This past weekend was the most fun I’ve had being wrong since forever. Not much of anybody in their right minds had Erik Morales being that competitive against Marcos Maidana several weight classes too high and years past any remnants of him looking like an elite boxer. Morales, aferward, said his dignity led him to such a great performance. As memorials to human dignity go, this was quite the obelisk.
(And, by the way, it’s often fun to be wrong. Sometimes, like with Morales-Maidana, it leads to shocking, even amusing surprises. Sometimes it means you end up with a better argument next time around, when you switch out the bad one for a good one. Being wrong is underestimated.)
There was a lot of “people being wrong” to go around over the weekend, but it all ended up producing a lot of right.
- Morales’ last stand, or Maidana’s no good? Morales got chopped down at 130 by Manny Pacquiao when he was years fresher; Maidana couldn’t do the same, despite landing tons of heavy blows 10 pounds heavier. Despite clearly seeing the openings Maidana left him — openings that led Morales to want the fight in the first place — Morales had trouble pulling the trigger at times; Maidana struggled with a version of Morales nobody thought he should have. It is fair to question whether Morales has another fight in him like this, whether this is one last stand. It is fair to question whether Maidana is very good. My view — to elaborate on an earlier assertion — is that Maidana is a wildly flawed fighter, but one whose power, heart and persistence means he is dangerous to anyone he fights and just as likely to get beaten by someone who can capitalize on his flaws with sharp, straight counters… as long as Maidana doesn’t knock them out. Maidana got gassed in the middle of the fight, too, which suggests he didn’t train as hard as he should have — something that also bedeviled him in the DeMarcus Corley fight. The division that he’s in is also deep and diverse enough that Maidana can lose to Andriy Kotelnik, who can in turn make Devon Alexander look bad, and Maidana can nearly knock out Amir Khan, who’s ranked higher than them all. As for Morales: Who knows how much is left in there. He took a lot of punishment in this fight. It could be a last stand, sure. I simply don’t know.
- Next for Morales and Maidana. It doesn’t sound like a rematch is expected immediately. I’d probably favor Morales in that one, because he would probably start faster and wouldn’t be fighting, incredibly, with one eye swollen shut from the 1st round to the end. On the other hand, maybe Maidana comes in to the fight in better shape and doesn’t get gassed or wobbled so easily, and Morales left what he had in the ring the last time around. The good news is that even if they don’t fight each other right away, there are good fights for both — I’m now particularly interested in Morales against Juan Manuel Marquez, which would be a massive fight with Mexican fans and would produce the last unfulfilled match-up between a great generation of featherweights: between Morales, Marquez, Manny Pacquiao and Marco Antonio Barrera, only Marquez and Morales haven’t fought one another. Morales’ performance against Maidana now makes him viable for that. As for Maidana, I’d still like to see Kotelnik rewarded for his game showing against Alexander with a return to HBO, and a rematch with Maidana would be a meeting between two men who already produced one excellent fight. If he does it right, maybe demand builds for a rematch with Khan down the line.
- Lucky card. Maidana-Morales was decried as monstrous beforehand by many, yours truly included. Let’s hope Golden Boy Promotions doesn’t use it as an excuse to book (more) mismatched fights, though, citing the “anything can happen!” excuse. It sure can. But one of the things that made Maidana-Morales special is that it was absurdly improbable. This ended up being a pretty good card, but the Maidana-Morales part of it was unexpected, not a masterwork of matchmaking. If you want to catch some of the show and (reasonably) didn’t fork over the money this weekend, there are replays on HBO Latino Friday and HBO Zone Saturday.
- Next for Robert Guerrero and Michael Katsidis. If only Top Rank and Golden Boy could set aside their feud. Think about how some of Top Rank’s lightweights would match up with Guerrero and Katsidis. Just think! Guerrero is spending his time calling out Floyd Mayweather, which, hey, he’s a lightweight and Mayweather loves fighting smaller men, so don’t discount it. He could be the odd man out in the Marquez sweepstakes, since Morales and Zab Judah both offer him more, I suspect. Katsidis — he needs another basic brawler to get in there with, because Guerrero’s type isn’t ideal for him. He also probably needs a long rest. That was a prolonged beating he took in there.
- The James Kirkland stoppage. There’s been some dispute about whether referee Joe Cortez should have stopped the Kirkland fight in the 1st round. I’m rarely inclined to argue against early stoppages; for the most part, I want referees to stop fights too early rather than too late. That said, this one was more on the “too early” side for my tastes. Kirkland hurt himself by going down three times, of course. But he was no more hurt on the third knockdown than the second one, and there was no three knockdown rule in place — nor was he more hurt than Marquez in the 1st round of his first battle with Pacquiao.
- Kirkland’s performance. There has also been some reporting out there about Kirkland’s crappy camp, his trouble making the 158-pound catchweight, his being uncomfortable with new trainer Kenny Adams. All of those things are legitimate. I especially question him fighting three times in five weeks upon his return to the ring from jail and amid those reported troubles with him getting back into shape. Maybe those things in some way explain how he got throttled by a non-puncher. Nonetheless, it’s all very concerning for Kirkland’s long-term future. What made Kirkland so thrilling, and so dangerous, is that he was ruthless and relentless in his belief that if you tossed him and his man down the bottom of a well, he’d be the one who rode the barrel back to the top. Kirkland post-jail, for whatever reason, ain’t that. He’s a guy who gets hurt far too easily by people he shouldn’t, because this happened in his last fight, too. Maybe he can get it straight, or maybe something got lost in his layoff. Anyway, Nobuhiro Ishida, the man who knocked out Kirkland, might get a chance to be on HBO again soon as middleweight champion Sergio Martinez’ next opponent. I’m not of the mind he deserves it just based on this one win — and his ties to Golden Boy-promoted Saul Alvarez probably don’t hurt, as our Corey Erdman pointed out — but it’s funny how people who criticize HBO for not putting on boxers who upset other more HBO-beloved boxers would now criticize this notion.
- David Lemieux and stepping up. If a prospect doesn’t step up at a rapid pace, he’ll be criticized for “only fighting bums.” If he steps up and loses a fight, “he was moved too fast, he only had fought bums.” Middleweight prospect Lemieux is facing some of the latter after getting upset by Marco Antonio Rubio. Walid Smichet, Elvin Ayala and others weren’t world-beaters, but if they weren’t the kind of opponents Lemieux should have been fighting to prepare for Rubio, I’m not sure what names would have prepared him. It’s easy afterward to argue that Lemieux wasn’t “ready” for a boxer like Rubio, but beforehand most people considered this more or less a sure win for Lemieux. This loss was a combination of a few things, as I see it: Lemieux has power but short arms that a taller boxer with any skill and a chin can exploit; reports of Rubio’s bad chin were overstated, and his skill was underrated, and yes, he has real power; Rubio had the right game plan to withstand Lemieux’ power early and then turn on the heat; Lemieux before the fight sounded extremely cocky, and perhaps he took Rubio lightly; and when he endured trouble, Lemieux didn’t know what to do about it. The last part is where the criticism borders on fair… but his team had deliberately matched him at times with boxers who were supposed to give him rounds, and none of them could do it.
- Odds and ends. Coming off his big win over Hozumi Hasegawa, featherweight Jhonny Gonzalez ought to now figure into the mix as a viable and exciting opponent for Juan Manuel Lopez or Yuriorkis Gamboa, since they’re never going to fight one another… Welterweight Paulie Malignaggi said he injured both his hands in his fight with Jose Cotto; that might explain why he tailed off late in the aggression department… On the weekend of upsets, junior welterweight prospect Danny Garcia was widely viewed as cutting it too close against Nate Campbell… If I had to pick the order of the weekend’s upset victims and near-upset victims and who would bounce back best, I’d go: Maidana; Lemieux; Hasegawa; Marcus Johnson; Garcia; Kirkland… Adonis Stevenson’s knockout from this past weekend made SportsCenter on Monday.