‘Fighting Words’ — Oscar Valdez reinvigorates while Adrien Broner resuscitates
Describing Oscar Valdez and Adrien Broner as very different is among the most obvious statements that could be made within the confines of a boxing column. These two main event fighters from last weekend’s boxing broadcasts in America — Valdez on ESPN, Broner on Showtime — arrived at their respective rings at two contrasting points in their careers.
As different as they were, they still needed the same thing.
That’s not what they got, however. And those differences are the reasons why Valdez reinvigorated his career with a stellar one-punch knockout while Broner merely resuscitated his own with a debatable unanimous decision victory.
* * *
Valdez showed up at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas as an undefeated former beltholder seeking to capture a world title in a second weight class. That wasn’t a given.
He was an underdog challenging the defending WBC junior lightweight titleholder, Miguel Berchelt. Valdez had left the featherweight division behind more than a year ago. He would be the smaller man both in stature and on the scales. Berchelt and Valdez both made the 130-pound limit on Friday afternoon. By Saturday evening, Berchelt had rehydrated to 146 pounds while Valdez was essentially an entire weight class below him, at 140.
There was a strong possibility, and for boxing fans an even stronger hope, that Berchelt and Valdez would put each other through hell. Berchelt had a history of shootouts and often had his opponents outgunned. He’d battered Francisco Vargas for his title in 2017 and stopped him again in their rematch two years later. He’d toughed out Takashi Miura, pummeled Miguel Roman, and made six successful title defenses altogether. Valdez would need to be both resilient and intelligent to avoid being number seven.
Valdez had shown a mix of resiliency and vulnerability in past firefights. Genesis Servania dropped and rocked him in 2017. Scott Quigg broke his jaw in 2018. Adam Lopez floored him in 2019.
So it was no surprise that trainer Eddy Reynoso — brought into Valdez’s corner following the Quigg bout — began to change up his fighter’s style to better protect his weaknesses without taking away his strengths. Valdez was still a work in progress last July, fighting more cautiously against Jayson Velez, controlling the range and setting up his shots more strategically en route to a late technical knockout.
He’d need to be more refined for Berchelt. Actually, he needed to be more than “more refined.” He needed to be ready.
* * *
Broner arrived at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut with the word “former” foremost. He was a former 130-, 135-, 140- and 147-pound titleholder. He was formerly considered a rising star with a great future in front of him. Then, after a series of self-inflicted disappointments, he was formerly a contender who could still salvage his career.
Broner’s best moments were well behind him. He was hoping to leave his worst moments in the past as well.
There were the losses, four in all — to Marcos Maidana in 2013, Shawn Porter in 2015, Mikey Garcia in 2017 and Manny Pacquiao in 2019 — plus a draw with Jessie Vargas in-between the Garcia and Pacquiao matches. He hadn’t won a fight in nearly four years. All of those losses had come against very good opponents. Yet they laid bare Broner’s flaws. He was susceptible on defense against Maidana. And he’d since gone to the other extreme, barely throwing any punches in the other three defeats.
He was either unable or unwilling to make changes that sorely needed to be made. That extended beyond his losses in the ring and into the legal issues in his life. Broner had been arrested several times over the years, faced prosecution and lawsuits in several states, and had fallen into the depths that his detractors had long ago predicted. He needed money. He had ballooned in weight. He’d sunk into depression.
The sport had moved on without him.
Broner set a goal and began to drop pounds, losing more than 30 and perhaps 40 as he stopped drinking, returned to the gym, prepared for a comeback. He scheduled a fight for February at junior welterweight, a division he hadn’t competed in since 2017.
Perhaps Broner had aimed too high, or rather too low, for his first fight back after gaining so much weight, and needing to try to lose it during a pandemic. Days before his fight with Jovanie Santiago, it was announced that the weight limit had been changed from 140 pounds to 147. Broner, like some other boxers, said it was difficult to lose weight while quarantined as the fight neared. “You can’t do what you need to do to train and lose weight,” he said after the fight.
It’s impossible to know whether the pandemic is to blame, or whether Broner just didn’t have the discipline to make weight, or some combination of both. Other fighters on his show made weight. Of course, they didn’t all have the same amount of weight to lose. And they all have different ways of making the weight.
Santiago, who’d spent much of his career as a junior welterweight, agreed to the change. Boxing fans with long memories recalled how Broner had come in massively overweight for a title defense against Vicente Escobedo in 2012 and refused to try to make the 130-pound limit. Escobedo, the B-side, went forward with the fight anyway and was put away in five rounds. Santiago needed this opportunity as well, though he apparently didn’t see the request as Broner throwing his figurative weight around.
“Santiago was also having issues making 140, had been kept in the loop about a possible weight change all along and was not at all unhappy about the switch,” reported Dan Rafael.
That’s a long aside about weight, but it’s a necessary part of this story. Broner wasn’t in the typical position of a fighter who’d regularly come up short, taken a couple years off and then returned to the ring. Instead, he was in the main event of a major boxing broadcast. And he was the A-side against Santiago, who was undefeated but otherwise unheralded.
Santiago had fought just 15 times since turning pro in 2007. He belonged to the same stable as former bantamweight titleholder Emmanuel Rodriguez and junior welterweight contender Subriel Matias. But his best wins had come against over-the-hill former titleholder DeMarcus Corley in 2017 and one-time title challenger Ivan Cano in 2019.
These were favorable circumstances for Broner to shake off some rust, put forth a good performance, pick up a win and, for the first time in years, move forward instead of backward.
“I’ve learned that it only takes one performance to bring everybody back,” he said before the fight. “All I have to do is go out there and perform and everybody will be back on the bandwagon.”
As has often been the case with Broner, there’s a difference between words and actions.
* * *
Valdez was expected to show up with a more cautious approach, so it raised eyebrows when he loaded up on power shots early on in Round 1. He missed a wild overhand right. He came forward, stalking, missing with a jab to the head but landing a cross to the body, coming up short with a left hook-right hand combination, getting only air with a counter right as Berchelt jabbed.
It seemed like madness. But there was a method behind it. Valdez was raising the temperature in the room — and that would help him ice Berchelt.
Valdez’s initial aggression had drawn Berchelt forward in return. Valdez welcomed this and transitioned into a boxer-puncher, pumping out his jab in Round 2, summoning blood from Berchelt’s nose with 35 seconds to go. He moved more, made Berchelt miss, which only made Berchelt want to throw more, which only set up more fast, hard leads and counters from Valdez.
Valdez was the smaller man, but Berchelt had fought at junior lightweight for nearly a decade and may finally have grown out of it. He seemed slower, with less snap on his shots, as if getting down to 130 and then ballooning back up to 146 had taken too much out of him. This wasn’t a size advantage for Berchelt anymore, but rather a disadvantage.
Halfway through Round 4, the fighters broke from a clinch and Berchelt tried in vain to get to Valdez before he got away. Berchelt flailed with four wide punches; Valdez weaved and ducked and moved out of range, went to the center of the ring, and began to circle again.
The trap had been set.
Valdez backed toward the ropes. Berchelt sent out a jab but was met with a counter left hook. His legs wobbled, and so his body did the same. Valdez jumped in to try to close the show. Berchelt briefly tied up, a momentary respite that did nothing for his recovery. The referee pushed the fighters apart — and Berchelt tottered several steps backward.
Every clean shot seemed to leave Berchelt on the brink of collapse. A left uppercut staggered him. An overhand right shook him. A left hook had Berchelt’s right leg dancing in another direction. Somehow he remained on his feet, at least until a barrage of blows — and Valdez stepping on his right foot — made Berchelt fall into the ropes in the final seconds of the round. The referee ruled it a knockdown, that the ropes had held him up.
Berchelt was still in rough shape as Round 5 started but began to recover, moving away at the outset and then coming forward once his bearings returned. He began to throw more punches, digging to the body, clubbing to the head, and exerting more pressure. Valdez suddenly was expending a lot of energy on trying to stay away. For a few moments, it was somewhat reminiscent of how Antonio Margarito eventually broke down Miguel Cotto in their first fight.
Valdez wasn’t going to break down. He adjusted, doing a better job of walking Berchelt into punches at the end of Round 7 and particularly throughout Round 8, landing once or twice and then getting back out of range, making Berchelt reset. In the ninth, Valdez saw Berchelt open for a longer barrage — a left cross from the southpaw stance, followed by a right uppercut, a looping left and a right hook. Berchelt went down for the second time, rising quickly and looking as if he was trying to shake his legs awake.
Once again, Valdez had his opponent hurt. He almost never went to the body to try to further erase Berchelt’s resolve, though. Valdez only threw 15 body shots on the night, landing once, according to CompuBox.
Perhaps the fight might have ended earlier had Valdez done more body work. But it’s doubtful that Valdez wishes he’d done much differently. That’s because the fight ended perfectly — and violently.
Valdez pot-shotted Berchelt for most of the first two minutes and 58 seconds of Round 10. Berchelt’s output had diminished, down from 62 punches in the sixth to 37 punches in the ninth and 27 in the 10th. There was little for Valdez to worry about. Berchelt had landed just three power punches total over the previous six minutes.
As Valdez moved away in the final seconds of Round 10, Berchelt swatted with a slow, looping right hand and then overextended himself with a left. Valdez ducked underneath and came back up in one motion with a huge left hook. Berchelt’s arms dropped immediately to his sides. His body lurched forward involuntarily. He was out on his feet until he was no longer on his feet, crumpled face-first on the canvas, unconscious.
Valdez ran around the ring, yelling and jumping in elation. This was a triumphant moment. It was also a cathartic one. This was what he needed. This was what many doubted he’d be able to do.
“There’s nothing better in life than proving people wrong,” Valdez said afterward. “I have a list of people who doubted me. My idols doubted me. Boxing analysts doubted me. They said Berchelt was going to knock me out. I have a message to everybody: Don’t let anyone tell you what you can and can’t do.”
For a fighter who’d never lost before, Valdez needed this win. He was once considered one of the best featherweight prospects. He became a contender, won a world title, and then he seemed to stagnate. That’s why he switched trainers and changed his style. His talent, speed and power had gotten him as far as they could. He needed to add more to his game in order to go farther, or else he wouldn’t.
This victory reinvigorates his career. It won him a world title in a second weight class and puts him in position for more big fights. Those fights won’t be givens either. Valdez mentioned Top Rank stablemate Shakur Stevenson in a post-fight interview. Stevenson wants that match as well.
They are very different fighters who have otherwise been following a similar path for the past several years.
Valdez came out of the 2012 Olympics. Within a few years, he was being groomed for stardom by Top Rank while one of the promoter’s top talents, Vasiliy Lomachenko, held the World Boxing Organization belt at 126 pounds. When Lomachenko moved up in weight, Valdez fought for his vacant belt.
Stevenson captured a silver medal in the 2016 Games, signed with Top Rank and was featured regularly on its broadcasts. And when Valdez went up to the 130-pound weight class, Stevenson captured the vacant WBO featherweight title.
Now they are both competing at junior lightweight. Stevenson is one of the best young boxers in the world, already incredibly talented at just 23 years old. He will be a more difficult opponent for Valdez than Berchelt wound up being.
“Let’s do it,” Valdez said. “I just want to keep on fighting and give the fans what they want.”
* * *
Anyone changing the channel from ESPN to Showtime soon after seeing Valdez’s highlight-reel knockout would’ve landed on Round 5 of Broner-Santiago and quickly heard broadcaster Mauro Ranallo rain on their parades:
“Adrien Broner has just thrown his 100th punch of the fight.”
For anyone hoping for something different from Broner, this sounded like more of the same. He was credited with going just 50 of 295 against Pacquiao, 125 of 400 against Mikey Garcia, and 88 of 309 against Porter.
The first two rounds of Broner-Santiago were slow for both men. Santiago began to increase his output in Round 3, putting forth a dedicated body attack and mixing in the occasional headshot as well. Broner, meanwhile, looked for counter opportunities from a variety of angles, be they hooks, crosses or uppercuts.
Broner let his hands go more as the fight reached its halfway point. He remained comparatively economical — Broner threw a high of 38 punches in Round 9, while on the night Santiago averaged 58 punches thrown per round. After 12 rounds, Broner was 98 of 338 while Santiago had more than doubled him, going 207 of 697.
Fights are scored on a round by round basis, though. And Broner was landing well at times in the second half of the fight. It was a close, competitive affair. Some who were watching the fight favored Santiago’s volume. Others believed that Broner had picked up points with clean punching, even though there wasn’t a single round in which he threw or landed more than Santiago.
The official judges saw Broner as the clear winner. One scored it 115-112, seven rounds to five, with an additional point deducted from Santiago for punching after the bell that ended Round 4. The other judges had it wider, 116-111, or eight rounds to four, and 117-110, nine rounds to three.
“I came in and I got the job done,” Broner said afterward.
That depends on how you define his job.
In sports, there’s a philosophy that it’s better to take the ugly win and aim to do better the next time out. Broner believed he was winning the fight early on — his corner told him as much after Round 3 — and had little reason to fight with more desperation.
He got the win. He just didn’t win anyone ever.
That was never his intention.
Broner’s been fortunate that his losses haven’t mattered as much as they do for others. He’d gone two years without a victory before landing the Pacquiao pay-per-view. He was back in the main event on Saturday despite several years of disappointing performances.
That’s because he remains boxing’s guilty pleasure. Even when he doesn’t make for good fights, he makes for good TV.
Broner has long had people who tune in to see him win and others who tune in hoping he will lose. He is a car crash whether between the ropes or in the headlines, someone who piques our morbid curiosity, even if we don’t otherwise care for him.
There have been several fighters who lose every time they step up but keep getting opportunities anyway. That’s often because they’re enjoyable to watch.
And there have been several other fighters who win but who lose the backing of their promoters and network executives. And that’s because they’re dreadfully boring once the bell rings.
Broner, whose promoter and network keep giving him more chances, doesn’t fall into either of those categories. He is a pro wrestling heel who knows how to get his heat back, who does and says outlandish things, who knows that if you don’t love him, you’ll love to hate him.
“Everybody in this room is here because of me,” he said days before the fight.
His ratings aren’t what they once were, though.
In his fights on HBO between 2011 and 2013, Broner brought in between 903,000 and 1.398 million viewers, according to Nielsen estimates. He continued to have strong numbers when he moved to Showtime in 2013, with an average of 1.28 million tuning in for his win over Paulie Malignaggi and 1.268 million watching his loss to Marcos Maidana.
His last two appearances on Showtime before last weekend also did decent figures for modern expectations: an average of 881,000 watched his loss to Garcia and 782,000 seeing his draw with Vargas.
In contrast, last weekend’s main event was seen by just 288,000 viewers, according to Keith Idec of BoxingScene.com. Valdez-Berchelt, which ended in the early rounds of Broner-Santiago, averaged 895,000 viewers.
It’s hard to put these figures in proper context, given the changes in the ways people watch television, including those who stream and aren’t included in Nielsen’s estimates. But you need only look at the Premier Boxing Champions YouTube page to gauge Broner’s continued allure. A one-minute video of the Broner-Santiago highlights had more than 1.2 million views as of early Tuesday evening, far surpassing every other video PBC has uploaded in 2021. Last week, PBC uploaded Broner’s loss to Garcia. Since then, it’s been watched more than 200,000 times, more than almost every other PBC video uploaded this year.
The welterweight and junior welterweight divisions long ago moved on without Adrien Broner. But it’s his numbers that will bring him back. Putting him in with anyone from Regis Prograis — who’s been calling Broner out — to a former 147-pound titleholder like Danny Garcia or Keith Thurman would immediately pique interest.
Saturday’s victory over Jovanie Santiago didn’t reinvigorate Broner’s career the way that Valdez’s KO of Berchelt did. But it has resuscitated him, given him more of a chance of remaining relevant.
It still wasn’t a standout performance. It wasn’t special.
“I’m looking forward to another great performance Saturday night,” Broner had said before the fight.
“Just expect a hell of a show,” he’d said.
“God gave me a blessing and gifted me with some great talent, and I’m not going to let it go to waste,” he’d said.
But he’d also said this:
“The overall goal is to get past this fight first. … So what I’ve got to do is go in, get my victory, get my hands raised first, and then we’re gonna go to the drawing board.
As has often been the case with Broner, there’s a difference between what he says and what he does. If he fails to show up in his next big fight, what he says won’t matter anymore. He’ll be done.
The 10 Count
1 – Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Adrien Broner said something that upset people.
In this case, aside from his unnecessary shot at the highly respected Showtime broadcaster Steve Farhood — who dared commit the sin of having Santiago ahead by one point on his unofficial scorecard — there were his comments about wanting to have more fights this year.
Broner calls out Showtime commentator Steve Farhood for his scoring of the fight last night, he’s also not interested in the Twitter polls either
— The Boxing Lowdown (@boxing_lowdown) February 21, 2021
“I want to say to Al Haymon and Mr. Espinoza [of Showtime Sports]: Keep me in the ring,” Broner told Showtime’s Brian Custer. “If I was fighting on the regular, maybe [Santiago] wouldn’t have lasted. But just keep me in the ring, and maybe we’ll stop fighting cases and maybe we’ll stop getting in trouble.”
He expanded on this during the post-fight press conference: “If they don’t get me in the ring, I fuck around and be fighting some more cases. Trouble just find me somehow. The only way I stay out of trouble is if I’m training. I don’t know why I got my life set up like this. Right now I’m in the mind-state to stay focused on boxing. As long as I can do that, I’ll stay out of trouble. They just need to keep me fighting.”
To some ears, it sounds like Broner is placing the blame for his many arrests and legal troubles on others, rather than taking full responsibility for his own actions.
“This fucking idiot thinks it’s Haymon and Espinoza’s responsibility to keep him from doing stupid shit all the time,” tweeted Brent Hedtke of Queensberry-Rules.com. “Imagine walking into your boss’s office and being like, ‘You need to provide me with more lucrative opportunities or I’m gonna sexually assault more people and get a bunch of DUIs.’”
Hedtke’s perspective is blunt but fair. It’s not trouble that “just finds” Broner “somehow.” It is Broner who allegedly commits these crimes. This isn’t just about him. These aren’t victimless incidents.
2 – But otherwise, in a way, I get what Broner is saying.
I’ve written before about my mental health struggles when I was younger. In some of my darkest periods, the most important thing for me to do was to just get through one day at a time. I remember one serious setback I suffered as a teenager toward the end of a school year. That summer, I threw myself headfirst into working three jobs, regaining a sense of normalcy and stability.
Adrien Broner’s problems are Adrien Broner’s fault. It’s his responsibility to keep himself out of trouble. It’s also his responsibility to take responsibility for his past actions. But it’s good that he recognizes a healthier path forward.
He should do everything he can to follow that path, even if he doesn’t have a fight scheduled yet. if he knows that boxing helps keep him focused, then he should spend as much time in training as he can, working out, working with his friends, fellow contenders, and young prospects.
3 – Showtime aired a graphic during the Broner-Santiago fight listing what it said were the only four fighters to win world titles at junior lightweight, lightweight, junior welterweight and welterweight:
Adrien Broner, Oscar De La Hoya, Floyd Mayweather Jr., and Manny Pacquiao.
As the great philosopher Big Bird once said: One of these things is not like the others.
Mayweather became lineal champion at 130, 135 and 147 by beating Genaro Hernandez, Jose Luis Castillo and Carlos Baldomir, then regained the welterweight throne by defeating Shane Mosley.
Pacquiao became lineal champion at 130 by beating Juan Manuel Marquez, at 140 by knocking out Ricky Hatton, and restarted the lineage at 147 with his rubber match victory over Timothy Bradley. (He also had several wins at welterweight that were more significant than Broner’s win over Paulie Malignaggi).
Broner defeated Vicente Rodriguez to win a title at 130. A year later, he put forth what remains his most complete performance yet, demolishing Antonio DeMarco to win a belt at 135. He only defended each of those titles once, against Eloy Perez at 130 and Gavin Rees at 135.
He then beat Malignaggi, never one of the top 147-pounders, before losing his welterweight title in his very first defense. Soon came a win for a vacant belt at 140 over Khabib Allakhverdiev, a solid win but, again, not one of the best junior welterweights. Broner dropped his title on the scales before his first defense.
That’s four title wins, two successful defenses, one carefully managed accomplishment.
4 – Where does Showtime get off making an unnecessary comparison of a current fighter to some of the best boxers in the history of the sport? Who do they think they are — Max Kellerman?
5 – Clearly, the real historical comparison that should be made is portraying Adrien Broner as the next Willie Pep.
Depending on which version of the myth you subscribe to, the fabled featherweight champ once won a round either without throwing a single punch or without landing a shot.
According to CompuBox, Broner went 0 for 12 in the opening round against Santiago on Saturday night. He whiffed on all 10 jabs and both of his attempted power punches.
According to two of the three judges at ringside, Broner won Round 1.
There really wasn’t much of note from either man in those first three minutes. Santiago went a mere 3 of 17 himself, per CompuBox. The only shots he landed were jabs.
Is it possible that judges thought that Broner landed with those two power shots — a right cross at one point, a counter left at another — and hit something other than gloves and air with a few of his jabs?
Maybe. But this round was either a 10-9 round for Santiago or should’ve been scored even at 10-10.
I had the fight closer than judges Peter Hary (who had it 117-110, awarding nine rounds to Broner) and Tom Carusone (116-111, seeing eight rounds to Broner). With swing rounds taken into consideration, I could see either man picking up the decision. With that being said, the scores were too wide for my liking.
6 – Meanwhile, judge Max DeLuca somehow had Miguel Berchelt winning the first three rounds against Oscar Valdez, according to a copy of the final scorecards posted by Top Rank publicist Evan Korn.
The first round was slow but dictated by Valdez, who pushed the action. Two judges scored it for Valdez. DeLuca had it for Berchelt.
The second round clearly belonged to Valdez, who landed better and bloodied Berchelt’s face. DeLuca and judge Dave Moretti saw it for Berchelt anyway.
After watching the fight again, I can understand why all three judges gave Berchelt the nod in Round 3.
The fact that Valdez vs. Berchelt didn’t make it to the scorecards doesn’t mean we should ignore the judging. Yes, none of this ended up mattering. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter.
7 – Valdez vs. Berchelt didn’t turn out to be the kind of two-way war many of us were expecting. It was still a worthwhile watch from beginning to end, a different kind of action that still provided plenty of drama, all building up to the spectacular conclusion.
That was the fight I was most looking forward to. The other match I was most excited about was Otto Wallin vs. Dominic Breazeale, the heavyweight co-feature on the undercard to Broner-Santiago.
I was really looking forward to the fight given all the battles that Breazeale has been in. It’s clear that all those battles mean he can’t really force a war anymore. It’s not that he didn’t try against Wallin. But he’s even slower than ever before, more plodding than before. Breazeale followed Wallin around the ring, had difficulty landing, and never had Wallin trouble.
This was Breazeale’s first fight under trainer Abel Sanchez. Both may be tempted to give it another fight to see what further improvements can be made.That doesn’t seem like a good idea, even if the only losses Breazeale has suffered as a pro have come against Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder and now Wallin.
Breazeale has always been willing to take punches in order to land them. The problem is now he’s taking even more punches and landing fewer.
8 – Josh Kelly was moved quickly after turning pro following the 2016 Olympics. Within a year, he’d won a decision over former 154-pound titleholder Carlos Molina. By June 2019, barely two years after entering the paid ranks, he was held to a draw against welterweight gatekeeper Ray Robinson.
It was atypical but appreciated to see a fighter step up so soon rather than take on a series of no-hopers. What works for promoters and managers can be frustrating for fans. But what works for fans can be frustrating for promoters and managers.
Kelly’s stunning technical knockout loss to David Avanesyan on Saturday in London will bring out the Monday morning quarterbacks who will suggest that Kelly needed more seasoning before taking on such a tough opponent. They can point to the flaws that led to the TKO — he remained in range after throwing his own shots and was too willing to fight on the inside — and that these lessons could’ve been learned against a much safer opponent.
“They should have been building up Josh Kelly and handpicking his fights to get more experience in there. Especially after having been so inactive with what has happened in 2020,” said Tony Jeffries, who won bronze in the 2008 Olympics but had to retire early in his pro career due to injuries. Jeffries was quoted in the Sunderland Echo. “Josh Kelly could have been one of the biggest names in the world of boxing, definitely one of the biggest names in British boxing. He is so talented! But they have rushed him, and that’s what happens in pro boxing.”
Kelly deserves credit for taking this fight. And he was winning it — until he lost it.
Avanesyan is a gritty contender who retired Shane Mosley in 2016 and then went on to lose fights to Lamont Peterson and Egidijus Kavaliauskas. For several rounds, it seemed like Kelly had the physical advantages. He also had Avanesyan staggered halfway through Round 2. But the confidence that Kelly showed in Round 4 quickly turned into concern by Round 6. Avanesyan cranked up his output in the fifth and then exploded in the sixth, hurting Kelly and dropping him twice. Kelly’s corner threw in the towel at the second knockdown.
Maybe Kelly will be able to rebuild. Maybe this defeat will devastate him and he’ll never be the same again. Maybe this wouldn’t have happened had Kelly not suffered a bad gash in the back of his head from an elbow and another cut above his right eye from a clash of heads. And maybe this would’ve happened against this level of opposition anyway, no matter when that fight took place.
This certainly makes a fighter like Teofimo Lopez stand out even more as an exceptional, well, exception. Lopez was 14-0 and three years into his pro career when he obliterated Richard Commey for a world title. And he jumped in with the 135-pound king, Vasiliy Lomachenko, dethroning him just one fight later.
9 – Sticking with fighters who suffered surprising losses, let’s return to Josh Warrington and his dramatic loss earlier this month to Mauricio Lara.
I was pleased to see a tweet from Anthony Joshua showing him in a video conversation with Warrington. “You know what you gotta do,” Joshua wrote. “I got your back.”
Suffering your first loss can be a devastating experience. Having it come in the form of an ass kicking is even tougher. But that’s exactly what Joshua has come back from, losing his heavyweight championship to Andy Ruiz in 2019 and regaining it later that year.
Of course, Joshua has physical gifts — size, power — that Warrington lacks. But Joshua’s second reign has seen him try to box better, to be smarter and more strategic. That’s something that Warrington, who has just seven knockouts in his 30 wins, will need to do if he’s to bounce back.
10 – “I don’t give a fuck where I’m at,” Adrien Broner said days before the Santiago fight. “You could put me in the bathroom, I’m gonna put on a show.”
Mike Tyson famously said he could sell out Madison Square Garden masturbating. I’ll pass on whatever Broner’s doing in the bathroom — though it’s not surprising that someone who made multiple videos of him flushing money down the toilet now says he’s nearly broke.
If only former featherweight titleholder Kevin Kelley had headlined a show from the bathroom. Alas, that’s not why he was called the “Flushing Flash.”
Follow David Greisman on Twitter @FightingWords2. His book, “Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing,” is available on Amazon.