By Cliff Rold
It was a weekend full of matches that provided surprises, solidified assumptions, and delivered on action…sometimes all in the same fight.
On one of the busiest weekends in recent memory, fans saw a new titlist crowned at 147 and an old titlist re-crowned in arguably a career best performance. They also saw a master do his thing and send fans home early and two Jr. Middleweights battle past the point to reason.
It was boxing in the best way it could be.
Let’s go the report cards.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Rigondeaux A+; Agbeko B+/Post: A+; B
Pre-Fight: Power – Rigondeaux B+; Abgeko B/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Defense – Rigondeaux A+; Agbeko B/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Rigondeaux A; Agbeko A/Post: A; B
Guillermo Rigondeaux retained the World Jr. Featherweight crown and hardly broke a sweat. It was an unexpectedly flaccid performance from a Joseph Agbeko who, while likely past his best, has always laid out for victory. It didn’t happen here and the Cuban maestro had a lot to do with it. As fans filed out early, and could be seen often not watching even if they stuck around, he completely froze the proud Ghanaian who could never figure out how to get into the fight. Roy Jones used to do this sort of thing; so did Pernell Whitaker.
It’s hard to imagine anyone at 122 lbs. beating Rigondeaux. Will anyone of note even want to try as it becomes harder to make a Rigondeaux fight profitable? Brilliance just isn’t always entertainment and the Cult of Rigo had better hope HBO doesn’t turn away from Rigondeuax again going forward if they want to see their man on big stages..
Another fairly pure boxing performance did manage to entertain.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Malignaggi B+; Judah A-/Post: B+; B
Pre-Fight: Power – Malignaggi C; Judah A/Post: C; B+
Pre-Fight: Defense – Malignaggi B; Judah B/Post: A; B-
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Malignaggi B+; Judah B+/Post: A; B
Did Zab Judah leave what he had left in the tank in the ring against Danny Garcia? Or is Paulie Malignaggi just on fire right now? Let’s side with the latter. Malignaggi has put together two solid outings in a row, losing to Adrien Broner competitively and now decisively beating Judah. The former Welterweight king couldn’t get out of the way of Malignaggi’s jab and couldn’t set up any of his big power stuff. It was a thorough clinic on the part of Malignaggi and he keeps himself relevant in the title race at 147 lbs. with what might be the biggest name scalp he’s ever lifted.
In Germany, Felix Sturm didn’t pick up his biggest name win but he might have come up with his best performance.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Barker B; Sturm B+/Post: B; A-
Pre-Fight: Power – Barker B; Sturm B/Post: B; A
Pre-Fight: Defense – Barker C+; Sturm B/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Barker B+; Sturm B+/Post: B+; A
Sturm’s career might not speak to “A” power but he landed an ace shot this weekend. In a fight that looked to be just heating up, Sturm extinguished Barker with a shot he never saw coming behind the ear. How hurt was Barker really? It’s hard to say. Reports of a bad hip injury, and Barker’s limp, say there were mitigating factors. He gets credit for getting up and trying to work through it but one thing Sturm retains is speed and he finished when he was supposed to. Sturm has been hanging around near the top of the Middleweight class for a decade but has never pushed to be the very top man. As he ages, will he finally make a move to put a punctuation mark on an up and down career? Time will tell.
Finally, let’s close with an anticipated Flyweight title fight that didn’t quite meet expectations.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Yaegashi A-; Sosa B/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Power – Yaegashi B-; Sosa B+/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Defense – Yaegashi B-; Sosa B-/Post: B+; B-
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Yaegashi A; Sosa A/Post: Same
That it didn’t said a lot about the defending champion. Lineal Flyweight king Akira Yaegashi, in his last two fights, has opted to box instead of brawl and it’s working. He’s got more speed than most realize and he’s using it better than he has before. Strategically helped by a ring that looked huge for Flyweights, challenger Edgar Sosa could never really get anything going as Yaegashi moved, countered, and moved again. Matters heated up in the last four rounds and Sosa, a proud former champion at 108 lbs., did what he could to try to salvage a second title shot at 112. He found the same problems he did in the first one against Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, unable to sustain offense against a man who could get to target first. It was a good fight, but also a fairly one-sided one. Yaegashi can now hope for revenge against countryman Kazuto Ioka as Flyweight looks to stay hot in 2014.
Report Card Picks 2013: 60-29
Shawn Porter exceeded expectations form here and many other corners. It just goes to show that struggles on the way up are the point. It’s how a fighter gets better, gets to his moment. He was all over Devon Alexander this weekend and merits kudos…Erislandy Lara might not beat everyone in the Jr. Middleweight division but he’s fighting most of who matters. It says here he gives Floyd Mayweather the biggest test of anyone in the Golden Boy stable, but would he ever get the fight? It would be an upset just to get there…James Kirkland isn’t back. He’s returned. The monster Glen Tapia saw last weekend never went anywhere and needs to stay active…In part, Daiki Kameda couldn’t overcome the size disadvantage last Tuesday when Liborio Solis missed weight and came into the ring reportedly inside the Lightweight limit. That said, it was strategy as much as size as Solis, often a buzzsaw, boxed beautifully and picked spots to let loose. Good performance for the Venezuelan whose body betrayed hopes of a unified 115 lb. titlist…Sakio Bika just keeps hanging around doesn’t he?
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]