"X-Plosive" was an understatement
As always, lets go to the card:
Match #1: Anthony Thompson vs. Yuri Foreman, super-middleweight fight
This was the one black mark on an otherwise stellar card. Apparently these two fighters (whose records I missed getting, although at this point it really doesnt matter, they both sucked) are at a point in their career where they should be stepping up to the next level, and it was decided that the quickest way to judge who was most capable of moving up was to have them fight each other, with the winner being promised a championship fight. From what I saw, these two wouldnt even qualify for a fight on Jerry Springer.
Of the two, Anthony Thompson was making the best effort to put up a fight. However, what he showed in aggression, he clearly lacked in power; there was nothing to indicate any kind of impact whatsoever in his punches. At least he was trying to hit someone, though. Yuri Foreman (no relation to George, a fact that Im sure George is more than thankful for) looked like he was trying to become the John Ruiz of the middleweights. He spent the entire fight hugging and running; if he did throw a punch, it was as weak as any of Thompsons. Surprisingly, the referee did nothing to try to limit the amount of holding going on in the bout, which might have made it somewhat bearable to watch. You know its a bad match when the HBO commentary team of Lampley, Merchant and Steward completely abandon talking about the fight in favor of discussing the fighters' zodiac signs, the great legs on the ring girl in Round 7, and Thompsons inability to keep his dreadlocks contained during the latter part of the fight.
The split decision was as crappy as the match itself. Thompson is from Philly; he and Demetrius Hopkins (Bernards nephew) share a trainer and work out at the same gym. Foreman is from Brooklyn by way of Belarus and Israel. Either two of the judges are really into hugging or they werent about to hand a New York-based fight to a Philly boy. Either way, it was crap from start to finish.
Winner (by split decision): Yuri Foreman
Jades Fight Grade: F
Probably the worst fight I have ever seen. Whoever thought either of these two tomato cans deserve a championship match (even one of the watered-down belts) needs their head examined.
Match #2: Humberto Soto (41-5-2, 25 KOs) vs. Bobby Pacquiao (27-12-3, 12 KOs), 130-lb. fight
This fight was everything the first fight wasnt; lots of action and good punching. Humberto Soto did an excellent job of mixing his punches; his uppercuts were nice and crisp, his body shots particularly devastating. He is one of the few boxers Ive seen who seems to have no problem handling a southpaw opponent. Bobby Pacquiao (Mannys brother) was no slouch, either, even though it was more or less obvious he wasnt quite up to handling Soto. His biggest flaw was the fact that he couldnt resist jumping in and attempting to trade punches with Soto. When he stayed back and boxed, he was more effective, but as soon as he moved in and tried to go toe-to-toe, Soto made him pay. A nasty cut on Pacquiaos right eyebrow in the fourth round increased the intensity of his attacks to the point where he actually had Soto hurt, but he wasnt able to follow up. Over the next two rounds, Soto was able to land some nasty body shots, and in the seventh, he delivered the coup de grace; a perfect liver shot that dropped Pacquiao like a stone.
Winner: Humberto Soto by KO in Round 7.
Jades Fight Grade: A-
Good, solid fight. Not an edge-of-your-seat thriller, but a good fight nonetheless.
Fight #3: Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. vs. Grover Wiley, 154-lb. fight
Seems like these days, if its a Top Rank card, its got to have a JCC2 match in it. This was hyped as a revenge match, since Wiley was the man who beat Juniors dad, the legendary Julio Cesar Chavez, in Seniors final match. Junior claimed that the defeat came because Senior hadnt bothered to train; even an old man like Larry Merchant could have beaten him that night. If I were his dad, I think Id be more insulted by my son saying that than by the loss itself.
For what on paper looks like a complete mismatch (Chavez is 5 taller and 11 years younger than Wiley), actually proved to be a decent fight. I must admit, Top Rank has done a damn good job easing Chavez along in his career, and its definitely starting to pay off. Hes finally starting to grow into his height and hes showing a style that is different from his fathers, but also manages to incorporate some of his fathers strengths, such as a devastating left hook to the body, which he used to bring down Wiley in the third round. Wiley, however, was not as much of a pushover as the early exit would indicate. He was like a bulldog in his tenacity, coming forward repeatedly to trade punches, and he definitely made Junior work for his win. Even a younger fighter would have a hard time standing up to that hook to the body, though.
Winner: Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. by KO in Round 3.
Jades Fight Grade: A-/B+
A bit of a mismatch, but not enough to keep it from being a good fight. The body shots in both this match and the previous one were definitely whetting peoples appetites for the main event, because body work is Miguel Cottos specialty.
Speaking of which:
Match #4 (Main Event): Welterweight title fight
Zab Judah (34-4, 24KOs, 2 NDs) vs. Miguel Cotto (29-0, 24KOs) (c.)
Jim Lampley of HBO called this a throwback fight, and hes absolutely right. This was the kind of brutality you would have seen in a Carmen Basilio or Jake LaMotta fight. Both fighters were beaten and bloody by the end, and you didnt know if things were going to hit the point where it would be stopped because of the sheer ugliness of the damage done.
The biggest question of the night was which Zab Judah was going to show up; the talented young fighter with the blinding hand speed and counterpunching skill or the nutcase who always brought controversy instead of talent to his fights? This would be his first fight since his one-year suspension from boxing for his actions during his fight against Floyd Mayweather. The word was that this fight was going to determine exactly which direction Zabs career would be heading; one false step and he could kiss any chances of another title shot, or even a decent-paying fight, goodbye.
Tonight, we got both the good and the bad Zab Judah. We also got a good and bad Miguel Cotto, and thats what made this fight absolutely spectacular.
Both fighters showed up in near-perfect condition; you could tell that they were taking this matchup very seriously. Cotto started off aggressive as always, but he had a tendency throughout the fight to leave himself open as he moved in for the attack. Judah took advantage of this in the first round, delivering a blistering counterattack that stunned Cotto and made it appear that this might not be his night after all.
Then the controversy came, in the form of a low blow by Miguel Cotto. Judah flopped like a fish on the canvas, the fight was stopped briefly to allow Zab time to recover. Cotto stood there looking apologetic as the referee issued a warning, and replays showed that the blow was indeed accidental. Judah refused to take the full five minutes allotted him for recovery, and about a minute and a half later, the fight resumed.
Then in the third round, it happened again.
Low blow. Judah writhing on the canvas, Cotto looking apologetic. This time, a point was deducted, although again, it was shown to be accidental. For a second time, the ref allowed Judah time to recover and warned him against attempting retaliation.
Surprisingly, there was no retaliation. Indeed, from that point on, all the beatings delivered were legal.
Judah had already drawn blood at this point; you could see Cotto spitting out a mouthful of blood-tinged water after the first round from a cut inside his mouth, and after the second low blow in the third, there was blood spattered all over his chest from a cut just under his lower lip. The fourth round brought a cut to Judahs right eye by way of accidental headbutt, and saw the cut under Cottos lip get worse. The severity of the cut seemed to bring an increased sense of urgency to Cottos attacks. He was already putting pressure on Judah, now he was really turning up the heat. The increased pressure left him more vulnerable to Judahs left, but Judah didnt take advantage of it nearly enough to turn the tide of the fight, which was increasingly going Cottos way. Zab began holding more and more frequently, something that (unlike the Foreman/Thompson match) the referee did his best to discourage. (This was actually one of the best refereed matches Ive seen recently. Arthur Mercante did a damn good job of keeping things honest and keeping the action moving.)
In the sixth, Cotto was the one on the wrong end of an accidental headbutt, receiving a nasty cut over his right eye that looked as bad (if not worse than) the cut under his lip. The injury only made him work harder, throwing even more punches. In contrast, Zab Judahs punch count was starting to drop; despite a good seventh round, you could tell that Cottos repeated assault was starting to wear him down. By the ninth, Judah's right eye was practically swollen shut and he was forced to take a knee in order to get a little respite. His father/trainer, Yoel, was screaming at him between rounds to throw more punches. and Zab did make a last effort in the tenth to put up some offense, but you could sense the end was drawing near.
The start of the eleventh was the end of the match; Cotto knocked Judah down early with a right, and the referee stopped the fight a few moments later.
Winner (and still undefeated champion): Miguel Cotto by TKO in Round 11.
Jades Fight Grade: A/A+
This was clearly the fight of the year so far, but the two low blows (despite being clearly accidental) make me hesitate to give it the highest grade. Judah claims they were strong enough to impact his performance in the fight, and he might be right. However, it can also be said that since Judah never took the full recovery time allotted him for either blow, its his own fault if his performance suffered. This is definitely a fight that screams for a rematch, and I, for one, would definitely shell out PPV money for it.
Jade's Overall PPV Grade: A/A-
Well worth the money spent, with the exception of the first match. Im assuming Cotto/Judah will be rebroadcast on HBO in the near future. Keep an eye out for it, because this is one fight you dont want to miss seeing.