Friday, January 31, 2014

Collazo Revitalizes Career With Stunning Knockout Over Ortiz

Adversity be damned.  Both Luis Collazo and Victor Ortiz have had their fair share of disappointments in their careers. In this fight both would face adversity down seeking to regain their standing in the sport of Boxing.

Collazo, the former WBA Welterweight champion has been one of the cornerstones of the division for several years, despite being highly skilled and a former world champion one might argue that Collazo might be more known as a fighter who has had decisions go against him in notable fights with both Ricky Hatton and Andre Berto. Following his loss to Berto in a fight that he lost by one point on two judges scorecards, Collazo has not been seen on the sport’s marquee stage.

Collazo however, despite the setbacks has always been a fighter who will give anyone in the Welterweight division a difficult fight. Luis Collazo is still a world-class boxer and definitely a threat to anyone who might oppose him. Since his most recent loss, a ten round unanimous decision to Freddy Hernandez in 2011, Collazo was able to build momentum winning three straight fights which would lead to his next opportunity on the marquee level of the sport. Collazo’s opponent? Victor Ortiz…

An argument should be made that one fighter that has been one of Boxing’s hottest rising stars in the last several years has been Victor Ortiz. Most will remember Ortiz’ thrilling knockdown, drag out war against Andre Berto in April of 2011. A fight that was voted fight of the year by many was Ortiz’ crowning achievement as he defeated Berto for the WBC Welterweight world title that night. Off a great fight as that fight was it was not hard to understand that Ortiz would be a front runner for a potential fight with Floyd Mayweather, the man widely considered the best fighter pound for pound in the world.

Ortiz did get his opportunity to prove that he belonged in the discussion of the sport’s pound for pound debates when he defended his world title against Mayweather later that year. A fight that will forever be remembered for it’s somewhat controversial outcome. Ortiz was penalized a point for an intentional head butt in round four. While the referee Joe Cortez appeared to have his attention diverted from the action Mayweather knocked Ortiz out with two legal punches while Ortiz seemed to be waiting for Cortez to restart the action. Cortez subsequently counted Ortiz out upon seeing him on the canvas after being knocked down.

After the somewhat controversial way that fight ended, Ortiz was then slated to face Berto in what was a highly anticipated rematch. Unfortunately for Ortiz, the rematch would not come to be as Berto would first suffer an injury causing postponement to the bout and eventually a cancellation of the fight after Berto tested positive for a banned substance during randomized testing conducted by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA). 

A replacement for Berto would be found in then Jr. Welterweight contender Josesito Lopez who agreed to move up to the Welterweight division to face Ortiz. The fight which took place in June of 2012 was a give and take battle where both fighters had their moments. The exciting fight was halted at the end of the ninth round when Ortiz had to retire from the fight after suffering a broken jaw. To many, Ortiz’ loss to Lopez was unexpected and for some would raise questions as to Ortiz’ future. Much like Collazo, Ortiz has had more than his share of obstacles.

When this fight was announced I was somewhat surprised that Victor Ortiz would come back after suffering two straight losses against such a difficult opponent in Luis Collazo. It was however, an interesting fight that would garner attention. One could make a valid argument that this fight could well have represented a make it, or break it scenario for either fighter each with something to prove.

Could Ortiz bounce back after suffering back-to-back knockout losses and after being out of action for over a year? Could Luis Collazo finally get that marquee win against a recognized star the sport and thus catapult himself back into the world title picture?

The answers to those questions could be viewed as both simple and complex. The two former world champions squared off at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York on Thursday night with Collazo’s WBA International Welterweight championship at stake.  

The fight began with both fighters willing to engage each other in close quarters with both being able to have periods of effectiveness and more or less match each other punch for punch. The first round was extremely close, but I felt that Collazo had a little more sting to his punches and had a slight edge in my opinion while Ortiz seemed to be tight. Although Ortiz was not tentative or sluggish and came out aggressively to start the fight, Collazo seemed to be a little more warmed up and was able to make Ortiz miss with solid defense.

The second round began much like the first round had ended with both fighters continuing to engage each other. A slight difference could be attributed to Collazo who continued to make Ortiz miss periodically and land punches effectively in combination. Even though he was still aggressive Ortiz seemed to have trouble finding his distance which smothered some of his offense and as well he seemed to have trouble finding his rhythm.

The end of the fight came when Collazo connected with a perfectly timed counter right hook after Ortiz had missed with a wide left hook that landed flush on the chin and sent Ortiz down on his knees to the canvas in the final seconds of round two. A clearly stunned Ortiz was unable to respond as Referee Benjy Esteves counted him out with just one second remaining in the round.

Following the fight I commented on Twitter that the ending of this fight took me a bit by surprise, but sometimes all it takes is one punch. One of this observer’s favorite and famous lines “Anything can happen at any given time in the sport of Boxing and that is what makes the sport so great” again holds true in regard to this fight. Why did the ending of this fight take me by surprise?

Even though anything can happen it is important to remember that Luis Collazo is after all a slick boxer who is not particularly known for his punching power having registered a career knockout percentage of 45% during his career. Of course there will be some who will likely say that Victor Ortiz was damaged goods and that Collazo’s knockout should not be viewed as a surprise or maybe even noteworthy. I respectfully disagree.

Boxing is after all the sweet science and when a world-class, highly skilled boxer like Luis Collazo brings a fight to an end by landing such a beautifully timed counter punch it deserves respect. Regardless of what one’s opinion might be as to the state of Victor Ortiz as a fighter prior to this fight, this knockout by Collazo is one that has turned heads and will stir some attention and rightfully so.

Was Victor Ortiz a beaten fighter before he got in the ring? It is hard to say what affect Ortiz’ previous three fights have had on him and to be more specific his fight with Josesito Lopez where he suffered a broken jaw. Some may speculate that although Ortiz appeared to be recovered from the injury that his ability to take a punch may have been diminished. There could be indeed speculation about Ortiz’ ability to take a punch, but prior to suffering a knockout blow he was aggressive and had taken some solid punches from Collazo that landed flush. This may be simply a case of a perfectly timed counter punch landing flush that Ortiz simply did not see coming.

As for what this could mean for the career of Victor Ortiz, it is important to remember that Victor Ortiz has engaged in several memorable fights and grueling fights as well. It goes without saying that each fight can have an effect and can take a toll on a fighter. Whether or not this happened to the twenty-seven year old Ortiz is only a question that he can answer.

For Luis Collazo, this win clearly reestablishes him as a legitimate contender. Collazo who is currently ranked third in the World Boxing Association’s (WBA) Welterweight ratings could easily find himself in position to face the winner of a potential rematch between current WBA champion Marcos Maidana and Adrien Broner, or be a potential challenger for recently crowned undefeated IBF champion Shawn Porter.

Although Collazo very boldly called out Floyd Mayweather immediately after this fight for potential fight in New York, this observer believes it could be more likely that we will see Collazo in against either Maidana, Broner, Porter, possibly either former two-division world champion Paul Malignaggi, or the undefeated Keith Thurman who are rated above Collazo in the WBA rankings.

If there is something to take away from this fight that may be inspiring is that perseverance can indeed pay off. For a fighter in Luis Collazo who has had some bad breaks in his career, he could now find himself in position to attempt to regain a world title and should he be successful, it would be a storybook ending for a fighter who has had to overcome adversity. 

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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Thursday, January 30, 2014

UPDATE: Mendez Reinstated as IBF Jr. Lightweight World Champion, Rematch with Barthelemy Next?

In an update to the controversial ending in the IBF World Jr. Lightweight Championship fight between champion Argenis Mendez and challenger Rances Barthelemy, the Minnesota department of labor and industry has officially changed the result of the bout to a no decision. The fight which took place on January 3rd at the Target Center in Minneapolis was originally won by Barthelemy via second round knockout. The basis of the controversy was that Barthelemy knocked Mendez out by landing a combination that landed after the bell had rung to end the second round. Originally Mendez was counted out by Referee Pete Podgorski as Podgorski originally ruled the punches landed by Barthelemy to be legal.

According to a written ruling by Minnesota department of labor and industry Commissioner Ken B. Peterson released on Thursday stated quote “The referee's ruling that Mr. Mendez had been legally knocked out was inadvertent through what can only be considered human error. Referee Podgorski acknowledges that he was getting into position, but the bell sounded while he was circling so his decision was based upon what he could hear and see at the time.  The law requires that a Commissioner overrule the referee and enforce the plain language of the rules. For the purposes of the State of Minnesota, the boxing contest between Mr. Mendez and Mr. Barthelemy is a No Decision. The State of Minnesota is indifferent regarding the issue of who is the holder of the Super Featherweight title of the International Boxing Federation as a result of this decision. The International Boxing Federation, not the State of Minnesota, has authority over its titles.” 

The International Boxing Federation (IBF) has reinstated Mendez as it’s Jr. Lightweight World Champion. As this observer stated following the controversial ending of this fight earlier this month, I believe that the fairest course of action in this circumstance would be for the IBF to mandate an immediate rematch between Mendez and Barthelemy.

Although as I stated there may be fans who may have been of the opinion that Rances Barthelemy was on his way to a convincing victory over Mendez as he had dominated the fight up to it’s conclusion, it was up to both the IBF and those who regulate Boxing in the state of Minnesota to review the footage of this fight and make a decision based on rules and regulations and not assumptions as to what may or may not have happened had the fight continued with no controversy. For now as I stated in my earlier coverage of this fight that I hoped this controversy would be resolved as quickly as possible has been realized.

  The one thing that is clear is that the story of Argenis Mendez versus Rances Barthelemy is not finished yet. For the sake of both fighters hopefully a rematch will be made as soon as possible. Stay tuned.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

The Boxing Truth® is a registered trademark of Beau Denison All Rights Reserved.

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Peterson Retains Title, Jean Solidifies Status As Top Contender

When undefeated Jr. Welterweight contender Dierry Jean entered the ring to challenge IBF Jr. Welterweight world champion Lamont Peterson on January 25th in Peterson’s hometown of Washington D.C. there may have been some who considered the Haitian born Canadian based contender a favorite to win the title. The basis of that may have been largely based on Peterson’s knockout loss in his last fight at the hands of top contender Lucas Matthysse in May of last year in what was a non-title fight. The punching power of Matthysse was too much for Peterson on that night as he was dropped three times before the fight was stopped in round three. It was the first knockout loss for Peterson in his career.

An argument could be made by some that, despite Peterson’s knockout loss he was after all the more experienced of the two fighters. Jean who although earning a number one ranking in the International Boxing Federation’s (IBF) and also being recognized as a number one contender by the World Boxing Council (WBC) for a period of time had not been significantly tested. This observer has been on record in stating that I disagreed with those who were of the opinion that Dierry Jean had not been tested in his career prior to his title shot against Peterson. 

As I have mentioned in previous columns in covering Dierry Jean’s last two fights prior to his encounter with Peterson against Juan Jesus Rivera and Cleotis Pendarvis ; Jean had been tested against fighters such as Lanardo Tyner, Francisco Lorenzo, and Ivan Cano. Following his knockout win over Cleotis Pendarvis, this observer said that it was my belief that Jean was ready to take on the elite of the Jr. Welterweight division. Jean faced a fighter in Peterson who has proven to be an elite player in the division having faced many of the best the division has to offer including current Welterweight world champion Timothy Bradley, Kendall Holt, Amir Khan and, the aforementioned Lucas Matthysse among others.  This fight was Dierry Jean’s first opportunity on the elite level not just in the Jr. Welterweight division, but of the elite level of the sport, where discussions regarding the world’s best pound for pound fighters are commonplace. 

The fight began at a tactical pace with both fighters being able to have periods of effectiveness in rounds that were not necessarily easy to score. It was apparent very early on that there may have been a healthy difference of opinion as to the scoring of some of the rounds. Lamont Peterson’s lateral movement complimented his jab and combination punching as he was the more active of the two fighters for much of the fight. Dierry Jean however, seemed to have an edge in terms of power. When he was able to let his hands go, particularly during periods where he was able to get off first, he kept Peterson somewhat defensive when he was able to land his right hand to set off spurts of offense. Although both fighters had periods of success throughout this fight, Peterson was the fighter who was able to dictate the pace.

Gradually as the fight progressed, Peterson’s quick hands and combination punching took control. Peterson had a well-balanced attack as the fight went on in landing to the body and head of Jean. Peterson’s lateral movement was also a focal point during this fight as he was able to pick his spots by being aggressive and consistently backing Jean up while at the same time using his lateral movement to deflect much of Jean’s offense. Simply put Lamont Peterson’s Boxing ability in being able to outwork Dierry Jean while being solid defensively was the story in this fight. At the end of the twelve round championship bout, I had Peterson winning eight rounds to four for a score of 116-112.

Although Peterson was able to take control particularly in the second half of this fight, Dierry Jean did give a good account himself as he was competitive throughout. The main difference in this fight at least in my mind was Peterson’s combination punching being able to carry the pace, while Jean although able to be effective in spurts, was not able to land combinations consistently nor was he able to stop Peterson’s pressure as the fight went on. Peterson clearly showed in this fight that his outing against Lucas Matthysse could be considered a bad night at the office as he showed no ill effects in this fight against a dangerous opponent in Jean. An argument could be made that this twelve round decision win for Peterson was perhaps one of the best performances of his career, particularly after coming off of what was a devastating knockout loss against Matthysse.

 Despite suffering the first loss of his career Dierry Jean proved that he is a player in the Jr. Welterweight division. Jean was not disgraced in his fight and one might argue that the loss to Peterson may benefit him in the long-term. After all, not every fighter who becomes a world champion does so without suffering in defeat along the way. This could be looked at as a setback, but more importantly as a learning experience for a potential future world champion. A good example would be Lamont Peterson who lost to Timothy Bradley in his first attempt at a world championship.  Since that fight Peterson has become not only a world champion, but also one of the best fighters in the world.   Whether Dierry Jean can also rebound to potentially become a world champion remains to be seen. It will be interesting to see who Jean will fight next in the talent deep Jr. Welterweight division, but it would not surprise this observer to see him put in against another top contender perhaps the likes of Selcuk Aydin or maybe someone like former longtime Lightweight world champion Paul Spadafora who recently also suffered his first defeat. Both of these fighters present an interesting fight for Jean that will generate interest. 
As for Lamont Peterson, it is logical to assume that a potential unification fight with WBC/WBA Jr. Welterweight world champion Danny Garcia could well be looming on the horizon. If a fight with Garcia is not in Peterson’s immediate future, the most logical opponent at least in this observer’s eyes would be a rematch with Lucas Matthysse. Matthysse, who lost a hard fought battle against Danny Garcia last September is likely looking for a marquee fight to get back in the mix for a potential rematch with Garcia.

A rematch between Matthysse and Peterson does however, present it’s own intriguing storyline. The obvious storyline of whether or not Peterson can avenge his knockout loss to Matthysse. If a rematch between the two can be made with the winner likely to face Danny Garcia, it will likely present a very lucrative situation that can benefit all three fighters. One might argue that a potential total unification of the Jr. Welterweight division in the form of a four-man box off between Peterson, Matthysse, Danny Garcia, and WBO champion Ruslan Provodnikov would be more lucrative. Such a scenario however, seems unlikely in my eyes due to the current political landscape of the sport with rival promoters and networks seemingly at a stand off which may prevent the concept of total unification from taking place. 

Nevertheless as has been the case for many years the Jr. Welterweight division remains one of the most talent rich and competitive weight classes in the entire sport. Regardless which scenario transpires all will provide excitement and enjoyment for the Boxing world. 

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

The Boxing Truth® is a registered trademark of Beau Denison All Rights Reserved. 

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Monday, January 27, 2014

Curtis Stevens Back With Vengeance

When top Middleweight contender Curtis Stevens entered the ring against undefeated unified WBA/IBO Middleweight world champion Gennady Golovkin in November of last year, he was considered by some to be an underdog. This was an opinion that was hard to argue, despite Stevens heading into the fight having knocked out three of his previous four opponents. After all, the opponent in Golovkin has established a career knockout percentage of nearly 90% and a knockout percentage of 100% in Middleweight championship fights. How could anyone argue against such an opinion? Curtis Stevens however, would prove in this fight that he was not a fighter to dismiss as a viable contender.

Stevens’ head movement and quick hands did provide the first significant test for the champion Golovkin in his career. It should not be overlooked that over the last two years Gennady Golovkin has clearly established himself as one of the sport’s hottest rising stars due to an exciting come forward pressure style that few fighters have been able to withstand. Stevens was able to extend the champion into the eighth round before the fight was stopped by his trainer and uncle Andre Rozier at the end of the eighth round.

Even though Stevens lost the fight he clearly proved that he was a legitimate top contender by giving a valiant effort in defeat. Although Stevens’ status as a legitimate contender was clear, this observer was somewhat surprised when it was announced in December that Stevens would return to the ring on January 24th against top contender Patrick Majewski.

Stevens did after all suffer considerable punishment during the course of his fight with Golovkin and it was surprising and maybe even rare in the modern era one might argue to see a fighter back in the ring so soon after a hard fought battle as that fight was. It is however, understandable that Stevens after such a “Game” performance would want to get back in the hunt for what could be a potential rematch with Golovkin down the line.

It should also not be overlooked that Stevens elected to face a world rated contender in Patrick Majewski. Majewski, a veteran of twenty-three professional fights heading into this encounter with Stevens had won four of his last five fights. Although he was coming into the fight off a loss, Majewski was not a fighter to be taken lightly in what is a talent stacked Middleweight division.

Questions prior to this fight regarding what affects if any did the fight with Golovkin have on Stevens were questions that some probably had asked themselves. Stevens however, would bring the fight to a sudden conclusion almost as quickly as the fight began.

Stevens dropped Majewski with a left jab just seconds after the fight began and knocked Majewski down two more times with flurries causing the fight to be stopped at just forty-six seconds into the first round. As this observer has been known to say frequently over the years “Anything can happen at any given time in Boxing and that is what makes the sport great.” This fight was an example of that philosophy.

Simply put there is not much that one could say about a fight that only lasted forty-six seconds. There may be however, some historical precedent of sorts that one might remember after seeing this fight. In December of 1990, Mike Tyson faced top Heavyweight contender Alex Stewart in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The fight which was Tyson’s second bout on the comeback trail after losing his World Heavyweight Championship to James “Buster” Douglas in February of that year one might argue was over before it really started.

Tyson knocked Stewart down only seconds after the fight began with two right hands. Although Stewart got up from the knockdown almost immediately, he offered little or no resistance as Tyson pressed forward knocking Stewart down two more times in route to a first round knockout.

Even though there is not really a direct similarity between that fight and Stevens’ knockout over Majewski, the one similarity at least in this observer’s eyes was that both Stewart and Majewski were caught cold and thus were not able to get into the fight as their opponents seized the opportunity and made it a short night.

In this case the jab that Stevens landed on Majewski seemed to land right on the chin and although Majewski was able to get up from the knockdown, he did not have his legs and thus was an available target for Stevens who subsequently closed the show.

Based on how quickly this fight ended there might be some who may be of the opinion that Majewski was not as credible a contender as he appeared to be going into the fight. This observer respectfully disagrees. It is important to remember that anyone can get caught at any given time in the Boxing ring. Prior to this fight Majewski had only been stopped once in his career against Colombian contender Jose Miguel Torres in six rounds in 2011.

Majewski was also a legitimate top ten to top fifteen contender in the Middleweight division prior to his twelve round unanimous decision loss to Patrick Nielsen. Majewski much like Stewart did many years ago, has proven to be a world class fighter. An argument could and probably should be made that simply Majewski just got caught and was unable to recover. It is not the first time that it has happened to a world class fighter and certainly won’t be the last.

As for Curtis Stevens, he looked about as good as a fighter could in this fight. He saw an opening, he capitalized on that opening, and once he had his opponent hurt he closed the show. There is really not much more that one could ask of a fighter.

What’s next for Curtis Stevens? For anyone who had questions about whether there were any affects suffered in his fight with Gennady Golovkin, Stevens appears to have answered those questions with a resounding no. Not only did Stevens come back successfully from a defeat, but most would probably say he made a statement as he came back with a vengeance. Stevens clearly has reestablished himself as a top contender for any of the world champions in the Middleweight division including Gennady Golovkin.

Whether or not Stevens will find himself fighting for the Middleweight championship of the world again in the near future remains to be seen. If Stevens is not in the immediate plans for any of the current world champions in the division, one option could be for Stevens to face another top contender in Patrick Nielsen who is currently rated in the top five of the WBA, IBF, and WBO in each respective governing body’s Middleweight rankings. Nielsen is scheduled to face contender Tony Jeter on February 15th in Denmark. This observer believes that the winner of that fight could be a viable option for Stevens later this year. There is no doubt in my mind that no matter who Stevens fights next, he is definitely in the discussion of top contenders and could be back in the world title picture sooner rather than later.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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