Last week, prior to the big fights this past Friday and Saturday, I got an unexpected call from my friend and former broadcast partner Dutchy. After some idle chit chat, Dutchy said how disappointed he was that there were "no big fights around". Well, as was the case when he co-hosted In This Corner with me, Dutchy was, as usual, wrong again!
Let me start first with this past Saturday's card at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, where "El Terrible" Erik Morales was on the comeback trail as he took on power-punching Argentinean, Marcos Maidana.
For those of you who saw the fight, you were witness, as was I, to what will undoubtedly be a Fight of the Year candidate. For those of you who didn't see the fight, STOP READING and go watch a fight which will have you shaking your head in disbelief.
In one of those rare contests, Maidana and Morales put on a display of courage rarely seen. Early in the first round, a left uppercut split the guard of Morales and landed directly on his right eyeball. Within seconds the eye began to shut. By round 4 it was barely more than a slit. By round seven, it was a grotesque purple mess. Yet despite this, Morales began charging back. With a heart the size of Mexico and a chin made of steel, Morales began punching his way back into the fight. As the fight swayed back and forth, both fighters gave as good as they got. In the end, Las Vegas judges once again rendered illogical scorecards. Judge Richard Houck scored the fight correctly as did HBO's Harold Lederman at 114-114. However, inexplicably judges Adelaide Bird and Jerry Roth handed in identical scores of 116-112, giving Morales only 4 of the 12 rounds.
In a display which rivals fights like Corrales vs. Castillo and Gatti vs. Ward, Maidana and Morales combined to once again humble mere humans with a more than superhuman performance.
While on the subject of Nevada officials, I would love for someone to explain referee Joe Cortez's move on previously undefeated James Kirkland. In a stunning upset, Kirkland was knocked down three times in under two minutes of the opening round by lightly regarded Nobuhiro Ishida. The first knockdown was a short little left hook which seemed to surprise the usually aggressive Kirkland. The second knockdown was courtesy of a good clean left hand which deposited Kirkland on the canvas hard. Allowed to continue, Kirkland was dropped once again, courtesy of an Ishida right hand. Without hesitation, and without the three knockdown rule being in effect, Cortez threw his entire body weight on Kirkland and refused to let him rise as he waved off the fight. Kirkland, who is considered a strong middleweight, was able to push himself and Cortez up. Cortez had to use all his strength to keep Kirkland down.
Now let's just be clear about something, I don't have a problem with Cortez taking the decision to stop the fight. After all he is the third man in the ring and the one in charge. However, I have a great problem in a referee putting his body weight on a downed fighter and forcing him to the canvas. What was Cortez trying to prove? Completely uncalled for!
Finally, as most of you know by now, and as many of you must have seen either live on Friday on ESPN2 or in a replay on Monday on TSN, my fighter, David Lemieux suffered the first setback of his career when I stopped his world title elimination fight in the seventh round against the hard-punching Mexican veteran Marco Antonio Rubio.
In a fight in which Lemieux dominated the first five rounds, the resiliency of Rubio proved to be the difference as Lemieux gambled by going for the knockout throughout the first five rounds. Time after time Lemieux backed up the taller Rubio and unleashed bomb after bomb on the Mexican Warrior. After withstanding the Lemieux onslaught, Rubio began coming back. Near the end of the sixth round, Rubio caught Lemieux with a looping right hand over a lazy Lemieux jab. The veteran knew he had made a statement. In the waning moments of round seven, Rubio caught Lemieux with a right hand behind the head. Hurt, Lemieux fell into the corner defenceless. After taking the mandatory eight, Rubio moved in for the kill. Lemieux did his best to try and resist the Rubio assault. After Lemieux took a right hand against the ropes near our corner, I had seen enough and stopped the fight.
OK, there you have the break down. Now I have spent a little time looking over the comments made by members of the media and fans across the internet, and I would like to take this moment to clarify and answer a few questions.
Lemieux had not beaten anybody on his rise to the top.
I have been more than patient in moving David through his short four year pro career. Nobody, and I mean nobody, expected Lemieux to blow out fighters like Donnie McCrary, Elvin Ayala or Hector Camacho Jr. in one round each, especially this early in his career. Everytime we stepped up the opposition, Lemieux passed the test with flying colours. The ease in those victories was more indicative of Lemieux's talent and progress than in the lack of quality of opposition.
Lemieux was not properly prepared for this fight.
Wrong! Lemieux prepared for over 10 weeks for this fight including three weeks at high altitude in Sierra Nevada, Spain and seven weeks here in Montreal. Lemieux was a workhorse and was prepared for a marathon. As has always been the case, Lemieux's desire to please the crowd has often surpassed his better judgement. Lemieux has thrived on being spectacular. There is no doubt that he was exactly that for five rounds on Friday. Lemieux's youthful exuberance got the better of him, sadly, but it would not be enough to get the better of Marco Antonio Rubio.
We used the wrong strategy.
The biggest and really only mistake Lemieux made in his execution of the strategy was to unload with both hands at an incredible pace and with the highest intensity possible as he looked for the knockout. As we all know, the knockout is least likely to come when you look for it. Lemieux rolled the dice and came up craps.
I stopped the fight too soon.
I have a real problem knowing that there are people out there who feel I stopped the fight too soon. After all there were "only" 24 seconds left in the round. What fight were you watching to think that? How many more punches should Lemieux have been allowed to take? One? Three? Six? As I said in a recent interview, go to your local gym and have someone time you for 24 seconds and see how many punches you can throw. And you're not Marco Antonio Rubio. Lemieux is only 22 years old. In professional boxing that's a baby.
This weekend proved just how incredible professional boxing can be. On a weekend when a veteran like Morales showed the courage and skill against a determined power puncher like Maidana, two undefeated, young prospects suffered huge upsets. Only time will tell if either has the resolve and determination to return to their once promising position.