Is "Pantera" the John Mugabi of our era?
There is nothing more appealing than a knockout if you are a fight fan. In fact, 99.9% of the time, that's what the average fan tuning in is hoping to see. I am a firm believer that only the dedicated fan appreciates a good tactician in the ring and can enjoy the finer parts of the "Sweet Science", such as head movement, footwork, defense and ring generalship.
In boxing, a man who posses one punch knockout power is a man destined for fame and a great deal of devotion from fans. That devotion and also fame usually arrives quickly, turning the one punch monster into a boxing demi-god, but just like the demi-gods, such the devotion and adulation is abandoned shortly after some disappointments.
In certain ways, punching power deters phenoms with it to ever improve themselves, because the short term admiration leaves them with no desire to improve.
That lack of improvement does not bring the moment of truth known as "Tommorow" and it not only cheats the fighter of eternal boxing glory, but the sport of another great fighter.
The power punching warrior past the top of his game is only remembered in quick passing conversations held with fellow enthusiasts that happen to bring up one moment of the past, leaving the ex-fighter a man of what had been 15 minutes of fame but now only 15 seconds of it.
This train of thought came to me about three weeks ago after watching the rematch between Arthur Abraham and Edison Miranda just before catching a replay of Marvin Hagler vs. John Mugabi on an episode of ESPN Sports Classic Boxing.
It also reminded me that I cannot remember the last time I heard John Mugabi's name spoken by a fan or commentator, yet when I watched the Hagler vs. Mugabi replay, they kept referring to Mugabi's brutal power, how he is feared by opponents and Hagler needs to be wary of the strength that Mugabi posseses.
John Mugabi entered the Marvin Hagler bout in 1986 with hopes of dethroning the middleweight champion. Mugabi, appropriately known as "The Beast", entered the bout a perfect 26-0 with all 26 wins coming by way of devastating knockouts and he was truly a feared fighter of the era.
When Mugabi fought, fans knew a knockout was sure to happen and they could not get tickets fast enough. When the ring announcer would introduce Mugabi, his "The Beast" moniker would be lingered on, giving it a more menacing tone and making the hair on your arms stand up.
Mugabi would enter the ring without ever changing his expression and just stare his opponents down, waiting for the bell so he could attack. Did fans care he had never beaten a live body worth their salt up until this point? Did fans care his boxing skills were average at best? The only thing fans cared about was the power Mugabi possessed.
Once the Hagler bout was over, fans looked at Mugabi in a different light. He seemed a bit less frightening and a bit less of a "Beast". Mugabi had become what had been obvious before but overlooked all along and that was the fact that "The Beast" was nothing more than an average guy who could punch like hell, but when he faced a man who could absorb his power, he was defenseless.
Let's face it, who wants to go see a guy like that if he is not at least the champion? I can't think of the last fight discussed where the highlight of its promo consisted of the phrase "It will be a great fight if so and so does not get knocked out again!".
Edison Miranda has every quality that John Mugabi once did. Miranda is strong, has a frightening stare about him and started off with a 21 fight knockout streak. He also had the world of boxing put on notice that they need to be afraid because "Pantera" is on the hunt and when he catches his prey, they look up to him on the flat of their backs.
Miranda has even had Mike Tyson-like intimidation situations where opponents have been afraid before the opening bell. Super middle Allan Green, who has pretty impressive power of his own, was undefeated in 2007 when he faced Miranda and he went about their fight like he was happy just surviving until a counter shot he threw in the eighth round put Miranda on the canvas.
Green did not follow up on his momentum, still unwilling to take chances, and he was floored himself twice in the tenth before losing a unanimous decision. This solidified Miranda's status as a man to be reckoned with, as not only did he abuse a highly touted prospect who could bang as hard as he could, but his only loss at that point was to IBF Middleweight Champion Arthur Abraham by decision.
Many people felt that Abraham was lucky to escape with his title intact and all he suffered was a badly broken jaw, despite the unanimous decision in his favor.
In Miranda's next bout, just two months after his win over Green, Edison faced hard punching future middleweight king Kelly Pavlik in an eliminator to face then champion Jermain Taylor.
Miranda, in true fashion, went after Pavlik with the smell of blood fueling him on. The two fighters exchanged often with Miranda looking to be the more aggressive, but less polished fighter. But Miranda did not appear to be the stronger man and he became frustrated early o,n swinging wildly, leaving himself open for counter shots.
In round seven, Miranda was saved by referee Steve Smoger as Pavlik was having his way with Miranda on the ropes. After the fight, Miranda admitted he made some mistakes and should have paced himself more, that he should have not been so reckless and learned his lesson, adding it would not happen again.
In Miranda's next two wins over Henry Porras and David Banks, he went back to his hard punching style and left little time to see if he had indeed changed his style up a bit since both fights ended before the sixth round.
The rematch against Arthur Abraham, at a catchweight between the the middle and super middleweight limit, was supposed to be Miranda's coming out party back to the big leagues, he was to avenge his first loss and put himself in line for a super middleweight title shot.
The fans were ready, Miranda's camp was ready, Arthur Abraham was ready, the only person who was not ready was Miranda, so it seemed, since he was stopped in the fourth round. So the question is "what happened?".
Edison Miranda had two soft opponents after the loss to Pavlik. Each had winning records and are decent fighters, but in no way were world class. The wins over Porras and Banks may have given Miranda back his confidence after the KO loss to Pavlik, but wasn't that really what those fights were for in the first place?
Had Miranda and his camp confused those two opponents with world class competition? I would like to believe that Miranda made a mistake in wanting to face Abraham again and he let his anxiousness get the better of him, he allowed his personal feelings cloud his professional then went into the bout half cocked, but certainly not loaded. I would like to believe that, but I think the other question has to be asked and that is one I hate to bring up especially since I am a fan of Miranda.
Is Edison Miranda really that good in the first place?
I am sorry, but it has to be asked, what else could it be? This would not be the first time we have been fooled by a power punching phenom to find out later on that we received all the bang for the buck we would see from the fighter early on. This is where John Mugabi came into the picture. This is where the comparisons have started to surface.
Mugabi and Miranda were both in their mid twenties when they made a name for themselves, each man was known for their power punching and little else. Miranda and Mugabi both started to show cracks in the armour after their first KO loss and most importantly, each man started to get stopped earlier in their bouts as time wore on.
Miranda was stopped in round seven in his first KO loss and round four in the next loss by stoppage. Mugabi was stopped by Marvin Hagler in round 11 in his first KO loss, then in round three the following bout, that time in the light middleweight division.
Miranda, like Mugabi, fared well against lesser opponents after his loss, but was stopped once he stepped back up in competion. These are patterns that are hard to overlook as they they are so similar.
Edison Miranda is young enough to repair his career before he ends up a second tier knockout artist like Mugabi did and even though Mugabi eventually won a world championship, it was against Rene Jacuot, a soft chinned Frenchman who had not beaten an opponent of note when he faced Mugabi for the vacant WBC light middleweight crown. It was also by the fact that Jacuot slipped on the canvas in round one that Mugabi won the title. John lost it in his first defense via first round KO to Terry Norris. Miranda can avoid these mistakes.
Miranda needs to work on defense greatly, he needs to relax in the ring more, rely on power less and when throwing power punches, he needs to avoid wide looping shots. If Miranda and his team can start working on those obvious flaws, then maybe there is hope to avoid the puncher's curse.
The same curse that Primo Carnera, Ingmar Johanssen, Earnie Shavers, Ron Lyle and John Mugabi all fell victim to. They believed too much in their power to ever work on anything else and when the power failed, they had NOTHING else.
The next time Miranda faces an opponent of value, I think our answers will be given to us. Miranda seems to think the super middleweight division will be the best place for him, so he does not need to lose so much weight and stop draining himself. I hope he is right not just for his sake, but boxing's as well.
I think we could use a power puncher with the ability to make fights interesting by giving us the menacing ability to KO opponents, but also bail himself out if need be by boxing to victory because, as they say in baseball, "Not every hit can be a home run."
If Edison can't pull it together, we have this era's John Mugabi, just as the era before Mugabi had Ron Lyle and Earnie Shavers.
In retrospect, I guess it isn't so bad, but then again, it isn't so good, either.