Juan Manuel Marquez stopped Michael Katsidis on Saturday night in a brutal give-and-take brawl that should serve as an example of what prizefighting is meant to be. If a fight is not exciting, if it does not entail a certain amount of drama, then why not follow the Pro Bowlers Tour instead? Marquez scored the TKO in the ninth round, when Kenny Bayless stepped in to save a wobbly Katsidis from taking further punishment.
Still, it looked like Katsidis would upset the dope early. A neatly-timed left hook dropped Marquez flat on his back in the third round and an upset seemed a distinct possibility. But Marquez, the epitome of a professional, beat the count, refused to panic, and fought his way back into the fray before the round had even ended. From then on it was bombs away, with Marquez landing—often in combination—knifing bodyshots, wicked uppercuts, and cannonball rights. Katsidis kept up an inhuman pace, working both hands on the inside but effective mostly with his left, but soon began to wither from the punishment. Finally, he hit “E” in the ninth round, backing up for the first time in the fight, an invitation to Marquez to swarm. Naturally, he obliged.
Katsidis fought his heart out and was still trying to answer back when Bayless halted the bout. Prizefighters like Katsidis and Marquez are few and far between, and yet much of the boxing economy is used to bail out lauded phonies whose skills are better suited for the Good Will Games or American Gladiators.
Andre Berto continued to lampoon professional boxing with a pathetic first round KO of limited Freddy Hernandez on the $1.25 million windup to the Juan Manuel Marquez-Michael Katsidis donnybrook. That real prizefighters have to share the same arena with Berto types is one of the shames of boxing. To think that there are still “experts” out there who hype up Berto while simultaneously denigrating Manny Pacquiao. Save your penny clicks, eh? In the end, the rules of supply and demand simply do not apply to Berto, who is the Burke and Hare of boxing. After all, this is a fighter without enough of a following to sell even 975 tickets to one of his WORLD TITLE fights.
Celestino Caballero tobogganed himself right out of all the big fights he felt he was entitled to when he dropped a split decision to Minnesota clubfighter Jason Litzau on the Marquez-Katsidis undercard. It was a sloppy brawl, with Litzau landing the bigger punches throughout, shaking another supposed “P-4-P” stalwart over and over again with left hooks and sucker punch rights that a Toughman contestant might have avoided. Focused and determined, but not much else, Litzau worked hard to capitalize on his opportunity. The same cannot be said of his opponent, whose body language revealed a man whose professionalism is no match for his mouth. Rarely does a fighter win a bout on contempt alone, and that was all Caballero entered the ring with on Saturday night.
Carl Froch is not nearly as skillful as cyberspace would like you to believe after whitewashing Arthur Abraham, but he owns every intangible needed to be a successful prizefighter: heart, determination, stamina, resilience, chin, and smarts. Preparation outside the ring is also key. Froch devised a gameplan specifically tailored to exploit the weaknesses of his opponent and had the discipline to stick to it. Abraham, on the other hand, seems incapable of adjusting his style no matter who answers the bell against him. Without creating an opening for his only real strength—crippling power—how did he expect to do any damage much less win? He moved around the ring on Saturday like a hausfrau with a featherduster in her hands. Froch fought with purpose and made the most out of his strengths.
As for Abraham, chances are Andre Ward will also nullify him completely. Abraham has no inside game whatsoever, and if Ward decides to rassle, Abraham might as well get on all fours and have a saddle strapped onto his back between rounds. “Exposed” is not a word used often on TCS, but Abraham has certainly earned the right to it after his last two performances.
Andre Ward played frotteur with Sakio Bika at the Oracle Arena on Saturday night and came away with a bruising if somewhat dull unanimous decision. Once again Ward decided to set up house on the inside, mauling and grinding with Bika for most of the fight. When Ward created distance, his technique was far superior to that of Bika and he landed some of the only clean blows of the fight. Bika, however, appeared to shake Ward on two or three occasions, once with a bodyshot that forced Ward to clinch immediately, this time out of necessity and not by choice.
The lopsided scorecards verged on ludicrous. Most rounds saw both men trading shovel hooks, rabbit punches, elbows, headbutts, forearms, and bodyshots while locked in various clinches and armbars. How, then, do you determine that one fighter has won the bout hands down? If you are a cyber-expert, it probably depends on how high you have placed Ward on your “P-4-P” standings and how much you feel you have to justify his “ranking.”
When boxing fans criticize MMA for its long stretches of grappling, MMA fans shoot back that some people simply do not understand the intricacies of the ground game. Now we have a fighter, Ward, who has turned into a fairly dull mauler and boxing fans are telling anyone they feel comfortable insulting that they do not understand the intricacies of infighting. Boring is boring, intricacies be damned, and if other boring fighters are to be lambasted with regularity, Ward should be as well. There is a difference between infighting and holding, of course, but good luck finding someone who will admit it. At times, Ward would simply reach out, grab a limb, and clamp down on it furiously. Great move if you happen to be Royce Gracie, illegal if you are a boxer, uninspiring if you are interested in a good fight.
Ward is essentially a spoiler, a style pervasive among journeyman of another era, when lasting the distance meant another pay check. Today, that same methodology gets you compared to Sugar Ray Leonard. In a way, Ward must be given credit for transforming super middleweight bouts into 1980s “Lost Generation” heavyweight tussles. As talented as he is, there really is no reason for his obsession with clinching.