Big Night at Barclays

By Adam Berlin on April 12, 2015
Big Night at Barclays
Al Haymon is a veteran who understands the formula to grow boxing. (Naoki Fukuda)

The card promised an exciting night of action and the fighters fulfilled that promise—in the borough of kings, the kings of sport delivered…

On Saturday night the Barclays Center in Brooklyn hosted a full slate of entertaining fights, which culminated with a competitive doubleheader. 

The undercard featured Olympic fighters Felix Diaz, Errol Spence Jr. and Staten Island’s Marcus Browne, ex-champ Luis Collazo, who has entertained NYC audiences with his aggressive grit for many years, and rising star Ryan Burnett. Each of these fighters won, as was expected, and each could have headlined a smaller show at a smaller venue. But their appearance at the Barclays Center, even when the arena was still relatively empty, didn’t dwarf their current stature. Brooklyn’s new arena and Manhattan’s Madison Square Garden have the same number of seats, but there’s something about the Barclays Center that makes it more intimate—maybe it’s the steeper angles accentuating the ring, maybe it’s the lighting, maybe it’s because Brooklyn feels more neighborhood than the affluent mecca of Manhattan. And that makes Barclays the better fight venue because boxing, more than any sport with the exception, perhaps, of wrestling, is intimate. Boxers may not grapple, but their sweat and blood and saliva mingle, and when they clinch, breathing into each other’s ears, waiting to separate before they again lay hands on each other, they’re practically slow-dancing.

The two main events were intriguing match-ups—interesting stylistically and because they seemed, at least to me, like pick-em fights.  My pre-fight picks had countered the odds makers. I saw Andy Lee knocking out Peter Quillin. I saw Lamont Peterson getting a points victory over Danny Garcia. My gut, as it often does, was going with the underdogs. 

In the first main event, Peter Quillin was supposed to enter the ring as an official contender for Lee’s title, but at Friday’s weigh-in, Quillin failed to make the 160-pound limit. For almost two hours, Kid Chocolate tried burning calories, but even after he removed his shorts he was still over. His corner urged him to sweat some more; Quillin refused. Quillin’s excess weight wasn’t a conscious choice. He wasn’t taking a page out of Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.’s book—the Mexican middleweight had come in looking super-heavy against Lee when they fought in 2012. Instead, Quillin was conceding his lack of discipline. Suddenly, underdog Lee seemed more like the overdog. At Thursday’s press conference, Quillin had predicted a chess match in the early rounds, but his extra weight felt like a pound-and-a-half harbinger for a slugfest.

Peter Quillin entered first wearing a black robe with gold lettering. When his robe was removed, he still looked like a middleweight, cut and relatively slim, so his failure at the scales wasn’t evident. 

Then Andy Lee, the belt holder who now had no chance of losing his belt, stepped into the ring, his name in bold red against a black robe. While ref Steve Willis gave his final instructions, the fighters stared at each other, eyes cold and ready.

Round 1 started in measured fashion. Lee used his right as the measuring stick. Quillin kept both his hands high. Southpaw Lee landed a few lead lefts and seemed to be taking the round when BAM, a hard right by Quillin dropped Lee. Lee stood, Quillin landed two more crushing shots, pulverizing Lee against the ropes. When the bell rang, Lee was on his feet but barely. He walked to his corner, drunk.

As soon as Round 2 began, Quillin threw a volley of wild shots, looking to end the night early, but when he couldn’t, the fighters resumed their measured circling. With thirty seconds to go, a battle broke out in the corner. Quillin had the slight edge in punches landed, but this time, when Lee walked back to his stool, he punched his heart, body language for I’m still here and I’m still dangerous

In Round 3, after Lee landed a big left and then, a few seconds later, a big right, Quillin scored his second knockdown of the fight. This time Lee was more flash-buzzed than badly hurt. Instead of pouncing for the kill, Quillin held back, holding his hands high, waiting to counter. Lee finished the third strong, but dropped the round 10-8. Lee’s face was red when he started the round. It was bloody by round’s end, compliments of a small cut above his left eye.

And then the fight entered that promised chess-match territory. The fighters stayed in the center of the ring and spent most of their time gauging each other’s potential moves. Lee measured with his right, looking for openings. Quillin kept his two hands high, still wary of Lee’s infamous power, waiting to counter, but never really countering.  The boos at the Barclays began. I didn’t get it. While few punches were thrown, intensity was in the air, that quiet crackle of anything can happen. Not much did. But every moment felt charged. For three rounds the chess match played out. At times Lee’s legs looked sluggish. At times Quillin looked like he never intended to punch. I gave Quillin two of these three middle rounds. 

Then in the seventh, Lee turned dangerous. Instead of measuring Quillin’s head, Lee started measuring Quillin’s body, and found Kid Chocolate’s torso more readily available. Then a big right hand dropped Quillin hard. Quillin got up, the round ended, but the scores tightened up with Lee’s 10-8 round. As Andy Lee sat on his stool, a Q-tip pressed against his cut, he was smiling.

The chess match resumed. There was measuring and waiting and a few quick skirmishes, but for the rest of the fight, neither man exerted complete control. Lee landed a number of hard lefts. I kept waiting for him to go after Quillin’s body to set up another damaging head shot, but he didn’t. On Quillin’s end, while there were moments when he pushed the action, moving forward, hands cocked and ready, he didn’t punch nearly enough.  Rounds 8 through 11 were uneventful, with Lee getting my nod on three of the four rounds by virtue of effective aggression. When the bell rang for the final round, the men touched gloves, then went at it, this time more fiercely. Quillin landed the heavier blows and finished the fight strong. This was an easy round to score: 10-9 for Quillin.

On my scorecard, despite my bias for Lee and my prediction that Lee would win, I had Quillin ahead 114-111. That seemed to be the consensus around press row. So when the scores were announced and the fight declared a draw, a row of eyebrows rose in unison. Most questionable was Glenn Feldman’s 113-113 tally. In Round 3, when Quillin scored a knockdown, Feldman chose to reward Quillin 10-9 instead of the more conventional 10-8. Had he practiced the norm, Quillin would have taken the fight by a point. Then word started going around that the fight had appeared much closer on TV than from our press-row vantage point, and that the draw was justified. So be it. Andy Lee left the ring still holding his belt on two counts—Quillin’s weight and an even score. This was an entertaining if not cathartic bout. Each man went down. Each man seemed capable of hurting the other. While it was too-often a chess match, checkmate was in the air at all times. A rematch would no doubt fill the Barclays Center once again.

The 12,300 paying customers stayed in their seats for the main-main event. By the volume of cheers, it was clear the majority of ticket holders had come to support undefeated champion Danny Garcia. Challenger Lamont Peterson entered the ring first, his robe royal purple, his beard trimmed short. Garcia acknowledged his cheers when he stepped onto the canvas. A moment later, stripped down to leopard trunks, he looked trimmer than I’d ever seen him, more boxer, less fireplug, despite the three pounds over the light-welter limit.

After watching two middleweights go at it for twelve rounds, these 143-pounders looked small and fast in Round 1. Punches were thrown from great distances, with lots of air separating fists from flesh, and the ring seemed huge. Garcia was the aggressor.  Peterson moved and moved. I was surprised Peterson didn’t start investing to the body from the get-go. Garcia took the round 10-9.

For the next six rounds, this was a bull vs. matador fight. Garcia moved forward, stalking, stalking, closing distance with each round, goring with rights and lefts, while Peterson ran laps in the wide-open ring, ending some of his runs with a flourish. Garcia was busy. Peterson wasn’t busy enough, at least not from the waist up. After seven rounds, Garcia was ahead 70-63. 

When the bell rang for Round 8, things changed. Peterson landed a heavy body shot, then another and a third. And then the matador decided to turn bull. Instead of running, Peterson sat down on his punches, and suddenly Garcia looked worried. And worse. He seemed out of his league. When Garcia walked back to his corner, having just lost his first round of the fight, Swift looked slightly sick.

Before Round 9 began, with fifteen seconds left to his minute of rest, Peterson got off his stool, walked across the ring, smiled in Garcia’s face, then returned to his corner and waited for the bell to ring. Peterson’s head-game punctuated the punches he’d delivered to Garcia’s head in the eighth. 

For the next four rounds, Lamont Peterson stood his ground and, to put it bluntly, beat the shit out of Danny Garcia. He smashed Garcia’s ribs. He smashed Garcia’s chin and forehead. He boxed better and hit harder. Cocky, Peterson wound up with a bolo punch. Cockier still, Peterson shuffled in the middle of the ring. Garcia tried to mimic the move, but lacked Peterson’s grace. As if to punish him for unoriginality, Peterson smashed Garcia into the ropes. Peterson’s domination seemed so effortless I kept wondering why he hadn’t started his assault two or three rounds earlier. Instead of burying himself in the cards, he could have been well ahead on points, on his way to a legitimate championship belt. The eleventh round was so one-sided, a case could have been made for a 10-8 round. 

The twelfth was a war. Garcia resumed his bull-like stature, but the matador-turned-bull in front of him was stronger. Peterson no longer feared Garcia’s punches. And so he beat Garcia with joyful abandon. If only this were an old-school fifteen-round fight. Garcia was wobbly when the final bell rang, his face a red mess. In the day, had he been forced to go three more championship rounds, he wouldn’t have made it. 

The story of this fight was a tale of two fights. For seven rounds, Garcia was king. For five rounds, Peterson reigned, brutally. For this one, the decision was not a foregone conclusion, and no one left the arena. When the first score was announced, 114-114, the tension mounted. But the two other judges got it right. 115-113, twice. Danny Garcia retained his belt. As the champ spoke to the crowd, promising to do it again (a mistake if you ask me), Lamont Peterson kneeled in the ring. Perhaps he was praying for a rematch. Perhaps he was keening, wishing he’d been the bull from Round 1.

Tonight, my gut was wrong. I picked Lee to defeat Quillin. He fought to a draw. I picked Peterson to defeat Garcia. He lost a majority decision.  Both of tonight’s matches could be replayed in a few months and if they are, I’ll probably go with my gut again. Had Lee stepped on the gas a little harder, he could have kept Quillin hurt. If Peterson had started his assault earlier, he would have outclassed Garcia with ease. 

I may have been sitting ringside for tonight’s event, but I’d have sung the show’s praises even if I’d been on my couch, and not just because the matchmakers put together a strong card. This segment of Premier Boxing Champions aired at the reasonable hour of 8:30 Eastern Standard. For too long, fights have started too late. If boxing really cares about pulling in a new generation of fans, why does HBO and Showtime start so many cards at 10, and why do PPV producers take the counterintuitive approach and push their main-event telecasts way past midnight? I learned to love the fights watching afternoon cards on Wide World of Sports. USA’s famous Tuesday Night Fights never went past 11:00 Eastern Standard. And even on the biggest PPV cards, headliners once entered the ring well before midnight. These days, with ring entrances having morphed into ridiculous spectacles, with ring announcers drawing out their petty copyrighted-lines to epic-poem proportions, we’re lucky when a mega-fight ends before 1 a.m. 

Al Haymon’s series may be in its infancy, but, whether you like him or not, he’s a veteran who understands the formula to grow boxing: Make competitive bouts, put them on prime time, build the fan base, make it worthwhile for advertisers to spend big bucks on telecasts, reinvest the money into future shows. If his plan works, and I think it will, boxing will benefit from this lucrative snowball effect and regain some of its past popularity. Instead of a tertiary sport, prizefighting will move to secondary status, and, ideally, take its place next to the team sports that now rule America’s attention. The fight game used to be the number one game. It’s the most television-friendly sport. It’s the most intriguing. As Max Kellerman often says, if you came to an intersection and saw a baseball game on one corner, a football game on the second, a basketball game on the third, and two men fighting on the fourth, what would you watch? Maybe it’s the heart of darkness that pulls our eyes to boxing. Maybe it’s the beauty of two men relying only on themselves to compete. Maybe it’s the purity that comes from lone competitors with nowhere to hide. To bastardize the baseball phrase, If you televise it early (on public TV), they will come.

On TV or live, tonight’s fights were worth watching. The card promised an exciting night of action and the fighters fulfilled that promise—in the borough of kings, the kings of sport delivered. It’s official. When in Brooklyn, at the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush, follow your eyes. They’ll go straight to Barclays.

Adam Berlin is the author of the recently published boxing novel Both Members of the Club (Texas Review Press/winner of the Clay Reynolds Novella Prize). His other novels are The Number of Missing (Spuyten Duyvil), Belmondo Style (St. Martin’s Press/winner of The Publishing Triangle’s Ferro-Grumley Award) and Headlock (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill). His stories and poetry have appeared in numerous journals. He teaches writing at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City and co-edits J Journal: New Writing on Justice. For more, please visit adamberlin.com.

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Andy Lee vs Peter Quillin



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  1. Carlos 09:07pm, 04/19/2015

    First and foremost, I would like to thank Al Haymon for bringing back boxing back to regular television. This brings back memories when my father and I watched boxing on t.v., and we got the opportunity to see the great fighters fight. Just one quick comment I watched both fights, Danny Garcia must have some mighty powerful friends who want to see him succeed because Garcia has lost 2 out of the last three fights that he has had. Lamont Peterson boxed, and counter punched beautifully for the first four rounds. Garcia could not touch him. Afterwards Peterson was walking down Garcia, and Garcia looked like a scared and beaten fighter. I hope to see Garcia against Lamont Peterson again but after that beating that he took at the hands of Peterson, I highly doubt it.

  2. Kid Blast 12:37pm, 04/14/2015

    So he was one of the announcers? Holy moly. I think I get the bite! Onerous as it is, but I don’t get being dressed in panties and a bra. WTF

  3. Clarence George 06:56am, 04/14/2015

    That’s Marv Albert.  Seems like yesterday, but it was some 20 years ago.

  4. Kid Blast 06:00am, 04/14/2015

    Was he was the guy who bit his lady friend while dressed as a woman?

  5. NYIrish 02:05am, 04/14/2015

    Ray Leonard was embarrassing. He mumbled on about the wonder of Petersons “concentration” as he ate Garcia’s combinations. What the commentators said had little to do with the action. Bob Costas and Marv Alpert? Really? Made me pine for Howard Cosell.

  6. mini 11:20pm, 04/13/2015

    This Site Very interesting and funny.

  7. andrew 05:15pm, 04/13/2015

    Only someone on Haymon’s payroll could call this a big night for boxing. A pudgy non-thrower in the first fight followed by a six round main event where no attempt to make weight was even required.

  8. Koolz 04:18pm, 04/13/2015

    Kid Blast
    Lee as old time fighter that was waiting for that one shot.  Paw paw paw, ok I got him with this shot now.  I loved his movement off the ropes and his spinning on his foot away from Quillin but….
    He would be destroyed if he fought GGG, Golovkin would eat him alive.

    I watched this fight on Box Nation,  Love those guys! 

    They really nailed it!

  9. Kid Blast 01:30pm, 04/13/2015

    Koolz , Lee looked a bit like an old time fighter as he pawed with his jab on flat feet.

  10. Koolz 07:19am, 04/13/2015

    It’s hard to believe that Lee was about to fight GGG.
    That would have ended Lee’s career, he would have never fought and beat Koborov.

    It’s sad to think people actually thought Quillin was a step up to GGG and a top middle weight that could give him problems.

    If they ever fought it would be Macklin all over again.
    These guys need to realize there is nothing wrong with jabbing to set up your opponent and use the jab to blind them, and move them into position.
    It was a strange fight!

  11. Kid Blast 07:08am, 04/13/2015

    The second Lee knockdown was not from a punch and even the Ref later admitted it and apologized to Lee. Therefore, a draw is just about perfect and the “experts” in press row are way off base—as usual.

  12. ken steel 01:08am, 04/13/2015

    Quillin, as a runner a la Mayweather, and Lee as a one armed chess player would both be victims to anyone that could box and think simultaneously. Both of their coaches (if the aforementioned boxers had the mental capacity to listen and comprehend) should get back to the real elementary stuff. Both fights were great examples of why viewing patrons are absent and boxing has fallen even further into the doldrums. I have enjoyed some fantastic fights over my lifetime and would like to sincerely thank real fighters like Hearns, Hagler, Norton and many many others. Its time that everyone involved in the sport started to play honest: starting with accurate statistics and a single unified body to see who actually is the true champion in each weight class. Bring it on!

  13. Kid Blast 06:08pm, 04/12/2015

    I saw two really fine fights and both could have been a draw. I agreed with Feldman’s card in the first fight and the fact that press row raised their collective eye brows only made Feldman’s card more accurate. Lee is dangerous to the last second of the last round.

    A draw would have been fine in the second fight as well which was really two fights in one. Once Lamont began to impose his will on Garcia, he literal beat the crap out of him and Garcia’s face affirmed that. Both guys are highly skilled and once the gap was closed, it became a spine tingler as the crowd’s reaction attested to. Garcia’s list of opponents—sans Rod—is very impressive and it’s beginning to catch up with him because they are beginning to catch up with him.

    A great card all in all. And we should be grateful it was on NBC and stop harping.

  14. Eric 11:59am, 04/12/2015

    Best ex-fighter commentators IMO were in order:
    1. Jerry Quarry
    2. Ken Norton
    3. Bobby Czyz

  15. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 10:47am, 04/12/2015

    Who wants to bet that next time out Danny will be in soft because he “earned” it last night and Lee’s next one will be survival of the fittest as always.

  16. nicolas 10:29am, 04/12/2015

    Mr. Berlin, had made some what I thought were bold predictions,and he almost was right. These were two very close fights. I though Lee and Peterson both should have gotten the decisions though I thought Lee won 113-112 and Peterson 115-113. Quillin from the 6th to the 11th just seemed confused, and I had to give it to Lee on very close rounds. I agree with Mr George that Leonard was pretty poor in his commentating. Also when the unofficial scoring was being done, no comment by Leonard or the other announcer as they were gushing about Peterson’s boxing. Roy Jones is far better than Leonard, and I remember very well how Jones was suggesting that Lederman might not be correct about his scores for Algieri-Provodnikov.

  17. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 10:00am, 04/12/2015

    Hunter had a good fight plan but like so many others in boxing his math is piss poor. If you cede the first half of the fight to the other guy, are you shooting for a Draw or are you that damned sure that your guy is going to come up with a stoppage in the later rounds. I say Feldman got it right….way too automatic 10-8 rounds on questionable knockdowns.How many times have you heard the commentators when reviewing the instant replay say “he did hit him on the shoulder”. Looking at the Dempsey/Firpo footage it really looked that the “Bull of the Pampas” push/punched Dempsey out of the ring.

  18. Clarence George 09:14am, 04/12/2015

    Eric:  You’re right about the hippo, the most dangerous animal in Africa.  But it’s not generally considered game, and is therefore not one of the Big Five.  As for the giraffe…yeah, any animal is potentially dangerous, but it’s certainly not known for its fierceness.  I think it’s a very strange choice for a boxer.

  19. Ezra 08:52am, 04/12/2015

    Great write up

  20. Koolz 06:50am, 04/12/2015

    sounds like Garcia told Peterson after the fight that he lost the fight.

    Who the Hell wears Yellow SOCKS!  Giraffe shorts?  I can’t stand this guy!!!
    and the crowd was booing after they announced who won on the score cards.

    Garcia is becoming nothing.  he needs to do some rematches!

  21. Eric 06:43am, 04/12/2015

    Clarence…I beg to differ on the giraffe. While the long necked, weird looking, “placid” creature doesn’t appear to be much of a threat, those powerful hind legs have the power to nearly decapitate a hapless predator. Have seen videos where an adult giraffe killed a full grown male lion that was foolish enough to try it. And don’t forget the hippo in that BIG 5.

  22. Clarence George 06:08am, 04/12/2015

    I think it’s precisely because boxing has so few fans, and most of them are casual, that the sanctioning bodies and other powers-that-be can get away with the crap they do.

    As for Garcia:  I used to be more impressed, but he may indeed be a paper giraffe.

  23. The Tache 05:59am, 04/12/2015

    I have never understood the fuss about Garcia either, and nowadays he doesn’t even defend his title. I just don’t get why this fight was at 143, or at least, I don’t get why it was allowed to be by the sanctioning body. Boxing just isn’t popular enough anymore to continue treating its fans like idiots.

  24. Clarence George 05:52am, 04/12/2015

    To preempt carping, permit me to clarify:  Some herbivores have a fearsome appearance and reputation, and are formidable.  The rhino and Cape buffalo come most immediately to mind.  And, indeed, they are among the Big Five.  But the normally placid giraffe most definitely is not.

  25. Koolz 05:25am, 04/12/2015

    I missed the Garcia Peterson fight because I had to watch another fight.

    Garcia always wins even when he loses.  In fact I can only remember the Khan fight being the only fight he actually won.  He threw punch with his eyes closed and some how it hit Khan exactly where you can get Knocked out.

    After that every fight has been a joke, just like him.  Politics has to be involved for Garcia to be undefeated in his career so far.

     

  26. Koolz 05:13am, 04/12/2015

    Both Quillin and Lee need to stay away from GGG they would be Destroyed! 

    Lee would be a first round knock out.  Quillin would go in three rounds.

  27. Clarence George 04:37am, 04/12/2015

    The way I saw it, Quillin beat Lee, while Garcia-Peterson was a draw.  By the way, it was Quillin who wore leopard trunks.  Garcia opted for giraffe, which I found ludicrous.  An herbivore?  Really?

    A word on the commentators:  They didn’t do a very good job, and this was particularly true of Sugar Ray Leonard, whose idea of observation and analysis was to cover Quillin in drool.

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