The Travelin Man returns to Temecula: Part two
Friday, September 28 (continued): If one listens to the pre-fight hype, Devin “The Dream” Haney entered his bout with three-time title challenger Juan Carlos Burgos as an undefeated prospect with the markings of potential greatness. Throughout history, that designation has been either a blessing or a curse and one major line of separation is how the recipient handles the heightened expectations, as well as the trappings that come with it. At least thus far, Haney not only has lived up to the hype, he has challenged himself by adding burdens that few his age have ever attempted.
As mentioned in Part One, Haney, at 19 years 320 days, was the promoter of record for this show, one of only two teenaged promoters of whom I know. He also is the pilot for junior featherweight Darren Cunningham, who, at 21, is nearly 19 months older than his promoter and who upped his record to 7-0 (3) after out-pointing journeyman Saul Hernandez during one of the three post-telecast bouts (the others being Roberto Meza UD 6 Gabriel Rodriguez and Adrian Gutierrez D 6 Lennard Davis, none of which I saw because CompuBox colleague Andy Kasprzak and I left ringside in order to get back to the crew hotel in a timely manner). Finally his potential has drawn the attention of a sizable crew of documentarians whom hope to release the finished product when Haney reaches the hoped-for summit.
This duality of boxer and businessman conjures memories of Sugar Ray Leonard, who created, with Mike Trainer, Sugar Ray Leonard Inc., an entity that enabled Leonard to sell his fight-to-fight services to the highest bidder instead of being tied down to a single promoter or network. Some of Haney’s more enthusiastic supporters equate him to Leonard inside the ring as well but after twice seeing Haney perform live, I don’t think that comparison is merited, not because Haney isn’t good but because Leonard, through 20 fights, had set such a high bar in terms of performance against a challenging slate of opponents. In his 20th fight, Leonard crushed Argentina’s Daniel Gonzalez, a fighter with a 52-2-4 record, in 123 electrifying seconds and had already defeated Floyd Mayweather Sr., Johnny Gant and junior middleweight contender Fernand Marcotte, all of whom were respected opponents. Haney hasn’t faced nearly that level of competition but, at least so far, he has looked the part and he has fought the part. That’s all one can ask of a prospect. More chapters, however, must be written before final judgment is passed.
Chapter 20 of Haney’s journey saw him decisively decision Burgos and he did so after being challenged by Burgos’ height, reach, elusiveness and experience. Burgos’ ability to test Haney was a pleasant surprise that proved my pre-fight assessment of him was in error. The 30-year-old Mexican brought his best against Haney and that best was good enough to test Haney’s poise, as well as extend the teenager to the 10-round distance for the first time in his professional career. However while Burgos’ game plan worked well in the first four rounds – he limited Haney to just 26.3% power accuracy and he trailed only 51-44 in total connects – Haney eventually picked Burgos’ locks, then reaped the reward in rounds five through 10. During that span, Haney out-landed Burgos 129-68 to extend his final leads to 180-112 overall, 55-24 jabs and 125-88 power, while also raising his power accuracy to 43.7% in the final six rounds. Because Haney had landed 43% of his power shots against his last three opponents, the 43.7% figure is a strong indicator that Haney had successfully adjusted to the level of competition Burgos offered.
Because Haney is being gauged by a higher standard – one befitting a potential face of the sport – one should level a minor criticism: The absence of a steady body attack. While Haney led 145-56 in head connects, he landed just 35 punches to the body, which represented 19.4% of his total connects. This was somewhat surprising because, in his last three fights, 25.8% of Haney’s total connects were to the body, a bit above the CompuBox average. Burgos’ long and lean torso was available to hit but Haney opted to gun for the head, so he could score the eye-catching knockout. Should he choose to watch video of Leonard, Haney will learn that varying his targets eventually will produce the desired results.
Still, Haney’s overall performance is praise-worthy. He was matched against a wily veteran known for his above-average volume (he averaged 70.4 punches per round in his 13 previous CompuBox-tracked fights) and his tactics curbed Burgos’ output to 44.6, a 36.7% reduction. Haney’s defensive skills limited Burgos’ power accuracy to 27.5%, only slightly more than the 23.3% Haney’s three previous opponents managed and limited the Mexican’s normally effective jab, despite his physical advantages (4.9 jab connects per round against his previous CompuBox-tracked foes, only 2.4 per round against Haney).
Haney proved his talent warrants another increase in terms of opposition. If “ShoBox” remains his TV platform, every effort will be made to make that a reality. That is its mission statement, after all. I look forward to seeing how well he operates within that environment.
By the way, it’s interesting to note what Leonard achieved in the next eight months following his 20th win: Victories over Adolfo Viruet, middleweight Marcos Geraldo, junior middleweight contender Tony Chiaverini, veteran welterweights Pete Ranzany and Andy Price and finally WBC titlist (and future Hall-of-Famer) Wilfred Benitez.
If raw numbers had been the only criterion, the rematch between lightweights Thomas Mattice and Zhora Hamazaryan should have been considered an even bigger travesty than their initial meeting 70 days earlier. In fight one, Hamazaryan led 130-94 in total connects, while he prevailed 150-93 in the rematch. Also Hamazaryan connected with more power shots in fight two (118) than in fight one (100) while Mattice’s 63 power connects were only six more than he recorded in July. As was the case in fight one, the round-by-round breakdown had Hamazaryan leading 5-2-1 and, in the final three rounds, Hamazaryan finished just as strongly as he again out-landed Mattice by 24 punches (71-47 in fight two, 57-33 in fight one).
But when the draw decision was announced, ShoBox commentators Barry Tompkins and Steve Farhood declared it a just result, as each scored it 76-76. Raul Marquez, who saw it 77-75 for Hamazaryan, said a draw was also a reasonable outcome.
As for Mattice and Hamazaryan, the post-fight reaction was one of acceptance.
“It was a great fight,” Mattice said. “I think I did enough to get the win but I respect the judges’ decision. I thought I won by one point.”
“I don’t agree with everything that happened tonight,” Hamazaryan said. “I’ve been fighting for a long time. I’m tough on myself. Perhaps I didn’t do enough to get the win. I’ll have to make some adjustments.”
Question: Why was this verdict much better received?
Answer: Perception is a building block of reality and though the raw numbers tell one story, other components combined to create a different whole.
Part One was the quality of the judging panel, which was described in detail in Part One. It also helped that their scores were tightly bunched (77-75 Mattice by Alejandro Rochin, 77-75 Hamazaryan by Sergio Caiz, 76-76 by Eddie Hernandez Sr.). Coming into the match, this panel engendered confidence that a sound verdict would be rendered and, in the eyes of many, they did just that.
Part Two was that Mattice raised his level of performance, while Hamazaryan couldn’t match what he did last time out, as far as creating an air of utter dominance. Unlike the first fight, Mattice produced two excellent rounds in the third (16-12 overall) and especially the seventh (20-14), which allowed him to interrupt Hamazaryan’s momentum to the point that he wasn’t seen to be the unquestioned governor.
Additionally Mattice kept himself off the canvas, though Hamazaryan had him all but down in the fourth, thanks to an extended barrage of power shots that helped him forge connect leads of 27-7 overall and 26-5 power. In the final two minutes of the fourth, Hamazaryan was 19 of 59 overall and 19 of 50 power, while Mattice was 2 of 14 overall and 2 of 12 power. Could this have been scored a 10-8 round? I think so but none of the judges, official or unofficial, opted to do so.
Although the crowd booed the verdict, no one declared that a historic heist had just taken place. For the record, I thought Hamazaryan won 77-75 and I wouldn’t have argued with 77-74, given his big fourth round.
Numbers do tell a compelling story most of the time but, in this case, psychology and perception controlled the narrative.
Because I had no recent footage of either Cem Kilic or DeAndre Ware, I had no idea what to expect from their scheduled eight-rounder. What fans got was a thoroughly enjoyable slugfest, while I, as a punch-counter, got quite a treat.
I’ve always loved working fights in which tons of punches are thrown because that allows me to gain an instant rhythm, while also causing the elapsed time to feel much faster. The first round set the tone: 228 total punches thrown (127 by Kilic, 101 by Ware), 79 combined connects (42-37 for Kilic) and 55 landed power shots (33-22 Kilic). Even the jab numbers were above average (9 of 54 for Kilic, 15 of 49 for Ware).
These were numbers that would have made WBA featherweight titlist Leo Santa Cruz and The Ring Magazine lightweight champion Vasiliy Lomachenko proud but because these were super middleweights, I had to wonder whether they could maintain the blowtorch pace.
Happily for us – and maybe even happily for them – they could and did.
In all, 1,418 punches were exchanged (734 for Kilic, 684 for Ware) and the final margins were tight, as Kilic led 253-241 in overall connects, thanks to his 182-155 edge in landed power shots. However Ware was more accurate overall (35%-34%) and in jabs (34%-23%) but Kilic prevailed 43%-36% in power accuracy and pounded out notable advantages in the round-by-round breakdowns (6-2 overall and 7-1 power to offset Ware’s 4-2-2 lead in landed jabs) that were reflected in the scorecards (79-73 by Caiz and Hernandez, 78-74 by Rochin).
Selfishly I would love to see a rematch and be there to count it. However if that can’t happen, then the next best thing is to be there to count a future fight involving either of them.
After indulging in some post-fight pizza, Andy drove us back to the Fairfield with speed and skill. Once we said our goodbyes, I began fulfilling the final responsibility of my long workday, entering the night’s data into the master database, a task that took about 40 minutes to complete. It took a while for me to come down from the high of working a show – a feeling I still get even after 11½ years of full-time work for CompuBox – and, as a result, I didn’t turn out the light until 1:15 a.m.
Saturday, September 29: I stirred awake just three-and-a-half hours later and, because I wanted to get some writing done before leaving for the airport, I arose at 5 a.m. Because of potential traffic issues – and to give myself a time cushion in case unforeseen events occurred once I arrived at the airport – I decided to pack my belongings at 7:45 a.m. with the goal of leaving for the airport by 8 and arriving in San Diego by 10 to catch my 12:30 p.m. flight. I drew a slightly better place in line for the trip home – B-31 as opposed to B-48 – but I still felt leery about whether I could avoid the middle-seat blues.
Although I completed packing three minutes later than planned, I still left the hotel seven minutes ahead of schedule. As is usually the case in this part of the world, the weather was perfect – sunshine, a temperature in the high-60s and no sign of humidity – and it made for a wonderful drive. Better yet, the GPS guided me perfectly to the parking garage and, because traffic flowed freely on Interstate 15, Route 163 and Interstate 8, I arrived at the airport a little after 9 a.m. I arrived so early that my flight wasn’t even listed on the monitor, so I approached the Southwest counter to inquire about as well as upgrade to Business Select. I achieved both objectives: The flight was going out of Gate 1A and I was moved up from B-31 to A-3 for $40 cash. I had toyed with the idea of seeking an earlier route to Pittsburgh but, following the upgrade, I decided to use the extra time to get more work done.
I purchased breakfast at the nearby Ciao Gourmet Market and happily typed away for the next 90 minutes. The configuration of the gate area was somewhat confusing: To the right of Gate 1 is a doorway marked Gate 1A but, based on past experience at other airports, I thought that the agent at Gate 1 would be doing double-duty in terms of taking our boarding passes and that I would walk through the 1A door to access the jet way. That wasn’t the case: A fellow Pittsburgh passenger named Dawn informed me that 1A passengers had to walk through the door first, then wait in that room.
Because the flight crew for the San Diego to St. Louis leg was late in arriving, the boarding process began 20 minutes later than scheduled. Once I boarded, I noticed the entirety of row two was empty, despite the fact that several passengers had already taken their seats. Moments after taking a window seat I realized why they were left vacant: A toddler with a gift for voice projection. Could this child be the next Ray Flores, Thomas Treiber or Joe Martinez? Maybe, maybe not, but, at this moment, I just hoped his mother could find a way to calm him down.
Guess what? She did.
Another potential issue was the two ladies who opted to sit beside me: Two friendly but very overweight young women. We made the best of the situation for a few minutes but, once the lady in the middle seat heard that plenty of window and aisle seats remained in the back of the plane, she and her friend agreed to separate and leave the middle seat open. Miraculously that middle seat remained empty for the rest of the boarding process and, once we realized we were to enjoy some extra room, we expressed mutual happiness – quietly of course.
The San Diego-to-St. Louis leg ended at 7:03 p.m. Central Daylight Time, while the St. Louis-to-Pittsburgh portion concluded at 9:23 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. The walk to the car – from the terminal entrance at least – required 665 steps, which translates to about four-tenths of a mile. (Yes, I counted the steps. After all, I do count for a living.)
Unlike some, I like driving on interstates at night, especially when I can listen to the radio or play my favorite CDs. This time I listened to Sirius XM and I alternated between four different stations, depending on the timing of the commercial breaks. I arrived home shortly before 12:30 a.m., which meant my cross-country journey lasted nearly 14 hours.
As of this writing, I don’t know either the date or the location of my next journey. I do know that it won’t take place until at least November because Showtime has no shows in October. But no matter the time or the place, I know that this full-time boxing person will enjoy each and every day as it comes.
Until next time – whenever that is – happy trails!
Lee Groves is a boxing writer and historian based in Friendly, West Virginia. He is a full member of the BWAA, from which he has won 16 writing awards, including two first-place awards, since 2011. He has been an elector for the International Boxing Hall of Fame since 2001 and is also a writer, researcher and punch-counter for CompuBox, Inc. He is the author of “Tales from the Vault: A Celebration of 100 Boxing Closet Classics” (available on Amazon) and the co-author of the newly released book “Muhammad Ali: By the Numbers” (also available on Amazon). To contact Groves about a personalized autographed copy, use the email [email protected] or send him a message via Facebook.
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