Commentary

No holding back Holt this time around

Fifteen seconds into his rematch with Ricardo Torres, Kendall Holt was picking up right where he left off their September 2007 fight, picking himself off the canvas. Forty-six seconds after that, the junior welterweight division had a new titlist -- and a promising new star to cheer for.

Originally Published: July 6, 2008
By Eric Raskin | ESPN.com

Kendall Holt and Ricardo TorresCourtesy Chris Farina/Top RankKendall Holt, left, decided to stand and trade with Ricardo Torres -- and the decision paid dividends in the end.
LAS VEGAS -- In the Planet Hollywood ring on Saturday night, Kendall Holt entered with a red sneaker on his left foot and a white sneaker on his right.

If a guy can't decide what color shoe he wants to wear, how can we expect him to decide what kind of fighter he wants to be?

There are two distinct sides of Holt: the I'll-get-you-or-you'll-get-me slugger who's had knockouts featured on "SportsCenter" and whose first loss came via one-round KO in a back-and-forth bomb exchange in 2004; and the catch-me-if-you-can runner who stiffened not opponents but audiences with his recent tedious decision wins over Mike Arnaoutis and Ben Tackie.

Against Ricardo Torres on Saturday, we saw Version A of "Rated R."

The fans were treated to three knockdowns in 61 furious seconds, a fight that felt like watching a tape of Marvin Hagler-Tommy Hearns in fast-forward.

[+] EnlargeHolt and Torres
Chris Farina/Top RankHolt had to climb off of the canvas twice in order to wrest the title from Torres.
And because it was Holt who came out on top, his trainers, who might typically prefer more of Version B, couldn't be too upset.

When Holt and Torres first met September 2007 in Torres' native Colombia, the fight was memorable for many of the wrong reasons -- namely, a controversial stoppage in the local fighter's favor and an assortment of foreign objects flying into the ring when the action heated up.

The rematch was doubly unforgettable, and for all of the right reasons.

Both fighters loaded up on heavy shots from the outset of the junior welterweight alphabet title fight, and only about 15 seconds in, a looping overhand right crashed into Holt's chin and dropped him.

The challenger popped right up, but Torres wasted no time popping him some more, landing a right and then a left that caused Holt's right knee to touch the canvas. This time he got back to his feet so quickly that Torres drilled him with another left hand before referee Jay Nady could even begin the count.

When the fight continued, Torres made a crucial error in judgment: He assumed Holt was hurt worse than he actually was.

The Colombian was reckless in his pursuit of the knockout, and after a clash of heads stunned Torres, a right hand knocked the belt holder into the ropes.

There, Holt landed one of the more perfect punches you'll ever see, an unseen and unobstructed right to the jaw that resulted in instant unconsciousness, Torres melting to the mat with the ropes catching him awkwardly.

The pose in which he was frozen was mildly reminiscent of Rodin's "The Thinker" -- if you pitched the statue forward about 45 degrees.

At 1:01 of the first round, the fight was over.

Whatever fireworks you saw on July 4, the ones boxing fans saw on July 5 were better.

"I may go down, but I get back up," said Holt, speaking like the kind of warrior that we as fans would like him to be.

"Let the blood flow. Let 'em see the blood," he continued, the warrior almost exceeding what we like to hear.

It was a different Holt than the one we heard before the fight, who couldn't seem to decide whether to bring his brawler side or his dancer side.

"I'm a sleek counterpuncher, so I will follow the game plan, which is to box," Holt said last week. "I will press the action when I feel it's time … But when you go forward and press the action, at times you will leave yourself open … I'm going to be smart about it. I'm not going to go out there and lose my head. But I will take chances in the fight."

Holt didn't follow the game plan, he wasn't smart about it and he did lose his head. And it worked out brilliantly for him.

Holt is now someone the fight fans will demand to see. He's as an attractive an opponent as there is -- at least within the division -- for the winner of Ricky Hatton vs. Paulie Malignaggi.

He's chinny, but he can make even the most iron-jawed opponent seem chinny. Fighters who fit that description draw crowds.

Holt only has 13 knockouts in 24 wins, but the highlight-reel evidence shows he packs spectacular power. That modest knockout rate merely underlines his inconsistency in committing to his punches.

Perhaps the rave reviews he'll get for this explosive, off-the-floor-twice destruction of Torres will inspire Holt to remain a fighter who rolls the dice.

If he makes up his mind that he wants to be an action fighter and not a stink-out artist, he can be as indecisive as he wants about everything else.

He can split his footwear between red and white and nobody will care.

Just so long as he makes black and blue the main colors he works with from the ankles up.

Eric Raskin is a contributing editor for and former managing editor of The Ring magazine.