Saturday, February 7, 2009

FNF, Shobox and the Return of Chagaev

It's been a fairly busy weekend so far. Even with the highly anticipated main event between Vic Darchinyan and Jorge Arce still to come, we've already had plenty of fights worth touching on.

Last night, Yusaf Mack and Chris Henry battled it out on a FNF card that also featured middlewight propsect and crowd favourite Fernando Guerrero (photo © Cheryl Nemazie). 2004 Olympic gold medalist Andre Ward was in action on Shobox, while in Germany, Ruslan Chagaev made his return after more than a year on the shelf on a show highlighted by 140 pound belt holder Andriy Kotelnik and challenger Marcos Rene Maidana.

Yusaf Mack - Chris Henry

It was a solid, albeit a bit frustrating, Friday Night Fight headliner. Yusaf Mack showed that he carried his power up to light heavyweight, rocking Chris Henry multiple times with right hands en route to a split decision victory. He refused to put together combinations, however, and if he followed those right hands up with left hooks, he almost certainly would have knocked Henry out. Henry, for his part, actually appeared to out jab his quicker opponent. His wide right hands were the problem, as they continued to miss their mark throughout.

Poor foot work and balance were also issues. Henry wasn't able to keep a proper distance on the inside, instead falling into clinches and smothering his own punches. Yusaf was badly gassed late in the fight; more body work with some uppercuts mixed in could have finished him off.

Both men showed limitations that makes it difficult for me to place them among the elite at 175, although they would give most of the top 10 a rough outing. Mack's stamina issues will likely always be a problem, as will Henry's lack of accuracy and balance.

- Michael Nelson

Mack has the skill to be a serious player. He's pretty good defensively, has quick hands, and can bang a little bit. The problem is in his stamina and focus. He had Henry wobbling around in the 6th round, but instead of taking advantage, he showed a lack of composure and started chucking wildly. He gassed himself in the process, and had little left in the tank for the final six rounds.

Mack will get more spots on TV because he tends to make exciting fights, but even at 30 years old, he has plenty of maturing to do if he is to fulfill his potential.

Even though Chris Henry lost, I was impressed with the way he kept plugging away. You had to admire the way he pushed the action, even while utterly exhausted. He carries certain useful tools, like above average punching power, a strong beard and all the inside stuff you want in a fighter and with work on a few technical elements he could take his game up a half a level or so.

I'd like to see simple head movement. The man is so wide open on his left side, it gave me flashbacks of Cliff Ettienne. That's a shame, because he is better than that. If Henry committed to the body with those booming rights, he would be a monster. Follow that up with a left hook and you've got yourself a dangerous man.

While dropping this fight is a definite setback, I believe this fighter has the guts and power to get back into contention.

I wouldn't mind seeing one of these guys fight Tavoris Cloud next.

Fernando Guerrero - Gabriel Rosado

The Co-feature pitted the extremely popular local prospect, Fernando Guerrero, against Gabriel Rosado. The kid from Salisbury, Maryland made sure the home crowd was not disappointed, as he pounded out a competitive unanimous decision win. This was a significant step up for the undefeated young fighter and he handled himself well, despite a flash knockdown.

We still don't know how he takes one on the chin or to the ribs, but he's an interesting personality with a devoted audience, so I look forward to checking him out again.

Andriy Kotelnik - Marcos Rene Maidana

In Germany, Andriy Kotelnik successfully defended his 140 title belt in a busted face effort against relatively unknown Argentinian banger, Marcos Rene Maidana.

The challenger came out fast, slamming several right hands around the guard while also splitting the gloves with lead left uppercuts that snapped Kotelnik's head back. He never stopped banging away for the first 3 rounds, while his opponent showed great resolve in standing up to the abuse and coming back to make it a very tight contest down the stretch.

It was Maidana's big swings and activity against Kotelnik's sharper blows and crowd reaction. In the end, the decision was a fair one. I thought the fight was 7-5 either way and the judges agreed.

Ruslan Chagaev - Carl Davis Drummond

The less said about Ruslan Chagaev's return, the better. It was one of the most timid performances I have ever seen. The opponent, Carlos David Drummond, was just as careful and it made for a yawn. It was one of those fights that make you angry. Neither guy wanted to lead at all so there were a lot of ugly collisions between the painfully few clean punches.

An accidental headbutt opened a cut over Chagaev's left eye brought an early end to things after the 6th round. He won the dreadfully boring decision that has pretty much forced me to avoid his fights for awhile.

The cut turned out to be the best thing about that "fight". It saved me from being bored for another 6 rounds.

-Lee Payton


In his showcase on ShoBox, Andre Ward whitewashed Henry 'Sugar Poo' Buchanan, but his performance left plenty to be desired. Sugar Poo, more saccharin than pure cane, didn't put up much of a fight. His offensive output comprised mainly of 'don't touch me' jabs, and I feel when faced against a relatively harmless combatant, a prospect like Ward should do his best to take him out. Instead, he was content to potshot from the outside, never taking it to the next level. Getting inside and shredding Poo's midsection is something I would have liked to see him do.

Nevertheless, Ward is obviously talented. But how sturdy his chin is and how he'd fare in a long, grueling fight remain the questions that Buchanan didn't have the capability or willingness to ask.

-Michael Nelson


Andy said...

The Ward fight was a bore. I would also have liked to have seen Andre try and turn it up a little more.

Kotelnik/Maidana was good stuff.