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Ten Notable Boxers From Nebraska Not Named Terence Crawford

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Nebraska

Terence Crawford meets Namibia’s Julius Indongo at the Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska on July 19th on ESPN. At stake are all the meaningful belts in the 140-pound division and for Crawford something more – a chance to cement his status as one of the top pound-for-pound fighters on the planet.

Regardless of whether he wins or loses or what he accomplishes in the next few years, Omaha’s Crawford will reign supreme as the best boxer to emerge from the state of Nebraska. Granted, there isn’t a whole lot of competition. The Cornhusker State, historically rural, lacks the demographic components one associates with a high incidence of prizefighters. However, there have been some very solid practitioners of the manly art with Nebraska ties and with Crawford riding so high, now would seem to be a good time to excavate them from the dustbin of history and acknowledge them.

Here are ten notable boxers who sprung from the soil of Nebraska. They are listed in order of notability, needless to say a subjective exercise.

Ace Hudkins, Valparaiso (68-20-13, 25 KOs)

Before Terence Crawford arrived on the scene, Ace Hudkins was unimpeachably the best boxer spawned in the Cornhusker State.

Born in Valparaiso, Hudkins made his pro debut in Lincoln in 1922 at age 16 and fought all over Nebraska during his tenderfoot days, appearing in such burgs as Alliance, Bridgeport, Central City, McCook, Tecumseh, and Wahoo. Twelve bouts into his pro career his record stood at 3-3-6, hardly the template of a man who would go on to become one of the most celebrated boxers of his era. But Hudkins got better as the competition got stiffer and became a big box office attraction in New York and Los Angeles.

Paul Gallico, one of America’s most well-known sportswriters, about used up all the adjectives in his knapsack when he wrote that Hudkins was “tough, hard, mean, cantankerous, combative, fast, courageous and filled at all times with bitter and flaming lust for battle.” He might have added that the Nebraska Wildcat, as he was dubbed, wasn’t averse to bending the Queensberry rules.

In 1928, Hudkins challenged middleweight champion Mickey Walker at Comiskey Park, the home of the Chicago White Sox. Walker, who would be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame with the inaugural class of 1990, won a split decision, but the consensus was that Hudkins was robbed. The multitude, which watched the fight in a driving rain, booed loudly when the verdict was announced. The rematch the next year in Los Angeles, which Walker won fairly, set a California record for gate receipts that stood for eighteen years.

Hudkins, who reportedly retired a millionaire, invested his ring earnings wisely. With several of his brothers he ran a thriving California company that leased horses and buckboards and such to producers of movie and TV westerns. He died in 1973 in Hollywood at age sixty-seven after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.

Ed “Bearcat” Wright (70-24-19, 42 KOs)

Born in 1897 in Brazoria, Texas, Wright represented Omaha throughout a career that lasted from 1919 to 1936. While still a raw novice he had four fights with venerable Sam Langford, the legendary Boston Tar Baby. There was an extenuating circumstance. Nebraska’s ban on interracial matches wasn’t repealed until 1923.

Wright likely had many more fights than those which have been documented. And don’t be fooled by his record. In his day, men of his hue had to “do business” to put food on the table. He was stopped in four rounds by future heavyweight champion Primo Carnera at Omaha’s minor league baseball park in 1932, but the outcome was almost certainly prearranged.

Wright had 30 fights in Nebraska rings and fought three other former or future world champions (Jack Johnson, Mickey Walker, and Max Baer). His son, also known as Bearcat Wright, was 8-0 as a pro boxer and had numerous regional and tag team titles bestowed upon him as a professional wrestler.

Luther McCarty (19-4-2, 15 KOs)

The White Hope Era paralleled the heavyweight title reign of Jack Johnson which lasted from Dec. 26, 1908 to July 4, 1915. The Caucasian hopefuls that tumbled out of the chute were a motley lot, but McCarty was legit.

Depending on the source, McCarty was born on a farm 30 miles southwest of Lincoln, on a ranch near McCook, or in a hollow somewhere in Hitchcock County. We’ll take it on faith that he was actually born in Nebraska and had an emotional tie to the state.

It appears that McCarty was left to his own whiles at a very young age, whereupon he bummed around the country taking odd jobs while sating his wanderlust. He was in his late teens when he came to the fore in Los Angeles. De Witt Van Court, one of America’s foremost boxing authorities, asserted that he showed considerably more promise than former champions Jim Corbett and Jim Jeffries at the same age.

McCarty died in the ring in 1913 at age twenty-one in Calgary, Alberta, in the first defense of his White Heavyweight Title. The punch that felled him didn’t appear to pack much force, but it fractured his neck. He never fought in Nebraska but engaged in 4-round exhibitions with his traveling foil in opera houses in Lincoln and Omaha.

Ron Stander (38-21-3, 29 KOs)

During his fighting days, Stander hung his hat across the river from Omaha in Council Bluffs, Iowa; hence his nickname, the Bluffs Butcher. But Stander trained in Omaha, had twenty-six fights in Omaha, and settled in Omaha after leaving the sport.

In his 10th pro fight Stander knocked out Earnie Shavers, in hindsight a monster upset as Shavers came to be recognized as one of the hardest punchers in the history of the heavyweight division.

Stander’s record stood at 23-1-1 when he challenged Smokin’ Joe Frazier for the world heavyweight title at the Omaha Civic Auditorium in 1972 in what arguably ranks as the biggest single day non-football sporting event in the history of the Cornhusker State. He lasted only four rounds, but went out on his shield.

Art Hernandez, Sidney (46-20-2, 13 KOs)

The second oldest of the four fighting Hernandez brothers, the late Art Hernandez won five Nebraska Golden Gloves titles before turning pro in 1961. The former Sidney, Nebraska schoolboy had twenty fights in Omaha rings and fought extensively overseas, including five trips to France.

In 1964, Art Hernandez boxed legendary (albeit long-in-the-tooth) Sugar Ray Robinson to a draw at the Omaha Civic Auditorium. In 1969, he came out on the short end of a fight with former five-time world champion Emile Griffith, losing a split decision.

In retirement, Art Hernandez was the chief of security at Omaha’s Douglas County Hospital.

Ferd Hernandez, Sidney (35-10-4, 7 KOs)

The oldest of the brothers, Ferdinand “Ferd” Hernandez won the National Golden Gloves welterweight title in 1960 as a member of the Omaha team that won the team title over the favored Chicago contingent.

Ferd had three of his first five pro fights in Omaha before being lured away by the siren song of Las Vegas. In 1965 he won a 10-round decision over Sugar Ray Robinson. Late in his career he went the distance with future Hall of Famers Nino Benvenuti and Luis Rodriguez.

In retirement, Hernandez became a world-class referee. He refereed four world title fights including the 1975 bout between Muhammad Ali and Ron Lyle. He died in 1996 at his brother Art’s home in Omaha at age fifty-five.

(Note: Dale Hernandez, the youngest of the fighting Hernandez brothers, had the most natural talent. Unlike his brothers, he could knock a man out with one punch. He isn’t included here because he was born and raised in Pierre, South Dakota.)

Carl Vinciquerra, Omaha (45-5-5, 25 KOs)

Vinciquerra took a leave from Creighton University where he was the starting fullback on the varsity football team to pursue his dream of Olympic glory. He represented the U.S. in the light heavyweight division at the 1936 Berlin games after winning a National Golden Gloves title.

Vinciquerra had most of his early fights in Chicago but had 16 fights in Omaha rings where he scored three wins over his former Creighton teammate and amateur rival Paul Hartnek.

Vince Foster, Omaha (30-4-1, 19 KOs)

A 1946 Midwest Golden Gloves champion, Foster, a welterweight, made a big splash in his debut as a Madison Square Garden headliner, overwhelming rugged 54-fight veteran Tony Pellone en route to a seventh round stoppage. “It was the most exciting victory scored in the Garden since Sandy Saddler’s knockout of Willie Pep in October (of the previous year),” said the ringside correspondent for the Associated Press.

Half Irish and half Native American, Foster was here and gone in a flash. In his next outing at New York City’s temple of fistiana, he was knocked out in the opening round by future world title challenger Charley Fusari. Two months later, he died when his car plowed into the back of a cattle truck in Pipestone, South Dakota, where he was visiting his two half-siblings who were enrolled in the Santee Sioux Indian boarding school. Akin to the ill-fated Luther McCarty, he was only 21 years of age.

Glen Lee, Edison (56-20-5, 22 KOs)

Born in the flyspeck village of Edison, not far from Grand Island which he eventually called home, Lee, a welterweight, made his pro debut in Omaha in 1933 and had thirteen of his first twenty-one fights in Nebraska rings before heading west where he became a popular attraction at LA’s Olympic Auditorium.

His career was winding down when he fought a rubber match with the ultra-talented Ceferino Garcia on Garcia’s home turf in Manila. Lee was TKOed in the 13th frame in what is recognized as the first world title fight ever held in the Philippines.

Lee’s younger brother Don Lee was a welterweight contender during the 1940s.

Morrie Schlaifer, Omaha, (49-40-6, 25 KOs)

Before he regressed into a trial horse, Schlaifer was one rough customer. Active from 1920 through 1927, he fought all the top welterweights of his day. His best win came in 1925 when he stopped future welterweight champion Pete Latzo in the third round on Latzo’s turf in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. (In a pro career that numbered 147 fights, Latzo was stopped only twice.)

Schlaifer holds the record for most fights in Nebraska (42). Thirty-nine of those fights were in Omaha.

NOTE: Records include newspaper decisions.

Honorable Mention: JOHNNY SUDENBERG – He lost his last 13 documented fights, plunging his ledger into the red, but the great Jack Dempsey, on his way up the ladder, found the Omaha Swede a tough nut to crack. They fought three times in bouts staged in Nevada mining camps. Dempsey won the last but the first two, both vicious encounters, were recorded as draws.

Honorable Mention: PERRY “KID” GRAVES – Hailing from Red Bluff in Cass County, near Plattsmouth, Graves laid claim to the world welterweight title in 1914 with a second round stoppage of five-time rival Johnny “Kid” Alberts (aka Albert Miskowitz) in Brooklyn. He continued fighting for 11 more years but never had another bout packaged as a title fight – such were the vagaries of his times.

Disqualified: MAX BAER — A murderous puncher and briefly the world heavyweight champion, the “Livermore Larruper” was born in Omaha but grew up on a ranch in Livermore, California, near Stockton, where he made his pro debut. He never fought in Nebraska.

Special Citation: BRUCE “THE MOUSE” STRAUSS — If Strauss had a business card, it likely read “have gloves, will travel.” During his 14-year career (1976-1989) the affable leather-pusher, born and bred in Omaha, fought in twenty-three states, five Canadian provinces, and eight foreign countries. Dubbed the Prince of Palookas by the celebrated sportswriter Rick Reilly, Strauss appeared on the David Letterman Show where he recounted the time that he was knocked out twice in one night, the second under the pretense of being his twin brother.

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Lemieux vs. O’Sullivan: There Will Be Blood

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There is not much to dislike about Gary “Spike” O’Sullivan. The bald and mustachioed O’Sullivan looks like his name and fights like an Irishman named “Spike.” He rarely backs up and just keeps coming and coming until he wears out his opponent. And he is willing to take two to give one as he did against Antoine Douglass (22-0-1 coming in) in December 2017. The Douglass win, a KO, gave Spike a regional title, but more importantly put him squarely in the mix of top contenders. In fact, he has joined the growing chorus of those who want to fight Gennady Golovkin—and the early retirement payday that could follow. If he beats David Lemieux on the undercard of the Canelo -GGG mega fight on September 15 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, he just might get his chance, but that’s a big “if.”

Thus far, Spike’s only two losses have been to Chris Eubank Jr in 2015 and slick and tough Billy Joe Saunders in 2013. Since the Eubank loss, Spike (28-2) has won six straight, the last five by stoppage. When he KOd Melvin Betancourt in May 2015 in Boston, MA, the Dominican middleweight was 29-1. Today he is 29-6. Pleasing local Irish fans (and this writer), O’Sullivan has fought nine times in the Greater Boston area, bringing back memories of another tough Irish fighter by the name of Stevie Collins.

Lemieux

David Lemieux was also outboxed and shut down by Billy Joe Saunders in a clash of styles that favored Saunders. This time, the styles virtually guarantee a thriller for as long as it lasts. Lemieux (39-4) has 33 stoppage wins compared to Spike’s 20. His KO of Curtis Stevens still resonates as one of the more chilling one’s ever seen.

Unlike the globetrotting O’Sullivan, The popular Canadian fighter has done most of his work in Montreal but is 4-1 outside Canada losing his title to GGG at Madison Square Garden in October 2015. At stake in this one were the IBF, WBA, and interim WBC World Middleweight Titles. David was badly bloodied by Golovkin (then 33-0) but did not disgrace himself as he fought to win.

David is a tremendously powerful puncher with either hand and begins the stalk as soon as the bell rings. But Spike also generally moves forward at the opening bell. Something has to give here and it just might give early on. Spike is no BJS and moving away and slipping punches is not his strong suit. But it’s not in Lemieux’s DNA either. This is almost guaranteed to be a spine tingling, all action thriller. Fans had better stay glued to the telecast.

Chocolatito

In addition to Lemieux-O’Sullivan, it appears that all-action fighter Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez (46-2) will also appear on the GGG/Canelo undercard, opposing Moises Fuentes (25-5-1). If so, this one will be over sooner rather than later. In fact, the promoters better have some solid fill-in fights on tap before the main event.

This is about as good as it gets; this is a boxing fan’s dream. Don’t miss it!

Ted Sares is one of the oldest active full power lifters and recently won the Maine State Champions in his class. A member of Ring 10, and Ring 4’s Boxing Hall of Fame, he was recently cited by Hannibal Boxing as one of three “Must-Read” boxing writers.

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Why Fury’s Bout with Pianeta is Bigger than Ever Imagined

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Artur Szpilka

Back in January of 2016, Tyson Fury got into the ring and upstaged him on live TV after he struggled with and eventually stopped Artur Szpilka in the ninth round. Now it’s being conveyed that WBC titlist Deontay Wilder will be ringside for Tyson Fury’s second comeback fight against Francesco Pianeta in Belfast Saturday night, and it’s expected that he’ll pay Fury back and get in the ring and upstage him and call him out.

Wilder quickly accepted Fury’s challenge on that night in Brooklyn, but Fury went away and in his own words overindulged with food, alcohol and drugs. And with that, the talk of Wilder vs. Fury died.

Since then, Wilder has established himself more as a title holder and, in the opinion of most, is thought to be the second best heavyweight in the world, ranking behind only Anthony Joshua. Two months ago in June, Fury made his awaited ring return and stopped a non-entity in Sefer Seferi. Throughout the spring and summer the talk of a showdown between Joshua and Wilder remained one of the foremost stories in boxing. Every time it looked close to becoming a reality it fell through, due mostly to how the purse split should be divided with each side blaming the other and avid fans of both fighters siding with their man. While arrows were being slung back and forth between Team Joshua and Team Wilder, the shrewd Fury slung arrows at both of them.

Tyson Fury is one of the greatest salesmen in boxing history and nobody uses social media better than he does. Seeing how hard Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn is to deal with, a light went off in Fury’s head and he began to shy away from AJ and began turning his attention towards Wilder, who has been riding a high since stopping Luis Ortiz in his last fight. Tyson, fully understanding that Wilder has never earned huge money for any of his bouts, understood that a match between him and Wilder could rival nearly any bout Hearn/Joshua could make, excluding one involving himself or Wilder. With that, someone must’ve got in Wilder’s ear and outlined the monumental upside it would be for him to face Fury and what beating him would do as far as helping him negotiate the anticipated fight with Joshua. Not to mention he wouldn’t be facing Fury at his best.

With Fury having lost a lot of the weight he gained during his exile, an impressive showing this weekend versus Franceso Pianeta would go a long way to help boost the interest in a Wilder-Fury bout. The Fury-Pianeta clash has been picked up by Showtime and that says a lot in regards to the way Fury can attract attention. With Wilder having committed to attend the bout, is there a morsel of doubt that he’ll be a big part of the broadcast?

The mere fact that Wilder will be there has increased the credibility among fans in that Wilder-Fury is no longer a press grab and it very well might just come to fruition. And to help increase the profile of a future bout between Wilder and Fury, it’s impossible not to believe Wilder won’t get into the ring after Fury wins and publicly challenge him. If Wilder does that, hopefully he’ll script what he says and not adlib because exchanging adlibs with Fury would be a losing battle for Deontay….even Muhammad Ali might be the underdog doing so because Fury is such a good talker and so quick-witted.

And if there’s any doubt about Fury being able to sling verbally and hype a fight between he and Wilder, I present his recent words….

“I’m just sat here thinking, isn’t it marvelous that the world’s biggest fight, Fury vs Wilder is going to happen and that smug little t****r Eddie Hearn has nothing to do with it at all.”

“He has nothing to do with the world’s biggest fight — or his little puppet on the string the fighter he’s got [Joshua].”

“They’re not involved in the biggest fight the world has ever seen, between the two biggest heavyweights on the planet.”

“The two most controversial — most outspoken heavyweights out there — both over 6ft 6, both talkers, one Brit. one American.”

“Isn’t it marvelous that this fight is going to happen and little Eddie ain’t got nothing to do with it.”

At the moment Fury is killing Hearn and Joshua on social media while at the same time convincing everyone within earshot that he and Wilder is the biggest fight in boxing and the authentic heavyweight championship. Along with that, Wilder and Fury are both going to earn their blockbuster payday facing each other and without fighting Joshua. The winner will easily be able to get a 50-50 purse split when he meets AJ, and there will be nothing Hearn can do about it….because Team Joshua knows that for AJ to be recognized as the true undisputed champ, he must beat the winner of Wilder versus Fury.

Another testament to the Fury factor is found in the odds. Earlier this week, a friend emailed me the pending Vegas odds on Wilder vs. Joshua and Fury vs. Joshua. In a proposed fight with Wilder, Joshua was listed a 2-1 favorite. However, if he were to face Fury, he’d only be an 8-5 favorite, signifying that Fury, with only two fights under his belt after a nearly two-and-a-half year layoff, is considered by the betting public to be the bigger threat to Joshua.

At this time it looks as though only a loss to Pianeta 35-4-1 (21), who’s never ranked among the top-10, can derail Wilder-Fury from becoming a reality, and even against a rusty Fury that looks doubtful. In Pianeta’s only title shot he entered the bout undefeated and was still bounced around the ring by Wladimir Klitschko as if he were a Spalding basketball. He had the advantage of being one of Klitschko’s sparring partners for a year prior to them meeting and yet he still couldn’t make it out of the sixth round.

Since losing to Wladimir in 2013, Pianeta has gone 7-3 (6) and in his last bout lost a 10-round unanimous decision to Petar Milas, who was fighting for only the 12th time as a pro. Fury looks in good shape based on his recent pictures on social media, and is one of the most difficult heavyweights to fight and look good against since Vitali Klitschko was at his best. True, Fury isn’t a devastating puncher and sometimes fighters who aren’t in his league can go rounds with him, but with so much on the line and Wilder observing from ringside, it’s nearly impossible to envision him losing.

The prospect of a Wilder-Fury confrontation has escalated the interest in Fury’s second comeback fight this weekend. It’s unlikely the actual fight between Fury and Pianeta will be fan-friendly, but the thought of Wilder being there to help launch their fight makes it worthwhile to see. Don’t be surprised if Wilder vs. Fury is announced in the ring after Fury’s bout concludes. And if that’s the case, or when it is announced, for the first time as the alpha heavyweight in the world, Anthony Joshua won’t own the headlines nor will he be the sole focus pertaining to the heavyweight division.

Like him or loathe him, Tyson Fury’s return has provided the division with an infusion of anticipation. And Joshua will ultimately benefit financially as a fight between him and the Fury-Wilder winner becomes that much bigger and lucrative for all the parties involved.

Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

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What Are You Up To, Paddy Barnes?

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Paddy Barnes

For all the hullabaloo about Tyson Fury and his victim elect Francesco Pianeta in Belfast, Northern Ireland this weekend; for all the “Irish Eyes Are Smiling” rhetoric surrounding the return of Carl Frampton to Windsor Park, where he, too, will defeat an overmatched opponent in Luke Jackson; for all that and the barely concealed excitement with which writers and promoters crane their necks at the futures of both these men – for all that, the most intriguing and competitive fight on this Saturday Night’s big “Norn Iron” card is the rampantly ambitious attempt by Paddy Barnes to win a title-strap against Cristofer Rosales (27-3) in just his sixth contest.

This might not be quite Vasily Lomachenko taking on Orlando Salido in his second fight but Rosales, just twenty-three years old and fighting out of Nicaragua, will not be visiting Northern Irish shores to lose. In fact, the TBRB rank him as the worlds #2 flyweight, second only to veteran Donnie Nietes. Flyweight’s radiance may be on the wane but becoming the second best fighter at 112lbs is no small matter, no matter the drain being inflicted upon the division by super-flyweight, the new home of the fashionable small man. Rosales earned the right, and Barnes will have to take it from him.

Like Lomachenko, Barnes is a storied amateur, a two-time Commonwealth gold medalist and two-time Olympic bronze medalist.  Prior to his third swipe at Olympic glory, Barnes turned in a sterling performance in the World Series of Boxing, once controversial for straddling the amateur and professional codes so comfortably, now  seen as nothing more (nor less) than a nursery for top-class amateurs who are ready to mount an assault on the professional ranks.

Barnes began his assault on the professional ranks in the traditional way, beating up overmatched, underfed opposition with losing records.  In 2017 he staged his fifth fight, his fourth in Belfast, against Elie Quezada (21-6-3) who represented something of a step up, though to nothing like world-level where many were sure Barnes was headed.

Even against his taller, heavier, more experienced, switch-hitting opponent, Barnes looked good that night, feinting with the jab behind organized pressure-footwork, opening up shots to the body with jabs, outs-squabbling his rangy opponent when Quezada decided to throw. In the second, investment in the body paid early dividends as a withering short right-hand to the torso married earlier work done with the left hook to achieve a knockdown and nine-count. A ten count at the very end of the sixth was earned with a left-uppercut to the by then tenderized body of an overmatched opponent.

In between the two knockdowns there were naturally issues, the kind experienced by all raw prospects. For that’s what Barnes is, at thirty-one years of age and carrying an armful of amateur medals; professional fighting is different.

So it should be noted that Barnes repeatedly strayed low, and was so paranoid about his inability to keep his punches north of the borderline he apologized to the referee on one occasion without being warned. He hit Quezada when he was down after the first knockdown. He has issues with temperament that need fights to iron out.

More pertinently he was hit, often, by an opponent who was not afraid to trade with him.  Barnes is not a puncher. Quick and accurate, he’s very capable of hurting his opponents but not of turning them away or, as a rule, concussing them. This is problematic and demands careful attention by style, but Barnes does not box like a man who can seek but cannot destroy. He brings speedy pressure, using his quickness and natural balance to unseat an opponent and turn him, all while throwing fast combinations which tantalize between slickness and indeterminate.   Like Rocky Marciano, Barnes has a “land and it’ll do” rule of combat, unlike Rocky Marciano he’s not breaking any bones while he does it.

How is Rosales, a legitimately world class opponent, going to handle all this?

A possible clue lies in another fight Quezada lost. Also a Nicaraguan, last March he met Rosales over ten rounds in their shared hometown of Managua. Rosales won in a fun, bruising fight but was unable to stop his countryman despite throwing and landing a large volume of punches; the judges, a little unkindly I thought, awarded only a split decision but it was interesting that Barnes was able to get Quezada out of there and Rosales was not.

Nevertheless, Rosales was at a more advanced stage of his career and was rewarded (only after defeating the unbeaten Italian Mohammed Obbadi in Italy) with a shot at the strap held by the latest Japanese wonderkid, Daigo Higa. 15-0 with fifteen consecutive knockouts, Higa was favored to win that fight but after struggling with the weight was badly beaten by a vicious Rosales.

Much of this was put off on to Higa’s indiscipline on the scales, but Rosales was exceptional that night in Yokohama. Aggressive and direct, he is a big, big flyweight, pushing 5’7 and sporting a reach of nearly 71” by BoxRec. Rosales does little to favor this reach advantage. He is loose with his selected leads, booming over trailing right hands from outside and sometimes shortening up his own jab by stepping in; on the other hand he loves and administers serious punishment on the inside. Rosales is delightfully old-fashioned in his attitude to his physical advantages and is adapt with both hook and uppercut.

He used both of these to his advantage against Higa, positively bullying him in the eighth, before brutalizing him with his left hand in the ninth.  His corner pulled him after little more than a minute of that round.

Reviewing this footage, the right pick is absolutely clear: it’s Rosales. Bigger, he is probably the puncher in the fight, certainly the more experienced of the two, and he was equal to the relentless body assault Higa mounted early in their fight; but there’s more.

Rosales does not have a spotless record in the UK. One year before his defeat of Higa, he was being out-boxed by the less talented of the two Selby brothers, Andrew. Andrew Selby weathered a dramatic and forceful storm from the Nicaraguan late, but my impression was that he was good for his points win. Two years previous to this, Khalid Yafai, who holds a strap up at 115lbs, defeated him over eight rounds in another tough scrap.

Rosales travels well but not to the UK, and my impression while checking in with friends who follow the smaller men was that his reputation was firmer abroad than upon these shores.

What to make of this web of intrigue?  Has Barnes overstepped in agreeing to fight Rosales so soon based upon a week British rep? Or has Rosales falsely enhanced his status by beating up a weight-drained, crestfallen Higa? Is Rosales too big for Barnes? Or is his propensity for letting wasp-like, whip-crack fighters like Barnes inside a disaster of a style-matchup and one which Barnes, who has slightly faster hands, is primed to take advantage of?

Here’s the truth: I don’t know. I’ve had this fight under the microscope all last week and can’t pick a winner. Just when I think some crucial aspect has been revealed to me it is counter-balanced by some snippet of information from the other camp, or spied on the often single-camera video that spills out of Nicaragua.

I suspect the fight itself will be a thriller though. Both are busy, both have proven punch resistance, both come to fight, both want to mix it up close. The hand that is raised may be the one that is most tempered, the one most ready to shy away from what is natural. Can Rosales spear Barnes on the outside, making him pay for every step? Can Barnes resist the temptation to rush and use his superior speed to close the reach and height gap by staging a sometime counter-punching offense?

With all due love and respect to Tyson Fury, perhaps my favorite active fighter, and Carl Frampton, the man of the moment for the rampant Belfast fans, finding the answer to the above questions is the main reason I’ll be tuning in.

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