Boxing Rankings: June 2017

Heavyweights

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

The Beltholders

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Top Contenders

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Other Notables (No Particular Order)

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

 

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NBA Summer Previews: Southwest Division

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

 

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San Antonio Spurs

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

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

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

Phoenix Suns v Dallas Mavericks

Dallas Mavericks

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

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

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

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Memphis Grizzlies

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

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

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

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Houston Rockets

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

 

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

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

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New Orleans Pelicans

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

 

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

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

 

 

Boxing is an Asshole

I love boxing, personally. It’s literally the personification of the primal human feeling that all other sports play tap into to ignite our passions: war.

It’s two people in a ring, nothing between them but a pair of gloves and one referee, fighting. No hoops, fields, sticks, balls, nothing. Just two people having it out. Whether you’ve grown up in NYC or in a remote backwoods country with nothing but Latin soap operas coming out of a black and white TV, you see a boxing match, and you understand what’s happening, at least on some level. It’s arguably the purest sport we have.

And it is a massive, massive dickhead. The people in charge – the promoters, the sanctioning bodies, the commissions – range from ‘borderline criminal’ to ‘actual criminal’, the sport is constructed in a way that the best fighters don’t ever have to fight each other, 99% of fighters make no money and wind up paying for their participation with years of their lives, and all in all, the whole thing is fucking gross. The only saving grace is that we’re seeing the pinnacle of what the human body can achieve in the most taxing, lonely, physically draining way possible.

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OK, maybe pinnacle of what the human body can achieve is a little dramatic

What keeps boxing heads  coming back is the fact that in the ring, there’s no one to save you. There’s no subs to come in when you’re tired, no teammates to pick up the slack when you’re having an off night. If you’re losing, it’s just you in there.

Unfortunately, sometimes boxing even fucks that up.

Last week, on a nationally broadcast NBC card, Al Haymon’s fledgling Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) series was back, showcasing an up and coming rock star Errol Spence Jr. officially announcing his presence on the scene with a five-round mauling of veteran Chris Algieri. However, my excitement at watching Spence was tempered, because in the undercard fight before it, the PBC, judges and referees involved committed an absolute atrocity and singlehandedly ripped away an earned chance to make a career from an unknown fighter, for the simple fact that he was unknown.

24 year old Radivoje Kalajdzic (21-1, 14 KO) of Serbia came into the undercard fight as a clear B-side to the undefeated Marcus Browne (17-0, 13 KO), a 25-year old former American Olympian and one of the PBC’s highly touted young prospects. With the PBC hemorrhaging money, a result of artificially inflated purses and a lack of a competitive matchmaking, they need their young talent like Browne to make good on their promise so they can cash in on them someday. And they sure did everything to make sure that that happened.

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A tatted up dude from an Eastern European country with an unpronounceable name is not a cash cow for the PBC. Thus, Kalajdzic was brought in to the Barclays Center last week to lose. Browne was there to get tested, get some rounds in and win. Long story short: he didn’t. Browne proved to be a total dud in the ring, unable to get any kind of offense going, excessively holding and frequently getting popped with hooks by the Serbian.

After trading off the first couple of rounds, Browne spent much of the second half of their 8-round affair looking completely out of ideas, not even pretending to fight in lieu of desperate grabs on his opponent, and even in the 6th round winding up straight on his ass with a dazed look on his face as the Serb scored a nasty knockdown. However, when the decision was read, Browne came out the winner – resulting in lusty boos from his own hometown crowd, which knew it was witnessing a crime. Let’s count the ways in which boxing failed Kalajdzic:

 

  • In the first round, Kalajdzic slipped during a non-contact motion as he pivoted away from Browne and fell to the canvas. Browne then jumped in and landed a light shot to the side of his head. In normal circumstances, this should probably have resulted in a stern warning to Browne, if not a point deduction. Instead, incredibly, referee Tony Chiarantano, who should probably be in jail, ruled it a knockdown for Browne (which, incidentally, made the difference on the scorecards).

 

  • Chiarantano, who again, should probably be in federal prison, allowed Browne to get away with an unheard-of amount of holding in the fight, never coming close to taking a point away or even telling him to stop it. One boxer was trying to fight in there – one was not.

 

  • Two judges scored the fight for Browne, while one gave the fight to Kalajdzic. I scored the fight 76-74 for Radivoje (even scoring the first round 10-8 according to the referee’s atrocious decision), and though that may seem like it was a close/toss-up fight, it really wasn’t. The decision was close on the card but clear as day.

 

As a result, Marcus Browne gets to go on being an undefeated prospect, and Kalajdzic goes…where, exactly? Again, he’s a foreign fighter with an unpronounceable name, he has zero name value for the bigger guns of the division, and he falls back into the scrap heap with the other dozens of nameless prospect/contenders fighting on the fringes of the sport. He didn’t look like a world-beater, either, but that’s not the point.

In theory, boxing, in a romantic sort of way, is the fairest sport. Just two men in there with nothing between them but their skills. With the amount of corruption involved, the sport rips away lives and livelihoods, even outside of the ring. Always has and probably always will. It takes everything from these guys inside the ring, and just outside of it stand the vultures ready to feast, before the fighters’ blood has even dried from their gloves.

Boxing is an asshole.

 

Well, hello.

It’s been about a year since I’ve written anything on here and I have to say, I miss the hell out of writing self-absorbed thinkpieces about bands nobody’s heard of, recapping boxing matches nobody but me has watched and drinking whiskey and ruminating about rando books that came out a decade ago. I actually, really, do miss this.

I got a new job in content creation where I’m tasked with creating and distributing content for a very well-known brand and distributing that content to (literally) millions of people on a daily basis. It’s a dream job, incredibly liberating, and I know how lucky I am. But it’s a time consuming gig and thus I have a little less time to sit there and pretend to be a faux-intellectual as I wax poetic about 140-pound Mexican fighters while I drink a glass of bourbon. But I sure do miss talking to the wall in the corner of the internet here on this little WordPress site.

So, fuck it! I’m going to keep inconsistently updating this page , but it’ll always be here for me, anytime I have a minute and maybe someday, years down the road, I’ll read this in the future and crack a little smile at how young, dumb and self absorbed I was in my 20s.

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Fighting Words: Quantity over Quality

So, fine, this blog has been slacking heavily. Life has gotten in the way, and since I get, you know, paid to do other things in life plus am trying to keep a semblance of a social life there just hasn’t been time to crank up the ol’ WordPress and write about totally irrelevant things like literature, boxing or the next big band that blows people’s minds at 2 AM. Which is probably a mistake as said band linked to my review of their show and skyrocketed the views to this site earlier this month, which was ultimately wasted as I responded by not writing on here for weeks. What up, momentum! But, I digress, and goddammit I’m going to try to remain as consistent as possible.

Onto boxing.

This past weekend held a lot of boxing. Unfortunately, most of it was shit. That said, there were some things that went on that are worth talking about. There was also a lot (like the Russian card with Ruslan Provodnikov fighting a washed up husk of Jose Luis Castillo and Mickey Rourke fighting a homeless man) that will not be touched here.

Fight Recap: Terence Crawford UD12 Ray Beltran

Sometime the Wolf score: Crawford 119 – 109 Beltran

Terence Crawford (25-0, 17 KO), a fighter-of-the-year candidate and a budding HBO star fighter, dominated top lightweight contender Ray Beltran (29-7-1, 17 KO) in a fight that was never really that close. Crawford, who said after the fight he was moving up from the lightweight division, was defending his WBO lightweight title for the second straight time in Omaha, Nebraska, where he is a legitimate local draw and turned in a star-making performance back in June as he wiped the floor with contender Yuriorkis Gamboa in an exciting and action-filled fight.

Last night’s match was not an exciting, action-filled fight. While Crawford was utterly dominant, often switching fighting stances in mid round and keeping Beltran at the end of a sharp jab (fighting out of southpaw, Crawford’s right jab in particular was nasty), Crawford was able to outwork and outclass Beltran in every way. Beltran deserved the title shot and is a tough, veteran fighter who is as good as the (admittedly weak) lightweight division has to offer. But Crawford was on another level from start to finish, robbing the fight of any drama.

Crawford is a cerebral fighter, one with great technical skills and decent pop but not one who is going to take any unnecessary risks or start a slugfest unless one is brought to him, the way Gamboa did over the summer. His performance last night, though dominant, is not going to make him a household name. He seems like a nice kid, but his personality is a quiet one and is not going to carry him into the limelight on its own. He will need dance partners to become the king. He looks talented enough to be a pound-for-pound star–let’s see how he looks against a higher level of competition as he moves up in weights.

Fight Recap: Tyson Fury TKO10 Dereck Chisora

Meanwhile, in London: in what was a horrendous fight with no redeeming qualities, Gypsy fighter Tyson Fury (23-0, 17 KO) stopped an over-the-hill looking and punchless Dereck Chisora (20-5, 13 KO) when Chisora quit on his stool after ten rounds of getting repeatedly jabbed in the face as he slowly stumbled towards Fury and made vague punching motions at him. In a year with a lot of really terrible fights, this was up there as one of the worst, and announcers reported that 2/3rds of the crowd had left by the time this ended. Fury is a huge dude with some skills, but this was terrible and let’s never speak of it again.

Photo of Dereck Chisora. Punchless…get it? …I’ll be here all week

Fight Recap: Billy Joe Saunders SD Chris Eubank Jr. 

Sometime the Wolf score: Saunders 114-114 Eubank Jr.

Billy Joe Saunders busts out his fly dance moves in the club

In what was the best fight of the weekend and a matchup of up and coming 25-year-old prospects, Saunders (21-0, 11 KO) took a close split decision from Eubank Jr. (18-1, 13 KO). Saunders started fast, Eubank Jr. came on in the middle rounds and then they seemed to fight on even terms through the end of the fight. Both fighters probably came out of the bout respectably–Saunders’ experience showed through and he probably deserved to take the decision, and Eubank Jr. showed his talent and athleticism and with better work from his corner and a better gameplan could have taken this fight.

If Eubank Jr. puts in the work, he could be decent–he looked fast and had power, though he was a bit sloppy and clumsy looking. Saunders will likely always be a Euro-level fighter rather than world-class–he just doesn’t seem to do anything on an A-level. I’d guess his ceiling to be maybe Matthew Macklin-level, with a couple title shots but never being known as the top dog.

Fighting Words: Kell Brook Derails Shawn Porter Hype Train in Clinch-Filled ‘Meh’ Fest

Boxing has had a rough, rough summer. After a 2013 that consistently delivered great fights and seemed to rejuvenate the sport, 2014 has been decidedly more ‘meh’, and this latest run has been particularly punishing for fight fans. Between horrible officiating leading to unsatisfying fights (Rios-Chaves), atrocious mismatches (Garcia-Salka, which even I skipped) and even blowout fights in matches that looked good on paper (Cotto-Martinez), being a boxing fan is like being in love with a girl who constantly cheats on you and puts out once a year.  You know you should move on to something better and more fulfilling, and all your friends are urging you to leave her and start dating this other girl who will treat you better (‘MMA’, or ‘football’) but you just can’t let go. 

Shawn Porter vs. Kell Brook was a ray of hope. The IBF titleholder Porter (coming into this fight at 22-0-1, 15 KO) had just firmly stamped his name on the boxing map with two big wins against name welterweights by decisioning Devin Alexander and completely demolishing the pillow-fisted Paulie Malignaggi. His name had been thrown around as perhaps one of the next young stars of the sport, a future Floyd Mayweather opponent, a muscle-bound dynamo on the path to greatness. Brook (who entered the ring with a record of 32-0, 22 KO) was a talented British champion with a puffed-up record whose best previous win was against European-level Vyacheslav Senchenko, who has once been stopped by the aforementioned Malignaggi in Paulie’s only TKO win since 2003.

Going into the fight, it looked like a relatively evenly-matched bout between two rising boxers, with Porter as the slight favorite. Alas, last night, boxing again failed to put out. 

Brook (in red) and Porter spent a lot of time like this last night.

Fight Recap: Kell Brook MD12 Shawn Porter

Sometime the Wolf score: Porter 113 – 115 Brook

This fight turned out to be a stylistic nightmare. Porter has made his bones by using athleticism and strength (he is built like an NFL running back) to leap in and wing wild-looking haymakers from crazy angles, at times bringing his hands up from his hips to drill guys upside the head. He found success in doing this in a controlled fashion against Alexander, and turned the knob up to 10 in his match with Malignaggi. Porter knew Malignaggi didn’t have the power to hurt him and he abandoned all pretext of boxing and rushed in, jumping with reckless abandon into Paulie and wiping him quite literally out of the ring with a powerful frenzy of flying muscle and fists. His blowout against Paulie, a veteran fighter who had held his own against some of boxing’s best, started murmurs of stardom.

Brook, who might have the worst nickname in the history of civilization (“Special K”), clearly had watched the gametape of Porter’s fights and came into the ring with a plan to neutralize Porter’s onslaught. Every time Porter jumped in to start winging his power shots from up close, instead of stepping backwards and ceding ground Brook would hold position and tie Porter up, smothering his power and frustrating him. Porter was winning early rounds on activity alone, as seemingly boundless energy caused him to sort-of ineffectively land some of his frenzied shots before getting tied up. But the rhythm (or lack thereof) of the fight was set: Porter leaps in, Brook lands a quick left and ties up. They wrestle for a while. Referee separates them. Porter leaps in. Brook lands a quick, sharp counter and ties up. They wrestle for a while. Referee separates them. Etc.  

This continued on and on for 12 rounds, though Brook started landing a few more of his sharp potshots and Porter landed much less in the second half of the fight, when Porter’s constant bouncing, leaping and wasted aggression caught up to him and he got winded. This is where Brook started taking rounds clearly and separated himself in this fight. Two judges ended up having it pretty clear to Brook, while one had it a draw, giving Brook the majority decision win. 

And there’s the rub. As soon as Porter’s infighting weapon was neutralized by Brook, Porter had nowhere to go. He doesn’t know how to box from the outside, and failed to find a plan B. You can’t take away the kid’s accomplishments, and you can’t immediately brand him a bust after one loss, but Porter looked far from great last night. On the other hand, Brook fought a smart fight and deservedly took the belt, but didn’t exactly make a lot of new fans with the way he fought. After the fight, Porter asked for a rematch. No thanks. 

The book is now out on how to fight Porter, and until he adjusts, we can expect a clinchfest every time he steps up to face real competition. He will be around and have his chances, as he’s only 26 years old, but after Saturday night he will need to work his way back to where he was on Saturday morning. Let’s hope Brook takes some big fights now that he’s a beltholder and doesn’t sit on it with defenses in England against no-name fighters. I’d like to see him in with someone different stylistically and see where he goes from here. 

Fight Recap: Anthony Dirrell UD12  Sakio Bika

Sometime the Wolf Score: Bika 110 – 117 Dirrell 

I’ll be quick talking about this one, because it was a fucking horrendous fight. This was a rematch of these two fighters’ draw from last December, and it was a terrible, foul-filled clinch fest that did not resemble boxing. Dirrell (27-0-1, 22 KO) was clearly the better technical fighter than Bika (32-6-3, 21 KO), which is not hard to do because Bika has no technical ability at all to the point that I am hesitant to call him a boxer. Bika grabs, holds, headbutts, elbows, wrestles and occasionally will throw a wild arching haymaker that has no semblance of technique and starts so far behind him that it arcs like a McDonald’s sign. 

There’s nothing that happened in this fight worth talking about. I’ll leave it to exasperated referee Jack Reiss, who was the highlight of the fight, to explain what was going on in there: “Stop this holding bullshit,” he said to the fighters as he separated them for the 400th time mid-fight. “You guys look like shit doing this.”

Fight Recap: Omar Figueroa TKO9 Daniel Estrada

This fight, the opener for the Showtime card, was easily the fight of the night. Underdog Daniel Estrada (32-3-1, 24 KO) came to fight and had a ton of heart.  Highly-regarded prospect Omar Figueroa (24-0-1, 18 KO) was faster, stronger and more technically proficient then Estrada, but Estrada was able to pull him into a firefight with some precise counterpunching. Figueroa has a lot of potential, and is a great offensive fighter, but his defense needs some work. 

The two fighters clashed heads in the 8th round, opening a nasty gash over the left eye of Figueroa that looked nauseating. With their man up on the cards (I had him up 78-75 at this point, while all three official judges had him up wide as well), Figueroa’s corner was trying to talk the referee into stopping the bout at that point, which would have sent the decision to the scorecards since the cut was a result of an accidental headbutt. The doctor wasn’t having it though, and sent the fighter out for the 9th round. No doubt extra determined to finish the fight, and with blood streaming down the side of his nose, Figueroa launched a devastating right hand that floored Estrada seconds into the round. With Estrada on wobbly legs and with cloudy eyes, Figueroa closed in for the kill and finished him with an unanswered flurry of punches.  Here’s the finish:

Figueroa stops Estrada (GIF courtesy of SB Nation)

Still not sure how far Figueroa goes–he clearly has talent, but there are defensive holes to his game, and he has had problems with his hands breaking in the past. That said, if he continues to fight this way, he will make for some interesting fights, so he is one to watch. 

Other Notes and Thoughts From Last Night

  • Intriguing heavyweight prospect Deontay Wilder (32-0, 32 KO) didn’t look great in his stay-busy victory over fat guy Jason Gavern (25-17-4, 11 KO)–who, if nothing else, was entertaining for 4 rounds before retiring on his stool–but it seemed like Wilder was purposely carrying Gavern rounds as he kept his devastating right hand in his pocket and was content to jab his way through rounds to “get rounds”, a concept that doesn’t really make sense. Wilder could have stopped this fight at any time and there is nothing worthwhile to take from it. The best moment of the fight was when referee Weiss (probably the MVP of yesterday’s show, to be honest) looked at the hard-breathing Gavern and asked him if everything was all right, to which Gavern quipped “Do you have any oxygen?”
  • Lightweight contender Jorge Linares (37-3, 24 KO) absolutely brutalized journeyman Ira Terry (26-12, 16 KO) in the second round of their match to the point that Terry was left moaning in pain and writhing on the ground. Was a great shot but tough to watch. Linares is immensely talented and is an offensive dynamo but has a questionable chin and paper thin skin that cuts easily. His defense and skin (sounds weird to say that) are his downfall, but otherwise he is a really enjoyable fighter to watch.
  • This is really the last relevant fight card until September. And, as is tradition with every major PPV fight, I have friends getting married on the night of the Mayweather-Maidana rematch, which is horrible. That said, unless I want my girlfriend to break up with me I will have to attend this wedding with a smile on my face, but I hope to actually find a way to watch that fight and write about it on here, as Mayweather fights are one of the few days on the calendar that average sports fans and not just boxing diehards care about the sport.

Fighting Words: Las Vegas Officials Mar HBO Boxing Card; Kovalev Takes Care of Business in Atlantic City

Photo Credit: Chris Farina/Top Rank

The worst possible topic of conversation, outside of politics and the weather, is complaining about officials in a sporting event. It doesn’t matter if the complaint is about unfair referees in football, foul calls in basketball or a blind ump behind home plate, nothing is less interesting than complaining about how something was officiated. The verdict can’t be changed, it is what it is, and after all, we don’t watch sports to watch the officials. 

Unfortunately, last night’s Boxing After Dark on HBO cannot be discussed without talking about officiating, judging and all that can be wrong with boxing. For such a simple sport that is supposed to be decided solely by two men and four gloves, too often a third party decides to make themselves the story. Last night’s show, a split-site tripleheader with two fights taking place in Vegas and one in Atlantic City, was marred by these outside factors and made it impossible for the card to be discussed without also talking about the officials, which is a goddamn shame. It’s painful that I even have to write about this when I’d rather just talk about boxing, but so goes this particular sport.

Fight Recap: Brandon Rios WDQ Diego Chaves

Vic Drakulich. There, I led off with the star of last night’s main event, the referee who chose to make himself the story. I can only hope that as he Googles himself this morning he’s satisfied with how front and center he is in every discussion about this fight. 

The fight itself promised a fan-friendly matchup, as Brandon Rios (32-2-1, 23 KO) and Diego Chaves (23-2-0, 19 KO) were fighters with styles that were supposed to mesh to create some fireworks and action.

Rios is an action fighter, a plodder without much nuance to his game, who puts his head down and slowly moves forward, unafraid to take a few shots to the face in order to give a few back. He claims to ‘love’ getting hit, and shows this during fights by plastering a big grin on his face every time he takes punishment.  His chin is the stuff of legend. Unfortunately, in recent fights he’s been doing more taking than giving, as coming into last night he was riding a two-fight losing streak, with decision losses to Manny Pacquiao and Mike Alvarado (and really actually had lost 3 of his last 4 fights, as he was gifted a questionable decision against the unknown Richar Abril in 2012).

Outside of the ring, Rios does not seem to be the smartest guy even for a fighter, and in recent times his speech has seemed to be slower and a bit slurred, a sign of being punch drunk. While not necessarily surprising for a guy who fights with Rios’ style, it is highly unfortunate to see in someone who is only 28 years old, and certainly makes one question how much longer Rios should really make his living as a prizefighter.

Chaves is more of an unknown in the U.S.; a destroyer and knockout artist in his native Argentina (a country fast becoming known for its hard-hitting boxing exports) who had only had one prior major network U.S. fight previously, a competitive late-round KO loss a year ago to rising star Keith Thurman. 

The two fighters got things started as expected, as they met in the middle of the ring and let their fists fly. Chaves, being the more mobile fighter, kept distance well and took the first round, while Rios, lookied to get in close and stick his face into Chaves’ shoulder as he winged punches from inches away and nicked the second on our scorecards. So the fight went, back-and-forth as Chaves tried to maintain a distance and Rios looked to press foreheads throughout. When Chaves was able to maintain space between himself and the always coming forward Rios, he would take the round, while thudded punches onto Chaves’ body to try to slow him down and keep him within his reach.

Drakulich announced himself in the third round, as he took a point off of Chaves for holding, which was an egregious point deduction. Later, in the fifth round, a point was taken off Rios for hitting on the break. In the 8th, Drakulich took yet another questionable point from Chaves for holding when the fighters got tangled with each other and the fight devolved into a mess of grappling, rabbit punches and the two fighters cursing at each other from across the ring. 

Following a completely out of control 9th round in which Chaves tackled Rios to the ground (again, Drakulich lost complete control of this one), Drakulich decided to step in and disqualify Chaves (wearing white shorts) for this:

Rios later claimed that Chaves was gouging his eye during the grappling, but this is not how you want to see a main event fight end. Chaves was up a point on two of the three official scorecards at the time of the stoppage, meaning that the fight was hanging in the balance going into the last two rounds. Sometime The Wolf had Rios up 76-75 at the time of the stoppage. 

After all is said and done, Rios comes out with a questionable win that won’t be remembered for anything but the questionable stoppage, three point deductions, and referee Vic Drakulich giving himself the top billing. Extremely unsatisfying fight, particularly one with such promise. All this fight was missing was a good referee.

Fight Recap: Sergey Kovalev TKO2 Blake Caparello

Let’s just get this straight right now: Sergey ‘Krusher’ Kovalev (25-0-1, 23 KO) is a monster and hits like a mule. He has never been past eight rounds because knocks out just about everybody he’s ever fought. He has actually beaten a man to death in the ring during a 2011 match in Russia, a horrifying and sad event that has not seemed to change his aggressive style at all. He still is not a huge name on his own despite his power and HBO’s push to make a star of him, and thus has found it nearly impossible to get a big name fighter to step into a ring with him, which is why he was fighting Australia’s Blake Caparello (19-1-1, 6 KO) last night, a guy I literally have never heard of in my entire life. 

There is light at the end of the tunnel: prior to this fight, dual titleholder and 49-year old wonder of the world Bernard Hopkins (55-6-2, 32 KO) agreed on a contract to fight Kovalev, pending a Kovalev win last night. That fight, which I’m sure we’ll talk about in future posts, is phenomenal news for boxing fans. 

With no reason to get in rounds and make it last, Kovalev made quick work of the overmatched Caparello, who is also notable for being the whitest person to ever step inside of a boxing ring (I thought they had sun in Australia?). After taking the first round to find his range, and suffering a flash knockdown after taking a punch while getting his foot stepped on, Kovalev dropped Caparello early in the second round with a crushing touch to the liver.

Caparello crumpled to a knee, then got up and basically retreated in the corner and covered up, suffering two more knockdowns before referee Sparkle Lee (yes, the referee was named Sparkle) stepped in and stopped the fight. It was a workmanlike stay-busy performance from ‘Krusher’, with a name-making fight against Hopkins on the horizon.

Fight Recap: Jessie Vargas UD12 Anton Novikov

Sometime the Wolf Score: Vargas 114 – 114 Novikov

This was a close scrap between two guys with very little power, that was again marred by Las Vegas officials as a fight that could have gone either way went heavily to the house fighter Vargas, with all three judges scoring a ludicrously wide decision in his favor. I don’t have a problem with having either fighter edging this fight, but having such a wide decision makes one feel like this outcome was sadly predetermined.

Vargas (25-0, 9 KO), who somehow holds a title belt of some sort, is a fighter they keep selling to us as being good and someone who clearly has talent, almost never fails to underwhelm. He started the fight last night off well and taking the first three rounds, showing a crisp, hard jab that continually snapped his opponent’s head back while continually moving out of the way of danger and absorbing minimal punishment.

Novikov (29-1, 10 KO) then began to find his own range as his body shots began to slow Vargas down and he was able to get inside and catch Vargas. Vargas’ output dropped off a cliff from the fourth round on, as he began to get stung by punches from Novikov and stopped looking like the overall smoother fighter. It was a back and forth fight but with minimal drama, as neither guy had the power to seriously hurt the other. Both fighters seemed to know the fight was close going into the last rounds, and the last few rounds were the most engaging of the fight as both tired fighters summed up the energy to try to close strong. Sometime the Wolf scored this fight a draw, but as mentioned I could have seen this as a close decision either way.

Alas, when the wide scorecards were read, we were just left to feel bad that Novikov came halfway across the world to participate in a predetermined fight. It’s boxing, and the sport at its cynical worst is an insult to the intelligence of its fans. This insult was on display last night, loud and clear.

Other Notes and Thoughts From Last Night

  • Brandon Rios looked kind of flabby to me last night. He’s never been the most cut guy, but he was not in his best shape last night. I wouldn’t mind seeing him against Alvarado in a rubber match fight, but otherwise I strongly feel he should retire sooner rather than later.
  • Andre Ward was commentating from Vegas last night, and for being one of the best boxers in the world he really can be insufferable and insanely unlikeable, which I suppose isn’t a surprise from a man who gives himself the nickname “Son of God”.
  • Kenny Bayless, a phenomenal referee, was working the Vargas fight. If he was the one in charge of the Rios-Chaves match instead of Drakulich, who knows what we’d be talking about today?
  • Is there a more unsatisfying ending in sports than a questionable disqualification? It takes away the drama and closure of a proper finish, neither fighter ends up happy, and forever taints the fight itself. There were good moments in last night’s main event, but all anybody will ever remember is three point deductions and a DQ. 
  • Are these boxing posts too long/detailed? Should each fight recap be its own post? Let me know, either in the comments or via email. Sometime the Wolf is still young, and any reader feedback will help me shape this into hopefully something interesting.