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

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

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

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

Erislandy Lara vs. Vanes Martirosyan

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

 

Lara

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

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

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

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

Martirosyan

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

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

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

 

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

Jermall Charlo vs Austin Trout

 

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Jermall Charlo

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

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

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

 

Austin Trout

 

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

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

 

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

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

Jermell Charlo vs John Jackson

 

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Jermell Charlo

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

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

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

 

John Jackson

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

Fight Recap: Canelo Alvarez KO6 Amir Khan

Boxing: Canelo vs Khan

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

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

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

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

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

Fight Recap: David Lemieux TKO4 Glen Tapia

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

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

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

Fight Recap: Frankie Gomez UD10 Mauricio Herrera

Sometime the Wolf Score: Gomez 100 – 90 Herrera

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

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

Fight Recap: Curtis Stevens TKO2 Patrick Teixeira

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

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

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.

Fighting Words: Young Fighters Shine On Showtime; Brook and Russell Jr. Dominant

In boxing, and in life, there is no such thing as immortality. The top dog will not always be the top dog–time catches up, and youth and power will eventually overtake experience. Always.

Boxing’s history is littered with people waving their hands over their head and freaking out over the future of the sport as the top superstars get old and begin slowing down or retiring. The sport was to die after Mike Tyson. Then Roy Jones Jr. Then Oscar De La Hoya. Now, boxing’s two biggest draws and stars, Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, are still at the top of the mountain but getting long in the tooth. Their twilight doesn’t seem so far away.

That said, there are numerous young guns out there, up and coming, salivating for their chance to be that star. The sport will find them, as it always does. Who it will be, we don’t know yet–Canelo? Lomachenko? Wilder?–but the young talent in the sport is strong, and it will always persevere. Last night on Showtime, two young fighters with their name on the list of up and comers made emphatic statements as they continue on the long road that leads to the top.

Fight Recap: Kell Brook RTD4 Jo Jo Dan

In Sheffield, England, hometown 28-year old IBF welterweight titleholder Kell Brook (34-0, 23 KO) looked spectacular in a one-sided beatdown of challenger Jo Jo Dan (34-3, 18 KO), mopping the floor with an overmatched, helpless and amateur-looking Dan in four rounds before Dan’s corner mercifully stopped the bout after the fourth round. Dan, a tough fighter with limited power but quite a bit of experience, didn’t belong in the same ring with Brook from the opening bell.

Brook, in his first fight since taking the title from Shawn Porter in a rough and ugly affair, was also returning to the ring after getting stabbed by a machete while on vacation in one of the strangest stories I’ve heard in quite some time. Something about Brook’s explanation of the incident (summary: Brook went to some strange man’s house at 3 AM after being out drinking on vacation, alone, and the guy abruptly went nuts and stabbed him with a machete) doesn’t quite add up, but I digress.

Brook looked strong and outclassed Dan in every single way; he was stronger, faster, more skilled. Every big power shot Kell through landed flush, and he dropped Dan twice in the second and fourth rounds, leaving the challenger flopping on the floor, dazed and frustrated, and struggling helplessly to his feet. Given that Dan is a decent welterweight, it clearly showed Brook to be a class or two above.

Who’s in that class with Brook? Well, Kell called out Amir Khan after his fight, a matchup that would certainty be a major event in Britain and a fascinating match wherever you call home. Brook also claimed he wants to fight the best (the Mayweather-Pacquiao winner, perhaps) but that seems to be a pipe dream for now. At the moment, Brook seems to be continuing to build his name, but his skills and incredible in-ring composure point to good signs for the future and someone who has the potential to be a top pound for pound fighter down the line.

Fight Recap: Gary Russell Jr. TKO4 Jhonny Gonzalez

In the nightcap on Showtime, much-hyped former featherweight prospect Gary Russell Jr. (26-1, 15 KO) exceeded all expectations by flooring and outclassing the always-tough, veteran champ Jhonny Gonzalez (57-9, 48 KO), swiping Jhonny’s WBC title in the process.

Gonzalez is no world-beater, but he is a tough veteran who had the belt after knocking out former pound-for-pound ranked champ Abner Mares in 2013. He isn’t particularly fast, or has world-beating skill, but he does have one-punch knockout power and is always dangerous, and Russell Jr. impressed by wiping the floor with him and getting him out of there within the first third of the fight.

Russell Jr. is a fighter with immense talent (he has arguably the fastest hands in the sport) who has deservedly taken criticism for a lack of quality competition on his record, as he fought a murderer’s row of nobodies and club fighters for years after being named the 2011 Prospect of the Year. In his first step-up fight against a similar world-level fighter, he was beaten decisively by Vasyl Lomachenko, resulting in fans calling him a hype job and dismissing him as a legitimate top contender.

Russell Jr. proved at least some of his critics wrong last night, as he was too much to handle. His speed is still on another level (Gonzalez looked like he was fighting in water for much of the fight), his power showed up last night and when he saw his opponent hurt he wasn’t afraid to go for the finish and get it. He still has work to do–Paulie Malignaggi, commentating for Showtime, astutely observed that Russell Jr.’s speed is great but he only knows how to throw at that one speed and doesn’t vary his punches, meaning world-class fighters can start timing his shots.

That said, the 26-year old fighter gave a great account of himself and looks to be a player in the suddenly stacked (and young) featherweight division, a group of fighters that features the previously mentioned Lomachenko, rising star Nicolas Walters, and others. He is one to watch, so long as he keeps up his level of competition.

Fight Recap: Jermell Charlo UD10 Vanes Martirosyan

Sometime the Wolf Score: Charlo 94 – 96 Martirosyan

In a highly technical affair that featured at least seven rounds that could have gone either way, Jermell Charlo (26-0, 11 KO) kept his perfect record intact as he saw the scorecards go his way. I had it scored 6-4 in rounds to the always game Vanes Martirosyan (35-2-1, 21 KO), but don’t have a problem with a 6-4 card the other way. One judge gave 7 rounds to Charlo, which I think is a little much, but think as the more marketable fighter seeing the scorecards go Charlo’s way isn’t a huge surprise.

Anyway, Jermell Charlo (the more technical of the two twin Charlo brothers) showed his technical, fighting effectively off the back foot and behind a stiff jab, while Vanes chose to attack the body and get 1-2 pot shots in there on his faster opponent where he could. Almost nothing separated these two fighters–neither ever looked particularly hurt, except in the 8th round when Vanes took an accidental headbutt that nearly closed his eye, and it felt like they could fight for 20 rounds and each man would take ten.

Nevertheless, it’s Charlo who gets the win on his record and moves on, while Vanes likely entrenches himself into gatekeeper status.

Charlo, too, is a prospect, along with his brother, who is one to watch in the future. I’m not sold on him yet–his brother has more knockouts and an arguably better resume–but you can’t argue that the 24-year old is oozing with potential, another young lion aiming himself to the front of the pack.

He, like Brook, Russell and the other young fighters building their name, may fail and wind up also-rans, and most do. But one or two of them may wind up true champions, pay-per-view stars, legends in their own time. They are the future of the world’s oldest sport, and the future appears to be in good hands. It’s why we watch and why we invest so much time and passion into a sport that has never loved us back.

Fighting Words: Kovalev Destroys Game Pascal in Enjoyable Scrap

Sergey Kovalev has a mean streak.

The Russian light heavyweight has destructive, game changing power, and isn’t afraid to batter his opponents with it. He’s not afraid to taunt with it either, circling his right hand in the air as he jabs with his left, grinning like a cat as he takes your heart. He isn’t unhittiable–you can touch him, but mostly what will happen is he will nod to you and then continue his onslaught, thumping body shots and world-spinning punches right into your forehead.

After he’s beaten you, left you crumpled on the ground, or half-heartedly protesting the referee or corner who has stepped in to save years of your life from any additional beating, he’s still mean. He’s over there dancing on the other side, smiling, raising his arms to the crowd–even if it’s your crowd, booing and upset at your loss–and checking you off the list of victims. He’s a hardass, a Russian assassin, and he’s one of the five best fighters in the world today.

Fight Recap: Sergey Kolavev TKO8 Jean Pascal

Kovalev (27-0-1, 24 KO), who holds three major light heavyweight belts, has continually increased his competition in a decent division and cleaned them out one by one. He’s beaten down hyped upstarts (Nathan Cleverly) and respected veterans (Bernard Hopkins), and last night he went up to Montreal to the backyard of tough contender Jean Pascal (28-3-1, 17 KO).

Pascal is a bit of an enigma, a talented fighter who is also a bit off his rocker and whose personal indosyncrasies match his in-ring strangeness. He goes through stretches of inactivity (both in the ring and out), is highly emotional and lets that get to him, and generally acts like a weirdo. He showed up to fight last night through, and may have made more fans in a TKO loss than in any of his previous wins.

Pascal has an awkward style, where he tends to shell up and not do much for stretches off a round, only to follow up by bullrushing quickly and winging hard right hands in sudden, jerky movements. It’s tough to time and combined with an iron chin (he had never even been down before last night) it made him a rough fighter to share a ring with. His strategy stayed the same through the first few entertaining rounds of this fight, and though Kovalev was outworking him and winning rounds, Pascal was giving a good account of himself. He wasn’t above getting dirty either–throughout the fight, Pascal was landing thudding shots just on or below Kovalev’s belt, shots the Russian really didn’t enjoy.

The first knockdown of Pascal’s career came at the end of the third round, when Kovalev hit him with a shuddering right hand that almost knocked Pascal out of the ring and through the ropes. Though he survived to the bell, the fourth round began with a vicious onslaught from the Russian as Pascal merely tried to cover up, survive and recover from the beating he’d been given.

Then–hope. Pascal began to land a few of his winging right hand shots and push Kovalev back, working the crowd into a frenzy and giving himself some daylight. Pascal took the 5th round and had an argument for the 6th.

The beating Pascal had been taking over the course of the fight came to roost n the 8th round, in what was (fittingly for a Pascal fight) one of the strangest finishes in recent memory. Kovalev had pushed Pascal into a corner and landed a hard, sharp shot to the left side of the Canadian’s head, screwing up Pascals equilibrium and almost dropping him. Pascal managed to somehow stay on his feet, but his eyes were glazed over and he was done. In the process of going for the kill, the hungry Kovalev tripped coming in and went down. Referee Luis Pabon separated the two fighters and moved to bring Sergey to a neutral corner to reset. Meanwhile, Pascal could barely stand–he stumbled his way to a neutral corner and looked in horrible shape. He was confused and barely knew where he was. Kovalev saw this and pointed it out to the referee and Pascal’s corner with his cheshire cat grin–as in “Stop worrying about me, look at this guy.”

Knowing it was over, once the referee allowed them to reset, Kovalev approached Pascal as Pascal awaited his fate in the corner, barely moving off of the corner post. Kovalev landed two hard shots and Pabon, having seen enough about the condition of Pascal, stepped in to stop it.

It was a performance of heart and grit from Pascal and a domination by Kovalev, a true destroyer. Kovalev has turned into must-see TV, in a sport that has few fighters who can be called appointment-viewing.

Fight Recap: Vyacheslav Glazkov UD12 Steve Cunningham

Sometime the Wolf Score: Glazkov 113 – 115 Cunningham

In what was a fight with no redeeming qualities, Ukranian Vyacheslav Glazkov (20-0-1, 12 KO) took a highly questionable and controversial unanimous decision over American Steve Cunningham (28-7, 13 KO), who has gotten the short end of the stick on decisions now a few times and frankly deserves better. Cunningham is a limited fighter at heavyweight, too small for the division and lacking stopping power, and we know what his ceiling is: he is a mid-to-high level contender who gets by on guts and heart, and always comes to fight.

Glazkov was the prospect here, the supposed contender in the making and undefeated fighter, but I continue to be unimpressed by him. He’s won a couple of undeserved decisions, he’s not active enough or gritty enough and his last few performances have been uninspiring to say the least. In what was a highly uninteresting fight, I found Cunningham to be racking up the rounds based on activity alone–Glazkov was just not doing enough. In a fight I had scored evenly through ten rounds, Cunningham took the last two rounds on my scorecard to take the fight.

Though there were a lot of close rounds throughout, the judge’s decision was a clear one–116-112 twice and 115-113 in favor of Glazkov. The fact that three judges can all turn in scores so different from what everybody else is seeing is a sham. In case you’re thinking of checking this one out in order to have an opinion on the scoring controversy–I’d advise against it. The fight had no action, energy or inspiration to start with, and the decision just made me upset at myself for sitting through the whole thing. There were no winners in this one.

Fight Recap: Isaac Chilemba UD10 Vasiliy Lepikhin

Sometime the Wolf score: Chilemba 99 – 91 Lepikhin

I won’t write much about this opener from last night’s HBO tripleheader, because it was terrible (praise be to Kovalev for saving last night’s card, seriously). Vasiliy Lepikhin (17-1, 9 KO) was an undefeated fighter coming into the ring taking a step up in competition against the veteran Isaac Chilemba (24-2-2, 10 KO), an experienced and tricky fighter. Lepikhin proceeded to completely shit the bed, showing zero heart, adjustments or skills in a one-sided beatdown in which Chilemba ran circles around the one-time prospect and in which Lepikhin spent long stretches cluelessly plastering his fists to the side of his own head and doing nothing else.

It was a horrendous performance, and we probably don’t need to see or speak of Lepikhin ever again in these parts.

Fighting Words: Boxing Makes Network Return on NBC

This post is a little late going up by oh, five days or so, but this blog doesn’t really pay the bills so all three of you reading this will probably just have to deal.

Boxing made it’s return to network television this past Saturday, as NBC hosted the debut of the powerful Al Haymon’s new ‘Premier Boxing Champions’, a new venture in the sport of boxing and an effort to create a new power structure within the sport. For the past few years, the mysterious Haymon has been signing fighters in droves to his stable of clients, and has developed a reputation of getting his fighters high paydays and soft matchups. He first partnered with Golden Boy and Showtime as the avenue for his fighters after being blackballed by HBO, and has now appeared to have collected enough financial funding to effectively bring his huge stable of fighters to non-premium TV by buying airtime on networks like NBC, Spike TV, CBS and others.

It’s an interesting twist for the sport, which has been relegated to niche sport status with most of its major events taking place on PPV or the premium cable channels (HBO, Showtime). Can the sport survive on the terrestrial networks and basic cable channels? Is there enough appetite to make it more of a mainstream sport? It remains to be seen, but it’s an interesting development to say the least.

The debut of the PBC series had two solid-looking matchups on paper, and went off well, with reports saying it drew over 3 million viewers and led the networks in the coveted 18-to-49 demographic. It was an event die-hard boxing fans rallied behind as it signified a hope that the sport wasn’t dying, and NBC put their muscle behind it to make it seem like a major event. Al Michaels as the host of the show, and the iconic voice of Marv Albert and name of Sugar Ray Leonard (regardless of what you think of how they performed) lent the show an air of legitimacy, something that in this sport is a bit harder to come by. The production value was through the roof, and the show looked slick, professional and like a, well, real sport.

At the end of the day though, what’s going to determine the success or failure of this venture and of boxing as a whole is the fights themselves. How did they do? Well, there were mixed results. Here is our recap.

Fight Recap: Keith Thurman UD12 Robert Guerrero

Sometime the Wolf Score: Thurman 118 – 109 Guerrero

The main event featured young budding star Keith Thurman (25-0, 21 KO) face off against tough veteran Robert Guerrero (32-3-1, 18 KO) in a rough affair where neither guy walked out looking pretty but having gained the admiration of the fans. The fight started off rather slowly as the rhythm was established quickly: Thurman was the faster fighter who landed the stronger punches, and he used his precise movement to land sharp power shots that continually snapped the more plodding Guerrero’s head back.

Guerrero found some success in the third round, managing to get inside and land a few nice shots, but the most damage was done during an accidental headbutt (an accident that often happens in Robert Guerrero fights) that wound up giving Thurman a really gross looking hematoma that puffed out the left side of his forehead grotesquely. Perhaps not what the executives at NBC wanted to see at their first national show, but it did add some drama early on to a fight that lacked it, especially given Thurman re-establishing control from the fourth round on.

In the ninth round, Thurman floored Guerrero hard, no small task given how tough “The Ghost” has been throughout his career. Guerrero was wobbly back on his feet, but managed to last the round and survive a Thurman onslaught in an attempt to finish the fight after smelling blood.

The tenth round is where fans were made. Guerrero picked himself up out of his corner and came out in berzerker mode, muscling Thurman into the ropes and turning it into a rough and tumble, phone booth affair, locking foreheads with Thurman and firing short punches at each other with barely room between them to take a breath. Despite never feeling like he was doing serious damage, it created some compelling drama and showed incredible heart, which is what this show needed at the end of the day. While the announcers oversold it a bit live–this was far from a fight of the year contender–it still brought decent excitement to a card that needed it after a horrid opener (more on this in a bit).

Thurman got on his bicycle for the last few rounds out of what seemed like respect for Guerrero and his big chin, and took his deserved decision victory with raised arms as the bell rang to end the fight. Though he didn’t get the stoppage, it was a big win for Thurman on a major stage–Guerrero is someone who’s never been stopped before, is a top-level welterweight and a tough motherfucker. Thurman had him hurt badly during the fight, and while you’d like to see him close the show, he fought well and handled the adversity in the fight strongly.

For Thurman moving forward, I’d like to see them continue to build him and match him strong with other top-tier contenders, eventually angling him for some big fights. Though Shawn Porter’s stock is much lower than before, that’s a fight that’s still really interesting to me. The division is also stocked with other talent, from Marcos Maidana, to Timothy Bradley, even the loser of May’s Mayweather-Pacquiao bout. A lot of roads to go for ‘One Time’ from here.

For Guerrero, this fight cements his status as a solid high-level gatekeeper but ultimately an also-ran contender in the division. He’ll never be the top fighter in the division–the fact that he got a 2013 shot at Floyd Mayweather is a total joke–but he’s a good measuring stick for up and comers like Thurman, and he will always have his chin and his heart.

Fight Recap: Adrien Broner UD12 John Molina Jr.

Sometime the Wolf Score: Broner 119 – 110 Molina Jr.

The opener of this bout promised some action, as the ‘budding’ star, the always-controversial Adrien Broner (30-1, 22 KO), fought a clear B-side in John Molina Jr (27-6, 22 KO), a fighter who had lost two straight and five of his last eight but was expected to provide for some drama given his game-changing power. Last year, in a similar talent mismatch, Molina lost to power puncher Lucas Matthysse in a barnburner of a match that was named by some as the Fight of the Year.

This fight not only didn’t live up to any sort of meager hype it had, it also quite possibly risked setting boxing back 30 years. As the opener of boxing’s return to network TV, the fight was a complete turd, with Broner clearly outclassing Molina but content to just potshot and not be overly aggressive, and John Molina seemingly forgetting how to box, doing absolutely nothing each round except for occasionally winging desperate right hands that started below his hip and ended by swiping the air literally feet away from Broner’s mass.

The fight was so disastrous that I scored the last round 10-10, as neither man deserved the round. Molina had gotten blown out the entire fight yet never threw a punch in the final minute, and Broner literally chose to run around with his hands up like an idiot instead of engaging for the last 30 seconds. It was a joke, and both fighters deserved the angry boos the crowd rained down on them. Not the way I’m sure NBC would have wanted to start their boxing offerings, but so goes the sport–you really never know.

From here, hopefully Broner steps up his level of competition following three straight bounce-back level fights following his loss to Marcos Maidana, but I’m just not sold that he’s the superstar he was supposed to be. He is talking trash with Amir Khan on social media at the moment, and that fight is at least intriguing.

Molina looks like he’s done after that beating by Matthysse. Don’t think I need to see him in a high-level fight, ever again. Hopefully he enjoys that NBC money and finds another line of work.

Other TIdbits/Thoughts on the Show

  • AL Michaels is all class. He just brings it. Loved him as host and would love to see him as play-by-play
  • Marv Albert was very rust as the play-by-play man, but he has a legendary voice. Give us a good, back and forth fight, and get him some reps, and we can hope for some legendary calls
  • One limitation on network TV is that they’ll never be able to show us the corner men talking to their fighters–way too much foul language going on there. That is sorely missed and very noticed, but otherwise the fight production was good
  • Thumbs down to having fighters walk in by themselves with no entourage with Hans Zimmer music playing. Walkouts are a time-honored tradition and a good glance at a fighter’s personality. With this kind of thing, we miss things like Tyson Fury singing himself to the ring last weekend, or anything Prince Naseem did. The no in-ring announcer in favor of a disembodied voice was a miss too
  • Interested in seeing how this moves forward, and if the ratings continue to stay high. There weren’t a lot of advertisers during this first show–if they can’t draw sponsorship, this won’t last long. Here’s hoping it works, however you feel about Al Haymon and his growing empire.

Fighting Words: Rabid Golovkin Violently Pummels Tough As Nails Murray

As boxing fans continue to try to hide their boners from the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight finally being announced on Friday night, and lower-level dream matchups like Ruslan Provodnikov-Lucas Matthysse around the corner, let’s not forget the one man who has given us fireworks throughout this most recent, rough, 16-month stretch: Gennady Golovkin. Golovkin, boxing’s perhaps fastest rising star, is a 32-year old middleweight supernova, who looks like a schoolboy but punches like a bastard. He’s endeared himself quickly to boxing fans with his performances in the ring, where he has knocked out 18 straight opponents coming into tonight, and his personality out of the ring, where his goofy accent and self-aware smile has spawned boxing-insider catch phrases (calling his opponents “good boy” and promising a “big drama show”).

Golovkin’s main problem has and will continue to be the lack of a challenging opponent willing to step into the ring with him. Lineal middleweight titlest Miguel Cotto isn’t keen on fighting him and many of his competitive prospective opponents (Andre Ward, Carl Froch et al) are in the weight class above him. That said, for the last year he’s put his head down and fought–and summarily destroyed–all comers in what is admittedly a soft middleweight division.

Tonight in Monte Carlo, Golovkin stepped into the ring with his toughest opponent to date, Britain’s Martin Murray. Murray is a huge middleweight at 6 feet tall, has the chin of a brick wall and whose only two blemishes on his record were close fights against top fighters: a loss to Sergio Martinez and a draw with Felix Sturm, both in those respective fighters’ backyards. Murray was the biggest challenge out there for Golovkin, but due to a criminal record was unable to fight in the US, hence why the fight was held in Monte Carlo. The fight, as all Golovkin fights do, delivered the action, the blood and the balls.

Martin Murray (left) and Gennady Golovkin

Fight Recap: Gennady Golovkin TKO11 Martin Murray

Golovkin (32-0, 29 KO) came into the fight a heavy favorite, but Murray (29-2-1, 12 KO) came in with a clear gameplan and started the fight off tit for tat with the Kazakh monster, fighting with him on even terms throughout the first two rounds before starting to take some punishment in the third. Murray would start the fight by landing a few shots on Golovkin before tying him up, using his size advantage to lean on him and trying to smother Gennady’s offense by getting in close. It worked, for about nine minutes. I found myself impressed with his first copule of rounds before spending the rest of the fight simultaneously admiring Murray and feel sorry for him.

Why? Because being in a ring with Gennady Golovkin is like being a dog in a fight with a wolf. Golovkin is an expert at cutting the ring off, fires technically perfect shots and has the concussive power of a horse’s kick. Murray was on his heels throughout the entire fight, fighting the match of his life but still barely surviving and taking damage that in all likelihood took years off of his career if not his life.

It started when, in the fourth round, Golovkin landed a nasty right hand right to Murray’s belly. You could almost see Murray’s organs ripple inside of his stomach as he crumpled to one knee. Golovkin’s power has stopped people with body shots before, as he famously left once-top contender Matthew Macklin curled in the fetal position with a liver shoot. Murray ended up taking a second knee just to buy himself some time to recover and make it out of the round.

But making it out of the round he did, and Murray continued to fight admirably. He was getting beaten up and badly throughout the rest of the fight, but he never stopped throwing. Golovkin was relentless, on the offensive for the entire fight, never looking worn down but continuing to fire punches from all angles. Murray got his share of shots into Gennady too–Golovkin does not seem to value defense as a top priority–but with the damage he was taking, Murray’s punches just didn’t have enough steam to move Golovkin. It didn’t help that Murray’s nose was completely busted up, spattering blood down the front of his chest and causing him to fight half the fight with his mouth open.

Golovkin scored another knockout in the 10th round, catching Murray backpedaling with a head shot and hurting him badly. The tough Englishman came out for the 11th round but had nothing to offer, and the referee rightly stepped in to end the fight after Golovkin snapped Murray’s head back grotesquely with a couple of bending uppercuts.

Golovkin proved his class here, but so did Murray. Murray should leave with his head held high (if he can still hold it up at all) and cement himself as likely the true #2 middleweight in the world. He fought a great, smart fight against a vicious, rabid animal of a fighter. His team should make sure they buy an extra plane ticket home for his giant balls, cuz they’re going to need the extra room.

Fight Recap: Arthur Abraham UD12 Paul Smith

Sometime the Wolf Score: Abraham 116 – 112 Smith

Arthur Abraham (bald) and Paul Smith (tattoo)

Also in action on Saturday, from Germany, was the Arthur Abraham vs. Paul Smith super middleweight rematch. In their first fight, in September, a competitive and close bout was marred by some absurdly wide scoring in favor of the hometown fighter Abraham (not an uncommon thing in Germany), causing both fighters to agree to a rematch to settle the score.

This one was a doozy, a fun back-and-forth fight with a lot of heart and skill shown by both fighters. Abraham (42-4, 28 KO) is a one-time world class fighter who is getting older and on his last legs, and can sometimes be plagued by inactivity inside the ring. He still has some power and skill though, and after a slow start to this match he showed it, clubbing Smith with some hard shots when not defending himself with his trademark, neigh-unbreakable high guard. After an even first four rounds, Abraham began to show his class, dominating must of the middle rounds (at least on the scorecards) and pulling away for a comfortable lead. He did have a brief scare in the sixth, when he showed obvious pain after a great liver shot from Smith, after which Abraham did not throw a punch for an entire minute. After that round though, Abraham managed to compose himself and regain control of the fight.

Smith (35-5, 20 KO) made good account of himself though, and stayed active throughout. He created drama throughout the fight by being ready, willing and able to wing punches back at Abraham after getting hit, but he spent too much of the fight with his back to the ropes and being driven around the ring by the more powerful Abraham. He fought a great fight, but was just matched against a better fighter, and there’s no shame in that either. Abraham took much of the final two rounds off, giving him the last two rounds and making the score, at least on my card, look a bit closer than it actually was.

That being said, though it was a clear Abraham victory, it was an entertaining and energetic fight throughout. Worth a watch, and a satisfying ending given this was an honest Arthur Abraham victory.

Overall a solid afternoon of fights for boxing fans, and a bright near future coming up. Though 2015 looks bright, there hasn’t really been many big fights yet this year, so this really kicked off the season. Let’s hope this year lives up to the hype–it’s been a long time coming for long-suffering boxing fans. Here’s to a great year of blood, balls and hopefully some drama–the good kind–in the next few months.