One of the most satisfying aspects of the historic championship boxing card at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn is the plethora of quality undercard bouts (on paper, at least). What follows is a recap and breakdown of the bouts acting in chief support of the rematch between lineal junior welterweight champion Danny Garcia and Erik Morales:
Paulie Malignaggi SD 12 Pablo Cesar Cano (Malignaggi's WBA welterweight title not on the line as Cano failed to make weight)
In a tough fight contested on relatively even terms, Paulie Malignaggi gutted out a split decision over Pablo Cesar Cano. Of course, because Cano (25-2-1, 19 KO) was unable to make weight, Malignaggi's WBA welterweight title wasn't at stake.
Malignaggi (32-4, 7 KO) started out well behind his jab, mixing in right hands as he circled the bullish Cano. In Round 2, Malignaggi landed a sharp right hand that opened up a precarious cut over Cano's eye, and the gash bled for much of the fight.
Rounds 3 through 6 were contested in a fairly predictable pattern with Malignaggi doubling and tripling his jab as he looked to counter the aggressive Cano. Seemingly undeterred, Cano pressed forward and started to find a home for his overhand right, which he used effectively once Malignaggi stopped jabbing and kept his left hand at his waist.
Cano also started to find some success going to the body, and several of the rounds were close and cagey. Malignaggi had an excellent Round 7, and he also appeared in control of Round 8 until Cano caught him off-balance with a stinging shot. Cano was again starting to land some heavy punches, and he clearly had the edge in power shots.
Round 9 proved eventful as Cano was warned for hitting on the break, which was followed by Malignaggi trying to lift his legs in a clinch. The pattern of Malignaggi boxing and Cano pressing would continue through Round 10, and both men had their moments in a fight that had featured solidly sustained action to this point.
Round 11 was thrilling as Cano landed a perfect right hand on the point of Malignaggi's chin, which floored the WBA champion. Cano continued to press, and Malignaggi was on unsteady legs for the second half of the round and was forced to hold on repeatedly. Despite this success, Cano wasn't able to land a decisive blow in the final round, despite clearly winning the stanza and opening up a cut underneath Malignaggi's left eye.
The fight ended with bizarre scores of 114-113 (twice) for Malignaggi and a peculiar 118-109 for Cano. Still, Cano proved game, though one wonders whether weight issue will plague him as he moves forward. As for Malignaggi, his razor-thin win preserves the possibility of a rematch against Ricky Hatton should the popular British fighter win his comeback bout.
Peter Quillin UD 12 Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam (Quillin wins WBO middleweight title)
In a brutal, grueling and thrilling fight, Brooklyn-based Peter Quillin simply couldn't miss with his left-hand counter against the game and rugged Hassam N'Dam of France. Quillin scored six knockdowns on route to a unanimous decision victory by three scores of 115-107.
The fight began with a brisk pace as N'Dam (27-1, 17 KO) pressed the action behind his piston jab. Quillin (28-0, 20 KO), who would land hard counter shots throughout the fight, started by landing his right hand, which was soon followed by a precise left hook once N'Dam started to open up.
Little separated the two fighters over the first three rounds as N'Dam actively moved forward and threw punches well on the inside. Quillin appeared content to counter with the harder, more telling punches, and there were multiple instances of near-misses during wild exchanges.
The fourth round altered the fight's momentum, as Quillin floored N'Dam twice with half-uppercuts/left hooks thrown with leverage after Quillin had slipped punches by ducking to his left and then exploding upward with the punch. Quillin could have arguably scored two more knockdowns as N'Dam appeared to be held up by the ropes after absorbing more hard shots.
After two slips to end Round 4, N'Dam stumbled all the way back to his corner. N'Dam's recuperative powers, however, would almost prove as impressive as Quillin's counters. While Quillin appeared to take Round 5 off, N'Dam boxed well as he restored some semblance of equilibrium.
In Round 6, just as N'Dam had gathered himself, Quillin was again devastating. Another left-hand counter knocked N'Dam down for the first time (N'Dam protested that it was a slip), which was followed by a left-right combination that floored the Frenchman again.
Somehow, N'Dam managed to come across as relatively fresh, and he escaped the round as Quillin was unable to close distance and gun for the stoppage.
Rounds 7 through 11 were particularly intriguing and could have been scored in multiple ways depending on what one values when judging a prizefight. N'Dam was the fresher of the two fighters and pressed the action, pumping his jab and scoring well when he managed to pin Quillin against the ropes.
While Quillin threw fewer punches, he landed the harder, more eye-catching blows. Both fighters took turns working off their front feet, though N'Dam seemed busier overall. Quillin appeared gassed as he returned to his corner after Round 11, and N'Dam had miraculously worked his way back into the fight.
In the final round, Quillin managed to score two more knockdowns to put an exclamation point on his victory. Again, Quillin floored N'Dam with both his left hook and right hand, both of which were perfectly timed counters as N'Dam crowded him.
With the win, Quillin wrested the WBO middleweight title from N'Dam and has set himself up for some significant business in an intriguing division. N'Dam, given his combination of bravery, skill and recklessness, will certainly find his way back into a significant fight soon.
Devon Alexander UD 12 Randall Bailey (Alexander wins IBF welterweight title)
Devon Alexander boxed his way to a technical, yet yawn-inducing, decision over former IBF welterweight champion Randall Bailey amidst a cacophony of jeering from a restless crowd at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Bailey (43-8, 37 KO), who in his last fight was on his way to shutout decision loss to Mike Jones before scoring a spectacular knockout, appeared confused when faced with Alexander's speed and movement. That said, Bailey was unable to let his hands go or produce any sustained offense in what amounted to a paltry showing for a defending champion.
Reduced to little more than a plodding, jabbing automaton, Bailey had difficulty throwing his signature right hand, a punch which has authored a plethora of memorable knockouts, including his title-winning effort against Jones. Alexander (24-1, 13 KO), aware of Bailey's latent power, boxed carefully and seemed keen to put rounds in the bank while looking for openings.
The fifth round produced the fight's most significant action as Bailey landed a hard, right-hand counter, which prompted Alexander to fight back with abandon on the inside. This exchange, however, only proved to be a brief reprieve from the pattern of Alexander landing pot-shots on Bailey and scoring with his straight left hand.
Referee Arthur Mercante Jr. deducted points from both fighters for holding in Round 6, and other than Alexander beginning Round 8 with noticeable aggression, little of note occurred in Alexander's muted outboxing of Bailey. Alexander did take a Bailey straight right and uppercut well in Round 11, but otherwise, Bailey was essentially reduced to pawing aimlessly with his left jab.
The scores of 115-111, 116-110 and 117-109 seemed oddly close, and Alexander, who claimed a world title in a second weight class, now owes British contender Kell Brook a mandatory shot in what could be an interesting fight. As for Bailey, this is likely the end of the road for one of boxing's best pound-for-pound punchers.