Monday, June 1, 2009

I want it too

**** Update **** Check out my guest post on the excellent boxing blog nomas. It's a real pleasure to be writing there as I've long been a fan of their stuff. I'd like to particularly thank Large for inviting me to participate. I think the piece is pretty good, it's a call to get a little bit of perspective in regards to Floyd Mayweather, a subject I intend on returning to frequently as we aproach his fight with Juan Marquez. ****

Although I watch virtually every fight televised on the major American networks and try to catch the big ones overseas online, it’s tough to get too excited by the mediocrities. Even though two evenly matched fighters can engage in entertaining theater it’s hard to place too much investment into an event without the highest stakes.

That said a few thoughts on HBO’s fights this weekend which featured three honest pros and one maybe will be.

* The undercard saw Kermit Cintron, former welterweight strapholder moving up to junior middleweight to take on HBO prospect Alfredo Angulo. I find there is an element of bad conscious now in watching Kermit Cintron fight. It’s a little uncomfortable and wrenching, like walking through the pound and seeing dogs half-mad from hunger and abuse.

Kermit was the house fighter a few years ago, the guy they were pushing as a potential something, but then he got his guts ripped out by Antonio Margarito, twice. The fights were brutal, debilitating, and unmanning. Margarito, one of the few fighters I find constitutionally unsympathetic, mowed Kermit down. He ate punches like they were nothing and left Cintron in a heap; there was no science or craft or strategy, just pure pressure till the pipe broke. And Cintron really shattered, curling up and literally crying in the ring, the kind of assault that makes a man rethink his choice of work.

And nothing he had done since indicated Cintron had been duly rehabilitated. I saw him fight on the undercard of a live show last year and though he won he was uninspired and lifeless. He challenged for a Junior Middleweight belt against the average Sergio Martinez and was both knocked out (which the ref blew) and decisioned. (which the judges blew with a draw)

Damaged goods; that’s what most, myself included, thought. And that’s where the bad conscious comes in; I can’t help but think about Margarito and those gloves when he fights now. He was never the most fluid or natural guy to begin with, the announcers always point out that he didn’t start boxing till he was nineteen, and maybe it’s just projection but it sure looks like it. I doubt he ever had much of a chance to be something special, but maybe he would have had a chance without the plaster. I don’t like talking about Margarito and the hand wraps, boxing is hard enough to rationalize without the unthinkable, but something in the retreating, panicked way he fights, like a dog flinching at a raised hand, really flavors the tragedy of the thing, like some far-fetched Hollywood script. I still can’t believe it happened, still can’t believe they loaded his gloves; it’s the worst thing a person can do in sport. What compares, putting a banana in the tailpipe of a racecar? There’s nothing.

So though the fight was scratch and sniff, a forgettable affair, there was something of the beauty of redemption in Cintron hanging on against the Margarito-light Angulo. Cintron didn’t fight that well, he used his superior speed to pepper the stuck-in-mud Angulo for the early rounds and in the late rounds he seemed to just barely be holding on, one blow thrown in anger away from crumbling. But he didn’t crumble, he survived, his face and style that of a desperate man, to the final bell, and earned his win.

Would he have held up better against the similarly limited Margarito without the perhaps illegal hand wraps? To be honest, I don’t think so. But there is no way to know, and that’s got to be galling to him. It’s a brave man who steps into the ring, particularly one who is already seemingly cracked and unwhole. I don’t think Cintron will ever beat a world-class fighter - I don’t think he did Saturday – but there was something a little touching to know that while the broken may not fully heal, it can be mended.

* It wasn't only the studded dog collar that made Angulo look like a Mexican sex freak. It was the dog collar plus the thin porn moustache. Not a good look, Alfredo. And no, I certainly wouldn't say it to his face.

* In the main event rising Welterweight titlist Andre Berto fought junior welterweight belt holder Juan Urango. I try not to be too negative on guys who beat adequate opposition by clear margins, but there wasn’t much to get excited about here. Berto has some of best handspeed in the sport, and it was very apparent against the strong but slow Urango.

Berto landed at will but held just as much, and it was unclear exactly why. Berto had no problem fighting at distance, and his superior speed made it easy to stay there, but he frequently and seemingly purposefully dove in and held, making the fight virtually unwatchable.

My fighting hero James Toney says something like, (insert virtually unintelligible guttural mutterings) “All these chumps was taught to fight, I was born to fight.” I can’t help feeling a little like that about Berto, he’s got all the gifts, all the tools, but something seems missing, that special inspiration separating a good fighter from a great one. Like Cintron there seems to be a hitch in the proceedings that keeps him in the atmosphere, slightly, but definitively below the sainted heroes; Mayweathers, and Marquezes and Pacquiaos and Mosleys. I may be wrong, a curmudgeon unwilling to acknowledge the new; Berto is young, strong, and fast, but I wonder if what James is talking about can ever be learned.

*Not to kill the guys, because it's borderline entertaining, but the announcing on the B.A.D. crew has entered into car-wreck territory. Starting next time I’m beginning a new feature tentatively called, “The Wisdom of Lennox Lewis.” And don’t worry, Max Kellerman will get his due as well.


Willie Jean said...


Wanted to ask you something about weight. I read around but couldn't find any definitive conclusions, what would you say are the "walking around weights" for De la hoya and Pacquiao, and how much of a factor did that play into the expectation that Oscar would be the bigger fighter on fight night - going beyond the fact that he began his career at a weight about 25 pounds heavier than Pac began his?

Checked out the body shot Margarito ko'd Cintron with. Bookmarked it. Perfect body shot. Brutal and beautiful. It knocked the air out of me just watching it on YouTube.

Speaking of Margarito - what other fighters would you say are the most unsympathetic?

R2 said...

Not to geek out and all, but this is a gem of a blog and something fight fans deserve given the dearth of nuanced coverage of the sweet science. Please keep writing.

There's a tendency to overrate Berto (and I hate to use that term for a young and undefeated rising fighter) because of his athleticism and hand speed, but I just don't think he has as much behind those hands as other welterweights, or as is suggested by the snap you hear by watching his fights.

He's going to have to adjust and become more of a volume puncher, and abandon that BS punch and grab strategy he unnecessarily used against Urango.

shoefly said...


1. In regards to weight I think the concept of "walking around weight" is kind of flawed. Ricky Hatton, 140 lber, weighs more between fights than Bernard Hopkins, 160-175 lber. That being said I expect there is around a 15 pound natural divergence between Pacquiao and De La Hoya. I think they are naturally two divisions apart at this point.

I think what happened on that fight, and maybe I should write about this, wasn't so much that De La Hoya was worse than usual, but that Pacquiao was/is better and better able to handle the weight than anybody thought. We thought he'd be fat and out of it, or woefully undersized, but he carried the weight exceptionally well and is simply better than we all realized. I think his flaws seemed exagerated simply because he was fighting such killers; Barrera, Marquez, Morales; he struggled with those guys because they are GREAT. When he started fighting only good guys, like Diaz and Hatton and older De La Hoya he was romping.

I am firmly convinced, having rewatched the fight recently, that Pacquiao would have knocked out the De La Hoya from the Steve Forbes fight, which took place only a few months earlier. I don't the weight made De La Hoya that much more fragile, we just weren't ready to perceive Pac's improvement/greatness and so tried to justify the weight. Anyway.

2. Yeah, it's a nice shot, but sorta hard to watch given the revelations that followed. See if you can find the KO from the first fight, it's brutal too.

3. I'm not using unsympathetic in the context of the loaded gloves, I'm using it in his fighting style. I quote a paragraph from Liebling in my nomas quote that deals with this, but his slow, monstrous style seems to me like rooting for the Visigoths to sack Rome. I also disliked that they were pushing him to fight Mayweather when he hadn't beaten anyone of note, even before the Cotto fight.

Other elite fighters I dislike in similar ways are Hatton, Calzaghe, and, to a lesser extent, Pavlik.

R2: I'm glad you like the blog. I don't want to be unfair to Berto, he might not have looked great against Collazo and Urango, but he won both fights and they are good fighters. But like you I can't help but get the feeling there is less than meets the eye as far as he's concerned.

Phillip Loya said...

I love this blog, the style and substance are so refreshing. Truly great to read.

I can't wait to hear your take on the B.A.D. crew. I like Pappa and Max but Lennox is absolutely brutal and destroys any hope for the rest of the broadcast. For an Englishman, his mastery of the English language is reprehensible.

I don't ever want to see Berto fight again after that snooze-fest, unless he's getting crushed by Cotto or Shane.

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