by David P. Greisman
To be a fan of the sport of boxing is to have dual desires.
We want to see great fights, to be entertained and enthralled, to witness moments that render us speechless, that make us scream and that leave us talking for days afterward.
We also want to see the best fight the best. There are no seasons in the Sweet Science, but there are storylines, and in our minds the main characters must ultimately meet before we can know which of them truly is the better fighter.
Sometimes these dual desires becoming dueling desires.
That mental conflict is evident in a discussion about a physical conflict — about who Adonis Stevenson should face next after defeating Chad Dawson by technical knockout, a win that came on the strength of one left hand landed in the first half of the first round.
That punch installed Stevenson as the new, true light heavyweight champion. He had barely finished an ecstatic celebration before he was asked to step out of his present jubilation and focus on the future.
He mentioned Bernard Hopkins, a former lineal light heavyweight champion who had lost that label to Dawson last year. Hopkins, a 48-year-old wonder, recently collected a world title with a win over Tavoris Cloud.
He also mentioned Andre Ward, the lineal champion of the super middleweight division, and a man whose superiority at 168 has become so evident that some fans and observers want him to move up to 175.
Ward might have been motivated to do so had Dawson defeated Stevenson. Ward had demolished Dawson last September, a win that put an exclamation point on Ward’s career to date and brought excuses from Dawson’s camp. After Dawson’s win over Hopkins, he had called out Ward for a bout at 168 and said he would not have much difficulty dropping down to that weight class. After Dawson’s loss to Ward, we heard that the weight cut had truly been difficult and had left him drained. There would be no reasonable excuses were a rematch to be in Dawson’s division.
Putting Stevenson in with Hopkins or Ward would be intriguing. We wonder whether he could land such a flush power punch on such skilled clinicians, or if they would tame Stevenson just as they had done before with other imposing opponents.
Stevenson would earn even more acclaim if he won. Ward winning would make him the lineal champion of a second weight class. Hopkins winning would add another amazing accomplishment to an already historical career.
The storylines are there.
However, Stevenson vs. Ward could wait.
If the boxing powerbrokers promptly proceed into a match between Stevenson and Ward or Hopkins — and if Ward or Hopkins wins — then we would return to the status quo. We’ve seen Hopkins as aging champion, and though there still is admiration for the way he negates and defeats his younger challengers, the manner in which he wins these fights isn’t aesthetically enjoyable for everyone.
At least Ward seemed to turn a corner on entertainment value with last year’s technical knockout of Dawson. There could be interesting fights for Ward against the other light heavyweight titleholders and contenders.
Stevenson vs. Ward or Hopkins could be good bouts themselves. But let us see Stevenson first against other offense-minded opponents, be it former beltholder Cloud or former champion Jean Pascal, who like Stevenson headlines boxing cards in Montreal.
There are other options, of course, including titleholders Nathan Cleverly and Beibut Shumenov or prospects Andrzej Fonfara and Sergey Kovalev.
Stevenson didn’t call out any of them, and it is hard to blame him for aiming for two of the names that would mean the most. He is nearing his 36th birthday, and though he could be considered a fresh fighter for his age — he has only fought 22 times as a pro in his seven-year career — time is the one opponent that will eventually grind out a victory over us all.
He is not in this sport for us, of course, but rather for himself. The big fights and big money had eluded him; other top super middleweights fought each other and not Stevenson when he was in that division. And so he moved up to 175, took on Dawson and took him out. He wants to capitalize on this exciting win by getting the most significant fights and sizable paychecks possible.
And those fights could indeed be possible.
Hopkins will face Karo Murat in July as a mandatory defense of his world title. Should he win, he would be available to meet Stevenson. There are other foes for Hopkins, though.
Ward is expected to return this fall from an injury that has sidelined him for the first half of the year. What he does for his comeback fight — or after it — depends on what Carl Froch does next. The storyline would have Froch in a rematch with Ward, a sequel to the 2011 bout that ended with Ward triumphant. But Froch, who just topped Mikkel Kessler in a rematch that evened up their rivalry, has said he would prefer a third bout with Kessler or a match with Hopkins.
It has become routine for post-fight interviews to begin with reaction to what happened and to move into questions about what is to come. This happens when the boxer is still basking in his victory, and when other factors are yet to be determined, including what fighters might be available and what their demands might be.
To be a fan of the sport of boxing can also come down to a single desire. We don’t yet know who we’ll see Adonis Stevenson face next — but the one thing we know is that we want to see him again.
The 10 Count
1. Showtime’s main event this past Saturday night wasn’t the kind of bout you’d typically expect to see in the top spot of a major broadcast.
After all, Marcos Maidana isn’t in the highest echelon of welterweight fighters, though his brawling style and cast-iron chin tend to make for great entertainment. His opponent, Josesito Lopez, had garnered plenty of respect for the grit and skill he showed in upsetting Victor Ortiz last year. Lopez had followed that up by getting in the ring with far too big a foe and subsequently getting beaten down by Canelo Alvarez.
Nevertheless, Maidana-Lopez deserved main event status because of the high possibility that war would break out between them. They delivered exactly what was expected.
Saturday would prove to be a newsworthy night between the boxing broadcasts on Showtime and HBO. And the two things most deserving of headlines afterward were Adonis Stevenson’s stunning single-punch, single-round stoppage of Chad Dawson, and the six-round battle that Maidana and Lopez waged.
(Alfredo Angulo’s gruesomely swollen left eye also had us buzzing.)
2. I wasn’t a big fan of referee Lou Moret stepping in to stop Maidana-Lopez when he did.
Maidana had Lopez hurt and was hammering him with heavy shots on the ropes, but it didn’t seem as if the onslaught had come to the point where Lopez needed someone to step in to save him.
That moment might have come soon. But it also might not have.
3. We have seen so many dramatic moments when a fight changes in a split second and a boxer who seemed on the verge of being knocked out stages a comeback out of nowhere.
Given the inherent danger of this sport, we’re decidedly OK with a referee erring on the side of caution rather than allowing a beating to go on far too long. But I’d rather a referee not err at all, and I found myself asking this question after Maidana-Lopez was over:
What would Steve Smoger have done?
4. The Showtime co-feature between Erislandy Lara and Alfredo Angulo wasn’t too shabby either.
There were important storylines:
Lara hasn’t gotten the push from his promoter that has been given to other Golden Boy junior middleweights. His previous two years have been up and down — a dreadful draw with Carlos Molina that easily could have gone in Molina’s favor, a highly controversial decision loss to Paul Williams that should have gone to Lara, a great knockout of Ronald Hearns, a decision over Freddy Hernandez, and a technical draw with fellow contender Vanes Martirosyan. He needed a big win against a name opponent, and, at last, this Angulo fight was that opportunity.
Angulo hadn’t done much since taking a beating from James Kirkland back in late 2011, thanks largely to the time he spent in federal detention while his legal status in the United States was being sorted out. He returned and fought twice at the end of 2012. This was his first appearance in 2013 and his first bout against a quality name since Kirkland.
And there was an interesting pairing of styles: Angulo is a brawler, Lara a skilled boxer who can land a good, crisp counter.
Angulo looked terrible in the first round, so bad in fact that CompuBox credited him with landing just 5 of 74 punches. Lara, meanwhile, was strafing him with clean punches.
Angulo soon shook off the rust, dug into Lara’s body and kept up the pressure. Lara had to throw to keep Angulo off of him, but he tended not to throw enough, as doing so would open him up to heavy shots. Covering up wouldn’t deter Angulo, however.
Angulo put Lara down with a left hook in the fourth. Lara got up and was forced to amp up his effort. Angulo kept coming, though, and knocked Lara down again in the ninth. It seemed likely that Angulo would break Lara and stop him late.
And then Lara landed a few shots in the 10th round on or near Angulo’s left eye, and the area around the eye swelled up badly and immediately. Angulo turned away, and the referee stopped the fight, giving Lara a dramatic and surprising technical knockout victory.
Angulo didn’t suffer a fracture to his orbital bone, and the swelling was going down on Sunday, according to a tweet from BoxingScene’s Mike Coppinger. “Angulo maintains he was poked in the eye,” Coppinger added. “Says he never quit, but simply turned to his corner to complain of being poked.”
Both fighters can take something positive from Saturday. Lara has this win on his ledger and can now aim either at another Golden Boy fighter at 154 pounds or for a rematch with Angulo (which should be an easy sale to the network and the boxers involved). Angulo isn’t yet done in boxing despite the punishment he’s taken.
There’s always room for a fan-friendly fighter. And as much as we love when two fan-friendly fighters face each other, some of boxing’s best fights have paired boxers against brawlers.
5. For all of the depth in the junior welterweight, welterweight and junior middleweight divisions — and for all of the matches that have already been made or can still be made — it is still too often that the boxers who aren’t with Top Rank or Golden Boy are left out of the picture.
This is unfortunately the case for Ruslan Provodnikov.
Let’s recap the recent headlines:
Marcos Maidana vs. Josesito Lopez was as good as we’d hoped. Maidana could potentially be facing the winner of the upcoming bout between Adrien Broner and Paulie Malignaggi. Shane Mosley and Victor Ortiz might be meeting in the ring. Devon Alexander is looking forward to a December date with Amir Khan.
Those are just a handful of the Golden Boy guys. On the Top Rank side of things, Manny Pacquiao will be fighting Brandon Rios, Juan Manuel Marquez will share a main event with Timothy Bradley, and negotiations are under way for a bout at 140 between Mike Alvarado and Zab Judah.
Provodnikov had been seen as an ESPN2-level fighter going into his fight with Bradley this past March on HBO. Though Bradley won a unanimous decision, Provodnikov dragged him into a brutal war and seemed ever so close to getting a referee stoppage and leaving with a huge upset victory.
There’s no doubt in my mind that HBO would have Provodnikov on again. He’s just left in limbo while potential opponents who have more prominent promoters pair up against each other.
It might be better for Provodnikov to take a keep-busy fight and return to the ring soon, hoping for a shot at the winner (or loser) of one of these other bouts, or for another foe to become available.
It’s a shame, though. His isn’t a style that makes for longevity. He deserves to be rewarded for his performance against Bradley. Instead he’s being penalized, in essence, for business-related reasons rather than boxing-related ones.
6. Despite the 24/7 nature of boxing news these days — and despite our collective obsession (mine included) with covering everything down to the most esoteric minutiae — we reporters let Yuriorkis Gamboa get off without facing tough questioning in a way that baseball players did not after being accused of receiving performance-enhancing drugs from the Biogenesis clinic in Florida.
I was glad that HBO’s announcing crew got Gamboa to speak about it, though his comments were presented via blow-by-blow man Jim Lampley rather than being aired for all of us to see and hear.
Gamboa, according to Lampley, acknowledged that he had used substances from Biogenesis, but Gamboa said he did not know whether those substances were legal or illegal.
The substances Gamboa is accused of receiving from Biogenesis are testosterone, human growth hormone, IGF-1, protein powders and calcium/magnesium/zinc compounds, according to an article earlier this year by the Miami New Times. IGF-1, “stimulates insulin production and muscle growth,” according to the article. It has been banned in sports such as baseball.
I’m not satisfied with the explanation, and I hope that we media members continue to look into Gamboa — no matter how much he insists that this story is in the past. I also hope that athletic commissions do the same and subject him to additional testing throughout the duration of his license.
7. Sadly, according to Lampley, the only testing that Gamboa and the other fighters underwent in Montreal this past weekend was a blood test on the day of the fight.
“If either fighter’s not willing to do random testing, that’s the best testing you can get, the commission testing,” analyst Andre Ward said during the broadcast.
Not if the commission testing is being done at a time when the truly smart cheaters will no longer have banned substances in their systems.
Those who come up positive when their blood or urine was taken the day of the bout in essence have failed two tests — the drug test and the IQ test.
8. Yuriorkis Gamboa needed us to be talking more about his performance than about performance-enhancing drugs.
I came away unenthused following his win over Darleys Perez. If we see him again on HBO — and I think we will — it will be because a good match has been made, or because network executives still see the talent and potential that he had shown in the past, or a combination of these two.
9. How lacking was Gamboa-Perez in terms of thrilling action or compelling drama? Well, at one point HBO’s Jim Lampley spent a serious amount of time describing the reporting the network had done about whether Perez’s first name is spelled “Darley” or “Darleys.”
And I found that conversation more interesting than what was going on between the ropes at the time.
10. Put simply: The Gamboa fight Gam-blowed…
“Fighting Words” appears every Monday on BoxingScene.com. David P. Greisman is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Follow David on Twitter @fightingwords2 or send questions/comments via email at [email protected]