Weekend Review: Froch’s big night
Carl Froch's determination and conditioning were the keys to his stunning knockout victory over Jermain Taylor on Saturday. Photo / Emily Harney-FightWireImages.com
Carl Froch: The tough, but very limited Englishman was within 14 seconds of losing to Jermain Taylor and going home without his newly won WBC super middleweight belt. Heck, we might never have heard from him again had those seconds ticked away. Instead, he stopped a dead-tired Taylor in the final seconds in one of the most-dramatic finishes in years to save his title and immediate future. Froch (25-0, 20 KOs) is a crude boxer but proved to be well conditioned, resilient and very determined. He undoubtedly added to his fan base in the United Kingdom – and in the U.S.
Jermain Taylor: The former middleweight champion is hard to figure out. He outclassed an inferior boxer in the first half of their fight, even putting the titleholder down for the first time in his career. Then, for no apparent reason, he simply began to fade and was knocked out in the final seconds. He said afterward that he trained hard for the fight. Oh really? A fighter who prepares properly doesn’t wilt down the stretch as Taylor did. The guess here is that he doesn’t have the fire necessary to compete at the highest level. He has lost three of his last four fights and might be finished as an elite fighter.
James Kirkland: The hard-charging junior middleweight has a style that is dangerous for both his opponent and himself, which is why he seemed destined to earn a lot of fame and money in boxing. Now, after the convicted felon allegedly was caught with a gun in his car last weekend, he faces as many as 10 years in prison. Can you say Ike Ibeabuchi? On the surface, Kirkland’s actions seem to be more stupid than malicious, which could translate to a relatively lenient prison term if he’s fortunate. However, sadly, there is a chance we’ve seen Kirkland fight for the last time.
Juan Manuel Lopez: The story of his fight against Penalosa was the veteran Filipino’s mind-boggling resilience. Let’s not overlook what Lopez did on Saturday night, though. First, he has to be the best precision puncher in the game; he broke records for his connect rate (landing 444 of 1,020 total punches). Second, he threw an average of 113 hard punches a round, a work rate that leaves no doubt about his conditioning. And, third, he utterly manhandled an experienced but still-formidable opponent who wasn’t the least bit intimidated by his power-punching reputation. Lopez, only 25, might be the most-complete fighter in the world
Gerry Penalosa: The 36-year-old former two-time titleholder might’ve turned in the greatest performance in a lopsided loss in boxing history. The former titleholder took an astonishing amount of punishment from a naturally bigger man with crushing power yet continued to throw back and was ready to continue when the fight was stopped. The Filipino might be the toughest fighter in the world pound for pound. What a warrior! That said, his trainer, Freddie Roach, did the right thing by stopping the fight after the ninth round. Penalosa had taken enough punches and wasn’t going to win the fight.
John Duddy: All the then-undefeated fringe contender had to do was beat journeyman Billy Lyell on Saturday in Newark, N.J., and he was in line for a seven-figure payday against middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik. Lyell didn’t cooperate, winning a split decision. Where does that leave Duddy? He might’ve blown his only chance to fight for such big money. After all, he’s a mediocre fighter who has been carefully matched in his career. On the other hand, he undoubtedly will retain his solid fan base in New York, which means he remains an attractive commodity. Look for him to get one more shot if he can put some wins together.
BUSIEST EIGHT DAYS?
Daniel Jacobs: Jacobs needed a short night on Friday to give himself a chance to fight on a big pay-per-view card next Saturday and that’s what happened. The undefeated (15-0, 14 KOs) prospect from Brooklyn, N.Y., stopped Jose Varela with one crushing blow in the second round on the Antonio Escalante-Gary Stark Jr. card in Chicago. Now, he might replace James Kirkland and fight Michael Walker on the Manny Pacquiao-Ricky Hatton undercard. Walker (19-1-2, 12 KOs) would be a step up for the young fighter but Jacobs has a big edge in talent. Two fights in eight days? That’s old school. We love it.
Cory Spinks: Spinks’ victory over talented prospect Deandre Latimore to win the vacant IBF junior middleweight title shouldn’t have been a big surprise. The son of former heavyweight champion Leon Spinks will never be a star but he’s been a consistently good fighter over the past decade. He’s faced a long list of elite opponents and had only one bad performance, a knockout loss to Zab Judah in 2005. In his other four losses, three were split decisions (Verno Phillips, Jermain Taylor and Antonio Diaz) and the fourth was a close decision (Michele Piccirillo). Spinks, 31, is known for his boxing ability and speed but he’s much tougher than many realize.
Antonio Escalante: The Mexican-born resident of El Paso, Texas, was a rising junior featherweight/featherweight prospect until he was stopped by former two-time titleholder, but declining Mauricio Pastrana in January 2007, which sent Escalante back to the drawing board. Since that setback, he’s 6-0, including an impressive third-round knockout of Gary Stark Jr. on Friday in Chicago. He’s now in the mix in a deep junior featherweight division.
Victor Ortiz vs. Amir Khan: Here’s the scenario: Khan beats Andreas Kotelnik in their scheduled June 27 fight to take the Ukrainian’s WBA junior welterweight title, which is a realistic possibility. Meanwhile, Ortiz will be fighting for the interim WBA belt against a yet-to-be-determined opponent. If he wins, which is probable, that sets up an absolutely fascinating matchup between two of the most-gifted young fighters (both are 22) in the world – one from England, the other from the Los Angeles area. It’s not often that two rising stars with such big names meet at such a tender age.
Felix Sturm: All the WBA middleweight titleholder from Germany does is win, including a seventh-round knockout of Koji Sato in his sixth title defense on Saturday in Leverkusen, Germany. Sturm, 30, burst onto the international scene by losing a close, controversial decision and his WBO belt to a prime Oscar De La Hoya in 2003 and has been at the top of the sport since. Twelve of his last 17 fights have been for major titles and he’s 9-2-1 during that stretch, drawing with Randy Griffin and losing only to De La Hoya and Javier Castillejo. He subsequently beat both Griffin and Castillejo.
Max Kellerman, HBO analyst: “I can’t believe what I’m seeing,” said Kellerman, referring to the inhuman resilience of Gerry Penalosa on Saturday night.