By Graham Houston
It’s a bit late, but here are some thoughts on last weekend’s boxing. I usually jot down the note “Fight over” when I think that a contest has shifted irrevocably in favour of one man. I made this note in the seventh round of the Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley welterweight title rematch.
For six rounds, Bradley was in the fight with a chance of winning. When Bradley went to the ropes in the seventh and Pacquiao unloaded a burst of punches on him, though, to me there was going to be no coming back for Bradley.
The clue — a big one — was Bradley waving Pacquiao to come to him. It was a gesture of defiance but it sent a message to me: “OK, you’re getting the better of me Manny but I’m not going anywhere.”
That’s just how I saw it.
Some people seemed to be seeing a close fight but I had it 117-111, and I was on Bradley.
What surprised me was the way Bradley came out throwing haymakers, as if he thought he was a scaled-down John Mugabi. Maybe Bradley thought he could impose his physicality and force Pacquiao out of the fight. I thought, though, that Bradley was using up a huge amount of mental and physical energy and not really getting anywhere. He was fighting a front-runner type of fight. Pacquiao wasn’t having an easy time of it, but when Pacquiao weathered the first-half rush and came on strongly in the seventh, he just pulled away.
I don’t think that Pacquiao fought very much differently from his first fight with Bradley except that this time Pacquaio was fighting hard in the late stages, whereas in the first meeting he eased back and almost by default let Bradley steal the late rounds.
Bradley was a disappointment to me. Where was the jab, the smart boxing? Pacquiao was outclassing him in the second half of the fight. I thought that Bradley ran out of gas worse than Jean Pascal did in the two fights with Bernard Hopkins — and at least Pascal sucked up the stamina-reserves to have late-round success in the rematch.
I’m in the minority but I still think that Pacquiao’s movement and quick-fisted surges could give Floyd Mayweather Jr. trouble, but that fight looks as far away as ever from happening. As for Pacquiao-Bradley III — forget about it. Pacquiao did enough to win the first fight but didn’t get the decision; this time there was no doubt.
I thought that Jessie Vargas gave a competent and gritty display of boxing to defeat Khabib Allakhverdiev by close but unanimous decision in their junior welterweight title bout on this show.
Although HBO’s Harold Lederman had Allakhverdiev winning, and Jim Lampley seemed to be implying an unjust decision, there was no doubt in my mind that Vargas won, and I was on the underdog here, which in my case means that I am very unsure who won a round I will almost always give the round to the opposing boxer.
I had to mute the commentary in this fight, and I like listening to Max Kellerman and Roy Jones Jr., but I had the sense that the commentary wasn’t always reflecting the fight that I was seeing.
At least three times I thought that Allakhverdiev was on the brink of turning the fight around. Each time Vargas came back, sometimes plugging away with the jab, at other times triggering off body punches from both sides or trying the left uppercut or the right hand through the middle. Allakhverdiev was landing the harder single shots but I saw Vargas edging out most of the rounds.
Vargas’s left jab was working well against the southpaw Russian. I have long maintained that the orthodox boxer’s jab can be a match-winner against a southpaw. The Welsh featherweight Howard Winstone didn’t have much of a right-hand punch — he lost the tips of his fingers in a factory accident — but Winstone’s jab gave great southpaw Mexican Vicente Saldivar all sorts of trouble, and in the second of the three bouts Winstone would have won had the fight been a 12-rounder — Saldivar was just too strong in the last three rounds of the 15-rounder.
I heard someone say that because Allakhverdiev was the champion, Vargas had to “take” the title. What does that mean — dominate the fight? To me, if a fighter wins, he wins, even if the fight is close, no matter which of the boxers enters the ring as champion. Are defending champions supposed to have a two-round start or something?
On a more recent note, I thought that Ronny Rios and Andrew Cancio provided 10 rounds of quality boxing on Fox Sports 1 last night. Rios, to me, reached a new level in this featherweight bout. I was very impressed with the way he rolled under and away from punches and came back with counters. Cancio was right with him in every round, though, and, to me, Cancio finished the stronger man in the last round. Rios deserved the unanimous decision but I was disappointed with the two 97-93 scores — for me, 96-94 in Rios’s favour was the correct assessment.