SATURDAY NIGHT AT THE HOME DEPOT CENTER
Doveed Linder @ ringside
On Saturday night, I attended the show headlined by the cruiserweight match-up between Antonio Tarver and Lateef Kayode at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California. It was the same venue where Paul Williams defeated Antonio Margarito via unanimous decision in July of 2007. This fact led me to think about Williams, recently paralyzed in a motorcycle accident, throughout the night. I pray for his happiness and well being. I went to the fights with my friend Steve, who I know from my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. I trained Steve for two amateur fights. When he applied to medical school, I wrote him a letter of recommendation and used boxing as an analogy to demonstrate why I believed he would be a good doctor. Steve was accepted into medical school and he is now a doctor, living in Los Angeles. After all these years, we finally got together, talked about old times, and enjoyed a night of boxing.
The Home Depot Center is a small, outdoor venue. Whenever a celebrity walks the floor, everyone in the crowd goes crazy. Saul “Canelo” Alvarez was easy to spot. As if he wasn’t already distinguished by his red hair, he was wearing a bright yellow shirt. 50 Cent was in the house, as was Oscar De La Hoya. The celebrity in attendance who enjoyed the most attention was “Sugar” Shane Mosley. Even when the fights were going on, fans lined up to get their picture taken and shake hands with the former three-division champion. Shane Mosley is the man. When he was the pound-for-pound king in 2000-01, everyone knew that Vernon Forrest would be his toughest challenge, but Mosley was the type of champion who never ducked anybody. In January of 2002, he faced and was defeated by Forrest, getting dropped twice and losing almost every round. He fought Forrest in an immediate rematch and did a little better the second time around, but still came up short. When Mosley became a champion at junior middleweight, he didn’t look for any soft touches. In his first defense of his 154-pound title, he faced Winky Wright, who was the most avoided guy around. In a scenario similar to his fights with Vernon Forrest, Mosley was just about shutout by Wright in the first fight, but did better in the rematch. It goes to show you that in the eyes of the fans, it’s not always about having an undefeated record. There’s something to be said for character. Shane Mosley always faced the best available competition, and with the exception of his fights with Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao (when he was past his prime), he always fought his butt off. Mosley elevated the sport of boxing and it was great to see that so many fans at the Home Depot Center felt the way about him that I do.
The first fight I saw was super middleweight Sakio Bika (30-5-2, 21 KOs) taking on Dyah Davis (21-3-1, 9 KOs). Kevin Cunningham, the trainer of Devon Alexander, was working the corner of Bika. Unfortunately for Cunningham, the old adage that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks proved to be true. For some reason, Bika just doesn’t like to jab. He threw a lot of lead overhand rights and left hooks to the body. Bika has freakish strength for a super middleweight, but a solid technician could pick him apart. He’s a classic gatekeeper. Ali hung in there as best he could, but Bika wore him out and TKO’d him in the tenth round. Where does Bika go from here? In my opinion, he would be a good opponent for Andre Dirrell.
Next up was bantamweight Leo Santa Cruz (20-0-1, 11 KOs) taking on Vusi Malinga (20-4, 12 KOs) for the vacant IBF title. Both guys locked up with each other and traded punches. There was no side to side movement whatsoever. From the start, it was clear that neither fighter could hurt each other. Whoever threw more punches was going to win. They mixed up the range from inside, to outside, to mid range, to somewhere between mid range and inside. Neither fighter found a range that necessarily worked best. It was as if they were trying different things throughout the fight. Santa Cruz won a twelve-round unanimous decision, and arguably won all twelve rounds because he did more work.
After the Santa Cruz-Malinga bout, Austin Trout (25-0, 14 KOs) won a twelve-round unanimous decision over Delvin Rodriguez (26-6-3, 14 KOs). I had heard a lot about Trout going into this fight, but this was my first time ever seeing him. His name is mentioned quite a bit for the simple fact that he is undefeated and he holds a the WBA's regular title in a division that is filled with talent. I had always been a little skeptical of his reputation, because he hadn’t beaten anyone I’ve ever heard of, and his title is made of pure paper. Trout got the best of Rodriguez because he was faster, sharper, and more athletic. For a guy who wants to make a name for himself as an elite fighter, I would have expected a little more hunger and enthusiasm. Instead, he seemed to lay back and edge out the rounds. The first eleven rounds looked like a tame sparring session, but there were some serious exchanges in the twelfth. From what I saw, Trout doesn’t like to mix it up. Anytime Rodriguez got close enough to land a few shots, Trout looked uncomfortable and he quickly got out of there. Trout is a talented fighter, but I suspect that brawlers are going to give him problems down the road.
In the co-feature, undefeated middleweight Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillen (27-0, 20 KOs) won a ten-round unanimous decision over Winky Wright (51-6-1, 25 KOs). This was a good test for Quillen and he passed with flying colors. Not to say that he was perfect, but he out-fought Wright and did what he had to do against a crafty veteran. Quillen has some really nice tools and I’d like to see him fight Sergio Martinez in a fight or two. At this point, he’s still a little green. Some of his maneuvers are sloppy, he gives up a little too much ground, and he’s a little hesitant, as if he’s thinking too much. In the fifth round, he dropped Wright, and if he stepped on the gas, he could have knocked him out. But Quillen has only had fifteen amateur fights, so he’s learning on the job. At 27-0 with 20 knockouts, I think he’s off to a great start.
In the main event, Antonio Tarver (29-6-1, 20 KOs) defended his IBO cruiserweight belt against Lateef Kayode (18-0-1, 14 KOs) in a fight that resulted in a draw after twelve rounds. This fight could have gone either way, so a draw is probably a fair decision. Early in the fight, Tarver looked like he was sleepwalking. He didn’t do much work, which allowed Kayode to hustle some of the rounds. After a while, Tarver began to open up and was somewhat effective. Throughout his career, Tarver has been hit and miss. Every once in a while, he does something really eye-opening such as his 2004 knockout of Roy Jones, Jr., and most recently, his stoppage of Danny Green. Other times, he is what I call an “in-school drop-out”. He shows up for class, but he falls asleep.
As for Lateef Kayode, he is strong and powerful, but that’s about it. He flicks his jab, which suggests to me that he doesn’t believe in it. He’s very stiff, and he doesn’t seem to have the coordination of boxing completely down. At times, he was trying to circle with his feet and move his upper body at the same time, and he just seemed all out of sorts. On top of everything else, he lacks maturity. There were times when his antics were a bit animated, and for a young up-and-comer who wants to establish himself as one of the best, I expected him to be a little more business-like.
Quillen-Wright was the fight of the night, and probably the only good fight on the whole card. Sometimes these big, elaborate cards aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Remember when Don King would put together those huge Pay-Per-View cards around 2003-04? You’d have Ricardo Mayorga, John Ruiz, Bernard Hopkins, and a bunch of big names on the line-up, but when it came down to the individual fights, they weren’t very good. When I left the Home Depot Center on Saturday night, I was reminded of that. As a boxing fan, one must beware when the promotion of the card is “four great fights in one evening”. It’s very rare when it lives up to the hype. Nevertheless, I enjoyed myself at the fights, and I look forward to seeing where these fighters go from here.
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