By Ivan G. Goldman
Top welterweights can’t seem to get each other out of there these days, a sorry state of affairs dismally demonstrated on two big televised shows out of Las Vegas this weekend. Could it be we pay too much attention to the wrong weight division?
On HBO, Tim Bradley eked out only a draw against unyielding Diego Chaves, while on Showtime, Keith “One Time” Thurman, whose devastating power is supposed to be a given, managed to look unspectacular while winning an undisputed decision over previously undefeated but unheralded African-Italian Leonard Bundu.
Bradley, whose impressive but underpowered arsenal doesn’t include a serious knockout punch, grew weary as the rounds wore on and he absorbed more damage to a hideously swollen left eye that was originally smashed by his opponent’s skull.
It was a sweet weekend for Englishman Amir Khan, who’s taken his speed and accuracy with him into the welterweight division, where he made excellent Devon Alexander look ordinary, cruising to an overwhelming unanimous decision. The combinations and counterpunches were so crisp they made up for the fact that Alexander never touched the canvas. Once again we saw why Floyd Mayweather chose to fight Marcos Maidana twice rather than deal with Khan once.
All these scorecard finishes bring to mind the ring histories of our two perennial pay-per-view welters, Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. Mayweather, if you take away that bizarre sucker-punch he landed against Victor Ortiz in 2011, hasn’t scored a kayo since the George W. Bush Administration. It was a fine one though, when he caught bull-rushing Ricky Hatton with a terrific left hook in 2007.
Pacquiao last pulled off a stoppage five years ago against hugely talented and tough Miguel Cotto. It was one of his greatest victories.
Again, if we remove the Mayweather-Ortiz fight from the record, Pacquiao and Mayweather together haven’t scored a kayo in their last 16 contests. It’s all perfectly explainable. Floyd has brittle hands and a cautious style. Manny fights above his natural weight class. Also, it’s normal for fighters to have to go the distance more often as they move up against stiffer competition.
But among top welters it’s reached the point where knockouts are a fantasy we don’t really believe could happen, on the same level as tales of vampires, werewolves, and comic-book heroes that are part spider or hail from the planet Krypton.
The weekend star of course was Irish Andy Lee. What could be more exciting than seeing an underdog who’s behind on the cards win with one astounding punch?
In this case, it was an educated counter right hook in response to a good left hook from Matt Korobov. Lee’s spectacular seizure of the WBO middleweight belt was also a gift to the legacy of his former trainer the late Emanuel Steward, who took special care with Lee, even taking him into his home. Lee reminds us that there’s more to this sport than the welterweight division.
Meanwhile, we have the tiresome resumption of back-and-forth sound bites between Manny Pacquiao and Mayweather over an elusive superfight. Hungry media quickly pounce on anything anyone remotely connected to them says. At times like this, crazy people and hacks slip into the conversation more easily and spread the most outrageous rumors. It blends in with all the meaningless comment from writers and talkers who have nothing to say that hasn’t already been said.
Any fighters who want to make a statement should check out Andy Lee’s announcement. A fighter can’t come up with better comment than that right hook.
Anyway, the night provided us with two big cards the same night out of Las Vegas, which clearly isn’t dead yet, Macau.
Of course, no big fight night can be complete without a robbery, when an up-and-comer with all the juice gets three judges to agree his second-best performance ought to be rewarded.
So Jose Benavidez, Jr., not Mauricio Herrera, walks off with something called the WBA interim junior welterweight title.
The gross perversion of the robbery will fade over time. Analysts who mention Benavidez in passing will dust off the win-loss record but not the particulars of how it came about.
It’s like picking a pocket. It doesn’t take long before the thief’s stolen dollars look just like any one else’s dollars.
New York Times best-selling author Ivan G. Goldman’s Sick Justice: Inside the American Gulag was released in 2013 by Potomac Books. Watch for The Debtor Class: A Novel from Permanent Press in spring, 2015. More information here.