By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Musings compiled while trying to cobble together coherence after a 40-round TV marathon:
First off, I think we can all agree.
After what looked in the run-up to be an unmitigated disaster – complete with failed drug tests, failed weigh-ins and failed ticket sales – the suits at Golden Boy Promotions deserve kudos for a four-fight premium cable combination that was big on drama, big on action and big on violence… and equally big on whetting appetites for the next course.
The Quillin-N’Dam match was a rousing success and perhaps worthy of a return. The Malignaggi-Cano match pushed the boundaries of judging acumen and ensured both principals will get additional spotlights, both foreign and domestic. The Garcia-Morales match made its winner a party to the “Fighter of the Year” discussion and rightfully convinced its loser that his title-chasing days were done.
Heck, even the Alexander-Bradley snoozer provided a service by ridding the championship level of a dubiously qualified one-hit pretender, while reintroducing a guy with sufficient two-division street cred to make legitimate matchups with the other tough-guy elites in the neighborhood.
And by the time it was all over… did anyone still care about weights and drug tests?
* * *
Taken individually, the middleweight title fight was certainly the most entertaining of the night and its result legitimized the at-times-halting approach taken during an 88-month, 11-day excursion from pro debut to championship belt for Peter Quillin.
Maybe it’s just me, but even at the relatively young age of 29 (compared to my ancient-feeling 43), it feels like I’ve been reading press releases and hearing breathless promises about this kid since he was a preschooler.
I used to think, “Ehhh… cute retro nickname. Let me know when he beats someone.”
And when he whipped the 40-year-old hologram of Winky Wright a few months ago, I was only as impressed as is justified by a 10-round nod over a guy without a win in nearly six years.
But after watching him repeatedly bounce a credible foe off the floor with precise shots, stand his ground when that same foe staged a gutty rally and then ultimately close the deal with two more knockdowns when the outcome could conceivably have been in question… I can make it official.
I’m a believer.
My scorecard, which read 115-110 (7-5 in rounds) for Quillin afterward, says so.
And while I doubt he’s ready for the Sergio Martinezes of the 160-pound world just yet – who is? – sign me up to watch him take on anyone laying claim to belts of the non-WBC variety, specifically Mssrs. Daniel Geale and Gennady Golovkin.
Suddenly, I get the feeling I’ll be reading those freakin’ releases for a few more years.
* * *
I’m sure I’m in the minority – so what else is new? – but you can count me as one who found the Malignaggi-Cano bout nearly as interesting as the middleweights, albeit for different reasons.
At 160 pounds, you had young, conditioned guys eager to prove they belonged on the big stage. Sometimes that makes for a pedestrian fight. Sometimes it’s a Pier 6’er.
Fortunately for Oscar and Co., they got the latter.
But in the welterweight get-together, the union of rugged, unpolished bull and more-skilled, less-powerful matador yielded what it almost always does on the highest end – a completely compelling contrast of fighting and judging… complete with the sort of late rally that N’Dam mounted.
It wasn’t Gatti-Ward, or even Rios-Alvarado, but I was glued from bell to bell.
You’ve got to hand it to Cano for shrugging off a ghastly cut in his opponent’s backyard, literally. And Paulie deserves some love for climbing off the deck in the 11th round and riding out the 12th to send it to what some saw as controversial scorecards.
The knockdown was enough for me to make Cano a 114-113 winner – I had it 6-6 in rounds – but it’s a lazy, clichéd stretch to just assume the two 114-113 cards in the Brooklynite’s favor were of the “hometown” variety, as many nonetheless did after the fact.
In most close fights, a window of reality exists for a round or two in either direction. So in this case anything from 115-112 for Cano to 114-113 for Malignaggi – that’s 7-5 for either guy – would legitimately stand up in court, regardless of where the fight had been contested.
If a result falls somewhere in that area, it’s reasonable.
And sometimes, the local kid really does deserve it.
Of course, if the 118-110 outlier read afterward by Jimmy Lennon had gone Malignaggi’s way, I’d consider an argument that locale played a role.
But to look at that fight and claim the only way the champion won seven rounds was if the judges were influenced by his hometown – that’s just ridiculous.
* * * * * * * * * *
This week’s title-fight schedule:
IBF lightweight title – Verona, N.Y.
Miguel Vazquez (champion) vs. Marvin Quintero (No. 1 contender)
Vazquez (31-3, 13 KO): Fourth title defense; Seventh fight in United States (5-1)
Quintero (25-3, 21 KO): First title fight; Eleven straight fights ended by stoppage (9-2)
Fitzbitz says: “Lefty slugger may present sporadic concerns, but the guess here is that the incumbent is skilled enough to avoid danger while posing questions his foe has never answered.” Vazquez by decision
WBC super featherweight title – Tokyo, Japan
Takahiro Ao (champion) vs. Gamaliel Diaz (No. 4 contender)
Ao (23-2-1, 10 KO): Fourth title defense; Held WBC title at 126 pounds (2009, zero defenses)
Diaz (36-9-2, 17 KO): Third title fight (0-2); Sixth fight outside Mexico (3-2)
Fitzbitz says: “Challenger has climbed back to relevance with 13-fight win streak, but the tendency he’s had to fall short at the highest levels should continue here – especially on the road.” Ao by decision
Last week’s picks: 5-1
Overall picks record: 348-116 (75.0 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.