Fighter of the Week: Amir Khan
In his best moments this past weekend, Amir Khan was downright sensational in his win over Devon Alexander, a thorough and one-sided outclassing of a legitimate welterweight contender and former two-division titleholder who is still in his prime.
Alexander (26-3, 14 KO) wasn't in bad shape, didn't look bad, wasn't overwhelmed. He just wasn't as good as Amir Khan. He was right there working until the bitter end, but he could never keep pace with the talented Brit, who may have finally put it all together at age 28, which would make sense. Khan has been through a handful of trainers, and he seems to have taken what's worked from each of them. Freddie Roach made him a better offensive fighter. Virgil Hunter is making his footwork better, it would appear, and helping him with some of the finer points.
Khan (30-3, 19 KO) is still no defensive whiz, and never will be. Whatever Hunter's reputation from working with Andre Ward, Khan is never going to change his stripes. He is an offense-first fighter, a guy with lightning speed, solid power, and now it seems, better timing and balance.
Does that make him a threat to Floyd Mayweather? In a word, yes. In longer form that I'll shorten to another word, actually two that I'll combine into one, yeahmaybe.
Fight of the Week: Abner Mares RTD-5 Jose Ramirez
It wasn't a great week for standout fights, but even though this was a mismatch on paper and played out as one, too, this was an exciting scrap between former three-division titlist Mares and Ramirez, who hadn't fought in a year and had trouble making weight on Friday.
Mares (28-1-1, 15 KO) dropped Ramirez (25-5, 15 KO) in the first, third, and fifth rounds, but give big credit to Ramirez, because he just kept fighting, and was bombing away with an again-aggressive Mares, who left the aforementioned Virgil Hunter after one fight to go back to his original trainer, Clemente Medina.
Mares' aggression was arguably a bit out of control in this fight, and such aggression could betray him again if he gets that rematch with Jhonny Gonzalez. Gonzalez is a good boxer and a big puncher, and Abner can't just violently wing shots like he did in this fight. He probably wouldn't try, but maybe he would. Either way, Mares' "off night" in his last win appears to be a one-off. He's back to the exciting fighter everyone came to enjoy.
Comeback Win of the Week: Andy Lee TKO-6 Matt Korobov
Once again, Andy Lee (34-2, 24 KO) was being beaten. Handled fairly easily, even. And once again, for the second straight fight, Lee scored a big come-from-behind, mid-rounds stoppage, smashing the previously unbeaten Korobov(24-1, 14 KO) in the sixth round.
The win gives Lee, 30, his first world title, as he claimed the vacant WBO middleweight strap with this victory. Andy Lee is still not a top-flight fighter, and that's just not in the cards for him. What he is, however, is an exciting guy who can change fights with a single punch, and is also plenty vulnerable. Lee is welcome to my TV any time. I'm not saying that, relatively speaking, a guy like Lee should be aired ahead of a guy like Guillermo Rigondeaux, for instance. I'm just saying that there should be room for both -- they're both relevant in today's boxing world, for different reasons.
Robbery of the Week: Jose Benavidez UD-12 Mauricio Herrera
Was it Oscar Escandon getting a split decision nod over Tyson Cave on Thursday? If not, which HBO decision was worse: Jose Benavidez being handed a gift decision against Mauricio "Hard Luck" Herrera, or Tim Bradley leaving with a draw against Diego Chaves?
Escandon beating Cave was pretty ludicrous. Though Cave may have been annoying for viewers, as he boxed and ran, ran and boxed, and showboated throughout the fight, he also clearly outboxed Escandon in that fight. BLH had it 118-110 for Cave. The two 115-113 cards (one each way) were one thing, but a 117-111 card for Escandon from Raul Caiz Jr was preposterous.
Bradley-Chaves was much the same. Watching the fight on replay, I had it 116-112 for Bradley. Connor's card on Saturday night was 117-111 for Bradley. At least Bradley didn't take a loss, but the draw really hurts him as he looks for a big fight going into 2015. Or maybe it won't, and he'll just rematch Juan Manuel Marquez right away when everyone decides to forget Bradley-Chaves even happened.
Benavidez was a hot prospect taking a dangerous risk by facing the always-tricky Herrera. The fight played out as a lot of people expected, with the talented but under-prepared Benavidez walking into a trap. Then the scores came back, and the prospect had won, 8-4, 8-4, and 9-3. Connor had it 10-2 for Herrera. I had the same, watching on replay. For me, this was the robbery of the week. It was higher-profile than Cave-Escandon, and it was a more thorough schooling, I thought. And if there was even a faint argument for Chaves being even with Bradley, there is no such faint argument for Benavidez beating Herrera, at least not from where I sit. The kid got a lesson, and the hope his team can have is that it was one he'll actually learn from in what should have been defeat.
Props of the Week: Antonio Tarver
Antonio Tarver is 46 years old. He's arguably a little crazy. 46 year old former light heavyweight champions who are years past their prime and trying to win a heavyweight title have to be a little crazy.
But whatever you think of his quest, give Tarver (31-6, 22 KO) his due. He said he was going to show power, and he did that. He said he'd show he can punch as a heavyweight, and he did that. Johnathon Banks offered little to no real resistance on Thursday night's special ESPN broadcast, but when Tarver let his hands go, he consistently hurt the veteran fighter and current Wladimir Klitschko trainer, before dropping and then stopping him in round seven.
So Tarver's a little crazy. So what? Boxing needs crazy.
Most Disappointing Performance: Keith Thurman
Thurman (24-0, 21 KO) talks. A lot. And I like that, really. Thurman knows how to promote himself, knows how to keep himself in the conversation, and also, he's a good, young fighter, with serious KO power, who is learning and improving.
But it's impossible to say that his performance on Saturday was anything other than a letdown. He shut out a clever, crafty fighter in Leonard Bundu, but he did it without the flair that has thus far been Thurman's trademark. A first round knockdown seemed to suggest Thurman would have another early night, but Bundu made adjustments and stayed out of Thurman's wheelhouse. In response, Thurman seemed content to move and box, pecking and poking his way to a clear decision win.
There's nothing really wrong with that, other than it betrays the persona Thurman has developed, and thus doesn't meet the general expectations. He seemed to bristle a bit at the reaction -- and to be fair, the Vegas fans also picked up on that and booed even more voraciously -- but it's all part of the maturation process. Thurman remains a good and highly promising welterweight star in the making. One tough night against a guy who gave him some new looks isn't the end of the world, especially considering he completely dominated the fight.
Most Surprisingly Watchable Fight: Erislandy Lara UD-12 Ishe Smith
In what was expected to be a chess match sort of fight between Crafty Southpaw Lara and Crafty Northpaw Smith, we got -- well, OK, we got a chess match sort of fight, but one that was perfectly easy to watch.
Lara (20-2-2, 12 KO) proved the better fighter, as expected, easily outpointing Smith (26-7, 12 KO) over 12 rounds to retain his copy of the WBA junior middleweight title on Friday night. Smith had a decent plan early, trying to attack Lara's body, but he couldn't keep it up with any real success, as Lara was just too slippery for him. Smith wound up doing more barking than connecting, but he stuck around in the fight, too. He's better than he often gets credit for, a solid fringe contender in a division where Cornelius Bundrage again holds a world title, which technically makes a lot of people contenders.
Interview of the Week: Keith Thurman
Even if I was disappointed by Thurman's fight, I was not disappointed by any of his interviews. The "Burn Money" campaign took a hit before it really got started, but if there's an open Mayweather date in September 2015, and Keith Thurman has scored a big win by then -- perhaps against Marcos Maidana -- he's already planted the seeds for that fight. Thurman is a smart self-promoter, annoying enough to bug some people, and aggressive and funny enough to make fans, too. I like him.