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Boxing News, June 15, 2007

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Monsoon Magic
A Compelling Fight That’s Nearly Washed Away



Friday Night Fights
aired a card from Montreal’s Uniprix Stadium worthy of HBO’s Boxing After Dark. Actually, this card, featuring light welters Randall Bailey and Herman Ngoudjo, was more compelling than several B.A.D. cards that have been foisted upon us recently. That FNF accomplishes this fairly often, on such a limited budget, is commendable.

Former WBO light welter titlist Bailey has seen his share of ups and downs in his 11-year career. But recently the 32-year-old has been on the upswing, winning his last seven bouts since getting blasted by Miguel Cotto in 2004.

The Floridian with the big right hand—32 of 35 wins coming by stoppage—has great genes. He doesn’t show the physical wear and tear one would expect. Long and lean, he’s in fantastic shape and now comes in consistently lighter than when he began his career.

Herman Ngoudjo of Montreal via Cameroon was 15-1 (9) going in, and his lone loss, which came in his last fight, only raised his stock. Last January on HBO he fought Jose Luis Castillo and gave up a razor-thin SD. The majority of ringsiders I spoke to thought he won.

Not sure how most viewers saw it, but Ngoudjo got the nod this time in another close SD: 115-112, 114-112 and 112-115.

Not known for his power but a steady, grinding attack, Herman dropped Randall in the first with a short right hand and left hook. Bailey had caught him with a terrific overhand right that sent him lurching back to the ropes, but the big puncher stopped to take a picture and paid the price. Bailey was more off-balance than hurt, but Montreal’s adopted son gained confidence and a 10-8 round. (Ringside analyst Teddy Atlas thought it a 10-9 round, in spite of the knockdown.)

With a minute left in the second, Bailey got payback. A springy lead left hook sent Ngoudjo flying into the ropes and he put his glove on the canvas to steady himself.

By the third, it was a question of which fighter would fight his fight. Ngoudjo always covers up and essentially fights one way. He likes to be in front of his man while he bulls his way inside. Bailey is the quintessential long-armed sharpshooter, who likes space to extend his concussive one-two. The more versatile of the two, he still has good legs, but needs to be set to demonstrate his power.

Between the fourth and fifth rounds it appeared we would never find out who would win this contrasting battle of styles. A monsoon erupted. The fans took cover by gathering close to the ring.  The canvas was protected but sheets of water were falling off the sides. A gust of wind in the wrong direction could spoil the canvas.

Then the lights went out.  FNF was in the dark. Commentator Joe Tessitore capably filled the dead space by talking rapid fire. He reported that the crowd was loving it. Montreal is a highly underrated fight town.

The lights suddenly came back on and the fifth round commenced. The crowd pushed closer to the ring, began a soccer chant, which enhanced the action in the ring.
From this point on the combatants seemed to trade rounds back and forth. They were all pretty close and nothing major landed. I thought that Bailey was fighting his fight more consistently; that is, creating separation and slugging at range. He split Herman’s high guard with straight rights throughout the fight.

In the mid to late rounds Ngoudjo’s corner repeatedly told their charge to “respect [Bailey’s] power.” I think he a little too much was given. As they entered the championship rounds and it looked like anyone’s fight, you had to wonder if some hometown cooking would take place. But two of the three judges were American, one coming from Nevada and the other from Bailey’s hometown state.

Bailey left eye was angry by the 11th and Ngoudjo finally said to hell with respect. He began to apply effective pressure and did enough to win the round. He made Bailey get on his bicycle in the final round. Maybe Bailey felt he had done enough to win, or perhaps encroaching age caught up to him in those last few minutes? Regardless, the now 35-6 veteran can make some money and serve as a worthy gatekeeper for a couple more years.

I was very excited about the proposed super middle co-feature between Montreal’s Haitian-born Jean Pascal and Rubin Williams. The talented Pascal is 16-0 (12) but untested, having never fought a genuine threat outside of Canada. Williams is someone that might be beatable but is nevertheless a tough nut to crack. He showed that in 2005 against a then-undefeated Jeff Lacy when he rope-a-doped for seven hard rounds. And then last January he drew with a rejuvenated and still dangerous Antwun Echols.

Pascal-Williams was not to be, as the Detroit native injured himself in training. In his stead was Christian Cruz, 12-7-1 (10) going in.  Unfortunately, this sub only proved that he’s strong and durable—like a heavy bag. For 10 rounds he absorbed a tremendous amount of punishment to the body and head, until his corner justly threw in the white towel at 2:00 of the round.

Pascal has loads of natural ability—fast hands, good reflexes, and a build worthy of a Soloflex model. But, as was continually pointed out by Atlas and Tess, he went to the Prince Naseem/Roy Jones Jnr. school of boxing: he makes a lot of mistakes, breaks a lot of rules, relying instead on speed and athleticism.

Pascal pulls back, holds his hands low, lunges in and doesn’t always set the table with a good jab. He won’t be able to get away with when he’s eventually matched tough, unless he’s truly as good as the aforementioned unorthodox mega stars. But even they couldn’t get away with it forever. Good fundamentals may not be sexy, but they get the job done. Just ask the NBA’s Tim Duncan.





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