Monday, March 16, 2009

Don't call it a comeback

Amir Khan's battle with Barrera this weekend was quite surprising.  From the fans booing Khan at the intro to the final outcome of the fight, the evening itself seemed to be cloaked in a bit of the surreal.  Boxing fans have since been debating whether Barrera would have performed better had he not been caught on the unlucky end of an accidental head-butt in the first round, however it seems pretty clear that Khan came to win and was setting the pace for victory from the sound of the bell.

What was most surprising was Khan's defense.  (He actually had one).  Seems his training with legendary coach, Freddie Roach has been paying off in that department, though Barrera got through it and caught the young Khan with a nasty left hook towards the end of the second round.  But other than a few flurries here and there from the veteran pugilist, it was pretty much the Amir Khan show until the fight was stopped after the 5th round by the doctor at ringside.

Although the fight was one-sided from the gate, criticisms still loom about Amir Khan's "comeback" from his devastating first-round knockout loss to Breidis Prescott six months ago.  Perhaps a rematch is in order for fans to finally believe Khan has moved on and grown as a fighter, or maybe bouts with a higher level of opponent will prove to nay-sayers that Khan is on the path to greatness.  Freddie Roach seems to think so, saying in an interview post-fight that Khan would be his next world champion, without a doubt.

What it comes down to is to what level Barrera's performance was hindered by the cut.  Some say he couldn't get it going because he couldn't see, but in my opinion, he wasn't doing so well before the cut and it is without a doubt that Khan was going to win that fight regardless.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Just OK in San Jose

Perhaps it was in comparison to last week's incredible fight between Marquez and Diaz, but this week's fights certainly fell short of expectations.

The fight card listed three of Boxing's most promising athletes fighting game opponents - a rarity nowadays - and it's hard to believe just how mediocre the night really was.

Robert Guerrero (23-1-1) seemingly had the night's easiest fight in Daud Yordan from Indonesia.  Yordan (23-0-0) is a relatively unknown Boxer with a spotless, but arguably 'built' record.  Guerrero was in front of his home town crowd and was expected to dominate Yordan.  Though Guerrero seemed effective in attacking Yordan's body in the first round, it became very apparent early on that Yordan came to fight.  Speed was on the side of the young Indonesian, who found his target often, although his clinching defense left much to be desired for any fight fan.  Guerrero seemed to get frustrated through round one, with his punches becoming wider and sloppier missing a lot of punches, though landing a number of ineffective punches.  His game plan all but disappeared when Yordan landed a brutal right-left combo, ending the first round.  Though the fight was ruled a no-contest in the second round due to an accidental head-butt that resulted in a cut above Guerrero's eye which he claimed was impairing his vision, I would be curious to see the judges' scorecards after round one.  Some fans booed, no doubt thinking Guerrero had lost the fight, but some fans were probably booing because of a disappointing end to a disappointing fight from their hometown hopeful.

Victor Ortiz (24-1-1) fought a good, but short fight against Mike Arnaoutis (21-3-2), a Greek-born southpaw fighting out of New Jersey.  Arnaoutis was considered by many to be a game opponent for Ortiz, who has been carving his way through the light welterweight division with a string of early KOs.  Arnaoutis, whose most notable opponents include Kendall Holt and Ricardo Torres, was on the defense most of the time, shielding himself from a storm of punches and landing very few.  Ortiz caught him with a stiff left hook and then landed a brutal right uppercut after trapping Arnaoutis in the corner.  It seemed like an early stoppage at first, but after watching the replay and seeing how flush that right uppercut landed, it certainly ended up being the correct call by referee Ray Balewicz.

The main event was brawl between James Kirkland (25-0-0) and Joel Julio (34-3-0).  Kirkland came out punching and had Julio backing up the entire fight.  Kirkland landed a barrage of crisp, clean punches early on and kept up a decent defense at first, though as the fight went on, Kirkland's defense waned and he was caught with some nice shots from the Colombian-born, Julio.  Though the hits Julio landed looked like they would have hurt, Kirkland didn't seem fazed and continued his assault on Julio with great combos to the body and head.  The ref called off the fight immediately after the 6th round.  The low point in this fight was when Kirkland seemingly sucker-punched Julio after the ref had asked the fighters to touch 'em up and go.  Although it wasn't technically a sucker-punch, it was certainly not sportsmanlike nor charming.  Another good win for Kirkland though.

Raised Eyebrow Moment:  
Did anyone else find watching the footage of Ann Wolfe catching mitts with Kirkland to be a little awkward?  They didn't seem to have any rhythm or familiarity whatsoever.  They are portrayed as being in a very close professional relationship, but it didn't look that way to me, watching them hit mitts.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Happy Birthday, Freddie Roach

It was just another day at the gym when Freddie Roach celebrated his 49th birthday on March 5th.  Sure, there were cakes, candles and cards, but it took former Heavyweight Champion, Michael Moorer to stop Freddie from catching mitts long enough to allow us to ceremoniously sing Happy Birthday and bestow our best wishes and gifts.

Fittingly, Freddie remained in the ring.  

Though generally a shy guy, Freddie lit up when he opened his first gift, a group effort resulting in a display case showcasing Manny Pacquiao's gloves from his bout with Oscar de la Hoya, a program and two photos that captured the magic that was that fight.  (Zoom in to see the caption under right photo)

The crowd was also pleased and took photos with the Trainer of the Year and his 'trophy' of perhaps was one of his favorite and most memorable achievements.  I started to remember the weeks leading up to that fight and how the media and Boxing fans seemed to bash Freddie and Manny for taking the fight, much less supposing they could actually win it.  Interview after interview, Freddie was on the defensive about Manny's talents and abilities and lambasted for predicting a 9th round KO.  Teddy Atlas also received a raised eyebrow or two from co-host, Brian Kenny on Friday Night Fights for predicting a Pacquiao win (search YouTube for "Teddy Atlas on Manny vs DLH").  Everyone at the Wildcard Boxing Club never lost hope and never doubted victory (or at least never admitted to it).  We became a closer-knit family, feeling like it was "us" against "them".  "Them", being pretty much everyone else.  It ended up being a one-sided fight as many predicted.  However, the man left holding up his hands was not the Golden Boy, but Manny Pacquiao.  It was more than a victory for all of us at the Wildcard - I don't know quite how to describe it.  It was almost a tangible joy that became the sanctification of our little Boxing family.

Perhaps that's why we all took turns taking pictures with the display case - it captured the spirit of that fight and of the weeks leading up to it.  It reminded us of the exhilaration and bliss we all felt for weeks afterward.  And to see "the man with the plan", Freddie Roach with a big smile on his face, remembering the same things we were, but more intimately, made it even more amazing.

Happy Birthday, Freddie