“I’m thankful Dejan, my opponent, is okay now…We never wish any bad on anyone in this sport and I’m glad he was able to get up and be OK… I told him he’s still a champion. Once a champion, always a champion.”–Mikey Garcia
The affable Garcia (36-0), returned to the ring (this time in Las Vegas) after a two and half year absence to destroy reigning and defending WBC World lightweight champion Dejan Zlaticanin (18-1), from Podgorica, Montenegro, at 2:21 of the third round with as brutal a knockout as one will ever see. In so doing, he signaled that he is back in the top mix. Will Terence Crawford vs. Mikey Garcia suddenly become the hottest fight that can be made at 140? Or will Vasyl Lomachenko figure in the equation? The possibilities are mouth watering.
In the main event, Carl Frampton vs. Leo Santa Cruz was a terrific fight between two high class individuals with great back stories and plenty of decency and humility. It was as good as it gets; it was boxing at its best.
In a rare display of sportsmanship, “The Jackal” said after the fight, “I think it was the right decision…I thought it was close. He frustrated me at times. I didn’t expect that game plan. The boxer got outboxed by the brawler. I hope we can do it again, it was a close fight.”
On this same memorable date in Indio, California, Miguel Berchelt proved to be the straw that finally broke a tough camel’s back in defeating WBC super featherweight world titlist Francisco “El Bandido” Vargas by knockout in a bloody edge-of-your-seat clash. “I fight till the end” said “El Bandido.” However, too many wars finally caught up with him as he took a frightening beating and met his “end.”
The co-feature showcased Japanese warrior Takashi Miura (30-3-2), the former super featherweight champion and winner of two “Fight of the Year” affairs, who started slow but then found his groove and finally caught up with streaking Mickey Roman (56-12), taking him out in the 12th round. Showing exceptional late power, the grunting and fearsome looking Miura knocked Roman down in rounds 10, 11 and then issued the coup-de-grace in round 12. The win sets up a fight with Berchelt that could well be a FOTY. Miura likes to go to war; it’s in his DNA. So does Berchelt.
In addition, smaller fighters like Cuadras, Ioka, Casimero, Nietes, Menayothin, Chocolatito, Yamanaka, and the Monster, along with the tidal wave of Eastern European boxers and a much improved heavyweight division, have provided a strong foundation for boxing’s resurgence that is occurring before our very eyes. The possibility of Brook vs. Spence and the reality of Garcia vs. Thurman, Alvarez vs. Chavez, Jr., and Klitschko vs. Joshua (before an eye-popping 90,000 fans) is representative of what’s to come in 2017. Things can only get better, though the bad the bad stuff will make its inevitable appearance and already has.
‘I’ll shock the world!”—Gerald Washington
“I’ll jack you up,” said Angel Garcia to Kelly Swanson when she tried to restore order and told Garcia to be quiet at the now infamous press conference.
“It was the most despicable thing I have seen in nearly two decades of covering boxing, and his [Angel Garcia’s] outburst ruined a chance for the sport to be put in a good light.”—Dan Rafael in a moment of selective, if not sanctimonious outrage.
“I know Bobby Gunn is coming to bring it. He’s a hard-nose, tough fighter that comes right at you, but I’m going to show him why I’m one of the best that ever did it and he doesn’t belong in the ring with me.”-Roy Jones Jr.
Andrej Wawrzyk (33-1) was the original Deontay Wilder return foe, but he defined “bad” by failing a pre-fight drugs test, so big 6’6” Gerald Washington (18-0-1) gets the late replacement opportunity. The former football player at USC beat a shot Eddie Chambers and an even more shot Ray Austin, but has the hubris –audacity–to tell Sky Sports he will “hurt” Wilder and knock him out. Will “El Gallo Negro” come to the rescue? It’s unlikely. He is relatively old, slow, has little power, is a plodder, and uses a telegraphed jab with no combos. In short, he is a safe opponent. Washington is trading a neat payday for the likelihood of a brutal KO. Meanwhile, Wilder continues to fight limited opponents in what is becoming a futile quest for respect, though in this case Washington is light years better than the juicing Pole who should be banned forthwith. Still, Wilder mismatches are mismatches and they are bad.
To add to the bad component of boxing, The continuing blather, stale hype, and feigned outrage from a growing list of motor mouths and talking machines like Garcia and Amir Khan continues to assault our senses and insult the collective intelligence of boxing fans, but unfortunately the landscape has changed and this noxious stuff isn’t about to change.