Boxing is an Asshole

I love boxing, personally. It’s literally the personification of the primal human feeling that all other sports play tap into to ignite our passions: war.

It’s two people in a ring, nothing between them but a pair of gloves and one referee, fighting. No hoops, fields, sticks, balls, nothing. Just two people having it out. Whether you’ve grown up in NYC or in a remote backwoods country with nothing but Latin soap operas coming out of a black and white TV, you see a boxing match, and you understand what’s happening, at least on some level. It’s arguably the purest sport we have.

And it is a massive, massive dickhead. The people in charge – the promoters, the sanctioning bodies, the commissions – range from ‘borderline criminal’ to ‘actual criminal’, the sport is constructed in a way that the best fighters don’t ever have to fight each other, 99% of fighters make no money and wind up paying for their participation with years of their lives, and all in all, the whole thing is fucking gross. The only saving grace is that we’re seeing the pinnacle of what the human body can achieve in the most taxing, lonely, physically draining way possible.

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OK, maybe pinnacle of what the human body can achieve is a little dramatic

What keeps boxing heads  coming back is the fact that in the ring, there’s no one to save you. There’s no subs to come in when you’re tired, no teammates to pick up the slack when you’re having an off night. If you’re losing, it’s just you in there.

Unfortunately, sometimes boxing even fucks that up.

Last week, on a nationally broadcast NBC card, Al Haymon’s fledgling Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) series was back, showcasing an up and coming rock star Errol Spence Jr. officially announcing his presence on the scene with a five-round mauling of veteran Chris Algieri. However, my excitement at watching Spence was tempered, because in the undercard fight before it, the PBC, judges and referees involved committed an absolute atrocity and singlehandedly ripped away an earned chance to make a career from an unknown fighter, for the simple fact that he was unknown.

24 year old Radivoje Kalajdzic (21-1, 14 KO) of Serbia came into the undercard fight as a clear B-side to the undefeated Marcus Browne (17-0, 13 KO), a 25-year old former American Olympian and one of the PBC’s highly touted young prospects. With the PBC hemorrhaging money, a result of artificially inflated purses and a lack of a competitive matchmaking, they need their young talent like Browne to make good on their promise so they can cash in on them someday. And they sure did everything to make sure that that happened.

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A tatted up dude from an Eastern European country with an unpronounceable name is not a cash cow for the PBC. Thus, Kalajdzic was brought in to the Barclays Center last week to lose. Browne was there to get tested, get some rounds in and win. Long story short: he didn’t. Browne proved to be a total dud in the ring, unable to get any kind of offense going, excessively holding and frequently getting popped with hooks by the Serbian.

After trading off the first couple of rounds, Browne spent much of the second half of their 8-round affair looking completely out of ideas, not even pretending to fight in lieu of desperate grabs on his opponent, and even in the 6th round winding up straight on his ass with a dazed look on his face as the Serb scored a nasty knockdown. However, when the decision was read, Browne came out the winner – resulting in lusty boos from his own hometown crowd, which knew it was witnessing a crime. Let’s count the ways in which boxing failed Kalajdzic:

 

  • In the first round, Kalajdzic slipped during a non-contact motion as he pivoted away from Browne and fell to the canvas. Browne then jumped in and landed a light shot to the side of his head. In normal circumstances, this should probably have resulted in a stern warning to Browne, if not a point deduction. Instead, incredibly, referee Tony Chiarantano, who should probably be in jail, ruled it a knockdown for Browne (which, incidentally, made the difference on the scorecards).

 

  • Chiarantano, who again, should probably be in federal prison, allowed Browne to get away with an unheard-of amount of holding in the fight, never coming close to taking a point away or even telling him to stop it. One boxer was trying to fight in there – one was not.

 

  • Two judges scored the fight for Browne, while one gave the fight to Kalajdzic. I scored the fight 76-74 for Radivoje (even scoring the first round 10-8 according to the referee’s atrocious decision), and though that may seem like it was a close/toss-up fight, it really wasn’t. The decision was close on the card but clear as day.

 

As a result, Marcus Browne gets to go on being an undefeated prospect, and Kalajdzic goes…where, exactly? Again, he’s a foreign fighter with an unpronounceable name, he has zero name value for the bigger guns of the division, and he falls back into the scrap heap with the other dozens of nameless prospect/contenders fighting on the fringes of the sport. He didn’t look like a world-beater, either, but that’s not the point.

In theory, boxing, in a romantic sort of way, is the fairest sport. Just two men in there with nothing between them but their skills. With the amount of corruption involved, the sport rips away lives and livelihoods, even outside of the ring. Always has and probably always will. It takes everything from these guys inside the ring, and just outside of it stand the vultures ready to feast, before the fighters’ blood has even dried from their gloves.

Boxing is an asshole.

 

Well, hello.

It’s been about a year since I’ve written anything on here and I have to say, I miss the hell out of writing self-absorbed thinkpieces about bands nobody’s heard of, recapping boxing matches nobody but me has watched and drinking whiskey and ruminating about rando books that came out a decade ago. I actually, really, do miss this.

I got a new job in content creation where I’m tasked with creating and distributing content for a very well-known brand and distributing that content to (literally) millions of people on a daily basis. It’s a dream job, incredibly liberating, and I know how lucky I am. But it’s a time consuming gig and thus I have a little less time to sit there and pretend to be a faux-intellectual as I wax poetic about 140-pound Mexican fighters while I drink a glass of bourbon. But I sure do miss talking to the wall in the corner of the internet here on this little WordPress site.

So, fuck it! I’m going to keep inconsistently updating this page , but it’ll always be here for me, anytime I have a minute and maybe someday, years down the road, I’ll read this in the future and crack a little smile at how young, dumb and self absorbed I was in my 20s.

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Music: Ryan Montbleau Band Live in Chicago

This space has been used a couple of times to talk about absurdly talented musicians that have flown under the radar for reasons that are totally beyond my understanding. While the music scene has changed quite a bit over the past few years–one can now do a lot of damage up on stage with a thumb drive–the ‘guy with a guitar and something to say’ still has a place in our culture and likely always will.

Last weekend in Chicago, Spring Awakening Music Festival packed thousands of people into Soldier Field to rock out to beats generated from a Macbook. Last night, a little ways to the west of Soldier Field, a couple hundred showed up to Chicago’s City Winery to listen to a songbird with a guitar sing to us with words and rhythms generated from his own imagination.

Ryan Montbleau is a singer-songwriter from the Boston area who has been plugging away for over a decade, putting out consistently phenomenal albums and playing stunningly impressive live shows through frequent tours. Montbleau is an accomplished musician technically; the man can play the shit out of a guitar, and he’s got a great voice, but his true talent lies in songwriting. Every singer wants to be a songwriter, but being able to put lyrics and songs together is another kind of skill altogether.

Montbleau has a type of clever charm to him, in that you always feel like you’re in on the joke together. “I’ve been at this for 12 years,” he said to the crowd last night between songs. “And I’ve gone from an unknown singer-songwriter from Massachusetts, to a virtually unknown singer-songwriter from Massachusetts.”

Montbleau is touring off of his new album with Ryan Montbleau Band, Growing LightThe album is a mature evolution of his band’s music, with a polished, focused 10 songs ranging from straight up rockers (“Pacing Like Prince”) to funky jams (“Glad”) to introspective slow burners (“Together”). Seeing Ryan Montbleau Band live is to experience all of these different moods within his set. Montbleau also stacks the band with great musicians–his keyboardist in Chicago, Beau Sasser, ripped off multiple flashy solos, while his guitarist Will Bernard kept a schooled level of playing the entire night.

The show last night saw a mix of old and new–Montbleau started us off with the first two tracks of the new album, “Growing Light” and “Inevitable”, and mixed in the new songs with a best-of showing of RMB hits (well, hits is a strong word), including fan favorites “75 and Sunny”, “Songbird”, and a solo acoustic version of his classic “Stretch”. He also ripped off a couple of covers, including a pretty badass and unexpected version of “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”.

Montbleau keeps it positive throughout the show, participating in some banter with the crowd–though I’ve seen him at a solo show talk much more to the audience than he did last night–but you can’t help feeling like he’s ready (and let’s face it, good enough) for bigger things. He sold out the room last night, and nearly tore the roof off with his set-closing jam on “Pacing LIke Prince” and then the encore, which was positivity anthem “I Can’t Wait”.

Montbleau did things on stage last night that can’t be done on a hard drive, but it seems we as a culture still insist on wearing down our songbirds, making them earn their living through relentless touring and hawking merchandise post-show. “I’ve been touring nonstop for 12 years,” he sighed into the microphone mid-set. “And I’m tired.”

If you take nothing else out of this: it’s so important to continue to support live music. In this era of cheap songs and short attention spans, of boom-or-bust musicians who it seems are either unknowns or playing giant arenas, there are so many great musicians toiling under the radar and plying their craft, busting their ass to create quality music. They have the talent to make you nod your head to the beat, to pull your imagination out, to wow you with the poetry of their words.

These people are still out there. Rearrange what your plans are for the night time, show up at the right time, let them sing you their songs. Sing along. Just go and see them. Ryan Montbleau would be a good place to start.

Truth Be Told: Mayweather-Pacquiao

After five years of buildup, posturing, and casting a cloud over the sport of boxing,  on Saturday night Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao finally stepped into the same ring, tapped gloves and fought. The fight–maybe a bit behind on its sell-by date, but still relevant enough to draw the eyes of the world–solved a question people have been arguing about in bars and gyms, with friends and with anonymous strangers on internet forums. Mayweather, or Pacquao?

The buildup to the fight felt strange to those of us following this selfish saga for years. We all know what happened: thinking the fight was going to happen in 2010, only for negotiations to be derailed over drug testing, egos and a dick measuring contest, to knowledgable boxing fans thinking the fight would never happen, to tepid PPV sales for both stars leading them to finally put pen to paper and get in the ring together. The announcement of the fight itself blew up the internet on the Friday night the news dropped, and boxing fans (causal and diehard alike) spent the next couple of months with a perpetual hard on.

As this is boxing, some things were shaky in the leadup. Mayweather Promotions, who was leading the promotion of the event, proved themselves amateurish in the lead-up, not making tickets available until just before the fight itself and getting into very public spats with prominent reporters. Floyd’s dark past of domestic violence, not new news, suddenly got a very large and public spotlight shined on it, and the general public was not as forgiving as the hardcore boxing fans, spanning numerous thinkpieces, talking head fodder and even calls to boycott the fight itself.

Boxing is a sport living on the fringes of American society, a sport smoking a cigarette in the shadows of a dumpster in a city alley.  This sport doesn’t look so great in the daylight, and with the attention of the larger country turned to it, the ugliness was magnified.

Regardless, it was one of the few times boxing served as a cultural moment. That said, the fight itself meant most to the boxing fans–one of the few times in recent memory the sport has allowed us to answer the question of who the best might be. And at the end of the day, regardless of all of the ancillary stories, thinkpieces and uneducated opinions, that question was answered.

Fight Recap: Floyd Mayweather UD12 Manny Pacquiao

Sometime the Wolf score: Mayweather 116-112 Pacquiao

The fight itself was a disappointment for a lot of people watching at home. The vast majority of fans put their support behind the Filipino sensation, saving their venom for the undefeated American and hoping for some fireworks. Alas, the fight ended up being a typical bout for boxing’s king, as Floyd Mayweather (48-0, 26 KO) dominated his opponent throughout and never looked hurt, cruising to an easy decision. Though Manny Pacquiao (57-6-2, 38 KO) occasionally had his moments where he looked alive and made Floyd cover up, he didn’t look like his typical dynamo self. Most of that had to do with the man standing in front of him.

Floyd was clearly the bigger man, but he also had a distinct advantage in speed, which was surprising, as Manny has built his career on powerful shots at blazing speed from strange angles. Pacquiao found himself in the unfamiliar position of punching at air–and occasionally taking a sharp right hand that rattled his brain and stopped him in his tracks. After a feeling-out first round in which Pacquiao landed only three punches, there were multiple times where Manny would wildly lunge in and swing a prayer shot, hoping to somehow catch the master of defense off guard.

Floyd was careful, perhaps even moreso than usual, and had respect for Manny’s power–in a few rounds, such as the fourth, Manny would land a nice shot to Floyd’s head and Floyd would just cover up against the ropes and absorb his opponent’s shots, content to let Manny get off and just get out of the round. These spots were few and far between, as every time Pacquiao started to get some momentum, Floyd would take control back.

We gave Manny four rounds. That was, in my opinion, the most rounds you could possibly give him. Floyd dominated this fight even more so than our 116-112 reflects. He was clearly the better man in the ring. He would’ve been five years ago as well–Floyd is only faster than he was then. And though the viewing public didn’t like it, at least we don’t have to argue hypotheticals anymore. You don’t have to enjoy it, but sometimes, the truth is ugly.

Oh The Places We’ll Go

I’ve never been a particularly prolific blogger on this here little corner of the Internet. I post a couple flurries of activity, and then write something about being too busy to write, and then a couple more inspired flurries, probably about some no-name European boxing match nobody but me even watched. Basically I’ve been pretty terrible about staying on top of this.

In the last handful of weeks, while I’ve been off the radar, the sport I most focus on has been gearing up for its biggest fight in recent memory as Floyd Mayweather finally takes on Manny Pacquiao. Not just that, but boxing has been ramping up with multiple interesting matchups in the meantime: Wladimir Klitschko brought 17,000 people to Madison Square Garden last weekend, Ruslan Provodnikov and Lucas Matthysse predictably beat the shit out of each other, Julio Ceasar Chavez Jr. exposed himself as a fraud when he fought someone his own size and PBC on NBC returned with another session of ‘let’s try to make Danny Garcia a thing’.

I’ve written about way, way smaller matchups, and less relevant boxing news. Now that the sport is creating mainstream conversation–a good thing in a lot of ways, a bad thing in the sense that a lot of people who know nothing about boxing are writing a lot of ignorant garbage about boxing–I fell off the face of the map. While this is frustrating for me personally, it comes due to really exciting circumstances. I’ve taken a new job, with a major professional sports franchise, and moved cities again. Hence, I’ve had zero time to do anything but look for apartments, get settled and learn my new gig.

I hope to get the chance to write fuller, more coherent posts soon, but in the meantime, here are some random thoughts, about boxing, books, and everything else, that I’ve jotted down in the last couple of months. Random thoughts is all I’ve ever promised, after all.

  • Mayweather-Pacquiao is a bit late in happening, but I don’t care. I’m really excited to see them finally go at it. Floyd is the favorite, and deserves to be, but I think Manny has a real chance at him, which is not something you can say about most Floyd opponents. I’m expecting this one to be pretty tactical, but if Manny can touch Floyd and get some action going…oh man.
  • I’m currently reading Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. It’s great, and it’s the first book I’ve read with extended dream sequences that I can actually get through. I’m having trouble actually finishing it due to time constraints, but I’ve really enjoyed it and I’d love to read more Murakami.
  • I’m going to miss the shit out of New York City. I left for my original hometown, but a part of me is always going to be in Manhattan, eating halal street meat and kicking it to some awesome live tunes at Rockwood Music Hall.
  • I haven’t been able to watch too many of the most recent boxing matches, but I scored Garcia-Peterson 117-111 for Garcia. That seems to be way off most scores, which had it closer, but I honestly thought Peterson did nothing in the first half of the fight to win rounds. I gave Garcia the first 7 rounds and then thought he nicked the 9th and 10th. I’ll stand by this card. On the same show, I scored Quillin-Lee 114-111 for Kid Chocolate.
  • Crazy, and a little sad, to watch Chavez Jr take an ass beating to Fonfara, huh? Chavez was a fun little sideshow for awhile, but he found most of his success fighting guys a couple of weight classes below him. Fonfara was too big of a jump for him in experience and skill, not in weight.
  • Freaking Manny Pacquiao is going to fight Floyd Mayweather in like 5 days.  It’s actually happening

Fighting Words: Young Fighters Shine On Showtime; Brook and Russell Jr. Dominant

In boxing, and in life, there is no such thing as immortality. The top dog will not always be the top dog–time catches up, and youth and power will eventually overtake experience. Always.

Boxing’s history is littered with people waving their hands over their head and freaking out over the future of the sport as the top superstars get old and begin slowing down or retiring. The sport was to die after Mike Tyson. Then Roy Jones Jr. Then Oscar De La Hoya. Now, boxing’s two biggest draws and stars, Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, are still at the top of the mountain but getting long in the tooth. Their twilight doesn’t seem so far away.

That said, there are numerous young guns out there, up and coming, salivating for their chance to be that star. The sport will find them, as it always does. Who it will be, we don’t know yet–Canelo? Lomachenko? Wilder?–but the young talent in the sport is strong, and it will always persevere. Last night on Showtime, two young fighters with their name on the list of up and comers made emphatic statements as they continue on the long road that leads to the top.

Fight Recap: Kell Brook RTD4 Jo Jo Dan

In Sheffield, England, hometown 28-year old IBF welterweight titleholder Kell Brook (34-0, 23 KO) looked spectacular in a one-sided beatdown of challenger Jo Jo Dan (34-3, 18 KO), mopping the floor with an overmatched, helpless and amateur-looking Dan in four rounds before Dan’s corner mercifully stopped the bout after the fourth round. Dan, a tough fighter with limited power but quite a bit of experience, didn’t belong in the same ring with Brook from the opening bell.

Brook, in his first fight since taking the title from Shawn Porter in a rough and ugly affair, was also returning to the ring after getting stabbed by a machete while on vacation in one of the strangest stories I’ve heard in quite some time. Something about Brook’s explanation of the incident (summary: Brook went to some strange man’s house at 3 AM after being out drinking on vacation, alone, and the guy abruptly went nuts and stabbed him with a machete) doesn’t quite add up, but I digress.

Brook looked strong and outclassed Dan in every single way; he was stronger, faster, more skilled. Every big power shot Kell through landed flush, and he dropped Dan twice in the second and fourth rounds, leaving the challenger flopping on the floor, dazed and frustrated, and struggling helplessly to his feet. Given that Dan is a decent welterweight, it clearly showed Brook to be a class or two above.

Who’s in that class with Brook? Well, Kell called out Amir Khan after his fight, a matchup that would certainty be a major event in Britain and a fascinating match wherever you call home. Brook also claimed he wants to fight the best (the Mayweather-Pacquiao winner, perhaps) but that seems to be a pipe dream for now. At the moment, Brook seems to be continuing to build his name, but his skills and incredible in-ring composure point to good signs for the future and someone who has the potential to be a top pound for pound fighter down the line.

Fight Recap: Gary Russell Jr. TKO4 Jhonny Gonzalez

In the nightcap on Showtime, much-hyped former featherweight prospect Gary Russell Jr. (26-1, 15 KO) exceeded all expectations by flooring and outclassing the always-tough, veteran champ Jhonny Gonzalez (57-9, 48 KO), swiping Jhonny’s WBC title in the process.

Gonzalez is no world-beater, but he is a tough veteran who had the belt after knocking out former pound-for-pound ranked champ Abner Mares in 2013. He isn’t particularly fast, or has world-beating skill, but he does have one-punch knockout power and is always dangerous, and Russell Jr. impressed by wiping the floor with him and getting him out of there within the first third of the fight.

Russell Jr. is a fighter with immense talent (he has arguably the fastest hands in the sport) who has deservedly taken criticism for a lack of quality competition on his record, as he fought a murderer’s row of nobodies and club fighters for years after being named the 2011 Prospect of the Year. In his first step-up fight against a similar world-level fighter, he was beaten decisively by Vasyl Lomachenko, resulting in fans calling him a hype job and dismissing him as a legitimate top contender.

Russell Jr. proved at least some of his critics wrong last night, as he was too much to handle. His speed is still on another level (Gonzalez looked like he was fighting in water for much of the fight), his power showed up last night and when he saw his opponent hurt he wasn’t afraid to go for the finish and get it. He still has work to do–Paulie Malignaggi, commentating for Showtime, astutely observed that Russell Jr.’s speed is great but he only knows how to throw at that one speed and doesn’t vary his punches, meaning world-class fighters can start timing his shots.

That said, the 26-year old fighter gave a great account of himself and looks to be a player in the suddenly stacked (and young) featherweight division, a group of fighters that features the previously mentioned Lomachenko, rising star Nicolas Walters, and others. He is one to watch, so long as he keeps up his level of competition.

Fight Recap: Jermell Charlo UD10 Vanes Martirosyan

Sometime the Wolf Score: Charlo 94 – 96 Martirosyan

In a highly technical affair that featured at least seven rounds that could have gone either way, Jermell Charlo (26-0, 11 KO) kept his perfect record intact as he saw the scorecards go his way. I had it scored 6-4 in rounds to the always game Vanes Martirosyan (35-2-1, 21 KO), but don’t have a problem with a 6-4 card the other way. One judge gave 7 rounds to Charlo, which I think is a little much, but think as the more marketable fighter seeing the scorecards go Charlo’s way isn’t a huge surprise.

Anyway, Jermell Charlo (the more technical of the two twin Charlo brothers) showed his technical, fighting effectively off the back foot and behind a stiff jab, while Vanes chose to attack the body and get 1-2 pot shots in there on his faster opponent where he could. Almost nothing separated these two fighters–neither ever looked particularly hurt, except in the 8th round when Vanes took an accidental headbutt that nearly closed his eye, and it felt like they could fight for 20 rounds and each man would take ten.

Nevertheless, it’s Charlo who gets the win on his record and moves on, while Vanes likely entrenches himself into gatekeeper status.

Charlo, too, is a prospect, along with his brother, who is one to watch in the future. I’m not sold on him yet–his brother has more knockouts and an arguably better resume–but you can’t argue that the 24-year old is oozing with potential, another young lion aiming himself to the front of the pack.

He, like Brook, Russell and the other young fighters building their name, may fail and wind up also-rans, and most do. But one or two of them may wind up true champions, pay-per-view stars, legends in their own time. They are the future of the world’s oldest sport, and the future appears to be in good hands. It’s why we watch and why we invest so much time and passion into a sport that has never loved us back.

Fighting Words: Kovalev Destroys Game Pascal in Enjoyable Scrap

Sergey Kovalev has a mean streak.

The Russian light heavyweight has destructive, game changing power, and isn’t afraid to batter his opponents with it. He’s not afraid to taunt with it either, circling his right hand in the air as he jabs with his left, grinning like a cat as he takes your heart. He isn’t unhittiable–you can touch him, but mostly what will happen is he will nod to you and then continue his onslaught, thumping body shots and world-spinning punches right into your forehead.

After he’s beaten you, left you crumpled on the ground, or half-heartedly protesting the referee or corner who has stepped in to save years of your life from any additional beating, he’s still mean. He’s over there dancing on the other side, smiling, raising his arms to the crowd–even if it’s your crowd, booing and upset at your loss–and checking you off the list of victims. He’s a hardass, a Russian assassin, and he’s one of the five best fighters in the world today.

Fight Recap: Sergey Kolavev TKO8 Jean Pascal

Kovalev (27-0-1, 24 KO), who holds three major light heavyweight belts, has continually increased his competition in a decent division and cleaned them out one by one. He’s beaten down hyped upstarts (Nathan Cleverly) and respected veterans (Bernard Hopkins), and last night he went up to Montreal to the backyard of tough contender Jean Pascal (28-3-1, 17 KO).

Pascal is a bit of an enigma, a talented fighter who is also a bit off his rocker and whose personal indosyncrasies match his in-ring strangeness. He goes through stretches of inactivity (both in the ring and out), is highly emotional and lets that get to him, and generally acts like a weirdo. He showed up to fight last night through, and may have made more fans in a TKO loss than in any of his previous wins.

Pascal has an awkward style, where he tends to shell up and not do much for stretches off a round, only to follow up by bullrushing quickly and winging hard right hands in sudden, jerky movements. It’s tough to time and combined with an iron chin (he had never even been down before last night) it made him a rough fighter to share a ring with. His strategy stayed the same through the first few entertaining rounds of this fight, and though Kovalev was outworking him and winning rounds, Pascal was giving a good account of himself. He wasn’t above getting dirty either–throughout the fight, Pascal was landing thudding shots just on or below Kovalev’s belt, shots the Russian really didn’t enjoy.

The first knockdown of Pascal’s career came at the end of the third round, when Kovalev hit him with a shuddering right hand that almost knocked Pascal out of the ring and through the ropes. Though he survived to the bell, the fourth round began with a vicious onslaught from the Russian as Pascal merely tried to cover up, survive and recover from the beating he’d been given.

Then–hope. Pascal began to land a few of his winging right hand shots and push Kovalev back, working the crowd into a frenzy and giving himself some daylight. Pascal took the 5th round and had an argument for the 6th.

The beating Pascal had been taking over the course of the fight came to roost n the 8th round, in what was (fittingly for a Pascal fight) one of the strangest finishes in recent memory. Kovalev had pushed Pascal into a corner and landed a hard, sharp shot to the left side of the Canadian’s head, screwing up Pascals equilibrium and almost dropping him. Pascal managed to somehow stay on his feet, but his eyes were glazed over and he was done. In the process of going for the kill, the hungry Kovalev tripped coming in and went down. Referee Luis Pabon separated the two fighters and moved to bring Sergey to a neutral corner to reset. Meanwhile, Pascal could barely stand–he stumbled his way to a neutral corner and looked in horrible shape. He was confused and barely knew where he was. Kovalev saw this and pointed it out to the referee and Pascal’s corner with his cheshire cat grin–as in “Stop worrying about me, look at this guy.”

Knowing it was over, once the referee allowed them to reset, Kovalev approached Pascal as Pascal awaited his fate in the corner, barely moving off of the corner post. Kovalev landed two hard shots and Pabon, having seen enough about the condition of Pascal, stepped in to stop it.

It was a performance of heart and grit from Pascal and a domination by Kovalev, a true destroyer. Kovalev has turned into must-see TV, in a sport that has few fighters who can be called appointment-viewing.

Fight Recap: Vyacheslav Glazkov UD12 Steve Cunningham

Sometime the Wolf Score: Glazkov 113 – 115 Cunningham

In what was a fight with no redeeming qualities, Ukranian Vyacheslav Glazkov (20-0-1, 12 KO) took a highly questionable and controversial unanimous decision over American Steve Cunningham (28-7, 13 KO), who has gotten the short end of the stick on decisions now a few times and frankly deserves better. Cunningham is a limited fighter at heavyweight, too small for the division and lacking stopping power, and we know what his ceiling is: he is a mid-to-high level contender who gets by on guts and heart, and always comes to fight.

Glazkov was the prospect here, the supposed contender in the making and undefeated fighter, but I continue to be unimpressed by him. He’s won a couple of undeserved decisions, he’s not active enough or gritty enough and his last few performances have been uninspiring to say the least. In what was a highly uninteresting fight, I found Cunningham to be racking up the rounds based on activity alone–Glazkov was just not doing enough. In a fight I had scored evenly through ten rounds, Cunningham took the last two rounds on my scorecard to take the fight.

Though there were a lot of close rounds throughout, the judge’s decision was a clear one–116-112 twice and 115-113 in favor of Glazkov. The fact that three judges can all turn in scores so different from what everybody else is seeing is a sham. In case you’re thinking of checking this one out in order to have an opinion on the scoring controversy–I’d advise against it. The fight had no action, energy or inspiration to start with, and the decision just made me upset at myself for sitting through the whole thing. There were no winners in this one.

Fight Recap: Isaac Chilemba UD10 Vasiliy Lepikhin

Sometime the Wolf score: Chilemba 99 – 91 Lepikhin

I won’t write much about this opener from last night’s HBO tripleheader, because it was terrible (praise be to Kovalev for saving last night’s card, seriously). Vasiliy Lepikhin (17-1, 9 KO) was an undefeated fighter coming into the ring taking a step up in competition against the veteran Isaac Chilemba (24-2-2, 10 KO), an experienced and tricky fighter. Lepikhin proceeded to completely shit the bed, showing zero heart, adjustments or skills in a one-sided beatdown in which Chilemba ran circles around the one-time prospect and in which Lepikhin spent long stretches cluelessly plastering his fists to the side of his own head and doing nothing else.

It was a horrendous performance, and we probably don’t need to see or speak of Lepikhin ever again in these parts.