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Gary Shaw’s Version of Conor McGregor Was Kimbo Slice

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original idea

It has been suggested that, at this 21st century stage of human development, there is no such thing as a truly original idea, only gussied-up versions of previous attempts at creating something unique. Perhaps more so than anyone else, Gary Shaw understands the rationale for pairing boxing great Floyd Mayweather Jr. and mixed martial arts sensation Conor McGregor. It’s basically the same notion that Roman emperors and their minions had when they would pit captured beasts from faraway lands, say a lion and a tiger, in the Colosseum.  The Roman satirical poet Juvenal (circa 100 A.D.) coined the phrase “bread and circuses” to describe the practice of staging elaborate and costly games – chariot races, anyone? — in order for those in power to maintain control by periodically distracting their increasingly bored and restless subjects.

Boxing has not been around forever, although it sometimes seems like it, so Mayweather vs. McGregor, to be contested under boxing rules, has been relentlessly hyped as a fresh twist on a familiar format. Can the preening Mayweather, staunch upholder of his sport’s status quo, preserve order by putting away McGregor, a crass party-crasher from another combat-sport discipline? The lion again is doing battle with the tiger for entertainment purposes, and all indications are that pay-per-view and gross-revenue records will fall like tall wheat before the scythe.

But there is nothing really new or innovative about Mayweather vs. McGregor, except for the fact that each man’s reputation in his own realm is such that they come into Saturday night’s megafight at Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena (to be televised via Showtime Pay Per View) with large, established fan bases that will be augmented by untold millions of the curious lured by what they’ve been promised is an event unlike anything they’ve ever witnessed. And maybe what will be delivered will prove at least somewhat worthy of the stiff tariff ponied up by on-site attendees and PPV subscribers, although Shaw has grave reservations.

“I don’t see any MMA fighter beating a boxer under boxing rules, especially one of Floyd’s class,” said Shaw, who has been on both sides of the philosophical chasm as president of his own boxing promotional company, Gary Shaw Productions and president of now-defunct EliteXC Live Events, a failed MMA challenger to the supremacy of UFC. “The footwork is different.  Going from four-ounce gloves to eight-ounce gloves is an immense difference. Plus, a boxer is used to seeing where his opponent is, in terms of technique and distance. It’s not the same in MMA, where there’s standup but also kicking and ground-and-pound.

“Unless I’m very wrong, this is a fight that isn’t a real fight at all. I can’t imagine there’s any way that Mayweather can possibly lose. Now, if the fight was under MMA rules, McGregor would be just as much of a sure thing. He’d take Mayweather down quickly because Floyd doesn’t have those skills, and you can’t pick them up in an eight-week training camp. You just can’t.”

Now that he’s sold his boxing promotional company to Roc Nation Sports, with which he briefly was affiliated (“I lasted there about three weeks,” he said of an operation that appears to still be seeking its footing) and EliteXC has long since gone belly-up, Shaw, now 72, doesn’t have a reason to root for either of the expletive-spewing principals or their sport of origin. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have an interest as to what happens as, a decade or so ago, he had his own dream of creating a crossover superstar who could straddle the worlds of boxing and MMA like the Colossus of Rhodes. The vehicle through which Shaw would achieve such sweeping success was, much like McGregor, bearded, lefthanded, possessed of crushing punching power and a menacing scowl that could melt lead.

Shaw’s candidate for the kind of superstardom that many seek but few attain came into this world on Feb. 8, 1974, in Nassau, the Bahamas, as Kevin Ferguson. Most came to know him by his nom de guerre, Kimbo Slice. His legend withered before it had much chance to take root, but there can be no denying that Kimbo, who was just 42 when he died on June 6, 2016, was for a time considered to be larger than life, a comet streaking across the sky. Just as McGregor arrives at this juncture with liberal splashes of charisma and a compelling back story (see Wright Thompson’s enthralling profile in the Aug. 21 issue of ESPN the Magazine), Kimbo had an undefinable something that drew people to him like moths to an open flame. Shaw’s ambitious plan was to take Kimbo, who came to widespread attention through YouTube videos of unsanctioned, bare-knuckle brawls that saw him destroy opponents with Tysonesque brutality, and make him into the heavyweight champion of the world.

“Kimbo is one of those people that comes along every once in ages who has what I call the it factor,” Shaw said in the late spring of 2009. “I have a lot of fighters who come to me and are great talents but don’t have the it factor. Manny Pacquiao has the it factor. He’s a star. He reeks of stardom. People gravitate toward him.

“Kimbo is that way. When he walks into a room, he lights up that room. People yell `Kimbo! Kimbo!’ It doesn’t have anything to do with how he did in his last fight. It has to do with the it factor. When Tyson walks into an arena, everyone stands up. He’s Mike Tyson, of course, but he’s got that it factor.”

The phenom known as Kimbo Slice was first brought to my attention by my son Randy, who asked me to check out a YouTube video of the thickly muscled former linebacker’s backyard demolition of some large, hairy guy whose name now escapes me. It was a cruder, more violent and much-abbreviated version of Sonny Liston disassembling Floyd Patterson. But being unofficial ruler of Miami’s street-fighting scene to king of the ring is a quantum leap, so I paid no heed to rumors that already were circulating that this baddest of badass dudes might soon be trying his hand at, you know, actual boxing.

Depending upon which version of the story one chooses to believe, the 6-foot-1, 240-pound Kimbo Slice was either 0-0 in sanctioned boxing matches (according to BoxRec.com) or 7-0, with six knockouts (Wikipedia). Shaw said  those seven bouts were indeed legit, and who cares if the list of Kimbo’s victims – James Wade, Tay Bledsoe, Charles Hackmann, Brian Green, Jesse Porter, Howard Jones and Shane Tilyard – is hardly a who’s who of professional pugilism. Pulverizing power might be the rawest and most primal of a fighter’s resources, but it can camouflage a lot of technical shortcomings. But before he could put himself into a position (if ever that was a possibility) to challenge either or both of the Klitschko brothers, Kimbo gave up his boxing dream to sign with UFC, whose president, Dana White, no doubt had taken note of the high ratings Kimbo’s MMA appearances on CBS had garnered for EliteXC.

Could Kimbo ever have approached anything even remotely close to the boxing potential as envisioned for him by Shaw?

“He wasn’t really young enough (37 when he ostensibly made his pro debut with first-round, 17-second knockout of Wade on Aug. 13, 2011) to be trying to make the transition, but he might have done well had he stuck with it,” Shaw said. “He was just so immensely strong that if he caught anybody on the chin, the fight was over. But he didn’t really train to put it all together in the boxing ring.”

Nor did Kimbo justify his initial burst of popularity in MMA (a 5-2 record with three knockouts in sanctioned matches, 1-1 in exhibitions). It factor or not, the onetime University of Miami football player and father of six with the made-for-Hollywood past (he had worked as a bouncer in a Miami strip club and later as a limousine driver and bodyguard for a pornography production company) had exploitable weaknesses both inside the ring and the octagon. He had dubious stamina, which virtually obliged him to end matters within mere minutes of a fight’s beginning, and, at best, negligible skills in MMA other than a big punch. What’s worse, his reputation was sullied when Sam Petruzelli, a last-minute fill-in for the injured Ken Shamrock in the main event of a CBS-televised card on Oct. 4, 2008, claimed he was pressured to stand up and trade shots with Kimbo, instead of taking the fight to the ground where his ju-jitsu skills might give him an edge. Whether the accusation was true or not, it spawned enough of a scandal that CBS pulled out of its deal with EliteXC and the organization eventually folded.

It is Kimbo’s brief encounter with “Merciless” Ray Mercer, an Olympic heavyweight gold medalist and former WBO heavyweight champion, however, that adds an element of intrigue to Mayweather-McGregor. An accomplished boxer, even if he was then 46, Mercer lasted only 72 seconds against Kimbo in their June 23, 2007, exhibition match in Atlantic City, tapping out after Kimbo got him in a guillotine choke hold. But in an actual sanctioned MMA bout, Mercer knocked out a highly decorated MMA veteran, Tim Sylvia, in nine seconds on June 13, 2009, putting him down and out with the first punch he threw.

If there is anything that can be taken from the strange journey of Kimbo Slice, who died of heart failure shortly after a mass on his liver was diagnosed, it is this: lions should remain lions and tigers should remain tigers. Without question Conor McGregor is a better mixed martial artist, and probably boxer, than Kimbo ever was, but then Floyd McGregor Jr. is no James Wade. You can, ahem, slice it any way you want and it still projects to be a mismatch.

“Mayweather is the dean of spatial relationships,” Shaw said. “He knows how close he can go to another fighter without that fighter connecting on Floyd’s chin. He is an absolute master of spacing, which is the key to hitting and not getting hit back. He’s been doing this for many, many years. He’s become, like, a professor of boxing.”

And what of Mayweather dropping hints that he will go for the gusto and take the kind of risks he has rarely taken in the past against a boxing neophyte like McGregor?

“He’s not going to change his style against McGregor,” Shaw predicted. “Why should he? What he’s been doing has worked for him all this time. He’s a highly skilled fighter, maybe one of the all-time greats in any era. I know some of the stuff he does outside the ring turns people off so they just don’t like him, but a lot of those people are going to pay to see him in the hope of seeing him get a come-uppance.

“It was the same thing with Mayweather-Pacquiao. I didn’t believe that would be a real fight, a competitive fight, and I don’t believe this one will be, either. The only bad thing is if it’s a repeat of Mayweather-Pacquiao, with Floyd so dominant that it’s seen as boring, it’ll have a negative effect on all the pay-per-views to follow. It’ll leave a sour taste.”

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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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