by Fox Doucette
Back in the mid-1990s, before he became known more for his left-wing political commentary, Keith Olbermann did a commercial for Boston Market, the tagline for which was “Here’s a tip: Eat something.” Watching 5’11”, 130-pound Gilberto Sanchez-Leon (31-9-2, 11 KO) stand in there like a stringbean and get his lunch money taken by unbeaten Diego Magdaleno (19-0, 7 KO), what jumped out at the viewer was clearly the notion that “this guy needs to get himself to the taqueria and eat something. He’d look less like an anorexic at junior middleweight.”
The fight itself went predictably. Magdaleno, giving up five inches in height, took the first round to find his way and figure out how to get inside against the much taller fighter, throwing a lot of punches that were more rangefinders than guided missiles. By the second round, Diego had begun to figure it out, scoring a knockdown, and in the third, two vicious knockdown shots finally got referee Vic Drakulich to wave the fight off. It was a clear mismatch, the kind of fight that does no favors to anyone…not the sport, not the promoters, not the fans. It did, however, get the young junior lightweight prospect Magdaleno some national TV exposure during a weekend where boxing is on everybody’s mind thanks to that little barroom-scrap swing fight at welterweight that you may have heard about in Las Vegas tomorrow night.
The co-feature was a classic cautionary tale and an indictment of the Ring Magazine ranking system rolled into one. Bernabe Concepcion (28-5-1, 15 KO), ranked #8 by that publication before tonight, who has twice fought for a WBO world title and lost by stoppage (once by DQ against Steven Luevano, the other time by second-round KO against Juan Manuel Lopez in Concepcion’s most recent fight), fought an eight-rounder against Juan Carlos Martinez (18-12-1, 7 KO), who was billed as a game opponent, someone to get Concepcion some rounds and give him a chance to get his career back on track after the statement loss to Lopez.
The only problem was with Bernabe’s attitude. He came out like he hadn’t heard the bell, doing a very poor job of moving his hands and letting his opponent carry the action throughout the fight. For a guy trained by Freddie Roach and who has fought for a world title, this is baffling. He looked at points like he was afraid of being countered, which leaves one to wonder if perhaps Concepcion isn’t already, at age 23, past the point where he has the potential to be a viable contender in the featherweight division. The judges were split, with the scores going 78-74, 77-75, 75-77 in favor of Martinez. The Boxing Tribune had it 78-74, Teddy Atlas had it 79-73, and one wonders if the fact that Concepcion is managed by Manny Pacquiao and promoted by Bob Arum didn’t have something to do with the 75-77 scorecard. Judge Tim Cheatham? You have a LOT of explaining to do, because right now your credibility and integrity are in very serious question…and your last name sure sounds appropriate, especially from the winning fighter’s point of view.
Fans got a double dose of sideshow action tonight. Since ESPN2 went live ten minutes early, we got an entertaining light heavyweight four-rounder, as Mike Lee (5-0, 3 KO) dismantled Gilbert Gastelum (0-2-1) en route to what would have been an easy decision but for another judging head-scratcher, as Robert Bennett had the fight 38-38. Bennett was later seen at ringside with dark glasses selling pencils out of a tin cup, because this writer had it 40-36 and there is very little any reasonable observer could do to argue anything beyond one round (the second) for the winless fighter.
And finally, Diego Magdaleno’s younger brother Jesse (4-0, 3 KO) slapped around Jonathan Alcantara (4-4-2, 0 KO) for six rounds en route to a unanimous 60-54 decision that even tonight’s rogues’ gallery of judges couldn’t get wrong. Magdaleno The Younger needs to work on shortening up his punches, throwing straighter, and staying off the ropes if he is to become the legitimate prospect that his older brother showed himself to be tonight. But he took care of his business, which is all you can ask of a 19-year-old kid on national television for the first time.
Next week, Friday Night Fights travels to Santa Ynez, California, for a 9:00 Eastern (6 Pacific) start featuring an intriguing main event between Kendall Holt (26-4, 14 KO), who is trying to rebuild his career after a couple of crossroads-type losses, and Julio Diaz (38-6, 27 KO), who is trying to show that he is capable of beating someone who is above a B level fighter at the junior welterweight level. The Boxing Tribune will have full coverage and a recap for you next week.
Fox Doucette covers Friday Night Fights for The Boxing Tribune. He was 5’11 and 130 pounds once…it was called “poverty” after moving out on his own after high school. How anyone could fight that way is beyond him. Find him on Facebook at facebook.com/MysteryShipRadio