Boxing has had a rough, rough summer. After a 2013 that consistently delivered great fights and seemed to rejuvenate the sport, 2014 has been decidedly more ‘meh’, and this latest run has been particularly punishing for fight fans. Between horrible officiating leading to unsatisfying fights (Rios-Chaves), atrocious mismatches (Garcia-Salka, which even I skipped) and even blowout fights in matches that looked good on paper (Cotto-Martinez), being a boxing fan is like being in love with a girl who constantly cheats on you and puts out once a year. You know you should move on to something better and more fulfilling, and all your friends are urging you to leave her and start dating this other girl who will treat you better (‘MMA’, or ‘football’) but you just can’t let go.
Shawn Porter vs. Kell Brook was a ray of hope. The IBF titleholder Porter (coming into this fight at 22-0-1, 15 KO) had just firmly stamped his name on the boxing map with two big wins against name welterweights by decisioning Devin Alexander and completely demolishing the pillow-fisted Paulie Malignaggi. His name had been thrown around as perhaps one of the next young stars of the sport, a future Floyd Mayweather opponent, a muscle-bound dynamo on the path to greatness. Brook (who entered the ring with a record of 32-0, 22 KO) was a talented British champion with a puffed-up record whose best previous win was against European-level Vyacheslav Senchenko, who has once been stopped by the aforementioned Malignaggi in Paulie’s only TKO win since 2003.
Going into the fight, it looked like a relatively evenly-matched bout between two rising boxers, with Porter as the slight favorite. Alas, last night, boxing again failed to put out.
Brook (in red) and Porter spent a lot of time like this last night.
Fight Recap: Kell Brook MD12 Shawn Porter
Sometime the Wolf score: Porter 113 – 115 Brook
This fight turned out to be a stylistic nightmare. Porter has made his bones by using athleticism and strength (he is built like an NFL running back) to leap in and wing wild-looking haymakers from crazy angles, at times bringing his hands up from his hips to drill guys upside the head. He found success in doing this in a controlled fashion against Alexander, and turned the knob up to 10 in his match with Malignaggi. Porter knew Malignaggi didn’t have the power to hurt him and he abandoned all pretext of boxing and rushed in, jumping with reckless abandon into Paulie and wiping him quite literally out of the ring with a powerful frenzy of flying muscle and fists. His blowout against Paulie, a veteran fighter who had held his own against some of boxing’s best, started murmurs of stardom.
Brook, who might have the worst nickname in the history of civilization (“Special K”), clearly had watched the gametape of Porter’s fights and came into the ring with a plan to neutralize Porter’s onslaught. Every time Porter jumped in to start winging his power shots from up close, instead of stepping backwards and ceding ground Brook would hold position and tie Porter up, smothering his power and frustrating him. Porter was winning early rounds on activity alone, as seemingly boundless energy caused him to sort-of ineffectively land some of his frenzied shots before getting tied up. But the rhythm (or lack thereof) of the fight was set: Porter leaps in, Brook lands a quick left and ties up. They wrestle for a while. Referee separates them. Porter leaps in. Brook lands a quick, sharp counter and ties up. They wrestle for a while. Referee separates them. Etc.
This continued on and on for 12 rounds, though Brook started landing a few more of his sharp potshots and Porter landed much less in the second half of the fight, when Porter’s constant bouncing, leaping and wasted aggression caught up to him and he got winded. This is where Brook started taking rounds clearly and separated himself in this fight. Two judges ended up having it pretty clear to Brook, while one had it a draw, giving Brook the majority decision win.
And there’s the rub. As soon as Porter’s infighting weapon was neutralized by Brook, Porter had nowhere to go. He doesn’t know how to box from the outside, and failed to find a plan B. You can’t take away the kid’s accomplishments, and you can’t immediately brand him a bust after one loss, but Porter looked far from great last night. On the other hand, Brook fought a smart fight and deservedly took the belt, but didn’t exactly make a lot of new fans with the way he fought. After the fight, Porter asked for a rematch. No thanks.
The book is now out on how to fight Porter, and until he adjusts, we can expect a clinchfest every time he steps up to face real competition. He will be around and have his chances, as he’s only 26 years old, but after Saturday night he will need to work his way back to where he was on Saturday morning. Let’s hope Brook takes some big fights now that he’s a beltholder and doesn’t sit on it with defenses in England against no-name fighters. I’d like to see him in with someone different stylistically and see where he goes from here.
Fight Recap: Anthony Dirrell UD12 Sakio Bika
Sometime the Wolf Score: Bika 110 – 117 Dirrell
I’ll be quick talking about this one, because it was a fucking horrendous fight. This was a rematch of these two fighters’ draw from last December, and it was a terrible, foul-filled clinch fest that did not resemble boxing. Dirrell (27-0-1, 22 KO) was clearly the better technical fighter than Bika (32-6-3, 21 KO), which is not hard to do because Bika has no technical ability at all to the point that I am hesitant to call him a boxer. Bika grabs, holds, headbutts, elbows, wrestles and occasionally will throw a wild arching haymaker that has no semblance of technique and starts so far behind him that it arcs like a McDonald’s sign.
There’s nothing that happened in this fight worth talking about. I’ll leave it to exasperated referee Jack Reiss, who was the highlight of the fight, to explain what was going on in there: “Stop this holding bullshit,” he said to the fighters as he separated them for the 400th time mid-fight. “You guys look like shit doing this.”
Fight Recap: Omar Figueroa TKO9 Daniel Estrada
This fight, the opener for the Showtime card, was easily the fight of the night. Underdog Daniel Estrada (32-3-1, 24 KO) came to fight and had a ton of heart. Highly-regarded prospect Omar Figueroa (24-0-1, 18 KO) was faster, stronger and more technically proficient then Estrada, but Estrada was able to pull him into a firefight with some precise counterpunching. Figueroa has a lot of potential, and is a great offensive fighter, but his defense needs some work.
The two fighters clashed heads in the 8th round, opening a nasty gash over the left eye of Figueroa that looked nauseating. With their man up on the cards (I had him up 78-75 at this point, while all three official judges had him up wide as well), Figueroa’s corner was trying to talk the referee into stopping the bout at that point, which would have sent the decision to the scorecards since the cut was a result of an accidental headbutt. The doctor wasn’t having it though, and sent the fighter out for the 9th round. No doubt extra determined to finish the fight, and with blood streaming down the side of his nose, Figueroa launched a devastating right hand that floored Estrada seconds into the round. With Estrada on wobbly legs and with cloudy eyes, Figueroa closed in for the kill and finished him with an unanswered flurry of punches. Here’s the finish:
Figueroa stops Estrada (GIF courtesy of SB Nation)
Still not sure how far Figueroa goes–he clearly has talent, but there are defensive holes to his game, and he has had problems with his hands breaking in the past. That said, if he continues to fight this way, he will make for some interesting fights, so he is one to watch.
Other Notes and Thoughts From Last Night
- Intriguing heavyweight prospect Deontay Wilder (32-0, 32 KO) didn’t look great in his stay-busy victory over fat guy Jason Gavern (25-17-4, 11 KO)–who, if nothing else, was entertaining for 4 rounds before retiring on his stool–but it seemed like Wilder was purposely carrying Gavern rounds as he kept his devastating right hand in his pocket and was content to jab his way through rounds to “get rounds”, a concept that doesn’t really make sense. Wilder could have stopped this fight at any time and there is nothing worthwhile to take from it. The best moment of the fight was when referee Weiss (probably the MVP of yesterday’s show, to be honest) looked at the hard-breathing Gavern and asked him if everything was all right, to which Gavern quipped “Do you have any oxygen?”
- Lightweight contender Jorge Linares (37-3, 24 KO) absolutely brutalized journeyman Ira Terry (26-12, 16 KO) in the second round of their match to the point that Terry was left moaning in pain and writhing on the ground. Was a great shot but tough to watch. Linares is immensely talented and is an offensive dynamo but has a questionable chin and paper thin skin that cuts easily. His defense and skin (sounds weird to say that) are his downfall, but otherwise he is a really enjoyable fighter to watch.
- This is really the last relevant fight card until September. And, as is tradition with every major PPV fight, I have friends getting married on the night of the Mayweather-Maidana rematch, which is horrible. That said, unless I want my girlfriend to break up with me I will have to attend this wedding with a smile on my face, but I hope to actually find a way to watch that fight and write about it on here, as Mayweather fights are one of the few days on the calendar that average sports fans and not just boxing diehards care about the sport.