One of the only upsides to not watching a boxing card live in 2012 is that you can avoid this year’s familiar emotional pattern of, “Look, something amazing just happened!/Nevermind, something horrible just ruined it.” Knowing already what went down on Top Rank’s pay-per-view from the weekend, one could go straight to the good parts — the stirring, Fight of the Year candidate betwixt junior welterweights Mike Alvarado and Mauricio Herrera — fortified by the knowledge that disappointment might soon be around the corner. Track down that Alvarado-Herrera fight, gang, if you haven’t. It’s a bit better than the other Fight of the Year contender (Orlando Salido-Juan Manuel Lopez II) in some ways, in that it has more sustained, competitive action.
This after-the-fact viewing has another effect, too, perhaps — the extremes of opinion in the immediate aftermath of the ruining/disappointing moment can sometimes seem particularly overblown. Sometimes, a decision that everyone has thrown in the “robbery” category doesn’t seem so bad, because one’s expectations are so high for how low the robbery will go. But then, sometimes it does seem so bad. Just keep that in mind when reviewing this edition of Weekend Afterthoughts.
- Scoring for Brandon Rios-Richard Abril. I scored this one 117-111 for Abril, closer than some folk but not most, and I could see giving one or two more rounds to Rios, although it would require a stretch to give him that many. I read a lot about Rios’ punches landing on Abril’s gloves, but saw a fair amount getting through — and saw a fair number of Abril’s punches landing on Abril’s gloves, too. But Abril was better more often, and controlled the fight almost from start to finish, and landed the more flush shots of the two. Ultimately, it was a terrible decision because of some of the specifics of the scorecards — there’s no earthly way Rios won eight rounds, the way Jerry Roth scored it. None. You really almost have to try to find rounds to give Rios when you end up with that kind of scorecard, and that the “name” fighter ended up getting the benefit of the doubt is so unsurprising that I sometimes wonder if my brain just shuts itself down and shrugs its brain shoulders in this kind of situation. The other element of it that was unsurprising is that once more, the fighter who threw more punches and was coming forward got the benefit of the doubt; it’s like judges’ training these days skips over the word “effective” in “effective aggression” as a scoring criteria. Calling this fight a robbery is absolutely valid. I guess I’ve just seen worse lately, and maybe I’m so numb from all the recent burnt flesh left scorched to the point of nerve damage from some of those recent awful decisions, or maybe I was expecting an even worse robbery than the robbery that happened.
- Abril’s holding. I expected worse here, too, based on what I’d read. Yes, Abril held a fair amount — but I’ve seen much, much more pronounced grappling from boxers, and I honestly can’t say I was bothered by the lack of a point deduction in this scenario. I didn’t think the fight was fully “spoiled” by Abril’s tactics — I thought it delivered relatively decent action, if not what we’re used to from a Rios bout. In fact, Rios himself initiated a fair number of the clinches — watch him fall in repeatedly and wrap has arm around Abril, who stands there with his gloves up in something like the shoulder roll position Floyd Mayweather, Jr. has popularized. And while Abril was the culprit most to blame for the holding as a whole… Rios, just like James Kirkland and all the other recent victims of excessive tie-ups, simply couldn’t do anything to discourage Abril from clinching. Incidentally, there’s nothing incompatible about disliking excessive holding and calling it “smart.” For Abril, it was smart, whether you enjoyed watching it or not; I saw people having a lot of trouble separating those two concepts on Twitter over the weekend. And, lastly, whether you enjoyed watching Abril also ought to be completely separate from whether you thought he deserved to be cheated out of a victory. If you think whether someone is exciting matters that much more than actually being better than one’s opponent in a boxing ring, why even bother scoring fights based on who’s better? Let’s just throw out traditional boxing scoring methods and award points to the boxer with the better style in any given fight, like figure skating. “He was knocked out in the 3rd round, but your winner, and the new champion by way of being more exciting in those three rounds… Lionel Squash!”
- Rios’ limitations and Abril’s abilities. Rios has been able to catch and stop boxers with more multifacted games and fleeter feet and hands because of intelligent pressure; he works in off his jab and cuts the ring off pretty well. That wasn’t in evidence this past weekend. Maybe it had something to do with his problems making the lightweight limit — to be discussed in one moment — or maybe, like a lot of fighters trained by Robert Garcia, he has stagnated. Alternately, Abril’s style gave him great difficulty. Abril’s length was a nightmare for Rios, and it was enough to make me wonder whether Rios will be able to compete as well at higher weights, where boxers are gonna get longer and longer. While we all thought a skilled and crafty boxer might give Rios fits one of these days, the differences between Abril and, say, would-be opponent Yuriorkis Gamboa — namely, arm length and sheer size — are enough to make it hard to say whether Gamboa could’ve done to Rios what Abril did.
- Rios’ weight. Let’s be unequivocal: Rios was unprofessional not to make weight. If you sign a contract saying you’ll make a weight, and you don’t do it, you’re in the wrong. It’s wrong because it can significantly disadvantage the boxer who actually met his contractual requirements. I don’t doubt that Rios tried to make weight; he looked sluggish in the ring, and by all accounts he didn’t look terrific at the weigh-in, like he was drained a little. Gaining an extra two pounds between the first and second weigh-in? That makes it look like maybe he wasn’t trying to lose the pounds, then. I do think whoever talked Rios into staying at 135 — and apparently his whole team had some role in it — was misguided in doing so. Rios has a big frame and has repeatedly struggled to make weight of late. Hiring a nutritionist, as Rios’ team did this time around, is no cure that will allow an athlete will be able to do the impossible. Again: None of this obviates Rios of the responsibility to make weight, nor excuses it any way. At best, it only mitigates it. And while it’s true, as Rios says, that a lot of boxing writers are fat (I wouldn’t quite put myself there, but I could stand to lose a few pounds), that doesn’t at all invalidate their criticism of a professional athlete not meeting the requirements of his profession. The second someone puts a scale in front of a typewriter and require a specific weight as a precondition for being a professional scribe — or, OK, the second after every writer opposes this unreasonable expectation for writers to get to a certain weight, and fail in their appeals — is the same second anyone can rightly criticize said writers for being fat.
- Next for the Top Rank PPV combatants. The Top Rank plan was to match Juan Manuel Marquez and Rios after this card, although there was never much of an indication that Marquez wanted anything other than a fourth meeting with arch-rival Manny Pacquiao. I’d still be down for Marquez-Rios, although Rios-Alvarado sounds even better. Instead, Marquez is so single-minded about Pacquiao that he reportedly wants to take on another left-handed Filipino, Mercito Gesta, instead of either right-handed Rios or Alvarado. I can’t say Marquez-Gesta does much for me, but I suppose I do admire Marquez’ single-mindedness. As for Rios-Alvarado? Rios’ manager Cameron Dunkin said he doesn’t want the fight for Rios next because Alvarado doesn’t have a belt (which he doesn’t) and because there wouldn’t be much money in it (which compared to a Marquez fight is true, but who else after that could give Rios a huge-$ fight?). That could be an excuse with Rios coming off a lackluster performance, or it could be one more black mark against the sanctioning organizations. You know how the alphabet gang’s defenders are always saying that good fights get made because of those belts? Yeah, well, sometimes boxers’ irrational interest in those belts get in the way of fights that would surely be instant classics, which Rios-Alvarado qualifies as. Oh, and Abril? I wasn’t as turned off by him as some other folk, so I’d welcome him in another meaningful fight, maybe one against a lower-level opponent than Rios on ESPN2′s Friday Night Fights, where he could get an explosive win in a still-competitive fight to create demand that he would’ve picked up a little of had he gotten the decision he deserved Saturday.
- The rest. Speaking of FNF, Michael Katsidis moved up to junior welterweight and put on his usual suicidal display of aggression, the kind you have to admire him for but that makes you worry when you watch. Although Albert Mensah only got a majority decision, Mensah beat Katsidis solidly, I thought, with flush punches that were painful to watch Katsidis take — and Mensah was skilled enough and big enough that I thought it was bad matchmaking, in retrospect, even if Katsidis was the solid betting favorite… Mayweather/Cotto 24/7′s debut didn’t do much for me, but as friend of the site David P. Greisman wrote, it’s not for hardcore boxing fans. Mayweather’s streak of non-dickishness continues to amaze; all he could muster was some totally above board trash talk for Miguel Cotto, and an attack on PETA members for opposing fur coats and eating chickens, as though PETA is wild about eating chickens… Did you read what Andrew Harrison wrote for us this weekend, about Tyson Fury vs. Martin Rogan? What about what Scott Kraus wrote for us, about the Top Rank PPV? And what about what James Foley wrote, about Felix Sturm vs. Sebastian Zbik? Get on that stuff. Just scroll down the homepage…