In boxing, guys that cut frequently have uphill battles before a fight even starts. Reigning junior flyweight world champion Ivan "Iron Boy" Calderon sure has his work cut out for him these days.
Saturday's technical split decision win over Rodel Mayol showed again that not only is the 34-year old Calderon (33-0-1, 6 KO) slowing as many fighters his size do near and even before his age, but given that this was the third straight fight of his to end early on a cut, I think we can more than safely say that yes, Calderon has a real problem on his hands.
The first blemish on his professional record came in June, when he fought Mayol for the first time. That bout was stopped after six due to an accidental headbutt cut, and the judges came back with a draw (58-56 Calderon, 58-56 Mayol, 57-57). This time, Calderon escaped with two cards in his favor after seven rounds (68-65 on both). Imagine if the other two judges had seen it the way that judge Carlos Colon did (68-65 for Mayol). Had that happened, it would have been the largely unheralded Filipino Mayol that would have been the man to take Calderon's Hall of Fame-bound "0," not Edgar Sosa, Ulises Solis, Brian Viloria, Hugo Cazares, or anyone else among the more highly-regarded Calderon contemporaries.
After the fight, Calderon said he'd like to unify titles before 2009 is over with Brian Viloria, which seems unlikely. We're in mid-September and Calderon just suffered yet another nasty cut. I don't think there's much standing in the way of Calderon-Viloria for the first quarter of 2010, though, and that might just be the fight that ends Calderon's undefeated run. Let's face it: Mayol is tough, can bang, and isn't a bad fighter, but when Viloria's on, he's on another level, and he's been on this year, with an exceptionally exciting upset of Solis in April, followed by a win over Jesus Iribe last month.
It's not just the cuts, either. Calderon has lived and died on his magnificent, downright beautiful grasp of the sweet science. It's been said a lot, but for those that think Floyd Mayweather Jr. is slick, check out some prime era Calderon. Now that was slick boxing. But he's getting old, and it's showing. He's a tick slower both offensively and defensively, and when you have no power in your punch, guys will come at you hard. A fool in the division would try to box Calderon straight up, even now. A guy that will get in his face and test those declining reflexes has a shot now, where once upon a time even winning a few rounds against Calderon was a moral victory.
What I'm wondering is simply what's closer: Calderon losing, or Calderon retiring? Have his skills slipped to the point where Brian Viloria might even be considered a favorite head-to-head, all things considered? If he beats Viloria, and given the cut situation he's facing and his age, would you expect him to retire on top with his "0" intact, or do you think he'd fight on and look for a fight with Edgar Sosa, the other top-line fighter at 108? Sure, he's taken minimal punishment, but how many fights in a row can end early on a cut before a guy just has enough?