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.

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

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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.

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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Music: Ryan Montbleau Band Live in Chicago

This space has been used a couple of times to talk about absurdly talented musicians that have flown under the radar for reasons that are totally beyond my understanding. While the music scene has changed quite a bit over the past few years–one can now do a lot of damage up on stage with a thumb drive–the ‘guy with a guitar and something to say’ still has a place in our culture and likely always will.

Last weekend in Chicago, Spring Awakening Music Festival packed thousands of people into Soldier Field to rock out to beats generated from a Macbook. Last night, a little ways to the west of Soldier Field, a couple hundred showed up to Chicago’s City Winery to listen to a songbird with a guitar sing to us with words and rhythms generated from his own imagination.

Ryan Montbleau is a singer-songwriter from the Boston area who has been plugging away for over a decade, putting out consistently phenomenal albums and playing stunningly impressive live shows through frequent tours. Montbleau is an accomplished musician technically; the man can play the shit out of a guitar, and he’s got a great voice, but his true talent lies in songwriting. Every singer wants to be a songwriter, but being able to put lyrics and songs together is another kind of skill altogether.

Montbleau has a type of clever charm to him, in that you always feel like you’re in on the joke together. “I’ve been at this for 12 years,” he said to the crowd last night between songs. “And I’ve gone from an unknown singer-songwriter from Massachusetts, to a virtually unknown singer-songwriter from Massachusetts.”

Montbleau is touring off of his new album with Ryan Montbleau Band, Growing LightThe album is a mature evolution of his band’s music, with a polished, focused 10 songs ranging from straight up rockers (“Pacing Like Prince”) to funky jams (“Glad”) to introspective slow burners (“Together”). Seeing Ryan Montbleau Band live is to experience all of these different moods within his set. Montbleau also stacks the band with great musicians–his keyboardist in Chicago, Beau Sasser, ripped off multiple flashy solos, while his guitarist Will Bernard kept a schooled level of playing the entire night.

The show last night saw a mix of old and new–Montbleau started us off with the first two tracks of the new album, “Growing Light” and “Inevitable”, and mixed in the new songs with a best-of showing of RMB hits (well, hits is a strong word), including fan favorites “75 and Sunny”, “Songbird”, and a solo acoustic version of his classic “Stretch”. He also ripped off a couple of covers, including a pretty badass and unexpected version of “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”.

Montbleau keeps it positive throughout the show, participating in some banter with the crowd–though I’ve seen him at a solo show talk much more to the audience than he did last night–but you can’t help feeling like he’s ready (and let’s face it, good enough) for bigger things. He sold out the room last night, and nearly tore the roof off with his set-closing jam on “Pacing LIke Prince” and then the encore, which was positivity anthem “I Can’t Wait”.

Montbleau did things on stage last night that can’t be done on a hard drive, but it seems we as a culture still insist on wearing down our songbirds, making them earn their living through relentless touring and hawking merchandise post-show. “I’ve been touring nonstop for 12 years,” he sighed into the microphone mid-set. “And I’m tired.”

If you take nothing else out of this: it’s so important to continue to support live music. In this era of cheap songs and short attention spans, of boom-or-bust musicians who it seems are either unknowns or playing giant arenas, there are so many great musicians toiling under the radar and plying their craft, busting their ass to create quality music. They have the talent to make you nod your head to the beat, to pull your imagination out, to wow you with the poetry of their words.

These people are still out there. Rearrange what your plans are for the night time, show up at the right time, let them sing you their songs. Sing along. Just go and see them. Ryan Montbleau would be a good place to start.

Truth Be Told: Mayweather-Pacquiao

After five years of buildup, posturing, and casting a cloud over the sport of boxing,  on Saturday night Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao finally stepped into the same ring, tapped gloves and fought. The fight–maybe a bit behind on its sell-by date, but still relevant enough to draw the eyes of the world–solved a question people have been arguing about in bars and gyms, with friends and with anonymous strangers on internet forums. Mayweather, or Pacquao?

The buildup to the fight felt strange to those of us following this selfish saga for years. We all know what happened: thinking the fight was going to happen in 2010, only for negotiations to be derailed over drug testing, egos and a dick measuring contest, to knowledgable boxing fans thinking the fight would never happen, to tepid PPV sales for both stars leading them to finally put pen to paper and get in the ring together. The announcement of the fight itself blew up the internet on the Friday night the news dropped, and boxing fans (causal and diehard alike) spent the next couple of months with a perpetual hard on.

As this is boxing, some things were shaky in the leadup. Mayweather Promotions, who was leading the promotion of the event, proved themselves amateurish in the lead-up, not making tickets available until just before the fight itself and getting into very public spats with prominent reporters. Floyd’s dark past of domestic violence, not new news, suddenly got a very large and public spotlight shined on it, and the general public was not as forgiving as the hardcore boxing fans, spanning numerous thinkpieces, talking head fodder and even calls to boycott the fight itself.

Boxing is a sport living on the fringes of American society, a sport smoking a cigarette in the shadows of a dumpster in a city alley.  This sport doesn’t look so great in the daylight, and with the attention of the larger country turned to it, the ugliness was magnified.

Regardless, it was one of the few times boxing served as a cultural moment. That said, the fight itself meant most to the boxing fans–one of the few times in recent memory the sport has allowed us to answer the question of who the best might be. And at the end of the day, regardless of all of the ancillary stories, thinkpieces and uneducated opinions, that question was answered.

Fight Recap: Floyd Mayweather UD12 Manny Pacquiao

Sometime the Wolf score: Mayweather 116-112 Pacquiao

The fight itself was a disappointment for a lot of people watching at home. The vast majority of fans put their support behind the Filipino sensation, saving their venom for the undefeated American and hoping for some fireworks. Alas, the fight ended up being a typical bout for boxing’s king, as Floyd Mayweather (48-0, 26 KO) dominated his opponent throughout and never looked hurt, cruising to an easy decision. Though Manny Pacquiao (57-6-2, 38 KO) occasionally had his moments where he looked alive and made Floyd cover up, he didn’t look like his typical dynamo self. Most of that had to do with the man standing in front of him.

Floyd was clearly the bigger man, but he also had a distinct advantage in speed, which was surprising, as Manny has built his career on powerful shots at blazing speed from strange angles. Pacquiao found himself in the unfamiliar position of punching at air–and occasionally taking a sharp right hand that rattled his brain and stopped him in his tracks. After a feeling-out first round in which Pacquiao landed only three punches, there were multiple times where Manny would wildly lunge in and swing a prayer shot, hoping to somehow catch the master of defense off guard.

Floyd was careful, perhaps even moreso than usual, and had respect for Manny’s power–in a few rounds, such as the fourth, Manny would land a nice shot to Floyd’s head and Floyd would just cover up against the ropes and absorb his opponent’s shots, content to let Manny get off and just get out of the round. These spots were few and far between, as every time Pacquiao started to get some momentum, Floyd would take control back.

We gave Manny four rounds. That was, in my opinion, the most rounds you could possibly give him. Floyd dominated this fight even more so than our 116-112 reflects. He was clearly the better man in the ring. He would’ve been five years ago as well–Floyd is only faster than he was then. And though the viewing public didn’t like it, at least we don’t have to argue hypotheticals anymore. You don’t have to enjoy it, but sometimes, the truth is ugly.