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Malignaggi and Jacobs Count Down To Aug. 1 Fights in Brooklyn

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You still see some elements of old-style NYC when you’re in the Village, as you walk the streets, as the summertime waft of settled garbage assaults your nostrils, but can’t defeat the pleasant aura brought about by the shining of the sun and the sight of the ladies in their summer dresses flouncing down the sidewalk.

You’ll see a snatch of graffiti, or a moldy but intriguing vintage shop, with a poster of Fat Elvis, looking bloated but sexy, still, in the smudged window.

But the signs of new New York are more prevalent as I walk to Via Della Pace, a cozy Italian eatery in the East Village, to meet and greet and question two of the guys topping the Aug. 1 boxing card at Barclays Center, because I see swankier shops, and folks in better brands of clothes and fewer nodded off eyelids attached to zombified junkies as you might have seen decades ago.

New New York…and the same goes for boxing…things change.

Barclays Center has become home to more bouts, more big cards, as disruptor in chief Al Haymon seeks to re-brand the sport. Brooklyn is a buzzy borough, and it figures that he siphons some of that buzz which can attach to his fights, such as the Danny Garcia-Paul Malignaggi tangle which will unfold the first week of August.

Barclays boss Brett Yormark, tucking into a grilled chicken salad with balsalmic dressing, and tossing back an espresso, was there, along with Malignaggi, who still has fighter/analyst on his business card. At 34 he is seeking to prove he’s still got fight left in him, that his fists are his primary weapon, that his mouth is still a secondary threat. Also in attendance was middleweight titlist Danny Jacobs, ever amiable, unfailingly polite while being asked about when he might step up to fight Gennady Golovkin, though he has a stern test, in Sergio Mora, staring at him Aug. 1. The promoter of the event, Brooklyn’s Lou DiBella, was making the rounds, also repping some old and new vibes. He was on the outside looking in when Golden Boy, the old Golden Boy, snagged a deal to be the sole promoter to stage shows at Barclays, back in 2012, and he let loose with his distaste for the move in the press back then. But on Wednesday, he spoke warmly of Yormark, who he declared to be a vibrant pusher of boxing product, a committed proponent of holding a marquee card a month at his building. They are working well together, he reported.

Malignaggi, but of course, did what he does second best, talk, and he told us he’s dialed in, in training, feeling good, and confident that he can beat Garcia, in the Philly fighters’ first fight at 147. The Brooklyner told us that he is feeling good weight-wise, because he has enlisted Memo Heredia to aid in supplement advice, as well as what and when to eat. Yep, he’s 34, and he admits that part gets harder as you get older. “I feel good, I feel really good right now. We had back to back camps and we’re working really smart, more so than working hard,” he told me. He had a show set May 23, but got cut and that got scratched. A better opp presented itself, as Danny O’Connor got replaced by Danny Garcia.

“Yeah, I’m with Memo…he’s actually going to come in this weekend,” he told me. Memo was in his corner working to that May date, he said, and he’s been taking the supplements Memo has advised him to. Basically, he thinks the taking of the supplements is mostly mental, unless you’re cheating, but he’s open to listening. Paulie said he’s doing testing, via USADA, and so he’s fine with having Heredia, who has a controversial past, in the fold. “He’s an intelligent guy, I think he gets a bad rep, because of certain past things,” but he thinks Memo is on the up and up, and he’s enjoyed the advice he gets on weigh loss. He said he wonders why Heredia gets more scrutiny than, say, Victor Conte, being that have cloudy pasts.

The boxer said he’s not willing to go all in, and over-tweak his regimen. He’s brought himself to this dance and his way will be the highway he travels all the way in this journey, he said.

Jacobs took questions about his tangle with Mora, the slick, smart Cali boxer. Jacobs said that Mora is a tough out, intelligent, crafty, “a tough test for anyone.”

The hitter said that he was happy with his last outing a TKO12W over Caleb Truax, and gave himself a B plus. This time, we could see something different, which I take to mean maybe he’s going to look to set down a bit more, look to land nastier, earlier. Jacobs didn’t want to give much in the way of hints, though…

If he does get past Mora, it’s feeling like a showdown with fellow New Yorker Peter Quillin could be in the cards for the fall. That seems a natural fit for Barclays, eh..

Readers, your thoughts on both those matchups, please. Weigh in, in our Forum!

Here is the release which went out, with quotes:

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PAULIE MALIGNAGGI & DANIEL JACOBS DISCUSS THEIR UPCOMING SATURDAY, AUGUST 1 FIGHTS LIVE ON PBC ON ESPN FROM 

BARCLAYS CENTER IN BROOKLYN

 

BROOKLYN (July 8, 2015) – Former two-division world champion Paulie “The Magic Man” Malignaggi, middleweight world champion Daniel “The Miracle Man” Jacobs, President of DiBella Entertainment Lou DiBella and CEO of Barclays Center Brett Yormark took time today to discuss the upcoming Premier Boxing Champions on ESPN fights taking place Saturday, August 1 at Barclays Center.

Malignaggi (33-6, 7 KOs) will face undefeated Danny “Swift” Garcia (30-0, 17 KOs)in the headlining event on ESPN.

Jacobs (29-1, 26 KOs) will defend his title against former world champion Sergio “The Latin Snake” Mora (28-3-2, 9 KOs) in the televised opener on ESPN beginning at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.

Tickets for the live event, which is promoted by DiBella Entertainment, are priced at $250, $150, $75 and $45, not including applicable service charges and taxes, and are on sale now. Tickets are available at www.barclayscenter.comwww.ticketmaster.com and at the American Express Box Office at Barclays Center. To charge by phone, call Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000. For group tickets, please call 800-GROUP-BK.

For more information visit www.premierboxingchampions.comwww.barclayscenter.comand www.dbe1.com. Follow on Twitter @PremierBoxing, @DannySwift, @PaulMalignaggi, @LouDiBella, @ESPNBoxing, @BarclaysCenter and @Swanson_Comm and become a fan on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/PremierBoxingChampionswww.facebook.com/fanpagedannyswiftgarciawww.facebook.com/PaulMalignaggiwww.facebook.com/barclayscenterand www.facebook.com/ESPN. Follow the conversation using #PBConESPN and #BrooklynBoxing.

PAULIE MALIGNAGGI

“I feel good, really good right now. This has been one of the best camps I have ever had in my career. We have not only been working really hard, but also really smart. I am coming off back-to-back camps and I truly feel great.

“We have some tricks up our sleeves for this fight. I am very happy with that way I am looking and feeling. Everyday I am going in there and just putting in the work. I’m not overthinking this fight, I’m just putting in that work at the gym, and with the way I feel and look, I’m very confident. I have a strong self-belief. I truly believe in myself and my abilities. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be here.

“I want to live and die by my own decisions, and that is how I have structured this camp. I am listening to my body and listening to myself. We are working on different things in both my boxing training and my strength and conditioning.

“I have seen strengths and weaknesses all over Danny [Garcia]. When I watch a fight, I see it a lot deeper than most people.  So when I watch Danny, I see a lot of different things. I don’t want to get too much into it, but there are definitely things we have seen that we are working on specifically in this camp to implement and capitalize on August 1st.

“Barclays Center in my home. Fighting here gives me that extra motivation. Fighting at Barclays, in front of all my friends and family, it just doesn’t get better than that.”

DANIEL JACOBS

“This is a great camp and we are ready to put on a great show come August 1st.  I feel comfortable as a champion. Don’t get me wrong, when I first won my title it was totally surreal, but I always felt like a champion deep down inside. There is something that burns inside of me that has allowed me to overcome every obstacle in my life, and to me, that’s what makes a champion.

“I love being a part of PBC. There is no doubt in my mind that my popularity has grown since my first appearance on a PBC card. We are reaching a much younger and different crowd and demographic than before, and it is just great for the sport of boxing.

“This is a tough fight. Mora is a proven guy and I know he is very hungry for this opportunity. He is awkward and he is slick. He has good speed and a good jab. We have to be cautious and stick to our game plan. People are saying that this could be the toughest fight of my career and we are training with that mindset.

“With a win in this fight, I truly believe that the sky is the limit. There are a lot of big fights out there to be made in the division, but obviously, the main guy for me would be Peter Quillin. It is a fight that I have wanted for a long time, and it is a huge fight for boxing, but especially for New York.

“My legacy is in my own hands. Some of the biggest fights in the sport are in the middleweight division right now. At this particular point though, the Quillin fight is the most lucrative option for me. I am not looking past any man, especially not Sergio Mora, but that is a fight I want, the boxing world wants, New York wants and Barclays Center wants.”

LOU DIBELLA

“In addition to these two great fights, we are proud to announce that we have added Brooklyn’s own undefeated heavyweight prospect Adam Kownacki (10-0, 9KO’s) to the card, as well as one of the top prospects in the game right now, The Brooklyn Rocky, Frank Galarza (17-0-2, 11KO’s). We are also excited to announce the addition of highly regarded up-and-coming Puerto Rican prospect Prichard Colon (14-0, 11KO’s), who will be great additions to the undercard, which already features undefeated female star Heather “The Heat” Hardy, and a clash of undefeated light heavyweight prospects, Brooklyn’s Travis Peterkin (15-0, 7KO’s) against Olympian Lenin Castillo (12-0, 7KO’s).

“It’s an honor for me to be promoting another card at Barclays Center, which in my eyes has become the preeminent venue for boxing and music in the entire country. It is a great pleasure for me to work with Brett and everyone on his team. They are the best in the game.

“The public is going to have a real opportunity to see two very good, competitive fights. Look, this (Danny Garcia vs. Paulie Malignaggi) is a very tough fight. Danny has looked a bit vulnerable in his past few fights, and he is moving up in weight to fight a real deal welterweight. Say what you want about Paulie, but you cannot question his heart or desire to win. Paulie is comfortable with being an underdog, he has been an underdog his whole life. With Paulie, you know you will never get anything less than 110 percent. Fourteen years ago yesterday he made his pro-debut on one of my cards, and I am proud of that fact. It is truly an honor for me to be promoting his fight against Danny Garcia on August 1st.

“The co-feature match-up is a very intriguing fight. You have two of the best middleweights in the world in Danny Jacobs and Sergio Mora. Just like the main event, this is a very tough fight. Sergio is extremely hungry. He has been waiting for this shot for years. Danny’s story is just remarkable. How hard he has worked to get here, and win a world championship is just extraordinary. He is a champion both inside and outside of the ring, and it’s truly an honor to be working with him. That is the great thing about promoting these PBC events. I have the opportunity to work with and promote some of the greatest and most talented fighters in the sport, in exciting and competitive fights.”

BRETT YORMARK

“All of us at Barclays Center are very excited for this August 1st card. This is a great platform for us and the building promoting yet another wonderful PBC event. I am personally excited for the event. Paulie and Danny are like family to me and I am truly honored to have them in our building. Our goal is to be the premier venue in all of boxing and we are actively making a push for that, with our third major PBC card at our venue this year.

“Boxing is our third franchise, along with the Nets and Islanders, and we are proud of the events we have been able to be involved with and have in our beautiful venue. I love working with Lou and his team, there is no better promoter in the country and we are looking forward to another great event on August 1st on ESPN.”

 

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

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Arum says Terence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Marvelous Marvin

To set the tone for this article, one needs only to watch the way in which Thomas Hearns came out in the first round against Marvelous Marvin Hagler. He was ready to rock and roll as was his fearsome looking opponent. The ensuing unmitigated savagery was the quintessential illustration of full-tilt boogie.

For most boxing fans, the anticipation of an all-out action bout gets the chills running down spines faster than anything else. But not all, as some prefer a tactical or clinical fight that someone like Mikey Garcia can orchestrate and others –but not many—enjoy a defensive gem via a Willie Pep, Nicolino Locche, or Pernell Whitaker. A few love a genuine blood fest that a Gabe Rosado-type can provide, and who doesn’t like seeing something special as in Sugar Ray Leonard, Kostya Tszyu, Terence Crawford or Vasiliy Lomachenko?

Chill-or-be-chilled types like Bob Satterfield and Tommy Morrison were super exciting. In this connection—a certain cadre of warriors, past and present, would come out charging and stalking as soon as the bell rang. Many demonstrated a marked disdain for defense and used a non-stop, no let-up pressure that discouraged their opponents, especially in the late rounds. The anticipation from the crowd was palpable because it sensed some form of destruction was on its way. The cheering would start during the instructions and sometimes did not let up until the concussive end.

This cadre included Rocky Marciano, Tony Ayala, Vicious Victor Galindez, Jeff Fenech, Roberto Duran, and Julio Cesar Chavez (who sapped the spirit of his opponents by ripping away at their mid-section). Also, Carl “The Cat”  Thompson , chill-or-be-chilled Ricardo “Pajarito” Moreno (60-12-1 with 59 KOs),  Ron Lyle, the ultra-violent Edwin Valero, the appropriately nicknamed JulianMr KO” Letterlough, James “The Outlaw” Hughes and his mindboggling ability to snatch victory from certain defeat, Thai stalking monster Khaosai Galaxy (47-1),  the first version of George Foreman (pictured with the aforementioned Lyle), Ji-Hoon “Volcano” Kim, Ruslan  Provodnikov, Orlando “Siri” Salido, Marcos Maidana, Lenny Z, Alfredo “Perro” Angulo, Mike Alvarado, Brandon Rios, and Mickey Roman (the later four are still fighting but past their primes).

Others who presently incite the anticipation of something special include (but are not limited to) Naoya “Monster” Inoue (16-0), Errol “The Truth” Spence Jr (24-0), Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (46-4-1), Alex Saucedo (27-0), and, of course, Gennady “GGG” Golovkin (38-1-1) who now has become slightly more tactical like his nemesis, Canelo Alvarez (50-1-1).

These stand out as representative.

Past

A prime Mike Tyson—and the emphasis is on prime– was the epitome of a boxer who guaranteed action. One simply would not leave his or her seat when “Iron Mike” was doing his highlight reel thing, and his blowout of Michael Spinks punctuated his standing at the top of all-action type fighters, even if the action was usually non-mutual.

Joe Frazier came out smokin’ and would not let up until either he or his opponent were done. For the most part, decisions were not in Joe’s DNA and his left hook was as malicious as a hook can be. With Joe, you just sat back and enjoyed the action. Frazier, wrote boxing historian Tracy Callis,  “was a strong, ‘swarmer’ style boxer who applied great pressure on his opponent and dealt out tremendous punishment with a relentless attack of lefts and rights; His left hook was especially stiff and quick when delivered during his bob-and-weave perpetual attack; he fought three minutes per round and never seemed to tire.”

Carlos “Escopeta” (Shotgun) Monzon (87-3-9) was a powerful and rangy Argentinean killing machine, built like an iron rod. Some said he pushed his punches. Well if he did, he pushed 87 opponents to defeat. He also became only the second man to stop former three-time world champion Emile Griffith, turning the trick in the 14th round. Blessed with great and deceptive stamina and a solid chin, he seemingly was an irresistible force. He was unbeaten over the last 81 bouts of his career, a span of 13 years, and defended his title 14 times. “One would need to write a book in order to do justice to comparing a fighter of Carlos Monzon’s calibre to his fellow all-time greats,” wrote Mike Casey.

Arturo Gatti and Irish Micky Ward were the quintessential action fighters. One is gone amidst controversy, and hopefully the other will not pay a price for his many ring wars. With these two, just count up the Fights-of-the-Year and the rest is history. Suffice it to say that Gatti and Ward will be forever linked in boxing lore.

Until his fateful fight with Nigel Benn (another all-action fighter), Gerald McClellan was absolutely, positively, a stalking monster with dynamite in his gloves. It was ferocity and fury at its highest level and it was something to behold. Sadly, his fight with Benn left him permanently disabled; his story remains a dark stain on boxing. As Ian McNeilly notes, “one man’s finest hour was the end of another man’s life as he knew it.”

Michael “The Great” Katsidis’s all-action style made thrilling fights a lock. The Kat” was willing to take three to deliver one. It was blood and guts to the last drop. Whether he too exacted a heavy price for this style remains to be seen.

Lucia Rijker, AKA “The Dutch Destroyer,” lived up to her moniker and destroyed everyone in her path. Again, it wasn’t “if,” it was “when.”

Christy Martin (49-7-3) put female boxing on the map in the ‘90s and she did it by going undefeated in 36 straight encounters, running roughshod over her opponents as evidenced by her 25 wins by stoppage during this run. She also managed to steal the show from a Mike Tyson main event in 1996 during her memorable and bloody battle with Deirdre Gogarty.

Present

Deontay Wilder, aka “The Bronze Bomber,” has a record of 40-0.  With 39 wins coming by KO—many in spectacular fashion, The “Bomber” brings with him that same sense of anticipation that Tyson did. It’s not if; it’s when and “when” can occur at any time. But unlike Tyson, there is a vulnerability that Luis Ortiz exposed that makes the excitement index go even higher.

Dillian Whyte (24-1) has seldom been in a dull affair. His vulnerability combined with his mode of attack ensures thrilling action and the possibility of a stoppage at any time. Unlike Dereck “Del-Boy” Chisora, Whyte is consistently aggressive and dangerous.

Manny Pacquiao (60-7-2) has slowed down considerably but his recent stoppage win over Lucas Matthysse offers hope that he can still conjure up his exciting whirlwind style of fast in-an-out movements that allowed him to win multiple titles over several future Hall of Fame opponents between 2005 and 2011. A rematch with Floyd Mayweather Jr., if rumors are true, would allow Pac Man an opportunity to accomplish a number of extraordinary things including avenging a prior defeat and ruining Mayweather’s undefeated record. Time will tell.

Though he appears to have shot his wad, a prime Antonio Margarito was the classic stalk, stun, and kill fighter. Heck, he belonged on the Discovery Channel. His two blowouts of Kermit Cintron showed the “Tijuana Tornado” at his most brutal. His come-from-behind demolition of Miguel Cotto stands out for its drama and bloodletting—and subsequent speculative controversy.

David Lemieux (39-4) always brings the heat. His fights seldom end as scheduled. With KO power in both hands and a propensity to rehydrate by 20 pounds, he is the essence of danger and attendant excitement. “With the sheer power he carries, Lemieux will always have a shot at beating any middleweight, and he is almost always involved in good action fights,” says James Slater.

Amanda Serrano (35-1-1) is the only women’s boxer to win world titles in six divisions. The “Real Deal” is unique in that she has a high KO percentage (74 percent) which is rare for female boxers. Amanda is 120 seconds of guaranteed action for each round.

                                                         **********

While Iron Mike Tyson is THE MAN, Matthew Saad Muhammad also warrants special billing as he embodied what this article is all about. Steve Farhood summed up the essence of Saad Muhammad with an observation that would be appropriate for his tombstone: “Eddie Gregory (Mustafa Muhammad) has a better jab, Marvin Johnson wields more power, James Scott does more sit ups. But, Muhammad’s heart is the size of a turnbuckle, and it anchors his title reign.”

Who did I leave out? Whose name or names would you add to this list?

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

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Golovkin broadcast

During the Canelo-Golovkin broadcast last weekend, it was mentioned that the two biggest star fighters in boxing were Canelo Alvarez and WBA/IBF/WBO heavyweight titlist Anthony Joshua. Canelo, the newly crowned middleweight champion, was in need of a signature win over a marque opponent to strengthen his claim and Joshua is in the same position heading into his title defense against former WBA title holder Alexander Povetkin at Wembley Stadium Saturday night.

This time last year, being roughly two months out from his title defense against Carlos Takam, Joshua, 28, was the perceived alpha fighter in the heavyweight division. AJ had won all his fights by knockout and, other than a Wladimir Klitschko right hand that dropped him in the sixth round, looked as if he were a sure thing to be the future of the division. But then he looked average stopping Takam, a late replacement for Kubrat Pulev. Joshua cut Takam, dropped him in the fourth round and stopped him in the 10th, but the stoppage was a little bit of a quick hook in the eyes of most observers and it dulled the win.

Five months later Joshua fought undefeated WBO titlist Joseph Parker. Three weeks prior to this fight, Joshua rival and WBC title-holder Deontay Wilder, after nearly being stopped in the seventh round, knocked out the most avoided fighter in the division in Luis Ortiz to score the signature win of his career. So the pressure was on Joshua to win impressively.

Unknown to anyone, Parker showed up only interested in becoming the first fighter Joshua couldn’t stop. And AJ didn’t endear himself to any newly conformed fans when he fought with little urgency, content to win a lopsided decision. Relying almost exclusively on his jab, he made no real attempt to get Parker out of there. Compounding the shrinking perception of AJ, Takam, in his next bout, was beaten more definitively by Dereck Chisora than he was by Joshua.

When you take into account that Wilder scored an impressive KO in his last fight over the most formidable opponent he’s fought and Joshua only scored one knockdown in his last two fights combined, it’s easy to glean why Wilder has narrowed the gap regarding the public perception of them. What’s been missed about Joshua’s last two bouts, however, is that he was utterly dominant. It’s hard to find three rounds he lost of the 22 he was in the ring. But yet, the thing that is most remembered is that AJ didn’t look like the doctor of destruction that his physicality and ring record projected him as being.

When an elite fighter like Anthony Joshua is seen as being a knockout artist and then goes a few fights in a row without delivering a memorable KO, critics and fans begin to find things about their game that are suddenly alarming. And that’s why it’s imperative for Joshua not just to beat Povetkin; he must become the first fighter to stop him. That will get the attention of the right people and at the same time gain back some of the cachet he ceded to Wilder since March of this year.

According to The Ring magazine’s latest ratings…the top six heavyweights, in order, are Joshua, Wilder, Povetkin, Ortiz, Whyte and Parker. So of those ranked 3-6, Povetkin is the only one who hasn’t yet faced Joshua or Wilder. Many well-known observers who cover boxing also see Povetkin 34-1 (24) as the third best fighter in the division. In fact, the new narrative regarding this fight is that Povetkin is really dangerous. With his power, extensive experience and toughness, he’s not an automatic win or free ride for AJ this weekend.

Yes, that’s what they’re saying before they get into the ring – so let’s remember that after the bout, because if Joshua 21-0 (20) looks impressive and stops Povetkin, we’ll more than likely hear how Povetkin was washed up, having turned 39 earlier this month and having lost to the best fighter he ever touched gloves with in Wladimir Klitschko. In one night, Povetkin will go from being a real test for Joshua to an old man who couldn’t beat anybody in the top 10. Conversely, if Povetkin goes the distance and is competitive with Joshua, then, in a knee-jerk reaction and overstatement, many will label AJ a fraud and a sure loser when he faces Wilder.

The reality is a stoppage win by Joshua will be impressive because Povetkin has never been close to being stopped. Even after going down four times against Klitschko he never looked as if he wanted out and Wladimir was a single shot bigger banger than Joshua is with either hand (with the difference being Joshua gets off more freely and puts his punches together in combination, opposed to Klitschko who force-fed his opponents one-twos. Also, Joshua is quicker handed than Klitschko and that should enable him to land some big shots in succession on the presumably attacking Povetkin).

Povetkin most likely needs to be inside against Joshua. There’s only two ways to do it, either by pressing AJ or moving away and timing him, and the method he chooses will illustrate just how much AJ’s power is or isn’t too much for him to chance moving in on. If Povetkin pulls a Parker and the fight goes the distance, Joshua shouldn’t be excoriated because it’s hard to stop a fighter who is only looking to survive. At the same time Joshua will have to let his hands go and fight with more urgency and passion than he showed against Parker, because if he doesn’t that will raise my red flag.

When Joshua crashed the top-10 heavyweight rankings I thought, having watched him closely, that he had the potential of former champ Lennox Lewis. That hasn’t changed, but I’m beginning to see Lewis as being more of a natural fighter and AJ as the better athlete. On paper it’s close when comparing them, but Lewis, especially under the late Emanuel Steward, kept improving whereas Joshua, after looking so good and well-rounded stopping Klitschko, seems to have plateaued.

Alexander Povetkin is AJ’s twenty-second bout. In Lennox Lewis’s twenty-second bout, he fought Donovan “Razor” Ruddock.

Ruddock (27-3-1) was a 6’3”, 231-pound, well-built fighter with power in his left hand but limited skills. Povetkin is 6’2” and weighed in at 229 for his last bout. Ruddock’s left-hook/uppercut was probably a bigger single shot than anything in Povetkin’s arsenal but that’s about the only check Razor gets in his column over Povetkin. The Russian fighter has a much higher boxing IQ than Ruddock and is the more technically sound fighter with better structure and form.

Lewis destroyed Ruddock in two rounds in what was the signature performance of his career at the time. Joshua has already delivered a signature performance, his stoppage of Klitschko after knocking him down three times, but critics and fans have short memories so Joshua needs to deliver another eye opening performance. As was the case for Ruddock when he fought Lewis, Povetkin looks made to order for AJ to look good against. However, Povetkin, unlike Ruddock before he confronted Lewis, has never been stopped and is known for his durability and ruggedness.

Joshua says he is motivated for Povetkin and isn’t looking past him. He says he fears losing, and I don’t need him to confirm he has a gigantic ego and cannot be happy about some of the pageantry and attention that Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury have stolen from him. As for Povetkin, this is no doubt his last title shot and he certainly knows this is the fight he needs to put everything together…which should translate into him coming to win which means he’s going to fight instead of hoping for pats on the back for showing up. And if Povetkin comes to fight, Joshua should get some great opportunities to shine and post another signature win.

This is the ideal fight and opponent for AJ to show just what he has and to stay on the same trajectory that Lennox Lewis did after stopping Razor Ruddock.

Between 1977 and 1982, Frank Lotierzo had over 50 fights in the middleweight division. He trained at Joe Frazier’s gym in Philadelphia under the tutelage of the legendary George Benton. Before joining The Sweet Science his work appeared in several prominent newsstand and digital boxing magazines and he hosted “Toe-to-Toe” on ESPN Radio. Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@gmail.com

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