The Best Fights of 2018 + More Musings

I know you’re supposed to do this at the end of the calendar year but fuck it I’m inspired today so I’m doing this today. There’s a lot of boxing ahead of us – November and December looked STACKED – but here’s some of my random thoughts from what has been an interesting and awesome year to be a boxing fan.

STREAMING IS HERE TO STAY

I don’t have cable – I watch my TV through my Roku. This is the greatest time to be a boxing fan that I can remember. Between subscriptions to YouTube TV, DAZN, Showtime and ESPN+, I’m paying like $50 and can get any fight I want. I don’t have to find a dodgy Russian website illegal stream of fight cards that give my computer an STD, and I can watch all of the fights I want and replays in glorious HD.

HBO is out of the fight game, which is a shame in the sense that their production was the best in the business – but their streaming game was fucking terrible. Their app, HBO Go, didn’t offer fights live, and on top of that, didn’t get the replays up on the app until the Tuesday after fight night. Three days later! Compare with the Showtime app: live streaming for every fight card, the full fight card up on the app the morning after if you missed it live. It’s not close, and that failure to adapt (along with other factors) showed you how uncommitted the network was to the sport and how behind they were. That’s why Showtime has my monthly subscription money, and HBO doesn’t. On that note..

 

DAZN HAS BEEN REALLY FUCKING GOOD

Knocking on wood that this continues, but DAZN has been AWESOME. Great quality streams, awesome shoulder content around boxing, replays immediately, high production in their live fights. They are actually showing background pieces on undercard fighters instead of just talking about the main event fights and dismissing the action in front of you. Their content is compelling, they’re making waves in terms of the fighters they’ve signed (Anthony Joshua, Canelo Alvarez, the World Boxing Super Series) and it seems like they have at least one if not more fight cards every single weekend. Easily the best $10/month I’m spending right now as a fight fan. I don’t know how they’re making money, but here’s hoping things continue and they aren’t just putting on a pretty face for their first year in business here.

MY FAVORITE FIGHTS OF THIS YEAR

Feb 3 – Murat Gassiev KO12 Yunier Dorticos

(STW Score: Gassiev 105-104 Dorticos)

I had this fight closer than most, but this WBSS cruiserweight semifinal (also a unification bout) was great from start to finish. Just two high class, skilled dudes who can also punch going at it. I don’t think there was a clinch in the entire match. Dorticos was getting work done early but Gassiev invested to the body, which made a huge difference down the stretch as the Cuban seemed to gas badly in the last few rounds. Gassiev truly looked dominant towards the end there, and the stoppage was nasty and emotional. Dorticos shed some tears after the fight, and you truly felt like he left everything in the ring. This was, for my money, the best fight in the first season of the Super Series, which has been a phenomenal addition to the sport. Gassiev would go on to get swept on the cards in the final by Oleksandr Usyk in a virtuoso performance, but as far as action goes you couldn’t top this semifinal and I came away impressed with both guys. Dorticos is returning for the second season of the tournament, and I’ll be rooting for him.

 

Feb 24 – Srisaket Sor Rungvisai MD12 Juan Francisco Estrada

(STW Score: Sor Rungvisai 115-113 Estrada)

Super fun fight on the back of another hugely successful SuperFly card on HBO – the third one, like the third Godfather, was trash, but this one was a worthy sequel to the first. Just a high level superfly matchup, with the big, come forward Thai destroyer against the classy, experienced and accurate Mexican. It was action from the start, and Rungvisai showed real skill to go along with his power, which ultimately made the difference in the fight. It was back and forth with both guys having moments, Estrada at one point decided he was good to take punishment as long as he got his own shots in, which made it a fun fight. Some hard rounds to score here, especially down the stretch, but I think the Thai fighter got the deserved decision here.

March 3 – Deontay Wilder TKO10 Luis Ortiz

STW Score: Wilder 84-85 Ortiz

I’ve been rooting for Deontay Wilder for years now. I think having a big, scary looking American heavyweight champion who knocks everybody out is a great thing for the sport Stateside, and though he’s crude and not graceful in there I’ve long held out hope for his punching power and personality to make him a star. He’s been building on this and has held a world title for a couple of years, but he never really had that name on his resume that truly gave him respect from hardcore boxing fans and thus he never has gotten the big push that would make him a mainstream star. His best win, prior to 2018, was his title fight against Bermane Stiverne, a decision victory that looked less and less impressive with time as Stiverne got fatter and fatter (Wilder actually wound up rematching and stopping an out of shape and demoralized Stiverne in an unnecessary rematch in late 2017).

It wasn’t through lack of trying – Wilder had lined up fights in Russia with respected heavyweight Alexander Povetkin before the Russian popped for PEDs, and then the same thing happened with Cuba’s Ortiz, an old but respected power puncher, a big dude with major pedigree and skills. Frustrated at the lack of a name on his record, Wilder signed up yet again to fight Ortiz in 2018, and came out with his signature career win and respect to boot.

After a porous opening four rounds in which nothing really happened and nobody really got going (though Ortiz probably was nicking the rounds), things went down in Round 5 in a back and forth heavyweight WAR. Wilder nailed Ortiz in the fifth and dropped him, seeing the Cuban get up and survive albeit on shaky legs. In Round 7, things truly got real, as Ortiz hurt Wilder BADLY and the American looked dazed and confused and like he might go down. He stayed on his feet, but just barely – looked like he was one shot away from being ended right there and then. He took another round or so to recover, but then lands that great equalizer of his in Round 9 – a huge right hand that’s got Ortiz wobbly. In Round 10, Wilder lands that big right hand again, drops him twice and closes the show. I watched this in a room with some non-boxing diehards and they LOVED IT. Great for the sport and happy for Wilder, who takes on the gypsy king Tyson Fury in December next. Huge year for Wilder if he comes out of it with wins over Ortiz and Fury – possibly challenge Anthony Joshua for the best resume at heavyweight, and hopefully challenging Joshua in the ring in the biggest fight the sport can offer.

March 10: Oscar Valdez UD12 Scott Quigg

(STW Score: Valdez 115-113 Quigg)

LOVED this fight and the heart Quigg showed in this one. The young Mexican titleholder is an all-action, come forward fighter, but he’d never been challenged like this before. Quigg completely blew weight and came in HUGE for this ESPN-televised bout, and the weight discrepancy showed as Quigg was enormous in there and was really doing a ton of damage with his shots to the smaller Valdez. Valdez was game, even though at the end of Round 5 he got hurt bad and broke his jaw, gushing blood out of his mouth. Quigg just came forward and applied pressure, and Valdez answered back. By the middle of the fight, Quigg’s nose was broken along with Valdez’s jaw and Valdez’s corner wasn’t even removing their man’s mouthpiece in between rounds due to how much blood was leaking form his mouth. Fight of the year candidate in my opinion. Valdez showed crazy heart against a guy who could have been 2 divisions higher than him. The official scorecards were a little wide for my taste but overall damn impressive from the Mexican champ, even though he probably shortened his career by taking this one and hasn’t been in the ring since as he recovers.

April 7: Jarrett Hurd SD12 Erislandy Lara

STW Score: Hurd 116-111 Lara

Erislandy Lara is an extremely talented boxer that is either in absolutely terrible fights (he tends to be OK with boring points decisions when he has his opponent outclassed) or in awesome barnburners (his bout with Alfredo Angulo was low key extremely entertaining). In this one, Lara’s style meshed perfectly with Jarrett Hurd’s come forward terminator impression and it made for an awesome, compelling matchup. Hurd just comes forward and comes forward, and Lara had his hands full just trying to keep the huge American off him for the entire fight. Both guys had their moments and hurt each other, and the rounds were pretty close.

The championship rounds made the difference in this one. Hurd stayed busy and stayed right up Lara’s ass (figuratively), keeping him close by and mauling him while Lara tried to counter and show heart, fighting with a bad cut over one eye. With 30 seconds left, Hurd nails him with a right hand and drops him. Dramatic finish to this fight – with that knockdown, Hurd took the scorecards and the belts. Great Showtime matchup and great result for boxing (Lara as a champ had a less than inspiring reign). Hurd is one to watch moving forward – he’s huge for the division and absolutely relentless. Can’t see him in a lot of bad fights.

April 28: Isaac Dogboe TKO11 Jessie Magdeleno

STW Score: Dogboe 96-92 Magdeleno

Ghana’s Isaac Dogboe put himself squarely on the world scene with a big year this year, none bigger than this performance on ESPN where he came off the canvas after a first round knockdown to stop a tough, skilled opponent in Magdeleno. Both guys came out swinging and Dogboe really separated himself in the latter half of this one as a crazy little man who isn’t afraid of a firefight. One of the most exciting fighters to come on the scene in 2018,

 

May 12: Vasyl Lomachenko TKO10 Jorge Linares

STW Score: Lomachenko 86-84 Linares

Ukraine’s Vasyl Lomachenko has been touted by many as the top pound-for-pound boxer in the world, and a lot of that is due to the dominance he has exhibited in wiping away every opponent he’s faced over the past few years. Most of his fights aren’t even close, and his habit of getting seasoned professionals to get so discouraged that they quit on their stools was almost more impressive than if he had one-punch KO’d them. Linares gave him a true challenge though – despite Loma being much faster than Linares (no easy task, as the Venezuelan has fast hands himself), Linares truly held his own in this one, even dropping Lomachenko on his ass in Round 6 when the Ukrainian somewhat recklessly came lunging in. After a great back and forth and scintillating 10th round, Linares all of a sudden crumpled to the ground and couldn’t get back up. I literally thought he hurt his leg as I couldn’t see what happened live, but on replay you could see that Lomachenko landed a perfectly placed, nasty AF liver shot that just shut down Linares’ body immediately. Great, fun, high level chess match with an awesome ending.

 

June 23: Josh Taylor UD12 Viktor Postol

STW Score: Taylor 114-113 Postol

Josh Taylor, the great Scottish hope, is a really promising young super lightweight, a fun to watch and classy boxer who has turned heads in recent years and is one of the favorites in the upcoming WBSS season 2 tournament. Before he got into the tournament and got the respect of the boxing public at large, though, he had to get through tough veteran Viktor Postol.

Postol, a solid, tall and awkward fighter from Ukraine best known for falling short in a matchup against Terence Crawford, is a real challenge. He doesn’t have popularity and thus Taylor had much more to lose than gain in taking him on, and Postol proved to be really tricky in this one. It was a close fight, in which Postol did well when he kept a medium distance, whereas Taylor did better on the inside and at range. While Taylor won his rounds more impressively as the harder hitter, Postol stayed in the fight by controlling the tempo behind a consistent jab. Taylor got a huge knockdwon in Round 10 from a a big left hand counter shot, but the veteran Ukranian stayed in it and surprised Taylor with his aggression after being hurt. While maybe not the fight of the year, a high level chess match and great performance from a young prospect make this fight worthy of watching. On my scorecard, the knockdown made the difference and broke a 6-6 tie in rounds, but the judges disagreed as they all had Taylor winning widely. Watch it for yourself and decide.

 

July 28: Dillian Whyte UD12 Joseph Parker

STW Score: Whyte 114-111 Parker

After a long string of less than inspiring performances and horrendous-to-watch bouts, including a snoozer of a unification fight against Anthony Joshua in the spring, I had given up on Joseph Parker as a fighter worth watching. He’s skilled and talented but his spoiler style and lack of true power does not make for exciting TV. Well, this one was sloppy and fun and then some, as Whyte managed to draw Parker into more of a war than he was used to. Knockdowns, point deductions, action, drama and momentum swings – this fight had it all. Parker almost erased a big deficit by winning the last few rounds, including hurting Whyte in Round 12 and forcing the big Brit to barely hang on to survive to take a decision. Maybe not Lomachenko-level artistry on display in this one, but it sure was fun.

 

August 4: Eleider Alvarez TKO7 Sergey Kovalev

STW Score: Alvarez 55-59 Kovalev

I am biased on this one as I was there live in Atlantic City to watch it go down, but this fight was maybe the upset of the year and a total blast. Kovalev, the Russian destroyer who had only been defeated by one of the greats in Andre Ward, was expected to blow past longtime contender Eleider Alvarez on his way to a unification matchup with young puncher Dmitry Bivol, fighting on the co-feature bout this same night. Alvarez wasn’t having it. Though Kovalev won the first half of the fight on the cards, Alvarez was taking Sergey’s best shots and kept coming, gambling that Kovalev’s famed lack of conditioning would catch up to him if he didn’t finish the fight early. He gambled correctly. A huge shot in the 7th Round put Kovalev on queer street and though he tried to get up, Alvarez was accurate and merciless on the finish. Well worth a watch for sure, and it’s tough to think of a bigger upset this year than this one, especially as Alvarez was not thought of as a power puncher coming in.

September 14: Jose Ramirez UD12 Antonio Orozco

STW Score: Ramirez 116-110 Orozco

Look, this wasn’t the highest level of talent in a boxing match that you’ll ever see, and it wasn’t even really a close fight or ever in doubt. But what it was, was a tremendous display of action and balls. The two guys came out swinging and never stopped, and Ramirez had Orozco seriously dropped and hurt as early as Round 4. Somehow, Orozco survived to give a great account of himself. Not a fight that was close, but one in which I came out impressed with both guys. Orozco’s got a lot to be proud of in this loss, and I’d love to see either of these boxers fight again. Ramirez has talent and potentially could be seen in some higher level matchups – I don’t think he’ll ever top pound-for-pound lists but I do think he’ll be in some fun fights.

 

September 15: Canelo Alvarez MD12 Gennady Golovkin

STW Score: Alvarez 114-114 Golovkin

Ah yes, the big one. The biggest fight of the year was also one of the best, as Alvarez and Golovkin went toe-to-toe in their rematch and delivered on the sport’s biggest stage. Neither guy backed down, both landed huge shots, and it was a fight deserving of its billing. They are both greats and future Hall of Famers.

Some notes in terms of the scoring, here, since that seems to continue to be a hot topic of conversation. I’m a Golovkin fan boy (just look at these blog archives). I scored the first fight a draw, but thought if you had to pick a winner, you’d have to pick GGG. I wouldn’t have a problem if you gave the first one to GGG, I would have had a hard time seeing any more rounds for Canelo than the ones I gave him. In this second fight, I felt the other way. I also scored it a draw, but felt like Canelo was the deserving one here. Canelo changed the script and came forward all night, leading the dance and building up a big lead on the scorecards. Unlike the last fight, it was GGG who came on strong to close and make this a close fight. In my mind, a draw was a fair result the first time around (marred by the criminal 118-110 scorecards judge Adelaide Byrd gave Canelo) and a draw would’ve been the fairest the next time around, but I don’t have qualms in Canelo being given the decision by a hair here. Either way, we spend too much time talking about judging and scorecards, and not enough time talking about just how high-level, action packed and dramatic both of these fights were. These are two guys who left it all out there. Respect to both men here.

There’s 12 matches that I found compelling this year. If you missed any of them, they’re worth going back to see. If the last few months of the year lives up to its billing, 2018 will truly be remembered for a great year (and I’ll have to write an addendum to this in January).

Did I miss anything? Disagree with any of these? Let me hear about it.

 

 

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World Boxing Super Series: Quarterfinal Recap

Boxing needs more tournaments. There’s no question about it – the lack of a governing body for the sport results in most boxing matches sort of feeling random. Fighters operate as individual businesses, with four major belts (and a million more minor ones) in each division, not obligated to fight anybody really, various networks and promoters warring with each other and looking out for only their own best interests. It’s the biggest problem in the sport. The sports’ biggest fights can come too late or not at all – Mayweather-Pacquiao was served to us five years too late, Canelo Alvarez waited for Gennady Golovkin to age before he was comfortable taking him on, and the two clear best heavyweights in the world (Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder) are pussyfooting around each other and will no doubt fight at least one B-level contender again each before stepping in with each other.

That’s what makes the tournament format so enticing for boxing fans – in a single elimination, you can look ahead to matchups without guessing who is going to be next in line. That’s why so many boxing fans were excited when the World Boxing Super Series was announced early in 2017 – it took some of the best fighters in two divisions (cruiserweight and super middleweight), seeded eight fighters, and had them fight each other in a single-elimination style tournament to sort who the best man is.

Listen, it’s not come without it’s faults. The WBSS was unable to find a real U.S. broadcasting partner for the quarterfinal round – most of the fighters are European and likely their asking price was higher than American networks were willing to pay for unknown fighters. The super middleweight tournament is missing a lot of the top fighters in the division (though they nailed the cruiserweight pool). That said, the quarters were really interesting and are setting up some great matchups. Let’s take a look back at the quarterfinal round.

 

THE CRUISERWEIGHTS

 

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Oleksandr Usyk (Ukraine) TKO10 Marco Huck (Germany)

STW Scorecard: Usyk 89-81 Huck

Usyk, the betting favorite in the cruiserweight bracket, is a tall, skilled up-and-coming boxer that has potential to be the dominant force in the cruiserweight division overall. The undefeated Ukrainian is dangerous as he moves better than most everybody in the division, has the length to bother most guys and is an incredibly well-schooled fighter. He’s not a fighter with dynamite in his fists but he does get stoppages mainly on volume and accumulation on punches, which results in a lot of late stoppages. Huck is an old warhorse of the division, a former titleholder on the wrong side of 30 and having been in one too many wars – still, an experienced opponent and an interesting first opponent for the cruiser favorite.

Usyk started the match off behind the jab, staying on his bicycle keeping Huck away with his movement. Though Huck had his moments early in the fight, Usyk’s huge advantage in length really made a difference as his tentpole jab continually bobbleheaded Huck. In the 8th round, Usyk hurt the veteran German with a big shot that snapped Huck’s head back violently. Huck then wrestles him to the ground in a desperation move, and while Usyk is on his knees, Huck tries to go for the dirty punch, causing him a point deduction and getting Usyk really angry. For the next two rounds, Usyk fights mad – and you won’t like him when he’s mad. In the 10th Usyk knocks a clearly hurt Huck against the ropes and for about 30 seconds just unloads a barrage of nonstop punches as Huck just tries to survive. The referee steps in and stops the match there, perhaps a tad early, but Huck was so far down on the cards and with really no way to win the fight.

 

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Mairis Briedis (Latvia) UD12 Mike Perez (Cuba)

STW Scorecard: Briedis 116-111 Perez

I’ve always liked Perez – the former heavyweight is a tweener in size in that he’s small for a heavy but big for a cruiser, but he was always a skilled, strong puncher. He seemed genuinely bothered by the tragedy that occurred following his match with Magomed Abdusalamov in 2014, and his career seemed to stall a bit following that fight. Breidis, a cruiserweight titleholder and a big name in the division, was fighting at home in Latvia.

This was a sloppy match, with a ton of grappling from both guys, particularly from Perez. It made some rounds hard to score. Breidis did a nice job of getting one or two quick shots in, and then they would clinch, get seperated, and then go again. Not a lot of clean shots landed at all, and the ref was all wrong in the match – getting involved when he doesn’t need to, not getting involved when he does. Perez was clearly frustrated coming downt he stretch. Both fighters were docked points during the match (Perez in the third for a head butt that opened a decent cut, Briedis in R10 for excessive holding), and it wasn’t pretty or a classic by any stretch of the imagination. Still, Briedis earned his chance to move on and will face Usyk in a very interesting semifinal matchup.

 

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Yunier Dorticos (Cuba) KO2 Dmitry Kudryashov (Russia)

STW Scorecard: Dorticos 10-9 Kudryashov

In this fight, which was randomly held in San Antonio, you had guaranteed fireworks going in. Two guys that know how to punch, two KO artists, getting in the ring together, you just knew they weren’t both walking out. Kudryashov came in the much more limited of the two in skill, but with a shot just due to his crushing power. Dorticos had the edge and skill but had big power himself, so the question was what would happen when you put them both in the squared ring across from each other.

Well, we learned pretty quickly. After a relatively cautious opening round, in which Kudryashov looked strong but slow and Dorticos finding some success with some hooks on the side, the second round turned into an immediate firefight. Dorticos found something here and just started unloading – the Russian really didn’t move his head at all, and Dorticos pounced on that. In the middle of the round, Dorticos landed a nasty right hand to the side of the head that dazed his opponent and followed it up with another one that just finished him. He went down hard, was wobbly as shit and near crosseyed and could not beat the count. Great knockout.

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Murat Gassiev (Russia) KO3 Krzysztof Wlodarczyk (Poland)

STW Scorecard: Gassiev 20-18 Wlodarczyk

Gassiev is a young power puncher in the division with loads of promise and nasty power. Wlodarcyk is an older guy who has been fighting at the top of the division for years, but had been pretty inactive in the past couple of years. This fight was not close.

Gassiev impressed from the start. After a somewhat cautious opening in which Gassiev still separated himself, the Russian began landing more significant shots and controlling the action by just applying consistent pressure. Wlodarczyk really has nothing. In R3, Gassiev walks him against the ropes, sneaks in a powerful short left uppercut and then follows that up with a left hook to the liver. Wlod goes down like a mannequin, face down. Total wipeout. Gassiev now faces Dorticos in the next round in a guaranteed fireworks matchup.

THE SUPER MIDDLEWEIGHTS

 

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Callum Smith (England) UD12 Erik Skoglund (Sweden)

STW Scorecard: Smith 114-113 Skoglund

Well then. This was a fight that Smith was supposed to win, as the big Brit was seeded first and thus had perhaps the clearest path to the final in a bit of a weaker tournament. That said, he underwhelmed here in a close unanimous decision victory, and displayed some serious weaknesses.

Both guys started off pretty cautious – Smith landing some bigger, more effective shots but Skoglund being the busier man. Neither guy really lands too much here. Smith takes an early lead, though a close one, towards the beginning. Disappointingly, not a lot is separating these two but Smith probably punches a little harder as the bigger man. Skoglund has some success mid rounds and scoring behind his jab – the Swede is boxing nicely but it’s apparent that he doesn’t have the power to hurt Smith, hwo really isn’t doing enough for me. Have Skoglund taking a bunch of rounds in a row here but they are admittedly close. Smith’s nose is bleeding and that seems to bother him as he’s fighting cautiously and with a look of worry on his face.

In the 11th Smith hurts Skoglund with a right hand and the wobbled Skoglund has to take a knee. That opens Smith up as he sense his foe is diminished but Skoglund manages to survive the round. In the 12th, Smith came out frustratingly conservative, though he did edge the round. He wins the bout, but is far from impressive here.

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Juergen Braehmer (Germany) UD12 Rob Brant (USA)

STW Scorecard: Braehmer 119-109 Brant

This was probably among the most unknown of the first round matchups. Braehmer is an experienced veteran, but he’s older than shit, and has been inactive recently. Brant is a little-known young, untested fighter out of Minnesota, who talked a nice game and touted big-name sparring partners and a trainer ahead of this fight, his big chance to make an impact on the international scene.

Well, we got the least interesting (and probably most predictable) version of this fight, as Brant took himself to Germany and showed himself to be far below the level of Braehmer. Braehmer was the better fighter in every way, and Brant was unwilling to lay it all out there in hopes of a hail Mary, giving the German an easy near-shutout decision win. Brant blows his shot and likely will sink back to obscurity/journeyman status, while Braehmer gets to extend his career a little further as he faces the vulnerable Callum Smith next bout up.

 

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Chris Eubank Jr (England) KO3 Avni Yildirim (Turkey)

STW Scorecard: Eubank Jr. 20-17 Yildirim

Chris Eubank Jr. has superstar potential in this sport. The son of the famed former British boxing champion has the looks, the trash talk and the power to potentially become a big name in this sport. He came up short in a title shot a couple years back against Billy Joe Saunders (a disputed decision in a fight I actually scored a draw) and since has gone back to the drawing board and built up a reputation for stopping guys and building his name.

Yildirim was a complete unknown out of Turkey, and the most he contributed to making this fight interesting was having his manager make headlines by going off in an embarrassing fashion at the pre-fight presser. The fight itself was a total blowout. Yildrim just started off by following Eubank around with his hands plastered to his head while Eubank bounced a consistent jab off his forehead upstairs, ultimately scoring a knockdown with 30 seconds left int he first round.

The second round was just two guys winging punches at each other, in a fun display that Eubank consistently got the better of. In the third round Eubank just came out fucking swinging. He was a little wild with his looping shots but Yildirim didn’t have the skill set to counter him. He kept throwing these crazy hard power shots and eventually caught him with a right-left combo right int he face and knocked him down hard. The ref stopped it immediately which was a little weak as he didn’t even try to let him get up but Eubank was another class for sure.

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George Groves (England) KO4 Jamie Cox (England)

STW Scorecard: Groves 29-28 Cox

I’ve always liked George Groves, though he’s had a strange career. After making it to the big time by fighting two huge stadium fights against Carl Froch (both competitive, exciting losses), his career’s been up and down. He flashes major skillsets and has won a belt in the division but at times seems really unsure of himself and someone who can get in his own head. Cox came into this fight a total unknown, at least to me.

This was a fun one. Groves, as usual, is a decent fighter though just sloppy and unsure enough to give his opponent some openings. A ton of punches are thrown here – Cox not really doing damage but he’s really game in there and threw about five billion punches in round 2. Most of them are missing but Cox definitely recognizes that he can only win with a knockout so that’s what he’s going for.

In the third round Groves begins to separate himself and show his class, especially when the fight goes on the inside. Cox has no idea what to do when the fight gets there other than hold ineffectively. Finally, in the fourth round Groves drops Cox for the predictable KO as Cox’s ‘knockout or bust’ strategy turns up bust and the world gets to so Eubank Jr-Groves, a major British fight and perhaps the biggest single bout in terms of name recognition across the two tournaments.

 

WBSS SEMIFINAL MATCHUPS

Cruiserweights

Oleksandr Usyk (Ukraine) vs. Mairis Breidis (Latvia)

Yunier Dorticos (Cuba) vs. Murat Gassiev (Russia)

Super Middleweights

Callum Smith (England) vs. Juergen Braehmer (Germany)

Chris Eubank Jr. (England) vs. George Groves (England)

 

Weekend Recap: HBO’s SuperFly lives up to the hype

2017 has been an incredible year for boxing. Knockout, big matchups, mainstream fights – it’s been everything the previous couple of years wasn’t. Let’s take a look at this past weekend, starting with the much-hyped HBO ‘SuperFly’ card, which lived up to all of the excitement it promised.

HBO’s card featured three fights in the super flyweight division, and included five of the division’s top fighters. It was an impressive card that promised action, and boy, did it deliver.

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Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (44-4-1 40 KO) KO4 Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez (46-2 38 KO)

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Boxing is truly a cruel sport. Nicaragua’s Chocolatito, one of the few fighters in the smaller weight divisions to truly break through in the U.S. thanks to the backing of HBO, was a mainstay on the pound-for-pound rankings in the past couple of years. He had risen from a minimumweight fighter in the mid 2000s to take titles in four weight classes, coming as high up as 112 pounds. That said, he been showing potential signs of aging throughout the past couple of years as his power stopped carrying up in weight. He went from stopping tough opponents like Edgar Sosa and Brian Viloria as he started fighting on HBO to struggling a bit with McWilliams Arroyo to pulling out a close, contested decision against Carlos Cuadras. These were all good fighters and tough opponents, but Gonzelaz didn’t look the dynamo that had people putting him at #1 in the sport.

Last March, Gonzelz defended his title against Thai challenger Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, and he found himself in unfamiliar territory. Sor Rungvisai was bigger than him, tough, and walked through most of his punches. Gonzalez went down in the first round, suffered head clashes that made him bleed profusely, and he ultimately lost a close but disputed decision (I scored their first fight a draw, for what it’s worth).

Heading into the immediate rematch on Saturday night, Chocolatito was the favorite, even though the Thai fighter had the belt. In a stunning turn of events, Sor Rugvisai blew out Chocolatito from the opening bell. Gonzalez had strange body language from the get go, looking depressed in the corners between rounds, even though he was competitive through three rounds as the fighters met in the middle of the ring and traded punches.

It all went to shit for Chocolatito in Round 4. Sor Rungvisai caught him with a nasty combo in the first minute of the round, which folded the Nicaraguan champion and sent him down to the canvas hard. This was no flash knockdown – Chocolatito peeled himself off the ground but his body language told the whole story. He was badly hurt.

To his credit, he went out like a warrior. When he got up, he went straight to his Thai opponent and tried to trade his way back into it. Results were predictable – Sor Rungvisai hit him with a right hand that was so full power that every vein in his arm was bulging out as he threw it – and with that, Gonzalez was done, his eyes looking like they were fighting back tears of disappointment as he lay sprawled on the cavs looking straight up in the air. He didn’t rise for a couple of minutes as the doctor checked him out, a truly brutal way for the champion to go.

Let’s give Sor Rungvisai his due – he’s the rightful champion, and looked strong, confident and powerful in there. He dominated Chocolatito from the opening bell. But let’s pour one out for a great career in Chocolatito.

Naoya Inoue (14-0, 12 KO) TKO6 Antonio Nieves (17-2-2, 9 KO)

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Japan’s Naoya ‘Monster’ Inoue is a titleholder who has made waves overseas by steamrolling through quality opposition. At just 24 years old, he’s already on some people’s pound-for-pound list, and has put together a string of dominant performances in recent years. The only recent fight of his to go the distance was his May 2016 unanimous decision win over the tough David Carmona in a fight where Inoue injured his right hand and fought multiple rounds basically one handed. Saturday night was his U.S. and HBO debut, the first time American boxing fans had a chance to see him on a non-YouTube stream with yelling Japanese commentators.

Inoue didn’t disappoint, as he looked absolutely dominant beating up his limited opponent, to the point the Nieves spent the 5th and 6th rounds just running and trying to survive. You could tell that Nieves didn’t want to be there and though he was tough, the fight probably went a couple rounds too long. I don’t think we learned much about Inoue – he’s already beaten better competition than this – but it was a nice introduction to a guy I hope we get a chance to see more of.

Juan Francisco Estrada (36-2, 25 KO) UD12 Carlos Cuadras (36-2-1, 27 KO)

STW Scorecard: Cuadras 114-113 Estrada

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In the opener of the SuperFly card, the two Mexican fighters fought an entertaining, fun and close battle that may have been the fight of the night. Though I scored it by a point to Cuadras, all three judges gave the fight to Estrada by that same slimmest of margins (114-113) and I have no problem at all with the decision, as multiple rounds were very hard to score. The two fighters, both of whom gave Chocolatito hell in previous fights and walked into the night looking for a rematch with the Nicaraguan star, proved to be a great style matchup. Cuadras, the bigger and more solid of the two, started off strong and really dominated the first few rounds of the fight with his activity and volume punching. Estrada stayed patient and began sneaking in hard, snapping shots in between Cuadras’ combinations, and started turning the tide and having success in the middle rounds of the fight. After a back and forth couple of rounds, Estrada dropped Cuadras HARD in the 10th as Cuadras got caught napping leaving an exchange. That knockdown proved to be the difference in the cards and I can’t argue with that giving Estrada the win.

I will say – I had the fight even going into the 12th round,  with all of the momentum favoring Estrada. I fully expected him to continue his dominance but he seemed to get tentative in the round and didn’t close as strongly on a clearly weary Cuadras as I’d have liked to see, and Cuadras snuck in some decent shots in the final minute of the round. I wobbled between scoring it even (and thus, scoring the fight a draw) but guilt in doing that got the best of me so I nicked it to Cuadras.

The winner of this fight in theory gets a shot at Sor Rungvisai’s belt. Regardless of who they fight, these guys are fun as hell to watch and I look forward to seeing more of either of them.

Berlin, Germany (World Boxing Super Series)

Oleksandr Usyk (13-0, 11 KO) TKO10 Marco Huck (40-5-1, 27 KO)

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I am super excited about the World Boxing Super Series – which is staging two tournaments in two different divisions (super middleweight and cruiserweight) – in an elimination-style format. It has high-level, quality boxers participating, and the shame is that it doesn’t yet have a U.S. broadcast partner, so American boxing fans are forced to try to find online streams to see these fights. Here’s hoping they figure this out.

This was the first fight, a quarterfinal matchup between Ukraine’s Usyk and Germany’s Huck. Usyk may be the tournament favorite in the cruiserweight divison, a incredibly tall, skilled boxer who may not have thudding power but lands so precisely and sharply that he tends to stop guys on accumulation alone. Huck, a veteran and former champ in the division, came into the fight the obvious underdog and on the clear downslide of his career but still is a feisty veteran.

The fight played out about as expected – Usyk came out behind the jab, boxing and keeping Huck away from him using movement and that long jab. Huck was competitive in R3 until Usyk jumped all over him and did some damage. Huck got a nice shot in about halfway through R4 but Usyk came back with a nice combination that rocked Huck’s head back. Usyk was just too good and his arms are way longer – his size was making a big difference.

In the 8th, Usyk snaps Huck’s head back and hurts him badly, sending him reeling. Huck then wrestled the Ukranian to the ground and while there on his knees, he goes for a dirty chopping punch to the back of his head. The punch misses, but it was such a cheap shot that the ref took a point away immediately. The usually measured Usyk then starts fighting pissed off and starts really doing damage. In R10, Usyk knocks a clearly hurt Huck against the ropes and for about 30 seconds just nonstop throws punches as Huck merely tries to survive. Ref steps in and stops it – maybe a tad early, but Huck was so far down on the cards and really had no hope to win, so no problem here with the stoppage. Usyk moves on in the tournament and will fight the winner of Mairis Breidis and Mike Perez.

Las Vegas, Nevada (Showtime)

David Benavidez (19-0, 17 KO) SD12 Ronald Gavril (18-2, 14 KO)

STW Scorecard: Benavidez 114-113 Gavril

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On Friday night in a special edition of Showtime Championship Boxing, we got another look at one of boxing’s growing prospects in Arizona’s Benavidez, a 20-year old super middleweight who hits like a truck. After an impressive showing in May where he knocked out veteran Rogelio ‘Porky’ Medina in an absolute firefight, Benavidez was riding the hype train all the way to this match, which was for the vacant WBC title.

His opponent was Romania’s Gavril, an unheralded boxer with a solid record fighting under Floyd Mayweather’s TMT banner, who was matched with Benavidez after original opponent Anthony Dirrell pulled out. Most commentators thought the young American would wipe the floor with Gavril, but that didn’t prove to be the case at all.

Benavidez got off to a strong start, as he entrenched himself in the middle of the ring with Gavril circling around him. Gavril had himself a nice second round, outlanding and scoring well. Then Benavidez took over for a few rounds with effective power shots. He really swings hard and hits with serious power. Gavril started bleeding pretty hard around R4 as Benavidez turned it up. I had Benavidez up through six though a lot of rounds were close and Gavril gave a good account of himself.

In round 8, Benavidez started looking very tired and started fading. His punch form started deteriorating and his punches didn’t look like they were as powerful as earlier in the fight. He seemed to be wading through deep waters for the first time in his young career, as he had found an opponent who he couldn’t put away early. R10 was fun and close with Gavril edging it until Benavidez hurt him at the end, and in R11 Benavidez started summoning some more energy and hurting Gavril, who was gassing and trying to hold for the first time in the fight.

In the final round, Benavidez was winning with effective combos on an exhausted Gavril and then with 45 seconds left he got caught lazily coming in and chasing a combination with a counter shot he walked right into and he dramatically went down. Super, super dramatic end to the fight. It was a close one, and a tough test for the young prospect, but I do think he deserved the decision.

J’Leon Love (23-1-1, 13 KO) TD Abraham Han (26-3-1, 16 KO)

STW Scorecard: Han 77-76 Love

J’Leon Love, once a relatively highly touted TMT ‘prospect’, is a shitty fighter who’s best trait is that he looks kind of like Tupac Shakur. In his first fight in over a year he fought journeyman Han and got outfought for much of the fight as he just wasn’t active enough or good enough to look any kind of good. In the 8th round, the two came together for one of the worst head clashes I’ve ever seen, as a monstrous cut opened on Han’s head and he just started pouring and pumping out blood, and was really hurt. That ended the fight and it went to the scorecards. Two of the judges scored it a draw while one had one of the worst scorecards in recent memory, a washing in favor of Love. The TMT fighter was lucky to escape with a draw here, but showed nothing really to make him a watchable fighter.

On this note, boxing should consider their technical stoppage rules. Currently, if the fight has to be stopped due to an accidental headbutt like this one, judges are required to score the round. In this one, it happened in the first minute of R8, and nothing of note had happened yet. I scored the round 10-10 for this reason, but it looks like all judges did score the round, and that affected the outcome. Shitty way for a guy to take a draw like Han did. I’d be good never seeing Love again.

Caleb Plant (16-0, 10 KO) UD10 Andrew Hernandez (19-7-1, 9 KO) 

STW Scorecard: Plant 100-90 Hernandez

Caleb Plant seems like a nice guy with a heartbreaking backstory, but he just isn’t an impressive prospect to me. He always seems to be in with subpar opposition and he doesn’t exactly blow the doors off the guys he’s in with – every Plant fight seems to be the same. Plant was levels better technically in this fight, fighting a dude who is both not good and who took the fight on a week’s notice. Hernandez just got blown out, and he toughed out some pain, but Plant never stepped on the gas pedal, showed crazy power, or really looked like he’s anything other than a good technical fighter with a low ceiling. Just not that impressed with him in general, and do not think he’s a world-level fighter.

Career Trajectory: Miguel Cotto

36-year old Miguel Cotto is in the midst winding down a long and storied career. The Puerto Rican fighter achieved true Pay-Per-View star status during his peak, participated in some great fights, and put himself at the top of the boxing world for years. He’s a lock for the Boxing Hall of Fame, and he deserves to be. After his most recent bout, he said he was retiring after one last fight later this year. To give context on one of the biggest stars of his generation, I decided to go back through the last decade or so and follow his career trajectory to take a closer look at how strong his boxing resume really is.

Cotto had some great years in the mid-2000s, especially 2007. To his credit, he continued to fight in relevant fights for years, but looking back he really did have some smart matchmaking, and lost nearly every time he stepped up in class as he got older. That said, he’s among many boxing fans’ favorite fighters for good reason – he made an entertaining scrap. Note that for some fights I only have my scorecard to go on, and for others I have full notes, but it’s fun to look back at one of recent history’s most entertaining careers.

Let’s go down the Cotto rabbit hole, starting in 2006:

June 10, 2006: Miguel Cotto UD12 Paulie Malignaggi

STW Scorecard: Cotto 116-111 Malignaggi

 

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Before Malignaggi became the good boxing announcer/terrible person that he is today, he was a light-punching but talented technical fighter who made himself a solid career despite not being able to punch his way through tissue paper. Malignaggi gave a good account of himself in this fight, broadcast on HBO, as a prime Cotto flashed that wicked left hook and power punching that battered Paulie around the ring, including a knockdown in R2. I gave Malignaggi 4 rounds in a spirited effort, but Cotto was just way too much for him here.

 

December 2, 2006: Miguel Cotto TKO6 Carlos Quintana

STW Scorecard: Cotto 48-45 Quintana

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Few times has Cotto looked more dominant in his career than this fight against fellow Puerto Rican Quintana. After starting a little slow with the spirited Quintana winning 2 of the first 3 rounds on my card, HBO rightfully was salivating over how powerful Cotto looked, as he battered Quintana around the ring in R5, knocking him down twice as Quintana barely hung on to end the round. His corner through in the towel, and Cotto looked like a true force.

 

June 9, 2007: Miguel Cotto KO11 Zab Judah

STW Scorecard: Cotto 98-90 Judah

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Am skipping Cotto’s stay-busy title defense against Oktay Urtel here. Cotto totally dominated the talented Judah here on HBO. After giving the first, feeling-out round to Judah, I had Cotto sweeping the fight (with a point deduction in the third), and really starting to beat him up later in the fight, including a knockdown in R9, before stopping him cold in R11. Very impressive Cotto performance here.

 

November 10, 2007: Miguel Cotto UD12 Shane Mosley

STW Scorecard: Cotto 116-112 Mosley

Miguel Angel Cotto lands a punch to Shane Mosley in their WBA World Welterweight boxing match

2007 may have been Cotto’s high point as a boxer – back-to-back wins over Judah and Mosley are certainly nothing to sneeze at. This was a really fun fight, Cotto’s first on PPV. Cotto started off looking the stronger man and taking Mosley’s shots well, but Mosley had a really nice rally in R9 and R10 to get back in the fight and get the crowd hyped. Cotto however, recovered well in the championship rounds and took both of them in my card to take the deserved victory. There were a few close rounds (2, 7, 9) but overall Cotto earned what may have been a career-best victory.

April 12, 2008: Miguel Cotto TKO5 Alfonso Gomez

STW Scorecard: Cotto 50-42 Gomez

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In Cotto’s return to HBO after his huge win over Mosley, he fought the way overmatched Gomez and steamrolled him. He scored knockdowns in rounds 2,3 and 5 with his power and pure boxing skill before the referee mercifully stopped the fight between rounds. A stay-busy fight for sure – but one in which Cotto looked great.

July 26, 2008: Antonio Margarito TKO11 Miguel Cotto

STW Scorecard: Margarito 97-93 Cotto

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Ah, the infamous Cotto-Margarito bout. At the peak of his career, Cotto runs into a Mexican buzzsaw in the hard-punching Margarito, who continually moved forward through all of Cotto’s shots like a zombie all night long, systematically breaking down the Puerto Rican and giving him a beating that Cotto perhaps never quite fully recovered from. This became controversial later on as Margarito got busted in his next fight with illegal hand wraps, but at the time, the relentless Margarito overcame Cotto’s skill advantage to just beat the everloving shit out of Cotto, doing real damage from R7 on. Cotto wound up taking a knee and throwing in the towel in the 11th, and he couldn’t be blamed for doing so. Rough night for Cotto, especially after such a strong run.

February 21, 2009: Miguel Cotto TKO5 Michael Jennings

STW Scorecard: Cotto 40-34 Jennings

After taking a few months to recover from his beating at the hands of Margarito, Cotto made his return in an easier fight against the untested Jennings. Jennings, in way over his head, mostly tried to avoid Cotto’s power from the get go. He tried to stay out of range as Cotto sporadically landed the left hand, patiently beating him down by R3. Cotto hurt Jennings badly in R4 starting with a left to the head and then put him down twice with nasty lefts to the body. Jennings barely survived the round. He managed to make it through most of the 5th but took a knee after a wicked body shot from Cotto. Ref waved it off, not seeing enough to let the fight go on.

 

June 13, 2009: Miguel Cotto SD12 Joshua Clottey

STW Scorecard: Cotto 114-113 Clottey

 

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Now this was an interesting fight for Cotto as he took on a much-avoided, strong fighter in Ghana’s Clottey. R1 was nip and tuck close with Cotto maybe a little ahead when, just before the end of the round, Cotto scored a key knockdown on a jab. That, at least on my scorecard, would be the difference in the fight. HBO’s announcers had Clottey doing well early, but I have Cotto up 4-2 (+ 1 KD) after the first half of the fight on just pure activity. In R4 Cotto began bleeding badly, hard round to score but thought he finished strong. In R5 Cotto body slammed Clottey, who was leaning on him in a clinch, and Clottey looked a little hurt, taking some time to resume the fight. In R7 and R8, Clottey was absolutely kicking Cotto’s ass. Cotto rebounded a bit in R9 but I still had Clottey taking it. Going into the last three rounds, I had it even, meaning taking 2 of the final 3 would give either fighter the win. Cotto looked hurt and winded going into those rounds, but Clottey absolutely blew this fight by becoming too inactive down the stretch, especially in rounds 10 and 11. He had this fight and lost it more than Cotto won it. A decision either way would have been fair, but Cotto deserved the razor thin decision in my mind. Clottey would later embarrass himself and effectively end his career with a total non-effort on PPV against Manny Pacquiao, but this was a huge missed opportunity for him.

 

November 14, 2009: Manny Pacquiao TKO12 Miguel Cotto

STW Scorecard: Pacquiao 108-99 Cotto

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Gotta give Cotto credit – he didn’t waste too much time challenging a top level fighter a little more than a year removed from his huge beatdown against Margarito. This was Pacquiao at the height of his powers, and you forget how damn impressive he was during this time. This turned into a blowout on the scorecards, but it was a massively entertaining fight that was closer than the cards made it out to be, as Cotto had a couple rounds that were going his way that he lost at the end due to a knockdown (3 point swings).

R1 Manny started kind of slow, with R2 a close one but Manny taking it with a stronger finish. Pac got a KD to win R3 10-8 even though Cotto clearly won the rest of the round. R4 was incredible – it was a GREAT round for Cotto throughout and then Pac knocks him down (and hurts him) with 20 seconds left – wow. Cotto came back to edge R5 but Pac just started crushing him in R6, after which Cotto just started losing rounds, his face swelling up and getting on his bike just trying to survive. The second half of the fight was a systematic beatdown, and the ref showed mercy stopping it in the 12th. More of a reflection on just how good Pac was rather than a referendum on Cotto. Why Pac was a superstar, and Cotto was a star.

 

June 5, 2010: Miguel Cotto TKO9 Yuri Foreman

STW Scorecard: Cotto 79-73 Foreman

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This was a weird fight – Cotto found a soft touch with a belt to come back against. Foreman really was never on the level of Cotto, and it showed right away as Cotto just outjabbed and outfought him early at Yankee Stadium on HBO. Foreman had a solid R4, landing with his right hand, but he slipped towards the end of the round and that might have aggravated a leg injury (he came into the fight with a brace on his knee). Cotto returned to outboxing the limited Foreman and in R7 Foreman completely blew his knee out, falling down twice and limping around the ring but showing a lot of heart to continue to trade despite the fact that he could barely move. In R8 a towel threw in, looked like Foreman’s corner was stopping it, but in a totally bizarre scene the ref didn’t want the fight stopped so he kicked everyone out of the ring and restarted. Did Foreman no favors though, as in R9 he took a nasty body shot from Cotto that dropped him and the ref finally stopped it. Just a weird fight.

 

March 12, 2011: Miguel Cotto TKO12 Ricardo Mayorga

STW Scorecard: Cotto 108-101 Mayorga

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This is kind of the stage of his career where Cotto sort of got deliberate with his matchmaking. He fought an over-the-hill Mayorga in this fight on Showtime PPV and going in nobody gave the brash, trash talking Nicaraguan much of a chance. Cotto was the much better fighter technically, but R2 Mayorga managed to land some big shots. He’s fun to watch – in R3 he gets crazy, runs into the corner and yells at Cotto to come at him, but he still loses the round. That turns out to be a theme – Mayorga continues to talk and pose but lose rounds. In R7 he managed to land some good shots that seemed to affect Cotto but otherwise he didn’t have much success. Cotto hurt him pretty badly in R12 and Mayorga quit right there and then himself.

December 3, 2011: Miguel Cotto TKO9 Antonio Margarito

STW Scorecard: Cotto 89-82 Margarito

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Cotto’s revenge fight on HBO PPV. Margarito, who since his big win three years prior was in a terrible downward spiral, taking an ass beating from Mosley and suffering through a suspension after the hand wrap scandal, was coming off just a total sustained beating against Pacquiao in which Pac broke his orbital bone and likely injured his eye beyond repair. The eye was a major storyline prefight (the commission even had an eye specialist ringside) and turned out to be a major part of the fight itself.

Cotto started the fight moving and boxing as Margarito did his usual come-forward zombie routine. R3 was really fun as Cotto stands and trades – Margarito already bleeding badly from that right eye. Cotto is the more skilled of the two and clearly landing the cleaner punches but Margarito just keeps coming forward. Cotto doing some major damage in R6 as Margarito’s eye is really compromised and he can’t seem to see out of it. After a couple of rounds of looking closely at the eye, the doctor stops the fight after R9. Even though it was a compromised Margs, must have felt good for Cotto to get his revenge.

 

May 6, 2012: Floyd Mayweather UD12 Miguel Cotto

STW Scorecard: Mayweather 116-112 Cotto

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Cotto gets his big money fight against Mayweather on HBO PPV (Mayweather’s last HBO fight) and actually makes a good account of himself. Floyd starts off masterfully as usually – Cotto can’t land a clean shot at all and Floyd is peppering him with some nice shots. After dropping the first four rounds, Cotto found some success in R5 by muscling Floyd into the ropes – fun round. This is a relatively close fight – it’s tactical and not a barn burner but fought at a really high level. For a Floyd fight, especially at this stage in his career, it’s pretty entertaining. Cotto had a nice middle of the fight – I had him winning rounds 5,6,8 and 9 – but Mayweather pulled away at the end and even looked like he hurt Cotto in the final round. Nice performance from Floyd, but Cotto gave a good account of himself as well.

December 1, 2012: Austin Trout UD12 Miguel Cotto

STW Scorecard: Trout 116-112 Cotto

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2012 was a tough year for Cotto as he took his second consecutive loss of the year when he challenged Austin Trout for a junior middleweight belt coming off his loss to Floyd. The first thing you notice as the fight starts is that Trout is way, way bigger than Cotto. Tough style matchup for the shorter man. Trout is effective using his length early to keep Cotto at the end of his jab in the first two rounds, even stunning Cotto a bit in R1. In R3 Cotto managed to get Trout to the ropes and though Trout countered nicely at times it was a tough one to score – I gave it to Miguel. Cotto got to him in R4, getting in some nice hooks at close range. Cotto finds a nice rhythm here in the early rounds – I have him up 4-2 after six rounds.

In R7, Trout turns the tide and never looks back. He pops his jab out and starts controlling the action, really picking him apart (though not really hurting him). He stuns Cotto a bit at the end of R10 and really dominates R11. The 12th was a fun round as the crowd started getting loud and into it with both guys sensing urgency and swinging, and Trout maybe getting the better of it a bit.

I had Trout sweeping the second half of the fight as Cotto just got outboxed and couldn’t seem to get anything going. Decent scrap though. The official scorecards were a little wide, but Cotto storms off in a huff like a huge sore loser. Really bad look for Miguel post fight – very ungraceful loss for him here. A low point in his illustrious career for sure.

 

October 5, 2013: Miguel Cotto TKO3 Delvin Rodriguez

STW Scorecard: Cotto 20-18 Rodriguez

After back-to-back losses to Trout and Mayweather, Cotto took nearly a full year off, coming back a weight class higher to take on the journeyman Rodriguez and with Freddie Roach in his corner. They tried to sell this as a new, more offensive-minded fighter, but what it really was was a good veteran fighter dominating a limited opponent, stopping him in R3. This is another transition in the career of Cotto, as he competed at a higher weight class and began cherrypicking opponents.

June 7, 2014: Miguel Cotto TKO10 Sergio Martinez

STW Scorecard: Cotto 90-77 Martinez

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This fight- which I went to live – made me sad. Martinez was at this time the lineal middleweight champion defending his title, approaching 40 years old and had given the sport a handful of years where his star shined bright in good, entertaining fights, making himself into a star (though not a superstar) and giving himself a HOF-worthy run at middleweight. He had notably struggled in his last couple of fights with injuries, and came into the fight having had two knee surgeries and been inactive for about a year. Cotto was the smaller man stepping up in weight, and the two met at Madison Square Garden to duke it out.

Turns out Martinez was cashing out, in what would be his final fight. He just had nothing for Cotto, who looked great, though it was a little hard to judge as Sergio was badly, badly compromised from the jump. His leg was unstable and he could barely move. Cotto came out quick and aggressive and Martinez just couldn’t handle it, getting knocked down three times in the first round alone. Cotto continued his assault as the rounds wore on, and Martinez showed heart to stay in it, but Cotto just dominated him every second. Cotto scored another knockdown in R9 when he caught Sergio with a jab coming in. After the round, his corner tells him his knees aren’t working and they have to stop it, ending the champion’s career. Great performance from Cotto, but with, unfortunately, an asterisk.

 

June 6, 2015: Miguel Cotto TKO4 Daniel Geale

STW Scorecard: Cotto 30-27 Geale

A less than impressive win for Cotto. After winning the lineal middleweight title from a one-legged Martinez, Cotto weight drained Australia’s Geale to the point that he posed nearly no danger and looked like a zombie on fight night. Cotto never really was challenged in this one as his hook found a home on the drained Geale and he stopped him easily in 4 rounds. This was a cynical one from Cotto.

 

November 21, 2015: Canelo Alvarez UD12 Miguel Cotto

STW Scorecard: Alvarez 117-111 Cotto

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This was an exciting one on paper, a fight on HBO PPV between the veteran Cotto and the young star Alvarez. Ultimately it wound up being a nice scalp for Alvarez, who boxed well in a tactical affair as it really seemed like their size difference (Canelo having a 10+ lb weight advantage on fight night) made a huge impact as none of Cotto’s shots seemed to hurt Canelo at all. Thought it was a pretty clear Canelo win, with Cotto taking only rounds 1,4 and 9, but it wasn’t boring. This gave Canelo the lineal middleweight title. After this fight, Cotto took nearly two years off.

August 26, 2017: Miguel Cotto UD12 Yoshihiro Kamegai

STW Scorecard: Cotto 119-109 Kamegai

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After nearly two full years out of the ring, Cotto returned this past August in a card that, unfortunately for Cotto, had to compete with the Mayweather-McGregor spectacle, meaning that the only people who watched this fight was the fighter’s respective families and the HBO broadcasting team assigned to cover this. Cotto has called this his second-to-last fight and it was a good test to see how much Cotto had left.

Turns out, he has enough at this level to look good. Cotto dominated this fight – I gave Kamegai R1 on aggression and then scored every other round for Cotto. The Puerto Rican landed at will all night, bloodying up Kamegai while moving backward as the Japanese man came forward like a horror movie zombie. Cotto landed so hard that Kamegai’s chin would often end up over his shoulder looking in the other direction, but Kamegai just keeps coming forward and taking it. I started wondering if they should stop it as early as R7, but Kamegai survives the rest of the fight, which was way too repetitive and one sided to be that interesting. Cotto remains in a different class from the C-level competition, and looks like he still has something to offer if he does indeed retire after his next fight.

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

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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

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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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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

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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

 

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

 

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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.