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Keith Thurman, Tony Bellew have their days: Weekend Review

05
Mar

BIGGEST WINNER

Keith Thurman: Thurman earned his rewards on Saturday night in Brooklyn, where he defeated Danny Garcia by a split decision to unify two sanctioning-body welterweight titles. I thought he won eight of the 12 rounds, using quick lateral movement to avoid taking punches and delivering just enough of his own to win rounds.

In short, he outboxed Garcia and can now argue that he’s the best 147-pound in the world.

That said, something was missing. And Sugar Ray Leonard made reference to the void during the TV broadcast, saying late in the fight that it was time for someone to “close the show.” Thurman took enough chances to win on two cards but not enough to finish off Garcia — not even close. In fact, he cruised in the late rounds and was fortunate he didn’t squander his lead, a la Oscar De la Hoya vs. Felix Trinidad.

Thurman (28-0, 22 knockouts) was clearly satisfied to leave the ring with the victory, two belts and the prospect of another big-money fight on the horizon, which, of course, is understandable.

I doubt the fans were as satisfied, though. The crowd at Barclays Center booed Thurman several times for what they would describe as running, a sentiment that can be attributed both to a pro-Garcia majority among fans and the fact they were getting bored. I suspect many of those watching on TV felt the same way about Thurman’s action-killing tactics even if they appreciated a good performance.

I thought of the final rounds of Wladimir Klitschko’s victory over Eddie Chambers, when Emanuel Steward, Klitschko’s trainer, demanding that his fighter “finish the job.” Steward understood that boxing isn’t always just about having your hand raised.

Thurman is Thurman, an excellent boxer with an engaging personality. He’s marketable. I’m just not sure whether that’s enough to make him a true star.

BIGGEST WINNER II

Tony Bellew: The magnitude of Bellew’s upset victory over David Haye on Saturday in London depends on how you look at it.

The record will show that a massive underdog stopped one of this era’s top talents by an 11th-round knockout, making Bellew (29-2-1, 19 KOs) what he called “champion of all the misfits.” Hail to the misfits! Bellew afterward also called himself the most valuable heavyweight outside the titleholders. He might be right.

Make no mistake: The Liverpudlian had an enormous night. The only mitigating factor is that Haye obviously was damaged goods.

The former two-division titleholder evidently had problems with his Achilles tendon before the fight, as he reportedly sought treatment during the week. Then, after aggravating it in the fifth round, he became a one-legged fighter. And that was too much for him to overcome against a quality opponent.

That isn’t meant to minimize Bellew’s accomplishment, as injuries are a part of boxing. And he held his own before the fifth round. The fact that Haye’s body broke down will just always be part of this story.

Where does the victory leave Bellew? He could fight Haye again, assuming Haye can recover. A second fight would be well received. And in a pathetically thin division, he is in position to challenge a titleholder for what would be his biggest payday.

I hate to think what might happen to the natural cruiserweight should he tangle with Anthony Joshua or Deontay Wilder. Of course, I hated to think what was going to happen to him against Haye.

 

BIGGEST LOSER

David Haye: “Hayemaker” might be finished.

He reportedly has had surgery to repair his damaged Achilles tendon, which presumably would keep him sidelined for another extended period. That, combined with his age (36) and general wear and tear, could be too much for him to overcome.

If it’s over, we should remember how good he was. He was a terror at 200 pounds, at which he was unified titleholder. Quick, powerful, dynamic, fun to watch – he had it all. He was 21-1 (with 20 knockouts) before he was a full-fledged heavyweight, his only slip-up being a TKO loss to Carl Thompson in 2004.

And he was a good heavyweight even though he was undersized, going 7-2 and winning a sanctioning-body title. He lost only to the gigantic Wladimir Klitschko at heavyweight before Bellew.

He also went out in admirable fashion, fighting as best he could on one leg until he simply could not go on. He also demonstrated class by giving Bellew full credit in spite of his injury, although he really had no choice after the ridicule he endured for blaming his loss to Klitschko on his toe.

I hope Haye (28-3, 26 KOs) makes it back, if that’s what he wants. I wouldn’t mind seeing a rematch with Bellew. If it’s the end, he should be celebrated as one of the best big boxers in recent years.

 

BIGGEST LOSER II

Danny Garcia: More than one observer crowed after the fight that Thurman exposed Garcia for the limited fighter he has been all along. Yeah right.

Garcia was 33-0 (19 KOs) going into the fight. He won the RING championship at 140 pounds and major sanctioning-body titles in two divisions. He has victories over Erik Morales, Amir Khan, Zab Judah, Lucas Matthysse  and Lamont Peterson. He was doing something right.

Garcia isn’t a great athlete, one who can use quick hands and feet to win fights. He’s a counterpuncher with good power who is adept at taking advantage of opportunities when they arise.

He didn’t get many of those against Thurman, a tremendous athlete who proved – barely – to be too elusive for him. I wanted Garcia to pick up his work rate and cut off the ring earlier in the fight but I understand that’s not easy when your opponent is a blur.

And as it was, had judge Joseph Pasquale given Garcia just one more round, the fight would’ve ended in a draw.

Garcia will be fine. He’s only 28. And he almost certainly is steaming right now, angry at himself that he didn’t push a little harder and frustrated that he lost for the first time in his professional career. He’ll be motivated like never before in his next fight.

I still think of him as a guy who finds ways to win fights, which shouldn’t be underestimated. He almost did so against Thurman but fell just short. I doubt that will happen too many times going forward.

 

RABBIT PUNCHES

Erickson Lubin (18-0, 13 KOs) looked scary against Jorge Cota (25-2, 22 KOs) on the Thurman-Garcia card, stopping the Mexican with a looping left in the fourth round. Lubin’s first real test could come in his next fight, though: He is now the mandatory challenger to WBC junior middleweight titleholder Jermell Charlo. I think Lubin, who is only 21, has all the tools to compete against the best 154-pounder but he still must prove that. Charlo vs. Lubin would be fascinating. … A number of other fighters might’ve thrown their final punches on Saturday. Paulie Malignaggi (36-8, 7 KOs) was ahead on two cards when Sam Eggington (20-3, 12 KOs) stopped him with a body shot in Round 8 on the Bellew-Haye card. Malignaggi indicated afterward that he is leaning toward retirement. I hesitate to suggest that any fighter should retire if he wants to keep fighting. I’m comfortable saying that not many fighters have as much going for them outside the ring as Malignaggi, who is one of the most respected voices in the sport. I look forward to many more years with him behind the microphone. … It wasn’t long ago that Chad Dawson (34-5, 19 KOs) was one of the top fighters in the world, with victories over Tomasz Adamek, Glen Johnson, Antonio Tarver and Bernard Hopkins. Then he decided to drop down to 168 pounds to fight Andre Ward. He’s 3-4 since, including a knockout loss to Andrzej Fonfara (29-4, 17 KOs) in the 10th and final round on the Thurman-Garcia card. Dawson might be a victim of inactivity; he has fought only three times since 2014. More likely, he no longer has what it takes to be an elite fighter. I wouldn’t count him out, though. He’s only 34. Fonfara bounced back nicely from his stunning knockout loss to Joe Smith Jr. … And, finally, Derry Matthews (38-12-2, 20 KOs) announced his retirement after rising junior welterweight contender Ohara Davies (15-0, 12 KOs) stopped him in three rounds on the Bellew-Haye card. Matthews was a very good lightweight at his peak.

 

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