June 17, 2005

Cotto Shows his Mettles and the Kid takes a step forward

By Tom Donelson

Most sports editors sent their boxing writers to Washington D.C. for the McBride-Tyson fight, real boxing fans watched the HBO double header at the Madison Garden. These fights could easily have been shot in black and white as these four fighters fought hard, tough fights. It was as if the times was the 1930’s in the old Garden, the original Mecca of boxing.

Almazhek Raiykylov, alias “Kid Diamond,” made a serious step forward as he took on Joel Casamayor, one of the lightweight’s best. In the first round, Casamayor showed his experience as he nailed Kid Diamond numerous times with his straight left and knocked the young fighter down with a straight right at the end of the round.

The kid showed his mettle as he started to dominate the next several rounds with relentless pressure and accurate punches. Casamayor showed the effects of several past wars as his reflexes slowed down and his legendary accuracy disappeared. While many rounds were close, Kid Diamond’s right hand found its target often and Casamayor was getting hit with shots that he would have dodged years ago. Casamayor looked old at times and as the fight progressed into the championship rounds, he knew that it was now or never. In the last three rounds, Casamayor quit boxing and went toe to toe with his younger foe.

In the tenth round, he reversed the pattern of the previous nine rounds by fighting forward. The kid retreated as Casamayor dug in to save his career. And while he took the tenth and eleventh round, Casamayor was nailed with a right hand at the end of the fight that nearly sent him down. Kid Diamond showed that he belonged, as he should been granted a decision. But there were several rounds that were close and the veteran Casamayor got the benefit of the doubts in most of those rounds.

As for the fight itself, the announcers criticized Casamayor for “running.” Casamayor was moving and waiting for his younger opponent to make a mistake. It is not running, it is called boxing. Avoiding getting hit has always been Casa-mayor’s style and somehow there are many boxing pundits who seem to forget that movement is as important as being aggressive.

In this case, Kid Diamond aggressiveness was more effective than Casamayor’s boxing as his shots were more powerful and as accurate. The Kid’s ring generalship proved superior but he failed to get full credit for them. Casamayor managed to get a draw but Casamayor looked like an old fighter. Casamayor still has his chin as he took Kid Diamond’s best shots but he has taken the best of Corrales and Castillo as well. As for Kid Diamond, he showed that he belonged among the elites of the lightweights and now has put himself in the title hunt. This fight showed an old pro with something still left and a new fighter just over the horizon.

In the nightcap, Miguel Cotto showed flexibility and the ability to go from Plan A to Plan B. Against Mohamad Abdullaev, he showed that he could box against the hard charging Abdullaev. His jab and his left hook found its target enough to close Abdullaev’s right eye. Cotto is one of the best fighters in the junior welterweights, boxing’s deepest division. Abdullaev unleashed volleys of right hands that occasionally shook the Puerto Rican fighter but Cotto took Abdullaev’s best.

This was one of those tough fights that championship fighters must survive to become the best. Cotto showed his mettle as he not only took Abdullaev’s best but he boxed when he needed. Shooting a variety of punches from all angles, he took that next step and now, the big fights are just over the horizon.

Floyd Mayweather faces Arturo Gatti and Vivian Harris defends his title as the best of the junior welterweights are starting to fight each other. Ricky Hatton’s defeat of Koytsa Tzyu opens up the junior welterweights with some intriguing matchups. Each of these fighters has a legitimate claim to the undisputed head of the 140 pounders. Hatton is the undisputed man on top because of his victory over Tzyu but there are some excellent fighters who can more than hold their own against the English windmill. Cotto may be the best but only what happens in the ring will determine that.

As for the other fight, Mike Tyson’s career is over. Losing to McBride should end anymore talk of Tyson as a legitimate contender. Tyson quitting on the stool should end any more demands of a Tyson PPV. McBride is barely a top 30 heavyweights and no one will confuse him with John L. Sullivan. What he had only size but for the most part, he is slow and cumbersome. Yet, Tyson wore down and now the career is over. Tyson summed it up, “If you can’t beat McBride, it is over.”

Tyson’s legacy will be heavily debated but in the end, the following can be said about Tyson. He could excite a crowd and fill stands. No heavyweight since Ali could match Tyson’s popularity but as a fighter, he was not his generation’s best. He lost to Holyfield and Lewis, the two best over the last 20 years. Tyson was a excellent fighter who was 13-4 in title fights. That means he beat some very good fighters but he never seemed to reach the mantle of greatness predicted. His career spanned two decades as a professional but he reached his peak in 1988 when he defeated Michael Spinks. At the age of 22, he hit his pinnacle and his career would continue for 17 years afterwards. Jail and poor management killed whatever chance of Tyson reaching greatness but in the end, Tyson still had an exceptional career. We may not mention Tyson name with Ali or Louis but Tyson’s own success can’t be discounted either. Decades from now, we will remember Tyson for his ferocity within the ring. Forget the circus that surround Tyson, Tyson will be judged only for his exploit within the ring and those exploits are enough to ensure his place in boxing history.

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