Maybe Bernard Hopkins “will never lose to a white boy,” but he’ll pal around with one. At the Amir Khan-Zab Judah bout over the weekend, Hopkins shared a laugh twith his old rival Joe Calzaghe, the man at whom Hopkins famously directed that racially inflammatory rhetoric. That loss to Calzaghe still bugs him and Hopkins still wants a rematch, which Calzaghe — years into retirement — has wisely said “nah” to, and, thankfully, since Calzaghe-Hopkins I was about as unenjoyable a fight as you’ll see. But it still was nice, if not 1000% jarring, to see that image via Getty, after years of trash talk between the two light heavyweights. It gives you hope that there can be peace on Earth and good will toward men.
In this edition of Weekend Afterthoughts, we visit with the stuff in the headline, as well as some odds and ends involving the likes of Orlando Salido, Tyson Fury, Gary Russell Jr. and more.
- Amir Khan’s place. Khan has declared he wants nothing short of pound-for-pound dominance of all of boxing, and I not only believe that he truly wants it, but that he can do it. Sure, Khan wants money like any prizefighter, but look at what he gave up in order to entice Timothy Bradley into the ring, however unsuccessful the coaxing. Last year (and I’ll do it again soon) I offered him as a candidate on the “eye test only” pound-for-pound list. Since then, he’s actually achieved some things, too. Ring Magazine has bumped him up to #1 at junior welterweight, a totally defensible decision even if it’s one I slightly differ with. And as good as he is now, he’s only 24. I don’t think he’s quite ready for Floyd Mayweather, but as of right now he’s one of the few people I’d give much of a chance. What kind of star he can be is a separate question. He doesn’t sell very many tickets in the United States, but he does have a track record of doing some of the best HBO ratings of recent years, and I bet ratings for his win over Zab Judah are also above 1 million. I’m not sure what his ceiling is in the U.K., his home country, because there’s anecdotal evidence that his cockiness rubs people the wrong way there. Me? I don’t mind his cockiness because right now he’s making the sacrifices in a bid to prove he’s the best.
- Judah’s bow out. We’d been told by Judah and his team that the newly Jesus-loving, returned-to-junior welterweight Judah had changed. Clearly, he had not. When it came right down to it, Judah had yet another suspicious (and that’s being generous to a few incidents in his career) path to defeat, where he found a way out of a fight he was losing and then blamed it on somebody else. It’s a lifelong pattern. Regardless of whether that punch was a low blow or not — and we’ll discuss that in a minute — his excuse that he didn’t realize he was being counted out is hard to believe. Judah’s been in the ring his whole life. He knows that when a ref is counting, and ref Vic Drakulich was counting right in his damn face, it’s not because he’s counting the seconds on a time out for a low blow. And he had to know it was no standing eight count, too, because when’s the last time Judah was in a ring where the standing eight count was applied? This goes into the TQBR Hall of Excuses: “I didn’t understand what the ref was doing when he counted to 10.” Judah was outclassed and he knew it, and didn’t want to take any more punishment, is the theory I’m embracing. Even if Judah had gotten open heart surgery to fix the bum ticker in his chest, he would’ve gotten knocked out one way or the other.
- Weekend low blow KOs. I have no real affection for Judah, nor any reason to stick up for him. Like I said above, he was losing the fight before the ending and was going to get defeated one way or the other. But by the rules offered to Judah and Khan at the beginning of the fight by Drakulich, it WAS a low blow. What’s more, it was holding and hitting. Watch it again, and don’t forget to watch where Drakulich points at as the low blow line. Now, Drakulich shouldn’t have made the low blow line so high, in my view. And I don’t think Judah was affected in the way someone would be by a punch to the nuts or hip. Rather, this was, effectively, a legit body shot knockout/bow out that was technically a low blow according to the Drakulich definition for Khan-Judah. If this sounds like nitpicking, it surely is, since it’s not really relevant to the outcome. But I seek the truth, dammit, regardless of how much nobody cares about it! Meanwhile, on ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights, super middleweight Anthony Dirrell scored a much lower, much clearer low blow KO over Kevin Engel, although the situation was very similar to Judah-Khan in that the outcome was already decided given the class difference, albeit on a different scale. That brings your weekend tally of low blow knockouts (even if one was dependent on a referee’s weird definition of low blows) to: two.
- Timothy Bradley. The other big man at junior welterweight, outside of Khan, is Bradley. He’s locked in some litigation with his current promoters, so who knows how long he’ll be on the shelf. He said this weekend that he doesn’t have any interest in fighting Khan, that he only wants Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao. That’s a different story than the one he was offering a few months ago, but hey, guys are allowed to change their minds. And given his current situation, Bradley better hope he gets one of those two men, because I think it’s the only way his bank account recovers from all the money he passed up by passing on Khan and trying to break free from his promoters. By the way, Golden Boy’s Richard Schaefer made some peculiar allegations toward Top Rank by saying that Bradley had been guaranteed a shot at Pacquiao. No evidence was offered. Even if it’s true, it’s not the kind of thing you want to say if you have any desire whatsoever to do business with Top Rank at a time when the two companies’ Cold War is barely beginning to thaw.
- Orlando Salido and Tyson Fury. I haven’t yet caught up to either fight involving these two winners from Saturday, but a couple thoughts: Salido got good marks for his performance, and I do think that if Juan Manuel Lopez doesn’t come focused for their featherweight rematch, he will lose. If he does come focus, he still might. Meanwhile, Fury reportedly did great ratings for Channel Five in the U.K., and he’s talking about working with trainer Manny Steward. It would be a good move. Steward has perfected the art of training giant heavyweights.
- Gary Russell, Jr., Peter Quillin and James Kirkland. These three young talents were on the undercard of Khan-Judah and did well for themselves in wins. Russell got highlights aired on HBO, and his hand speed is off the charts. If someone argued that he has the fastest hands in the sport right now — even better than division-mate YURIORKIS GAMBOA! — I don’t think I’d debate them at all. Also, see if you can find the contradiction in these two Dan Rafael sentences, separated by little more than a few pixels: “His fight was supposed to open the HBO telecast, but the network and promoter Golden Boy and adviser Al Haymon could not agree on an opponent… There is some talk that he could make his HBO debut Sept. 3 on the undercard of Jan Zaveck’s welterweight title defense against Andre Berto, who is also with Haymon, and Haymon has a way of making HBO do what he wants.” Meanwhile, Quillin is getting a challenge from middleweight Ishe Smith, who challenges everyone, but here Smith would be the kind of win for Quillin that could make him a credible opponent for champ Sergio Martinez. And fellow middleweight Kirkland seems like he might be ready for some live bodies now, after his setback a couple fights ago. As trainer Ann Wolfe said before the fight in one of the best quotes of 2011: “Eventually, he’s going to have to fight somebody who’s in the top five. We’re ready now. Show be tell. He’s going to be bigger than what he was before he lost. It’s truly like, ‘We want to kill something,’ and they want to give us meat that’s already dead. A real predator don’t want no cooked meat. You keep feeding a damn lion meat out of the refrigerator, it’s gonna lose its predatory instincts. We want something raw, with its eyeballs looking at us, so we can kill it and eat it.”