Commentary

Malignaggi deserved nod against Diaz

Originally Published: August 24, 2009
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com


A roundup of the past week's notable boxing results from around the world:

Saturday at Houston
Junior welterweight
Juan Diaz W12 Paulie Malignaggi
Scores: 118-110, 116-112, 115-113
Records: Diaz, 35-2, 17 KOs; Malignaggi, 26-3, 5 KOs

Rafael's remark: Excellent fight, terrible decision. Everything Malignaggi feared came true as the New Yorker went to Diaz's hometown and was robbed. He said he was promised neutral officials by Golden Boy, and it didn't happen. Instead, Texas judge Gale Van Hoy, who has a history of shaky scorecards favoring the hometown fighter, turned in a wretched scorecard that defies logic -- 118-110 for Diaz? Why even bother watching the fight? Golden Boy's Oscar De La Hoya ought to call for an investigation of that card the way he did after he was robbed in his rematch with Shane Mosley. Oklahoman David Sutherland's 116-112 scorecard was not much better. The 115-113 card rendered by California's Raul Caiz was barely acceptable. Malignaggi had referred to him as "Golden Boy's gopher" and complained about him before the fight because he was Mexican-American like Diaz.

Malignaggi, 28, a former junior welterweight titlist and the bigger man, dried out to make the contract weight of 138½, but he looked very sharp and fast as he outboxed and outslicked the much slower Diaz, 25, the former unified lightweight titleholder who came forward all night to try to make it a brawl. Diaz, who was trying to shake off a big ninth-round knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez in February, fought his heart out like Malignaggi did. But he just didn't deserve the decision. For what it's worth, HBO's unofficial judge, Harold Lederman, scored the bout 115-113 for Malignaggi, who was way busier and controlled the action more than Diaz.

In the first round, Diaz cut Malignaggi's left eye and reopened a cut Malignaggi suffered a few days before the fight when he was clipped by accident while doing pad work. Thanks to underrated cut man Danny Milano, the cut never became a serious issue during the fight. Malignaggi, who used his jab very well to keep Diaz on the outside, opened a cut on his eyelid in the second round. An accidental head butt opened a worse cut on Diaz's left eyebrow in the sixth. That one was bad, and Diaz bled from both cuts throughout the fight.

Diaz, who came apart when he was cut during his title loss to Nate Campbell in March 2008, showed that he can indeed fight with a cut. He never seemed to let either bother him too much, even though they were bad.

Malignaggi's emotional outburst after the fight during his interview with HBO's Max Kellerman was understandable in the heat of the moment. In the interview, he railed against the judges, Golden Boy and the politics of boxing. Despite the loss, Malignaggi showed he is still a quality fighter, even though his record reads two losses in his past three fights. (He also was stopped in the 11th round by Ricky Hatton in the fall.) Don't think Malignaggi will be headed back to Texas any time soon. Diaz, of course, loves to fight at home, and now we can see one reason why.

Junior lightweight
Robert Guerrero W12 Malcolm Klassen
Wins a junior lightweight title
Scores: 117-111, 116-113, 116-112
Records: Guerrero, 25-1-1, 17 KOs; Klassen, 24-5-2, 14 KOs

Rafael's remark: Guerrero, a 26-year-old former two-time featherweight titlist from Gilroy, Calif., boxed a near-perfect fight to claim a 130-pound belt from Klassen, a South African who was fighting in the United States for the first time and for only the second time outside his home country. To prepare for the fight, Guerrero sparred a lot with welterweight champ Shane Mosley, and it obviously helped. Guerrero looked much bigger and stronger than Klassen, and he was way more active. According to CompuBox statistics, Guerrero averaged 100 punches per round as he landed 200 of 1,200 thrown (17 percent), while Klassen was 143-of-518 (28 percent).

Guerrero appeared to hurt Klassen, 28, with a body shot in the fourth round and did a nice job of getting his shots off and then getting out of the way of anything serious coming back at him. Even Klassen's corner acknowledged that he was behind, as trainer Nick Durandt implored him to get busier. Klassen had talked a big game about how he was coming to America not just to win but also to get a knockout and make a statement. Then the fight started, and he didn't do anything close to what he said he would do. He managed to inflict a cut on Guerrero's left eye with a head butt. He used his head a lot, and not all the head butts looked as though they were by accident.

Guerrero has had issues after being cut before. It's hard to forget how he quit in a no-contest against Daud Yordan in March because of a cut. But Guerrero rebounded to fight through a cut in his win against Efren Hinojosa in June and then did it again against Klassen, who twice has won a world title but yet to make it through a first defense.

As well as Guerrero fought, he also did the boxing world a favor by breaking the ridiculous monopoly that average fighters from South Africa have had on the IBF's 130-pound title since 2006. It traded hands six times with only one non-South African winning it before Guerrero. Guerrero's manager, Shelly Finkel, told ESPN.com he would love to make a unification match between Guerrero and titlist Humberto Soto. If Soto doesn't move up to fight Edwin Valero in November, Guerrero-Soto would be a tremendous fight for HBO.

Middleweight
Daniel Jacobs W10 Ishe Smith
Scores: 100-89, 96-93 (twice)
Records: Jacobs, 18-0, 15 KOs; Smith, 21-4, 9 KOs

Rafael's remark: In by far the stiffest challenge of his young career, two-year pro Jacobs, 22, did an excellent job of turning back Smith, 31, who put on a good show but was a bit outgunned. Through his first 17 fights, Jacobs, a former amateur standout from Brooklyn, N.Y., had faced a series of no-hopers. Although Smith, of Las Vegas, is smaller, having fought primarily as a welterweight and junior middleweight, he was the first serious opponent of Jacobs' career.

Jacobs was making his HBO debut and undoubtedly learned a lot in the fight, which was the idea. He was a bit quicker and much busier (firing 888 punches compared to Smith's 498), but Smith, the former first-season star of "The Contender," had his moments. When he could force Jacobs to put his back against the ropes, Smith had a field day. Staying off the ropes is something Jacobs should go back to the gym to work on. He has a lot of tools and the potential to be a champion. He just needs experience like this fight provided. Although nobody is doubting that Smith lost the fight, judge David Sutherland's 100-89 scorecard was atrocious, even worse than the card he turned in for the Juan Diaz-Paulie Malignaggi main event. Smith deserved better, but he also hurt himself with some rough tactics that didn't sit well with referee Laurence Cole. Smith repeatedly hit Jacobs low and on the hip. Smith, who dropped to 3-3 in his past six fights, also hit Jacobs multiple times after the bell, an infraction that finally cost him a point after the ninth round.

Junior welterweight
Danny Garcia TKO3 Oscar Leon
Records: Garcia, 14-0, 9 KOs; Leon, 28-10, 18 KOs

Rafael's remark: Garcia had been scheduled to fight the opening bout on the Aug. 14 "Friday Night Fights" card on ESPN2, but issues between promoter Golden Boy and ESPN over the opponent knocked Garcia off the card. So Golden Boy made the former amateur standout from Philadelphia a late addition to its Houston show, where the 21-year-old had an easy night against the 35-year-old Leon, a former title challenger whose best days came in the early part of this decade at featherweight. Now, the Miami-based Colombia native is nothing but fodder. Garcia dominated the fight and knocked him down twice in the third round for the easy win. Leon lost for the sixth time in his past seven fights, with five of the losses in the stretch coming via knockout.

Lightweight
Hylon Williams W6 Baudel Cardenas
Scores: 60-52 (twice), 59-53
Records: Williams, 11-0, 3 KOs; Cardenas, 18-18-2, 6 KOs

Rafael's remark: Houston's Williams, 19, was a 2008 U.S. Olympic alternate and 2007 national amateur champion with tons of skills. He used them to dominate Mexico's Cardenas for the near-shutout decision, dropping Cardenas with a body shot in the second round along the way.

Junior middleweight
Jermell Charlo W6 Vardan Gasparyan
Scores: 58-56 (three times)
Records: Charlo, 9-0, 4 KOs; Gasparyan, 11-2-4, 5 KOs

Rafael's remark: Just 19 years old, Charlo claimed the unanimous decision in front of his hometown fans by outboxing Gasparyan, 23, who is from Armenia but based in Glendale, Calif. Charlo, a skilled boxer, was a standout amateur and has a bright future.

Junior lightweight
Adrien Broner TKO1 Edgar Portillo
Records: Broner, 11-0, 8 KOs; Portillo, 5-3, 3 KOs

Rafael's remark: Broner, an energetic 20-year-old prospect from Cincinnati with a strong amateur background, blew out Portillo in 97 seconds for his sixth win of a busy year. Manager Shelly Finkel said he was pleased with the performance, in which Broner scored two knockdowns and finished his man moments later with him trapped on the ropes. Broner will be back in action Sept. 5 in Cincinnati.

Light heavyweight
Marcus Johnson TKO1 Matt Gockel
Records: Johnson, 16-0, 13 KOs; Gockel, 12-10, 7 KOs

Rafael's remark: Johnson, 23, is a tremendous prospect. The Houston resident was one of the top amateurs in the country but lost in the U.S. Olympic trials finals to Andre Ward, who went on to win a gold medal at the 2004 Summer Games in Athens, Greece. Johnson turned professional but was buried by promoter Don King, who did zero to promote him or get him on television. But Johnson's deal with King finally ran out, and he signed recently with Lou DiBella, who got himself an elite prospect who can move quickly. Johnson hadn't fought in 11 months while King shelved him, so this was just a fight to get him back to work. He took care of business quickly, with the end coming midway through the first round when a single punch busted open a cut over Gockel's eye. In his next fight, Johnson, who will campaign at super middleweight, will get some much overdue television exposure. He'll fight Oct. 2 on Showtime's "ShoBox" card, headlined by the Allan Green-Victor Oganov super middleweight bout.

Cruiserweight
Adam "The Swamp Donkey" Richards W8 Harvey Jolly
Scores: 77-74, 76-75 Richards, 78-74 Jolly
Records: Richards, 23-2, 14 KOs; Jolly, 9-11-1, 4 KOs

Rafael's remark: Donkey, errr Richards, 28, of Houston, eked out a split decision against Jolly, 32, of Adrian, Mich., in what Richards promoter Lou DiBella called a war. Does the Donkey make any other kind of fight? His eighth-round TKO loss to Chazz Witherspoon in a heavyweight brawl in November 2008 was one of the best fights of the year. Since then, Richards has slimmed down to cruiserweight and won two straight fights. Will he be cruiserweight champion? It's unlikely. But nobody has a better nickname and few make for better fights. Incidentally, DiBella loves the Donkey so much that even though he was Witherspoon's promoter when they met, he said he traded Witherspoon's promotional contract to Prize Fight in exchange for Richards'.

Saturday at Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Junior lightweight
Humberto Mauro Gutierrez W12 Sergey Gulaykevich
Wins a vacant interim junior lightweight title
Scores: 116-110, 115-111, 113-113
Records: Gutierrez, 26-1-1, 19 KOs; Gulaykevich, 26-2, 12 KOs

Rafael's remark: What a tough, close fight. There was lots of action, some blood and hard hitting throughout the match as Gutierrez, 20, of Mexico, got a deserved decision against Gulaykevich, 28, the former European champion who traveled 8,000 miles from Belarus and left everything he had in the ring. It just wasn't quite enough as the younger, stronger Gutierrez claimed an interim belt in a rough fight.

The real belt belongs to Mexico's Humberto Soto, but he likely will be headed for the lightweight division in November, so Gutierrez will have the interim tag dropped before too long. As insane as all the interim belts are these days, this one is not even close to the worst. It's basically the WBC filling a vacant title a few months before the title becomes vacant. It's still not good, but it's a lot better than some of the other craziness.

In any event, Gulaykevich lost a point during the fourth round and was almost knocked out of the ring in the 11th round, but he hung on under heavy fire. He appeared dead-tired in the 12th round and had a bloody face when he went down on a slip that probably was more from exhaustion than anything else.

Strawweight
Raul Garcia D12 Sammy Gutierrez
Retains a strawweight title
Scores: 114-114, 116-112 Garcia, 117-115 Gutierrez
Records: Garcia, 26-0-2, 16 KOs; Gutierrez, 21-4-3, 12 KOs

Rafael's remark: Garcia, 26, of Mexico, kept his title by salvaging a split draw against his 23-year-old countryman in a back-and-forth fight. For what it's worth, the broadcasters on Mexico's TV Azteca also scored the bout 114-114. Garcia and Gutierrez know each other well, as it was their third meeting. They boxed to a 12-round draw in June 2006, and Garcia edged him via split decision for the Mexican strawweight title in June 2007. This time, Garcia retained his 105-pound world title in his fourth defense.

By the way, former two-time lightweight Jose Luis Castillo (59-9-1, 51 KOs) toiled on the undercard, knocking out Cristian Solano (22-17-4, 16 KOs) in the third round. Castillo's career in the spotlight effectively came to an end in when Ricky Hatton knocked him out in the fourth round in June 2007. Since then, Castillo -- best known for his epic war with Diego Corrales that many hail as the greatest fight of all time -- is 4-1.

Saturday at Budapest, Hungary
Super middleweight
Robert Stieglitz TKO11 Karoly Balzsay

Wins a super middleweight title
Records: Stieglitz, 36-2, 22 KOs; Balzsay, 21-1, 15 KOs

Rafael's remark: This was definitely an upset. Making his second title defense, Balzsay, 30, was heavily favored and fighting in his hometown in the centerpiece event of the WBO's annual convention. But Stieglitz, 28, of Germany, outgunned Balzsay, pressuring him and hurting him in the ninth round. Stieglitz continued to pour it on in the 10th, and Fritz Sdunek, Balzsay's trainer, kept him on the stool just after the 11th round started. As a precaution, medical personnel put a neck brace on Balzsay and took him out of the ring on a stretcher after the rough fight. The WBO's title was with Joe Calzaghe for more than 10 years. Since he moved up to light heavyweight (and then retired), Stieglitz is the third man to wear it in 11 months. Stieglitz had been stopped in his two losses to Librado Andrade (eighth round in 2008) and former titlist Alejandro Berrio (third round in a 2007 vacant title bout). The loss certainly derails Balzsay. Had he won, he was being eyed to appear on HBO on Nov. 28 against former "Contender" winner Sakio Bika on the undercard of super middleweight titlist Lucian Bute's mandatory rematch with Andrade.

Light heavyweight
Jurgen Brahmer TKO11 Aleksy Kuziemski
Wins a vacant interim light heavyweight title
Records: Brahmer, 34-2, 28 KOs; Kuziemski, 17-1, 4 KOs

Rafael's remark: Although Zsolt Erdei is the full titleholder and has made 11 defenses in a six-year reign, the WBO insanely sanctioned this as an interim title bout. Must have been a slow month for sanctioning fees. But Brahmer, 30, of Germany, picked up the trinket with the late stoppage against Kuziemski, 32, who is from Poland but based in Germany. Brahmer, who lost his only previous title bout to Hugo Hernan Garay via unanimous decision in November 2008, has now won three fights in a row. He scored four knockdowns (in the second, third, fifth and 11th rounds) to set up an eventual mandatory bout with Erdei.

Friday at Las Vegas
Heavyweight
Oliver McCall W10 Franklin Lawrence
Scores: 97-93, 96-94 (twice)
Records: McCall, 53-9, 37 KOs; Lawrence, 12-2-2, 7 KOs

Rafael's remark: With no live televised boxing Friday night, you could get your fix with an Internet pay-per-view featuring McCall, the 44-year-old former heavyweight champion who is still trading punches for pay 12 years after his emotional breakdown in a championship rematch with Lennox Lewis. McCall pounded out the lethargic decision against Lawrence, 33, whose 8-0-2 unbeaten run since his last loss in 2006 ended. McCall still has designs on another title shot, but it's awfully unlikely, and these kinds of decisions won't do much to create any demand whatsoever.

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.