Joking about Old Vitor is fun because it’s such a great running gag in MMA, but the reality is this: Old Vitor is New Vitor is Yesterday’s Vitor and Tomorrow’s. He’s always had the combination of quickness, power, and accuracy to roll skull crack on dudes in the first minute or two, and by dudes I mean ANYONE. Anyone used to be Terry Martin and Ivan Serati so people didn’t take it too seriously, despite Vitor’s rep being built partially on doing just that to Tank Abbott and Scott Ferrozzo; now anyone is Matt Lindland and Rich Franklin, so it’s big news. And yet what Vitor himself did in most of those fights hasn’t changed all that much, and I don’t really expect to see a very different Vitor next time out either. All the questions about his mental strength and cardio and gameplanning for fights he can’t win with a 2 minute KO are still there, and if any issue has been settled it’s maybe about whether he can show patience against a world class opponent. This is not intended as an attack; I like Vitor, think he’s a fine fighter, and I picked him to win tonight. But realistically we don’t know (though we may strongly suspect) what happens when he goes into the 3rd round, let alone the 5th, with a world class opponent right now. It’s tough to prove too much in one fight, especially when you’ve got Vitor’s track record. I’d still like to see him against Andy or in a rematch with Hendo though.
Contrast this with Floyd Mayweather for a moment. As I’m sure is clear here, I cordially loathe Pretty Boy- but not nearly so much that I can’t be honest about what I see. Floyd was fantastic tonight, amazing for any fighter and superlative for a 32 year old coming out of a year-and-change worth of retirement. His timing and handspeed are all there, and he’s clearly reestablished himself as at the absolute worst a very close #2 P4P in the world. If you have him at #1, I’m really not prepared to argue all that much. Floyd’s horseshit around making weight and picking a smaller opponent are noted, but the bottom line is that he dominated a world class hall of famer and looked like a legend in his prime. That deserves recognition and respect- he’s a wonderful fighter, one of the best of his era. In the broadest possible sense Floyd is what a fully focused and mentally stronger Vitor might be, and the distance between them is the distance the Phenom still has to travel to become a champion once again.
All in all a solid night of fights. A pretty decent week of predictions for me as well: I was 7-3 for the Fight Night, 2-1 for the boxing and 9-4 for UFC 103, so I think I’ve redeemed myself for the UFC 102 debacle.
I’m not going to lie: I’m not really a huge fan of this fight or this show despite a fun undercard (fundercard?). I’ll see it for myself or at a friend’s house because as a boxing fan you kind of have to see fights like this when the two headliners are mortal lock hall of famers, but… ugh. I’m just tired of Floyd Mayweather. Tired of his mumblemouthed father, tired of reading about his run ins with the law, the banks and the tax man, tired of his flood of silly comments which never abates, tired of his heel act which has already gone into re-runs, tired of his dildos fights, tired of his ducking competition, tired of every damn thing about him. Floyd may or may not be the most talented fighter today, but I can name you ten fighters off the top of my head who I’d rather watch. In fact, let’s:
1. Manny Pacquiao
2. Miguel Cotto
3. Paul Williams
4. Bernard Hopkins
5. Andre Ward
6. Vic Darchinyan
7. Nonito Donaire
8. Shane Mosley
9. Zab Judah
10. Juan Manuel Marquez
Hey, why not another ten:
11. Chad Dawson
12. Roy Jones Jr.
13. Israel Vasquez
14. Rafael Marquez
15. “Fast” Eddie Chambers
16. Alexander Povetkin
17. Wladimir Klitschko
18. Vitali Klitschko
19. Josh Clottey
20. Arthur Abraham
Hmm, let me really make my point clear:
21. Edison Miranda
22. Amir Khan
23. Tavoris Cloud
24. JuanMa Lopez
25. Juan Diaz
26. Erislandy Lara
27. Guillermo Rigondeaux
28. Tomasz Adamek
29. Steve Cunningham
30. And, yes, even Andre Dirrell, the most boring man on earth who’s not John Ruiz.
No particular order to these since I could keep going with this forever, with names like Kelly Pavlik, Mikkel Kessler, Robert Guerrero, Librado Andrade, Yuriorkis Gamboa, etc. All off the top of my head, no boxrec. All these fighters share the quality of making me enjoy the sport of boxing and making me want to watch more of it; Floyd makes me want to go read a book or go for a run or bake muffins or anything else but watch him, really. If Floyd were the singular talent he thinks he is it would be different, but I’ve been a fan long enough to see quicker fighters (Jones, Ray Leonard), smarter fighters (Hopkins), better defensive fighters (Pernell Whitaker), more offensively skilled fighters (James Toney, Jones, Pacquiao, etc.), and more courageous fighters (too many to name) and that’s just from the recent era without invoking the likes of Ray Robinson. Floyd is very good, even historically good, at many things; he is the best at nothing. He’ll be forgotten remarkably quickly once he’s retired which unfortunately isn’t quite at hand. Anyway….
Main Event: Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Juan Manuel Marquez
I wrote about this one a while back and I largely stand by that analysis. I think Floyd will win the fight; I think Marquez will have more fight in him than he’s being given credit for by people who say Floyd will have no trouble whatsoever. If the version of Marquez who fought Juan Diaz shows up (as opposed to a version which has slipped a great deal athletically) and Floyd actually doesn’t have any trouble with him than I’ll be prepared to give Floyd an enormous amount of credit for that win, because I think it’ll be far and away his best in the last 7 years. One major early battle should be the contest between Floyd’s brittle hands and Marquez’s slowly declining quickness and defensive ability: Marquez has become more and more hittable in recent years (compensating well to his credit with greater emphasis on his accuracy and power, which is part of why he’s been a more exciting fighter of late) and if Floyd can throw a jab and hit Marquez frequently enough with it to keep the fight in the center of the ring, this could indeed prove to be one-sided. In the center, Floyd’s handspeed is an enormous plus and he can pick his shots and pick Marquez apart. If Marquez can force Floyd into reverse and pin him along the ropes or in the corner as Oscar De La Hoya did at times, then he has the accuracy and ring knowledge the Golden Boy lacked to connect with scoring blows and do some real damage.
Ultimately the story of this fight may be a dynamic we see far too much in this sport of late: in a collision of two legendary fighters well past the age of 30, which of them has slipped more athletically and does his opponent have enough left himself to take full advantage of that decline? All my instincts say that in their primes at 130 pounds, Marquez wins a narrow decision over Floyd in a close and competitive fight where few punches land- Jose Luis Castillo fought Floyd nearly equal in their first fight, and Marquez was and is a much better fighter than that in nearly every area. At 14(4? 5? 7?) with a 32 year old Floyd coming out of retirement against a 36 year old JMM who’s been in so many wars, the size difference plus relative physical decline should be enough to get Floyd the victory. That, ultimately, will be Floyd’s epitaph in the sport for good and for ill: he knew all the angles and how to play them, for his own benefit alone.
Chris John vs. Rocky Juarez
A rematch of an entertaining draw which most people thought John won, the only flaw with this fight is that it’s Rocky Juarez’s 4,597th title shot and that means only one thing: plodding, measured offense with no second gear, simple step-forward footwork, total lack of urgency, low punch volume, and another close decision loss for Rocky. He seems like the nicest guy in the world and he’s a very good fighter, but if you accept that he was second best to John in their previous meeting than this has happened to him 5 times already (6 if you count the Zahir Raheem fight, and you should). It has happened to him at featherweight; it has happened at junior lightweight. It has happened to him against semi-brawler types like Humberto Soto; it has happened against boxers like Juan Manuel Marquez. It has happened against guys he’s only fought once; it has happened in a rematch previously as well (Marco Antonio Barrera). It’s very tough to escape the sense that Juarez has found his level, and age plus dropping back down in weight plus facing a guy who was better than him the first time around is not a formula likely to produce a new outcome. John previously had some health issues which postponed this rematch for a while, and if those are lingering than maybe Juarez can get lucky- but I’m looking for nice things to say at this point. John is a heavy favorite here (-325 at the moment) for good reason. This one you probably should put money on if you’re a gambler.
Vicente Escobedo vs. Michael Katsidis
If Katsidis was all of maybe 5-10% better this would be a stupendous fight, because either guy could easily walk away with it. As it is though I rather suspect the Aussie is outgunned in this one. He’s got good handspeed, but so does Escobedo; he’s got heavy hands, but so does Escobedo; he’s got a big heart and will to win, but so does Escobedo of late; he’s got a highly questionable chin- but Escobedo does not. More specifically Escobedo is a very comfortable counterpuncher by inclination, and he throws quick and accurate straight shots- this is essentially the perfect fighter to be if your goal is to KO an often overly-aggressive face-first defensively irresponsible brawler who throws wide hooks like Katsidis. It should be fun so long as it goes and Katsidis throws enough heat that he may either strike lucky or send Escobedo into a shell with pressure, but I wouldn’t put money on it.
This Guy vs. That Guy Over There
In theory there’s another televised bout between two dudes. I don’t really know much about them and the fight’s a late minute replacement for Zab Judah, who’s been making decisions without consulting his brain again. Hopefully it’ll be fun.
Overall, I suspect I like this card much less than most people, and for most it’ll be a lot of fun especially for Floyd fans. The undercard should be action packed, and if the main event were going to lead to anything it could be an important moment in recent boxing history. We’ll see.
“He needs to dispose of Marquez, which shouldn’t be a difficult challenge. While Marquez is an elite fighter, he’s a lightweight. Mayweather is not only the bigger man, but also he’s the far quicker man and better boxer.
It would be a shock if Mayweather were to lose the fight.”
Am I the only person out there who doesn’t buy for a moment that Floyd is just going to walk all over Juan Manuel Marquez? I think Floyd should be the favorite, but the idea that all he has to do is show up for a win is… a bit optimistic. I’ll do a serious breakdown closer to the fight probably, but a few points:
– Marquez is a lightweight, but Mayweather is hardly a towering, physically imposing welterweight. He’ll have a size advantage but his style doesn’t really involve using that to any great degree- he won’t walk Marquez down, he won’t muscle him on the inside, he won’t plant his feet and swing for the KO. To the extent Mayweather is helped it’ll probably be in shrugging off Marquez’s power, but Floyd’s chin has never been much of a question mark anyway.
– Mayweather is probably quicker, indeed; but his punch output has been declining for years, and against fighters with even a rudimentary concept of defense (by which I mean: Not Ricky Hatton) he’s starting to have trouble getting punches off. He’s one at a time, relying more and more on his defense to let him back up, dodge and counter, or occasionally get off a quick lead as a fighter comes in on him. Marquez has very good defense especially when he’s got time to see the punches coming, and he’s phenomenally accurate and varied on offense; he may walk Floyd to the corner, hit him three times, take one in response, back off, and repeat. That’s not a good math for Floyd.
– I have no idea what it means to say that Floyd is “the better boxer” in this context. He’s got some skills which Marquez does not at this point (primarily defensive positioning), and Marquez has some which Floyd does not (primarily punching variety); I don’t see that as being clearly superior in any meaningful sense. It’s JUAN MANUEL MARQUEZ, for God’s sake- the man gives up very little in technique to anyone you’ll ever see.
– Marquez thinks he can win. Thinks he WILL win. He is not now and never has been a guy who takes a fight just for a paycheck; do not underestimate the value of this. Marquez will not go away in this one.
– Floyd’s now 32 years old with a long string of injuries in his past mostly to his hands, he’s not fought in over a year, there’s reports swirling that a random sparring partner worked him in training and caused his rib injury, his entire game is based on quickness and pinpoint timing, and there’s a strong suspicion that he’s fighting for money far more than anything else these days. This is not a good combination.
-Go backways on Floyd’s record, and it’s just not that much to talk about of late. Hatton…well. He speaks for himself, and he’s the best win on here. De La Hoya was a great fighter at the end of his rope, losing as many as he won, and who never really performed well again after the Mayweather fight- and still nearly beat Floyd in a fight which went to a split decision. Baldomir was a joke, a creation of Zab Judah’s lack of professionalism. Judah himself actually won rounds early before mentally disintegrating, and is 3-2 with losses in his only serious fights (Cotto, Clottey) since the Mayweather fight, which he came into on the back of a loss. Sharmba Mitchell was ancient, reduced by knee injuries and fighting above his prime weight, and retired 2 fights late on the back of a KO loss to Paul Williams. Arturo Gatti, may he rest in peace and with no disrespect intended to the departed, was fighting above his best weight, went 1-2 in his remaining 3 fights, and was just not on Floyd’s level. Henry Bruseles was far more of a joke than even Baldomir. Chop was a pretty good fighter at 140 but was coming off a loss, and no one on earth would mistake him for JM Marquez. N’dou was a moderately talented plodder who lost his next fight and retired for nearly 5 years. Victoriano Sosa was a good fighter at 135, but no one’s putting him in the HOF. None of these men, with the arguable exception of Zab (who won rounds) is exactly an offensive dynamo.
And all of a sudden it’s 2002 and Floyd’s fighting Jose Luis Castillo, a fantastic fighter he deserves all the credit in the world for defeating twice. But that was 2002; and Juan Manuel Marquez, even at 35 and many pounds above his best weight, is still lightyears beyond every other fighter Floyd has faced since then. And he’s not facing the Floyd of 2002, who was an awesome spectacle of talent and intelligence inside the ring, and who looked at times unbeatable; he’s facing the version who lost rounds and had trouble keeping the faded Oscar De La Hoya off of him, and that’s a best case scenario assuming the year and a half plus layoff between his last fight and this hasn’t taken too much more of that once-otherworldly talent with it.
Like I said, Floyd’s Floyd, and if you’re betting he should probably be your man for this one depending on what odds you’re getting. But if Marquez wins I won’t be in the least bit shocked, and if Floyd does win this fight I’m going to give him a lot more credit than others may if he wins convincingly. The early prediction here is that slow-starting Marquez gives away one or two too many of the early rounds and lives to regret it in a very close decision loss.
EDIT: Re-reading this (I think I wrote it 5 days ago), it comes off a bit harsh. With guys like Bruseles and Baldomir it’s not that they’re joke fighters, it’s that there was just never any realistic chance of them competing with a top-3 P4P fighter. So the fights against Floyd were inevitabilities taken because they were easy money with HBO paying for them, and because it meant Floyd didn’t have to face anyone tougher.
All-Brock and MMA week continues! This one’s just for fun, but feel free to use it for barguments. I’ll do the current UFC champs plus a few others. Part 2 on Monday.
1. Brock Lesnar converts to Wladimir Klitschko.
Similarities: They’re both gihugic slow-moving white things with offensive games defined by massive power and minimal technical fluidity. Both have nicknames which reflect that- “Vanilla Gorilla” and “The Ukrainian Robot”. Both are substantially larger than much of their competition. Both have careers defined in some respects by what they’ve not done: Brock proving his success over time and against diverse competition, Klitschko proving himself against another heavyweight who would be considered top shelf from a historical perspective and not just in the current debased heavyweight division. Both are from foreign countries, Klitschko from the Ukraine and Brock from the Midwest. Both have had the reputation of being headcases (of different sorts) at various times in their careers. Both ultimately labor in the shadow of another: Klitschko under Lennox Lewis, the last great heavyweight champion who he never fought and cannot equal, Brock under Fedor Emilianenko who is, and will be, considered by many fans the true heavyweight champ until he retires or someone beats him. Both have developed dramatically as fighters in the course of their careers, yet both still have a whiff of vulnerability to them- Brock to submissions and Wladimir to a big power puncher, which is why Brock compares better to Wladimir than to Vitali (along with Vitali having fought Lewis).
Differences: Brock has actual top-level competition to define himself against; he’s also got a chin and a much more memorable personality.
2. Lyoto Machida converts to Arthur Abraham or Iron Boy Ivan Calderon.
Similarities: All three men are defined by the near-insoluble defensive puzzles they pose for opposing fighters- Machida’s movement and control of distance, Abraham’s perfect high guard, Calderon’s movement and technical perfection. All three have underrated offense, and Abraham and Machida share the quality of not necessarily hitting often, but hitting surprisingly hard when they do open up. All three are undefeated. All three are probably not as big of stars as their talent theoretically warrants, though Machida appears to be growing into it. Machida and Abraham share a common experience of narrowly getting past a better-known fighter in battles they easily could have lost- Abraham against Edison Miranda in their first fight, Machida against Tito Ortiz. None of the three is American or speaks English as their native tongue, and all three began their careers outside the US.
Differences: Machida has power Calderon can only dream of; Abraham has been tested in a fight and proved he could win a war in a way Machida never really has (Tito nearly finished him with that triangle, but was otherwise outclassed); Machida has easily the biggest collection of names on his resume; unlike the other two, Calderon at 34 is in the twilight of his career, especially for such a small fighter.
3. Anderson Silva converts to Manny Pacquiao.
Similarities: Or he did, back when he could be bothered to show up to his own fights. Back then he was, as Pacquiao is now, essentially the perfect striker in his sport: remarkably quick, eerily accurate, calm and composed, and able to effectively throw essentially every strike available to him with bone-jarring power. Both are or were masters at controlling distance and pace in a fight, both are or were ferocious finishers, both have cleaned out large swathes of their respective divisions at various times and now have to look outside of that comfort zone to find real challenges. Both are non-American and have become stars in the US despite limited English. Both have a few early losses in their careers not indicative of their peak abilities, often by odd or non-repeatable methods: Pacquiao at 18 to an 11-4 fighter, Silva to the infamous Ryo Chonan flying heel hook, etc.
Differences: Everything Silva has done in his last two fights. God those sucked. By contrast there really doesn’t exist a bad Pacquiao fight, even when he was pitted against lesser competition like Jorge Solis or David Diaz- there’s a level of professionalism which separates the men, with Silva much more given to the sort of histrionics and open disrespect of fellow fighters that brings to mind many of the stereotypes about Brazilian professional athletes. Silva is 4 years older than Pacquiao, and perhaps starting to show signs of a decline which Pacquiao is not. Pacquiao has also faced the much, much tougher competition in his career- and thus has more great wins, and also more very close fights, than Silva.
4. GSP converts to Floyd Mayweather, Jr..
Similarities: Both are preposterously great athletes who began training at very young ages and as mature professionals are defined by quickness and versatility, able to out-think nearly all of their opponents and often make even the very best (Ricky Hatton, Jon Fitch) look clownishly inept by comparison. Both have more power than you sometimes expect or remember, both are huge stars and major draws, both have immense natural charisma, both have had several career-defining fights (Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Matt Hughes, Matt Serra) go in their favor. Both have headlined or co-headlined the single largest-drawing PPV shows in the history of their respective sports, and both will be regarded as the second-most important figure in drawing those numbers. Both are considered by some to be pretty boys without the stones to mix it up, even though both have long since proved against fighters like Fitch and Jose Luis Castillo that that’s total nonsense. Both are expert at forcing their opponents into unfavorable positions, GSP with his wrestling and Mayweather by forcing opponents to come to him as aggressors and leave themselves open for counterpunching.
Differences: GSP is most likely just entering his prime while Mayweather is finishing a period of squandering a large chunk of his, as he spent years farting around against the Henry Bruseles, Carlos Baldomir, Sharmba Mitchell (the aged version) and Chop Chop Corley types of the boxing world. GSP is probably a closer comp to the Mayweather who was coming off defeating Jose Luis Castillo for the second time at age 26.
More of these Monday.