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In Celebration of Miguel Cotto



Miguel Cotto entered his dressing room at Barclays Center on the night of June 6 at 8:25 PM.

He was casually dressed, wearing faded blue jeans, a well-worn gray T-shirt, a blue leather jacket, and loafers with no socks.

There was a time when winning a world championship was boxing’s equivalent of a mobster becoming a made man. No more. In an era characterized by multiple sanctioning bodies and more than a hundred world “champions” at any point in time, only a handful of fighters matter to the public.

Miguel Cotto matters.

There has been a premium in the new millenium on trash-talking and glitz. That’s not Cotto’s way.

Miguel has always respected the sport of boxing and its practitioners. “I am where I am in boxing because I work hard instead of complaining,” he says. “I don’t ask for anything I didn’t earn.”

He would have been respected as a fighter in any era.

Cotto’s journey through boxing began in 1992.

“I was a chubby child,” Miguel recalls. “I weighed 162 pounds at age eleven. My sport was to sit in front of the TV and eat. I started boxing to lose weight and fell in love with it.”

Cotto has been fighting professionally for fourteen years. At his peak, he was a destructive force, devastating good fighters like Zab Judah, Carlos Quintana, and Paulie Malignaggi and outpointing great ones like Shane Mosley. He learned English at a late age to improve his marketability. Then something bad happened.

On the morning of July 26, 2008, Cotto had a 32-0 record and was ranked in the top five on most pound-for-pound lists. That night, he stepped into the ring at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas to face Antonio Magarito and suffered a horrific beating. The weight of the evidence strongly suggests that Margarito’s gloves were “loaded” that night.

After that, Miguel wasn’t the same fighter. On November 14, 2009, he absorbed another beating at the hands of Manny Pacquiao. Thereafter, he fought sporadically, earning victories over Yuri Foreman, Ricardo Mayorga, and Margarito (in a rematch) before being outpointed in back-to-back losses to Floyd Mayweather and Austin Trout.

After the loss to Trout, Cotto’s days as a star attraction seemed to be over. On October 5, 2013, he scored a third-round knockout over Delvin Rodriguez. But Rodriguez has won only four of eleven fights dating back to 2008, so that didn’t count for much in the eyes of the boxing establishment.

Then, on June 7, 2014, Cotto challenged Sergio Martinez for the middleweight championship of the world.

Cotto knocked Martinez down three times in the first stanza. The fight was stopped after nine lopsided rounds. But it was an open issue as to whether Miguel had looked good or Sergio (who’d undergone extensive knee surgery prior to the fight and would require more surgery afterward) looked bad.

The victory over Martinez brought Cotto’s record to 39 wins against 4 losses with 32 knockouts and gave him renewed bargaining power. In January of this year, he signed a lucrative three-fight contract with Roc Nation that included a substantial signing bonus, a contribution by the promoter to Miguel’s charity in Puerto Rico, and an agreement between Roc Nation and Cotto Promotions to co-promote a series of boxing cards and rock concerts on the island.

In the aftermath of the signing, there were harsh words from Todd DuBoef of Top Rank (Cotto’s former promoter). At a February 5, 2015, luncheon to formally announce the deal, a reporter asked Gaby Penagaricano (Miguel’s attorney) about DuBoef’s negative comments.

“I am going to be the only one to talk about it,” Miguel interrupted. “We had a fight by fight deal with Top Rank. I expect respect, and a lot of people I knew from the beginning of my career didn’t show that.”

Later, when asked if there was any lingering bitterness between him and Top Rank, Miguel answered, “ If they want to say hi to me, they have my number.”

Cotto’s opponent at Barclay’s Center was Daniel Geale.

Geale (31-3, 16 KOs) had been competitive in past outings against fighters like Darren Barker, Anthony Mundine, and Felix Sturm. But when last seen in New York, he’d been knocked out by Gennady Golovkon in three rounds in a fight that evoked images of a bug flying into the windshield of a 16-wheel truck on an interstate highway.

“I didn’t come here for a holiday,” Geale said of his impending confrontation with Cotto. “I came here to fight.”

But Daniel (a 5-to-1 underdog) had been brought in on the assumption that he would lose. He was a respectable but “safe” opponent. Not too fast, not too skilled, not a big puncher. He wouldn’t bring anything to the table that Miguel couldn’t deal with.

Furthering Cotto’s advantage, the fight was to be contested at a catchweight of 157 pounds although Miguel’s 160-pound title was at stake. But the belt was of secondary importance. In a world inundated with phony belts and make-believe champions, this was a Miguel Cotto fight.

Barclays Center is the home of the NBA Brooklyn Nets. Cotto was treated like visiting royalty. Geale had been given an ordinary dressing room. Team Cotto was ensconsed in the Nets suite.

The dressing area was a spacious enclosure, thirty-six feet long and thirty feet wide with a twelve-foot-high ceiling and recessed lighting above. A white Brooklyn Nets logo was woven into plush black carpet. There were twelve separate dressing stations, each one with its own vertical closet, sliding drawer, and swivel chair. The last name and number of a Nets player was on a placard affixed to the wall by each station. The rest of the suite consisted of a lounge, lavatory, shower room, whirlpool room, and medical area.

For the first two hours after Cotto’s arrival, well-wishers came and went. Family members and friends, sanctioning body officials, representatives of Roc Nation. Through it all, the core group remained the same. Trainer Freddie Roach, assistant trainer Marvin Somodio, cutman David Martinez, strength and conditioning coach Gavin MacMillan, and Bryan Perez (Miguel’s closest and most trusted friend).

Former New York Yankee great Bernie Williams (who’d been asked by Miguel to walk him to the ring) sat quietly to the side.

The mood was relaxed, almost festive.

Cotto doesn’t smile often in public. He’s self-controlled and gives the impression of being on guard at all times. One might describe him as “stoic” (a person who endures hardship and pain without complaint and rarely shows his true feelings). But Miguel has expressive eyes that, depending on the moment, can be soft, hard, thoughtful, happy, lonely. His smile is genuine and warm.

Miguel smiles more in the dressing room on fight night than he does at press conferences and other media events. As time passed, he chatted casually with Perez, Somodio, and others as though he were circulating at a cocktail party. Other times, he sat alone with his thoughts or paced wordlessly with his arms folded, sipping from a bottle of water.

There were the normal pre-fight rituals supervised by New York State Athletic Commission inspectors George Ward and Sue Etkin. Referee Harvey Dock gave Cotto his pre-fight instructions. Miguel applied underarm deoderant before putting on his boxing gear and checked his smart phone for messages.

Times have changed. It’s hard to imagine Rocky Marciano checking a smart phone for messages in the dressing room before a fight.

At 9:00 PM, the salsa music of Ismael Miranda wafted through the air, adding to the festive aura.

Trainer Freddie Roach stood off to the side. Cotto-Geale was the third fight that he and Miguel had prepared for together.

In an earlier incarnation, Roach compiled a 39-and-13 ring record as a combatant. He’s still every bit as much a fighter as the men he trains. But now he’s fighting a different kind of battle, against the ravages of Parkinson’s syndrome.

Miguel calls Freddie “the best thing that ever happened to my career” and says, “Freddie brought confidence back to me. He comes every day to the gym and gives his best. The only way you can pay a person like that back is to give your best.”

Now Roach was reflecting on the time he has spent with Cotto.

“Miguel has a great work ethic,” Freddie said. “Once he’s in the gym, it’s all work. He’s one of the most disciplined fighters I’ve seen in my life. He’s very quiet. Every now and then, he tells a joke. He’s a pleasure to work with.”

“The biggest thing when I started with Miguel,” Roach continued, “was, I said to him, ‘When you were an amateur, you were a boxer. Why are you throwing every punch now like you want to kill the other guy? It’s not enough to have skills. It’s not enough to have heart. You have to fight smart.’ And Miguel listened. He tries to do what I tell him to do. You’ll see that tonight. I don’t know if Geale will come at us and try to impose his size or run all night. Either way, he’ll keep his hands high. That’s what he always does, so we’ll attack the body.”

Roach went down the hall to watch Geale’s hands being wrapped.

Cotto began stretching his upper body and leg muscles.

At 9:30, Marvin Somodio started wrapping Miguel’s hands, right hand first.

Miguel whistled in tune with the music as Somodio worked.

“Miguel loves fight night,” Bryan Perez said. “He’s enjoying the moment.”

Roach returned.

“Geale got a terrible handwrap,” Freddie announced. “I don’t think his guy knows how to wrap hands. The way he did it, there’s not much protection or strength.”

That led to Roach reminiscing about an oddity that occurred years ago when he was training Virgil Hill.

“I went in to watch the opponent getting his hands wrapped, and the guy who was wrapping had no idea what he was doing. Finally, the fighter said, ‘Freddie, will you wrap my hands?’ I said, ‘I can’t. You’re fighting my guy.’ He said, ‘Please!’ So I did it.”

At 9:50, Cotto lay down on a towel on the floor and Somodio began stretching him out.

Miguel shadow-boxed briefly.

Somodio gloved him up.

At 10:27, Miguel began hitting the pads with Roach; his first real physical exertion of the night. Four minutes later, they stopped.

At 10:40, a voice sounded: “Okay, guys.”

It was time to fight.

This was Cotto’s first fight at Barclays Center after having fought once at Yankee Stadium and nine times at Madison Square Garden.

Geale had a decided size advantage. One day earlier earlier, Miguel had weighed in at 153.6 pounds (under the junior-middleweight limit), while Daniel tipped the scales at 157. During the ensuing thirty hours, Geale had gained approximately twenty pounds. He weighed 182 in street clothes on fight night. But size was his only edge.

Cotto-Geale was a craftsman versus an ordinary fighter. It was clear from the start that Miguel was faster and the better boxer.

For the first three rounds, Cotto piled up points with his jab and scored points in addition to doing damage with hard hooks to the body. Thirty-two seconds into round four, a picture-perfect left hook up top smashed Geale to the canvas and left him on his back with his upper torso stretched beneath the bottom ring rope.

Daniel rose on unsteady legs at the count of nine and managed to stay upright for another thirty seconds before a barrage of punches punctuated by a short right hand deposited him on the floor for the second time.

Once again, he beat the count.

“Are you okay?” referee Harvey Dock asked.

Geale shook his head.

“No,” he said.

Dock appropriately stopped the fight.

There was joy in Cotto’s dressing room after the fight. It wasn’t that he’d beaten Geale as much as the way he beaten him that impressed.

“Miguel boxed very well tonight,” Roach said. “The angles were good. He got off first and went to the body a lot.” Freddie smiled. “It’s a lot easier when the fight happens the way you planned it.”

As for the future; Cotto isn’t one of the kids anymore. He’s much closer to the end of his ring career than the beginning.

“I said that I would be out of boxing by the time I am thirty,” Miguel noted recently.” I am thirty-four now.”

How many fights he has left will depend in large measure on how much punishment he takes in them and, to a lesser degree, how much each training camp takes out of him.

Meanwhile, June 6 was one more performance to be treasured. But in some ways, it was just another fight. Miguel showered and put on the same faded jeans, gray T-shirt, blue leather jacket, and loafers without socks that he’d worn earlier in the evening. He looked like a factory worker getting ready to go home after an honest night’s work.

Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at His most recent book – Thomas Hauser on Boxing – was published by the University of Arkansas Press.


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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