Middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin’s dominating eighth-round stoppage Saturday of Curtis Stevens was preceded by a fascinating preliminary bout in which Magomed Abdusalamov, an intimidating up-and-coming heavyweight slugger, was outpointed by a former Cuban amateur champion who now lives in Ireland, Irish Mike Perez.
Thus a great November on HBO seemed to get off to a promising start. Showtime called a sudden teleconference the previous Saturday to announce it has cornered the market on good December cards, topped by Adrien Broner-Marcos Maidana, but HBO is the place to be in November.
There’s the tripleheader in Corpus Christi, Texas, next weekend, the card that includes the Nonito Donaire-Vic Darchinyan rematch with me reporting at ringside There’s Andre Ward’s return from 14 months off against unbeaten Edwin Rodriguez on Nov. 16. And best of all, there’s the Manny Pacquiao-Brandon Rios pay-per-view bout in Macau, China, the weekend before Thanksgiving.
But that November-HBO rapture was seriously buzzkilled Sunday by the news that Abdusalamov wound up with a blood clot that led to his being placed in a medically induced coma. It sounded like he’ll survive, but still ...
It’s not like we need a reminder that getting into a boxing ring is a lot more likely to prove fatal that a round-trip flight to Corpus Christi -- and the actuarials on that one are quite likely to occur to us during the trip.
How can it not be sobering to actually watch a bout with such dire consequences? One ought never get used to it.
I have to confess this is my closest brush since I watched the Emile Griffith-Benny “Kid” Paret tragedy unfold on ABC in 1962. Like that bout, Saturday’s card took place in New York.
“The thoughts and prayers of all of us at HBO Sports are with Magomed Abdusalamov," the network’s sports president, Ken Hershman, stated. “We are grateful for the medical care he is receiving here in New York City, and out of respect for Magomed and his family, we will wait for any official updates on his condition before making any further statements.”
Abdusalamov, who lives in Russia and was 18-0 with 18 knockouts coming in, looked pretty awful throughout the fight after suffering a broken nose in the first round that became the primary reason he went to the hospital after the fight. Yet he pressed his attack to the end.
Perez didn’t seem to hit nearly as hard as Abdusalamov, but he was just enough quicker to the punch that he landed steadily. Perez also paid a lot of attention to a body attack that cost him a point for low blows in the 11th round, a round Abdusalamov won. That meant it was possible the battle of left-handers was close going into the 12th.
But Perez landed several punches flush in the 12th, and maybe referee Benjy Esteves Jr. should have halted the bout early in that round.
Later, watching HBO’s Max Kellerman moderate a taped faceoff between Pacquiao and Rios, whose face-first style promises an entertaining fight -- the kind casual boxing fans greatly prefer -- I couldn’t help envisioning one or the other dead afterward.
After all, consider how Pacquiao looked at the end of his last fight.