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Canelo Checkmates Jacobs in Another `Chess Match’ (Translation: Rather Boring)

Bernard Fernandez



Canelo vs Jacobs

Gennady Golovkin was in the house, of course. So was Demetrius Andrade, as well as a raft of other boxing celebrities and famous non-fighters in the sellout crowd of 20,203 in Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena. The biggest of big-time boxing always packs the sport’s most prestigious venues, and Saturday night’s  middleweight unification matchup of Canelo Alvarez and Daniel “Miracle Man” Jacobs was hyped, with ample justification, as the biggest bout of 2019 to date.  Who knows? Maybe the fight – Alvarez (52-1-2, 35 KOs) retained his WBC and WBA middleweight titles, while annexing the IBF version held by Jacobs (35-3, 29 KOs) on a unanimous decision — will still merit that designation at year’s end, particularly if heavyweight kingpins Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder continue to glare and preen at one another from afar, as is likely to be the case with welterweight superstars Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr.

But for the beautiful people who paid premium prices to be there live and in person, as well as the many DAZN subscribers who no doubt wanted to believe that the action in the ring would match their inflated expectations, what was actually delivered, while technically proficient and entertaining enough when framed by that perspective, was somehow emotionally uninvolving. Perhaps that even was the case for obsessed Mexican and Mexican-American fans who might pay good money to watch their idol, Alvarez, chew bubble gum.

Boxing is indeed the sweet science, but there is a reason relatively limited but relentless and risk-taking action fighters like the late Arturo Gatti and Matthew Saad Muhammad generated electricity as if they were human versions of Hoover Dam. Ask any of the paying customers filing out of the T-Mobile Arena if they’d rather have seen an updated version of Hagler vs. Hearns or another pugilistic chess match and the overwhelming sentiment would be for what Golovkin likes to refer to as a “big drama show,” the kind frequently promised but only occasionally produced.

For a fight, particularly at an elite level, to be described as a “chess match” is code for it being, well, a tad boring. The last time chess commanded truly global attention among non-partisans was in 1972, when quirky American genius Bobby Fischer ended 24 years of Soviet domination of the world championship by defeating Russia’s Boris Spassky, 12½-8½ in a marathon contest in Reykjavik, Iceland, that stretched from July 11 through Aug. 31. Even then, however, the intensity of interest was not so much rooted in the now-deceased Fischer’s brilliant and unconventional play as in the U.S. vs. USSR aspects of a confrontation steeped with Cold War connotations.

Whenever a boxing match is described in chess terms, it’s usually time to rummage through the attics of our minds for the tortoise shell glasses, pocket protectors and bow ties that are the universal symbols of Big Bang Theory geekdom. But there was blow-by-blow announcer Brian Kenny, after the 12th round had concluded and waiting for the official decision to be announced, advising viewers that it was “a chess match early on,” and color commentator Sergio Mora adding that “when you have that much power and that much skill, it’s going to be a chess match.”

Golovkin (38-1-1, 34 KOs), who returns to action on June 8 in a stay-busy fight against Canadian mystery man Steve Rolls (19-0, 10 KOs) at Madison Square Garden, professed to be unimpressed by what he’d seen of Canelo, against whom he is 0-1-1, and Jacobs, whom he defeated on a close unanimous decision on March 18, 2017.

“Frankly, I was expecting much more,” GGG said, dismissively. “It was just like a sparring match. It was a little boring because they’re both high-level boxers. They should give more to the audience. I didn’t see any emotion. I didn’t see anything special.”

To be fair, there were some decent exchanges that never were sustained long enough to appreciably elevate spectators’ pulse rates. But it was Alvarez who moved his pawns, knights and bishops around with greater efficiency, well enough to get the nod by a 116-112 margin on judge Glenn Feldman’s scorecard, which seemed about right. Cohorts Steve Weisfeld and Dave Moretti had it closer, maybe too much so, at 115-113, suggesting a nail-biter that wasn’t borne out by the punch statistics, which showed Canelo connecting on 188 of 466, a solid 40.3 percent, and 120 of 204 power shots, an even more impressive 45.5 percent. Jacobs – who didn’t do himself any favors by too often switching back and forth between orthodox to southpaw stances, proving only that he doesn’t do it as well as, say, Terence Crawford – had corresponding figures of  131 of 649 (20.2 percent) and 89 of 309 (24.8 percent).

Did Alvarez, who is third on most knowledgeable observers’ pound-for-pound lists behind Vasiliy Lomachenko and Crawford, do enough to make the jump up to No. 1? Probably not off of this fight, but the red-haired Mexican national hero is only 28 and has a compendium of weapons, most notably superior counterpunching ability and excellent body work, and there are times when, when he gets an opponent in trouble, that he has shown good finishing instincts. And as the unified middleweight titlist who also holds a super middleweight belt (the secondary version from the WBA), his career options are numerous and attractive.

Will Canelo try to fully consolidate the 160-pound division by fighting the winner of the June 28 bout between WBO champ Andrade (27-0, 17 KOs) and Poland’s Maciej Sulecki (28-1, 11 KOs) in Andrade’s hometown of Providence, R.I.?  Mix it up for a third time with Golovkin, which probably is the highest-interest fight out there available to him, particularly since there are more than a few GGG supporters who believe he deserved to win one or both of the two previous meetings?  Or move back up to super middle, where he could begin another unification process against WBC champion Anthony Dirrell (33-1-1, 24 KOs), IBF titlist Caleb Plant (18-0, 10 KOs), WBO ruler Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez (40-0, 26 KOs) or WBA “super” super middleweight champ Callum Smith (25-0, 18 KOs)?

“I just want the biggest challenge,” Alvarez said after he’d whittled down the larger Jacobs. “That’s all I want.”

That seemingly suggested another pairing with Golovkin, which is not of paramount concern at this moment, but something that Canelo was not prepared to discount altogether. “For me, we’re done,” he said of a rivalry that has not been settled to everyone’s satisfaction. “But if the people want another fight, we’ll do it again and I’ll beat him again.

“That’s why I’m here. That what I was born for – to fight, to defend what’s mine. I’ll fight anyone.”

For Jacobs, the future is a bit murkier. Although he officially weighed in at the middleweight limit of 160 pounds, the cancer survivor from Brooklyn came in at 173.6 pounds at 8 o’clock the morning of the fight, costing him $250,000 per pound for violating a contractual clause that stipulated he could not rehydrate to more than 170 at that time. It is entirely reasonable to believe that Jacobs purposefully decided to take the nearly million-buck hit to his purse to come at the higher weight, presumably improving his chances of pulling off the upset.

“I feel like I gave enough tonight to get the victory,” Jacobs said, the standard response of nearly every fighter who loses on points and isn’t beaten to a bloody pulp. His promoter with Matchroom Sport USA, Eddie Hearn, raised the possibility that Jacobs might be better served going up to super middle. But at least Hearn didn’t go far enough to say that the decision was a miscarriage of justice.

“I thought it was a good fight, a very technical fight, cagey at times,” Hearn said. “I  thought Danny started a little bit too slow. I had him winning five rounds. But to beat Canelo, you got to do more. At times (Jacobs) looked flat. Maybe he didn’t have as much spring in his step he might have at a higher weight.”

Chess matches can be like that.

Bernard Fernandez is the retired boxing writer for the Philadelphia Daily News. He is a five-term former president of the Boxing Writers Association of America, an inductee into the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Atlantic City Boxing Halls of Fame and the recipient of the Nat Fleischer Award for Excellence in Boxing Journalism and the Barney Nagler Award for Long and Meritorious Service to Boxing.

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Looking at the Heavyweight Calendar (Odds Review)

Miguel Iturrate



Joshua vs Ruiz

This past Saturday night saw Deontay Wilder’s WBC world heavyweight title defense against Dominic Breazeale go down on Showtime. The fight lasted just 137 seconds as Wilder floored Breazeale with a cannonball of a right hand to end the night early.

With Wilder out of the way, Anthony Joshua vs Andy Ruiz Jr is up next. They meet June 1st at Madison Square Garden. Two weeks later, on the 15th of June, ESPN+ will deliver Tyson Fury vs Tom Schwarz, so fight fans will get a look at all three members of the “Big Three” all in a month’s time.

Wilder’s erasure of Breazeale this past weekend sent a message to the rest of the division as well as giving him a highlight reel to show during upcoming negotiations. Wilder entered a strong -1000 favorite at the sportsbooks for this fight.

Check out our pre-fight review of the Wilder vs Breazeale odds right here at TSS –

Looking forward, the odds posted for Joshua and Fury’s upcoming tussles are even less competitive. Let’s take a look at what the books are giving us as we await the two big Brits fighting in the USA.

Madison Square Garden – New York City – Saturday, June 1, 2019

Heavyweight 12 rounds –

Andy Ruiz Jr +1500 Over 6½ +100

Anthony Joshua -3000 Under 6½ -130

Ruiz Jr is 32-1 overall with his lone loss coming at the hands of Joseph Parker in a failed WBO world title bid. That same WBO belt is now in the hands of Joshua as are the WBA and IBF belts.

Joshua was a big favorite over Jarrell Miller, his original opponent, who was denied a license in New York after testing positive for a buffet of steroids. Ruiz Jr took the fight with less than a full training camp, but you have to believe that he is going to come in highly motivated. Ruiz Jr has been caught at a different type of buffet, the all-you-can-eat kind, but even when in the best of shape his body type isn’t “poster boy material.” Miller was big and bulky as well, but he was a near 300 pounder whereas Ruiz Jr will come in between 250 and 260 pounds, which is right around Joshua’s size. Rather than slaying a 300-pound giant, he is facing a guy who is shorter and fatter than him, making it very hard for Joshua to look great on paper.

At +1500 will people bite on Ruiz Jr? He is more experienced than Miller and he is probably a better fighter overall and though he is facing a formidable champion, Joshua is not a finished product. Perhaps Joshua will be chasing an early finish, feeling the pressure of Wilder’s performance, and if so will he make a mistake that Ruiz can exploit? We are roughly 10 days from finding out.

MGM Grand Garden – Las Vegas, Nevada – Saturday, June 15, 2019

Heavyweight 12 rounds –

Tom Schwarz +1800 Over 9½ -105

Tyson Fury -3600 Under 9½ -125

Tyson Fury closes out the run of top heavyweights with a very deliberately chosen showcase fight against Tom Schwarz. Schwarz is 24 years old and 24-0 but he is a fighter who has come up on the regional German scene and as the old boxing cliche goes, there are levels to this game.

Former contender David Haye mounted a 2016 comeback, booking fights against Mark De Mori (30-1-2) and Arnold Gjergjaj (29-0). It took Haye precisely 6:42 to dispose of both of them, and though Fury is a completely different beast than Haye, the level difference between he and Schwarz may be even as striking.

Wilder has gotten through his “challenge” and if Fury and Joshua also emerge as winners as expected, it will leave several open questions –

– Will Fury vs Wilder 2 happen first, or will Wilder vs Joshua go down first? Could Joshua and Fury meet and freeze Wilder out?


– Will we see any of these fights take place in 2019?

If Joshua or Fury stumble, it will only add to the chaos in the heavyweight division. But if the professional oddsmakers know anything, it isn’t likely to happen.

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Three Punch Combo: An Early Look at Inoue-Donaire and Under the Radar Fights

Matt Andrzejewski



Inoue vs Donaire

THREE PUNCH COMBO — This past Saturday, Naoya Inoue (18-0, 16 KO’s) punched his ticket to the bantamweight final in the World Boxing Super Series when he impressively knocked out Emmanuel Rodriguez in the second round of their scheduled 12-round fight. The win sets up a showdown with veteran Nonito Donaire (40-5, 26 KO’s) who punched his ticket to the final with an impressive knockout of Stephon Young last month.

As expected, Inoue has opened as a monstrous favorite in the betting markets. While this suggests a one-sided wipeout, I have some other thoughts.

Inoue is pound for pound one of, if not the, hardest puncher in the sport today and put that power on full display in his destruction of Rodriguez in the semi-finals. But having enormous power does not make him indestructible.

In watching that fight against Rodriguez, there were clearly flaws on display on the defensive side of Inoue’s game. For one, Inoue does not move his head at all and as such can be hit. Rodriguez landed several clean punches on Inoue in the first round. And Inoue frequently keeps his hands low looking to bait opponents into throwing to set up counter opportunities. It has worked so far but could be something he pays for down the road.

Donaire is a smart and skilled fighter and though he is 36, his last few fights have shown that he still has plenty left in the tank. Moreover, he possesses one thunderous left hook and has always been at his best when fighting below 122. He has all the capabilities to expose Inoue’s flaws and a left hook that can alter the course of a fight as we have seen him doing plenty of times in the past.

Unlike a lot of people, I do not consider Donaire to be another layup for Inoue. There is real danger in this fight for Inoue if he does not make changes to his game. Donaire has starched big punching rising stars before and I would not discount his chances to expose the significant defensive flaws in Inoue’s game.

 Under The Radar Fight

Boxing returns to ESPN on Saturday with a card from Kissimmee, FL headlined by 130- pound champion Masayuki Ito (25-1-1, 13 KO’s) who is making the second defense of his title against former US Olympian Jamel Herring (19-2, 10 KO’s). While I think this should be an excellent fight, the co-feature, which is flying deep under the radar, should be even better.

In this fight, former two division world champion Jose Pedraza (25-2, 12 KO’s) makes his return to the ring after losing his lightweight title to Vasiliy Lomachenko in December to face Antonio Lozada (40-2-1, 34 KO’s). Given their respective styles, this fight at the very least will provide plenty of sustained action.

Appropriately nicknamed “The Sniper,” Pedraza at his best is a precision puncher. A boxer-puncher by trade, he uses subtle movement inside the ring to create angles that are used to land sharp power shots on his opposition. He is also a very good inside fighter and will shift around on the inside to once again set up just the right angle to land his power shots with maximum efficiency. But despite being a good inside fighter, Pedraza has a tendency to stay in the pocket a bit too long which leaves him open to getting hit.

Lozada is best known for his upset TKO win against one-time blue-chip prospect Felix Verdejo in March of 2018. However, he failed to build momentum off that win and is coming off a lackluster split draw his last time out to 12-7-1 journeyman Hector Ruben Ambriz Suarez.

Lozada certainly does not have the technical proficiency of Pedraza. He is slow and plodding. But what he does bring to the table is relentless pressure combined with a high volume of punches. He will press forward, recklessly at times, winging punches consistently hoping to wear down his opposition through attrition.  As such, he tends to get hit a lot and can be involved in shootouts.

Cleary, Pedraza is the more skilled fighter, but given Lozada’s all-offensive mindset as well as Pedraza’s willingness to stay in the pocket, the leather is all but guaranteed to be flying from the opening bell. Neither are big punchers either so I suspect we see a fight that goes rounds providing many exciting exchanges and one that could certainly steal the show on Saturday.

Another Under The Radar Fight

Also on Saturday, Fox Sports 1 will televise a card from Biloxi, MS featuring a crossroads fight between former 154-pound champion Austin Trout (31-5, 17 KO’s) and former US Olympian Terrell Gausha (21-1, 10 KO’s). But it is another 154-pound fight on the undercard that is receiving almost no coverage that I want to highlight. It pits Chordale Booker (14-0, 7 KO’s) against Wale Omotoso (27-3, 21 KO’s).

Booker turned pro in 2016 after a successful amateur career and has kept up a fairly busy schedule. He is coming off a dominating 8-round unanimous decision over veteran Juan De Angel in January and now is taking a big jump up in his caliber of opposition in facing Omotoso.

Booker, a southpaw, likes to press forward behind a stinging right jab. He possesses elite level hand speed and likes to use that jab to set up quick power punching combinations. Booker is also an excellent counter puncher and possesses a very potent right hook coming from that southpaw stance. He will often hold his left low to bait his opponents into opening up to set up counter opportunities. However, he has also been clipped by his share of left hooks fighting in this manner and this is something he will need to tighten up against Omotoso. So just how will Booker respond to Omotoso’s pressure and heavy handed body attack? Depending on the answer, we will either see Booker step up to the next level or get exposed. And that’s what makes this fight so intriguing to me

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Serhii Bohachuk KOs Mexico’s Freddy Hernandez in Hollywood

David A. Avila



in Hollywood

HOLLYWOOD, Calif.-Super welterweight prospect Serhii Bohachuk got his first taste of upper tier boxing from Mexico’s Freddy Hernandez and gave him his best Sunday punch to win by knockout.

Bohachuk (14-0, 14 KOs) showed the excited Hollywood crowd he’s more than ready for former world title challengers like Hernandez (34-11, 22 KOs) or maybe even the current contenders with an exuberant display of pressure fighting at the Avalon Theater.

The smiling Ukrainian fighter has been steadily attracting fans to the 360 Promotions fight cards.

Trained by Abel Sanchez, the lanky and pale Bohachuk – whose nickname “El Flaco” fits perfectly – always moved forward against Mexico City’s Hernandez who has made a reputation of being crafty despite the strength of competition. With Bohachuk constantly applying pressure the Mexican fighter used the first round to touch and feel his way around the Ukrainian bomber.

In the second round a sharp counter right floored Hernandez who quickly got up and resumed the contest. It looked like the end was near until Hernandez caught Bohachuk with a solid right cross. It was a warning shot well heeded by Bohachuk.

Both fighters exchanged vigorously in the third round with the Ukrainian fighter’s youth a definite advantage. Hernandez was able to display his fighting tools more effectively in the third round but could it be enough?

Bohachuk was clearly the heavier-handed fighter but was finding it difficult to connect solidly against the Mexican veteran. But in the fifth round Bohachuk lowered his gun sights and targeted the body with a left hook that dropped Hernandez.  The fight was stopped by referee Wayne Hedgepeth at 1:40 of the fifth round.

Other Bouts

A battle of super featherweights saw Rialto, California’s Adrian Corona (5-0) rally from behind to defeat Florida’s Canton Miller (3-3-1) by split decision after six rounds.

Corona had problems with Miller’s speed in the first two rounds and was unable to track the moving fighter’s direction. But in the third round Corona began to apply more aggressive measures against Miller and was especially effective with lead rights. The momentum changed quickly.

Miller switched from orthodox to southpaw and it served to pause Corona’s momentum, but he seldom scored with solid blows. Though Miller landed quick soft blows, Corona was landing with strong shots and convinced two of the three judges that he was the winner by 58-56 twice. A third judge saw Miller the victor by the same score 58-56.

“It’s not my job to judge the judges,” said Miller. “It’s my job to just fight.”

Corona was happy with the victory.

“I could have put the pressure on him a little more,” said Corona. “It was a very technical fight and he put on a great fight.”

Other Bouts

George Navarro (6-0-1, 2 KOs) knocked out Cesar Sustaita (3-5) with a perfect overhand right that disabled the senses and forced referee Raul Caiz Jr. to halt the fight at 1:37 of the first round.

“I worked hard to prepare for this fight,” said Navarro.

A super bantamweight clash saw Humberto Rubalcava (10-1, 7 KOs) knock out Daniel Constantino (3-3-2) and win by knockout after a flurry of a dozen blows went unanswered. Referee Angel Mendez stopped the battering at 1:39 of the first round.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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