Boxing isn't always as simple as winning or losing a fight. The court of public opinion can often determine whether a fighter -- skilled or not -- really progresses in the sport to become a star, a serious contender, or even a champion. Last night's fights were no different. Here's how I saw the stocks of the fighters rising and falling.
Both Nate Campbell and Ali Funeka came out winners last night. Campbell failed to make weight, but Nate is such a sincere, honest, down-to-earth guy that you can't help but believe that he'll quit before he lets that happen again. It didn't seem like your usual weight-missing routine, either. Campbell got on the scales like normal. There was no word he was struggling with weight, and he said that going into the week he was where he normally is. He believes his aging just makes 135 near impossible for him to make anymore, and impossible to do and remain a good fighter, so he'll move up to 140.
As for Funeka's role in that part of the story, both Funeka and promoter Cedric Kushner deserve kudos for class shown in going forward with the fight. They did not have to, as a member of Campbell's team said. They didn't even demand a portion of Campbell's larger purse, which frankly I would have done. Funeka could've probably fought someone in South Africa for the vacant IBF title. I believe he should still get the chance to fight for that title, but hopefully here in the States against a top opponent, because his gutsy performance against Campbell showed him as a guy that could make real noise at 135 pounds.
Campbell's performance was that of a champion, regardless of the situation. He gassed himself, but he kept fighting hard. Both of them left everything they had in the ring, and Funeka picked himself up off the canvas twice and finished the fight on his feet. It was a good fight and a grueling fight for both men. Campbell doesn't get a pass for the weight issue, but he has accrued the goodwill over the years enough that I just want to wish him well in his move up to 140.
Conversely, the main co-feature dropped the stocks of both Sergio Martinez and Kermit Cintron, in my opinion. Cintron's second fight with Ronnie Shields was a disaster. Martinez, a southpaw, circled the unconventional ("wrong") way all night long, moving into Cintron's power. And Cintron did nothing with it, and Ronnie Shields didn't point it out once. Shields felt the fight was close. The judges did, too, apparently, and I think they're all way off base. Martinez did little and "dominated" the fight. There was not a single round where I would say Cintron was in control.
For such a powerful guy, Cintron is no highlight act when against good opposition. And Martinez is not the guy some thought he was after he lashed Alex Bunema. Martinez rightly showed caution dealing with a guy as powerful as Cintron, yet Cintron never made it apparent that Martinez should have.
Anything can happen in boxing, and careers change all the time. Sometimes a fighter "clicks" and things start going right. Sometimes it just takes years of making mistakes for a boxer to find himself in the ring and start winning regularly. But my gut feeling is that Kermit Cintron just isn't good enough to take down top guys. He can knock out just about anyone, but he didn't touch Martinez last night, and Martinez is a smarter fighter than he is any sort of great talent. Cintron thinks he's a showman; he's not. Ronnie Shields thinks he can be a boxer-puncher; he can't. He's a flat-footed puncher, period, and he was lucky to escape last night with a draw.
Rematch? Not on my TV, thanks.
154-pound rising prospect Alfredo Angulo's stock stays the same. He did what he should've done with veteran welterweight Cosme Rivera, who came in on four days' notice, and fought with all he had. He was gassed out early, admitted it, and then his corner told him it was "bull." Then they watched as Rivera nearly got his head taken off by Angulo. Rivera was desperately waiting for someone to stop the fight, and finally a member of the Florida State Athletic Commission did so. You could see in his eyes he wanted no more, and there's no shame in that. He was overmatched at the weight, wasn't in shape (he lost a pound overnight), and even having the guts to get in there with Angulo on four days' notice is guts enough.
Angulo is potentially a special specimen of fighter becaues it may take a guy who is more or less a mirror image of himself to knock him off his perch. It may also take nothing more than a slick boxer.
Gary Shaw is willing to step Angulo up. He showed that by booking this fight to be against Ricardo Mayorga, who pulled out. Shaw did what he could as far as replacements go. With James Kirkland and Joel Julio busy with each other on March 7, only one of those two will be left standing with Angulo as the two best young fighters in the division. Angulo ain't gonna fight Kirkland, because Kirkland ditched Gary Shaw for Golden Boy, which will probably eventually happen with Angulo, as well. Gary's one of those egomaniacal promoters that believe the fighters work for him. It's the other way around.
I wouldn't mind seeing Angulo-Mayorga revisited, if Mayorga is genuine that he pulled out because of an injury, but I doubt that's the case. Don King and Gary Shaw know why Mayorga pulled out. Saul Roman would seem to be a lateral step from Rivera, Joachim Alcine has no name recognition. Chances are we wind up seeing Angulo against someone like Kassim Ouma or Cornelius Bundrage next time out, but I think he's ready to step in against better fighters than that. The problem is mostly that at 154, the tiers of fighters are pretty well set, and the upper tier is small. I don't just mean talent, I mean name value, titles, all that. Maybe he could fight Daniel Santos, another King fighter, but Santos seems in no rush to defend that title he won in July.
This entire show was a debacle. It was a terrible, terrible promotion, and for that King and Shaw should look back on this one and say honestly to themselves, "Boy, we f***ed that one up." They had no venue until very late in the game, they had to do 2-for-1 ticket sales (and the crowd was sparse, if pretty into the card), Mayorga dropped out, his original replacement dropped out, Nate Campbell is bumped to main event and doesn't make weight, Martinez-Cintron turned into a mess that was ugly to look at, and it felt like the entire card was just star-crossed. Campbell and Funeka put on a fine fight to close it all out, but for the most part, this show is better forgotten than remembered.