To start out the month of August, Showtime finally put together a card to look forward to--a co-main-event featuring Devon Alexander battling former belt holder Junior Witter for the WBC super lightweight belt and rising star Timothy Bradley defending his WBO 140 pound belt against veteran Nate Campbell.
The storyline of the night had some interesting twists—Bradley had vacated the WBC title after taking it from Junior Witter, and while the first fight pitted two rising stars against one another, the next pitted youth against ring experience.
The fights themselves gave us a number of twists and turns, some good, some bad, some ugly.
First, the good. The night's two winners: Devon "The Great" Alexander and Timothy "Desert Storm" Bradley proved to be worthy of the belts they hold. Alexander, a protege of Cory Spinks, had a tough competitor in Junior Witter, whose awkward fighting style made him a difficult target.
Moving in behind a stiff, quick jab, showing ring generalship, and putting combinations together, Alexander took advantage of Witter's wild, wide shots and showmanship tactics and had him in trouble by the end of the second round, when he snuck in a short right hook that staggered Witter.
The third round ended with another three punch combo that finished with a hook on Witter's chin, and it was obvious that Alexander was breaking his opponent's will. In round five, the camera angle was perfect as we watched Witter's head reel from another great hook to the chin. When the fight ended after the 8th round, it was clear that Alexander deserved the title of champion.
When Bradley came into the ring, to a triumphant, spiritually grounding song, he had the air of a man who was determined to hold onto his title. After the first round Al Bernstein delineated what each man needed to do in order to win.
Campbell, his age a possible liability in the ring, needed to counterpunch effectively, work on the inside, and use his powerful uppercut. Bradley, the much younger man, needed to use angles to stay elusive, go to the body, and work consistently to wear out his opponent.
Through the 3 rounds of this fight, Campbell showed that he had a different game plan than that recommended by Bernstein, as he came forward rather than waiting to counterpunch, and never managed to land one of his powerful uppercuts.
Bradley, however, was consistent from the first round in punching from a variety of angles, wearing his opponent out with shots to the body, and punching at a workrate that, as he put it after the fight, made his opponent age a little bit more each round, until he got Campbell in deep trouble by the end of the third round.
Next, the bad. The referee, David Mendoza, made a bad call after an accidental headbutt from Bradley in the early part of the third round caused a huge cut to open on Campbell's left eye. Though Campbell covered his eye with his glove immediately after the cut, protecting it until he could pull away and show the ref the blood pouring from the cut, Mendoza ruled that a punch which came after the butt had caused the cut.
And finally, the ugly. Both of the losing fighters demonstrated a lack of heart, that intangible and absolutely critical element in boxing. Junior Witter stopped on his stool after the eighth round of his fight, and had no better explanation for this decision than than he didn't feel good at all and decided that it was "time to let this one go."
Campbell, though he had a legitimate quarrel with the referee re: the head butt, quit on his own stool after the third round. He claimed a possibly legitimate difficulty seeing out of the left eye as his reason.
It was obvious, however, that he was counting on the fact that the fight would be ruled a no contest due to the head butt, and was not willing to show the kind of warrior spirit Miguel Cotto recently demonstrated in fighting on to earn a nobler kind of ending.
Campbell's intense campaign to get the referee to reverse the ruling would have been more compelling had he not been losing the fight so obviously before the headbutt. He seemed to view the headbutt as much an opportunity to get out of a losing battle as a legitimate fight-ending injury.
All of these pieces, the good, the bad, and the ugly, reflected elements of the state of boxing today. Referees have always been fallible, so bad calls are a part of the game. Junior Witter and Nate Campbell join a line of recent fighters who have quit when the going got tough.
Luckily for boxing fans, Timothy Bradley and Devon Alexander represent the future of boxing--hungry, determined stars who will do whatever it takes to defend their belts.
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