New York: A Breeding Ground for New Stars

By Tom Donelson
Updated: February 21, 2007

Andre BertoIOWA CITY, Ia. — Last Saturday night, it was young fighters’ night out.Andre Berto began the show by fighting Norberto Bravo, the Contender graduate from the second season.

The last time we saw Bravo, he was getting knocked out by Cornelius Bundrage in the seventh round of the Contender’s second season final night.

Bravo viewed this as another chance at some big money but the reality was shown very quickly. Berto sent Bravo down three times.

Berto’s jab made constant contact with Bravo’s face for the first minute and that set up the first left hook that sent Bravo sprawling on the ground.From there it was a matter of time before the fight ended.

>Bravo could not match Berto’s speed or his power.

Berto’s dramatic beginning sent a buzz through the audience. He has power in both hands and accurate quick hands that end matches quickly and if power translates when he faces tougher competition; Berto could become a star.

The second bout brought two junior Middleweights looking for redemption.Ishe Smith became the villain in the first Contender season and now he was trying to restart his career, riding a two fight win streak since his Contender days.<

Sechew Powell lost his last fight with Kassim Ouma and now he was using Smith as a possible stepping stone to another title shot.

While Berto produced fireworks in one round, Powell and Smith played a cat and mouse game throughout their ten round affair.

Powell used his jab and occasional straight left from his southpaw position to build up points where as Smith tried to counterpunch and force Powell to the rope where he landed his best shots- his right.

This pattern repeated itself throughout the fight as Powell threw and landed more punches but Smith right hand often made the rounds close.

While the judges gave Powell unanimous decision, the fight was closer than the scorecard showed.The problem with both fighters is that neither wanted to take chances and preferred the safety route.

This benefited Powell, whose jab was more effective than Smith.Smith best punch was his right, which he nailed Powell to both the body and head but throughout this fight, he was nothing more than a one handed fighter.

His left was hardly effective and his lack of activity proved his undoing. As one HBO announcer noted, there were time that Smith acted more like a sparring partner preparing Powell for his next fight as oppose to a fighter who had a career to reclaim.

Sechew Powell did not look impressive in his bout and as Max Kellerman noted, Powell showed more passion after the fight when hearing the decision than he did during the fight.

Powell has talent but in this fight, he did not show all those skills.This was not a fight that would demand a Powell main event.Interesting enough, this is the second time that Powell played second banana to Paul Malignaggi.

Nearly three years, Powell nearly escaped with a decision over Grady Brewer in a ShoBox event that saw Paul Malignaggi as the main event.

In the final tenth round, Malignaggi showed one feature that a champion fighter needs, a chin. Cherry fighting in a desperation mood nailed Malignaggi with two accurate left hook but the “Magic Man” took them without blinking.

Cherry is not the hardest puncher but then Malignaggi took a beating from Cotto, so there is no questioning his courage in the ring.

The problem with Malignaggi is his lack of power. Against Cherry, he spent the first nine rounds jabbing and moving with ease while getting very little in return.<

As Lennox Lewis observed, it was hard for Cherry to strike at Malignaggi because of Malignaggi’s speed.

The talk during the match and after was Malignaggi-Hatton match. The only one who seemed to understand that he is not ready for Hatton was Malignaggi himself.(The latest news has Malignaggi fighting Arturo Gatti.)

Malignaggi has yet to show that he has the power to hold off a tough slugging fighter who can keep coming forward. The Malignaggi who fought Cherry would be over matched against Hatton, who could simply walk through Malignaggi punches.

Lack of power hurt Malignaggi against Cotto.Malignaggi has the speed and great boxing skills but the real question is whether he has enough power to compete with the elite fighters of the division or his superior boxing skills can overcome his lack of power.

Malignaggi is not quite a Billy Conn.

After Saturday night, we know the following. Berto is a legitimate prospect and the time has come for him to take the next step against tougher opponents.

As for Malignaggi and Powell, both fighters have the skills but they are not quite championship fighters. They are close but close is not the same as being a champion.