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PREDICTION PAGE: Froch Or Groves, Who Do Ya Like?

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November 23, 2013: One of the biggest armed robberies the United Kingdom has ever witnessed took place in Manchester.

Nope, it wasn’t one of Moss Sides’ finest hoodlums holding up a bank in the city centre with a sawn off shotgun after the Police and National Television were both tipped off beforehand by one of the the culprit’s cronies. This was armed robbery in an even stronger and purer definition.

The crime was committed by referee Howard Foster in a professional boxing match at the sold out Phones 4u Arena, when he suffered a judgmental panic attack during the 9th round and, in the process, extinguished the dreams of George Groves by flinging his right arm around the neck of the challenger and waving his left to signal the end of the contest.

Make no mistake about it, Carl Froch, the champion, received a glorious gift.

On top of the stunned and disgusted witnesses in attendance, millions watched live on pay-per-view, too.

However, that’s all history now.

The two combatants will meet again at Wembley Stadium, London, this Saturday (May 31), in a highly anticipated rematch.

80,000 attendees will, this time, be looking for a satisfying conclusion having materialized itself from a contest as equally entertaining as their first affair. But don’t rule out the sequel surpassing the dramatic fistic violence of the previous encounter. You’d need to rewind your memory back 21 years to conjure up a fight with similar captivation, when Nigel Benn squared off against Chris Eubank for the WBC/WBO super middleweight titles at Old Trafford.

If Froch, 36, the WBA/IBF super-middleweight champion, tentative and plain ordinary during the vast majority of the last fight, brings his A game, and Groves, 26, is equally in tune as he was last November, this could be a back and forth tussle of gigantic proportions.

I collected some predictions from fight game experts. Enjoy, and please add your own, in the TSS Forum.

James Ali Bashir, Kronk Gym assistant trainer of world heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko: It’s a pick ’em fight to me. Froch obviously isn’t the fighter he was just three years ago, but mentally I really think he’s gonna be the stronger guy. Groves on the other hand feels he had the momentum when the last fight in his mind, and some others, was stopped prematurely. However, I lean towards Froch to win again. This time decisively by unanimous decision or late stoppage, in a great fire fight.

Sean Crose – Boxinginsider.com: This one may well be war. The first fight was terrific and there’s real animosity between these two. Here’s the thing, though: Groves gave Froch all he had the first time around – and Froch survived. While the stoppage was understandably controversial, it was Froch who had the momentum on his side when the bout abruptly ended. Therefore, as game as Groves is, I see Froch getting to him sooner this time. That’s not to say Groves will crumble quickly or that he won’t have his moments. I’ve little doubt he will. Still, I see Froch winning this one decisively sometime between the seventh and ninth rounds.

Aaron Lowinger, TSS: At the top of the sport, boxing can be a chore to a late-career champion like Carl Froch. Except for those two or three nights in the year, it’s a grind that can take a mental toll. I think Froch still wants to be at the top, and that right hand in the first round last November woke a sleeping Cobra. He’s just in a different class than Groves. I see Froch taking Groves by KO.

Raymond Markarian, TSS: I like Froch to win a unanimous decision. Froch has too much skill and experience for Groves.

Kelsey McCarson, TSS, Bleacher Report: I think the fight will be eerily similar to the first one. Groves will have some raucous success early, but Froch will adjust in the second part of the fight and take over down the stretch. This time, Froch will have to work harder for the knockout win. There will be no controversial stoppage. Froch will legitimately knockout Groves in Round 10.

Colin McMillan, former WBO featherweight champion: Although Carl Froch has been a great warrior of British boxing and fought some of the best fighters in the world, it is time for the changing of the guard. Groves has the superior hand and foot speed, and will be buoyed by the performance he gave last time. A much closer fight, but Groves by decision.

Matt Hamilton, ESNnewsReporting.com: If you look at the first bout I think a hugely overlooked aspect was quite how badly Groves’ natural punch resistance faired against Froch’s power on the relatively few times he was tagged. He was marked up as early as the third round and retrospectively I think he was looking for a second wind as early as the 5th or 6th round. Groves has only gone 12 rounds twice – against a 400 year old Glenn Johnson and then in what I felt was a clear losing effort against James DeGale – I’m inclined to thus agree with Carl’s assertion that Groves isn’t (or to my mind, at least, thus far proven himself to be) a 12 round fighter. I don’t see the judges (should they be needed) doing Groves any favours, certainly not to the scale of his frankly gifted decision vs. DeGale and I’m am thus left fancying Froch for the win – be it by mid to late round stoppage again or by unanimous decision. Gun to my head, I have it as a Froch KO win in the 10th.

Ben Doughty, TipTV.co.uk: Ever since the rematch was announced, I have been saying that Froch will come from behind and grind George down again, this time without any controversy. I re-watched the first fight last weekend and had a change of heart. Groves can win on points with the major caveat that he has to box smart and not get drawn into a war of attrition. Groves.

Thomas Hauser, TSS, noted author: Froch by knockout.

Blake Hochberger, TSS: Froch by UD, puts his punches together and outworks Groves. Wouldn’t feel very comfortable betting on this fight.

Frank Lotierzo, TSS: In their first fight, Groves punched Froch from pillar to post, separating Froch from his confidence round by round. You could see Groves having fun as the fight progressed. Yes, he got buzzed in the 9th round, but Howard Foster had been waiting the whole fight to step in on the hometown boy’s behalf if possible; the fight wouldn’t have been stopped anywhere else on earth. Groves doesn’t have everyone working against him this time. I think he knocks Froch out late.

James Smith, Inthiscornertv.com: My feeling is that we will see a much more focused and prepared Carl Froch this time out, unless he has totally aged out, which I don’t think is the case. He will put on more consistent pressure, cut the distance and get another late round stoppage – but this time a legit one. Should be an excellent fight all the way through.

Aaron Tallent, TSS: If a new George Groves goes into the ring with patience, he will come away with a late-round stoppage. If he tries to do too much too fast, he will find himself in trouble. My guess is that he will do the former, making a rubber match inevitable. Groves by KO.

Springs Toledo, TSS, author: Carl Froch’s most important asset is his will. His technique is average, his athleticism less than average; it’s what’s inside that makes him formidable. George Groves is a stylistic foil for Froch -he is fluid, fast, and his slashing shots land too often on Froch’s head, which is too often in the line of fire. Groves may pick up where he left off and outpunch Froch over the first half of the fight. If Groves is in condition and can cope with Froch’s desperate drives, he will take a decision. If he knows enough to jab and step to his left to better line up his right hand with Froch’s chin, he’ll land it more often and with more force -if he does that, he may stop Froch. Groves says the left hook will end the fight, but that may be a smart ploy; it’s his right that was doing damage. Froch may try storming out to hurt Groves early. He would be well-advised to move his head and step inside of Groves’s slashing shots with short, straight ones of his own. If he does that, he may stop Groves or at least take over. This is a tough prediction. I’d go with Groves by UD, but wouldn’t rule out a stoppage win.

Chris Wheat, TSS: Froch by close decision. Won’t be an easy fight but he will be better prepared and not taking anything for granted.

Phil Woolever, TSS: From television, the stoppage didn’t look so terrible to me, although if there was ever a time for a standing 8, this was it. Unless he has slipped dramatically I think Froch stops Groves again, around the same time, but without controversy. Groves may pull it off, but it will be a rare, though not unprecedented, circumstance if two UK fighters achieve an equal, elite level during the same time period.

Lee Wylie, TSS: Froch wins the fight inside the distance. Groves will be dangerous during the first five rounds. If Froch is still around after that, which I think he will be, fatigue will set in and Groves’ lack of discipline will begin to rear its ugly head. As talented as Groves is, I don’t think he is mentally strong enough to fight his fight for 12 rounds against Carl Froch.

Michael Woods, TSS: Coinflip fight for me. Have the Froch reflexes dimmed more so over the span of the first fight to this one? Did he really look past Groves in the first one, and therefore prepare better this time, and could therefore be a better boxer on fight night? Without much conviction, I’m going with the guy with the reflexes edge, the younger hitter, Groves. But again, with little conviction, to be honest. Froch is a hard man, and doesn’t take to even the possibility of losing easily. His desire is a top trait. Coinflip…which I love as a fan.

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Charr-Oquendo Scuttled When Charr Tests Positive; the Odious WBA Saves Face

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Manuel Charr

Manuel Charr and Fres Oquendo were scheduled to fight in Cologne, Germany, later this month (Sept. 29). Charr would be defending his WBA world heavyweight title, the “regular” version of it, not the “super” version which rests in the hands of Anthony Joshua.

The bout was quickly cancelled when it was revealed that Charr had tested positive for two banned anabolic steroids. The test was performed by VADA, the anti-doping agency identified with Las Vegas neurologist Dr. Margaret Goodman.

The 33-year-old Charr, born in Lebanon but a resident of Germany since the age of three, won the belt in his last start with a unanimous decision over 281-pound Russian behemoth Alexander Ustinov in Oberhausen, Germany. The title was vacant. Charr won the right to fight for it with a 10-round decision over Albanian slug Sefer Seferi. The victory over Ustinov elevated his record to 31-4. He has been stopped three times, by Vitali Klitschko, Alexander Povetkin, and Mairis Briedis.

If it wasn’t for bad luck, as the old saying goes, Fres Oquendo wouldn’t have any luck at all. For various reasons, his fights keep falling out. Before long he’ll be drawing social security. Well, not exactly, but he turned 45 in April and hasn’t fought in more than four years.

Oquendo has competed for this belt before. In his last ring appearance in July of 2014, he lost a majority decision to Russia’s Ruslan Chagaev in Grozny, Russia. As a concession for taking the fight on short notice, Team Oquendo negotiated a rematch clause in the contract, but a shoulder injury prevented Fres from activating it. When the injury healed, he had to go to court to compel Chagaev to fulfill his obligation. But then the Russian retired, muddling the water.

The WBA was legally bound to find Oquendo a title fight and in desperation turned to ancient Shannon Briggs. But the Oquendo-Briggs fight, scheduled for June 3 of last year in Hollywood, Florida, fell out when Briggs’ urine specimen showed an abnormally high level of testosterone.

Fres Oquendo was dogged by bad luck even before these recent developments. His professional record, 37-8, is somewhat misleading as six of his eight defeats were razor-thin including his 2003 setback to Chris Byrd and his 2006 setback to Evander Holyfield. However, Oquendo, something of a cutie, was never a crowd-pleaser and in none of his narrow defeats was there a public clamor for a rematch.

The cancellation of Charr-Oquendo cuts the World Boxing Association out of a sanctioning fee, but one would think that the WBA honchos are actually rather pleased by this turn of events. The fight, more precisely the WBA’s world title imprimatur, would have brought more unwanted publicity to the Panama-based organization.

ESPN’s Dan Rafael, who has the largest platform of any boxing writer, has been a persistent critic of the organization which once recognized 41 “champions” in 17 weight classes. In 2009, Rafael wrote, “(The WBA) has become such an absolute farce that even somebody like me, who follows boxing closely, sometimes has a hard time keeping track of all the nonsensical so-called world title belts the WBA has been doling out at an alarming rate. It almost reminds me of the ladies at Costco who hand out various samples on a busy Saturday afternoon.”

Rafael took note when WBA president Gilberto Mendoza promised to cull the herd by eliminating “regular” titles, and then became more caustic when Mendoza didn’t follow through. Recently, in one short, punchy diatribe, Rafael blistered the WBA as wretched, vile, and rancid.

Regardless of your opinion, it’s hard not to feel sorry for Fres Oquendo who keeps getting stranded at the altar. No, he’s not fun to watch and a man of his age shouldn’t be taking any more punches, but he has always been an honest workman and by all accounts he’s a very decent man. Born in Puerto Rico but raised in Chicago, Oquendo pitched right in when the island nation of his birth was ravaged by Hurricane Maria. He was personally responsible for relocating Puerto Rican boxing legend Wilfred Benitez and Benitez’s sister, his caregiver, to Chicago where their lives wouldn’t be as hard.

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Bob Arum Hails Terence Crawford (not Lomachenko) as Boxing’s Next Superstar

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Arum says Terence

Top Rank’s Bob Arum says Terence Crawford will become this generation’s Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao–elite boxers who became worldwide celebrity sensations. Arum, who promoted both Mayweather and Pacquiao on the way to their historic crossover statuses expects big things from the undefeated Crawford over the next few years.

“He’s the best fighter in the United States, and he’s so charismatic,” said Arum. “He comes from middle America, and In the next year or so, he will be huge.”

Arum’s assertion is noteworthy for two reasons. First, Arum is also the promoter for Vasyl Lomachenko. Lomachenko is ranked No. 1 pound-for-pound by The Ring, the Boxing Writers Association of America and the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. More importantly, Lomachenko seems to have a groundswell of support behind him both in the media and among fight fans.

Lomachenko has also been heavily featured through Top Rank’s television partnership with ESPN. While Crawford has achieved more in his career than Lomachenko (at least in my eyes) and, as noted by Arum, is a homegrown American talent, Lomachenko seems to be considered the more marketable commodity to that network judging by the amount of promotional materials ESPN has pumped out about the fighter over the last year.

The other reason Arum’s claim about Crawford is interesting is the performance of Canelo Alvarez over the weekend in his majority decision rematch win over Gennady Golovkin. Besides Mayweather and Pacquiao, Alvarez is the clear PPV leader among all of boxing’s current commodities, and his status as boxing’s new money fighter should only grow stronger after the best win of his career.

Still, Crawford is one of the few very elite fighters in all of boxing. He’s ranked No. 2 pound-for-pound by The Ring, the Boxing Writers Association of America and the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.

While Lomachenko and Alvarez are also candidates to become boxing’s next big thing, there’s no doubt Crawford is also one of the few boxers in the sport right now with the right things in place to become the next Mayweather or Pacquiao.

Omaha’s Crawford is in the midst of an historic run. When he stopped Jeff Horn in round 9 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in June, Crawford captured a world title in his third different weight class, welterweight. This after Crawford had already captured two lineal boxing championships, as well as multiple alphabet titles, in both the lightweight and junior welterweight divisions.

By any measure, Crawford is truly one of the best boxers in the sport. Not only does he look the part in the ring on fight night (something more and more writers seem to value most when voting for pound-for-pound lists), but the fighter has already accomplished so much in his career that it seems Arum is doing more than the fiduciary duty of promoting his fighter when he ascribes to Crawford such lofty praise.

Crawford, still just 30 years old, is already halfway to matching Mayweather and Pacquiao’s shared record of most lineal championships. Over the course of his career, Mayweather captured lineal championships at junior lightweight, lightweight, welterweight, and junior middleweight. Pacquiao won his as a flyweight, featherweight, junior lightweight, and junior welterweight.

In order for Crawford to grab lineal championship No. 3, most believe he’ll have to go through welterweight phenom Errol Spence. While promotional entanglements might keep this superfight on the shelf for a while, Arum said he had no problem pitting Crawford against Spence in what would be one of the best matchups in recent memory.

“Absolutely,” said Arum when asked about working with Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions, who represents Spence, to make the fight. Could any response from him be more exciting? Crawford vs. Spence might be the next superfight in boxing. Both fighters are among the very elite, and unlike what ultimately happened with Mayweather vs. Pacquiao, who fought each other well past their peak years, both would be in the prime of their careers.

Winning that fight would certainly go a long way to making Arum’s vision of Crawford’s future come true. And who knows? Maybe Crawford really is the next Mayweather or Pacquiao. Heck, for all we know, he could even be on his way to doing something more.

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

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Marvelous Marvin

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.

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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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