Boxing Museum opens in El Paso, Texas. The 85-year-old boxing trainer and cutman Rafael Garcia has donated most of his historic boxing artifacts from over 40 World Champions that he has worked with throughout his career.
CS: How did you get into boxing management?
I got started in boxing management by way of the film industry. I know, say what? I went on location in New Orleans to visit my then boyfriend, Rick Avery, who is the stunt double for Robert DeNiro. The movie was GRUDGE MATCH. Hanging out in the boxing gym with Rick, and one of my favorite people, Todd Smith aka LL Cool J, I was subjected to the 'arena' for quite some time.
DKA: Then Rick, who I manage in the film industry, was hired as stunt coordinator and 2nd unit director on Hands of Stone, the Roberto Duran story. Off we went to Panama for 4 1/2 months. Well, that was an indoctrination into the WORLD OF BOXING! Rick worked out his fighters everyday, and worked out with them! So, there I was in the mecca where 26 world champions were forged from a hot house gym by the name of Los Rockeros, including the great DURAN himself. After the first week of training, Rick came home and said," Honey, you have got to see this kid. I've never seen anything like him before. After 2 and a half hours we're all dying and he's just getting warmed up!. He's Panamanian. He's playing the part of Davey Moore and he's a real boxer". Now, of course, for my (now) fiancee, Rick to make a statement like that about someone, I had to check him out. After all, Rick is a living legend himself, truly, so this guy had to be very impressive. The next day I went to rehearsal/training and lo and behold, there stood this Adonis by the name of Israel Duffus. Over the next 4 months I figured out a way to talent manage him by agreeing to be his boxing manager! We wrapped in mid December of 2013, and on January 17th I brought Israel to Los Angeles to live with us. Then I just figured it out … The boxing business that is. (laughs)
CS: Were you a fan prior? If so, of who?
DKA: I have been a fan of all sports my entire life .. Growing up our heros were Cassius Clay and Joe Frazier. My oldest brother forced me to like boxing. He was an avid boxing fan and loved to box. He is 6 years older than me and as fast as lightning. His favorite way to 'babysit' was to get on his knees with couch throw pills for gloves and knock the snot out of me and my other brother. Yeah, and people wonder why I became a stuntwoman LOL.
CS: Who are your current prospects/contenders?DKA: Currently I have two boxers in my 'family' … I don't like the term stable. I know it works for men but it doesn't portray the level of respect I feel these superior athletes deserve. Just a pet piece of mine, but I digress… Chris Van Heerden "The HEAT" and Israel "Bumaye" Duffus. I am in discussions with other gentlemen right now.
Thomas McKay’s Southern-American accent radiates through cracks of The Wolves Den. Upon entry, the smell of stale sweat and sounds of human grunts is intoxicating, like an atavistic mirage. In the middle of all of this, there is this little Merlin, this little man. He stands in a boxing ring, a pioneer of pugilism, commanding fighters to duck, move and punch. A bell rings. The boxers no longer duck, move or punch. McKay leans on the boxing ropes ever-moving, a side effect of Parkinson’s disease; always slurping, a side effect of Osteonecrosis of the Jaw; and breathing heavy, a side effect of prostate cancer.
“I am finally beginning to feel old,” said McKay, between breaths, “but I have not lost any of my enthusiasm or passion for boxing.”
This much is evident, as McKay, at 79 years old, is currently the assistant boxing coach at The Wolves Den, senior citizen boxing instructor at El Paso Jiu Jitsu, sportswriter for Convictedartist.com, and Executive Director of the Board for the 2014 El Paso Boxing/Martial Arts Hall of Fame banquet. McKay, admittedly, finds no reason to retire, because, as he said: “employment is a privilege.”
McKay was born Oct. 2, 1934 in Balmorhea, Texas, at a dead end – literally and figuratively. His parents, Raymond and Ermine owned a small ranch and “lost everything” during the Great Depression. After McKay’s father joined the Army, the financial burden of raising five children became too much for Ermine. As a result, she sent Thomas, his brother and sister to St. Margaret’s Orphanage Home during the years 1942 to 1943.
“We would sneak out of our room at night, run through the home, lie in the field and stare up at the stars,” said McKay. “It was a time, for us, when our family didn’t seem too far away.”
Unfortunately, during the family’s separation, Raymond and Ermine got divorced. In response, McKay’s mother, as well as two older siblings began to work for different companies. In 1945, when the family was reunited, Thomas followed suit by finding work as a newspaper boy, earning $1.50 a week.
A lot of boxing action took place last weekend, and all major networks except Fox and ESPN were involved, strangely enough. Some of the same problems persist within our sport. Lousy judging (Cunningham-Glazkov), early stoppages (Jerry Odom, Pascal, J. Lopez). All are big issues, but in the overall, the main events were delivering at the highest level. Given what we saw on the undercards, they really needed to.
Ok, so Chilemba is better than his record, but how much can you learn when your opponent does not really even bother to show up? Sure, his corner was making it worse by chastising him, instead of giving concrete strategy, but Lepikhin was just not there. I do not agree with Harold Lederman that Glazkov-Cunningham was such a bad fight, but the decision was pretty bad. However, what do you expect? Glazkov has a history of winning bad decisions (Rossy, Malik Scott draw), and Cunningham has a history of losing them (Wlodarczyk, Adamek, Hernandez). I could have seen this one coming a mile away. He needs to steer clear of Main Events. Kathy Duva has now screwed him more than European promoters have, and at least they pay really well.
Pascal and Kovalev, made it all better with their brawl. Pascal did not really have technical answers for Kovalev, but his heart, and better than average chin was a test in and of itself. When Pascal came back from being out on his feet to win the next two rounds, I wondered if we had an upset brewing, but Kovalev showed that his biggest asset is his demeanor and intelligence, as he calmed down, and continued to time Jean. I do not question the stoppage in the overall, but the timing was bizarre. When Pascal staggered back, without being hit... that was the time. Or maybe, let him go down one more time, which he was clearly about to, and you would not be questioned... but any time a fighter is protesting a stoppage, his ability to do so is pretty much proof that you made a mistake.
Andre Berto looked excellent in stopping Josesito Lopez, simply because he finally won an entertaining fight. 3 times, Berto has been in a fight of the year candidate, and they represent his 3 losses. He also got a win over a fighter in his own backyard. I'd like to see him avenge the Soto-Karass or Guerrero loss, then step into a big fight with Thurman or Maidana. I would not pick him in any of these fights, but he is a live underdog against any of them. Again, I only question the stoppage, because Lopez has had this happen to him a few times: Maidana, Canelo, now Berto. Maybe he is going to lose anyway, but he has heart, and wants to be a warrior. Referees, however, keep denying him this opportunity.
While watching the recent NBC card, it dawned on me how well conditioned these athletes are today. True, they only have to go 12 rounds, compared to athletes of the past.. but back then, one could spend the entire round recovering and clinching. Nowadays, that lack of action is broken up immediately. However, sometimes fighters do not have a style that matches their size... or expectations.
Take Jim Jeffries or Tyson Fury's inside game for example... given their immense reaches, that has to be a surprise to their opponents. Tiny Ivan Calderon and Willie Pep's incredible outside boxing skills are just as impressive, if not moreso. However, there is another stereotype that rarely gets mentioned... that is the big man's penchant for getting tired late. Derrick Jefferson, John Tate, Buster Mathis, all lost winnable big fights because they ran out of gas. This is not always the case, however. Here are a few big men, who were not only in it for the long haul, they were usually the fresher at the end.
Jess Willard - This was a man who did not even turn to boxing until he was 27, yet learned enough in only a few years to dethrone the great Jack Johnson. His victory came in 100 degree heat in Cuba, against a man known for his stamina. Johnson had not trained, however, and spent most of his energy outboxing Willard. Most fights in those days were scheduled for 20-25 rounds. If that had been the case, Johnson wins a decision, but they fought a 26th round, and Johnson was the one losing energy, when Willard caught him with a big right hand and dropped him. Willard was the size of Klitschko, but back then, that was a huge giant of a man. For him to have greater stamina than his opponent took a lot of training. It was pretty much his only reason for victory in that case. The big man also managed to go 2 more rounds after an absolute assault from Jack Dempsey, before retiring on his stool due to injuries. If nothing else, he had a great heart, both in literal, and figurative terms. He even lived until 86, combating another stereotype about giants and health.
Nicolai Valuev - Valuev was not the typical giant in many ways. First, he was a sufferer of acromegaly. His gigantism was the result of a genetic quirk, not heredity. Just ask Andre the Giant how many health problems that usually results in. However, Valuev not only was a healthy 7-footer, he was not even a huge puncher. He routinely went 12 rounds at the higher levels, and was rarely winded afterwards. He was by no means a hall of famer, and won his share of dubious decisions (as does any Sauerland fighter), but he gets to call himself a former world title holder, who was never stopped. Pretty impressive.
Paul Williams - The heavyweights are not the only people who can be "giants" as it is all relative.
There is a new fight promotion that is about to reel in the interests of the entire Southwest boxing community. It is known now as WERA PROMOTIONS and it is launching its first World Title fight on April 18, 2015. The El Paso, Texas based boxing promotion promises to bring in top notch fights with regard to best quality and talent. The main event will include El Paso’s Jennifer Han as she takes on IBF Champion Helen Joseph for her IBF featherweight title. The co-main event will feature Hector Camacho Jr. vs. Arturo Mijares. This promotion will utilize the local talents of El Paso, Texas and introduce many of them to the boxing community.
Maria Escalante told ConvictedArtist.com in a recent interview that she now has a solid team behind her and together they will lead this promotion and take the initiative to make it great. Escalante knows what is expected of a boxing promoter, and considers any mistakes a learning experience. She has had a rough past but can now use her knowledge to charge forward in creating this new promotion. If there is one thing you should take away from this article, it is that she believes that if a promotion isn't doing it for the fighters themselves then it is no promotion at all. She doesn't believe anything other than hard work will get her and her team ahead.
Another awesome factor in this promotion is that it will bring more fights to El Paso Texas, keeping boxing alive and exciting in El Paso for the fight fans. Imagine watching your favorite boxing matches on TV and then quenching your thirst for action by watching a live Wera Promotions fight card. Also, fight fans can have a say in what is going on because this promotion encourages the community to be active and involved with its projects. Maria and her team are thinking outside the box by bringing you and those around you a new type of boxing experience that will surely be enjoyed.
She has seen what other everyday promotions are all about and is trying to be unique and truly special. She is also willing to give advice to some of the other promotions that are starting out in the local area. Escalante is genuinely trying to make boxing the most enjoyable experience possible. So do check out WERA PROMOTIONS by Maria Escalante, Paul E. Garcia and Robert Tapia. Here is the recent interview with Maria Escalante and her new promotion.
CA: What do you and your team plan to do differently with Wera Promotions?
Maria Escalante: Our plans are different in a way. I am guessing every promoter has the same goals. It is just how you can deliver them. We are planning on being consistent and bringing in good quality fights here to El Paso. There is a lot of local talent here. I have done six shows here in the past. I understand promoting really well. Right now I have a really great team behind me and we want to do something different. I know that me being a female promoter is going to raise a lot of questions but I am ready. I am ready to take the challenge and do the shows as a female promoter.
This weekend had two occurrences of one of the utmost rarities in boxing. The hometown challenger lost. Now, that in and of itself is not too rare, but let me set the stage. Paul Butler, who had won a belt last year at bantamweight, immediately relinquished it to drop down to his more natural weight at super flyweight. One would think he had done so, in order to have an easier time of it. It turns out, Stuey Hall was merely a paper champion at 118lbs, and that win was nothing to write home about. Randy Caballero may disagree, as he had to work to clearly beat Hall, but either Zolani Tete is a beast, or that was in fact the case.
Butler got his title shot in the same organization, in his hometown, last Saturday, and could not come close to winning. Tete completely dominated, before stopping Butler in only 8 rounds. The bizarre part was that Butler was heavily favored, yet had no answers for what amounted to a bigger leap up in class than he was expecting. Perhaps he should have stayed at 118lbs, as dropping down rarely results in success. At least at bantam, he could have lost his title to an American (Caballero), which may have paid him a bit better. At least he gets to share his shame with another fighter, for whom even more was riding on his IBF title shot.
Yes, another lighter weight IBF titlist kept his crown against an overhyped challenger. Ruenrong domianted 2x gold medalist Zou Shiming in front of Macao's faithful, cheering for their Chinese hero. It did not help. And contrary to popular belief, Shiming's lack of power did not undo him here. It was simply his lack of ability and experience. Remember, Guillermo Rigondeaux and Vasyl Lomachenko were 2x gold medalists because of their extraordinary talent, and natural amateur style. Shiming succeeded with the help of corrupt judging, as well as a style specifically designed to score points in the now-defunct Olympic scoring system. That same system cheated Raushee Warren in the same 3 Olympics, yet I think few sane people would pick Shiming to defeat the American as a pro.
Trying to win a title in your 7th fight is tough. It is tougher when you are not a puncher. It is tougher still when your trainer splits his time between you and several other top fighters. It is even harder when you are already rich after only a few fights. Shiming could walk away now, and still hold a place in boxing history. 2x gold medalist, and the man who opened China for boxing. He'll probably stick around until a belt can be deliverd to him more easily, but he is this generation's Paul Gonzales, to be sure. If it seems like I am enjoying these men's downfall, don't misread it. I am actually enjoying the lesson learned by promoters for both events.
Nonito Donaire is dropping down in weight... but why? He's one of boxing's good guys, and achieved so much already. Nonito is a 5 division champion (who was unified in 3 of those divisions). This would be the perfect time for him to get out of the game. He has more to offer his young family, and young fighters. He is a first ballot hall of famer, former fighter of the year, who has scored highlight-reel KOs over fellow hall of famers. His loss to Walters is forgivable, if the young Jamaican is half as good as we think he is, but Donaire is still left with nothing more to prove.
Speaking of proving one-self... Deontay Wilder's win over Stiverne was probably the perfect scenario for him. He'll never fully answer every question with only one fight. However, he went all 12, showed his boxing skills, and even got to show good defense and a fairly solid chin. The latter issue will make him an even bigger favorite over Fury than he would have been, but now he's be a big favorite over everyone in the division except Klitschko. Even talented men like Pulev, Thompson, Haye, and Povetkin would not be favored over the young American. Regardless, he has already out-achieved every recent US challenger at heavyweight since Hasim Rahman.
Speaking of Klitschko, he is almost nearing the point where Donaire has reached. The difference is that Nonito had a loss as a good reason to walk away. Klitschko is going to have to choose from the point of view of having nothing left to prove. Pretty much everyone is in agreement that Jennings and Wilder/Fury winner are the only fights left of any interest to him. However, Wilder and Fury will likely pose for another year before fighting each other. They will also try and allow big Wlad to age a bit more. I hope he does not take the bait. I'd love to see it, but it's only going to happen if Wlad waits around for useless mandatories, and falls for the aging bait. Instead, he should beat Jennings, and announce he will have one more fight... and then only fight Wilder if he beats Fury. That will start the ball rolling. Champs have to act like champs, and manage their contenders in a way.
Speaking of 'contenders', I am very glad that TV show is gone. I am very much looking forward to the network TV re-emergence of boxing. Late, great comedian Greg Giraldo once quipped about the show "Contender", 'we've already got a TV show to tell us who's the best boxer... it's called "Boxing"'. Glad to see network TV is dropping the fake-ness that is "reality" from the sport. Uninformed sportswriters have been writing of the death of boxing for years, and the latest reason was thought to be the MMA explosion.
Did we all get too excited about John Molina? From where I sit, he is a glorified journeyman, looking for one big shot. True, he has gotten that shot off a few times, but he was coming off two losses, one to a completely shot former champion (Humberto Soto). Should we be surprised that Broner shut him down and dominated him? Until someone teaches Molina how to jab, he will always be a lower part of the top 20 fighter.
Did Keith Thurman get the best of both worlds Saturday night? he got to drop and hurt Robert Guerrero, something no one else has done. he also got to win a wide unanimous deciision over him. Something that only Floyd has done. He also got to overcome adversity, both in the form of the headbutt hematoma (with thich he fought for an impressive 9 rounds), as well as a surging challenge from Guerrero late. He still managed to win rounds as The Ghost came on. This fight may have made his overall boxing skills look less impressive than the Zaveck and Bundu fights, but he is experiencing what Pacquiao did when he moved up in weight and caliber... just because you cna p;unch, does not mean you're going to be able to score KOs.
Did Abner Mares wait to long to become relevant again? He is already a 3-division champion, but much like Donaire and Broner, this leaves little else to do. One if forced to spen their athletic prime, either chasing even bigger men, or redoing old accomplishments. You can see the lack of Rigor on mares' face. besides, he could have easily won a Gonzalez rematch. Instead, Gonzalez is likely to lose to Russell, a man that Mares probably will not beat. At 126, there are only losses ahead of mares, especially now that Top Rank fighters are available to him. However, if he moves to 130lbs, he may get a belt, but maybe not. Salido is a bad style match-up, too. Maybe they are putting him in with light-hitters now, for a reason.
Is Raushee Warren being brought along way too slow for a man of his talent? He would give Zou Shiming a boxing lesson, and easily win belts in two divisions surrounding him. What are they waiting for? Warren was the guy Broner looked up to in Cincinnati gyms growing up, and now Broner is light years ahead of "Baby Pit" in the pros. That's got to hurt.
Did NBC have a very good balance for the inagural PBC on NBC show? Old and new as far as their cut-aways, their commentary team, and even their coverage. It was a good mix of enteratining and educating the boxing fans.
If only we knew how good we had it in the 70s and 80s. I hear this a lot. From the old timers, they may talk with longing for the 40s and 50s. The 80's is the era for which I came of age in boxing. 1985 to be exact. We took for granted that of course the best would fight each other, and of course, we would all be able to see it. Tyson fought everyone except Page and Witherspoon from his era. Hearns, Duran, Leonard, Hagler, all fought each other. However, our times are not as different as we think.
Maybe in action and a drama, there has been a drop in the 147-54 stars, but as far as the best fighting each other... Oscar fought everyone, even those who would not fight each other. Vargas, Quartey, Mosley, Trinidad, Whittaker, etc. If Mayweather and Pacquiao fight, they will however, have completed another circle. This circle that includes Mosley and Cotto will be the same as the big 4 of the 80s. It may have taken longer, and been largely void of knockouts, but it will have happened. We are just privy to more of the nonsense behind the scenes, and it makes it seem like forever to get a deal done.
As far as the 70's go, Foreman vs. Lyle was a brawl, but so was the second Arreola-Stiverne fight. Fury-Cunningham, too. And Foreman had been idle for 15 months prior to that fight. Ali may have kept his title for 3 1/2 years in the late 70's, but except for the Thrilla in Manila, most of those fights were snoozers. Close snoozers, too. Say what you want about Klitschko's dominance, but at least he usually gives us a great knockout, and wins almost every round on the way.
The prospect of network TV coming back is a big deal, but don't forget that closed circuit was another PPV-like headache that charged for big fights, and it's been around for a lot longer. Most of the big fights were not on network TV, and that trend started a heck of a lot sooner than the mid 90s when network TV abandoned boxing altogether. If you want to blame someone, blame all the death and loss of stars in 1982, combined with cable TV raising their game. NBC could not do it better than ESPN or HBO, and they knew it.
Big single shot KO artists like Julian Jackson, Earnie Shavers, and Diego Corrales have that great eraser that makes every fight interesting. Even when way behind, they are always in every fight. However, they are not the only ones who score these miracle KOs. In fact, when they do it, it is not really a miracle. When more average punchers like McCallum and Sergio Martinez score highlight reel KOs over men like Donald Curry and Paul Williams, respectively, it is more impressive. Not only because of the caliber of opponent who was felled, but because it seemed so unlikely. here are a handful of fights where a supposed light hitter came up with a big (usually one-punch) KO.
Bryant Paden over Calvin Grove
Grove was a former world champion trying to get back on track, when he took on journeyman Paden. Paden only had 4 KO's in 21 previous fights, but came up big with a huge overhand right, in front of his hometown fans in Philadelphia. Grove hit the deck hard, and could not rise. It was a peak for Paden, but televised on USA, what a peak it was. Grove would go on to right the ship, and still score some more impressive wins, but no one else stopped him the way Paden did.
Calvin Grove over Jeff Fenech
Yes, Grove appear twice on this list, because he too is a light hitting fighter, albeit at a much higher level. 3-division champion Fenech was coming off a year layoff, and his first defeat, in a rematch with Azumah Nelson. It seems that once the granite was chipped away, it revealed a more exploitable weakness. Grove took the fight to a surprised Fenech, and knocked him out with one punch in round 7 of their matchup in Australia. Fenech would make it back for one more title challenge, but once the chin went, so did his championship-winning ability.
Paul Malignaggi over Kevin Watts
This New England matchup is another where the hometown fighter was the victim. Maliganggi had won his first 3 fights by KO, then scarcely scored another as he rattled off more than a dozen straight wins.
Kell Brook vs. JoJo Dan
Dan has two close wins over Kevin Bizier in the latter's hometown. Going to the UK will not bother him. He also has two losses to Selcuk Aydin in Turkey, that every sane un-purchased judge thought he won. So, not only is he battle tested as a visitor, but he knows how to fight against hometown judging, and may very well be undefeated. The real question mark here is Brook's state of mind. He was lucky to be alive after a machete attack in Spain, so his mind may not all be on fighting. There is also no telling how well he will come back from that. Blood loss stresses organs, which could affect overall conditioning. Dan seems to never get tired in the ring. I am actually going to pick the upset here, even though I think overall that Brook is the better fighter. Dan by close MD, as timing is everything.
Andre Berto vs. Josesito Lopez
This fight isn;t one that should matter much, as even the winner is pretty much guaranteed to fail at his next opportunity. Berto is the welterweight ray mercer. he seems to be the gatekeeper to big shots, but canot quite get there himself. His losses have all come in very entertaining fights however, and Lopez makes for very entertaining fights. Hell even Victor Ortiz stayed in the game against these two. This has fight of the year written all over it, and a big money loss for the winner. the loser, is pretty much done at the higher levels, but witha greta audience wathcing, it is a perfect matchup. Berto can do more things, but he usually loses to warriors like Lopez. He won't here, though. Berto by late TKO, after a war.
Shawn Porter vs. Roberto Garcia
Garcia hasn't lost since he was dominated by an aging Antonio Margarito 5 years ago, but that should give us a measuring stick for Porter's comeback. garcia has also never been stopped, and Porter's strenght would seem not to deter the Mexican. he is coming off of two good wins over cayo and Prescott, but Porter is a different level. Porter won't try any tricks, but he is a Provodnikov type of fighter in that even if yhou beat him, you'll go through hell to do it. Garcia doesn't win when he goes through hell. I think we'll see a repeat of the Margarito fight, but with a more merciful corner. Porter by late corner retirement, TKO.
Tommy Oosthuizen vs. Ryno Liebenberg
This fight is making the list, not just because two top 15 light heavyweights are getting it on, but because it is a case of a country two best contenders facing each other.
Jean Pascal vs. Sergey Kovalev
This fight is intriguing not just because it is between two of the top 3 light heavyweights in the world, or even because of the matchup itself. Those questions are numerous, however. Can Kovalev handle a fighter with Pascal's offensive boxing skills? Can Pascal's iron chin remain un-crunched by Kovalev's power? how much did either man learn from the Hopkins fights? This is also special but because of what it sets up. If Pascal wins, he is the man at 175lbs, and living in the same town as the champ there. The Pascal-Stevenson matchup would be huge in Montreal, and beyond. If Kovalev wins, Stevenson's his fans will have seen the Krusher twice, and the build up for that fight will be just as big. I see a repeat of Kovalev-Hopkins, where Pascal goes into survival mode early. Kovalev by wide UD, that may be scored closer than it should be.
Keith Thurman vs. Robert Guerrero
Thurman is a brutal puncher, and Guerrero is iron chinned. However, Thurman has shown the necessary mettle to go the distance, and Guerrero's powers of adjustment are not what they once were. Add to that, Guerrero has not exactly been active since his loss to Mayweather, and was handed the perfect foil the last time out. I think we are looking at a repeat of Khan vs. Alexander. Thurman by wide UD.
Adrien Broner vs. John Molina
This looks like a risky fight for Broner, and with Molina's heart and chin, any fight is. however, style wise, he is just the squared up, flat footed brawler that Broner needs. This fight offers him a chance to prove he has overcome the style problem of Maidana, without taking on the risk of Maidana's strength. I like Molina to provide some tense moments, but Broner will gradually chop him down. Broner by UD or late TKO.
Steve Cunningham vs. Vyacheslav Glaskov
If you look at common opponents, one must still look deeper. Tomasz Adamek struggled with both, but has two close wins (one lousy) over Cunningham, with a loss to Glaskov. Style-wise, however, maybe Cunningham has the upper hand.
As we move into another year of boxing, we are not hurting for young, exciting prospects. We have so many, that some are even beginning to fight each other... a rarity in leaner years. This means we have to make room for them in our minds, rankings, and TV dates. There are a few fighters each month that pop into my mind when it comes to overstaying one's welcome. They have given us great performances, but it is time, for their own health, to clear the damned lane. Here are 3 more to add to the list:
Mike Alvarado - Yes, he can say he was distracted, or that he never got a chance to get into a rhythm. He can also say he did not train as hard as he could have. He can also say he is jinxed in his own hometown. He can even say Rios looked better than we've ever seen him. What the truth is, however, is Alvarado is finished. He has lost 4 out of his last 5, and 3 straight. He has been stopped in 3 of those 4 losses, and twice quit on his stool at home. Even if he was not 34, that would be a recipe for retirement. Add to that his impending marriage, and litigation, he has better things to focus on than increasing his risk of brain damage. Men with his style should not have long careers anyway, and Alvarado is already in his mid-thirties. He also looked as if he could not make his legs work, which is always a sign that a fighter is done.
Rocky Juarez - Juarez never got an easy gimme for a title shot. He had to face men like Marquez and Barrera, etc. for title shots. The former 2000 Olympic silver medalist has now been a pro for over 14 years, and by only fighting at the top, he has quite an unimpressive record. Castellanos is much better than his own record, too, but Juarez is no longer even a contender. He keeps winning one whenever he seems close to quitting, and that convinces him to keep coming back for more. Juarez deserves to call himself a former world champ, even if it was just some random vacant IBF 130lb-er or something, because he was so much better than many fighters who do have that distinction. It's sad that it never happened for him, but it would be sadder if something happened TO him.
Jermain Taylor - One cannot do better than being a former undisputed champion with multiple title defenses behind you. Taylor has beaten future hall of famers in Hopkins and Wright, and strong perennial contenders in Lacy, Ouma, and Spinks.
Longtime New York City boxing promoter Cedric Kushner passed away today from a heart attack at the age of 66. Kushner promoted many shows seen on HBO in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He specialized in heavyweight matches. He also did budget pay-per-view telecasts called “Heavyweight Explosion” and promoted an eight-man, one-night heavyweight tournament called “Fistful of Dollars” (won by Tony Thompson). He was the promoter of Hasim Rahman when Rahman won the heavyweight title in 2001 by knocking out Lennox Lewis in South Africa. However Rahman then abandoned Kushner and signed with rival promoter Don King. There was a lawsuit between Kushner and King, with King ultimately retaining the rights to Rahman. Kushner wasn’t actively promoting boxing in recent years.
A South Africa native who moved to the USA in the 70s, Kushner came to boxing from the music industry where he promoted the likes of Fleetwood Mac, Journey and even The Rolling Stones. In addition to Rahman, Kushner promoted the likes of Shane Mosley, Joel Casamayor, Shannon Briggs, Jameel McCline, David Tua and Michael Grant. Kushner was popular with the press core and will be fondly remembered.
By Lamon Brewster.
Here's to Rigo and Santa Cruz hopefully fighting in 2015. Sadly it will only happen if Rigo signs with Al Haymon, but given the couple of years he has had, I don't see why he would not. Rigo was left on the shelf by Top Rank, and does not have a localized fan base anywhere. Maybe the reopening of Cuba to some capitalism will give Rigo a chance to fight at home. I cannot see him selling many tickets in any other scenario.
Speaking of why not... why not Shannon Briggs against Klitschko in Brooklyn? I'd rather he face Jennings, but Jennings' people know they have better odds at the Wilder-Stiverne winner, and why would they risk their ranking for a certain beat-down, if they are not even going to make the Germany money for doing so. I never believed that fight was going to take place. Briggs has not earned his shot, but he is usually exciting (except in losses to Ibragimov and Vitali), is from Brooklyn, and it would be an excuse for HBO to cover a Klitschko fight again. Briggs should beat a ranked fighter by February to "earn" it officially, but as side-shows go, this one may not be bad.
Speaking of bad... the entrance of new promoters and TV deals could go one of two ways. Jay-Z is now signing fighters, including potentially Andre Ward. Anything that gets the 2nd best fighter on the planet back in the ring is good, but a new association is rarely celebrated by a risky fight. Ward may dip his toe in slowly, meaning we will be waiting until 2016 for Ward-GGG. If you thought Al Haymon was careful with Showtime... imagine if he has the chance to build network stars.
Speaking of waiting until 2016, don't hold your breath for a Wlad-WBC unification, or Mayweather-Pacquiao matchup happening this year, either. 2014 was disappointing enough, but I think this year will be even more so. Too many of the sports big fights are being planned as swan-songs, or career-deaths. therefore, the management of the fighters in question are not at all going to risk it, until they have milked every last penny out of them
It is looking good for 2015 in many ways. There is the most real chance of getting the big Mayweather-Pacquiao fight since 2010. We are finally getting Haymon on his own, and pitting his fighters against one another (we are still waitinng for Quillin-Jacobs, however). This is shown in Guerrero-Thurman, and Peterson-Garcia not only happening, but taking place on NBC. However, Top Rank needs the help of no one else to make 140 and 126 exciting. Gonzalez-Russell is the only interesting bout for the Haymon/GBP side at 126, but with Gradovich, Lomachencko, Walters, Donaire, and Rigo not far beneath, 126 will be exciting even if only Top Rank cards take place. This is also true of 140lbs, where Rios may have eliminated Alvarado from the mix, but the list of potential matchups makes that division quite fun indeed, even if Arum is the only promoter in the mix. However, in a perfect world, Haymon and Arum would work together. Here is my proposal for a single elimination tournament, with 3rd place qualifiers, as well.
Rios vs. Provodnikov - This fight should be made, regardless of any tournament. This is a guarnateed brawl, that would sell out any arena, if it is even minorly promoted. I don't know who would win, but who cares? The loser would still be marketable.
Vargas vs. Crawford - This is more of a tactical fight, but these are two men who are often brought into exciting fights, despite themselves, and it will either bring Vargas to big enough prominence, or give Crawford another division belt.Broner vs. Matthysse - They have been talking about this fight for a while, and neither man has too many other realistic prospects outside of it. Broner is not chomping at the bit to get in front of Maidana again, or anyone else at 147lbs, where his power was muted. Matthysse has been just vulnerable enough lately that people will not question fighting him. Should Broner prevail against Molina, this fight is a natural.
Garcia vs. Peterson - this is already happening for the 3 original belts and linear championship. The winner will likely leave the division, but may actualy be better off staying to see who is at the forefront of the other 4-some.
Wild cards = Mauricio Herrera, Chris Algieri and Manny Pacquiao. While they should never fight each other again, if Pacquiao does not get the Mayweather or Khan fights, or even if he does, and loses... this tourney would be a good fall back plan. Even if the plan is just to wait and fight the winner, much as Bute tried to do with the 169lb Super Six. For Algieri, maybe a fight with Alvarado would keep his name at the top of the 140lb list, but I personally do not think Alvarado shuld ever fight again. Algieri-Herrera actually makes a bit more sense.
Results prediction: I think Crawford would beat Vargas, and whoever wins out of Rios and Provo.
Deontay Wilder triumphed over Bermane Stiverne in order to become the first title belt holder of US birth since Shannon Briggs in 2006. However, those scenarios are entirely different. Briggs won the belt last minute against Sergei Liakhovich, at a time when the title was splintered, and there was no linear champion. Briggs looked pathetic in his first defense, and had already been largely exposed prior to him winning the belt. He also showed nothing new. He looked lazy and listless, and won with one or two big shots. He also had a history (and future) of failure at the highest levels. He also was not that removed from US fighters holding those belts, so it was not a novelty.
Deontay Wilder actually had the best possible outcome for him marketability Saturday night. He, unlike Briggs is entering the championship pantheon at a time when Wladimir Klitschko holds all other belts, and the distinction as the linear and best heavyweight champion out there. The only reason the WBC champion is given any credence is it's longer, more presitigous history, and the fact that Wlad's equal (his brother Vitali) last held that belt, and did not lose it in the ring. Therefore, Wilder must impress us more. He did that.
We already knew he could punch, however, what we did not know, was how his boxing skills would hold up against a fighter who kept coming. We did not know his ring generalship abilities. We did not know about his chin or his stamina, although both had received a bad reputation in light of lack of information. He passed all of those tests, at least this time. Wilder definitely hurt Stiverne worse than he himself was ever hurt. Much was made about Wilder's power, but few rememebred that Stiverne had stopped 21 of 24 victims, and had dropped normally durable Chris Arreola multiple times. Stiverne did connect flush a few times, and Wilder took it well. I wouldn't even call it getting his bell rung. I would call it getting woken up.
Wilder also did not get hit flush very often for many good, intelligent reasons. He used subtle head movement, so he would not get caught during combinations. He also maintained the best distance, forcing Stiverne to lunge and miss badly. He also controlled the pace and action of the fight, so that he could rest when he needed to. There were times when he looked downright Lennox Lewis-esque in there.
February is a pretty dead month, so I was able to add a January fight that were not announced by the time I wrote my january predictions. In fact, I am rather disappointed at how quiet February is this year. It is one of the deadest months in other sports, and should be when big fights happen. You can even get a full 6 week training camp in, without messing with a boxer's holiday fun. But for whatever reason there is not much ado this year for the second month. So, let's hope January stays sharp, and leads us into a hot March.
Brandon Rios vs.Mike Alvarado 3
This went from a fight between two top contenders, to a fight for a lightly regarded belt, to a fight between two shop-worn former contenders, who may have only one big one left in them. When you fight in the style of these two, your career at the top is not usually long. Rios has been exposed by Abril, Pacquiao, and to a lesser extent, by Alvarado himself. Mile High Mike has lost to Provdnikov and Marquez. While it would appear that Rios is the fresher of the two, Alvarado has already shown he knows how to beat Rios. He just needs the discipline to stick with it. A hometown loss against Provo embarrassed him into the intelligence he will need to stick to a game plan. Alvarado by UD, in both men's last hurrah as main event fighters.
Jermain Taylor vs. Sergio Mora
I was disappointed to see this fight announced, because as is the case in too many divisions, the IBF is content to mean nothing in the grand scheme. 140, 147, 154, and now 160.. the IBF strap is the least meaningful of all in these divisions. The lack of interim titles is refreshing, but it means the sanctioning body strips everyone who does not face a useless mandatory. Now that we can see Taylor is wasting his optional, there will be no excitng fights for him on the horizon. Don't get me wrong... fights with GGG or even Jacobs would likely be suicide missions. However, a Cotto match would be a money maker, a unification, and although Cotto's fans would not likely forgive him for ducking Canelo (another great option for Taylor), it gives Taylor a better (but still small) chance of being the linear 160lb king again. However, I think we only saw Jermain briefly crowned because of Soliman's injury... and Mora is more motivated. Mora by MD, in a fight that should retire them both.
Controversial Decisions in Boxing History. We ask professional fighters about the most disputed judging decisions of their careers. http://www.convictedartist.com/ talks to former World Champion Jesse James Leija about his August 5, 2000 controversial loss against "The Hispanic Causing Panic" Juan Lazcano.
Former World Champion Jesse James Leija's prediction on Mayweather vs. Pacquiao. (Leija notable fights include Mayweather's uncle Jeff Mayweather, Oscar De La Hoya, Gabriel Ruelas, Kostya Tszyu, Micky Ward, Arturo Gatti, and Hector Camacho Jr., Juan Lazcano) "I DONT KNOW, IF THEY EVER DO FIGHT THERE GOING TO HAFE TO FIGHT WITH CANES. THEY MAY BOTH BE TO OLD BY THE TIME THEY FIGHT! BUT...."
Former World Champion Jesse James Leija's prediction on Mayweather vs. Pacquiao. (Leija notable fights include Mayweather's uncle Jeff, Oscar De La Hoya, Gabriel Ruelas, Kostya Tszyu, Micky Ward, Arturo Gatti, and Hector Camacho Jr., Juan Lazcano) "I DONT KNOW, IF THEY EVER DO FIGHT THERE GOING TO HAFE TO FIGHT WITH CANES. THEY MAY BOTH BE TO OLD BY THE TIME THEY FIGHT! BUT...."
Fight of the year
There is no clear winner, but for the combination of action and drama, I have to go with the Lucas Matthysse-John Molina fight. Not only was there the unexpected (Molina appearing bigger, and even slightly more durable than Matthysse), there was also the ebb and flow (Mattyhsse being dropped with borderline legal shots, and Molina gradually being worn down). The mix was complete by what was supposed to be at stake... a fight with Broner or Garcia (which Al Haymon seems to have no plans to make happen after all).. left everyone with an improved standing. Matthysse gets a good comeback win, and still has his power, yet looks vulnerable enough that he will no longer be avoided. Molina announces his arrival at 140 with a bang. It's also one of those fights you can watch again and again, and still be entertained, even knowing what is going to happen.
Fighter of the year
Terrance Crawford. You can make a case for GGG, or Sergei Kovalev, but I like to look at where they were, vs where they started. Kovalev's win over Hopkins was very impressive, but we were just as scared of this big bomber 12 months ago when he was shellacking Ismail Sillakh. With Stevenson, pascal, Bedterbiev, this division will remian interesting. GGG has HBo digging for more middleweight contenders to feed to Golovkin, but he is only grown in hype in the last 12 months. Crawford went from an uninspiring contender to the best lightweight in the world with dominant and exciting wins over the toughest most avoided guys in his division. He did so, as a hometown hero, bring boxing back to an area where it was long neglected.
Upset of the year
Chris Algieri over Ruslan Provodnikov is probably the leader, simply because of what was at stake, in retrospect. Algieri also had tremendous adveristy to overcome.. being both dropped by a heavy shot early, and fighting one-eyed thereafter. Add to that, the immoveable force he was dealing with. Provo kept coming all 12 rounds, and was always landing the heavier punches.. however, Algieri was dictating the pace, landing more, and boxing beautifully. He rightfully earned the decision, and a multi-million dollar payday with pacquiao.. while Ruslan had to settle for a hometown bout with a completely shot Jose Luis Castillo. Crossroads are rarely this drastic.
Comeback of the year
Manny Pacquiao may have only been coming back from a lucky punch and a lousy decision, but a year of inactivity, followed by a one-sided decision against Rios was not enough to warrant a comeback. However, after picking right back up where he left off in dominating Tim Bradley and Chris Algieri, he is most definitely back. Algieri and Bradley may not be punchers, but no one else has figured out how to beat either one of them, Manny has done so over 36 rounds, maybe losing 7 of them. He even has people back to thinking he is a great match for Floyd Mayweather. Pretty impressive.
Disappointment of the year
Mike Perez is joining the list of fighters such as Nonito Donaire, Guillermo Rigondeaux, and Kubrat Pulev
So, absolutely nothing has changed as of November 22nd. Pacquiao is still an explosive offensive fighter, but a lousy finisher. Mayweather is still held to a much higher opponent standard than Pacquiao, and the cold war blame is still more on Haymon and Floyd, than on Arum. I'm not sure what would need to happen to bring Mayweather and Pacquiao together, but anyone who knows anything about the history of Haymon and Arum, it most certainly is not fans imploring. Those two could give less than half a crap what the fans want. It does not factor in at all.
If the fans want their desires heeded, however, they must make it translate into dollars. Stop watching and/or buying tickets for the Garcia vs. Salka style cards, and boycott a network if they put one on their schedule. Don't buy PPVs you are not interested in, and vigorously support the fights you do. Watch them, post about them to casual fans, and show up if they are in your town. Terrence Crawford is taking on his toughest assignments, and gets to do both in his hometown, because he has shown the willingness to do so, and the fans have responded in kind, by buying tickets.
I must say, though, that Arum and Haymon have switched places in the cold war. Arum, a few years ago, was perceived as the old-school 'fighters should shut their mouths and do as they're told' promoter, who was denying the public the biggest fight of the century, because he resented upstarts like Floyd and Oscar, who were the way of the future. Now, it has shifted around. Now, Pacquiao is allowed to fight as many soft touches and needless rematches as he wants to, and no one balks. When Floyd loses 3 rounds against a world-class fighter, he is dismissed as a cherry-picker, who is slipping fast.
Haymon, likewise, once lauded as the best manager in boxing, is now hated and reviled by fans... as the one road block to dozens of great matchups. Not only will Haymon not match his fighters with Top Rank, he won't even match them against each other very often. That leads to the lack of fights that make perfect sense, like Broner-Matthysse, Garcia-Peterson, and Quillin-Jacobs. We aren't even officially getting an announcement for Stiverne-Wilder, as Haymon jockeys for position to avoid even a slight step up for his over-protected charge.
His personal vendetta against new boxing promoter Jay Z's Roc Nation Sports, even caused one of his fighters, Peter Quillin, to vacate a belt. this was done assuming we would get to the Quillin-Jacobs fight, but again, no announcement of that. We must stop pretending we are putting up with crappy cards because they will lead to good ones.
Good chins and bad chins have a way of not being an easy concept to pin down. There are the men of iron like McCall, Tua and Hagler, for which stopping them should not even be a part of your game plan. There are the Roger Mayweathers, Junior Joneses and Amir Khans, for which where every fighter is live if they can just touch the chin. Most lie somewhere in the middle at the championship level, and some fighters may often touch the canvas, but end up harder to stop than even the iron chinned. Mike Tyson was durable, but once you broke him, you stopped him, and he was stopped in every loss. These 3 men are the opposite.
Ike Quartey - Quartey was a victim of his own hype. Choosing to fall in love with his long armed African defense, he often went dormant and lost close fights. He was also not very active, fighting his big fights with no tune-ups, 15 months apart. There was no conspiracy, as he often thought (although his loss to Vernon Forrest was pretty bad), it was just that when a fighter gets hurt in almost every round, and doesn't dominate, it's hard to win. He was dropped twice by Oscar De La Hoya and Jose Luis Lopez in fights where he otherwise boxed quite well. Both times, it cost him victory. Fernando Vargas hurt him in nearly every round, and handed Quartey his first unquestionable loss. However, as many times as he wobbled, and hit the canvas, it was impossible to put him away. He was never stopped in anyway, except momentum, which was his biggest opponent.
Felix Trinidad - For a while there, it seemed to be a regular part of a Tito Trinidad welterweight title defense. Tito would get hurt, or dropped, and it would wake him up. He was even wobbled by such also-rans like Kevin Leushing, but always got back up to win. he usually did so in style, and by KO. As easy as Trinidad was to hurt, the only man to stop him was Bernard Hopkins, and you got the feeling that was more out of hopelessness and futility than anything else. Like Michael Moorer before him, if you hurt him early, he'd get up and win, but if you chopped him down slowly, he'd stay hurt. His other two losses were also due to futility: Winky Wright and Roy Jones dominated him, but they were smart enough not to hurt him too badly.
Juan Manuel Marquez - It is hard to believe that a fighter who has battled at the championship level for nearly a decade and a half, and been dropped 10 times has never been stopped. However, that is the case for yet another future hall of famer.
I make a lot of predictions, I know. Many of them involve specific fights, but occasionally, I like to gamble on the future of an individual fighter, network, sanctioning entity, or promotional outfit. This time, I am doing so for a division, and only for a one-year span. The careers of half the pound for pound top ten list is winding down to an end, and a shift will be occurring. The big boys of boxing are also primed for a new dawn. here's where I think a few of the divisions top fighters will be in 13 more months:
Deontay Wilder - We don't now anything about him, really, and that is how Al Haymon likes it. Stiverne has the power to shake things up, but one has to believe his passive style will make him tailor-made for Wilder. And if you think a Klitschko unification is going to happen, think again. Wilder is due another mandatory against Bryant Jennings, and if he comes through that ok, Haymon will give him another soft touch or two, while waiting for Big Wlad to get older. It won't be that exciting, but he will still be unbeaten at year's end.
Alexander Povetkin - Povetkin's limitations were shown against Klitschko, but he should beat most other top heavyweights, including Chagaev, if they end up fighting. Again, he will be matched carefully, but he is awaiting the Klitschko retirement as much as anyone else, and has the pedigree to still be there when he does retire.
Bryant Jennings - He will most likely lose in 2015, but his learning curve almost demands he will be a better fighter for it, and end 2015 on a winning note. Future beltholder, I do predict.
Mike Perez - His story was inspirational, and got even moreso after he defeated Magomed Abdulsamayov, and showed genuine care in the face of the impending tragedy. However, his draw and close loss in his next two starts showed the shortcomings, and it is probably going to get worse before it gets better. He slugs against boxers, and boxes against sluggers, but does not adjust within fights quickly enough.
Bermane Stiverne - If he pulls off the upset against Wilder, he may actually fight Klitschko.
A slow, rather uninspiring year for boxing is ending with many interesting fighters on the shelf, with nothing scheduled. It ends with much speculation, and little confirmation. Other than a 3rd brawl with Alvarado-Rios, and the heavyweight title fight between Stiverne and Wilder, there isn't much to look forward to. Even Pascal v. Kovalev is in jeopardy, and I personally never think that fight will get made. Yet, the worst way to close was with bad decisions, and we saw 3 of them in one weekend. Tyson Cave was a legitimate victim, with a decision loss so awful, it is unparalleled since Tyrone Everett gave Alfredo Escalera a boxing lesson, and was robbed in his own hometown. Yet, bizarrely, Mauricio Herrera has become the poster boy for bad decision victims, and I'm not sure it's entirely accurate.
Mauricio Herrera may have been screwed twice in 2014, losing dubious decisions to both Danny Garcia and Jose Benavides, but let's tell the whole story. For those who do not watch ESPN, Shobox, etc. Herrera has been involved in a number of questionable calls, and not always on the losing side. He seems to be relishing the sympathy vote, but ask Mike Dallas and Cleotis Pendarvis about fair scoring. Both men seemed to do enough to get the decision over Herrera, yet both were denied. Many argue that Provodnikov was unlucky with the judges in his bout with Herrera.
I happen to think all 3 of Provo's losses were legit, but all 3 were his only close fights, and they all went against him. maybe he should be getting the sympathy that Herrera is getting. Herrera does have two entirely legitimate losses to Karim Mayfield and Mike Alvarado... two fighters who have gone on to fail at the higher levels. Provodnikov only has 3 close ones against Bradley, Herrera, and Algieri. he ahs been relegated to fighting has-beens back home in Russia as a reward, while Herrera was handed a belt, and is still in line for a big fight. Herrera's first loss, to Mike Anchondo was also a screw job, too... so maybe this just happens when Herrera fights.
Max Kellerman made a very good point about the bad decision usually following the money, but he also saw an example of the opposite happening, in the very next fight. It's true that the bulk of bad decisions are the result of corruption. This corruption is usually made in the interest of advancing the house fighter, or protecting the draw. The judges are either outright bought, or the implication is handed down that the promoter will never hire a judge again, if the score does not end favorably. Countless examples of judges who play ball being "rewarded" despite bad scores can be found throughout boxing history. It is nothing new, and until massive judging reform happens, it will continue.
Featherweight is heading towards being the most exciting division in boxing, and it does not appear that there are any promotional problems. Even Gary Russell, who is an Al Haymon fighter was allowed to lose to Top Rank's Lomachencko. Russell vs. Mares or Gonzalez is an natural in-house, and Gradovich, Velez, Donaire, and Vetyeka being the appetizers makes the division look all the more exciting. However, the fight for supremacy is Walters vs. Lomachencko. Hard to imagine anyone handling Loma's skills, or Walters' power. Perhaps neither, and that's why we want to see it.
Speaking of wanting to see it: Stiverne-Wilder has already accomplished its goal. It is an all North American title fight in the heavyweight division, that people are talking about. Either way, there will be a US-based heavyweight belt holder who will be recognized as the #1 contender to Klitschko. The only other is Bryant Jennings, who Klitschko may jump ahead to fight in April. Long dominated by Europeans, the heavyweight division seems to be slowly coming home. Say what you want about Klitschko's dominance, men like Arreola, Mitchell, Thompson, etc at least keep trying to win when they are overmatched. The Europeans are more than willing dance partners in dull defenses of the undisputed title. Britain has a few exciting names, but only Fury is somewhat active and even he has been a bit exposed.
Speaking of exposure, I'd like to see more of Tony Harrison. I don't just mean an opponent who can go more than a round (Brunson wasn't that guy when he was winning!). I mean building a hometown star. Detroit needs this more than any US city, and it seemed to work for a time in Cincinnati with Broner, and it's making a killing with Crawford in Omaha. Take a downtrodden Midwestern city, without much to cheer for in pro sports, and give them a hero, and racial lines fall away. These are the only scenarios in the US lately where fighters who are not Irish in the Northeast, Mexican in the Southwest, Puerto Rican in NYC, or Filipino in California are selling tickets.
Speaking of racial lines falling away, the trend towards ignoring them has slowly started, and I could not be happier. Chat rooms, Twitter feeds, and Facebook groups still erupt into ignorant racism, but for the most part, the voice of those who appreciate skill and heart first is getting louder. GGG is the biggest example, as he is attracting Mexican fans, even when facing Mexican opponents.
Regarding 2015, there are many hot divisions in boxing, and to be honest, it's mostly the ones who were hot before. There isn't much to indicate heavy cooling or warming for certain divisions. However, a subtle shift has begun, taking the focus of boxing in different directions. Here is where I place certain divisions, and predict their 12 month future in capturing our attention:
Featherweight - This goes without saying. It's not only talent rich with exciting fighters like Lomachenko, Walters, Gradovich, Donaire, Russell, Cuellar, etc but it appears to be the only division in boxing where the cold war does not exist. Gonna get really exciting, as it already has started.
Heavyweight - The shift back to the USA has started. Wilder-Stiverne, and a Klitschko Brooklyn defense, either against Jennings or Briggs. Add to that Klitschko may be in his last year or two, and it's building towards excitement.
Junior Welterweight - This was one of the hottest in boxing for 2010-2013, but last year it fell into a deep freeze. Peterson and Garcia continued to avoid each other, and all other hot fighters in the division: Matthysse, Broner, etc. And that's just the GBP side! Haymon held the division hostage, but Top Rank moved on. Provodnikov, Algieri, Vargas already call 140lbs home, now they may get Pacquiao dropping down, and Crawford coming up! Even if the Cold War holds firm, this division is going to get better, not worse.
Junior Middleweight - This was a hot division because people have been facing each other. Even men like Austin Trout and Erislandy Lara... guaranteed to be avoided in most divisions, were getting all the big fights they could handle. However, Pacquiao, Mayweather, and Canelo have all left the division. Due to mandatories, in addition, Ronnie Shields may have 3 belts locked up within 6 months. Lara is WBA champ, while the IBF and WBO each have a Charlo brother waiting to likely dethrone Andrade and Bundrage. The fights to get there are not likely to be thrilling either, so until J-Rock Williams cleans out the division, it may stall for a while.
Lightweight - This poor division cannot get a break. It must be a very hard weight to make, because people keep leaving as soon as they win a belt there. The only ones who stay are the snoozers like Vasquez and Abril. Crawford is leaving, as is Figueroa soon... and when Mickey Bey is the most exciting name you have, something is wrong.
Middleweight - 160lbs should be getting more exciting, but with Cotto holding the lineal belt hostage, and Canelo waffling, there is not much to be excited about. Jacobs and Quillin are locked in the Haymon dance of not facing each other, no matter how much sense it makes. Andy Lee and Jermain Taylor would be intriguing against each other, and both won belts to complete nice comeback stories, but either would be sacrificial lambs to Golovkin. This would be a 'cooler' division, but GGG will score 3 or 4 more KOs and that will maintain interest.
Welterweight - This is only holding steady because of the wide pool of talent. We may get the big one with Mayweather and Pacquiao, but even if we don't, Khan vs. Brook, Thurman vs. Maidana, or Porter vs anyone would be exciting. Even if we get half our options, it will be a good 147lb year.
Chris Algieri famously said, during the buildup to his fight with Manny Pacquiao, that "just because I don't have a lot of knockouts, doesn't mean I don't hit hard." It turned put, for him, that it absolutely meant that. However, there have been big punchers who did not have glittering KO records. The reasons for this are as diverse as the fighters themselves, and today, I take a look at a few:
Diosbelys Hurtado - Hurtado dropped Pernell Whittaker twice in his coming out fight, and also finished off Randall Bailey with one ody shot to become world champion, while he also dropped hall of famer Kostya Tszyu 3 times in a title fight. The problem with this big puncher was two fold: first, the style in which he used to create them. He was very awkward, especially in counterpunching, and that style does not lend itself to finishing. He also had a very weak chin, and was also dropped or KO'd in every fight I just mentioned. When Vivian Harris is finishing you in two, and Whittaker is knocking you unconscious, your chin was not made for the highest level.Manny Pacquiao - Pacquiao only had this problem when he stepped up in weight, and quality of opposition. He also had the bad luck of taking on men like Clottey and Margarito, who if nothing else, are iron-chinned. His religious conversion, and hesitancy after the Marquez loss are not helping, but Pacquiao's KO record is slipping, because his weight and quality of opposition are not. Period. These men he is fighting know how to survive, and he is often letting them, as he does not want to walk into anything.
Kendall Holt - Holt barely had 13 KOs in 25 wins when he became a world champion, yet before his crushing KO of Ricardo Torres, he had made several other man unconscious with brutal KOs. He even retained this ability as his career faltered, starching former 2-time champ Julio Diaz in 3 rounds. he even dropped Tim Bradley twice, with his numbing single shot power. The reason Kendall did not score as many KOs seems to be his style in getting them. He is a boxer, without an iron chin, and his first loss was a KO in round 1, to a journeyman fighter... you guessed it, it came when he himself had his opponent hurt. he was even down against Torres twice, before the final comeback KO shot landed.
Terry Norris - Norris, like Holt, had chin deficiencies that held up his attack. He was also a brutal puncher without a ton of KOs. However, there is an added wrinkle in Norris's game. He was very overexcited when he had an opponent hurt, and his wildness cost him dearly.
There are many reasons a successful amateur is not a successful professional. The opposite is true just as often. Johnny Nelson went 3-7 as an amatuer, and lost his first 3 pro bouts. He ended his career with over 20 straight victories and a world title. Sometimes they leave it all in the amateurs: Ramon Garbey of Cuba, John Bray of the USA, both examples of fighters whose desire was gone after such a long amateur career. Other times it is simply the rounds. Audley Harrison was one of the most brilliant 3 round fighters ever, yet could not sustain his skills for much longer than that. The one that seems the saddest, or at least most unfortunate, is when that headgear was really necessary all along. The chin is just not there. Here are 3 modern examples of fighters who just could not take the punch to make it.
The 2000 Olympic team captain did not medal in Sydney, but most USA fighters did not in the 21st century. The decision to turn him professional at heavyweight was influenced by his punching ability, and the fact that cruiserweight means less money; and back then, only was 190lbs. It looked like a good decision at first, with Bennett wiping out clubfighter after clubfighter in one round. However, he soon fell victim to one of these early KOs himself, at the hands of 3-4 Wes Taylor. It was thought to be an abberation, as he avenged the loss via 1rd KO, and went right back to pummelling fighters in less than 3 minutes. However, Bennett soon was the victim of another 1st round KO loss at the journeyman level, and all of this in his first calendar year as a pro. Bennett finally did drop down to cruiser, but in a management error was matched with punchers Richie La Montagne and Hearn Marler. Bennett had far more skill than either man, and was improving, but his chin could take him to the final bell. He also suffered scary looking KOs, where he never really had his legs under him. He saw the writing on the wall, and made the intelligent decision to stop.
Chicagoan Banks came along at a time where USA boxers were allowed to win international decisions in amateur boxing. This veteran of over 500 fights made the beat of it, winning World, Regional, and multiple National titles, and entering the Seoul 88 Olympics as a gold medal favorite. However, in the first roiund of his first round match, his achilles heel was revealed. Banks was KOd by then unheralded (but future world champion) Regilio Tuur. He still turned pro with high expectations, but was KOd in only his second fight, and eventually 3 more times... having risen to the status of contender only briefly. He attempted a comeback in 2002, but Nevada did not grant him a license.
Tillman was a fighter who likely would not have won gold if he had been forced to compete with the Soviets and Cubans in 1984, yet who knows?
Daniel Geale vs. Jerrod Fletcher
Australians are a pathetic 0-6 on our shores this year, so now two of them will meet back home. The difference is Fletcher was a "who?" when he took on Jacobs, and did nothing to distinguish himself. Geale, on the other hand, is a proven commodity outside of his showing against GGG. Geale by wide decision.
Demetrius Andrade vs. Jermell Charlo
I don't know the difference in the Charlos, and cannot tell them apart. I don't just mean in face.. I mean in style, in ranking, etc. Other than a letter, it appears as if we have two clones. I am glad this fight is taking place as it is two undefeated Americans without scintillating styles being matched for a belt. Doesn't happen often, especially in a hot division like 154. Andrade is slightly more tested, so I will have to lean that way, but nothing would surprise me here. Andrade by MD after Charlo starts too slow.
Amir Khan vs. Devon Alexander
Finally, this is happening, a year later, and no closer to Mayweather. Khan still has a very good chance of getting the Floyd fight, but the fact that he is avoiding Brook, a bigger money fight, tells you all you need to know. Khan is not the strong, speedy mauler that gives Alexander problems (Porter, Bradley, etc.). However, he is very quick, and offensively gifted. Alexander is not the puncher at 147 that he was at 140, but it is not necessary to bother Amir. Alexander has to know he doesn't stand a good chance of getting a decision, and I think that will affect his strategy negatively. Also, his confidence should be a bit shaken as well. Khan by 8-4 UD.
Timothy Bradley vs. Diego Chaves
There are many fights in December, but not too many that are competitive, or important. A lot of no-names. A lot of stay busy fights. This would not be objectionable if these men fought 40-5 times a year. However, many of them are only fighting 2 times a year. Take Danny Garcia, for example. A loss/win against Herrera, and a gimme against Rod Salka. Not a bad way to earn a million dollars, but pretty pathetic to put on a resume. Al Haymon has single-handedly frozen boxing, and 2014 was quite a forgettable year. Here's how it is mercifully ending
Thomas Dulorme vs. Hank Lundy
Who would have thought last year that Dulorme would be a hot prospect again and Abregu would be nursing after a KO loss. When Abregu scored the KO win, it looked as if Dulorme was all hype, but he learned, refocused, and outpointed a clueless Karim Mayfield, and is back in the mix. Lundy is one of the few trash talkers in boxing who realty will fight anyone anytime, and he is also one of the few boxer-punchers, who is usually in very exciting fights. This is a tough one to call, but I like Dulorme's ability to frustrate slick boxers. Lundy's chin is also not the greatest, though his heart is. Dulorme by UD.
David Lemieux vs. Gabriel Rosado
Not sure what on earth makes this a main event. Lemieux is a fringe contender, and I don't think Rosado has ever won a fight at middleweight. The winner of this fight does not even really deserve any new consideration in a talent rich division. Maybe they are trying to set up an opponent for Korobov-Lee winner, or create more avoidance for Quillin and Jacobs, but either way it's irrelevant. This fight does on its own stand to provide some action. Rosado has the durability and tenacity that gave Lemieux problems with Rubio, so if he hes not learned, he is in trouble. Something tells me he has, though, an that Rosado is on the tail end of his career. Lemieux by late TKO.
Yoan Pablo Hernandez vs. Ola Afolabi
Hernandez and Afolabi barely fight, even in the cruiserweight rich stable of Sauerland where they both reside.
There are many definitions of a great rivalry. Sometimes the most intense part of it takes place outside the ring. That would have been the case in Ali-Frazier, had not the in-ring drama been unmatchable. In my own definition, I need there to have been at least 3 fights, and at least one win by each combatant. the lightweight division actually has less of these than one might think. Given the fact that only 5 and 7 pounds separate the division from the others around it, it has often been transitional, especially in modern times. Yet, I take from fairly modern eras for two of my three entries. Also, there is no clear winner, which makes this division even more intriguing. Very few men have dominated it for a very long time. Ike Williams, Roberto Duran.. and even they were not untouchable.
Barney Ross vs. Jimmy McLarnin
The first great trilogy in which cultural differences were really seen at the ticket gates. Ross, a Jewish fighter and McLarnin, of Irish descent packed in the Long Island City Madison Square Garden bowl on 3 occasions. Racial differences had sold tickets before, but two white men from the same country might as well have been from different planets, as far as the fans were concerned. Add to that their differing styles. Bruising, brawling, and a bit past his prime, McLarnin actually had no business beating intelligent Ross, but his heart said otherwise. First Ross wrested the title from McLarnin, before McLarnin got the title away in a close rematch. By the time McLarnin had settled the score at 2 fights to 1, millions of dollars had been spent and made. The lightweights were now a real division indeed.
Greg Haugen vs. Vinny Pazienza
The two biggest trash-talkers in the game, and they were fighting each other? Oh, this was too good to be true. In fact, we didn't even know their personalities, until they truly came out against each other. Haugen went unafraid into Pazienza's home territory, and fought Paz on even terms. The decision went Paz's way, leaving Haugen and many others crying robbery. The rematch was a natural, and Haugen left no doubt, winning an easier UD. In the first two fights, both fought at 135lbs, Paz had slugged with Haugen. In the 3rd and final meeting, at 140, he had finally gotten over his Mancini complex, and got on his toes. Although it was closer than the scorecards indicated, and was not the brawl we'd come to expect, the clear win for Pazienza evened the score, and it gave them both something to gloat and complain about for decades.
Terrance Crawford vs. Ray Beltran
Beltran is tough, durable, and hungry. He also has a claim to the lineal WBO title, as he clearly beat Burns before Crawford did. However, he is getting his title shot against someone I truly believe to be special. Not Mayweather special, but enough to think that this is only the beginning of his success. Beltran will press, and maybe even catch "Bud" a few times, but its still the same result: Crawford by wide UD.
Wladimir Klitschko vs,. Kubrat Pulev
We have seen this script too many times to expect anything different. Yes, Pulev has a great jab, and boxing ability. Yes, Klitschko has been spinning this as if its competitive. However, that is a ticket selling ploy. Pulev has an impressive win over Tony Thompson, but style-wise, he is not what bothers Wladimir. What bothers the champ is numbing power and durability. Pulev is simply not ready. Klitschko by mid rounds KO.
Luis Abregu vs. Sadam Ali
It is not uncommon for a slowly moved Olympian to suddenly capture our attention, but Ali has a unique fan base culturally, has been a promoter as well as a fighter, but this represents a huge step up. Too big to pick him. Abregu showed against Bradley and Dulorme that he can be ordinary.. but his pressure is relentless. Abregu by decision or late TKO.
Felix Sturm vs. Robert Stieglitz
Who cares? This is a battle of two people we just wish would go away, and quit clogging up the works at 160-168. Protected German fighters who tend to lose when they step up. Of that category, however, these are two of the most accomplished. At the very least, they keep reinventing themselves. Sturm by close, boring UD.
To go a bit more in-depth about this fight, it should be said that it is one of the best 50/50 fights this year. It may not be super exciting, but at this point, Hopkins is exciting because of what he is accomplishing, not because of the methods he is using to do so. Much like Mayweather, the drama is in the ability, not the action. Style-wise, this should be a slam dunk for Bernard. The heavy handed, forward moving puncher has always been putty in his hands: Pavlik, Trinidad, Shumenov, etc.
Fast fighters like Dawson, Pascal, and Calzaghe give Hopkins problems, and except for Dawson, Hopkins usually manages to stay competitive with even them. However, the x-factor here is a big one. Kovalev is not just a puncher, he is a deadly puncher. He is not just a deadly puncher... he making inhuman things happen. Much like GGG, Kovalev is knocking out otherwise durable fighters, and he is doing so with jabs, and awkward punches that catch you at bizarre angles.
He is also doing so with a much more measured and intelligent attack than it seems at first glance. His stoppage wins over the better offensive fighters he fought like Cleverly, White, and Sillakh were no more or less brutal than the defensive-minded boxers he KO'd, such as Campillo, Caparello, and Agnew. Hopkins, likewise is not so invincible. He was dropped twice by Pascal, and twice by Segundo Mercado. These fights represent his only two draws, and 2 of his 3 trips outside the country, so take what you want from that.
This fight, however, is not being fought out of Hopkins comfort zone. This is a style each man has beaten before, and beaten easily. However, neither man, especially Kovalev, has ever faced anyone who does it this well. That's where the intrigue comes from, as well as the questions. How will Hopkins react when he tastes that freakish power? What if he isn't bothered? How will Kovalev react to that? What happens if/when the fight gets into deep water? Will Kovalev freeze and follow Hopkins around, getting out-boxed. Will each man do just enough, so as to not anger the other, once the talent of each one shows through?
Chris Algieri vs. Manny Pacquiao
The internet has been abuzz with so much new information since this fight was announced. Top Rank and Golden Boy patching things up. HBO bringing back Oscar's fighters. Al Haymon becoming boxing's biggest enemy for competitive fights. Mayweather steadfastly refusing to face Pacquiao, unless he leaves Arum. Pacquiao refusing to do so. Does this matter come fight time? No, Pacquiao is always focused in the ring. Algieri, however, does matter. Unless there is still a big gap in talent, I see a style nightmare for Manny. Algieri is tall, smart, quick, brave, and determined. Pacquiao's left may finish off the eye that Provodnikov started, but barring that, I am picking the upset. Algieri by close MD.
Bernard Hopkins vs. Sergei Kovalev
This is a battle between two freaks of nature, for entirely different reasons. Kovalev's power is scary, and his delivery method is even unique. The man's jab has finished off opponents. Other than Sonny Liston, I can't think of too many others who did that. Hopkins' refusal to age is what makes him an "Alien". Eventually, he is going to be too old, and many are picking this fight as the night. However, this has never been the style to bother Hopkins. Trinidad, Pavlik, Tarver... all brutal punchers, all couldn't hurt or win a round against B-Hop. Hopkins will throw less punches this time, but that will be what makes it close. Hopkins by closer than normal UD.
Tomasz Adamek vs. Artur Spilka
Adamek is another I wish would just retire. However, with other shot Pole's he has always done well. Spilka showed what little he has at the higher levels when he fought Bryant Jennings. This is a chance for Adamek to shine, and look less done than he really is. Adamek in a late TKO. Shrewd matchmaking.
Tyson Fury vs. Dereck Chisora 2
Fury has been idle for quite some time, and during which, both men's careers have changed.
Sure enough, we finally get a fighter fighting hurt, and look what happens. I, like many boxing fans, have been complaining about the myriad of ways that fights are being cancelled. Injuries have derailed careers, not to mention all of the delays they cause... wasting primes! However, we see why this past Wednesday. The events that took place during Soliman-Taylor for the IBF Middleweight title are not going to help anyone rush to take chances, I am afraid.
Jermain Taylor deserves credit for staying calm and fighting the exact correct fight against an injured fighter. For once, Taylor's patience actually helped him. This is a fighter who was one punch away from early KO wins against Carl Froch and Kelly Pavlik. Think where his career would be now if he had scored those wins. However, he refused to let his hands go, and was ultimately stopped by both men. He was not in danger of this against lighter hitting Soliman, but stole rounds, and usually at the 10-8 mark, by forcing Soliman back on his injured lead leg.
Taylor now has a belt, and Soliman, at age 40, is facing an uphill climb to remain vital. Many fighters, including Taylor, are under the Al Haymon umbrella, which is not one known for taking chances. Danny Garcia is now rumored to be pulling out of his mandatory defense against Viktor Postol (a risky fight), due to injury. You cannot tell me that Soliman's injury did not help Haymon learn a lesson. He is not alone.
Andre Ward lost the better part of 2 years dealing with a shoulder injury (although legal problems have not helped). Tyson Fury has faced delay after delay due to the injuries of his opponents! Not even his most of the time! Unless we are going to bring back fighting 5-6 times a year, fighters cannot afford many cancellations. Soliman had a very good chance of winning that fight, had he not been injured.
Sam Soliman vs. Jermain Taylor
Soliman is taking on an odd choice of opponent for a man who did as much calling out as he did. Losing close controversial decisions, having to fight on the road, being rushed in his opening career. Soliman survived it all, and after 17 years is finally a world champion. However, he picked the one sanctioning body that enforces mandatories, so he is wasting his optional facing a shot fighter in Taylor, instead of unifying. Not that Quillin or Cotto want any part of him... but it makes you wonder why he would not pursue the fight with GGG that he said he wanted. But I digress. Taylor is facing legal troubles that do not make his assignment any easier. I have also seen nothing in his comeback that would make me think he is back to old form. In fact, a lighter hitting fighter like Soliman may seem like the best option, but it just means he will face 12 rounds of futility against the Australian's awkward style. Soliman by UD.
Carlos Molina vs. Cornelius Bundrage
I am glad K9 gets another shot. I am glad Molina is finally back in the ring after wining the title over a year ago. In fact, the winner of this fight is closer to a Floyd fight than you may think. The IBF belt is the one Floyd has never had, and both fighters are Midwestern, giving Mayweather a chance to return to roots. Not that I am predicting this, but if Molina gets the win, it would not shock me if he got a big fight down the line. He will win, as well. Bundrage is too wild to bother the awkward champion... and Molina is too iron chinned to buckle when K9 does get the odd shot home. Molina by UD.
Odlianer Solis vs. Tony Thompson
Thompson should be done by now, but he keeps finding new life. His loss got Pulev has many people calling Pulev the best challenger for Klitschko since David Haye and Alexander Povetkin. Of course both of those men stunk it out against Big Wlad for 12 rounds, as will Pulev likely, but it seems to be a mark of quality. Quality that Solis was said to have, but it has never really been shown on the world stage. Much like his fore-bearers Ramon Garbey, Jorge Luis Gonzalez, and in size, Mike Perez, the Cuban heavyweights just get fatter when they find freedom, not better.
Gennady Golovkin vs. Marco Antonio Rubio
In a fight dubbed "Mexican style", a not so subtle attempt to get GGG the Mexican fans, it is ironic who has become the foil. Rubio, an actual Mexican, has been near the top of the rankings for years, for only that reason. The WBC is Mexican, so is he.. period. He has both won and lost explosive early KO's, close fights, and long sustained beatings. he has also had a long career, and is nearing the end. This is a nice cash out fight for Rubio, should he be intelligent enough to see the writing on the wall, but this match does nothing for GGG but increase the legend, and kill time. 2015 has to be his year. Fights with Cotto, Canelo, or the winner of Jacobs-Quillin loom for him. maybe even a jump to 168 for Andre Ward, if Ward ever fights again. This is the last gimme he is allowed by the boxing fans and writers. I hope he enjoys it, because we always do. Maybe Rubio's guile and experience gets him out of the first round.. but in no way does a bell ring to end round 2. GGG by brutal, one-sided KO, inside of 5 minutes.
Nicolas Walters vs. Nonito Donaire
I don't think I have ever picked against Nonito Donaire, since the first Darchinyan fight. He is an iron-chinned power puncher. Those guys don't even need craft to be fairly successful. They are in every fight. However, Donaire actually does have skills, and at his peak, the 5 division belt holder was unstoppable. He has held every sanctioning body strap, has been unified in 2 of the divisions he fought in, and has scored highlight reel KO against other top fighters. However, it appears the Jamaican is for real. Walters is still a question mark, but this is the type of fight where he who was never dropped gets dropped, and may, for the first time, find his power handled somehow. A Donaire KO is never surprising, but I am picking Walters by UD or late TKO on cuts.
Martin Murray vs. Domenico Spada
This is only a big deal because these two are ranked very high by the alphabet soup organizations, and they may be considered a safe defense for a GGG or Cotto type, or a first fight for Canelo, should he move to Middleweight and not tackle Cotto immediately. In fact, Murray is one of the few who experts would pick to go rounds with GGG,
Have you noticed the example that Floyd Mayweather is setting for many young African American fighters? Oh, I am not talking about his work ethic. That is legendary, and many young fighters aspire to even be able to handle a Money Team workout. I am not talking about his promotion skills. That is knowledge that comes from experience, and nothing else. I am not talking about his masterful defense. Most fighters talk about being a warrior more than not getting hit, nowadays. I am talking about the formula for which Mayweather has slowly but surely gaining acceptance, and Adrien Broner is following suit. The "hate me first, love me later" template of success.
Floyd is not the first. Ali was actually the first in boxing (it had been done for decades in wrestling) to employ the idea of "the ones who hate you will pay more to see you than the ones who love you" business model in practice. Ali's humor after his losses, and personality, as well as history proving his stances justified, all helped out to change him from a pariah into a prince. He is now one of the most beloved sportsmen in history. Floyd has to be seeing that. He shares Ali's work ethic, as well as extraordinary athleticism. He knows that gimmicks be damned, it means nothing if you are not the best... the very best.
Adrien Broner had a fight last Saturday with Emmanuel Taylor, where he was clearly making the attempt to follow in those footsteps. My prediction is not that he will make it or not, but that our hatred of him in boxing's popular culture will subside. Like Floyd, who used to burn $100 bills and revel in his riches, gradually Broner is letting people into his more human side. He is now giving respect to opponents, and adjusting during fights. He found himself in there with the only close tough assignment he has had in his career besides Malignaggi. Maidana beat him cleanly, and Broner has dominated everyone else. So, this fight was all about growth. He is telling us about his past, and speaking softer, while still maintaining the ego and showmanship that is his trademark. Then, after it all, he finally adjusted and upped his punch output to defeat a determined contender. He actually came on down the stretch, while still remaining active.
Of course, Floyd got to get well into his 30's before softening up and becoming more human. Floyd actually didn't want to be the heel the way Broner and Ali seemed to choose from inception. Floyd thought he would be a golden boy like The Golden Boy, and when it didn't happen, he harnessed his great skill into being the enemy, and the very best. His unbeaten, untouchable status for many years meant he was able to keep his persona for longer. After Broner's last few fights (an ill-advised move to 147), he has had to "get real" quicker. He's been beaten, and bored people.
GGG-Rubio may seem like a mismatch, but Rubio has had a long career where everything has happened. He has suffered early KO's, and scored them. He has dished out long beatings, and taken them. He is also the first I don't expect to be too afraid of Gennady Golovkin. My pick, oh, GGG will kill him.. I'm just saying it may be interesting while it lasts. The motive is clear, to gain more west coast and Mexican fans for GGG.
Also, we are getting a Top Rank featherweight bout on the undercard, which is very intriguing. Nonito Donaire vs. Nicolas Walters is the most intriguing fight that can be made at Feather minus Lomachencko. Gonzalez seems to be going on a seniors tour with Arce, and as vulnerable a champion as he is, they are going to treat him with kid gloves. Gradovich is high risk low reward for any of the champions, but Walters is moving up as fast as Crawford, which shows Bob Arum seems to be less concerned with protecting his non-Latino or non-Filipino fighters... which is good news for boxing fans. However, even Donaire has not been protected, and kudos to Arum for continuously making the best fights with him.
Speaking of Filipinos, it looks like we may have lost all of Brian Viloria's golden years to Asian cards and off-network PPVs. Too bad... he was an exciting American fighter who came back to score big wins after being written off several times. His career included many belts and wars, but few were in the USA, and even fewer on mainstream TV. Maybe this is the lesson Arum learned. By the time he tried to move The Hawaiian Punch forward, it was too late, and he lost his title.
Speaking of losing his title, do Floyd and Pacquiao run any risk of being stripped for not facing mandatories? They seem to be subject to a different rulebook, not that they would follow it. They are above belts... but I have yet to hear either of them be forced publicly to take a fight in a very long time. Then again, neither of them ever touch the IBF (where there is no silver, interim, super crap). Maybe that's why.
Lets look at the entire PPV card, and build towards the main. Sadly there is not as much to say as we had hoped. Mayweather is still undefeated, but very safety first. Maidana is still tough, but dirty. Vasquez is still boring... so boring that judges did not even see him winning against Mickey Bey. He may be the least sympathetic robbery victim in boxing history. Alfredo Angulo is finished, and Santa Cruz killed more time. The real story is how un-scintillating the undercard was in set-up.
Golden Boy/TMT cards have been known to give fans more than Top Rank, yet in this card, they are clearly slipping, and with Macau, it looks as if Top Rank is raising their game for Algieri-Pacquiao, at least in terms of names. Lomachencko and Shiming may not be tested much in their undercard bouts, but at least they are appearing on it. Lets look closer at Sept 13.
Angulo seemed to lose all of his pop against Canelo Alvarez, and a plodding slugger with no power behind his shots is dead in the water. he was able to show his heart, chin, and even stamina against James Delarosa last Saturday, but he also showed his big weaknesses. His eyes (and reaction to them being injured), as well as his lack of boxing ability. His power seemed to only half return in this bout, and he was the one who was dropped early. However, as Delarosa tired from his output, Angulo was still there. It was hopefully the last time we'll see Angulo, who has made money, and has a style that lends itself to long term damage if a career is extended.
As for Mickey Bey, a shrug of congratulations is in order. Not that anyone can look good against Vasquez, but he probably didn't even deserve the decision, but he is now the second fighter to win a belt for TMT (ironically both have been IBF... the one belt that Floyd has never won), and especially in his first title fight, it seems to be a case of win today, look good tomorrow. He beat the number one ranked guy in the division, and if Crawford comes through his fight with Beltran victorious, that could be an intriguing matchup if promoters move towards working together.
So, Fres Oquendo has lost yet another close one, in his opponent's back yard, on a rival promoter's card. Some variation of this story should be on his headstone when he dies. It was simply the story of his entire career. He was given plenty of chances, any certainly the outright robberies on his record are not his own fault, but bad luck is helped out by never changing your M.O. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result. Let's look at a some of his most notorious close calls.
David Tua - Ahead on all cards, Oquendo suffered his first defeat after he was caught by one of Tua's big bombs, and put to sleep in the 9th. No shame there, as this was Tua's M.O., yet, he was caught by the right and not the left hook, so that part was original.
Chris Byrd - The only time a fighter was so dedicated to fighting off the back foot, that he actually made Byrd come forward! This must've confused the judges, as Oquendo seemed to clearly win 8 rounds, yet lost a unanimous decision.
John Ruiz - a typical Ruiz fight in which he was probably behind by a few points, but it was scored as if he was ahead by 1. It didn't matter as Oquendo went to sleep late, and was stopped in round 11.
James Toney - Again, Oquendo made a counterpuncher come forward, and although he seemed to win 7-5, Toney got the decision 7-5, in a dull affair. He was on promoter's card, in opponent's adopted backyard... this would begin to prove a theme.
Evander Holyfield - relatively neutral territory, but same old Fres... outboxes Holyfield in spots, but keeps allowing the play to be taken away. Holyfield gets a close split decision, that probably should have gone to Oquendo.
There are an awful lot of boxing cancellations these days. Not that this never happened in previous eras, but the idea of fighting hurt was a much more common one in previous generations. Sometimes it is due to injury. sometimes offers are not accepted due to money, or family obligations that arise. More often than not, it works out ok, and the fighter in question gets another shot. This is not always the case, however. While it is true that one may never recover properly if an injury is not allowed to heal, opportunities can often be the same animal. Here are a few cases of an opportunity that was passed by, and never came again.
A decorated amateur who once fought in the finals of the World Championships, Garcia was a Southern California heavyweight moving up the ranks in the early 90's. His ascension came along at the same time of George Foreman's return to boxing, and after each man had been feasting on soft touches, Foreman came calling for Garcia. The payday was a whopping half-million, and Garcia was not exactly a household name at the time. Add to that Foreman was coming off the Holyfield fight, and may be vulnerable. Garcia's camp, however, turned it down, and for a while it looked like the right decision. The publicity he received from turning Foreman down actually made Garcia a staple on the USA Tuesday Night Fights series. It was there, however, that he was eventually KO'd by journeyman Mike Evans, and then decisioned by John Ruiz and Joe Hipp. Not a great move, as it turned out. The Foreman fight would have been his biggest money and his biggest exposure.
The 1984 silver medalist had a good start to his pro career, scoring big KOs on his way to a then-lightly regarded WBO title win. His only loss was when he lost that title to Ray Mercer. Damiani was well ahead when he suffered a broken nose, and stayed down. It was a forgiveable loss, but was an indication of his lack of fighting spirit. After Holyfield-Tyson was KO'd in 1991 due to a rib injury, Holyfield elected to fight anyway, and Damiani was offered the title shot. He initially accepted, yet with only days remaining, he pulled out of the fight with a knee injury. He did so against everyone's wishes, including his wife. Damiani claimed that the shots recommended to clear him to fight made him sick. He turned down 750k to avoid an ill feeling. He only fought a few more times, retiring after being KO'd by Oliver McCall, for a lot less money.
I know. I know. On the list of things Ward has done to stall a brilliant career, cancellations have not been the biggest.
Miguel Vasquez vs. Mickey Bey
Vasquez fighting on a Mayweather card?? Surely Top Rank would never let this barnburner of a champion go. This is an intriguing fight, however, because Vasquez has been unbeatable for years at 135, if also unsellable. Bey's only loss came when he was well ahead, and power is not likely to be a threat here. Still it is hard to pick against Vasquez, especially against a fighter who has failed to wow us before. Vasquez by close SD.
Lucas Matthysse vs., Roberto Ortiz
Matthysse's struggles with John Molina had more to do with the chin and toughness and power of Molina, than with any diminishing on the part of the Argentine. However, Ortiz has been a longtime Silver champion at this weight. Whatever that means. His record shows many capable opponents, but no big names. Still, it is a risky enough fight for Matthysse. He is vulnerable, and Ortiz is motivated. Still, a man with his power is hard to bet against, especially when you know his opponent has not yet faced any power like his. Molina by late TKO, coming from behind.
Wladimir Klitschko vs. Kubrat Pulev
Believe it or not, Pulev is the man whose boxing skills I am most impressed with for a Klitschko opponent in a long time. Haye had power, which made up for other deficiencies, and Pulev cannot rely on that. Am I picking Pulev? No, I am not that brave. Klitschko has been so dominant that I can't pick against him. But if there is a fighter who has a chance of having a lead when he is stopped, I'd pick Kubrat. Klitschko by mid rounds TKO, after actually losing a few rounds.
Adrien Broner vs, Emmanuel Taylor
Taylor has looked good in his last few fights, and if Broner remains as unfocused as he has been recently, than has-been is a phrase people will be using for a very young man. Taylor is not a man to go to sleep against, but even a half-in Broner should have the skills to pull it out. Don't look to be dazzled, however, nor for Broner to be allowed anywhere near the Ortiz-Matthysse winner. Broner by dull UD.
Kiko Martinez vs. Carl Frampton
Frampton taking the safer fight than Leo Santa Cruz may come back to bite him. Martinez is experienced, hungry, and has a great team behind him. Frampton may also be the perfect style for him to shine. The British press have a way of making stars out of ordinary fighters, and that may be the case here. A Frampton win would not shock me, but I am picking Martinez by UD
Juan Francisco Estrada vs. Giovanni Segura
This fight is a classic XYZ. Meaning just because X can beat Y, and Y can beat Z, does not mean that X can beat Z. The Y is of course Brian Viloria, who beat up and stopped Segura, yet lost his title to Estrada. Estrada is riding high, and Segura is damaged. Both men are fighting in their home country (although Segura was raised in the USA) of Mexico. This has all the makings of a wide UD for Estrada, but something tells me he'll get caught late. Segura by 11th round KO.
Floyd Mayweather vs. Marcos Maidana 2
Maidana was figured out midway though the last fight. Unless he does something else (and he can't), it is going to be more of the same. I'd love to say that this fight will go the way of a Roy Jones rematch (Griffin and Tarver) and end with a shocking KO, but we know better.
So, everything went according to plan on the August 9 Brooklyn Showtime card. Danny Garcia got his highlight reel KO, after several tough assignments in a row. Lamont Peterson got his dominating win. Daniel Jacobs can officially call himself a champion, and did so in his backyard. All three did so by stoppage, and all 3 made money for very little risk, while making Al Haymon even richer. The Haymon backlash is certainly justified. His charges repeatedly dodge tough assignments, to the point where you can tell it is even irritating them.
Keith Thurman, Deontay Wilder, Gary Russell etc. are all very talented fighters who are taking on very limited opposition. Russell was finally forced to face a very tough assignment, and seemed ill-prepared by his soft-opposition to handle the task. However, the man is so powerful in his hold over boxing, that we are forced to deal with his cards. Not only that, but he is so reclusive, that we are forced to anticipate his next move. Throughout the telecast, the Showtime commentators were forced to refer to the current joke of a card as some sort of pre-cursor to another event. Haymon made no mention of his intentions, we are just hoping against hope that this is leading to a Quillin-Jacobs, Garcia-Peterson unification card in December. I hope so, but I would not bet on it.
It is not as if Haymon never takes risks, but they follow his own timeline, not one created by the wants and needs of fans or fighters. Should Broner have taken the Maidana fight? No, but it set up an opponent for Floyd where there was none, and made the move to 140 a natural for Broner. Haymon now has a piece of Peterson, Garcia, Broner, and Matthysse, yet other than the Garcia-Matthysse fight, they do not seem to be facing one another. We are assuming that by Dec or Jan, Broner will challenge Matthysse, while Garcia and Peterson will finally unify, but I'd be very surprised if that happens. There is too much money to be made by stalling as opposed to fighting one another.
With all the concern about PEDs, why is no one insisting on the testing of Sergey Kovalev or Gennady Golovkin. Inhuman things are happening when they hit their opponents, yet I hear no one claiming they should take any tests. In fact, this whole issue seems to have vanished recently. It was pretty much a major sticking point in nearly every fight from 2009-2013, suddenly we never hear about it. Maybe that was what the big sanctioning body summit was really about?
Speaking of sanctioning bodies, I really hope they do not get in the way of the 175lb unification. There are great fights to be made, and by the end of next year, one fighter could be in possession of every major belt. However, between the IBF policy of stripping every fighter who takes more than one optional without facing a useless mandatory, and the WBA and WBC policies of handing out multiple belts, it may end up very confused. Let me simplify it. Kovalev, Stevenson, Hopkins. Those are the three. When they are done, we will have an undisputed champion... no matter how they try and confuse it.
Speaking of unifications, sometimes it is not the sanctioning bodies, but the promoters who hold it back. Surely the frustration of Sauerland's refusal to unify their champions at 168 ten years ago, or Cruiserweight today, was felt by boxing fans. Yet, today the worst offender is Top Rank at Featherweight and Lightweight. They have 4 fighters and 3 belts at least, in each division, yet never the four shall meet?! Lomachenko vs. Gradovich, and Walters vs. Donaire. Sounds simple enough. What is holding it up?
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So, Canelo got the decision because Lara doesn't sell tickets? Maybe, but boxing has always been a business. The troubles we have are not new. From the days where the mafia flagrantly controlled the sport to today, where it is more covert, there has always been corruption to protect boxing's business interests. However, it is not all about corruption and racism. Those, admittedly are the most face-in-front aspects of marketing that take place in boxing. Yet, there is good old fashioned promoting mixed in there, as well.
There are some ways to guarantee sale of tickets. Ethnicity is one. If you are Mexican, Irish, or Puerto Rican... there is an agreed upon formula to make you into a ticket seller, even if you are quite ordinary as a fighter. If you are a brawler (as fighters of those ethnicities often are), the plan is pre-arranged. They will set you up in LA or NYC (depending on which ethnicity you are)... maybe the bay area if you are Filipino, etc. Then you will be matched on TV, waving the flag of your ethnic origin, and winning action fights. It's worked for countless fighters in the past.
However, if you are a slick black fighter, prepare to be the "heel" as they call it in wrestling. You will be the bad guy, all the time. This may cost you close decisions, as it did for Lara, Whittaker, Trout, etc... but some are even immune to that, as Norwood, Bradley and Mayweather can attest. These men are marketed as the enemy to the pre-approved ethnic fighters, as they are the opposite in the important ways of marketing: race, style, attitude, etc. Some play it up, some don't... but be there, and be available, and you'll make money off of an ethnic base that is not even your own.
Shawn Porter vs. Kell Brook
This is about the only fight I am truly excited for in the month of August. While I will believe it when they are both in the ring, it seems as if brook will finally take the leap. Brook has had flashes of brilliance, and flashes of ordinary. Porter is coming on strong, and seems to be iron-chinned, but Brook may have the most power of any top fighter he has faced. I just think the strength, momentum, and confidence edges all go to Porter, who will put himself in the Mayweather sweepstakes with an impressive win here. He should get it, by wide decision.
Brandon Rios vs. Diego Chavez
This may seem certain to be a brawl, but Chavez was forced to make it a fight against Thurman, because of his style. however, he may be able to use more skills against Rios. It remains to be seen how much is left in the tank of the Oxnard-based Kansan, but Chaves was likely selected because the Thurman fight showed vulnerability. I think he has a solid chance of pulling off the upset in a decision, but gut instinct tells me Rios will pull it out late, with a KO win.
Sergei Kovalev vs. Blake Caparello
It makes one wonder why Sergei keeps being put in with light hitters. He seems to have a good chin, but who knows? he is a smart fighter for a face-first attacker, and Caparello has not exactly shined against the lower tier he has fought. Simply put, he cannot keep Sergei off of him. Kovalev by 2nd round KO.
Sakio Bika vs. Anthony Dirrell 2
This matchup may actually provide an opponent worthy of idle champion Andre ward.
Canelo Alvarez has again put in his golden earning power in the fire of a risky fight, and come out unscathed. Well, at least he came out a winner. He also got to do so in a way his compatriots south of the border could respect, by coming forward. In a match-up where the main prediction was Lara winning 7-5, only to lose 7-5, it seems by many experts tallies that is exactly what happened. However, the cries of protests are toned down by some intangibles.
The Mexican star is one of the few, if not only former opponent of Mayweather or Pacquiao to parlay their fame into his own (unless you count Victor Ortiz 15 minutes as a Dancing with the Stars alum). Canelo earned that fight with a risky challenge of Austin Trout, and followed it with a riskier fight with Erislandy Lara. In most people's minds, Lara did not do much better than Trout... but certainly, he was scored much closer. Judges may have been Texas bought for Canelo-Trout, but other than the one wide scorecard, this bout was at least scored with appropriate closeness.
One of the reasons could have been the state. Nevada certainly has more than its share of questionable decisions, but judges here are likely to work for many promoters, and not trying to kiss-ass to any one in particular. In Texas, judges are bought and paid for, as is the commissioner, Dickie Cole. Trout had no chance, save a KO, of getting that win. Another reason was what was on the line. Back then, Mayweather loomed. Trout-Mayweather was not a possibility, so a Canelo win had to be secured for that to happen. This time, the Cotto fight looms, but not until next year, so even if Canelo lost, there was time for revenge in a rematch.
Canelo, however, was able to fight moving forward the whole night, and change aspects of Lara's game. Lara always fights off the back foot, but looked more uncomfortable here, even more than against Angulo, who he had controlled save a couple knockdowns. While Canelo may have done little more than go even up, when a fighter throws less and boxes moving backwards the whole night, he better cleanly outland his opponent. Lara only landed 10 more punches, and not nearly enough straight lefts to dazzle judges.
I was a ring announcer once. In most of the things I have been involved in, I had to start at the bottom. In fact, in most cases, I definitely stayed near it. In comedy, dating, education, writing, etc. I started very badly, and got a lot better. However, I was allowed to build up a head of steam, before there were too many witnesses to whatever prowess I had gained. This was not the case in being a boxing ring announcer.
I had called a few fights as a commentator for private telecasts, and had been a comedian for 10 years. Yet, I had never stood in front of people in suit and tie (I don't own a tux), and announced a boxing match. The promoter for which I had worked, doing the commentary, suggested I do the ring announcing for a card of theirs in October of 2010. Their normal announcer was busy that night. I jumped at the opportunity. However, this was a nerve-wracking experience. I would not have to be funny, but I would also not be allowed to stumble over words, and sputter out my message, as was perfectly alright in stand-up comedy.
Added to my fears was the fact that this was a professional card, with titles at stake for a couple of fights. People would be watching. There were even a few celebrities, and many boxing luminaries in the building. The building itself was Glendale Civic Auditorium in Glendale, which also meant some difficult to pronounce Armenian and Russian names, along with the standard Mexican fare that accompanies most Southern California fight cards.
I arrived at the building and was hit with the first of a few snags. I had also announced the weights at the weigh-in earlier, so I was given a bit of an idea of the fighters names, and what would be expected of me. It would be the only dress rehearsal I would get. One of the fighters began vomiting, and had to be withdrawn. No problem, right? Fights are cancelled last minute (especially at the four-round preliminary level, which this was) all the time. It was just one less fight I had to remember, right? Wrong.
Congratulations to Yazmin Rivas on her win this this weekend! She now holds 2 belts, both the WBC Female “Super Bantamweight” Title and the WBC Female “Bantamweight” Title! - Her toughest opponents to date have been Susie Rmadan of Australia and Jackie Nava of Baja California. Photos by Steven Arredondo
Boxing scribe Gabriel Montoya noted that they keep putting Sergey Kovalev in with fighters who are not big punchers. While certainly Ismail Sillakh, Roman Simkalov, and even Darnell Boone could punch at the lower levels, it is a bit of a concern. I personally feel this is from lack of opposition available to him politically. They are trying to keep him at the HBO level, and seem to be doing so by offering up unbeaten fighters.
The only unbeaten contenders he can face are largely light-hitting, unproven commodities like Capparello and Agnew. Perhaps more belts would be the answer (never thought I'd type that!). If Brahmer would ever be brave or stupid enough, that may be a good fight. The IBF seems dead set on stripping Hopkins or Stevenson, when they finally try to unify. Maybe that belt will help. Either way, it's hard to see any Achilles heel for Kovalev yet... so we'll need to see that chin tested soon.
Speaking of tested soon, Fres Oquendo actually has the perfect opponent liked up... for him to finally get a belt. After so many close/bad calls have robbed him, Chagaev is the perfect opponent to show us once and for all if Fast Fres just doesn't do enough, or if he will take it when given the chance. Chagaev has slowed from his early days, and seems less than motivated. He may oddly enough be more shot that Oquendo, too, just watching recent performances. Unfortunately, it's not the perfect political climate for the Puerto Rican, so don't expect a decision to go his way unless it's dominant, which we have never seen out of Fres before. He has his chance. No excuses this time.
Professional championship boxing returned to Omaha, Nebraska for the first time in 42 years. The last time, a guy from Council Bluffs fought in Omaha. This time, the Omaha fighter was offered Council Bluffs. We have Indian gaming to thank for this shift. Terence Crawford, however, did not want to make his family cross the river, and he knew how well his tickets would sell. 10-12,000 people showed up in Omaha to watch their favorite boxing son make his first title defense, and he did not disappoint.
Top Rank usually punishes fighters for wanting hometown defenses. Bob Arum does this by making it the toughest assignment of a fighters career. Just ask Mike Alvarado if he'd rather have taken that Provodnikov fight in Las Vegas after all. Crawford was not punished in result, even if he was in opponent. "Bud" was victorious against Yuriorkis Gamboa, for one reason and one reason alone. It was the same reason Matt Korobov was victorious in his bout on the undercard. They both knew how to adjust.
Gamboa had faster hands, and superior combinations. This is something Crawford has not encountered much in his professional career, and certainly not in his two biggest prior wins: Burns and Prescott. However, he went southpaw, with an effortlessness that had commentators reminiscing about Marvin Hagler's similar ability. Then, after losing a round even worse, he began to time Gamboa, and catch him on the way in. Crawford used this new style, and a well timed southpaw jab, to take over the fight.
Once his superior chin was made evident, he also began daring Gamboa to trade. Then, when he had the Cuban down and hurt, he showed patience and intelligence by landing crippling body shots. Such incredible maturity has not been seen in a young fighter in many years, but he was not done there.
The world of big time boxing promoters has always been changing. In the world I came into, Bob Arum and Don King were just making their names as big time promoters. I am nearly 40, and they are both still there.. albeit at different levels. However, the recent victory of Bermane Stiverne gives a long-ineffective Don King a bit of a rebirth. He now has a piece of the heavyweight division more than a decade after he last did. There are promoters on the rise, and promoters on the downslide. I have always been a prediction man, so here is my prediction for the next decade of big time boxing, as to who will increase, and decrease, their presence.
K2 - Started by Klitschkos, and run my Tom Loeffler, this is the European version of Golden Boy. The one weakness in Golden Boy's game has always been the foreign markets, and K2 seems to be attempting to avoid this by bringing some of their young stars like GGG over to the USA. It remains to be seen how many more will follow, but with the fading of the other big German promoters, K2 is poised to do quite well.
TMT - The money team is still in it's infancy, and needs desperately to attract more fighters who are not trying to be Floyd. Iron Mike - Probably never going to rival Top Rank or Golden Boy, but a strong Goossen-like long term presence should be expected. Decrease: Top Rank - They are making a good international presence with so many foreign Olympic medalists, but none of them seem special enough to carry the outfit.
Tyson Fury vs. Dereck Chisora 2
Believe it or not, their first match did not have much trash talk. Maybe this was because both men were barely prospects, and it was a lightly-regarded British domestic matchup. Since then, however, both have gone in divergent paths. Fury is still unbeaten, largely untested, and hasn't done that well in the tests he has had. Chisora has fought for the world title, and had many big showdowns with other top heavyweights, but has also racked up his share of losses: Haye, Klitschko, and Fury. Chisora has also needed a bit of help to score his most recent wins. The competition level has been very different, making Chisora by far the more experienced, but something tells me he just can't get to Fury, given their styles. Fury by another 12 round UD.
Bryant Jennings vs. Mike Perez
Just after the tragic Mago fight, there would be no question Mike Perez would be the favorite here. However, since then, Perez looked fairly ordinary against Carlos Takam, while Jennings looked like a world beater against admittedly not a world-class opponent. The styles are what's important here, and Perez has not fought as smart a fighter as Jennings yet. That should make the difference. Jennings by MD in a close chess match with occasional bursts of good action.
Gennady Golvokin vs. Daniel Geale
There are many fighters now being called "the right style to trouble GGG". Could it be wishful thinking that we want to see the formidable Kazakh challenged at all? This year, if it does indeed bring Murray, Geale, and/or Soliman, Golovkin should have at least upped the level of competition. Geale has shown an iron chin thus far in his career, but that has rarely stopped GGG. Geale's awkward attack could actually make him the first fighter to bank rounds against GGG, but eventually Golovkin will break him, as he does everyone.. probably with body shots in this case. GGG by mid/late round TKO.
Chagaev vs. Oquendo.
We are not sure if this match is even going to come off. Hitz Boxing is suing to stop it from happening, but could we expect anything less from the career of Fres Oquendo? This is a man who has had many close ones go against him, and was outright robbed against James Toney and Chris Byrd. He could be a former unified champion, instead, he's been on the outside looking in for over a decade, with no momentum. He has the skills to defeat Chagaev, but tends to fight in a "just good enough to lose competitively" style, and that will not be enough against Chagaev in Germany. Chagaev by narrow unanimous decision.
Argenis Mendez vs. Rances Barthelemy 2
The first fight ended in a no-contest, when Barthelemy clearly hit a finished Mendez after the bell. What was first announced as a TKO win for the Cuban, was taken back weeks later. Now, he has had to wait for 6 months. Barthelemy may have needed the help of officials to avoid DQ against Mendez, and decision loss against Usmanee, but the momentum is all with him. Mendez is finished for this division, and I am surprised the rematch is even being made. Barthelemy by TKO, this time late in the fight.
Canelo Alvarez vs. Erislandy Lara
Alvarez certainly not taking the easy path in 3 out of his last 4 bouts, after being accused of doing so early on. Perhaps he has learned the Oscar De La Hoya lesson... as long as you remain a good-looking Mexican, and keep fighting the best, people will not care if you lose occasionally. It is a big risk here, but Lara is far from unbeatable. In fact, in the two opponents they have in common, Trout and Angulo, they have each taken turns dominating one, and winning close and tough against the other. Alvarez can do more things, and I believe after a difficult start, he will eventually take over. Lara, for all his brilliance, is not the best at adjusting. Canelo by 8-4 UD.
Joe Boxer Valenzuela
Victor Joe Boxer Valenzuela