Saul Alvarez won the fun way and Adrien Broner won the boring way on HBO Saturday, but both didn’t dispel doubts about themselves in so doing. Alvarez dragged Matthew Hatton up from welterweight to junior middleweight but couldn’t stop him, despite a high octane offensive performance. Broner dragged Daniel Ponce De Leon up from featherweight to junior lightweight and was lucky to escape with the win, since most seem to have had the fight a narrow De Leon win or a draw.
ADRIEN BRONER-DANIEL PONCE DE LEON
There’s really no doubt that Broner has tremendous speed. He also has some technical tools, primarily his counterpunching. But I scored the fight 96-94 for De Leon because he outworked Broner so severely, with every sharp counter from Broner met by four clumsy but hard, scoring punches from De Leon in more rounds than not. In the rounds where that didn’t happen, Broner was fairly effective. But even some of the rounds he won on my scorecard, he won close.
There are boxing fans who can appreciate a good technical fighter, or else Floyd Mayweather would have no career at all. But Broner was even more cautious than the most cautious version of Mayweather. It’s like he thought if he led with any punches, he’d be docked by the judges. So he waited for De Leon to throw before doing anything, and even then he often didn’t counter when he had a chance. Maybe De Leon’s awkwardness and aggressiveness made it harder for Broner to pull the trigger, but Broner was so much bigger that nothing De Leon landed appeared to do any damage whatsoever, which showed how far outside his ideal weight De Leon was, because he was a beastly puncher at 122 and a very hard hitter at 126, too.
And Broner wasn’t docked by the judges, no sir. Two judges scored it a reasonable 96-94 for Broner, but Tony Crebs turned in a contender for “worst scorecard of 2011″ that’s going to be really hard to top. 99-91. My thinking on these kind of horrible scorecards is that if you’re a judge who accidentally nods off during a fight, you shouldn’t just fill out your card for the guy you think you’re supposed to score it for; look around, ask somebody near you discretely who they thought won, and then fill it out 96-94 for the guy you think you’re supposed to score it for. I’m sure this is a very illegal idea, but I’d respect Crebs in jail for filling out his scorecard that way than I respect him now, filing a scorecard so preposterous.
OK, so Broner was kind of boring and kind of not good. He hadn’t impressed me much previously, either. I don’t think the guy belongs on HBO until he either gets good or gets fun, but via the Unified Conspiracy Theory of Boxing, he’ll be back on HBO soon because he’s with Golden Boy Promotions and Al Haymon. And this time the Conspiracy Theory is probably correct. But I’d rather watch him on ESPN2 or ShoBox, if at all, than for HBO to pay for this chap right away.
De Leon emerges from this win just about where he was or a little better, esteem- and popularity-wise, despite the L on his record. The pro-Mexican crowd liked what it saw, and while his awkwardness limits his excitement potential, there’s no doubt he brings it hard every night and is therefore pretty good television. Because he’s also pretty good overall — you don’t beat a more naturally talented, bigger fighter on most everyone’s scorecard if you can’t fight a lick — he’s got a better mix of HBO-worthiness than Broner at this point. The question is what he does next at featherweight. The two money men, Juan Manuel Lopez and Yuriorkis Gamboa, are tied up with Top Rank, which refuses to do business with GBP, which handles De Leon. Chris John, who’s with GBP, is otherwise committed through 2011. Here’s a thought, though: De Leon-Juan Carlos Burgos, who was explosive on Friday Night Fights the other weekend? That sounds like a corker to me.
SAUL ALVAREZ-MATTHEW HATTON
Alvarez had slowly been winning me over, because his slow ass appeared to be getting less slow over the span of recent fights. Word is he had been working on his speed, and he appears to be a bit faster from it, including on Saturday. But this was a bit of a step back as far as my belief in his potential goes. Hatton proved he’s a true fighter by hanging in there during such a one-sided beating, but Alvarez was supposed to be a power puncher. Yet he couldn’t stop a man who definitely isn’t a junior middleweight, and what’s more, Alvarez weighed in two pounds over the limit. Alvarez was huge in comparison Hatton.
Offensively, Alvarez did just about everything he could to stop Hatton. He teed off nearly at will when he led, and countered Hatton with about as hard and flush shots as you can counter someone with. He took breathers in some rounds, sure, but who could blame him getting tired by smacking Hatton around so much? Hatton suffered a cut over his eye and a bloody nose, and even appeared in trouble at times, but never really very much so. Hatton connected a fair amount himself, but Alvarez ignored it. It was like watching Godzilla plow through all the tanks and jets blasting away at him — tanks and jets are pretty adept at blowing stuff up, but not when they’re so small and their target so large.
It was a pretty chippy fight, too. Alvarez was docked a point for hitting on the break; there were also some low blows exchanged. It made the fight even more exciting — whoever got fouled often came back with a fury, and since both of these men already weren’t shy about exchanging, the exchanges got real furious-like after each foul.
Hatton is by no means a gifted fighter but his heart cannot be questioned. Maybe he’ll win a title at some point down at 147; I could see him upsetting one of the lesser sanctioning belt titleholders, maybe, on the right night.
Alvarez — it’s really tough to estimate how far he can go. I suspect the answer is “not too far,” but he’s only 20 and while he’s got 36 fights on his resume, he only recently began fighting anyone with a pulse. We know that whatever his future, he’ll probably generate crowds (reportedly there were about 10,000 people on hand for this card); some of the people in the crowd will be women who have crushes on him (no, really); and it’ll probably be a good time watching him. He does have some tools — he puts his punches together well, he can defend well when he wants to, he has some power if less than we realized, and he’s improving his speed. But so far, he’s beaten only, in the following order, total scrubs; much older, smaller opponents; much older, simiarly-sized opponents; not-too-old but smaller opponents. And it’s never a good sign for a fighter’s potential if he can’t make weight, has been decked by a man who spent his life fighting several weight classes beneath him (see: Jose Cotto), gets hit a lot and isn’t very quick.
I understand Golden Boy taking it slow with Alvarez, but it’s time to see how he handles someone his own size who’s young, and/or someone who is faster than Alvarez. We won’t learn anything more from Alvarez beating this caliber of opponent.
Other weekend observations, which I’ll update periodically Sunday and so forth:
- Junior welterweight Zab Judah beat Kaizer Mabuza by knockout. Expect a full report at TQBR soon enough.
- HBO’s Roy Jones has got to knock off the God talk — it’s offensive and lame to more than just me. Here was his latest rant, about Alvarez, the third consecutive bit of proselytizing by Jones on a broadcast: “I think that God has definitely blessed this kid and he definitely knows this. Because when God gives you a blessing that you can’t understand, which is the way he got all these people following him already, it’s something beyond his understanding, my understanding, your understanding. God is definitely with this kid, gave him a lot of talent to work with.” Let’s say you think it’s great that Jones is speaking his mind. Do you see any value in the statement above whatsoever? Jones is a boxing analyst, not a theologian. It is not valuable for Jones to “speak his mind” like that. It’s not even a coherent thought. We get it, Roy: You think whoever won, won because of God. Let’s just assume you think that going forward. Now, maybe, you can explain why he won beyond that — he was bigger, faster, he countered better, he had better footwork, whatever.
- Ismayl Sillakh got the kind of win over fellow prospect Yordanis Despaigne this weekend that suggested he’s ready to enter the light heavyweight top 10. He only did one thing wrong: After decking his man in the 2nd, he allowed the still-woozy Despaigne to escape the 3rd by being overly cautious. When Despaigne rallied a bit thereafter, Sillakh later re-took control, so he showed he can handle adversity. At the risk of repeating everything Teddy Atlas said on Friday Night Fights — I thought Atlas was at the top of his game in every way on Friday — Sillakh getting stopped as an amateur is a point of worry, and for Despaigne’s part, he made things harder on himself by not jabbing his way in. I’d love to see Sillakh in against the lower end top-10 175-pounders next, like Gabriel Campillo and Beibut Shumenov. Sillakh not only is good, but he’s got the kind of power that makes him worth watching; Sillakh-Campillo/Shumenov please.
- Lightweight Humberto Soto got himself a more comprehensive win over Fidel Monterrosa this time around.