American fight fans saw three championship fights on Saturday, and at the end of the night, only IBF/IBO heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko still stood tall.
Klitschko gained a measure of revenge against American challenger Lamon Brewster for his 2004 knockout loss, stopping the 34-year old from Vero Beach after six rounds with a dominant, jab-led effort that only further established the Ukrainian champion as the No. 1 heavyweight in the sport, and argued for his position even among the best in the sport pound-for-pound. Klitschko improves to 49-3 with 44 knockouts, and Brewster falls to 33-4, having lost his last two fights.
Right now, no one in the division could touch Klitschko. I think Peter (my No. 2) gives him by far the toughest fight, but while Sam Peter has improved his technique over the years and kept his very heavy hands, Klitschko has become a very smart boxer. He knows his strengths and his weaknesses, and he picks apart an opponent like all the best can do. Klitschko is the division's Bernard Hopkins. He's just a step (or two) ahead of his competition.
Brewster never seemed like he was in the fight. Wlad cut him off both of the opening two rounds, hoping to avoid Brewster's gutsy bull-rushes, and it worked, discouraging Brewster from wanting to go toe-to-toe. Lamon was never able to get inside, though that was obviously the gameplan, and should have been the gameplan. Klitschko totally neutralized him, and after six rounds of being run over, Brewster and trainer Buddy McGirt simply decided to call it a day and go sight-seeing in Germany. Brewster showed that his chin is still there, but he was just outclassed in this rematch.
Two questions emerged from Klitschko's latest destruction: (1) Who's next for Wlad? and (2) Will Brewster keep fighting?
Let's address the second first. Lamon Brewster is a good fighter whose entire reputation hinged on his TKO of Klitschko in 2004. There's just not a whole lot else there. Andrew Golota is not a big win, I'm sorry. Brewster is a great guy, a hard-working guy, and an entertaining heavyweight. He was obviously out of his league this time around against Klitschko, but he did not give up while the fight was going. He was trying to find his way in, but eventually had to concede the fight. With his surgically-repaired left eye and a family (his wife and four children) to consider, he readily admits he's not the same style fighter he used to be. All things considered, he's probably finished as a top contender.
Klitschko is at a tricky stage. The only revenge story he can do now is Corrie Sanders, which is such a walkover fight that it's no better than fighting Random Bum Mandatory 344. The other champions are all tied up, Maskaev fighting Peter and Chagaev and Ibragimov fighting one another. And after Maskaev/Peter, the winner of that one is slated to face Vitali Klitschko sometime in the first quarter of 2008, should Vitali beat Jameel McCline.
He may be best off waiting on the Chagaev/Ibragimov winner to partially unify, or there's that goddamned lingering Holyfield thing. I've said this already, but I don't think Wladimir would want to fight Holyfield, as it puts him in the position of de facto villain, the younger, stronger, bigger, better, foreign champion fighting the old, undersized American hero. It would at least put an end to the Holyfield crap, but it's not an interesting matchup as far as an actual fight goes.
We'll have to see, but for now, Klitschko remains by far the best heavyweight in the world.
On Showtime's card from Harbour Yard Arena in Bridgeport, CT, we were treated to championship fights in the flyweight and super welterweight divisions. One was an ugly disappointment, and the other was a shocking upset.
Nonito Donaire, who has fought at super flyweight most of his young career, laid a tremendous beating on IBF/IBO champion Vic Darchinyan, brutally kayoing the Armenian Raging Bull in the fifth round with a monster left hook, countering one of Darchinyan's trademark video game-style lunging punches. While looking to land a big uppercut, Darchinyan went down suddenly from Donaire's left hand, which he never saw coming.
I had Donaire winning every round up to that point. The 24-year old Filipino scored what could be the upset of the year, did it in style, and avenged his brother Glenn, who was hammered by Darchinyan last year. Glenn's advice may have given Nonito an advantage, but the truth is, Darchinyan's style was totally ineffective last night. Donaire had his number in a big way, and walked through him.
After the fight, Darchinyan was delusional at best and classless at worst. Seemingly unable to turn off his swaggering ego, Darchinyan was given respect and kind words from Donaire, then countered by immediately demanding a rematch. He said he wasn't knocked out, though his glassy eyes, bewildered look, spurting nose and overall stumbling around the ring told a different story. Referee Eddie Claudio wasn't the only one ready to stop the fight. A member of Darchinyan's corner rushed into the ring to tackle his fighter before Claudio even called it off. The fight was over. Darchinyan was pummeled.
Darchinyan came off as the sorest possible loser, in total disbelief. But when he watches the tape, what's he going to see? Donaire's power and speed made Darchinyan look bush-league and outright awkward.
In the main event, Joachim Alcine beat Travis Simms via unanimous decision in a stinker of a fight that was booed even though Simms is a Connecticut native. The champion repeatedly held throughout the fight, and the most action we saw was a controversial knockdown of Simms to accompany the endless clinching, incidental headbutts and foot-stepping. I had Alcine 113-112, and official scores were 114-111, 115-110 and 116-109. I was surprised by the latter two scores, but mostly I just pray we won't see a rematch. The styles do not mesh at all. These guys had a chance to establish themselves as top dogs in the 154-pound division, and they failed to make anything of that opportunity.
Travis Simms is 36 years old and has spent more of his professional career complaining than fighting. Some compare his plight to that of Bernard Hopkins, but while both had some valid points, Simms just isn't Bernard Hopkins. He's not that level of fighter. He continued after the fight to categorize Alcine as a glorified sparring partner, which begs the question (and it was asked), what does that make Simms? He lost the fight, and admits he was the lesser man. Who is Travis Simms? This loss puts him in a hole, and even more than the loss, his performance seriously dents his marketability. To be quite blunt, Simms is full of his own shit, and buys into his own hype way more than he should.
But the night of July 7, 2007, belonged to Nonito Donaire, owner of a highlight-reel KO and a major upset. Boxing has a long history of relatively unknown fighters flooring the front-runners, and Donaire has put his name on the list for good. Congratulations, Nonito.