to me before I typed out my column last week: “You’re gonna be smart and say Ward by TKO, right?”
Turns out that come Sunday morning, I wasn’t the only one feeling regret.
“I will never again in my life work with a fighter moving down in weight,” said Dawson’s trainer, John Scully. “His next fight will be at 175 pounds, guaranteed. He’s disappointed, yes, but it wasn’t him in there. Andre Ward did a great job in there, don’t get me wrong.
“Andre Ward is a tremendous fighter, and based on his recent resume you can make a strong case for him being number one pound for pound. But that obviously was a weight-drained Chad.”
I wish I could make an excuse as simple as his, but it turns out my error was just dumb.
Next time… maybe I’ll let the wife write the friggin’ column.
* * * * * * * * * *
This week’s title-fight schedule:
IBF bantamweight title – Las Vegas, Nev.
Leo Santa Cruz (champion) vs. Eric Morel (No. 14 contender)
Santa Cruz (20-0-1, 11 KO): First title defense; One decision win since 2009 (10-0, 9 KO)
Morel (46-3, 23 KO): Tenth title fight (6-3); Held WBA title at 112 (2000-03, five defenses)
Fitzbitz says: “Ex-flyweight king has lost three straight title fights, is nearly a decade older and naturally smaller than his unbeaten foe – which makes this a bruising going-away gift.” Santa Cruz by decision
IBF cruiserweight title - Bamberg, Germany
Yoan Pablo Hernandez (champion) vs. Troy Ross (No. 3 contender)
Hernandez (26-1, 13 KO): Second title defense; Unbeaten since 2008 (12-0, 5 KO)
Ross (25-2, 16 KO): Second title fight (0-1); Third fight in Germany (1-1)
Fitzbitz says: “Old man from Canada is the definition of a live underdog, but Hernandez may be a guy who gets better the longer he holds onto the belt.” Hernandez by decision
WBC super welterweight title – Las Vegas, Nev.
Saul Alvarez (champion) vs. Josesito Lopez (No. 4 contender)
Alvarez (40-0-1, 29 KO): Fifth title defense; Third fight in Las Vegas (2-0, 1 KO)
Lopez (30-4, 18 KO): First title fight; First fight above welterweight limit
Fitzbitz says: “The parade of 147-pound pastry continues for Alvarez, who’ll could make Lopez wish it was he – and not Victor Ortiz – who’d wound up with the broken jaw.” Alvarez in 6
WBC featherweight title – Las Vegas, Nev.
Jhonny Gonzalez (champion) vs. Daniel Ponce De Leon (No. 6 contender)
Gonzalez (52-7, 45 KO): Fifth title defense; Held IBO title at 126 and WBO title at 118
Ponce De Leon (43-4, 35 KO): Ninth title fight (7-1); Held WBO title at 122 (2005-08, six defenses)
Fitzbitz says: “An intriguing battle of reinvented 30-somethings who’ve returned from thudding losses. Seems like incumbent is a better fit at 126 with a better class of wins there.” Gonzalez by decision
WBC middleweight title – Las Vegas, Nev.
Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (champion) vs. Sergio Martinez (unranked)
Chavez Jr. (46-0-1, 32 KO): Fourth title defense; Ninth fight in Las Vegas (7-0, 3 KO, 1 NC)
Martinez (49-2-2, 28 KO): Sixth title fight (5-0); Held IBO title at 154 and WBC/WBO titles at 160
Fitzbitz says: “This initially seemed a Martinez rout, but the more thought given, the more ways it appears Chavez can rally to chop down an aging and much smaller foe down the stretch.” Chavez in 11
Vacant WBO junior lightweight title – Las Vegas, Nev.
Miguel Beltran Jr. (No. 6 contender) vs. Roman Martinez (No. 8 contender)
Beltran Jr. (27-1, 17 KO): Second title fight (0-0, 1 NC); First fight outside Mexico
Martinez (25-1-1, 16 KO): Fifth title fight (3-1); Held WBO belt at 130 (2009-10, two defenses)
Fitzbitz says: “Puerto Rican ex-champ has been in with better over a longer stretch of time at 130, which should be more than enough to yield a second title reign.” Martinez by decision
Last week's picks: 2-1
Overall picks record: 331-113 (74.5 percent)
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.