Late Breaking

SATURDAY NIGHT FIGHTS

Following a Saturday night without boxing, both premium cable networks weighed in this week. Showtime featured Vic Darchinyan vs. Victor Burgos for the IBF flyweight strap, followed by the much anticipated Israel Vazquez-Rafael Marquez showdown for the 122 pound championship. HBO countered with an intriguing Edison Miranda-Allan Green matchup, followed by Miguel Cotto-Oktay Urkal for Cotto’s WBA welterweight belt.

Let’s take a look at the winners and losers, beginning with the HBO card:

MIRANDA VS. GREEN

Okay, let’s cut to the chase. The first seven rounds of the fight were snoozers. Green came down from 168 to fight Miranda at a catch weight of 162. Green was not aggressive and spent much of his night holding. I think the fight was over after Miranda landed a hard right in the opening moments. After that, Green seemed reluctant to engage for the rest of the evening.

I’ll say this for Green – for a guy nicknamed “Sweetness” he entered the ring with one mean game face. He just didn’t apply it in the squared circle.

Green did land a nice left hook that floored Miranda for the first time in his career in the eighth, but that was his big moment. On the other hand, Miranda was out to hurt Green for 10 rounds, and when he landed it was flush. To Miranda’s further credit, he spent the entire 10th round trying for a knockout when he had the fight in the bag, flooring Green twice in the final frame. He staggered Green with a big right midway through the round and then another barrage against the ropes dropped Green with 30 seconds left in the round. Green went down again with 15 seconds to go and he depantsed Miranda by grabbing him in a losing effort to remain upright. Though Green beat the count, barely, and made it to the final bell, the 10th round showed the difference between the two in talent.

Miranda will move on to more big fights, next most likely to be Kelly Pavlik, as he marches toward a title shot, while Green will probably be seen next on ESPN 2.

COTTO-URKAL

37 year old Oktay Urkal was the perfect foil for Miguel Cotto. I fail to see any evidence that he was a worthy mandatory contender, given the top opposition in that division, but he entered the fight with a 38-3 record, with all of his losses coming in title fights. Best of all, for the Cotto camp at least, Urkal had but 11 KO’s on his record. Cotto hasn’t faced anyone with any punching power since Ricardo Torres floored him in September, 2005.

Even the limited Urkal, pounded though he was, was able to unload some rapid fire bursts on occasion, though he was never in the fight. After one round of soaking up Cotto’s blistering body shots, the camera panned to Urkal in the corner, his head just below an advertisement on the ring post for the Manati Medical Center. It looked like a thought balloon.

After six rounds, Urkal’s corner told him, “He has nothing left. You can finish him.” Urkal seemed unconvinced.

Urkal’s best offense turned out to be his head. A clash of heads opened a cut over Cotto’s left eye in round five. Urkal was penalized a point in the seventh and the eleventh for butting.

Though it was the WBC that adapted open scoring last year, it was used in this WBA sanctioned fight because the Puerto Rican commission wanted it. For the life of me I don’t know why, but it appears that it influenced Urkal’s corner to throw in the towel after the second point deduction in the 11th round. After eight rounds, the judges saw it 77-74, 78-73, and 80-71. Uli Wegner, Urkal’s trainer admitted after the fight that open scoring played a role in his decision to stop the fight. I’m not sure if there has ever been a case of throwing in the towel after a point deduction, and this is hardly a selling point for open scoring. Wegner also complained about what he thought were illegal body punches.

So Urkal and Wegner return to Berlin where a German can get a favorable decision, and assuming his eye heals in time, Cotto moves on to Zab Judah on June 9 at Madison Square Garden.

If Judah brings his A-game, he should be the pick in that one. Certainly, Cotto has never faced anyone with Judah’s skills. Cotto’s chin is questionable and Judah has the fast hands and power to exploit it. Cotto’s best chance is to get to Judah’s body, but Judah’s hand speed and counter punching ability may drop him coming in.

IT’S SHOWTIME!

MARQUEZ-VAZQUEZ

Rafael Marquez was already the best bantamweight in the world, and now after defeating Vazquez, he’s the best jr. featherweight, too. I’ve always admired Vazquez, but I picked Marquez because while I believe that Vazquez is a very good fighter, Marquez might be on track to be an all-time great. (Not to brag, well maybe just a little, but I haven’t missed a pick in two months.)

It appears that Vazquez’ nose was broken in the first round, causing him to have some breathing difficulties in the bout. But Marquez won the fight because he had the superior jab.

The two exchanged thrillingly for seven rounds, with Vazquez flooring Marquez with a left uppercut in the third. But call it a nose, or call it heart, by the end of the seventh Vazquez decided that he could not continue.

Vazquez had stated that he was prepared to die to win the fight, and he fell considerably short there, bailing out with a broken nose. I’m sorry but I think that Izzy is getting a bit of a pass in the press on this one. Vazquez probably won the seventh round before retiring. With the third round knockdown he was in the fight, and competing at a high skill level. Two judges had it 67-65 Marquez after seven, and a third saw it 66-66. This wasn’t a Ricky Quiles or Victor Burgos type of beatdown, and Izzy should have gone out on his shield. I’m thinking that the brilliant last second exchange at the end of the seventh convinced Vazquez that even at his best, Marquez was too fast and too powerful on this night.

I apologize if I’m wrong. In fact, I hope I am. No one but Vazquez knows the extent of his pain and impairment. It just seems, to me at least, that given the magnitude and competitiveness of the fight, Izzy provided us with the ultimate anti-climax.

DARCHINYAN-BURGOS

Vic Darchinyan made the sixth defense of his IBF flyweight title by stopping challenger Victor Burgos in the 12th round. This was overshadowed, of course, when an unresponsive Burgos was transported to the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance for brain surgery to relieve pressure from a blood clot on the brain. Burgos was placed into a medically induced coma to allow his brain swelling to subside.

As of Tuesday, it was reported that Burgos was out of the coma, though still in intensive care. Doctors have reported that Burgos was able to respond to a few verbal instructions to move his toes and fingers, and is occasionally opening his eyes.

But – reality check here – how often do we ever see a happy ending when these things happen?

So now, as is usually the case in these matters, everyone is looking for someone to pin the blame on.

Burgos, who suffered his fifth KO loss since beginning his career in 1993, is 39-15-3 (23). He was listed by Showtime as being 5’ 1 ½” tall, 111 ¼ pounds, with a 60 inch reach in his third fight as a flyweight after moving up from 108. Darchinyan is 5’ 5 ½”, weighed in at 111 ½ and has a 64 ½” reach. Burgos did in fact look very small – his gloves appeared to be as big as his head.

Trainer-manager Roberto Sandoval came under fire for not stopping a fight that Burgos trailed 109-99, and 110-98 (twice) going into the final round. After another good round from Darchinyan in the sixth, his corner told Burgos, “You’ve got to work harder.”

As always in these cases, referee Jon Schorle and ringside physician Paul Wallace are receiving their share of criticism as well. Even Showtime received some bad ink for putting on the fight. Doug Krikorian, in the Long Beach Press Telegram, blamed promoter Gary Shaw, saying that it was a “scandalous decision on his part” to match Burgos as a “cushy setup” for Darchinyan. Krikorian wrote that, “Gary Shaw and those who manage Burgos should be held culpable for the tragedy that unfolded.”

Shaw doesn’t want a “cushy setup” for Darchinyan. He wants Jorge Arce, or at least another belt holder for him. Nobody wants to fight the guy. Business wise, Krikorian’s logic doesn’t make any sense. If Shaw couldn’t find opponents for Darchinyan before, who will fight him now? Further, few fighters are ever the same after being involved in a ring tragedy. Darchinyan’s greatest asset, besides a big left hand, is his aggressiveness. If he loses that, he’ll be a very ordinary fighter.

It might be of some interest to some that Burgo was ranked as the #3 contender by the IBF, and #8 by Ring Magazine. He was also a former titlist at 108. For Krikorian to make the assertion that a promoter or a manager is responsible and should be “held culpable” seems irresponsible at best.

Burgos chose to box and run from the opening bell. He took a knee after a body shot in the second round, and either slipped or was pushed to the canvas no less than five times. Darchinyan, in his awkward way, chased after Burgos from the start, sometimes literally, landing some monstrous punches, but also missing quite often in his effort to run Burgos down. Burgos had a “moment” in the seventh when his right hand backed Darchinyan against the ropes.

You can make a case that Schorle should have stopped it earlier, but Burgos was still throwing punches and moving around the ring on sturdy legs. I confess that until the final moments I didn’t see any evidence of injury, just domination.

In the final moments a Darchinyan blow on the back of the head was followed by the last of Burgos’ slips to the floor before the stoppage. Burgos’ rose with rubbery legs and you can definitely make the case that the fight should have been stopped then, but it was already too late.

My feeling has always been that the corner is the key to safety in boxing. They bear the greatest responsibility for protecting their fighter, knowing the fighter and the signs of distress better than anyone else. In such a one-sided fight, no one would have thought less of Burgos or Sandoval if the fight had been stopped in the final rounds when he had no chance of victory. Sandoval had every legitimate reason to halt the fight after nine rounds and he didn’t.

It’s difficult to assign blame, however. A fighter can be too brave, you question how much damage a flyweight can do, the injury manifests itself so suddenly, and before you know it, there’s another ring tragedy. It is my hope that as a result of this fight and the Ricky Quiles-Nate Campbell debacle last Friday that cornermen will take their responsibilities more seriously in regards to fighter safety, but in the case of the Burgos incident there will be no fingers pointed here.

We don’t need rule changes, just compassion.