The CyberBoxingZone News
Jones-Harding Tops Night of Boring Fights
|Jones-Harding tops night of boring fights
Derrick Gainer given title belt by bonehead ref
There aren't a lot of optimists left in boxing. After the
Roy Jones-Eric Harding pay-per-view card, there are even fewer.
It is expected that between 30,000 and 50,000 boxing fans had not
yet reached a level of pessimism high enough to resist purchasing
this most mediocre of TVKO events. Perhaps the
Norwood-Gainer fight (the closest thing to a pick 'em for miles)
would be interesting, they figured. Barrera-Valbuena?
When was the last time two Latin surnames combined for a dull
contest? Surely Jones would put on enough of a show to make
the evening worthwhile... right? Wrong!
Jones-Harding was a stinker, Barrera-Valbuena was devoid of drama,
and Norwood-Gainer brought not only a sloppy, boring, and
foul-filled contest, but also the single most overt display of
incompetent officiating in title fight history. What a
The $34.95 telecast (ten times more than an equally effective
bottle of Tylenol PM) kicked off with the only contest that could
go either way. Roy Jones' little buddy Derrick
"Smoke" Gainer found himself the beneficiary of Jones'
influence yet again. Despite being knocked out by Diego
Corrales in a failed title bid less than six months prior, Gainer
was announced as the WBA's #1 featherweight contender. This
despite having only two fights below his regular 130 in four years
(both vs. Kevin Kelley). Gainer's track record in big fights
didn't bode well for him, but Freddie Norwood's erratic behavior
had boosted the challenger's chances.
For the second time in his career, Freddie Norwood lost his title
on the scales. At the official weigh-in, Norwood initially
weighed in at 127 3/4 pounds. Given two hours to lose 28
ounces, Norwood defiantly gulped water instead, weighing in at 129
1/2 on a second attempt. He was immediately stripped of his
championship. If he won the fight, the title would remain
vacant, and if he lost Gainer would claim the championship.
That didn't stop Norwood from walking to the ring carrying both of
his WBA featherweight title belts, neither of which he lost in the
It took only 30 seconds for the boos to emanate from the sparse
crowd. Norwood marched to center ring to open the fight and
then just stood there. Like a statue, he held his hands up
high and didn't move a muscle as the taller Gainer studied him.
The challenger was hypnotized by Norwood's stillness, and
offered no punches. This went on for three full minutes.
Gainer slapped a couple of perfunctory jabs into Norwood's gloves,
and the champion attempted a wild left hook at one point, but
beyond that absolutely nothing was happening in the ring.
The posing continued into the second. Neither man threw a punch.
The two southpaws simply stared in amazement at each other.
Finally, Gainer fired a one-two down the pike and Norwood was down
on his back. Grinning and hopping to his feet, Norwood
easily beat the count, and the two men continued their passive
gazing. Already it was a stinker.
Norwood started to get rough in the third round. In two
fights with Antonio Cermeno and a scrap with Juan Manuel Marquez,
Norwood had earned a reputation as a grappler. Now he
grabbed Gainer around the waist, half-lifted him, and crashed
across the ring into a turnbuckle. When Gainer's infrequent
jab touched Norwood's face a few times, the champion blatantly
shots to Gainer's cup. Referee Paul Sita was not firm with
his warnings, and soon lost control of the bout.
Gainer began rapidly circling Norwood in the fourth round.
Not offering any offense, Gainer simply shuffled right, then
eventually shuffled left. Occasionally Freddie would charge,
the fighters would clinch, and then Norwood would shove Gainer
through the ropes, into a corner, or to the floor. With mere
seconds left in the round, Norwood dipped his head and charged
Gainer like a bull. Gainer was tackled and he grabbed onto
Norwood to bring him down also. But as Gainer fell straight
back, Norwood fell forward, head first, and somersaulted head over
heels before landing on his own back. Gainer quickly hopped
up, but Norwood lay on the canvas with his eyes closed, feigning
unconsciousness. Perhaps he felt that with less than four
full in the books, the fight might be called no contest, and he
might get another chance to make weight in a rematch.
The referee leaned over Norwood and said "c'mon get up"
then added "are you all right?" Then,
inexplicably, he began counting. Hearing the count, Norwood
opened his eyes and began lifting himself off the canvas. He
held the back of his head and used the ropes to pull himself up at
9. Standing, but with knees dipped, the ref reached the
count of 10...and then counted off 11! Before he could get
to 12, the referee asked Norwood if he was all right a second
time. Norwood, still holding his head and wincing in pain,
didn't appear to answer, and so the referee allowed the round to
continue. The ending bell sounded a moment later, and the
referee quickly explained to the judges that he was instituting a
20-count because there was no knockdown.
If there was no knockdown, then why was there a count at all?
And why a 20-count, the count traditionally used only when a punch
causes a knockdown that sends a fighter outside the ring.
There is never a count, especially a 20-count, on a fighter
falling to the canvas. And why stop a 20-count at 11? These
lingering questions would soon be forgotten after the ref later
used even more creative techniques to apply a set of imaginary
In the fifth round, Derrick Gainer started doing a really bad
Roy Jones Jr. Forgetting a decent jab and a straight left
that had already dropped Norwood once, Gainer now leapt in with
lead right hooks thrown from
the waist. Norwood easily avoided these punches, clinched,
and then launched
repeated shots to the groin. The ref was having an
increasingly difficult time breaking up the fighters. Often
he nearly had Norwood in a full-nelson from behind as he tried to
pull the fouling champion off the challenger. There was
sporadic punching in the fight, and almost all of it was illegal.
Norwood hit Gainer in the brain stem, in the kidneys, and in the
family jewels. Some champion.
Norwood stole the momentum of the fight after another confusing
episode which proved that the referee could not control the
fighters. Gainer swung a wild right hook, which Norwood
ducked. When he came up, his head lodged under Gainer's
right armpit, and the referee called repeatedly for a break.
Norwood instead through five consecutive hard shots to Gainer's
kidneys and the ref wedged his way between the fighters.
Norwood was still swinging his
arms despite a man in between him and his opponent, and a
frustrated Gainer potshotted Norwood straight to the cup to make
him stop. Norwood grabbed his package and dropped to the
canvas in obvious pain. No faking this time; Gainer's punch
was on target. Incredibly, Sita sent Gainer to a neutral
corner and began another count on Norwood. As he counted off
numbers he said "7... 8... you got until 20... 9...
10..." Another 20 count? Why?
Norwood was on his feet, but still in pain, by 8, and the referee
this time continued his count until 10, then stopped his count and
deducted a point from Gainer. The boos from the growing
crowd were loud. What was the ref doing? Where was the
five minutes to rest? What would have happened if he
had reached 20? Would Gainer's (intentional) foul have
earned him a world
title? These questions would be asked again before the night
Norwood was now upset, and he openly attacked Gainer for the first
the bout. Trapping Gainer along the ropes, a furious Norwood
ripped off a
dozen unanswered flush body shots. These blows weakened the
spindly challenger, and shifted the momentum back to the champion.
grew increasingly sloppy, as his jab became a backhand and his
became a wide uppercut that never did any damage.
Gainer now tired, and as his circling slowed to a halt he was
caught on the
ropes several times by the (ex)champion, who focused his attack
to the body. After the seventh, Gainer's corner sternly
warned him against
resting on the ropes, yet he did so to open the eighth and again
paid the price by taking vicious body blows from Norwood.
Gainer's thin legs now looked unstable, and instead of fighting he
now ran. His circling for the remainder of the eighth and
most of the ninth was full retreat. Norwood could do nothing
but chase, and Gainer did nothing but circle. No punches.
No action. No boxing. And this was for the world
In the ninth, Gainer again stopped his circling to rest on the
ropes and again Norwood ravaged his ribcage. But during the
flurry, Gainer dropped in a sneak left hook while squared up and
the punch dropped Norwood a second time to the canvas. Again
Norwood beat the count, and Gainer didn't feel like following up.
Norwood may have been dazed, but Gainer didn't test him to find
out. Instead he simply coasted out the round to a chorus of
boos from the crowd.
In the tenth, the fight had devolved to a chase. Gainer was
on his bike, and
Norwood's pursuit ended in numerous clinches and shoving matches.
looked ready to fold in this round, as Norwood's body attack (and
low blows and kidney punches) wore on his thin frame. His
legs didn't look
stable enough to stop running and throw punches. Where was
the much-improved, combination-throwing Gainer we've seen at
times? The three or four times he threw a straight left, he
landed a flush shot to Norwood's face, but that punch simply
wasn't being thrown. The fight was a mess on every level.
And then it got 100 times worse.
Referee Paul Sita could not prevent the fouls from Norwood, the
holding by Gainer, the wrestling by both men. This was a
dirty fight throughout, and in the eleventh round, things once
again got out of control.
Gainer was having a decent round when Norwood again rushed at him
head down. As Gainer pushed down on his head as fighters
often do, Norwood threw two gigantic uppercuts into Gainer's
crotch. Both landed hard and Gainer's mouth dropped open as
he cried out to the ref. As he had done ineffectively so
many times before, the referee grabbed Norwood's shoulders, and
practically hugging him, attempted to pull the champ off the
clinch. Norwood kept throwing his hands, however, and Gainer
got mad. He aimed for Norwood's cup and fired two blatant
low blows that landed. The referee didn't see the blows
because he had Norwood in his arms as he pulled. Norwood
collapsed to the canvas again, holding his crotch and wincing in
pain. And again the referee began counting. He reached
10 and once again kept going. Norwood was on a knee by 13
and on his feet at 15. The referee continued his count, but
then inexplicably stopped at 18... and waved the fight over.
immortal words of William Shakespeare, "What the fuck was
There is no such thing as a 20-count. There is no reason to
give any count to a fighter down on a low blow, intentional or
not. Gainer's foul, while in retaliation, was absolutely
intentional... and he was handed a title because of it. To
make matters worse, Michael Buffer announced that the fight was
called off because Norwood was required to make an attempt to
stand up before the count of 10... another fictional rule Paul
Sita was applying. In an interview after the fight, Sita
made no sense. He first claimed that the blow was not low
but borderline, but then why have a 20 count? He then
watched the tape, which showed him looking away from Gainer's
foul, at which point he admitted that he didn't see the punch, but
that Norwood told him he did not want to continue (Norwood
protested the stoppage immediately).
And so, after several attempts, Derrick Gainer laid claim to his
first world title, and one of the most bogus titles in an entire
sport of bogus titles. Simply put, Gainer looked awful
tonight. Granted, Norwood was fouling and wrestling and
looking for a way out all night, but Gainer did nothing.
There was no jab. There was barely a straight punch.
In fact there were barely any punches. Gainer (now 36-5/23)
spent over half the fighting running away without punching, and
looked exhausted and ready to go at several points. After
the bout he had the audacity to call out Morales, Barrera and
Hamed. All three of those men would knock out Gainer in
under 3 rounds.
It should be noted that Gainer was leading on the official cards
at the time of the stoppage, 95-92, 96-91, 96-92 (Boxing Chronicle
had it 95-92). He was on his way to a world title if he
could survive his own weakening legs. But the manner in
which the belt was handed to him was a disgrace. There will
likely be an investigation. The WBA should absolutely hold
up the title and order a rematch. Despite Norwood's
classless performance, he should not have been halted at this
stage of the bout. The referee was acting upon rules that do
Several hours later, Roy Jones admitted in his own post-fight
interview that he didn't really care about his fight with Eric
Harding. Instead, he said, he was more interested in getting
Gainer the title shot he wanted. Jones' apathy showed.
For 10 excruciatingly stoic rounds, Roy Jones picked off Eric
Harding with his quick but powerless punches. Jones looked
flatfooted and disinterested. After his victory, he admitted
that he had barely trained for Harding, that he couldn't get up
for the bout, and that his only preparation had been two weeks of
running. Gee, thanks Roy. Way to lay it on the line
for your fans who paid $34.95 to watch you spar.
Despite the fact that Eric Harding was in over his head, he
entered the ring smiling and began the biggest fight his career
will ever see with extreme composure. Many Jones opponents
had become unraveled by the magnitude of the event and the
challenge, but not Harding. Looking a full size larger than
Jones, Harding began the fight with his left hand cocked and ready
to counter. Jones, fighting his sixth southpaw in seven
fights, merely studied his opponent. Again the boos rang
The first round was a feel-out round, although neither man felt
their adversary's leather. But in the second round, Harding
launched a level lead left hand that hit Jones square in the face.
The punch didn't faze the undisputed champ, but it did serve
notice that Harding had come to fight. Jones opted to study
Harding a bit longer, and as a result of doing little more than
block punches with crossed wrists, the champ gave away a round on
A flat footed Jones was being extra careful not to get hit by
Harding's long but slower punches. As a result, Harding had
the time of his life in the third round by making Jones flinch
repeatedly with amateurish feints. Indeed Jones was off his
game, and when Harding followed his feints with a few heavy jabs
that landed, he logged another round in his column. For the
first time since the first Montell Griffin fight, and for probably
only the second time in his career, Jones now trailed on the
scorecards. But it wouldn't last.
Jones picked up the pace in the fourth round, slapping Harding's
side with a left hook and warming up his quick lead right hand.
Harding's defense was especially tight. As he peeked out
between his gloves, he blocked most of
Jones' attempts. Roy wasn't willing to take chances just
yet, and so his attempts to time the challenger came one at a
time. You could practically hear Michael Jordan snoring at
In the fifth, Jones focused on Harding's body as he launched
repeated jabs and straight rights to Harding's abs. The
punches landed with sharp snapping
sounds. They were extremely effective punches, but they were
thrown infrequently with complete nonchalance, and so the
continued. Jones retreated to a corner just once, and
Harding attacked Jones' body as so many previous opponents had.
Harding must have heavy hands, because Jones never gave him the
chance to do it again.
If the crowd was bored, it may have been because Jones was too.
He spent most of the sixth round firing single lead rights.
Some landed, most didn't, and Harding's defense became the focal
point of his game plan. Although he hadn't been hurt, or
even really nailed flush by RJ, Harding was already in survival
mode. Jones turned southpaw for kicks, but didn't land a
single punch from the stance.
As the sleep-inducing contest continued into the seventh, the
crowd (announced at 18,000 strong but looking to be well below
that figure) rained down their boos. The showman in Jones
couldn't resist, and he answered the boos with a brief flurry and
the first truly head-snapping punches of the night, including a
right hook thrown from the conventional stance that rocked Harding
to his toes.
It seemed that now, perhaps, Jones would at least begin putting on
the same type of show he had against equally blase challengers
David Telesco and Richard Hall. Not so. Instead of
dancing, or swinging bolo punches, or
attacking Harding with a combination, Jones instead fought the
eighth with an unspectacular, but very effective plan. He
began hitting Harding on the arms.
Perhaps Jones was troubled by the heavy jab that Harding
across the distance. His straight rights and lefts to the
body now focused on Harding's enormous left shoulder, which often
rested as a barrier between the two men. Showing absolutely
amazing accuracy, Jones threw punch after punch to Harding's right
deltoid muscle. No matter the angle or the hand, Jones
landed again and again in the exact same spot. Soon Harding
couldn't keep his right arm up for defense. It was an old
school tactic made new by Jones' speed and aim. Harding
couldn't defend against it.
Harding was a stranger to the later rounds, and his fatigue became
apparent in the ninth. As a result of Jones battering his
arms, Harding's tight defense loosened considerably. His
breathing became more labored, and Jones' pot shots began snapping
his head with regularity. Jones punctuated the round with a
crunching right that swiveled Harding's head on an axis. The
end was near.
Jones upped the pace in the tenth round and began looking for the
kayo. Still, his punches were fired one at a time, and
Harding's defense halted any assault that might do serious damage.
With time ticking out on the fight, Harding's chances of victory
were gone. He hadn't thrown an effective left hand for many
rounds, and now he was eating more Roy Jones leather than ever.
It seemed as though Jones might finally start to put on a
showcase in the eleventh... but that round never began.
Harding returned to his corner with a good sized lump imbedded
under the skin of his left bicep. He had torn the muscle
several rounds earlier and had complained about the pain to his
corner. Now that Harding was beginning to eat consistent
clean punches and could barely keep his injured arm and his
pummeled arm up, his corner moved to stop the fight. Trainer
Al Gavin correctly looked out for his man when no one else would.
Gavin had to ask the referee numerous times for a doctor, and even
then it took the ring physician awhile to make it to the apron.
Looking at Harding's misshapen bicep, the doctor just stared.
"Don't touch it!" pleaded Harding, who was in pain.
Did the doctor stop the fight? Nope. He just stood
there. Eventually Al Gavin, who seemed to have made up his
mind to stop the fight but was looking for an official to do it
for him, finally said "That's it, he tore his bicep, we
should stop it, right?" The referee and the doctor
looked at each other, unsure of what to do, and then after Gavin
again said "this should be stopped, right?" they weakly
nodded and called the fight off. Some officiating.
The crowd let it's displeasure known with a steady chant of
"Bullshit...Bullshit." After all, they had sat
through three excruciatingly boring fights, plus two
unintelligible rap performances between the fights, only to have
their main event end without any drama, without any fireworks, and
without any real display of boxing greatness. Anyone still
awake at this point had to feel disappointed. It was a
trifecta of duds.
Rounding out the three boring fights was the middle bout, a
tune-up fight for Marco Antonio Barrera against lightly regarded
Jose Luis Valbuena. Barrera
must have felt Valbuena would fold easily, because he launched one
hook at a
time at Valbuena's untucked chin. Barrera's body shots
landed early, but his
speed and his ability to put punches together made for a difficult
Valbuena had almost no power in his punches. But his
handspeed was decent,
his footwork was adequate, and he was unafraid of the Mexican
most of the early rounds, Valbuena peppered an out of shape
Barrera with his
pitty pat combinations. Many rounds were difficult to score.
often outland Barrera and keep Barrera from throwing with his
pesky combinations. But then Barrera would sink in a hook or
a vicious right to the body, and the effect of his few blows would
have observers questioning who should win the round.
What made this fight so boring was not the action level. In
to the fights that bookended this one, there was plenty of action.
In the fifth and ninth rounds, the fighters stood toe to toe and
let their hands go. No, what made this fight so painful was
watching Barrera try and get his game going on an off-night.
Marco had no bounce in his step, rarely threw his highly
underrated jab, and finished most rounds by shaking his head in
self-disgust as he returned to his corner. Barrera's
conditioning was suspect; he rarely had any gas left in the last
minute of most rounds. But like a true champion, he pulled
the fight out when he needed to.
After eight rounds, the fight was relatively close.
Certainly Valbuena could have even held a lead on some cards due
to his high output. But with a growing urgency in his
corner, Barrera finally began throwing two and three punch combos
in the ninth, and it paid immediate dividends. Crunching
Valbuena with his hook, Barrera closed out the final four rounds
by winning each by an increasing margin. His assault on
Valbuena in the twelfth was unexciting, but completely one sided,
and an exhausted Valbuena may have been lucky to finish the fight.
Escaping with a unanimous decision of 115-113, 116-112, 117-111
(Boxing Chronicle scored for Barrera 117-111), Barrera now set up
a 2001 showdown with Prince Naseem Hamed. Coming through the
ropes at 132 lbs., Barrera
should have little problem with the featherweight limit. But
he'll have to regain much of his old form to defeat Hamed.
Barrera remains easy to hit, he drops his hands when he goes to
the body, and it remains to be seen how much he left in the ring
during his epic war with Erik Morales. Combined with
Morales' mediocre outing a week prior against Kevin Kelley, many
may opt to believe that both Morales and Barrera may have left
much of their game in the ring that brutal evening.
And so for nearly $40, boxing fans were allowed to question their
loyalty to the sport. Indeed, the best fight of the weekend
was the rematch between Bronco McKart and Winky Wright. The
bout aired on HBO for free prior to the Jones event (which
overlapped with the Clifford Etienne fight on the west coast,
depriving many the chance to see this heavyweight prospect).
In that bout, Wright and McKart traded combo for combo for seven
full rounds. One would jab, the other would jab. One
would dig two to the body and a hook to the head, and the other
would repeat in kind. Each of these first seven rounds could
have easily been scored either way. McKart gave up a couple
of rounds by backing up too much at times, and Wright lost a few
rounds by letting McKart get in the bigger body blows. But
in the eighth, Winky Wright seized control and never let go.
McKart tired in the eighth, and Wright began a brilliant
exhibition of hitting and clinching. He would pump a jab to McKart,
follow with a quick combo, and then tie up before McKart could
throw back. Once this pattern was established, Wright banked
four of the final five rounds with his ring generalship.
When he wanted to hit Bronco, he did, and when Bronco wanted to
retaliate he was either in a clinch or too tired.
This late rally banked the fight firmly in Wright's column, and
there was little surprise when the official cards read 116-113,
and 118-110 twice. (Boxing Chronicle scored for Wright
116-112). Wright improves to 40-3/24 and barring the need
for a rematch, seems to be the obvious challenger for the winner
of Trinidad-Vargas. Wright proved in his fight with Fernando
Vargas that he belongs among the division's elite. With a
convincing decision over McKart, Wright simply must settle the
score with Vargas if the Oxnard native is victorious. For McKart,
it's back to local club shows. He has a long road ahead to
rebuild his status.
This was not one of boxing's finest weekends. Despite a
sportsmanlike and technically sound boxing display with Wright-McKart
II, there was not a single fight worthy of a second viewing.
There were no highlight reel clips (except for Norwood's fouls)
and no reason to think that $34.95 ended up being a worthwhile
investment. Roy Jones admitted that he didn't give his all,
Derrick Gainer picked up a title via a referee's incompetence,
Marco Antonio Barrera struggled in a tedious tune-up, and Winky
Wright won a no-frills decision. There have been worse weekends of
fights, but few as uninteresting.