Commentary

Khan shows mettle in mauling Maidana

Originally Published: December 13, 2010
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com


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

Sunday at Las Vegas
Junior welterweight
Amir Khan W12 Marcos Maidana

Retains a junior welterweight title
Scores: 114-111 (twice), 113-112
Records: Khan, 24-1, 17 KOs; Maidana, 29-2, 27 KOs

Rafael's remark: When November began the candidates for fight of the year were few and far between. Now, it seems like almost every week we get another solid candidate. On this night at Mandalay Bay, before a horn-blowing pro-Khan crowd of 4,632, we just might have gotten THE fight of the year. Khan, making his third title defense, and interim titlist (and mandatory challenger) Maidana put on a tremendous action battle filled with drama, lots of hard hitting and a relentless pace. It was the kind of fight that left spectators sweating when it was over. It was that good.

Fighting in the United States for the second time and making his Las Vegas debut, Khan almost ended it in the first round when he sunk a brutal left hook into Maidana's liver near the end of the round. But Maidana willed himself to his feet, ate a couple of more shots but survived. Khan also had a huge second round. But Argentina's Maidana, 27, never stopped coming at England's Khan, who turned 24 four days before the fight. Maidana, who lost a point for elbowing in the fifth round, has tremendous power and when he was able to deliver it, he hurt Khan. But Khan, a bit bigger, a lot faster and more skilled, showed a ton of heart and a much better chin than anyone thought he had. Although Khan made some mistakes, such as laying on the ropes far too much, which gave Maidana an opportunity to tee off on him, he did a very good job of moving and outboxing Maidana while also peppering him with solid shots.

Khan had been dropped several times earlier in his career and had been smashed out in 54 seconds by Breidis Prescott in 2008, a loss he is still trying to live down. This victory against Maidana ought to finally put that to rest. The kid can take a shot. If he couldn't there is no way he would have survived so many hard punches from the powerful Maidana. In the dramatic 10th round, perhaps the defining moment of Khan's career so far, he survived a massive onslaught. Although severely hurt for most of the round, he kept his composure and never went down in as dramatic a round as you'll see. Maidana, clearly trailing at that point, just could not finish him off. Referee Joe Cortez, who inserted himself in the fight far too often, sure didn't do Maidana any favors. Khan had tried to tie Maidana up several times, but even though Maidana was punching with his free hand, Cortez often jumped in to separate them. The rule is that as long as a hand is free, you're supposed to punch out of it. Not Cortez's best night. Still, Khan got the well-deserved victory against an opponent many wrongly believed he was afraid to fight, and he put to rest a lot of the questions that have haunted him since the loss to Prescott. If you missed this sensational fight, you can catch a replay on HBO2 at midnight ET/PT Tuesday or on HBO on Demand. It's worth it.

Junior welterweight
Victor Ortiz D10 Lamont Peterson

Scores: 95-93 Peterson, 94-94 (twice)
Records: Ortiz, 28-2-2, 22 KOs; Peterson, 28-1-1, 14 KOs

Rafael's remark: Good fight, bad decision. Although Ortiz did not look great (far from it), he still did enough to deserve the decision, but was instead saddled with a draw. And not only a draw, but one judge actually voted for Peterson, which was a shock. Ortiz, 23, of Oxnard, Calif., suffered a nasty cut in his hairline in the opening round from an accidental head butt, but his corner did a great job of closing it and the blood did not become a factor. Ortiz, whose punches were much harder, scored two knockdowns in the third round and had Peterson hanging on for dear life. Although Peterson, 26, of Washington, got back into the fight, no way did he do enough to actually warrant the draw, and certainly not enough for the win on the one scorecard. Both fighters had high hopes of landing a title shot with a win, perhaps in the spring against main event winner Amir Khan. However, that would seem to be on hold after the draw. Ortiz had won four straight fights since quitting in the sixth round against Maidana in June 2009 in an outstanding fight. Peterson has had one title shot, but lost a lopsided decision to Timothy Bradley Jr. last December before rebounding with a win in April. Perhaps Ortiz and Peterson will have a rematch down the road, but it shouldn't be next. Let them both go their separate ways for now and in two or three fights, maybe if one of them has a title, it would make for an interesting sequel.

Welterweight
Joan Guzman TKO2 Jason Davis

Records: Guzman, 31-0-1, 18 KOs; Davis, 11-8-1, 3 KOs

Rafael's remark: Guzman is an utter waste of time. So he stopped a journeyman in Davis in two lopsided rounds. Whoopee. He did what he was supposed to do, getting the TKO when Davis' corner threw in the towel to stop Guzman from continuing to rock him with shots while Davis, who lost his seventh fight in a row (and probably shouldn't have even been approved as an opponent by Nevada officials), was trapped in a corner. But Guzman once again did not make weight. It's become a bad joke at this point. How unprofessional can a fighter be? It's not like he's done this once. Or twice. Frankly, we've lost count at this point how many times he has been over the contract weight. This time the contract was for 141 pounds, a weight he and his team said he could make. If it was a problem, they easily could have made a fight at a heavier weight. Instead, Guzman showed up at 144 pounds, and he didn't exactly look ripped. Davis, 28, was also overweight, coming in at 143, so the fight went on as planned. Had Guzman, 34, a Dominican Republic native based in New York, showed that he could make weight, he might have put himself in position to challenge Khan in the spring. His name was certainly near the top of the list for a Khan fight in England. But Golden Boy was furious with his weight and there's no way it will give him the shot now. HBO, too, was looking closely at Guzman, who has burned the network before by being overweight in his previous fight. That was in March, when he was nine pounds -- yes, nine pounds -- overweight for a 135-pound title bout. By showing up overweight again, he likely killed his shot at having HBO take another chance on him. Good riddance.

Heavyweight
Seth Mitchell KO5 Taurus Sykes

Records: Mitchell, 20-0-1, 14 KOs; Sykes, 25-7-1, 7 KOs).

Rafael's remark: Mitchell, of Brandywine, Md., is an authentic American heavyweight prospect, which means he's like a drink of water in the desert. He's 28 and started boxing late because he was busy playing college football at Michigan State before a knee injury derailed his NFL hopes. But he has come a long way in his two-year pro career. He's a hard worker, continues to get better and is fundamentally sound. He just needs rounds and experience. New York's Sykes, 35, who has faced several quality opponents (including Alexander Povetkin, Samuel Peter and Hasim Rahman), was the perfect opponent for him and Mitchell, 6-foot-2 and a solid 243 pounds, did what he was supposed to do -- get rid of Sykes and look pretty good doing it. Mitchell, who scored his fifth knockout in a row, won every round while doing damage to the body. In the fifth, he dropped Sykes with a right to the head and then dropped him again for good moments later. Sykes, fighting for only the second time since ending a two-year layoff, was clearly out of gas by about the fourth round and just could not take Mitchell's shots. If Golden Boy can keep Mitchell busy in 2011 and he continues to polish his game, he could be a factor in the division by 2012. He has a lot of potential.

Saturday at Tacoma, Wash.
Showtime Bantamweight Tournament semifinals
Bantamweight
Joseph Agbeko W12 Yonnhy Perez

Regains a bantamweight title
Scores: 117-111, 116-112, 115-113
Records: Agbeko, 28-2, 22 KOs; Perez, 20-1-1, 14 KOs

Rafael's remark: In October 2009, Colombia's Perez, 31, knocked Ghana's Agbeko, 30, down in the 10th round on his way to a clear decision to win a belt in a tremendous action fight. Agbeko hadn't fought since, but was Perez's mandatory challenger when they met in a rematch in the semifinals of Showtime's four-man, single-elimination tournament. Perez had retained the belt in his first defense with a draw against tournament participant Abner Mares in May in a tough fight. He got an even tougher one in his rematch with Agbeko, who was efficient with his punches and strong on defense as he regained his belt with a well-deserved decision in a fierce fight. It wasn't as action-packed as the first one, however. That's because Agbeko fought a smarter, more controlled fight. He used a strong right hand and combination punching to keep Perez off balance. By the fifth round, Perez was cut over his left eye and seemed to know he was in trouble. His desperation was apparent in the sixth, which is a candidate for round of the year after they let the punches fly with abandon in a toe-to-toe slugfest. They traded numerous hard right hands and near the end of the round, Perez landed a flush one, but Agbeko didn't budge and they continued to punch it out until the bell as the crowd went wild. Agbeko had been able to weather Perez's intense storm in the sixth and regained control of the fight in the seventh round and continued putting rounds in the bank down the stretch. Agbeko had not fought in 14 months, but sure did not show any signs of ring rust as he advanced to the final against Mares in the first half of 2011. Perez and Vic Darchinyan, who lost to Mares in the other semifinal, will meet in the consolation match on the Agbeko-Mares undercard.

Bantamweight
Abner Mares W12 Vic Darchinyan

Scores: 115-112, 115-111 Mares, 115-111 Darchinyan
Records: Mares, 21-0-1, 13 KOs; Darchinyan, 35-3-1, 27 KOs

Rafael's remark: In the first semifinal of Showtime's four-man bantamweight tournament, Mares overcame some early difficulties to win a well-deserved split decision to advance to the final, where he will challenge Agbeko for a world title. Mares, 25, the Los Angeles-based 2004 Mexican Olympian, showed immense heart in getting past Darchinyan, especially after a very tough start to the fight. An accidental head butt in the first round opened a terrible gash on the left side of Mares' hairline. It bled, often profusely, for the entire fight. In the second round, Darchinyan scored a flash knockdown on a left hand, sending Mares to the canvas for the first time in his career. In the third, Mares' cut got worse and his face was literally covered in blood in a disgusting scene. And in the fourth round, referee Bobby Howard docked Mares a point for a low blow. Everything that could have gone wrong for Mares did in the early going.

But the quicker Mares remained calm. He drove Darchinyan back and landed numerous hard body shots to get back into it in the second half of the fight. In the seventh round, he landed a left hand while Darchinyan was off balance and knocked him down. Australia's Darchinyan, 34, the former flyweight titlist and junior bantamweight champion, was not hurt and complained that it was a slip, but replays showed that Mares had clearly landed a left hand. Darchinyan is usually the bully in his fights, but Mares was the one moving Darchinyan around the ring and controlling the tempo in the second half of the fight while Darchinyan's form was getting sloppier and sloppier. He was clearly running out of steam and eventually was reduced to throwing wild left hands in an apparent desperate effort to take Mares out. Darchinyan did land some solid shots, but Mares, the naturally bigger man, took them well. It just seems that the crushing power Darchinyan possessed at 112 and 115 pounds has not been the same when he's fought at 118. Mares, meanwhile, was in tremendous condition and relentless with a withering body attack that was probably the difference in the fight in which he landed 237 of 676 punches to Darchinyan's less effective 194-of-481.

Also on the card, Puerto Rican bantamweight contender Eric Morel (43-2, 21 KOs), 35, won an eight-round decision against Mexico's Juan Jose Beltran (22-19-3, 13 KOs) on scores of 80-72 (twice) and 79-73, and 21-year-old Lancaster, Calif., junior featherweight prospect Chris Avalos (18-1, 15 KOs) stopped veteran warhorse Cecilio Santos (25-16-3, 15 KOs) of Mexico in the fourth round. Avalos won his second in a row since dropping an upset split decision to Christopher Martin in an August bantamweight bout.

Saturday at Liverpool, England
Super middleweight
James DeGale TKO9 Paul Smith

Wins British super middleweight title
Records: DeGale, 9-0, 7 KOs; Smith, 29-2, 15 KOs

Rafael's remark: DeGale, 24, won an Olympic gold medal in 2008 and two years later scored his most significant victory as a professional by stopping the well-regarded Smith, 28, a participant in the 2007 edition of "The Contender" reality series. DeGale, a southpaw taking a big step up in competition, showed a lot of poise and maturity as he won his first professional belt, the traditional British title, in a good fight. DeGale opened a cut over Smith's right eye in the fourth round on an accidental head butt and went past five rounds for the first time. In the eighth, DeGale, the faster man, was hurting Smith with shots. But in the ninth, he finally got rid of him as he pounded on Smith until referee Howard John Foster stepped in to save him from further punishment at 2 minutes, 8 seconds in the main event of promoter Frank Warren's big card celebrating his 30 years in the business. It was DeGale's most dynamic and impressive performance as he stamped himself an elite prospect, one who will probably move very quickly in 2011.

Light heavyweight
Nathan Cleverly W12 Nadjib Mohammedi

Wins a vacant interim light heavyweight title
Scores: 116-111, 115-113, 115-112
Records: Cleverly, 21-0, 10 KOs; Mohammedi, 23-2, 12 KOs

Rafael's remark: Sometimes you just have to win and worry about looking good another time. That was the case with Wales' Cleverly, 23, who struggled in a frustrating fight, but still got the win and an interim belt that will make him mandatory for the winner of the Jan. 8 Jürgen Brähmer-Beibut Shumenov unification fight. Cleverly can be forgiven for the rough go as he was originally scheduled to fight former title challenger Alejandro Lakatos, a straight-ahead fighter. But Lakatos came down with the flu and was replaced by France's Mohammedi, 25, on a couple of days' notice. He's a mover and fights in an awkward style completely different from Lakatos'. So Cleverly had some problems catching up to him and lost his way a bit in the middle rounds, including losing a point for holding in the seventh, before restoring order and doing enough in the last few rounds to pull out the decision.

Middleweight
Matthew Macklin W12 Ruben Varon

Retains European middleweight title
Scores: 117-111, 116-113 and 116-111
Records: Macklin, 28-2, 19 KOs; Varon, 35-6, 16 KOs

Rafael's remark: In the days leading up to this fight, England's Macklin, 28, was talking about wanting to challenge world middleweight champ Sergio Martinez. Perhaps the fight against Spain's Varon, 31, a former world title challenger, was not foremost on his mind, because Macklin, making the first defense of the vacant European belt he won in September, struggled in a tough fight that should have been a bit closer on the cards. Macklin seemed to be a bit out of gas in the late rounds and Varon lost a point for a low blow in the fifth round. If Macklin seriously wants a crack at Martinez it's going to take better performances than this one to get it.

Welterweight
Kell Brook TKO2 Philip Kotey

Records: Brook, 23-0, 16 KOs; Kotey, 21-6-2, 15 KOs

Rafael's remark: Brook, 24, of England, is a rising contender on the verge of a world title bout. There has been some talk between his promoter, Frank Warren, and Bob Arum about a match with Mike Jones for an interim title in 2011, although Jones first has a Feb. 19 rematch with Jesus Soto Karass. But Brook stayed busy and looked good destroying Kotey, 28, of Ghana. He dropped Kotey with a left hook late in the first round and was all over him in the second round, forcing referee Manuel Oliver Palomo to stop it at 39 seconds after a series of shots sent Kotey reeling into the ropes.

Saturday at Torreon, Mexico
Junior bantamweight
Cristian Mijares W12 Juan Alberto Rosas

Wins a junior bantamweight title
Scores: 117-113, 116-113, 115-113
Records: Mijares, 41-6-2, 18 KOs; Rosas, 32-6, 26 KOs

Rafael's remark: Mexico's Rosas, 26, stopped South Africa's Simphiwe Nongqayi in the sixth round to win a 115-pound belt in July and made his first defense against former unified titlist and countryman Mijares, who has been on the comeback trail. In 2007 and 2008, Mijares, 29, was one of the hottest fighters in the sport and moving up the pound-for-pound list after unifying belts and scoring a series of strong victories. But then the southpaw bottomed out, losing three fights in a row in late 2008 and 2009 -- a lopsided ninth-round knockout to Vic Darchinyan that cost him his belts followed by back-to-back decision losses in interim bantamweight title bouts against Nehomar Cermeño. But now Mijares has won five in a row, claimed a belt in the "Top Rank Live" main event and seems to be back on track after using his boxing skills to ward off the more aggressive Rosas in a tight fight. Mijares now owes a mandatory defense against Raul Martinez.

Saturday at St. Petersburg, Fla.
Super middleweight
Dhafir Smith W12 Jeff Lacy

Scores: 118-110, 117-111, 116-112
Records: Smith, 24-19-7, 4 KOs; Lacy, 25-4, 17 KOs

Rafael's remark: Some results are just sad to see and this is definitely one of them as Lacy's career seems at a dead end now. The 2000 U.S. Olympian and former super middleweight titleholder hasn't been the same since Joe Calzaghe dealt him a horrific beating in their 2006 unification fight. Even though Lacy won three in a row after that fight, he struggled in each victory. Now, with this latest loss to Smith, 28, a Philadelphia journeyman, Lacy, who was fighting at home against a hand-picked opponent, has lost three of his past four (also losing to the badly faded Jermain Taylor and Roy Jones Jr.). According to the Tampa Tribune, Smith picked Lacy apart with his jab throughout the fight and landed numerous right hands while Lacy, done at age 33, hesitated to throw punches.

Friday at Saltillo, Mexico
Junior featherweight
Fernando Montiel KO2 Jovanny Soto

Records: Montiel, 43-2-2, 34 KOs; Soto, 29-12-1, 24 KOs

Rafael's remark: Mexico's Montiel, 31, the unified bantamweight titlist, returned from a leg injury suffered in an Oct. 10 dirt bike accident to destroy countryman Soto, 28. The injury had forced Montiel to withdraw from a November title defense, but he wanted to get in one more fight before a much-anticipated Feb. 19 HBO showdown at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas against Nonito Donaire, who cleared his last hurdle with a spectacular performance in a knockout win against former titleholder Wladimir Sidorenko on Dec. 4. Montiel wound up facing Soto in a nontitle fight after the opponent and status had changed multiple times, which seems par for the course when it comes to Fernando Beltran's Zanfer Promotions. The bottom line, however, is that Montiel fought, dropped Soto in the first round and twice more in the second round for the easy victory. And now, at long last, Montiel-Donaire is on. It's one of the best fights that can be made in boxing's smaller weight divisions.

Friday at Antwerpen, Belgium
Welterweight
Randall Bailey No Decision 2 Said Ouali

Title eliminator
Records: Bailey, 41-7, 36 KOs; Ouali, 27-3, 19 KOs

Rafael's remark: Former junior welterweight titlist Bailey, 36, of Miami, has the power to knock anyone out. He nearly did that to Ouali, 31, of Las Vegas but originally from Morocco, in the first round when he knocked him down hard with some controversy over a count Bailey's people say was way too slow. But in the second round the fight got wilder as Bailey again knocked Ouali down with a three punch combination, including his explosive right hand. Again, Ouali survived and moments later, when they were in a clinch in the corner, Bailey lifted Ouali up and as he turned his shoulder to free himself, Ouali literally fell over the ropes and slammed into the scorer's table. Obviously, he didn't beat the 20-count for being out of the ring and the fight was ruled a no decision. There didn't seem to be any intent on Bailey's part. Just one of those freak things. The winner was supposed to become the mandatory for titleholder Jan Zaveck, but a rematch could be ordered, although Ouali shouldn't want any part of that because Bailey probably finishes the job this time with a knockout.

Thursday at Newark, N.J.
Heavyweight
Tomasz Adamek TKO5 Vinny Maddalone

Records: Adamek, 43-1, 28 KOs; Maddalone, 33-7, 24 KOs

Rafael's remark: Adamek, the former cruiserweight champ and a former light heavyweight titlist from Poland and living in Jersey City, N.J., is a top heavyweight contender. But with a serious offer for a title fight with one of the Klitschko brothers or David Haye having not come, Adamek stayed busy with his fourth fight of the year. Fighting in front of his fans at the Prudential Center, where he has become a staple, Adamek had the perfect opponent in front of him in Queens, N.Y., tough guy Maddalone, 36, who gives it everything he has, usually is in brawls and always comes up short against top opposition. He was made to order for Adamek, who moved to 5-0 as a heavyweight, in this headliner of a Main Events-promoted pay-per-view show. The much faster Adamek totally dominated. He tagged Maddalone repeatedly with his jab and ripped him with combinations. In the fifth round, he clipped Maddalone with a fast left hook to the chin and Maddalone went down on his back. Maddalone survived, but he was shaky and Adamek jumped on him. He was teeing off and as referee Steve Smoger was seemingly about to jump in to stop the fight, Maddalone's corner threw in the towel and Smoger indeed called it off at 2 minutes, 17 seconds. There has been talk of a fight with one of the Klitschkos, and a Haye fight would be a terrific fight, but none appear all that likely next. That leaves Adamek, unfortunately, to continue pursuing a fight with the badly faded Roy Jones Jr. They've seriously discussed the fight, perhaps for April. If it happens, Adamek may seriously injure Jones. It's a fight that should not happen, and there's no polite way to put it.

Welterweight
Sadam Ali W8 Manuel Guzman

Scores: 80-72 (three times)
Records: Ali, 11-0, 6 KOs; Guzman, 7-10-2, 3 KOs

Rafael's remark: New York's Ali, 22, was a 2008 U.S. Olympian and a rising prospect. He had never been past the fifth round before, but Guzman, 27, of Lancaster, Pa., with a strong chin, took him the eight-round distance. It was good for Ali to get in the rounds, although he won easily, sweeping every round on all three scorecards. Ali landed all kinds of punches, but Guzman took it all. His best response when getting cracked was to stick out his tongue or blow kisses to Ali, who looked a little frustrated at times, but won with ease. He opened a cut under Guzman's left eye in the third round and Guzman was completely overmatched by the quick-handed Ali.

Wednesday at Sydney, Australia
Middleweight
Garth Wood KO5 Anthony Mundine

Records: Wood, 10-1-1, 6 KOs; Mundine, 40-4, 24 KOs

Rafael's remark: What a big upset as Wood, 32, took out his Australian countryman in stunning fashion. Wood was best known in Australia for winning his country's version of "The Contender" in January. As part of his victory on the reality series, he was guaranteed a $250,000 fight with Mundine, 35, one of Australia's biggest names in boxing and a former super middleweight titlist. Mundine, of course, was the significant favorite against a relative novice but scored the one-punch knockout with a right hand to the temple, a shot similar to the one that Sven Ottke knocked him out with in the 10th round of their 2001 super middleweight title fight. Mundine went down on his side with a vacant look in his eyes as referee Les Fear counted him out at 58 seconds. The huge upset puts Mundine's career in question.

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter @danrafaelespn.

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