Last night I had the good fortune of being present at Madison Square Garden (in solid seats, no less) for the Gennady Golovkin vs. Daniel Geale middleweight title fight, which was broadcast on HBO. I will be following this up with a post specifically on my thoughts on that fight and the rising star of Golovkin shortly, but for now I wanted to give some space to the undercard fights and the experience overall at the fights at MSG on a summer Saturday night.
Fight Recap: Bryant Jennings SD12 Mike Perez
Sometime the Wolf Score: Jennings 116 – 112 Perez
The co-main event featured two unbeaten heavyweight contenders in a nice matchup of two big guys who have actual talent (a rare thing in today’s heavyweight division). A lot was at stake in this matchup, as the winner would keep their unbeaten record intact and get a shot at moving onto bigger fights and establishing themselves as true contenders.
Philadelphia’s Bryant Jennings (19-0, 10 KO) is probably one of the two best American heavyweights (along with prospect Deontay Wilder) fighting today. He’s a strong, smart technical fighter, in great condition, with solid power and a good head on his shoulders. He was impressive in his last two bouts, stopping big boys Andrey Fedosov and Artur Szpilka as he turned himself into a legit HBO-level fighter.
Mike Perez (20-1-1, 12 KO) is a crafty, intelligent fighter, a Cuban expat living and fighting out of Ireland. He’s short for a heavyweight, but stocky (he’s a few inches shorter than Jennings but outweighed him by a good 20 pounds on fight night), deceptively quick and with solid power. He is perhaps most known for his decision victory in November over Russian slugger Magomed Abdusalamov–a tough, nasty, great fight that took a turn for the tragic when Abdusalamov collapsed following their match and went into a coma, from which he has never fully recovered. Perez was understandably devastated about doing this to another man, and it showed in his next bout, where he looked lethargic, slow and afraid to pull the trigger against the relatively unknown Carlos Takam, a fight where Perez was fortunate to get a draw.
I met both of these fighters earlier this week as they were conducting their promotional duties in NY, and they are both very likeable. Jennings is very outgoing and positive, has a big smile and a great personality, while Perez is shy and polite. It was interesting to see, off-camera, the two guys interact with each other and the mutual respect between them.
The fight, unfortunately, did not live up to the billing. Perez is a hard guy to look good against, as he’s smart and not afraid to fight dirty, but they both came out seemingly tentative and careful of the other guy’s power. The first round, very much a feeling out round, did not have much action and I scored that one even as I didn’t feel either guy deserved it.
The next few rounds seemed to belong to Perez, as he was slicker and, surprisingly, looked faster than Jennings, beating him to the punch multiple times and landing the better shots. Jennings stayed in the fight by taking a round or two, but halfway through Perez seemed to be ahead.
Beginning in the 7th round, the fight turned on conditioning, as Jennings seemed to have more energy and pop and Perez began to resort to leaning on Jennings and tying him up, making the fight ugly and the crowd restless. Regardless, Perez’s wrestling wasn’t enough to win him rounds here as Jennings began to find a home for his short chopping uppercuts in close and do some serious damage to him throughout the second half of the fight, winning every round but one after the 6th on my card to finish the match.
In what was apparently controversial to those watching on TV (I did not hear any complaints about it live at the fight) referee Harvey Dock took a point from Perez for a late punch while Dock was separating the two fighters during a tie-up in the 12th. This ended up having a HUGE impact on the result of the fight–Jennings won a split decision on scores of 114-113, 115-112 and 113-114, meaning that one judge had it for Perez and one had it to Jennings by just one point–the point that Dock took from Perez in the last round. Without that deduction, this fight would have been a draw. I didn’t have an issue with the deduction as the hit was egregious; a dangerous punch, dirty and very, very late. I do feel the right man won the fight in the end.
Overall, neither guy really did himself any favors with the crowd here, but Jennings got the W and that’s all that matters at the end of the day. He now puts himself in line for a title shot–against who, it will remain to be seen. Perez is a hard guy to look good against, so I still hold up hope that Jennings will go on do some damage and solidify himself as a top heavyweight for the next few years. Perez is going to be there–he can bang with anybody in the division not named Wladimir Klitschko, and while I doubt he’ll ever be a name fighter, he’s a solid match for everybody and hopefully seems to have gotten over the result of the Abdusalamov fight.
Fight Recap: Ola Afolabi RTD 3 Anthony Caputo Smith
This fight was a mismatch both on paper and in practice, as cruiserweight contender Ola Afolabi (21-3-4, 10 KO) beat the hell out of club-level fighter Anthony Caputo Smith (15-4, 10 KO) for three rounds until Caputo Smith’s corner called the fight off after the third. Caputo Smith, who is somehow a fat guy despite being a professional fighter, which is something I can’t really comprehend or wrap my mind around, brought nothing to the table except a couple of desperate winging overhand haymakers with his head down. I’m sure he hits hard, but his true calling is probably as a strip club bouncer.
Afolabi is not really an interesting fighter to watch (as you can tell by that weird record, where he somehow has been a part of FOUR DRAWS). He seems to scrape by on the bare minimum and seems like he should be good as he has good size and decent skills, but he shows up and is consistently just average. He might be in line for a title shot at some point soon, but there wasn’t really anything worthwhile you could glean from his domination of Caputo Smith, besides one guy being a professional fighter and one guy being a fat dude with boxing gloves on.
Other Notes and Thoughts From MSG
- Solid crowd turnout for Golovkin’s first time headlining the big room at MSG. They didn’t sell tickets to the uppermost deck, but most of the lower bowl seats were filled, to the tune of over 8,000 people, and it seemed like people from all over came to check out the fight. The Kazakhs don’t sing songs and chant like, say, the Puerto Ricans do for Cotto, but Golovkin is a major superstar for them and they treat him accordingly.
- Celebrity sightings: Donald Trump (who got booed loudly every time he was shown on the big screen), boxing trainer Freddie Roach, Andrew Bynum (probably the most random one), Rosie Perez and the guy who played Clay Davis in The Wire (my favorite show ever, definitely grabbed him for a picture though I had no idea what his actual name is so I tried not to call him “Mr. Davis”)
- There was a guy in the bathroom who was pulling the impressive double move of sitting on the toilet with his pants down doing his business while simultaneously throwing up on the ground in front of himself. Literally the entire bathroom was pointing and laughing at this guy, who was probably not having a great time.
- Australians are hilarious and I need to have more Aussie friends. There was a group of four completely hammered Aussies sitting a few rows in front of us and nobody was having a better time, even while their countryman was taking an ass beating.