by Fox Doucette
Styles make fights in San Dimas tonight, as the second Saturday edition of Historical Fight Night plays host to Saul Alvarez, fresh off his atomic carpet bombing of Josesito Lopez, takes on Emile Griffith, who is brought in from his first victory over Joey Archer in 1966.
You’ll also notice that this is not being fought under “Old Vs. New” rules; Alvarez today is a different fighter than Alvarez four years ago; this was before he fought Mayweather.
The question at issue here is a classic one in boxing. If a guy simply doesn’t have the power to force an opponent to respect him—and the majority of Griffith’s few knockout victories were either at welterweight, on the hobo circuit, or both, and this fight is at junior middleweight—does that then make the fight a foregone conclusion for someone who combines both the power to blast opponents out of the ring and enough ring smarts not to get cherry-tapped to death over the course of a 12-round fight? It also answers a secondary question of whether today’s fighters could hang with the greats of the past, but c’mon, this isn’t Marvin Hagler we’re talking about here. This is more a question of one of today’s potential historic greats taking on a middle-tier fighter from boxing history.
Your co-feature? Well, why be nuanced when you can have two guys who could hurt opponents just get in there and try to murder each other? Marco Antonio Barrera, brought in off his absolute humiliation of Prince Naseem Hamed, takes on Salvador Sanchez, who comes in from beating the snot out of Danny Lopez in their first fight in 1980. Because you like violence, right?
From the Historical Fight Night Arena Presented By You, If You Donate On Patreon, in San Dimas, California, these fights are scheduled for 12 rounds using the Unified Rules of the Association of Boxing Commissions. Scoring is on the 10-point must system, there is no three knockdown rule, no standing eight count, only the referee can stop the fight, and a fighter cannot be saved by the bell in any round including the twelfth and final round.
Now, for the thousands in attendance and the millions watching from around the world…
Let’s Make History.
Marco Antonio Barrera (4/7/2001, 53-3, 38 KOs) vs. Salvador Sanchez (2/2/1980, 34-1-1, 28 KOs)
One of the biggest “you know what, to hell with that guy” moments for a certain strain of boxing fan in history came in the Barrera/Hamed fight, when Barrera slammed the Prince’s face into the ring post, earning a point deduction in a fight he was otherwise winning easily and putting an exclamation point on a one-sided beatdown that had everything but a knockout…had it been 15 instead of 12, Barrera may have finished the job. He put a lunging jab forward and combined it with combinations that peppered the face of the Prince as he chased him around the ring.
Meanwhile, Sanchez put on what was the proverbial boxer-puncher’s showcase in his beatdown of Danny Lopez, working with the methodical approach of a lumberjack swinging an ax, chopping away until finally the tree succumbed to the assault in the 13th. It would otherwise have been a one-sided decision had it gone 12.
The question here is whether the youth and slightly more polished technical skills of Sanchez are enough to overcome Barrera on what may have been his best night as a pro.
Sanchez came out behind the jab, dancing, moving, and potshotting, trying to frustrate Barrera into moving out of position or lunging the way he had to do against Hamed, and Marco was having none of it in the feeling-out stages. Barrera, while getting the worst of the exchange, studied Sanchez, tried to figure out how to intercept the lateral movement of the 21-year-old man out of time, and devise a means to cut the ring down and force Sanchez into his harder punches.
Sanchez liked to rotate to his left, and Barrera figured this out in that first round. When Sanchez resumed that movement, Barrera moved to his right, cut down the angle, and threw a lead right hand to force Sanchez to the left, whereupon Sanchez ate one honey of a left hook that came behind that right. Barrera seized a brief advantage to chase Sanchez into the corner and start going to work in earnest when Sanchez had his back to the ropes.
Barrera piled up a good two points in rounds two and three with this approach before Sanchez cottoned on.
Sanchez stopped dancing and started punching, as the means of escape being taken away left him with little choice, and Barrera, having stabilized his target, began to attack the body with the left hook. Sanchez did have a bit of opportunity, more so than when he had been relying on movement as his primary strategy, to get out the side door after Barrera went to punch, and getting smacked from the left side did leave open plenty of good chances for the jab counter up top or a hook of his own after rolling away from the incoming shot to the gut.
Sanchez began to get the momentum back on his side. For three rounds, you could score it 2-1 either way; Barrera won the fourth, but the counter was more effective for Sanchez in rounds five and six.
Barrera continued to try to rip the body, but it left him too open to those shots up top. A fighter cannot get the power shot off if he’s got a piston smacking him in the face like a high-RPM engine, and Sanchez blunted Barrera’s attack with that left hand. A good boxer, and Sanchez was one, could if all else fails simply control the pace of the action short of an opponent moving well enough to take that shot away.
Both guys stand 5’6″; Barrera’s got longer arms with a two-inch reach edge, but reach doesn’t help when you’re trying to put a hook around a jab unless you’re Thomas Hearns.
Sanchez began to frustrate Barrera, forcing Marco to slow his assault with the hook to the body, and when Barrera’s hesitation created openings, Sanchez brought in the right, throwing it behind the jab. It became harder and harder for Barrera to know what was coming at him and from what angle he was going to be hit. As the eighth and ninth rounds passed, Sanchez took control. Weathering a storm, adjusting to an opponent’s adjustment, then imposing his own will and ability to bang with the power shots, all of these things won the next two rounds for Sanchez.
The thing about Barrera was that he was tremendously durable. Only Manny Pacquiao was able to stop him, and even getting him off his feet was a challenge. Barrera was a tens-and-nines guy even in his losses, at least when he himself wasn’t knocking people out.
Sanchez, however, was finally able to get Barrera off balance with a few jabs that were thrown from that same side. Barrera began to expect more of the same, and that’s when a lead straight right and a thundering hook put Barrera down for an eight count from referee Arthur Mercante Sr.
It was a foregone conclusion the rest of the way. Barrera did not sink to his feet again, but the advantage Sanchez had seized was decisive. There was no question when it went to the cards.
All three judges saw it the same way, 117-110, for your winner, by unanimous decision…
RESULT: SANCHEZ W-UD12 BARRERA.
Saul Alvarez (9/15/2012, 41-0-1, 30 KOs) vs. Emile Griffith (7/13/1966, 51-7, 18 KOs)
It’s a funny thing about the career of Emile Griffith that ever so rare was the day when he actually decisively beat anyone. His record in championship fights is littered with majority decisions, close unanimous wins that could’ve easily gone the other way but for a round or two, and losses that always seemed more decisive than the wins.
And yet Griffith was a champion across three weight classes (including an incipient junior middleweight title that wasn’t within the purview of the sanctioning bodies because the NYSAC relied on the old-school eight and the WBA wasn’t yet formed in 1962 when Griffith won that 154-pound crown.) He held those titles for the larger part of six years.
Was he a paper champion before such a thing could even exist? Saul Alvarez thinks so, and that’s going to make for an interesting contest.
The commentators brought up early in the fight that Rubin “Hurricane” Carter had blasted Griffith out in a single round, and talked about how Carlos Monzon kicked Griffith’s ass in 14.
Now, mind you, Alvarez isn’t the blast you out in one sort. He’s a better boxer than that, and as much as he may have come out simply looking to knock Josesito Lopez’s head off due to being bigger and stronger, that wasn’t in play here.
It was only when Alvarez ate one of Griffith’s right hands, the same right hand that had literally killed Benny Kid Paret in 1962, that the fight was on…because not for nothing did Griffith have only 18 KOs in 58 fights, almost all of them either on the hobo circuit, at welterweight, or both.
That was going to be a problem. A big problem.
One of Griffith’s fights, in 1964 against Juan Carlos Duran, was ruled a no-contest after “the bout was halted when fans began throwing bottles and oranges in to the ring, because they wanted more action.”
Seriously. It’s in Boxrec. Look it up.
Suffice to say that complaint was not going to be on the table in this contest. Alvarez, knowing that what was in front of him was not going to be able to hit him hard enough to hurt him, and two inches taller besides, began to bull rush and force Griffith back.
What’s more, Alvarez started unloading big hooks to the body of Griffith, trying to do to him what he’d done to Lopez.
This was getting ugly.
Imagine eating two large pizzas, a poultry farm’s worth of hot wings, and washing it down with a pitcher of beer…and then being punched in the stomach by 1988 Mike Tyson.
What you’ve got in that mental image is, minus the upchucked food, the position Griffith found himself in after one of those hooks to the body landed on an unguarded midsection with just enough of a lift to it to turn Griffith’s midsection into ground beef.
Griffith didn’t rise for a full two minutes. He didn’t eat for two days. The Temporal Commission did, once he recovered, treat him to a good meal before sending him back to 1966, but the fight? You’re going to have to hit harder than Emile Griffith if you want to stop Saul Alvarez.
RESULT: ALVAREZ KO3 GRIFFITH.
The Saturday cavalcade continues, as our main event brings back one of the most infamous “what have you got against him, anyway?” fighters in Historical Fight Night (and its precursor, What If’s Excellent Heavyweight Adventure) history.
That’s right…it’s Smokin’ Joe Frazier. He takes on Evander Holyfield, who’s shown up as a cruiserweight a couple of times on this show, in a full heavyweight contest; Holyfield’s getting in the time machine from 1996 after his first fight with Mike Tyson. Frazier? He comes in from his win over Muhammad Ali.
Co-feature? We’ve got one of those as well. It’s a curious case of a fighter who’s not at his natural weight taking on another guy whose glory days were much further down the scale, as Sugar Ray Leonard takes on Vinny Pazienza…at super middleweight.
Was Leonard a better fighter overall? Absolutely. When you put him in a time machine when he was long past his best days and heavy enough that his speed had gone on him? That’s a different fight entirely.
See you next Saturday, and thanks for reading!