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Mayweather-Maidana II Lacks Intrigue of Other Famous Rematches

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This coming weekend we’ll see one of boxing’s best pound-for-pound fighters, Floyd Mayweather 46-0 (26) fight the aggressive and tough contender Marcos Maidana 35-4 (31) for the second time in four months.

Back in May, Floyd won a 12-round majority decision (which should’ve been unanimous) over Maidana in what turned out to be one of the toughest bouts of Mayweather’s career.

Over the last 40 plus years there have been some compelling rematches between boxing’s biggest stars and their career rivals. What makes those bouts different than Mayweather-Maidana II is the fact that the star fighter lost. And the whole intrigue regarding the rematch in the eyes of most boxing observers and fans was to see if the superstar fighter could come back after being decisively defeated.

However, that’s not the case going into Mayweather-Maidana II. Mayweather, who was an overwhelming favorite before the first fight, won cleanly. No, it wasn’t decisive in favor of Mayweather. But it was conclusive enough that it’s nearly impossible, at least for me, to give Maidana even a punchers’ chance to score the upset this time. And that’s because he can’t change his style or adjust better to Mayweather this time without sacrificing his aggression. If Maidana is not on the attack against Mayweather, he’ll be a fish out of water and will lose a very one sided decision.

Below are five rematches that were much more compelling going in than Mayweather-Maidana II. And that is because the loser in each of the first meetings had a legitimate and realistic chance to avenge the loss suffered the first time they met. In fact the loser was actually favored three times going into the second bout.

Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier II: What made the Ali-Frazier trilogy so great were the contrasting styles between Muhammad and Joe. One’s strength was the others’ weakness and vice-versa. Frazier won a 15-round unanimous decision over Ali on March 8th 1971, the first time they met, when both were undefeated. During their first bout Frazier cut the ring off on Ali beautifully. He forced Muhammad to fight with his back to the ropes and in the corners. And as long as Joe waged war with Ali on the inside, it was to his advantage. When Ali was able to keep Frazier at center ring and turning in the corners, he was fine. But Ali’s low right hand left him a sitting duck for Frazier’s faster than he thought left hook.

When they fought again almost three years later, Ali was in better shape and wasn’t coming off only two fights after 43 months of inactivity. He also learned from the first fight that he couldn’t fight Frazier off of him without occupying his big left-hook on the inside. So he tied Frazier up once Joe had him cornered and against the ropes. Once the referee broke them apart, Ali moved and pot-shotted Frazier from outside. Another adjustment he made was, he didn’t throw many hooks and uppercuts at Frazier, especially when they were fighting from a clinch. The net result was, Ali won a 12-round unanimous decision in a far less action packed bout and knotted their rivalry 1-1.

Muhammad Ali vs. Leon Spinks II: When Ali fought Leon the first time; Spinks was only a veteran of seven professional bouts. Muhammad was 36 years old and fighting for the money at that time. He barely trained and had a hard time getting up for Spinks. Ali was certain that Leon, who never fought more than eight rounds as a pro, would fade and tire during the second half of the fight. Only it didn’t happen. Spinks threw punches nonstop at Ali’s arms, shoulders and head while he was resting against the ropes. Ali seldom fired back at Leon. During the last third of the fight Ali staged a huge rally and had Spinks on his heels more than a few times but Leon weathered the storm and hung on to win the heavyweight title via a 15-round split decision.

Six months later the rematch set an indoor attendance record and Ali showed up in better shape. Realizing that he couldn’t fight Spinks on the ropes for 15 rounds, Ali circled Leon and nailed him with quick lefts and rights from outside, thus impeding Spinks’ aggression. Whenever Leon tried to bull Ali to the ropes, Muhammad wrapped him up and pulled him in, then reset and pushed him off of him. This nullified Leon’s attack as the routine was repeated throughout the fight. Ali, despite not looking spectacular physically, went on to win a 15-round unanimous decision to regain the title and knotted their series 1-1.

Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Roberto Duran II: The Leonard-Duran trilogy had a lot in common with the Ali-Frazier trilogy. Duran, like Frazier, wanted to force the fight on the inside. Roberto taunted and mocked Leonard before their first fight. This did a number on Leonard psychologically and had him thinking that he wanted to take Duran’s head off. Since Duran was moving up from lightweight to welterweight, Leonard thought he could fight it out with Duran. For 15 rounds, Leonard fought Duran inside and tried to knock him out. Only that was Roberto’s fight. Duran got the better of Leonard by ultimately forcing Ray to trade punches with him. The fight was close, but Duran deserved the unanimous decision he was awarded after 15 fast paced rounds that saw back and forth action.

Five months later Leonard moved and boxed this time and mocked Duran, who couldn’t really get going or find his rhythm. For the first six rounds Leonard boxed and kept Duran from bulling him to the ropes the way he did in their first bout. After seven rounds Leonard held the edge but the fight was a long way from being settled. In the closing seconds of the eighth round Duran turned his back and quit waving his glove in a sign of surrender and said “No Mas” to the referee. Roberto said he had stomach cramps and couldn’t continue and Leonard knotted their series at 1-1.

Aaron Pryor vs. Alexis Arguello II: Pryor and Arguello staged one of the greatest title fights in the history of the junior welterweight division. Arguello was a great boxer-puncher who had dynamite in his right hand. Pryor was a whirlwind fighter who not only could punch with both hands, but he was unpredictable and attacked in spurts. Sometimes he would circle and then come in recklessly throwing bombs. His unconventional style perplexed the orthodox and by the book Arguello. These two traded bombs for 14 straight rounds. At times it looked as if Arguello’s right to Pryor’s chin would ultimately be the difference. And then in the next round Pryor would rock and befuddle Arguello with his over hand rights and looping hooks. In the 13th round Arguello hit Pryor with a right hand that should’ve taken his head off. In the 14th round, Pryor trapped Arguello against the ropes and unloaded a barrage of rights and lefts from every imaginable angle and stopped Arguello.

When they fought 10 months later, Arguello, who could only fight one way, thought if he brought a little more of what he did last time, he’d knock Pryor out this time. And that was plausible. However, Pryor again had an extra gear to answer Alexis every time it seemed that he was on the verge of seizing the fight. In what was a virtual repeat of the first fight, Arguello was stopped in the 10th round. Arguello sat on the ring canvas and looked the referee in the eye as he was counted out realizing that Pryor had his number and there was nothing he could do to beat him.

Evander Holyfield vs. Mike Tyson II: Going into their first meeting Holyfield really looked terrible in his last two bouts, going 1-1. It’s easy to see that Tyson probably took him lightly. Evander came right out in the first round and showed Mike he wasn’t the least bit awed by him. Holyfield out thought, out fought and out muscled Tyson from the onset. In the sixth round he dropped Mike with a left hook to the chest. Tyson got up but the fight began slipping away from him as Holyfield was bettering him at every turn. At the end of the 10th round Tyson was out on his feet. In the eleventh round Holyfield picked up where he left off in the tenth and started battering Tyson again, which led to referee Mitch Halpern stopping the fight less than a minute into the 11th round.

In the rematch Holyfield came out strong again and backed Tyson up and was handling Mike when he was at his most dangerous. Tyson complained about Holyfield head butting him, but it looked as if he was losing his confidence with each passing minute. Tyson came out of his corner for the third round without his mouthpiece and was forced to put it in by referee Mills Lane. Tyson began the round in a fury, but Holyfield was no worse for it. With forty seconds left in the round, Tyson bit Holyfield on his right ear and Holyfield jumped up and down in pain. Lane deducted two points from Tyson and after restoring order the fight resumed. Then in the next clinch Tyson bit Holyfield’s other ear and was immediately disqualified. Holyfield retained the title via a third round DQ victory.

That is a quick recap of five of the more anticipated rematches over the last 45 years. Going into Ali-Frazier II and Leonard-Duran II, Ali and Leonard, who both lost the first fight, were slight betting favorites. And the reason for that is because it was perceived that they were versatile enough to change their style and reverse the result of the first fight against the attacker who overwhelmed them the first time. Ali was also favored over Leon Spinks before their rematch. And that was because he was viewed as the more adaptable fighter who could correct the mistakes he made the first time. And the odds makers were right again.

In the case of Pryor-Arguello II, Pryor was the slight favorite the second time. And that was because he was the younger fighter and his victory was so decisive. However, there were plenty among the experts who thought that Pryor could never be that great again and therefore Arguello would win the rematch. So even with Pryor being favored, it was almost split as to who would win because Alexis was so great and respected. As for Holyfield-Tyson II, Tyson was a 2-1 favorite because most thought Holyfield got lucky and Tyson wasn’t ready for him the first time. The thought was Tyson will be in great shape for the rematch and go through Evander like he should’ve the first time. As it turned out, both Arguello and Tyson, who had to force the fight, couldn’t adapt and ultimately lost to a great fighter who owned them stylistically.

Which leads us back to Mayweather-Maidana II. Mayweather is a monumental favorite again over Maidana because there was nothing that happened in the last fight to give anyone confidence that Maidana can beat a more focused Mayweather this time. The fight will do big numbers because Floyd is a big draw along with the fact that Maidana was in the last fight for eight rounds. But unlike some of the rematches above, the loser, Maidana, can’t change or be better than he was the first time.

More on Maidana’s style conundrum later this week.

Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

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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.

                                                         **********

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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