That’s more like it. I second what our Patrick Connor said — we were due for some mighty good action, and Orlando Salido vs. Juan Manuel Lopez II delivered. But it isn’t unmitigated joy that boxing gave us this past weekend. Let us parse the Fight of the Yearness of the bout; the craziness of Lopez’ post-fight remarks, and the fallout; the ramifications of the two fights themselves, both past and future; and offer one more brief word on Ricky Burns vs. Paulus Moses, another fight from the weekend that our man Andrew Harrison covered here.
- Fight of the Yearness. It was a helluva featherweight fight, Salido-Lopez II, and the Fight of the Year so far by default. But I side with Connor’s verdict: It’s got a great Round 9, but as FOTY contenders go, I wish it was a touch stronger. I said something similar about Hernan Marquez-Luis Concepcion I in 2011; everyone was going nuts for it, and it was clearly awesome. But like Marquez-Concepcion I, Salido-Lopez II was simply too one-sided for my tastes. Outside of Lopez’ surprise knockdown in the 5th round, he was merely competitive within individual rounds he lost, not winning many stanzas, if any. And for as bad as Showtime’s Gus Johnson was calling the fight, I wish Al Bernstein would abandon his tendency to compare any decent scrap to Jose Luis Castillo-Diego Corrales I, because this, for me, wasn’t even in the same galaxy. This isn’t me pissing on the fight. It was damn good. I was astounded by Salido’s unrelenting attack and Lopez’ inhuman ability to soak up punishment. It’s just that we’re a few days out, and that gives us a chance at perspective. Feel free to like the fight as much as you want. I just liked it a lot, and can’t get on board with some of what I see as hyperbole out there about legendary all-time great wars, and I hope 2012 offers something a little better than this for its Fight of the Year honors. You can nonetheless catch the replay tonight, Tuesday, at 10 p.m. on Showtime Extreme.
- Lopez’ post-fight remarks. JuanMa’s in all kinds of hot water over accusing referee Roberto Ramirez, Sr. of stopping the fight due to some kind of gambling problems. But Lopez has apologized and that hasn’t done the trick. I’m not going to go so far as Kevin Iole as to say that Showtime shouldn’t have interviewed him at all. As uncool as the remarks were, I am, however, more willing to forgive his remarks given his freshly-rattled brain. Dude even maintains he doesn’t remember what he said, and that strikes me as very plausible. Ramirez, not so much with the forgiving. The WBO, no so much with the forgiving either. Nor the Association of Professional Boxing Officials. I’d like to see Lopez retract the remarks in full, still. It’s sad that once again a good fight has had an unpleasant shadow hovering in its vicinity, but that’s every weekend in boxing ever lately. (Incidentally, I’d love to know if Lopez was telling the truth about the part where he said he complained to the local commission about Ramirez — and when he complained. It’s worth noting that he apparently made similar remarks about Ramirez’ son before this weekend, so I think this might be a case of him saying what he believed and either regretting it, or again, not knowing that he actually said it [but believing it].)
- Bad scorecards. Did I say “an unpleasant shadow?” I meant, “two unpleasant shadows.” Prior to the stoppage, the judges somehow had Lopez winning the fight, and in reality it just wasn’t even close. I’m with Eric Raskin on this one: Thank God Salido took matters into his own hands. Salido, incidentally, comes out of this as something like the people’s champ, and he deserves it. You gotta love the type of boxer who can suffer 11 losses and still win a big one like this, and like the one the first time he faced Lopez. He does it mainly with raw determination, but he’s actually gotten better technically at a late age. He made this fight one-sided in part with his defense. That finishing combination was plenty skillful, and married to violent intent, showing once more that skill and action aren’t incompatible.
- Next for Salido. Oh please oh please let’s get Salido-Mikey Garcia. Garcia is too far on the skill side of the equation for some, but he’s right up my alley — he’s a really well-rounded boxer-puncher who, for as much as people complain about his slow, tactical style, almost always finishes the show in a spectacular fashion. And he does take risks; he’s like what I’d like Wladimir Klitschko to be, really. Seeing Garcia try to pick apart Salido, and Salido trying to overwhelm Garcia, sounds like a really great time. If Salido wants to do a victory lap in Mexico, I can respect it. Let’s just try to get him in there with Garcia ASAP.
- Next for Lopez. There’s been talk of Lopez moving up to 130 pounds, or facing Billy Dib or Wilfredo Vazquez, Jr. What he really needs to do is get back in the gym and return to being a boxer-puncher who can actually defend himself every now and then. Long ago, Lopez really did seem like he had potential to be one of the best couple fighters in the world, and while his defense has never been the reason why, he used to have more of the stuff. There were Saturday times where it almost seemed as though Lopez was standing there waiting for Salido to tee off on him. And I don’t think he’s the offensive fighter he used to be, either. The Showtime team pointed it out during the fight, but he pushed a lot of those punches. He did damage because he’s heavy-handed and because of volume, but his placement was off, his leverage was off, his balance was off. He has seriously degenerated too far in his technique. If this is who he is now — and he might be worse still in all those categories after the kinds of beatings he’s taken from Salido and all the rest — then he’ll be exciting, and that’s all. That said, there are worse fates than “exciting, and that’s all.”
- Ranking the featherweights. There’s nothing anyone says in the discussion of the Ring Ratings Panel that I would disclose publicly, other than my own views. So here they are: I don’t like wholesale rejiggerings of a division just because there were some fights in that division over the weekend, as happened with Ring’s featherweight rankings. Last week, Ring rated Rafael Marquez above Jhonny Gonzalez at featherweight, whether that decision was a good or not. Now, even though neither man has fought recently, Gonzalez is rated higher than Marquez. What changed? Absolutely nothing, other than that a decision was made to change them. I don’t like this kind of thing because it comes off so arbitrary; why stop here? Why not just change every rating every week, whenever you feel like it? A ratings system that isn’t responding to actual developments in the ring isn’t a ratings system — it’s a mood ring. Anyway, Salido does deserve to be at #2. And, as Michael Rosenthal points out in his note, such rejiggerings are going to be rare. They can hardly be rare enough for my tastes. (And if I recall correctly, the old leadership at the magazine did this at least once, so this isn’t about who’s in charge now vs. who’s in charge then. It’s about a principle I think should be followed in rankings for boxing, or any sport I can imagine, for that matter.)
- Lopez vs. Yuriorkis Gamboa, revisited. There are two views out there about Lopez-Gamboa: Iole said this weekend proved Top Rank screwed up by letting the fight marinate, and Steve Kim said this weekend proved that “big” fights (his scare quotes, not mine) like Lopez-Gamboa are overrated. I lean Iole. Kim doesn’t seem to understand why so many people wanted to see Lopez-Gamboa. It’s not that just that it was important — that indisputably was part of the appeal, but I don’t even think it was the essential component. No, people wanted to see it mainly because both of those guys had really nasty punching power, and it figured to be explosive for as long as it lasted. That said, while I wish we would’ve gotten Lopez-Gamboa, it’s not as if things worked out so poorly with Salido-Lopez I and II. That speaks, I think, more to Top Rank getting lucky than any matter of design, because I can betcha that if we were in Top Rank’s offices prior to the first fight being made, we’d have heard them arguing it would be an action match-up the more marketable guy, Lopez, would likely win. Now, with the fights being so good and the unexpected results, Salido’s riding a crest of popularity in Mexico and with hardcore fans, and Lopez at least keeps some of his marketability, I imagine.
- Ricky Burns’ arrival. I haven’t caught up to every round of Burns-Paulus Moses, but I’ve seen a good portion of it, and enough to say this: Burns has come a really long way from the days of losing to Alex Arthur and Carlos Johanneson and being a massive underdog aganst Roman Martinez. Back then, I didn’t see a very good fighter at all — he fancied himself a boxer, but he was too ragged and lacked pop. He’s still ragged in places, but he’s found the right mix of aggression and movement and he’s a formidable lightweight now. He thoroughly handled Moses, a good fighter. Burns is ready for the class of 135 pounds, but I really like the match-up with Kevin Mitchell before he goes after a Brandon Rios-type. Not that Mitchell isn’t class. I do think the fight will do great business across the pond and it figures as a pretty good donnybrook, since both men have been in Fight of the Year-style tilts (even if there’s a chance their styles might not mesh). As for the rest of the weekend’s results? Try here.