After an action-backed and exciting 2013 for boxing fans, 2014 has been tepid at best, with big name fighters either inactive (Andre Ward), fighting in uninteresting mismatches against overmatched competition (Danny Garcia, Manny Pacquiao, Adonis Stevenson) or just plain running in place (Floyd Mayweather, Wladimir Klitchsko). Nothing of particular interest has happened, the Pay Per View big-name matches have mostly been busts, and it seems like the sport has taken a step back overall.
We’ll write a full 2014 recap, as there have been at least some good things happening (mainly involving Sergey Kovalev and Gennady Golovkin), but the state of the sport this year makes it even more frustrating that last weekend offered competing cards at the same time involving at least mildly interesting matchups. HBO offered a triple header featuring Timothy Bradley fighting Diego Chaves in the headlining spot, while Showtime had a quadruple header (plus additional preliminary fights on Showtime Extreme) headed by an intriguing matchup between Amir Khan and Devon Alexander. It’s frustrating that after a year of inactivity and shit matches that the networks put on decent cards on the exact same date. Fight fans (like your truly) without DVR capabilities were forced to choose.
This blogger chose to go with Showtime, both because of the higher quantity of fights and more intrigue in the Kahn matchup. As this was the case, I have not seen and cannot yet comment on the Bradley card, which apparently featured two horrendous decisions, including Bradley and Chaves fighting to a questionable draw. You’ll have to go elsewhere for analysis of that fight, but here’s what we saw on Showtime on Saturday night from Las Vegas.
Fight Recap: Amir Khan UD12 Devon Alexander
Sometime the Wolf score: Khan 120 – 108 Alexander
In what seemed to be an evenly matched fight going in, Amir Khan (30-3, 19 KO) answered a lot of questions Saturday night by blowing out a solid fringe contender in Devon Alexander (26-3, 14 KO) and looking spectacular in doing so. Khan is an enigmatic fighter, a talented guy with probably the fastest hands in the sport, decent pop and a chin that has been compared to Cinderella’s glass slipper. He’s a good looking British kid of Pakistani descent who was much hyped coming up but has a couple of knockout losses on his ledger, including a stoppage loss against Danny Garcia after taking a devastating hook to the ear in a fight he had been winning up to that point. Khan is unquestionably talented, but had yet to really prove himself at the highest level.
A lot of questions were answered last night, as Khan used his incredible speed and combination punching to dominate the solid Alexander. Khan would pepper Alexander with a succession of quick shots and then adeptly step out of the way to avoid the return fire, something he had issues with in the past. And though his footwork still wasn’t quite perfect, Khan was never in danger or hurt throughout the fight, and he fought a measured, smart fight that still retained some entertainment value (something that his clinch-fest against Luis Collazo in the spring did not).
Alexander–who is maybe a notch below elite status, but a good, veteran fighter with a lot of experience–had no answers and couldn’t adjust throughout the fight. Devon has an underrated chin and never looked hurt either, but he looked hopeless, throwing short jabs that were met with air frequently and getting overwhelmed by Khan’s world-class handspeed. Khan continued to bring it in a career-best performenace and the fight was really never competitive; scoring the fight I was unable to find a round to give to Alexander.
Khan seems to have swayed people’s opinions to his favor with this win. During the broadcast, fellow fighter and Showtime commentator Paulie Malignaggi expressed the opinion that Khan was a fighter built to give Floyd Mayweather some trouble, and given what Khan brings to that fight–height, reach, speed–the fans in large part seem to be in agreement. We’ve seen Floyd fight bigger guys, guys with more power, but Amir Khan is a new kind of puzzle. If we don’t get the Mayweather-Pacquiao superfight, Mayweather-Khan now seems to be a pretty solid consolation prize–and unlike last year, when the fight was rumored, Khan now has a top-level victory to justify his presence in a fight of that magnitude.
Fight Recap: Keith Thurman UD12 Leonard Bundu
Sometime the Wolf score: Thurman 120 – 107 Bundu
If Amir Khan left fans and the boxing world impressed with his performance, much-hyped welterweight prospect Keith Thurman (24-0, 21 KO) turned in about as unimpressive a blowout victory as you’ll see. Thurman is a young fighter who has been hyped to possess game-changing power and is sold to boxing fans as an up-and-coming superstar, but his performance in this fight dimmed his star unquestionably. Whether that’s fair or not remains to be seen, but Thurman had height, weight, power and skill advantages over his opponent, and seemed unable to do much with them.
Leonard Bundu (31-1-2), a 40 year-old European-level fighter who’s best wins are against other mediocre Euro-level fighters like Frankie Gavin and Lee Purdy, seemed content not to get knocked out, as his disadvantages were glaring and he was uninterested in putting together any kind of offensive attack. That said, if Thurman is going to be billed as a knockout fighter, a badass who makes for must-watch TV–he has to find a way to get the guys out of there.
Thurman afterwards talked about how “tricky” the veteran Bundu was, but if he found Leonard Bundu to be tricky he’s going to be in for a nasty surprise when stepping up to the upper-tier level of competition. Thurman, who had his hand raised on Saturday night among a cascade of boos from the unhappy crowd, has work to do.
Fight Recap: Abner Mares RTD5 Jose Ramirez
Featherweight contender and former titleholder Abner Mares (28-1-1, 15 KO) may have earned some fans back with an exciting, fun and dominant beatdown of a limited but game Jose Ramirez (25-5, 15 KO). Mares was a fan-friendly fighter and big-time name amongst the smaller divisions before suffering a shocking first round KO loss to Jhonny Gonzalez in 2013, and had looked lackluster in previous efforts to bring his name back up. He hired the defensive-minded Virgil Hunter as trainer and won an incredibly boring decision in July against Jonathan Oquendo, in a fight where Mares didn’t look like himself and lacked the offensive fire and volume that had endeared him to fans in the first place.
After going back to his old trainer, Mares looked like himself again Saturday night in an entertaining affair over an overmatched opponent. The win, while fun, doesn’t tell us much, to be honest, but it was a fun match to watch up until the end, when Ramirez looked seriously hurt from accumulated damage from Mares. It was starting to get to the point where it was getting uncomfortable to watch such a beatdown as Ramirez refused to give up despite taking heavy damage and looking woozy, but Ramirez’s corner appropriately stopped the fight after the fifth round.
Mares needs to step up in competition from here, but it was a nice performance from him and good to see him look like the old Mares again.
Other notes from Saturday night’s Showtime card…
- Both Jermell and Jermall Charlo won on Saturday night against limited opponents. They are both very talented–Jermall a bit more so as he’s more of an offensive fighter against his more technical brother–but I’m interested in seeing these guys in higher level fights moving forward.
- Victor Ortiz won as well for the first time in about three years, so I guess he’s going to be around. Ortiz is a strange guy and is always somewhat compelling, but can’t help feeling he’s more of a character than a boxer at this point.
- Despite the super awkward interview between them, I am beyond pumped that Bermane Stiverne and Deontay Wilder are fighting in January. First time I can remember that a heavyweight fight has been interesting. Hoping for Wilder to be the real deal as it’d be good for the sport to have a scary, monstrous American knockout artist, and glad we’ll find out either way. Regardless, it’s probably a better fight than almost anything we got in 2014, so here’s hoping it signals for a big 2015.
- How does this sound for the first half of 2015: Stiverne-Wilder, Cotto-Canelo, Mayweather-Pacquaio. This is boxing, so I won’t get my hopes up, but GOD DAMN