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Can Hopkins Do Unto Kovalev What He Did To Pavlik?

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There is nothing wrong with being a one-trick pony, if that trick is truly unique and so exceptional that other ponies being put on public display can’t hope to duplicate it. If that were the case, people would continue to flock to see the pony do its very special thing, even if they had seen it done before because, well, greatness in a limited sense is still greatness. No one ever complained because the magnificent racehorse, Secretariat, wasn’t required to rear up on his hind legs and dance to calliope music, like a circus animal. The Triple Crown champion’s only requirement was to run very fast and cross the finish line ahead of his pursuers, which he did with astounding regularity.

Oct. 18 marks the six-year anniversary of old warhorse Bernard Hopkins’ thorough thrashing of a frisky colt named Kelly Pavlik. A couple of weeks from now, on Nov. 8 – and at the same venue, Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall – Hopkins, even longer past the age when elite prizefighters, in a manner of speaking, should have been put out to pasture, goes to the post once more against another much-younger opponent, Sergey Kovalev, whose charge-forward, big-banging style has been likened to that of … Kelly Pavlik.

Pavlik, a 5-1 favorite who was exposed as much too limited a thoroughbred by the cagey Hopkins, stands as Exhibit A – OK, maybe more as Exhibit B, C or even D – of the kind of knockout-dependent slugger who made the mistake of believing that the geezer in the other corner was on his last legs, lacking the will or endurance to stay the course. Can the same result be in the offing when Hopkins, who turns 50 on Jan. 15, again steps into the starting gate against a younger, supposedly devastating puncher who, like Pavlik, figures to go off as roughly a 3-1 oddsmaker’s choice?

Spanish philosopher/poet George Santayana once observed that “those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” which is true enough given certain circumstances. But there is another saying that also has been proven correct time and again, and that is that nothing lasts forever. Maybe not even Bernard Hopkins, whose history of disassembling fighters whose singular trick, even if they are spectacularly good at performing it, may be about to be put to the ultimate test.

As the countdown continues to Hopkins-Kovalev – the HBO-televised showdown is for the further unification of the light heavyweight championship, with B-Hop (55-6-2, 32 KOs) putting his IBF and WBA 175-pound titles on the line against the WBO belt held by the 31-year-old Kovalev (25-0-1, 32 KOs) – the questions that have yet to be answered are simple. Will past form be an indicator of what the immediate future holds, or will there be a variation of the familiar plot? For whatever it’s worth, Hopkins and Kovalev are spicing things up a bit by suggesting that there might even be a bit of role reversal when the opening bell rings, with Hopkins boldly trying for his first win inside the distance since he stopped Oscar De La Hoya in nine rounds on Sept. 18, 2004 – that’s a stretch of 16 bouts, if you include his no-contest pairing with Chad Dawson on Oct. 15, 2011 – while Kovalev, who has won his last nine fights by knockout, and last 13 if you don’t count his two-round technical draw with Grover Young on Aug. 27, 2011, tries to outbox the boxing master.

“That would be eye-opening to a lot of people,” Hopkins said, teasingly, when asked if he might somehow alter the script by putting “Krusher” Kovalev down and out. “I’m in a knockout drought. But I did break a knockdown drought in my last fight (a one-sided points nod over then-WBA champ Beibut Shumenov on April 19).

“If I see an opening, I’m gonna attack. When I go in that ring, I use all my alphabetical skills, from A to Z, and systematically give a boxing lesson. Remember, I get paid the same whether it goes one or 12 rounds. But if a guy looks like he can be had, I’m gonna get him.”

Kovalev, whose boxing skills might actually be underrated because he so seldom has had to call upon any skill other than his ability to batter opponents into unconsciousness or abject submission, isn’t going the Kelly Pavlik route by predicting he will become the first fighter to take out Hopkins before the fight goes to the scorecards.

“I think nothing,” Kovalev said when asked if he thought he’d make short work of Hopkins, as he has of so many recent rivals. “Just go to the ring and do my work, my job, as usual. Is boxing. How many rounds will we fight? When you go to the ring, anything can happen. Like I say, is boxing. Every punch is dangerous, for each of us.

“Really, I would like to show to people my boxing. Is not interesting, quick kills. Is interesting to me what I can do against big master boxer.”

But words are easier to fling around than scoring blows, and the likelihood is that this very intriguing matchup will hew closely to the established strategies that almost everyone expects the combatants to follow. You don’t enter plow horses in the Kentucky Derby, and you don’t ask Secretariat to pull a beer wagon as if he were a Clydesdale.

Prior Hopkins’ impressive unanimous decision over Winky Wright, another defensive genius best known for his penchant for hitting and not getting hit much in return, ESPN2 boxing analyst Teddy Atlas said it is crazy to think a leopard can change its spots on a whim because it suddenly decides it likes stripes better.

“They have styles that obviously work for them,” Atlas said of the mirror images Hopkins and Wright presumably projected. “Those styles call for them to cover up, to counter, to stay out of danger whenever possible, to take what the other guy gives them and not necessarily force the issue. Those are qualities that have made them highly productive. Do they care about changing to make the fight more fan-friendly? I don’t think they do. They’re at a point in their careers where their priorities are pretty much established. They are who they are. Their styles, I think, are an extension of their mentality. If you have a guy who thinks carefully, he’s going to box carefully. If you have a guy who thinks aggressively, he’s going to fight that way.”

Which brings us back to the parallels between what happened in Hopkins-Pavlik and what might happen in Hopkins-Kovalev, unless Hopkins has ceded too much ground to the inevitable ravages of Father Time, and/or Kovalev is a much improved version of Pavlik, whose favoritism the night he got schooled by B-Hop owed largely to the fact he had twice defeated Jermain Taylor, who had twice defeated Hopkins.

Another interesting sidelight to this figurative do-over is the presence of former WBA middleweight champion John David Jackson in Kovalev’s corner as chief second. Jackson, who was stopped in seven rounds by then-IBF middleweight titlist Hopkins on April 19, 1997, is a former assistant trainer of B-Hop who was part of the ageless wonder’s team the night he put so much distance between himself and Pavlik that the Philadelphian won by margins of 119-106, 118-108 and 117-109 on the official scorecards. You’d have to figure that if anyone knows the secret of solving the puzzle that is Hopkins, it would be Jackson. But then JD-Jax knows that some puzzles are forever puzzling.

“Bernard is a smart fighter,” Jackson said before Hopkins’ April 19, 2008, bout with Welsh southpaw Joe Calzaghe, who put enough of the jigsaw pieces together to win a close and somewhat controversial split decision. “He’s taken street smarts and made it work very well. He wears people down physically, and psychologically.”

The guess here is that Pavlik made the mistake of figuring that Hopkins, at 43, was too old and used-up to pose too much of a threat to a hot, young (then 26) and ascending star such as himself. His prefight confidence was such that he boasted he would “do boxing a favor” and “forever free” the world of the drudgery of watching B-Hop make good fighters look bad.

But Hopkins, who uses every tool at his disposal to motivate himself to give maximum effort every time out, was inspired by a pledge he had made to a partially blind, pain-wracked 18-year-old Hopkins fan named Shaun Negler, who died of brain cancer just five days after his hero had dominated Pavlik. Which begs another question: Just what is the emotional string within himself that Hopkins will try to pull against Kovalev, who has refrained from making the sort of derogatory remarks about his aged opponent that Pavlik and others have uttered and then been forced to retract. To this point, he has given Hopkins perhaps too much respect, at least in his public pronouncements.

“He is `Alien,’” a smiling Kovalev said of Hopkins, a reference to the recently adopted nickname Hopkins has assumed in place of the discarded “Executioner.” “He is not 49 like regular man.”

Forget about veiled suggestions that Kovalev will try to match Hopkins subtle trick for subtle trick, slick move for slick move. He is 18-plus years younger, he packs much the heavier artillery, he is the future (you can bet that the brass at HBO are hoping so) while Hopkin is a glorious relic of the past, his golden era relentlessly dipping toward its sunset. It will be up to Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Russian to go to a place that Kelly Pavlik was unable to reach, or even approach, a destination other relative one-trick ponies such as Felix Trinidad and Antonio Tarver thought they had a map to when they agreed to enter the labyrinth of pitfalls where B-Hop awaits.

Hopkins doesn’t expect Kovalev to “show people my boxing”; he no doubt is anticipating that the WBO champ will mostly try to make history becoming the first fighter to knock him out, or at least to beat him bloody, and he is relying on his own past performance charts to demonstrate that no one-trick pony can successfully hang with so varied and adaptable a trickster such as he.

“Kelly Pavlik is the perfect opponent for me because he comes forward, he comes to fight and he wants to knock me out,” Hopkins said prior to that particular date with destiny. “But he’s going to find it difficult, and it’s going to change the fight. I guarantee, it’s going to change the fight. Tito (Trinidad) tried to walk me down. Tito had one bullet in the chamber and that was a left hook. If Kelly Pavlik thinks he’s going to beat Bernard Hopkins because he has a big right hand, he’s a damn fool.

“You’ve got an offensive guy and you’ve got a defensive guy. That’s the perfect match. You’ve got a guy that comes forward and you’ve got a guy that specializes in guys coming forward so he can let them punch, so he can counterpunch. That’s my game. This will be a fight where the Mack truck is coming, and can Bernard Hopkins crash the Mack truck? I say I will flatten the tires, the Mack truck will slow up and then it will conk out.”

But if Hopkins’ expectation of the outcome against Pavlik was indeed fulfilled, remember what else he has said as the sands in his professional hourglass began to very slowly empty. He was “only” 43 when he was asked before the Pavlik fight if he expected to continue to fighting until, oh, 48.

“No,” he insisted. “Reflexes are very important. To be able to move from left to right at the drop of a dime is very important. The first thing that goes on a fighter is his knees, then his reflexes. At 48 years old, I’ll be a sitting duck and I’ll be embarrassing my long list of achievements and my legacy.”

No fighter can have it both ways, even against a fairly predictable one-trick pony. Even if Kovalev has but one trick, it is a mighty good one and besides, he’ll be double-teaming Hopkins with that unseen but very real ally, the thief of reflexes. Father Time eventually calls on all fighters who stay too long at the fair, but to date Hopkins hasn’t answered the insistent knocking at his door. Maybe he really is impervious to the natural laws of diminishing returns.

Regardless of how this fight ends, though, there is a strong possibility that the winner is apt to be named Fighter of the Year because, well, just because. Kovalev will be the sport’s hottest growth property if he wins emphatically against a living legend, and a victorious Hopkins would continue to be its forever-blooming evergreen, with a chance to add a companion FOY award to the one he captured for 2001 when he dominated the great Felix Trinidad. He knew what he was getting into when he agreed to swap shots with Kovalev, and he did so eagerly.

“I was supposed to be done 15 years ago,” he said. “Fifteen from 49 leaves you what, 37? Thirty-four? OK, I never passed math.

“When this fight’s over and I’ve given another loss to an undefeated fighter … man, I love fighting guys with undefeated records. I love it when that fighter no longer can be called a virgin. He’s been had. I have a history of taking guys 0’s away.”

The guess here is that among those with an especially strong interest in the outcome will be Kelly Pavlik, who was never quite the same after his date with Hopkins, and who might or might not be coming out of retirement at some point. When you have been there and haven’t done that, there is always the nagging question of what you might have done differently, as well as wonder who the guy might be that comes along and does what you weren’t able to when it counted most.

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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.

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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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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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