This is the best opening episode of a 24/7 series since...I dunno...maybe Mayweather-Mosley. I like how they're focusing on the people in the periphery since we know the principals so well--the segment on Linares's savage loss to DeMarco, with the scene of Manny comforting a battered Jorge in the locker room afterward, was extremely effective.
Jorge Linares: Early in the fight, with not even a round over, Emmanuel Steward said, "I don't usually say this, but Linares is one of the greatest fighters I've ever seen." Lampley and Kellerman were quick to concur, at various times comparing Linares to Nonito Donaire (favorably), Amir Khan (favorably), young Oscar, and even Sugar Ray Robinson. However, by the eleventh, after Linares' face had become a grotesque mask of blood, everyone was forced to acknowledge Linares' fatal flaw: he gets hurt too easily, in every which way. The flaw seems so exploitable that I can't really see Linares ever attaining those heights we were imagining during those great first few rounds. Grade: F
Antonio DeMarco: I think ShoBox has to start considering DeMarco as one of their true success stories. He's done everything necessary to prove that he is a serious fighter, the two most memorable being his valiant performance in a loss against the late Edwin Valero, and now his demolition job of Valero's stablemate Jorge Linares. DeMarco is now a world champion by title (WBC), and certainly there are far worse titlists out there. Grade: A
Paulie Malignaggi: After being staggered in the first round against Orlando Lora, Malignaggi came back to dominate the remainder of the fight, using movement, a strong jab, and quick combinations to stymie the tough Mexican. I think everybody agrees it's time for Malignaggi to take a step up now to a twelve-round fight against a legitimate contender, perhaps recent Golden Boy signee, Devon Alexander, who has also moved up from junior welter recently. And you know what? Based on how good Paulie looked, I might even favor him in that contest. Grade: B+
Kendall Holt: Oh, Kendall--how you constantly tease us! Holt looked good in the first two rounds against hot prospect Danny Garcia, but once he got hit at the end of the second frame, he reverted back to the same old Rated R, not throwing enough, conveying the impression he was getting hurt with every shot Garcia landed, and just in general looking a tad shopworn after the sheen of the earlier rounds had worn off. It's hard for me to see him returning to titlist level, no matter how depleted the junior welter ranks will be getting in the next few months as Bradley and Khan move up. Grade: C-
Danny Garcia: Garcia for his part looked fresh, strong, and surprisingly powerful. Technically, he's sound, although he doesn't do any particular thing that really stands out. I like how Golden Boy are starting to throw their prospects into tough challenges (i.e., Ortiz against Berto) instead of coddling them; Garcia looks like he's got the goods. You know what would be a great Golden Boy-Top Rank fight for the future? Garcia versus Brandon Rios at 140. Grade: A-
Chad Dawson: We didn't see him get to fight much, although one could make the case that he was slightly more aggressive than usual. Whatever his in-ring performance was, though, I think the bigger change has been his psychological maturation since returning to old trainer "Iceman" Scully. He may finally get to realize some of that potential with which boxing fans have been so enamored. But still, it's hard to give Dawson credit for body-slamming his way to a shambolic victory. Grade: C+
Bernard Hopkins: For two rounds, B-Hop looked ancient, but he is notorious for starting slow (cf. his two fights against Pascal, his two fights against Jermain Taylor, etc., etc.). It already had all the makings of a terrible fight, reminding me a lot more of Hopkins-Jones 2 than Hopkins-Pascal 2. However, Hopkins has turned fights around so often that it's difficult to say that he wouldn't have done the same in this one. I for one don't want to see Hopkins retire just yet; he definitely deserves another chance to either defend or win back the light heavyweight championship (depending on the appeal decision of the CSAC). Grade: C
I like Chad in this fight. I'm basing this opinion on the seemingly rejuvenated psyche Dawson has been portraying for the press. He says it's all because he's back with "Iceman" Scully in his corner, that he finally feels "comfortable" again after his odyssey through a litany of "name" trainers, including Floyd Mayweather Sr., Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, and, most famously, Emmanuel Steward for just one fight, his most recent lackluster performance against Adrian Diaconu. And you know what? Color me gullible, but I'm buying it--he genuinely seems to have reached a new stage of psychological maturity. He seems ready for this situation. He's stated in interviews that he understands that work-rate will be the key factor in the fight. I'm going with Dawson by decision in a fight in which his fresher athleticism will prove out as the critical factor.
From Wednesday's fight week presser for Hopkins-Dawson, this might be B-Hop's finest speech yet (starts @ the 46-minute mark):
Jorge Linares vs. Antonio DeMarco (12 rounds, vacant WBC Lightweight Title)
Just a couple years ago, Linares (31-1, 20 KOs) was a two-weight champion who was being lauded on HBO as the next great pound-for-pound entrant. Then he was brutally dispatched in the first round by Juan Carlos Salgado and was off the radar for a long time. DeMarco (25-2-1, 18 KOs) is a teak-tough Mexican brawler that was showcased extensively on ShoBox on his way up, then served as the last KO victim of Edwin Valero. This is a good test of where both men are at in their careers. We favor Linares to get his career back on track; he's just more gifted than DeMarco, although his chin now will forever be suspect.
Danny Garcia vs. Kendall Holt (12 rounds, junior welterweight)
This may not turn out to be the most entertaining fight on the undercard, but it is undoubtedly the most interesting. Garcia (21-0, 14 KOs) is a supremely-hyped Golden Boy prospect who is undefeated, talented, and charismatic (think Victor Ortiz three or four years ago). Former junior welterweight titlist Holt (27-4, 15 KOs) has put his career back on track after losing badly to Kaizer Mabuza a year ago, most notably chilling Julio Diaz several months back with a left hook that could go down as the KO of the Year. Holt, you'll remember, came within a hair's breadth of putting Timothy Bradley to sleep in their unification bout. Can Garcia handle Holt's power? Which Holt will show up? Does Garcia have the goods? We'll all find out on Saturday.
Paulie Malignaggi vs. Orlando Lora (10 rounds, welterweight)
No offense to Paulie (29-4, 6 KOs), because we like him and we like to see him fight, but his fights, although not boring in the traditional sense of the term, aren't the most exciting because they usually entail him breaking one of his fragile hands (or both) and fighting more defensively as a result. Also, his recent opponents since he was destroyed by Khan haven't exactly been inspiring: Jose Miguel Cotto on the Morales-Maidana undercard, and now Orlando Lora (28-1-1, 19 KOs). We'd like to see him against recent Golden Boy signee Devon Alexander.
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Sergio Martinez: In terms of luring a big name like Miguel Cotto or Floyd Mayweather into a fight, Martinez perhaps put on the best kind of performance for his future, looking sloppy and potentially vulnerable against Darren Barker while still having enough to finish off the disciplined Englishman late. Grade: B-
Darren Barker: The European champion definitely deserves kudos for his sharper punching and the fact that he was able to outbox the unorthodox Martinez for several of the rounds, but in the end, his lack of workrate ruined any chance he had to win. Often, he would crowd Martinez without throwing, more and more relying on a high guard to protect himself against combinations as the fight progressed. The last knockout punch, in fact, went through his guard, which by that time had been weakened by repeated blows. Grade: B+
Andy Lee: Lee set himself up for a possible shot at Martinez--he seems to be one of the few people willing to call out the Argentinean--by avenging his only professional loss to Brian Vera, in a fight Lee took almost purely for personal reasons. Vera tried his best to pressure Lee and make him uncomfortable, but the Irishman stayed disciplined this time, executing Emmanuel Steward's advice to perfection. His ability to stick to a gameplan and box technically for the most part suggests that Lee has vastly improved since his one loss to Vera back in 2008. Grade: A
Brian Vera: Vera's standing didn't take a hit at all with the loss. He just couldn't get past Lee's reach to wreak his usual havoc, but Vera will remain a formidable "truth test" for anyone that gets in the ring with him, as recent victim Sergio Mora discovered. Grade: B
Toshiaki Nishioka proved he is the best 122 lb'er in the world by beating the legendary Rafael Marquez over twelve rounds at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Nishioka was just too fresh for the old Mexican warrior, who was moving down in weight to try to recapture a title he'd previously held. The impressive win sets up Nishioka for a potential superfight with Nonito Donaire in the second-half of 2012. Grade: A
Rafael Marquez: Marquez for his part showed he still has a bit of gas left in the tank, although not enough to beat someone as talented and in-prime as Nishioka. He could still make some noise against lesser opponents, though, and would be a tough out for any up-and-comer or contender. Grade: B
Juan Manuel Lopez: Juanma got some of his swagger back this weekend, pole-axing Mike Oliver in two rounds. A good, solid performance from the exciting Puerto Rican that may help to get his career back on track, although he still isn't where he was at before the shocking setback against Orlando Salido. Grade: A-
Busted (a.k.a. When Boxers Go Bad) presents its first case: former longtime middleweight titlist and Super Six tournament participant Arthur Abraham was cited for speeding on the Berlin highway, apparently setting the standard against which all future German speeders will be measured, an astounding 230KM/hour in a 80KM/hour zone. That's almost three times the limit--a serious flouting of the law. Abraham was in the Ferrari we saw him driving on Fight Camp 360, and German authorities are saying his license may be revoked for three months and a fine up to 1360 euros administered due to the serious nature of the offense. For his part, Arthur says he was speeding because he was late for an awards ceremony at which he was an honoree.
And does he have any sort of shot this Saturday against the consensus pound-for-pound number three, middleweight champion Sergio Martinez? Psychologically, he sounds up for the challenge:
The fight from Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City will be preceded by a rematch between Andy Lee and Brian Vera that has been a very long time coming. We like Lee to win a decision against the tough but limited Vera this time around.