Photo Credits: Tom Casino/Showtime
SAN ANTONIO, Texas — There wasn’t a KO in every fight, but last night’s Knockout Kings 2 card provided a wealth of entertainment from the opening contest through the main event. In addition, fans got to see the continued development/emergence of potential stars (Thurman, Figueroa), and the possible career end of one who’s been on the cusp of elite status (Berto). There’s a lot to talk about, so let’s get right to it.
BERTO’S LAST STAND: Andre Berto put forth another wild battle, but this time suffered his first KO defeat at the hands of Jesus Soto Karass in the 12th round. If you didn’t know he had taken on a new trainer in Virgil Hunter, you wouldn’t have known it since all of Berto flaws were on display. From round one, he stood there upright and remained an inviting target for Soto Karass to club him from the outside with overhand rights and hooks to the body (partly thanks to Berto insanely continuing at times to try his wretched shoulder roll). On the inside, Berto’s porous defense made him a sitting duck for uppercuts.
Somewhere in the middle rounds, Berto allegedly hurt his right shoulder. He was already in deep trouble and becoming a one-armed fighter did him no favors. To his credit, Berto looked close to quitting by the sixth but willed through it and found success with slashing left hooks inside. He used that weapon to score a knockdown in the 11th, but Karass dominated every other second of the round with counter right hands and 1-2s down the middle.
The fatefull 12th saw Berto, who kept jumping in desperately trying to land a home run left hook, get surprised and flattened by one from Soto Karass. With his eyes nearly beaten shut, Berto stumbled to his feet but clearly had nothing left, giving the ref the necessary evidence to make a wise stoppage.
A BROKEN FIGHTER: There was no flow to anything Berto did in the ring last night. He was unsure of himself on offense and as stated, his defense was horrific. I’m not sure if we can put too much of the shoulder roll blame on Hunter, as he could be heard in the corner as early as the third round pleading with Berto not to use it. Berto would take 3 punches just for the opportunity to throw a hard but telegraphed left hook inside (which more often than not missed due to bad balance).
A STOP TO THE VIRGIL HUNTER EXPERIMENT: Every year, a trainer who gets a big win and finds success with one fighter gets thrust into the limelight as potential trainer who can fix the flaws of any slumping fighter. It’s a phenomenon not much different from musicians flocking to a new producer who gets a big hit with a fresh sound.
The problem is it looks like Hunter is made just for Andre Ward, a great fighter he’s had for years. So far, Hunter’s two big recent acquisitions in Berto and Amir Khan have looked worse under him. Not only are they getting hit more by lower-level fighters, but now they are hesitant on how to apply the offense that usually was able to bail them out. Emmanuel Steward’s ability to work fine tweak former champions was a special talent and so far it appears Hunter isn’t the guy to replicate it.
CREDIT TO SOTO KARASS: Let’s not spend all our time focusing on what Berto did wrong over what Karass did right. He pressured Berto with heavy punches from the first few seconds. He didn’t come straight forward and brawl like we thought — Karass was the one who varied up his attack. He worked heavy shots off the backfoot, abused Berto inside, and kept his own defensive lapses to a minimum.
I joked last night on Twitter about Karass now earning a shot at Floyd Mayweather next year (much like Victor Ortiz and Robert Guerrero got after defeating Berto), but these days a Berto win is not going to get you that payday. As a reader pointed out to me, a much more feasible fight could be Soto Karass against Adrien Broner should Mayweather Jr. decides to pass on Marcos Maidana but remain at welterweight.
IS BERTO DONE?: Yes he is, if you’re talking about being considered an upper echelon fighter. On paper, he had most of the advantages over Soto Karass and he was outclassed in every facet last night. Not to mention, the 29 year old Berto is getting heavy fighter miles with these long, savage fights — the Ortiz and Guerrero battles both went 12, and last night’s KO defeat also came in the 12th. Berto has taken some heavy beatings over the last 2 years, but he’s still an exciting fighter. If his body and ego can take it, he can still put on some great fights on undercards.
FIGUEROA VS. ARAKAWA: I’m only going to say a few things about this fight because they will pale in comparison to watching it. First off, Rocky is really Japanese and his name is Nihito Arakawa. Figueroa came out as usual throwing bombs but Arakawa had other plans. He was dropped twice, early and late, and badly buzzed I don’t know how many times, but Arakawa continued coming forward and throwing shots. By the midway point, you start to get concerned for Arakawa’s well-being, but he never takes enough unanswered blows to were you could justify calling it off. The scorecards of 118-108, 118-108, and 119-107 in Figueroa’s favor were the only things lopsided about this fight.
As for Figueroa, he’s going to make for some amazing slugfests over the next few years. With that said, we better enjoy them because unless he does a 180 and begins to care about defense, his career will be a short, albeit explosive one.
Watch the full fight HERE.
THURMAN IMPRESSES IN CHAVES WIN: All we ever want are prospects to be challenged and Thurman passed his last night in taking out fellow power-puncher Diego Chaves. Both guys tested each other’s chins early with vicious power shots. Chaves mixed his shots to the body and put Thurman in retreat. However, Thurman was the one who adjusted in the fifth and slowed the fight down by moving and forcing Chaves to stalk after him. From there, Thurman utilized his faster hands to land herculean left hooks. It would be one of those hooks downstairs that stunned Chaves in the 9th for a knockdown, and Thurman provided two haymaker lefts upstairs in the 10th to complete the TKO victory.
Not sure who will be targeted next, but Thurman showed he’s the real deal and ready for a Top 10 opponent. Karass-Thurman wouldn’t surprise me, and neither would Thurman-Berto to be honest.
DIRRELL TKO3 HANSHAW: No surprises here. Anthony Dirrell hurt Tony Hanshaw with every solid punch he landed. Dirrell called out WBC titlist Sakio Bika after the win, but he’ll have to do more to earn that shot with Chavez Jr. likely getting first dibs. On another note, how crazy is it that Anthony is getting TV bouts and fighting more regularly than his brother Andre?[youtube http://youtu.be/C16_Zr6eUlE]