Weekend Review: Tyson, Chavez and Tszyu Hall bound
BEST HALL OF FAME CLASS
2011: Mike Tyson, Julio Chavez and Kostya Tszyu are eligible for the first time to be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, it was announced last week. Tyson and Chavez are locks to go in on the first ballot; Tszyu also probably will get in on his first try. Tyson isn’t among the best heavyweights of all time, at least not the Top 10, but was the dominating figure of his era because of his considerable success and fearsome persona in and out of the ring. He deserves first-ballot induction. Chavez was the greatest fighter ever produced in a boxing-crazy country, Mexico. He went unbeaten the first 14 years of his career (if you believe existing records) and connected with his people like no one before or after him. He is arguably in the Top 20 all time pound for pound. And Tszyu, a complete fighter, held a major title for 10 of his final 11 years as a pro. The newest class will be announced in December and be inducted on June 12.
Tyson: Allow me to reiterate: Tyson was the dominant fighter of his era and deserves to enter the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. That said, he wasn’t as good as many people believe. “Iron Mike” never beat a great heavyweight in that fighter’s prime, one important test of greatness. He stopped Larry Holmes when Holmes was 38. The closest thing he had to a defining victory was his first-round KO of Michael Spinks, who was a natural light heavyweight. Beyond that, he never beat an exceptional opponent. And his legendary run after he become the youngest to win the heavyweight title was over when he was only 23, when Buster Douglas stopped him. He won two titles after he left prison, for which he deserves credit, but he was never the same after his aura of invincibility was lifted. Tyson was definitely one of the better heavyweights, arguably in the Top 15. He just wasn’t in the class of the greatest ever.
Moving forward with Super Six: Ken Hershman of Showtime couldn’t give up on the Super Six World Boxing Classic after the defection of Andre Dirrell, the third of the original six fighters to pull out of the competition. One, there were signed contracts that presumably precluded him from doing so. Two, he owed to the three remaining participants to continue. And, three, we still have some great fights that will do good television ratings coming up. No true boxing fan will want to miss Arthur Abraham vs. Carl Froch, Glen Johnson vs. Allan Green and Andre Ward vs. fill-in-the-blank or what comes after that. The real question is whether anyone should stage a similar round-robin tournament. The answer is no.
BEST DECISION II?
Dirrell pulling out: Leon Lawson, the uncle and co-trainer of Dirrell, said his nephew has suffered from dizziness and headaches since a recent sparring session and was told by a neurologist who examined him that he should refrain from boxing until three months after he’s symptom free. Hence his decision to pull out of the tournament. The assumption is that this relates to the punch Dirrell took from Arthur Abraham while he on one knee, which led to Abraham’s disqualification. If Lawson’s story is true, then Dirrell would be stupid to fight right now. If it’s not, there isn’t much we can do about it. Faked injuries to get out of fights will always be a part of boxing. For the record: I don’t believe Dirrell faked the original injury stemming from the punch, as some believe. The more-recent claim? I just don’t know.
Danny Garcia: The 22-year-old prospect from Philadelphia performed like a mature fighter in his victory over veteran Mike Arnaoutis on Saturday in Philadephia, Garcia’s biggest test to date. He fought patiently in the opening rounds, waiting for openings. Then, when Araoutis lowered his right with seconds to go in the third round, BAM! ÔÇª a left hook put the one-time contender down and he never fully recovered. Garcia ended it in the next round, becoming only the second after Victor Ortiz to KO Arnaoutis. Garcia might not have the speed and explosiveness of some young prospects – Ortiz, for example – but he is a good boxer with good power. He should win at least one major title and continue to build a fan base in Philly.
Mike Arnaoutis: Garcia put Arnaoutis down with a perfect left hook to the chin in the final seconds of the third round. The Greece-born resident of New York was able to get up but, as he made his way to the corner, he fell down again. Arnaoutis’ corner or the referee would’ve been justified to stop the fight at that point but he came out for the fourth, during which another hook ended it. Arnaoutis, once a contender, has now lost five of his last six fights. Only very good fighters have beaten him. Still, that kind of slide and the brutal nature of his loss on Saturday are signs that enough is enough.
Wonjongkam-Chokchai: Pongsaklek Wonjongkam’s flyweight title defense against relative unknown Suriyan Por Chokchai on Saturday in Thailand seemed like a mismatch on paper. Wonjongkam is a future Hall of Famer and Chokchai had only 19 fights going into the fight. However, the result might indicate that the 33-year-old champion is slowing down and Chokchai has ability. The challenger reportedly kept Wonjongkam’s aggression in check by counterpunching effectively, although he lost a close unanimous decision. Wonjongkam (77-3-1, 41 KOs) ran his record in title fights (not including interim belts) to a remarkable 21-1. Chokchai (14-5-1, 4 KOs) failed in his first bid for a major strap but scored points with his performance.
Rigoberto Alvarez: Saul “Canelo” Alvarez is becoming a star in his native Mexico but his older brother, 32-year-old Rigoberto, also is finding success. The elder Alvarez, who has fought as heavy as 172 pounds, moved down to junior middleweight and defeated Nobuhiro Ishida by a split decision on Saturday in Mexico to win one of those ridiculous “regular” titles and establish himself as a legitimate factor at 154 pounds. The rugged-looking fighter (26-2, 19 knockouts) was stopped by Marco Antonio Rubio in what had been a close fight at middleweight in January, his biggest fight to that point. “Canelo” also fights at 154 but don’t expect a brother vs. brother fight; it never happens. Does Rigoberto also have the red hair that makes Saul stand out? Rigoberto has no hair; his head is shaven.
Gerry Penalosa: The two-time titleholder from the Philippines stopped Yodsaenkeng Kietmangmee on Saturday in Zamboanga City in what was billed as a farewell fight. Penalosa, who turned pro in 1989, probably would’ve been a Hall of Fame candidate had he won some controversial decisions that didn’t go his way, including a split-decision setback against Eric Morel in February. As it is, he’ll be remembered as one of the toughest fighters pound-for-pound in his era. I’ll never forget his fight against Juan Manuel Lopez last year, the only time he was stopped. He took dozens of powerful punches that would’ve destroyed a lesser man but he never left his feet, losing only when his corner threw in the towel. I’ve never seen a fighter with a better chin. And he was always a gentleman, as his fight on Saturday indicates. A portion of the proceeds will go to his injured compatriot Z Gorres. Penalosa will be sorely missed.
Promoter Lou DiBella, on the troubled Super Six tournament: “We have a very unpredictable sport. The old expression ‘sh– happens’ ÔÇª well, more sh– happens in boxing. It seems like nothing ever stays the course. But as an attempt, I think that it was a good idea. I liked it as it was unfolding; I thought that it was, frankly, unfolding pretty well, and the third round, the semis, the finals, were really set up very well. And that’s why I think the critics and the naysayers are f–king idiots. The sport is fading, and it needs creative concepts. They’re not all going to work out as planned. But we have to shake some sh– up.”
Michael Rosenthal can be reached at [email protected]