CARSON, Calif. – Boxing is more than just a contest to find out who punches the hardest. Part of the magnificence of the sport is watching a fast, smart, technician discover a way to defuse the power of a knockout artist.
But 1,000 out of 1,000 fighters would accept if someone could promise them that, even for a night, they could have the kind of devastating punching power that Marcos Maidana possesses.
Maidana's blistering punching power brought one of the year's most entertaining slugfests to a way-too-soon conclusion, as he battered Josesito Lopez into submission at 1:18 of the sixth round in front of a record crowd of 8,629 at the Home Depot Center.
Lopez was fighting brilliantly, particularly in the fourth and fifth rounds, as he repeatedly tagged Maidana with a series of clean, hard shots. He found a home for his straight right time and again, hitting the target like a pitcher firing a fastball directly into the catcher's mitt.
Several times throughout the fight, Lopez seemed to stun Maidana, but he doesn't have the kind of fight-finishing power Maidana owns.
That became clear in the sixth when Maidana picked up the pace after struggling for a couple of rounds and absorbing a great deal of punishment. Midway through the sixth, Maidana hit Lopez with a body shot that seemed to suck the air out of him. Lopez froze, and Maidana blasted him with a crushing straight right.
Lopez staggered back to the ropes and then hit a knee, where he took the eight-count. When he got up, he was greeted by a punishing right uppercut. Referee Dr. Lou Moret gave Lopez a chance to fight his way out of trouble, but finally hopped in at 1:18 of the sixth to stop it.
Lopez moaned about the stoppage, and it was understandable given how well he was doing, but Maidana is one of the hardest pound-for-pound punchers in the game and too many more of those right hands wouldn't have been good for Lopez's long-term health.
"I felt it was a premature stoppage," Lopez said. "He hurt me a little, but we're professionals and we fight in situations like that. He stunned me with a good right hand, but I was not out of the fight."
Maidana is never out of a fight, no matter how far behind he falls, because with him, one punch can change everything. He complained that he couldn't move in the middle rounds because he was punched on the hip, but still was able to close the show.
That's why it's never wise to relax against a knockout puncher.
"My character and my guts got me this victory," Maidana said. "In the second round, he hit me on my hip and it was like I was paralyzed. The pain lasted for two rounds and that's when he landed the shots. But my desire to win got me through it. He underestimated my power and I knew I could knock him out.
"The only thing I felt from him was when he hit my hip. I couldn't walk. I didn't feel his power and I knew the fight would continue. It was a good job by the ref to stop, but I wanted to keep fighting. Josesito is a tough fighter but he has things to learn. I was totally confident I would knock him out."
Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer could barely contain his glee after the main event, a back-and-forth battle that had the crowd cheering deliriously throughout.
He wasn't thrilled with the performance of Erislandy Lara, who stopped Alfredo Angulo in the 10th round of their super welterweight bout when Angulo suffered a potentially broken orbital and was forced to quit.
His mood changed dramatically after the show Lopez and Maidana put on, and he promised such fights would be the future of the sport.
He credited a business competitor with forcing boxing promoters to take a close look at the type of matches they make.
"Boxing has changed, and in a way, we took a page out of the UFC's game plan," Schaefer said. "The fighters and the networks have learned that the fans want to see action fights. That's what the audience wants to see. Winning and losing, winning means a lot, but [what is really important] is giving them great fights."
Whatever it is, fights like Maidana-Lopez are the type that will bring the fans back. The crowd was as intense as the fighters Saturday and the atmosphere was like it was a major world title showdown.
Schaefer mentioned the possibility of Maidana meeting the winner of the June 22 Adrien Broner-Paulie Malignaggi bout, or even against countryman Lucas Matthysse.
He said he's on a mission to rid boxing of boring fights. His card featured a horribly boring super welterweight bout between Demetrius Hopkins and Jermell Charlo, and Schaefer said he was going to do his best to avoid those kinds of matches, which anger the crowd and dull the passion for the sport.
"Golden Boy is going to make it a priority to sign action fighters and to put together fights we think are going to be action-packed," he said. "We've heard from the fans and this is what they want. They want those kinds of fights and that's what we're going to try to do."
It's a lot easier said than done, but encouraging fighters to fight, and paying them accordingly, will make a huge difference.
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