|Wednesday, April 24
Mayweather prevails among controversy
By Max Kellerman
Special to ESPN.com
Floyd Mayweather Jr. won the first four rounds of his lightweight title bid against Jose Luis Castillo last Saturday night. Castillo won most of the rounds over the second half of their 12-round bout. Mayweather was ultimately awarded the unanimous decision.
Yet I do not disagree with the official verdict. Fights are scored round by round, and Mayweather won the first four rounds. If the argument is that Castillo was robbed, then the argument must also be that Castillo won seven of the eight final rounds. That would have made the score seven to five favoring Castillo. I do not think a strong case can be made that Castillo won seven of the last eight rounds.
Castillo dug himself a hole (really Mayweather dug it for him) in the first four rounds, and as well as he fought the second half of the fight, it was not enough to pull himself out. Without scoring the fight round by round, and instead just watching the entire fight and then declaring the winner, I would have given it to Castillo. But that is not how fights are scored.
Harold Lederman, the unofficial ringside television judge, gave the third round to Castillo, which I think demonstrates that Mayweather suffers from the same scoring syndrome that afflicted Pernell Whitaker. Mayweather is so seldom hit cleanly in his face, that when a clean shot is landed against him it registers all out of proportion in the observer's mind. Meanwhile, the three clean shots Mayweather just landed against his opponent do not make the same kind of impression.
The third round was a good example of this phenomenon. Lederman mentioned that he gave Castillo the third round based on a couple of shots Castillo landed against Mayweather while Mayweather was on the ropes. Those were probably the first times Mayweather had been hit cleanly up to that point in the fight, and it impressed Lederman enough to give Castillo the round.
But I thought that Mayweather won the round based on the clean punches he landed throughout -- punches which our eyes were already accustomed to seeing by that point in the fight.
Scoring aside, Floyd Mayweather Jr. now holds the only belt in boxing that matters, The Ring Magazine championship belt. That means he is the legitimate lightweight champion of the world. Before the Castillo fight Floyd was talking about moving up in weight and taking on Kostya Tszyu and Oscar De La Hoya. In the wake of his controversial win, however, it might be time for him to reevaluate his plan. The lightweight division is replete with fighters who pose real challenges.
For starters there is Castillo, who based on his two performances against Stevie Johnston and now his narrow loss to Floyd, is due a lot more respect than he has been getting. After taking the title from Johnston in their first encounter, which was a very close fight, Castillo was largely viewed as an interim type titlist, one who would likely lose the title back to Johnston in a rematch. The Johnston rematch came and went and Castillo was still champ. Castillo's credentials as a top lightweight and a threat to Floyd, therefore, extend beyond his close encounter with the new 135-pound champ.
Next there is Stevie Johnston, who on my scorecard has yet to lose in his entire professional career (though both Castillo fights were extremely close). With his impressive win against the still-dangerous Alejandro Gonzales on the Mayweather-Castillo undercard, Stevie has put himself back in title contention. A Mayweather-Johnston fight would be a thing of beauty.
The rest of the lightweight class includes Paul Spadafora, who is undefeated, and who beat Floyd in a sparring session (I watched the videotape), Leonard Dorin, whose volume-punching style could pose real problems for the new champ, and Julio Diaz, the vicious body punching contender, who at 22 is only going to get better. Meanwhile, both Acelino Frietas and Joel Casamayor could move up from junior lightweight for a crack at Floyd.
Anyway, it was good to be a boxing fan last Saturday. After Mayweather-Castillo ended, all you had to do was change the channel to catch the second half of the Joe Calzaghe-Charles Brewer fight. Calzaghe won on points in dominating fashion, and afterward all the buzz was about a Calzaghe-Bernard Hopkins showdown.
That would be a tremendous fight, but I would prefer seeing Calzaghe take on fellow 168-pounder Sven Ottke. Right now The Ring Magazine title is vacant at 168 pounds. Ottke and Calzaghe are clearly the class of the super middleweight division and a meeting between them would crown a Ring champion.
Max Kellerman is a studio analyst for ESPN2's Friday Night Fights.