Ouchie, Giovani Segura. The junior flyweight champ’s first real capable opponent at flyweight, Brian Viloria, did a number on that noggin of his Saturday, for sure. (Via) Viloria made him look like he was in danger of becoming The Leader, if he could’ve evened things out on the other side.
Viloria, as the headline indicates, might actually have a case for Fighter of the Year, and he’s obviously not alone. We’ll spend most of our time talking about the HBO card headlined by Lamont Peterson’s upset of Amir Khan, but we’ll touch on some other business, too, like Viloria-Segura and a big knockout from the weekend and more.
- Peterson’s performance. Although there were some rounds where the HBO crew rightly questioned why Peterson wasn’t throwing even more punches, this can also rightly be called the fight of Peterson’s life, and there were long swaths of the fight where he outhustled Khan, who himself often outhustles people. Peterson didn’t look like a second-tier fighter, the way he often has even when giving a good account of himself. Besides that hustle, Peterson’s chin was amazing, even if (more on this in a moment) Khan isn’t that big a puncher; his body attack was as good as you’ll see from a prizefighter these days; his foot speed kept pace with Khan’s, which was surprising despite my thinking there wasn’t a huge speed difference between the two coming in; and he was his usual intelligent self in how he attacked, found openings, created openings and exploited them. In a year where there are very few standout, obvious Fighter of the Year candidates, doesn’t Peterson have a case? He upset the #1 junior welterweight in what might be the Upset of the Year, and to get that fight, he defeated another top-10 140-pounder in Victor Cayo. Is that not greater than or equal to Brandon Rios’ three wins over good/not-great lightweights? I still think the Super Six winner this coming weekend probably is the shoe-in, but Peterson has an argument.
- Khan’s performance. Khan had some pound-for-pound cachet built up, and with good reason. But for as gritty and exciting as was his display Saturday, you can’t help but have noticed some flaws. He couldn’t tie up Peterson because Peterson has good upper body strength and Khan apparently has none, so mostly Peterson just muscled his way out of clinches. He rarely hurt Peterson partially because of Peterson’s good chin but also partially because Khan didn’t sit down on his punches often enough. I’ve never thought Khan had tremendous power — I saw merely good power — but he sapped what power he had with that approach. He also still has some issues with balance and getting out of position. All of those things made it hard for Khan to keep Peterson off of him. He’s 25, it’s worth remembering, and he has already grown a great deal, but it’s not surprising that a young pound-for-pound talent would discover he needs some work. Trainer Freddie Roach excels in that regard, i.e. making a good fighter a better one overall. Where Roach doesn’t excel — a point friend of the site nazarioz raised with me — is in mid-fight adjustments. When have you ever seen a Roach fighter get in trouble and then get out of it? Manny Pacquiao, Khan, Jorge Linares… all of them this year have found themselves in a hole and despite being the superior physical specimens, have been unable to extricate themselves. And I didn’t hear Roach offering any advice between rounds that even COULD have helped Khan extricate.
- Point deductions. What O.G. friend of the site David Schraub said about this sums up perfectly what I feel about the two point deductions on Khan: I’m not wild about them, but I’m not too upset about them, either. There’s no doubt that Khan was fouling, and there’s no doubt what he was doing was illegal. He also should’ve wised up and stopped pushing entirely after the first deduction, too. That said, these were what I viewed as “ticky tack” foul calls of the kind that I get upset about during other sporting events, where I just want the ref to “let ’em play.” The second deduction, late in the fight like that, was the most upsetting, because I felt like the referee was getting overly involved in a minor offense at the end of the 4th quarter. But here’s what I really, really don’t like: There was never a big, dramatic warning either time from referee Joe Cooper of the kind you usually see prior to a point deduction. You can say Khan should’ve known better, and you’d be right. But Cooper would be in a much stronger position today if he’d done what’s usually done in these cases, which is to call time, move both fighters to a neutral corner, and strongly warn that he was about to take a point from Khan.
- Khan’s lack of class. It’s one thing for Khan and his team to complain about Cooper. But they’ve been far from classy about it. Remarks about how “this is why boxing hasn’t come to D.C.” from Khan neglect that he was the one who had the idea to come to D.C. and fight in Peterson’s backyard. That’s some revisionist shit right there. I liked the original gumption, but I bet Khan stays away from his opponent’s backyard from now on. Also, this whole “they changed the scorecards” thing is a total non-starter. Anyone who scored the 7th a 10-8 round for Khan clearly had to do so by accident, since Khan was deducted a point in the 7th and couldn’t possibly get more than a 9-9 score. Whatever else they were “told” about winning, I’d want to hear who told them that and why. Team Khan has some growing up to do outside the ring, the way Khan has some growing up to do inside it.
- What’s next for Khan and Peterson. It very much looks like a rematch, from the news conference, maybe in March. Oscar De La Hoya, the promoter of both men but someone who clearly has more of a stake in Khan than Peterson based upon his adverse reaction to the point deductions, has said the fight needs to happen in Khan’s England. Khan said he’d be down for a neutral location like Las Vegas. I do like the fight for both men next, most, more than anyone else. The talk of Khan moving up to welterweight to face Floyd Mayweather, Jr. is obviously out the window, and while Timothy Bradley was talking up a Peterson rematch and that fight would probably decide a new lineal champion, I’m more interested in Khan and Peterson resolving their unfinished business ASAP.
- Seth Mitchell. As exciting and thorough as his win over Timur Ibragimov was, I think the high point of it and low point of it both need to be emphasized. High point: Nobody’s done that to Ibragimov, and he’s faced some would be “next big heavyweight”s over the years. Low point: It didn’t deserve to be on HBO. On the other hand, from an excitement quotient, maybe his next fight against whoever does belong there, after a performance like that. Afterward he was asked about fighting in D.C. again, and he said he was willing. Judging by the reaction of some of my friends who are Spartans, they’d like to see their old football alum fight up close, so I bet he’d do very nice attendance numbers in the state of Michigan.
- D.C. buzz. It took until after the fight for me to audibly detect any real buzz about the show being the first big D.C. show in a while, but it got there afterward. Mike Wise, a prominent sports columnist with The Washington Post, declared Peterson’s win THE sports story of D.C. in 2011, and it’s hard to disagree; maybe it benefits from another sucky year for the Redskins, the lack of Wizards basketball, the so-so year for the Nationals, etc., but Peterson’s win is a big deal and should be treated as such by local media. Unlike beforehand, plenty of people came up to me today and asked me about the fight, so, just as unscientifically as I detected no pre-fight buzz, the post-fight buzz has been loud to this party of one.
- Viloria-Segura. Viloria both outboxed Segura and apparently hit harder than him, which bodes poorly for Segura moving up to flyweight permanently, as he primarily had been KOing fools at 108. What it bodes for Viloria is impossible to tell. There might be no mercurial talent than Viloria, who is capable of beating world class fighters like Ulises Solis and Segura, but is capable of losing to B-level fighters like Carlos Tamara and Omar Nino.This was “good Viloria” Saturday, and when you combine this upset win over a pound-for-pound style fighter with his win over a top-10 divisional opponent in Julio Cesar Miranda, you end up with something like an identical 2011 record to Peterson’s. Fighter of the Year? Maybe, maybe not, but there’s a case, and there wasn’t before Saturday. Viloria vs. Pongsaklek Wonjongkam or Hernan Marquez sounds absolutely terrific to me, but for Viloria’s sake, hopefully “good Viloria” shows up.
- The rest. Middleweight prospect David Lemieux might lose that “prospect” designation after being defeated by Joachim Alcine, a worn-down junior middleweight. I haven’t seen the fight but on paper, no way a top young fighter loses to Alcine. Lemieux’ work habits have come under criticism for his well-regarded former trainer, Russ Anber. If he hopes to have a boxing career, he best get back into gear… I enjoyed the Larry Merchant-Max Kellerman combination on HBO… Middleweight Gennady Golovkin hasn’t beaten a single living soul, but he’s been exceptional beating up ghosts of former worthwhile fighters, as he did this weekend in the video below. Before you jump on his bandwagon, do give some thought to who he’s done it against. I know I like the looks of him, but let’s see how he does against anyone of note before getting carried away.