About chaunceymcmumbles

I'm a 20-something working in the sports industry in Chicago. I love writing, tech, boxing, drinking and basketball. Not necessarily in that order.

Boxing Rankings: June 2017

Heavyweights

For the first time in a long time, the heavyweight division is actually interesting, with some rising stars, young guys with potential and power, and some old guys who can fight. Let’s take a look at the division. Everybody has their own ‘ranking’ system, but for the purposes of this blog, we’re going to rank the titleholders at the top followed by the top contenders. This is going to result in things like Klitschko being ranked below weaker fighters who have belts, but fuck it it’s my list so that’s how I’m gonna do it.

The Beltholders

#1 Anthony Joshua, England (19-0, 19 KO) (WBA, IBF) 

  • Overview: Joshua is the current rising star in the division and perhaps one of the biggest rising stars in the sport of boxing. He holds two of the belts, has shown impressive power and is a charismatic champion who seems destined for absolute superstardom, particularly after his Fight of the Year-worthy win over Wladimir Klitschko, in which he came off the canvas to stop the veteran titleholder and end his reign atop the division. The Klitschko win was far and away the best W on his resume, but big things are expected of Joshua moving forward.
  • Best Wins: TKO11 over Wladimir Klitschko, TKO7 over Dillian Whyte, TKO7 over Dominic Brezeale
  • Losses: N/A

#2 Deontay Wilder, USA (38-0, 37 KO) (WBC)

  • Overview: Wilder is a frustrating fighter, an athletic specimen with a nasty right hand who is labeled as the next great American heavyweight hope but who sports a paper-thing record and has shown a lot of deficiencies recently. Some of his weak resume is not his fault – he was scheduled to fight Alexander Povetkin before the Russian failed multiple drug tests – but he’s got a belt and it’s time to see him actually step up.
  • Best Wins: UD12 over Bermane Stiverne, KO9 over Artur Szpilka, TKO5 over Gerald Washington
  • Losses: N/A

#3 Joseph Parker, New Zealand (23-0, 18 KO) (WBO)

  • Overview: Parker is a much-hyped fighter and currently holds a belt as a heavyweight, but recents fights show a lot of deficiencies and problems at the top level. He was unimpressive in recent wins over average fighters, and the more we learn about him the more he seems like he’s maybe a level below the top-tier heaveyweights.
  • Best Wins: MD12 over Andy Ruiz Jr, UD12 over Carlos Takam, UD12 over Razvan Cojanu
  • Losses: N/A

The Top Contenders

#4 Wladimir Klitschko, Ukraine (64-5, 53 KO) 

  • Overview: Though the belts are all held by three undefeated young fighters, Klitschko is the OG of this division, ruling it for over a decade before losing to Joshua in a very closely contested fight. Klitschko would still probably be the favorite over any other fighter in this division, even though he’s coming off of two straight losses, and though some consider him bad for the division – his dominance, however impressive, was uninspiring to say the least – he is an all time great and surefire Hall of Famer. Very interested in a Joshua rematch after how good the first fight was.
  • Best (Recent) Wins: UD12 over Alexander Povetkin, KO5 over Kubrat Pulev, UD12 over David Haye
  • Recent Losses: TKO11 to Anthony Joshua, UD12 to Tyson Fury

#5 Tyson Fury, England (25-0, 18 KO)

  • Overview: I am struggling mightily with what to do with Tyson Fury. Fury is an enigma – he’s a huge guy, an awkward fighter who always seemed sort of fat and untalented, but who continually pulled out wins and was the man to dethrone the reign of Wladimir Klitschko and give himself the right to call himself the lineal heavyweight champion. Then he promptly left the sport, started doing copious amounts of cocaine and got really, super, crazy fat. He claims to be making a comeback, so we’ll see where he’s at when he comes back, but we’ll just slow him right here for now.
  • Best Wins: UD12 over Wladimir Klitschko, RTD10 over Dereck Chisora, KO7 over Steve Cunningham
  • Losses: N/A

 

#6 Luiz Ortiz, Cuba (27-0, 23 KO)

  • Overview: Ortiz is an incredibly dangerous fighter, a huge, muscular, scary guy with stupid power. He’s old, having gotten his career started late, and he doesn’t bring money or name recognition to the table. This makes him not very appealing to fight, and puts him int he unfortunate state of chasing one of the big guys to get in the ring with him. Here’s hoping he gets his chance sometime before he gets too old.
  • Best Wins: TKO7 over Bryant Jennings, KO6 over Tony Thompson
  • Losses: N/A

 

Other Notables (No Particular Order)

  • Kubrat Pulev, Bulgaria (25-1, 13 KO)
    • Best Wins: SD12 over Dereck Chisora, UD12 over Tony Thompson, TKO4 over Samuel Peter
    • Losses: KO5 to Wladimir Klitschko
  • Andy Ruiz Jr, USA (29-1, 19 KO)
    • Best Wins: RTD4 over Ray Austin, UD10 over Franklin Lawrence
    • Losses: SD12 to Joseph Parker
  • Dominic Breazeale, USA (18-1, 16 KO)
    • Best Wins: KO5 over Izuagbe Ugonoh, RTD5 over Amir Mansour, UD10 over Fred Kassi
    • Losses: TKO7 to Anthony Joshua
  • Dillian Whyte, England (20-1, 15 KO)
    • Best Wins: SD12 over Dereck Chisora, UD10 over David Allen
    • Losses: TKO7 to Anthony Joshua
  • Charles Martin, USA (24-1-1, 22 KO)
    • Best Wins: TKO3 over Vyacheslav Glazkov
    • Losses: KO2 to Anthony Joshua
  • Christian Hammer, Romania (22-4, 12 KO)
    • Best Wins: SD12 over Erkan Teper, TKO7 over David Price
    • Recent Losses: RTD8 to Tyson Fury

 

NBA Summer Previews: Southwest Division

Again, we are having a guest writer in for some NBA summer team previews.  I have no inside knowledge whatsoever and these are just meant to give an idea of where teams are at as a whole as we head into draft and free agency season. This is part 3 of the series – click below for previous versions:

 

zz1mowrlmju5mjuyyzu2mgmymdi1ndblntzmotnizwm1mq1-e1454060235403

San Antonio Spurs

  • 2015-16 record: 67-15
  • Finish: 2nd place, eliminated in second round
  • Team Leaders
    • Scoring: Kawhi Leonard (22.5)
    • Rebounds: LaMarcus Aldridge (8.3)
    • Assists: Tony Parker (5.3)
    • Blocks: LaMarcus Aldridge (1.4)
  • Restricted free agents: Boban Marjanovic
  • Unrestricted free agents: Matt Bonner, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Kevin Martin, Andre Miller, David West
  • Draft picks: 29th

Last season overview: The Spurs turned in an under-the-radar historic season, nearly going undefeated at home in the regular season (losing just once) and winning 67 games. This was one of the most formidable all-time regular season teams – they just happened to be overshadowed by Golden State’s excellence. The team was experiencing a changing of the guard last year, with budding superstar Kawhi Leonard and free agent signee LaMarcus Aldridge assuming the mantle as the present and future of the team while mainstays Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili began to show their age. The team hit a wall in the playoffs as they were upset by the upstart Oklahoma City Thunder in six hard-fought games. Seeing as the Thunder nearly went on to upset the Warriors, there’s no shame in that loss – but it still feels like a disappointing end to what would most years have likely been a championship-winning team.

Summer outlook: With Duncan and Ginobili pondering retirement, this summer could be the true changing of the guard as the old leaves and the team rebuilds completely around Leonard and Aldridge. It will be interesting to see what kind of offers the enormous but unproven Marjanovic gets on the restricted free agent market, and how much the Spurs value him to bring him back. As long as Gregg Popovich is at the helm, the Spurs are going to be good, and will be a free agent destination. Expect this team to be in the mix again.

Phoenix Suns v Dallas Mavericks

Dallas Mavericks

  • 2015-16 record: 42-40
  • Finish: 6th place, eliminated in first round
  • Team Leaders
    • Scoring: Dirk Nowitzki (20.4)
    • Rebounds: Zaza Pachulia (5.4)
    • Assists: J.J. Barea (5.0)
    • Blocks: Saleh Mejri (1.3)
  • Restricted free agents: Dwight Powell
  • Unrestricted free agents: Raymond Felton, David Lee, Dirk Nowitzki, Zaza Pachulia, Chandler Parsons, Charlie Villanueva, Deron Williams
  • Draft picks: 46th

Last season overview: The always-contending Mavs took a step back last season in terms of talent and expectations, after an offseason that saw them lose Tyson Chandler and swing and miss on free agent DeAndre Jordan. However, they far exceeded expectations, making the playoffs with a banged-up and ragtag group of veteran castoffs. Nowitzki continues to play well in his old age, and guys like Zaza Pachulia, Deron Williams and JJ Barea looked better then they had in years playing under Rick Carlisle. The team was never a serious contender, but made the playoffs and took a game from the red-hot Thunder in what has to be considered a successful season overall.

Summer outlook: With Nowitzki certain to resign a three-year deal after a year that feels good, the Mavs will always have him as their centerpiece. The rest of the roster, as it feels like is the case every year with this team under Mark Cuban, is likely to change. Parsons is a big decision, as injuries have prevented him from living up to the contract he signed when he left Houston for Dallas a couple of years back. There are a lot of ways this team could go, but expect them to be active in free agency and continue to look different each year.

zachrandolphmikeconleysanantoniospursadnhpqcm44cl

Memphis Grizzlies

  • 2015-16 record: 42-40
  • Finish: 7th place, eliminated in first round
  • Team Leaders
    • Scoring: Zach Randolph (13.0)
    • Rebounds: Zach Randolph (8.8)
    • Assists: Jordan Farmar (4.0)
    • Blocks: JaMychal Green (1.3)
  • Restricted free agents: Bryce Cotton, Xavier Munford
  • Unrestricted free agents: Chris Andersen, Matt Barnes, Mike Conley, Jordan Farmar, PJ Hairston, Ryan Hollins, Lance Stephenson
  • Draft picks: 17th, 57th

Last season overview: The Grit-and-Grind Grizzlies era may have seen its final bell toll last season, as the Grizzlies were a depressing slog of a team that scratched and clawed their way to a playoff spot but after a wave of crushing injuries were mere fodder for the Spurs, getting swept out of the playoffs in four blowout losses. They played an antiquated style of basketball, saw stars Marc Gasol and Mike Conley go down to season-ending injuries, played a slew of anonymous fringe NBA players down the stretch, and ended by firing coach Dave Joerger. The Grizz may have become the hardest team to watch by the end of last season. Truly the end of an era.

Summer outlook: First and foremost, resigning star point guard Conley has to be their top priority. Past that, anything could happen – big men Gasol and Randolph are under contract, but as aging veterans on a team in transition, who knows where they’ll go from here. Our expectation is that they continue to value being a contending if not quite championship level team, so will avoid a full rebuild – but if Conley leaves, who knows.

harden-howard

Houston Rockets

  • 2015-16 record: 41-41
  • Finish: 8th place, eliminated in first round
  • Team Leaders
    • Scoring: James Harden (26.6)
    • Rebounds: Dwight Howard (14.0)
    • Assists: James Harden (7.6)
    • Blocks: Dwight Howard (1.4)
  • Restricted free agents: Terence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas
  • Unrestricted free agents: Dwight Howard, Josh Smith, Jason Terry
  • Draft picks: 37th, 43rd

 

Last season overview: After a season in which James Harden finished second in MVP voting and the team made an epic run to the Western Conference Finals, the Rockets brought nearly the exact same team back and they became a mess and perhaps the most disappointing team in the league last year. The Rockets were viewed as a preseason title contender, but wound up getting off to an awful start that saw them fire coach Kevin McHale after a handful of games, rumored infighting between stars Harden and Howard and a team that never seemed to like each other, click together or give much of an effort at all throughout the season. They squeaked into the playoffs as an eight seed, getting blown out in five by a Warriors team missing Steph Curry for most of the series. In a season of high expectations, this was a team with very few bright spots.

Summer outlook: The Rockets started the summer off by hiring Mike D’Antoni as their coach of the future, clearly doubling down on the offensive talents of Harden and looking to play a run-and-gun style rather than focusing on defense. This also seems to signal the departure of Howard, who has a player option for next year and is widely believed to be leaving. This is a team in major flux, and GM Daryl Morey has never shied away from making moves. Chalk this up as another team that is going to look completely different next season.

tyreke-evans-anthony-davis-nba-san-antonio-spurs-new-orleans-pelicans-590x900

New Orleans Pelicans

  • 2015-16 record: 30-52
  • Finish: 12th place, missed playoffs
  • Team Leaders
    • Scoring: Anthony Davis (24.3)
    • Rebounds: Anthony Davis (10.3)
    • Assists: Jrue Holiday (6.0)
    • Blocks: Anthony Davis (2.0)
  • Restricted free agents: James Ennis, Tim Frazier
  • Unrestricted free agents: Ryan Anderson, Norris Cole, Alonzo Gee, Eric Gordon, Jordan Hamilton, Kendrick Perkins
  • Draft picks: 6th, 39th, 40th

 

Last season overview: The Pelicans were another team that took an unexpected step back last year. After making the playoffs in 2014-15, the Pelicans were expected to continue their improvement, and star Anthony Davis was a darkhorse preseason MVP candidate. Instead, the Pelicans were never able to get off the ground, as a litany of early-season injuries dug them into a hole they could never recover from. This has been a snakebit roster, as key cogs like Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson found themselves often injuried during their tenure in New Orleans, not making the impact they were expected to at any point in their tenure. The team ended their season playing guys off the street big minutes, and looking nothing like what they promised to be before the beginning of the season. Head coach Alvin Gentry, in his first year at the helm, has to be looking to regroup going into year 2.

Summer outlook: The Pelicans have a lot of decisions to make, not least of what to do with Anderson and Gordon, two players who were onetime keys to the team’s plans but did not wind up moving the needle for various reasons. They probably need to rebuild the team around franchise centerpiece Davis, but have to do it in a smart way – Davis will be in his prime for the next four years, and it’d be a shame if that prime was wasted on a middling team.

 

 

NBA Summer Preview: Southeast Division

Again, we are having a guest writer in for some fun, easy NBA summer team previews.  I have no inside knowledge whatsoever and these are just meant to give an idea of where teams are at as a whole as we head into draft and free agency season. This is part 2 of the series – click below for previous versions:

 

0608398001435777314_filepicker

Miami Heat

  • 2015-16 record: 48-34
  • Finish: 3rd place, eliminated in second round
  • Team Leaders
    • Scoring: Chris Bosh (19.1)
    • Rebounds: Hassan Whiteside (11.8)
    • Assists: Goran Dragic (5.8)
    • Blocks: Hassan Whiteside (3.7)
  • Restricted free agents: Tyler Johnson
  • Unrestricted free agents: Luol Deng, Gerald Green, Udonis Haslem, Joe Johnson, Amare Stoudemire, Dwyane Wade, Hassan Whiteside, Dorrell Wright
  • Draft picks: None

Last season overview: The Heat may have been the 2nd most talented team in the Eastern Conference last season, with a veteran group that included Bosh, Wade, Deng, Dragic and the midseason acquisition of Joe Johnson. Unfortunately, Bosh missed the second half of the season with serious medical issues. Despite that, Wade’s craftiness and a nice boost from Dragic along with the improved play of Whiteside got the team past the Hornets in the first round and saw them push the Raptors to 7 games before running out of gas.

Summer outlook: With most of their team as free agents, and no draft picks, it’s a big summer for the Heat. Wade isn’t expected to go anywhere, though you never know. Hassan Whiteside will likely look for a max contract and will be a hot commodity around the league – expect him to be the biggest decision the Heat make this summer. With the number of free agents and the uncertainty around Chris Bosh’s future, this team could either look exactly the same or completely different next season – it very much remains to be seen.

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Atlanta Hawks

Atlanta Hawks

  • 2015-16 record: 48-34
  • Finish: 4th place, eliminated in second round
  • Team Leaders
    • Scoring: Paul Millsap (17.1)
    • Rebounds: Paul Millsap (9.0)
    • Assists: Jeff Teague (5.9)
    • Blocks: Paul Millsap (1.7)
  • Restricted free agents: Mike Muscala
  • Unrestricted free agents: Kent Bazemore, Kirk Hinrich, Kris Humphries, Al Horford
  • Draft picks: 21st, 44th, 54th

Last season overview: The Hawks regressed slightly from their monster 2014-15 season last year, falling into status as a good but not great team that never really had a shot to win the title. They have a strong starting five (Horford/Millsap/Korver/Bazemore/Teague), a mix of veteran and young talent and a team focused approach to the game, but they never really felt like much of a threat. They took out the Celtics in six games in the first round and then promptly got swept out the playoffs by the Cavs.

Summer outlook: Another team with some decisions, the Hawks are seeing a couple of key pieces (Horford/Bazemore) become unrestricted free agents. There’s also been much speculation around a Teague trade for quite awhile now, given the emergence of backup guard Dennis Schroder. Very curios to see what they decide to do.

 

kemba-walker-getty-ftr-012516_14wy22hk531ny1oe3ieawdkpaq

Charlotte Hornets

  • 2015-16 record: 48-34
  • Finish: 6th place, eliminated in first round
  • Team Leaders
    • Scoring: Kemba Walker (20.9)
    • Rebounds: Marvin Williams (6.4)
    • Assists: Nicolas Batum (5.8)
    • Blocks: Marvin Williams (1.0)
  • Restricted free agents: Troy Daniels, Jorge Gutierrez
  • Unrestricted free agents: Nicolas Batum, Tyler Hansbrough, Al Jefferson, Courtney Lee, Jeremy Lin, Marvin Williams
  • Draft picks: 22nd

Last season overview: The Hornets overachieved by any measure last season – Walker turned in a Most Improved-worthy campaign, Williams finally fulfilled some of his potential, and free agent signings Batum and Lin outperformed expectations. Coach Steve Clifford ran a tight ship and the team played the right way. They lost a four way tiebreaker for third place and wound up with the 6 seed, giving the Heat all they could handle before losing on the road in Game 7 to get eliminated in the first round.

Summer outlook: The Hornets have a lot of decisions to make as well this summer, with some major players hitting unrestricted free agency. Their priority will likely be Batum, who really made major steps in an advanced role this season.

 

Washington Wizards v Golden State Warriors

Washington Wizards

  • 2015-16 record: 41-41
  • Finish: 10th place, missed playoffs
  • Team Leaders
    • Scoring: John Wall (19.9)
    • Rebounds: Marcin Gortat (9.9)
    • Assists: John Wall (10.2)
    • Blocks: Marcin Gortat (1.3)
  • Restricted free agents: Bradley Beal
  • Unrestricted free agents: Alan Anderson, Jared Dudley, JJ Hickson, Nene, Ramon Sessions, Garrett Temple, Marcus Thornton
  • Draft picks: None

Last season overview: The Wizards were one of the league’s bigger disappointments last season. After making a 2nd round playoff run in 2014-15, the east side Dubs took a huge step back, getting off to a slow start to the season and playing catchup the rest of the way, ultimately falling short of the playoffs. Coach Randy Wittman lost his job over it, and an overall ugly campaign for a veteran team and a lack of draft picks this summer leaves them with a murky future.

Summer outlook: The Wizards will look to lock up Beal, John Wall’s talented but oft-injured running mate, to a long term deal this summer. They also will look to make a franchise-altering pitch to free agent and hometown kid Kevin Durant, but failing that, hard to see where they go from here.

Trail Blazers Magic Basketball

Orlando Magic

  • 2015-16 record: 35-47
  • Finish: 11th place, missed playoffs
  • Team Leaders
    • Scoring: Nikola Vucevic (18.2)
    • Rebounds: Nikola Vucevic (8.8)
    • Assists: Elfrid Payton (6.4)
    • Blocks: Nikola Vucevic (1.1)
  • Restricted free agents: Dewayne Dedmon, Evan Fournier, Andrew Nicholson
  • Unrestricted free agents: Brandon Jennings, Jason Smith
  • Draft picks: 11th, 41st, 47th

Last season overview: The Magic were a talented, exciting, young and flawed team that made strides and took the next step towards getting better last season. Their young talent – Vucevic, Oladipo, Payton, Fournier, Hezonja, Gordon – is a strong collection that has a bright future, and though they missed the playoffs, they showed flashes of real potential.

Summer outlook: After a very strange parting of ways with coach Scott Skiles after just his first season, former Pacers head coach Frank Vogel comes in to make his mark. It will be interesting to see where they go from here and whether they continue to build by having their young talent develop, or whether they look to turn some of their assets into veteran players to start winning now. Either way, this is a team that looks ready to start to make that next step.

 

NBA Summer Preview: Atlantic Division

Have a guest writer in today to dust off the ol’ NBA team summer previews just for fun here.  I have no inside knowledge whatsoever and these are just meant to give an idea of where teams are at as a whole as we head into draft and free agency season.

Atlantic Division

635896236709555042-2016-01-28-lowry-derozan

Toronto Raptors

  • 2015-16 record: 56-26
  • Finish: 2nd place, made Eastern Conference Finals
  • Team Leaders
    • Scoring: DeMar DeRozan (23.5)
    • Rebounds: Jonas Valanciunas (9.1)
    • Assists: Kyle Lowry (6.4)
    • Blocks: Bismack Biyombo (1.6)
  • Restricted free agents: Terence Ross
  • Unrestricted free agents: Bismack Biyombo, DeMar DeRozan, James Johnson, Luis Scola, Jason Thompson
  • Draft picks: 9th Pick, 27th Pick

Last season overview: Coming off their best season in franchise history, the Raptors have some work to do. After a strong regular season led by All-Stars Lowry and DeRozan, the Raptors had an up and down playoff run, looking bad at times and good at times as they struggled to get past two overmatched opponents in a pair of 7 game series wins against the Pacers and Heat in the first two rounds. In the conference finals they found themselves unable to hang with LeBron James’ Cavs, getting escorted out in six games, though they left their home floor to a standing ovation from their adoring and passionate crowd.

Summer outlook: This is a franchise on the up and up, but they have some big decisions to make, primarily with center Biyombo and All-Star DeRozan. DeRozan had a big season, but struggled in the playoffs with ineffective shooting as a low-percentage volume scorer. He might command the max, but is he worth it? Biyombo is an interesting case as well, a raw but athletic 23-year old center who stepped up bigtime in the playoffs. He may have earned himself some big money.

 

evan-turner-marcus-smart-isaiah-thomas-jae-crowder-jonas-jerebko-nba-new-york-knicks-boston-celtics-850x56021

Boston Celtics

  • 2015-16 record: 48-34
  • Finish: 5th seed, lost in first round
  • Team Leaders
    • Scoring: Isaiah Thomas (22.2)
    • Rebounds: Jared Sullinger (8.3)
    • Assists: Isaiah Thomas (6.2)
    • Blocks: Amir Johnson (1.1)
  • Restricted free agents: Jared Sullinger, Tyler Zeller
  • Unrestricted free agents: Evan Turner
  • Draft picks: 3rd, 16th, 23rd, 31st, 35th, 45th, 51st, 58th

Last season overview: The Celtics overachieved last year with a hard-playing roster of role players under coach Brad Stevens, scrapping their way to a solid record and a four-way tie for third place. Tiebreakers saw them lose homecourt advantage in the playoffs and they were outplayed by Atlanta, eventually losing in six games in the first round. Still, the emergence of Isaiah Thomas as a team leader, Jae Crowder as a top-tier glue guy and their other players made this last season a success, and for a team that’s building assets they have positioned themselves very well moving forward.

Summer outlook: The Celtics are in a great position and will be expected to be active this summer. Their stockpiling of draft picks is paying off this year, but a team can only bring in so many rookies, so look for them to dangle some of their picks in trying to pry talent off of other teams – particularly with that 3rd pick they got from Brooklyn.

 

carmelo-anthony-kristaps-porzingis-nba-brooklyn-nets-new-york-knicks2-850x560

New York Knicks

  • 2015-16 record: 32-50
  • Finish: 13th place, missed playoffs
  • Team Leaders
    • Scoring: Carmelo Anthony (21.8)
    • Rebounds: Carmelo Anthony (7.7)
    • Assists: Carmelo Anthony (4.2)
    • Blocks: Kristaps Porzingis (1.9)
  • Restricted free agents: Cleanthony Early, Langston Galloway
  • Unrestricted free agents: Arron Afflalo, Lou Amundson, Kevin Seraphin, Lance Thomas, Sasha Vujacic, Derrick Williams
  • Draft picks: None

Last season overview: The Knicks were up and down last year (mostly down), with a few bright spots here and there, most notably the play of Latvian rookie Kristaps Porzingis, who showed a nice offensive game, hustle and the possibility of becoming a franchise cornerstone down the road.

Summer outlook: Having no draft picks hurts pretty bad, as the Knicks had to give up their #7 selection to Denver. But with Porzingis in the mix, there is hope, as the Knicks need to hope their big market status and Phil Jackson running the show starts making them an attractive destination for free agents again. Anthony isn’t getting any younger, so look for them to make some moves to try to get better quickly.

usatsi_8493659

Brooklyn Nets

  • 2015-16 record:  21-61
  • Finish: 14th place, missed playoffs
  • Team Leaders
    • Scoring: Brook Lopez (20.6)
    • Rebounds: Thaddeus Young (9.0)
    • Assists: Jarrett Jack (7.4)
    • Blocks: Brook Lopez (1.7)
  • Restricted free agents: Markel Brown, Willie Reed
  • Unrestricted free agents: Wayne Ellington, Sergey Karasev, Shane Larkin, Thomas Robinson, Harry Sims, Donald Sloan
  • Draft picks: 55th

Last season overview: Woof. The Nets suffered though a rough season with a banged-up roster of journeymen and fringe NBA players, never having either hope to be competitive this year or much to look forward to for the summer with them owing their pick to Boston. The worst and lowest point is probably over for them, but it will take them years to rebuild. They’ve started their changes by bringing in first-year head coach Kenny Atkinson and former Spurs assistant GM Sean Marks to turn this ship around, but it’s going to take some time to get back to respectability.

Summer outlook: This is a team without a ton of options at the moment – they don’t have a team quite ready to compete to land the big free agents, and they don’t have a significant draft pick to bring in a rookie. You wonder if they look to trade some of their veterans – Lopez, Young, Jack – for young talent as they look to rebuild.

 

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Philadelphia 76ers

Philadelphia 76ers

  • 2015-16 record: 10-72
  • Finish: 15th place, missed playoffs
  • Team Leaders
    • Scoring: Jahlil Okafor (17.5)
    • Rebounds: Nerlens Noel (8.1)
    • Assists: Ish Smith (7.0)
    • Blocks: Jerami Grant (1.6)
  • Restricted free agents: Isaiah Canaan, Christian Wood
  • Unrestricted free agents: Elton Brand, Ish Smith
  • Draft picks: 1st, 24th, 26th

Last season overview: After a third straight year of tanking to play the lottery odds and attempt to rebuild through high picks by not even attempting to win, the ownership in Philly finally got sick of losing and parted ways with GM Sam Presti, whose rebuilding plan was taking hits due to bad luck, injuries to young players and just a general ugliness feeling to a franchise that wasn’t even trying. Okafor and Noel looked like capable players, if immature, and Ish Smith provided a spark plug once he came onboard midseason. But overall, this is a team that will likely look much different in a couple years than it did last season.

Summer outlook: The Sixers finally saw some dividends out of losing as they landed the first pick in the draft lottery a few weeks ago, giving them that coveted first pick they’ve been targeting for years. With the Colangelos on board now running the team, expect the team to make a push at getting much better very quickly. The team has a lot of young talent and assets – now it needs to convert that into wins.

Fighting Words: Lara/Martirosyan, Charlo Brothers Showtime Boxing Preview

Showtime and HBO seem to continue to swing wildly back and forth in the boxing world. A couple of years ago, the pendulum seemed to be swinging Showtime’s way, as they signed Floyd Mayweather, Canelo Alvarez and even, albeit for just one fight, Manny Pacquiao.  They got into bed with Golden Boy Promotions, who at the time worked with shady boxing manager du jour Al Haymon and had a pretty great stable of fighters. Then, at this time last year, Al Haymon’s PBC had taken all of their bigger fights to network TV, and Showtime’s boxing offering was so bad that I unsubscribed from it and didn’t really miss much.

This year, the momentum seems to be going back to Showtime, as HBO’s rumored budget cuts have hurt the quality and quantity of their boxing programming. Whereas HBO has been featuring its ‘name’ fighters either in mismatches – Terence Crawford, Sergey Kovalev, Andre Ward all fighting little-to-no-hopers – or in Pay Per Views (Canelo and the just announced Crawford-Postol unification fight, which is a great fight but will sell very close to zero Pay Per Views), Showtime seems to be bouncing back. They feature the two brightest up and coming heavyweights (USA’s Deontay Wilder and a new deal with UK sensation Anthony Joshua), have held and promised significant/decent matchups (Jacobs/Quillin, Frampton/Santa Cruz).

This weekend’s Showtime card tilts to the ‘decent’ level – it has three relatively evenly matched bouts featuring six good fighters. It’s not going to be a huge ratings hit, but it will be watched with interest by hardcore boxing fans, may have some significant turning points for certain fighters’ careers and frankly, is better matched than any non-PPV bout HBO has put on so far this year.

Erislandy Lara vs. Vanes Martirosyan

This is a rematch of a November 2012 bout that was fought to a technical draw after a clash of heads in the 10th round opened a nasty cut over Martirosyan’s eye and he was unable to continue. The fight went to the scorecards – somewhat controversially, referee Jay Nady asked the judges to score the 10th even though only about 20 seconds of it had been fought – and the judges were completely split, with one judge having it for either fighter and one judge having it a draw. I had Lara up 88-85 at the time of the decision (scoring the first and 10th rounds even), but it was a difficult fight to score so a draw wasn’t the worst outcome here. Let’s look into the two fighters:

 

Lara

erislandy-lara-background-photo

Erislandy Lara is a Cuban tactitian, a slick, defensive-minded fighter who confuses opponents with his constant movement and bores fans to tears with his running around the ring. Lara is usually the more talented fighter in the ring, and his matchup with Vanes is no exception.

He’s a tricky southpaw whose entire gameplan is to potshot and not get hit and there are times where that strategy looks great – his fight against Alfredo Angulo was a cracker, as Angulo came straight at him winging punches and Lara was able to show his accuracy and skill in a thrilling matchup. But sometimes it just serves to turn fans off as we’re reminded on why he isn’t a bigger name or draw. His fight last year in Chicago against journeyman Delvin Rodriguez, in which Lara had every single physical advantage you could think of, saw him get booed out of the ring after he decided to just outpoint a clearly hurt, tired and overmatched opponent over 12 easy rounds instead of ever going for the stoppage.

Lara presents the toughest road for himself: he’s a good fighter who can probably beat anybody in his weight class at any given night, but his style turns fans off so much that he doesn’t bring in any kind of money or incentive for fighters to fight him, giving him the “avoided” label – though a lot of that is his own doing.

  • Record: 22-2-2 (13 KO)
  • Height: 5’9
  • Titles Held: WBA Super Welterweight Title (won Dec. 2014 vs Ishe Smith)
  • Best Wins:
    • Austin Trout (UD12) – In a crossroads fight in December 2013, Trout – who is also fighting on this card and will get into more details later – two guys with very similar, awkward styles matched up together and Lara came out the clear better man. It wasn’t a pretty fight, but it was a significant one, and likely Lara’s best win to date. It put his name on the map and ended up earning him his PPV matchup against Canelo.
    • Alfredo Angulo (TKO 10) – Just prior to fighting trout, Lara matched up with tough Mexican fighter Angulo, a brawler who made up for his lack of skill with a surplus of heart. Angulo was tailor-made for Lara’s style, but gave as good as he got for ten rounds until Lara’s crisp shots banged Angulo’s head around one too many times and the fight was stopped due to Lara inflicting a crazy amount of damage, Angulo suffering an enormous and disgusting hematoma that disfigured his face and being unable to continue. By far the most exciting performance of his career.
    • Ishe Smith (UD12) – The 2014 fight that got him his WBA super welterweight belt, Lara beat the unspectacular Smith convincingly, albeit in unspectacular fashion.
  • Losses
    • Canelo Alvarez (SD12) – In the biggest fight of his career, Lara stepped up to face the Mexican superstar in a PPV bout and proceeded to, in my opinion, totally shit the bed. His potshot-and-move gameplan wound up looking a bit too much like running away for my, and the judges’, liking. It seemed he had the skill advantage on the night as Canelo didn’t look great either, which makes this performance all the more disappointing.
    • Paul Williams (MD12) – Lara’s first career loss, this July 2011 decision was a total farce. Williams was a very good fighter, and Lara deserved this win.

Martirosyan

gallery_307977_vanes_martirosyan_workout_1_20121025_1824222861

Martirosyan, who is Armenian and looks like it, has had a pretty solid if unspectacular career. There was a time when he was coming up that there was some hype behind him – he was fighting a low level of competition pretty consistently and had more talent than most – but seems to have settled in as a fairly basic, though tough, fighter. He’s a likeable guy that just seems to be a level below the cream of the crop. He isn’t afraid to bring the fight, and though he hasn’t had a knockout in over three years, he seems to win fights based on grit and out-toughing his opponent.

Vanes just 4-2 in his last six fights, and Saturday represents a pretty significant moment in his career.

  • Record: 36-2-1 (21 KO)
  • Height: 5’11
  • Best Wins:
    • Willie Nelson (UD10) – In October 2014, a faltering Martirosyan was matched up with an undefeated up in comer in Willie Nelson, in a matchup where Vanes was clearly there in the gatekeeper role. Vanes kept his contender name alive as he deservedly took a decision (I scored the fight 97-93 in his favor) over Nelson and sent Nelson back down a level. A contender-level gatekeeper may be the spot for Vanes, but this night gave him the juice to continue his career at a high level.
    • Ishe Smith (MD10) – In his most recent fight, Vanes pulled out a tough decision over Smith in another closely matched contender-level bout – Martirosyan actually put Smith on the canvas twice, but even with the point deductions, he scraped out a majority decision here.
  • Losses:
    • Demetrius Andrade (SD12) – Andrade is a legit contender, a young guy with endless amounts of potential that has crushed his own career with inactivity and management issues. Still, Vanes gave the undefeated ‘Boo Boo’ Andrade all he could handle in this 2013 title fight, and gave a good showing of himself here.
    • Jermell Charlo (UD10) – Last March, in a step-up fight for the more finesse Charlo twin, Jermell took a unanimous decision win in a close fight in which, in my view, seven rounds could have gone either way. I had the fight scored 96-94 in Martirosyan’s favor, but I don’t think a Charlo decision was a robbery. Not much separated them here, but it being a step-up fight for Charlo, this may have cemented Vanes as a gatekeeper-level fighter.

 

The Verdict:  I will confess I usually don’t like watching Lara fight much, and this fight doesn’t really get my heart pounding. That said, I rate his talent and skill highly, and find Martirosyan to be ordinary. I thought Lara deserved the decision in their first matchup, and if Lara shows up to win, and not to run, I think he will take a unanimous decision over Vanes.

Jermall Charlo vs Austin Trout

 

hi-res-39d2ae58cb5c66f2b31beb04664fa3db_crop_north

Jermall Charlo

Of the two Charlo twins, I rate Jermall much higher and have really enjoyed watching him. They look exactly the same, and their names are only one vowel apart, but someone pointed out once to me that Jermall ‘mauls’ opponents as a more physical man whereas Jermell is a little more “mellow” and more of a boxer, and that’s helped me differentiate them. Shout out to Bad Left Hook for the mneumonic.

This is a big fight for Jermall – he holds a belt, but he’s looked at still as a bit of a prospect-level. Let’s see what he’s really made of here – Trout is no easy out. This Charlo has shown a lot of potential, an aggressive style with true power in his hands – he has stoppages in 16 of his last 17 fights, and hasn’t seen a dip in effectiveness as he stepped up in power. I think he’s the real deal, but we’ll see what he’s made of Saturday night.

  • Record: 23-0 (18 KO)
  • Height: 6’0
  • Titles Held: IBF Super Welterweight Title (Won Sept. 2015 vs Cornelius Bundrage)
  • Best Win:
    • Cornelius Bundrage (TKO3) – In Charlo’s first title shot, and really the only real significant win on his record thus far, he dominated the admittedly old-as-shit (Budrage was 43 years old at the time of this fight) and overmatched champion over three rounds to swipe the belt in a fight that was never close. Charlo was probably the favorite going in, but ‘K-9 Bundrage’ was an experienced veteran, and Charlo crushed him emphatically. Just a great step-up performance for a young contender.

 

Austin Trout

 

austin-trout

Trout is a tough fighter, another tricky southpaw in the mold of Erislandy Lara. He’s had some big wins and big matchups – he put his name on the map with a deserved upset over Puerto Rican superstar Miguel Cotto – and gave Canelo Alvarez all he could handle. He’s an awkward fighter to face, long and smart, though he isn’t known for his power.

However, his loss to Lara seemed to set his career back, as he’s taken a significant step back in competition since then as he works to build his career back up. He’s looked shaky in a couple of those fights, causing speculation that his setbacks maybe are causing him to be a little more disinterested in his career. Either way, he’s going to be the best fighter Jermall Charlo has ever been in the ring with professionally.

 

  • Record: 30-2 (17 KO)
  • Height: 5’9
  • Best Wins:
    • Miguel Cotto (UD12) – It certainly is not easy to go into Madison Square Garden and take down Cotto in front of thousands of adoring Puerto Ricans. Trout came into this December 2012 fight as the clear B-side, but proved to be too much for the smaller Cotto to reach. Trout used his smarts and reach to outbox Cotto thoroughly, and put his name on the map. A great win, but we’re coming up on four years since this went down.
    • Delvin Rodriguez (UD12) – The performance that likely earned Trout the Cotto shot, Trout thoroughly outboxed Rodriguez and proved himself to be above a journeyman level fighter.
  • Losses:
    • Erislandy Lara (UD12) – As written above, Trout found himself matched with a similar fighter and found himself a step slow. Trout’s career has been pretty muted since then, with this being his biggest step up since this loss in Brooklyn.
    • Canelo Alvarez (UD12) – In a somewhat controversial fight in spring 2013- the fight was fought under the bizarre open scoring rules, in Texas, and Canelo was given some questionable rounds early, which caused Trout, knowing he was down, to throw caution to the wind and fight outside his normal style to try for the comeback. Canelo did score a hard knockdown in the fight, so there wasn’t too much handwringing over it, but Trout made a good showing of himself in the loss. This loss continues to look better as Canelo’s star grows, but again – this was now three years ago.

The Verdict: I think Trout gives Charlo some trouble early, but Charlo’s power proves to be too much for Trout. I predict a late TKO win for Charlo, giving Trout the first stoppage loss of his career. I could also see Charlo winning on the cards, if Trout goes super defensive after feeling Jermall’s power.

Jermell Charlo vs John Jackson

 

box_fightnight_06

Jermell Charlo

This, the opener to Saturday night’s card, might be my favorite fight of the whole card. The vacant WBC super welterweight title (vacated by the retiring Mayweather) is on the line and two young guys are going for it.

Jermell Charlo brother, who some rate higher than his brother due to his better level of opposition, has never impressed me much – he is a good boxer, but seems content with outpointing slower, less talented fighters and has never really shown me next-level power or speed. Jackson is a very flawed young fighter who packs a ton of talent but has been been stopped before and may be chinny. If Jermell doesn’t have the power to slow down Jackson, this could get very interesting quickly.

  • Record: 27-0 (12 KO)
  • Height: 5’11
  • Best Wins:
    • Vanes Martirosyan (UD10) – As written above, this is a significant win for Charlo, and does put him on the map as a worthy contender. This is nothing to sneeze at, and proves Jermell to be a high-level contender. That said, this was a very close fight in which Charlo enjoyed the benefit of the doubt in the judging.
    • Gabriel Rosado (UD10) – Charlo’s first big step-up fight in January 2014 saw him totally outclass a tough contender in Rosado, showing that Charlo’s skill is the real deal. That said, though Rosado has given everybody a tough fight, he’s also frankly lost to every good fighter he’s faced, so this win doesn’t really set Charlo too much apart.

 

John Jackson

lazypepperykarakul

 

Jackson, the son of former fighter Julian Jackson, is a fun fighter to watch, a skilled brawler who looks world class for a few rounds and then has a tendency to bite off more than he can chew. He’s starting to rebuild after a nasty knockout loss to middleweight contender Andy Lee in the summer of 2014, fighting twice since then and seeming to box more carefully, picking up a pair of decision wins and looking to change his style, for the good of his boxing career and probably his health.

  • Record: 20-2 (15 KO)
  • Height: 6’0
  • Best Wins:
    • Jackson doesn’t have any significant wins of note – his record is littered with solid journeyman-type opponents who more often then not come into their bouts with a solid handful of losses. Jackson has lost both time he has stepped up in competition, which may say something about him.
  • Losses:
    • Andy Lee (KO5) – On the undercard of the Miguel Cotto-Sergio Martinez fight in June 2014 at Madison Square Garden, Jackson took this step up fight against contender Andy Lee and spent the first four rounds looking incredible. He was winning by a mile on all scorecards, outfought the veteran and generally looked like he was arriving on the scene in a big way. Unfortunately for him, Lee landed a vicious short right hand right as Jackson was throwing one of his own, and it turned Jackson’s lights out immediately and sent him careening lifeless to the canvas. A tough, tough knockout to bounce back from for a young fighter.
    • Willie Nelson (UD 10) – In September 2012, Jackson took a step-up fight against the lesser-regarded Nelson and was promptly upset in a close but clear unanimous decision loss. Nelson, of course, has gone on to be a solid if unspectacular contender.

The Verdict: Look, the smart money here is on Charlo. He’s undefeated, skilled, has fought better competition and is the clear A-side in this fight. He’s supposed to win. Jackson hasn’t beaten anybody, has lost both times he’s stepped up in competition, and may not be very good. However, Jackson has fought at higher weights before – he got knocked out as a middleweight – and I can’t get past those four rounds that he looked great in against Lee, who is a very good fighter. I might regret this and look foolish, but I’ll go ahead and pick Jackson in the surprise upset in this one.

 

 

 

 

 

HBO PPV Recap: Canelo ends Khan’s Night with a Slobberknocker

 

hi-res-319c04704bc443bf13fb21585605d815_crop_north

Well, if nothing else, if you plunked down $70 for the HBO PPV on Saturday night, or caught it out at a bar, you certainly got your money’s worth of action. The main event was a fun one for as long as it lasted, ending in a spectacular Canelo knockout. Of the three (really solid) undercard fights, two of them ended in knockouts. Was Khan’s lights getting turned out really a huge surprise? No, not really. But with pay-per-view matchups so often disappointing in recent years, the action in-ring – along with Canelo afterward seemingly manning up and agreeing to take on the best middleweight in the world, Gennady Golovkin, post-fight – made this a solid night for boxing.

 

Fight Recap: Canelo Alvarez KO6 Amir Khan

Boxing: Canelo vs Khan

In a fight that played out as perhaps the best possible version of the matchup going in – smaller, faster boxer with weak chin moving up in weight to face the slower, but bigger and more powerful fighter – Canelo Alvarez (47-1-1, 33 KO) made good on his promise and advantages. Amir Khan (31-4, 19 KO) began the fight by boxing beautifully, using his otherworldly handspeed to whip shots right into the Mexican’s face and then circling away. Khan pretty clearly took the first two rounds, as Canelo’s power shots tended to catch nothing but air.

Canelo started doing a bit better in the third round, thumping Khan to the body and beginning to cut the ring off. For the most part, however, Khan was able to get away from any major power shots from Canelo, using a couple of quick combos to slide in and out of the pocket and riding his skill to be competitive. For a fighter who has typically been known to stand in and throw a bit too much for his own good, defense doesn’t exactly come natural to him – you could see him thinking in the ring. However, he was executing a smart game plan quite well, and though Canelo was picking up steam I had had Khan up 48-47 (3-2 in rounds) heading into the 6th.

Although Khan was up on the scorecards, the momentum was turning heading into the sixth and in that final round Canelo began to reach Khan and cut the ring off from him. Finally, a probing Canelo jab took Khan’s attention and focus away for a second, and as the Brit blocked it and began to load up on a check left hook of his own, Canelo came in with a drilling right hand, a perfectly placed slobberknocker that whipped its way to the side of Khan’s head and ended his night immediately. Canelo, feeling the force with which he had just crushed Khan, dropped to his knees to make sure his opponent was OK. The heavily favored Mexican superstar adds another nasty knockout to his highlight-reel.

Afterwards, and justifiably so, the talk was all about what’s next for Canelo – and it seems the media and fans won’t let him off the hook, as every topic of conversation centered around GGG. Even Khan and his trainer, Virgil Hunter, in their postfight interview, seemed emotional about the prospect of Canelo avoiding the Kazakhstani monster. This seemed to have a visceral effect on Canelo, who somewhat defiantly proclaimed that he wasn’t “fucking around” and was ready to get in the ring with GGG. I’m sure that topic will be discussed to death in the coming months, but at least for Saturday night, good for Alvarez for seemingly not being afraid of the challenge.

One more note on this fight before we move on: afterwards, the three judges’ scorecards were revealed, and it turns out two of them had the fight going Canelo’s way. One of those cards had it 4-1 in Canelo’s favor, which is despicable. I’m glad the knockout happened – not just for entertainment, but so we had a decisive victor – but again, boxing reminds us that it is a huge asshole.

Fight Recap: David Lemieux TKO4 Glen Tapia

lemieux-tapia-ss-01

In a fight that was basically guaranteed fireworks from the start, Canadian puncher David Lemieux (35-3, 32 KO) was too much for New Jersey’s Glen Tapia (23-3, 15 KO), who saw his corner throw in the towel on him and stop the fight after a tough knockdown in the fourth round.

The stoppage was probably a smidge early in most circumstances, but in this case was warranted. Lemieux was another level of brawler, too much for Tapia to handle, he came at him hard and he came fast, winging scary-looking punches at him and knocking Tapia around the ring for much of the bout. Tapia was outclassed in there, and he’s a kid who is probably too tough for his own health – in a knockout loss to James Kirkland, a cross-eyed and woozy Tapia stood for about 5-10 seconds too long and allowed Kirkland to tee off on him as he stood unprotected. That knockout was one of the worst in recent memory in terms of worrying about the health of the losing fighter, as Tapia may have taken serious and permanent damage in the loss. Given this history, his corner made a nice call here.

For Lemieux, the deserved victor, it serves as just another reminder of what he’s capable of. He’s going to make a nice career for himself – he’s a fun fighter to watch, has star looks and charisma, he goes into the ring to finish his opponent and he’s pretty well skilled. He proved emphatically back in October that he isn’t on Golovkin’s level as a champion, but as a contender or second-tier champion, Lemieux is going to be a fun one to watch.

Fight Recap: Frankie Gomez UD10 Mauricio Herrera

Sometime the Wolf Score: Gomez 100 – 90 Herrera

GTY 529036312 S BOX SPO USA NV

In a somewhat surprising blowout, 24-year old prospect Frankie Gomez (21-0, 13 KO) utterly dominated veteran fighter Mauricio Herrera (22-6, 7 KO) over ten rounds. Gomez looked like the better man from the start, getting the better of every exchange, never looking hurt and marking up Herrera’s face throughout, to the point that Herrera was sporting two nasty cuts under his eyes, like grotesque football face paint.

The fight itself didn’t raise pulses or change lives, but it did prove that Gomez is for real. Herrera is not a champion-level fighter, but he is a very solid veteran who has held his own against real fighters. He lost a disputed hometown decision to the undefeated Danny Garcia, and has had numerous other losses that could have – or should have – been wins. Herrera is legit, and him looking so overmatched either means that Gomez is for real, that Herrera is done, or a combination of both. We’ll see where Gomez goes from here, but a ten round blowout decision over Mauricio Herrera is nothing to sneeze at.

Fight Recap: Curtis Stevens TKO2 Patrick Teixeira

gettyimages-529034096-0

Curtis Stevens (28-5, 21 KO) is a fighter who has nasty, game-changing power, a nasty left and not much else. However, at a certain level, that power can be enough. Stevens has gone through a litany of nicknames, most of them terrible – Showtime, It’s My Time, and the latest, the eye-roll worthy Cerebral Assassin – but his first was perhaps the most fitting: Chin Checker.

Stevens doesn’t have a championship-level future, but he can serve as a true chin checker for up and coming prospects and contenders, and perhaps that is the role he was meant to play. Where Golovkin was able to eat his shots flush and keep coming, lesser fighters can’t, which is what we saw on Saturday night as 25-year old Brazilian prospect Patrick Teixeira (26-1, 22 KO) quickly found out. Despite towering over Stevens (Teixeira had a stark 4-inch height advantage), Teixeira could not handle the Brooklynite’s power, and could not make it past the second round, really quickly looking embarrassed and out of place. Here’s hoping Teixeira finds another line of work, or goes back to his home country and finds guys to fight who can’t spark him like Stevens did this weekend.

Fighting Words: Is Canelo-Khan a real fight?

Tomorrow night, May 7, Mexican superstar Canelo Alvarez (46-1-1, 32 KO) puts his ‘middleweight’ title on the line against UK challenger Amir Khan (31-3, 19KO. It is being billed a superfight, sold on HBO Pay Per View and promising, in the promotion at least, to be a matchup of a bigger fighter with world-class power against a smaller but more agile fighter of world-class speed. But are the promoters of the fight, as they tend to do, shaking our hands and smiling at us while they steal our wallets, or is this a real, legit fight? Let’s dive in.

saul-alvarez_2662685b

Canelo

Canelo is the sport’s fastest rising young star, a popular 25-year old from Mexico who looks like the human version of a pitbull. He’s strong, smart and has been groomed from stardom from a very young age. Despite these high expectations, results have been mixed at the very highest level – despite a few highlight real knockouts (see: Kirkland, James) his fights haven’t always been barnburners, and he’s won some close decisions where he didn’t separate himself from a mobile opponent (see: Lara, Erislandy).

He’s a naturally bigger man that has thus far fought below his standard weight class, giving him a size advantage in the ring nearly every time he’s stepped through the ropes. That will be no different on Saturday night, where he’ll be the heavy favorite against another smaller opponent. He’s historically not ducked from challenges, but has received some fan backlash for some funny business with weights – such as defending the middleweight belt (160 pound limit) at 155 pounds.

Canelo is a very well rounded fighter – he isn’t fast, but he’s smart; he doesn’t throw a ton of punches, but he’s accurate; he doesn’t have heart-stopping power, but he will make you respect him. Fighters that come to him and want to go to war – like Kirkland – will taste his power, but Canelo won’t chase if the fight turns into more of a traditional boxing match.

  • Height: 5’9
  • Weight (Contracted/Fight Night Guess): 155/170
  •  Best Wins: 
    • Miguel Cotto (UD12) – In Canelo’s most recent fight in November, he took the lineal title from the veteran Puerto Rican in a unanimous decision that served as a very impressive performance and passed test by the young star. Canelo’s power and size made the difference in this fight, as Cotto’s punches never seemed to have much of an effect on Alvarez, while Canelo’s power shots seemed to move Cotto easily.
    • James Kirkland (KO3) – Kirkland is an all-action come forward type fighter with little regard for defense, and he played into Canelo’s hands perfectly. Canelo brought the noise on this night, nearly taking Kirkland’s head off in a very impressive knockout – albeit against a fighter built for this.
    • Austin Trout (UD12) – Trout is a tricky, crafty southpaw that’s nearly impossible to look good against, and a 22-year old Canelo took a massive step up and risk in fighting him. As is his wont, Trout made the fight ugly and close, and though a wonky open scoring system marred the rhythm of the fight in Canelo’s favor, an emphatic knockdown from Alvarez made the decision feel deserved.
  • Losses:
    • Floyd Mayweather (UD12) – Canelo showed up to this much-hyped matchup and looked completely out of ideas within the first minute. Though he came into this fight so young that the loss didn’t hurt his reputation too much, Alvarez wasn’t close to Mayweather’s level at any point, and the frustration was compounded by Canelo and his team’s absurd decision to try to outbox his generation’s best boxer instead of trying to muddy up the fight.

 

  • What’s at stake for Canelo: Honestly, everything. Canelo is billing himself as the lineal and true middleweight champion, though there is a boogeyman in Gennady Golovkin lurking in his future. He’s going to be the much bigger man in the ring on Saturday night, and he’s going to be a huge favorite. If he wants to be taken seriously, he needs to beat Khan, and beat him going away. Canelo needs to win, and he needs to look good, in order to keep that ‘next superstar’ gravy train rolling.

 

1429559480-amir-khan

Khan

Amir Khan is an exciting, fast and talented 29-year old Pakistani/British fighter from Bolton, UK who is known for his incredible handspeed, fun fights and the absolute definition of a glass jaw.

In addition to being the smaller man on Saturday night, Khan is going to step into the ring with the worst kind of Achilles heel for a professional prizefighter – he is not great at taking punches.

Khan has been on the canvas on eight separate occasions throughout his career – and twice being absolutely, brutally knocked senseless. Early in his career and when fighting under the tutelage of Freddie Roach, Khan was an all-offense dynamo, his hands a blur as he put together impressive combinations that knocked his opponents silly. His activity level served as his defense, stopping opponents from effectively throwing back – but oh, boy, if they landed, Khan was in big trouble.

Khan’s career took a sharp turn with his third loss – his first, after all, came very early in his career and his second was a questionable hometown decision – but his third was when all of Amir Khan’s talents and faults came to the limelight. After having frustrated Garcia and clearly outpointing him in the first three rounds, Garcia landed a hook in between Khan’s chin and neck, Khan immediately went Bambi-legs and swinging wildly, and that was all she wrote.

Amir changed course then, switching trainers to the more cerebral Virgil Hunter as he tried to switch to a more defensive style to make up for his lack of chin. While good in theory, results have been mixed. Though Khan is undefeated in his five fights since the Garcia loss, the new style has looked shaky on him, and his fights have lost a level of fireworks and spontaneous fun that they once had. He goes into tomorrow night’s fight as a massive underdog. Many in the know would say his only chance to win against such a bigger man is to use his skill and speed to pile up points and rounds while fighting the defensive fight of his life, staying away from Canelo’s power. If he can accomplish this on the biggest stage in his career remains to be seen.

  • Best Wins:
    • Devon Alexander (UD12) – Alexander is a former mainstay at the welterweight division, a solid top-tier fighter, and Khan wiped the floor with him in December 2014, winning every round and completely outclassing him. It’s the best Khan has looked under his new trainer and since the loss to Garcia. I actually wrote about this fight here. After this fight, however, Alexander has only fought once, a loss to the unremarkable Aaron Martinez, somewhat marring Khan’s performance here.
    • Marcos Maidana (UD12) – A compelling matchup between two hungry fighters, this fight was named the 2012 Fight of the Year. This was a signature Amir Khan win, though he showed cracks in his armor in this back-and-forth slugfest. Khan dropped Maidana twice in the first round with some wicked bodyshots, but Maidana recovered to make it a grinder, and was even batting Khan around like a bobblehead late in the fight. Khan managed to make it through some dicey moments to hang on for a win, establishing himself as an up and coming contender and an exciting fighter.
    • Zab Judah (KO5) – Though the KO here was weird – Khan hit Judah with a bodyshot that Judah tried to sell as below the belt to get a DQ – this was the high point of Khan’s career. He was on a hot streak, coming off the big Maidana win, and at no point did Judah seem in his class in this fight. Khan was looking like the potential next big thing following this win.
  • Weight (Contracted/Fight Night Guess): 155/152
  • Height: 5’8
  • Losses:
    • Danny Garcia (TKO4) – Already discussed above, Khan was beating Garcia when he got caught flush and never managed to recover, going down swinging wildly and sending both men’s careers in different directions.
    • Lamont Peterson (SD12) – In the fight immediately prior to the Garcia bout, Khan traveled to Peterson’s backyard of Washington D.C. for a competitive and entertaining twelve rounds that I (and a large percentage of other observers) thought Khan deserved to win. Peterson ended up taking the hometown split decision, though Khan endeared himself to no one afterwards by the amount of bitching he did afterwards on social media and in interviews.
    • Breidis Prescott (KO1) – Khan got brutally knocked out in the first 30 seconds of this 2008 bout against Breidis Prescott, a fighter who never really amounted to much after this. This was chalked up at the time and in the immediate years after as a lucky punch from Prescott – the perfect shot landed at the perfect time – which certainly happens, but sure looks a little less random looking back. Khan never rematched Prescott to avoid this loss.
  • What’s at stake for Khan: Khan is a massive underdog, is going to be much smaller in the ring, and is going to likely not have any crowd behind him. He’s been trying to get a big fight for years now, and he finally got one – though he had to go up in weight to do it. In many ways, if he keeps it competitive and sees the final bell, Amir Khan will come out a winner. If he wins, it changes the narrative of his entire career. Other than the physical drawback of getting the shit beat out of you, Khan doesn’t really have much to lose tomorrow night.

 

canelo-alvarez-v-amir-khan

So…Is Canelo-Khan a real fight?

The verdict…no, not really. This is a mismatch, albeit a high-profile one. That said, given what’s at stake – the rising star of Canelo Alvarez, the fact that Amir Khan’s lights can be turned out at any moment – it might be worth watching. And, after all, this is boxing – anything can happen.