In what was intended to be little more than a workout in front of an appreciative hometown crowd, Floyd Mayweather, Ring Magazine’s 1998 Fighter of the Year, instead found himself in a fight. Returning to Grand Rapids, Michigan for the second defense of his WBC super featherweight title, Mayweather was unable to knock out challenger Carlos Rios (44-3-1, 29 KO) of Argentina.
Mayweather (20-0, 15 KO) was rightly awarded a virtual shutout from the judges (120-110, 119-108, 120-109), but Rios was still standing at the final bell -- something Genaro Hernandez and Angel Manfredy were unable to accomplish in Mayweather’s two previous conquests. To Rios’ credit, he did what he could to neutralize Mayweather’s huge edges in hand speed and punching power, at times turning the bout into a brawl. Nevertheless, the 21-year-old Mayweather, despite appearing overanxious at time, displayed why he is one of the most exciting young talents in all of boxing.
On the undercard, former champions Junior Jones (45-4, 26 KO) and Tom Johnson (47-6-2, 26 KO) each had to get off the canvas in what turned out to be an entertaining 12-round bout for the fringe IBA junior lightweight belt. Jones, an old 28, went down from a Johnson right cross in the fourth, and returned the favor in the seventh -- downing the 34-year-old Johnson with a clubbing combination. While each fighter at times looked as if he might not see the final bell, both displayed determination in surviving to hear the judges award Jones a well-deserved unanimous decision (115-111, 116-110, 118-110).
Random thoughts: The bouts were televised on TNT and, while I’m all for as much boxing on television as possible, announcer Kevin Harlan’s over-the-top style is better suited to professional wrestling than professional boxing. I prefer to let the action in the ring indicate when to get excited rather than have the announcer shout at me, particularly when nothing significant is taking place.
Finally, Gil Clancy conducted a live interview with Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis regarding their March 13 fight. Neither fighter is the particularly adept at self-promotion, so I expected this to be nothing more than a few minutes of promotional fluff. While Holyfield obliged by having nothing noteworthy to report, Lewis displayed very thin skin and became quite agitated once Clancy began questioning his development (or rather lack of development) under the tutelage of trainer Emanuel Steward. The responses of the normally mellow (to the point of appearing sleepy) Lewis were quite out of character and could indicate either an as-yet-untapped aggressive streak (unlikely), or pre-fight jitters before the first truly significant fight of his career (much more likely). Stay tuned for a preview of this upcoming heavyweight mega-fight!