The first big fight weekend of 2008 in Las Vegas arrives with Saturday’s rematch at the MGM Grand between Middleweight Champ Kelly Pavlik and the man he wrested the title from last September in Atlantic City Jermain Taylor.
I’ll get to that fight later, but first we had a marginally significant title change last weekend as underdog challenger Carlos Quintana scored a unanimous 12-round decision over previously unbeaten Paul Williams to capture the WBO Welterweight title. The tall lanky Williams went into that fight 33-0 (24 KO’s) and was coming off an impressive win over Antonio Margarito to win the crown.
Williams because of his tremendous height (6’1”), reach (82 inches), and Southpaw style, was thought to be a very dangerous Welterweight for anyone including unbeaten Miguel Cotto and even Pound for Pound best Floyd Mayweather. There is not the same sentiment following his unimpressive showing against Quintana who is no world beater in my opinion.
Cotto blew right through Quintana in five rounds, but Carlos did hand Joel Julio his first and only loss in 2006. Quintana is what I call a tweener; a good fighter, but he never should be a world champion. Williams came into the ring dry, not a lot of perspiration which is not a good thing for a fighter and he seemed to stay that way for the twelve rounds. He just looked flat, maybe he was over-trained. One problem is despite the 24 knockouts on his resume, he really lacks big power, and his technique was poor in this fight, although the decision could have actually gone his way.
You know what I think is his problem? Too much reach, which negatively affects his leverage. Are you laughing? Well just think about this, Williams is the same height as Tommy Hearns at 6’1”, but actually has a four inch reach advantage over Hearns. Those are some long and lanky arms and it is tough to generate the proper leverage with the speed and power needed to be great at 147 pounds. It takes too long to throw the proper shots and then get back and defend or to throw combinations and then defend.
Williams is but 26-years-old and still has only one blemish and deserves a rematch, but he has been somewhat exposed, not for being anything bad, but just not being all that good. We should see a rematch, but the only thing we really need to see at 147 pounds is Mayweather vs Cotto, I hope before 2009.
On to Pavlik vs Taylor 2. Their first fight five months ago, produced what I called the fight of the year, because of it’s significance. I will not take long breaking down this fight, because it should be very similar to the first fight. Jermain will no doubt start out strong again, he may even catch Kelly again with some big fast shots, but Kelly assured me yesterday that if he is hit hard and hurt again he won’t stick his chin out and invite an even bigger shot like he did in round two of their first fight. That bravado nearly cost him the fight.
To his credit he settled down and began to break Jermain down and eventually knock him out in round seven. He seems to like that round lately as that is the same round Pavlik knocked out Edison Miranda the fight that sat the table for the Taylor fight. Pavlik agreed with me yesterday that the announcers kind of missed the first right hand that actually froze Taylor, before Pavlik came in and set up the knockout. Kelly said he even paused when he saw the affect the shot took on Jermain.
Pavlik knows now he can hurt and knockout Taylor, just as important Taylor knows the same thing. Jermain claims that he expended too much energy in that second round and he never really regained it. I don’t think so. I feel that once he feels Kelly’s power, he will have that dreaded recently knocked out fighter thing that sometimes happens. It’s called Flashback. Once that happens I think Pavlik who has proven to be a great closer will finish the job once again, it could come even earlier, but I think it will eventually come.
Jermain has dropped Emanuel Steward and has his old camp back in place, and he is in great shape, but will that be enough? It may, but I go again with Pavlik by KO maybe as early as round five. Should be a good fight however it goes or however long it last.
By the way the two will be fighting at 166 pounds, that is 6 pounds over the middleweight limit of 160 pounds. If anything this will most likely serve the bigger, stronger, but slower Pavlik. Pavlik, from Youngstown, Ohio, is only 25-years-old and his record is spotless at 32-0 with 29 big knockouts. Taylor, from Little Rock, Arkansas, is now 29- years-old has the one loss to Kelly with 27 wins and a draw with Winky Wright. Enjoy this fight; it’s a nice way to kick off what we expect to be another big year in boxing.
A final word on the Preservation of Perfection. I had yet another birthday on February 5, don’t ask how old, and don’t worry about getting me a belated gift. I received the best gift I could have asked for two days earlier courtesy of Eli Manning and the New York Football Giants winning Super Bowl 42, 17-14 over the previously unbeaten New England Patriots. My joy in the Giants winning had nothing to do with the Giants or the Patriots; it was all about the 1972 Miami Dolphins, the only team to achieve perfection at 17-0 that season.
You see I was a ball boy and worked in the equipment room for that team. I was there each and every day of two-a-day and, sometimes, three-a-day practices that Coach Don Shula held in that sweltering South Florida summer. I got to know all of those players and coaches well, especially Hall of Fame Wide Receiver Paul Warfield, who was like a father figure to me back then. Paul even helped give me my start in broadcasting by putting me on his TV show, and actually paying me. He is still a dear friend to this day. Yes, the Patriots and Tom Brady were very, very, very good, maybe among the best ever, but boys there still is only one team residing in the NFL neighborhood known as Perfectville and that is the 1972 Miami Dolphins.