Commentary

Khan becomes a major force at 140

Originally Published: May 17, 2010
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com


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

Saturday at New York
Junior welterweight
Amir Khan TKO11 Paulie Malignaggi
Retains a junior welterweight title
Records: Khan, 23-1, 17 KOs; Malignaggi, 27-4, 5 KOs

Rafael's remark: It wasn't quite the Beatles' British invasion or even Naseem Hamed's, but Khan's American debut was a smashing success. Khan not only beat Malignaggi in his hometown to retain his title for the second time, but he did it with absolute ease in a stunningly one-sided exhibition of speed, power and toughness.

Khan, 23, had been the 2007 ESPN.com prospect of the year and had massive expectations heaped on his shoulders from the moment he claimed an Olympic silver medal for Great Britain in the 2004 Games. He was looking good until a shocking first-round knockout loss to Breidis Prescott in a 2008 lightweight. But Khan dusted himself off, hired trainer Freddie Roach (who has done wonders with him), eventually moved up one weight class and has now won five in a row, including a title.

In Malignaggi, Khan was facing the best opponent of his career and doing it on his turf. But it made no difference as he shut down Malignaggi and never let him into the fight. Khan beat him to the punch throughout the fight, fired off fast combinations, had his jab working extremely well, swelled Malignaggi's face and basically beat the daylights out of him for every single round. Malignaggi, 29, is a tough, tough man with a huge heart, so he was in there working his rear end off, but when you have no chance to knock out your opponent (and Malignaggi doesn't) it makes for a long, long night when you're trailing. Khan had won every round on all three scorecards through the 10 completed rounds. After the 10th round, the ringside doctor was looking to have referee Steve Smoger (who did a superb job on this bout, like he usually does) stop the fight, but Malignaggi begged for another round and got his way. But Khan closed the show, finally stopping him when Smoger properly called it off after Khan landed a few more decent shots against the fading challenger. Malignaggi didn't complain and gave Khan all the credit in the world for the victory, which was nice to see after all the bad blood that they had exchanged during the buildup to the HBO main event.

Khan is the money figure in the deep junior welterweight division and there are several potentially major fights out there -- Marcos Maidana (his mandatory and the interim titleholder), Devon Alexander and Timothy Bradley Jr. Khan said he wants them and won't leave the division until he unifies titles. His handlers have kept him away from the most dangerous fighters, but it will soon be time to turn him loose. Khan plans to return July 31 in England (Michael Katsidis has been mentioned by Golden Boy) before a return to HBO in the fall. With all the action at 140 pounds, it's going to be a fun ride, especially with Khan square in the middle of all the action. Even Malignaggi, who will consider retirement, is excited about the possible big fights in the division, but watching them as a fan, not getting punched inside the ring during them.

Junior welterweight
Victor Ortiz W10 Nate Campbell
Scores: 100-89 (twice), 99-90
Records: Ortiz, 27-2-1, 21 KOs; Campbell, 33-6-1, 25 KOs

Rafael's remark: On paper, this looked like a competitive match. Both guys are talented but had a lot of questions to answer after some recent inconsistent performances. Could Ortiz, 23, the 2008 ESPN.com Prospect of the Year, still blossom into the star many believe he can be? Could he win his third in a row and shake off the stigma of quitting against Marcos Maidana last summer, and live down his stunning comments about not caring afterward? Campbell, the former unified lightweight titlist, had moved up after he was stripped for not making weight for a February 2009 defense against Ali Funeka. In his next bout, Campbell challenged Timothy Bradley Jr. for a junior welterweight belt in August and looked bad as he was knocked around for three rounds until a clash of heads short-circuited the bout for a no-contest. Could Campbell bounce back? Could he show that at 38, and in his first fight since signing with Golden Boy, that he still had something left in the tank? The answers: The faster and far more accurate Ortiz further distanced himself from his scarlet-letter night with a dominant performance, while Campbell looked like the fuel tank is approaching empty. Campbell, of Jacksonville, Fla., started fast and was looking very good for most of the first round until Ortiz dropped him right at the end of the round. From there it was all Ortiz, who won 29 of the 30 rounds scored by the three judges, even though he did a bit more running that we would have liked to see. The win in the HBO co-feature puts Ortiz back on track for a notable fight in boxing's hottest weight class. The loss seriously derails Campbell's hopes of another big fight.

Middleweight
Daniel Jacobs TKO2 Juan Astorga

Records: Jacobs, 20-0, 17 KOs; Astorga, 14-5-1, 9 KOs

Rafael's remark: Jacobs, 23, was the 2009 ESPN.com Prospect of the Year and continues to steamroll toward a significant fight. It seems to be just a matter of time since he has the right connections (promoter Golden Boy, manager Al Haymon and HBO's interest) and the skills. Fighting at home for only the second time as a pro, Brooklyn's Jacobs dominated Astorga, 31, of Brownfield, Texas. It shouldn't come as much of a surprise. Astorga, who lost his fourth fight in his past six, had been knocked out in one round by John Duddy in January, and Duddy isn't as good as Jacobs, who was fighting for the second time since a hand injury kept him on the shelf for eight months. Jacobs floored Astorga twice in the first round and twice more in the second, three of them coming on body shots, for the victory. Jacobs looked good and looks like a potential star, but his handlers should seriously consider stepping up his competition a little bit. He can handle it.

Junior welterweight
Breidis Prescott TKO3 Jason Davis

Records: Prescott, 22-2, 19 KOs; Davis, 11-7-1, 3 KOs

Rafael's remark: It had to be a bit humbling for Miami-based Colombian fighter Prescott to appear on Amir Khan's undercard. After all, Prescott smashed Khan in 54 seconds for a stunning upset in a 2008 lightweight bout. While Khan rebounded to win a junior welterweight title and become one of the hottest names in boxing, Prescott stumbled. He won his encore to the Khan fight but then lost two in a row. Now, the 27-year-old is also at junior welterweight and being promoted by Lou DiBella, who put him on his portion of the undercard in the hopes of showcasing him and keeping his name out there for a possible rematch with Khan. Prescott looked good, albeit against a low-level opponent in Davis, 27, who lost his sixth fight in a row. Prescott, who looked huge for the weight class, showed off his power by hurting Davis repeatedly to the body. He dropped him twice before the fight was waived off with Davis in obvious distress while down on a knee.

Saturday at London
Lightweight
Michael Katsidis TKO3 Kevin Mitchell
Retains an interim lightweight title
Records: Katsidis, 27-2, 22 KOs; Mitchell, 31-1, 23 KOs

Rafael's remark: Australia's Katsidis is one of the most exciting fighters in the world, because he's usually in brawls. Not this time, though, as Katsidis, 29, had a surprisingly easy time with England's Mitchell, 25, to win his fourth in a row since back-to-back losses to Juan Diaz and Joel Casamayor. Katsidis went to Mitchell's turf to make the first defense of his interim belt (Juan Manuel Marquez is the legit champion) because Mitchell's promoter, Frank Warren, won the purse bid. But Katsidis has no fear of traveling to enemy turf. He's been to England before, beating Graham Earl in an all-time classic slugfest in 2005. This time around, there was little drama as he routed Mitchell to the great disappointment of his supportive crowd of about 15,000. The beginning of the end was a heavy left hook that badly rocked Mitchell early in the third round. Mitchell staggered into the ropes, and from there, Katsidis cleaned up. He had Mitchell on his heels when he cracked him with another left hook that staggered him again. Katsidis continued his attack until referee Dave Parris called it off at 1 minute, 57 seconds. This is an excellent victory for Katsidis, who has been mentioned as a possible opponent for junior welterweight Amir Khan this summer. There are lots of potential fights for Katsidis, especially if he does want to try his hand at junior welterweight.

Saturday at Los Mochis, Mexico
Lightweight
Humberto Soto W12 Ricardo Dominguez
Retains a lightweight title
Scores: 119-110, 118-110, 117-112
Records: Soto, 52-7-2, 32 KOs; Dominguez, 31-6-2, 19 KOs

Rafael's remark: After the late Edwin Valero relinquished his lightweight belt earlier this year, former junior lightweight titlist Soto moved up 135 pounds and claimed the vacant belt by beating former titlist David Diaz on the March 13 Manny Pacquiao-Joshua Clottey undercard. Returning to action two months later, Soto was given permission for a hometown optional defense against countryman Dominguez rather than facing Anthony Peterson in an overdue mandatory defense. Headlining on "Top Rank Live," Soto survived some anxious moments in the second round when Dominguez, 24, badly staggered him with a right hand before regrouping and cruising to the lopsided decision. Although Soto, who turned 30 on May 11, won wide on the scorecards, Dominguez, who was cut over his eye, was game all the way and gave an excellent effort, just not good enough to win more than a few rounds. Now the question is will Soto fight Peterson? There has been talk of the bout going on Top Rank's July 24 HBO undercard that is supposed to be headlined by Yuriorkis Gamboa. However, making the numbers work has been difficult on the show; Soto-Peterson may be too expensive for that card. Top Rank also says Soto is considering moving up to the talent-rich and more lucrative junior welterweight division, where guys like Timothy Bradley Jr. and Devon Alexander need summer opponents. So it remains to be seen what will happen, but if Soto does go through with the Peterson fight, it's a good matchup.

And now a programming note: The "Top Rank Live" cards on Fox Sports en Espanol and Fox Sports Net that come from Mexico have been rough from a production point of view (could the graphics be any darker?) but Soto-Dominguez was a disaster. All was going well until, for whatever reason, there was an extended commercial break and plenty of soccer action for most of the rest of the fight. Thankfully, there was a taped replay in the wee hours of the morning in which the fight was shown in its entirety. But come on, guys; let's get with the program.

Saturday at Ciudad Obregon, Mexico
Featherweight
Orlando Salido W12 Cristobal Cruz
Wins a featherweight title
Scores: 117-109 (twice), 116-109
Records: Salido, 34-10-2, 22 KOs; Cruz, 39-12-2, 23 KOs

Rafael's remark: In October 2008, Cruz took a split decision against Mexican countryman Salido in an ESPN2 main event to claim a vacant title. While Cruz, 32, would successfully defend the belt three times, Salido, 29, won two fights in a row on the comeback trail to set up a mandatory shot at the title. This time Salido got the unanimous nod, aided by two knockdowns in the second round and a strong finish in which he nearly knocked out a tiring Cruz. The fight was almost called off the day before because of a disagreement over the judging panel, but the issue was worked out and the fight went on as scheduled. By the way, Salido won this same belt in 2006 when he outpointed Robert Guerrero. However, it was stripped from him and the result changed to a no-decision because Salido tested positive for steroids after the fight.

Saturday at Lodz, Poland
Cruiserweight
Krzysztof Wlodarczyk TKO8 Giacobbe Fragomeni
Wins a vacant cruiserweight title
Records: Wlodarczyk, 43-2-1, 32 KOs; Fragomeni, 26-3-1, 10 KOs

Rafael's remark: In October 2008, Italy's Fragomeni, 40, claimed a vacant belt via eight-round technical decision against Rudolf Kraj. In his first defense last May, Fragomeni was knocked down but retained the title on a debatable draw against Wlodarczyk in Italy. Fragomeni would lose the title to Zsolt Erdei in his second defense in November, but Erdei relinquished the title shortly thereafter, setting up a rematch between Fragomeni and Poland's Wlodarczyk, 28, a former titleholder, for the vacant title. As soon as the eighth round began, Wlodarczyk (who had dropped Fragomeni in the sixth round) attacked and had him in trouble. Fragomeni was looking for cover in a corner but Wlodarczyk was raining punches on him, eventually knocking him to the seat of his pants with a left-right combination to the head. Fragomeni, with blood running down his face from a cut over his left eye, beat the count, but didn't want to continue and referee Frank Garza stopped it.

Saturday at Buenos Aires
Junior bantamweight
Omar Narvaez W12 Everth Briceno
Wins a vacant junior bantamweight title
Scores: 118-107, 117-108 (twice)
Records: Narvaez, 32-0-2, 19 KOs; Briceno, 32-6-1, 26 KOs

Rafael's remark: Argentina's Narvaez, 34, held a flyweight title since 2002 and had defended it 16 times before moving up in weight and facing Nicaragua's Briceno, 32, for the belt recently vacated by Jorge Arce. In January, Arce won the vacant strap but never defended it and is moving up to bantamweight. Fighting at Luna Park, Argentina's most revered fight venue, Narvaez rolled the decision but it was competitive early. Narvaez closed strong despite cuts over both eyes caused by head butts. Briceno was docked three points for the fouls. In Briceno's only previous title shot, he dropped a unanimous decision to Fernando Montiel in Las Vegas in 2005 going for the same belt he was denied against Narvaez.

Friday at Santa Ynez, Calif.
Junior middleweight
Sergei Dzinziruk TKO10 Daniel Dawson
Retains a junior middleweight title
Records: Dzinziruk, 36-0, 24 KOs; Dawson, 34-2, 24 KOs

Rafael's remark: Dzinziruk has wanted to fight in the United States for a few years and finally got to make his debut in the headline bout on Showtime's "ShoBox" (now in HD!). His appearance on American soil came only after an 18-month layoff caused by a contract dispute with Universum, the German promoter with which he finally came to a settlement. That paved the way for the German-based native of Ukraine to sign with American promoters Artie Pelullo and Gary Shaw and make his sixth defense against Australia's Dawson, who took the bout on short notice when Russia's Sherzod Husanov fell out because of visa delays. Dawson, fighting for the first time in 15 months, probably wishes he hadn't gotten the fight after the his lopsided loss, his first since a 2007 defeat in a middleweight bout to contender Daniel Geale. Dzinziruk, a southpaw, isn't flashy and isn't a big hitter -- and he's not the most exciting fighter -- but boy, is he effective, especially with his outstanding right jab. It's a tremendous weapon, one of the best in boxing. The 34-year-old stuffed it down the middle against Dawson, 32, all night until finally stopping him in the 10th round. The stoppage wasn't because Dzinziruk hurt him with one particular shot or knocked him down, but he had eaten so much leather and was not doing much in return that referee Jose Cobain called it off. It was a good stoppage.

With Dzinziruk, who trains in Los Angeles, planning to campaign in the U.S. and coming off a solid victory, he should fit nicely into potential fights against the likes of Sergio Martinez, Paul Williams and Alfredo Angulo (the interim titlist who is mandatory and has Shaw as his promoter). Dzinziruk, a decorated amateur and 1996 Olympian who unanimously outpointed Daniel Santos to win his belt in 2005, would give any of them a good fight, and it wouldn't be a surprise at all to see him beat some of the other top guys if given the opportunity.

Welterweight
Vernon Paris W8 Juan Santiago
Scores: 76-75 (twice) Paris, 77-74 Santiago
Records: Paris, 21-0, 13 KOs; Santiago, 12-4-1, 7 KOs

Rafael's remark: Detroit's Paris, 22, got national television exposure in the "ShoBox" opener after prospect Archie Ray Marquez fell out of the fight with Santiago after being arrested on domestic abuse charges, and made the most of it with a split-decision win. Paris, who had a strong amateur background, was moved up to the main event after Marquez's arrest. Paris fashioned his perfect record despite all kinds of problems. He's been shot, stabbed and had three wins overturned to no-contests because of failed drug tests. Denver's Santiago, 25, was competitive and aggressive, and helped by the fact that Paris was docked a point in the first round for a low blow, but had fewer skills than Paris. Paris looked a bit tired in the middle of the fight, but still scraped by with a strong final round to pick up the tight victory. Santiago has dropped two of his past three bouts.

Friday at Primm, Nev.
Junior welterweight
Julio Diaz W10 Herman Ngoudjo
Scores: 99-91, 97-93 (twice)
Records: Diaz, 37-6, 26 KOs; Ngoudjo, 18-4, 10 KOs

Rafael's remark: The 140-pound division is loaded with talent at the top, including Timothy Bradley Jr., Devon Alexander and Amir Khan. But there are also several notable contenders a notch or two below them, including former two-time lightweight titlist Diaz and former two-time junior welterweight title challenger Ngoudjo. They were both in a need of a victory in the "Friday Night Fights" main event to keep their names in the mix for one of those kinds of fights after some rough going in recent bouts. Diaz, 30, had lost two in a row and was essentially fighting for his career. Ngoudjo, 30, the Cameroon native based in Montreal, entered having gone 3-3 in his last six, but with losses to Jose Luis Castillo (in a very debatable call) and to Paulie Malignaggi and Juan Urango in title bouts. He also defeated former titlists Randall Bailey and Souleymane M'Baye during the stretch. Diaz is the one who emerged with at least a shot at a bigger fight after winning the deserved decision after a spirited fight in which he outhustled Ngoudjo. Diaz looked pretty good. He came into the fight with a new promoter (Thompson Boxing) and got himself into top shape. He also seemed to have a little more spring in his step than in recent fights and had admitted in his prefight interview that he was in a must-win situation. He was clearly motivated to beat Ngoudjo, who wound up with injuries to his jaw and orbital bone.

Friday at Bronx, N.Y.
Lightweight
Adrien Broner TKO1 Rafael Lora

Records: Broner, 15-0, 12 KOs; Lora, 11-3, 5 KOs

Rafael's remark: The 20-year-old Broner, of Cincinnati, is one of Golden Boy's top prospects. He's a bundle of energy and talent who needs only to harness it all and gain experience. Headlining on Telefutura, Broner handled his business quickly. He blasted out Lora, 24, a native of the Dominican Republic living in New Jersey, with ease. Broner was way faster than Lora, who just never got into a rhythm. Broner bounced him around the ring with a versatile display of punching -- hooks, uppercuts and body punches -- until he finally hurt him with a tremendous right-left combination during his onslaught. Eventually, Lora went down in a corner from all the punches, and although he barely beat the count, referee Danny Shiavone gave him the hook because he seemed a bit dazed. Keep an eye on Broner. His energetic fighting style is fun.

Friday at Kissimmee, Fla.
Middleweight
Saul Duran W10 Hector Camacho Sr.
Scores: 97-91 (twice), 97-92
Records: Duran, 37-16-2, 30 KOs; Camacho Sr., 79-6-3, 38 KOs

Rafael's remark: Yeah, it's true: Camacho is still fighting. What a joke. The former three-division titlist from Puerto Rico hasn't been a remotely relevant fighter since Oscar De La Hoya beat the living crap out of him for 12 rounds in a 1997 welterweight championship fight. But here the "Macho Man" is still fighting a week shy of his 48th birthday and for the first time since a pathetic eight-round draw with former junior middleweight titlist Yory Boy Campas last May. It's surprising Camacho can still get a boxing license, but he did and Mexico's Duran, 37, a former two-time title challenger at lightweight and junior lightweight, outpointed him. Duran came into the fight having lost three in a row and eight of his last 10. Camacho, who had the audacity to say before the fight that he still wanted four or five more bouts, suffered a knockdown in the first round and resorted to what he has done for the past several years -- hold a lot, which cost him a point in the fourth round.

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.