Weekend Review -- Valero steals the show
Didn't I tell you guys he's fun to watch?
All due respect to Drew Brees and crew, who outduelled the heavily-favoured Colts to claim their first-ever Super Bowl crown, but my MVP trophy for this weekend goes to Venezuelan lightweight Edwin Valero.
Granted, Valero didn't score an upset the way the Saints did. Even the folks who thought Antonio DeMarco had a chance to win still felt Valero would win.
Still, he surprised me with his ability to focus in the face of adversity -- in this case a nasty gash opened by an accidental elbow -- and still pound on DeMarco until the Mexican challenger's corner had no choice but to fold after round nine.
That type of focus is rare for a fighter who enters the ring with Valero's outlandish credentials -- 27 wins after Saturday night, all by knockout. By the time a fighter racks up that kind of record, he has also acquired a mystique that precedes him into the ring. Opponents enter fights expecting to lose by knockout, and fear quickly becomes self-fulfilling prophecy. For fighters like Valero (and Mike Tyson a generation ago) intimidation evolves into another weapon to deploy, potent as a left hook or uppercut.
But a funny thing often happens to guys like that once they run into someone not scared of their record or their power or their aura.
Philadelphia middleweight Tyrone Brunson rattled off 19 straight first round knockout wins on his way to the 21-0-1 record he brought to the ring last December against fringe contender Carson Jones. He won a couple of rounds but looked lost when Jones started fighting back, as if he wasn't aware it was part of the deal.
Fight didn't last much longer.
Or take Tyson, who steamrolled the heavyweight division with an unreal combination of speed and power, but wilted when Buster Douglas stood up to him. A three-year jail stint restored his aura of menace and upon his parole he trampled a succession of petrified opponents until Evander Holyfield exposed him. Twice.
Intimidation is no match for a fighter with a backbone and a plan.
DeMarco had both those things, plus the luck to land an elbow that opened the nastiest cut I've seen in boxing in a long time, yet Valero didn't falter.
Instead, he pressed forward, chopping away at DeMarco's body and head and showing the mettle that separates world class fighters from highly paid bullies.
He still carries his chin too high and his hands too low, but Valero showed us something Saturday that we haven't seen from him before.
Nobody will ever confuse him with Pernell Whitaker, but Valero now seems to understand that avoiding punishment is just as important as inflicting it, and that adding a little brains to his brawling might extend his win streak and his career.
Still, I understand why plenty of boxing purists are waiting impatiently for the fight that exposes Valero as a one-dimensional home run hitter, a Rob Deer of the ring. It occurred to me Saturday night that a southpaw with a good right hook could drop Valero, or that a truly elusive boxer could gas him out by making swing and miss.
But until he confronts that fighter we might as well enjoy the ride, because we don't know how much longer it will last. Looks folks are talking about a bout between Valero and 140-pound champ Timothy Bradley.
I enjoy watching Valero, and think he should be better known among North American sports fans. I know Showtime wants more exposure for him, but a Bradley bout might expose him in all the wrong ways.
As I said, enjoy it while it lasts.