HBO’s series Boxing After Dark, once the best thing going on cable TV, ended a disappointing 2006 with a bang—of sorts. Viewers were treated to two remarkable knockouts from Miami, Florida’s Miccusukee Resort & Gaming; one expected, the other shocking.
In the main event, middleweight contender Edison Miranda made short work of Willie Gibbs, ending it with a single overhand right at 2:59 of the first. Most of the media figured Miranda would stop Gibbs somewhere between three and five rounds. Polyannas predicted, “It should be fun while lasts!” But the realists-cynics bemoaned the matchmaking: “Gibbs? The guy who got stopped by Daniel Eduard in four and just went life-and-death with Lenord Pierre?!” Count me among the latter group.
I doubt anyone assumed it’d end as soon and abruptly as it did. The fighters felt each other out with mainly stiff jabs for the first two minutes. Respectful of each other’s power, neither spent much time inside nor worked anything beyond two-punch combinations.
While Gibbs is a tall, well-muscled middleweight, Miranda was that much more intimidating. With half a minute to go, Gibbs jabbed and planted himself for a right. Miranda stepped in and beat him to it. The shot, which didn’t reach full-extension, landed high on his left forehead, near the temple. Gibbs wobbled backwards to the ropes and was immediately confronted with a merciless flurry, where each punch was a sleeping pill. A left connected and sent Gibbs down. He was conscious—yet out. The ref counted in front of him , ticking off the seconds in an exaggerated fashion, directly in front of the fighters face. He rose at ten.
For some reason commentators Lennox Lewis, Max Kellerman and Jim Lampley suggested the count could have been clearer. Maybe watching on TV is a superior vantage point to just beyond the ring apron? In a ridiculous observation, Lennox said Gibbs was physically able to continue. But the fighter didn’t berate the ref; rather, he slumped into the official who almost tenderly embraced him. A beaten and bleary man, if ever there was one.
The Philadelphian Gibbs, now 20-2 (16), rightly calls himself “The Gladiator.” I always loved the Bronze Age mask he wears into the ring. He’s got a good punch, is game, and can’t seem to make a boring fight if he tried. But he is an ESPN2-level fighter.
Miranda is a monster, and right now the sky’s the limit with him. He’s said to hit like a cruiserweight. It seems almost unfair seeing the 6-foot, long-armed, muscle-and-bone Colombian in with other middles. “Pantera” made a statement last March when he destroyed veteran Howard Eastman in seven, accomplishing what Bernard Hopkins didn’t come close to doing, nor anyone else for that matter. Then, in September, he broke Arthur Abraham’s jaw in a brutal battle that went the distance. (Edison lost a debatable UD against the IBF beltholder.) While he’ll probably never be mistaken for a technician, neither will The Man of the class, Jermain Taylor. Now 27-1 (24), Miranda is on the shortlist of predicted “breakout fighters of ’07.” Sure, his name needs to be built up, having just debuted on HBO, and more grooming wouldn’t hurt the raw 25-year-old…
…But when I tune in to B.A.D., I expect an evenly-matched war. I must still be living in the 90s. I need to abandon this attitude like I did my mullet and stonewashed jeans. Today’s broadcasts are generally showcases for potential house fighters.
(A word to the suits on Avenue of the Americas: Think “great fights, no rights” gentleman! Make it a new motto to live by. So what if that’s Showtime’s tagline, of which they usually attempt to fulfill? You put more energy into terrorizing the less affluent neighbors across with the street than in self-improvement. How else to explain the counter-programming, announcing results of their fights during competing broadcasting, and cherry-picking fighters they’ve developed.)
Notwithstanding this, the co-featured featherweight bout with Jason Litsau and Jose Hernandez was, ultimately, what B.A.D. is all about. Whether this was by accident or design, I’m not sure.
Litzau, a tow-headed 23-year-old nicknamed “The American Boy,” is quite literally Main Events’ last hope. 20-0 (18) going into the fight, he’s the only prospect left in their stable who hasn’t wilted under the bright lights this year.
Then again, this being his debut on HBO, it was his first high-wattage affair. A sinewy 5’10’’, he’s a fluid flashy boxer-puncher. While he’s impressed on ESPN2 and on Arturo Gatti undercards, he’s occasionally shown himself to be too TV-friendly: Because the kid with the still-fine boyish features always wants to be the last one to get off, he often isn’t.
It’s admirable the way he stands in the line of fire, just not smart. Worse, his willingness to take a punch far outweighs his ability. Last year, in a fight-of-the-year candidate, Johnny Nolasco dropped him hard with a left hook. Showing all the grit in the world—positively Gattiesque—Litzau managed to hang on and even dish out some hurt. Afterwards, everyone and his mother implored him to tighten up his D and start holding his hands higher.
Now six fights later, the pleas have gone ignored. Just liked he ignored his trainer’s sound advice going into the eighth. Down on all the scorecards, a desperate Hernandez would be looking to land something big.
In the first round, Hernandez, 22-3 (14), dropped Litzau with a short right. But by the third onward, Litzau took control of the fight. He’s a gorgeous boxer when he chooses to be. He clearly hasn’t mastered his sense of distance, among other things, but all the tools are there. He’s special—yet maybe too flawed to ever become great. He worships Arturo Gatti, and similarly has a congenital instinct to brawl.
The workmanlike Hernandez took Litzau’s best shots, which only made the kid want to dig in more. Further, Hernandez was able to land rights all night long. They didn’t come often, but come they did. And they shook Litzau on several occasssions.
“Box and move to your right,” Bob Van Syckle implored his charge. During the eighth I could even hear the trainer yelling it. Litzau disregarded him and stood right in front of the rugged Mexican fighting out of Chicago, IL.
As Litzau got off a left hook, a right connected first and more cleanly. Litzau fell on his back, banging his head on the canvas, to boot. If the count were 20 seconds, he may have beaten it, but still wouldn’t have been able to defend himself. The time of stoppage of 2:52 of the round. The prospect had it locked up with all three scorecards at 68-64.
If he can grow from this and be moved properly, there’s no reason to think Litzau can’t redeem himself and live up to his promise.
Welterweight Joel Julio KO’d Francisco Campos in 3. Highlights of the fight were shown on HBO, who bought into all the hype bestowed upon the young Colombian, whose ’06 was as bad as his ’05 was good. In shape, Campos is just a jr. welter.
In a bout between over-the-limit feathers Noe Bolanos scored a UD 8 over Ilido Julio.
Welter Juan Camilo Novoa earned a UD 6 over Carlos De La Cruz.
Feather Dat Nguyen stopped Jeremy Drapal in one.
Jnr. middle Joey Hernandez got an MD 4 over Eduardo Adorno.