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Jim Lampley and 16 Others Weigh in on the Problem of PED Use in Boxing

For this latest survey, I reached out for suggestions from our regular panel of respondents. Among the fascinating survey questions submitted




For this latest survey, I reached out for suggestions from our regular panel of respondents. Among the fascinating survey questions submitted were “Should Boxers Be Allowed to Have Beards?” and “What Was Your Brush With Greatness?”

Picking one was difficult, but I ultimately chose to go with a question of great topical interest: How Would You Deal With PED Cheats? Thanks to Steve Canton for passing along this suggestion. A Floridian, Steve has been involved in every aspect of boxing for more than 50 years. Once again, the respondents are listed alphabetically.

MATT ANDRZEJEWSKI (TSS boxing writer): I am an advocate of three strikes and you’re out. A first positive test would be a one-year ban from all ratings (and/or stripped of belt) and to re-enter the ratings the fighter would have to defeat a top ten opponent. The second offense would be an 18-month ban from ratings (and/or stripped of belt) and to re-renter ratings the boxer would have to defeat a top ten opponent. And a third positive test is permanent ban from ratings.

JOE BRUNO (former NYC sportswriter and author of more than 45 crime-related books): First offense – one-year suspension. Second offense – three year suspension. Third offense – lifetime ban. No appeal processes. Of course, this being America, the suspended fighter can sue. Good luck with that

STEVE CANTON (author and the face of boxing in Florida): My opinion: Anyone who fails a PED test should be banned for life from boxing, no questions asked. Career is over – permanently. The problem would disappear in a hurry. (Note: Steve also favors stiff penalties for those who come in overweight.)

MONTE COX (boxing historian): I’m not sure how much PEDs help a boxer, but I definitely feel it is cheating. Unfortunately, it’s so hard to regulate that maybe they should let everyone use to guarantee a level playing field. That’s sad to say though.

BERNARD FERNANDEZ (journalist; one of only eight lifetime members of the Boxing Writers Association of America): Some drug tests, although rare, yield false positives. That is why I think it might be excessive to institute a one-strike-and-you’re-out-forever policy. There is also a difference between the type of designer drugs that turned baseball’s Barry Bonds from a 185-pound leadoff-man type into a 235-pound home run machine, and trace amounts of a banned substance found in certain legitimate medications. A first offense should result in a one-year suspension and a fine, not necessarily a career-killer, and a second a four-year suspension with a stiffer fine. A third offense? Permanent banishment and a major hit to the bank account. Oh, and let’s convince the International Boxing Hall of Fame to forever ban two- or three-time offenders.

LEE GROVES (author, writer and the Wizard of CompuBox): It would be easy to throw the hammer down and impose an instant and permanent ban upon hearing the accusation because it is true that boxing is a tough enough sport without throwing chemically enhanced fighters (and chemically enhanced punches) into the mix. The effects of PEDs, particularly in boxing, are deadlier than in most other sports because there are bodies, brains and long-term quality of life issues involved. Therefore, PED cases must be dealt with severely when confirmed, not only as a punishment for the offenders but also to act as a deterrent for those thinking about juicing. Because a PED conviction can stain a fighter’s reputation — and money-making ability — for the rest of his life, accusations should be approached with the utmost care and due process should be exercised, which I believe it is.

If a fighter is exonerated, that exoneration should be trumpeted as loudly and as widely as the original accusation so that the damage can be reversed as much as possible. After all, fair is fair. With the current scheduling protocol between fights — superstars fight only twice a year if that — the penalty should also be long enough to inflict deep pain. I believe the minimum penalty for a first offense should be two years, and I wouldn’t mind if it was three. A second offense should result in a lifetime ban as well as an especially punitive fine. If such athletes were to try other sports (such as MMA or kickboxing) in order to skirt around the first-offense penalty, that PED penalty should follow them and disqualify them as well. To sum up, PEDs are a real issue and while protocols should be followed, the penalties for the guilty should be severe and long-lasting.

HENRY HASCUP (historian, collector, and long-time president of the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame): I’d fine and suspend them and take any relevant title away.

JEFF JOWETT (longtime boxing scribe and heir to the late Jack Obermayer as an authority on Diners): I don’t have much of an opinion. I’m not in the administrative end of the sport much. I do see one problem, though, in invalidating fight results. I don’t believe anyone can effectively determine what role a PED actually played in the outcome of a contest. Suppose the guy got knocked out? Then take the victory away from the opponent and call it NC? Or suppose the offender won! Is it right to say he won BECAUSE of the PED? A pretty devilish situation. As to what to do about it, I guess the only response would be increasing lengths of suspensions. If he’s not allowed to box, he can’t make $$$. That would seem a deterrent enough.

DR. STUART KIRSCHENBAUM (Michigan State Boxing Commissioner Emeritus and advisor to the governor on boxing issues): As a former State Boxing Commissioner and Co-Founder of The Association of Boxing Commissions, I was an early pioneer in the testing of drugs in boxers. At the onset of testing, approximately 70 per cent of those tested were positive …mostly of the street environmental culture kind of cocaine, amphetamines, cannabis, morphine, heroin. These were taken not for performance enhancement but rather recreational use. For the most part, these drugs were PNED…Performance Non-Enhancement Drugs.  However, they were illegal and in an effort to clean up the negativity of the sport, boxers were punished with suspensions and still are.  I hate to say but looking back boxers and trainers were not sophisticated to even think of any pharmacological advantage of other PEDS available as are used in other sports.

JIM LAMPLEY (IBHOF inductee and long-time anchor of HBO broadcasting team): Point one is that this is way too simplistic a question for the breadth and complexity of the subject. I could write for days. Point two is I favor the application of VADA testing in every fight in every venue in every jurisdiction in the world. But I don’t have the authority to mandate that, no one does, and we would be required to manufacture dozens more Margaret Goodman’s, and it can’t be done. Point three is even if we did that testing, all our past experience with sordid street drugs, sophisticated pharmaceutical recreation, and PEDs should be sufficient by now to establish we will NEVER significantly diminish their use, much less end it, via punishment and penalty. The drugs and their effects are too strong for that to happen. Now the most important point: For fifty years now, the development of the PED story has always wrapped itself around the suspected glamour user of the moment: Marian Jones, Mark McGwire, Lance Armstrong, Barry Bonds. Never is enough attention paid to the sources of the supply, the global pipeline, the massive profit motive, and the degree to which all the inner chambers of most sports have been penetrated. The history of PEDs is mostly codified episodically, so fans look past the discussion and accept what they are watching.  It grows and grows and globally.

So, what do I do with PED users?  Give them a league of their own? Fact is, many PED users are athletes whose perceived accomplishments have earned them audiences and people are still going to want to watch them perform. But the vital question is not what to do with them, but rather what to do with the damage they do to standards of competition. As usual, the real answers lie in all the things society finds too expensive, cumbersome and time-consuming to do: childhood education, extension of morality for morality’s sake, broad-based examination of the ecosystem that produces these behaviors, the provision and promotion of real opportunities and advantages for those who do things the right way. We keep looking for the quick fix. There is no quick fix.

“The worst thing possible hasn’t happened yet.”—Jim Lampley


RON LIPTON (world class boxing referee, former fighter, boxing historian, retired police officer): Once revealed and the report confirmed, their scheduled bout would be cancelled. A hearing would ensue and if the evidence merits it, a suspension would follow. Upon an application to return to the ring, a clean bill of health under the most reputable scrutiny would be mandated.

ADEYINKA MAKINDE (author, boxing writer and UK Barrister): It should be treated quite severely relative to other sports. It is one thing to take drugs to run faster than another human being but quite another when it gives an athlete an advantage in regard to strength and endurance when participating in a combat sport. Bearing this mind, a suggested five-year ban or even a life-time ban should not appear draconian. Admittedly, such a policy needs to be predicated on a watertight, evenly applied regime of testing. The defense of contaminated supplements is one that has plausibility but is at the same time one that is clearly rife with abuse. Also, as the recent positive test of Canelo Alvarez demonstrates, double-standards abound. The universal application of USADA-style all-year-round testing as applied in the UFC would be a step in the right direction for boxing.

PAUL MAGNO (author, writer and Mexican boxing official): I suspect that many, many people in boxing don’t want to really know who is dirty and who isn’t. If we got a real testing program going, lots of money would be lost by lots of boxing big shots. If boxing is serious about monitoring for PEDs, however, they need universal, 24-7/365 random testing and some sort of commission in place to actually uphold clear and consistent punishment for offenses. Obviously, in the here and now, PEDs cheats should face some sort of suspension and fine. But it’s all meaningless unless these dirty fighters are actually held accountable for their actions– and that’s just not the case right now. State commissions should step up and do the heavy lifting in this regard. Then again, if commission PEDs testing is spotty and useless and fighter/promoter-directed voluntary testing is less than 100% reliable, how can we really punish ANYONE? The system is broken here and, I suspect, conveniently so.

LARRY MERCHANT (legendary retired member of the HBO broadcasting team):  Prizefighting is largely about risk and reward. Whatever the reward of using PEDs — and Dr. Margaret Goodman once told me that not a single fighter she knew who tested positive had leaped forward in punching power or class — there should be heightened risk. Baseball has it about right: half a season (half a year in boxing) for the first test failure, a full season (year)  for the second, banishment for a third. Failure a second or third time, anyway, suggests a degree of knuckle-headedness that even regular knuckleheads can’t imagine. The guy needs help of another kind.


 “ We need more guys…willing to voluntarily submit to the most rigorous drug-protocols. And those who don’t and get nailed need to find out it wasn’t worth the risk. I’m not sure boxing commissions have stepped up to that responsibility yet.”—Larry Merchant

“I mean, this is a physical sport and you can get hurt and end up dead…”Carlos Molina

ERNESTO MORALES (former boxer and boxing writer): During my involvement in the game over the years I’ve personally known a few cheats, a small few, both pros and amateurs. Some willfully have chosen to take the risk of cheating but not all. Some we’re induced/convinced or fallen victim to the exhortations of their trainers, with their managers also having FULL knowledge, to the point to where they themselves were shelling out the $$$ for this disgraceful crime. This is one side that is NEVER considered nor ever mentioned when fighters test positive. Did Margarito cheat by himself? Of course not!

Now what should be done? It all depends. If he is a champ he should be dealt with tough justice. HEAVY fines and EFFECTIVE suspensions, BOTH. He has no excuse and chances are his stain on the game has a more negative effect, first offender or not. Other offenders should also be punished with fines/suspensions or both. The examples have to be set and the lines drawn. Sadly, the trainers who are in on it will never get sanctioned. Now, most trainers do NOT condone this dirt BUT it is true that a very small few actually do. It pains me say that.

TED SARES (TSS boxing writer): Six months; 18 months; life-time ban. Three strikes and you’re out. I also agree with Paul Magno that the system is broken at the state level with too many political hacks//appointees on commissions. Also, three-time offenders should never be inducted into the IBHOF. One of my favorite quotes comes from former Bad Left Hook colleague Brent Brookhouse:  “…it’s not testing from an agency like VADA that is flawed; it’s the sport of boxing from the bottom up. It’s on the promoters and the fighters. It’s on the commissions. It’s on the networks who don’t demand better. It’s on the media, all too happy to play nice and get their generic five minute ‘exclusive interviews’ rather than rock the boat. And, it’s on fans who don’t say that they’re sick of the transparent garbage from everyone in the game.” SAD.

ICEMAN JOHN SCULLY (former world light heavyweight title challenger, trainer, commentator):  If it is proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that a person willingly took a performance-enhancing drug then I have no problem with him being banned for life. You let it be known well in advance that this is the penalty and let the chips fall where they may. Now I understand that sometimes people can take things without knowing it, so it’s a slippery slope, but if it could be proven that the person took something willingly, a lifetime ban is no problem with me

Observations and Comments:

I invited several boxers to participate and they declined. That’s understandable. If weight lifters were asked the same question, they too might not want to respond. That being said, Jim Lampley’s response was one that hit on all cylinders.

There was a consensus that boxing commissions were remiss by not stepping up to the plate. Some (me included) suggested the system is broken. Also, there was a consensus that the penalties should be stiff as the distinction between boxing and other sports was made clear.

In the end, just about every abuser has a lame excuse—contaminated meat is the go-to excuse these days– and just about every abuser returns to fight another day. But clearly, the cumulative evidence of PED use has become troubling.

Ted Sares is one of the oldest full power lifters (and Strongman competitors) in the world and is a four-time winner of the EPF’s Grand Master championship. He also is a member of Ring 4’s Boxing Hall of Fame.

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Feature Articles

Lemieux vs. O’Sullivan: There Will Be Blood



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.


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.


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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Feature Articles

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



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

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Feature Articles

What Are You Up To, Paddy Barnes?



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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