Fight to the finish? A novel but unlikely idea

Mar 10, 2009 4:06 PM
Pulling No Punches by Michael Katz |

One bout, on which I could not find a line, is worthy of comment if only because it is a reminder that in boxing you can be saved by the bell.

The suggestion here is that maybe you shouldn’t be.

Maybe, instead, as Jim Lampley said excitedly during the terrific Juan Manuel Marquez-Juan Diaz battle, "they should fight to the finish."

We should know the winner of most fights without hesitation. Take the fight out of the ring, put it in a bar and it won’t take a Dalby Shirley or Eugenia Williams (provided her view is not obstructed by cameras) to determine who won.

It’s usually the last man standing.

Marquez left no doubt about the early frontrunner for 2009 fight of the year. But in the HBO semifinal from Houston, another terrific bout, all three judges scored it 114-114.

Most ringsiders apparently thought Chris John clearly, if closely, merited the decision against Rocky Juarez. At least with the draw, John retains his featherweight title. I had John ahead by three points off my low-def TV screen. But Juarez won the "fight."

The way boxing scores these things may be in error.

If it were in a bar, there’s no question who won. At the end, Juarez had John in serious trouble. In another round or two, he would have stopped John. It was similar to last October’s bell-saving victory for Lucien Bute over Librado Andrade.

It was seeing Bute on this week’s schedule that reminded me of all this. On Friday, Showtime will show The Rumanian-born Bute defending his alphabetized share of the supermiddleweight title in his adopted hometown of Montreal.

Bute will face Fulgencio Zuniga, who won his first 15 bouts by knockout in his Colombian homeland, but apparently does not travel well. Zuniga can punch, but he can be punched, too. At 5-foot-10, he’ll be spotting the southpaw champion four inches.

Who wins a fight? Why is it the man who wins the most rounds? After all, dividing a bout into rounds is a device to give the combatants some rest and respite. If John-Juarez or Bute-Andrade had taken place in a bar, or a dark alley, there would be no question of the winner.

It was my argument years ago when everyone bitched about Thomas Hearns getting "robbed" by the draw in his rematch with Sugar Ray Leonard. Hearns, remember, was the one draped over the ropes at the end.

Yes, let them fight to the finish – and hang all the judges. But, I’m afraid, for some vague moral considerations (the idea that boxing is only a "game") this will not take place. Under the current rules, we will try to select a few winners.

Bute was about a 5-2 favorite against Andrade. He’d probably be at least that against Zuniga. The play here is "pass" or take the points.

Saturday is a pay-per-view show from Manchester, England where Amir Khan, the heavily touted English lightweight suffered his only loss against 19 setups. The 2004 Olympic silver medalist will attempt to erase that 54-second knockout suffered against Bredeis Prescott with a victory over three-division ex-champ Marco Antonio Barrera.

Khan is 22, Barrera 35. If this is a so-called "crossroads" fight, it may be that both roads are going down. Khan is about a 7-5 favorite over the badly faded "Baby Faced Assassin." Khan’s new trainer Freddie Roach is very confident after having him spar with Manny Pacquiao.

"If he can’t beat Barrera," said Roach, "then maybe he needs to think about doing something else."

On the Manchester card, I wouldn’t touch Enzo Maccarinelli, a 10-1 favorite in a bout for a vacant and spurious "interim" cruiserweight title. Not after the way David Haye knocked him cold in two rounds a couple of fights back. But his opponent, an English-born Californian named Ola Afolabi, has only five knockouts in 17 professional bouts (13-1-3).

Also Saturday, in Kiel, Germany, undefeated Armenian-born King Arthur Abraham makes another defense of his sliver of the middleweight title against an undefeated challenger, Lajuan Simon of Philadelphia.

Abraham, who should be fighting Pavlik for the real 160-pound championship, is a prohibitive 50-1 favorite on some offshore accounts, where the buyback rate is a paltry 12-1. At 50-1, Abraham isn’t that good. Nobody is.