ShoBox kicked off their super middleweight tournament at PFTC Sports Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. The double-header featured a smorgasbord of international talent from France, Costa Rica, and the U.S. On August 4, opening rounds continue with boxers from Cameroon, Colombia, Mexico, and the U.S. The semis will take place on October 6 and the finals are on January 5.
Considering boxing is every bit the global sport that football is—albeit much less popular—why not copy the World Cup? A fine concept in theory, the first match, a 10-rounder between Henry “Sugar Poo” Buchanan and Lucas Green-Arias, didn’t exactly summon memories of Italy-France at Berlin Stadium earlier this summer.
Nor did either pug have anything on Zinedine Zadane when it comes to effective aggression. Still, Buchanan of Captial Heights, Maryland, easily outclassed Costa Rican Green-Arias, earning a unanimous decision. Scores were 96-94, 98-92, 97-93. I had it 99-91, as did on-air analyst Steve Farhood. Buchanan upped his record to 14-0 (11), while Green-Arias fell to 11-1 (8)
Buchanan came out loosy goosy in the first, with his left arms dangling at his waist. In lieu of classical technique, he relies on reflexes and quickness. He was a huge step up for Green-Arias, who had never fought outside of Costa Rica (not a hotbed of boxing), and behaved that way.
From the start, Green-Arias stalked Buchanan, looking stiff, robotic, and off-key. He was exceptionally slow of hand and foot. He made no meaningful adjustments. In an effort to be globally democratic, promoter Gary Shaw, who made the card for Showtime, was way too liberal in his matchmaking. Green-Arias was not an inspired choice—not if we’re to take this little tourney seriously, and when TV dates are so scarce. The combined record of his previous 11 opponents was 15-66-4. And these guys were exactly facing Philadelphia’s finest.
A wide-eyed Buchanan circled to his left with the cooperation of his foe. He painted Green-Arias with an effective and constant jab. But he brought it back lazily and a more formidable challenger will one day make him pay. Occasionally, he’d jump in with fairly quick three-punch combos, touching the body and head. While Green-Arias made him look like Roy Jones Jr. circa 1996, “Sugar Poo’s” punches are long and slappy, and could easily be slipped or picked off.
In the fifth, Green-Arias connected with a left hook to the body, right to the head, his best combo of the night. It merely awoke Buchanan, who was coasting on his lead. “Poo” got busy with his jab again for the next two frames.
Green-Arias’ only other moment came in the eighth when he landed a right cross flush to the American’s chin. Inexplicably, he never follow-up, even though Buchanan stopped punching.
Knowing he was well ahead, Buchanan danced for the last six minutes. It appeared he was more interested in getting threw the fight unscathed so that he’s healthy for the next round. It was later revealed that he had hurt his right hand during the bout, and x-rays were taken immediately afterwards. (No confirmation as to the status of the hand at the time of this writing.)
We won’t know what Buchanan has until later in the tournament. But it’s a good thing “Poo” follows “Sugar” in his moniker. Plain sugar would simply offend the memory of pound-for-pound great Ray Robinson, his successor Ray Leonard, and even the resurgent Shane Mosley.
If Buchanan’s hand heals in time to face Jean Paul Mendy in October, he may not only regret his sugary handle but having ever laced them up. Paris, France’s Mendy looked remarkable during the minute and 45 seconds it took him to dispatch Dallas Vargas of Toledo, Ohio.
Unlike what most of the stars of The Contender are falsely propped to be (or the ShoBox contestants that just preceded him), the 32-year-old Mendy is the real thing. A sinewy southpaw with 125 amateur fights—now 22-0 (12) as a pro—he was a 1996 Olympian and won gold at the 1998 Goodwill Games. Although he’s mainly fought in France, he’s gone 10 rounds five times.
Vargas, now 21-3 (15), is a legitimate banger with over 300 amateur fights. He’s also easy hittin’. He came out aggressively but was met by a man who refused to take a backward step. It was expected that Mendy would stick and move. Instead, he stood in the pocket while making himself a difficult target to hit, doing many subtle things seamlessly: countering and taking a little step to the side, covering up but not handcuffing himself. His punches were sharp and accurate and came at surprising angles. While shorter than Vargas, Mendy had a five-inch reach advantage.
Midway though the round, Mendy caught Vargas with a gorgeous left to the liver; it forced him to involuntarily drop his hands to his waist. A left to the head followed, buckling him. Then a jarring jab. One more liver shot—which officially did Vargas in—and he was doubled over. What truly impressed was Mendy’s proficiency as a finisher. As a bleary Vargas attempted to tie him up, the Frenchman was coolly efficient with his free hand—pinpoint uppercuts and hooks up and down. The entire sequence from beginning to end took 15 seconds—and two men’s prospects took drastically different turns.
Referee Tony Weeks showed why he’s one of the best in the business. Just as he had protected a helpless Jose Luis Castillo from undue punishment against Diego Corrales, he jumped in at the perfect moment to save Vargas. The fighter hadn’t experienced major punishment, but he was taking punches and unable to answer back. As with the Corrales-Castillo I stoppage, I initially thought it was premature. But upon review, I was humbled by the ref’s sound instincts.