This weekend's slate of fights gave us good insight as to the current standing of a whole lot of name fighters. I think there are a lot of things worth discussing, so let's get on it.
Amir Khan's Speed
Khan's dominant win over Paulie Malignaggi wasn't a shock, but it was a treat to watch. In the past, I'd said that Khan had top five handspeed in the sport, and believed it, but it was more feeling than fact. The guys Khan had been fighting in the UK were largely quite slow, even Andriy Kotelnik, who is a solid and technically sound fighter, but no speedster and not a tricky guy at all.
I figured Paul Malignaggi would give us a real barometer. Malignaggi isn't incredibly fast, but he's got B+ speed on his best nights and is far more awkward and tough to get a handle on than Kotelnik, who is more fundamentally strong than Malignaggi.
The difference in speed was astounding. This was more eye-opening for me than Floyd Mayweather's speed advantage over Shane Mosley on May 1, in part because I truly believed the speed in that one wouldn't even be close. The speed here wasn't particularly close either, but unlike Mosley, Malignaggi still looked like he had above-average quickness. Khan, meanwhile, looked frighteningly fast of hand in there, to the point that I think you could read on Malignaggi's face early that the speed was surprising for him. I'm sure Paulie knew Khan was fast, but figured he'd be closer to equal than he was. Malignaggi wasn't bad last night, but could do nothing with Khan, who had an advantage everywhere but chin, and Paulie never even really touched Khan.
This was an indication, again, that Khan made a brilliant move going to Freddie Roach. A lot of trainers may have asked Khan to sacrifice some of what he was good at it in order to protect his one glaring weakness. Manny Steward has done a great job protecting Wladimir Klitschko's chin and turning him into a near-untouchable force at heavyweight, and the Roach/Khan teaming is doing something similar. But Freddie knows that speed kills, and when you have as much of it as Khan does, you don't want to give away that advantage. So Roach has Khan using his blinding speed to full effect, and just being smarter. Kotelnik and Malignaggi both gave it a good effort, and weren't even close. They couldn't deal with the speed. Dmitriy Salita, the fighter Khan faced between those two, would have been demoralized if he hadn't gone down on the first punch landed. Can you imagine how that would've looked if Salita had lasted six or seven rounds?
As far as pure speed of hand goes across the sport, I think I'd go like this for a top five. This is kind of off the cuff and certainly open for debate, and I'd love to hear your top guys, too:
- Floyd Mayweather Jr.
- Amir Khan
- Manny Pacquiao
- Yuriorkis Gamboa
- Zab Judah
I think 1-2 is close, too. Mayweather, as incredible as he is, doesn't have quite the speed he used to. For pure hand speed, I do think Khan is faster than Pacquiao, but Pacquiao is obviously a better overall fighter. Gamboa is a storm unleashed when he gets going, and Judah does still have speed, if nothing else. I don't think there are a lot of exceptionally fast guys out there, and I think the speed of a lot of guys tends to get overrated. There are lot more guys close to Malignaggi speed than Khan speed, I believe.
Michael and Kevin
Kevin Mitchell never had a shot. That's with hindsight, of course, but once Mitchell and Michael Katsidis were moving around next to one another, the difference in them was obvious. Katsidis was relaxed and focused, and seemed to want to do early damage. Mitchell was a little tight, and just looked tiny next to Katsidis. Katsidis has that big, full frame at 135, and Mitchell ... he's one of those guys that isn't soft, really, and I'm not saying you need a six-pack to be a good boxer, because you don't, but he just looked like 135 wasn't a weight where his body is fit to excel yet.
I'm not writing off Mitchell. He's talented and is only 25. But if he can still make 130, he might want to consider going back down there. Guys like Katsidis are going to bust him up, and I don't think Mitchell is someone who will be content to stay on the UK circuit and be a big fish in a small pond. He clearly has world stage aspirations.
Mitchell, at the least, will need to scale it back. Go less than Katsidis, but still more than the Ignacio Mendozas of the world. There are a lot of guys at 135, since that's likely where he'll be staying, who fit that mold. David Diaz might make sense. Diaz is a former titlist, always brings a good fight, and is rugged and sturdy. He's not nearly as strong as Katsidis, but he's more durable than Mendoza, and more well-rounded than Breidis Prescott.
Katsidis blew Mitchell away. Mitchell was just not going to do anything with that guy. He didn't have the power, didn't have the size, didn't have the ability to back Katsidis off of him. When Katsidis wanted to, he bullied Mitchell with ease. Katsidis has his limitations, obviously, but he's among the very best in a frankly shallow 135-pound division. Mitchell just isn't quite there yet.
Yeah, I did an article last night where I was pretty harsh on the Ortiz-Campbell fight, and about the potential of both guys going forward. Campbell's done. I don't want to drive that into the ground, but he's not top 10 or even top 15 at 140 at this point. He's just not a contender at this weight.
But I like to look at two sides of the coin, and I tried to do that a little even when somewhat dismissing Ortiz's performance. If they're working with a new style, which may well be the case, it's smart. You have to accentuate the positives in any fighter. They all have weaknesses. Floyd Mayweather isn't a big puncher, so why would he get into trades with guys who can bang? Why not just embarrass them with speed and smarts? Shane Mosley was never a great boxer, so Mosley rarely tried to straight-up box people. He always had that idea that he wanted to get them exchanging. Bernard Hopkins was never fast, so he didn't try to get into speed showcases with guys, instead he roughed them up and made them play his game. Amir Khan's chin sucks, so he's keeping it out of the game as much as he can.
Ortiz maybe doesn't respond to being hit cleanly so well. Look, Maidana can rip with his punches, so that's nothing to be truly ashamed of. But if Ortiz doesn't deal well with being hit, then try to keep guys from hitting him. I still think guys that get to him will crack him, and that'll always be a problem for Victor. He's not going to be a superstar.
But he can have a really good career. Being imperfect, whatever your imperfection is, doesn't mean you should turn tail and get out of boxing. It just means hide your weaknesses and accentuate your strengths. Ortiz does punch in combination very well. He does hit pretty hard, even as it looks like they're sacrificing blunt power to do other things. And against Campbell, though I think Ortiz should have tried to finish the old man given that the old man wasn't going to do anything with the fight, he showed discipline and you can say he didn't try to do more than he had to. It's a good habit to learn for the tougher fights, admittedly.
When I said in the comments thread of that article last night that Ortiz has more talent than he realizes, what I meant was that Ortiz is a guy who can be a different fighter than he is, and maybe he's getting there. Maybe they're convincing him he's not "Vicious" Victor, that he's a boxer-puncher and should use his head in there. If so, he'll be in for a strong career. He'll never be a top of the food chain guy, but he'll always be around. And if they build his confidence up again to a point where he just forgets about the Maidana loss, he's got game-changing power in the reserves, and can turn a fight he's losing on a dime.
I am not a big Ortiz fan, and I'm not in love with his talent. But he is a very interesting fighter to me. If he wasn't, I'd never say anything about him. His career could go in a lot of different directions.
Thanks for the Memories, Danny
Danny Williams' career came to an end on Saturday when he was stopped in two by Derek Chisora. Williams was out of shape, had "trained himself" for the fight, and had no interest in being in the ring. Chisora does have some world potential. There are a lot of things to work on for him, and he hasn't gotten the fights yet to really improve in the ring. I don't think he's much different than he was when he fought Sam Sexton in 2008, while Sexton has dramatically improved. That could be a good big boy throwdown in the UK later this year.
The Sky team said it was sad that Danny went out the way he did. I disagree, and respectfully so. I think he went out perfectly. When Danny Williams was on his game, he could really do some special things. But he was about the most frustratingly inconsistent guy in boxing during his known years. One fight he'd look great, or reborn, and the next one he'd lose to Albert Sosnowski. The beating he took from Vitali Klitschko was ugly, and no matter how shot Tyson was, he'll always have a win over Mike Tyson. He was fascinating, in many ways. He had some huge highs and some amazing lows. And he left a lot of memories. Good luck, Danny, and enjoy your retirement.
Speaking of Retirement...
Giacobbe Fragomeni's one-sided loss to Krzysztof Wlodarczyk should probably be it for the battling Italian. Fragomeni was a class act in the post-fight, and would go out with losses to Wlodarczyk and Erdei, both entertaining fights. As Brick said, Fragomeni has gotten a lot out of a little. He's not a big puncher, he's short and stocky, doesn't have great speed. He's tough and he's always game, and he had a title run. At 40, he's not the aggressive guy he used to be, and he's just past it.