It was a fun night at the fights for those that watched, with David Haye retaining his status as cruiserweight champion (which he will soon vacate), Samuel Peter finally getting his crack at Oleg Maskaev and cracking him to win the WBC heavyweight crown officially, and veteran Nate Campbell outfighting heralded young star Juan Diaz to win the IBF lightweight title. And that was just what was on American TV tonight.
Let's kick things off with something else, though: In their fourth fight, WBC flyweight champion Daisuke Naito and rival Pongsaklek Wonjongkam fought to a draw in Tokyo, meaning their rivalry now stands at 2-1-1 for Wonjongkam. The 33-year old Naito (32-2-3, 20 KO) retains the title on scores of 114-114, 115-113 (Naito) and 115-114 (Wonjongkam). A fifth fight? Why not, I suppose? It's still the biggest fight for either of them, except maybe a showdown with young gun Nonito Donaire.
Wonjongkam is now 67-3-1, a bogus record, still, almost entirely padded with junk fighters. I'm not saying he isn't good, because he is. He's one of the world's best flyweights. But that record makes him look like some sort of legend. He's a Thai legend, to be sure, but he's not exactly fast-tracked to Canastota or anything.
Now on to what we saw tonight from Showtime and HBO.
At the O2 Arena in London, half a mile from where David Haye was born, the crushing cruiser puncher stopped Welshman Enzo Maccarinelli at 2:04 of the second round after a bruising right hand sent Maccarinelli into the corner, where Haye continued to unload on his foe until referee John Keane called it off. It's worth noting that Keane did so in a peculiar fashion, as he pulled Haye away from Maccarinelli, then never actually administered a count, seemingly having some sort of conversation with Enzo before deciding to stop the fight.
It was the right call -- Maccarinelli was in bad shape and just about out on his feet. But what if Enzo hadn't been too badly shaken? The referee would've given him extra time to recover during all that, and had no choice but to either wrongly stop the fight because of his own mistake, or allow it to continue at a slight advantage to Maccarinelli.
Luckily, it wasn't in doubt. Haye was cut within the five minutes of the fight, and said after that that prompted him to abandon the respect he did show Maccarinelli's power and just go for the knockout. It would've been tough, after all, for Haye to make his official and much-discussed jump to the heavyweight division had he lost to Maccarinelli in his final fight at 200 pounds.
Haye came in at 198 pounds for the fight, too, which I think is notable. He looked in really outstanding shape, and fought like it. He never looked sluggish (though five minutes isn't much time to start looking sluggish), and looked really lean, healthy, and energetic.
It's sort of too bad that the wonderful fans in London didn't get more for this much-anticipated showdown, but this was one of two real options for this fight's result. Either someone was going down early and excitingly, or the fight would be vicious and grueling.
In all honesty, it worked out great for American fight fans, who then were able to switch on over to HBO and watch that network's card if they so chose.
Haye is now 21-1 with 20 knockouts. Maccarinelli is 28-2 (21). Enzo made no excuses afterward, saying he got himself knocked out and that he just didn't box the gameplan. He gave all credit to Haye for beating him, and I expect we'll see Enzo in more big cruiserweight fights over the coming years.
In Cancun, the HBO double-header delivered as well as could be expected, though the outcomes were not exactly as many had planned.
In the televised opener, Juan Diaz lost his "0" as Nate Campbell outgunned, outfought, and just plain beat the 24-year old "Baby Bull," winning a split decision victory (116-111, 115-112, 113-114). Though Campbell erroneously had a point taken away for what the referee saw as a headbutt that opened a pretty fair gash just over Diaz's left eye, it didn't matter. Campbell swept the last six rounds of the fight in convincing fashion, as he looked like Juan Diaz, while Diaz looked like Julio Diaz or Acelino Freitas last year-- beaten men losing the will to fight.
It was a wonderful performance from Campbell (32-5-1, 25 KO), who seemed to get under Diaz's skin early and often, and also came out charging full-on, fighting Diaz's fight, working in close, rapidly punching, and pounding away to the body. Once the bad cut opened up, Diaz lost his composure and was hardly even competitive. While he gets much credit for being a humble loser, particularly considering it was his first loss after some were talking him up as nigh invincible at 135 pounds, and for fighting with heart and gutting out the 12 rounds, Campbell (to be blunt) beat Diaz's ass down the stretch. Those last six rounds were one-sided, not even close.
Diaz (33-1, 17 KO) will now be seeking a new promotional contract while coming off of his first loss, but I don't think it's likely he'll have a hard time finding a new home after his relationship with Don King was officially severed this week. Golden Boy or Top Rank would love to snatch up a fighter this good. What happened tonight was no more complex than a veteran fighter who can still fight beating a kid that has only once really been tested as a professional. As good as Diaz is, it takes fights like these to really become a great fighter.
It also really would help if he had more power, something they've got to try to work on. He needs to get stronger. Yeah, his best asset is his volume punching, but Campbell showed the blueprint tonight on how to beat Diaz. Train hard, come in great shape, and just run with Diaz. Fight Diaz's fight, and he can be beaten. I always thought it was impossible to beat Diaz trying to box cutesy-style at a distance, with jabs and the occasional combo. He simply won't allow a fighter to do that. Ask Julio Diaz, who is a good fighter than Juan made look like a scrub.
With Campbell never bothered by Diaz's power, he was allowed to stay inside and trade, trade, trade with Diaz. All the best punches of the fight came from Nate Campbell. Joel Casamayor has long said that Campbell was the hardest puncher and toughest opponent he ever faced, and he picked Campbell to score this upset. Nate, like Sam Peter, had long ago earned the right for this fight. In fact, he should have fought Julio Diaz. But it didn't materialize. Now he's proven how good he is. He's a world-class fighter who has learned from all the mistakes, never let the setbacks put him down, and persevered to become a major titleholder.
But do not count Juan Diaz out. He'll be back, and he's still among the division's best. But as of this moment, I have to consider Campbell the No. 1 135-pound fighter in the sport -- how weird is that?
In the HBO main event, Samuel Peter mauled Oleg Maskaev in the sixth round before referee Lupe Garcia put a stop to the assault, giving Peter the WBC heavyweight title, officially, and maybe putting an end to a good career for Oleg Maskaev, who looked slow and old.
It was nice that we got a conclusive finish, and it was a lot better than Klitschko-Ibragimov. But if anyone tells you this was really a good fight, don't buy the hype. They punched hard, occasionally, and then the rest of the fight waited on the other to do something. Nobody ever got into an effective rhythm, and the fight was marred by looping, sloppy punching, plus Sam Peter's trademark shots to the back of the head.
I'm happy for Sam Peter as I think the good guy won this fight. Now, he'll almost certainly go on to fight Vitali Klitschko, even though the only people in the world that would rather see that than Peter-Wlad II are all employees of the ridiculous WBC, or their last name is "Klitschko."
If Vitali does make it through a training camp and actually show up for a fight, I'll be honest, I hope Peter dumps him unceremoniously and calls Wladimir out on the spot, and then within a week, a contract is signed.
Ruslan Chagaev is a pretty quality fighter, and that's great. But he's stuck fooling around with Valuev in a rematch. Wladimir Klitschko versus Samuel Peter is THE heavyweight fight. I don't expect it would be anything great, but that's the fight. Some argue (if their last name is Klitschko) that Wlad already beat Peter, and then they note Wlad's marked improvement since that fight. But Peter has gotten better, too, shaky showing against Jameel McCline notwithstanding. Let's not forget that Peter hadn't been preparing to fight a big guy like McCline, and that he really showed heart to even take the fight when he didn't have to. McCline was not in line to do anything important, and still isn't. But Peter went out and put on a show for people at MSG that paid for his originally planned fight with Maskaev, and that should be commended.
Peter wants to fight anyone, and for once, I actually believe that coming from a heavyweight.