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Azad Championship Report - Saturday Night Fever

(Photo © Tom Casino / SHOWTIME)
(Photo © Tom Casino / SHOWTIME)

This past weekend, we saw competing cards once again between HBO and Showtime. The networks were scheduled to feature six fights between them (before inclement weather in Argentina forced the welterweight contest between Luis Abregu and Antonin Decarie to start early, thus not making the HBO broadcast). For years, head-to-head shows were problematic and spoke volumes on just how fractured this business could be at times. And folks, with the “Cold War” between Top Rank and Golden Boy Promotions only growing in intensity, look for this to occur on many more occasions as they operate in their separate universes.
But it says here that this is now actually a good thing. No, not the eternal pissing contest between the two promotional powerhouses but fight cards on the premium cable outlets taking place on the same night. Yeah, you read that right.
Think about it; this isn’t 1987, when there was still a sizable segment of the population who may not have had a VCR (remember those?). Nowadays, you most likely have a DVR or TiVo as part of your cable or satellite package. So the reality is that while you may not be able to watch both cards live simultaneously, you still get to see all the fights eventually. And as a boxing fan, the more solid fights, the better. You will never hear me complain about too many good match-ups taking place.

And it may force both networks to put their best feet forward as it relates to their programming. Hey, competition in the marketplace is a good thing, last I checked.
But think about it; as sports fans, do we complain when there is a full slate of NFL or NBA games on any given day? My biggest gripe is that you look forward to a night of boxing on a Saturday and it can be over in less than 90 minutes. As a college football fan, I love to wake up at seven in the morning (Pacific Time) to watch ESPN’s “College GameDay” and then cap off the evening with ESPN’s “College Football Final”. In between those 15 hours, I’m watching all the different games throughout the country, whether it’s my beloved Miami Hurricanes or whatever might be the biggest games of that week. And in addition to the TV, I’ll have a game on my laptop playing. Through it all, I’m switching around and taking a peek at the other games.
To me, that’s what this past weekend was like. And guess what? I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Now, it’s been pointed out to me that the problem is, if you focus on one show (or attend one live), you’re bound to get spoilers or you can’t go on Twitter or Facebook for fear of having results leaked. Yeah, modern-day problems, indeed.
This past weekend, I went to the “Swider Bowl” (the home of Matt Swider of “The Soapbox” fame) and we decided to go along with this plan: record both cards and watch the individual bouts in order of preference. And given the HBO card started a half-hour earlier than Showtime at 5:30 p.m. (Pacific Time), we made the middleweight title tilt between Sergio Martinez and Martin Murray our first priority. And with the other bout from Buenos Aires no longer on the broadcast, it worked out perfectly in terms of being able to watch both main events on HBO and Showtime.
So yeah, competing cards?
Bring ‘em on.
(I’ll just have to stay off Twitter for a few hours once in awhile.)
Here’s some random thoughts on what I saw on Saturday night (in the order in which I watched the broadcasts)...
-  I thought Murray was a very live dog and a tough out for Martinez going into this fight and he certainly lived up to that. Murray is a hardnosed, rugged guy with heavy hands and he really took Martinez to the brink. After a slow start, he started to press the action and had Martinez backing up and fighting only in spurts by the middle rounds. Murray floored Martinez in the eighth and looked to have scored another knockdown a couple of rounds later but unfortunately, it was ruled a slip and inexplicably not reversed on instant replay. I had Murray winning by the score of 114-113 but honestly, he and his corner let this fight slip away.
Simply put, there wasn’t nearly enough urgency from his trainer, Oliver Harrison, in the late stages of the fight. His corner never seemed to grasp that they were on enemy turf (in front of over 40,000 partisans all there for “Maravilla”) and simply were not going to win close rounds in that environment. Most of the time, you go into a guy’s hometown and you’re down two or three points before the fight even begins. Yeah, that’s terrible but that’s also the reality in this harsh business. Like a jockey, he needed to go to the whip in the championship rounds and impress upon his charge that they had an aging, fading fighter in front of them. Instead, he was coaxing him to “Be careful” (Harrison’s exact words to his fighter before the final round).
Trainers don’t really win or lose fights. Oftentimes, their value is overestimated. It is about the guy on the stool doing the fighting. But this was one of those rare occasions when a cornerman can make an incremental difference by just getting an extra two or three percent effort out of his fighter every round. The stars were aligned for Murray to win the middleweight title. He was facing a guy who has gone backward physically and was having a tough time in there (it turns out Martinez also broke his hand during the course of the fight). He had all the momentum going into the last three rounds and instead of shoving Martinez off the cliff...they just politely tapped him on the shoulder, hoping he’d jump.
Team Murray let Martinez off the hook.
Murray is a good fighter. It’s too bad his corner didn’t demand just a bit more from him.
As for Martinez, at 38, he’s a still a proud champion who finds ways to win. But he’s like that classic car with over 200,000 miles on the odometer. He’s no longer built for everyday driving. I see a guy Gennady Golovkin would stop in the middle rounds. But don’t look for that fight - or any other for Martinez - to happen anytime soon since Martinez will be out the rest of 2013.
-  On consecutive weeks, Showtime and HBO featured fights with around 85,000 fans in attendance in San Antonio, Texas and Buenos Aires, Argentina. It shows that when done correctly with the right hook-ups, the proper geographic venues and affordable pricing, boxing can still be a major league sport around the world. It doesn’t just have to be relegated to being TV packaged to Indian casinos. And tell me the atmospheres at the Alamodome and the Club Atletico Velez Sarsfield didn’t make for better television.
The supposed death of boxing has always been exaggerated.
-  The Showtime main event between Danny Garcia and Zab Judah was an entertaining affair. While Garcia was expected to retain his junior welterweight belts, what wasn’t forecast was Judah actually holding himself together, overcoming some adversity and coming on late. Garcia built an early lead and then floored Zab in the eighth frame. At this point, you expected Judah to fall apart and implode but instead he had a strong finish, actually stunning Garcia a few times with right hooks and lefts in the late rounds, providing some drama at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. When it was all said and done, Garcia won by the scores of 116-111, 115-112 and 114-112.
Garcia now presumably moves on to face the winner of the May 18th contest between Lamont Peterson and Lucas Matthysse. As for Judah, he fought well enough that he stays relevant in the junior welterweight division.
-  As for as heavyweight fights go, while no George Foreman-Ron Lyle, the battle between Bermane Stiverne and Chris Arreola was a good one. It shows once again, if you go beyond the two-headed Klitschko monster, the top dozen or so heavyweights in the world can be mixed and matched to make some very good scraps. Stiverne won this fight on the strength of a third round knockdown that not only floored Arreola but broke his nose. And though Arreola fought on gamely and certainly had his moments, Stiverne was very sharp and accurate with his quick hands.
Stiverne has always had natural talent but various factors have held him back, lack of discipline, being promoted by Don King (Saturday night was just his fourth fight since 2011). But when he’s motivated and focused, this is a pretty talented big man. That said, he’s also 34 years old; he doesn’t have time to waste. As George Allen once famously said, “The future is now.”
-  Say what you will about “Kid Chocolate” Peter Quillin, who stopped the game Fernando Guerrero in seven heats, but he’s good enough offensively and just flawed enough defensively to always make good fights. He was simply too big for the Dominican and now the question is, just where does the WBO middleweight beltholder go? He knows most of the major players at 160 are on the other side of the street at HBO/Top Rank. Quillin is a colorful character but the bottom line is he needs some dance partners going into the future.
Perhaps a New York street fight between Curtis Stevens could be a possibility for later this year at the Barclays Center. Or maybe a guy like Murray, who certainly made a positive impression on the American audience this past weekend would be considered.
-  So when are we going to see the new-and-improved Amir Khan under trainer Virgil Hunter? He was just barely able to hold off the resilient Julio Diaz, tasting the canvas in the fourth frame and then getting stunned in the 11th. Here’s the stark reality with Khan: he is who he is. And he is what he is: a guy with some natural gifts but unfortunately, incredibly low punch resistance for a world-class boxer. He’s a guy who can be pitching a perfect game and, as Larry Merchant would say, give up the 10-run home run. Regardless, Khan was involved in another memorable fight. His vulnerability is part of his appeal.
As for Diaz, I guess we all wrote him off too soon after he was iced by Kendall Holt. One thing I’ll never forget is that during the media day for the Tim Bradley-Ruslan Provodnikov fight back in mid-March, as this fight was announced, Joel Diaz (who is Julio’s brother as well as his trainer) told me matter-of-factly at the Fortune Gym, “First three rounds, we’re going to give it to them. From there, the fight will be on. Just watch.”
He was prophetic in many ways.
They had an announced crowd of over 13,000 (which of course, is different than actual paid attendance) at the Barclays Center on Saturday. It’s good to see they are building a fan-base in Brooklyn. I think it’s important that boxing be commercially successful in New York City...So is this finally the end for the likes of James Toney and Nate Campbell?...Ray Beltran was workmanlike on UniMas this weekend in Houston...David Haye has inked a deal with Matchroom Sport and will face Manuel Charr on June 29th in Manchester, UK...I really like the drafts of the Ravens, Bengals and the whole NFC West...How many playoff games will the Miami Heat lose? Two, maybe three?...If E.J. Manuel was as good as the Buffalo Bills think he is, then FSU would’ve been playing for the national title...I can be reached at and I tweet at We also have a Facebook fan page at, where you can discuss our content with Maxboxing readers as well as chime in via our fully interactive article comments sections.

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