(Robert Guerrero, left, Andre Berto, right; via)
It was another fine weekend for the sport of boxing: An ugly, mauling affair between an undersized welterweight and a much-maligned, frequently pampered villain metamorphosed into a demonstration of human willpower at nearly its finest, while an old hero made an initially electrifying comeback that turned disappointing yet somehow still elevated the man.
- Fight of the Year. It's not my leader for Fight of the Year, is Robert Guerrero's win over Andre Berto, but it is a candidate. Is it in the top five? I would say so. There's Brandon Rios-Mike Alvarado, there's Orlando Salido-Juan Manuel Lopez II, there's Brian Viloria-Hernan Marquez and there are a few others dotting the landscape of 2012, with other fights yet ahead with potential to win the prize. I did love rounds 7 and 11 and think both of them are strong Round of the Year candidates, too. It was a fight with a weird pace: It began with those two knockdowns that made it look like it could be a blowout, followed by some comeback rounds for Berto, and then followed by some middle rounds that were only enjoyable to fans of wrestling exhibitions from the pre-Queensberry rules days. But that set up a second half that was almost all-action, what a fight might look like if any of the people super middleweight Andre Ward backs into the ropes had a chance of matching or eclipsing his speed, power and overall technical ability. You rarely see exchanges as passionate as those in the 7th and 11th rounds, where the whole ring seems to crackle with the energy of raw determination. It was far from the historic affair HBO's commentary team was making it out to be, but it was a damn fine exhibition of the kind of thing that makes boxing amazing — two men dishing out and receiving enormous volumes of punishment, both of them throwing regard for their own well-being out the window to win a solitary battle.
- Robert Guerrero vs. Floyd Mayweather. I'm not saying Guerrero is my number one choice for Mayweather, nor is he the most viable financial option. But at welterweight, there's Manny Pacquiao and now there's Robert Guerrero, and then, what, Timothy Bradley? Pacquiao gets Mayweather the most money, we've all been waiting for that particular Godot to arrive and it hasn't. Guerrero has as much of a competitive argument as Bradley if not more, and he's definitely the guy who moves more tickets, plus the story of his family could be a big marketing angle. Yes, it is totally weird to contemplate that someone's fight with leukemia — namely, Guerrero's wife — might be part of a marketing plan. But it's also true. And no, Guerrero wouldn't be particularly competitive with Mayweather. If Mayweather sticks at junior middleweight, Canelo Alvarez is the biggest money option, while middleweight Sergio Martinez moving down one division is the biggest competitive option. Golden Boy was reportedly hyping Alvarez for Mayweather at the post-fight news conference for Guerrero-Berto, which Guerrero just had to love, I'm sure. But since, they have talked Mayweather-Guerrero up some. (GBP did talk up his pound-for-pound status. He will likely make my top 20 in my next update, but top 10, as GBP advocated, is too far for my tastes.)
- Andre Berto's suckiness. There's been some talk since about whether this loss says something bad about Berto. I suppose it does in a few ways, in that he lost to an undersized welterweight and that he still looked fairly clueless in the ring, as he thrived, when he did, on pure power and speed as much as anything else. The book on him was that he had been coddled in his development, which is at least partially true, and he wasn't ready for a serious fight because of it. Thing is, Berto did get a lot of easy fights on HBO, but he also had a few hard ones before he got some of those kind of fights. Cosme Rivera had him in trouble. Luis Collazo wasn't an easy out. Victor Ortiz wasn't the first person who gave him the fear of God; that had arrived at least twice before. If the Rivera and Collazo fights weren't enough development and preparation for hard fights to come, how many more times did Berto nearly need to get knocked out to be properly developed? And while he always had a ton of physical talent, let's not get carried away about how good anyone thought he could be. Back at the peak of Berto disdain, I had maintained that he was "not a bum." I stand by that. He still isn't. Bums don't do what Berto did Saturday night, showing that kind of willpower, however short it came up compared to Guerrero's gigantic reservoirs. Berto has flaws and always has, and I think some of them have gotten worse: For whatever reason, perhaps and even likely because he got used to easy paychecks from HBO, he never really has improved as a boxer, and his attempt in the early rounds to try a shoulder roll technique was comically bad, the kind of thing you might expect from someone who has many men shouting at him in his corner every fight despite how poorly that's gone for him in the past. If you want to judge Berto in a historical context, he won't fare well, but few active boxers walking the planet today would. He's been a top-10 level welterweight for a while now, and that means that compared to the vast majority of his peers, he does not suck.
- Ricky Hatton's retirement. Hatton retired following his loss to fringe welterweight contender Vyacheslav Senchenko, and I hope it sticks. Apparently, it was always in the plans, win or lose. There was some discussion in the recap post's comments section about Hatton's Hall of Fame credentials, with friend of the site Paul Kelly making the most eloquent case for him not belonging. I would say that, for my own part, I give him a lot of credit for that win over Kostya Tszyu, who, by my eye, was only slightly faded. I also give him credit for being the lineal junior welterweight champion, for racking up some respectable title defenses over a four-year period, for being one of the best junior welterweights ever, for winning Fighter of the Year in 2005, for inhabiting pound-for-pound lists for a lengthy period of time, and yes, just for being famous; he'll go down as one of Great Britain's most popular fighters. The second-guessing of his choice of opponent does nothing for me; GBP surely wanted to stretch a few more paychecks out of Hatton's comeback, and I can't blame them, but it's the main motive I see for arguing after the fact that he should've taken a weaker opponent. Hatton's thing was to take on the best, as he showed amply, and if he isn't content unless he's beating them, then that's fine by me. Admirable, even.
- The Rest. Not much else: The latest episode of 24/7 Pacquiao/Marquez IV did little for me. I swear that segment of Pacquiao dancing awkwardly to "Gangnam Style" went on for 20 minutes, and it wasn't funny from the start. Yes, HBO has a difficult task with this 24/7, trying to sell people on another meeting between Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez… RIP Hector "Macho" Camacho.