Commentary

Ward, Kessler stay on course

Originally Published: September 14, 2009
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com


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

Saturday at Herning, Denmark
Super middleweight
Mikkel Kessler TKO4 Gusmyr Perdomo
Retains a super middleweight title
Records: Kessler, 42-1, 32 KOs; Perdomo, 16-3, 10 KOs

Rafael's remark: Fighting at home, Kessler thrilled the crowd with a dominant title defense as "The Viking Warrior" took terribly undeserving mandatory challenger Perdomo apart. Kessler's win, combined with Andre Ward's knockout victory on Showtime's split-site doubleheader, paved the way to their Nov. 21 showdown in Showtime's Super Six World Boxing Classic, a six-man super middleweight tournament that is one of the best things to happen in boxing in years. Kessler, 30, hadn't fought since October, in large part because of an acrimonious split with promoter Mogens Palle and subsequent signing with Germany's Sauerland Event, but he looked very good despite the layoff. Making his second title defense since regaining a vacant belt in the wake of his points loss to Joe Calzaghe in November 2007, Kessler didn't need long to shake off the rust. He rocked Venezuela's Perdomo, 32, late in the first round with a combination. Perdomo, idle since November, was trying hard, but he was simply outgunned by a far superior fighter. It was all Kessler in the third round, which he culminated with a knockdown. As Perdomo was leaning in, Kessler cracked him with a right hand on the shoulder and sent him to the canvas with 15 seconds left. Perdomo looked a bit unsteady when he rose, despite only being hit in the shoulder. Kessler finished him in the next round, hurting him with a right hand during a flurry of about 10 unanswered shots. Perdomo was going down for the second time when referee Russell Mora jumped in to stop the fight. Perdomo fell to 2-2 in his past four bouts and belonged nowhere near a title opportunity, much less as a mandatory challenger. But what else do you expect from the WBA, which has a long history of ranking undeserving fighters from Venezuela, where it used to be based? It was a strong performance for Kessler, who accomplished everything he could have hoped for heading into the tournament. He won, looked great, didn't get hurt and kept his title intact. It won't be as easy a night with Ward, who is way better than Perdomo and will have the hometown advantage in Oakland, Calif., when they meet. A news conference announcing the fight is scheduled for Thursday in Oakland. Bring it on. The tournament, which starts with Arthur Abraham-Jermain Taylor and Carl Froch-Andre Dirrell on Oct. 17, is going to be great.

Saturday at Temecula, Calif.
Super middleweight
Andre Ward TKO3 Shelby Pudwill

Records: Ward, 20-0, 13 KOs; Pudwill, 22-4-1, 9 KOs

Rafael's remark: There was a reason Ward's handlers selected Pudwill, 34, to face Ward in his tune-up fight -- and Showtime agreed to televise it on a "ShoBox" -- before facing titleholder Mikkel Kessler on Nov. 21 in their opening fight of Showtime's super middleweight tournament. It was because Pudwill had virtually zero chance of winning or even doing any damage. Pudwill was two fights removed from a first-round knockout loss to middleweight John Duddy, so Ward was in as soft as the most expensive toilet paper. So it should come as no surprise that the 2004 Olympic gold medalist destroyed Pudwill with ease. A million times better than Pudwill in every conceivable way, Ward easily won the first two rounds and then finished him. He dropped Pudwill in the third round on a left hook, a punch that opened a cut under Pudwill's left eye. It was only a matter of time until Ward, 25, finished Pudwill, who was also bleeding from a cut on his cheek. Ward went for the kill and while he was hammering Pudwill, Ward motioned for referee Pat Russell to stop the carnage. Eventually, Russell did just that at 2 minutes, 16 seconds of the round. Like Kessler had done earlier in the day by routing Gusmyr Perdomo in his tune-up fight, Ward did everything he could have hoped for in preparation for their Nov. 21 showdown. Ward looked fast and strong and came out of the fight without any injuries or cuts. Ward and promoter Dan Goossen took a calculated risk by taking the tune-up, but they can breathe easy now because Ward (and Kessler) are safely through their fights. Now it's finally on to the Super Six World Boxing Classic, where Ward will get his shot at Kessler's title in at the Oracle Arena in his hometown of Oakland, Calif. That should be an outstanding fight in a tournament filled with quality matches.

Heavyweight
James Toney TKO2 Matt Greer
Records: Toney, 72-6-3, 44 KOs; Greer, 12-6, 11 KOs

Rafael's remark: At age 41, Toney has probably forgotten more boxing than most fighters have ever known. Even though he's certainly past his prime, the former three-division champ fights on in the hopes of landing another big bout. He hopes to fight one of the Klitschko brothers for a title, but he has work to do. Even though Greer was in no way a threatening opponent, Toney badly need a win against anyone. He was coming off a nine-month layoff and a split decision win against Fres Oquendo that few believed he won. Nonetheless, the heavyweight division is so poor overall that somebody of Toney's name and résumé (and ability to talk) can still find a place. Toney at least looks like he's taking the winter of his career seriously. He showed up stop in shape to Greer with relative ease weighing 217½ pounds, the lightest he has been since he was 217 for his 2003 knockout of Evander Holyfield, a fight that served as Toney's heavyweight coming-out party after moving up in weight after winning the cruiserweight from Vassiliy Jirov in a memorable battle. Toney dropped Greer in the second round with a left hand and was knocking him around until the referee finally stepped in with 27 seconds left in the round. Afterward it was classic Toney, who called out the Klitschkos: "I felt great at the lower weight. When I was heavier I felt like I was losing my speed and stamina. Even when he hit me I wasn't hurt. Now I'm 41 years old, 21 really, and I'm a heavyweight fighting like a middleweight. If I can get one of the Klitschko sisters to fight me next fight, I'll come in lighter than I did for Holyfield, maybe 211 or 210."

Saturday at Tepic, Mexico
Middleweight
Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. TKO1 Jason LeHoullier
Records: Chavez Jr., 40-0-1, 30 KOs; LeHoullier, 22-2-1, 8 KOs

Rafael's remark: Chavez and LeHoullier were supposed to meet in July in the main event of a Top Rank "Latin Fury" pay-per-view card, but Chavez pulled out because he was nowhere near the junior middleweight limit and couldn't make weight. The fight was rescheduled and made into a middleweight bout, and Chavez, 23, the son of the legendary Julio Cesar Chavez Sr., destroyed LeHoullier. Chavez decked the typically durable LeHoullier, 31, with a beautiful left hook, knocking him to his butt with a smashing punch. LeHoullier, who was coming off a majority-decision loss to Harry Joe Yorgey 13 months ago, showed true grit to survive the knockdown. But Chavez was all over him moments later, unleashing a ridiculous amount of punches until referee Ruben Carrion stepped in with 17 seconds left in the opening round. It's a testament to Chavez's handlers that they have built his record to 40-0-1 against an assortment of woeful and low-level opponents. But his name and exciting style draw a passionate fan base, and they see no reason to slow down the gravy train. Top Rank promoter Bob Arum has talked about matching Chavez against John Duddy down the road, but we'll believe it when we actually see it. There is a chance that both could be featured in separate bouts on another Top Rank pay-per-view card on Dec. 12.

Junior featherweight
Fernando Montiel Tech. Draw 3 Alejandro Valdez
Scores: 99-91, 98-92, 95-95
Records: Montiel, 39-2-2, 29 KOs; Valdez, 22-3-2, 16 KOs

Rafael's remark: There is a lot of confusion over this bout and the result. Let's try to sort it out. First and foremost, it was a heck of a scrap for three rounds. It was filled with action, both guys were knocked down and there was blood. Now to the rest. Montiel, 30, of Mexico, owns a bantamweight belt and this was supposed to be his first defense, or so we thought. The bout was promoted as a title fight by Top Rank. Adding to the confusion were the graphics on the telecast, which referred to it as a title fight in the opening and listed the fighters as weighing the division limit of 118 pounds. The reality was that the fight had been changed at some point to a non-title, 10-round fight and both guys had actually weighed in over the limit at 119 pounds. The announcers on the pay-per-view were as perplexed as anyone and unable to offer any particular reason for the change and never corrected the weight.

Then the fight started, and it started very, very fast. Montiel knocked Valdez, 26, of Mexico, down a minute into the fight with a flush uppercut. But Valdez was OK and opened a terrible cut by Montiel's left eye. Referee Jesus Salcedo, who was absolutely terrible, never indicated if it was from a punch or head butt, but Top Rank's production folks found a replay showing the cut was clearly caused by a right jab from the southpaw Valdez. The slugfest continued in the second round. Blood poured from the cut and Valdez dropped Montiel hard with an uppercut. After he got up, Salcedo didn't give Valdez a chance to finish, instead walking Montiel over to a corner to see the doctor and have his cut checked. Valdez was crushing Montiel in the third round. His eye was almost closed and he obviously couldn't see punches coming out of the messed-up eye.

The fight was eventually stopped between rounds, but nobody had a clue if it was a TKO win for Valdez or a technical draw (which is what is used in Mexico for accidental head-butt stoppages rather than a no-contest like in the United States). Finally, the ring announcer said it was a technical draw. A few minutes later, an official from the local commission got into the ring and declared Valdez the knockout winner, and the card continued. Only much later was it announced that the commissioner who took the microphone had spoken out of turn and, in fact, the fight had been declared a technical draw. What a mess. Valdez, who two fights ago was stopped in the second round challenging Hozumi Hasegawa for his bantamweight belt in Japan in October 2008, was screwed out of a TKO win. The cut was from a clean punch, not a butt. Montiel also looked as bad as he has in years. Top Rank had planned for Montiel to make a mandatory defense against Eric Morel on the Nov. 14 Miguel Cotto-Manny Pacquiao pay-per-view. It would be a surprise (not to mention a huge disappointment) if that fight went on given how bad Montiel's cut was and how poorly he looked.

Strawweight
Donnie Nietes W12 Manuel Vargas
Retains a strawweight title
Scores: 118-110, 116-110 Nietes, 116-112 Vargas
Records: Nietes, 25-1-3, 14 KOs; Vargas, 26-4-1, 11 KOs

Rafael's remark: Are you sick and tired of horrible decisions in boxing? If so, hope you missed this fight, which can be added to long list of miserable decisions. It made the Juan Diaz-Paulie Malignaggi disgrace from last month look outstanding. Stunningly, it was the Mexican fighter, Vargas, who was deprived of the victory against Nietes, 27, of the Philippines. Vargas, 28, who entered as interim titleholder in this mandatory bout, outhustled and outpunched him throughout the entertaining fight. All you had to do was watch the Nietes corner between rounds and read Nietes' body language. They all knew he was losing the fight and needed something dramatic to happen in the late rounds. There were tons of punches thrown in the bout, but Vargas was landing at a much greater rate and never stopped pushing forward. Even if you thought it was a close fight and Nietes deserved to get the decision, there is simply no way you can legitimately give it to Nietes by a score of 118-110. And how a judge came up with a 116-110 is a mystery, since there were no knockdowns or point deductions. Good fight, but the decision stunk like a toxic waste dump.

Junior featherweight
Z Gorres TKO6 Cruz Carvajal
Records: Gorres, 29-2-2, 15 KOs; Carvajal, 29-17-2, 16 KOs

Rafael's remark: The Philippines' Gorres, who now fights for Top Rank, opened the pay-per-view card with a good performance against Mexico's Carvajal, 35, a former bantamweight titleholder who can still make things difficult for his opponents even though he's been in a rut and has dropped to 1-4 in his past five fights. Gorres, 27, who fought to a disputed draw with Vic Darchinyan in February 2008, was quicker and stronger than Carvajal. He knocked his mouthpiece out with an uppercut that rattled Carvajal in the fifth round. Gorres was landing regularly with combinations but Carvajal didn't seem like he was on the verge of being stopped when, suddenly, the fight ended two seconds into the sixth round with Carvajal on his stool complaining of some sort of left arm injury. Gorres is slated to return to action on Nov. 13 in Las Vegas against an opponent to be determined.

In a pair of other interesting results from the undercard: Faded former two-time lightweight champ Jose Luis Castillo (60-9-1, 52 KOs) won his fourth in a row by knockout as he scored a second-round stoppage of Mexican countryman Carlos Urias (41-22, 30 KOs) in welterweight fight; and junior lightweight prospect Brandon Rios (21-0-1, 14 KOs), 23, stopped no-hoper Daniel Valenzuela (4-8, 2 KOs) in the second round. Rios is due back in action Oct. 17 on Azteca America.

Saturday at San Juan
Junior flyweight
Ivan "Iron Boy" Calderon Tech. Dec. 7 Rodel Mayol
Retains world junior flyweight title
Scores: 68-65 (twice) Calderon, 68-65 Mayol
Records: Calderon, 33-0-1, 6 KOs; Mayol, 25-4-1, 19 KOs

Rafael's remark: If you got the feeling it was Groundhog Day, don't be alarmed. Amazingly, this rematch between Puerto Rico's Calderon and Mayol of the Philippines went almost exactly the same as their aborted first fight. In June, they met in New York's Madison Square Garden on the Miguel Cotto-Joshua Clottey undercard. In a sloppy fight in which their styles did not mesh well -- Calderon is a 5-foot southpaw and Mayol is a 5-4 right-hander -- Calderon suffered a terrible gash on his forehead from an accidental head butt. The fight was stopped in the sixth round and sent to the scorecards, where the judges scored it a split draw in a competitive match. It was enough of an unsatisfying ending for them to agree to a rematch, and this time it headlined a pay-per-view card from Calderon's home base. Again, it was a competitive fight that was not too pleasing. Their styles simply do not mesh for an entertaining bout. Calderon, 34, a defensive whiz, used all his skills to frustrate the more aggressive Mayol, 28, who dropped to 0-3-1 in title world bouts. Once again, an accidental head butt opened a gash on Calderon's forehead in virtually the identical spot as the place where he suffered a cut in June. The fight was stopped and sent to the scorecards, where Calderon got the close nod. Incredibly, it was Calderon's third consecutive fight that ended because of an accidental head butt. He won a seven-round technical decision in a rematch with Hugo Cazares in August 2008 when that fight was stopped because he also suffered a cut from a butt. Now Calderon, the recognized 108-pound champion, would like to unify alphabet belts. His main target is Brian Viloria, which would be the biggest fight in the division.

Junior lightweight
Roman Martinez KO9 Feider Viloria
Retains a junior lightweight title
Records: Martinez, 23-0-1, 14 KOs; Viloria, 22-5-2, 15 KOs

Rafael's remark: In explosive fashion, Martinez, 26, of Puerto Rico, made the first defense of the belt he won in England when he knocked out hometown fighter Nicky Cook in the fourth round in March. Martinez was originally supposed to defend against Argentina's Vicente Martin Rodriguez, but visa problems forced organizers to turn to Colombia's Viloria on a few days' notice. The 26-year-old had no particular credentials to be in a title fight unless you viewed his 2-3 record in the five fights (which were at junior featherweight and featherweight) before the title shot as a positive. The aggressive Martinez came at Viloria, who did his best to give him some angles and move, but he could only do it for so long. Eventually, Martinez caught up to him and ended matters with one second remaining in the ninth round when he sent Viloria to the canvas under a heavy barrage of punches. There's a been a little back-and-forth talk between Martinez and titleholder Robert Guerrero about an eventual fight, which would be fun to see.

Cruiserweight
Carlos Negron TKO1 Larry Carter
Records: Negron, 5-0, 5 KOs; Carter, 3-5-1, 3 KOs

Rafael's remark: The 6-foot-6 Negron, who was a 2008 Puerto Rican Olympian, continued to whack out overmatched opponents as he notched his fourth first-round knockout against Detroit's Carter. His only other bout went into the second round. He's a huge cruiserweight with good power, but there are already questions about his chin since he's been down before. Negron's punch output was just too much for Carter to deal with as Negron backed him up and finally unloaded a series of unanswered blows and the referee stopped it with 11 seconds left in the first round.

Saturday at Monterrey, Mexico
Bantamweight
Nehomar Cermeño W12 Cristian Mijares
Retains an interim bantamweight title
Scores: 117-111, 116-112 (twice).
Records: Cermeño, 18-0, 10 KOs; Mijares, 36-6-2, 15 KOs

Rafael's remark: In March, Venezuela's Cermeño went to Mijares' native Mexico and claimed a vacant interim belt (from the WBA, who else?) on a questionable split decision. One judge gave it to Mijares by a wide margin (117-111) and the other two judges gave it to Cermeño more competitively (116-112 and 115-113). Controversy ensued and a rematch was put together. This time Cermeño got the nod again in more deserving fashion. Cermeño earned a unanimous decision as all three judges were in the same neighborhood with their scores. While Cermeño, 29, figures to move past Mijares into more notable bouts -- perhaps a mandatory with the WBA's full titleholder, Anselmo Moreno -- Mijares, 27, has seen his once skyrocketing career hit the dumps. From 2006 to 2008, Mijares had a tremendous run. He unified junior bantamweight titles, beat quality foes such as Jorge Arce, Katsushige Kawashima (twice), Jose Navarro and Alexander Munoz, and moved onto virtually every pound-for-pound list. Then came the fast and furious downfall. The stylish southpaw was blitzed in nine rounds by Vic Darchinyan in November 2008 in a fight to further unify the 115-pound division and then stepped up to bantamweight, where he lost twice to Cermeño. After the fight, Mijares said he would retire.

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.