The big talk before the ring walks was that we were finally taking a step forward to a unified world heavyweight champion. Conventional wisdom was that the frontrunner, Wladimir Klitschko (50-3, 44 KOs), would stake his claim by dispatching WBO champ Sultan Ibragimov (22-1, 17 KOs) in dramatic fashion.
Unfortunately, what fans got was a glorified sparring session, as Wladimir Klitschko won a listless, disappointing unanimous decision.
At 66, Klitschkos huge size advantage was apparent at the opening bell, as the 61 Ibragimov was dwarfed at ring center. The early rounds were awkward, with Klitschko roughly parrying down Ibragimovs southpaw right and shooting out jabs exclusively.
Ibragimov kept Wladimir from setting up his hard right through lateral movement, but Sultan struggled to find a mode of attack that would allow him to get inside.
The crowd booed lustily as both men were overly cautious, with Klitschko simply taking the rounds due to the accuracy of his jab. Round four started with promise as Klitschko drilled Ibragimov with a short left hook, followed but a thudding right hand. Ibragimov tried to rush in to answer, but was immediately clinched and nullified. Unfortunately, both men once again fell into their same waltz, and boos rained down from rounds 5-7.
By round eight, Klitschko trainer Emmanuel Steward implored his man to start letting his hands go. Klitschko started the round with two hard straight rights. Ibragimov took the bombs well, firing back a straight left to the body, and two glancing overhand lefts to close out the round. Steward, again frustrated, told Klitschko to stop looking for the single shots, and throw combinations.
As usual, Wladimir responded early in round nine with successive straight rights that nearly floored Ibragimov, who stumbled back into the ropes before clinching. However, Klitschko again refused to follow up his attack, allowing Ibragimov to recover and land a right hook to the body.
Round ten saw both men wearing masks of frustration, as neither could implement any consistent attack. An errant rush from Ibragimov resulted in both men getting tied up and stumbling on the canvas, eliciting snickers from the Garden crowd.
In the championship rounds, Emmanuel Steward pleaded with Klitschko for a KO, stating quite bluntly that any other result would not be good at all. You know when the master trainer of jab-straight right-reset tells you the fight is horrible, things are quite bleak. Still, a lethargic Klitschko maintained the same pace, and both men were greeted with a mixed reaction at the final bell. Scores were 119-110, 117-111, 118-110 all for Klitschko, now the unified IBF and WBO champion.
I wrote last week to expect the early rounds to be awkward, but good grief, this fight was painful to watch, especially in light of knowing how skilled both guys are. It seemed that Klitschko still is not completely comfortable with his chin, as he stated in the post fight interview that he was wary of getting countered.
For Klitshchko, hell have to erase this performance with a dominant win over his number one contender, Alexander Povetkin. Ibragimov will have to bounce back against a name opponent to keep himself out there.
The Final Confrontation Promises More Fireworks
This Saturday, Rafael Marquez and Israel Vazquez will settle their rivalry once and for all. The rubber match will be for Vazquezs WBC Super Bantamweight Title, which he regained by stopping Marquez in 8 rounds last August. Marquez won the first bout last March, when Vazquez was forced to retire due to a fractured nose and hampered breathing.
For Vazquez to repeat his last performance hell need to continue to crowd Marquez on the inside. While he still got busted up, he was able to take away a lot of Marquezs punching power and counter hooks on the inside. Also, the fact that many times Marquez was forced to fight going backwards helped to decrease his power. It will be essential that Vazquez either feints or jabs his way to the inside, as Marquez has shown he will punish him dearly for reckless attacks.
For Marquez, he will have to utilize lateral movement to accentuate his punching power and nullify Vazquezs inside work. Marquez is at his best in mid range. That is where his punches are most potent and precise. By moving side to side, Marquez will keep this range and see the opportunities he had in the first fight to counter punch.
While I may change my mind, I feel Vazquez has shown in both fights to be just a tad more disciplined with his ring generalship. I see Marquez being quite content to wage a war once hes jarred with a few hard shots. My prediction is Vazquez TKO 8.
Cotto Calls Out Mayweather
Last week Miguel Cotto spoke with Spanish newspaper El Nuevo Dia on whether welterweight champion Floyd Mayweather is avoiding a mega fight showdown:
“I have no problem facing the other champions from the same division, but they want to remain as champions. I am open to facing any opponent. When [Mayweather] wants and decides to fight, he knows that Miguel Cotto is here….stop making excuses.”
Cottos stance would be so much better if he wasnt fighting Alfonso Gomez next, but its a step in the right direction. Unfortunately the longer this fight takes to happen, the bigger the risk that someone loses.
I seriously doubt Mayweather will fall to Oscar De La Hoya later in September, but Cotto has a full dance card this year: Gomez, Margarito/Cintron winner, and then Ricardo Mayorga. But if both guys stay undefeated, its virtually unavoidable that we have a superfight by mid 2009.
Roy Jones Wants Jermain Taylor at 170
Jermain Taylor promoter Lou DiBella revealed to the media this weekend that Roy Jones, Jr has contacted him for a potential mega fight. Jones has requested a catch weight of 170 pounds, since he can no longer make the middleweight limit. Jones has made noise before about facing the winner of Pavlik-Taylor, but has settled on going after Jermain since Pavlik will likely face Felix Trinidad.
Its no mystery why Jones is pursuing this, as Taylor can be counterpunched repeatedly. For Jermain, the bout would make sense financially, plus there would be no risk of Taylor getting hurt, which the same would not be said if he faced the young bangers at 168 like Mikkel Kessler or Lucian Bute. This fight is far from signed, and Jermain would do well to take a tune up fight to regain some confidence.
Subpar Performance Costs Duddy Lucrative Championship Fight
Exciting middleweight contender John Duddy (24-0, 17 KOs) barely squeezed out a majority decision win against journeyman Walid Smichet this past Saturday. Duddy was busted up and hit with multiple hook combinations early from Smichet, who seemed on the verge of an upset stoppage. However, Duddy showed grit in finding his jab in the late stanzas, holding off a tiring Smichet in the last three rounds to maintain his perfect record.
Still, the performance showed that Duddy is nowhere near ready for a title shot against Kelly Pavlik, who would dispatch Duddy in quick order. Because of this performance, Pavlik promoter Bob Arum has shot down any prospect of a Pavlik-Duddy fight for the foreseeable future:
Its silly to force the fight. You dont know if (Duddy) is going to fight or not fight. But Kellys going to fight three times this year so well do it down the road.
Bernard Hopkins on the Promotion Trail, Highlights of the Executioner
Check the below video for light-heavy champ Bernard Hopkins being his usual cantankerous self. The second clip is a great highlight video of Bernards career. I really wish this was a 2001-2 Hopkins facing off with Calzaghe in April.