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

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

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

Carson, California (HBO)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

STW Scorecard: Cuadras 114-113 Estrada

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

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

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

Berlin, Germany (World Boxing Super Series)

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

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

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

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

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

Las Vegas, Nevada (Showtime)

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

STW Scorecard: Benavidez 114-113 Gavril

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

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

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

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

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

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

STW Scorecard: Han 77-76 Love

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

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

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

STW Scorecard: Plant 100-90 Hernandez

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

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Career Trajectory: Miguel Cotto

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

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

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

June 10, 2006: Miguel Cotto UD12 Paulie Malignaggi

STW Scorecard: Cotto 116-111 Malignaggi

 

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

 

December 2, 2006: Miguel Cotto TKO6 Carlos Quintana

STW Scorecard: Cotto 48-45 Quintana

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

 

June 9, 2007: Miguel Cotto KO11 Zab Judah

STW Scorecard: Cotto 98-90 Judah

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

 

November 10, 2007: Miguel Cotto UD12 Shane Mosley

STW Scorecard: Cotto 116-112 Mosley

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

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

April 12, 2008: Miguel Cotto TKO5 Alfonso Gomez

STW Scorecard: Cotto 50-42 Gomez

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

July 26, 2008: Antonio Margarito TKO11 Miguel Cotto

STW Scorecard: Margarito 97-93 Cotto

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

February 21, 2009: Miguel Cotto TKO5 Michael Jennings

STW Scorecard: Cotto 40-34 Jennings

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

 

June 13, 2009: Miguel Cotto SD12 Joshua Clottey

STW Scorecard: Cotto 114-113 Clottey

 

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

 

November 14, 2009: Manny Pacquiao TKO12 Miguel Cotto

STW Scorecard: Pacquiao 108-99 Cotto

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

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

 

June 5, 2010: Miguel Cotto TKO9 Yuri Foreman

STW Scorecard: Cotto 79-73 Foreman

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

 

March 12, 2011: Miguel Cotto TKO12 Ricardo Mayorga

STW Scorecard: Cotto 108-101 Mayorga

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

December 3, 2011: Miguel Cotto TKO9 Antonio Margarito

STW Scorecard: Cotto 89-82 Margarito

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

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

 

May 6, 2012: Floyd Mayweather UD12 Miguel Cotto

STW Scorecard: Mayweather 116-112 Cotto

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

December 1, 2012: Austin Trout UD12 Miguel Cotto

STW Scorecard: Trout 116-112 Cotto

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

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

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

 

October 5, 2013: Miguel Cotto TKO3 Delvin Rodriguez

STW Scorecard: Cotto 20-18 Rodriguez

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

June 7, 2014: Miguel Cotto TKO10 Sergio Martinez

STW Scorecard: Cotto 90-77 Martinez

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

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

 

June 6, 2015: Miguel Cotto TKO4 Daniel Geale

STW Scorecard: Cotto 30-27 Geale

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

 

November 21, 2015: Canelo Alvarez UD12 Miguel Cotto

STW Scorecard: Alvarez 117-111 Cotto

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

August 26, 2017: Miguel Cotto UD12 Yoshihiro Kamegai

STW Scorecard: Cotto 119-109 Kamegai

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

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

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

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

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

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

Erislandy Lara vs. Vanes Martirosyan

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

 

Lara

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

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

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

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

Martirosyan

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

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

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

 

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

Jermall Charlo vs Austin Trout

 

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Jermall Charlo

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

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

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

 

Austin Trout

 

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

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

 

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

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

Jermell Charlo vs John Jackson

 

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Jermell Charlo

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

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

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

 

John Jackson

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

Fight Recap: Canelo Alvarez KO6 Amir Khan

Boxing: Canelo vs Khan

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

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

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

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

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

Fight Recap: David Lemieux TKO4 Glen Tapia

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

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

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

Fight Recap: Frankie Gomez UD10 Mauricio Herrera

Sometime the Wolf Score: Gomez 100 – 90 Herrera

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

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

Fight Recap: Curtis Stevens TKO2 Patrick Teixeira

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

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

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.