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Is GGG P4P?

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Times Square in New York City is often referred to as “the crossroads of the world.” On November 2nd, the crossroads moved nine blocks south to Madison Square Garden where Brooklyn and Kazakhstan converged for the middleweight title fight between Curtis Stevens and Gennady Gennadyevich Golovkin.

Golovkin was born in Kazakhstan in 1982. He won a World Amateur Boxing Championship in 2003 and a silver medal at the Athens Olympics a year later. The most reliable accounting of his amateur record is 345 wins against 5 losses. He has never been knocked down as an amateur or professional and is undefeated in 28 pro fights with 25 knockouts. He currently holds the WBA and IBO titles.

Outside the ring, Golovkin smiles a lot and has a gentle demeanor. On the street, he could pass for a computer geek. His first language is Russian, but he speaks fluent Kazakh and some German. In interviews with the American media, he sometimes waits for a question to be translated into Russian but answers in English.

Too many fighters want to live like rock stars when they reach the top. Golovkin’s life is focused on boxing, not partying or other distractions. His wife and four-year-old son live in Germany.

“I see them between my fights,” Gennady says. “I am lonely sometimes without them because I train in California. But my work is here. I like California. California is perfect for me and, I hope, some day for my family. Life for me is good now. I am happy.”

Golovkin doesn’t look like a world-class fighter, but he fights like one. His trainer, Abel Sanchez (who Gennady calls “coach”) likens his pupil’s relentless attack to that of Julio Cesar Chavez in his prime.

“Gennady is a joy to work with,” Sanchez says. “His mentality is about improving every day. My biggest problem is, I can’t get complacent. I have to make sure that I don’t become a fan.”

Golovkin in the ring is like a threshing machine cutting through a wheat field. Or a tank that’s firing live ammunition. Choose your metaphor. He’s exciting to watch, methodically destroys opponents, and has the highest knockout percentage of any current belt holder in boxing.

“I can throw ten punches very fast,” Gennady says, mimicking shoe shining. “Br-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r . . . But why throw ten punches when you can knock a man out with two?”

Some fighters keep the “0” on their record by avoiding other top fighters. To date, Golovkin hasn’t turned down a single opponent. He has always been willing to fight the best available opposition. But other fighters with belts and fighters who are in line to fight one of the other middleweight belt holders have distanced themselves from Gennady.

Also, Golovkin is under the promotional umbrella of K2 promotions. And while K2 managing director Tom Loeffler has worked hard to advance Gennady’s career, one can make the argument that Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko could and should be more supportive. Indeed, in the “About Us” section on the K2 website, Golovkin is listed after Johnathon Banks and Ola Afolabi.

Golovkin introduced himself to the American public with a fifth-round knockout of Grzegorz Proksa on HBO in September 2012. Knockouts of Gabriel Rosado and Matthew Macklin followed. The network then slated a November 2nd date for Gennady and needed an opponent. Curtis Stevens stepped into the void.

Stevens, age 28, has lived his entire life in Brooklyn. He turned pro in 2004 and came into the fight against Golovkin with a 25-and-3 record. Most his bouts were at light-heavyweight. He was undefeated with three first-round knockouts in four fights after going down to 160 pounds.

There was a modest amount of trashtalk prior to Golovkin-Stevens; most of it from Curtis, who called Golovkin “an overrated hype job” and promised to “knock him the f— out.”

That earned a rejoinder from Gennady, who observed, “Dangerous atmosphere, different style. I am sportsman. He has big mouth.”

“Gennady doesn’t get angry,” Abel Sanchez noted. “He gets focused.” Then Sanchez said of Stevens, “He’s going to get destroyed. He doesn’t belong in the ring with Triple-G. You’ve seen what Gennady has done so far. He can do that to anybody.”

That led Curtis to respond, “Abel saying I’m gonna get knocked out in three rounds. Abel saying I’m gonna get knocked out in six. Abel is stupid.”

Meanwhile, in a calmer moment, Stevens told writer Tom Gerbasi, “This is something that I dreamed about since I was eight years old and stepped in the ring for the first time. And to be here and to have it in my grasp, it’s amazing. I think about it every night. Some nights, there’s anxiety from thinking about it too much and I don’t get good. So in my mind, I’m saying, ‘You’ve just got to grab it. You’re either gonna give it up or go in there and take it right out of his hands.’ Come November 2nd, I’m gonna be great.”

Golovkin was a heavy favorite. Stevens is a puncher. But Gennady, who was coming into the fight riding a wave of fourteen consecutive knockouts, is a bigger puncher. Also, Golovkin had proven himself to be the more technically-proficient fighter of the two. And while no one has ever questioned Curtis’s courage, his chin was suspect.

Legendary cornerman Al Gavin once opined, “If you’re making a list of all the attributes a fighter needs, start with a chin. If you don’t have a chin, forget about being a fighter.”

Golovkin’s chin is the stuff of legends.

Still, Stevens was coming to win. And during fight week, he projected a calm confidence.

“Golovkin a fighter,” Curtis acknowledged of his opponent. “He might not look like one outside the ring, but I know he’s good. With his knockout ratio and my knockout ratio, the way it’s supposed to go is, it won’t go twelve rounds. But I’m ready to go twelve if I have to. And he’s not used to fighting someone who hits as hard as me. All he’s fought is blown-up junior-middleweights. Now he’s fighting a bigger man who’s coming down in weight. People are saying he’s the best middleweight in the world. After I beat him, what does that make me?”

*

Golovkin arrived at his dressing room on the second floor of The Theater at Madison Square Garden on fight night at 8:05 PM. His brother (Max Golovkin) and two other team members were with him.

The room was small, roughly twelve feet squared with cream-colored cinderblock walls and a speckled-gray tile floor. A large blue-and-gold Kazakhstani flag hung from the wall above a rectangular plastic table. Seven folding metal chairs with black cushions and television cables taped to the floor made the space seem smaller than it was.

Gennady began doing stretching exercises. At 8:20, Abel Sanchez entered. The trainer had three fighters on the undercard, including heavyweight Mike Perez, who would be in HBO’s first televised fight of the evening. Sanchez would move back and forth between dressing rooms for much of the night.

Other members of Team Golovkin came and went. Gennady checked his cell phone for text messages. Music at a low decibel level sounded in the background; an eclectic mix ranging from a woman’s soft voice over a gentle rock beat to gangsta rap.

There was little conversation. Almost always, Gennady was on his feet, pacing, stretching. At one point, he sat down and massaged his own fingers, hands, and wrists. At nine o’clock, he took a milk chocolate Hershey bar out of his gym bag and peeled off the wrapper.

“Is that for energy?” a state athletic commission inspector asked.

“No. I’m hungry, and it tastes good.”

All fighters are aware of the stakes involved when they fight; financially and in terms of their physical wellbeing. But in the hours before a fight, they process it in different ways. At a time when many fighters’ nerves are gyrating on the edge, Golovkin seemed calm and emotionally self-sufficient, almost serene.

Referee Harvey Dock came in and gave the fighter his pre-fight instructions.

“The three-knockdown rule is waived . . . The Unified Rules of Boxing are in effect . . . If your mouthpiece comes out, keep fighting until I call a lull in the action. You have two mouthpieces, correct?”

“Three,” Sanchez answered.

Abel wrapped Gennady’s hands.

There was more moving and stretching. But the stretching was becoming more vigorous. Golovkin lay down on a towel and contorted his body into positions that most people would find troubling. Then he rose, took a jar of Vaseline, and greased down his own face.

Sanchez gloved Gennady up. Max massaged his brother’s legs, back, and shoulders.

Golovkin’s eyes hardened. A transformation had begun. The gentle smile was gone. Now he was stomping around the room, growling, flexing his muscles.

Round one of Mike Perez vs. Magomed Abdusalamov came into view on a small television monitor. Sanchez had opted to remain with Golovkin. Ben Lira was the head man in Perez’s corner.

Gennady hit the pads with Abel for thirty seconds. Each punch was thrown with technical precision and thudding power. Then he paced and stretched some more before hitting the pads for another thirty seconds. Finally, he slapped himself on the temple with closed gloves. Left, right, left, right. More than a tap.

He was ready.

Sanchez applied more Vaseline to Golovkin’s face.

Perez vs. Abdusalamov dragged on.

“What round is it?” Abel asked

“Six.”

Twenty minutes lay ahead before Gennady would leave for the ring. He paced, shadow-boxed, and paced some more.

Sanchez gave him a sip of water.

Perez-Abdusalamov ended with Perez winning a unanimous decision. No one knew it at the time, but hours later, Abdusalamov would be in a coma in critical condition after emergency surgery to relieve bleeding and swelling in his brain.

Golovkin sat on a chair in a corner of the dressing room and bowed his head in concentration.

“It was for focus,” Gennady explained later. “This is a serious business. I understand my situation. It was for concentration in the fight. To concentrate on speed, power, and distance. To concentrate on what I must do to win for myself and my family.”

*

A casual observer who saw Golovkin and Stevens at the opening bell and knew nothing about either man might have thought that Gennady was a sacrificial lamb. Curtis was shorter but more visibly muscled with a menacing glare and heavily tattooed torso and arms. Stevens can beat a lot of middleweights, but Golovkin isn’t one of them.

Gennady began by working off of, and controlling the fight with, his jab. Curtis cranked up left hooks from time to time but couldn’t connect solidly. With thirty seconds left in round two, Golovkin fired a short compact textbook left hook that landed flush on Stevens’s jaw and deposited him on the canvas.

Curtis struggled to his feet, dazed, and survived till the bell. Thereafter, he tried valiantly to work his way back into the fight. There was no quit in him. Late in round four, he flurried off the ropes and landed some good shots. Midway through round five, he scored with a solid hook and right hand up top followed by a hook to the body. But Gennady took the punches well and was soon stalking his man again.

It was the kind of fight that keeps fans on the edge of their seats. Both fighters were throwing bombs and both fighters were dangerous. It seemed as though – BOOM – at any moment, something might happen. But most of the “booms” were coming from Golovkin.

Gennady showed once again that he’s a complete fighter. His footwork is such that he all but glides around the ring. He’s always looking to attack and do damage. He’s relentless but not reckless and cuts off the ring well. His jab, straight right, hook to the head and body, and uppercut are all potent. Every punch in his arsenal has the potential to debilitate an opponent.

Stevens started round six aggressively. Then Gennady unloaded on him. Boxing demands courage of fighters, and Curtis showed it. But from that point on, Golovkin-Stevens was a one-sided display of brutal artistry.

“Compassion,” Jimmy Cannon wrote decades ago, “is a defect in a fighter.”

A minute and fifteen seconds into round eight, Golovkin landed two thudding hooks to the body that hurt Stevens. Curtis backed into the ropes, and Gennady battered him around the ring with sledgehammer blows to the head and body. Stevens refused to submit, but his cause was helpless.

At the end of the round, referee Harvey Dock followed Curtis to his corner and told trainer Andre Rozier, “That’s it.”

“Okay,” Rozier responded.

The final “punch-stats” showed Golovkin outlanding Stevens by a 293-to-97 margin. And a lot of those 293 blows were particularly damaging.

So . . . How good is Golovkin?

The more people get to know him, the more they like him as a person and as a fighter. Most athletes, not just fighters, need some meanness in them to be great. Despite Gennady’s gracious persona, the assumption is that there’s some meanness there.

Golovkin has yet to fight an elite opponent. One can also make the argument that he doesn’t move his head enough and gets hit more than he should. And as Sugar Ray Leonard noted years ago, “There’s a way to beat everybody.” Invincible warriors only exist in movies and novels.

That said; Gennady is a special fighter. One hopes that, in the not-too-distant future, he’ll be in the ring with an inquisitor who has the ability to test him in a megafight commensurate with his talents.

Golovkin’s best weight is 160 pounds.

“Right now,” he says, “I am a middleweight. But this is boxing. For money, I would go to super-middleweight to fight Andre Ward. For money, I would fight Mayweather at 154 pounds.”

But would Ward or Mayweather fight him?

Mayweather? No way.

Ward? We’ll find out.

That, of course, leaves the lineal middleweight champion of the world, Sergio Martinez.

There are numerous similarities between Martinez and Golovkin. Both are dedicated professionals and superb fighters who honor boxing with their presence. They’re gracious men who treat people with dignity and respect. Even their personal mannerisms are similar. The ready smile; the nod of the head when in agreement with something that someone else has said. One can imagine that, under different circumstances, they’d be friends.

Martinez is on the downside of his career. In recent years, his body has betrayed him. Sergio has earned the right to be called “middleweight champion of the world.” But right now, Golovkin is the world’s best middleweight and it’s unlikely that Martinez will fight him.

Meanwhile, Golovkin is a reminder of the nobility of boxing at its best as contrasted with the duplicity and pettiness of so many of the people who connive and preen around fighters. That nobility was on display in the ring at Madison Square Garden on November 2nd. And it was evident again in Gennady’s dressing room an hour after the fight when the door opened and a short stocky man wearing a navy-blue hoodie and dark glasses to obscure the bruises around his eyes walked in.

Curtis Stevens extended his hand to Gennady Golovkin and spoke his next words with sincerity and respect: “Champ, you’re a great fighter. Congratulations.”

Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at thauser@rcn.com. His most recent book (Straight Writes and Jabs: An Inside Look at Another Year in Boxing) has just been published by the University of Arkansas Press.

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A Kaleidoscope of Boxers Guaranteed to Provide Action: Past and Present

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To set the tone for this article, one needs only to watch the way in which Thomas Hearns came out in the first round against Marvelous Marvin Hagler. He was ready to rock and roll as was his fearsome looking opponent. The ensuing unmitigated savagery was the quintessential illustration of full-tilt boogie.

For most boxing fans, the anticipation of an all-out action bout gets the chills running down spines faster than anything else. But not all, as some prefer a tactical or clinical fight that someone like Mikey Garcia can orchestrate and others –but not many—enjoy a defensive gem via a Willie Pep, Nicolino Locche, or Pernell Whitaker. A few love a genuine blood fest that a Gabe Rosado-type can provide, and who doesn’t like seeing something special as in Sugar Ray Leonard, Kostya Tszyu, Terence Crawford or Vasiliy Lomachenko?

Chill-or-be-chilled types like Bob Satterfield and Tommy Morrison were super exciting. In this connection—a certain cadre of warriors, past and present, would come out charging and stalking as soon as the bell rang. Many demonstrated a marked disdain for defense and used a non-stop, no let-up pressure that discouraged their opponents, especially in the late rounds. The anticipation from the crowd was palpable because it sensed some form of destruction was on its way. The cheering would start during the instructions and sometimes did not let up until the concussive end.

This cadre included Rocky Marciano, Tony Ayala, Vicious Victor Galindez, Jeff Fenech, Roberto Duran, and Julio Cesar Chavez (who sapped the spirit of his opponents by ripping away at their mid-section). Also, Carl “The Cat”  Thompson , chill-or-be-chilled Ricardo “Pajarito” Moreno (60-12-1 with 59 KOs),  Ron Lyle, the ultra-violent Edwin Valero, the appropriately nicknamed JulianMr KO” Letterlough, James “The Outlaw” Hughes and his mindboggling ability to snatch victory from certain defeat, Thai stalking monster Khaosai Galaxy (47-1),  the first version of George Foreman (pictured with the aforementioned Lyle), Ji-Hoon “Volcano” Kim, Ruslan  Provodnikov, Orlando “Siri” Salido, Marcos Maidana, Lenny Z, Alfredo “Perro” Angulo, Mike Alvarado, Brandon Rios, and Mickey Roman (the later four are still fighting but past their primes).

Others who presently incite the anticipation of something special include (but are not limited to) Naoya “Monster” Inoue (16-0), Errol “The Truth” Spence Jr (24-0), Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (46-4-1), Alex Saucedo (27-0), and, of course, Gennady “GGG” Golovkin (38-1-1) who now has become slightly more tactical like his nemesis, Canelo Alvarez (50-1-1).

These stand out as representative.

Past

A prime Mike Tyson—and the emphasis is on prime– was the epitome of a boxer who guaranteed action. One simply would not leave his or her seat when “Iron Mike” was doing his highlight reel thing, and his blowout of Michael Spinks punctuated his standing at the top of all-action type fighters, even if the action was usually non-mutual.

Joe Frazier came out smokin’ and would not let up until either he or his opponent were done. For the most part, decisions were not in Joe’s DNA and his left hook was as malicious as a hook can be. With Joe, you just sat back and enjoyed the action. Frazier, wrote boxing historian Tracy Callis,  “was a strong, ‘swarmer’ style boxer who applied great pressure on his opponent and dealt out tremendous punishment with a relentless attack of lefts and rights; His left hook was especially stiff and quick when delivered during his bob-and-weave perpetual attack; he fought three minutes per round and never seemed to tire.”

Carlos “Escopeta” (Shotgun) Monzon (87-3-9) was a powerful and rangy Argentinean killing machine, built like an iron rod. Some said he pushed his punches. Well if he did, he pushed 87 opponents to defeat. He also became only the second man to stop former three-time world champion Emile Griffith, turning the trick in the 14th round. Blessed with great and deceptive stamina and a solid chin, he seemingly was an irresistible force. He was unbeaten over the last 81 bouts of his career, a span of 13 years, and defended his title 14 times. “One would need to write a book in order to do justice to comparing a fighter of Carlos Monzon’s calibre to his fellow all-time greats,” wrote Mike Casey.

Arturo Gatti and Irish Micky Ward were the quintessential action fighters. One is gone amidst controversy, and hopefully the other will not pay a price for his many ring wars. With these two, just count up the Fights-of-the-Year and the rest is history. Suffice it to say that Gatti and Ward will be forever linked in boxing lore.

Until his fateful fight with Nigel Benn (another all-action fighter), Gerald McClellan was absolutely, positively, a stalking monster with dynamite in his gloves. It was ferocity and fury at its highest level and it was something to behold. Sadly, his fight with Benn left him permanently disabled; his story remains a dark stain on boxing. As Ian McNeilly notes, “one man’s finest hour was the end of another man’s life as he knew it.”

Michael “The Great” Katsidis’s all-action style made thrilling fights a lock. The Kat” was willing to take three to deliver one. It was blood and guts to the last drop. Whether he too exacted a heavy price for this style remains to be seen.

Lucia Rijker, AKA “The Dutch Destroyer,” lived up to her moniker and destroyed everyone in her path. Again, it wasn’t “if,” it was “when.”

Christy Martin (49-7-3) put female boxing on the map in the ‘90s and she did it by going undefeated in 36 straight encounters, running roughshod over her opponents as evidenced by her 25 wins by stoppage during this run. She also managed to steal the show from a Mike Tyson main event in 1996 during her memorable and bloody battle with Deirdre Gogarty.

Present

Deontay Wilder, aka “The Bronze Bomber,” has a record of 40-0.  With 39 wins coming by KO—many in spectacular fashion, The “Bomber” brings with him that same sense of anticipation that Tyson did. It’s not if; it’s when and “when” can occur at any time. But unlike Tyson, there is a vulnerability that Luis Ortiz exposed that makes the excitement index go even higher.

Dillian Whyte (24-1) has seldom been in a dull affair. His vulnerability combined with his mode of attack ensures thrilling action and the possibility of a stoppage at any time. Unlike Dereck “Del-Boy” Chisora, Whyte is consistently aggressive and dangerous.

Manny Pacquiao (60-7-2) has slowed down considerably but his recent stoppage win over Lucas Matthysse offers hope that he can still conjure up his exciting whirlwind style of fast in-an-out movements that allowed him to win multiple titles over several future Hall of Fame opponents between 2005 and 2011. A rematch with Floyd Mayweather Jr., if rumors are true, would allow Pac Man an opportunity to accomplish a number of extraordinary things including avenging a prior defeat and ruining Mayweather’s undefeated record. Time will tell.

Though he appears to have shot his wad, a prime Antonio Margarito was the classic stalk, stun, and kill fighter. Heck, he belonged on the Discovery Channel. His two blowouts of Kermit Cintron showed the “Tijuana Tornado” at his most brutal. His come-from-behind demolition of Miguel Cotto stands out for its drama and bloodletting—and subsequent speculative controversy.

David Lemieux (39-4) always brings the heat. His fights seldom end as scheduled. With KO power in both hands and a propensity to rehydrate by 20 pounds, he is the essence of danger and attendant excitement. “With the sheer power he carries, Lemieux will always have a shot at beating any middleweight, and he is almost always involved in good action fights,” says James Slater.

Amanda Serrano (35-1-1) is the only women’s boxer to win world titles in six divisions. The “Real Deal” is unique in that she has a high KO percentage (74 percent) which is rare for female boxers. Amanda is 120 seconds of guaranteed action for each round.

                                                         **********

While Iron Mike Tyson is THE MAN, Matthew Saad Muhammad also warrants special billing as he embodied what this article is all about. Steve Farhood summed up the essence of Saad Muhammad with an observation that would be appropriate for his tombstone: “Eddie Gregory (Mustafa Muhammad) has a better jab, Marvin Johnson wields more power, James Scott does more sit ups. But, Muhammad’s heart is the size of a turnbuckle, and it anchors his title reign.”

Who did I leave out? Whose name or names would you add to this list?

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AJ Needs to Look Good Against Povetkin, but the Russian Won’t be a Free Ride

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Golovkin broadcast

During the Canelo-Golovkin broadcast last weekend, it was mentioned that the two biggest star fighters in boxing were Canelo Alvarez and WBA/IBF/WBO heavyweight titlist Anthony Joshua. Canelo, the newly crowned middleweight champion, was in need of a signature win over a marque opponent to strengthen his claim and Joshua is in the same position heading into his title defense against former WBA title holder Alexander Povetkin at Wembley Stadium Saturday night.

This time last year, being roughly two months out from his title defense against Carlos Takam, Joshua, 28, was the perceived alpha fighter in the heavyweight division. AJ had won all his fights by knockout and, other than a Wladimir Klitschko right hand that dropped him in the sixth round, looked as if he were a sure thing to be the future of the division. But then he looked average stopping Takam, a late replacement for Kubrat Pulev. Joshua cut Takam, dropped him in the fourth round and stopped him in the 10th, but the stoppage was a little bit of a quick hook in the eyes of most observers and it dulled the win.

Five months later Joshua fought undefeated WBO titlist Joseph Parker. Three weeks prior to this fight, Joshua rival and WBC title-holder Deontay Wilder, after nearly being stopped in the seventh round, knocked out the most avoided fighter in the division in Luis Ortiz to score the signature win of his career. So the pressure was on Joshua to win impressively.

Unknown to anyone, Parker showed up only interested in becoming the first fighter Joshua couldn’t stop. And AJ didn’t endear himself to any newly conformed fans when he fought with little urgency, content to win a lopsided decision. Relying almost exclusively on his jab, he made no real attempt to get Parker out of there. Compounding the shrinking perception of AJ, Takam, in his next bout, was beaten more definitively by Dereck Chisora than he was by Joshua.

When you take into account that Wilder scored an impressive KO in his last fight over the most formidable opponent he’s fought and Joshua only scored one knockdown in his last two fights combined, it’s easy to glean why Wilder has narrowed the gap regarding the public perception of them. What’s been missed about Joshua’s last two bouts, however, is that he was utterly dominant. It’s hard to find three rounds he lost of the 22 he was in the ring. But yet, the thing that is most remembered is that AJ didn’t look like the doctor of destruction that his physicality and ring record projected him as being.

When an elite fighter like Anthony Joshua is seen as being a knockout artist and then goes a few fights in a row without delivering a memorable KO, critics and fans begin to find things about their game that are suddenly alarming. And that’s why it’s imperative for Joshua not just to beat Povetkin; he must become the first fighter to stop him. That will get the attention of the right people and at the same time gain back some of the cachet he ceded to Wilder since March of this year.

According to The Ring magazine’s latest ratings…the top six heavyweights, in order, are Joshua, Wilder, Povetkin, Ortiz, Whyte and Parker. So of those ranked 3-6, Povetkin is the only one who hasn’t yet faced Joshua or Wilder. Many well-known observers who cover boxing also see Povetkin 34-1 (24) as the third best fighter in the division. In fact, the new narrative regarding this fight is that Povetkin is really dangerous. With his power, extensive experience and toughness, he’s not an automatic win or free ride for AJ this weekend.

Yes, that’s what they’re saying before they get into the ring – so let’s remember that after the bout, because if Joshua 21-0 (20) looks impressive and stops Povetkin, we’ll more than likely hear how Povetkin was washed up, having turned 39 earlier this month and having lost to the best fighter he ever touched gloves with in Wladimir Klitschko. In one night, Povetkin will go from being a real test for Joshua to an old man who couldn’t beat anybody in the top 10. Conversely, if Povetkin goes the distance and is competitive with Joshua, then, in a knee-jerk reaction and overstatement, many will label AJ a fraud and a sure loser when he faces Wilder.

The reality is a stoppage win by Joshua will be impressive because Povetkin has never been close to being stopped. Even after going down four times against Klitschko he never looked as if he wanted out and Wladimir was a single shot bigger banger than Joshua is with either hand (with the difference being Joshua gets off more freely and puts his punches together in combination, opposed to Klitschko who force-fed his opponents one-twos. Also, Joshua is quicker handed than Klitschko and that should enable him to land some big shots in succession on the presumably attacking Povetkin).

Povetkin most likely needs to be inside against Joshua. There’s only two ways to do it, either by pressing AJ or moving away and timing him, and the method he chooses will illustrate just how much AJ’s power is or isn’t too much for him to chance moving in on. If Povetkin pulls a Parker and the fight goes the distance, Joshua shouldn’t be excoriated because it’s hard to stop a fighter who is only looking to survive. At the same time Joshua will have to let his hands go and fight with more urgency and passion than he showed against Parker, because if he doesn’t that will raise my red flag.

When Joshua crashed the top-10 heavyweight rankings I thought, having watched him closely, that he had the potential of former champ Lennox Lewis. That hasn’t changed, but I’m beginning to see Lewis as being more of a natural fighter and AJ as the better athlete. On paper it’s close when comparing them, but Lewis, especially under the late Emanuel Steward, kept improving whereas Joshua, after looking so good and well-rounded stopping Klitschko, seems to have plateaued.

Alexander Povetkin is AJ’s twenty-second bout. In Lennox Lewis’s twenty-second bout, he fought Donovan “Razor” Ruddock.

Ruddock (27-3-1) was a 6’3”, 231-pound, well-built fighter with power in his left hand but limited skills. Povetkin is 6’2” and weighed in at 229 for his last bout. Ruddock’s left-hook/uppercut was probably a bigger single shot than anything in Povetkin’s arsenal but that’s about the only check Razor gets in his column over Povetkin. The Russian fighter has a much higher boxing IQ than Ruddock and is the more technically sound fighter with better structure and form.

Lewis destroyed Ruddock in two rounds in what was the signature performance of his career at the time. Joshua has already delivered a signature performance, his stoppage of Klitschko after knocking him down three times, but critics and fans have short memories so Joshua needs to deliver another eye opening performance. As was the case for Ruddock when he fought Lewis, Povetkin looks made to order for AJ to look good against. However, Povetkin, unlike Ruddock before he confronted Lewis, has never been stopped and is known for his durability and ruggedness.

Joshua says he is motivated for Povetkin and isn’t looking past him. He says he fears losing, and I don’t need him to confirm he has a gigantic ego and cannot be happy about some of the pageantry and attention that Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury have stolen from him. As for Povetkin, this is no doubt his last title shot and he certainly knows this is the fight he needs to put everything together…which should translate into him coming to win which means he’s going to fight instead of hoping for pats on the back for showing up. And if Povetkin comes to fight, Joshua should get some great opportunities to shine and post another signature win.

This is the ideal fight and opponent for AJ to show just what he has and to stay on the same trajectory that Lennox Lewis did after stopping Razor Ruddock.

Between 1977 and 1982, Frank Lotierzo had over 50 fights in the middleweight division. He trained at Joe Frazier’s gym in Philadelphia under the tutelage of the legendary George Benton. Before joining The Sweet Science his work appeared in several prominent newsstand and digital boxing magazines and he hosted “Toe-to-Toe” on ESPN Radio. Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@gmail.com

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Avila Perspective, Chapter 15: Las Vegas Boxing Journal

Usually the world of boxing has two massive fight weekends, but this year it was down to one. All of that pent-up energy had to be released

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Usually the world of boxing has two massive fight weekends, but this year it was down to one. All of that pent-up energy had to be released and this past weekend, for Mexican Independence Day, it all came pouring out.

Las Vegas was my destination once again.

In the last four years the Nevada gambling capital has seen fewer and fewer boxing cards as other destinations like New York, Texas and California have gobbled up fight dates. What used to be almost a monthly journey has been whittled down to twice a year.

When it comes to staging a mega event, you just can’t beat Las Vegas. Saul “Canelo” Alvarez meeting Gennady “GGG” Golovkin for the second time definitely qualifies.

I was supposed to drive up Thursday morning with photographer Al Applerose but we could not coordinate our schedules. It was important to leave early to reach the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino where the Golden Boy Promotions card featuring Maricela Cornejo versus Franchon Crews for a world title was being held. Starting time for the fight card was 2 p.m. because of ESPN.

By the time I checked into my hotel and drove over to the Hard Rock, it was already 3 p.m. Surprisingly, a decent crowd was there mostly to see Cornejo vs. Crews. ESPN televised the event and despite the early start time fans and celebrities were in the house.

It had been 14 years since that network had televised a female world championship bout. I remember because I saw that fight in 2004 and it was a doozy.

Finally, another female world title fight and it was great to see two female warriors finally get their day under the spotlight. After 10 rounds Crews won by majority decision and the green WBC belt was wrapped around her waist. Watching the joy on her face was priceless.

If you have followed me as a reader then you know female boxing has been a favorite passion. I truly believe it will rival male prizefighting one day, maybe soon. The world of MMA has proven it can be done as Ronda Rousey so emphatically showed.

Women prizefighters will get their day.

After the fight we headed to the Pink Taco mainly because they serve decent margaritas. I’m kind of a connoisseur of the drink. The first one I received was passable, but that second one was pretty good. Our group consisted of two reporters from Japan and Applerose, the photographer. Tacos and margaritas for everyone.

Friday

No fights were scheduled for Friday but the weigh-ins and press conferences were stacked together. I moved from my hotel and drove to Summerlin where a friend of mine has a place. He had invited me to stay and was insistent.

My friend is known as “Mr. Las Vegas.” It’s a name given to him the great Fernando “El Feroz” Vargas who now lives in Vegas. He gave him this nickname because no one knows Las Vegas like this guy (that I won’t name unless he gives approval). This 40-something year old gentleman was born and raised in the casino city and has been involved in boxing, MMA and personally knows the high rollers and political powers of the city and state.

Mr. Las Vegas invited me months ago but he’s always on the go and sometimes it slips his mind so I booked a room just in case. But, he was adamant about me staying with him and we go back a ways.

He’s also a big proponent of women’s boxing.

I headed back to the Strip to the MGM media center where a press conference for Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell was taking place. The media was in force. Easily 200 were already in the David Copperfield Theater at 10 a.m.

Maybe it was the free breakfast that enticed reporters and photographers to get up early. It was amazing to see so many media members on a Friday morning. It was a mad scramble.

The theater is fairly large and from a distance I could spot many friends and colleagues. During the face-off Liddell and Ortiz squared off and Oscar De La Hoya looked like a midget between the two. They will be fighting at the Inglewood Forum on Nov. 24. Golden Boy Promotions is the promoter for the pay-per-view event. It will be the third time the MMA stars clash.

So while Dana White delves into boxing, De La Hoya delves into MMA. Strange happenings.

Later that Friday a press conference for Yuri Gamboa was staged by the Cuban fighter himself at Gonzalez Gonzalez restaurant in the New York, New York Hotel and Casino.

Gamboa briefly had a contract with Golden Boy, and had been connected to Top Rank and Fifty Cent. The slick southpaw (is there any other kind of lefty?) seeks another chance to hit a jackpot in the boxing ring.

About two dozen reporters met at the Mexican restaurant eatery. Gamboa was busy speaking to each reporter one-by-one and helped by a small group of publicists including New York sharp Ed Keenan. Food and drinks were great.

Last year Gamboa was quite busy and had four prizefights. His lone loss was against Mexico’s extremely dangerous Robinson Castellanos who stopped the Cuban at the end of the seventh round in Las Vegas.

So far this year, no fights. It’s a primary reason he’s doing it himself on a risky pay-per-view show.

“I can’t depend on anyone else,” said Gamboa. “If I want to advance. I feel I should do it myself. I have experience and knowledge in professional boxing.”

Gamboa, 36, will fight Mexico’s Miguel Beltran on Nov. 20, in Miami, Florida. He will be the main event. The co-main event will be Puerto Rico’s Juan Manuel Lopez meeting Jesse Rodriguez. If all goes well, the two former world champions will meet each other sometime next year.

“I still have goals to accomplish,” said Gamboa.

Super Lightweight Title Clash

While sitting around eating and drinking at the Mexican restaurant, the ESPN fight card featured Jose Carlos Ramirez and Antonio Orozco fighting for the WBC super lightweight world title. It was body puncher versus body puncher and that means fireworks.

Ramirez had not faced anyone who could match punch output with him until that Friday night. I expected Orozco to fire all his guns and that’s exactly what he did.

For 12 volatile rounds the two 140-pounders fought at 100 miles an hour and though Ramirez won the majority of the rounds according to the judges, each round in itself was a battle.

Orozco, 30, is a very mild-mannered gentleman outside the ropes, but inside he’s one of the most fierce body punchers in the business. He has fought for Golden Boy Promotions for a number of years and may have passed his peak two years ago.

Ramirez, 26, was making his second defense of the world title he won almost a year ago and fights under the Top Rank banner. Whenever these two promotion companies go against each other it’s like the Dodgers and the Giants. No mercy.

The titleholder Ramirez was fighting in front of the adopted hometown of Fresno and floored Orozco twice with body shots and head shots. You would have expected Orozco to wilt but every time he was dropped he came back with a ferocious attack.

It was a gripping fight to watch.

As I sat at the bar in the Mexican restaurant with photographer Applerose, we couldn’t help but admire the spirit that both fighters showed for 12 rounds. Crowds gathered around the bar to watch the final three or four rounds. A few had noticed us watching and stopped to see what had us glued to the television screen perched above the various liquors.

We had a few beers after that incredible title fight.

Ramirez won the fight and retained the world title but Orozco had won the hearts of everyone watching with his tremendous heart. Both fighters congratulated each other and showed sincere respect. If you haven’t seen it, watch the replay. You won’t be sorry.

Saturday

The schedule for Saturday started early with two press conferences staged in the morning.

WBC super featherweight titlist Miguel Berchelt and challenger Mickey Roman met with media at Wolfgang Puck at 12 noon to talk about their pending clash on HBO. It’s another meeting between a Top Rank affiliated fighter and Golden Boy affiliated fighter.

Can it match Ramirez-Orozco?

Berchelt is a heavy-hitting but skilled fighter from the Yucatan area. Roman is a hard-nosed heavy hitter from Juarez, Mexico. Its North versus South in this Mexican battle that takes place on Nov. 3 in El Paso, Texas.

This could be extremely explosive.

Immediately after the Top Rank press conference, and a few feet away, another media luncheon took place for interim WBC super lightweight titlist Regis Prograis.

Prograis, 29, is an interesting cat.

Raised in New Orleans and Houston, the extremely strong Prograis will participate in the World Boxing Super Series that begins in late October. He faces former lightweight world champion Terry Flanagan of England.

“I chose to fight Terry Flanagan because he’s a former world champion,” said Prograis whose last fight was a knockout win over Argentina’s Juan Jose Velasco in New Orleans. “I’m trying to prove I’m the best. I don’t want an easy fight. It’s a waste of time.”

Of course he would love a match with current WBC titlist Jose Carlos Ramirez but he can wait.

“We’ll meet one day in the ring,” Prograis said.

The Rematch

After the pair of press luncheons we headed to the T-Mobile Arena for the Alvarez-Golovkin mega fight. It was an early 2 p.m. start so we missed a couple of early fights. I always try to watch every bout. It’s my duty as a reporter to cover all the fights that take place. Not just the headliners, but the afternoon press conferences held me up.

The best of the undercard saw Vergil Ortiz Jr. annihilate his former sparring partner Roberto Ortiz in two rounds.

Vergil Ortiz trains in Riverside, Calif. with Robert Garcia. He formerly was based in Indio, Calif. with Joel Diaz. Both trainers have excellent troops.

Ortiz, 20, has long limbs and fights long too. He’s buzzed through 11 straight opponents and kind of resembles late actor Jack Palance in the movie Shane. Vergil is a likeable guy who seems nothing like a feared monster in a boxing ring.

Golden Boy keeps stepping up the competition a notch and he keeps rendering them unconscious. The promoter doesn’t want to overstep the process with Ortiz so they are doing things de-li-cate-ly.

So far Ortiz has treated everyone who steps in the ring with him like fragile china. He touches them and they fall to pieces. Technically he is very sound. But the Golden Boy crew sees something very special in the kid from Dallas. He is one to watch.

Boycott?

After several fights including the main event that saw Alvarez win by majority decision, it’s important to note that the entire “ringside” media group was placed more than 50 yards away from the boxing ring. No one from the media had a sufficient view to analyze the fight that has been very disputed by fans and others.

But my question is: why did the promoters place the media a ridiculous 50 yards away?

Sadly, it’s a move that says to the media “we don’t need you.”

Maybe it’s time to organize.

Regis Prograis photo by Al Applerose

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