Boxing 2008: The Year of the Art of the Stolen Bout

Juan Manuel MarquezBy “Old Yank” Schneider - If a fan could complain about the quality of bouts in 2008 then it is only because they were spoiled by the bouts of 2007. But even in a great year for the square circle there will always be plenty of bouts that bring an air of controversy. And 2008 was no exception.

Somewhere between upset, controversy, robbery and kissing your sister lies the place where the art of the stolen bout can be found. These are the bouts where rabid fans of one fighter call it a robbery and rabid fans of his opponent call it “art”. And sometimes your fighter wins and you can’t help but grin over the shear serendipity of the moment – not even you can defend your fighter with a straight face..

2008 started off with Paulie Malignaggi collecting a UD on the judge’s scorecards over the always game Herman Ngoudjo. And credit is given to any man that can spell Paulie’s or Herman’s frigg-“N” name in the first place – “in…goo…jew” and “…eee” – what the hell? The next thing you know the International Boxing Hall of Fame will be overlooking these guys out of shear embarrassment over not being able to pronounce or spell their names.

I digress.

Malignaggi’s win over Ngoudjo is a great example of what the art of the stolen bout looks like. And it was nothing but a harbinger of things to come in 2008.

On February 16th, Kelly Pavlik stole the contracted rematch bout from under the nose of Jermain Taylor by simply out-hustling him in the final four rounds of the bout. Yes, Taylor was the more fluid boxer, but Pavlik was the more determined fighter. This was the art of the stolen bout that was the art of pure determination and will.

And what can we say about the Klitschko/Ibragimov bout? If ever there was a boring bout to be stolen via the repeat of a jab without an answer this was that bout. This was the functional equivalent of picking a lock but lacking the suspense of finding out if the lock was ever picked. Did any fan see anything open up in that bout? I did not think so!

Finally a match that got everyone’s attention took place on March 1, 2008. It was a candidate for Fight of the Year. Oh my…that’s what I’m talkin’ about – Vasquez/Marquez.

If Klitschko picked a lock, then Vasquez took a sledge hammer to a Yale lock that was guaranteed by the manufacturer to be unbreakable. This is the true art of stealing a bout; the SD that is pounded out one round at a time. If ever a fan base could be upset over a decision, this was one for the record books. Had Marquez not had a point deducted in the 10th for low blows, what might the scorecards have read? Some bouts are stolen and some might be fumbled. I leave it to the fans to decide this one.

One week later, on March 15th, Manny Pacquiao would meet Juan Manuel Marquez (Raphael’s brother) in perhaps THE stolen match of the year (as if their prior draw was not a controversy). Knocking a man down makes an impression on some judges that cannot be easily erased. But this was a bout that Marquez will forever ask press row to judge if anything was stolen from him. If knockdowns can be a way to steal a bout then Manny Pacquiao was gifted a “Get Out of Jail Free” card in this bout – or apparently taking a man off his feet still means something.

We would wait until the middle of April (the 19th to be exact), until the next “art of the steal” would arrive. In this bout the very able veteran Joe Calzaghe would capture a controversial SD over Bernard Hopkins. Here, perhaps the controversy is in how anyone could watch that bout and see Hopkins as the winner. Again, perhaps the knockdown of Calzaghe early in the bout carried the attention of one woman judge (it’s always the women, isn’t it?).

Joe Calzaghe was stealing the bout by slapping the hell out of Hopkins. No matter how Hopkins tried to turn Calzaghe, Clazaghe always seemed to be able to slap him again by turning faster. No man ever in the career of Hopkins managed to land as much leather on him in a bout. This was one hell of an Ali-like performance from a white boy – a white boy fighting from the south side of the street.

If Klitschko picked a lock against Ibragimov and Vasquez sledge-hammered a lock against the impenetrable Marquez, then Calzaghe slapped a lock until it opened. But make no mistake about it, getting “bitch-slapped” is as stinging a loss as any man should ever endure. This was not a good night for Hopkins; a man that guards his possessions so closely that he rarely has anything ever stolen from him.

If anything was stolen from Bernard Hopkins that night it was his right to play the race card at will. Look, do I honestly believe that Hopkins is a racist? Not a chance! Do I believe that he carries baggage that does not flatter his better side? Absolutely, YES! So if Hopkins never plays the race card again for promotional purposes, then all the right things were stolen from him on this night.

Life would go silent in the world of the art of the stolen bout until July 5th. On this fateful night in Las Vegas two “hot heads” named Kendall Holt and Ricardo Torres would meet. If you were looking for controversy this was a bout to have your radar on high alert. In their first meeting Holt was looking fairly dominant until Torres (perhaps aided by debris being tossed in the ring at Holt), scored a TKO stoppage (early by some accounts) in the 11th . How in the world could a 1st round TKO win for Holt be regarded as a stolen bout? Well the story lies in the close examination of how Holt ended a vicious onslaught with a purportedly accidental use of his head to get Torres off of him.

Protect yourself at all times is the mantra. Kendall Holt used a Torres lapse of common sense to apply a little dose of the art of the stolen bout to Torres’ head. The result was a stolen victory via a vicious KO as Torres was hung up in the ropes reeling from a head butt.

If ever the force of come-forward power stole a night it was on July 26th. Was he the “most feared” welterweight of our day or just a five-time loser that caught the eye of a discerning fan base? Either way Antonio Margarito stole the heart of Miguel Angel Cotto inside 11 rounds. Cotto was undefeated coming into the bout. He performed like an undefeated champion for the better part of 6 rounds. In fact, he was literally only a round or two away from stealing the bout for himself via a SD or UD had he only been able to win the 11th and 12th. But, if Klitschko was a lock picker; Vasquez a sledge-hammer against an impenetrable lock; Clazaghe a lock slapper; then Margarito was the ultimate locksmith arriving with all the tools to get the job done.

On September 16th we watched as Michael Katsidis get his face handed to him a split decision loss to Juan Diaz. The only thing I can say about this bout is how silly it looked to me that Diaz almost had this bout stolen from him.

Diaz out-landed Katsidis by nearly 100 punches over 12 rounds. Diaz connected with 37% of his nearly 300 punches to Katsidis connecting with only 17% of his and yet judge Glen Hamada managed to see the bout for Katsidis.

Every fan should know that one element of the art of the stolen bout is that element that is left in the hands of the judges.

How will any fan ever forget October 18th at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey? Hell yes!!! This was a night for a stolen bout. Bernard Hopkins stole the clock from Father Time. He stole the ju-ju from all voodoo when he walked away from a promise to his dearly departed mother. He stole the SHOW!!!

I had the privilege to watch the Pavlik/Hopkins bout live at Boardwalk Hall. I thought I saw a bout stolen by a spiritual force that was bigger than Hopkins, Pavlik and myself put together. I was lucky enough to bump into Harold Lederman walking with Julie on the boardwalk after the bout. His comments were simple and to the point: “That was one easy bout to score”.

It ranks only second to THE stolen bout of 2008.

Finally we come to the ultimate art of the stolen bout. In a bout that 85% of boxing “experts” saw as a likely one-sided victory for Oscar De La Hoya, Manny Pacquiao (the earlier thief in the night against Juan Manuel Marquez), pulled off the steal of the era.

Manny Pacquiao needed to look like no fighter we’d seen in over a generation. He needed to look like the reincarnation of one that came before him. Perhaps the Year of the Stolen Bout belongs to the man who stole the soul of Henry Armstrong for one night.

Article posted on 18.12.2008

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