By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Random notes collected while digesting Sunday night’s Bounce TV premiere:
I love me some Paulie Malignaggi and I concede to having rooted hard for him Saturday night against Danny Garcia, but I must admit to having emerged from Saturday night’s Brooklyn show far more impressed with the eventual main-event winner than I had been with him at the outset.
Garcia was a worthy and deserving champion at 140 pounds and slayed the guy who held the silly “Most Avoided Fighter” title prior to Gennady Golovkin, but his image had been more recently smudged thanks to a mismatch with Rod Salka and iffy verdicts over Mauricio Herrera and Lamont Peterson.
Given the collection of talent now residing at 147 pounds, I wasn’t sold it was the best place for him.
Now I’m not so sure.
While it’s true that Malignaggi was coming off a long layoff and hadn’t actually won a fight since the tail end of 2013, he’d seemed confident and capable enough going in to at least give “Swift” the sorts of fits he’d encountered with other guys who brought something to the table beyond robotic aggression.
Instead, Garcia’s full-fledged welterweight incarnation was unfazed by Paulie’s attempts at irritation, remained committed to punishing the body whenever it was within reach and retained high energy levels into the later rounds where the junior welter version had oft-times found it lacking.
Ultimately, it was that combination that left Malignaggi impressed.
“I think Danny can be a really, really upper-echelon fighter. I think he can put his name in the history books,” he said. “He doesn’t get frustrated. If he does get frustrated he doesn’t show it. Every time a round would start, he was fresh all the time.”
Of course, none of this is to say Garcia will have his way with the likes of Maidana, Porter, Thurman, Khan or Brook – all of whom have either spoken his name, or had theirs spoken by him – but a case in his favor does seem far more arguable today than it might have been about 72 hours ago.
So, I hear Zab Judah’s coming back. You’ll have to forgive me for not dancing in the streets.
It’s not that I didn’t appreciate the guy’s “Super” effort while winning title belts at 140 and 147 pounds years ago, or his game performances in subsequent losses to future Canastota plaque-holders named Cotto and Mayweather, but if ever there’s a guy whom the game has seemingly passed by, it’s him.
His most recent victories came against guys named Vernon Paris and Kaizer Mabuza – something less than pound-for-pounders the last time I looked – and it’s been three and four years, respectively, since those triumphs even occurred. And lest we forget, he was beaten up by Malignaggi in his most recent fight 20 months ago, the same Malignaggi who was methodically beaten into a retirement declaration this past weekend by Judah’s other most recent conqueror, Garcia.
Getting through a pre-Pacquiao camp with Mayweather this spring may have indeed refueled Zab’s competitive engines and I respect his dedication to the craft, but unless he’s very gently matched going forward by his new colleagues at Greg Cohen Promotions, it’s far more likely that the story’s conclusion more closely resembles Malignaggi’s than “Money’s.”
The more I think about it these days, the more that the career arc of Ronda Rousey reminds me of the one her so-called athletic idol, Mike Tyson, took us all on a generation ago.
For those unaware, the Tyson of the 1980s was a violent phenomenon, terrifying opponents long before they reached the ring and then having his way with their shell-shocked carcasses upon arrival.
Of course, what gets lost amid the nostalgia these days is that “Iron Mike’s” reign of terror never included anything close to a 50/50 fight – he was a 4-1 favorite heading into a 91-second demolition of Michael Spinks – and when he did encounter guys able to take a shot and deliver a reply, he found himself on the losing end against Douglas, Holyfield and Lewis, not to mention Williams and McBride.
Greatest heavyweight ever? Hardly. Greatest front-runner ever? Certainly.
Similarly, the jury remains out on Rousey’s long-term octagonal menace, too.
Oh, she’s quick to wrap herself in Tyson’s aura while lobbing rocks at Mayweather’s behavior (perhaps a trip to Mike’s Wikipedia page is in order sometime soon, Ms. R), and the talking heads swoon at 30-second erasures of foes who appear happy just to get their names in the paper, but it’s not as if she’s been hurdling any obstacles lately that anyone suggested had a real chance of tripping her up.
In fact, though she’s made the cover of Sports Illustrated, cameoed at WrestleMania and probably surpassed her gloved nemesis in the chase for ESPY-contending name recognition, until she climbs in the cage with something near a 50/50 proposition and climbs out with an unbeaten mark still intact, Rousey – like Tyson – will remain more suspect than superstar to the non-fawning set.
* * * * * * * * * *
This week’s title-fight schedule:
Vacant WBO bantamweight title – Bangkok, Thailand
Ryo Akaho (No. 1 contender/No. 10 IWBR) vs. Pungluang Sor Singyu (No. 2 contender/No. 14 IWBR)
Akaho (26-1-2, 18 KO): Second title fight (0-1); Second fight outside Japan (1-0, 1 KO)
Sor Singyu (50-3, 34 KO): Fourth title fight (1-2); Held WBO title at 118 pounds (2012-13, zero defenses)
Fitzbitz says: Akaho isn’t the veteran in the weight class and he’s making only his second appearance on foreign soil, but he seems to have found something at 118 that he hadn’t had. Akaho by decision
Last week's picks: 2-0 (WIN: Ambunda, Payano)
2015 picks record: 52-14 (78.7 percent)
Overall picks record: 691-237 (74.4 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
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.