(credit: Esther Lin, Showtime)
Boxing has a way of making fools of us, again and again. Like most everyone, I was convinced that Erislandy Lara-Alfredo Angulo would be a sad, one-sided beatdown by the crafty Lara of the paleolithic and shopworn Angulo. Like most everyone, I thought the sublimely talented Chad Dawson would have too much sublime talent for the power-punching but untested Adonis Stevenson, although I wasn't quite as convinced as most. Then Angulo, despite a loss resulting from his already excessively prominent brow swelling to grotesque proportions, went and made it a surprisingly even fight for 10 rounds. And Stevenson only needed a little more than a minute to finish off Dawson.
It's OK. If the price of feeling stupid is getting drama like we got this past weekend, I'll take the trade. Hell, it's downright necessary sometimes. A back-and-forth fight like Lara-Angulo would be enjoyable even in a vacuum, but the surprise of it was half the thrill.
Patrick Connor already hit you with live weekend coverage of the card in Carson, Calif., and I hit you with some of the rest. Here are some Weekend Afterthoughts on some of that and a few things besides.
Next for Marcos Maidana. Who wouldn't watch a rematch of Maidana's welterweight Showtime brawl with Josesito Lopez? It will end 2013 as one of the best fights of the year, although not the capitalized Fight of the Year. It doesn't seem to be in the cards, though, a do-over. Golden Boy is acting like it wants Maidana against the winner of Adrien Broner-Paulie Malignaggi, potentially a good fight depending on how that one goes. If Malignaggi wins, it will probably only be because of a size advantage, so Malignaggi-Maidana doesn't enthuse me much. I'll want to see whether Broner looks comfortable in his move up to 147 if he wins, because while he'd have a speed and skill advantage over Maidana, he might not have the size to contend with Maidana, who punches super-hard and gets hurt in return, but regenerates hit points like an AD&D troll. The Maidana fight to rule them all is with Lucas Matthysse. Matthysse is on track for a September fight with Danny Garcia for all the 140-pound marbles. I love that fight. But Maidana-Matthysse is a ******* John Woo film. Can we have them both?
Next for Josesito Lopez. I'm about half in agreement with Lopez that referee Lou Moret stopped the bout prematurely, because while Lopez was clearly hurt and not doing much, he had his gloves up and was even throwing a right hand at the exact moment Moret stepped in. Still, I'm not going to bust Moret's balls for erring on the side of fighter safety in a borderline call, and the decision will probably prolong Lopez's career. There are some, like our friend @linusesq, who think Lopez needs a break after a string of "suicide missions" engineered by his adviser Al Haymon. I wouldn't categorize the Maidana fight as one of those missions, because I thought it was winnable and picked him to win. But Lopez has come in as the underdog in three consecutive fights, against Victor Ortiz, Saul Alvarez and now Maidana. If Golden Boy wants to develop him as an A-side -- and there are signs he could do it, which we'll discuss a bit later -- then maybe it makes sense to give him a couple easier ones, to see if he can mature further as a fighter in combination with all the experience he's gained against dangerous contenders.
Next for Lara. Golden Boy's Richard Schaefer picked an odd time to talk about how Lara is a difficult sell to fans, some of which appears to be related to him being cross with some remarks by Lara's team. Lara showed he would slug it out in appealing fashion if he had to, so maybe the answer is to make sure you match him with pressure fighters like Angulo to make the most of Lara's counterpunching. So, yeah, Lara-Austin Trout, a fight Schaefer mentioned as a bad style match-up, might make all the competitive sense in the world, but you'd have to pair it with something more exciting to get people to watch. Lara-Gabriel Rosado sounds a bit more like it to me. Also, U.S. promoters remain completely mystified by Cuban boxers. I still wonder why they don't try to offer them up on shows in Florida.
Next for Angulo. It is truly weird that anyone could diagnose Angulo as not having any fractures, especially if Angulo "inexplicably" (to use the adverb Mike Coppinger did) underwent no x-rays in a hospital visit as his team reported. I'm more inclined, as was the plastic surgeon who examined him ringside, to think his orbital bone was shattered. That whole article is weird, with Angulo and his team coming off as totally delusional about him quitting. Look, he turned his back, a signal he doesn't want to fight. He didn't protest when the ref stopped it. And he wasn't thumbed. Sure, the thumb of his glove grazed Lara's eye in the 10th, but his eye started swelling as early as the 5th and was blowing up in the 10th even before the sequence of hard shots that made Angulo turn away. It's not unheard of for boxers to think they're fouled when they get hit clean like that, like when Kermit Cintron was convinced he was head butted by Sergio Martinez. Either way, no one ought to be mad at Angulo for quitting over this, especially because the ref and doctor wouldn't have let it go on for man seconds longer had he continued. It's also too bad that he might be out of the ring for a while recovering, because he has a lot more fight left in him and it's the television-friendly variety.
Home Depot/StubHub Center. Showtime commentators and plenty of others remarked after Maidana-Lopez that something about the venue brings the best out of boxers, turns fights into wars. I don't doubt it's a great venue. I just don't see anything about all the examples those people are citing for the Center's magical powers: Maidana-Lopez, Israel Vazquez-Rafael Marquez III and Paul Williams-Antonio Margarito were all expected well in advance to be good-to-amazing. I did find the announced boxing attendance record of 8,629 interesting, so I queried people about how it got to that figure on Twitter. At least one person cast doubt on that number. But the rest offered a variety of explanations, all of which are plausible: A. Lopez is becoming an attraction in SoCal, with his exciting style and regional appeal; B. It was a genuinely compelling match-up that moved people to buy tickets, although it's not always the case that a Fight of the Year on paper translates into big sales (see: Martinez-Williams II); C. it had other regional attractions, like Mexican brawler Angulo; and D. the tickets were cheap. "All of the above" is also a possibility.
Next for Stevenson. Don't have much more to add from this past weekend, but there's one more name to add to the list of potential opponents: Tony Bellew. In addition to becoming the lineal light heavyweight champion of the world, Stevenson also picked up an alphabet trinket, and Bellew is the mandatory contender. Bellew impressively wants the bout against Stevenson, now among boxing's elite mega-punchers. I'd watch it.
Next for Marco Huck. Same deal here -- not much to add from what I said this weekend after Huck strengthened his claim as the world's top cruiserweight by defeating Ola Afolabi, except a new name for the list of possible opponents: Firat Arslan. The likelihood is that Huck will face Arslan in a rematch of a bout Huck probably didn't deserve to win in the first place. I'd watch it.
Jermell Charlo and Yuriorkis Gamboa. The sore spots on Saturday's action were junior middleweight Jermell Charlo and lightweight Yuriorkis Gamboa being in snoozers. Charlo is not usually that boring, but putting him in with another counterpuncher, Demetrius Andrade, probably wasn't wise. Likewise, as lackluster as Gamboa has become, there are potentially watchable fights for him at 130 or 135 -- Argenis Mendez, Takashi Uchiyama, Ricky Burns. Certainly not Richard Abril, who figures as the next bout for Gamboa based on alphabet belt positioning. Thank goodness for the sanctioning belt gang making so many wonderful bouts happen; how else would we get the chance to watch surefire instant classics like Gamboa-Abril?
Hall of Fame weekend. The occasion of the Hall of Fame induction of Arturo Gatti re-opened the debate about whether he deserved to be voted in in the first place, to which I still answer, narrowly, "Yes." The standard for Hall voters is in-ring achievement, and if we're just talking about who he beat, then no, he doesn't belong. On the other hand, if by in-ring achievement you mean how his fights helped keep boxing afloat during a down period and all the Fights of the Year he was in, he's already in the history books for the latter.