Sound & Fury: Notes on Circuit Fighters, Kessler, Ward, Showtime, Montiel, Chavez Jr., Set-ups, A Man Named Shelby, and The Highland Rim

All fighters deserve respect, but Shelby Pudwill must qualify as perhaps the worst pug ever to appear on a premium cable network. Pudwill, who was hammered into submission over three rounds by Andre Ward last night at the Pechange Resort & Casino, in Temecula, California, is a part-time circuit fighter originally from South Dakota. He has defeated exactly two fighters with winning records throughout a spotty career that began in 1995.

Circuit fighters occupy a unique and often neglected place in the huckster world of professional boxing. Not exactly journeymen or trial horses, circuit fighters are boxers who build up good paper records on professional losers in combat hinterlands like Oklahoma, Iowa, and Indiana for the sole purpose of cashing in on one or two big paydays against fighters too advanced to face outright tomato cans. Often, these fighters land gigs/vacations in Europe against hot prospects. Of course, some circuit fighters are better than others. Marty Jakubowski and Buck “Tombstone” Smith are recent examples of fairly advanced circuit fighters.

For all of his bravery, however, Shelby Pudwill is decidedly not an advanced circuit fighter and it is impossible to justify his appearance on Showtime. Promoter Dan Goosen, along with Mike Acri, is a master at throwing a dragnet across the Highland Rim, the Pennroyal Plateau, and the Couteau des Prairies to haul up fighters with 23-2-2 records and the all important ability to emerge from a corner at the sound of an opening bell.

Gusmyr Perdomo, who was knocked out by Mikkel Kessler in four rounds in Herning, Denmark, was just a slight improvement over Pudwill. Only his southpaw style and a certain amount of chutzpah differentiated him from Pudwill, who fought like a man who knew the Sword of Damocles was suspended above his head and would drop at any moment. Kessler, who improves to 42-1, appeared a little rusty early, but did not have a good enough fighter in front of him to take advantage of his shaky timing. A single right in the fourth round put Perdomo, 16-2, on Dream Street, and a follow up flurry from Kessler quickly convinced referee Russell Mora of what Showtime executives were too clueless to recognize: Perdomo did not belong in the ring with Kessler.

Once again, viewers were treated to squash matches euphemistically labeled “tune-ups,” and “showcases.” Mismatches and set-ups belong on the fringe circuitsstates with soft commissions, community centers in Waterloo, and high school gymnasiums across The Great Plains. Showtime, in its misguided attempt to hype up a future bout by airing “warm-ups” crossed the line of bad taste. Until recently, HBO was the grandmaster of this counterproductive strategy (usually involving squash matches as lead-ins to blockbuster pay-per-view events), but Showtime has also gotten in on the act, most notably with their disastrous appetizers for the equally disastrous Chad Dawson-Antonio Tarver bout, a matchup so humdrum that fewer than 1,000 patrons paid to see it in Las Vegas. At least the unbearably long build-up process for that debacle included the Dawson-Glenn Johnson firefight. Last night was just another example of how dense television executives can seem regarding boxing.

Who, exactly, is Showtime trying to lure to watch the opening of the Super Six tournament? How many casual fans tuned in to see Mikkel Kessler last night, anyway? If anything, the casual sports fan will be puzzled at the hapless look of the underdogs on display. Even Andre Ward, who beseeched referee Pat Russell to stop the madness, knew the futility on beating up poor Pudwill. To entice a casual fan you do not broadcast Shelby Pudwill and Gusmyr Perdomo any more than you would entice a consumer to drink fine wine by offering them samples of Mad Dog 20/20. Whenever you wonder about the tenacity of a promoter like Dan Goosen, who almost single-handedly blasted America Presents into smithereens, remember that his survival largely depends on duping television executives into accepting Theo Elmore, Manard Reed, Esteban Camou, Andy Kolle, and Santos Pakau as opponents. On the other hand, just how much duping does he really need to do? HBO and Showtime do a pretty good job of slipping on bananas of their own peeling.

Recent HBO scheduling and budget nightmares (chronicled by Steve Kim at and Rick Reeno at, for example, have left Shane Mosley, one of the best fighters in the world today, unable to ply his trade. Several bonehead maneuvers over the last year have left HBO in a ridiculous bind for the next few months and when it was reported in June that the HBO budget was off the rails, one can only think back at some of the strange fights they overpaid for recently, including the Dawson-Tarver rematch and any fight involving Andre Berto.

With only 40 or so “premium” television dates available in the U.S. one would think HBO and Showtime would be a little more judicious in selecting fights. Wasting dates on counterproductive teaser bouts is a disservice to the viewer, to the fighters, and to the networks themselves. The Cruelest Sport, for example, opted to purchase the Latin Fury pay-per-view card promoted by Top Rank on Saturday night rather than watch bouts that were, for all intents and purposes, fixed. Decent scraps featuring Fernando Montiel, Z Gorres, and Donnie Nietes were worth more than a free  lifetime pass to fights involving Goosen-Tutor promotions. There were cuts, upsets that shapeshifted into non-upsets, knockdowns, controversial decisions, sombreros, a raucous crowd, ravishing round card girls, and sand spread all over the ring to prevent slips on the canvas the way resin was used back in the old days when fighters were not asked to potentially wipe out on energy drink logos.

Talented Z Gorres, 30-2-2, looked sharp in stopping Veracruz hard case Cruz Carbajal via corner retirement. Carbajal, now 29-17-2, is on the skids but remains a tough customer for all but the best.  Gorres is fun to watch, especially when he is cranking up uppercuts from his southpaw stance.

Donnie Nietes, 25-1-3, escaped enemy territory with a split decision over rugged Manuel Vargas, 26-3-1, to retain his minimumweight knick knack. It was an entertaining bout from the moment the opening bell rang. At times Vargas seemed to outwork Nietes, especially to the body, but Nietes would often straighten Vargas up with sharp right hands and jabs. Nietes showed heart in fending off the aggressive Vargas and Vargas showed the kind of moxie that many fighters with higher profiles lack. The bout was much closer than the cards in favor of Nietes indicated and a rematch is a natural. Vargas deserved better than the short end of an absurd 118-110 score.  In fact, he appeared to edge out Nietes, but it was difficult to tell because of a haywire satellite transmission that chiefly affected this bout.  Portions of the fight could not be seen and the show was beset by technical glitches throughout.  This is not necessarily all bad, however, since the final half hour of the Pay-Per-View was mercifully telecast without the C-level broadcast crew. It is interesting to note how few, if any, accounts mentioned the bizarre scoring of this bout. One judge scored it 116-110 for Nietes, which is more or less a mathematical impossibility in lieu of a knockdown, a couple of dominant rounds tabbed 10-8, or a deduction for a foul somewhere along the way. None of the aforementioned occurred and, as it stands, there are two points missing from the final scorecard. Maybe someone should put Bo Dietl on the case.

The strange career of Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. continued when he whacked out ESPN2 staple Jason LeHoullier in one round. LeHoullier got ambitious halfway through the first round and got caught with a thunderous left hook during an exchange of blows. LeHoullier, 21-2-1, hit the canvas with a befuddled look on his face. He beat the count but was bullied into the ropes where Chavez Jr. unloaded and forced referee Ruben Carrion to step in and halt the contest.

Because of his limitations, most Chavez Jr. fights are entertaining to watch, but he seems to have reached his peak as a boxer and is unlikely to reach elite status despite his gaudy 40-0-1 record. Unlike other make believe fighters, however, Chavez, 23, draws crowds, offers excitement, and, when he bothers to get into shape, fights regularly. Criticism should be reserved since his bouts are on an exclusively supply-and-demand basis, a concept apparently foreign to the bigwigs at HBO. His quality of opposition, despite internet cheerleading, is really no worse than those of plastic superstars Victor Ortiz and Alfredo Angulo and, more importantly, his paychecks are commensurate with his outings.

Another mystery hovers over the Fernando Montiel-Alejandro Valdez fight, which was originally ruled a technical draw, then a TKO win for Valdez, and then again a technical draw by the commission. Referee Chucho Salcedo also appeared to ignore a clear knockdown when Montiel hit the deck after taking a flush uppercut from the hardpunching southpaw Valdez. Montiel, 39-2-2, appeared on his way to outclassing Valdez early when a nasty cut opened up over his left eye in the first round. Montiel dropped Valdez in the first round, but was clearly affected by the blood pouring into his rapidly swelling eye. Valdez, 22-2-3, recovered from the knockdown, turned up the heat, and took the fight to the reigning “Interim” WBZ bantamweight champion in rounds two and three. Contrary to reports from the usual suspects, it was the ringside doctor who halted the bout in the corner with Montiel calling for one more round. The last thing boxing needs is to have another proud fighter labeled a “quitter” by the Peanut Gallery. Replays showed that the cut appeared to be caused by a Valdez jab and that he was entitled to the TKO victory. A crew from Skeptical Inquirer should come in and determine the following: a) why the cut was ruled as being caused by a head butt; b) why the referee ignored a clear knockdown scored by Valdez; c) why the bout was reversed twice and for what reason other than the obvious ones; and, finally, d) why Valdez kept hopping spastically from turnbuckle to turnbuckle as if he had just knocked out Benny Leonard or Sugar Ray Robinson.

Tags: Alejandro Valdez Andre Ward Bad Taste Bo Dietl Boxing CHAD DAWSON Circuit Fighters Dan Goosen Donnie Nietes Gusmyr Perdomo HBO Jason LeHoullier Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. Mad Dog 20/20 Manuel Vargas Marty Jakubowski Mikkel Kessler MISMATCHES Pennyroyal Plateau Set-ups Shelby Pudwill Showtime Supply And Demand

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