The Good and Bad of Boxing’s Bellyfilling Holiday

Now that we’ve had a moment to digest all the boxing served up this holiday weekend, it’s time to discuss the good and the bad from the dual menus provided by HBO and Showtime. And what better way to do that than to compare each of the five fights to a Thanksgiving recipe? Let’s dig in.

Celestino Caballero vs. Jason Litzau – Apple Crisp with a Twist

Sometimes you walk into a Thanksgiving celebration, take a quick scan of all the offerings and can’t help but sample that one item you’ve never seen or gotten around to before. Take the apple crisp, which looks delicious but may not be as advertised. You don’t even know if it’s meant to be an appetizer or a dessert. So you take a bite just to see what it’s all about and get more than you expected on first glance.

Such was HBO’s opening bout between junior lightweights Celestino Caballero and Jason Litzau. What should have been an exciting but one-sided bout became the evening’s second best fight and even brought a twist. Litzau scored a huge upset when he outfought the 13-1 favorite Caballero, who looked like he didn’t even deserve an invitation to the party. So much for Caballero’s claims that everyone 130 pounds and under was ducking him. With no reason for any top names to waste time fighting him now, Caballero might spend next Thanksgiving entertaining with his band rather than in the squared circle.

Andre Berto vs. Freddy Hernandez – Deviled Eggs

WBC Welterweight Champion Andre Berto himself described his fight with virtual unknown Freddy Hernandez as an appetizer. Flashy enough to get your attention, the deviled egg is made history with a quick pop in the mouth. Hernandez met a similar fate, failing to make it through even one Berto right hand in the first round.

The same way you don’t walk around Thanksgiving gatherings talking about how incredible the deviled eggs were, there isn’t much to say about Berto’s win, other than that, after two years as a titleholder, it’s time to move on to a real meal.

Andre Ward vs. Sakio Bika – Wet Dressing

There’s always that one item on the menu that you just know is going to be pretty good but pretty messy. Dressing is a Thanksgiving must, but when you add too much water, you risk turning hungry guests away. Ward has thus far proven himself to be a fluid fighter, though his style can be hard to stomach at times due to the excessive holding he employs. Bika, on the other hand, is always sloppy and has earned a reputation, fair or not, as a dirty fighter. So a train wreck seemed imminent when their styles clashed for the WBA Super Middleweight title.

But while the fight had its share of clinching, rabbit punching, jawing and late hits, it wasn’t one anybody would regret giving a try. In the end, Ward put in his usual workman-like effort to pick up a difficult but decisive win.

Carl Froch vs. Arthur Abraham – Dry Turkey

Everyone knows the main course of any traditional Thanksgiving meal is the meat – specifically, turkey. And it seems like a pretty hard thing to screw up. But occasionally, you hear horror stories of the dreaded dry turkey. That’s exactly what happened when Abraham single-handedly turned a potential Fight of the Year candidate into one of the worst fights in all of boxing in 2010.

Treating Abraham like a dry turkey, Froch didn’t bother to add any gravy. Instead, he simply came by and picked at Abraham a couple of times a round, never intending to extend his stay at the serving table and do any real damage. Like an overcooked turkey, Abraham sat there and took it, never making any attempt whatsoever to win the fight. His performance was disgraceful and surely a huge blow to the ego of a man who once considered himself a proud warrior. Those days are no more.

Juan Manuel Marquez vs. Michael Katsidis – Pumpkin Pie

It ultimately finds its way to the dessert table every year. And even though you know before the first bite that it won’t disappoint, it somehow exceeds expectations time and time again. That’s Marquez’ career in a nutshell over the past few years. Every time you think you’ve seen it all with Juan Manuel, he manages to turn your head and remind you just how great he is.

Like Froch-Abraham, nobody thought Marquez’ bout against Katsidis could disappoint, and the result was what may be the leading candidate for Fight of the Year. Marquez landed record numbers of punches on Katsidis, who pressed the fight to the champion every minute of every round. Fighting in honor of his recently deceased brother, Katsidis even floored Marquez in round three. And for a moment, it looked like Marquez might not beat the count. But he did and fought back strong, eventually to the point that he had Katsidis outclassed and out on his feet. With the Australian’s legs starting to leave him and his head open for punishment, Referee Kenny Bayless stopped the fight in the ninth round, giving Marquez yet another impressive win.

There’s no doubt now who gets the next crack at Manny Pacquiao; that is, if Floyd Mayweather Jr. is going to continue finding reasons to stay away from it. Marquez’ two wins in 2010 were as good as those of anyone between 135 and 147 pounds, which means a trilogy with Pacquiao is all but guaranteed to be boxing’s next superfight. The fans will no doubt want it. And Marquez certainly deserves it.

And so concludes boxing’s heartiest weekend of fights as far back as anyone can remember, complete with surprise, disappointment and thrills. That’s boxing on any given night, but this holiday’s fare should serve as a reminder of everything that makes boxing an appealing tradition that will never die.

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