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Boxing News, February 23, 2007

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Thanks Goodness for That!



The most recent installment of FNF from Wynn Resort in Las Vegas was a snoozer. The show opened with heavyweight hopeful Alonzo Butler and, as has been the case each time I’ve seen him on TV, the man with the size and the alleged big punch was flat. But I kept hope alive because the main event between Verno Phillips and Eddie Sanchez looked promising on paper,

Alas, such promise never lifted off the page. But if there’s any prizefighter that deserves a pass, it’s Phillips. And if ever there was a (perennial) contender deserving of a juicy payday, it’s him.  I’m not sure what his biggest payday has been; I’m sure it wasn’t enough.

In winning a UD 10 by scores of 97-93 on all three scorecards (the fight was actually much closer than this), Phillips moves to 41-10-1 (21). This impressive record doesn’t begin to indicate what a fine, steady pro he has been—for the past 19 years! A look at his record shows that the last time he fought a soft touch Andre Berto still had training wheels on his bike. (Solid as he is, however, he still received a stern lecture on technique from Teddy Atlas during his post-fight interview.)

I figured Sanchez, who fell to 15-6-2 (9), would bring something to the dance. He’s much better than his record indicates. What the W’s and L’s don’t explain are all the times he took fights on a day’s notice.

For instance, how about the circumstances surrounding his upset victory over JC Candelo in 2004: Eddie had come to the card that night as a spectator, to support a friend fighting on the card; Candelo’s opponent dropped out, and they asked Eddie to fill in; the New Orleans wildman said No Problem, even though he had to lose 10 pounds just hours before the fight. He didn’t just beat JC by UD but almost knocked him out.

I think Sanchez had a week or so to get ready for Verno, and that’s just too much time for him. This spoiler feeds off spontaneity.   

The gangly Sanchez controlled the range well—he’s listed at 6-foot but I think they’re short-changing him. But he has zero aggression. Philips engaged more often but seemed to struggle with his awkward opponent. Gone were the vet’s combinations; he’d jump inside and try to do damage one punch at a time; then he’d jump out just as fast.

There were virtually no memorable moments and one found himself looking at his watch, picking his feet, holding his breath, and basically living 10th grade Algebra.

The aforementioned Alonzo Butler was merely an ominous sign of things to come. He won a lopsided 10-round unanimous decision over former cruiser James Walton. Scores were 100-89 twice and 99-90. Butler moves to 25-0-1 (18) with the win and Walton dips to 21-9-2 (11).

Undersized at a soft 212, Walton easily frustrated the plodding 27-year-old from Nashville, TN, using decent footwork. Butler makes the pre-James Toney version of Sam Peter look like a finished product. And like the big Nigerian, at 6’3’’ 257 Butler’s built like a German outhouse. He’s what they call in the South “country strong”—no weights or drugs necessary; just add water.

But strength means little in boxing if you don’t know how to apply it. And so far Butler has proven to be yet another heavyweight work-in-progress, who will not be filling Lennox Lewis’ shoes anytime soon. While he did manage to knock Walton down—it was a flash—with 10 seconds to go in the last round, it was too little too late.






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