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Cotto Still King of New York, At Least the One on Two Legs



BROOKLYN,N.Y. – If Miguel Cotto were a baseball player, his popularity in the Town That Never Sleeps might not rise to the level of, say, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Derek Jeter, Duke Snider, Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays or Tom Seaver. But the WBC middleweight champion from Caguas, Puerto Rico, probably could make a case for holding his own, at least with the many Puerto Rican fight fans who have migrated to these parts, against countryman Bernie Williams, the beloved former New York Yankees centerfielder who played on four World Series championship teams and on May 23 had his No. 51 retired and a plaque honoring him placed in Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park.

The 34-year-old Cotto (40-4, 33 KOs) ran his record in his home-away-from-home to 11-1, with six victories inside the distance, when he defended his 160-pound strap Saturday night on a spectacularly entertaining, fourth-round stoppage of former IBF and WBA middleweight titlist Daniel Geale (31-4, 16 KOs), of Australia, before an announced attendance of 12,157 in the Barclays Center, approximately 99.5 percent of whom were there to cheer on their sort-of native son. And they did just that, lusty chants of “Cotto! Cotto!” erupting before the opening bell and periodically throughout the one-sided bout until a buzzed Geale, who went down under three times (once in the first round and twice more in the fourth) advised referee Harvey Dock that he’d prefer to take the rest of the night off. The end came after an elapsed time of 1 minute, 28 seconds.

It was Cotto’s debut not only in the Barclays Center (he previously had fought nine times in Madison Square Garden, once in Yankee Stadium and once in the Hammerstein Ballroom), but under the auspices of Jay Z’s Roc Nation Sports, which signed him in March after his contract with Top Rank expired. The change of venue and promotional companies didn’t seem to affect Cotto’s appeal to his legion of NYC supporters, however, although they may be obliged to travel to Las Vegas or to purchase HBO pay-per-view subscriptions for their hero’s next bout against former WBC/WBA super welterweight champ Canelo Alvarez (45-1-1, 32 KOs) in September, as seems likely. Alvarez – who is coming off his own exclamation-point triumph, a three-round blowout of the dangerous James Kirkland on May 9, which drew 31,000 mostly pro-Alvarez spectators in Houston’s Minute Maid Park — is likely an even bigger money fight, and possibly a bit less dangerous, than a unification showdown with WBA middleweight ruler Gennady Golovkin (33-0, 30 KOs), who was at ringside and is fresh off his own latest kick-ass victory, a six-round stoppage of Willie Monroe Jr. on May 16 in Inglewood, Calif.

Given their large and devoted followings, in addition to their nationalities – the 24-year-old Alvarez is already a Mexican icon, and boxing history is rife with classic confrontations between elite Mexican and Puerto Rican fighters – Cotto-Canelo figures to be a must-see event.

“It is the biggest fight in boxing after (Floyd) Mayweather-(Manny) Pacquiao,” said Golden Boy president Oscar De La Hoya, who was on hand along with fellow GBP executive Bernard Hopkins on something of a scouting mission. “But the difference is with Cotto-Canelo, you will be guaranteed action.”

Michael Yormack, president of Roc Nation Sports, sounded as if the only thing holding up a Cotto-Canelo superfight was putting all the details on contracts and providing the combatants with pens.

“It’s a fight everyone wants to see,” he said, which certainly seems to be the prevailing opinion. “It’s a fight we’re going to make. We have the framework of a deal done.”

As Golovkin also holds a WBC interim championship, he is the mandatory for the more legitimate 160-pound belt held by Cotto, who also possesses the lineal and THE RING magazine titles. But Golvokin apparently is amenable to accepting a seven-figure step-aside fee, with the assurance he would be first in line for the Cotto-Canelo winner.

It is a heady time for the sweet science, with fights suddenly all over the TV dial and May-Pac shattering PPV records. But, boxing being boxing, even a feel-good moment as such transpired on a big sports Saturday, and is apt to be replicated in September should Cotto-Canelo take place, didn’t command the world’s, or even New York’s, full attention. A bit earlier in the day, just 19.7 miles away in Elmont, N.Y., a bedroom community in Nassau County just outside the Queens Borough line, American Pharoah became thoroughbred racing’s first Triple Crown winner in 37 years in leading wire-to-wire to win by 5½ lengths over runner-up Frosted. Over in the Bronx, meanwhile, Bernie Williams’ old team, the American League East Division-leading Yankees, were thrashing the Los Angeles Angels, 8-2, to extend their winning streak to five games.

But the full slate of other attractions in New York and around the world (such as a flu-ridden Serena Williams’ French Open title, her 20th in a Grand Slam event, two fewer than Open Era record-holder Steffi Graf), doesn’t explain why the New York Daily News, whose pages once were graced by the elegant prose of such distinguished boxing writers as Michael Katz and Tim Smith, did not have a single word about the big fight on the day it was to take place.

To be sure, boxing is like any other athletic endeavor in that somebody can find fault with what, at first glance, would appear to be a blemish-free performance. There are those out there (you know who you are) who contend that Cotto became the first Puerto Rican to win world titles in four separate weight classes by beating up a damaged-goods Sergio Martinez on June 7, 2014, and that he defended it Saturday night by forcing Geale, who already had been having trouble making the 160-pound middleweight limit, dangerously dehydrate himself by agreeing to a contractual catch weight of 157 lbs. Having made that weight with not an ounce to spare, Geale apparently went on a feeding frenzy like a contestant at the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island, gaining an almost unfathomable 25 pounds in a single day. His sluggish attempts at coming toward, or running away from, the much quicker Cotto called to mind the plight of WBC super middleweight champion James Toney, who gained, depending on which version of the story you choose to believe, 15, 19 or 24 pounds overnight in yielding his title on a wide unanimous decision to the decidedly more mobile Roy Jones Jr. on Nov. 14, 1994.

“I think the weight had an effect for sure, but that’s boxing,” Geale rationalized after a lackluster effort that lowered his stock while simultaneously elevating that of Cotto, who was all but certain to become an eventual enshrinee into the International Boxing Hall of Fame regardless of what happened Saturday night, or will happen moving forward. “I signed the contract. I have always struggled to make 160, so this was obviously much tougher.”

The mini- or maxi-weight controversy aside, give credit where credit is due. Not all that long ago, Cotto was thought to be on the downhill side of an exemplary career, but he seems to have been rejuvenated under the tutelage of trainer Freddie Roach, who served as his chief second for the third time. Conversely, Cotto’s latest star turn is apt to restore some of the lost luster to Roach, a seven-time Trainer of the Year honoree by the Boxing Writers Association of America who saddled up the losing entry in a pugilistic version of the Triple Crown, with Mayweather’s two 147-pound belts in addition to Pacquiao’s one at stake.

“You’re the best thing that ever happened to me,” Cotto told Roach after Geale had been wolfed down like another shrimp on the Barbie.

Cotto turned away from trainer Pedro Diaz and to Roach after he dropped back-to-back unanimous decisions to Floyd Mayweather Jr. (which was no surprise) and Austin Trout (which was). It has been a mutually beneficial arrangement, not unlike the owner of a vintage sports car taking his pride and joy to an expert for the sort of restoration that turns faded glory into something as good or better than the original.

“He gave me the confidence I lost after dealing with two losses in a row for the first time in my career,” said Cotto, who has been punching for pay for 14 years. Asked what fight plan Roach had laid out against Geale, Cotto said, “The plan was to follow Freddie instructions all the time.”

Those instructions apparently called for extensive use of the left hook, which Cotto employed up and down the ladder to floor Geale in the first round and twice more in the fourth, although the hook merely served to set up the overhand right that was the capper of a flurry of punches on the last knockdown.

Now it’s on to Alvarez, a closer size fit to Cotto, who came in for the Geale fight at 153.6 pounds, a smidgeon below the super welterweight limit. Cotto said his team would probably try to set a contract weight of 155 pounds for Alvarez.

“It’s going to be just another fight,” Cotto said, matter-of-factly. “Canelo is just going to be another opponent. We’re going to be ready for him.”

If the site selected is Las Vegas, however, it won’t be just another venue. Alvarez would have the crowd on his side, with Cotto ceding home-arena advantage. Then again, true champions presumably pay little heed to such matters. Hopkins, for one, says he feeds as much or more off negative energy as he does off the positive variety. Still, Cotto is the franchise for New York City boxing, or at least the subset that has Puerto Rican roots and heritage. The only thing that might have made this latest quasi-homecoming better is if the Belmont Stakes had taken place the previous weekend, or was scheduled for the following weekend. American Pharoah wasn’t exactly the proverbial 800-pound gorilla in the room, deflecting attention from the 153.6-pound fighter deserving of a larger portion of the spotlight, but the 3-year-old colt was without question the 1,170-pound horse assuming that role.

“I am so thankful for New York, no matter where I’ve been in New York fighting,” Cotto said in a nod toward his most faithful followers. “People here have always been supportive of me.”

The guess here is that they will continue to be, right until Cotto crosses his career finish line. Bernie Williams, who was a Yankee Stadium favorite through his final at-bat, surely understands what it is to bask in that kind of love in a tough town that doesn’t yield its affections easily.

PHOTO CREDIT: Tom Hogan – Hoganphotos/Roc Nation Sports/Miguel Cotto Promotions


Feature Articles

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



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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Feature Articles

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



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.


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.


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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Feature Articles

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



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

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