Pretty interesting night at the fights Saturday on HBO, with the results of both halves of the double-header leaving me flabbergasted, some for the good reasons and some for the bad.
The bad stuff came on the undercard. Judges rendered one of the worst decisions of 2009 by scoring the lightweight fight between Ali Funeka and Joan Guzman a draw, when Funeka in fact should have won an easy, wide decision. Funeka battered Guzman something silly, winning 10 of 12 rounds on my scorecard.
The good stuff came in the main event. Super middleweight Lucian Bute scored a 4th round knockout of iron-noggined Librado Andrade in a rematch of what was arguably a 12th round knockout win for Bute if not for some interference from a Montreal judge. Andrade had one of the hardest heads in the sport coming into this evening, but Bute decked him once to the head then finished him off with a left to the body.
Over on Showtime, lightweight prospect John Molina, Jr. got upset by Martin Honorio in quite an engrossing one-sided fight. That’s three surprising outcomes in one night.
LUCIAN BUTE – LIBRADO ANDRADE II
That’s how you avenge a questionable win, friends. Let me say something upfront here: I’ve long considered Bute an excellent puncher. He’s thought of as a boxing technician by many, and certainly he is technically skilled. But you don’t knock out Andrade if you can’t punch. And he ought to be considered the best super middleweight in the world right now, coming off this performance that’s surprising even to me, defender of Bute’s punching power.
Andrade started faster than he had in the first fight, not that the results were different. The idea was that Andrade needed to be putting more pressure on Bute early, since Bute was bashed so severely in the 12th round because he was tired. If not for an exceedingly long count from referee Marlon B. Wright, Bute may have been counted out. Andrade’s revised plan was working. Bute was winning the rounds, but getting hit more than he had the first go-round, or so it seemed. Thus, plan in effect.
Then in the 4th, when Andrade had Bute trapped on the ropes, Bute landed a crisp, short left hook that connected quite cleanly upon Andrade’s indestructible jaw, and suddenly Andrade was down. He wasn’t badly hurt — he even winked at Bute while he was on the ground. Andrade’s defensive technique involves rolling with punches, but he couldn’t roll with one he didn’t see coming. And then he didn’t see the body shot coming, the left uppercut that immediately sent Andrade to his knees. As Andrade winced in pain, Bute celebrated. The count of 10 arrived, and stunningly, Andrade had just been knocked out.
I don’t think Ring magazine should have moved Andre Ward to the #1 spot after last weekend’s win over Mikkel Kessler, but Bute should get the spot for sure now. He did something to the #5 man in the division that was almost unthinkable.
Andrade can make exciting fights with anyone, so he’ll be back, but the future of the division is about Bute. There’s been some talk of him fighting middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik, or perhaps moving up to light heavyweight to fight Chad Dawson. I might not have previously liked Bute’s chances against Dawson, but after this, I’m not so sure. Bute is a force.
ALI FUNEKA – JOAN GUZMAN
I thought this one was in the bag. Funeka had won every round after the 2nd on my scorecard, and there was no chance Funeka would do anything other than win his first alphabet title belt. He beat the snot out of Guzman, and only a couple rounds were remotely close. Funeka entered the fight with good karma, having lost a close fight to Nate Campbell that maybe he should have bowed out of after Campbell failed to make weight. Guzman entered the fight with bad karma, having bowed out of a previous fight with Campbell when Guzman failed to make weight. Karma, it seemed, would be redeemed.
Karma’s reputation took a hit after this. Karma now has bad karma.
My first thought was that this was the worst decision of the year, and it may have been; I’ll reserve judgment on that at the end of the year. It certainly is a contender. I really need to see the judges’ scorecards. The 1st and 2nd were clearly Guzman rounds. He was faster, more aggressive, hard to hit, and he was landing his right to the body and counter left with ease. The cut over his left eye was of little consequence. Then in the 3rd, Guzman was doing more of the same until the second half of the round, when Guzman started doubling his jab and landing combos. By the end of the round, Guzman was bleeding heavily from his nose. In the 4th, Funeka seemed to have figured out Guzman for good, landing counter rights and an assortment of punches like lead left uppercuts that really had Guzman confused. For the rest of the fight, he didn’t seem to know what to do with Funeka, who was also slipping a lot of shots.
But maybe the 3rd was a toss-up. Maybe the 5th, when Guzman tried to reassert himself, and the 7th, where . But what else? Not the 8th, because while Guzman was winning that round, Funeka hurt him badly at the end of it with a big right and nearly had Guzman down and/or out. Not the 12th, because while that was close, Funeka hurt Guzman again in that one. Yet somehow two judges scored it a draw, and one far more plausibly scored it 116-112 for Funeka.
We should be talking about Funeka as one of the best lightweights in the world right now, but the draw is just too bad for me not to focus on. If there is any value whatsoever to sanctioning organizations, it’s that they can order a rematch of fights like this. The IBF should do just that.
JOHN MOLINA, JR. – MARTIN HONORIO
Molina stepped up big time by fighting Honorio, but I didn’t think Honorio had much of a chance coming in. He’d been knocked out at featherweight by Robert Guerrero, and Molina had recently feasted on an opponent in one round Guerrero struggled to knock out. Molina’s power at lightweight has been exceptional, and Honorio’s chin at featherweight had been questionable. Easy call, right?
Except Honorio turned in an exceptional performance, leaving the Showtime commentators saying it was the best they’ve ever seen from him. Never before, apparently, had he demonstrated such swift movement, sharp boxing and combination punching. All of that played exactly into the weaknesses of Molina. He can punch, Molina, but he’s not much of a boxer. He’s been working on his defense, and you could tell it wasn’t seamlessly integrated into his offense. He couldn’t counterpunch, and he was slower than Honorio. The end result was a unanimous 10-round decision for Honorio, and if you didn’t give Molina a single round on your scorecards, I couldn’t blame you.
I don’t think this is the end of Molina by a longshot, though. He was competitive in the fight, and one-sided as it was, it was exciting like all Molina fights. Maybe the step up was a little too fast. I thought he’d be safe, but that’s just me. I mean, I wonder if he’ll ever be much of a boxer, but the key is to make him enough of a boxer that he can utilize his power better, not struggle with slicker guys and not take so many unnecessary shots should he run into a fellow slugger. I still think he can reach that level of boxing skill, but tonight was a step back. It happens. I think he’ll bounce back.